Saturday, February 19, 2005

Martin of Erfurt

It was 6 am on Friday, and I was praying the Morning Prayer via the Daily Office website. The website noted it was the commemoration day of "Martin of Erfurt."

Because it was 6 am, and because I'd not yet fed the caffeine monkey, it took me about a half a minute to process who "Martin of Erfurt" was: "Hmmm...I've heard of Martin of Tours...Erfurt...Germany...Holy Wah!* That's our Marty!"

I have to admit, that of all the "L" words that I can use to describe myself, sometimes "Lutheran" is the hardest to vocalize. Because Brother Martin makes people crazy. He makes me crazy half the time, the dumbass things he said about Jews, about women, about activist peasants...pretty much about anyone who disagreed with him. When he did say good things -- wonderful things, even -- about Christ, about grace, about the Sacraments, about the sacredness of everyday life -- I often find myself quoting him in an anonymous manner, out of embarrassment over the other things: "A famous theologian of the 16th century once said..."

Yeah. Luther could be a jerk.

Then again, so can I. A real jerk. In thought, word and deed.

This weekend I was part of a training retreat for my synod's Lay Missionary Training Program (more about that later). For part of the weekend we studied the Genesis accounts of the patriarchs and matriarchs -- a lot of jerklike behavior among that lot: A guy who passes his wife off (literally) as his sister; the wife giving her maid to him to impregnate, then driving the maid and her child into the desert to die; a son who, taking right after the old man, passes off his wife as his sister, to save his skin; a grandson, egged on by a mother right out of "The Manchurian Candidate," who cheats his brother out of his birthright and his father's special blessing. When our facilitator, an OT prof, asked our group what some of the underlying themes were in these stories, one of my fellow students put it succinctly: "God can even use jerks."

That morning at our celebration of the Eucharist the pastor-in-residence referred to Luther as a "nuisance," and she pointed out that the Church often really needs nuisances to call it to account and keep it honest.

I don't want to be a jerk. But a nuisance...let me think about that for awhile.

In the meantime..."Almighty God, we praise you for the men and women you have sent to call the Church to its tasks and renew its life, such as your servant Martin. Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit, whose voices will give strength to your Church and proclaim the reality of your reign; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

*LutheranChik gives a shout-out to any readers living north of the Mighty Mac...I just love listening to you folks talk.

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