Saturday, February 18, 2006

Pastor Olle Bengtsson on the Clerical Collar

"You really ought to put on your clerical collar when you go out to preach," he said.

Torvik blushed. Was there to be more criticism?

"It's not laziness or indifference. It's a matter of principle."

"That doesn't make it any better. Would you respect an officer who as a matter of principle appeared at maneuvers in mufti? Or a Salvation Army soldier who doffed his uniform when his corps was assembled in the market square?"

Torvik was becoming irritated. "You must certainly understand that I want to come as an ordinary human being." But the rector continued his argument.

"Then you are sailing under false colors. You are no ordinary person. You have been ordained by the Church as a servant of the Word. You have been elected and called by the Christian congregation at Ödesjö to be its pastor. You get support from the fields which godly forbears donated for the pastor's upkeep. It is pure dishonesty to take the money, if you want to be just an ordinary person."

"You are bound to misinterpret everything, Olle. You know very well that I don't want to make myself great through my office. I only want to remind myself and others that what a pastor is comes, not because of his office, but because of what he is in himself."

Bengtsson straightened up and laughed.

"You are the proudest man I ever met, Gösta. What are you in yourself? A sinner. Do you really enter the pulpit because you think it is because of your piety, your faith, and your prayers that you are called to be the leader for the Christians in Ödesjö? Then you might as well stay home. If you expect to continue to preach, you had better do it because you have been appointed by God to do so and have his Word to hold fast to. And that Word remains just as holy a Word, though a poor sinner with many shortcomings proclaims it."

Torvik smiled.

"If I did not know you so well, Olle, I would conclude that you are just looking for an excuse for laziness and comfort for a pastor's unregenerate heart."

Pastor Bengtsson suddenly became very stern, stern as a father who is rebuking a wayward son.

"Tell me one thing, Gösta. Are you a poor and weak servant, or are you not?"

Now Torvik, too, became serious.

"I am a poor and unworthy servant," he said.

"Then you had better put on your clerical coat, Brother. Do not come any longer as the remarkable Gösta Torvik, but come instead as the humble servant of God's Word at Ödesjö."

Torvik still wanted to contradict. But . . . .

From Bo Giertz, The Hammer of God, pp. 254-55.