Don Quixote

I am beginning to fear for the future of the LCMS ministerium.  The other day I cited a Gordon Lightfoot song and the brother pastor didn’t know it.  I’m not even sure he knew who Gordon Lightfoot is.  As any Lutheran pastor should know, he is the chief modern musician of the Lutheran Reformation.

Even if he did know who Gordon Lightfoot is, he didn’t know the Battle Hymn of the Lutheran Pastor also known as “Don Quixote.”  I will only tease you with the first verse:

            Through the woodland, through the valley
            Comes a horseman wild and free
            Tilting at the windmills passing
            Who can the brave young horseman be
            He is wild but he is mellow, he is strong but he is weak
            He is cruel but he is gentle, he is wise but he is meek

            Reaching for his saddlebag, he takes a battered book into his hand
            Standing like a prophet bold, he shouts across the ocean to the shore
            Til he can shout no more

This captures the spirit Lutheran pastors are to preach in.  To the world we’re windmill tilters; they think we’re mellow when we’re really wild; they think us weak when we’re really strong; they think us cruel when we preach the Law and too gentle when we preach the Gospel.  Standing on the shore from which the beast of the anti-Christian church arises we shout across the ocean out of which rises the beast of the anti-Christian state (Rev. 13). We do this till we can shout no more.  We do this when the only response we get is the echo of our own voice

This is the spirit in which Lutheran pastors preach because it is the Spirit of Christ.  In Jeremiah 26:3 the Lord sends Jeremiah to speak to all the cities of Judah saying, “Perhaps they will listen and everyone will turn from his evil way.” (NASB).  In chapter 36 the Lord commands Jeremiah to write His words down on a scroll saying, “Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn from his evil way;” (NASB, v.3).

Perhaps?  Doesn’t the Lord know that sending Jeremiah to Judah is tilting at windmills?  Doesn’t He know that the poor man will shout, preach and teach, and beg and plead till he can do it no more?  Who does things on perhapses?  Not industry, not retail, not churches anymore.  Everyone does things based on projected results.

Now that’s funny.  The omniscient God does things on a perhaps when there are no perhapses with Him. Why? Because this is the Spirit of God in Christ.  After the vineyard workers have beat one slave, treated shamefully a second one, and wounded a third, the Owner sends His own beloved Son.  And He does so on a perhaps. “Perhaps they will respect Him” (Luke 20:13).  They didn’t; they not only killed Him, they wounded Him, treated Him shamefully, and beat Him first.

So back up on the horse; to the woodlands, to the valley let us ride wild and free in our Call.  Let us tilt at windmills that don’t fall; let us stand on the shore shouting across the ocean till we can shout no more.  Perhaps they will listen. 

The irony is we can really say that.  We don’t know.  We only know as the Lord also told Jeremiah that He who cannot forget will remember their sins no more.  Perhaps they will believe it.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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