Pastor's Monthly Message
Would Martin Luther have understood addiction?
Given my understanding of Luther’s own personal struggles, I believe he would have. Historians tell us that Luther, an Augustinian monk, compulsively subjected himself to various acts of penance. By his own account, he was terrified of God’s judgment, longed for salvation, and remained “frantic with a furious and disturbed conscience.”
Most of us have had moments when we were “frantic,” when we longed for a release from our anxiety. Unlike Luther, most of us do not seek relief through acts of penance. Today, we have access to a large assortment of medications and illegal drugs that will provide temporary relief for both physical pain and mental anguish. Most physicians will prescribe medications to reduce any kind of pain, and most patients will readily take them.
Unfortunately, this has led to an abuse of such medications. People of all ages can become addicted to pain medications, especially the class called opioids. When the prescriptions run out, or when the high is no longer enough, many turn to heroin – or to its more potent and deadly cousin, fentanyl. Addiction rates and death due to overdose are increasing at alarming rates – even in our own communities here in St. Clair County.
While Martin Luther was frantic for salvation, many people today are frantic for the next drink, pill or injection. Then and now, many of us long for some kind of relief, and for some kind of assurance that grace and mercy are available even to us, even in the midst of our shame and despair.
How can we as a community of faith respond? One response is to offer support through prayer and worship. To that end, I have joined with the clergy of Our Lady on the River Catholic Parish and St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Marine City to offer a service of prayer and healing on Reformation Sunday, October 29th at 4:00 p.m. at Holy Cross Church in Marine City. The service will include hymns, prayers, and words from Rev. Deacon Dennis Crimmins, the head of the Blue Water Area Churches Recovery Task Force.
Will it solve the problem? Of course not. But change starts with awareness. When Luther wrote his 95 theses opposing abuses in the church in 1517, he brought an awareness to areas where the Gospel was needed in the church. Five hundred years later, both Catholics and Lutherans are bringing an awareness to an area where the Gospel is needed in our community.
Are you concerned about the overdose rates in our nearby communities? (The Marine City and Algonac per capita overdose rates are higher than those in Port Huron.) Then come to the service. Like addicts and like Martin Luther, we all long for the assurance of God’s abundant grace. Together we can find that assurance in the gift of Christ Jesus.
Marked for the non-addictive, never-ending source of relief and mercy,