This weekend at a junior high youth gathering in my synod I impersonated Martin Loser, the socially-awkward childhood playmate of Martin Luther. I was initially asked to be Martin Luther, but I felt uncomfortable stepping into the shoes and persona of a historical figure about whom so much is known. I opted instead for the latitude and creativity of a fictional character – Martin Loser – who would tell the crowd of kids about the importance of his old friend, Martin Luther.
And so with an overly nasal voice, many oddly stretched-out syllables, and geeky laughs and snorts, I told about growing up with Martin Luther. I began the presentation with several fart jokes, taking advantage of the synergy between Martin Luther’s prescription for getting rid of the Devil (he believed that with a fart you could banish the Devil from your presence) and the junior high penchant for toilet humor. ("You had to be careful around the campfire with Martin Luther, especially if he had been eating the weiner schnitzel, because, whoa baby, if he was rooting and tooting the flames would shoot into high heaven!"). The fart jokes opened the door to talking about Martin Luther’s understanding of the Devil and God, which led to presenting Justification by Grace Through Faith, Vocation, and Theology of the Cross.
Interspersed in the presentation was a silly obstacle course that led to grace and salvation (a parody of Luther’s understanding of the late medieval practice of indulgences and good works), and an attempt to illustrate Luther’s understanding of a hidden God by using two bedsheets – a red sheet representing God covered by a black sheet – and then cutting a cross in the black sheet, allowing the red (God) to show through. It is through the cross – in the least expected of places – that we most clearly see God.
My wife attended one of the presentations, and said the fact that the presenter was not a strong, bold, articulate person, but rather was a bumbling, awkward loser helped embody the message I was trying to communicate – that God is where we least expect God to be, and that awkward and weak people are also – are especially – recipients and bearers of God’s love and grace. And the nerdy/loser demeanor also helped keep the attention of a roomful of 11-13 year olds . . .
This description is just a brief thumbnail sketch of what I did. It was a lot of fun to put together, and something that I will definitely keep in my back pocket for future use. Presenting the theology and impact of Martin Luther to a group of junior high kids is a challenging task, but I think this worked pretty well.
(If you’d like a copy of my notes, please send an email. My email address is along the sidebar in the "y’know you want to" section.)