Lent Devotion

O mighty King, no time can dim Thy glory!
How shall I spread Thy wondrous story?
How shall I find some worthy gifts to proffer?
What dare I offer?
LSB 439 st. 8

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Romans 12:1

What exactly is the purpose of fasting for Lent? Many people will claim that this is a good thing to do, but why? In Romans 12 it is considered a good thing to present your body as a living sacrifice. In fact, this is considered acceptable and even holy to God. It is considered to be a spiritual worship as well. This is a reason why fasting is a good thing—but the first half of this verse must not be left out. This good act can only be carried out by the mercies of God.

God reveals His mercy to us through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and His death and resurrection. In our baptism our sin is buried and we are raised in newness of life with Christ. It is in this newness of life that we are able to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, which is holy and acceptable to God.

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You have revealed Your mercies to us through Your Son, Jesus Christ, that by His death our sin would be paid for and by His resurrection we would no longer be slaves to sin, but free in Christ to serve You. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

(Kyle Mullins, Sem. 1)

Lent Devotion

O wondrous love, whose depth no heart hath sounded,
That brought Thee here, by foes and thieves surrounded!
All worldly pleasure, heedless, I was trying
While Thou wert dying.
LSB 439 st. 7

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
1 John 4:10

During the season of Lent, we are reminded that we are sinful and unworthy of God’s mercy. We have inherited sin through our first parents, Adam and Eve. We are in need of a Savior. But it was because of God’s love that He sent His only Son to die for us as that Savior. We did nothing to deserve this love.

John 3:16-17 testifies to this reality: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” It is only through God’s work that we are saved not by anything that we do, but through His grace and mercy. During the season of Lent, we gather together as the Body of Christ and look forward to Christ’s crucifixion. It is on His cross where our Savior died for us. On this cross we see that God loved us.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, we know that we are by nature sinful and unworthy of Your grace and mercy. We give thanks that, through Your wonderful love for us, You have sent Your only Son, Jesus Christ, to save us. We pray that You would help us to daily and faithfully follow You, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

(Stephanie Wilde, Deaconess Student)

Lent Devotion

There was no spot in me by sin untainted;
Sick with sin’s poison, all my heart had fainted;
My heavy guilt to hell had well-nigh brought me,
Such woe it wrought me.
LSB 439 st. 6

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world.”
Ephesians 2:1-2a

How does it work for a person to be dead in sin? Aren’t we living creatures no matter what? St. Paul reminds us that living in sin is death—spiritual death. In such a condition, one cannot reach out to God and trust in Him. This is what Paul means by “dead.” To live without the comfort that we are reconciled to God is to exist as dead men. Sure, many are physically well and healthy, but that is not God’s plumb line. Our physical biology is not the locus of trust in God or the recipient of Christ’s peace—our spirit is. Unfortunately, we were born with a dead spirit, one that is horizontal instead of upright, and reeks with the deadly poison of sin. And because of our spiritual death, our body also experiences sin and corruption. We age, decay, and die.

What is needed is a resuscitation to quicken the spirit. The resuscitation of our spirit occurs by the Holy Spirit in the waters of Baptism, which quench the fires of hell, the brink to which our heavy guilt “had well-nigh brought” us. The Holy Spirit says to us, “Your dead spirit will not do. Here is a better death: Christ’s. Since His death is now your own, even more so is His life.” Our Baptism in Christ quickens the spirit. It also guarantees our resurrection of the body to life eternal with God.

Let us pray: dear God, heavenly Father, You saw the death in which we lived and sent Your Son to die so that we might live. Allow us to never take for granted Your mercy that we may always find peace and comfort in the death and life of Your Son, which is ours now and forever. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

(Silas Hasselbrook, Sem I)

Lent Devotion

The sinless Son of God must die in sadness;
The sinful child of man may live in gladness;
Man forfeited his life and is acquitted;
God is committed.
LSB 439 st. 5

Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” …and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.”
Luke 23:4, 14

Luke is the Gospel of setting the stage, and the stage in Luke 23 is the courtroom. Luke’s judicial imagery stands with the famous courtroom scenes of literature. Like Atticus pacing the hall in “To Kill A Mockingbird” or Dimitri’s sweating brow in in “The Brothers Karamazov,” the descriptive language of Jesus’ trial is the dramatic prelude to the climax of the story.

But in these verses, Pilate gives us the defining difference in Jesus’ trial from all other trials: “Behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.” In a twist of fate, we realize the guilt is not on the hand of the accused, but of the accusers. The sinless Son of God must die so that the sinful child of man can live. Yet what kind of Savior chooses to give Himself up for those who hate and curse Him? What defendant would die for the one who falsely accuses Him?

Christ is both the judge and the sacrifice. He is the fountain of water and blood that saves you through the waters of Holy Baptism and continues to strengthen you in the Lord’s Supper. He is the Word made flesh whose innocent blood declares us righteous in God’s sight. Those who stand at the feet of the cross stand in this life-giving flood. We can stand before the throne of God in the assurance that our guilt has been covered. Our shame has been taken away. Christ has paid our debts. Pilate stands before Christ and says, “I find no guilt in this man,” before sending Him to His death. On account of Christ, the Father stands before man and says, “I find no guilt in this man,” before welcoming him into eternal life. Rejoice in your salvation, beloved of Christ! Your sin is forgiven, and death does not have the final say!

Let Us Pray: Heavenly Father, on behalf of those who mock and accuse, You gave Your beloved Son to be a sacrifice on the cross. Grant us mercy at the foot of your throne on behalf of your Son, to whom we pray: come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.

(Emilyann Pool, Deaconess Student)

CTSFW Baseball Team

Last Saturday, the CTSFW baseball team (organized just this year by first-year seminarian Aaron Schultz) played six innings against Concordia High. In Aaron’s words (speaking of his fellow seminarians and teammates): “With Joe Muench and John Baseley hitting the ball 300+ feet, Mark Peters’ golden glove at the hot corner, Titus Utecht’s hard-breaking curveball, and the prowess of Dr. Grobien in the outfield, our sem team is formidable.”

We held our own for the first couple of innings, tying for the first three innings until Concordia pulled away and ended up winning 6-3. The wives cheered their husbands on and the kids found a dirt pile, which took their attention for awhile; it was altogether an excellent time.

On the left, Seminarian Dan Golden swings; on the right, Seminarian Keith Kettner slides into second as Concordia High goes for the catch; photos courtesy Kati Q. Gaschler.
Photos courtesy Kati Q. Gaschler. You can just see Aaron Schultz (organizer of the team) standing in the back left in the picture on the left, catcher gear on his legs. The team was celebrating their first run.
The infamous dirt pile, with the game going on in the background.
If you’ve ever wondered what CTSFW community events look like, here’s a great example. Family is integral to the community.

Lent Devotion

What punishment so strange is suffered yonder!
The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander;
The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him,
Who would not know Him.
LSB 439 st. 4

“For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
1 Peter 2:25

Punishment—a penalty or retribution for an offense. As this hymn says, Jesus’ punishment on the cross was certainly strange. What was Christ’s offense? What could be the penalty for having lived a life in perfect obedience and faithfulness? Strange punishment indeed.

And yet, Christ did not call out this injustice. He did not stand before Pilate and declare His innocence. No, he gladly and willingly took on our identity as sinful beggars—worthy of death and damnation. He did not protest or point fingers at the truly guilty. Both the Shepherd and the Lamb, He guides us and gives up His life for us as a sacrifice. In His dying, our debt is paid. In His living, we inherit unimaginable fortune—the hope of everlasting life, free from punishment.

Let us pray: O Lord God, in our sin we have strayed from You and ran after darkness. But You are our faithful shepherd who calls us back into new life. In Your perfect obedience, You took on our punishment so that we may be free. Keep our eyes fixed on You, O Lord, and guide our hearts in Your truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Anna Barger, Deaconess Student)

DMin Conferral: Rev. Tariku Tolessa Jira

Dr. Grobien, Director of the DMin program, places the hood on Rev. Jira. Dr. MacKenzie (far left) and Dr. Gieschen (far right) look on.

Following chapel this morning, we witnessed the conferral of the Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree upon the Rev. Tariku Tolessa Jira of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), which you can still watch on today’s livestream. He successfully defended his dissertation project, “The Place and Purpose of Spiritual Gifts in the Scripture: the Understanding of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church—Mekane Yesu—Illubabor Bethel Synod Congregations in Mettu and Alge Towns,” just last week. “Today is an important occasion in the life of our Seminary, in the life of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, and especially in the life of our dear brother in Christ,” said Dr. Grobien, Director of the DMin Program.

Rev. Jira’s colleague and Director of EECMY-Department of Mission & Theology, Dr. Lalissa D. Gemechis (who received his PhD from CTSFW in 2017), upon this news emailed his congratulations: “I am so excited and thankful to God for His provision. Just to let you know that Rev. Dr. Tariku Jira will be head of denominational Theological Matters which is a big task. He will right away assume this position upon his return.”

The graduates from these programs have an incredible impact on their home churches, synods, and countries. “The single most frequent and fervent request received by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod from partner and non-partner Lutheran church bodies around the world is to share our theological treasures,” explained Professor Robert Roethemeyer, Co-director of International Studies, who often travels to Ethiopia and gets to know these students. “Through sound, vigorous theological education we have prepared another leader for the EECMY. This is one of the most impactful ways CTSFW strengthens global confessional Lutheranism. We form servants in Jesus Christ to shepherd their own church bodies and to teach in their own seminaries.”

Once more paraphrasing the words of our brother in Christ, Dr. Gemechis: thanks be to God for His provision. And congratulations to Rev. Jira!

Left to right: Dr. Grobien, Dr. Schulz, Dr. MacKenzie, Rev. Jira, Dr. Gieschen, Dr. (President) Rast.

Lent Devotion

Whence come these sorrows, whence this mortal anguish?
It is my sins for which Thou, Lord, must languish;
Yea, all the wrath, the woe, Thou dost inherit,
This I do merit.
LSB 439 st. 3

“[Jesus our Lord] who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
Romans 4:25

No one likes to think about their sins, especially knowing the great sorrow and anguish they caused Jesus. He suffered in our place on the cross. He received the death that we deserve. Lent is a time to reflect on why Jesus was delivered up. We spend time meditating on God’s Word and promises. We hurt knowing that we should be the ones suffering for our sins and receiving the punishment we deserve.

Even during this time of sorrow, there is Good News! Jesus came to die on the cross and take all our sorrows and anguish upon Himself. We look forward to the joy and promise of a risen Savior. Because of His resurrection, we have the promise of our own bodily resurrection when He comes again. We remember the promises given to us at our baptism. We repent of our sins and receive absolution. We turn our eyes to Jesus, the One who died for the forgiveness of our sins and is raised for our justification, even though we are undeserving.

Let us pray: O God, though we are undeserving of Your mercy, You sent Your only Son to die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Grant us peace and comfort during this season of Lent as we look toward the cross and resurrection of Your Son; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

(Amanda Korthase, Deaconess Student)

DMin Defense: Rev. Philip Huebner

Recently, Doctor of Ministry (DMin) candidate Rev. Philip Huebner successfully defended his dissertation “What to Do with Children in Church? A Study on Helping Parents Engage Their Children in Worship.” A campus pastor at Wisconsin Lutheran High School in Milwaukee, Rev. Huebner has both interest and experience in the subject. He briefly summarized his dissertation in this way:

“In the 21st century where families are breaking down and culture is consuming parents and their children, many are struggling with what to do with children in church. Pragmatic Westerners have tried many different solutions: reserved pews for families, children’s bulletins, children’s sermons, children’s church, or even Sunday school offered during the Divine Service. However, many of these attempted solutions are lacking for various reasons.

“Looking to Scripture, we see that God wants all his people to worship him, and that Jesus graciously invites all to come to him who are weary and burdened to find rest. We also see that it was the regular practice of parents living by faith to train their children and bring them to worship. Throughout the history of the Church, God’s people continued the practice of bringing their children to worship and even incorporating them in many ways as lectors, in children’s choirs, and more.

“Luther brought many great insights to the broad topic of families, children, and children in worship. He believed that an essential key was a partnership between the home, the church, and the school. His catechisms, catechetical sermons, hymns written for children, and more served to unify that unique partnership.

“This thesis built off the Scriptural prescriptions and descriptions, as well as historical precedent, to further the thoughts of Luther and others. It is the best practice for parents to bring their children to worship and for children to learn through guided participation alongside their parents. What is more, the church and school have wonderful opportunities to partner with the home to train parents to be better Christian parents and Christians who understand worship. And finally, the church and the school have wonderful opportunities to train children how to understand and participate in worship. With God’s blessing, such endeavors lead to a unified body of Christ gathered together to receive his gifts regularly in the divine service.”

Thank you again to Rev. Huebner for providing the summary of his dissertation. Congratulations on your successful DMin defense! This picture was taken on the day of, and he can be spotted second to the left, standing between Prof. James Tiefel (far left) and advisor Rev. Dr. Richard Stuckwisch (on the right), with Dr. Grime on the farthest right.

To learn more about the Doctor of Ministry Program at CTSFW, go to www.ctsfw.edu/DMin.

Lent Devotion

They crown Thy head with thorns, they smite, they scourge Thee;
With cruel mockings to the cross they urge Thee;
They give Thee gall to drink, they still decry Thee;
They crucify Thee.
LSB 439 st. 2

“[Jesus said] ‘And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.’”
Mark 10:34

If you knew it was coming, wouldn’t you stop it? Three times, Jesus told His disciples exactly what was going to happen. Three times.

What indignity and shame He knew He would face! How did He endure it? With just the smallest word from His mouth, He could have stopped it. He could have made Himself not feel the sting of the whip. He could have ended the torture and torment. He could have made the spit miss. He could have refuted their mocking. He could have come down from the cross.

But no, Jesus not only allowed the pain and the shame to go on, He knew it was coming. The Living One knew He would taste death. He knew He would drink the cup of wrath that our sins deserved. He knew how ugly it was. And still, He accepted it.

That, brothers and sisters in Christ, is true love. Our best attempts at loving each other are pale and self-serving compared to the passion of Christ. Thank God it is. Because death could not keep him. And now it cannot keep you.

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You willingly sent Your Son to suffer and die for our sake; grant that we would look to His cross and passion this Lenten season and take comfort in the knowledge that because of His death we will have eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Jerry Smith, Sem IV)