S e m p e r R e f o r m a n d a
Reformation Sunday: A Visitor from the Past
Oct. 29, 1985 / Trinity, Fairhaven, MA
Remarks on The Day’s Theme
[ Pr: Pastor Nieman - as himself;
ML: Dr. Martin Luther – as D. Buehler ]
Pr - Today is Reformation Sunday, which recalls how Dr. Martinus Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The event actually took place on the Day of Halloween, October 31st, 1517. And so today we have as our guest at Trinity Lutheran, Dr. Luther himself--just arrived from Logan Airport in Boston. We are very honored to have Dr. Luther with us..... (noisy interruption occurs at side door)
ML- Danke schon, Mein Herr Pastor Nieman! The honor is mine. And I am very grateful to the people at Lufthansa Airlines for bringing me here from Wittenberg last night. One thing that bothers me, though, is that you call this a “Lutheran” Church. Don’t you know that I never intended to start my own church!? I wanted to part of one holy, catholic and apostolic Church: the Christian Church.
Pr - Well, it is true that the name Lutheran was sort of a nickname that just caught on. But we are still glad for all the things you did to help this church come to life.
ML - People thought I was a troublemaker, and some even thought I wanted to break the church apart. But I was only trying to get them to see the Good News about Jesus Christ!
Pr - Do you mean the idea of Sola Fide, Faith Alone?
ML - That’s right! In the 1500’s people thought they could earn God’s love by doing good deeds. I showed them how impossible that would be. We cannot make God love us more by doing good deeds. For God loves us in spite of ourselves!!!
Pr - But our Faith is still important isn’t it?
ML - Of course! Faith is the most important thing we have, for it comes from deep down within our hearts. It means that we fear, love and trust in God above everything else. Just you look at my Coat of Arms!
Pr – Otherwise...we start feeling too important and selfish, isn’t that right?
ML - Exactly! I myself am not that important, except that I was able to bring others to Jesus, and show them God’s love. And I’m still doing that now. In fact, I have to catch another plane to meet with Pope John Paul II in Rome tomorrow. By the way, can you tell me what time it is?
Pr - It’s just about 9:45, Eastern Standard Time!
ML - Ach du lieber!!!! @$#^$@#^@%$#!! I forgot to set my hourglass back. Oh well, I thank you for letting me visit with you today. May God Bless you All! Auf wiedersehen!!!
Pr - Let’s all say “Goodbye” to Martin Luther, everyone! “Goodbye! Auf wiedersehen.” That’s a German saying that means “until we meet again” and it’s a way of saying that we are always connected together by God’s love, no matter where we go.
1. Like most dialog sermons, this one went through many incarnations, starting in 1970, during a youth service at St. Paul, Arlington, MA. It become more keenly dramaturgical at First English Lutheran in Syracuse, NY (1973), and again at the Hedmark sanctuary of First, West Haven, CT, in 1975. By 1980, it had been adapted for the enormous sanctuary of Gloria Dei in Providence, Rhode Island, also stylized as Svensk Medievale by Martin Hedmark. It took the form you see here in 1985 when the Pastor was played by Rev. John Nieman (Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Ohio) and myself (Wittenberg ’67).
BTW, a personal goal of mine is to live long enough (72) to do this again in 2017!
2. The Luther part should be played for fun, as Eric Gritsch pointed out in his classic, Luther: God’s Court Jester (Fortress, 1983). Costume and props should BE minimal, but might include a black cassock, black capuche (a Fransiscan monk gave me one in 1985), a black cincture with wooden cross (on leather thongs) and, of course, sandals. An hourglass is a nice touch, but be careful since you may actually show up too EARLY in case of Standard Time, as did at St. Paul, Arlington, in 1970.
3. It goes without saying that Dialog (or dialogue) is an especially apt medium for expressing The Reformation Theme. For more on this medieval literary form, see:
4. Chauvinism or not, it is today still meet and right for Lutherans to prepare for October Thirty-One by re-reading Luther or Lutheran Theology.
Here are several useful starting points:
Koenig, R.E. “Ecumenical impasse? - doctrine of justification by faith.” Christian Century, Oct 14, 1998.
----> ( http://www.christiancentury.org )
Lull, T. My Conversations with Martin Luther. Mpls: Ausgburg, 1999.
Marty, M. The Place of Trust. NY: Harper & Row, 1983.
_______. Lutheran Questions, Lutheran Answers. Mpls: Augsburg, 2007.
McGrath, A. Luther's Theology of the Cross. Oxford: Blackwell, 1990.
Oberman, H.A. Luther: Man Between God and the Devil. New Haven: Yale, 2006.
Pelikan, J. Reformation of Church & Dogma, Vol. 4 of The Christian Tradition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984.
Rupp, G. The Righteousness of God. NY: Philosophical Library, 1954.
Siirila, A. Divine Humanness. Mpls: Augsburg, 1970.
Tappert, T., ed. Selected Writings of Martin Luther. 1517-1546. Mpls: Fortress. 2007.
Todd, John. Luther, A Life. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1982.
Wengert, T.J. Harvesting Martin Luther’s Reflections on Theology, Ethics, and the Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.
David A, Buehler, Ph.D.
teaches philosophy and ethics at Providence College (RI)
October, 2007 | (TEN YEARS TO GO!!!)