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Psalm

90:1-13


 

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, "Return, O children of man!" For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as, a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!(ESV)

Death Comes

Martin Luther, Doctor and Confessor 

18 February 2014

Martin Luther died 468 years ago today. He enjoyed a long and fruitful life, but like all mortals he faced the reality of death. He died in Eisleben, probably of congestive heart failure, while trying to patch up a conflict among German Lutheran noblemen (imagine a squabble among German Lutherans!). The conflict was resolved but Luther did not survive.

 

Luther was untroubled by death. He was often sick and expected to die. In the 1530's he suffered from kidney stones and he expected to die from them, or even perhaps wished that he had. So death was a regular topic for conversation at the Luther family table. For Luther death should come as no shock. Everyone dies. Even the pagan Roman lawyer, Cicero, was comforted by the commonality of death. But we Christians are not merely stoic about death as Cicero was. We look forward to what it brings us to.

 

According to Luther earthly life was the anomaly. Life is a short span, a way station in the human return to God. Luther likened it to a trip to Leipzig from Wittenberg. Many of the students returned to their homes from the University of Wittenberg by walking to Leipzig. However, it could not be reached on the first day; it was a two day journey. So they stopped at Düben for the night and went on from there in the morning. But various students arrived at Düben at various times. So death comes at various times, but it comes for all of us. No matter how long or how short our lives death stalks all of us. Death is the universal experience, no matter how long we live.

 

Martin Luther

 

"Astonishing is the stupidity of a man who fears death. Death is common to all men, and nobody can escape it. Cicero was able to comfort himself very well even as a heathen in the first book of the Tusculans (Tusculan Disputations). How much more ought Christians be comforted, for they have Christ, the destroyer of death, and have eternal life and the resurrection. Even if we'd like to live longer, it's a brief interval at best. It's like many of you traveling to Düben (a village midway between Wittenberg and Leipzig, and travelers usually spent the night there); some of you will arrive there about the fourth hour and others about the seventh or eighth hour, but all of you will have to put up there for the night. So Adam has preceded us by only a few hours; he has hardly had more than one night's rest more than us."  

 

Martin Luther, Table Talk
 

Prayer

O God of grace and mercy, we give thanks for Your loving-kindness to all Your servants who, having finished their course in faith, now rest from their labors. Grant that we also may be faithful unto death and receive the crown of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

For Pastor Charles St-Onge, who is traveling to Asia to begin his labor as a missionary there, that the holy angels would watch over him

 

For Pastor Charles Wokoma, who is working in Nigeria, that God the Lord would strengthen him in his work of sharing the gospel

 

For all church workers and their families, that they might be upheld in the most holy faith of Christ, who died for them 

Art: MEMLING, Hans  Adoration of the Magi (c. 1470)

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