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Thursday, July 20, 2017

A.L. Graebner, passing of a true teacher- Pieper’s address; Part 3

[2017-07-24: This address was also translated by M. Harrison in his At Home in the House of My Fathers, pp. 617-619.]
      This continues a series of blogs (from Part 2, Table of Contents in Part 1) presenting Dr. Franz Pieper's words of comfort at the passing of fellow teachers of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
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      After Prof. Günther's passing, it would be another 10+ years before President Pieper would again have to speak to an assembly of mourners for a fellow colleague.  This time, in 1904, it was for Prof. A.L. Graebner.  Pieper's address was taken from Der Lutheraner, January 3, 1905, p. 3-4.  Translation by BackToLuther.

Memorial address at the funeral Dr. A. L. Gräbner,
held in the Aula of the Concordia Seminary by F. Pieper.
A teacher has been called by God from our midst. A man has been taken by God out of our midst who was first placed here in our institution as the teacher of the future ministers of the Church, and then served the Church with teachings in wide circles, beyond the borders of our country. God has put an end to this active life. He called his servant that his work  was at an end.  We think that this call came too early. But we Christians also know that our thinking is not the measure by which things are measured in the kingdom of God. Thus we submit ourselves to God's will, but we listen to the reminder which God in His Word (Heb. 13:7) calls to the Church:
Remember your teachers who have spoken the Word of God to you.
Teachers are one of the gifts of God to His Church. The Son of God has devoted much to his Church, and His care is still directed to His Church. He has first redeemed them, that is, purchased with His own blood, from death and condemnation. Then He also gave her His Word through His Prophets and Apostles, which she now possesses in the Holy Scriptures. But even more! He has also arranged a personal teaching office in the Church, whereby His Word is to go forth, and He gives to his Church, up to the very Last Day, men who are capable of teaching not only himself, but others as well. Thus the teachers belong to the gifts of Christ to his Church. Teachers of the Word of God are not a gift which can be bought with gold or silver, but they are a gift which the Son of God has acquired with His blood, and are distributed now to His Church as the exalted Lord of the Church at the right hand of God. This is what the Scriptures teach. St. Paul writes to the Ephesians, (Eph. 4:8): “When he ascended up on high, ... he gave gifts unto men.” And in the enumeration of gifts are expressly named the teachers: “He Has put some to apostles, some to prophets, some to evangelists, some to shepherds and teachers.” (Eph. 4:11.)  The Church is well served when she is amply supplied with teachers of the Word. Thus, in the description of the prosperity of the Church of the New Testament (Psalm 68:11): “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it..” And the Church goes bad when [page 3, col. 2] the right teachers of the Word are missing. Where the teachers of the Word of God are absent, the of Word of Christ is fulfilled: “They fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd,” Matt. 9:36. Therefore, the Christians should deal with their teachers well during their lifetime. “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.,” 1 Timothy 5:17.  And when they are dead, let them remember.  “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God.” [Hebrews 13:7]
It is true that not all of us, who appear within the Church as teachers, are to be counted among the gifts of God. In the Church there are, under God's approval, teachers who teach not the Word of God, but their own Word, as the Holy Scriptures describe such teachers in Jer. 23:16. “They speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.” Such teachers are not a blessing, but a plague for the Church. Such teachers do not praise God, but He threatens them with his wrath, Jer. 23:31: "Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.” The Christians shall not hold themselves to such teachers, but flee after the Apostle’s exhortation Rom. 16:17: “Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them..”  Such a teacher was not the one who has gone home. He was a true teacher, a gift from God. He was one of the teachers who, with great care, carried forward the Word of God pure and unadulterated, and with all sincerity, rejected all false doctrine, which rises above and without the Word of God in the Church. In the hot struggle for the divine truth which our Church had been destined for the past twenty-five years, in the struggle for the Gospel of grace, he was at the forefront of the struggle.  Thus, the one who went home belonged to the gifts of God to his Church, and therefore the Word also applies to him: "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” [Heb. 13:7]  God has given the orthodox Lutheran Church of our country loyal and proficient teachers and preachers in large numbers. What is in abundance, that is easily respected lightly. It should not be so. Let us beware of the contempt of the gifts of God, for that is the way you lose it.
A true teacher must wait out his office under  self-denial, in disinterested spirit, in the profession of God. Neither good rumors nor nasty rumors, neither praise nor reproof, neither abundance nor want, should alienate him from his office, or make him weary.  Such teachers are rare. They were rare even in the apostolic church. The Apostle Paul complained in the letter to the Philippians (Phil. 2:21) of a number of teachers who were working next to him: “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's..”  We must now confess with gratitude to God that God has given a great number of preachers and teachers to our synod, as far as people can judge, who have not the ruling manner of themselves, but look to Christ Jesus and His Church. To these also belonged the one who has gone home. He was prepared for service for others, without asking: What is in it for me? He has served the Church [page 4, col. 1] for 25 years – nine years in the Wisconsin Synod, and sixteen years in our Synod – as a theological teacher and has been satisfied with food and clothing. He could leave no earthly property. That is why we are reminded of the following: “Remember your teachers which ...  have spoken unto you the word of God.”
Luther, in his last sermon, which he preached at Wittenberg in January, 1546, [AE 51:377; SL 12:1168-1177] asked his hearers to ask God with all their heart for right teachers of His Word. This request is also very necessary for us, since God has taken such a tried and tested teacher from our midst. Indeed, God does not look at our sin and ingratitude, but acts with us according to His great grace and mercy.  He gives us and our children pure, faithful, self-denying teachers of His Word for the sake of Christ our Savior. Amen.
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      For myself, I have found the most edifying teaching from Prof. A.L. Graebner to be his presentation of the 1886 essay to the Synodical Conference on the "Divinity of Holy Scripture".  This essay proclaimed to all the world that the Synodical Conference stood on Holy Scripture, and defended against all attacks on the doctrine of Verbal Inspiration.  —  Pieper mentioned that Graebner had traveled outside the country in his work as a teacher.  I believe he traveled also to Australia for which the faithful Church in Australia continues to remember today.
      In the next Part 4, the last colleague of Pieper to pass away (or "go home") in the above faculty picture would be George Stoeckhardt.  And Pieper's address for him would include a grand tour of most of the previous teachers of Old Missouri.

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