God Can Speak for Himself
St. Luke, Evangelist
18 October 2016
On the tour of Germany I just led, we spent a couple of days in Berlin. This was by far the tour participants' least favorite stop. It is really just a big modern city. It wasn't always that way. The city of Berlin was something of a backwater in the sixteenth century. It had only become the capital of the Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg in the late fifteenth century; just before the Reformation. At the time, Brandenburg was not a large principality. However, all that was to change due, in part, to the Reformation. Margrave Albrecht of Brandenburg became the head of the Teutonic Order of Knights in 1511. The Teutonic Order was a military monastic community originally founded in the twelfth century and dedicated to the protection of pilgrims in the holy land and then also in the Baltic region of Europe. They became the temporal overlords of a large area in what is now Poland and Lithuania, once known as East Prussia, at the time called the Duchy of Prussia. Albrecht became an adherent of Luther's and visited Wittenberg to ask questions of the German monk about the validity of the pope's authority and its implications for the continuation of a nominally celibate military order of monks.

Although it is not known if Albrecht was satisfied with Luther's reply to his queries, he proceeded to dissolve the Teutonic Order's authority over the Duchy of Prussia, which was then held by Albrecht as a fief from the King of Poland. Both the Poles and the Germans were relieved by the dissolution of the Order's authority in Eastern Europe. However, this may have had long term political consequences. The Duchy of Prussia became a significant building block in the centuries-long drive of the Prussians to become the military and political masters of Europe, culminating in the cataclysm of World War I. Berlin became the center of German political and military affairs, because the Prussians succeeded in swallowing all the little duchies, principalities, kingdoms, and imperial cities that dotted the landscape of what came to be a united German in the nineteenth century. Luther would never have dreamed that that would have arisen from his advice to Albrecht. Indeed, we aren't even sure if this advice to Albrecht was even heeded by him, let alone be the cause of German militarism. Luther is just as likely to have been the cause of the internal combustion engine as he was the rise of the Prussian militarism.

Luther's reply to Albrecht characteristically extolled the authority of the Word of God to establish articles of faith and none other. Enforced clerical celibacy was not found in the Word of God, and indeed the Bible enjoined marriage and procreation as a positive good and a proto-command (Gn 1:28). To forbid marriage as a proper vocation could only be a demonic doctrine (1Ti 4:1-5), because it contravened a clear teaching of God in Scripture. Despite the fact that her rulers defected from Lutheranism to Calvinism in the early seventeenth century, the Prussians themselves remained solidly Lutheran until rationalism, pietism, and their bastard child the Prussian Union of the nineteenth century, worked their way among them. That witches brew of sentimentalism, rationalism, and doctrinal indifference gave birth to the Luther Renaissance in academic circles and of course, to the migrations that produced what became the LCMS in nineteenth century United States. The issues are still the same for the twenty first-century church. Either God will speak for Himself or we will remake Him according to our fancy. No appeals to the authority of our new pope, His/Her Holiness Tolerationism, can overturn God's ability to speak for Himself in the Word of God as testified by Christ Himself, who is the living Word of God.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"It is then definitely clear that the pope and all the other servants of the church should be concerned with nothing in the church other than the mysteries of God, the Word of life, and the teachings of faith. In summary, they should do only those things that are based on God's Word. To it the pope and all the other servants of the church are subject. Since it is God's Word, everyone ought to know it, and must know it for the sake of salvation.

"This has the incontrovertible consequence that everything which the pope has thus far done, decreed, and set up in the church is contrary to or without the Word of God. It has been undertaken by him or his councils in an unjust and un-Christian way, however hard he may defend himself with usages, customs, old traditions, and resolutions of councils. Through all these things he has exalted himself above everything that belongs to God or is the true worship of God (2Thess 2:4), since he does all these things against, in spite of, and without God's Word." 

Martin Luther, Letter to Margrave Albrecht of Brandenburg
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (ESV)
Collect for St. Luke, Evangelist
Almighty God, our Father, Your blessed Son called Luke the physician to be an evangelist and physician of the soul.  Grant that the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments may put to flight the diseases of our souls that with willing hearts we may ever love and serve You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

For infant Aasha Nayak, who was born prematurely, that the Lord would watch over her cradle and grant her strength

For Marcheta Beasley who is undergoing heart surgery today, that the Lord would grant her delivery and a full recovery

For James Krikava, Charles Cortright, and all our missionaries in Eastern Europe, that the fields white unto harvest would be brought in by their ministry
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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