This summer, besides reading through the book of Concord, I am also reading two other rather heavy books. The BoC reading, as I’ve mentioned before is just something I try to do every other year, and is a part of my daily devotions. The other two books are just the next two in my reading stack. Let me explain. I have a stack of books in my study at church that I intend to read. I add books to the bottom of the stack and read them when they get to the top. I have two books going at one time, one at home and the other at church. This disciplines me to not read books as soon as I get them, to read books that I really need to read but may not be my favorite, and to not read ten books at one time and never finish any of them.
Right now I am reading some fiction for a change, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. The other book is C.F.W. Walther’s Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel. Students who are training to become pastors are often told that they should read Walther every year. [I would be interested to know who first suggested that—because it seems to be universal advice.] I haven’t read it every year, but this is my fourth time through. I first read it one summer while in college. I was working out at Bush Lake Park and remember reading the book on my breaks. Time #2 was sometime while at Seminary. #3 was one of my first years in the ministry.
I remember struggling through the book the first time through, but simply being more and more delighted and refreshed with each subsequent reading. What I also realize now is that the struggle to apply the law and the gospel appropriately in the life and work of a pastor is indeed something that can only be learned in the “school of experience,” and that experience only teaches just how difficult this art truly is.
This month, Concordia Publishing House has released a new translation and edition of this classic work. They have updated the language and apparently provided a more authentic translation. I will miss all my highlighting and underlining from these previous reads, but I heartily welcome a new translation. I am sure that the translation contributed to my difficulty in reading the book the first time. I am still noticing that this time, especially now knowing that a new translation has been produced. In addition, the amount of additional material in this volume will make this book even more valuable. It is full of historical notes, maps, timelines, etc. I will continue plowing through the old edition (probably) one last time, and sometime, when I have the money to do so, I’ll pick up a copy of the new version and use that for reading #5. I guess I’ll just put it at the bottom of the pile, and I’ll get to it in about a year.