Writings and Christian
Here I stand
by Ray Keffer
Here I Stand is a short drama that tries to explain the turmoil in Martin Lutherís heart and mind while he fought the Holy Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic Church, and their leaders who had become power hungry and had forgotten their mission to the people and to the church.
Characters in order of appearance:
Katy Luther, Wife of Martin Luther, grey haired woman and a stalwart of courage.
Lutherís grandson, an inquisitive teenager.
Martin Luther - Martin is of medium height; a slender body, that seems emaciated by cares and study. He stands in the prime of his age. His voice is clear and distinct. He and God appear to be one in thought.
Von Staupitz - teacher and friend of Luther who sent Luther to Wittenberg
John Eck, the Papal, Champion - He has a huge square body, with a full strong voice, fit for a tragic actor or a town crier. He is harsh and would give one the impressions of a butcher or a rude soldier rather that a theologian.
Monk, pious in demeanor
Bishop, seemingly afraid of Luther, but has respect for the truth he is telling
Emperor Charles V, pious and convinced that the way that has been taken by the Holy Roman Empire is the correct way regardless of the feelings of anyone else.
Scene I: Katy Lutherís Home: Begins with a conversation between the grandson of Martin Luther and his grandmother, Katy Luther, wife of Martin Luther.
Scene II: Wurttemberg, Germany: Begins with Martin Luther nailing a piece of paper to the back curtain or wall.
Scene III: Leipzig, Germany: The debate between John Eck and Martin Luther that leads to Lutherís sentencing.
Scene IV: Worms, Germany: The meeting and condemnation of Martin Luther by Emperor Charles V and the Roman Catholic Church excommunicates Luther for his beliefs and his now famous statements.
Scene V: Katy Lutherís Home: Concluding conversation between the Grandson and the Grandmother.
Scene I: Katy Lutherís House
Grandson: Grandmother, why do some people refer to grandfather as a rebel?
Grandmother: Perhaps they do not know him as well as we do, child.
Grandson: He seemed so kind to everyone, and he certainly showed how much he loved the Lord by the way he lived each day of his life, plus the time he spent with each of us.
Grandmother: Well, many years ago, before Grandfather and I were married, your grandfather took a stand to love the Lord first - with all his heart, soul, and mind. He always stuck to that belief. But perhaps better than my telling you, I will review it for you through the use of some friends of your grandfather and mine, as well as some of the people who despised him the most.
Your grandfather, to please his father, studied law as a young man. That is until he had a close brush with death. This experience led him to enter a Catholic monastery where he dedicated his life to serving our Lord. One of his teachers, Father Johann von Staupitz, really impressed your grandfather, and Father Johann took a liking to your grandfather. One day, Father Johann asked your grandfather to go with him to visit Rome as a part of the churchís teachings. The visit to Rome changed your grandfatherís life forever. He was very upset with the corruption he saw in Rome. The push for selling indulgences, at all cost, helped to feed the corruption in Rome. The poor people really could not spare their money to give to the church to buy these indulgences, but the Catholic priests and bishops promoted such sales.
Grandson: What are indulgences?
Grandmother: Indulgences are promises on paper sold to the poor people, which were suppose to help their loved ones get into Heaven after they died.
Grandson: Why did they need indulgences? All they had to do was believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Grandmother: The Roman Catholic Church at that time was being run by a pope, cardinals, and bishops who were not so much interested in salvation of the people as they were in money to spend as they saw fit.
The church was teaching that by buying of these indulgences people would be able to go directly to Heaven after their death. The church had taught that after people died, if the family gave money to the church in the form of indulgences, the prayers of the church leaders would help the dead person get through a place between earth and Heaven called purgatory, a stop before they finally got into Heaven.
Grandson: That was hardly the right thing to do. Grandfather was correct in trying to stop that practice.
Grandmother: When your grandfather returned from Rome, he left the monastery to study theology in Wittenberg. However, he looked to his friends, Professor Staupitz and Father Johann, for direction. The two of them spent much time together with your grandfather as he was studying the Bible to seek the real truth it contained. Professor Staupitz stood by your grandfather, as did many other church theologians, when he was being condemned by officials of the Roman Catholic Church after he found the truth he sought in the Bible. His friends knew he was right. However, they were afraid for their own lives if they spoke out. They knew that they too would be accused of being heretics and condemned to die, like your grandfather was, if they publicly agreed with him.
Grandson: Grandfather really took a big risk to do what he believed God wanted him to do, and tell the people of Godís love for them as he found that love in the New Testament.
Grandmother: Indeed he did grandson; indeed he did!
Scene II: Wurtenburg, Germany
(Martin Luther is nailing a piece of paper to the church door at Castle Church in Wittenberg with many things written on it.)
Staupitz: Martin, what are you doing now? Johann Tetzel has said that you have been causing problems for a sometime. Now you are publicly posting your troublesome ideas for him and everyone to see. Do you not know that the Pope can excommunicate you from the church for what you are writing and saying? Youíll surely burn in hell. Tetzel and other church officials believe that you have been troublesome to them long enough, and these objections you have nailed to the Castle Church door, will only provide them with the excuse they need to excommunicate you!
Martin Luther: Well, Staupitz, what you say may be true, but I feel that I must state the truths which have been revealed to me in the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit.
Another monk: Martin, why do you have so much rebellion in your soul? If you would merely buy some indulgences, you can be forgiven of your latest sins. This is the only way you will go to Heaven. You are a good, honest, scholarly man. You donít need to fight the church leadership to prove it!
Martin Luther: I know that I will go to Heaven. I am established in a faith that I have learned from studying the scriptures. The scriptures clearly state that faith, not works, gets one into heaven. Faith in God, His son, and His love are open to everyone who believes, regardless of oneís station in life. Faith can be obtained by the poor, the rich, and the servant as well the nobility and church leaders.
Staupitzl: But Martin, you are disobeying the authoritative findings of the pope and church councils. You are against The Holy Roman Empire and its legal existence as a government.
Martin Luther: That is true. "There has been a fiction spread by which the Pope, bishops, priests and monks that they are the 'spiritual estate'. They have set themselves apart from the common man. They are just people like the rest of us. In Godís eyes we are all equal.
Staupitz: But, Martin, you are challenging the authority of the pope as Godís chosen representative. The pope and the cardinals are the ones that are set apart from us by God. They are favored by and speak for God.
Martin Luther: I disagree. All Christians are truly the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them. As St. Paul says, we are all one body, though each member of the body does its own work so as to serve each other.
Staupitz: How do you propose to establish this idea of St. Paul?
Martin Luther: We have one God, one baptism, one Gospel, one faith, and are all Christians. God established baptism, the Gospel, and our faith in Him, to make us a spiritual and Christian people."
Bishop: Martin, as your friend, I can't help but hear your defense of your own ideas, but you are wrong. You will be tortured, Martin - burned at the stake like John Hus! (Pause) Donít you see what will happen to you? Recant your statements!
Martin Luther: No. I cannot. Your opinion and that of the bishop are false ones to me. I do not believe in the unction by a pope or a bishop. "St. Peter says 'Ye are a royal priesthood, a holy nation." That means all mankind, not just a select few.
Bishop: Well, I will assure you that the Pope will hear about this.
Staupitz: (With authority) I am a learned theologian, with considerable recognition. You are wrong, Martin. Up until now, I have been your friend, but I will oppose you to the end on this, Martin. You are undermining the power of the clergy. You are trying to destroy the whole structure of the Roman Catholic Church. I cannot allow that to happen.
Luther: You may say what you like, but I will not stop in my pursuit to make sure that all people know they are Godís creatures, and that they are all equal in Godís sight. Faith is the pathway to Heaven, not works!
Scene III: Leipzig, Germany
A debate was soon held in which the church challenged the words of Luther. His challenge was called the 95 Thesis. The first debate showed no change in the opinions of any of the parties. Luther more than held his own against the best theologians the church could offer. A second debate was arranged in Leipzig. An older colleague of Luther was to speak in his defense. Johann Eck would debate Luther in Leipzig. Eck was more of a prosecutor than a debater.
There were three professors from Wittenberg, who had traveled in ordinary carts, accompanied by two hundred students on foot to support Luther. Others had come out to show their support for Lutherís ideas also. The 200 students from Wittenberg were also there to defend their teachers. Luther, as it turned out, was to be a spectator only.
The influential German prince, Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, arranged for Lutherís trial to be held in Leipzig, Germany, rather than in Rome. Frederick knew that the empirical laws stated that all Germans had the right to trial in Germany. Frederick knew that a trial in Rome would mean death for Luther.
Midway into the debate, Luther jumped into the battle as he was not satisfied with the progress the debate was making! Luther and Johann Eck stood face to face and heatedly renewed the debate.
Eck: The pope is the head of the church on earth.
Luther: No, Jesus Christ is the only head the church! The pope and the church councils can and have erred. The Council of Constance has condemned some Christian as well as some evangelical teachings. Dear doctor Eck, "the Hussite opinions are not all wrong."
Eck: I will have you publicly excommunicated as an arch-heretic.
Luther: Do as you will, but My Lord and My God stand against the worship of saints, the reverence of relics, and the paying of indulgences, as well as taking advantage of religious pilgrims. He only requires that we love and serve Him, and Him alone - not any man on this earth.
Eck: You would ruin the Holy Catholic Church! (Pause) We will not let that happen!
Luther: Three things I know. My Lord knows the distinction between the manís law and His Gospel. The law may condemn man, but through the love of God, man can be saved to Eternal Life. All men and all institutions can and do err, but Jesus Christ is the sole Head of the church and He alone is perfect. Men must obey Christ and His Word. Christ fulfilled the law, thus freeing man from his bondage.
Scene IV: Worms, Germany
Narrator: (off to the side of the stage) In 1521, after Luther had continued his fight for what he thought was correct according to the scriptures, Pope Leo X issued a bull condemning Lutherís beliefs and teachings. This Bull of Condemnation was a death sentence for Luther! Anyone could kill Martin and fear no punishment for having killed him! Luther and his friends publicly burned the Bull. (Pause) Luther still faced continued trials for his beliefs. Would God allow his servant, Martin Luther, to die in Worms?
Emperor Charles V: I am Emperor Charles V, head of the entire Holy Roman Empire. I beg you, Martin Luther, to recant your statements. You immortal soul is in jeopardy here.
Martin Luther: "I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed. My conscience has been taken captive by God's word. I cannot and will not recant anything! To act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other.
God, help me. Amen"
Narrator: Luther left Worms in a horse-drawn cart to return to Wittenberg to await his fate. The pope, in his Bull, has openly told the people they were free to kill Luther. On the way, however, he was captured by two knights and some horsemen. The German Prince, Frederick the Wise - the Elector of Saxony, who had befriended Luther many times during his life, had arranged for Luther to be kidnapped. Luther was taken to a castle of Frederickís at Wartburg. There he remained in secrecy for ten months, no longer as Martin Luther, but as Knight George, a friend of the Elector, Frederick the Wise.
Many people grew to follow him, and for a time there was concern that they were worshiping Martin Luther instead of the true God. Luther wanted them to worship God only with the new spiritual freedom they had. They were convinced that they could now pray to their God and were not bound by either the laws of the Roman Catholic Church or those of The Holy Roman Empire. While in Wartburg, he did much writing. In September 1522, his most important writing was the translation of the New Testament from the original Greek into the vernacular German, a mixture of high and low German, so that the common man could read and understand the New Testament. This marvelous translation took Luther only twelve weeks to complete. Frederick the Wise was overwhelmed with the translation Luther presented to him. He could now read the Gospel in his own language. In 1534 his translation of the Old Testament was published.
Scene V: Lutherís Home
Grandmother: Well grandson, that pretty much sums it up. Your grandfather never gave up in his search to let the common man know that they could also pray directly to God and have their sins forgiven without paying any monies to church officials.
Grandson: Then, Grandfather just wanted people to know they were free to believe and worship God without any restrictions or intervention by anyone on earth.
Grandmother: Yes, grandson. We are all free to believe as we choose. God loves us all, from the smallest child to the oldest adult. Grandfather wanted us all to know, that if we love God and accept His Son as our Savior, we will be with Him in Heaven some day, just as Grandfather is now. It is our faith decision alone; no one can make that decision for us. He called his doctrine "Justification by Faith." (Pause)
You know that many of the songs he wrote and the ones that we sing tell this same story of faith in Jesus Christ and our promise of Eternal Life. He felt that people could be reached with the message of salvation from the printed word, the spoken word, and by music.
Grandson: Thank you, grandmother. I have a much clearer idea of what my grandfather, Martin Luther, was trying to accomplish. Now heís more than just a name in my history book. He is a real hero.
Grandmother: Your Grandfather would never want to be called a hero, or have any one worship him. He just wants us to worship the one true God, and know that we are all established in the faith
©Copyright by Raymond Irwin and Gail Kennedy Keffer