by The Rev. Dr. Rick Stuckwisch
Hats off to St. Boniface of Mainz, the eighth-century missionary bishop and martyr, who is commemorated today. It was on the 5th of June in the Year of Our Lord 754 that St. Boniface and his companions were attacked and killed by a band of hostile pagans in what is now the Netherlands. He was pushing 80 years old at that point, but he was still out there on the mission field, preaching the Gospel, teaching the Word of God, and bringing the Church to new frontiers. He was waiting on a group of catechumens, who were to receive the rite of confirmation from him, when he was martyred. He was reading the Scriptures, as I understand it, and had only that book to defend himself against the swords of the enemy. His body was returned, together with that slashed and bloodstained Bible, to the monastery he established in Fulda, where his earthly remains are buried to this day.
I'm often asked the point to remembering the saints who have gone before us. Our Lutheran Confessions offer several good reasons for doing so: We thank God for His gift of these men and women of the faith, through whom He has served His Church on earth. We are strengthened in our own faith by the example of His mercy toward them, His forgiveness of their sins, and the repentance to which He called them by His grace. We are similarly encouraged in our stations in life by the example of their faithful service and good works within their vocations. To be sure, St. Boniface is such an example of Christian faith and life, and a gift of God to His Church.
St. Boniface was an apt pupil, and he was in turn a popular teacher. Really, throughout his life, he seems to have excelled at whatever he tried; if not immediately, then with persistence. He was driven especially by a missionary zeal for the lost, to which he kept returning over the years. He is known as the Apostle to the Germans, because he was so instrumental in bringing the Gospel and the Church to that part of the world. For that reason, in particular, he ought to be more popular among Lutherans than he is. He also assisted significantly with a reformation of the Frankish Church. Because the Lord blessed so many of his efforts with obvious success, there were numerous opportunities along the way for St. Boniface to sit back, put up his feet, and rest on his laurels, but he was never content to do so. To the end of his life, he kept on preaching.
When St. Boniface first arrived in one part of Germany, he chopped down a sacred oak associated with the pagan god Thor. I like this story better than the one about George Washington and the cherry tree. All the superstitious pagans in those parts were standing around, watching and waiting for a lightning bolt from the blue to strike St. Boniface down. When that didn't happen, evidently there were a fair number of conversions that followed. And St. Boniface used the wood from that oak to build a church dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle.
We all have our sacred oaks, which need to be chopped down by preachers of the Word who are not afraid to expose our idolatry for what it is. With His Law, the Lord brings down the false gods that reign in our hearts and lives, and with His Gospel He brings us into His own Church. He is not lax in calling men to this preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He shall continue to do so, even to the end of the age.
The Rev. Dr. D. Richard Stuckwisch is Pastor of Emmaus Lutheran Church in South Bend, Indiana. Married for 22 years, he and his bride, LaRena, have nine children. Pastor Stuckwisch has frequently written and spoken for Higher Things.
Created: April 21st, 2008