He probably never said it but many attribute to Luther a famous quote that if he knew the world would end tomorrow he “would plant a tree today”. Whether he said it or not it sounds like something Luther would say. His articulation of the faith was incredible. “For whatever reason, in the ineffable wisdom of God, the speech of Martin Luther rang clear where others merely mumbled,” says American Evangelical theologian Mark Noll, in “First Things” back in 1992. Luther’s preaching resonates with a knowledge that he is placed in the great story of God by the suffering and death of Christ.
Luther didn’t just preach about hell, he was there in his self conscious desire to appease God. Luther didn’t just preach about heaven, he was there when the Spirit revealed to him the Gospel. Luther didn’t just narrate the events of the Nativity, he was there every Lord’s Day when Christ was born anew in his heart and gifted to him again in the Holy Supper. He didn’t just talk about Calvary; he was there and knew that every drop of blood and every groan was brought about by what he was and what he had done by “his fault, his own fault, his own most grievous fault”. He didn’t just talk about discipleship and taking up the cross and following Christ, he did it when the world and the flesh and the devil tried to destroy him because of Christ and the Gospel. He didn’t narrate the Gospel, he lived in it. He was not an actor reading a script, he was a living member of the body of Christ living in Christ’s story, proclaiming with a living voice a living Savior.
The tree being planted at a Project 24 Center in Kenya in a time when the world seems to be coming apart is a part of what we are as Lutherans. Translated into the story of God by God’s action in Christ we are free to live in Christ and our neighbors. “These are the two things in which a Christian is to exercise himself, the one that he draws Christ into himself, and that by faith he makes him his own, appropriates to himself the treasures of Christ and confidently builds upon them; the other that he condescends to his neighbor and lets him share in that which he has received, even as he shares in the treasures of Christ”.