New Year’s Eve

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne,
Still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting, Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

A thousand ages, in Thy sight,
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night,
Before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all who breathe away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come;
Be thou our guide while life shall last,
And our eternal home.

O God, our Help in Ages Past, LSB 733

Commemoration: King David

Today we commemorate and remember King David. David’s life is well documented in Scripture, from his great faith and loyalty to God to his great sins — in particular, his adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of Uriah. His cries of repentance and prayers for mercy in Psalm 51 are familiar words in the liturgy: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (verses 11 and 12).

There’s another pretty obvious reason we commemorate David, especially this close to Christmas. Christ is the Son of David, promised to us from of old. From “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” in the Holy Week section of the LSB, number 442, verse 1:

All glory, laud, and honor
To You, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.

You are the King of Israel
And David’s royal Son,
Now in the Lord’s name coming,
Our King and Blessed One.

The Holy Innocents, Martyrs

“Die Bibel in Bildern [Picture Bible] von Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.” Leipzig: Georg Wigands, 1860.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

~Matthew 2:13-18

The death of the children in Bethlehem bears witness to a cruel world filled entirely with enemies of God, who hate Christ even unto death. And to death He would go, to sanctify undeserving sinners, blotting out every sin and wiping away every tear. He has redeemed us, a lost and condemned people, by His own precious blood.

St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 1:1 — 2:2

St. John’s shield represents an unsuccessful attempt on his life by poisoning. It is possible that John is the only one of the twelve disciples to escape martyrdom, as tradition holds that he died an old man. What we do know through Scripture is that he bore witness to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
Revelation 1:1-3

St. Stephen, Martyr

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” And Stephen said:

“Brothers and fathers, hear me.

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Acts 6:8 — 7:2a, 51-60

“The Martyrdom of St. Stephen the Protomartyr” was painted as an altarpiece for the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, in 1593 by Jacopo and Domenico Tintoretto.

St. Thomas, Apostle

“Incredulité de Saint Thomas” (The Disbelief of Saint Thomas), a painting by James Joseph Jacques Tissot, circa 1890.

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:24-29

Though slightly late to the party, the apostle Thomas is counted among the eyewitnesses to Jesus’s resurrection. Without him, we would not have this blessing and assurance: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Pictured is his shield, which can be viewed here on campus with the other New Testament Evangelist Shields in Wyneken Hall. The square represents the church that St. Thomas is said to have built in India, whereas the spear is a sign of his martyrdom. Tradition says that he was martyred by a pagan priest, having been first stoned then riddled with arrows, and finally killed with a spear.

Dr. Rast CUC Commencement Speech

Last Saturday, President Rast received an Honorary Doctorate at Concordia University Chicago and served as commencement speaker. The full transcript of his speech is below:

“The Desires of Your Heart”
Commencement Address at
Concordia University Chicago
Lawrence R. Rast Jr.
December 9, 2017

Greetings from the Board of Regents, faculty, staff, and, especially the students of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where I serve as president.

Thank you, President Gard, for the honor and opportunity of speaking to the graduating class of Concordia University, Chicago, this morning. My thanks also to the Board of Regents, faculty, administration, staff, and especially the family and friends who have done so much for the students who will be “walking” today.

But in the end, this morning is really about you, the students of Concordia University Chicago, who are going out equipped “to serve and lead with integrity, creativity, competence and compassion in a diverse, interconnected and increasingly urbanized church and world.”

That increasingly urbanized church and world into which you step is one that is quite different from the one I moved into in February of 1986 when I graduated from what was then Concordia College, River Forest. (Yes, I really am that old!) Certainly, there is the perennial problem of pronounced and obvious evil that confronts all of God’s children as they seek to serve him in their various vocations—but that is nothing new today. What we face today that is new is what Thomas Friedman has called “accelerations.” We live in a world that threatens to overwhelm us with the rapidity with which we encounter evil and injustice.

In the face of such challenges, David offers us Psalm 37. Please listen:

Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb. (Psalm 37:1-2, ESV)

Fret not. It sounds like St. Paul: “do not be anxious about anything.” (Philippians 4:6, ESV) If you knew me better you’d know that this is an impossibility for me. I’m anxious about everything! I hide it behind what I call “strategic planning.” But it’s anxiousness, nonetheless. And I expect you all are anxious, too, right now—anxious for me to finish this speech. But in all seriousness, there is much to be concerned about in our world today: financially, geo-politically, and, simply and directly, relationally. Challenges come at us so fast and so unrelentingly that they threaten to overwhelm us.

I am convinced that David, King of Israel, was as anxious as any of us. In Psalm 37 he offers us a path to peace in the midst of the anxieties of life.

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37: 3-4, ESV)

The picture is one of how the Lord provides for all that we need for this body and life. Our gracious Lord is one who lavishes His gifts on all.

There is nothing more difficult than this, of course. “Delight in the Lord.” But, we answer, I have a career to build, a family to raise! I have sickness to address and bills to pay! Be realistic!

I get it. I really do. When I was hanging around this campus from 1982 to 1986, I had dreams and hopes for my future—and I had a great, great time in the present. Then I graduated—and things got serious. I married, started seminary, and suddenly it’s 2017. What happened!?!

I tell you what happened. God blessed me—and He will bless you. I could not even imagine the path on which he would place me—with all of its accelerations—a path that would bring me to this place today. But through it all, the Lord gave me the desires of my heart as I delighted in the people and possibilities He gave. The chief of those blessings was the woman I met at this place. Together Amy and I have and continue to delight together in the Lord—and He has given us the desires of our hearts.

So now is a time to dream about your future. Maybe for some of you it is already clear. For others it may take a bit longer to bring things into focus. Either way it’s okay, because what you will find is that God will continue to provide surprises for you on your life’s path as your exciting future unfolds in ever more beauty and richness.

Why? Because God continues to work. And He works through people like you and me, the redeemed people of God in Christ. To put it differently, God’s church is about Christ in action. The church’s culture is unique. It is the dynamic setting of the Spirit’s activity in calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying the whole Christian church on earth (Luther, Small Catechism, Explanation of the 3rd Article). As such, the church is always at work—and more
than that, Christ is always at work through His Spirit in the church.

God uses all of us to accomplish His purposes. In my calling as president of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, I lead the seminary community in our mission to form servants in Jesus Christ who teach the faithful, reach the lost, and care for all. That means pastors, deaconesses, missionaries, and lay leaders for service here in the United States and throughout the world. It is a mission we embrace, and we do it in partnership with places like Concordia University Chicago, with its rich variety of programs and majors, which forms servants in a wide variety of fields – professional church workers for sure, but also: accountants, biologists, chemists, computer scientists, financiers, historians, marketers, psychologists, social workers, along with all of the other programs that CUC offers. We need them all for the rich tapestry that is God’s church at work through the power of His Spirit.

Dear Friends in Christ, CUC has made a promise to you. You know it, but hear it at least once more. “Rooted in its Christian heritage of engaging knowledge and faith, Concordia University Chicago aspires to be the destination university for all who seek to develop their full individual potential through a distinctive, innovative and dynamic environment of exploration, creativity and discovery for leading lives of servant-minded leadership.” Concordia has kept that promise. This morning your professors say to you, “You are ready.” You are ready for the next step of service to God and your neighbor.

You are ready—but you are not finished. There is more to learn, there is more service before you; you need to continue to pursue the desires of your heart.

As you “walk” this morning, you are stepping into an uncertain yet exciting future. Do so with the words of Psalm 37 once more ringing in your ears:

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37: 3-4, ESV)

Thank you for the honor of addressing you and congratulations to the Fall Class of 2017!

Article Share: Great Sinners

As we move deeper into the Advent season, our focus turns evermore to the baby in the manger and the promise of salvation for all people. We receive mercy though we are merciless; forgiveness for the unforgivable. In this present day we have much to drive us to repentance.

Rev. Dr. Scott Murray, current member of our Board of Regents and a 1983 CTSFW grad (as well as pastor at Memorial Lutheran Church in Houston), wrote this piece about abortion over two years ago, in November of 2015. You can click on the link or go to to read it. The message is as timely as ever. Not only because we are still sinners but because we are still saints, forgiven in Christ and called to serve our neighbor.

If you are looking for pro-life opportunities, our Seminary Life Team is planning on attending both the March for Life in Washington, D.C. (January 19) and the Allen County March for Life here in Fort Wayne (January 27). Led by Jacob Benson, a fourth-year seminarian, and Hanna Hoffbeck, a deaconess student, this is our Life Team’s second year in existence.

All are welcome to join the seminary community for either one or both marches. The Sem Life Team is offering travel stipends to students who want to attend the march in Washington, D.C. For the Fort Wayne rally, the plans are to meet beforehand, then march together behind our banner.

For more information, contact Jacob Benson. He can be reached at [email protected] or (307) 431-6544.

Deaconess Placements Dec. 2017

Today at the end of chapel Dr. Bushur, director of Deaconess Formation, announced the following deaconess placements:

Anne Bakker (not pictured)
Zion Lutheran Church
Mt. Pleasant, Michigan
Michigan District

Alejandra Rojas de Robles (pictured with her family; her husband, Rev. Santi Keinbaum, graduated from CTSFW last year)
Christ Lutheran Church
Lincoln, Nebraska
Nebraska District

Nayva MulderLutheran Special Education Ministries
Farmington Hills, Michigan
Service Site: Zion Lutheran Church,
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Indiana District

“These days are a source of great joy for us,” Dr. Bushur said. “They represent the fulfillment of that most fundamental mission of the Seminary. Namely: form servants of Jesus Christ and, well — you can finish the statement.”

The statement in question refers to CTSFW’s Mission: “Concordia Theological Seminary exists to form servants in Jesus Christ who teach the faithful, reach the lost, and care for all.” God’s richest blessings to these faithful women.

Christmas Marketplace 2017

The Christmas Marketplace is an annual tradition at CTSFW, run by the Food and Clothing Co-op and made possible by the gifts from the many congregations and individuals who enjoy supporting our students, especially during the holidays. Because of your generosity, this year each student was given $330 in gift cards — nearly $40,000 in all.

They each received a quilt as well. Though there wasn’t time to do a complete count, Katherine Rittner, director of the program, guessed that the Co-op had about 200 quilts for the students to choose from.These came to us from around the country, though the photo here doesn’t do justice to the incredible sight of all those stacks of beautifully sewn quilts.

It was just as hard to capture the bustle and joy of the Marketplace with a few photographs. The ladies who run the Co-op provided a Christmas spread, prepared door prizes to be given out every fifteen minutes, and put together twenty big gift giveaways for the drawing at the end of the day. In the background of this picture, you can spot Katherine opening a window, trying to cool the packed space while a young man sits with his father, entranced by a toy train as it circles the Christmas tree.

To learn more about the Food and Clothing Co-op, visit