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J. K. Wilhelm Loehe, Pastor

Today we read a portion of the biography The Life, Work, and Influence of Wilhelm Loehe (1808–1872) and a stanza from a hymn that Loehe himself wrote.

Introduction

Wilhelm Loehe was a passionate pastor who helped train deaconesses, establish Concordia Theological Seminary, and organize mission work in North America. We thank God for using Loehe to raise up many servants who were faithful to the Lord and the Holy Scriptures.

Devotional Reading

“There is a cry for perfection within me,” Loehe once wrote, “but I speak of the perfection and corporeality of the Church here and in the world to come.”

This longing for completion and perfection of the Church ran like a red thread through all of Loehe’s life and work. The Church of God here and there, the pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem, the “communion of saints” was his great love and passion. He was able to inspire and win people for this vision, all who had been turned off by their disappointment in the religion of rationalism held by so many pastors of the 19th century. From this perspective one can understand much of what seemed strange and incomprehensible in Loehe to his contemporaries and to the following generations.

The Church becomes visible and concrete in the world through people who remain faithful to God’s Word and the sacraments. Even though Loehe was well aware of wrongs and shortcomings in the Church; he was able to say: “It is the garden of all good, in spite of all the trouble and pain one has with the weeds.”

In the “Three Books about the Church” Loehe as early as 1845 awarded “the prize for the greatest amount of truth” to the Lutheran Church, out of all the “Partikular churches.” Its confession corresponds most closely with the Sacred Scriptures. “For no one could ever prove that our confessions are in error even in one single point.” Luther’s teaching and the confessions of the Lutheran Church had become the inviolable basis of the faith for this young theologian. According to his opinion the Lutheran Church “is complete in its doctrine. It is incomplete in the consequences of its doctrine.” He meant that it has to become aware of its own importance. Once it has recognized its teaching as the right one, it must give it “full application in all aspects.” It was Loehe’s concern to fill the Lutheran confession with life, translate it into practice in the congregations, the mission and the Diakonie. Therefore it was so important for him to work toward a Lutheran mission and a Lutheran Diakonie, and not to turn these “life signs of the Church” over to inter-confessional organizations.

Hymn

Thank God that I was born/ in the New Testament, my greatest gain!/ What is the temple of king Solomon,/ what is his altar, his sanctuary? / The poorest little church has the certain glory,/ that in it is united the body and the blood/ of the One who only in the next world will appear even more gloriously.

Devotional reading and hymn are taken from The Life, Work, and Influence of Wilhelm Loehe (1808–1872) by Erika Geiger, pages 203–4, 220. English translation copyright © 2010 Wolf Dietrich Knappe. Published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

 

Written by

Anna Johnson

Deaconess Anna Johnson is a marketing manager at Concordia Publishing House. After graduating from the deaconess program at Concordia University Chicago, she continued her studies at the University of Colorado—Denver in education and human development. She has worked as a church youth director and served a variety of other nonprofit organizations, such as the Lutheran Mission Society of Maryland. Anna loves playing video games and drinking a hot cup of tea almost as much as she loves her cat and her husband.

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