Thursday, October 07, 2010

How Many Lepers Does It Take to Write a Sermon?

If you are preaching this week, you may have stumbled across any number of sermons and homiletical helps which say, typically in so many words, that "Martin Luther was once asked to define true worship. His answer: true worship is the tenth leper turning back."

It's an interesting remark, more so if Luther actually said it. But did he? We don't know, and we are hoping that some reader may be able to help a poor book-deprived missionary.

Given the surplus of spurious illustrations floating about the ether, as well as those which are genuine but torn savagely from their context, we won't use this remark unless it can be verified. Nor should any of our readers!

Does anybody know the answer?


Brant Clements said...

David Lose has included this quote in his commentary on the Gospel at Have you considered sending him an email with your query?

Father Anonymous said...

No, but that's a good idea.

Pastor Joelle said...

Did you ever see the Last Temptation of Christ?

The scene (think it was a dream) but Jesus is walking down the street and he hears Paul preaching about him and he says something like "hey, shut up --I never said any of that" And Paul looks at him and says "Yea well you should have"

Or maybe I made that up. I saw that movie in the theatre while nursing my now 22 year old son. But even if that scene wasn't in the movie - it should have been. See where I'm going with all this?

Father Anonymous said...

Genius line. Never saw the movie, loved the book. If that exchange is in it, though, I'll go and rent it the next time I'm near a video rental place, which should be summer 2011. (Those SOBs at Netflix won't stream or deliver to Europe).

And yes, I do see where you're going. Some remarks -- and this is one of them -- stand alone, independent of the person to whom they are attributed. Sometimes, they even reflect that person's genuine thinking on a subject, albeit in a capsule form.

Still, I have my conscience to consider.

Dr. Lose could offer no citation -- he's heard it quoted by other preachers, including Buttrick (who has proven unreliable with quotes before). Until I learn otherwise, I am going to assume that Luther didn't say this, or that if he did, he didn't say it quite so clearly.

So, in an actual sermon -- the one I plan to preach in a few days -- I won't *say* that he said it. I'll introduce it with "Somebody was once asked ..." or even "There's a story about Luther; I can't say whether it is true or not ...."

Still, the line is nagging at me. It has a Table-Talk feel to it.

Diane M. Roth said...

I like the line, and may use it, but I like your spin, not to say "for sure" it's Luther, but to say it's attributed to him.

p.s. I saw it on Working Preacher, too.

Father Anonymous said...

In the end, I didn't even mention Luther. I said "Somebody was asked about worship ..."

No matter who said it, the line is worth remembering.