2019 Candidate Call Service

Today our prayers are with our candidates, who will find out in three hours (or closer to four, as calls will be announced after the sermon in the 7 p.m. service) where they will serve their first calls as laborers to the harvest. Christ be with these men and their families as their futures begin to take on any even clearer shape, and God’s blessings to the congregations who will in turn begin earnestly preparing to receive them. Thanks be to the Lord of the harvest for all the gifts He so richly pours down on us!

The service will be livestreamed on the CTSFW Facebook page and at www.ctsfw.edu/daily-chapel, though you can also watch (and find the service bulletin) at callday.ctsfw.edu. Once the calls are announced, go to this website to see who’s coming to your district, to find printable lists of all vicars, internships, and calls, and to check out our interactive map showing where these men and women are headed.

As a fun aside: every year, the students who are about to receive either a vicarage or deaconess internship assignment or who will be receiving their call compete in a dart challenge. Those receiving assignments throw one day, and those awaiting their calls throw on another–these pictures happen to be from the candidates’ competition.

The rules are simple: whoever throws a dart and hits the town that ends up being closest to their actual call or assignment wins. Mostly, it’s a great chance for these guys (and gals) to make fun of each other’s dart-throwing skills (or lack thereof) and to trade rumors over where they’re headed. According to the pockmarked map, we have a couple of seminarians apparently destined for the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico–and a few right in the middle of the Great Lakes.

To the left, a pack of call candidates look on, ready to pass down amused judgment, as classmate Matthew Schettler winds up for the throw.
Fourth-year seminarian Paul Gaschler, regretting his shot.
The aftermath.

2019 Vicarage & Deaconess Internship Assignment Service

God’s richest blessings to all of our second-year seminarians and deaconess students! They will be receiving their assignments for vicarage and deaconess internships in three and a half hours, at 7 p.m. You can see all 45 of them here, and you can also head to callday.ctsfw.edu/vicars to learn a little bit more about who they are, like their hometowns and home churches. Their placement locations will be updated after they’re announced at the service this evening. You will be able to watch the service there, on Facebook at facebook.com/ctsfw, or even at www.ctsfw.edu/daily-chapel if that’s your usual hangout.

After Candidate Call Service tomorrow, the Call Day website will also be updated with a map showing where everyone is going, and will break down calls and placements per district, if you want to find out who’s coming to your area. Our prayers go out to all of our students tonight and tomorrow–as well as to all the congregations who will be welcoming them into their homes, countrysides, and cities!

Life Convocation: Created, Redeemed Call

At present, Owen’s Mission has only placed a set of the baby model in 10-20% of our Lutheran schools—and Rev. Salemink (left) was delighted to make CTSFW one of those schools, presenting a model to Ian Kinney (right) who serves as student president of the CTSFW Life Team.

At today’s convocation, Executive Director of Lutherans for Life (LFL) Rev. Michael Salemink spoke on being a Gospel-motivated voice for life, as well as about Owen’s Mission. The goal of Owen’s Mission is to place a set of life-like models of babies in the womb into every Lutheran school (from elementary on up).

Owen was the grandson of former LFL Executive Director Dr. Lamb. While still in his mother’s womb, Owen passed away at 22 weeks old, his heart stopping when the doctors surgically removed a tumor at the base of his spine. In his development, too many nutrients, oxygen, and blood had already gone to the fast-growing tumor. “They wrapped him in a blanket and brought his body out so that his father and grandfather could say hello—and goodbye,” Rev. Salemink said. Dr. Lamb was struck by the obvious personhood of his grandson, and together the family started Owen’s Mission to help others see this reality. The models are made out of a biosynthetic gel to give them the weight and feel of a real baby.

Life issues “from womb to tomb,” as our own CTSFW Life Team would say, are not political issues. As Rev. Salemink explained, life issues show up “anywhere the culture urges us to use death as a solution.” He went on to point out the most promising aspect of the intensity of the discussions surrounding life issues: “People are ready to ask spiritual questions and receive theological answers…They desperately need the Gospel that brings hope and healing.”

There are three things that make human beings special. From Isaiah 43:1:

But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.”

We are created, redeemed, and called. “Lutherans have something very special to bring to the conversation,” he went on. “We are saved by grace, not by works.” Our voices are Gospel-motivated because the conversation is always about what God does (and has done) for us. Not what we do.


Rev. Salemink pointed out that the language and imagery of our creation, beginning in Genesis when God formed man from the dust of the ground, is one of God’s hands performing the work. Over nine months, we are knit together in the womb. God can speak reality into being, but with people it delighted Him to take his time.

We are first formed in our mother’s womb as a zygote—a single celled human being, genetically distinct from Mom and Dad, whose cells self-direct the growth process. “My body, my choice” is a lie—though on the surface an attractive one. But Rev. Salemink pointed out the ugly meaning couched in the words. “’My body, my choice’ means you are on your own,” he said. “It’s your fault, your responsibility.” This is Satan in the garden, getting the woman by herself in order to slyly ask, “Did God really say…?”

He next went through some of the major highlights of gestation, with a model from Owen’s Mission in his hand for each stage:

  • 17 days: Cardiac cells begin to beat. A few days later, it has a distinct rhythm.
  • 4 weeks (about the time mom is discovering she’s pregnant): All organs are present, differentiated and in position.
  • 7 weeks: the baby has a complete skeleton; 4,000 anatomical parts exist. They have brain activity, pain receptors, and reflexes.
  • 12 weeks: they have two ears, two legs, two feet; arms, hands, fingers, fingernails, nostrils, eyelids, eyelashes, even permanent teeth.
  • At 16 weeks, only four weeks later: Grown to three times their size at 12 weeks. Eyes open for the first time (babies begin to move at 14 weeks) and they suck their thumb—even developing a preference for one thumb over the other. It’s probably the same hand she or he will write with someday.

He highlighted other developments (swallowing at 22 weeks, not for need but for practice, somersaults at 26), but the main point is that, from 12 to 26 weeks, the only that is really changing is size. The baby is growing and practicing. In fact, it is the baby that decides when to be born—not the mother. The placenta (“the suitcase the baby comes in” Rev. Salemink explained) signals and initiates the chain reaction that begins labor—and the baby’s body grows the placenta in the first place. “Babies are polite house guests,” he added, noting that they don’t demand that mom provide everything.


“These models are perfect,” Rev. Salemink said, holding up the model of a baby at one of the later gestational ages. “But of course not every baby is perfect.” Some only live for a few minutes in the womb, others are stillborn, still others are deformed, with genetic errors incompatible with life. “We are God’s children, and we fail at it,” he went on. “Sin is manifested in our flesh.”

But that doesn’t matter—our size, the span of our life, whether we’re born health and grow up into criminals—because, again, the story is one of a God who does the work for us. “God redeems rather than discards,” Rev. Salemink said. “John 1: ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’” (verse 14).

The Word became flesh not on Christmas, but at the annunciation. “Mary is the only woman in the world to become pregnant through her ear,” he pointed out. In His mother’s womb, “God was the size of the head of a pin, and yet He holds all the world in His hands…He grew arms and hands and fingers and stretched them out on a cross.”


“The same God who creates in the womb and redeems in the womb, declares in the womb: ‘I have safely encased him and in water.’” There are obvious connections to be made to Baptism. As babies in the womb, our lungs were filled with water. After we are born, God desires that we be brought to water once again—to be called into his family—that he can claim, “This one is mine. This is my son. This is my daughter. This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.”

“It is our privilege, delight, and solemn responsibility where Satan is shouting lies to speak the truth in love and gentleness,” Rev. Salemink concluded. Dr. Gieschen, Academic Dean, then asked for recommendations from LFL on getting plugged into life issues out in the parish.

He suggested locating the institutions in a community involved in life/death situations—hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, pregnancy resource centers, etc.—and asking how you can help. In fact, he originally got involved in Life ministries because he and his wife attended a fundraising dinner. “Pastor’s family have no money, so on the pledge card I wrote on the back: ‘I can offer pastoral services.’” They absolutely took him up on the offer.

LFL is also a great resource. “Lutherans for Life is a three-armed freak,” Rev. Salemink explained. “We have literature—a large catalog of materials that connects the Word of God to these issues—and education, and most of all volunteer communities.” LFL has 200 chapters, called Life Teams (CTSFW among them), and he recommended reaching out.

Ultimately: “Motivate and inspire the congregations you serve at,” he said. But at the same time he urges new pastors to work as slowly as they need to. “You have to invest the time. There’s an education and growth process the congregation needs to go through.” You cannot drop new information on a church right away and expect them to get it. A pastor has to help his congregation understand how life issues connect to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope we have in His death and resurrection.

“We are Gospel-motivated,” he repeated. LFL focuses on life issues through the lens of how God gives value to life through His deeds and actions, rather than focusing on the evil of abortion, euthanasia, etc. “There is a time and place to expose how awful those things are,” he conceded, “but ultimately we focus on the hope and life we have in Christ.”

Convocation: Black Ministry

Last week, following chapel on Wednesday, the Rev. Dr. Roosevelt Gray Jr., Director of LCMS Black Ministry, led convocation on the history of Synod’s work with African Americans. Dr. Gray graduated from CTSFW in 1988, receiving an honorary doctorate from the Seminary in 2015.

His first call after graduation was to Houston, where he served until 1994. “Get involved in agencies of the community,” he advised the seminarians in the audience, speaking from his own experience. He’d volunteer to read to the kids at nearby schools, attend local events, and would go to funeral homes, hand them his card, and say, “I can’t do anything about the dead, but I can do something for the living.” Funeral directors would call him when a family who had no pastor needed pastoral care. The church grew by leaps and bounds. “Wow!” Dr. Gray exclaimed, “Evangelism does work!” which got a particularly appreciative laugh from the students.

And though he spoke of the tenacity and love a pastor must have for his community, every time he also came back to the same point: that witness and mercy work is about sharing the Good News that Jesus Christ died for our sins. “In the Great Commission, Jesus was speaking to Galileans—and speaking to Lutherans,” he said. “We cannot be ashamed or afraid.”

Black Ministry’s history is nearly as old as the LCMS, serving the longest existing ethnic group in our church body (“Besides the Germans,” Dr. Gray pointed out with a laugh, reminding his audience that “We’re all ethnic people.”). In 1877, only 30 years after the Synod had formed, the sixth convention of the Synodical Conference unanimously resolved to begin mission work among blacks, particularly in the southern and southeastern districts where the slave trade had driven African migration to the United States. Mission efforts were educationally-focused, meant to bring the Good News and schooling to a people in desperate need of both. With the Civil War barely in the rear view mirror, freed African Americans were still living in slave-like conditions, denied basic rights under “Black Laws” and without access to education or jobs. They were impoverished, physically and spiritually.

Mission work started with their children. In 1878, a Lutheran Sunday School was organized in Little Rock, Arkansas (St. Paul Colored Lutheran Church would be built in Little Rock years later), and the first black Lutheran parochial school opened in the fall of 1879. Every new mission they started (traveling further and further south) was connected with a school.

In 1889, four black pastors attended the North Carolina Synod convention as voting members. The committee on “Work among the Freedmen” recommended that “the colored brethren connected with this Synod be allowed to form themselves into a synod.” The Alpha Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Freedman in America formed on May 8, 1889 (and would later be merged back into the LCMS). By 1926, the Carolinas had increased from five black congregations to 23, served by 16 pastors and professors (four times the original four), and started seven day schools and Immanuel Lutheran College.

Rosa Young, arguably the most famous figure involved in early Black Ministry (specifically in Alabama), made herself known to the LCMS in the early 1900s. Born in 1890 in Rosebud, Alabama, Rosa was a schoolteacher who saw her people “groping in spiritual darkness.” When the cotton boll weevil invaded Wilcox County in 1914, devastating an already impoverished area, she wrote to Dr. Booker T. Washington for help. He suggested she write to the LCMS for assistance, as he knew of the Synod’s reputation for educational work among blacks in the south.

The partnership blossomed quickly. She turned her school, the Rosebud Literacy and Industrial School, over to the LCMS shortly after the mission board sent assistance, which then became Christ Lutheran Church and School and the mother church of black Lutheranism in Alabama. Together, Rosa and the pastors and teachers sent to the area ultimately planted 30 schools and 35 congregations in Alabama and Pensacola, Florida. Concordia College in Selma, Alabama, eventually grew from these endeavors.

“I hunted lost souls for Jesus somewhat as I hunted for money to build and maintain my first school,” she wrote in her autobiography. When speaking of the deplorable ignorance of her people and the immoral spiritual leaders who had failed them, she explained, “None of them ever told us: Christ is your Savior, who died for your sins. Believe in Him, then you are saved.”

Dr. Gray explained that there are third and fourth generation African American Lutherans, in places so geographically and culturally isolated (such as St. James in Buena Vista, Alabama, begun by Rosa Young as a Sunday School), that the members there have never seen a white Lutheran. “They think the LCMS is a black church,” he explained, then got another laugh when he immediately added: “Don’t tell them!” His own wife is a fifth or sixth generation Lutheran.

“This [Synod] has done powerful work,” Dr. Gray said, especially considering that the LCMS was still very young and very small when it started reaching out to African American communities. “But we have to revisit that.” Concordia College Alabama has closed, as have other major LCMS institutes that served black populations. The parish he served over 30 years ago has closed too. “Lutheranism is growing faster among Africans than African Americans,” he said.

“The Lutheran Church is the whitest church in America,” Dr. Gray went on, citing the statistics. Fourteen percent of the US population identify as “Black only” or “Black in combination with another race,” but only 3% of LCMS membership identifies as such. With two million baptized members, this means only 60,000 of our membership is black.

“11 a.m. Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America,” Dr. Gray pointed out. “We worship separately. We plant Hispanic churches, Black churches.” Sometimes that’s due to a language barrier, but too often it’s because we simply don’t know how to talk with people from different cultures, ethnicities, or backgrounds.

Black Ministry exists to reach out with the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection, to bring more people into the Kingdom by engaging with those broken, destitute, and trapped by the challenges unique to their background. For African Americans, that’s racism, poverty, discrimination, and family structure. Dr. Gray explained engagement in very simple terms. “Be culturally sensitive to the community you serve. It doesn’t mean you give in—but be sensitive to it, and then get on to serving the Church.”

Much of Dr. Gray’s insights come from his own experience in the parish, especially that first call out to Houston. “Thank God for two elders who taught me how to be a pastor. I learned great, great theology from the Seminary, but gained my experience in that church, learning to work with people who are broken every day. A lot of sinners out there are angry at the Church.”

He recalled one young woman with two children, who came from a rough background and got involved with the church because of their childcare resources. At one point, Dr. Gray was tempted to kick her out. He spoke about it with his elders, who urged him not to, wanting to keep that contact point with her children even if their mother was already lost.

“One of my elders said something I’ll never forget,” Dr. Gray recalled: “’You go fishing, let us do the cleaning.’” In short, they urged him to do what he excelled at (going out into the community to witness, bringing folks into the church), and they in turn would do their part (keeping them in the church, by spending years walking them through their particular issues). “Your elders and your laypeople are not against you, they’re for you,” Dr. Gray said, speaking directly to the seminarians. “And they don’t care about how much you know until they know you care.

“That church taught me how to love people. It’s easy to push people into the well,” he added, then explained how tempting it is to prioritize fighting against the particular sins we don’t like rather than sharing the Good News. “It’s ‘For God so loved the world that He gave…’ not ‘For God so hated sin that…” Dr. Gray pointed out. “The solution to the preponderance of your sin must be the Gospel. The Law does not save you.”

All other solutions also fall short. “The government will not save us. You cannot vote in a Savior, you cannot vote in morality. The Gospel is the only thing that can change hearts.

“Give them Jesus, brothers,” Dr. Gray said to the seminarians, his future colleagues. “The Law has already done the work in their lives. You’ve got to preach the Law,” he conceded, “but the Law won’t change them. I am not ashamed of this Gospel,” he repeated, a common refrain and theme of the convocation. It is a bludgeon against fear and hopelessness.

LCMS Black Ministry began only 30 years after the Synod formed, when they had few resources in terms of both money and men. Only that’s not precisely true. We had – and still have – everything we need. “We have the resources,” Dr. Gray explained simply: “We have the Gospel.”

If you would like to learn more about the history of Black Ministry, you can click on the following articles:

The History of LCMS Mercy Work with African Americans

Formed for Service: The Work of Rosa Jinsey Young

LCMS Black Ministry: A Look Backward and Forward

LCMS Black Ministry History

You can also learn more at www.lcms.org/blackministry.

Easter Devotion

Easter Sunday

Awake, my heart, with gladness,
See what today is done;
Now, after gloom and sadness,
Comes forth the glorious sun.
My Savior there was laid
Where our bed must be made
When to the realms of light
Our spirit wings its flight.
LSB 467 st. 1

“Your sun shall no more go down,
nor your moon withdraw itself;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your days of mourning shall be ended.”
Isaiah 60:20

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

When the sun rose on that first Easter morning, do you think the women thought anything of it? We ourselves don’t tend to notice every sunrise. We simply expect it every morning, no matter how long or dark the previous night. We would certainly be surprised, however, if the sun never went down! But that is the promise we receive in the resurrection. Christ, the risen Son of God, is the shining source of our own resurrection and life, which never burns out. St. John reminds us, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).

No matter how gloomy our days or lonely those long nights might be, the everlasting light of Christ continues to shine and give you life. Regardless of how darkened by sin our souls might be, Christ’s death and resurrection is the way He makes all things new. Together, we gladly await that final day when the glorious Son will return to end our days of mourning and transport us to the realms of light.

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, through the resurrection of Your Son, we have the same promise of life after death. Continually sustain us by His light and life during our dark days, as we await that final day when the sun will go down no more and Christ will be our light; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

(Ethan Stoppenhagen, Sem I)

Lent Devotion

Holy Saturday

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost:
Christ, the Rock of our salvation,
Is the name of which we boast;
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built.
LSB 451 st. 4

“For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’”
Romans 10:11

Jesus lay in the tomb on this day, covered in a linen shroud. Just hours earlier He was exposed on the bloody cross, lifted high above the earth for all to see. He had been stripped of His clothes during the flogging and was naked. Such was the depth of His humiliation that He endured for all of us.

Hebrews 12:2 says he “scorned” the shame. More precisely the Greek word for scorn means to “consider of little value.” This means that in view of our salvation Jesus gladly and willingly endured the shame; in our day, we might equate this to saying “no big deal.” Jesus’ love for us outweighed the shame. In comparison to His love for us, it was “no big deal.” He did it so we would not be put to shame. Because of Him, our sins will not be exposed at the judgement on the Last Day. “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more” (Heb. 10:17).

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, though we have done many shameful things, we thank You that You have covered us in the righteousness of Your Son, who endured the shame of the cross for us. May we be mindful of this, not only in Holy Week, but every day of our lives, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

(Stuart Sultze, Alternate Route)

Lent Devotion

Good Friday

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
’Tis the Christ, by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
’Tis the long-expected Prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
’Tis the true and faithful Word.
LSB 451 st. 1

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—”
Deuteronomy 18:15

What does it mean when Jesus is called a prophet? The Old Testament is a prophecy that leads to Him, so what purpose does Jesus have in prophesying to us? There is not a second Savior that will come after Him; Jesus is not going to give us a second law to follow. Looking back, the Law had been given to Moses and he is repeating it in Deuteronomy, but it was only by Christ that it would be fulfilled. In order to atone for our lack of observance of the Law, God would become incarnate and die for us. While Jesus, fully God and fully man, is dying on the cross—stricken, smitten, and afflicted—He speaks the words of life to all believers: “It is finished.” This is the Word of God incarnate that achieves our salvation and marks its completion.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, You call us by Your Word and keep us steadfast in Your truth. Help us to hear the words that You speak to us in Word and in Sacrament; the words that grant us life through Jesus’ death, and grant us hope through His resurrection. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

(Zachary Johnson, Sem I)

Lent Devotion

Maundy Thursday

Let all mortal flesh keep silence
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in His hand
Christ our God to earth descending
Comes our homage to demand.
LSB 621 st. 1

“Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.”
Revelation 1:7

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day in which our Lord instituted the Sacrament of His Holy Supper. Both our text and hymn today are somber reminders of the fact that Christ will return in judgment. And yet, in being read on Maundy Thursday, they become somber reminders that Christ likewise descends to us every Lord’s Day and gives Himself bodily to us in His Supper. Just as Christ’s return in glory will be met with fear and trembling by all the earth, so do we approach His holy table with all fear, trembling, and reverence.

Nevertheless, at both His return and supper we rejoice. For we know that in both we find our salvation.

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank You for the gift of Your holy Supper, for we know that through it we find true comfort and the confidence to stand before You on the last day. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

(Joshua Brandmahl, Sem I)

Lent Devotion

Wednesday in Holy Week

Your cross I place before me;
Its saving pow’r restore me,
Sustain me in the test.
It will, when life is ending,
Be guiding and attending
My way to Your eternal rest.
LSB 453 st. 7

“So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
Hebrews 9:28

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14). What does it mean to wait for the Lord? Oftentimes the waiting is the hardest part. We wonder if God will ever come to deliver us from our sinful flesh and all the pains that come as a result of the sin that came when Adam fell. We often act as if God were still far off and distant from the sorrow we suffer today in ourselves and in the world around us.

However, God is not far off. He already came down to us in the flesh and lived among us. Jesus Christ lived in this sinful world but was completely without sin. He was crucified for our sin and then was raised to proclaim victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil. He ascended so that He would continue to be with us. He is with us in His Word preached and in His Sacraments administered. Christ has already defeated sin, and we receive the forgiveness of sins by His work through faith that grasps onto Him.

Now we faithfully wait for that day when Christ will return and deliver us once and for all. While we eagerly wait, He continues to be among us. He edifies us with His Word preached. He washes us of our sin in Holy Baptism. He feeds us with His very body and blood in His Supper. In all these ways Christ serves us and we perceive Him by faith so that, on that Last Day, we may behold Him in His glory with our own eyes.

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we cry to You by day and night to deliver us from the sin that plagues this world and our flesh. Grant us the peace that only You can provide that was won by Your Son on the cross and continues to sustain us through His Word and Sacraments. All of this we pray through the very same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

(Garrett Buvinghausen, Sem IV)

DMin Defense: Rev. Seth Clemmer

On April 9, another of our DMin students, Rev. Seth Clemmer, successfully defended his dissertation, “Improving Youth Retention and Baptismal Administration at Bethany Lutheran Church, Naperville, Illinois, by Emphasizing Parental Responsibilities at Baptism.” As you can see, the DMin dissertations are very practically focuses–you can tell they’re researched and written by working pastors. Rev. Clemmer is senior pastor of Bethany Lutheran.

L-R: Dr. Grobien, Rev. Clemmer, Prof. Pless, and Dr. Zieroth