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Archive for November 8th, 2017

Johann von Staupitz (ca. 1469–1524), was vicar-general of the Augustinian Order in Germany and friend of Martin Luther, was born in Saxony. He studied at the universities in Leipzig and Cologne and served on the faculty at Cologne. In 1503 he was called by Frederick the Wise to serve as dean of the theological faculty at the newly founded University of Wittenberg. There he encouraged Luther to attain a doctorate in theology and appointed Luther as his successor to professor of Bible. During Luther’s early struggles to understand God’s grace, it was Staupitz who counseled Luther to focus on Christ and not on himself. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  When the publication of the 95 Theses spread throughout Europe, then Luther was in middle of a raging storm.  He corresponded with his father confessor.

On the twenty-fifth of November he sent word to Staupitz:

I am expecting the curses of Rome any day. I have everything in readiness. When they come, I am girded like Abraham to go I know not where, but sure of this, that God is everywhere.

Staupitz wrote Luther from  Austria:

The world hates the truth. By such hate Christ was crucified, and what there is in store for you today if not the cross I do not know. You have few friends, and would that they were not hidden for fear of the adversary. Leave Wittenberg and come to me that we may live and die together. The prince [Frederick] is in accord. Deserted let us follow the deserted Christ. (From Here I Stand by Roland Bainton)

Up until his death, Fr. von Staupitz, wrote to Luther and he to him.  We do not know if Luther’s dear father superior ever accepted the evangelical doctrine but he sure seems to have known them and lived them.  

It is written in Proverbs 17: 17:

A friend loves at all times,   and a brother is born for adversity.

And from Proverbs, 18: 24:

A man of many companions may come to ruin,
   but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Fr. Staupitz epitomized those Scripture passages.  In The Smalcald Articles, of the Lutheran Confessions, Part III, Article IV, “Of the Gospel”, Father Luther confesses the 4 ways the Lord gives us the Gospel:

We will now return to the Gospel, which not merely in one way gives us counsel and aid against sin; for God is superabundantly rich and libera] in His grace [and goodness].

First, through the spoken Word by which the forgiveness of sins is preached [He commands to be preached] in the whole world; which is the peculiar office of the Gospel.

Secondly, through Baptism.

Thirdly, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Fourthly, through the power of the keys, and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren, Matt. 18, 20: Where two or three are gathered together, etc.

The power of the keys, or absolution, are linked with “the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren” and rightly so, as the Lord did, recorded in Matthew 18.  I can only opine that Luther was taught this in the school of Holy Spirit, partly at least, because of his Father confessor.  Staupitz was obviously Luther’s mentor and with that Luther’s  friend and brother in Christ.

As it says in the bio above that Fr. Staupitz encouraged Martin not to look to himself, but Christ Jesus.  This encouragement is so needed in our selfie, narcissistic age.  The Reformers used a Latin phrase to describe sin:  incurvatus in se, curved in upon oneself. When salvation is  dependent on what the self does and it’s own good works, then the eyes are not on  the prize of upward call in Christ Jesus.  Luther needed a brother in Christ so he could look to him and from a redeemed sinner, and brother,hear the Lord’s forgiveness. As Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Life Together, about the necessity of a father confessor like Johannes von Staupitz:

A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person.

and

The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness. 

Fr. Johannes von Staupitz was such a brother to Martin.

This is a good commemoration to thank and remember mentors in our lives, who have been closer than a brother and a brother born for adversity and hung in there with you.  A brother who has heard your soul’s confession and offered Christ’s absolution as did von Staupitz. All the Facebook friends in the world do not one dear brother in Christ Jesus make.  Between Martin and Johannes stood Jesus Christ and the dear Father Johannes showed Martin Jesus Christ so that Martin could see Him in the clear Word of Scripture.  “Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word”, penned and sang Luther.  He probably knew he was kept steadfast by his dear father confessor as a mentor has so done for you.  Fr. Staupitz knew the Word as he had been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Almighty, everlasting God, for our many sins we justly deserve eternal condemnation.  In Your mercy, You sent Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who won for us forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation.  Grant us a true confession so that dead to sin we may hear  the sweet  words of Absolution from our confessor as Luther heard them from his pastor, Johannes von Staupitz, and be released from all our sin;  through Jesus Christ, our lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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