Pastor Löhe died on 2 January 1872 at age 63. Following the traditional custom of the church of regarding what the world calls the date of death as the date of birth to eternity (dies natalis) and commemorating its great models on those dates, our beloved synod commemorates him to-day.
I don't have a single profound thing to say about him. But he's right up there with Robert Barnes and CFW Walther on my list of Lutheran heroes. From what I can tell, I just gotta like this guy.
For one thing, his wife died after six years of marriage and he had four kids to raise by himself. I get that. Same thing happened to me after four years of marriage and two kids. Check.
But that's not all. Like me, he was a convert. Check.
He was real taken with our Confessions, and, like people like that tend to be, was real taken with Lutheran liturgy, especially the mass, and making it central to parish life. Check.
He had a real concern to get this message out, not just to get a message out, to get this message out. Check. To the extent that some saw him as a little too rough, too combative, and too conservative. Check, double check, and a hell yes.
This sense of mission not for its own sake but for the sake of a particular message also seems to have run him afoul of church trends. Check.
Yet he also had a concrete concern for physical as well as spiritual needs, something not always found with "conservatives". Check.
He was Bavarian. Well, sorta kinda. He was actually Franconian, however, Franconia (Franken) has been part of Bavaria since 1803 as Napoleon broke up the Holy Roman Empire, and King Ludwig of Bavaria re-established the old name in 1837, yet it remains a distinct cultural entity from historic Bavaria (Atlbayern). Löhe was born in Fuerth, Middle Franconia (Mittelfranken) and was stuck by his church body in the little town of Neuendettelsau in the same region. Check -- hell, I'm not even German however I grew up in Minnesota and ended up at a university sponsored by a Benedictine abbey founded out of Abtei Metten in Bavaria with money from King Ludwig himself, with German still commonly heard at the time I was there.
But the big deal about him is not at all just that I like him. Confessional Lutheranism is always under threat of being watered down, especially from church bodies with "Lutheran" in the name or history. Happened to Löhe, happens to us. But when this guy's church body headed down a revisionist, unionist path, and banished him to the hinterlands for not being with it, he promoted liturgy and works of service with such a passion that its results endure over a century later on every inhabited continent. Which is encouragement to those in his position now, even in the very synod he helped start here. And yeah, I just gotta like the guy and it encourages me to find people like him, confessionally regardless of background, behind our beloved synod and makes me feel at home.
And since it's only the second day of the new calendar year, and, in the interest of spreading confessional Lutheranism, unmodified by earlier errors of Rome or later errors of Protestantism and of Rome, here is my list of essential Lutheran reading:
"MELL" My Essential Lutheran Library
1. Holy Bible. The Lutheran Study Bible (2009)
2. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 2 ed. (2006)
3. The Lutheran Hymnal (1941)
4. God Grant It. Daily Devotions from CFW Walther (2006)
5. Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation (1991, 2005, with ESV 2008)
6. Law and Gospel. A Reader's Edition. CFW Walther (2010)
7. The Augsburg Confession (booklet of AC from #2, 2006)
8. Portals of Prayer (quarterly periodical)
All available from Concordia Publishing House.
A little footnote: Past Elder began -- none of this not by design, I wasn't thinking of it -- in blue and white, the colours of Bavaria, and is now red and white, the colours of Franconia.
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