Sunday – December 13, 2020
Word On Worship – Sunday – December 13, 2020
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Pandemics were not just experienced by the Roman Empire. From the 14th century onward, the Black Death haunted Europe. In just five years it wiped out as much as 25 million people or one-third the population of Europe, with urban areas particularly affected. Outbreaks continued recurring in the following centuries, including the plague that struck Wittenberg in 1527. Many fled, yet Luther and his pregnant wife, Katharina, remained to care for the sick, citing Matthew 25:41–46 as their guide.
The early Christians had more resilience because they had a robust hope in the face of death. And they were stronger as communities, forging even closer bonds through the sufferings they’d faced during the Black Death. Martin Luther concluded he must respect the word of Christ, “I was sick and you did not visit me.” According to this passage we are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.
Luther spoke of circumstances where fleeing was permitted and, ever conscious of our propensity toward self-righteousness, he warned Christians not to judge one another for different decisions. But in writing of his own commitment, he remarked: “We are here alone with the deacons, but Christ is present too, that we may not be alone, and he will triumph in us over that old serpent, murderer, and author of sin, however much he may bruise Christ’s heel. Pray for us, and farewell.”
Notice how both Satan and also Christ loom large in Luther’s thinking. Satan is a murderer from the beginning (Luther had in mind Genesis 3:15), and he stands behind the plague. Yet Christ is far stronger, and far more involved. He is in those providing care, he is (per Matthew 25) in the sick, and he is in the victory the church will experience over Satan—a victory that includes even the smaller “deliverance” of recovery from the plague. Luther and Katharina survived, and the way of Jesus was vindicated in this intense trial. May we, as we continue through the COVID pandemic, to live out the wisdom and way of Jesus before a watching world in a way that glorifies Christ.