Martin Luther: The Resurrection and This Life

Martin LutherIn my continuing reflection on the Resurrection, I’ve had the joy of reading several comments. In his comment on my “Resurrection Matters” post, my friend Derek writes:

I believe we need to recover the material aspect of obedience to God’s law without being legalistic. I mean this as a correction to a far too spiritualized idea of obedience. I have heard that Luther stated that a mother changing a diaper is as glorious to God as preaching the gospel, though I have never found a source.

Difficult to remember, but true. Because of the Resurrection, I can take as much joy in changing my son’s diaper as in witnessing to a lost person. Luther, however, puts the diaper in the father’s hands in his sermon “The Estate of Marriage.” Describing our natural reason as a “harlot,” Luther says when she looks at married life “she turns up her nose and says, ‘Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores. . . ?'” Luther won’t stand for it, and neither should we.

He writes:

What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, O God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight. . . . God, with all his angels and creatures is smiling—not because the father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith.

I have no great love for diapers, and I must say that the thought of washing diapers makes me queasy. But it is comforting to know that as I cringe at my progeny’s production God smiles, and not, as the fairer sex might say, at my discomfort. He smiles because in obedience to his command to care for the earth and all that is in it–way back in Genesis, and not negated by the Fall, I believe–I am caring for those he has given me. Luther could have been preaching from 1 Corinthians 15:58, I think.

Sadly, as Derek wrote, our obedience in matters large and small, doing things in Christian faith, has been so spiritualized that the world suffers while many church members sleepwalk. Do religious things, witness and pass out tracts, go to church whenever the doors are open. But let’s not spend much time talking about what Jesus said about the condition of our hearts. Let’s not dig too deeply into the question of what we do with our “free” time, or what we support with our dollars. And by all means let’s discard Jesus’ words on the subjects of money and power. Because what matters to the church has been less what Jesus said than what we feel. In a second comment, Derek quotes R.J. Rushdoony on the matter of transformation. Rushdoony notes that too few Christians act any differently from their nonChristian counterparts, concluding, “Is it any wonder some churches are powerless?” Indeed. We have become (or let others become) confused about what does matter.

To more explicitly follow up my earlier post’s question, I believe the Resurrection means that far more and far less matters than we might think. Far more because of what Luther, following the apostle Paul, says above. Far less matters because of the slippage in the modern West toward the trivial. We ignore the joys of our daily life, choosing instead to wallow in the vapidity of other, more fabulous lives. We mistake marks of societal entropy for entertainment. We dismiss what Eugene Peterson calls the “resurrection wonder” (h/t to Cameron) that should infuse our lives and empower us for righteous living. And some of that wonder will awaken as we recognize the sanctification of ordinary life. That’s where the “material aspect of obedience” that Derek mentions comes into play.

I’m terrible at that. Somehow, the regular stuff of life doesn’t seem like my “real” calling or ministry, and that betrays my metaphysical misunderstanding.* Not to wear my metanarrative on my sleeve, but the slough of popular postmodernism has absorbed most of the solid ground in this area. I find myself in the middle, and sinking sometimes, when I allow tedium and routine to crush my spirit. I stand there hopelessly for a while, wondering how I got into this mess and how I can get out.

Thankfully, one of the things said this past week seemed to throw a stepping-stone for me into that mush: “Jesus’ resurrection is the most real thing that we know, which is why this world and what is in it matters.” If I can just hold onto that when I think my life is listing toward vanity, joy and wonder will be closer friends than they have been.

The most real thing we know is the Resurrection. Now that flies in the face of our ultra-relevant world. An event scorned by some scholars–academic and otherwise–holds more significance than any event they can name. World War II, the fall of Communism, 9/11, Katrina; you name it, the Resurrection supersedes it in magnitude and momentousness. Can that be true?

It must be true.

While those things will decrease in significance as they recede into history, our world is being mended because of the Resurrection’s reality. And it will only increase as we approach the completion of the Savior’s work. Because of that all-too-real watershed moment, my daily actions in the world–mundane and momentous–could not be more important.

*Incidentally, it betrays my misunderstanding of the word ministry too. It means, quite simply, to serve. But that’s another post.

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2 thoughts on “Martin Luther: The Resurrection and This Life”

  1. Jamie, one quick correction, Rushdoony, the father of Reconstructionism, said the following:

    Is it any wonder some churches are powerless?

    not me. In fact, everything after the colon is from him. These are really good thoughts. Can’t wait to discuss them in person.

  2. Thanks for the clarification, Derek. I’ve edited the post.

    Interesting fellow, that Rushdoony. I don’t really know that much about Reconstructionism, but the quick Web search I did piqued my interest, particularly its connection to Dominion Theology.

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