The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther

By Donald K. McKim | Go to book overview

8
Luther as preacher of the Word of God
FRED W. MEUSER

Martin Luther is famous as reformer, theologian, professor, translator, prodigious author, and polemicist. He is well known as hymn-writer, musician, friend of students, mentor of pastors, and pastor to countless clergy and laity. Yet he saw himself first of all as a preacher even though his only income came from his professorship at the University of Wittenberg.

No matter what else he was involved in, Luther preached, usually in Wittenberg's Stadtkirche. Unless he was away from home, he was in the pulpit at least as often as the congregation's pastor. Wherever he traveled, the local clergy insisted that Doktor Martin deliver the sermon.

Luther's preaching ministry was remarkable, his productivity prodigious—almost miraculous. In the midst of lecturing, protesting against churchly abuses, translating, writing scores of theological treatises, adjustingto marriage and children, carryingon a voluminous correspondence, and attending almost endless meetings and conferences, in 1528 he preached nearly two hundred times in spite of severe headaches and dizzy spells. On forty days that year he preached twice; most years he preached over a hundred times. Amongthe slower years were 1522 with only forty-six sermons, and 1540 with forty-three. Of the approximately 4,000 sermons he preached in his lifetime, about 2,300 have been preserved in some form.

When in 1511 Father John Staupitz, his spiritual advisor, assigned him to teach Scripture and preach in the monastery, Luther protested, “It will kill me. I won't last three months.” How much more plaintive might his protest have been if Staupitz had said what Luther said later about the preaching office:“When the preacher speaks, God speaks!” If the pastor is not sure that God speaks through his mouth he should leave preaching alone for he surely denies and blasphemes God. 1


THE MESSAGE

For Luther, preachingwas not a preacher's ideas stimulated by the prod of a text. It was not the preacher's reflections about God and life. Christian

-136-

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The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents ix
  • Notes on Contributors xi
  • Preface xv
  • Chronology of Martin Luther xvii
  • Abbreviations xviii
  • Part I - Luther's Life and Context 1
  • 1 - Luther's Life 3
  • 2 - Luther's Wittenberg 20
  • Part II - Luther's Work 37
  • 3 - Luther's Writings 39
  • Notes 59
  • 4 - Luther as Bible Translator 62
  • 5 - Luther as an Interpreter of Holy Scripture 73
  • Notes 82
  • 6 - Luther's Theology 86
  • Notes 114
  • 7 - Luther's Moral Theology 120
  • 8 - Luther as Preacher of the Word of God 136
  • 9 - Luther's Spiritual Journey 149
  • 10 - Luther's Struggle with Social-Ethical Issues 165
  • Notes 175
  • 11 - Luther's Political Encounters 179
  • Notes 190
  • 12 - Luther's Polemical Controversies 192
  • Part III - After Luther 208
  • 13 - Luther's Function in an Age of Confessionalization 209
  • 14 - The Legacy of Martin Luther 227
  • Notes 238
  • 15 - Approaching Luther 240
  • Notes 252
  • Part IV - Luther Today 257
  • 16 - Luther and Modern Church History 259
  • 17 - Luther's Contemporary Theological Significance 272
  • Notes 286
  • 18 - Luther in the Worldwide Church Today 289
  • Select Bibliography 304
  • Index 313
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