Friday, April 11, 2008

What’s Wrong With ‘The Box?’

This post was written by Vicar Matt Lorfeld, and originally published in Around the Tower, the student newspaper at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Matt also posted his work on his page on The Wittenberg Trail. He is presently on vicarage in East Moline, IL. Reproduced with permission.

Dear Seminarians,

My name is Alexander Kastenmacher, I am a simple box maker. I have read the recent April edition of Around the Tower and was deeply concerned by the following statement, “We have to think outside the box more than we do as LCMS Lutherans.” Now I know that phrases such as “think outside the box,” or “get outside the box” are common in our day to day speech. But I must ask, what exactly is wrong with boxes, or being inside boxes?

Now you may not find boxes to be of much importance in your day to day life, but as box-making is my livelihood, I must extol the good qualities that a well made box has. Many of you will be headed out on vicarages or your first calls, certainly you would not want your collection of books, CDs, or dinner plates to decide that it would be better to be outside the box as you move them. Nor would you want your box to fail in doing what it promises to do, namely, keep those books, CDs, and dinner plates inside the box. These much neglected boxes maintain order, ease your workload, and help you deliver your goods from point A to point B.

I’m certainly no professional theologian, as you are learning to be, but I would like to warn you of this anti-box speech when you are talking about what you do as seminarians and in the future as pastors. I should add before I continue that my motivation for writing this does not come from my vocation as box-maker, though I think boxes are the greatest thing since toasted bread. You, dear seminarians, are going to be entrusted with the privilege of proclaiming the Word of God, absolving sins, baptizing, and administering the Lord’s Supper. Now this sounds much like box language to me, and I should know, I’m a box-maker. Your message to me isn’t “Jesus is my homeboy” but rather that “Jesus Christ was crucified for the forgiveness of my sins.” You don’t tell me when I am penitent, “oh that’s ok, it doesn’t matter if you are right or wrong, just that you try hard enough and have faith in something.” No, instead you will proclaim to me, “Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” You don’t tell my children that Baptism is a symbolic act of obedience and therefore they must wait until they can decide for Jesus. No, instead you tell them that Baptism does something, in fact you proclaim from the box that was given to you to say “Baptism now saves you.” Finally, you don’t say that coming to the Lord’s Supper is another symbolic act of obedience and therefore it does not matter if we kneel at the table with those who do not discern what it is they are receiving and who do not have unity with us. No, instead you proclaim that Christ gives his Body and Blood for me for the forgiveness of my sins, and that church fellowship is communion fellowship. This you say because you proclaim from inside the box that God has given to you in His Word.

Lastly I would like to encourage you to use another wonderful box that has been given to you, the liturgy. For in all the ways mentioned above, the Lord gives us His gifts and the liturgy is the way He has given the Church to administer them. This liturgy itself is a wonderful gift that has taught generations of the baptized how Jesus comes to us. In it, God gives us His words to say back to Him, and these Words are wonderful gifts that the very young all the way through the very old can share. This is why we do not ask questions like, “Do we really need one more evening prayer service?” No, you instead teach me, “We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.”

All this I say to you, dear seminarians, because you will soon serve me, and many more like me who have been faithfully served by Pastors who have come before you.


Alexander Kastenmacher

Alexander Kastenmacher is a fictitious character created by Around the Tower writer, Matt Lorfeld, for purposes of rhetoric and not to hide the identity of the author. The name Alexander means “defender” and Kastenmacher means “Box-Maker.”

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