Tag Archives: Lent

In Christ’s Defeat, Our Victory: Meditation on Psalm 118

Psalm 118 is perhaps the consummate psalm for Palm Sunday and as we enter Holy Week. Throughout the Gospel According to Matthew, the gospel writer has lifted up how Jesus was the fulfillment of all God’s promises in the Jewish scriptures. For example within the text, Matthew recounts five major lessons of Jesus’ teachings; much as there are five Books of Moses. When Jesus delivers his first recorded teaching in Matthew, Jesus gives his commands called the Beatitudes from a mountaintop; much like Moses was given the Decalogue on a mountain. Fourteen prophesies are explicitly connected to the actions of Jesus; fourteen being the traditional number of generations between Abraham and the establishment of the Davidic Dynasty, fourteen from David to the exile in Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to Jesus’ birth. It isn’t much different with Psalm 118. As with many, this psalm reflects aspects of the life and death of Jesus.

Psalm 118 is often recited as part of the Hallel, a Jewish prayer consisting of a verbatim recitation of Psalms 113 through 118. The Hallel is used for praise and thanksgiving on holidays such as the Passover, when the Jews recall the Angel of death passed over Jewish homes in Moses’ time leading to their freedom from Egyptian slavery. As Jesus enters Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, he deliberately enters “mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This fulfills the apocalyptic prophesy of Zechariah 9 regarding the coming ruler of God’s people and the judgement of Israel’s enemies.

To an oppressed people under Rome’s authority, Jesus was considered by many a messianic figure in the political sense. They quote Psalm 118 (verses 25-26), “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Many likely expect Jesus to precipitate their freedom as Moses did long ago and reinitiate a Davidic kingship. In celebration, they will “Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar” – the way to the Temple where Jesus will come into his final conflict with his adversaries.

Yet, Jesus hasn’t come to be king in that sense. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” (v. 8-9). Like the ritual sacrifices in the Temple, Jesus will become a bloody, final sacrifice for our sake. Throughout the week, Jesus will remain in conflict until he is finally betrayed. He will be surrounded by adversaries like bees, pushed hard, and find himself crowned with thorns (v. 12).  He will die on a cross like a rebel, falsely accused of proclaiming himself king. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” The Temple will be destroyed in 70 CE, but the church, Christ’s body, will rise in its stead.

Thanks to God’s steadfast love, we will never be rejected. Through Jesus’ cross and resurrection, we have access to our Father in Heaven and forgiveness for our rebellion in sin. With Jesus, our lips and hearts can pray with confidence, “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.” Through the events of this upcoming week, we become conquerors with Christ (see Romans 8). We can rightly sing a song of victory – the victory of Jesus for our sake.

Christ’s peace be with you as we enter Holy Week together, Pastor Lou

 

Please enjoy a musical meditation on Psalm 118 from the Ecumenical Community of Taizé

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2015 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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Ash Wednesday – Not really cancelled, just different

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With regret, Messiah Lutheran Church and School‘s building will close at 6:00 pm tonight. There will be no Ash Wednesday service.

Reviewing several television and government weather forecasts as well as other public safety resources, it seems our region is expecting an inch or less of snow accumulation. Unfortunately, a number of these same resources suggest that it could come fast and with heavy “bursts” causing a quarter mile or less visibility in some areas. Wind gusts could reach 30 mph with temperatures dramatically falling into the single digits this evening. Wind chill is expected to be in the below zero range (-5). Melting prior to nightfall is expected to refreeze causing hazardous road conditions into tomorrow.

The snow is supposed to arrive in our region right as we would have gathered for worship (5:00 pm – 8:00 pm). As our membership comes from such a wide expanse of territory in our region, we are cancelling tonight’s service for safety reasons. Yet for those interested, we will offer the imposition of Ashes on the First Sunday of Lent, February 22 at both services.

In addition, it is important to understand that the imposition of ashes need not be done only in a church or by a pastor or priest. As our upcoming Wednesday night Lenten program, “The Priesthood of All Believers,” will help remind us, we are all called to ministry and every home is a little church. For those interested, there is a home liturgy available through the article, “Ashes on Ice: Celebrating Ash Wednesday at Home.”

The imposition of ashes on the forehead as a sign of repentance recalls the Jewish practice of wearing sackcloth (a coarse, black cloth made from goat’s hair), fasting, and sitting in ashes as a sign of mourning or repentance. Christians began to practice this ritual by the 10th Century AD. It became an official rite of the church by the 13th century. Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans/Episcopalians, Methodists, and other liturgical Protestants continue this tradition. The practice serves as a symbol of our mortality as well as the regret we share over our individual and collective sin. Imposing ashes in the sign of the cross, it serves to witness to others and remind ourselves that we are sinner-saints, people who struggle with sin but who also rely on God’s grace. It echoes the marking of a cross on our foreheads with anointing oil during our baptism.

In all the above traditions, a pastor, deacon or lay person can impose the ashes. Although ashes can be distributed “on the go” at any location, we prefer to gather corporately during public worship as a reminder of our interconnectedness in a fallen world.  We suffer from and contribute to individual and systemic sin. We live in hope with all the heavenly host and communion of saints.

Thus in the spirit of the prophet Joel’s admonition, we seek to live in a manner that reflects the short time we have to live out our baptismal call and share Christ’s love. We gather together in a spirit of repentance but also in hopeful expectation of Christ’s imminent return: Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. (Joel 2:1)

Life is too short, and Judgment Day will surely come for all. Yet as part of the communion of saints, trusting in Jesus, we are never alone. Even on that terrible day, forgiveness is ours. With confidence, we may await the day of Christ’s return.

While we wait, let us cooperate with the grace offered us to reform our lives. Let us struggle to love God and others all the more.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2015 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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Preparing the Barren Fields

Sun Snow, by Trenton Jones (2015)

Sun Snow, by Trenton Jones (2015) Gizmodo.com

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37)

As we approach another Lenten season, I see barren farm fields around us. In the midst of winter, they don’t look like much. They are tired and seem spent. Yet with the right amount of gifts from God (water and nutrients) as well as care from the farmer (tilling, planting, weeding, etc.), these same fields will become abundant signs of life as we enter spring.

This is much as our Lent should be. We intentionally cooperate with the grace of God to promote and nurture life and love in the world. Following chosen disciplines and special worship or by making extra efforts of charity and service, we tend to the plot of land God has given us. We till and plant (reflecting on our lives, confessing our sin, and turning with expectation toward God’s promises). We weed (repent) and grow (renew). This sacred process is not just for us but also for our neighbor as we seek to share the love and grace we ourselves receive.

Yes, as we enter Lent, we return once again to the mission fields. We seek to reconnect to Christ and one another. What will you do to cooperate with God’s grace and nurture new life? Certainly, Jesus offers us his love freely, and so we could just watch and wait for spiritual growth. Yet as good farmers know, seeds of faith grow better with intentional love rather than lukewarm care.

Grace abounds, but Jesus invites all of us to roll up our sleeves and grow with God this Lent. Come join Jesus in the fields before us and witness the miracles God can do through your life and love.

Christ’s peace,
Pastor Lou

This post was originally published in Messiah Lutheran Church and School’s newsletter, The Messenger (February 2015).

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2015 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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Food for Thought

psalm34_8-taste-the-goodness-of-the-Lord“O taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8

Ironically a time commonly associated with fasting, Lent can prove a time of refreshment and renewal. Through intentionally refocusing our faith, seeking out spiritual disciplines, service, and yes, even simple food and fellowship together, we can grow as children of God and be used to build Christ’s church.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus first invites his followers, “Come and see.” To walk with him and share his life, that’s where we will come to know him – and perhaps ourselves and our purpose – all the more. Rooted in faith, we often grow by doing. When Jesus calls himself the living water or bread of life, you’ll also read that Jesus invites all to come to him, to taste and see, so that we will never hunger and thirst again.

Certainly, faith in Christ alone saves us, but his intention is for an active, communal faith that blesses us and others. It is a faith that calls us to assemble regularly to feast on his Word, share our gifts to honor God as well as for the good of others, and ultimately “remember” him and meet him; receiving his body and blood as a means of grace through his holy supper. This prepares and empowers us to go back out into the world, where we come to him in the lost, lonely, sick and dying. We become the vessels which carry his living water and bread of life, and yet, we often (if not always) find ourselves blessed more by such compassion than those we serve.

At home or away, we can always take private moments of prayer and meditation, but we are and remain the body of Christ. Jesus doesn’t want us to go through this life alone. Faith in Christ implies relationship with God, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and all our neighbors. For such love always feeds our lives, and Jesus seeks to love us always.

Yet, will we come to the feast being offered us? Do you feel you have been too busy laboring for your daily bread, running after things that don’t last, or beat up by the world, empty or alone? Perhaps you realize you haven’t loved Jesus as you should – that you are human? Well, don’t just sit there. I encourage you to come join your local family of faith. Come, taste and see. Rediscover the love that you were always meant to share.

Everyone is invited to eat, drink and be merry with Christ and his church this Lent, for “The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned” (Psalm 34:22). That’s surely something to celebrate with our lives.

Peace,
Pastor Lou

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2014 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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Where in the world was Jesus on Holy Saturday?

Harrowing of Hell

Harrowing of Hell

As the Passion ends, we leave with Jesus laid in the tomb. Was he asleep? No, scripture clearly strives to prove and proclaim that Jesus truly died on that cross. Did he go to heaven? Actually, scripture leads us to believe that Jesus was somehow still miraculously at work but not in heaven.

Our Lutheran confessions state that “we believe simply that the entire person, God and human being, descended to Hell after his burial, conquered the devil, destroyed the power of Hell, and took from the devil all his power.” (See Solid Declaration, Art. IX.) Luther seems to have believed it an ultimate mystery that Jesus descended. Nothing tells us if he did so in “humiliation” or in glory, but we should just believe the faith in which we baptize (see the Apotles’ Creed: Jesus descended into  sheol – in Hebrew the place of the dead, sometimes called hades).

Early Christianity believed this and scripture alludes to it in such passages as 1 Peter 3:18-20: For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water.”

In the Old English, harrowing was the term fused to describe Christ’s descent. Ancient icons often show Jesus amidst previous saints of the Jewish Testament, standing on the gates of sheol now opened. The gates are often an “X” or Chi in Greek, reminding us that Jesus is Χριστός, or Christ – the Annointed One and our Messiah come to save us from sin, death and the Devil.

Christians may debate whether Jesus entered triumphantly or suffered more indignities, but mainstream Christianity looks to both scriptures and the faith handed down to us. Jesus’ entrance into the grave was not the last of his journies for us. With sundown, his burial was complete. The Jewish sabbath had begun, and Jesus went to work. The Saturday of our Holy Week is indeed good (holy), and we rightly rejoice even as we wait for the Day of Resurrection. Jesus has come to save all his people.

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2013 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

 

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There is no shame in humility

Italy Vatican PopeA response to “Pope’s foot-wash a final straw for traditionalists” as reported by the AP

Within an ancient culture that didn’t count women during the government census or necessarily notice or respect them in the home, it is not a real shocker the bible doesn’t often mention women.

Despite this, it remains most probable that women were an important part of Jesus immediate community and present at his final Passover Feast. Matthew reports that at the feeding of the 5,000, the count did not include women and children.[i] Or later, Matthew shares that women who “had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs” watched as he died.[ii] (Was this perhaps after preparing and sharing in his last Passover Feast?). There are other attestations from other Gospel writers as well which some see as supporting that women were among his disciples and active in his ministry.

Whether you agree or not, or think women had their feet washed by Jesus or not, Jesus’ greatest intention on Maundy Thursday was to teach us to love and serve everyone (“one another”) as he had us. After all, Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum (meaning “commandment”), and it was used in the early Latin Vulgate translation of John 13:34: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Using scripture to interpret scripture and seeing Christ’s own example, it is hard to argue that this command to love only covered Christians. Christ longs for his family to grow.

Yes, this final teaching echoed Jesus’ earlier ones. What’s the greatest commandment?[iii] Who is our neighbor?[iv] Jesus reached out to all those marginalized by society whether Jewish or not. We are not to become their stumbling block.[v] We are to let “the children” come to Jesus.[vi] Indeed, we are to love whoever might be thought as “the least of these” – perhaps children, inmates, the poor, women (in many cultures still), anyone we tend to label as “sinners”, and non-Christians. Matthew is said to have been the most Jewish of the Gospel writers; at least his writings reflected many Jewish teachings and responded to many Jewish biases about their being the chosen ones of God. Yet, he shows Jesus to be incredibly open and loving to all. Jesus longs for relationship!

Despite this, some traditionalist Roman Catholics have become more and more vexed by Pope Francis’ election and recent behaviors. He has cast aside signs of regalism. He has acted in ways lifting up the priesthood of all believers. He has expressed openness to Protestants, Orthodox Christians, and people of other faiths entirely. As in Argentina when a Cardinal, Pope Francis seeks simplicity, and he lives that way. Not the least of their issues with him, many traditionalist have expressed “the horror” (not my word, but often found in their tweets and posts) that the Pope would wash not only the feet of a juvenile women who happened also to be a prisoner, but in one case was Islamic. “He cultivates a militant humility, but can prove humiliating for the church,”[vii] Fr. Bouchacourt, head of the traditionalist, schismatic St. Pius X Society, said. I have seen similar less than charitable comments by other traditionalists, even from some of those who haven’t broken from the Roman Catholic hierarchy but instead claim to love and obey it. Some even suggest Pope Francis’ behaviors are just a show in violation of scripture.[viii]

If signs of humility are embarrassing to the Roman Catholic Church, then I bluntly but in love suggest these folks take a look at Jesus’ own behavior. Jesus often intentionally exemplified his teachings through public behaviors. That’s what teachers and leaders need to do. Jesus prayed in public at times not for his own sake and not for a show, but so that others could be comforted and learn of God’s love.[ix] He purposefully embodied earlier prophesies to help reveal his identity, such as by riding a young donkey into Jerusalem.[x] (Certainly, Palm Sunday was quite a spectacle.) Some of the same conservatives – those who were so protective in promoting the sanctity of the conclave and agressively argued that the election process was in the Spirit’s presence and following God’s will – turned on Pope Francis that first night.

Even as a Lutheran, I would agree that the Spirit is involved in leading the Roman Catholic Church, but I would also argue the Spirit seeks to guide all other denominations as well. Institutions made of fallible humans can err (a very Lutheran attitude to be sure), but we still remain Christ’s church. Despite the historic divisions of the universal church, Pope Francis holds one of (if not the most) prominent positions of Christianity. To be ashamed of such humble, public actions that so many “of the least” will take notice of seems the real shame to me.

This Lutheran says, “Good for Pope Francis!” Perhaps I shouldn’t care so much, but I (like countless other Christians) hope and pray for the coming reality of Christ’s own prayer that we live as one.[xi] We are the church together, not our denominations, through the grace of our shared faith and baptism. I humbly support my brother Francis in his efforts to make Christ’s love known in the entire world.

After all, Jesus asked us to love and support one another. He never said with our human minds, hearts and ways that we always would agree on everything.

Postscript: Vatican responds to complaints: http://bit.ly/Z02evs


[i] See for example Matthew 14:13-21.

[ii] See for example Matthew 27:55-57.

[iv] In response, Jesus taught about the Good Samaritan. See Luke 10:29-37.

[v] Read Matthew 18.

[vi] See for example, Matthew 19:14.

[viii] See for example Matthew 6.

[xi] See John 17.

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2013 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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The Ninety-Five Lent Madness Theses – Why vote for Luther?

Martin Luther v. MLK - One day only!

Martin Luther v. MLK – One day only!

As a proud (but not too proud) Lutheran, I am thankful to be part of the somewhat dysfunctional family fun known as Lent Madness. As we reach the cataclysmic matchup of Martin Luther v. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, February 25th, I humbly submit these 95 theses (not the original 95 Theses by a long shot) to all those who love Lent Madness.

I have been told that some Anglicans don’t consider themselves Protestant. Others don’t honor Martin Luther with a day of commemoration. Yet if Episcopalian, you are in full communion with your Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) brothers and sisters. So, how about throwing us a bone?

If Roman Catholic, how about a vote in the spirit of reconciliation? Was the Reformation really so bad? Don’t you know our faith traditions are in talks to heal the wounds and divisions of the past, even (maybe someday) share communion. Follow the example of Pope Benedict. Be a uniter, and not a divider. Vote for Luther!

If you, dear reader, are of another faith tradition, get to know Martin Luther. To know him is to love him. “This is most certainly true” (as Martin Luther used to say…a lot). Many of his writings are as informative and entertaining as when they were first penned.

I know some in Lent Mandess tend to prefer martyrs. Luther wasn’t one, but he received constant threats of imprisonment and death, struggled to make ends meet, and suffered long seperations from his beloved family. His health likely suffered as well due to his long hours in service to others. Perhaps most compelling, Martin Luther King’s family apparently had a thing for Martin Luther’s legacy. (You’ll want to read #55 below.)

Others would prefer modern people wear the Golden Halo. Well, reading these Ninety-Five Lent Madness Theses might convince you that Martin Luther is as relevant today as in the 16th Century.

For those that can’t seem to forgive the sometimes admittedly cranky, rude, and anti-semetic Luther, I hope you will try ot look at him in context before you vote. He held many biased and sometimes repulsive views of his time – appropriately called Dark Ages – to be sure, but he also showed evidence of increasing mental illness as he aged. This is most clearly noted by comparing his canon of work and his biography, not by taking things piecemeal out of context. This isn’t an excuse, but it might help you forgive and look at the bigger picture of his life.

Despite his clear failings, God used him to achieve great things. Roman Catholics, Protestants, and all kinds of Anabaptists benefited directly and indirectly from the Reformation long-term. It has fostered democracy and education. It even influenced the arts. Luther was a big part of the movement forward, a progressive for his time, and many of his contemporaries (including some adverseries) give him credit for his positive influence. His efforts didn’t just help change the United States (no small thing to be sure), but it helped transform the world and is still helping to do so. We have come a long way in the almost 500 years since the posting of his 95 Theses at Wittenberg.

Please give Martin Luther your most compassionate consideration. Vote for him while holding your nose if you must. (Just clean your hands before touching your keyboard again please. It is flu season.) He understood himself as a saved sinner, so maybe you can vote for a sinner after all as Rev. Janine Schenone suggested regarding Seabury.

As Luther died, he wrote, “We are beggars. This is true.” He was speaking about grace, but it might just work for Lent Madness too. I beg you (or at least ask politely); vote Martin Luther on February 25th. If you are like me, you can do no other. VOTE MARTIN LUTHER ON MONDAY FEBRUARY 25TH!

Look up #BigLutheran #hereIvote #vote4Luther #MartinLuther #Luther #LutheranConspiracy #embracethejerk #LentMadness on Twitter to see how things go.

Disputation of the Rev. Louis A. Florio, Jr.  (aka lou-d-luthrn  or @loudluthrn) on the Goodness and Efficacy of voting for  Dr. Martin Luther (2013)

Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Louis Florio, Master of Divinity, and ordinary pastor therein at Messiah Lutheran Church (Mechanicsville, VA), intends to defend the following statements and invoke your vote for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther during Lent Madness.

  1. Luther loved God. He forcefully argued over and over again that the Ten Commandments and all of scripture wrapped into those first three commandments (as Lutherans count them) to honor and love God. Loving neighbor served to help fulfill that call, and served as sort of twin commandments. To me, it sounds a lot like Jesus.
  2. Luther was a spiritual trend setter. When the system came out against him, he continued to seek the truth through faith, scripture and reason despite the costs – and for him, there were many. He faced death threats and suffering throughout his career as a Reformer. Word Alone – Faith Alone – Grace Alone; that was enough for Luther. He steadfastly argued we are saved by grace though faith in Jesus Christ alone.
  3. Luther loved his wife, Katharina, despite her perhaps smelling a bit like herring when they first met. Luther in some ways (not all) ended up ahead of his time for women’s rights. They shared in their family’s economic and social life as relative equals. She, a former nun, was a close advisor and coworker in the Reformation and his letters speak lovingly of her. She was called the Morning Star of Wittenberg, and she became almost a model that a woman could do anything. When Luther died, he left his entire estate under her control against the practice of society at the time. He looked upon marriage as an equal calling to celibacy. Marriage helped fulfill God’s command in Genesis to go forth and multiply, but it also echoed and modeled the love which is God active in our lives (with or without children). Not a shrinking violet when it comes to talk of sex, he encouraged husbands to attend to all their wife’s needs. Read more in Luther on Women by Susan Karant-Nunn.

    Katharina-von-Bora

    Katharina von Bora Luther, the love of Martin Luther’s life. Click here to watch “The Morning Star of Wittenberg.”

  4. While always busy with the Reformation, Luther and Katie loved children and family life. They had six: Hans – June 1526; Elizabeth – 10 December 1527, who died within a few months; Magdalene – 1529, who died in Luther’s arms in 1542; Martin – 1531; Paul – January 1533; and Margaret – 1534. Although a man of his times in many respects regarding child rearing, Martin Luther spoke out against parents being overbearing and their responsibility to demonstrate Christian love at all times.Martin-And-Katherine-Luther
  5. Luther loved his neighbor and was compassionate towards them. For example, he argued that those who committed suicide should be shown love and mercy. They should be allowed to rest in hallowed grounds – not the practice of his day – for the darkness of this world had simply overcome them. Their salvation wasn’t resting on their own strength but the strength of Christ’s cross. (This is not unlike Hildegard of Bingen.) He was ahead of his time, perhaps since Luther himself seems to have suffered from depression himself. In his exposition of “Thou shall not murder,” Luther included ignoring your neighbor’s needs as a kind of murder. His faith was relational – toward God, toward neighbor, lived out together as church.
  6. Luther understood isolation and loneliness. Much like John of the Cross’ dark night of the soul, Luther wrote about Anfechtungen, the German word that Luther used to describe the overwhelming spiritual trial, terror, despair, and religious crisis that he experienced at times throughout his life. In such times, one must trust in the “hidden God” who is at work fulfilling all the promises of scripture (and more) with steadfast love. Luther often reminded himself of God’s promises in Baptism, simply reminding himself when afraid or filled with doubt, “I am baptized. I am Christ’s”
  7. Although in many ways a theological trendsetter, Luther was remarkably rooted in scriptures, those who came before him, and the mystical spirituality of the past. He loved the mystic who wrote Theologia Germanica, along with Augustine, Bernard, Bonaventure, Johannes Tauler, and Brigid of Sweeden; to name only a few. Don’t believe me? Read Theology of the Heart: The Role of Mysticism in the Theology of Martin Luther, by Bengt R. Hoffman.
  8. Luther loved animals and was bitterly opposed to hunting for sport. His beloved dog Tölpel (which means something like dunderhead) is mentioned affectionately again and again by Luther, and Luther expected animals to have a place in heaven thanks to our loving God. “Be thou comforted, little dog, Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail.” (Laurie B., if Old Marty starts to tank in the vote, get some of those cute pandas ready for him. He would love that, I am sure.)
  9. Luther was extremely social. He loved gathering with friends and visitors to talk over current events, theology, and more while sharing a meal and a beer or two. (Hey, he was German, don’t forget.) His family frequently rested on the verge of poverty hosting so many people. Some of his most candid comments are found in a collection called Table Talk.
  10. Luther liked music, and he wrote many hymns. He is said to have sometimes taken common, popular music and attached Christian lyrics. The rumor is that A Mighty Fortress is Our God was from a popular pub song. He also believed if you couldn’t sing, sing loud anyway. It would scare away the Devil and bring you good cheer.
  11. Luther liked beer and even made it. No wonder the pope assumed he was just some “drunk German monk.” His favorite was said to be Einbeck beer, said to be the most famous beer of the Middle Ages, available everywhere in Germany and shipped as far as Jerusalem. Learn more about the beers of Martin Luther at Cyberbrethren.com.
  12. Luther is your Homeboy. He was appreciated by contemporaries and later people for his down to earth language and theological approaches. Although, some (especially today) complain about these earthy characteristics and his bathroom language as well. Of course, who ever said saints are perfect?Luther is my homeboy.
  13. His theological descendants are your friends and neighbors. There are over 70.5 million Lutherans in the world. Visit the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to learn more.
  14. How many Lent Madness participants have rap songs written for them?
  15. Do you like reading or hearing scriptures in your own language? Well then, vote for Luther! Like Wycliffe and Hus, Luther advocated for it, and he created the first Bible in the German tongue. Bibles in the vernacular were still opposed by the Roman Catholic Church at the time – including in England.German_Bible
  16. Do you like receiving both the body and the blood of Christ during the celebration of the Eucharist? Well then, vote for Luther! Again like Wycliffe and Huss, he advocated for it, and it became a reality. (In his day, only the body was commonly shared with the congregation during the Roman Catholic mass.)
  17. Do you enjoy and find benefit from the liturgy in your own language? Well then, vote for Luther! He helped make it happen.
  18. Luther believed in the real presence – not transubstantiation or consubstantiation which are Aristotelian, metaphysical constructs. He didn’t want to even try to explain the mystery and risk being unbiblical, never mind use philosophy to do so. Instead, he suggested trusting that it was the real body and blood of Christ in, under and through the bread. Jesus said it. It is most certainly true. (We could perhaps avoid a lot of arguments with this simple approach.)
  19. Luther did not desire to break up the church only reform it, and he explicitely didn’t want a religion named after him. (Of course, you don’t always get what you want.) About ninety percent of all Lutherans still believe that there is one universal (i.e. catholic with a small c) church despite theological divisions, and they live their lives quite ecumenically. Our confessions, the Book of Concord, are held to be true as far as they are proven consistent with scripture. Thus, denominations like the ELCA feel free to work and worship with other denominations. The other 10%, called confessional Lutherans, hold the confessions to be equal to scripture. If you don’t agree with the confessions as written, you are deemed deficient if not heretical. I think the 90% are correct. Why not show them your support and vote Luther! While you are at it, read about The Catholicity of the Reformation or other Lutheran related books.

    The pastor's cat is a Lutheran cat.

    The pastor’s cat is a Lutheran cat.

  20. In an attempt to be biblical, Luther reviewed what should be considered a sacrament. The seven sacraments were settled upon in about the 12th or 13th century. The 16th Century Luther preserved what had been the seven sacraments as ministries of the church, but only two remained as sacraments – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Why? Simply put, Jesus commanded these actions, and God’s Word is joined with physical things to become means of grace through faith. Confession almost made the cut, but it has no physical sign attached to it. Lutherans still practice corporate and private confession which Luther called a “healing medicine,” but it isn’t mandated. See, we Lutherans aren’t so different after all…
  21. Luther had a great sense of humor. Check out The Wit of Martin Luther by Eric W. Gritsch.
  22. How many Lent Madness participants have polkas made for them? (And seriously, who doesn’t like a good polka? #guiltypleasure)
  23. Luther was very human and certainly could be hot headed at times. The Lutheran Insulter is a fun tool to get your frustrations out.
  24. Imperfect as he knew he was, Luther held on to the grace of God even more. He viewed all Christians as simultaneously sinners and saints. When someone was struggling with sin, he advised, “sin boldly, but believe more boldly still.” This is all based upon his concept of justification by faith alone.Sinner Saint dog tags
  25. Luther believed Jesus never lied. Jesus died for us and spoke forgiveness to us. He died for our past sins, current sinfulness, and even future sins. We should trust him! To do otherwise is to laugh at or discount his cross. We would believe in our sin more than Christ. (…Not such a good thing, and something I had to learn.)
  26. Luther said, “Although the Christian is thus free from all works, he ought in his liberty to empty himself, take upon himself the form of a servant, be made in the likeness of men, be found in human form, and to serve, help, and in every way deal with his neighbor as he sees that God through Christ has dealt and still deals with him. This he should do freely, having regard for nothing but divine approval.” Loving neighbor was a gift in itself to us, even as it is pleasing to God. We should give ourselves to “Christ in our neighbor” just as Christ gave himself to us. When he had a sick friend write of an illness, Martin Luther heard Christ’s own call to be helped – the living Christ in his friend. Like Christ, we too must carry our crosses – service to others or our own sufferings – with faith. He developed a Theology of the Cross in opposition to a Theology of Glory. There would be no prosperity gospel for Luther. Life is hard, but God is good…always.
  27. Luther taught that we bear the name of Christ because Christ truly dwells in us, and we in his body the church. He argued we should trust in this reality and live like we believe it is true at all times.
  28. Luther wasn’t against Christian works; only that they didn’t save. Our works and sufferings are used by God to help faith grow in us and others, and it is used by God to establish the Kingdom of Heaven. We cannot sanctify ourselves. No cheap grace for him, as the Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer later expands upon in The Cost of Discipleship and elsewhere. If you appreciate Bonhoeffer’s writings or Jürgen Moltmann’s The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation
    and Criticism of Christian Theology, you really should vote for Luther.
  29. Although Luther was against the mass as a sacrifice or something that gets one extra credit for heaven, he valued and argued to maintain the liturgy when others wanted to punt it. In some Lutheran countries the Lutheran service is still called a mass. Click the picture below to learn about Lutheran worship, “a foundation of faith to everything we do.”Lutheran-Service-610x351
  30. Luther believed in the priesthood of all believers. “All Christians are truly of the spiritual estate.” You are not defined by any vocation. We are all equally and eternally children of God with important tasks to do on Christ’s behalf.
  31. Luther tried to empower families to be a little church within the greater church. His Small Catechism was for home use.
  32. Luther believed if God could speak through an ass against a prophet, God could use any person as a pastor. His Large Catechism was originally written for pastors, but today, it is widely read by people of all kinds of vocations. He argued for an educated pastorate for good order, but pastors are human like everyone else. Your pastoral call is temporary, but you call as a child of God is eternal.
  33. Vote for Luther! He has his own bobble head. If he wasn’t important, would he have a bobble head?Martin and Katy
  34. If you prefer, show your support with a cute Luther windup toy, then go vote. (Yes, there is a Katie version too.) ml_windup_150
  35. What man doesn’t like to read in the bathroom? That’s a great use of time, and Luther is said to have some of his best ideas come to him there. (This might not be true, but I like to think so…)
  36. Luther believed in Two Kingdoms. This helped lead to a separation of church and state, a modern polity in the church, as well as our modern democracy.
  37. Luther believed believers should be actively engaged in civil life, not separated or hidden away. Christians need to be involved in the community and its politics.
  38. In his Smalcald Articles, he described the saints as currently residing “in their graves and in heaven.” Luther maintained that it was not false doctrine to believe that a Christian’s soul sleeps after it is separated from the body in death, but he also didn’t condemn those who believed in immediate life after death. The bible isn’t clear. In addition, he hated to declare who would be saved and who would not in detail. To do so risked being unbiblical. He trusted those who believed in Jesus would be saved, but beyond that, it is up to God to discern. With our limited intellect and failings, we risk error to do otherwise and dangerously play at being God. He was for people discerning their beliefs based upon scripture, but he didn’t dictate his own beliefs as dogma. Pretty darn nice of him, I think.
  39. If you haven’t already noticed, Luther hated being unbiblical, sometimes to his detriment –consider the bigamy issue. (See #90.)
  40. Luther wrote often about the Jewish people, but his attitudes reflected a wrong-headed theological and cultural tradition which saw them as a rejected people guilty of the murder of Christ. At the same time as early as 1516, Luther wrote, “…[M]any people are proud with marvelous stupidity when they call the Jews dogs, evildoers, or whatever they like, while they too, and equally, do not realize who or what they are in the sight of God.” In writings, Luther sometimes advised kindness toward the Jews in that Jesus Christ was born a Jew, but his aim was often converting Jewish believers to Christianity. When Jewish people resisted conversion, he got more and more hard hearted about it. He couldn’t believe with the Reformation that they didn’t see the light of Christ. In short, he was often wrong (aka human) in his offenses. Sad but true, and I hope that this later errors doesn’t stop you from voting for him. He was a man of his time (the Dark Ages to be sure), likely suffering mental illness at the time of his most offensive writings, and no saint is perfect. He did a lot of good too. Can you forgive him this error? I hope so.
  41. Yes, he was a complicated, sinful person like the rest of us. On one hand, he wrote with promise toward his Jewish neighbors, hopeful they would see the light of the “true faith” lifted up in the Reformation. As he got older, suffered the death of his daughter, and most likely continued bouts of depression and perhaps even had mental issues due to urine poisoning (after a fierce case of urinary track blockage), he wasn’t so kind. He was a product of his time and circumstances to be sure, yet there’s no excuse good enough, and modern Lutherans have issued formal apologies. Too late perhaps for some people, but perhaps it can count for something when evaluating Luther’s legacy (and voting in Lent Madness).
  42. Printed images of Luther that emphasized his monumental size were crucial to the spread of Protestantism – a large, portly size with double chin indicated he was a common guy, not some frail Catholic saint removed from the real world. Indeed, he was quite popular with the common folk.Martin Luther
  43. Although not seen as a traditional systematic theologian, his theological writings are quite numerous. He wrote and wrote in response to questions and debates as they came up. His works translated into English are in more than 55 volumes, and they don’t hold everything he wrote! (Try the cd-rom or buy the set.) The Weimar edition of his works began in 1883 and were completed in 2009 with 121 volumes in quarto format (around 80,000 pages). “For Luther theology was not a detached academic pursuit circumscribed by the walls, procedures, customs, and language of the university, but a matter of life and death. He took God seriously. Nothing is more important in man’s life than his relationship to God. The chief function of theology (and of the theologian), then, is not to speculate about God or even to systematize man’s knowledge of God. Rather its function is to lead men to and strengthen them in faith. For Luther faith meant specifically trust in God through Jesus Christ. Inevitably Luther’s classroom extended far beyond the university and the circle of educated students to whom he lectured there”  (Luther’s Works, Vol. 42, x).
  44. He was a reformer of the faith, but the reforms led to other modern changes in government, church, economics and more. Check out Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation, by John Witte, Jr.
  45. The more he tried to do for God, it seemed, the more aware he became of his sinfulness. When he was young, God seemed not love but hatred. Johann von Staupitz, his spiritual director, advised him to study the mystics, following their path of surrender to the love of God. This helped lead him to Reformation understandings. Who doesn’t like a good conversion story?
  46. Luther’s “evangelical breakthrough” did not come all at once, but unfolded within the context of his teaching and pastoral responsibilities. However, a turning point came in 1515, when he was lecturing on Romans, in particular the passage on the “righteousness of God” (1:17). If Paul’s Letter to the Romans touches your heart, you’ll probably like Luther and should vote for him. By the way, it is likely fiction that it came to him in a bathroom, but who really knows. Psychologist Eric Erikson took a German phrase uttered by Luther and interpreted it literally to mean Luther was in the bathroom when he had his evangelical breakthrough. Other’s suggest it meant his enlightenment came during a time of melancholy.
  47. Luther sought to steer a middle way between papists to the right and political radicals and Anabaptists to the left. Thomas Müntzer (1488-1525) taunted Luther as “Dr. Easychair and Dr. Pussyfoot” but names never hurt old Luther. (He certainly hurled them back at times. See #23.) Despite Luther’s own occasional blustering against opponents, he hoped for ultimate reconciliation and unity. I argue that a vote for Luther is a vote for unity.
  48. Luther wasn’t always certain about what should be done. In the Peasant Rebellion, he saw the need for much change, but he also hated the excesses of violence and unrest. As the revolt broke the peace, Luther ultimately supported the authorities which led to many deaths. Again, do you really expect or want a perfect saint? It is hard being Christian in the real world. Show your forgiveness and vote for Luther.
  49. Luther’s 1534 Bible translation inspired William Tyndale, who spent time with Martin Luther in Wittenberg. Tyndale’s translation was foundational for the King James Bible. Thus, Luther’s work influenced the King James Version of the Bible, still the most popular English language translation. If you like it, say thank you by voting for Luther!
  50. Martin Luther had his own PBS documentary, The Reluctant Revolutionary. Could PBS be wrong about Luther being a cool guy? Check it out at PBS or watch an episode here, then vote for Luther.
  51. He has number of movies about him too, such as the 2003 version with Joseph Fiennes as Luther and Peter Ustinov as Frederick the Wise.
  52. He has his own comic book or graphic novel (if you prefer).Echoes of the Hammer
  53. The Moravians love Luther, and they commonly use his Large Catechism. They also make tasty cookies.
  54. John Calvin often spoke of his debt to Luther. If you are of the Reformed tradition, you owe Martin Luther to vote for him. (Just saying…)
  55. Martin Luther King liked Martin Luther too. In fact, he respected the #BigLutheran so much, he had his own name and the name of his son legally changed from Michael King. We now know his son as Martin Luther King, Jr. in honor of the #BigLutheran. Reformers themselves, I wouldn’t be surprised if they would vote for Martin Luther in Lent Madness (if they could).
  56. Although sharing some similarities in life and faith, Martin Luther and Martin Luther King shouldn’t be confused. Check out this test called “Who said what.” If you like Martin Luther King, Jr., you might just like Martin Luther enough to vote for him during Lent Madness.
  57. Martin Luther was quite practical. He preached a Sermon on How to Prepare to Die, including both spiritual and practical advice on caring for your loved ones left behind. In another writing dealing with the plague, he urged people to use their heads. Christian mercy required pastors to tend to their flock, but only those needed should risk their lives. If one would do, one should go. We don’t need to needlessly rush into martyrdom.
  58. Martin Luther understood we lived in a fallen world and there exists a tension between valid use of force and pacifism within Christian ethics. I suggest you read his short piece, Can a soldier too be saved. If you’re a veteran or a police officer, you’ll probably agree with the general thesis of this work. “What men write about war, saying that it is a great plague, is all true. But they should also consider how great the plague is that war prevents.”
  59. Martin Luther taught a great deal about Christian vocation in the widest of terms. If you are a ditch digger or king, be a Christian in how you live those calls out. Read about Luther on vocation. Your work is sacred when done in love – even if changing diapers – according to Martin Luther.
  60. His teachings helped lead to spiritual renewal, pietism (a heart centered, lived faith), and indirectly the German revivals and Great Awakenings.
  61. At the same time, his teachings helped lead to a love of liturgy and orthodoxy (which are not always known for the traits listed in #60.)
  62. His Luther Rose or Seal is both stylish and theological! Click the seal to learn how. Luther Rose
  63. Martin Luther was an avid supporter of public education. The Reformation helped lead to more public schools and libraries.
  64. He was actually humble, often insulting himself and not just others for foibles and failings.

    I humbly and subtly try to encourage a fair and unbiased vote from the congregation during Lent madness.

    I humbly and subtly try to encourage a fair and unbiased vote from the congregation during Lent madness.

  65. Luther worked for his keep. He worked as a carpenter, made and sold some beer, and grew food for sale. He was apparently known for his wonderful lettuce, beans, melons and cucumbers. Of course, he also was a professor and pastor. Of course, don’t forget Katie. She had the real business sense.
  66. Martin Luther has inspired a lot of “Lutheran fun” and merchandise at Old Lutheran.
  67. It’s fun to be Lutheran, you just have to know how…Dr. Seuss, a Lutheran, would probably vote for Martin Luther if he could. So, don’t be a Grinch.Grinch Vote for Luther too! Just for a taste of Lutheran fun, you might like to read One fish, two fish, Lutherans catch fish…and people too!
  68. Famous, perhaps infamous, and some not so well known people call Luther their friend. Listen to the Lutheran Song by Lost and Found for proof.
  69. Bach and many other composers loved music and Luther. Ahhhh, Bach!
  70. Let’s face it. You may not agree with everything he did or said, but he was pretty brave. Stand with him. Vote for him in Lent Madness. #hereIvote
  71. He’s on twitter, and those not old fashioned at all.
  72. He’s on Facebook, proof he is cutting edge.
  73. He inspires laughter. (For good or ill, Lutheran Satire is on Twitter and Facebook and Youtube – not always tastefully done, but it is there.)
  74. In 2017, it will be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (or Protestant Revolt for you old timer Catholics). Let’s start the party early. After all, some are calling it the Luther Decade. Vote Luther!LutherLogo_500
  75. Many of the changes he advocated are today part of Vatican II reforms in the mid-twentieth century. As of 2006, Lutheran, Roman Catholics, and most recently Methodists have signed on to a Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith. (Who would have thunk it possible back in 1517?)
  76. He didn’t like indulgences nor corruption in the church. Neither should we.indulgence
  77. His advocacy helped bring on what we know as modern, scholarly exegesis of biblical texts.
  78. He started from a peasant family that made good in mining, but he answered God’s call rather than the call of commerce or law school as his father wanted. Herr Luther was pretty mad…He might be happier if Martin makes a name for himself in Lent Madness.
  79. Caught in a horrific thunderstorm and terrified that he was going to die, Luther yelled a vow, “Save me, St. Anne, and I shall become a monk.” (St. Anne was the mother of the Virgin Mary and the patron saint of miners.) He was good to his word and joined the Augustinians at Erfurt. And yes, St. Anne is in Lent Madness this year. Perhaps it is a sign! Vote for Luther!
  80. Many of Luther’s teachings echo those of Augustine, a pretty smart dude.
  81. Luther was a beloved instructor at Wittenberg University and had a Doctor of Theology degree. He was no dummy either.
  82. He wasn’t a big fan of Greek philosophers, especially the excitement surrounding Aristotle. If you barely survived your college philosophy class(es), vote for Luther! He never cared for “mental gymnastics” in trying to prove a theological point.
  83. Luther prayed the Apostles’ Creed as do modern Lutherans. He formally believed in the communion of saints, but in searching scripture, he became less than keen on praying to saints or focusing upon saints interacting with us from heaven. In his mind, there was no clear evidence of this in the Bible, so why should one do it when we can cast all our cares on Jesus? He advised against it, instead focusing upon the church on earth, the Holy Congregation in German. See his Large Catechism, Apostles’ Creed, Article III. For similar reasons, he didn’t like all the superstitions and excess related to the veneration of saints and their relics. By the way, he remained a great fan of Mary the Mother of Jesus. Luther often called her the Queen of Heaven, suggested her statue could rightly be in ever church, and wrote Commentary on the Magnificat (1521) where he extolled the magnitude of grace given to Mary and her important Christian example.
  84. Still, commemorations of “saints” (all those who believe in Christ are considered saints, but some folks are exemplary) remain in the Lutheran faith traditions. We give thanks for their Christian life and witness. Many of those on the Episcopal calendar are commemorated, and even a number of Catholics, Reformed and Methodist Christians can be found on the ELCA’s list.
  85. Luther took no bull from the pope. When he received the papal bull, Exsurge Domine, threatening excommunication from the church and condemning his works, Luther burned it publically on December 10, 1520. On January 3, 1521, the Bull Decet Romanum officially declared Luther a heretic, as well as his followers, and anyone who from then on accepted or helped Luther and his followers.
  86. He wasn’t a big fan of the Book of James because it sounded so works oriented, but in reviewing what should be in the canon, he stuck with the opinion of the earlier church.
  87. Exceptions to this included the books of the Apocrypha. Instead, he went along with the Jewish scholars of his day to help discern what should be canonical.
  88. If nothing else he was consistent. When a question of divorce or a polygamous marriage came up, he couldn’t find any explicit orders against polygamy in scripture. Indeed, the patriarchs often had multiple spouses. This didn’t go over so big. Learn more about this scandal here.
  89. Lutherans tend to eat a lot of lutefisk. Feel sorry for us and vote for Luther.

    Lutefisk-Car-Emblem-(2382)

    Click here for a recipe! Mmmmm…

  90. If you voted for Lucy during the early first rounds of Lent Madness, remember that Lutherans (especially Swedish ones) love her…but the many(?) Italian-Irish Lutherans like me love her too. Visit my blog to learn more.
  91. Many expect MLK, Jr. to pommel Martin Luther in their Lent Madness first round match up. Wouldn’t you like to root for the underdog? We know Americans love conspiracy.  Shhhh….pass it along…vote for Luther!
  92. The Book of Concord, the Lutheran Confessions, is filled with good old fashioned theology. Many of the works included were written by Luther. Even if not Lutheran, you might find helpful theological tidbits.
  93. Luther said, “Pray and let God worry.” Sage advice during Lent Madness.
  94. The current Pope Benedict has spoken with some approval of Martin Luther, although he hasn’t become a big fan…yet. I am confident he would forgive…nay, even urge…Roman Catholics and others to vote for Luther in Lent Madness.
  95. Martin Luther had 95 theses, but the pope wasn’t one.

Although much of the above is most certainly true, I offer it with tongue in cheek. I hope you learn something, maybe laugh a bit…and, oh yeah….VOTE FOR LUTHER!

Remember, you aren’t voting against Martin Luther King, Jr., a remarkable man, but rather supporting someone even he respected and emulated. Neither man was perfect, but I hope you’ll vote for Luther. To me, it seems we simply can do no other. Besides, Lent Madness doesn’t really matter anyway. I doubt ML or MLK care one bit what happens…so why not stand with Luther? #hereIvote

Disclaimer: Please don’t blame my congregation nor denomination for this post. It is only an attempt at humor and polite discourse. Any fault found is my own. If (inspite of my post), you wish to learn more about the ELCA, visit their welcome page, or stop by Messiah Lutheran Church & School’s website.

© 2013 The Rev. Louis Florio. All contents not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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