Thank you to Pastor Kiecker for this meditation upon these readings for the commemoration of Martin Luther, who fell asleep in Christ on this day in 1546.
2 Kings 24:18-25:21; 1 Corinthians 15:20-34; Psalm 120
“So Judah went into captivity, away from her land.”
What value is there in hearing this? What’s the ‘moral’ of the story? What can be gleaned and learned, lest we find ourselves in the same place? After all, they say that those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.
It’s the stuff that tragedies are made of. After all, they could have had it all—no, wait: they did have it all. But they lost it in the end. And you, dear hearer, go, and do not do likewise.
But that doesn’t do the story justice, does it? After all, they deserved it, didn’t they? They suffered greatly because they had abandoned their First Love greatly. And that’s how the story goes—how it always goes. If only they had been more devoted, more mindful, more whatever. Because we know very well, put good in and get good out. So, you, dear hearer, go and do better.
But that’s not going to cut it, either, is it? After all, no one deserves that, do they? The sheer brutality, almost incomprehensible to twenty-first century sensitivities. Is this truly our self-same humanity? Acting in such a way to each other? What kind of ‘good’ would associate with such ‘evil’? Yet, there is evil in this world, and it should not happen, regardless of whether the person has been good. So, you, dear hearer, go and sit with them in their distress.
But this, too, comes up short of our goal. After all, it happened. Whether or not it was deserved, and no matter what they did or didn’t do, it happened. So, maybe it’s more important that we only consider the outcome? Every cloud has a silver lining, doesn’t it? And God must have been aiming to accomplish…this. So, you, dear hearer, look for the good surrounding the outcome.
But who can say what is truly good—as if we had all the understanding necessary to properly evaluate a given situation? Who can even discern ‘good’ at times when life can be so upside down? These things are far above us, located in places where we are not allowed to go, in the will of God not revealed to us.
And so, maybe it’s less about ‘finding’ or ‘learning’ anything, and more about knowing. Of course, that we should not wallow with the ungodly in their depravity still stands. Yet, there is no amount of not doing, or doing better, that can make the sinner right with God, try as we might to offer it. Likewise, to associate with the suffering and to hold out hope are beautiful fruits of faith. But health and life are found in the source, not in the fruits.
Let God be God. And let God reveal Himself the way He will: Christ crucified. This we know: salvation is only going to be found under cross and suffering, because that’s where our Savior placed Himself.
So, the inverse is also true: where suffering is, there is God to be found in this world. He is there to operate, to “do Himself,” as it has been said, on the sinner, to crucify the sinner along with Christ. That Christ, who has been crucified and already raised for us, can be our only life.
Only when all else is lost can All-in-All be found!
On February 18, 1546, while visiting the town of his birth on a mission to help settle a dispute, Martin Luther, Doctor and Reformer, died. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” What more needs to be said?
“A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is” (Martin Luther, Heidelberg Disputation, Thesis 21).
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