Monday, October 22, 2012
My library is filled with teachers, counselors, and friends...
Near the end of the college years and entering into Seminary, I added hundreds of books. I bought whole libraries from retired or deceased Pastors and books from the campus bookstore with every spare dollar I had. Remember that a good book back then hardly ever cost more than $10!! I encountered Gustaf Wingren and Gustaf Aulen. I read Iranaeus and Athanasius. I found Luther Reed and Paul H. D. Lang and Paul Z. Strodach. I learned Schmid and Chemnitz and Luther. I rediscovered Walther firsthand after reading some less than interesting and less than accurate attributions to him. Each new addition was one more voice to the chorus of voices instructing, counseling, challenging, guiding, and encouraging a young man (boy) on a journey to the red stole.
By the time I was in my first parish, I had two full walls of books that had to be carefully packed into book cartons and loaded on the van with other, I must confess, less important earthly possessions and then opened and organized and walled around me again as classroom, chatroom, and fortress of wisdom and truth. By the time I left my first parish (13 years), I had so many books that 12 foot wide bookcase reaching to the 8 foot ceiling could not contain them all. Now I look around at more than double this number -- including some books no longer in print -- whose voices have become eerily silent outside the confines of the few who have them. Others have been reprinted in nice new duds to speak freely to a new generation waiting to acquaint themselves with these old friends. But not all my books have antique pedigrees and some of them, many of them, have recent birthdays. It is always the marvel to find a friend so much younger than yourself and it comforts me to believe that voices of the present will become for others the same kind of friends, counselors, teachers, and advisors that some of my older works have been for me.
You can tell a great deal by a Pastor's library -- these books represent more than paper and ink and cardboard and binding. They represent the voices that he listens to, the counselors who guide him, and the kind of friends that surround him. Parishes would do well to heed the advice given so long ago to mine and provide a modest book allowance to help their shepherd find friends and family to support his pastoral vocation. Mine has been more than generous -- now $1,000 per year. Some of my folks have said it is the best investment they have made to keep this 20 year tenure fresh and new, solid and stable over these two decades of change. I willingly defer to my teachers on the shelves of my office as the source of any wisdom and profundity they have learned from me. I am still their student and will be for as long as I can read and even then as long as I hear them in my mind. Most of my reading is not for pleasure or for personal interest. I read to hear the Gospel spoken to me, to be instructed in my deficiencies, to be guided in my uncertainty, and to be counseled in my distress. The Word of the Lord is the supreme counselor to be sure but I am ever and always encouraged by the manifold voices who have and still speak that Word to me through the books on my shelves. The Word of the Lord grows. Indeed. And with it, my circle of friends, teachers, counselors, and advisors.
Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Gal. 6:6