Tuesdays with Norman (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

About a decade ago, there was a bestselling book called “Tuesdays with Morrie.” I haven’t read the book, but from what I know, it’s the story of a man who goes to visit his old professor from college and discovers he still has a lot to learn from him.

Well, today was one of my “Tuesdays with Norman.” Let me explain.

On Tuesdays I participate in a sermon-study group of about eight or nine pastors. We meet to go over over one of the pericopes for the coming Sunday, translating the Greek text and discussing how we might preach it. I’ve been part of this group for a number of years now, and I find it very helpful. So those are my “Tuesdays.”

The “Norman” of my title refers to Dr. Norman Nagel, the esteemed Professor Emeritus of Concordia Seminary. (I hesitate to call him “Norman,” as a matter of respect, but the parallel with “Tuesdays with Morrie” is too strong.) Dr. Nagel has been one of the most influential theologians in our synod over the past 30 years. Many pastors, professors–and now, high synodical officials–count him as a mentor, who taught us how to think like a Lutheran and “gospel-talk it.”

As many of you know, a couple of years ago Dr. Nagel suffered a stroke, and now, in his mid-eighties, he is living at Laclede Groves Senior Living Community here in St. Louis. (Dr. Nagel is pictured at right, in a photo from about a year ago, when Issues Etc. came to Laclede Groves and did an interview with him.)

Well, one of the guys in our sermon-study group keeps in contact with Dr. Nagel and his wife Betsy, and a couple of months ago he suggested that we take our study over to Laclede Groves one Tuesday a month and invite Dr. Nagel to participate. So that is what we have done! I think it’s good for Dr. Nagel to have somebody to do theology with (albeit with us peons), and I know it’s good for us to have the benefit of his wisdom.

Today we went over the Holy Gospel for this coming Sunday, John 14:15-21, where Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit. Dr. Nagel contributed well to our discussion, for instance, bringing in Luther’s remark, “Poor Holy Spirit, he doesn’t know anything but Jesus.” I remember Dr. Nagel using this quote in class some 20+ years ago, but today he also quoted it in German!

So while Dr. Nagel may now be in a wheelchair, and his speech may be a little slower (although the famous Nagelian pauses were affectionately imitated by his students even back then!), the Lord’s gifts to his servant Norman of a sharp mind and a Christ-centered heart are still something to rejoice in!

“Tuesdays with Norman”–make that “Dr. Nagel.” The Lord does give us his gifts, doesn’t he?


Tuesdays with Norman (by Pr. Charles Henrickson) — 8 Comments

  1. God bless Dr. Nagel! That’s wonderful for you that you get to spend some time with him.

  2. Might I make a suggestion: when you gather at Laclede Groves, each of you should bring your LSB, Treasury, or iPhone with PrayNow, and pray Matins as a part of your Sermon study (you could do Matins before the study, you could do it afterward, or you could fit the Sermon Study as the “catechetical instruction” portion of the Office). Dr. Nagel prays the offices from memory, though he might not always use the words exactly as they are found in LSB.

    This would be, for him and for all of you, another great blessing.

  3. Indeed, He does, Rev. Henrickson. He gives you the whole lot, and then He turns around and gives you more. Absurd! A mathematical impossibility. But isn’t that just like Jesus!

    Thanks. That really brings back fond memories of my time sitting at the feet of Dr. Nagel. You never walked out of a Nagel class without thinking, “Wow! What a Jesus!”

  4. Rev. Henrickson: Dr. Nagel: “Poor Holy Spirit, he doesn’t know anything but Jesus.” :)Thank you, Rev. Henrickson!

  5. Charlie,

    I wanted to thank you for taking the time to get this together. I visit with Betsy and Dr. Nagel every time I get to St. Louis. They love visitors but the visitors always leave with more than they arrived with. Always a superabundance of gifts!

  6. Dr Nagel delivers Law and Gospel tempered with years of application. Poor Morrie offered only his sad secular moralisms of vacuous hope (my wife and I called it Tuesdays with Yoda and it was like most of Albom’s writing quite syrupy and of modest skill). Te Deum for the Nagels He continues to give us.

  7. As a student at Valpo, I remember the sermons of Dr Nagel. In Luce Tua Videmus Lucem!

  8. Hi Charlie,
    This is the way I remember it from class (20+ years ago): “Hierher auf den Jesus Christus. Der arme Spiritus Sanctus weiss sonst nichts.” (tr. “This way to Jesus Christ. The poor Holy Spirit knows nothing else.”) The line has made its way into a couple of sermons over the years. Alles Gute und Gottes Segen.

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