While driving to Bruderheim and back, I read this one to Martin:
"Encouragement for Lonely Preachers and Teachers."
by Pfotenhauer, 1894. District address Minnesota and Dakota district. (district president, 35 years old)
Eight paragraphs from pages 700-706.
...The goal of my address shall be to encourage us anew to true steadfastness, precisely at the post given us in the Lord's vineyard.
We preachers and teachers are stewards of God's mysteries. God has directed us, through a call, to the office in which we are to break the bread of life. He now desires from us that we be found faithful--nothing more, but nothing less, either. What is the nature of this faithfulness? It is first of all that we give to the soul entrusted to us by God what they need, and at the right time. Because of this we can always say, "Oh, that not a soul for which I am responsible be lost! Oh, that if only I should one day have to lay down my shepherd's staff, I can say, 'here are those whom You have given to me; I have lost none of them.'"
... Of the 360 congregations of our district, there are scarcely 25 that are exclusively city congregations. The attraction to the city, which we also more or less suffer as children of our era, cannot easily be satisfied. Aside from this, our wide area, which stretches over four states and three English (Canadian) provinces, is only sparsely populated. This area has a population of only 2.1 million. In Germany, Austria, and France, which together are about the size of our district, live 135 million people. Thus most of our preachers and teachers must live in great loneliness, far from their brothers in the office, without the conveniences of modern life with which our contemporaries squander away their days.
...So when one of our preachers expends all of his ability on the widespread and lonesome roads, traveling over unending fields of snow, in great danger and with great exertion, or when he sits at his desk to prepare for the next Sunday, it is easy for the tempter to suggest to him: "You work in vain, and your abiliteis are accomplishing nothing. In another district, under more favorable circumstances, you could make better use of your gifts. Here, your health is going to be ruined in a short time." When such toughts come, the prayer truly applies: "Lead us not into temptation."... And the teachers in our district have the same trials.
...To be sure, it often appears that because of the difficult circumstance, there is little for us to accomplish, but that is not so. A faithful steward will ever be crowned with rich blessings, though they be hidden from the eyes. Consider the work of the Lutheran preacher and teacher at the time of the Thirty Years' War, which truly presented far more difficult circumstances than those in which we work. Germany was completely depopulated. Daily, sword, hunger, and plague killed thousands in the most horrid manner. Churches and schools were burned to the ground; the remnants of the congregations were scattered in the forests.... Indeed, in spite of the appearance that the Lutheran Church would be completely eradicated, the Lutheran professors wrote comprehensive works under the duress of war... and they instructed young students of theology with great conscientiousness... Next to God's grace, it was due to the faithfulness of these men that after the thirty Years' War, the German nation, which had been reduced to two million, was not destroyed by bands of robbers, and that the Lutheran church still had roots below and bore fruit above. Their blessings have also flowed to us. They preserved for us the pure Gospel. We study their works and sing their hymns. The faithfulness of the first pioneers of our district, many of whom have already entered into the joy of the Lord, has been richly rewarded.
... When Elijah in weakness of faith wanted to set aside the office because he thought that he had accomplished nothing with his year-long preaching, God did not address him with harsh words. He came to him in a "still small voice," He revealed to him for consolation that 7,000 souls still remained in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Faithful stewards may also be consoled that God's eyes shine down upon them in a friendly and caring way. Precisely our dear traveling preachers, when they have been cast out into the wilderness, should not think that they are lost and forgotten. God keeps track of you. To Him you can also present your need with complete confidence when you think that you are about to succumb to loneliness and physical hardships.
... Now, to be sure, it is true, none of us can represent himself and say to God, "I have always been a faithful steward." When our occupation is viewed according to the Ten commandments, we must all confess that we have been unfaithful. But it is also true that we can be found faithful if we believe in Jesus. He who does not believe in Jesus Christ is an unfaithful servant, even if he were a tireless servant of his fellows in wind and weather. Be he who believes in Christ should know that his Savior covers all his unfaithfulness in the office with His faithfulness, and through His precious Holy Spirit, makes him ever more faithful. To such a teacher, standing under the forgiveness of sins and driven by the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit grants the predicate 'faithful.'
... Now, a very brief word in conclusion to you, precious congregational delegates! Even if our address dealt only with preachers and teachers, nevertheless, the same is intended no less for you. You should recognize anew that God desires that also congregations--no more and no less--seek faithfulness in their stewards in the same way. If a congregation forgets this and perhaps seeks in is preacher and teacher glorious, shining gifts that God has not granted to them, or asks nothing of whether or not they faithfully administer their office, the spiritual life in a congregation will soon wither, and all will decay. The congregation at Corinth, which made evil distinctions among their preachers on account of gifts, is an example of warning for all time.
Jesus Christ, however, the great Shepherd of the sheep, always grants to our district faithful preachers and teachers. And may He assist our congregations so that they not seek more in them than that they be found faithful. Then, in spite of the long winters and snowstorms, we will have constant summer according to the Word of the Scriptures, Song of Solomon 2, 11-13: "For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance." Amen.
We can try to imagine the hardships of those who traveled such great distances by horse, buggy and sled in all kinds of weather and temperatures. It was like this in Alberta not too long ago. Old Pastor Ohlinger used tell stories about this and had written a little booklet. Dr. Threinen has written a number of books on the era and history of the church.
I own a book containing Alberta stories. One of them tells in the most spell-binding way the trip that a school teacher took to get home for the weekend using a sled to get through the snow drifts and so on. It was hair-raising. When he finally got home, ironically, he had to turn practically straight around to make it back.
One starts praying really hard on those kinds of dangerous and lonely trips. There are no atheists in fox-holes, they say, and there are also very few among those who travel in hazardous conditions.
Tomorrow, I'll post about the picture a few posts back which my grandfather drew illustrating the expulsion of the ethnic Germans from Silesia in 1946. I asked around if the building in the background was a church, since the top of the picture is missing. Yes, indeed it is a church and a very large one in Wuestegiersdorf. The story also relates to the 30-years-war, and travel by horse and buggy. Yes, in 1894, when Pfotenhauer made his address to convention, my greatgrandfather Julius went to church there in Silesia. My uncle Herbert, who told me the story a week ago, was baptized and confirmed in this building. This church would have been the opposite of a lonely outpost.