MLC Chapel Service – November 7, 2018
It was a rather small, rather unattractive German settlement, which amounted to not much more than a few piles of hills near the sandy white shores of the River Elbe. The town of Wittenberg wasn’t really all that special, in fact, critics of Luther would ask how anything meaningful could come out of such a place. They would even go as far as saying that it was a miserable, poor, dirty village… not worthy to be called a town of Germany. Luther himself described his first impressions of Wittenberg as on “the edge of civilization” (“in termino civilitatis). It was the type of place that many would not even bother to go to, through, or even near.
But God in his grace came near, as he brought his Word to Wittenberg in this special way that we still celebrate today. Through the Word, God’s kingdom came and along came the peace of Christ that calmed souls vexed and flayed by sin and guilt. To those troubled and burdened and misled by the devilishly twisted teachings of men, God’s Word came near. On souls distressed and on those covered in the darkness of ignorance and false teaching the sun of righteousness rose with healing in its wings as the truth of Christ crucified and risen was preached and proclaimed. Joy and peace and even a great Reformation would burst forth like a calf springing from a stall (Malachi 4:2) and continue to charge forth like a full-grown bull. To this rather insignificant town God’s mighty kingdom came, and the gospel bubbled forth, babbling, roaring, rolling, like an invigorating stream as the gospel ran freely through the streets flowing from the pulpit and the pen of God’s servant and those who knew and shared the Word of Christ.
Through the powerful Word of God, many sinful citizens of this small German village would be made holy citizens of the city of God, and they would know the outpouring peace and joy of Jesus that the gospel brings, even in dark and turbulent times. By God’s grace, the gospel continues to flow to a world that is still today very much lost in sin and darkness, for in his mighty Word the LORD gives us peace in knowing that Jesus lived and died and rose again for us all. There is river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. What grace that God has come near to beggars and sinners like us!
Historically speaking, it appears to be one of those unexpected oddities, that something as significant as the Lutheran Reformation, came out of such a small town. But for those who know the Word of the LORD, it shouldn’t really surprise us that much at all. The same God who sent Jonah to the great city of Nineveh, the same God who sent Paul to booming centers of culture and trade and commerce, is the same LORD who hailed from Nazareth and walked step by step through the small towns and villages around the sea of Galilee, throughout Judea, and around Jerusalem. Jesus went into towns and villages like Nain and Bethany and there the death destroying, hell defying, life-giving word of the LORD was proclaimed for the eternal salvation of souls. He sent his disciples out to preach the good news and they went from town to town, from village to village, and to those meager places, the mighty kingdom of God came, as the LORD and his Word came near. And it was not because there was anything special about the particular town or the setting, but it was because in each and every one of those places there were souls distressed and troubled by sin and death and hell and Jesus and his disciples had the glorious message of salvation to proclaim and to share with them. And so Jesus and his disciples went to places that many others just passed through or went around. Jesus and his disciples came near to those towns and villages and proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God. What grace!
In God’s goodness and his grace Jesus would see to it that his gospel would be sent out to the ends of the earth, to Jew and Gentile to booming metropolis, to city, burg, and village, he would send his message of salvation out to the ends of the earth. Now probably it’s not too often that we think of ourselves as living at the edge of civilization or at the ends of the earth – even though a drive from the Twin Cities through Danube to South Dakota or a drive from Michigan or Milwaukee to New Ulm, might cause that thought to cross our minds – but in all seriousness take a moment to consider just how far the Word of God had to travel to get to you and give thanks for the grace of God. Give thanks that the Word of Christ didn’t just go through or around your hometown, but Jesus came to you: to your of edge of the earth, to your city, to your town, to your home, to your family, to you, so that you may be called out of the dark dominion of sin and death and hell into his wonderful kingdom of light. Because of God’s grace alone in Christ alone, you have the peace in knowing that your sins are forgiven, you are a God’s child, and you are a holy citizen of the city and the kingdom of God.
This is the message that God in his grace has given to you. This is the message that he has given you to share with those around you wherever you are, wherever the LORD might call you to serve. For our Savior, who sent his disciples out to the ends of the earth and sent his prophets and apostles out to the great cities also made a point to stop and preach in small towns and villages, because he wants all people everywhere to dwell with him forever. What grace!
A reading from the gospel of Luke chapter 8 and Luke chapter 9. After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. – Luke 8:1 6 So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere. – Luke 9:6
 Pettegree, Andrew; “Brand Luther” Penguin Press, New York, 2015.