He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. – Psalm 40:2
In my mind it is a picture without words. It is a powerful picture.
In the movie “Anna and the King”, the king of Siam arrives and everybody bows low to the ground. Everybody except the Englishwoman Anna. She continues to stand in his presence.
In the movie “Monsignor” Christopher Reeves’ character is ushered into the office of a Cardinal. The Cardinal holds out his ring for Reeves to bow down and kiss. Instead, Reeves remains standing and shakes his hand.
Fictional events from Hollywood, to be sure. But they make a powerful statement about pride and confidence in belief.
Fact often proves more powerful than fiction.
In the city of Worms, a professor of religion stands before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. He is asked to bow down to the teachings and authority of the Roman Catholic Church.
What brought this professor to this point was an event that happened on October 31, 1517. He invited a debate on the teaching of the sale of indulgences, the idea that a person could buy forgiveness and time off in purgatory.
By 1521, Luther was convinced he was right and the Church was wrong. When asked to bow down, to recant, he replied:
“Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right not safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.”
I am writing this devotion today because Luther took a stand. He stood firm on the Word of God. The Word of God lifted Luther out of hopeless despair and placed him on a rock. Good thing, too, because Luther set in motion a maelstrom of events that toppled anyone not standing firm on the truth of God’s Word.
God opened the door once again for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to enter the world. The mud and mire that was the Middle Ages for so many now had a rescue plan. People wallowing in despair of war, plague and cruel hardship from the Church were saved by the pure, sweet Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What Luther did almost five hundred years ago was not a one-time event. The Reformation he sparked continues today. Or at least it should. The Gospel is the only answer for a dying world beset by war, terror and despair.
Luther’s stand is our stand, too. Standing on the promises of a loving God keeps us firm and “rock steady.” Because we are, others can know the sweet Good News of a God that loves them.
Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.
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