Martin Luther was born on this date in 1483.
Two years ago, I sat in the the monastery chapel at Erfurt where Luther, already a monk, and a person racked by insecurities about God and his salvation, was ordained as a priest. The incident is well-known. Luther was so overpowered by the sense of God's holiness and perfection in contrast to his own sin and imperfection that he nearly spilled Christ's blood at the altar.
Sitting there in the gathering darkness of the setting sun, as I remembered the journey to a true faith in Christ and His grace for sinners like Luther (and me and you) that began shortly after Luther's ordination. Luther was directed to become a theologian, a scholar of Scripture. It was while studying God's Word that he came to realize that God is gracious and merciful. God remembers that we are dust, as the Scriptures say, that we can never make ourselves good enough or righteous enough to warrant a place in God's everlasting kingdom. And so, because of His love for all of us, God the Father sent God the Son, Jesus, to offer His sinless life on a cross, taking the punishment for sin that we deserve. Then, the Father raised Jesus to life again.
In Jesus Christ, God has done everything necessary for sinners like me to be forgiven, reconciled to God, and, when the gift of faith in Christ takes root in me, able to believe in Jesus as "the way, the truth, and the life," the One through Whom even I can be covered with Jesus' righteousness. We are only saved from sin, death, and condemnation by the grace of God given to those who believe in Jesus Christ. And even faith in Christ itself is God's gift to us.
As I sat in that monastery two years ago. Luther's journey of faith in Christ had, in a very real sense, made my journey of faith possible. As a young man, I had been an atheist. I had no use for Christians or Church.
But in a Lutheran Christian congregation in Columbus, the good news of new and everlasting life through faith in Jesus truly reached me for the first time. Through the Word and the Sacraments I experienced there, the Holy Spirit wooed me to faith in Jesus.
Luther, the once-insecure monk and priest, had by the insight into God's Word gave to Him, unleashed Christ's good news (his Gospel) onto the world and, more than four-hundred years later, that Good News reached me.
And so today, I do more than bless the memory of Martin Luther. I thank God for him.
Without his faithful witness for Christ and the Reformation it unleashed, I might not today be reconciled to God, certain of my place in His kingdom, and wanting nothing more than for all my family and friends to know and trust in God the Son, Jesus, too.
[The sanctuary of the Erfurt monastery where Martin Luther was ordained.]