Luther's Last Words

Luther's Last Words

pre-order this illustrated history of the reformation by cameron a. mackenzie--sign up by sunday, october 15 in the narthex. click here for more info!!!

pre-order this illustrated history of the reformation by cameron a. mackenzie--sign up by sunday, october 15 in the narthex. click here for more info!!!

 

Reformation 500

October 31, 2017 (All Saints' Eve) will mark the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, which was ignited by Luther's posting of "The 95 Theses" on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517. A small committee is working on commemorative publications, projects, and events for St. Mark's, which will culminate in our own festival worship on the morning of October 29 (Reformation Sunday). The Washington DC Metropolitan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will sponsor a Reformation Service at 4:00 PM that afternoon (October 29) in Washington National Cathedral—mark it on your calendar! ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton will preach. The previous Sunday, October 22, the National Lutheran Choir under the direction of David Cherwien will present a concert in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington at 7:00 PM—mark it on your calendar!

As other events come to our attention, they will be posted to St. Mark's Web site. If you have ideas or would like to join the committee, please see committee chair Chris Michaelsen. You can contact him via email or telephone (703-507-3817).

LutherFacts - Last Words

Just before his death, Martin Luther wrote down his final words that are both humbling yet powerful in their meaning. Knowing he was failing, he wrote his last will and testament. It began with the words, "I am well known in heaven, on earth, and in hell," a statement consistent with the many bold stands he had taken in his life. As Luther worked to complete his last thoughts, his close friend and fellow reformer Justus Jonas (1493-1555) asked Luther, "Do you want to die standing firm on Christ and the doctrine you have taught?" "Yes," he replied. In response to the question, then he wrote down, "We are beggars. This is true." He chose not to focus on his years of activism but instead to stress his own need for salvation. These were surely words that had their roots in his years as an Augustinian monk seeking redemption. For Martin Luther, the reform of Christianity was more than institutional change but also the seeking of spiritual truths that could sustain life. Once again, even in death, he sought to show the way for others to follow. 

 

Reformation Reverberations

During Communion we sing "Isaiah in a Vision Did of Old" (#868), a paraphrase of Isaiah 6:1-4, Luther's Sanctus from his German Mass and Order of Service, published in 1526. Luther based his melody on an earlier plainsong chant, one he undoubtedly grew up singing. The current harmonization is by Carl Schalk, a leading Lutheran composer (see hymnal index). The text is a translation by Martin Franzmann, a Lutheran pastor/poet and seminary professor ("With High Delight," "Thy Strong Word"). A few years before the German Mass, in 1523, Luther revised the Latin Mass, in which he recommended that only the hymns and sermon be in German. He was in no hurry to write a service wholly in the vernacular but was content to have his adherents continue worshiping in Latin. However, other reformers were barreling ahead with German services of their own, in Luther's view confusing the people and simply showing off, without any thought of the needs of the common people. So, after repeated requests from peers who longed for an end to this confusion, he offered a German mass with a twisted arm but insisted that none of it be considered mandatory. The chief parts of the mass (Creed, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, etc.) are versifications of the original Latin texts, hymns really. He provided chants for the Readings, one for the Epistle (or Letter, from the New Testament) and a different chant for the Gospel. These providing different tones for the narrator, Christ, and other persons, and various endings for a comma, a period, a question, etc. Interestingly, for the Words of Institution ("In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread ... ") he used the same chant as he used for the Gospel, because he regarded these Words primarily as proclamation ("my body ... for you," "my blood ... for you"). In fact, Luther called the Words (or Verbum) "the gospel in a nutshell." So, when the Words of Institution are spoken, it is the Gospel being proclaimed to you, as a church body and as individuals. Be attentive to these words today, and know that they are directed toward you. He says, "for you, for you. a gift; receive, eat, drink; you are forgiven." The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ!


          Martin Luther (1483-1546)

          Martin Luther (1483-1546)