This time of year we are granted a special treat — birds singing! Mornings are arrayed in sound — chirping, calling, crackling — as an aerial symphony fills the sky. Likewise, at dusk you needn’t switch on any technology to enjoy a good tune; just sit outside to absorb a free concert. Talk about surround sound!
Barbara Crooker in her playful poem Sanctus considers the gravity of listening to birds. She posits in the ordinary sounds of goldfinch, wood thrush and mourning dove the presence of more. These gifts from the sky become windows into the holy. Even the title Sanctus (Holy) turns us to reconsider what we hear.
That’s just a bird chirping, nothing more
Hearing the Holy Spirit
Sometimes we have our feet too firmly planted on the ground. What is….is just what is. “That’s just a bird chirping, nothing more,” we find ourselves demanding. The poet may not jolt us out of this ‘flat footeness.’ But, she is trying: a mourning dove as ordinary as daylight calling out to you, bearing the voice of the Holy Ghost.
I’ll tip my hat to the poet and the deep sense of life she witnesses. She’s not far from the empty tomb or the dry life suddenly restored or the myriad of people no longer imprisoned by sameness.
What a grace note indeed!
On October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther very innocently posted 95 reasons for there to be debate concerning Roman Catholic doctrine and theology. The doors of the Wittenberg Church were pretty much the bulletin board of the university. Luther was calling for faculty and students to come together to discuss the direction in which the church was heading; a direction that he felt was contrary to scripture and the fundamental principles upon which the Christian Church was founded.
These Ninety-Five Theses were translated from Latin (which was intended for the university’s population) into the German language and widely distributed. Thus, an attempt at scholarly debate became an irritant among clergy, theologians, and heads of state, especially where the sale of indulgences was concerned. In his explanation to this document, Luther wrote that “the law is fulfilled not by our works but through faith, not by anything we offer God but by all we receive from Christ.”
In other words, God’s grace is a gift that cannot be earned by any human endeavor.
Although the five hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation will not officially be observed until October 31st of 2017, the ELCA is encouraging Lutherans and others within both Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church to utilize this intervening year as an opportunity for study and discussion. Long before he posted the Ninety Five Theses on the doors of Wittenberg Church, Luther had carefully studied the scriptures and written countless papers and letters in an effort to express his concerns.
I will be making recommendations to the Equip team in the near future for our providing opportunities within the congregation for study regarding Martin Luther and the impact of the Reformation upon the church and the world over these last five centuries. It is also important for us to view how Reformation history will continue to impact us far into the future. I encourage each of you take note of opportunities that will be provided in coming months within our own congregation, our synod, and among Lutherans and people of other denominations within our own community. It is also important for Lutherans to know, not just the history of where our legacy originated, but also how our understanding of justification by grace through faith impacts our mission, and our service as Christ’s disciples both now and into the future.
In the nineteenth century, Nicolai Grundtvig set these words to Martin Luther’s tune, A Mighty Fortress: “God’s word is our great heritage and shall be ours forever; to spread its light from age to age shall be our chief endeavor. Through life it guides our way; in death it is our stay. Lord, grant while time shall last your church may hold it fast through-out all generations.”
Passing the faith from generation to generation is, indeed, an endeavor worth pursuing.