Monday, December 12, 2016

Luther Was Here

  Luther was like a guy walking across a dam who notices a bunch of other guys digging away at the bottom of the dam. He yells at them to quit but they keep digging, even throwing things at him. The dam breaks, people are killed, and Luther himself is washed up into a little backwater where he spends the rest of his life railing against dam busters. But it's too late. In fact Luther sees things are better with the dam gone and rails against those who try to rebuild the dam.
  My analogy is as leaky as an old dam, but it was inspired by our visit to the Luther exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. In 1517 Luther got upset with the selling of indulgences.  He wrote up 95 theses or debating points and nailed them, so the story goes, to a church door. He just wanted to have a discussion, but all hell broke loose, lots of people got killed in wars and the world got changed.
  So all the places in Germany that have Luther artifacts planned to put them in storage while they spiffed up their venues before the hordes arrived next year. Minneapolis has Lutheran hordes of its own and got the idea to borrow the artifacts for a show this winter.
  Teresa and I got tickets from our good friend Carole Wilson. She's a high-echelon member. They let a new group of visitors in every 15 minutes to keep the flow moving. Even so, the place was packed. A clump of people listening to a guide would be blocking one passageway while the other route was full of Slow Moving Lutherans, many with walkers. It would take all day to examine everything in the exhibit. I focused on the more outstanding items.
  Luther's pulpit is there. He preached his last sermon there in which he told the congregation he didn't feel so well, then went home and died. He was only sixty-two.

Luther said praying to saints was useless, but he allowed the painting of the Blessed Virgin to remain on his pulpit. He had a healthy respect for women.

  There were several items from Luther's home. His kitchen table was full of deep gouges. Luther had said that the relics of saints were worthless, but until his table was moved to a museum in the early twentieth century, pilgrims felt it couldn't hurt to have a souvenir splinter from the great man's furniture.  Peter the Great toured Luther's home in the 1700's. People used chalk for graffiti in those days and Peter wrote his name in Russian on the door. Everyone else's name but his has been erased. In fact people traced over his name making it extra fat.

  My favorite item was a curved chunk of metal: one of the handles from Luther's coffin. It seems that back in the late 1800's a couple of the caretakers in the church where Luther was buried were sitting around drinking beer and talking about the old days. During one the wars after Luther's death the Catholic army was approaching. People thought if the Catholics ever took the town they'd dig Luther up and desecrate his grave. The rumor was that his body had been moved to a secret place. The caretakers decided to dig Luther up and check. Sure enough there he was. Dawn was breaking as they got everything back the way it was when, "Gott in Himmel, Hansie, ve forgot to put back one of der handles!"
  The exhibit had many antique bibles and all kinds of moth eaten vestments, but give me an artifact from an old Two Stooges show any day.


Joe said...

The pulpit is beautiful! Did they have the biffy he shat upon while conceiving those 95 theses? (

Chairman Joe said...

I followed the link. Very moving.