A mighty bridge, which originated in a small village in Saxony spans its arches around the whole world. It turned 500 a year ago. Its name is Reformation. This bridge was built by Martin Luther. The man who knew how to bring history with humor to a common denominator. To this day, his admirers still profess their allegiance to him using strange rituals.
Martin Luther – who doesn’t know him? The man belongs to Germany like the Bratwurst and Beer, like Wilhelm Grimm and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and the rivers Mosel and Main. Its importance in the history of our country has remained essential and led us to this day. Even after five hundred years, the shadow of his work lies like a claw above a small town, a hundred kilometers south of Berlin. When the world meets in Wittenberg, hundreds of thousands are just as overwhelmed by the Elbe province as the Catholics are of Rome and the Tiber.
The programs for the Reformation anniversary have been distributed among the people for years. Brochures have even been sent across the Ocean. Great expectations for a small town. Onlookers and Luther admirers from all over the world are expected to come. Since 2016, even before the actual anniversary year was heralded, they flocked here in great numbers and paid homage to their reformer. No wonder, because for many he has become a role model for their own lives.
Yes, it’s penetrated. Even in America, many people know about the pomp and splendor with which the Luther-City Wittenberg has equipped itself to celebrate this event. In some areas of the United States, citizens were encouraged for months to marvel at Luther relics. A complex one thousand page publication of catalogues in two languages, can still be bought at auction for more than $50, – (Dollar) each. Four parallel exhibitions of massive Lutheran art, historical documents and original writings, have been lent from German museums to the USA. All document insurrection against the Pope and the Church, accompanied by sacred art. History meets skill. Luther’s curiosity prevails on the international stage.
A friend recently said to me: “You will see Arthur, Luther will be canonized this year”. That may be a bit of an exaggeration. After all, most Americans see Luther as nothing more than a symbolic figure or at best, a reformer at Calvin’s level. Few Americans recognize Luther’s historical and theological significance.
But read for yourself what sounds incredible!
Luther Love – Luther Rush
Luther has been made responsible and had to pay for a lot of things over the last five hundred years. Including art and knickknacks. The country of the reformer has learned from the land of unlimited possibilities how modern marketing works. There are Luther socks, Luther gloves, Luther shirts, Luther chains, Luther pencils, Luther hoods, Luther beer and even a “nun’s fart” can be bought to get drunk on. The latter is an 80-proof liquor named after Katherina von Bora, Luther’s wife.
Real U.S. Luther worshippers don’t need that. A large sip of tap water is enough for them, and they are already inspired by their “Luther rush” swinging into the heights of “Luther heaven”. How bizarre this can end, I experienced not so long ago twice in a row: During a visit with a U.S. American group at the Wartburg, we also came to Luther’s room. Suddenly this elderly lady jumped out of line and pressed her camera into my hand before jumping into Martin Luther’s bed: “Please, please, quick, quick, take a photo of me in Luther’s Bed,” she yelled over to me. Everything happened so fast, I hardly had time to wonder why this love-driven woman jumped into Martin Luther’s bed so quickly! And so, I instinctively pressed on the button of the somewhat outdated, American Kodak camera and did as I was instructed. I would like to see how the photo turned out, but alas, I never heard from her again.
Until then I always thought, that with this strange act, the cult around the reformer had reached its absolute peak and was finally exhausted (at least for me). But it got even worse: One year later I was on the road again with a U.S. American travel group, also Lutherans. Upon arrival at the airport in Berlin-Tegel, I caught myself looking at the freshly painted toenails of a clumsy elderly lady with a walking stick. Her toes were sticking out at the front of her flip flops. I looked and looked and could not turn my gaze away from the lady’s feet. What might she have thought, so soon after they arrived in Germany? A tour guide welcomes her at Berlin airport and instead of concentrating himself on his work, he constantly looks at her bare feet. Well, the lady had painted one Luther rose each on the front of her two big toenails. I took my mobile phone and immediately took a photo of what I saw. I knew I would need proof of what I saw.
How would Luther himself have reacted, I asked myself? He always made fun of relics and if he had been here now, then he would certainly have held his stomach full of laughter just like I did and probably even made a powerful joke.
God bless America!