Devotion for October 20, 2021, from Pastor Barbara Caine of Holy Redeemer:
A Bit of History – The Luthers During a Pandemic
This week, we celebrate the 504th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Happy Reformation! Did you know that Martin and Katy Luther dealt with a deadly viral pandemic, too? In August of 1527, when their oldest child, Hans, was 2 and Katy was five months pregnant with their second child, the Bubonic Plague came to their hometown of Wittenberg, Germany. Yikes! You can imagine the fear and panic that ensued. 25 million people, in Europe alone, had died of this disease during the 1300s, but in the 1500’s a new variant developed. Sound familiar? As you can imagine, fear and misinformation ran riot. People began fleeing Wittenberg in droves.
Katy and Martin Luther chose to stay and help. “Herr Katy,” as Martin affectionally called her, was described by a contemporary as, “”healthy, strong, frank, intelligent and high-minded.” I would add practical and capable, as she proceeded to set up a ward on their estate to take care of those who were left behind while Martin continued to minister to and advise others, with familiar sounding advice.
He wrote: Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God (Luther’s Works, v. 43, p. 132).
The small Luther family did not contract the disease and, for Katy and Martin, their nightmare ended shortly before their daughter Elisabeth was born in December of 1527 as the disease had run its course.
I am grateful that we have such a heritage of faith and practicality. We, too, have been called to be careful and to help, and to be helped! As we begin to spend more time in each other’s company, it is still important to follow Martin’s advice, to wash our hands, keep a distance to keep our neighbor’s safe, but it is also important to (safely) come back together, because that is what people of God do, if necessary on Zoom or outside, but regardless, through thick and thin, we are together in the presence of Christ!
In Christ, Pastor Barbara