In preparation for this coming weekend, a member of our communication team asked me for my favorite Martin Luther quotes. We will be commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the day the Luther, a monk in Germany, nailed 95 Theses to his town’s church doors. It was an event, among many events, that helped the sparks of reformation turn to wildfire, transforming European Christianity, beginning not just the Lutheran Christian Church, but Protestantism.
Thankfully, Luther left us lots of words to quote, and to teach, inspire, and form us (and also to reject). My favorite quote of Luther’s might not even be truly his words, but I still love it. He is thought to have said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would fall to pieces, I would plant an apple tree.”
Hope. These are words of such hope. The kind of hope that despite an unknown (and maybe terrifying) future, we can invest ourselves in bringing life and beauty into our today. It’s not just a beautiful ecological commitment, a care for God’s beloved created world. We don’t have to let our fear of the future keep us from acting in love, planting life right now. Luther trusted so deeply in life, in resurrection, that not even seemingly certain destruction would keep him from planting a tree. That’s hope.
And then there is the quote of Luther’s that I can only remember because my mom once gave me a pair of socks with it on them: “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Courage. Luther began as just a teacher and pastor in a not-so-important little town in Germany, just trying to love his people and tell them about Jesus. He was catapulted into our history books because of his unfathomable courage to risk everything for the truth he found in Jesus.
God’s people have been gifted with this courage from the very beginning. It’s the kind of holy courage that helped David stand before Goliath, empowered Esther to convince the King to save her people from genocide, gave Mary the capacity to say “yes” to birthing the Messiah, transformed Paul from persecuting Christians to baptizing them, and on and on and on through the generations.
As we commemorate this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I pray we can look back to the faith of those who came before us, and let their example lead us. We are the next in a long line of people of hope and courage, believing that our actions today can help shape a better tomorrow.
We can serve our neighbor, build relationships with strangers, love our enemies, protect our vulnerable creation, and more – all acts of planting trees of life and freedom and joy even if it seems like the world is falling apart around us. With courage, we can risk standing up, standing with, and standing for the things we believe in, and alongside the most vulnerable.
By grace we are saved. We are loved no matter what. We are forgiven and our lives have purpose. That’s all Luther needed to know to take on all the powers that kept people from knowing the love of God in Jesus. And that’s all we need, too. Thankfully, it’s the gift God gives, to live as people with hope and courage.
–Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor