Tuesday, January 24, 2012
OK, so last week I received the Sabre of Boldness award from the editors of Gottesdienst: The Journal of Lutheran Liturgy. This award is given “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity on behalf of the Holy Church of Christ while engaged in the confession of His pure Gospel in the face of hostile forces and at the greatest personal risk.” You can listen to the audio of the award ceremony on the Gottesdienst Online site.
Whoever nominated me for this award surely overestimated my “gallantry,” as well as the hostility of the forces that oppose me and the rest of us at Intrepid Lutherans. There have been several cases of scoldings, condemnations and synodical shunnings. But as I noted in Ft. Wayne, I’ve received no death threats, nor have I or my children had to go begging bread. And if I were to weigh the friends I’ve lost in the WELS against the friends I’ve gained in the WELS, ELS, LCMS and beyond over the past year and a half of Lutheran Intrepidity, I think I’d still come out ahead.
So “well-deserved” the Sabre of Boldness is not.
But then, it isn’t really an award for merit or accomplishment. It’s essentially an award for being an “unworthy servant” (Luke 17:10). It’s an award for doing what every Christian is called upon to do: to confess the Christ and bear the cross. It’s like honoring a man for being alive. There’s a bit of humor in that, even a hint of sarcasm.
There’s also a degree of sadness in it, an element of commiseration, as we acknowledge together that the cross borne by Christians, and especially ministers of the Gospel, is real, and it’s heavy, even deadly. To quote the Rev. Daniel Deutschlander, “As Christians bear the cross and follow after their Lord, they can expect to endure hostility and persecution from those outside of the church. Sadly, however, some of the most painful experiences of Christians come not from outsiders but from fellow believers.” Ja, das ist gewisslich wahr.
But this is not the sadness of defeat or despair. There’s no room for whining or for bitterness among the people of God. To bear the cross is to be like Christ, and pastors have a unique calling to stand in His stead and take their lumps. If we would be shepherds under Christ, then we must imitate Him and be ready to die with Him. Only the hirelings escape the wounds inflicted by wolves.
So more than anything, I see the Sabre as a display of Christian love, a show of support and encouragement and of steadfast resolve to fight together the good fight against the devil, the world and the sinful nature, to make the good confession that leads first to shame, and then to glory; first to the cross, and then to the crown. (There’s a Transfiguration sermon in there somewhere…)
I’m thankful to God for the committed and confessional Lutheranism I have seen in my Missouri Synod brothers and sisters, and I’m grateful to the editors at Gottesdienst for their display of Christian love in the selection they made for the Sabre, misguided as it may have been. I accepted the award “on behalf of all Intrepid Lutherans everywhere.”
I do recommend a subscription to Gottesdienst. You can subscribe here. We’ve also added them as a link under “educational resources” in the right-hand column.
I’ll post a little more later in the week on my experiences in Ft. Wayne.
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