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?

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