I have written before about my surprize at seeing this hand painted Luther’s seal at what I considered literally the end of the world at Wamba in Kenya.. I saw it again the other day and it got me to thinking….
There has existed for a time the questions as to whether of not Luther and the Refomers had a heart for missions, or if they even thought about ‘mission”. One great statement that I remember that posited the idea that he didn’t was – “How Can You Go and Tell When Your Motto is ‘Here I Stand’?” Well be that as it may there seems to be a mission component to Luther’s preaching although it may not be what we conceive of as ‘missional”. It’s there nontheless. I found this intriguing letter from a J. N. LENKER. Home for Young Women, Minneapolis, Minn., March 22, 1909. Evidently he was wondering if Luther cared about missions too, way back in 1909……………………..
Luther himself already seizes every opportunity offered by a text of the Divine Word in order to remind believers of the distress of the Heathen and Turks and earnestly urges them to pray in their behalf, and to send out missionaries to them. In accord with him all the prominent theologians and preachers of his day, and of the succeeding period inculcated the missionary duty of the Church. Many also of the Evangelical princes cherished the work with Christian love and zeal.” Luther’s interest in the work of true evangelization is seen in the name he designedly chose for the church of his followers. He did not call it Protestant nor Lutheran, but conscientiously insisted upon it being called the Evangelical, or in plain Anglo-Saxon, the Gospel church, the Evangelizing church. Because of Luther’s emphasis on the word evangelical there are properly speaking no Lutheran, but only Evangelical-Lutheran churches. He is the evangelist of Protestantism in the true sense.
Of the library of 110 volumes of which Luther is the author, 85 of them treat of the Bible and expound its pure evangelical teach- ings in commentaries, sermons and catechetical writings. He popularized the word evangelical. With his tongue and pen he labored incessantly for the evangelization of Europe. That Europe is evangelized is due more to his labors and writings than to those of any other. What those writings did for Europe they may do, and we believe, will do, for the world in a greater or less degree.
The greatest evangelist of Europe has a God-given place in the evangelization of the world. His most evangelical classics should be translated into all the dialects of earth as soon as the Bible is given to the people in their native tongue.
Dr. Warneck says: “By the Reformation the christianizing ot a large part of Europe was first completed, and so far it may be said to have carried on a mission work at home on an extensive scale.” Further he says: “The Reformation certainly did a great indirect service to the cause of missions to the heathen, as it not only re- stored the true substance of missionary preaching by its earnest proclamation of the Gospel, but also brought back the whole work of missions on Apostolic lines. Luther rightly combats, as Plitt insists, ‘the secularizing of missionary work.’ ”
In explaining the 117th Psalm Luther says: “If all the heathen shall praise God, he must first be their God. Shall he be their God? Then they must know him and believe in him, and put away all idolatry, since God can not be praised with idolatrous lips or with unbelieving hearts. Shall they believe. Then they must first hear his Word and by it receive the Holy Spirit, who cleanses and en- lightens their heart through faith. Are they to hear his Word? Then preachers must be sent who shall declare to them the Word of God.” In commenting on the words of the Second Psalm, “Ask of me and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,” Luther says : “Christ, therefore, being upon earth and appointed king , upon Mount Zion, receives the Gentiles who were then promised unto him. The words “of me” are not spoken without a particular meaning. They are to show that this kingdom and this inheritance of the Gentiles are conferred on Christ, not by men, nor in any human way, but by God, that is, spiritually.”
All who retain the good old custom of the fathers in reading Luther’s Postil sermons on the Gospel and Epistle texts for each Sunday know what deep missionary thoughts are found in the sermons for Epiphany, Ascension Day and Pentecost.
In one sermon for Ascension Day on “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation,” we read, “these words of the Sovereign Ruler commission these poor beggars to go forth and proclaim this new message, not in one city or country only, but in all the world.”