Tour of Luther’s Germany: July 18
Before we get to today’s devotions, here are some pictures from Sunday, July 17 in Wittenberg.
Our tour group in front of the Luther statue in the town square of Wittenberg. There are 21 of us, some from my previous and current congregations and some who joined the group via Reformation Tours! It has been great getting to know them all!
We worshipped this morning at the Castle Church in Wittenberg and it was lovely. Notice the writing on the bell tower. “Ein Feste Burg” – A Mighty Fortress.
The Castle Church is where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517. The original doors burned in the 1700’s, but the theses are written (in Latin) on these bronze doors added when the church was rebuilt. Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon are found above the theses, with Luther holding the Bible and Melanchthon holding the Augsburg Confession (which he wrote).
The “town church” is actually older than the castle church. Luther preached over 2,000 sermons here, lead the first mass in German, gave communion with both bread and wine to the laity, and was married and here. His children were baptized in this font which dates to 1457.
Lutherhaus was originally Luther’s home as a monk in the Augustinian Monastery. As the Reformation progressed, monks left their monasteries, many of them marrying. This would later become his family home where he and Katie raised their 6 children.
For one of Luther’s later birthdays, Katie commissioned the building of this new entrance to Lutherhaus, including a “front porch” for sitting on warm evenings. My sister Anne and I gave it a try!
Monday, July 18, 2022: Eisleben
Today, we travel from Wittenberg to Eisleben, about 2 hours away. Luther was born here in 1483 to Hans and Margarethe Ludher (later changed to Luther).
A bit of history (really, just a little today!)
One of the oldest towns in the geographical area, Eisleben’s beginnings date back to the 10th century. By the 15th century it was one of the region’s most important towns, particularly due to the mining industry. Luther’s parents came to Eisleben for his father to make a living in the mining industry. The Ludher family moved to Mansfeld just 6 months later.
Growing up Luther
Two myths need to be debunked about Luther’s upbringing and his family. For many years, it was promoted that Luther grew up quite poor and that his parents were extremely strict, even abusive. As you can see in the house above, the Ludhers were not subsistence miners. Instead, Hans Ludher worked in the copper smelting business, eventually owning multiple smelters himself. Margarethe’s family was also a prominent, well-to-do family from the Eisenach area, one of whom became its mayor in 1497. Recent archeological study of a cellar of his childhood home in Mansfeld, showed that they lived a fairly prosperous life. Additionally, while the Ludher’s parenting would be viewed as harsh (or perhaps abusive) by modern standards, it was consistent with the parenting practices of the time. Luther wrote that he was beaten by his mother once for taking a nut from the table before a meal. But he also wrote of his parents with great affection and appreciation.
Luther’s intellectual brilliance was noted from an early age, sending him to the Latin school in Eisenach (about 100 miles away) at the age of 7.
Luther’s relationship with his father, however, did become strained when Luther quit law school to become a monk in the Augustinian order. This followed a frightening episode in which Luther was caught in a thunderstorm outside the village of Stotternheim. When a blast of lightning struck nearby, Luther cried out “Help me, Saint Anne”, (the patron saint of miners), “I will become a monk!” This commitment proved a great disappointment to his father who viewed Luther as his ticket into the upper intellectual echelons of society.
Luther died at the age of 62 in Eisleben on February 18, 1546, having travelled there with his 3 sons to mediate a dispute between two counts of nearby Mansfeld. Because Luther was famous in his own time, his death is well documented. Knowing he was seriously ill, he quoted Psalm 31:5, “Into your hands I commit my spirit. You have redeemed me, God of truth.” He later prayed the words of Simeon from Luke 2:29: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace. Amen.” On a piece of paper in his pocket were his last written words: “Wir sind Pettler. Hoc est verum.” meaning “We are beggars. This is true.”
As was customary for prominent figures at the time, a cast of Luther’s face and hands were made during the long procession back to Wittenberg, where he was buried in Castle Church (Schlosskirche).
Reflection verses Psalm 139:1-14
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
Luther drew great spiritual strength from the incarnation of God, when the Word, Jesus, became flesh to dwell among us. God is with us from the cradle to the grave, in our Bethlehem and Jerusalem. At what points in your life have you felt particularly close to God? At what points have you felt distant from God? What spiritual tools do you use to re-connect with our God who is always with us?
Hymn of the day Borning Cry
repeat first part of verse 1
Where we’re staying: Augustinian Monastery, Erfurt
This was Luther’s home from 1505 to 1511 (with some time spent in Wittenberg and Rome.)
Now a religious conference center, we will be housed in the cells once used by monks and priests like Martin Luther. We will also have an opportunity to worship in the same chapel where Luther worshipped daily. For a Luther-nerd like myself, this is WAY COOL!
A look ahead ~
Before our exploration of Erfurt, however, we will travel tomorrow morning to Wartburg Castle near Eisenach.