What follows is a working draft of what will be my translator's preface to "Then Fell The Lord's Fire" By Bo Giertz. If all continues as planned this book should be out this August. I'll accept any and all donations to help offset the cost of publication at this time...
En själasörjar, or as the word has come into use within English speaking Lutheran circles from German, a Seelsorger, it describes the sainted Bishop Bo Giertz. He was more than a seelsorger; he was what his office of Bishop demanded he be, a seelsorger’s seelsorger. The word roughly translated would be a soul worrier, one who worries over souls. The closest English equivalent is the antiquated “curate” and it just doesn’t carry the weight. If one thing could be said of Bo Giertz it is this, he cared for souls. And he cared for the souls of the pastors, especially the cadre in his diocese, and in caring for them, he cared for the people of his diocese.
His bishopric was not an easy one. He had only wanted to be a parish pastor. His memoirs paint his days at the small country parish of Torpa, as being some of the happiest years in his career. He enjoyed this work, and took it seriously. But a man of his capabilities could not be left alone to study, and write, and care for a small parish. His book known in English as “The Hammer of God” catapulted his popularity with the people, and he was elected bishop. He never stopped being a Pastor, never stopped being a seelsorger. He never gave up his commitment to God’s word and the Lutheran Confessions. And this made it a bit hard for him as bishop when the Church of Sweden chose to ordain women. He knew this compromise with God’s word, was that a compromise, to be followed by more. It was a choice to let culture rather than God’s word determine right and wrong. He paid dearly for his convictions, but he remained steadfast, and though his reputation was routinely smeared in the press, his heart never hardened to stone, but remained a heart of flesh. He kept his pastoral bearings, he remained anchored in the word.
For this, he is still loved in Sweden and abroad. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing a few who served in his diocese when he was bishop, who had the honor to be in his cadre of confessional curates. Nothing but love and respect. To this day, the people of Sweden remember him as the most influential Swedish theologian of the Twentieth Century. And that is no small thing when one considers names of other Swedish theologians in the Twentieth Century: Gustaf Aulen, Anders Nygren, Gustaf Wingren, Bengt Hägglund, to name but a few. Noticeably most of these men served in academia. The bishops of the twentieth century are largely forgotten, with perhaps the exception of Bishop Söderblom. Many of them were infamous in their day, celebrated as radical, in large part following the antics of Pike, and Spong, who like them will be forgotten by the world they loved at the expense of the church, seeking power and opportunity and using it for self aggrandizement. But not Bishop Giertz. With every passing year his influence grows wider, his memory more cherished, the church remembers and honors her heroes.
His influence grows wider, it is a curious thing so little of his work is known in English. “The Hammer of God” is celebrated by many. But it is almost all that is known of his works, which precious few, such as “Liturgy and Spiritual Awakening,” were ever translated to English and that in piecemeal fashion. Only recently has that begun to change, as his devotional “To Live with Christ” has become available, to be followed by his novel “The Knights of Rhodes”, and his more dogmatic book “Christ’s Church.”
This collection of ordination addresses and essays on pastoral theology and practice first found publication in Norway, where due to its proximity to Sweden, the bishop has many admirers. As the book gained popularity there, demand grew for it to be published in Sweden also. Permissions were gained, and the book was published in Sweden in 1996, two years before the Bishops death, by the Församlingsförlaget in Gothenburg, with help from Samfundet Pro Fide et Christianismor ock Stiftelsen Bo Giertz’s 90 årsfund to offset the cost of publication. It must be said that these organizations have given the world of Lutheranism and incredible gift. There are some books that just demand to be translated, and this is one. Here in these pages, the bishop’s crosier continues his work of caring for his church and her pastors. In a day when burnout and fatigue are so common among even seasoned pastors, and young pastors new encounter early disillusionment, this book brings healing and comfort for the seelsorger’s soul, and truly practical advice. Here the Lord’s Fire Falls to kindle new joy and new resolve in the life of the Lord’s servants. Here a pastor will find law and gospel applied to him. Here a pastor will find the bread he needs to sustain him in his work. Many pastors are known to read “The Hammer of God” on a yearly basis; many will find these sermons worth the same devotion. I know I have.
Your Brother in Christ,
First Tuesday after Pentecost 2012