Friday, February 12, 2010

Sabre Recipient Replies

Rt. Rev. Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn, President of the Lutheran Church of Ghana, received the 2010 Sabre of Boldness award on January 21st, 2010, as we reported several weeks ago. The ceremony included a special military-style toast to absent comrades, given by Chaplain (Col.) Jonathan Shaw, editor of the "Sabre of Boldness" column, following which Rev. Dr. Burnell Eckardt, editor-inc-chief of Gottesdienst, announced the nominees and the winner. Dr. Eckardt's remarks at the ceremony are here.

Dr. Fynn has recently replied to us. His letter:

January 29, 2010

Rev. Dr. Burnell Eckardt,
Editor-in-Chief, Gottesdienst

Dear Rev. Dr. Eckardt,

We just received the welcome email of January 23, 2010. I appreciate that very much. I take this opportunity to first, thank God and your Board members for honouring me with the Sabre of Boldness award.

As you well know the work we do is by God’s grace and by His power. Through this that we are able to perform whatever He wants us to do. By ourselves we cannot do anything. We continue to thank God for the faith He has created in us so that by His Spirit we will be able to proclaim God’s word in its purity. We continue to pray for strength to enable us share both Law and Gospel so that by His spirit many people will come to know Jesus Christ.

Once again thank you for honouring me. We hope we will be able to work together in future.

In Christ

Rev. Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn

Dr. Eckardt's remarks at the ceremony:

Welcome to the fifteenth annual Sabre of Boldness ceremony. It may interest you to know that there are some rules which govern this event, and we try to maintain them strictly.

First, we shamelessly insist that every nominee for the Sabre must be a subscriber to Gottesdienst. But before you get riled up about that, you should know that we offer complimentary subscriptions to every nominee, lest you think this whole event is some kind of marketing gimmick. To be sure, we do think we have some pretty cool marketing gimmicks, but this is not one of them.

Second, we don’t try to give the award to someone who refuses it, which has happened: generally when it is misunderstood as an attempt to flatter someone, who might then mistakenly say, “No, no, I don’t want to be part of any self-congratulations cadre.”

Which brings us to rule number three: we do not allow anyone on the Gottesdienst editorial board to be a nominee. We are humbled by the occasional attempts which have been made to nominate us, but reminded that this award was originally—fifteen years ago—conceived in jest, and there was at first another meaning to the S. O. B. acronym. And that first meaning is the kind of deprecation we feel is probably more appropriate to ourselves.

Fourth, and this one is really important: the Sabre of Boldness is not given to the kind of person we have determined to be most worthy of all, because we know we could never make such an assessment. The Sabre lapel pin is actually two crossed sabers: one for the recipient, and the other—which is really the more important—is for all the unrecognized heroes of the faith we wish to honor. The recipient wears the pin on their behalf. We could not possibly know who they all are, but we know they are legion.

Most important among them are those who have become martyrs for the faith, who were deemed worthy by Almighty God to suffer to the point of blood. Here we could speak of Deacon Joseph Mabior, who last August became the victim of the violent Islamist campaign against Christians in South Sudan, when attackers rushed at him and shot him twice in the legs. Or we could speak of thirty men and women from the town who covered him with their own bodies in a failed attempt to protect him. All thirty died. Or the 185, mostly women and children, who also died in militia attacks there last August, apparently for no other reason than that they were Christians (World, November 7, 2009, 52-53).

Or of seven family members in Pakistan who died in August, six of them burned to death by a taunting Muslim mob that had broken into their house and shot the grandfather dead, just because they were Christians, part of the tiny Christian minority there. Or of the Christians in Iran who are routinely persecuted and ordered by government officials to renounce their faith and return to Islam.
Or the community of 350 Christians in Algeria, where Muslim extremists tried to prevent them with death threats from celebrating Christmas in their rented building only last month.

We could go on to stories from Laos, Nigeria, Indonesia, China, and elsewhere. And these are only the ones that make the news. If we are to believe the data from World Christian Database, there are in the world over 450 Christian martyrs daily on average.

Listen, the Sabre of Boldness is most especially meant to be about them, not us. And to remind us of the true nature of Christian confession—martyria in the Greek—lest we forget, amid the luxuries of American Christian freedom.

So here, in our own little way, we just pick somebody out from among us, to bear the Sabre this year, mostly for them.

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