Reformation Reflections

They say that if you have to explain a joke, it loses its punch.  I hope the same is not true of poetry.

The Protestant Reformation will forever be tied to Hallowe’en because it was on October 31, 1517 that Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral, sparking the religious revolution that gave us the church in which you and I worship today.  As this congregation knows, I have always tried to honor both observances.  So this Sunday I am going to tell what I think is the scariest story in the Bible, of the Gerasene demoniac in Mark 5, and accompany it with a poem by Bill Stadick titled, “The Sin-Boldly-Bulwark-Never-Failing Blues.”  The poem was first runner-up when the religious journal Christian Century ran a poetry contest 5 years ago to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  It’s a great poem, but as Ricky Ricardo might have said, it requires some ’splainin’ to do.  So at the risk of losing its punch (and hoping actually to gain some), here are some references to the poem you will hear Sunday:

Sin boldly:  a reference to Romans 6.1 where Paul asks, “Shall we sin boldly that grace may abound?”

Bulwark-Never-Failing:  a line from the hymn “A Mighty Fortress” written by Martin Luther.

repetition of the word “just”:  play on the Reformation idea, the just shall live by faith alone.

raca:  a biblical generic curse word; in Matthew 5.22 Jesus said, “Whoever shouts raca at a neighbor shall be liable to judgment.”

1521:  the year Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X.

Habakkuk 2.4:  “Look at the proud!  Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.”

“Hier stehe, ich kann nicht anders”when accused of heresy by the Roman church, Luther famously replied, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”

I hope this hasn’t spoiled it!

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