”—I move to atone for it in the best means I have available,”
Atonement, Luther had felt himself caught up in the words the other spoke as if he were sitting across Caesar McDonald and the man’s reliable ability to carve into a debate with intellectual curiosity. But then, at that final comment
, Luther felt himself captivated for deeper reasons. As a preacher, Luther had often experienced that as a species, humans eternally confused complexity with intelligence. He would claw at his own insides if only able to drive home the fact that they were not the same thing. People spoke, full of words and blinded by their supposed knowledge, yet so many times what they said proved only how [un
knowledgeable they were. The earlier frustrations could be felt somehow eased, a possibility of conversation that would seem almost enlightening, or at least somehow intriguing. There was an honesty Luther appreciated that seemed to carry in the words spoken to him, a vital component when trying to work ones way into Luther’s good graces.
To atone was an act worth attempting to achieve for as long as it were possible. Faith
, however, was a necessary salvation. Unconditional. “God is a not what so many here make of him,”
The comment stalled Luther’s thoughts as they had begun to delve deeper into the ramifications of what the other had started to speak of. Eyes skimmed the nearby faces of those who had devoted themselves for whatever reason into the service of God. The focus in Luther’s gaze was accurate, a sign his thoughts had quietened and he waited for whatever words were to follow such a statement. “He’s not such a black and white concept, the very one most of these men have taken well advantage of... he is a thing far more gray, and into that idea, I find the idea of yourself, a fascinating one.”
The idea of… himself?
Lashes came together and parted as simply as any other moment, as if Luther hadn’t found himself snagged on the praise he did not immediately understand.
As a young man back in his homeland, Luther had often found himself with the same duties as any preacher, a he had been content with that. As a Pastor, or ‘Parish Priest’ the Catholics also commonly refer to his role, the title of ‘Preacher’ seemed to have stuck to him like glitter after a craft convention. To Luther, ‘Pastor’ felt like a title he was given, yet had not fully earned. Not yet, anyway. For it meant shepherd, and while he tried to be that for those in his service, his flock
as it so often was referred to… Luther felt that uncertainty towards the simple fact he could not feel towards them as was expected of him. As he had heard others speak of their flock. As if it were yet another lie he would be living; Pastors loved, they cared, they opened their hearts and gave themselves to those they served. Whereas a preacher? Well, he preached
. He said what needed to be said, he stood before them and lead the singing and did his preaching and that was generally the only activities a preacher would be expected to do. That did not mean there had been no other Preachers in charge of their own churches, he was not a ‘special case’. He was a stubborn case, one that had a set of values and a moral compass that often did not align with others and yet he followed devoutly as if ordained by God himself.
So for a moment, as Luther analysed the others comment, he wondered if Matthias spoke of his role as a Pastor, and the fact that Luther may or may not have fulfilled it as well (or perhaps ‘as expected’ would be more accurate) as all the others around him. When the other selected a whine glass from the tray nearby, Luther’s hand mimicked in fluid motions and also picked one to hold. A mirror reflection trying to fit in. The man was speaking as Pandora sometimes spoke, the way she teased the truth within her words where others who need not know it may over heard. The idea of yourself, a fascinating one.
Luther repeated the words back in his mind, he pretended to study the contents of the glass as if he’d care to have a sip. Was this a test from God? The white collar, like Pandora’s hand about his throat, felt suddenly noticeable as he thought of it. Was he nervous? There was a numbness hard to shake, even as his mind tried to assess how he should
feel, his eyes instead looked at Matthias, waiting for more information before he replied. “You speak as if God himself has been steering your hand in the dead of night, and yet, what you... do, is the very thing you teach your flock not to. I can't help but wonder what you actually think of the man who asks so much of you,”
Where some would sweat, Luther instead merely watched. A sure sign that his flight or fight response was perhaps lacking, or his faith truly that strong that it blanketed the need for it. He knew. Somehow, without a doubt, Matthias Irbson knew
. Had God indeed guided them together? What for? Was that man a messenger? A test? An obstacle? Instead of panic, the preacher found himself calculating a list of possible outcomes, of what could happen, and how to best deal with it. He also made assumptions based of potential outcomes regardless if the man worked for
God, or against
the Holy Father. One could never be too prepared, in Luther’s books.
The consumables were blessed, yet Luther knew all too well that did not guarantee a pure soul. “You speak as if He speaks to you himself... I can't help but wonder if he does, for all the good you do beyond words. As so many often say, actions speak louder... and yet most of these men have nothing but word to offer anyone.”
Praise? It sounded almost complimentary… Not the sort of tone most tended to resort to when speaking of the Luther they hadn’t known to live beneath the surface. God himself had done unspeakable things, he had condemned a poisoned world - all the children and animals with it save those treasured pairs guided upon an ark. Luther understood the destruction such a decision caused, the upset and outrage. The greater good was not always easily or kindly achieved.
Matthias took a sip of his liquor, and Luther held his without intent to drink. Was he .. surprised?“Tell me, Father, what do you think of these man? An earnest assessment, if you would,”
Faith, a necessary devotion to salvation. Unconditional. Good works, necessary only conditionally, that is if there is time and opportunity. And like the thief about to die on the cross in Luke 23:39-43, Luther stood there, pinned by his belief and so did not question that he too would hear the words; ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ upon the moment of his death. Was this indeed a test to see Luther’s resolve? To his commitment? To his faith? While one hand held the glass as if it were impossibly fragile, the other palm pressed against his front and once again smoothed out any risk of crinkles that may have creased the material during their walk. Tell me Father, what is your will?
Luther wondered, loyal, yet curious. If I am scorned, I will take it as my time to change. I will heed the punishment that would follow. If I please you, then tell me what task I am to do and I will complete it.
The thought wove itself throughout his mind and Luther smiled across at Matthias, a man ready to rise or fall and completely unafraid which would be his fate. ”Faith is the righteousness of God that is accomplished in us through law and gospel, word, works and sacraments to kill the sinful self and to accomplish the new creation within us.”
The preacher began, his words far easier to flow when they were in respect of his Lord and Saviour. For every day they could be born again and bathe in the light of Christ and their Heavenly Lord. Though he approached the discussion carefully, and his even, levelled, tone was soft and one would almost say an air of affection coloured the very edges of the man’s words. Regardless if he coloured his words out of habit or reflecting what he felt befitted such a topic, Luther’s loyalty and devotion to God was evident. “This new creation within us is the faith of Christ. If we do not have this faith, then we are ungodly.”
He was a Preacher, perhaps he could be forgiven for doing what came naturally. “Everyone has some kind of faith — usually a faith in themselves. We need the faith that comes from God.”
It was this faith in ones own self, Luther felt often, that led many down a misguided path
unlike Luther, who is totally not like that
. They would convince themselves that their misdeeds were somehow easily forgiven because they had faith in their own abilities, they had faith in their own self worth or their own power. He had been asked a question, and yet his answer seemed to be of something off point, if he realised this or not it would be hard to tell. Perhaps some would assume Luther was merely on autopilot, in truth his mind was working on a few different angles and struggled how to respond to such a question that impacted him so deeply. This statement, it seemed, paved way for the true answer that had been expected from him. “The ego is our sense of self.”
He started, his tone more serious, his eyes turned to the people around them. To judge was a risky affair, and even Luther was careful;
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (Matthew 7:1–2)“The ego has perceptions, and it has desires.”
Deny them as he tried, Luther himself felt shamed by the impulses that lurked beneath his calm exterior. The echoes of lust that could be fanned, that Pandora toyed with, the devotion between Heaven and Earth. The hunger that rarely felt satisfied outside the gratification of doing as his Lord guided him to do. The anger that could flare, the loss of control or judgments
he could spiral into while under the influence of certain substances. “If I wanted to know the essence of my ego, I could ask two questions: ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What do I want?’ ”
Luther looked back at Matthias, “In our journey with the Lord our answers to these questions will change. They will become less about us and more about Christ.”
There was a distinct lack of accusations being pointed out, yet his words were spoken with a truth he felt was as dangerous and as pure as the rituals themselves that blessed him with the abilities Pandora had granted him, in order for him to preach the words of his Saviour beyond his own restricted human lifespan. “I have noticed today those who's faith resides within themselves, and thus are ungodly. They must surrender their desired identity and cease their indulgences or their ego risks to become the only Lord they strive to serve.”