The following is a thank you from one of our seminarians, written in response to the gifts he and his family receive through the Food & Clothing Co-ops. The ladies there like to share these letters with donors (generally through the mail), and thought that our Facebook followers might enjoy it as well.
Dear Saints in Christ,
Greetings from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. My name is Bill and I am a fourth-year student in the Master of Divinity program. I look forward to receiving a call to serve saints like you in Christ’s church at the end of this year. My wife, Erin, is here with me in Fort Wayne and she enjoys working a full-time job as a computer programmer. My daughter, Jill, is also working full time and going to college here in Fort Wayne. She joined us our second year here at seminary and even stayed in Fort Wayne while Erin and I went on vicarage (internship) our third year of seminary in Palo Alto, California.
We are from Casper, Wyoming. Erin and I grew up in different places but Wyoming is our married home, so we consider it home! We also became Lutheran in Wyoming. Erin and I grew up in different denominations and knew nothing about Lutheranism before we were looking for a church that handled the Word of God seriously. What a joy for us to discover the treasures of the Lutheran confessions! Attending seminary has only strengthened my conviction of what a treasure we have in the Lutheran Confessions because they faithfully confess Christ and the work He has done for all of us in His life, death, resurrection! I look forward to being a pastor where it is my full-time job to share the depths and riches of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ!
One of the biggest things I have learned during my time at seminary is the love saints like you have for your pastors and pastors to be. The four years of seminary are a huge commitment and can only be accomplished with the help of others. I am humbled by how many people, especially people we don’t even know, support us as I complete my training to become qualified to serve God and His people. In Galatians, Paul exhorts us, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” The generosity of you, and other saints in Christ like you, is amazing. I see that generosity first hand and am very grateful. I know my gratitude is shared by my classmates and the whole seminary community. It really wouldn’t be possible to train future pastors without your support.
A big way we see that support is with the generous gifts given to the Food Co-op and the Clothing Co-op. We receive points to “shop” in the Food Co-op for food and medicine like aspirin. We receive clothing and other household goods at the Clothing Co-op. Both are necessary to care for ourselves and our families. There are so many times our Co-ops had just what we needed!
Thank you for your generosity and support. Your support of the seminary and seminarians helps the church equip the next generation of pastors and deaconesses to serve the next generation of saints. Thank you for your service to God and His church.
Seminarian Bill Maggard
Last week, the guest preacher for daily chapel on Thursday, January 25, was Rev. Jim Strawn, a 1988 graduate of CTSFW and pastor of St. James Lutheran Church in Archbold, Ohio. I had the chance to speak with him afterwards about his congregation’s unique way to alleviate student debt. Once a seminarian graduates, the church uses a fund set aside for this purpose to pay off the loan. The student (or new pastor, at this point) then repays the church for the loan, but at zero interest. Once enough of the loan is paid back, the congregation is able to take on another student’s debt, and thus the cycle continues.
They began this fund about 25 years ago, when a couple in the church (a successful potato farmer and his wife, named Gene and Dolores Bernath) first came up with the idea. “There is zero overhead,” Pastor Strawn explained. “Everything goes to the student. Every penny that has ever been given is still in there.”
He hopes that by reducing financial burden, pastors are able to devote more time to theological study. When I asked what the response was from the pastors who have participated in their repayment plan, Pastor Strawn simply smiled and said, “Really, really thankful.”
If you have more questions about the specifics of how this program works, feel free to contact St. James Lutheran Church. They can be reached at (419) 445-4750.
The Allen County March for Life took place here in Fort Wayne on Saturday. Dr. Peter Scaer, who is a bold and commonly heard voice for these and other such issues, opened the rally with greetings and prayer. He also wrote a reflection on the event, quoted here from his Facebook page:
“Life and death have never been friends. Where death reigns, there is no hope, no future, no friends or family. In a strange mystery, it took Christ’s death to defeat death, his resurrection to give us new hope. But today, with Allen County Right to Life, we celebrated life, together, as a community. Over 2000 strong. And what a celebration it was.”
There was a good showing of Lutherans for the march. You can see some of our professors and seminarians (and a few family members) alongside the CTSFW sign, and that’s our own Rev. Dreyer from the Admission Office taking a picture of all the Lutherans together.
Another “true child” of Paul “in a common faith,” St. Titus served a similar role as Timothy, whom we remembered earlier this week. However, unlike Timothy, who was circumcised to more effectively reach the Jews (Acts 16:3), Titus was “not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek” (Galatians 2:3), likely to show that Gentile converts did not have to be circumcised to be true Christians (one of the major controversies of the early Church). Titus worked under Paul as a pastor, missionary, emissary, and fellow servant in Christ.
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;
To Titus, my true child in a common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Today we thank God for Carol Bratton (here pictured with Dr. MacKenzie), who is retiring after ten years as Human Resources/Payroll Manager. This is her last day with us, as she will be joining her husband, Clarence (another former and beloved staff member at CTSFW), in retirement. Thank you for all that you have done for us, Carol!
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
Today we remember St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor. Paul counted the young pastor as not only his friend and fellow Church worker, but as his “true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2).
“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”
~1 Timothy 6:11-16
If you watched daily chapel today then you have already met Deaconess Shaina Wurdeman. A 2008 CTSFW grad, Shaina is returning to us as she was installed this morning to serve as Deaconess Admission Counselor. She is currently serving in the position remotely, but will relocate here to Fort Wayne in May.
Dr. Grime, Dean of Spiritual Formation, prayed the following at the end of her installation:
“Almighty and most merciful God, as you chose Phoebe, Dorcas and other women to assist in the work of the apostles and to serve in works of love, so have you chosen Shaina to be a deaconess in your Church. Grant her grace and strength, that in her labors of love and by her good example she may serve You faithfully to the glory of Your name, to the help of those in need, and to the everlasting benefit of your Church; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
Dr. Rast opened Symposia 2018 with a word of greeting. Professor Ryan Tietz then led off with a presentation on “Finding Communion in Lament.” As you may imagine, we are spending a lot of time in Isaiah.
The CTSFW Military Project display is up in the commons as well. Deaconess Carolyn Brinkley is using Symposia as another opportunity for our deployed chaplains to receive notes from their brothers who are attending the conference.
Dr. Just presented on Unity in the Body of Christ. “Baptism creates a new creation family. It splices everyone into it. Paul is not speaking socially about our equality in the social world, but ecclesiastically and eschatologically about our unity in Christ in His body, which is also the Church.”
Dr. Abernathy took questions at the end of his presentation on “The Communion of Saints within the Community of the King in Isaiah.”
Dr. Abernathy is a guest from Wheaton College; the theological differences set off some good discussion. He also signed copies of his book, “The Book of Isaiah and God’s Kingdom: A Thematic-Theological Approach,” over the lunch hour. That’s one of our first years shaking his hand, plus a CTSFW grad from North Dakota waiting his turn.
Dr. Nordling spoke on “Communion at Philippi.” Because the Philippians were the only congregation that financially supported Paul for a missionary trip that ended in his imprisonment, “There are those scholars who suppose the Philippians have backed a bad horse, now that Paul is languishing in jail rather than sharing the Gospel,” Dr. Nordling said. “The major reason for writing the letter was not only to acknowledge grateful receipt of their support, but to assure them the Gospel is advancing beyond his and the Philippians wildest expectations” (See Philippians 1:12-14).
Dr. Walter A. Maier III spoke on the last topic of the first day: “The Communion of Saints in 1 and 2 Kings: Timeless Truths.” Here are the first two truths (and present-day parallels) presented in Kings:
The Communion of Saints will be attacked: “No one minds when we speak of God in generic terms, but when we insist on the finality of Jesus Christ, battle lines are drawn.
The Communion of Saints will be preserved: “The devil and the unbelieving world will not exterminate it. This gives us great comfort as we carry on our work. God carries on our endeavors with Word and Sacrament to maintain the body of believers from now until Judgment Day.”
Symposia began the next morning at 7:45 a.m. with sectional paper presentations; Dr. Bushur’s lecture on “The Early Christian Appropriation of Old Testament Scripture” counts as the first large session of the day. As per usual, you can see our Lutheran preference for backrow seating (or standing, in this case).
Dr. Bushur spoke of the sudden and powerful change in worship space for early Christians (many of them Jews). “In Christian assemblies, the body and blood of Jesus occupied the altar. Old Testament rolls had to find a new place in the sanctuary.” The Word became flesh; Jesus was the one promised in the Scriptures and their worship space changed, not simply for practical reasons as books replaced scrolls, but in reflection of this fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture.
Dr. Gilbert C. Meilaender led off the 41st Annual Symposia on The Lutheran Confessions (Reflections on the Moral Life) with a talk on palliative sedation and whether it is appropriate to induce unconsciousness in order to relieve pain through the end of a patient’s life. Dr. Peter Scaer later closed out the day’s presentations with a question: is non-involvement in public ethical issues a confessional option?
His answer was no: “We neglect our duty if we do not bring Godly wisdom into the public square…’For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil’ (1 Peter 3:17).”
Dr. Grobien’s presentation the next day on “Christian Opposition to the New Sexuality: Optional or Not?” shared parallel themes with Dr. Peter Scaer’s topic from the night before. Where Dr. Scaer focused on the Christian voice in the public square, Dr. Grobien added that the Christian life and family that reflects our values and beliefs (such as marriage as an echo of Christ’s relationship with the Church, which also informs our understanding of the role of men and women) serve as a practical example and rational for that voice. “Words,” he said, “must point to a comprehensible reality.”
(Picture taken during yesterday’s book signing. Dr. Grobien’s book is “Ethics of Sex: From Taboo to Delight,” which can be purchased through the CTSFW bookstore at https://bookstore.ctsfw.edu/.)
Dr. Mayes also posed with his book, “On Interpreting Sacred Scripture and Method of Theological Study,” during yesterday’s book signing. He wrapped up the answer-and-question session following his lecture on “Vocation, Situation Ethics and the Disaster of Modern Sexuality.” A few highlights:
“We should not over specify vocation at the cost of Christian freedom…God’s main call is to belong to Him, and be united with Him.”
Allowing situation to determine moral law has led to the disaster of modern sexuality. “Circumstances do not alter rules and principles.”
Ultimately, we do not have to determine God’s call or how we ought to fulfill our duties from how we feel in our hearts or according to our situation. “These things are not determined by the hearts of individuals. They are not to be divorced from God’s instruction.”
A native of Finland, our last speaker of the day is receiving a cross-cultural experience here in Fort Wayne; he teaches at the Lutheran School of Theology in Gothenburg, Sweden where CTSFW has a site offering classes in our STM program, but this is his first time in our home city. Dr. Timo Laato will be with us through intensives, as he is teaching a graduate course.
This is also the professor who will teach the public lecture series (on the state of Lutheran churches in Scandinavian countries) coming up this Sunday. His topic for Symposia is “Salvation by God’s Grace, Judgment According to our Works.” One of his focuses is on the theological implications of “good works are necessary for salvation” vs. “good works are necessary.”
On the final day of Symposia, Chaplain (Colonel) Jonathan E. Shaw, Director of Operations, U.S. Army Chaplain Corps, Pentagon, asked a very Lutheran question in the last lecture of the 2018 Symposia Series: what does this mean? He was following up on the many studies that show the positive correlation of religion to health among soldiers.
“I can think of no position that more demands a right understanding of the two kingdoms,” he said, speaking of chaplains. As to soldiers, they need to be “spiritually empowered and confident to stand in the face of death,” for even in just war “the warrior must bear the human cost.”
In his presentation, Chaplain Shaw used the following words from a Gregorian chant written around 750 AD (“Media vita in morte sumus” or “In the Midst of Life We Are in Death”) as well as this picture:
In the midst of life we are in death;
From whom can we seek help?
From You alone, O Lord,
Who by our sins are justly angered.
Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and merciful Savior,
Deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death.
Only in Christ can men find mercy, peace, comfort and rest.
The final presentation of Symposia featured a panel discussion with Chaplain Shaw, Dr. Mayes, Dr. Peter Scaer and Dr. Grobien, with Dr. David Scaer moderating. The panel was specifically on “Church and Society: What Are the Rules of Engagement?” but was also a chance for attendees and panelists to ask follow-up questions about their earlier presentations.
Symposia 2018 concluded with Daily Chapel at 11 a.m.
Dr. Rast led a “Collegial Conversation” for all pastoral formation and deaconess students today after chapel. The topic was focused around visitation, which is central to both the pastoral ministry and diakonal service. Pastors and deaconesses need to visit and thereby come to know the people they shepherd or serve. In the words of Jesus, as recorded in John 10:2-5:
“But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
Being a new pastor or deaconess can be a struggle. “Though a congregation knows you by your confession,” Dr. Rast said, “you need to visit people so they come to recognize your voice.” He added, “Visitation will teach you what you need to preach and teach about.”
In the dining hall afterwards, students met in groups with their faculty mentors to discuss the topic further.