As we remember Johannes Bugenhagen, pastor to Martin Luther, we read a brief biographical excerpt about Bugenhagen from Celebrating the Saints.
We thank God for Johannes Bugenhagen, faithful shepherd in the Lord’s Church and pastor to Martin Luther. As Bugenhagen cared for God’s people by faithfully preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, we give thanks for our own pastors who continue to serve in this Holy Office.
Johannes Bugenhagen was one of the great reformers of the Lutheran Reformation. Dr. Pomeranus (as Luther liked to call him) was born in 1485. Having been ordained a priest and serving as a lecturer at Belbuck Abby, Bugenhagen first encountered Luther’s work through the famous 1520 treatise, The Babylonian Captivity. Bugenhagen initially was not persuaded. The more he read of Luther, however, the more he came to agree with him. He eventually relocated to Wittenberg and in 1523 was appointed the parish pastor at St. Mary’s, thus becoming Martin Luther’s own pastor and his confessor. These he remained to the end of his days, and in 1558 he was buried at the church where he had labored so long. . . .
Bugenhagen carried out visitations in order to know for himself the spiritual condition of the people for whom he was to create the Church Order. Luther more than once complained about Bugenhagen’s lengthy absences from St. Mary’s that left Luther to fill the pulpit! Those long absences were due precisely to the careful, methodical, and pastorally sensitive reforms he was undertaking. The orders that come from his hand (Denmark-Norway, Braunschweig, Hamburg, Pomerania, and a number of others) are all marked by their common sense and sobriety. They invariably walk a pastorally sensitive middle road when it comes to ceremonies, and they are intensely concerned with catechesis, passing on the faith. His work in this area was so extensive and so lasting and well received that he has sometimes been called “the Second Apostle of the North.”
Bugenhagen, as Luther’s pastor, preached his funeral sermon in tears. He extolled God for the extraordinary gifts He had showered on the Church through his colleague and prayed for the preservation of the work that had been begun. He seemed to have little idea of how much his own work was an answer to that prayer of preserving the Reformation.
Glory to You, blessed Trinity! You raise up in the Church faithful pastors to recall Your people to the richness of Your Word and to turn them away from the vain wisdom of this age. We give You thanks for the life and ministry of Your servant Johannes Bugenhagen. Through his example, inspire in all pastors a zeal to preach Your Word in all truth and purity and to work for the preservation of Your Church; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.
Devotional reading and prayer are from Celebrating the Saints, pages 62–63 © 2016 William C. Weedon. Published by Concordia Publishing House.