I am glad to be here today -- I have to say that I was quite surprised when I arrived to see the word “Lutheran” – in your name. Since Martin always said we should not call ourselves ‘Lutheran.” We are followers of Christ – not Luther, he said. But “Grace”! I like that! You have a good name! We do – live – by grace – and only by the grace of God.
Oh! I forgot to tell you – my name is Katherina – or “Katie” as my husband calls me, “Katie” – my rib, he would say, reminding me of the story from the Bible, from Genesis. I don’t know if you have heard of me, but I’m sure you know my husband, Martin Luther.
And I am here today with you because of him, because of what he did – on October 31, 1517, when he nailed 95 statements to a door in Wittenburg Germany – and then later, as he wrote about the gospel, and taught people about the Bible – translated all of the scriptures into German – the language of the people – and taught people that they were free in the grace of God
In one way, Martin and I were alike – we were both brought up in a monastic life. Martin chose to be a monk – he believed that God was calling him to a religious life – but me – at six years old my family sent me to a convent. I don’t know why they did it – but I tried my best to follow God – I prayed and earned to serve God and I finally took my vows.
It’s true. I was a nun.
But there came a time when we started hearing about the teachings of Luther – even in our convent, there were whispers about this new teaching. We were taught that there were two kinds of life – and that if you wanted to pray and serve God, you had to do it in a monastery. That was a religious life. And that those who were not in convents or monasteries lived secular lives. But the new teaching of Martin Luther was that you did not have to live in a convent to serve Christ. Our ordinary lives were service to God. And Martin Luther told us that we had freedom – freedom to read Scripture for ourselves – freedom to pray – freedom to be confident in our salvation and confident in the love of God for us. It was Jesus in his death and resurrection that set us free. Nothing else was necessary.
So – I decided that I wanted to escape, to go and live in the world, to serve God in the world, and not in the convent. But I will tell you – it was not just me – there were twelve of us in all who wanted to leave the convent. And we wrote to our families, and we wrote to Martin Luther, asking him to help us.
Dr. Luther agreed to help us in whatever way he could – and so we decided to make our escape. It was on the Vigil of Easter– because on that evening we were up later than usual – and so after the worship and when it was dark – we made our escape -- we waited in the darkness for the sound of the wagon – and when we heard the crack of the whip – we knew it was time. On Easter, we were going to be free. But what would freedom be like?
Well – even when we were free – we all needed to find a place to go. Most of us quickly found husbands. But – as for me – it looked like there would not be a husband for me, at first. Dr. Luther found one – who I turned down. And I remember that I happened to say, “I would rather have Luther than that man!”
And that is what happened. It is true that at first we were not ‘in love’, like so many of you are now. But we grew to love one another – and – even more important – we respected and grew to like one another – and I believe we helped one another fulfill God’s calling for us. We lived in a great, old, drafty monastery called “The Black Cloister”, where we raised children, hosted so many students and guests, cooked and gardened and taught the Bible and – yes – brewed beer.
It was a good life, although not always an easy life. We had such joy and laughter, but also hardship and sorrow. We rejoiced at the birth of children in our home – Hans and Elizabeth and Magdalene, Paul and Martin – and finally Margarete. We grieved at the loss of children, Elizabeth who was just a baby, and Magdalene – when she was thirteen years old. And of course there were always those who hated us because of Martin’s work – because of they thought he was turning the world upside down.
Well – maybe he was – and maybe the world needed to be turned upside down. Maybe it still does. You can tell me what you think about your world today. Do people know that they are free – free to serve God in everything they do? Do they know how much God loves them – so much that he sent his son to die? Do they know that it is not only the great and the wise and the important that are important to God? But it is each and every one of us who are important? Do they know that the work of changing a baby’s diaper is every bit as important as inventing the internet? (someone told me you invented the internet.)
In whatever we do – we sing God’s praises. We tell of his goodness. In so many ways – my life was extraordinary. But in so many ways my life was ordinary – just like yours. And – just like you – I live and serve God by grace alone.
May my life – and yours – give him praise.