Gospel in the Parsonage
Friday of Pentecost 16
9 September 2016
Martin Luther and Katarina von Bora were married in 1525, as he said, to upset the Pope. Katarina had escaped in an empty herring barrel from a community of nuns along with a number of her sisters. They had all found husbands after their arrival in Wittenberg except Katie. Luther had suggested that she marry a decrepit, old colleague of his. Katie demurred. She was not about to hitch your wagon to a broken-down old horse. She had set her cap toward a thoroughbred: Martin Luther. At first, Luther himself was aghast at the suggestion that he should enter into the estate of holy marriage. It took some careful argumentation for her to convert the doctor of theology to the idea, but once she had, Martin was all in. He was quite clear that marriage was a divine institution, commanded by God, given to humanity for the joy in consolation of man and woman in this holy estate, and when it pleased God for the procreation of children. He would live in the estate that God had commanded. Martin and Katie had six children together during their fruitful collaboration of more than 20 years.

Martin and Katie, although not the first married clergy to arise out of the Reformation, were certainly the most visible conjugal couple in the Western world when they were joined in holy marriage. The church had forbidden priests to marry as a matter of church law for about 500 years previously, although there were many housekeepers that bore children to priests over the centuries. Because of their visibility, Martin and Katie established the ideal of the Lutheran parsonage through their example. The Elector of Saxony, John, gave the couple the Black Friars monastery in Wittenberg as their residence. It was an enormous building, even for a family of eight. The Luther family often had guests; such as people visiting the famous Martin and promising students who were attending the University of Wittenberg, where Luther was a professor. Katie must have struggled to feed all the mouths that arrived at the dinner table to hear Luther deliver his pithy orations about everything from politics, to theology, to the local sewer system, to the Pope, to the Turk, etc. At one point, Luther forbad notes to be taken at the dinner table; but his students simply slipped tablets onto their laps and took notes secretly. Katie, despite some acerbic comments about the labors incurred because of this dinnertime traffic, tended to serve a very good table. Luther was of the opinion that she brewed the very best beer in Wittenberg; a high compliment from any German gentleman.

Luther catechized his own children, the duty of their father, sitting at that table. Everything about family life had to be re-oriented by Martin and Katie to suit the new context of married clergy in the parsonage. They did so admirably. Those who ate at their table and slept in their home returned to their own communities and nations and brought the goodhearted hospitality of Black Friars monastery with them. Children learned together with the adults at the table of the Herr Doktor. That pattern, then, had been set for the Lutheran parsonage. Katie brewed the beer and Luther brewed the theology. The gospel was paramount in their daily lives, at table, in devotions, at the bedside of a dying child, and in the labor for the Word of God.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"I wouldn't give up my Katy for France or for Venice-first, because God gave her to me and gave me to her; second, because I have often observed that other women have more shortcomings than my Katy (although she, too, has some shortcomings, they are outweighed by many great virtues); and third, because she keeps faith in marriage, that is, fidelity and respect.

"A wife ought to think the same way about her husband." 

Martin Luther, Table Talk, 49
Proverbs 31:10-31

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. (ESV)
Lord Jesus, Shepherd and Bishop of all souls, watch over the parsonages of our pastors. Make them places of refuge where the gospel is shared among husband, wife, and children. Give those who serve there the gift of hospitality, that others may see how the Christian life is lived out on a daily basis. Grant the gift of peace to pastors' families that they might share that peace of God which surpasses human understanding with others; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For President Matthew C. Harrison of the LCMS as he is installed in a service tomorrow in St. Louis, that the Lord would bless his leadership through the power of the gospel and the administration of the holy sacraments among us

For all those who will travel to the service of installation for the leaders of the LCMS, that they would be kept safe in their sojourn

For the Council of Presidents of the LCMS as it is meeting in St. Louis this week, that our Father's will would be done on earth as it is in heaven and that His name would be hallowed among us
Photo: Luther Haus, Wittenberg
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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