Now Thank We All Our God!
Did you start off your day annoyed…because you ran out of coffee filters, or because your Internet connection isn’t as fast as you’d like? Are you letting “gnats” like these overshadow your gratitude for the rich gifts of God—a comfortable place to live, the ability to come and go as you please, the privilege of being able to receive the Lord’s gifts of Word and Sacrament every single week? My Latvian colleague at Riga Luther Academy and I have spent the last several days interviewing over Zoom men and women from around the world who are applying to the Bachelor of Theology program beginning this fall. We spoke at length with applicants from Turkey, Italy, Rumania, Pakistan, and even California. But the most gripping interview we conducted—which exhibited one man’s extreme thankfulness for our Lord and Savior and unswerving trust in His guidance and care—was with a South Sudanese man. “James” (not his real name) is a Lutheran pastor. Some of his favorite passages are Genesis 3:15, the first Gospel proclamation in the Bible (remember Ilya a few weeks ago?); also, God’s sparing the Israelites from the death of their firstborn by the blood of lambs in Exodus 12—and the fulfillment of that prophecy in the blood of the true Lamb of God in the Last Supper and on the cross of Calvary, which spares us from eternal death. Surely, if James wishes to enroll in this four-year program, he must live in a nice home with high-speed Internet access. No, not quite… You see, James, his wife, and five children live in a tent in a refugee camp in Kenya. They were forced to flee their homeland because of ongoing civil war in South Sudan. Even though a pastor for almost fifteen years, James wishes to deepen his understanding of Lutheran Christianity and also improve his English. And so he plans to take all his classes on his cell phone—from the refugee camp—until he and his family can return to their home. That is what I call extreme gratitude for the Lord’s gifts—and trust in His unswerving guidance. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col 3:16).