Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Road Ahead: Let me know the way

The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day
Why leave me standing here?
Let me know the way

- "The Long and Winding Road," Lennon/McCartney

Wittenberg on the Elbe, 1856

What next? How did Martin Luther the pastor follow up the Invocavit sermons?

First of all, it must be noted that the eight-day sermon series had its intended effect. By all reports, a spirit of order and tranquility was restored almost immediately. Karlstadt and Zwilling took assignments in other parishes. "On 30 March, Melanchthon tersely reported to Spalatin, 'Everything here has been well restored by Doctor Martinus.'" (Brecht, Martin Luther 1521-1532, Loc. 1048)

Certainly this was due to Luther's physical presence in Wittenberg as well as the power of the words he spoke. As their pastor for many years, he had earned their trust, and the added credibility of his own suffering for the sake of the gospel must have deeply impressed his fellow believers. And so we see once more that it is not merely the Word but the Word incarnated in a pastor who exercises faith and expresses love that makes the difference.

Luther went right to work after the Invocavit messages to carry on that pastoral task. For example, Luther immersed himself in preaching, offering two series simultaneously: from the OT (Genesis) and from the NT (Matthew). From May to December 1522, he also offered a teaching series on Peter's first epistle.

In April, he published a pamphlet, Receiving Both Kinds in the Sacrament which followed up directly on the issues he raised in the Invocavit sermons. 

In May, his Personal Prayer Book was published, a book he considered a key to fundamental reformation in the lives of his parishioners and in the church. It became such a success that thirty-five editions of it were published over his lifetime. It was another step toward what Luther himself considered his most important works: the Catechisms.

Over the next few months, in addition to his daily and weekly efforts in Wittenberg, he exercised a more apostolic ministry, traveling to surrounding areas, preaching in congregations, developing partnerships with other towns, churches, and leaders, and seeking to fill pulpits with evangelical pastors. During this time he was developing his thinking about how ministers should be called and installed to serve in churches.

During 1522, Luther also thought much about reforming the mass. At various festivals such as Corpus Christi and All Soul's he criticized traditional practices and suggested changes. It would have to wait until the next year until Luther's considerations came to fruition in his Formula of the Mass (Latin). At the end of that year he also developed a plan to produce hymns in German for the congregation in worship.

In September, Luther's masterful German New Testament was published. Now the power of the Word could be multiplied, as people in Wittenberg and throughout the region could hold it in their hands and hearts.

Richard Marius summarizes the aftermath of Luther's return to Wittenberg:
In Wittenberg, whatever else might happen, the Catholic Church was gone, new, moderate practices were installed, worship and preaching went on, children were born and baptized, marriages were celebrated, people died and had to be buried, and the other rites of Christian passage had to be observed. Willy-nilly Luther found himself presiding over an institution, and Wittenberg became his world...
The world where he took up the work of teacher, apostle, author, and most of all, pastor.

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