Ichabod, the Glory Has Departed4 min read

Ichabod is an odd name. Most of us have come to know this name from Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  In this dread tale, a headless horseman mercilessly chases down one Ichabod Crane. But the story of Ichabod begins much earlier than this American classic. The name Ichabod comes from the Hebrew ‘I-Chavod’ ( lit. There is no longer gloryאִֽי־כָבוֹד ), taken from 1 Sam 4:21. This unfortunate name is placed upon the grandson of Eli, priest of Israel, by his daughter-in-law at the news of the loss of the Ark of the Covenant and the deaths of Eli and her husband. It’s a macabre name to be sure. It’s never been one that fought for the top spot of the most common birth names. Yet, I would contend that it is a name we know well. It’s a name we like to place upon things when everything hits the fan, when the “glory” is lost and nothing seems to be going the way we thought it would.

If I may step back from Israel’s history, I’d like to offer you a different, and perhaps parallel story. This story was relayed to me by the Rev. Dr. Charles Schulz himself, though any mistakes are of my own memory. Dr. Schulz attended Concordia University Ann Arbor (CUAA) for his undergraduate studies. During that time, he struck up a friendship with one of our Synod’s preeminent Hebrew scholars, Dr. Andrew Steinmann. Dr. Steinmann was about to take a call to serve as Theology professor at Concordia University, River Forest (now Concordia University Chicago [CUC]). Before leaving, Dr. Steinmann invited Schulz into his office and offered to give him his collection of Luther’s Works. Schulz gladly accepted!

Over the next years, Schulz carted those volumes to the St. Louis Seminary, vicarage, back to St. Louis, and finally to his first call, CUAA, where he was to serve as a professor of theology (Latin and Greek as well). His office was next door to Steinmann’s old office. Over the next 23 years, many things changed, including his office location. In the latest reconfiguration, Dr. Schulz was given Dr. Steinmann’s old office. Luther’s Works returned to the same place on the same shelf in the same office a little more than 20 years later. This would be a peculiar, and perhaps endearing, story, if it ended there. However, Dr. Schulz is again following the footsteps of Dr. Steinmann, having accepted a call to CUC to teach theology and theological languages. His new office on 7400 Augusta St. will be Dr. Steinmann’s old office in Kretzmann Hall, and this time, Luther’s Works are going.

“History doesn’t repeat,” Samuel Clemens wrote, “but it does rhyme.” Dr. Schulz’s departure signals a change for the institution. A new era for the instruction of our future church workers at both of these synodical universities. With all the uncertainty that surrounds the future of CUAA, this may well feel like the birth of Ichabod. What will happen now? Who will take up the mantels of these great scholars and professors?

I am not writing because I think the glory has departed from CUAA with Dr. Schulz’s departure, but I do think it is an Ichabod moment. Let me explain. The Ichabod story doesn’t stop with the loss of the Ark. Rather, it stands in the narrative as a type of clarion call. The birth of Ichabod is a turning point in the narrative for the readers to see God’s glory is not limited to the Ark. God manifests His power over the Philistines and their gods, and ultimately the ark is returned. The prophet Samuel, then, leads God’s people to return to their worship of the LORD alone. Above all, the Israelites are brought to understand that God’s presence, and with it His glory, is not contingent on the Ark. God’s presence with Israel is contingent on God’s promise to be their God. It is a blessing, to be sure, that God condescends to be known and to consecrate places for His name to dwell upon the earth. We see examples of this with the glory of God manifesting at the dedication of Solomon’s temple. Even more in the prophecy of Haggai 2:9 which points to a greater glory, in the coming of the Lord Jesus, “The glory (כְּבוֹד ) of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of Hosts.”

That’s my point in all of this: Jesus, the radiance of the glory of God, has not departed from us or from CUAA. No, having ascended to the right hand of God, He now fills all things that He may be all in all. God the Lord is in control of all things. God the Maker, Redeemer, Rescuer, and Restorer, who has risen from death, is reigning over all things, including our own CUAA.

In this moment of anxiousness, let us turn to the Lord. His glory remains, for the Son remains forever.

Photo by Elisa Schulz/Michigan District, LCMS

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About the Author

Rev. Dr. Andrew Johnson is the pastor at Christ, Milford

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Mary Craaybeek - May 30, 2024

So beautifully written and exposed, Pastor Johnson. Thank you!

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