The Preface of Trinity Sunday
God, our refuge and our strength: You raised up your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew your Church in the light of your word. Defend and purify the Church in our own day and grant that, through faith, we may boldly proclaim the riches of your grace which you have made known in Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Martin Luther, Reformer
This week the Episcopal Church commenmorates Martin Luther, Reformer. Unlike some of the reformers to follow Martin Luther did not believe the Church needed to be abandoned altogther and completely remade, rather he was interested in reform, correcting abuses and errors, yet maintaining the great historical foundation on which the Church was built.
Martin Luther, born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512. As a professor at the newly-established University of Wittenberg, his scriptural studies led him to question many of the church’s teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wartburg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises. He is remembered and honored for his lifelong emphasis on the biblical truth that for Christ’s sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone. He died on February 18, 1546, while visiting the town of his birth.
After dinner with friends, Martin Luther had not been feeling well. He complained about the pain in his chest and, perceiving that the end of his life was now imminent, he implored God with exactly these words:
“Heavenly Father, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, God of all consolation, I give You thanks that You have revealed Your Son, Jesus Christ, to me. I have believed in Him, I have confessed Him, I have loved Him, I have praised Him, whom the pope and the remaining crowd of the wicked persecute and insult. I ask You, my Lord Jesus Christ, receive my poor soul. Heavenly Father, though I am being plucked out of this life, though I will now have to put aside this body, yet I know for certain that I will remain with You forever and that no one can pluck me out of Your hands.”
Johannes Sleidanus, De statu religionis et republicae, Carolo quinto, Caesare commentarij (Basel, 1556), quoted in Johann Gerhard, Theological Commonplaces XXV, On the Church, § 297.