An internet buddy’s church recently celebrated their 150th anniversary as a congregation, and they opened the cornerstone time capsules. The stuff they found is interesting. Here is a link to some pictures and his write up.
Pastor Jackson had a quick summary of his thoughts. 1) We are illiterate compared to 8th grade educated bilingual German-American farmers. 2) Confessional movement has lost its swagger and 3) They were not afraid to address social issues.
I agree with those, but I corresponded that when I read things from that period I walk away with three thoughts. 1) The Sermons, and they were popular. Most of the publications lead with a sermon on the front page. And it is not my 1500 word, 12 minute specials. These are 3000 – 5000 word works. 2) The ease with which they dealt with a rather large standard deviation of language/culture/experience. We think we are so cosmopolitan, but our cosmopolitanism is so very narrow compared to what German-American farmers in 1890 were exposed to. My third is perhaps my deepest reflection. You can’t help but be struck by the juxtaposition of innocence and profundity. “Mayor goes for a walk” is news. The swagger that Pastor Jackson talks about is earnestly endearing and witty, but without a single sniff of knowing irony that all our wit today requires. Those earnest 8th grade educated farmers reading about the mayor walking were on the next page contemplating Chemnitz and the two natures of Christ. It is almost unbelievable, except that I’ve got my grandfather’s books that have marginalia that prove it. I think we long for something of that innocence, but we can’t imagine giving up our “knowing”. What we don’t realize, or refuse to realize is that our “knowing” is what Jesus says to Laodicea “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked”.