This hasn’t hindered my study, which has of late, included reading Wilhelm Busch’s journal reflections.
Here is a soldier, a world war one veteran, a young Lutheran Pastor and German theologian, having his embedded theology sharpened by the deliberative theology that comes to us in the tension between theological thought and application; i.e.: theology and ministry.
Ministry, through the Holy Spirit – God’s grace – empowers Busch towards God’s outcomes, without a lot of regard for what we would consider as successful outcomes. Outcomes generally based on mechanised formulas that produce productivity or a “butts-on-seats = success” mentality.
Practical efficiency is considered, yet the base-line; the rhythm, is a march to God’s heartbeat-in-Christ, and not that of human expectations. Busch gets it, and gets it the hard way. Christianity is rough and it exists because of God’s revelation that produces a relationship with the Thou and exists like no other. It exists because of a desire for connection from the God who has sought to be near to us, who seeks us and choses to dwell with us.
Reading through the text is insightful. As far as primary documents go, it’s a unique perspective on a very turbulent era in German history.
There’s a lot to draw on. Busch’s theological reflections, although set in a clear historical context, are at times universal. Each one seemingly more relevant than I’ve had time to digest.
One stand out example is as follows:
“Bielefeld was populated entirely by workers, who were consciously social democrats and trade unionists. As a junior pastor I had to reap the bitter fruits sown by decades of wrong attitudes on the part of the church, which had long stood in its unhappy defence of ‘throne and altar’ against the legitimate demands of the rising workers…
Then I experienced for the first time how much people had given up thinking for themselves in favour of adopting schemes and slogans. It was tiring to keep hearing the same phrases about ‘the misery of the masses,’ of ‘the guilt of the church’ when it ‘blessed the weapons’ and ‘kept quiet about the plundering’, or how ‘churchgoers are worse than others.’
My heart cried out with longing to hear something that had come from the speaker’s own thinking and from the heart. Sometimes it seemed to me as if people’s brains had been removed and replaced by gramophone records which can only produce certain catchphrases…” (Busch, circa 1920’s Germany)[i]
My first thoughts about what Busch can teach us is in seeing that the road of reflection, paved in prayer and gratitude, is the main artery between theology and ministry. Whatever other general parallels that might exist here between then and now is something I’ll leave to the reader to discern. My own view is that this reads like an avid description of the present day ‘church struggle’. Reflecting the experience of pastors and theologians, particularly those brave interlocutors, who still respectfully enter debates that are quite often cynical, hostile and abusive. Sometimes simply only because of an aversion to the very presence of anything (authentically) christian.