The Kierkegaard Bicentennial

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November 17, 2013

 

By Pastor Marshall

 

We have been commemorating Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) and his profound witness to Jesus Christ every November since 1980. In 2013 we celebrated on November 17th Kierkegaard's bicentennial of his birth on May 5th. At our commemoration we dedicated the Rita Marie Kepner bronze statue of Kierkegaard and read the new Dana Gioia commemorative poem in homage to Kierkegaard. We also had a book signing of my new book, Kierkegaard for the Church: Essays and Sermons. (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock). At the Sunday morning liturgy, the prelude was the Aria from Bach's Cantata 183, "I Fear Not Death's Terror." The tenor was Christopher Freeze, and the cellist was Ruth Marshall, with organist, Andrew King. The Hymn of the Day was "Commit Thy Way, Confiding," by Paul Gerhardt (1606-1676), with a new tune by Carl Schalk (b. 1929). This was Kierkegaard's favorite hymn (Journals, ed. Hong & Hong, 6:6673). Distribution music was "A Kierkegaardian Fugue," a new composition by Josh Deutsch, based on a passage from Kierkegaard's 1848 book, Christian Discourses. Tenor was again Christopher Freeze with cellist, Ruth Marshall.

 

The three texts follow, along with the live recording from the commemoration. Thanks to Dale Korsmo for helping prepare this recording for posting.


 

CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN.

 

 

Aria, Bach's Cantata 183



 

Ich fürchte nicht des Todes Schrecken

Ich scheue ganz kein Ungemach.

  Denn Jesus' schutzarm wird mich decken,

  Ich folge gern und willig nach;

  Wollt ihr nicht meines Leben schonen

  Und glaubt, Gott einen Dienst zu tun,

  Er soll euch selben noch belohnen,

  Wohlen, es mag dabei beruhn.

 

I do not fear the horror of death,

no hardship at all scares me.

  For Jesus' protective arm will cover me,

  I gladly and willingly follow after Him;

  if you do not wish to spare my life

  and believe you are doing God a service,

  He Himself will yet reward you,

  indeed, this can be relied upon!



 

Commit Thy Way, Confiding




1 Commit Thy way, confiding,

   When trials here arise,

   To Him whose hand is guiding

   The tumults of the skies.

   There clouds and tempests raging,

   Have each their paths assigned;

   Will God for thee engaging,

   No way of safety find?

 

2 Trust in the Lord! His favor

   Will for thy wants provide;

   Regard His Word! - and ever

   Thy work shall safe abide.

   When sorrows here o'ertake thee,

   And self-inflicted care,

   Let not thy God forsake thee!

   He listens for thy prayer.

 

3 Should Satan league his forces,

   God's purpose to withstand,

   Think not their rage and curses

   Can stay His lifted hand!

   When He makes known His pleasure,

   The counsel of His will,

   That, in its utmost measure,

   Will He at last fulfill.

 

4 Hope on, then, weak believer,

   Hope on and falter not!

   He will thy soul deliver

   From deeps of troubled thought.

   Thy graces will He nourish,

   With hope thy heart employ,

   Till faith and hope shall flourish

   And yield their fruits of joy.

 

5 A while His consolation

   He may to thee delay,

   And seems as though in trial

   He far from thee would fly;

   A while distress and anguish

   May compass thee around,

   Nor to thy supplication

   An answ'ring voice be found.

 

6 The sorrows, Lord, that try us,

   O bring them to an end!

   With needed strength supply us!

   Thy love to us commend!

   That we, till death pursuing

   The best, Thy chosen way,

   May then, our life renewing,

   Praise Thee in endless day.

 


 

A Kierkegaardian Fugue



 

Save me, O God, from ever becoming completely sure; keep me unsure until the end so that then, if I receive eternal blessedness, I might be completely sure that I have it by grace! It is empty shadowboxing to give assurances that one believes that it is by grace -- and then to be completely sure. The true, the essential expressions of its being by grace is the very fear and trembling of unsureness. There lies faith -- as far, just as far, from despair and from sureness....

 

Eternal God, therefore,.... save me from deceiving any other person, because this deception lies all too close when one treats one's relationship with God as if it were a direct relationship with other human beings, so that one gets into comparisons and human sureness. If someone, regarded by many as extraordinarily noble and upright, were to continue in fear and trembling to work out his salvation, the others would become furious with him. In other words, they would want to have his sureness as an excuse for their own peace of mind, and they would want their own peace of mind to be his sureness.

 

But, my God and Father, the question of my salvation indeed pertains to no other person, but only to me -- and to you.... Should there not be, ought there not be, and must there not be fear and trembling until the end? Was this not the fault of the foolish bridesmaids, that they became sure and went to sleep -- the sensible ones, however, stayed awake [Matthew 25:1-13]. But what is it to stay awake? It is unsureness in fear and trembling. And what is faith but an empty delusion if it is not awake? And if faith is not awake, what else is it but that pernicious sureness?

 

 

Helping Out My Daughter:

Reviewing Ronald F. Marshall’s Kierkegaard for the Church

(Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2013)

 

By Rollie Storbakken

 

I STAND GUILTY AS CHARGED on p. 9, footnote 34, in Pastor Marshall’s new book on Kierkegaard, of “accommodating the Christian revelation to human desires.” I didn’t even need my dictionary to help me figure out that part of his book, but I did find my dictionary necessary to understand most of the rest of it.

Let me explain . . .

      I can only remember reading three maybe four books in my fifty-nine years of life – the Bible, and the biographies of Crazy Horse and Hank Williams. So this review comes from a retired Union ironworker – who was only required to use and understand four letter words for thirty-five years, and before that was raised in a horse barn.

      So the reading – or studying – of this book was a lot of work for me. I looked up every word I didn’t understand and penciled in the meanings, off to the side of the page, knowing that this would help me re-read the book later with greater ease and understanding. I found something on every page I felt I had to underline and stress for future study. The book is so full, in my uneducated opinion – not that I know much about books, mind you.

Just to let you know, here are a few examples of my smiles and tears as I read through this book. I had to read footnote 49 on p. 14 over a couple times to get the important difference between the theologians of glory and of the cross. (I found that my coffee always got cold while studying this book.) Footnote 18 on p. 80 is too heavy and still beyond me: “Only one’s loving care for others is to be loved in self-love. The self itself is not to be loved in self-love.” I still ponder this line on p. 106: “challenging ecclesiastical authority.” But the quotation in the middle of p. 125 still baffles me: “If this untruth is not included, then the extraordinary does not remain the extraordinary; it is taken in vain.” Even so there was also hope and relief, as in footnote 47 on p. 189: “Ah, delicious coolness,” as well as Kierkegaard’s love for the common man on p. 244. And I like the summaries by Pattison and Perkins in footnotes 59 and 60 on p. 195. And then there is that great footnote 15 for kids on p. 219, and the wonderful prayer at the bottom of p. 228 – especially for my 9 year old daughter, Silvie.

      In spite of these difficulties, I made myself read all of the footnotes on every page of this book. I didn’t skip over any of them like I thought of doing. After Matins, one Wednesday morning in December, I told Pastor Marshall I was still working on his book and that pp. 122 and 192 were two of my favorites. He later told me he looked them up and was happy to hear I liked them because he thought there were some pretty good ideas on those two pages. But that wasn’t why I liked them. I later told him I had jokingly picked them because they were two of the very few pages in his book without any footnotes on them!

      But by p. 63, I had settled in and started circling every little footnote number on each page to make them stand out so that going back and forth between the footnotes and the main text was easier for me to do. I highly recommend this to help you get all that is packed into this book.

      For the record, I started reading it – that is, going on my educational adventure with it – in October 2013, shortly after the books went on sale in church. I finished my first reading of it on January 18, 2014.

Why did I choose this book to be one of the only books I will ever read in my lifetime? Remember I’ve only read three or four books in my fifty-nine years. Well, the answer is that a friend of mine – my pastor – is the one who wrote it! And how many authors do any of us know personally?

      So, as an all-or-nothing type of guy, I decided to do my best to get to know this book. And that means that I’ll need to keep going over it until I die, because it’s about Christianity, and that’s the way our faith is. So there’s enough education-explanation in this work – when I go to look up the related Bible verses and footnote references – to keep me informed and busy. And then to understand and believe. In comprehending this book I feel I will stand – when kneeling – a better chance of making the team, if you know what I mean. It might take ‘til I die to let go of this world and grasp what this book is about (see p. 307). That will be the moment I hope to leave you all behind.

      My copy of this book, with all of its markings, is now a family treasure to be left to Silvie, to be read when she gets older. I’ve made notes in it like, “Silvie, look here” – with arrows Èand other markings to help her focus on, hear and learn about, what I believe are the foundational, “light bulb” parts of Christianity as explained in this book. And it’s full of them – which are the guts of Luther, Kierkegaard and Pastor Marshall! So my notes will help Silvie take in, and then digest, this book. I hope the notes to her and my markings will be the sugar that helps the medicine go down. I write “here’ in the book with arrows pointing where she should pay attention. I write “learn this,” and “here too is the answer.” I write “Look” with eyes drawn in the double “o”s. I write “Here lies the heart of the book,” with arrows showing the way. I want to help her – after I’m dead and gone – to catch what this book has to say about real Christianity and how it goes against the herd (you’ll have to read the whole book, especially pp. 125 and 233-35, to get that one)! I would also love to have embroidered the three prayers on p. 215 so we could frame them and hang them in our house so we don’t forget them!

      One sentence that really encouraged me was on p. 324, where Kierkegaard says: “I myself manage to be only a very simple Christian.” Pastor Marshall adds that this means Christians are “always on the road to becoming” Christians. In a nut shell, then, Christianity is about this “continuous striving” (see also p. 212). For me this is the ammunition we’ll all need to stay warm in Christ Jesus through the many struggles of this life. So read your Bibles – for God’s Word is your defense when things pile up against you. And may we all receive the Holy Spirit so that we’ll be able to understand His Word when we finally pick it up and study it – which is what this book wants all of us to do (see pp. 150-53).