As Christians, we have a unique and blessed perspective on history. From this perspective, we can avoid pitfalls on either side. On the one hand is ignorance of history. “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it,” is a saying with extra weight when it comes to knowing the history of salvation. For if we don’t know that our Savior has truly paid the price for our sins and has risen from the dead, we are doomed, eternally. But we do know what Christ has done for us, we believe it, and we trust that what he accomplished in history is given to us in our present time through his means of grace, Word and Sacraments.
And so we avoid the pitfall on the other hand: the Golden Age Fallacy. Often we will all find ourselves yearning for the “good old days.” Sometimes we look back at a time when we were younger, or even before we were born, and the world was simpler, and we wish for some of that to return. This error in thinking, though, leads us to forget that we live in the present. All the people you read about in this history were dealing with the realities of their present, and they saw the need for the Word and Sacraments of God to be available in the now.
We have our own struggles, too, as those in the past had theirs. Difficult times are certainly ahead for us, but we also have the Word and Sacraments so that we are not left in poverty and want. Mordecai told his cousin Esther, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, ESV). God continues to bless us through both losses and gains. When we bear crosses, as when we have more good things than we can count, one thing is unchanged: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
What was accomplished by Jesus in history remains true for us today, and it will remain true for future generations. We are in the place and time we are so that we can be witnesses, so that his salvation is available to our friends and families, our neighbors, our fellow church-members, and our community. Our Scandinavian forefathers undertook every great task with the words of the following hymn by Johan Frederiksen; let us also be heartened by our Lord’s Word, knowing that in him, we already have the victory:
In Jesus’ name Our work must all be done
If it shall compass our true good and aim,
And not end in shame alone;
For ev’ry deed Which in it doth proceed,
Success and blessing gains
Till it the goal attains.
Thus we honor God on high
And ourselves are blessed thereby;
Wherein our true good remains.
(ELH #4:1)