Thursday, January 24, 2008

That Would Be Grandpa Eckardt, as of Today . . .

. . . January 24th, 2008, at 7:47 am, weighing in at 7 lbs 9 oz and 22 inches long,

Sarah Ann Eckardt

was born to our son Andy and his wife Kristy. This is our first grandchild, with a full head of hair and a healthy cry for feeding time. Mother and baby are healthy and happy, though sleepy. All grandparents are smiles all around.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rev. Aaron Moldenhouer Receives Sabre of Boldness for 2008

The Sabre of Boldness was awarded to Rev. Fr. Aaron Moldenhauer, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Beecher, Illinois, on Thursday night, January 17th, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the thirteenth annual Sabre ceremony, sponsored by the editors of Gottesdienst. Fr. Moldenhauer is a recent graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, who for reasons of conscience was compelled to leave the Wisconsin Synod during his vicarage year and colloquize into the Missouri Synod. For this he has endured considerable scorn by many who were close to him. Fr. Moldenhauer was unable to attend the ceremony, but his wife Tabitha was present to receive the award for him.

At the ceremony, Chaplain Jonathan Shaw made preliminary remarks to a banquet room-full of expectant guests, explaining the spirit of the Sabre award, and the courage and integrity it bespeaks. Chaplain Shaw, a Lieutenant Colonel at the Pentagon, is the Sabre of Boldness column editor for Gottesdienst. He introduced Fr. Burnell Eckardt, editor-in-chief, who also made some remarks (printed below) before introducing the eight nominees. He then announced Fr. Moldenhauer as the winner.

[the full list of the eight nominees may be found in the previous post at this blog]

The text of Fr. Eckardt’s speech follows:

Welcome, everyone, to the Sabre of Boldness Ceremony for 2008, the Academy Awards of Confessional Lutheranism. It’s rather daring, I suppose, to say such a thing. Or foolhardy, maybe, since we are not in Hollywood here, nor do we really want to be. You can wear a tux to this event if you want to, or a classy formal dress, but it really isn’t expected. Yet we do admit to having taken some small delight in arranging an annual list of nominees, and then, while everyone waits with bated breath, finally announcing the winner. It may interest you to know that many years ago, the Synodical president was once a nominee, and I dutifully sent off the correspondence apprising him of it, explaining how we choose one from among the nominees. I remember that his personal assistant asked me privately if he could get some advance indication of whether or not his boss was actually going to end up the winner; after all, this is the president of the Synod, and we would have to plan accordingly, and blah blah blah. “I’m very sorry,” I answered cheerily, “but the envelope must remain sealed until award night.” For one brief moment I felt I had power over the President of the Missouri Synod.

At any rate, any comparison to the Academy Awards really ends there, because in virtually every other way this is unlike that event. I would guess, for starters, that the Academy is a tad better known than this is, notwithstanding any illusions Colonel Shaw is probably harboring in his heart. We do occasionally rub shoulders with a guy named Cary Grant, but if his parents really meant to name him after the movie star, they may have been disappointed when he became a Lutheran minister.

That’s how it goes: There really isn’t any glamour involved in being a confessional Lutheran, after all. You don’t get a mansion on Sunset Boulevard, and you’ll never drive a Ferrari, since, as we all know, you’d need the salary of a movie star, or a Synodical President, to get that kind of perk.

Moreover, the award you get here is not an Oscar; it’s just a little lapel pin, and your name on the Sabre which is permanently mounted at Peace Lutheran Church in Sussex, Wisconsin.

But actually, as you know, your true trophy isn’t made of gold; it’s made of scars. It’s made of men reviling you and persecuting, and saying all manner of evil against you falsely for Christ’s sake.

And since this is so, there is really no way we can recognize who all of you are. In fact the ones we recognize here tonight, and the one we select, is asked to bear the Sabre for all of you. You unsung warriors, who quietly suffer rejection and pain and sorrow, and the only reason we didn’t nominate you is that we didn’t know about you, and we realize that we have no choice but to be content with a little list that is really a thousand times smaller than it needs to be.

And we also know that if we’re really interested in honoring those who suffer bravely for the name of Jesus, we ought not forget the Christians who suffer real martyrdom and physical persecution all over the world; those who stand up as Christians in Kenya and their homes are burned; they confess the faith in Sudan and get raped; they ally themselves with the Church in North Korea and they get thrown in a vermin-infested prison. They risk everything and often shed their blood in places all around the world, for the sake of Him who was crucified for the world. And all the world owes them immeasurably, for the unspeakable testimony to the world that their martyrdom is.

But for now, we wish to do our small part and recognize those among us who suffer bravely. None of our nominees has faced martyrdom, but the faces of the devil can be just as terrifying when they appear in the form of loss of reputation, or livelihood. Blessed Martin Luther once quipped that the three worst losses a man could endure are his faith, his eye, and his reputation.

And inasmuch as it is our duty to give encouragement and aid where we can to those who suffer such losses, we are pleased and honored to have the opportunity to do so now. The world may despise you, but we salute you. And if even within the churches you find scorn, we should not be surprised; if, say, even your own familiar friend, in whom you trusted, which did eat of your bread, hath lifted up his heel against you. But dare we be ashamed of you? Dare we look askance, as others may do, and wonder what terrible thing you did to gain such grief? May it never be! If we would not think to chide our dear Christ Himself, whom dogs compassed about, how could we do so for those who have had the simple courage to confess Him before men, and so have taken up their crosses?

This, then, is for us a glimmering moment, even if it is too brief. It’s not about the award ceremony, really. It’s about the fact that here we get to see things set right, if only in just this little way, just for a moment, as the battered get some honor, the slandered get some approval, and the maligned get some acclaim. It isn’t much, we know; but we are comforted to know that it is a very small foretaste of the full vindication the little flock of Christ will experience at His Day of Reckoning. I could well imagine singing, on that day, that old hymn once known only to Norwegians:

Despised and scorned they sojourned here; but now how glorious they appear!
Those martyrs stand a priestly band, God’s throne forever near.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sabre Ceremony on Thursday: The Elite Eight

The ceremony is now in its thirteenth year, and has returned to the Marriott Hotel because of its superior accommodations in close proximity to the seminary. The event is set for Thursday, January 17th, at 8:30 p.m.

The editors of Gottesdienst invite all seminary guests to come on over to the Marriott, right after the Symposium banquet, for this gala event.

To date we have eight nominees for this year:

1. Lowell T. Phllips, layman, from Abilene, Texas.
2. Rev. Klemet Preus, Glory of Christ, Plymouth, MN
3. Rev. Tim Vaughan, Lutheran Island Camp, MN
4. Rev. Fr. Michael D. Henson, Trinity, Herrin, IL
5. Rev. Fr. Aaron Moldenhauer, Zion, Beecher, IL
6. Rev. Frederick Davison, St. Luke, Richmond Center, WI
7. Rev. Eric Stefanski, Harrison, Arkansas
8. Rev. Fritz Baue

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Weekend Retreat in Kewanee: Music and Meditation

6-7 January 2008

Annual Epiphany Choral Vespers
A Day of Theological Reflection

at St. Paul’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church

Our annual Epiphany Choral Vespers will be held this Sunday evening, 6 January 2008, at 7 p.m., featuring our Mixed Choir and an array of traditional Christmas Carols and Epiphany Hymns. Every year, St. Paul’s Evangelical- Lutheran Church of Kewanee puts on an event you might not expect to hear in a town our size, especially when you consider the small size of our choir.

The Epiphany Choral Vespers, besides being a prayer service as vespers always is, is an event of high cultural significance. This is the eleventh year the parish has held this event for the Kewanee community. Our Mixed Choir has only sixteen voices, but with the splendid acoustical setting under the Gothic arches at St. Paul’s, people have often commented that the choir sounds two or three times larger. These are quality singers as well, having sung together for many years, and hence they are able to provide those in attendance with a real musical treat. The choir is under the direction of the church’s pastor, the Reverend Dr. Burnell Eckardt, who has over twenty years of experience as a choirmaster and composer. St. Paul’s looks forward to this event every year, as a last opportunity in the year to present some lovely traditional Christmas and Epiphany carols in a setting for which those carols were written.

The evening’s music is always augmented by the parish’s wine and cheese reception in the school cafeteria, another annual tradition. There is no admission fee; a freewill offering will be taken.

On Monday the 7th, from 8:30 – 3:30, a Day of Theological Reflection is also scheduled, the ninth in the series, whose theme is

“Lo, It Was Very Good: The Christology of the Creation.”

We’ll examine the first three chapters of Genesis with an eye to finding Christ there, so that we may declare, as the disciples did, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Following registration, the Monday seminar opens with Holy Mass at 9:00 a.m. A continental breakfast will be offered afterwards, as the seminar begins. Lunch is on your own. Admission is free.

To register, send me an email.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Eleventh Hour for Sabre Nominees

Any more Sabre of Boldness nominees? If you have one, send me an email right away.

State the name, address, and telephone number of the nominee and the reasons why he or she is a fitting choice for Sabre Bearer. The words engraved on the plaque upon which the Sabre is mounted give the selection criteria: “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.” The degree of the adversity, a demonstration of steadfast resistance to pressures to compromise the truth, heedlessness of threatened personal consequences, and a clear confession of the truth at stake are considered. The slate of nominees will close on Wednesday, January 16th, 2008. Then the editors of Gottesdienst will meet privately to make their selection.

The ceremony is now in its thirteenth year, and has returned to the Marriott Hotel because of its superior accommodations in close proximity to the seminary. The event is set for Thursday, January 17th, at 8:30 p.m.

The editors of Gottesdienst invite all seminary guests to come on over to the Marriott, right after the Symposium banquet, for this gala event.

Sabre of Boldness Recipients:

2007 The Reverend Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn
2006 Bishop Walter Obare
2005 The Reverend Edward Balfour
2004 The Reverend Charles M. Henrickson
2003 The Reverend Dr. Wallace Schulz
2002 The Reverend Erich Fickel
2001 The Reverend Dr. John C. Wohlrabe
2000 The Reverend Peter M. Berg
1999 The Reverend Gary V. Gehlbach
1998 The Reverend Dr. Edwin S. Suelflow
1997 The Reverend Jonathan G. Lange
1996 The Reverend Peter C. Bender