What is your definition of wisdom? To be wise could mean many things. Some people display logic in the face of calamity. Others are known for their emotional intelligence. Some can recite facts from sharp memory banks. These are not necessarily signs of wisdom, however. Wisdom has traditionally been portrayed as something that happens as a result of age and experience. It is good to be wise. But can it be wise to do good through something perceived to be bad at the moment? For example, is kidnapping ever a wise thing to do?
Frederick III, who served as the Elector of Saxony between 1486 and 1525, earned the nickname Frederick the Wise due to his reputation as a wise and prudent statesman. However, despite his honorable character, he is probably most remembered for a kidnapping he orchestrated on this day in 1521.
Frederick the Wise arranged for Martin Luther to be “kidnapped” and taken to the Wartburg Castle for safety and protection while on his way home from an interrogation called by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The proceeding, known as the Diet of Worms, was set for Luther to renounce his writings against the church after Pope Leo X issued a papal bull admonishing the theologian. After Luther refused, the Emperor issued the Edict of Worms, condemning Luther as a “notorious heretic.” With such a designation from the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church, Luther’s life was placed in immediate danger. Earlier critics of the church, such as John Hus, a Czech theologian and philosopher, were burned at the stake. Luther faced a similar fate.
Although Frederick had little interaction with Luther, he was one of the rebel religious leader’s most influential and notable defenders. His support was not led by religious convictions but rather by his personal belief that all his subjects receive a fair trial according to the rule of law. A lifelong Roman Catholic, Frederick believed Luther was denied a proper hearing.
In this case, we can say the kidnapping was good in that it preserved for the coming centuries Lutheranism and a way to worship the Lord that we find both grace and comfort in. I will argue that Wise was also very wise if we define wisdom as having the ability to not only recognize history when it is being made in front of you, but to act on it. In saving Martin Luther from almost certain death, Wise saved the Protestant movement at the dawn of its birth.
We invite you to make a wise decision to worship the Risen Lord. Join us this Sunday, May 7, at 8:00 AM (spoken), 10:15 AM (traditional), or 6:00 PM (Jazz Vespers). No kidnapping is necessary.