Martin Luther was an enthusiastic singer, capable lute player, and prolific hymn writer who composed “sermons in sound.” This church reformer and cultural influencer hosted choral parties at his house and filled every church service with song, urging even illiterate congregants to join in with the choir.
Singing had its subversive uses too. Since the fateful day the young monk had posted his inflammatory Ninety-Five Theses on the Wittenberg church door, then refused to recant his radical disputations, the church in power had outlawed him as a heretic and banned his writings. But where books could not go, pop songs readily could. Martin Luther combined familiar German tunes with catchy theological lyrics to broadcast the Reformation message of God’s liberating grace. Regardless of listeners’ ability to read, their social standing, or even their location, the songs went viral; it was reported that literally everyone was “gladly singing” Martin’s infectious songs – collapsing the old divides between the secular and the sacred, the domestic and the public, the here and now and the eternal.
This message is excerpted from “Sing out loud” by Karen Wright Marsh in the July/August 2023 Gather magazine. Today is Reformation Day. Today is Halloween in the United States.
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