In 1875, 23-year-old Adolf Schlatter graduated from university and prepared to enter the pastorate. He would spend five years in three churches before a teaching career, the second church of which was a 16,000-member congregation pastored by a theological liberal and in which a theology prof regularly preached while drunk and a leader in the church boasted of his visits to the brothel. As he prepared to go to his first church on the shore of Lake Zurich (across which I swam in June 2006), contemplating giving up a life of academic study for the sake of the Church and sensing his inadequacy, he wrote:
High on a mountainside languished a church
Upwards to it stretched my way
Behind me lay just student days
Could I rise to the challenge ahead?
Burdensome pressure, grim load on my mind
Slowly I trudged--what would I find?
What is your goal, your intent, your desire?
Is preaching dry toil soon tasteless and drear?
Hark! Comes an answer: Jesus' own prayer
Bolt from above, flame flashing forth hope.
'Father in heaven, hallowed by Thy name'
Away with all fear! My strength be his fame