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Not Just Books. A Cloud of Witnesses.

August 29, 2013

My office, as you can sort of tell from the picture, is filled with books.  I’ve even read some of them!  I’m reminded of Dr. Paul Sponheim, one of the world’s great bibliophiles.  Sitting in his office one day I commented on the sheer volume of volumes that sat in piles everywhere.  He quipped, “I’ve read some of them twice!”  He went to admit with a grin, “Of course, some of them I’ve never read at all.”

Truth be told, even in this digital world, I find my library to be not only a source of knowledge, of theological insight and biblical interpretation, but also a source of comfort.  Like old friends the spines stare down at me, inviting further use.  The brown-bound, two-volume “Dogs,” edited by Braaten and Jenson, beckons me back into its pages.  The colorful editions of Kierkegaard’s works are instant reminders of the Dane’s deep insight.  The variety of commentaries is simply priceless, although I probably don’t need eight commentaries on Paul’s epistle to the Romans.  From Augustine to Luther, Barth to Capon, I feel surrounded by the great could of those who have witnessed to the work of God throughout the centuries.  I have books uploaded to the cloud, as well, but somehow it’s just not the same.

Today, however, I was reminded of the cloud of witnesses in a different way.  Curious about a question involving the resurrection of the dead, I pulled Hans Conzelmann’s The Theology of St. Luke off the shelf (admittedly for probably the first time since occupying my current office five years ago).  It’s a 1961 translation and the book shows its age.  On the flyleaf is written my name and the year I acquired the book.  But my name isn’t the only one there; the name of a pastoral mentor was scrawled upon the page, too.  The book, of course, was his before it was mine.

This is true of so many of the books in my office.  Upon their retirement, four pastors have gifted me with portions of their libraries, as has another of my mentors and the seminary professor for whom I worked.

Seeing the retired pastor’s name written on that page this morning reminded me once more of the many faithful servants who have gone before me.  They were not the writers of these works; neither shall I add my own words.  They, like me, were readers of books in order to be writers of sermons, teachers of Bible studies, and all-around faithful practitioners of Word and Sacrament ministry.  Today I’m thankful for the writers and the readers who have come before.  I’m thankful for the faithful service they have rendered to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  I’m thankful to be surrounded by them as I sit here and think about my next sermon, my next Bible study, my next conversation with a fellow disciple today.  Their faithful journey strengthens me for ministry this day.

Note: I was going to title this blog “More Than Words,” but I just couldn’t do it.  Way too Extreme.

From → Odds and Ends

  1. Russ permalink

    Dave, keep these blogs coming. They are very important in the development of the congregation’s spiritual life. At least they are important to me!

  2. Thanks Russ – will try to keep up with it!

  3. Owen permalink

    Ouch, the pun, it burns!

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