Commemorations: Jeremiah, Cyril of Alexandria, Irenaeus of Lyons

We just had three commemorations in a row: Jeremiah (June 26), Cyril of Alexandria (June 27), and Irenaeus of Lyons (June 28). So why do we remember these men?

JEREMIAH served as God’s prophet, first predicting then later living through the Babylonian siege and the destruction of Jerusalem. You may recognize these very familiar words from Jeremiah 1:4-10:

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,

“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA is counted among our church fathers. He served as the archbishop of Alexandria, Egypt, beginning in 412 AD, and his Scripturally-sound teachings about the Trinity and the two-fold nature of Christ (as both God and man) went against popular heresies of the time, deeply influencing later church councils and confessional writings.

IRENAEUS OF LYONS was a pastor who came a couple hundred years before Cyril. He was also instrumental in standing against heresies like Gnosticism (which denied the goodness of creation), by teaching and confessing that God redeemed His creation through Jesus’ incarnation.

These men would have come only a couple of generations after Jesus and His twelve disciples. The creeds we still recite in church on a weekly and/or annual basis came out of this time period, and you can hear their influence in affirming the Biblical truths necessary for salvation. From the Athanasian Creed (written in the late 400s):

But it is also necessary for everlasting salvation that one faithfully believe the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, it is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man.
He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age:
perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh;
equal to the Father with respect to His divinity, less than the Father with respect to His humanity.
Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ.

Commemoration: Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

Today we commemorate the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. The day’s “bio” (as it were) has been pulled from Dr. Wiley’s chapel sermon this morning. The Epistle Reading from 2 Timothy is woven throughout the following:
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“Our Epistle reading is very fitting for commemorating the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession – 488 years ago today. The princes gathered at Augsburg were not unlike Paul who wrote to young Pastor Timothy here a second time. They – and the theologians (Melanchthon and Luther) behind the document publicly confessed before the Holy Roman Emperor – were ready to undergo the persecution that comes with living a godly life in Christ Jesus. And, like Timothy, they firmly believed the God-breathed Scripture that had made them wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. They knew those sacred writings were profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. In Christ they were made complete, equipped for God’s kingdom by a righteousness that came from outside of them. And they tenaciously held to that righteousness in Christ.
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“The Holy Roman Emperor and the papacy had the appearance of godliness, about which Paul speaks in verse 5 before our text. But they were lovers of self and lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth because they were corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. The confessors at Augsburg were compelled to declare the truth even if it meant being put to death for their confession, like the faithful who had gone before them – including Paul and the prophets and even their Lord Jesus Christ Himself…
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“Like Paul and young Timothy and the presenters of the Augsburg Confession, you know and believe what the Scripture – and, therefore, what our confessions – teach about your salvation and justification before God. Hear how the Augsburg Confession summarizes our righteousness in Christ in article IV:
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‘Furthermore, it is taught that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ for us has suffered and that for His sake sins are forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness before Him, as Paul says in Roman 3 and 4.’ (AC IV)”

Faculty Travel: Ukraine, Romania, Czech Republic

Dr. Masaki is lecturing on “Doctrine & Liturgy in the Lord’s Supper” in Odessa, Ukraine, with plans to preach at the Confessional Lutheran Church in Bucharest, Romania, this Sunday. He will be in Romania until the 26th, after which he will head to Prague, Czech Republic. A couple of days ago, he posted the following to his personal Facebook page:
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“Having a joy and privilege of teaching the Lord’s Supper and the Divine Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral (DELKU) in Odessa, Ukraine, this week. Selected pastors and church workers have been gathered to continue in this series of theological seminars. This is my second time since the fall of 2015. What a great story of the Lord restarting and reshaping this church after the challenging years under the exceptional confessional Lutheran leadership of Bishop Serge Maschewski. Hearing this church body’s and bishop himself’s accounts are deeply humbling. In addition to classroom, a vital part of this seminar is to get to attend daily offices three times a day in this beautiful cathedral. Great fellowship with and among participants. The City of Odessa is at the height of summer vacation season!”
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The pictures show St. Paul’s Cathedral, with a photo of Dr. Masaki gathered with his class inside. Bishop Maschewski of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ukraine (DELKU) is the man to the right of Dr. Masaki, wearing a white shirt.

This third picture is from the lecture and the closest our professors ever get to an action shot.


Dedication Service: Library Patio

“Since the Lord has taught us in His holy Word that all things are holy when sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, it is fitting that we bless and sanctify this Rad & Joyce Finch Alumni Patio, that it may be a place where all may rest and reflect on the knowledge and wisdom of the only true and saving God.”

So said Present Rast in today’s dedication of the new library patio, a study and gathering area for the many students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other visitors who come to the Seminary. The combination tables/chairs were designed at two different heights: one just the right height for writing and the second just the right height for putting your feet up (and then studying with your iPad or laptop, as is often the case with today’s students).

After the short service, Dr. Rast thanked the Finches for their generosity in providing this “lovely, lovely place,” as he put it. The patio overlooks the water, across acres of green lawn grown up around the Seminary “village.”

Thanks be to God for the many and various ways His people serve the Church, with our thanks to the Finches. Future church workers will use this space as a place of study and rest. We’ll close with the prayer from the dedication:

“O God…You both enlighten the minds and sanctify the lives of those whom You draw to Your service. Look with favor on this Seminary, blessing those who teach and those who learn, that they may apply themselves with ready diligence to Your will and faithfully fulfill their service according to Your purpose, through Jesus Christ…Amen.”

Commemoration: Elisha

So [Elijah] departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him…
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Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. And Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” And he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”
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Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”
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Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground.
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When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.” And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more.
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Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.
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Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.
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1 Kings 19:19-21…2 Kings 2:1-15

Left: “The Calling of Elisha” by Jan Massijs, 16th Century; Right: “Elijah Ascends to Heaven in a Chariot of Fire” from Doré’s English Bible, 1866.

Faculty Update: Advancement & Tenure

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”
Matthew 25:21

At the end of each academic year, Concordia Theological Seminary (CTSFW), Fort Wayne, has the opportunity to acknowledge the work of our faculty and to promote and celebrate their advancement. In a recent meeting, the Board of Regents called the Rev. Dr. Don C. Wiley to the faculty as assistant professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions and granted tenure to the Rev. Dr. Gifford A. Grobien. Only a month before that, Prof. (now Dr.) John T. Pless was honored by Concordia University Chicago, who awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Wiley first graduated from CTSFW in 1992 with a Master’s of Divinity (M.Div.), followed in 2009 with a Master’s of Sacred Theology in Exegetical Theology before finally receiving his Ph.D. in Missiology in 2017. His first experience overseas was as a vicar in Panamá, later becoming in ordained missionary there in the mid-90s. Last year Wiley was called as a mission specialist to CTSFW, though he’s been working with the Rev. Dr. Arthur A. Just Jr. in Spanish Language Church Worker Formation since 2013, when Just contacted him to prepare the first preaching course for the international program.

“I am very humbled to be called to serve the Lord and His Church as an assistant professor here at CTSFW,” Wiley said. “I am excited to continue working in our Hispanic/Latino Programs, providing the day-to-day administration of our SMP–Español/English Program, assisting in the development and deployment of Spanish language courses both here in the U.S. and internationally, and generally promoting the importance of reaching out to our Hispanic and Latino neighbors with the love of Christ in our M.Div. Program. The Lord has provided me a unique experience in serving as a missionary in Panamá, then serving congregations in the multiethnic and multicultural environment of Southern California. I count it a privilege to prepare future pastors and missiologists in these fast-changing times.”

Alongside the awarding of tenure by the Board of Regents, Grobien also advanced in rank to associate professor of Systematic Theology. “This action by the Board of Regents is a public acknowledgement of the fine and faithful service of Dr. Grobien at CTSFW for the past six years,” said the Rev. Dr. Charles A. Gieschen, academic dean, “both in the classroom and with his exemplary leadership of our revamped Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) Program.” The revamping that Gieschen is referring to is Grobien’s reorganization of the courses, which has increased the number of D.Min. students at CTSFW by making the program easier for working pastors to fit into their schedules.

Grobien joined the CTSFW faculty in 2012 as assistant professor of Systematic Theology and director of the D.Min. Program. He graduated with his M.Div. in Exegetical Theology from CTSFW in 2005, earning his Ph.D. in Moral Theology from the University of Notre Dame in 2011 where he also taught in their Department of Theology. His dissertation on “Be Transformed by the Renewing of Your Minds: Christian Worship as the Root of Righteousness and Ethical Formation” reflects his intersecting interests in the doctrine of salvation, worship, ethics, virtue and natural law. His recent publications include “The Christian Voice in the Civil Realm” and “Marriage and So-Called Civil Unions in Light of Natural Law,” both published in issues of Concordia Theological Quarterly.

In 1983 Pless entered The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) by colloquy at CTSFW. For the past 18 years he has served on the CTSFW faculty as director of Field Education and assistant professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions, though he has worked in higher education since 1979, first as assistant to dean of Chapel at Valparaiso University, then for 17 years as campus pastor at University Lutheran Chapel at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He has served on multiple LCMS boards and committees, and is currently chairman of the Synod’s Commission on Doctrinal Review. He is also known for his many books, among them Praying Luther’s Small CatechismHandling the Word of Truth: Law and Gospel in the Church Today and Luther on the Care for the Sick and the Dying.

A familiar face at various conferences and seminaries both in the United States and overseas as a lecturer, Pless has served both CTSFW and many others. “Students have benefited from the teaching and prolific writing of Dr. Pless for many years,” said Dr. Gieschen. “We rejoice with him in the well-deserved honor and recognition bestowed upon him by Concordia University Chicago.”

Summer Greek Begins

Our Summer Greek students started their first class as seminarians this morning at 7:30 a.m. with Dr. Nordling. Yesterday, however, was the official “Meet the Greeks” Ice Cream Social, an annual event held to welcome the new Summer Greek students and their families.

Dr. Nordling (pictured above) addressed the entire crowd, though he had to throw in a reminder for the Greek students to remember to come to class at 7:30 the next day. Dr. Nordling joined the CTSFW faculty in 2006 but since he’s taught in Universities since 1994, this year is his 24th year teaching Greek.

Yesterday’s rain forced us inside, where we had ice cream, face painting for the kids, and you could overhear current students (and their wives) sharing stories with the newcomers.  We had leopards, butterflies, and at least one snake running around the Student Commons by the end of the social.

The Seminary Women’s Assembly (more commonly referred to as SWA; so much more commonly, in fact, that I just had a long discussion with one of the officers because neither of us could remember if the “A” stood for “Association” or “Assembly”) hosted the event, who recruited a handful of MDiv students to scoop the ice cream. The W. Paul Wolf Family sponsored the social.

On the left (l-r): SWA Secretary Mary Durham and President Karlie Heimer, whose husbands are both 2nd years. On the right are three of the 2nd-year MDiv students, recruited for the cause: (L-R) Jess Heimer, Cory Kroonblawd, and Adam Sternquist.

You may recognize the W. Paul Wolf Family name from the 172nd Annual Commencement folder, as they also sponsored the CTSFW Community Reception that took place just before Graduation Exercises last month. This is one of the ways this family likes to serve the Seminary community, by donating funds for the food-and-fellowship events that strengthen the bonds between the students, faculty, staff, and all our families. Thank you! And God’s richest blessings to our Summer Greek students as they recover from their first day of class. Only four more years to go.

Seminary Guild Project: Furniture for the Dean of Student’s Office

Thanks to the Seminary Guild, Student Services and the Dean of Student’s Office recently upgraded its furniture, creating a more comfortable space for the students. The ladies of the office had been wanting to purchase furniture that lent itself to conversation and, hearing that the Seminary Guild had been looking for a project, partnered with the Guild to accomplish their goal. So far they’ve rearranged the furniture three times based on what students have said as they come in; they’re thrilled with the response.

From left to right: Helen Witte, vice president of the Seminary Guild; Joyce West, former president (the current president, Phyllis Thieme, was watching from behind me, but as this project came about under Joyce’s time, she wanted her in the picture); Trena Merryman, admin. assistant, Financial Aid; Jacqui Petersen, admin. assistant, Dean of Students.

Trena and Jacqui were responsible for connecting with the Guild, and for picking out the furniture both for this corner and for the Dean of Student’s office. Funds paid for the couch, chairs, tables (one of which is off screen), and the lamp in the waiting area. As to Dr. Zieroth’s office (he is sitting on the far right), he already owned the couch but the Guild was able to add four matching chairs (one of which is outside his office door for any student waiting his turn), the coffee table, and two end tables. Trena, a financial aid person to the core, gladly shared with me the shopping process, down to how much of this they were able to purchase on sale and on clearance.

Money for these and other projects come from Guild membership dues and additional small donations to the Guild. Each year these faithful women fund the Legacy Project (which provides a copy of the “Pastoral Care Companion” to every new diakonal and pastoral student; the book is appropriate for both male and female churchworkers as it contains prayers, readings, hymns and liturgy that guide those caring for individuals in times of both celebration and distress), and then tackle additional projects as funds become available. For more information about the Seminary Guild and their work in caring for the students of CTSFW, contact Guild President Phyllis Thieme at 260.485.0209 or [email protected]

COP Meeting: Seminary Recruitment

CLICK HERE to read details about the LCMS Council of Presidents meetings from April 21-26, which took place at both seminaries right around the call services.

Of particular note is their focus on seminary recruitment, as we look at a generation of pastors about to retire (or already retiring) and the many congregations that requested but did not receive a candidate, for the simple fact that there were not enough. Both seminaries have implemented scholarships and grants to meet 100% of tuition for incoming students, though our ability to do so remains dependent on the continued support of the many, many generous donors we still count on to support our students. Other programs at CTSFW like the Student Adoption Program and the Food and Clothing Co-ops then go directly to answer our students’ need for daily bread (and other such living expenses).

For more information about the specifics of the 100% tuition grant, the pastoral and diakonal programs themselves, or to schedule a visit, email [email protected] or call 800.481.2155. You can also go to Keep in your prayers those who are considering a future in church work, and encourage the men and women in your life who may not have yet recognized their gifts for ministry and service.

The Jack Phillips Case

Dr. Peter Scaer, recently returned from Tanzania, was on one of our local radio stations this afternoon (WOWO 1190 AM, 107.5 FM) to discuss the Supreme Court decision in the case of Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker being sued for declining to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. He had served this couple before and – even in the course of his refusal – offered to serve them again for any other celebration, but felt that he could not use his artistic ability to condone a union contrary to his beliefs. For more details, see this article from the Reporter Online. It’s an old one, published in December of last year, but still effectively summarizes the case.
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The Supreme Court decided in favor of Jack Phillips in a 7-2 decision. However, rather than taking on the larger issues of freedom of religion and how that intersects with refusal of service, the decision focused on the anti-religious bias by the Colorado Civil Right Commission towards Jack Phillips, stating that laws need to be applied to religion in a neutral way. Though many doors into the issue of religious liberty thus remain open, Dr. Scaer celebrated the decision for Jack’s sake. “It’s a huge victory for Jack Phillips,” he said. “He’s one of the kindest people you’ll meet, he’s a humble person, a loving person, the kind of person you want as your neighbor. He could’ve lost everything here.”
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As to true tolerance: “[We should] live with one another with our disagreements,” Dr. Scaer explained. “It doesn’t always have to be the destruction of a business, the destruction of a life. This is an agenda thing…this is politically hyped. When you actually get together and talk…face to face, person to person, we get along just great. But you bring in the lawyers, you bring in the politicians, and it sours.
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“We can smile at one another,” he said, “even when we disagree.” Meaning we should speak, in the words of Ephesians 4:15, “the truth in love.”
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From the LSB section on Prayers, Intercessions, and Thanksgivings:

Almighty, everlasting God, through Your only Son, our blessed Lord, You commanded us to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, and to pray for those who persecute us. Therefore, we earnestly implore You that by Your gracious working our enemies may be led to true repentance, may have the same love toward us as we have toward them, and may be of one accord and of one mind and heart with us and with Your whole Church; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Pulled from the Reporter Online, the official newspaper of the LCMS, here is President Harrison’s response to the ruling:

“The decision, while a victory for Phillips, is not all that those concerned about First Amendment rights and religious freedom might have hoped. It appears at first glance that Justice Kennedy, the court’s perennial swing vote, did not see the case as a broader First Amendment issue, as his statements in the oral arguments and decision of the Obergefell case might have indicated. We shall continue to work and pray for reasonable laws and court interpretations which find the balance between the protection of religious and ‘free exercise’ rights of Christians over against the civil rights of others.”

Read the full article HERE.