My favorite Martin | On Faith

By Greg Asimakoupoulos

This month finds me thinking about individuals by the name of Martin who have impacted life.

The first was a fictional one. Uncle Martin (played by Ray Ralston) was a character on “My Favorite Martian.” It was one of my favorite television shows when I was in elementary school.

Another Martin was Dr. Albert Martin who was our family dentist. From my first visit, it was obvious his interest in my life was not limited to my teeth.

Then there was Martin Koll. Shortly after he began attending our church, I discovered he loved playing golf as much as I did. When his faith began to blossom, he asked me to baptize him — on the 9th hole of the local country club. It’s the only time I’ve officiated a baptism in a water hazard.

Martin Hampton, another congregant, inspired me with his faith and courage in the midst of adversity. When his daughter was born with spina bifida, Martin modeled a “can do” attitude that inspired our congregation. This young dad’s trust in his Heavenly Father motivated his little girl to become an overcomer.

But in all honesty, my most favorite Martin was a Catholic priest to whom I was introduced to 40 years ago when I entered seminary. Although he came from a different faith tradition than the one in which I was raised, I found myself attracted to his free-spirited perspective.

Father Martin (as he was known) enjoyed discussing theology while drinking beer in a pub. Having been reared in a teetotaler home, I initially found his routine off-putting. But as I gave myself permission to sip a pint while plodding through a passage of Scripture with classmates, I discovered why Martin found it meaningful.

The more I got to know Martin’s perspectives, the more I liked him. He objected to the way singing in church on Sundays was limited to a few folks up front. He felt the entire congregation should be engaged in worship and not just the performers. To that end, he wrote original hymns for Sunday mass.

Martin was also an advocate for utilizing a contemporary translation of the Bible so that average church-goers could understand it. He was known to translate the Hebrew and Greek texts himself. As you might guess, Martin was a popular preacher. His homilies were both inspiring and earthy.

But what really inspired me about Martin was his propensity to protest ecclesiastical activity that he viewed as unbiblical. He wasn’t afraid to express his opinion even though his was a minority voice.

I remember hearing about a time when the church leaders downplayed a central doctrine of the church in order to raise funds for a building project in Rome. Father Martin disputed the initiative from his pulpit. Although he was rebuffed by church officials, Martin refused to be silent. He published his opinions through social media. And they went viral.

Yes, my favorite Martin is none other than Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation. This week is the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of his 95 theses calling for renewal in the Church. This protesting priest has made both Protestants and Catholics more thoughtful in the practice of their faith. And I for one am grateful.

Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos is the full-time chaplain at Covenant Shores Retirement Community on Mercer Island. He is the faith and values columnist for the Mercer Island Reporter and contributes original poetry each Blue Friday to KOMO news radio.