Laughing with Luther

by Rosie Adle

Many Lutherans have been marking the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation by reading books by and about Martin Luther. If you’re one of them, but you haven’t yet had a laugh while reading Luther, you may be doing it wrong.

Through Faith Alone provides one year’s worth of daily devotions, all excerpted from Martin Luther’s writings. If your shelf space and/or budget can’t accommodate the purchase of a complete collection of Luther’s Works this anniversary year, you’ll love this small and affordable book of selected passages.

What Martin Luther says in these selections is true and good. How he says it, though, can really make a person chuckle.

On the power of the devil …

(September 17 devotion, AE 6:94)

Reflecting on Psalm 34:7, Luther takes up the following concern: “I don’t see or feel God’s angels around me. Actually, I feel like I am under the power of the devil and am being led to hell.”

Luther responds:

If you had been handed over to the devil, he wouldn’t let you live one hour without plunging you into a life of crime.

Are you living a life of crime? (Don’t answer right away. Think about it first.) Have you committed a crime within the last hour? Yes? Oof; you could be right about the devil having a serious hold on you.

Wait, though! Luther realizes, on second thought,

As a matter of fact, [the devil] probably wouldn’t even give you time to do anything wrong, but would kill you right away. You are still alive because of the protection of the holy angels.

Basically (Luther says), never mind! Forget that criminal business. If the devil really had you entirely in his grip, he’d just kill you outright! You’re alive? Cool. Then we both know that the Lord’s angels have you in their care. Now get back to the life that we’ve just established you still have.

On giving thanks to God …

(April 27 devotion, AE 14:111)

Writing about Psalm 147:12, Luther sounds positively disgusted with humanity’s failure to give thanks to God. “We have to be yelled at before we start praising the Lord,” he scolds. Pathetic!

Even animals don’t live that shamefully! Pigs recognize the person who gives them their food. They’ll run after her and cry to her. But the world doesn’t even recognize God, let alone thank and praise him …

Come on, guys, says Luther. Praise the Lord, already. The pigs are showing us up!

On prayer and concentration …

(June 16 devotion, AE 43:199)

Have you ever struggled to pay attention during prayer? You’re praying, you’re praying, you’re praying, you’re thinking about what time the mail comes, you’re wondering if that BOGO deal already ended, you’re wishing you had some Skittles. Hey! Weren’t you just praying? What happened?

Luther gets it, but he’s not down with it. Here’s his take on 1 Peter 4:7:

To illustrate, a good barber must keep his thoughts, mind, and eyes on the razor and on the hair he’s cutting. He can’t forget about where he is. If he starts chatting away, thinking about something else, or looking somewhere else, he might cut his customer’s mouth, nose, or throat.

Eek! Focus!

Luther concludes,

Praying a good prayer … demands the whole heart. This is how I pray the Lord’s Prayer. For even today, I keep on eating and drinking from the Lord’s Prayer, as if I were a hungry baby or a famished adult who can never get enough. It’s the best prayer of all.

Yes, please, to another heaping portion of the best prayer! Who needs Skittles?

It’s the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Every celebration is made better by laughter. Read some Martin Luther. He will call you a scoundrel and compare you to farm animals (and in those comparisons, he will nearly always determine that the farm animals are better than you), but he will also turn you to Christ and teach you great gobs about the life of faith.

And from time to time, he’ll also make you LOL.

Deaconess Rosie Adle is an online instructor for the distance deaconess program of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN. She loves to laugh!

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