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Apostle to the North

February 3, 2021

“Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

Today the church commemorates Ansgar, Bishop of Hamburg, patron saint of Scandinavia, Apostle to the North, and probably all-around cool guy. St. Ansgar’s life was shaped by visions, beginning when his mother (who had died young) appeared to him in a vision alongside Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Born in France in 801, Ansgar was a monk who participated in the Christianization of Saxony. Gaining renown as a preacher and teacher, he traveled to Jutland. Later, he would cross the sea as the first actual missionary to the Nordic countries. In a time and place beset by Viking raiders and war between kings, Ansgar sought to bring the gospel through service instead of force. He is remembered for his deep love for the poor. Following the example of Christ he would wash their feet and serve them food.

His mission work ran into constant challenges. The church in Scandinavia fell back into paganism. At one point he was captured by pirates. Back in Hamburg, Ansgar witnessed invading Northmen burn it to the ground. Ansgar, however, did not lose the faith. In that faith, he died on this day in 865.

As a Norwegian, I’m grateful for the work of Ansgar in helping lay the groundwork for the good news of Jesus Christ to spread to my ancestors. As a person of faith, I’m grateful for his faithful witness and his refusal to give up. May we be inspired to live as the same Spirit works in us.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

Lord God, we thank you for those who have lived a life of service and merry for the sake of the gospel. We give thanks for Ansgar and all the saints. We pray for ourselves that we might live such lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Torsten in Norway, July 2014. In Balestrand with the Sognefjord in the background, to be specific.

From → COVID-19

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