The Last Word

Aug 8th, 2019 | Category: Columns, The Last Word
By Erik Ankerberg

Editor’s Note: It’s Transition Time in the Publisher’s Office, aka the President’s Office. We have said goodbye to Dr. Dan Gard, our President for the past five years, through June 23, 2019. And we thank God for his inspired leadership of this university and of this journal. Now we turn our faces to the future and await the arrival of our new President, Dr. Russell Dawn, who officially begins his duties in August. In the hyphen between the service of these two servants of God, we welcome Dr. Erik Ankerberg as our Acting President. In his Acting-President role, Erik has agreed to serve this Journal as its Acting Publisher. In that role he also pens this Last Word column.

Blessed Are The Meek

Blessed are the meek,

For they shall inherit the earth.

– Matthew 5:5 NKJV

When we read the biblical text we call the “Beatitudes,” we can be overwhelmed by the piety that Jesus promotes. Perhaps our discomfort arises from a rhetoric we can recognize in these aphorisms: Most of them follow some implied form of cause and effect. We might not love the implications of that pattern or the expectations it spells out, but we can buy into some of the transactions that Jesus describes. We can find comfort in the idea that God sees our mourning and desires to comfort us. We respect the sense of justice implied when God bestows mercy to those who themselves show mercy to others.

But verse five throws a wrench into that logic: In the economy of our Lord’s design, He calls the meek blessed and promises that they will inherit the earth.

In one sense, the Church’s hermeneutic tradition invites us to read these verses as a description of Jesus Christ. He is the one who veils the divine under the cloak of human meekness, and in his suffering, death, and resurrection, He demonstrates dominion over the things of this world, including life and death.

As those who live in Jesus Christ, we are called to participate in this meekness, and that call may not sound particularly attractive, even to those of us who serve in the vocation of teaching. It’s just not our first play when we imagine the successful life. As we think about our own lives and careers, we might be tempted to think of our participating in a line of impressive and strong people: driven, virtuous, faithful–all accomplished in every way. But, this text compels us to think about the true teachers differently. If we are honest about our efforts, we come to realize that we are neither making our world “great” or “equitable” again.

Instead we are poor people again; we are peacemakers again; we are persecuted people again. For saints like us, the new life that follows faith in Christ is a life of recognizing how much we lack without Him, a life in which He mourns with us, a life in which He suffers with us, a life in which we hunger and thirst for a righteousness only He can provide. And, as we carry out our work, we are meekly waiting for the all the good gifts Jesus promises and delivers through His Church.

The teachers and professors carrying out their vocations in Chicagoland Lutheran Schools over the past three years have worked mightily to increase the equitability and greatness of these schools. They have worked meekly, making peace wherever possible. They have experienced the good gifts Jesus promises. Yet there is more for which they yearn. Peace is not always possible. Not all conditions are equitable. It’s not possible to think of all of these schools as great. Yet. Even as leaders, maybe especially as leaders they yearn to be comforted and strengthened in their work.

When the world is born again, we know we will be comforted and God will dry our tears. In the resurrection, the frustrations and failures of our lives and careers will fade to nothing, and we will possess the new heavens and the new earth that God prepared for us. At the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, we will be dinner guests, and our meekness will find its satisfaction, as we rest in the fulfillment of God’s promises in Christ. In that moment, we will finally live the life our Lord always intended for us. Through the optics that only the meekness of faith provides, we will see Him face to face and be His children forever. Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly, and bring your meek saints, your blessed servants, into your eternal kingdom. LEJ

Erik Ankerberg (Class of 1992) is Associate Vice President for Academics and Professor of English at Concordia University Chicago. He has previously served in various teaching and administrative roles at Martin Luther High School, Wisconsin Lutheran College, and Concordia University Texas.