Friday, December 09, 2005

Jesus, manger; Luther, toilet?

As we ponder the fact this Christmas season that Jesus Christ the Savior, was born in a manger, I wonder if we think about the implications of that fact. The God of the Universe was born among smelly dusty animals and steamy dung. Most of us live in urban areas. I can remember driving by cattle ranches and the smell of manure permeated the air. Living in the nitty gritty, up the elbows in dirt, is no longer a reality for most of us. A stable is the place chosen by God for the tremendous event of Jesus's birth.

Then there is Martin Luther, the hero of the Reformation. We know a bit about his struggles and his grand revelation of justification by faith alone, by the grace of God alone. We gloss over the fact that the poor man had major gastrointestinal problems and in fact, joked about his condition. An overlooked tidbit or perhaps the stuff of legends is Luther's tower experience. As he wrote his memorable words about justification, he states that he wrote them in the "cl". Some scholars believe that "cl" stands for cloister, and a less favorable explanation states that the location was the cloaca. Cloaca means toilet. In other words, there is a possibility that Luther received his amazing revelation while sitting on the toilet!

What is my point to this post? My point is that I would not be surprised if the toilet was the true location of Luther's revelation. God has a tendency sometimes to bring in the most beauty, the most truth, the greatest revelation of his glory, in the basest of locations or situations. While we sit in our intellectual towers spounting words of wisdom, God is in the dungheap full of grace. While we prove to the world that our hands are clean, God shows up in somebody, fingernails full of dirt.

I hope that this Christmas gives us a greater revelation of the Holiness of God. In order to do that, I think we have to have a sense of our own baseness. It is no mistake that God made us from the dust of the earth. To God be the glory, for the things He has done.


At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Seat of the Reformation
By Kate Connolly in Wittenburg
(Filed: 22/10/2004)

German archaeologists have discovered the lavatory on which Martin Luther wrote the 95 Theses that launched the Protestant Reformation.

Luther frequently alluded to the fact that he suffered from chronic constipation and that he spent much of his time in contemplation on the lavatory.

Experts say they have been certain for years that the 16th century religious leader wrote the groundbreaking Ninety-Five Theses while on das klo, as the Germans call it.

But they did not know where the object was until they discovered the stone construction after recently stumbling across the remains of an annex of his house in Wittenberg, south-west of Berlin, during planning to plant a garden.

"This is a great find," Stefan Rhein, the director of the Luther Memorial Foundation said, "particularly because we're talking about someone whose texts we have concentrated on for years, while little attention has been paid to anything three-dimensional and human behind them.

"This is where the birth of the Reformation took place.

"Luther said himself that he made his reformatory discovery in cloaca [Latin for "in the sewer"]. We just had no idea where this sewer was. Now it's clear what the Reformer meant."

What makes the find even more fitting is that at the time, faecal language was often used to denigrate the devil, such as "I shit on the devil" or "I break wind on the devil".

Prof Rhein said: "It was not a very polite time. And in keeping with this, neither was Luther very polite."

The 450-year-old lavatory, which was very advanced for its time, is made out of stone blocks and, unusually, has a 30cm-square seat with a hole. Underneath is a cesspit attached to a primitive drain.

Other interesting parts of the house remain, including a vaulted ceiling, late Gothic sandstone door frames and what is left of a floor-heating system.

This presumably gave Luther an added source of comfort during the long hours he spent in contemplation.

Luther, who was professor of biblical theology at Wittenberg University, nailed his theses to the church door at Wittenberg, attacking the corrupt trade in indulgences.

The act led to his excommunication but he was protected by Frederick II of Saxony and was able to develop and spread his ideas, which he saw as much more than a mere revolt against ecclesiastical abuses but as a fight for the Gospel.

Prof Rhein said the foundation would prevent the 80,000 visitors who arrive in Wittenberg each year in search of the spirit of Luther, from sitting on the lavatory. "I would not sit on it. There's a point where you have to draw the line," he said.



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