written by the Reverend Clint Schnekloth, in honor of Reformation Day, October 31, 2010
To be honest God, most of us can't imagine what all the fuss was about. 95 theses posted on the door of the church? Theses by some young obscure academic rocked the world and are the source of why we call ourselves Lutheran? We confess that we do not go to the church kiosk each week looking for a word to read that might challenge, transform, or even anger us. Fewer of us even than that hole up in rooms, alone, on the assumption that with pen and paper we could do battle with the devil and false prophets. We hardly know our own faith well enough to know who the false prophets might be. Forgive us.
Saving God, you inspire good works in us, but then we confuse those good works with what justifies us before you. We think if we are just good enough, just smart enough, and if enough people like us, we will be saved. Save us from this confusion, bring us to give thanks for the good works we do as gifts of your Holy Spirit, grace us with the knowledge of Christ and his gifts, and remind us that God likes and loves us because we are in Christ.
God of the poor, Luther wrote in thesis 86 of his 95 theses: "Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?" Our world today still builds on the backs of the poor. You are the God of the poor, and the mother of Jesus said that you will give the poor good things and send the rich away empty. Make it so, Lord.
Merciful God, as a community we forget that Luther created a community chest for the care of the poor, and was profligate in giving his own stuff away to all in need. He lived simply so that others might simply live. As we strive for the simplicity that comes with faith, make us as profligate as he, and help us throw our wealth into the community chest that helps the poor.
This week and next we remember the saints in light. Today, dressed in red, we remember your holy martyrs, who died confessing your Word. Even as we see grotesque, fake blood, and zombies, vampires, and other beasts in yards and costumes this weekend, remind us that your power and blood is greater than the whole pantheon of paranormal, ghostly, and undead forces. You are God, and they are ridiculous.
This week, dressed in white, we remember the saints who have gone before us and now rest with you. We walk the hallowed ground of our cemetery remembering them. They are our beloved, and we are united with them, we trust, because they are beloved by you, redeemed in you, hallowed in you. They will rise on the last day, led by your son, victorious over death, and we trust in your promise that we will rise with them.
God and Father of the Word made flesh, you love words. And so we pray that great hymn your servant Luther prayed, first as he wrote, then as we can understand it, for you are a God that continually translates your Word so that we might hear and understand. You are a mighty fortress.
Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott,
Ein gute Wehr und Waffen;
Er hilft uns frei aus aller Not,
Die uns jetzt hat betroffen.
Der alt’ böse Feind,
Mit Ernst er’s jetzt meint,
Gross’ Macht und viel List
Sein’ grausam’ Ruestung ist,
Auf Erd’ ist nicht seingleichen.
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Mit unsrer Macht is nichts getan,
Wir sind gar bald verloren;
Es steit’t für uns der rechte Mann,
Den Gott hat selbst erkoren.
Fragst du, wer der ist?
Er heisst Jesu Christ,
Der Herr Zebaoth,
Und ist kein andrer Gott,
Das Feld muss er behalten.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär’
Und wollt’ uns gar verschlingen,
So fürchten wir uns nicht so sehr,
Es soll uns doch gelingen.
Der Fürst dieser Welt,
Wie sau’r er sich stellt,
Tut er uns doch nicht,
Das macht, er ist gericht’t,
Ein Wörtlein kann ihn fällen.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn
Und kein’n Dank dazu haben;
Er ist bei uns wohl auf dem Plan
Mit seinem Geist und Gaben.
Nehmen sie den Leib,
Gut, Ehr’, Kind und Weib:
Lass fahren dahin,
Sie haben’s kein’n Gewinn,
Das Reich muss uns doch bleiben.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.