Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
While Martin Luther spent the early years of the Reformation battling the Catholic Church in Rome, by the mid-1520’s, there was a new major crisis emerging. Luther was facing dissention and betrayal within his own Protestant camp. Some of his closest colleagues rebelled against him. A number of the Reformers felt Luther had gone too far, while others felt it was not far enough. In addition, he faced a militant uprising known as the Peasants’ War. At the peak of a violent surge, and in face of the opposition, Luther decided to marry. No one could have imagined that his marriage would ultimately save the Protestant movement taking it from the classroom and church into the home.
Frankly, it all sounds a bit like a religious joke today? What do you get when you combine an outlaw Biblical professor, a runaway nun, and a dilapidated Augustinian monastery? The answer: The first Protestant Parsonage, but that is what happened. As Luther’s efforts to reform the church began to take hold, the monasteries and convents across Europe began to empty. Monks and nuns motivated by Luther’s writing left their orders, some to become Protestant clergy and some for marriage. In 1523, Luther found himself organizing a rescue of twelve nuns from the cloister at Nimbschen. One of these nuns, a fiercely independent and intelligent young woman, named Katherine von Bora, 15 years his younger would become Luther’s wife on June 13, 1525. Seven years later, the monastery, where they were married, and which was built to house 40 monks, was gifted to the Luther family by the late Elector Frederick the Wise. Today it bears the name the Luther Haus.
The life in that first Protestant Parsonage, as the life in every Christian home, flows from the love of the marriage itself. Luther, by his own admission, did not marry out of love, but rather out of pity and to please his cantankerous father, who liked the idea of grandchildren to spite the pope, before his son was martyred. Together Martin and Katherine had six children, four of whom survived to adulthood. While Martin taught at the university and preached in the city church, Katie took over the management of the sprawling former monastery. Her hard work endeared her to Martin and earned her several pet names, Katie, my rib, Selbander (better-half), and Lord Katie, Mistress of the Pigsty. When she became too domineering, Luther would offer a play on words for her name by calling her Kette, which means chain in German. From their inauspicious beginning, Martin and Katie developed a love and respect for each other which they shared through hospitality and teaching in their home and raising their family. Loved love, Luther wrote was to be mutual. “Let the wife make the husband glad to come home and let him make her sorry to see him leave.”
From the beginning, Luther believed that Christian home was intended to be a place for modeling and teaching the faith to children. In a sermon on marriage, Luther said, “Every father of a family is a bishop in his house and the wife a bishopess. Therefore remember that you in your homes are to help us carry on the ministry as we do in the church…which is to preach the gospel to the children.” But where should parents begin? Luther recognized that families needed tools for this task.
In 1529, Martin Luther published his explanation to the chief parts of the Christian faith in his small catechism. The term catechism was not unique to Protestants. It actually comes from the Greek “Kata-echo,” a term for to repeat back. St. Paul used the word in Galatians to designate instruction in the faith. It was a basic form of rote learning, in which the students repeated back the words of their teachers. For Lutherans, the question was always, “So what does this mean?” In Luther’s Small Catechism, Luther taught that it was the head of the household who was responsible for instructing in the Christian faith, and not simply the pastor.
A variety of voices nurture us in our faith. Indeed, it is said that faith is often caught and not taught. That has certainly been the experience of our confirmands. It is the relationships in the home that are so important to the growing faith.
Murphy: Growing up I never thought about my faith or valued church a lot. I mean if God’s going to forgive us if our wrong doings it’s okay if we skip this week of church right. And maybe the next. And maybe the one after that. In the past few years I have really thought about what my faith means to me. I’ve thought about the gifts that have been given to me by God like my family, friends, and everything I need to live a good life. Thank you to my family for taking me to church and confirmation all those times and making sure faith is part of my life.
Clayton: Ever since I was a little kid I came to Lake of the Isles with my grandpa, I have met many people who have influenced me, like my grandpa, the pastor and my Sunday school teacher. They taught me so much about God, the Bible, and what to believe. Even though I had to get up early for Sunday school, and I did not enjoy that part, I am very grateful for my grandpa taking me every Sunday he could.
Spencer: My faith story all began when I was baptized at Calvary as a baby. Baptism was important to my parents because it shows that I am a part of God’s family and reborn into it. Although I don’t remember being baptized my parents still have my candle to remind them of that special day.
Through the course of confirmation, the confirmands begin to ask their own questions and wrestle with them. Often this included the meaning of baptism.
Clayton: My baptism means a lot to me; it tells me I have a second chance with God and that my sins will be forgiven. Jesus has helped out in many ways in my life, he has been there like nobody could ever be. Whenever I’m going through a hard times, I know I can rely on Jesus listening to me and to my prayers. Jesus’ death and resurrection can play a big part in my life because I know he won’t judge me for my sins. Jesus’ death offers the assurance to people that their sins can be forgiven.
Murphy: The thing that made me change my view on my faith was confirmation. When you get asked questions about God and Jesus you start to realize how important faith is. I realized that praying is not only for times of need, but also for times of thanksgiving. In confirmation, I got to hear about other people’s experiences with God and how I can learn from them. I know that I will continue my journey in affirming my faith and letting God guide me in my journey. God will guide me in what is right and wrong, and that when I make mistakes, he will forgive me.
Growing to know Jesus is an important element to our Christian journey and the development of faith. We hear the stories of Jesus’ life and miracles in the home, in Sunday School, and later in Confirmation. And eventually Jesus becomes our own, as does the faith he inspires.
Spencer: To me being a Christian is not just about going to church. It can be about how you show up to different situations in life. Showing up means being kind and showing forgiveness even if someone did something bad. They can still be forgiven. I try to be kind even to people I just met. Sometimes forgiving people can be hard but it can help you to build a relationship with that person. Even if they did something bad, they may be going through something so offering empathy is important. It shows kindness. Being a Christian is also being good to the community and helping people out when they are in need.
The first Protestant Parsonage in the Luther Haus was a place for spirited conversation, warm hospitality and nurturing love. Katie and Martin welcomed hundreds of guests into their home each year, but Martin still found time dedicated to his family. He wrote songs for their Christmas celebration including the hymn, “From Heav’n Above.” By the time the Luther Family moved into the former Augustinian monastery, it was commonly referred to as God’s Inn. Beyond their own children, Martin and Katie took in several more orphaned children from family members. University students also regularly boarded at the Luther Haus. Some were able to pay their rent, but many lived off the Luthers’ generosity. It is estimated that the Luther’s housed up to twenty-six people at various times.
The late professor Jim Nestingen wrote, that while Martin receives most of the historical attention, it was his bride that bore the brunt of turning the old monastery into a home. The fact that Katherine Von Bora is remembered by her family name, and not simply as Mrs. Martin Luther, solidly indicates the standing that she achieved, not only with her husband, but in the Lutheran Reformation. Yes, behind ever great man, stand an even greater woman.
Their home became the model for Christian homes throughout the ages where mutual love abides, guests and strangers are welcome and children are nurtured in the faith to be sent out to do the work of God’s kingdom in the world.
Murphy: I hope that my bond with God will be strengthened during both the good days and the bad days.
Spencer: I want to live my life as a Christian each day. I will do this by not jumping to conclusions about people and trying to talk to them.
Clayton: Being a Christian affects my daily life challenging me to do good and push myself to be a better person.
For all three of our Confirmands, this is most certainly true. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.