The Martyrdom of John the Baptist

Today we remember – and celebrate – the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. From Mark 6:21-29:

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.’ And he vowed to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.’ And she went out and said to her mother, ‘For what should I ask?’ And she said, ‘The head of John the Baptist.’ And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

We can celebrate such a thing because of the race we have already won, the hope that allows us to mourn our grief as temporary, the promises long given and bought with the blood of the lamb, and a tomb that could not hold the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. From Revelation 6:9-11:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

And Romans 6:1-5:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

CE: Formula of Concord

Dr. Masaki led one of the last continuing education courses of the summer nearly three weeks ago, teaching on the Formula of Concord to a little over 20 participants at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Council Bluffs, Iowa. “As always, so enjoyable to teach the Book of Concord, this time the Formula,” he said of the class.

St. Paul’s has a Music Conservatory program, and more than 100 students. This young lady performed a classical guitar version of a piece by J.S. Bach during lunch break.

His class was made up of pastors, a missionary to Togo, two young women who will be joining us here at CTSFW as deaconess students in just a few short days, “saints of St. Paul’s congregation” (as Dr. Masaki put it), Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa and Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Pretoria, South Africa. Dr. Masaki also caught up with their director of music, whose wife was Dr. Masaki’s second child’s grade school teacher during the days of Zion Lutheran Academy in Fort Wayne. Truly the Gospel connects His people through time and across nations.

Pictured here is most of Dr. Masaki’s class; there’s often a bit of come-and-go during a CE course as people work the classes into their schedules.


Faculty Travel & Familiar Faces

From August 23-26, Dr. Pless gave three lectures at Lutheran Study Days in Bergen, Norway. There were a couple of familiar faces among the students: CTSFW student Philip Bartelt (Sem II, as of this fall) and former student Eirik-Kornelius Garnes-Lunde (standing on the right).

Also included is this picture taken during “Workshop on the Land,” a pastor’s conference in South Africa from the week before, showing Dr. Pless with all the former CTSFW students in attendance at the conference.

New Gym Facebook Page

The Wambsganss Gymnasium here on campus now has its own Facebook page at Our athletic director is working on increasing reach to the community by letting people know when the gym is open for personal use, as well as rental costs for local schools and other organisations who may be interested in using the gym, fields, or track for practice or games.

Which leads us to our afternoon trivia:

Did you know that the first and only unassisted triple play in World Series history was performed by a Missouri Synod Lutheran who had at one point studied to enter the ministry? His two brothers did become pastors, but Bill Wambsganss ended up in professional baseball as second baseman for the Cleveland Indians. In game five of the 1920 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, “Wamby” (as he was called by headline writers) caught a line drive, stepped on second base to get his second player out, then tagged his third coming from first base.

The gym is named for the family, who were very supportive of programs on campus, and in honor of their son’s athleticism.


The L7 and W8 Auditoriums have long been our most complained about rooms on our student evaluation forms at the end of each school year. If you’re a Fort Wayne alum, you probably know what we’re talking about. This summer we’ve finally been able to prove that we’ve heard these cries, due to the generosity of one of our donors who particularly enjoys tackling brick-and-mortar projects. The remodel is going to be finished in time for the new school year, though the pileup of desk chairs outside each auditorium has become a familiar sight in our classroom buildings.

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On a historical note, while doing some research in the book “Prairie School of the Prophets: The Anatomy of a Seminary 1846-1976” (by Erich H. Heintzen), I found a familiar lament on page 91: “[The Board of Control] would never be free of concern over ‘bricks and mortar.'” The statement followed a handful of notes from their meeting minutes. The following were both recorded on February 5, 1877:
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“Craemer offered his horse to the seminary for drayage purposes but warned that the harness was not strong enough to bear the strain imposed by the bottomless streets; it was resolved that Mr. Sell should look for stronger gear.”
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“The professors requested action by the board to prevent the college animals, particularly the pigs and the cows, from running about between the college and the professors’ homes. The board was sympathetic.”

St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord

Today we remember Mary, the mother of our Lord.

GENESIS 3:14-15
The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
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ISAIAH 7:10-14
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
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MATTHEW 1:18-23
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).
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LUKE 1:39-55
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, photograph by Stanislav Traykov.

Faculty Travel: Pless in South Africa

Prof. John T. Pless is another member of our faculty currently on the African continent. He was on his 21st teaching trip to South Africa, at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Pretoria, teaching a two-week course for 35 students and pastors on “The Lord’s Prayer in Luther’s Catechisms.”

Dr. Pless’s two-week course at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in South Africa ended last week with a final exam on the Lord’s Prayer, after which he preached in chapel. He is with students Gentil Magala (left) and Eddy Nakala (right).

Dr. Pless will be in Pretoria until Wednesday, this time for a three-day continuing education workshop at a pastor’s conference of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA). He’ll be speaking on Luther’s reading of Psalm 37 as consolation in the face of injustice.

Commemoration: Lawrence, deacon and martyr

“St. Lawrence Distributing the Riches of the Church” by Bernardo Strozzi, 1625.

Today is the commemoration of Lawrence, deacon and martyr. The chief deacon of the church at Rome in the third century, he managed their property and finances. A Roman citizen, Lawrence was nevertheless swept up in Emperor Valerian’s persecution of the Christians in Rome.
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It’s hard to say where history ends and tradition begins in these stories of the early Church. The story goes that the emperor, knowing that Lawrence was the church treasurer, demanded that the deacon give up the “treasures of the church.” Lawrence asked for and received three days in which to gather up these treasures. At the end of those three days, the deacon returned to Valerian with all the outcasts of the city: the widows and orphans, the ill and the aged, and the poor. These, he said, were the treasures of the Church.
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Enraged, the emperor ordered him roasted on a gridiron. If the stories are true, Lawrence took his martyrdom with not only a calm sense of assurance in His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but maintained a rather grim sense of humor. “Turn me over,” he told his executioner. “This side is done.”

MALACHI 3:16-17
Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.
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[Jesus said,] “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
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LUKE 12:32-34
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
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But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

500th Anniversary of a Summons to Rome

Yesterday was the 500th anniversary of a date that is, in many ways, as much if not more significant than the posting of the 95 Theses:
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On August 7, 1518, Martin Luther received a summons from Rome to defend his 95 Theses. When he first posted the theses, Luther had no idea that anything significant had just taken place. Largely aimed against the abuses of indulgences (an indulgence was a way for Christians to purchase forgiveness for themselves or their loved ones, shortening their time in purgatory), Luther would have expected his theses to simply inspire debate among scholars.
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However, following the translation of the Theses into German and their wide distribution across Europe, the proposed scholarly discussion about indulgences turned into a charge of heresy about the supposed infallibility of the Pope. This summons changed the entire face of the debate. From our librarian, Rev. Bob Smith:
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“What did happen was a steep decline in the purchase of indulgence letters. John Tetzel, the Dominican monk that so annoyed Luther, responded by attacking the theses as heretical. The Archbishop of Mainz forwarded them to Rome, recommending a reprimand for the Wittenberg professor. John Eck of Ingolstadt, who was to become Luther’s chief academic opponent, wrote and circulated an extended handwritten review of the 95 Theses. To Luther’s great surprise, they accused Luther of limiting the Pope’s power and did not focus on his challenge to indulgences at all. In doing so, they turned Luther’s attention to the claims of the pope. He poured over the Scriptures on the subject. Luther composed an extended defense of his theses in February 1518.”

(CLICK HERE to read the full article.)
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God is able use all things and all people for his good purpose. These men, concerned with the sudden loss of income, tried to browbeat and kill the discussion by skipping over the talk of indulgences and pointing to the authority of the Pope instead, driving Luther to Scripture to weigh their words, and thereby changing the significance of his 95 Theses to something theologically and historically momentous. It’s only hindsight that allows us to see the divine hand working in the fools of history.

Faculty Travel: Masaki in Tanzania

Some of the children from the St. Ebenezer Lutheran Cathedral in Shinyanga, where each day started by picking up travelers from the parking lot. Dr. Masaki stopped in to say hello.

Dr. Masaki returned from his fourth trip to Tanzania just this past week. He first spoke at the 3rd Annual Theological Symposium of the South East of Lake Victoria Diocese (SELVD) of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), where he was asked to lecture on the topic of “The Vitality of the Lutheran Heritage in the Divine Service.”

After the symposium ended, he then taught a couple of classes to pastoral and diaconal students at the Bishop Emmanuel Makala Training Center. From Dr. Masaki’s Facebook page, here is a report from him about our brothers and sisters in Tanzania:
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“It is hard to find an appropriate word to express my profound joy of seeing the faces of the pastors of the SELVD-ELCT. The issue on the ordination of women and what they call ‘liberalism’ is now a problem of the past. Pastors have grown together so much in the solid confession of the Lord as Lutherans. They are consciously convinced of the Book of Concord Lutheranism! One of the first cohort students approached me during break time and said, ‘Look at your (not mine personally but the work of the CTSFW) fruits of labor!’
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“Our CTSFW graduate and student, Dr. Daniel Mono and Rev. Yohana Nzelu, continue to exhibit their clear and respected leadership among the pastors. Bishop Makala said that the main problem of the diocese is how best it may cope with the fast numerical growth. When this diocese was created in 2012, it had 15,000 people and 17 pastors. Now that the number of the pastors has increased to a little more than 60, the membership has also grown at a much faster pace. It’s over 90,000 now. That’s 15,000 baptisms every year! This diocese is striving to reach so many people in this region who have never heard the Gospel yet.”

Dr. Masaki with two of their three District Pastors (equivalent in standing to our own District Presidents). Dr. Daniel Mono (who received his D.Min. from CTSFW in 2018), and Rev. Yohana Nzelu (who received his M.A. in 2016 from CTSFW and is currently pursuing his D.Min. as well).

As to his classes on Christology and the Lord’s Supper:
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“Unlike the previous two cohorts, the lectures are given without a translator/interpreter into Swahili. Also compared to the first two, the number of students is small. According to Bishop Makala, this is only because the diocese can afford their future salaries up to this number. He can recruit many more students, which to me is an amazing thing. The smaller number means that I can get to know each student better. Hearing each one’s stories on how they became a Christian/Lutheran and how they have been guided to this point to study for the pastoral and deaconess services in the church is quite breathtaking and extraordinary.
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“We are thankful that CTSFW’s assistance in theological education of the SELVD-ELCT is bearing wonderful fruit. The solid confession of Christ is ever growing under the terrific leadership and careful planning of Bishop Makala and his team. I am proud of all my students of diverse background and a variety of talents. The Lord’s blessings will remain with them!”

Dr. Masaki’s class at the training center. One day a student responded joyfully and strongly in class, saying, “Sawa Kabis!” which means “Truly, absolutely!” The phrase became something of a theme for the class (this, according to Dr. Masaki is their “Sawa Kabisa” pose). They concluded their two-week intensive by singing “A Mighty Fortress” in Swahili.