A Hamma Homily from Dec. 7, 1970 and Introducing the Morry Knauss Memorial Scholarship
In those days, I was the chair of the Community Council and Hamma School of Theology was facing some critique, because we had just been through the sixties and 1970 was not that far removed.
I was working in First Lutheran Church in Cincinnati during the summers and there I experienced racial rioting. I got beaten up very badly walking through the streets one evening and afterward I would have trouble finding my way to places that had never been a problem before. It takes a while to recover from almost having been killed. I got lost very badly trying to find the Dayton Counseling Center, but in the first session with the Rev. Grover Criswell, I could feel myself getting better.
On the last page: Morry Knauss had had a horrendous motorcycle accident, I believe, and had recovered despite a very dire prognosis, only to become stricken with terminal cancer. He was the Knauss’ only son and the grief was heartrending.
The manuscript is quite hard to read, so here is a transcription:
A Homily Preached for Hamma School of Theology, the Alumnae, Pastors of the Ohio Synod, and the Community
Dec. 7th 1970
The text for my words is written in the first epistle of St. Peter in the 9th verse of the 2nd chapter:
“But you are a chosen race, the King’s priests, the holy nation, God’s own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you from the darkness into his own marvelous light” (1 Peter 1:9).
This little text tries to build up a guy’s ego in a small way. To me it’s a “sola scriptura” kind of an experience, sometimes.
What does Hamma mean to me? What do I have to contribute to it?
I don’t think Hamma is an institution with a consumer mentality. It does not ransack the country or the state for shiny products, sprinkle some tinsel on them, and send them out to sprinkle tinsel on others, like Tinkerbelle. At Hamma I have found a deep commitment that takes the new students that arrive as they are. Hamma does not take only those students who will succeed. She also takes those, who are a great risk, and has the trust to invest in them her very existence. When she does this she realizes that she might fail – and all the painstaking labor with and for an individual in training might be lost.
But in this kind of a movement, because this whole country is in a crisis and at a cross roads, (wherein her institutions are being shaken) – I find the feeling of a steadfastness. The men who are the teachers of this school are willing to standby – where lesser men would fold up. I have watched them standby while someone comes out of terrible self-obsessions into a new light filled with the warmth and the glow of the concern of other people and enabling a concern for others. Hamma gives of her Lord and Savior somehow in, with, under, and thru her curriculum.
Deep, deep inside me there is a commitment that bids me proceed on this pilgrimage, this outward journey to a new life – and to help others along the way – those who have not stumbled over the same obstructions so many times before and have not yet found the way thru such a hang-up to a greater growth and maturity beyond. So arm in arm on our way we support one another in this struggle together as we follow after our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I can’t say that this struggle started for me at Hamma. That would not be true. But when there was no hope for a future and no direction for a man to turn, this school stood by with faithful trust and even respect. In each experience of acceptance, I found myself a little startled, a little surprised by the recognition of an acceptance which I could not often muster for myself.
So the verse I read you is a verse my father gave me for my confirmation. I would like to change that word a little to “affirmation.” Within this verse I find a few words that affirm myself and my existence. And they make me able to affirm and celebrate your existence before me; celebrating together the mighty acts of God.
What’s more, Hamma has done much to take this old and hardened Lutheran and remove the monster from his sky – and try to show him again and again something of the love of God by introducing me to his Son – Christ Jesus. Somehow God loves us and that’s important.
Because you know, there’s a start, a beginning…and a future opens up in an affirmation, a great big “YES” a resounding “AMEN.” So together we celebrate our existence here, giving each other a great big OK….knowing full well that in doing so we declare the wonderful acts of God who is at work for our salvation, calling us out of the darkness into his own marvelous light. This is our proclamation. Amen.
Peter Krey, Dec. 7, 1970