Another day at the Old Latin School. It´s raining today. That hasn´t happened for most of this summer. So, we´re thrilled and hoping for more! The passing summer rains, which Dr. Martin Luther uses to describe the moving church with its gospel treasures making inroads into all nations to the very ends of the earth, have passed us by this year. Physical droughts are terrible as we Africans know full well, but the hunger and thirst for God´s holy Word is much worse the Bible tells us (Amos 8:11). You might not realize it at first – just like when you get a heat stroke – yet when it finally hits you, it´s terrible. It´s too late and it´s just painful as that rich man confessed to Abraham: “I am tormented in this flame” (Lk.16:24). These things don´t just happen down in Africa, but right here in the heart of Europe even.
I´m thrilled, that the Old Latin School is known as a place for God´s treasures as they were discovered and put high on a pedestal during Luther´s reformation of the Church. Still people knock on our door and look for them. Not just the handful of SELK (Independant Evangelical Lutheran Church = Confessional Lutherans of the International Lutheran Council) vicars, who complete another Practical Theological Seminar today after studying Lutheran Theology these past 10 days, but also others – passersby, tourists and even those that drop in on-line and by phone.
Take yesterday for instance. First thing in the morning, the vicars start off with Matins in the chapel: God´s Word is shared, Psalms and other faithful hymns of the church are sung, and we all join in grateful prayers for God´s goodness and mercy, which is new every morning, pleading him for all things needful in church, state and family.
Later, when the vicars are immersed in the Lutheran confessions and other vital studies, a young lady pushing a pram enquires, where the meeting for mothers and their babies is being held. She comes and asks at our desk, because the doors are wide open and we are just so keen to help and give directions.
Just before tea, I drop an outstanding book by Bruno Preisendörfer back at the public library: “Als unser Deutsch erfunden wurde: Reise in die Lutherzeit” (Translation: Excursion into Luther´s time: When our German was invented). As I return by bicycle, there is a man beeping into our high windows. Asking, whether I can be of help, he tells me, that he´s seen precious medals and metal plaques in our Bookstore and he´s hoping to buy one. The one we had in store, was the commemorative bronze disc for the Old Latin School minted for the festive opening nearly 4 years ago. He was thrilled to tell his children, what they could give their father for Christmas. He complained somewhat about the lack of Reformation medals and Lutheran anniversary medallions in Wittenberg. In the old GDR, he was able to get those every now and again. He was a serious collector of these collectibles and was disappointed, that he could no longer get them here in Wittenberg – not even for the 500th anniversary of both the Lutheran Reformation (2017) nor Melanchthon´s inaugural address (2018) although he always passed by during his biking holidays in the hope, that he´d find a very precious one eventually. The Old Latin School remained a hopeful mark on his itinerary.
Before lunch I got this phone call from out of one of the main cities here in Saxony, asking about books from Concordia Publishing House. The caller´s comment: “CPH is the best for Lutherans nowadays. They´ve got the most solid Lutheran stuff on the market!” This reminded me of Pasor Dr. Armin Wenz, who after several years of studies in Germany had only gotten to read and appreciate Lutheran theologians first-hand during his stay in CTS Ft.Wayne back in the 80´s. Well, the guy phoning in, wanted to buy all three volumes of President Matthew Harrison´s (President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) translation of Herman Sasse´s “Letters to Lutheran Pastors”. So he inquired, whether I´d ship those to him before Christmas.
Now, say for yourself, isn´t it great, that we´ve got this confessional Lutheran Centre right here in Wittenberg, where people can come to study Lutheran theology, look for Lutheran stuff like precious medals and commemorative discs and even get the priceless treasures of Lutheran theology in delightful books from Concordia Publishing House without having to pay for shipping across the Atlantic? Of course, it is great and such a fantastic offer.
Still, the marvellous offer is there, but we need to take heed of Dr. Martin Luther´s admonishment to his dear Germans:
Germany, I trust, has never heard so much of God’s Word as now; at least we find nothing like it in history. If we permit it to go by without thanks and honor, it is to be feared we shall suffer a still more dreadful darkness and plague. Buy, dear Germans, while the fair is at your doors; gather in the harvest while there is sunshine and fair weather; use the grace and Word of God while they are here. For, know this, God’s Word and grace is a passing rainstorm, which does not return where it has once been. It came to the Jews, but it passed over; now they have nothing. Paul brought it to the Greeks, but it passed over; now they have the Turk. Rome and the Latins had it, too; but it passed over; now they have the pope. And you Germans must not think you will have it forever; for ingratitude and contempt will not suffer it to remain. Take and hold fast, then, whoever can; idle hands cannot but have a lean year.
Hey, time is moving. The vicars are moving out and on, but before they do, they pick up this and that in the bookstore – like the handy help by Professor Dr. John T. Pless: “Praying Luther´s Small Catechism”. I am grateful that we can address the hunger for God´s word through faithful preaching and brilliant Lutheran theology right here in the Old Latin School even as the drought out there continues as God mercifully tries by all means to call his people back to repentance and to faith in his gracious gospel of his son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.