Marcus Aurelius left us this piece of great advice: “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Amen to that! And think what a privilege it is to breathe in a great quote, to think about a great quote, to enjoy a well-timed quote and to love a fine quote! Indeed, it is a rich blessing! In fact, as we conclude this series on quotes today, let me remind you that to be given a great quote is to be thrice blessed (blessed upon its reception, blessed upon its pondering and blessed upon its sharing). Never forget that. Quotes are verbal blessings that can enrich your life. I know that is true, because it happened to me. I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, not because I was weird or anything (let’s put that rumor to bed right now because that couldn’t possibly be true!), but because we moved around a lot (my dad was in the Air Force, and they shipped him hither and yon). Until high school, I never stayed in one school more than 2 years (I did stay at one school for just 2 months, though!). And that made it hard to make friends. But then dad retired, and we moved back to where my mom’s family lived; and we settled into a new house, which meant that for the first time in my life, I could go to the same school until I chose to move on (as in “until I graduated”!). But it was still a new school, and I knew nobody in it (apart from my older cousin and one of his friends). I can still remember feeling a sense of dread as I walked into that building. High school is always a scary place, but especially so when you have no friends. My first class was an English class (I think, it was a long time ago). I think the teacher made us sit alphabetically because I was sitting near the back next to Dave McKinnon. And right before class, he turned to me and said these magical words: “The dancing man in the Chinese suit, spoke to me so I took his flute. I wasn’t very cute now, was I?” And then class started. Now, I had no idea what that meant or why he said it or who he was quoting, but I knew this. I had a friend. Two friends actually. Dave and I became good friends all throughout high school. He was funny and friendly and a big fan of Bobby Dylan and was known to quote various Dylan lyrics at the drop of a hat, regardless if they fit into the conversation or not. I had never heard of Bob Dylan before that moment, but that changed quickly. With one quote, my existential fear of school fell away, and two friends entered my life, Dave and Bobby! (And yes, I know those aren’t quite the right lyrics to Dylan’s “I Want You,” but those are the words I heard and remember even though it was a long, long time ago. I wonder who got the lyrics wrong, Dave who said them or me who misheard them?). All that to say, a good quote can change your life and give you a great friend.
Martin Luther is a good friend to many of us. Now, granted most of us would embrace the earlier Luther as opposed to the years when he became bitter and anti-Semitic and a little crazy; but when the earlier Luther was on, he was on. The former monk, overcome by guilt for his many sins, found in the gospel the good news of grace which changed his life, started the reformation and reformed the church. Here was a man who could, on one hand, say something deeply profound (for example, “Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost; but if it is resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved.”) and then in the next say something absolutely funny and crazy (for example, “Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!). But here’s what I know, if you ponder his words, you will have a friend for life.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to Martin Luther in 15 quotes. . . .
- “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.”
- “There never yet have been, nor are there now, too many good books.”
- “You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.”
- “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”
- “The fewer the words, the better the prayer.”
- “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through music.”
- “The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands.”
- “He who loves not wine, women and song remains a fool his whole life long.”
- “God made man out of nothing; and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.”
- “May a merciful God preserve me from a Christian Church in which everyone is a saint! I want to be and remain in the church of the fainthearted, the feeble and the ailing, who feel and recognize the wretchedness of their sins, who sigh and cry to God incessantly for comfort and help, who believe in the forgiveness of sins.”
- “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”
- “Strange, though I am saved from sin, I am not saved from sinning.”
- “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
- “Nothing is easier than sinning.”
- “God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Therefore, be a sinner, and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger; and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign.”
I do hope you have found a friend who knows your heart and can speak into your life well through some of these weekly posts of quotes whether they be from Luther, Barth, Kierkegaard or Heschel. And if you aren’t drawn to these, find someone who does speak into your soul, like Bobby Dylan often does to me. We all need friends like these:
She lit a burner on the stove
And offered me a pipe.
“I thought you’d never say hello,” she said,
“You look like the silent type.”
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me,
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century.
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal,
Pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul
From me to you,
Tangled up in blue.
~Bob Dylan, “Tangled Up in Blue”
Thanks for reading. Now, go out there and give it all you’ve got and just quote one for the Gipper!