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Faithful to Tradition

Once, on a visit of inspection, the representative of the synodical council preached on the text ‘Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.’ Again and again he repeated ‘Hold that fast which thou hast….what have you?’ and his answer put one’s mind at ease; ‘You have the Lutheran catechism.’ Yes, we held fast to that all right. ‘Hold that fast which thou hast…what have you? You have your Lutheran hymn book.’ Oh yes, we would not allow anyone to deprive us of the hymn book.’ …Hold that fast which thou hast…what have you? You have the Lutheran church regulations.’ Indeed, even in the face of the ‘Free Church’ which actually had what we had and which was, if that were possible, even more Lutheran than we, we would cling to our regulations. We would not budge – even if it meant that young people belonging to the two opposing synods had to be torn asunder and bury their love for one another. ‘Hold that fast which thou hast…what have you? You have first and foremost, baptism and the Holy Communion.’ We had all been baptised (or rather christened) and, according to custom we went to Holy Communion every third month. So we held fast to that which we had.

After this sermon the young people enjoyed going to weddings and parties more than ever. We definitely held fast to the heritage of our fathers. When we met for parties on various farms, no alcohol was served, and we played happily together. This, alas, changed later. But even in those days a wedding marked the one occasion when liquor flowed freely. However, on the whole things were done quite decently and in order.

Something else happened during the visit of inspection I have just related. It was part of the inspector’s task to examine the children in Scripture, catechism and hymn book. This he took most seriously and examined with thoroughness and severity. At that time I was still ranked among the children. At the end of the examination the visiting inspector said (amongst other things) ‘You know your Bible well my boy!’ and looked straight at me. I felt highly pleased. It was a verdict, so I thought, by which I could confidently hope to ‘get into heaven.’ With this joy in my heart I drove home with my parents, and that night, still rejoicing, I went to sleep. I would not now be condemned, as I had always feared, for the man (who, after all, had studied), would never have said such a thing if I were on my way to hell.