Norman Nagel: My Teacher that I Never Met

The Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel died October 8, 2019. The Lord Jesus has completed His baptizing Norman by bringing him through death to Himself. Before that, he was Jesus’ mouthpiece, a man full of Jesus’ Word, delivering it as the Spirit willed it. As that instrument, Dr. Nagel was a mainstay at Concordia Seminary St. Louis, a Systematics Professor from 1984-2006. Besides being a professor before my time in Seminary, I didn’t go to the St. Louis Seminary.

I know Dr. Nagel through his students. Heard echoes of him in their speech, even in some of my seminary classes at Ft. Wayne through my professors, his students. Other pastors also carried Nagel’s wisdom, his speech, his focus on Christ, His Word, His Law and Gospel, His Gifts, His Salvation, to my ears. Nagel’s Wisdom was Christ, Christ drawn from the text of Scripture, Christ located in that Word, Christ located in His Sacraments, Christ located in the Office that delivers those Gifts.

I know Dr. Nagel directly, too, though not in person. I learn from him as best I can: his articles, his interviews, his sermons, the works he studied, even those he gifted to us by translating them into English. What flows through Dr. Nagel is Spirit-filled strength and building up in Christ because Dr. Nagel points solely to Christ our Savior, the Jesus who comes to me in the ways Jesus Himself sets up: Bible, Font, Pastor, Body and Blood.

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow after them.” (Rev. 14:13) Norman is not blessed in his death by his faithful sermons, articles, and books, or even students that follow after him. He is blessed because he died in the Lord, died once through the Spirit into Jesus’ death at the Font, now died and brought to be with Jesus forever. Jesus pulled him through it all—even his stroke in 2007.

The Spirit has carried Norman to join “the angels, the archangels, and all the company of heaven” who are gathered around the slain-for-him Lamb upon the eternal throne. He’s now part of the great cloud of Jesus witnesses that surround us, point us to Him, and whom we also join in our Divine Services. I rejoice in that gift (“the communion of saints”) this next Sunday. I continue to rejoice in the many other gifts Jesus gave through Dr. Nagel. I look forward to resurrection on the Last Day, when Norman and I will be raised to eternal life. Get to meet him then, will I? Who I’m kidding? If I’d try that, he’d just say, deeply, gruffly, deliberately, “Look, the Lamb FOR YOU! Amen.”

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