Tuesday, January 24, 2017

2017 Sabre Goes to Rev. Dr. Gottfried Martens and Trinity Lutheran Church of Berlin

The Sabre of Boldness for 2017 went to the Reverend Dr. Gottfried Martens and his congregation Trinity Lutheran Church in Berlin, Germany, for their steadfastness in the face of possible deportations, beatings, and threats of death for conversion to Christianity as over a thousand members of the congregation have come from Persia and other Muslim lands to the joy of knowing and being baptized into Christ.

Pastor Martens was a nominee for the second straight year. He had been pastor of St. Mary’s Lutheran Church in Berlin for many years, a church which has seen hundreds of refugees come in, Muslims seeking the truth and finding it under his preaching and catechesis, being baptized and brought into his congregation. His success among the immigrants has put his name in the German news, and so has put him personally at risk, due to the violence that so easily attaches itself to the Muslim extremists who do not take kindly to losing nearly a thousand converts to Christianity.

Dr. Martens has recently become pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Berlin-Steglitz, which is almost entirely comprised of immigrants who have converted to the Lutheran faith. But the German governmenthas recently begun to deny en masse the refugee claims of many of these converts, following what Dr. Martens is calling deeply flawed refugee hearings. The problem, Dr. Martens says, is that “Many [of those hearing the cases] are manifestly clueless about the situation of Christians in Iran and Afghanistan, and worse yet they are utterly clueless concerning questions relating to the Christian faith. But all of this does not prevent them from assuming the role of self-appointed experts, whose questions ‘unmask’ the supposedly deceitful Iranian asylum applicants one after another, even when those hearing the cases don’t even know the difference between the [Apostle’s] Creed, and the Our Father [Lord’s Prayer].” The challenges come after a year of other difficulties, as converts to Christianity have faced increasing persecution from Muslim refugees angry at their conversions from Islam. Congregational members and candidates for baptism are being attacked, sometimes beaten and threatened them with death, both in Germany and from their homeland to which deportation is threatened The refugees are instructed in the Christian faith prior to baptism—or excluded, if a genuine conversion is not evident. Currently baptisms sit at between 30 and 40 a month.

What the editors have chosen decided for this year is to offer the Sabre of Boldness for 2017 to Rev. Dr. Martens and his congregation, Trinity in Berlin-Steglitz.

Rev. Wilhelm Torgeson, a close acquaintance of Dr. Martens and an adjunct professor at the Lutheran seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario, was on hand to receive the award on their behalf.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Sabre of Boldness Nominees Sought

The Sabre ceremony, with which regular Gottesdienst subscribers are familiar, is in its twenty-second year.  Nominations are hereby invited and encouraged THIS WEEK (ASAP) in anticipation of the Symposia in Fort Wayne January 16th-19th.  

Please submit your nominations via email: full name of nominee, reason for nomination, with as many details as you can, nominee's address, phone number if you have it, and your own name.

The award is given “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, steadfast resistance to pressures to compromise, heedlessness of threats, and a clear confession of faith are considered.  The slate will close on Tuesday, January 17th

What is the Sabre of Boldness?  – an excerpt from Fr. Eckardt’s Sabre speech in 2003:

The Sabre of Boldness is a venture which has been undertaken annually since 1996 by the editors of Gottesdienst as a gesture, however inadequate, toward the acknowledgment of unsung heroism which sometimes defines the deeds springing from Christian faith.  Maybe you aren’t supposed to know this, but the original idea was not quite so earnest.  If you haven’t already guessed it, the Sabre of Boldness was conceived in a bit of jest.  There was a fully intended and not-too-subtle double-entendre in the awarding of the S. O. B.: the recipient was on the one hand bold in the faith indeed, so much so that for his boldness, on the other hand, he had certainly gained recognition, of the kind not generally sought after, a page in someone’s Who’s Who among the Infamous.  But the Geist of the award very quickly changed, when it became evident that there were not a few readers who had a genuine and very serious desire to stand in solidarity with unsung heroes of the faith; heroes such as we seek to note, ordinary people whose boldness of confession, we imagine, must be recognizable as extraordinary at least to the angels, however unnoticed or even disdained by the masses who prefer to recognize status or reputation in accord with the norms of the world.
Those norms, we hasten to add, are often and routinely used to judge honor not only in the world, but also by people who like to go to church, and even in the judging of churchly matters.  Wherever they see compromise, call it virtue; whenever they find people willing to back down a bit from their principles, they call them wise.  Conversely when they see fidelity and dedication to one’s ideals they call it stubbornness, and when they find someone delaying the whole train just for the sake of conscience they call him a fool.  And since their kind of wisdom resonates well with the wisdom of the world, they sometimes even get lucky enough to find themselves in the world’s craved limelight, where the world in turn calls them wise, honorable, and even holy men.

So it is really no wonder, in retrospect, that this award began to take on such an aura of dignity among our readers, who have always been hungry for things which resonate well with the mind of our holy Christ. After all, He certainly did not fare well according to the wisdom of this world. The world certainly did not account Him virtuous or wise, at least not until after it saw that it would be advantageous to do so. Before that they easily scoffed, and reckoned that His stubborn fidelity to His Father’s ideals brought Him nothing but grief, crucifixion and death. Whoever has the mind of Christ must also acknowledge that what is lovely to the world is an abomination to God, and the world’s rejection or acceptance ought never be the allowed to determine the difference between a fool and a hero of the faith. As it is written, He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
Thus the Sabre of Boldness has become our own meager way of saluting not merely its bearer, but anyone who, in however otherwise unnoticed a way, did the very kind of bold deeds that we saw in other heroes of the faith: Moses before Pharaoh, Joshua against the kings of Canaan, or Jael in the tent against Sisera.  The Sabre is fittingly a sword, reminiscent of Gideon’s against the Midianites, Ehud’s against Eglon, or even Goliath’s, against himself in the hands of our David. It signifies most of all the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God against our greatest foe, running him through by the stubborn, unbending, and fierce resolve of our Lord Jesus Christ to endure crucifixion and so to redeem us all. That Sword, in the hands of the Christian warrior, is what produces the kind of spirit which the world and its minions find so annoying, since it is ever so intractable and unyielding. Therefore we salute herewith every Christian who has such a spirit: first of all, those saints in glory for whom martyrdom was preferable to compromise, and after them also any who gave up some claim for worldly adulation, because they deigned instead to do the right thing for conscience’ sake, and closed their ears to the clamor of the world’s folly.
The Sabre certainly does not get any legitimacy from us clumsy louts at Gottesdienst who now find ourselves annually in this awkward position of being a kind of judges’ panel for something which, though we don’t quite feel qualified to judge, we really do consider a very highly honorable and salutary thing to recognize. The highest honor is the honor of suffering for the name of Jesus. He who suffers for Christ is honored already. The Sabre only seeks to emphasize this truth.