Feb 27, 2013

Martin Luther: 7000 Sermons

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In the tempestuous days of the Reformation, the centerpiece of Luther’s ministry was his bold biblical preaching. Fred W. Meuser writes: “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.” Luther gave himself tirelessly to this priority. E. Theodore Bachmann adds, “The church . . . is for Luther ‘not a pen-house, but a mouth-house,’ in which the living Word is proclaimed.” Indeed, Luther wrote voluminously, yet he never put his written works on the same level with his proclamation of God’s Word. He maintained, “Christ Himself wrote nothing, nor did He give command to write, but to preach orally.” By this stance, Luther strongly underscored the primacy of the pulpit.

Luther’s commitment to the pulpit can be clearly seen in his preaching activities. On most Sundays, he preached two or three times, and, by his own admission, “Often I preached four sermons on one day.” In addition, he usually preached at least two to three times during the week, sometimes more. On religious holidays, he preached twice a day. His relentless drive in this work is seen in the staggering number of sermons he preached—seven thousand between 1510 and 1546. That is almost two hundred sermons per year, or four per week. Throughout his ministry, Luther preached, on average, one sermon every two days. Some twenty-three hundred of these biblical expositions survive in written form.

Whenever Luther traveled away from his home in Wittenberg, he was asked to preach, and he complied even to the point of exhaustion. Moreover, he constantly preached to students in his home. Even in 1528, a year marked by the Black Plague, Luther preached some two hundred sermons. He claimed to have equaled the activity of an army of preachers: “No longer am I only Luther, but Pomeranus, too, an official, a Moses, a Jethro and what not? All things to all men.” This is to say, in his preaching, he did the work of a host of men.