Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (Phi 3:17 KJV)
It’s obvious to all the world how bad corrupting influences are. Yet there are many, who would limit us to the singular example of Jesus Christ as the best one there is. I don’t know, why they want to restrict us in this way. Why should we not also follow the good example of those Christians, who are suitable for this role of exemplary leadership? St. Paul calls his congregation in Philippi to follow his example. Another apostolic admonition to the Church is from the letter to the Hebrews: Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith (Heb 13:7 NIV). These two verses should prove the point that this is right and good to follow good Christian examples. And then we also have the big cloud of witnesses, this wonderful list of glorious saints from Church History throughout the very early and foundational ages. Test everything with clear and sober mind – and if you do find a good and faithful example – then follow faithfully too. Sure – nobody is perfect. Sure – even the saints are but forgiven sinners. We are not following lifeless ideals or theoretical constructs. However the Lord and God of the Church – Jesus Christ himself – by his grace and mercy, his love and patience – has gifted his Church with bright and shining examples from all nations, ages and places. So let us discard those misleading proponents of false doctrine and faithless lifestyles as hopeless and vain – and let us follow diligently and most faithfully those lovely friends, forgiven saints and shining examples of Christ’s living Church in true faith, love and hope.
God and Father! In reverence and gratitude we look up to you for carrying your Church throughout the Ages. You have blessed and kept her in good and bad days. You have given the good news of your Son Jesus Christ into our hearts and thus led us to truth and freedom. In all sorts of storms and severe calamities and disasters you have preserved your Church miraculously. You have made her a blessing and sanctuary for countless people from all nations. Through her faithful proclamation you have filled the hearts of those tired and heavily burdened with joy, courage and peace so that they have been empowered to proclaim your truth before kings and the mighty powers of this world, but also in the daily encounters of their common calling you have made them truthful and winsome witnesses of your gospel. Oh, how unworthy we ourselves are of this glorious company of faithful witnesses! We have erred, we have been weak and our stubbornness is too hard – yet, you are still greater by far in your loving mercy o Lord. Always again you have forgiven us. You have strengthened us and you gifted us with peace and comfort. We thank you for this from the bottom of our heart. Bless us in the remembrance of the true cornerstone of your Church – Jesus Christ our living Lord. Enliven in us the remembrance of those holy martyrs of the Church, who worked and strove in his name and Spirit throughout the world and all ages. They suffered in living hope and remained faithful to the very end – even while building your Church. Remind us that we too are living stones of your Church and that we too are to be joyfully and faithful members of your Congregation here on earth – praising and glorifying you and working for the benefit those, who need it most. Amen. (Liturgisches Arbeitsgemeinschaft Hannover 1930)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for Monday after the twenty third Sunday after the high holiday of the Holy Trinity. It is found on Pg. 377 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.