I told you that at this time of the year when the leaves are turning I think about death. We had an smbassador and three others killed in Libya. Recently some Sunday School babies were killed in Nairobi because they were -well, going to Sunday School. I’m sure it was a reaction to some movie no one has seen. We are not supposed to talk about this stuff.
I remember Luther and his consolations for those who are fearing death. Interestingly and problematically for many Luther also launched into polemics as a way to contemplate dying as well. We have in many ways given up the polemics of the faith, or the fight for the faith. It’s too mean spirited we say. I am going to give you two quotes. One from Hillary Clinton and the second from Rev. Prof. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee, Professor of Systematic Theology and Caldwell-Morrow Lecturer in Church History at the Queensland Presbyterian Theological College in Brisbane, Queensland, Commonwealth of Australia.
This is written as a meditation on the death of 4 Americans, one of whom was an ambassador in Libya. In it the author quotes our secretary of State. Here is Hillary Clinton…
In the United States, I will admit, there are people who still feel vulnerable or marginalized as a result of their religious beliefs. And we have seen how the incendiary actions of just a very few people, a handful in a country of nearly 300 million, can create wide ripples of intolerance. We also understand that, for 235 years, freedom of expression has been a universal right at the core of our democracy. So we are focused on promoting interfaith education and collaboration, enforcing antidiscrimination laws, protecting the rights of all people to worship as they choose, and to use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming, so that people don’t feel that they have the support to do what we abhor. (emphasis added)
Here in contrast is the professor.
“Luther died in 1546. Just before he did, he wrote in his Preface to the Reader in his Complete Works: “Farewell, dear reader in the Lord! Pray that the Word may be spread further abroad, and may be strong against the miserable Devil…. The kingdom of his vicar, the Antichrist in Rome, is sore beset…. May the God of all grace and mercy — strengthen and complete in us the work He has begun!” In his last sermon before his death, Luther refers to the words of Christ:‘Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest!’ Luther then paraphrases Christ’s words as follows: “I will give you the heart to laugh — even though Turk, Pope, Emperor, and everybody else be filled with horrible wrath and rage…. If you are facing oppression, death or torture — because the Pope, the Turk and Emperor are attacking you — do not be afraid! … I give you the Spirit!…
“Let misfortune, sin, death and whatever the Devil and the World loads upon you — assail and assault you! If only you remain confident and undismayed, waiting upon the Lord in faith — you have won already!”
Dear reader, do you believe as Luther believed? In our dark days, yet at the dawn of Christianity’s third millennium — are you really a Protestant Christian? Do you believe, with the great German Church Reformer, that the powerful Protestant preaching of the Word of God will yet destroy the Papacy–and also Islam? May the faith of Martin Luther yet become yours too!
Please don’t tell the State Department that you read that here. I don’t want to be “peer pressured or shamed”. I would hate to have Rev. Lee peer pressured either. In the meantime we will just keep contemplating the death of little children who just wanted to go to Sunday School.