Living Lutheran publishes this blog on Nov. 10.

Dates interest me: Just as what I write for this blog isn’t the same entry I’d offer up for a different publication, so a blog written for Living Lutheran on Nov. 10 isn’t the same that I’d expect to submit to it on, say, six months later, May 10.

I think it has to do with my belief that learning something about the history of a particular day makes that same day, as we are actually living it, seem less arbitrary. It might help us attend to the noteworthy in even our most ordinary of experiences.

For example, a birth. People are born all the time. At one level, how more ordinary can you get?

Of course, all births are extraordinary, even in and because of their ordinariness. They are all a mark of the magnificence and wonder of life: That we even exist at all, let alone continue to do so is a grand testimony to the mystery of creation – and the sacredness of it.

That said, there was a particular birth of particular note on Nov. 10, 1483.

Brother Martin Luther entered our world on that day.

No doubt, on that November day, both of his parents believed from the moment they laid eyes on babe Martin that the world was by definition better for his presence in it: They were his parents, after all, and proud.

No doubt, though, neither of them imagined he would fundamentally transform it.

But that he did.

About a very different birth, centuries before Martin, the late church historian Jaroslav Pelikan said:

Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost 20 centuries. If it were possible, with some sort of super magnet, to pull out of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left?

It’s not too much to wonder the same about the effects on history due to Martin Luther: Without him, the German language as we have it would not be, Europe’s history would have been fundamentally altered, Johann Sebastian Bach’s music would not have been composed, and, of course, the evolution of church history would have been different.

Martin Luther, of course, was unaware of what his life would bring into being because he had been. Had he, I expect that he might have been frozen in fear and awe.

Instead, thankfully, he simply sought to attend to what he thought God had called him to do and to say: “Here I stand,” and all that.

The question that Nov. 10 raises is this: On the day when you were born, the world changed too. Something happened and caused other events to happen, events that would not have come to pass without you.

Odds are that we can’t be as powerful forces of religious, political, cultural, linguistic and social change as was Martin Luther.

But we can ask ourselves: On and for what are we standing? How is it that we might be vessels of transformation in the name of God? Is it possible that unbeknownst to us, even in the smallest of ways, by our ordinary and extraordinary births and our stewarding of the world, we can take ourselves, and it, by surprise?

Who knows, in other words, what Nov. 10, 2015, and Nov. 11, 2015, and Nov. 12, 2015, and so on, can and will bring, through us and by God’s grace.

Anna Madsen
Anna Madsen is an ELCA pastor, freelance theologian through OMG: Center for Theological Conversation and founder of Spent Dandelion, a retreat center in Two Harbors, Minn.

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