It’s been called a war. We will leave it for dispute as to whether that is hyperbole. If we reside in states where the outbreak is not severe, the thought of coronavirus being compared to war strikes us as “over-kill.” For those in hotbed locations, battle terminology appears appropriate. And when the economical, psychological, emotional and spiritual impacts are considered, the vision of warfare may easily come to mind. No doubt military vets who put their lives on the line for freedoms we now enjoy have another important voice for the discussion.
But, for the sake of argument and for reminding us of a vital spiritual lesson, suppose it is in a way comparable to war. If so, can we learn a lesson from how our synod forefathers addressed the serious nature of lives lost during the fierce times of WW2? As an example of this, I refer to an address by one of our synod presidents delivered at a convention on June 9, 1944. The president at the time was Rev. Norman A. Madson. The world was in the middle of witnessing the Allied invasion on the shores of France. During what would be an 85-day span (June 6 – August 29), the lives lost were significant! Precious were those sacrifices in winning liberation from an enemy bent on securing for itself a tyrannical global domination.
“If we are not to grow cynical, callous, and despairing of all hope in an age like unto ours,” said Madson, “we must have an anchor cast within the veil (Hebrews 6:9); we must lay hold of those things which, while not visible to our natural eye, are nevertheless as certain as are the never-failing promises of God. In short, we must place the right emphasis upon Eternal Possessions. ‘We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen,’” 2 Corinthians 4:18. In particular, said Madson, “when Paul speaks of things which are seen as opposed to the things which are not seen, he is really delving deeper into that which merely touches the social, political, and economic life. He is aiming at the most fundamental fact in life: How a poor sinner attains to ‘the righteousness of God’ … [T]he apostle is speaking of that righteousness which God freely gives us in Christ and that Luther learned to love.”
Then, his comments on war come. Here he speaks of what is to be treasured even in the middle of devastation. “That boy of yours who may never come back again from that distant battlefront, is he to be limited in his vision to the things which are seen by flesh and blood, or is he to have his war-weary spirits revived by the assurances of faith, that no matter how dark it may seem, just as certainly as he is a child of God, just as certainly God has thoughts of peace with him, and not of evil, to give him an expected end? Jeremiah 29:11. Isn’t it going to be true in his case: ‘All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose’? Romans 8:28. It will be true if he truly cherishes his eternal possessions, those precious unseen things held to his eternal credit in God’s ledger of life.”
Then, comes a powerful ending in that 1944 synod convention opening address. The words especially hold sway for virus-weary, almost war-torn, present day hearts and minds of our fellow Christians: “Whatever you may have laid aside in the heart and soul of your boy [off to war] from the living Word of the living God, is something of which neither bombshells, nor booby traps, nor tanks, nor all of the infernal instruments of modern warfare shall be able to divest him. My earnest plea with each and every member of our beloved Synod is this: Let us learn, as the shadows lengthen and the day of grace is coming ever closer to its end – learn to treasure our ETERNAL POSSESSIONS. For what does it matter or not our names are ever known beyond the borders of our own little county or township, so long as they are recorded in the book of life? What does it matter whether or not we shall ever possess a single inch of ground on this sin-cursed earth, so long as we are assured of a place before the throne and the Lamb?” (ELS Synod Report 1944, pp. 7-11).
Deadly virus battles or bloody battles of Normandy, may your evil intentions be damned! By faith in our Savior Jesus, we poor sinners have inherited heavenly possessions that will never be removed from us! The Lamb once slain is also our Good Shepherd who emphatically promises, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)
Rev. John A. Moldstad,