Tuesday, I am leaving Oz and flying to Atlanta with Martin Luther.
Flying time is just over two hours, which gives me little time learn about this fascinating man of faith and letters. While in Atlanta for three days, I will find snippets of time in the early morning and late evening to read Eric Metaxas’ Martin Luther: the man who rediscovered God….
This is unfair to a holy man of God, but work creates its limitations on pleasure. And Martin Luther was a man who worked much and suffered for it.
Never talk politics or religion, my mother advised me, and never speak of both. Martin Luther spoke of religion, and tried to avoid politics, but one is always forced to choose. Erasmus did, though he would have preferred to stay on the side lines observing and commenting, but not committing himself.
Martin Luther had no qualms about where he stood on religion and famously said in April of 1521:
“Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me, Amen!”
“My conscience is captive to the word of God,” Luther explained. “To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” His remarks to the so-called theologians and politicians at the Diet of Worms put forth the idea of man’s own ability to read and interpret the Bible.
This earth rattling idea made Martin Luther the first existentialist of the modern era.
I say modern era because Gutenberg printing press had thrust Europe and the world into the information age, the precursor to our own digital age. I say Luther was the first existentialist because he had the temerity to challenge the pope and state on matters of belief.
Every Man a Priest
Every man a priest he said.
He would walk back this idea in time as he realized the many “false” interpretations of scripture that man was capable of. He also chose to become an instrument of state and recognize the value of submission to authority. Anarchy was the only other choice.
Amazingly, his idea took hold. Not without centuries of religious conflict, not without heretical burnings, wars, and murders, all fought in the name of God, an irony he recognized. An irony that we still live with and perhaps always will.
Sorry, John Lennon.
Luther’s idea of personal responsibility would in time become the bedrock of the American political experience, expressed eloquently by Thomas Jefferson, All men are created equal and endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights, those being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Freedom of thought is liberating, it is daunting, it is challenging. It is the existentialist’s mantra.
It is your choice.
Which is why I find it ironic that Martin Luther came down on the “wrong” side of the question about Free Will. We have none, he said. It is all a matter of faith and love, and nothing else.
Paradoxical, yes, so too is life. We are such imperfect creatures, made in God’s image, but poorly.
I have, you will noticed, used quotation marks around certain statements of fact. This is because very little in life is certain. We may be certain of in-certainty, but that is it.
Death, as Luther observed, and our ultimate destiny to meet with God, alone.
Today, of course, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Eric Metaxas points out the historical trivia that after a visit to Germany, a certain Michael King changed his name to Martin Luther King, and his son became Martin Luther King Jr.
In April of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
What will the New Year bring?
Hopefully boundless joy, loving family and friends, few cares and an abundance of God’s blessings, then it helps to have a nut or two to tide you through the winter days, an adventure that lets you venture somewhere you’ve never gone before, and, at the end of the day, a thought to keep you warm in bed, may there be peace on earth.
It is that time of year when we all pause to think back on what the past year meant, on friends no longer with us, and what will the New Year bring.
Friends I have lost keep piling up like the round smooth stones hikers leave on the way up to the peak of Colorado’s Mt. Long. Hikers know what I mean, the rest of you need to get off your chair and hike a mountain to know.
Words and songs that keep coming back to mind. How about Donna Fargo’s What will the New Year bring? Friends, if you have tears, listen and prepare to shed them now.
And yes, I know this is copyright material, but I can’t help but think it is fair comment and a salute to a great artist from Mt. Airy, North Carolina and all the folks in Mayberry, including Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee and Gomer, who are now gone from us.
If you don’t know what I mean, you are under thirty and you don’t watch TNT.
This past year was good to us the one before just a little rough
The one before that was an awful thing what will the new year bring
Will it bring us a little boy to fill our lives with love and joy
We’ve had our share of growing pains what will the new year bring
You’re still one and one makes two now one and one make one
I hope you will love me throughout the year to come
We’ve made our mistakes with love we learned that it can’t promise us
Tomorrow and forever things what will the new year bring
Wish I hadn’t read our horoscope things look stormy for Scorpios
Virgo’s posed to sprout their wings what will the new year bring
Will you want me to love you the way you know I do
And will you walk through life with me another year or two
Or three or four or five or six hundred years or more
Happy New Year darling for whatever is in store
If I said, “Wassup!” you’d know what I meant, but what about “Wassail!”
Wassail has its roots in ancient Norse, it rhymes with lass and hail and means “be hale” or “be of good health”.
The word entered the English lexicon in the 5th century with the Saxons, Hengist and Horsa, who came to help the British Celts fight the Picts. Horsa died fighting and Hengist stayed. The story goes that Hengist’s daughter Rowen offered British King Vortigern a golden cup filled with wine, saying,
“Lord King, Wassail!”
The word was new to Vortigern, the wine was pleasing, and so too was Rowen. They marry and the next thing you know, Hengist is the very first king of England, or at least of Kent, where the Saxons and their cousins the Angles settled down and became English.
By the time the Normans arrived centuries later, Englishmen were wassailing each other with a cup of wine. The habit was hard to break. Time changes words and their meaning and wassail was remembered as the spicy hot wine and not the salutation.
Sometimes a glass of wassail will start you thinking. What do other countries use for toasts?
In France they say, Bonne sante. The French being the French and very idiosyncratic don’t pronounce the first e and accent the second “e” to make the long eeee sound.
In Spain and the Spanish speaking countries of the western hemisphere, they say “Brindar.” Literally, meaning “offer” but that doesn’t express the thought, which is a hope that the recipient of the toast may receive all that is good and necessary. Brevity, the mark of a good toast and good sense.
“Expresar un bien deseado a alguien o algo a la vez que se levanta la copa con vino o licor antes de beber.”
In Russian, they say “Prosit!” but they say it Cyrillic, просит, which is hard to say, and means nothing more than, I beg or pray.
In German, they also say, “Prosit” or “Ein Prosit” which translates as “Cheers!”
But they made it into a song, which everyone sings at Oktoberfest and when wishing one a schönes Neues Jahr:
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit Der Gemütlichkeit Ein Prosit, ein Prosit Der Gemütlichkeit.
Cheers, my friends, it all means the same, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I dare not leave these woods quite yet, something lurks up above, something lingers behind a tree, waiting just for me
… in these woods, lovely, dark, and deep.
I cannot sleep for from the distance in the woods comes a sound, “Who?” it calls mocking me. I dare not answer, my knees are knocking, teeth chattering. Am I scared?
Then, I hear a branch crack, needles crunch, and I have got a hunch from the woods there comes for me a dark and hairy beast. Should I run, should I grab a great big stick, or, should I fall and make a tiny little ball? Then, I manage in a tiny voice to call out, father-mother are you there?
He who has never gone to a lonely stretch of ocean, to stand before the waves and hear the wind whisper, to feel the salty breeze against one’s cheeks, to know the simple things – that life and living need not be so hard – has never lived.
There is an ancient story, one of King Canute, tall and strong, the handsomest of men, King of England, Norway, and Denmark, son of Sweyn Forkbeard, father to Harthacnut, step-father to Edward the Confessor.
Told his subjects believed him to be almighty, King Canute commanded that a chair should be set on the shore and when the tide began to rise, he spoke to the rising sea saying,
“You are part of my dominion, the ground that I am seated upon is mine, nor has anyone disobeyed my orders with impunity. Therefore, I order you not to rise onto my land, nor to wet the clothes or body of your Lord”.
But the sea carried on as if it heard nothing, rising without any reverence to his person, and soaked his feet and legs.
Canute, moving away said:
“All the the world should know that the power of kings is vain and trivial, that none is worthy the name of king but He who commands the heavens, earth and sea by His eternal laws”.
Each day I pray
I am not too old to learn
So many things become so little When I realize How blessed and lucky I am. What gets bigger the more you take away? The anger in your heart because
That space is filled with love