Lucas Cranach, the elder, Martin Luther as a Monk (1546)
(courtesy of Wikicommons)
500 years ago today, a radical university professor published his theses (all 95 of them) by ‘nailing’ them to the door of the castle church at Wittenberg. (This was a performative act.) He wanted to reform his church and challenge its leaders to put their house in order, in accordance with principles and practices given in the Bible. He had a great number of disputations. But undoubtedly his chief grievance was this: that the church had developed an erroneous view of the means of salvation. Martin Luther (1483–1546) rediscovered one of the key principles of New Testament theology: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any … should boast (Eph. 2.8–9). In other words, salvation could not be either bought, or earned, or deserved, or disposed by Church leaders. No one would ever be good enough to merit it. And, by the same token, no one would ever be so bad as to be excluded from it. Salvation was free (because Christ had paid for it with his life). But salvation wasn’t either automatic or universal. It had to be received by the individual from God, through faith (which God would also freely give to anyone who asked).
9.00 am: A quick run-around to the Post Office. (Instinctively, I still go to the former site of the company first.) 9.30 am: Back at homebase, I pushed on with the ‘Sounds of Sinai’ paper, having postponed my classes in order to preserve my voice against the onslaught of a sore throat and cough. ‘Keep warm; keep wet; keep pace, John!’
1.00 pm: Following an early lunch, I finalised the PowerPoint and began marking up my final text in a manner that’s reminiscent of the way Anglican chants, psalms, and canticles are presented in certain versions of The Book of Common Prayer: a spate of forward slashes.
Mid afternoon, I took to the hill for the National Library of Wales:
There, I met a technician to conduct a sound and vision check at the Drwm in preparation for tomorrow’s talk. I’m a control freak only in relation to my own work. In every other aspect of life, I’m open to negotiation and creative compromise. The only thing worse than having to deal with a ‘hum’ in my own sound systems is having to cope with one, without a hope of a cure, in someone else’s. He and I (croakily) persevered, rerouting the output from my laptop from the front of house PA to the behind screen cinema-sound system. That mitigated the gremlin considerably. ‘I can live with it … I can live with it … I really can!’:
5.30 pm: On my return, I completed the last pages of mark up, belted down an above average moussaka, showered, and returned to work. (I was still in catch-up mode.) By 7.45 pm, I was a ready as I could be to face down a backlog of emails. (Some Beatles in the background, and a little Instagram-gratification in parallel.)
At certain times in my life, I’ve longed to talk things over with my parents. But they’ve long-passed beyond earshot. In their last years, I came to count each of them among my best friends. Dad was a great listener, and gave sage and eminently doable advice. Very workman-like. Mam knew me better than I knew myself, and she knew that she did. Even when I presented her with a problem that had arisen from some calamitous decision that I’d made (and there were many), she offered sympathy and a way through the problem. I was an only child; their only and best shot at the future. They were committed to me, even when I’d behaved like an idiot sometimes. This was an example of grace, too. It was one that I vowed to follow. This was the last photograph that I took of them together: