In defense of bombastic men, or “Happy Reformation Day”

October 30, 2017 8:06 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

 

I spent the majority of my formative years in the care and company of a WWII Navy vet and his 130 lb German shepherd.

So now you know.

My Papa had a heart that could be overwhelmingly generous, and he loved people zealously; He also had the patience of a gnat, the temper of a bull, and the mouth of a sailor. When I was little, he used to pay me everytime he cussed in front of me. If memory serves, it was a nickel per offense. On some occasions, he would hand me a five dollar bill, or even a twenty up front if it was “gonna be a bad day.” This is just a small example by which I mean to convey to you that my Papa, whom I adored and idolized, was a mess.

He knew it. He would want you to know it too. More to the point, he would want you to know on whom he was daily relying to save him from himself. The mercy of Christ was something he loved to share with any unsuspecting (or suspecting) victim he came across.

When I was fifteen years old, another bombastic man came into my life. His name was Dr. Martin Luther. I had heard about him, but I had never actually read his words. I came across a collection of his writings for sale at the Northfield Hospital Auxiliary Booksale (a yearly event I still look forward to with greater anticipation than a four-year-old for Christmas morning). From what I can tell of Luther, he had the patience of a gnat, the temper of a bull, and the mouth of a crass German monk. I was sitting in the park one day reading Luther’s Bondage of the Will, when I came across this passage.

If I lived and worked to all eternity, my conscience would never reach comfortable certainty as to how much it must do to satisfy God. Whatever work I had done, there would still be a nagging doubt as to whether it pleased God, or whether He required something more. The experience of all who seek righteousness by works proves that; and I learned it well enough myself over a period of many years, to my own great hurt. But now God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace an mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. ‘No one,’ He says, ‘shall pluck them out of my hand, because my Father which gave them me is greater than all’ (John 10:28-29).

I read it, and I cried. Then I got up and ran. It is still hard for me to explain the impact these words had on my little 15-year-old heart, but they changed me, forever.

The thing about Luther is, he was a mess. In his writings, he is often comical, often vulgar, sometimes even cruel. There are things he says that make me cringe, things that make me weep for sorrow rather than joy. But in his writings, I also find that he was a man who loved God, his wife and children, and his parishioners generously and zealously. Luther knew he was a mess. That sinful mess of a man who wrote things that I would not repeat here was the same man who wanted me to know that I was a mess too. He wants you to know that you are a mess as well. He wants you to know about grace. He wants you to know the God of grace — the God who could save a mess like Martin Luther — a mess like George Thompson — a mess like you — a mess like me.

Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay,
Death brooded darkly o’er me,
Sin was my torment night and day,
In sin my mother bore me;
Yea, deep and deeper still I fell,
Life had become a living hell,
So firmly sin possessed me.

But God beheld my wretched state
Before the world’s foundation,
And, mindful of His mercies great,
He planned my soul’s salvation.
A father’s heart He turned to me,
Sought my redemption fervently:
He gave His dearest Treasure.

To me He spake: Hold fast to Me,
I am thy Rock and Castle;
Thy Ransom I Myself will be,
For thee I strive and wrestle;
For I am with thee, I am thine,
And evermore thou shalt be Mine;
The Foe shall not divide us.

Martin Luther, Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice verses 2,4, and 7. Poetic translation by Richard Masie

 

Happy Reformation Day.

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This post was written by Nicki