Angels in Art and Revelation

Dr. Grime, Director of Good Shepherd Institute, opens the Fall Retreat.

The title for this past weekend’s retreat, “What in Heaven Is Going On?” was taken from a tagline from a 1993 Time Magazine cover: “69% of Americans believe in angels. What in heaven is going on?” Dr. Charles Gieschen, Academic Dean at CTSFW, began with an overview of the misplaced spirituality of angels in popular culture and how we should view them through the lens of Scripture. “When there’s this fascination with the angels, sometimes what’s lost is the access to God—the immediate access to God through Jesus Christ,” Dr. Gieschen added. “The proper focus (the focus of all the good created angels) is their Creator.”

To get angels right, we go to Scriptures. The word “angel” means “messenger,” and not every messenger in the Bible is the created angelic being we automatically imagine. “We get off base if we think the term angel means somebody who has wings who is created. As a matter of fact, a lot of the angels or messengers that appear in the Bible do not have wings. There are some places where you do have angelic beings, created angelic beings, that are depicted with wings (seraphim, Revelation 4), but most of the time when an angel appears, that angel appears in the form of a man—and sometimes a rather imposing looking man.”

This gets to another truth. An angel in the Bible can refer to one of three possible identities: 1.) God Himself; 2.) created spiritual beings; or 3.) human beings.

When the “Angel of the Lord” refers to God, this is always the Son (the pre-incarnate Son in the Old Testament), since He is the visible image of God. This is clear from John 1:18 and John 6:46—that no one has seen the Father except for the Son. The pre-incarnate Son is the angel of the Lord that calls out to Hagar in Genesis 16, to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, who wrestles with Jacob (called here, simply, “the man”), announces Samson’s birth (His identity evidenced by the fact that He accepts the offering from Samson’s parents), and the story of Balaam’s donkey, to name a few.

Attendees take time during the lunch hour to visit the new art exhibit on angels that is open in the library.

The created angelic beings are genderless and not always winged. Only two angels are named in the Bible (Gabriel and Michael), though there are a myriad of unnamed angels. Gabriel is the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit while Michael is the protector of God’s people, which is why he’s always depicted in art with a sword (though the sword is not necessarily literal; the Word of God is also referred to as a two-edged sword). They serve as messengers/spokesmen (Luke 1:26-28); protectors (Psalm 91:11-12); worshipers (Isaiah 6:1-4; “They are the guide and model of how the creation should worship the Creator,” Dr. Gieschen explained. “They naturally and repeatedly acknowledge the Creator who has given and brought them life, who is the source of goodness and love, the natural response to which is praise and adoration.”); and enforcers of judgment (Revelation 12:7-12).

The devil (Satan/Lucifer/the ancient serpent) is a fallen angel as are his followers, referred to as evil spirits, demons, principalities, and powers. At the beginning of creation, everything was declared good, which would have included all things invisible (Genesis 1:1-2). At some point, however, a rebellion followed, about which the Bible says only a little. Isaiah 14:12-17 briefly explains that Satan led a rebellion in heaven and Revelation 12:4 speaks of how a third of the angels rebelled. “The futility of that rebellion was utterly clear to all the rest,” Dr. Gieschen said. “No rebellion ever followed again. At that point, the ranks of the angels were fixed.

Though he would like people to think so, Satan is not a counter god to God. He is a defeated created being and Michael is the enforcer of the victory of Christ upon Satan. “Christ won the victory through His blood, He won it on earth, so Michael and the good angels enforce that victory upon Satan and the evil angels,” Dr. Gieschen explained. “Once that happened—Christ’s atoning—they can no longer come into the presence of God and accuse believers.” We can also, in Christ, exercise power over Satan. “The one being we can truly tell to go to hell,” he added.  To understand these created beings, you must keep the centrality of Christ among the angels. They work in service to the true God and should only be properly viewed in that light.

As to the third type of angel, human beings referred to as angels of the Lord include the prophets Hagai and Malachi—human messengers of the Lord. Pastors too are messengers, and can be properly referred to as angels. In the context of Revelation 1:20, “the angels of the seven churches” would have been pastors.

Prof. Steven J. Cody, Assistant Professor of Art History at Purdue University Fort Wayne, led one of the presentations on angels in art in Renaissance Italy. The art produced during that era was never meant for a museum but was created for altars and as a backdrop for religious ceremony. “They were liturgical instruments to help focus worship,” he said. He also quoted Augustine: “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, ‘angel.'”

Dr. Grime (left) and Prof. Cody (right) eat lunch together as they discuss the theology of the angels in art.

Dr. Gieschen later noted that artists often want to go farther than the text. For example, an artist may depict an angel with wings to go with a passage that is actually speaking of the Son. That said, art is still a visual way to reinforce theological truth. It just must be kept in mind that angelic art is shaped more by Christian history than Scripture.

As such, the Fall Retreat also marked the opening of the new art exhibit in The Wayne and Barbara Kroemer Library. These art pieces came from artists in churches across the country and include pieces drawn, painted, carved out of wood, and sewn, to name a few styles. Attendees took time during their breaks to find each piece displayed throughout the library—including the wall of art created by the children of the seminary community.

Two walls of art. The top features all the art from the children of the seminary community, and the bottom is only a portion of the art sent to CTSFW from artists across Synod for the exhibit.

Today’s post features the lessons on art and angels, with only a bit about Revelation. On Wednesday, we will post more about the last book of the Bible and its focus on Christ (and the role of angels). Dr. Gieschen teaches a class on Revelation at CTSFW and wrote his dissertation on Angelomorphic Christology; essentially, the pre-incarnate Son as the angel of the Lord.

To learn more about biblical references to the angels as well as the angels role in worship in Revelation, CLICK HERE. Dr. Gieschen put these handouts together for his presentation.

Convocation: The Pornographic Imagination

It was a packed house in L7 for this morning’s convocation, “The Purification and Sanctification of the Pornographic Imagination” with Dr. John Kleinig. An Old Testament theologian with a PhD from Cambridge as well as honorary doctorates from CTSFW and Concordia Irvine, Dr. Kleinig teaches at Luther Seminary in Australia and as a guest at many seminaries across the world. He’s on the CTSFW campus this week for a continuing education class on the Divine Service.

He began the discussion with some definitions: both what pornography is and what it isn’t. Pornography is as old as human history (some of the oldest cave depictions are pornographic) though the word comes from the Greek pornos, which means prostitute. “So pornography is the depiction of the activity of male or female prostitutes,” Dr. Kleinig explained. “It’s not necessarily the depiction of nudity. We get into a lot of trouble if we identify nudity with pornography… [pornography] is selling sex for commercial purposes.”

In the ancient world, there was a religious significance to pornography, seen as a way for human beings to tap into the super sexuality of gods and goddesses for sexual potency or fertility. Today, the pagan religious significance is largely gone, but instead it is both more open and more hidden. In ancient times, to view pornography you had to go to a theater where sexual acts were either simulated or performed on stage, and other people saw you. The internet has changed everything: “Now the new thing is that it can be done in secret. That’s one of the tools of the devil, that it can be accessed in secret. It’s more secret on the one hand yet more public on the other. Everybody knows about it. When I grew up, it was hidden under the carpet. Now everyone knows.”

Pornography, like every bad thing, is a perversion of something good. “Let’s face it: you all know that God invented sex. He approves of sex,” Dr. Kleinig said. “Pornography is the perversion of one of God’s most precious, valuable gifts.” Visual intimacy is an important part of our sexuality, of which the key stimulating senses tend to be visual for men and touch for women (at least generally, though naturally you’ll find differences in individuals). All five senses are employed in the act. “God is not a sexual killjoy,” Dr. Kleinig continued. “In fact, God disapproves of pornography because it ruins the enjoyment of sex.”

Pornography is mentally, physically, and psychologically damaging. But most of all: spiritually damaging. “Pornography is a spiritual problem,” he said. “It’s one of the ways the devil attacks us.” The devil has a contempt and disgust for our bodies and our physicality (having none of his own), not only in and of itself but because we have been given the gift of procreation—of life—through sexual intercourse. The devil can’t create let alone procreate; he can only destroy.

“The problem with pornography is not sex,” Dr. Kleinig explained. “The problem with pornography is idolatry and original sin…The devil gets us to idolize an imaginary body (the brushed up kind of body that you get in photography, in films, and on television)…and parades that in front of us so that we make an idol of that. Then that distracts us from the real bodies of the opposite sex…It has to do with the imagination. We no longer desire the things that God wants to give us, but the things God has forbidden.” Once a thing is forbidden, we imagine how enjoyable it must be—when, in truth, God forbids those things that will harm us and our relationship with Him and with each other.

In fact, the problem of pornography is not the physical act of viewing it, but that viewing forbidden sexual activity encourages our pornographic imagination. “The problem is not out there on the internet,” Dr. Kleinig said. “The problem is here—” he pointed to his heart “—my imagination and my pornographic imagination.”

Imagination is the unique, God-given ability to picture things that aren’t in front of us. We can mentally form pictures, hear words, even smell, taste, and touch within our own minds. “A large part of normal sexual activity is imaginative engagement with [another] person,” he said. It’s not the activity, but the imagination as we picture things that stimulate ourselves for masturbation. “You can get rid of pornography, but you don’t get rid of the problem [which] has to do with the human heart, the human conscience, the human imagination.”

At this point, Dr. Kleinig directed a word of warning to those in church work, those in training, and their spouses. The devil absolutely targets those who directly serve the Church. “Each one of you is a threat to the cause of satan,” he said. The immediate agenda: ruin sex for you. The bigger goal: “He will use sex against you to undermine your marriage, and your ministry, and your relationship with your parishioners. He’d like to destroy your faith, but that’s very hard to do for a believer. But he’ll settle for lesser goals…And he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in recent times in the church. Statistics show that pastors, particularly, access pornography at the rate and sometimes a greater rate than people outside of the Church. And you need to see that’s the target.”

So how, then, do Christians address the root cause of pornographic temptation?

First: “You need to see it and understand your own temptation and your own vulnerability and learn from it. And you need to listen to and heed your conscience. Now you don’t need me to tell you that if you access pornography you are ashamed of it. Otherwise why would you do it in secret?”

We heed God’s Word, His law, and His judgment. But thanks be to God, that His judgment is not a condemnation but a diagnostic tool. “It shows me that I have a bad conscience, that I’m riddled with shame and that something’s wrong me, and something needs to be fixed up,” Dr. Kleinig explained. And the root problem is not sex, though satan would like to make you believe that it is. Society itself is deeply confused, careening between two extremes: from pornographic liberty to the moralistic backlash of Puritanism (which is where the idea that nudity is pornographic and that God disapproves of sex—rather than being credited as its inventor and giver—comes from). “Both are stupid,” Dr. Kleinig said bluntly.

Jesus ministers through Law and Gospel. Though satan—once the root problem is diagnosed—will come along and whisper that you must fix yourself, we know from experience that the harder we try to avoid a sin, the more we are attracted to and enslaved by it. Which is why the next step is Confession and Absolution. “You can fix up the behavior, you can put blocks on your behavior, bring your spouse into it, all that’s common sense, but you don’t fix up the problem. The problem can only be fixed up not by you but by God.

Dr. Kleinig strongly urged that everyone have a confessor. “Like an alcoholic, the basic starting point is that you can’t fix it up yourself. You admit you are helpless and you hand it over to God.” It is a process. No matter how often you fall, you confess again, you pray again, you seek help again—again, again, again, again, again. In Confession and Absolution, we bring the unfruitful works of darkness into the light, exposing that which has now become visible and transforming darkness into light (Ephesians 5:11-13).

Third: seek cleansing. “One of the things about pornography is that it makes you dirty. It defiles you, and because it defiles you, it desecrates your holiness as one of the people of God. You need cleansing. It’s the blood of Jesus that cleanses you from all sins.” There is no sexual sin that cannot be forgiven.

In addition to receiving Christ’s body and blood in communion, Dr. Kleinig also practices the holy living as laid out in Ephesians 5:3-4: “But sexual immorality and all impurity [Dr. Kleinig preferred the translation ‘fornication’ as it refers more specifically to sexual sin in all its guises] or covetousness [in this context, sexual greed] must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Begin with the tongue, he explained; “the place to start is not what we do, but what we say.” From this passage, we can draw two conclusions. First, that we should not speak of sex in filthy terms. Much of the banter out there is sexual, joked about in the crudest terms possible. If you knew nothing about sex, if you overheard this joking you’d assume it was a ghastly, unclean act.

“Instead,” (and second) “let there be thanksgiving.” Be thanks-givers. “One of the most powerful tools we have to combat [sexual immorality] is to give thanks to God for sex,” Dr. Kleinig said. “It’s a good gift from God. It’s to be received with thanksgiving.” In giving thanks to your partner and thanks to God for their sexuality, your eyes are opened to what you have versus what you do not have. In a thank you there is an acknowledgment that what you have received is good, as well as delight and admiration in the gift and in each other.

Proverbs 5:18-19, which specifically addresses men, is an excellent example:

Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.

“Rejoice” is to enjoy. Sexuality in the Old Testament often has a visual focus, and a common euphemism is to uncover nakedness. There is a distinct visual intimacy between husband and wife—and a difficult one at that. We fear other people seeing us and disapproving. Nakedness is deeply intimate. But there is an enjoyment and delight in revealing ourselves to our spouse.

The Song of Solomon also serves as a guide. This book of erotic poetry depicts the sexuality between a man and his wife, with descriptions that appeal to all five senses. “The whole thing consists of a conversation initiated by the woman, the wife, with her husband,” Dr. Kleinig explained. “And it’s all talk. It’s about the language of love.” It is not a book of sexual mechanics but is the conversation of marriage, in which a couple speaks their love to one another. Too often, the courtship of words ends shortly after marriage when the conversation has just begun in earnest. Even sex is a conversation—a way to communicate with your whole body.

Though erotic, the Song of Solomon is as much God’s Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, as any other book in the Bible. “Now why has God given us this book?” Dr. Kleinig asked. “[It’s] meant to purify and sanctify our imagination and our sexuality.” Meditate on it, he suggested. Learn to appreciate our spouses sexually. “Notice the movement of his eyes,” Dr. Kleinig said of the husband in chapter 7:1-5. He goes from his wife’s feet to her thighs, then to her navel, her belly, her breasts, eyes, nose, and then to her head, crowned by her hair. “He gives her an eye-over of appreciation. He looks at the whole of it.” The wife does the same to her husband in 5:10-16. “Her eyes go and it’s quite telling,” Dr. Kleinig pointed out. She starts off with his golden head of raven black hair, then to his eyes, cheeks, lips, arms, torso, legs, then back up again to his mouth—where both kissing and speech originate.

“These are God’s aids for us to practice sexual appreciation,” Dr. Kleinig concluded. “Fill our imagination with this and we won’t be tempted by [pornography].” Because the deep, dark secret of pornography is that it’s not explicit enough. It’s fake; neither exclusive nor intimate, let alone satisfying. It is a perversion of a gift given to us by the Lord of all creation in the days before sin, when a man first held fast to a woman.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8

Dr. Grime, seated to the left of Dr. Kleinig, helped shape the convocation as more of a discussion by asking questions throughout.

SMP & CE

We’re three weeks into the academic year at CTSFW with a number of events to show for it. We have visitors on campus for the second-to-last continuing education course of the season, our distance students from the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Program here for a week of intensive courses, and by this Saturday both groups will be gone, only to be replaced by the Fall Retreat attendees who will be on campus all day Saturday and half day Sunday.

The SMP students spend much of their first day together, but by Tuesday and for the rest of the week before returning to their respective homes to continue courses online, working with their mentors, they’ll spend most of their time in their own classes. Pictured is Dr. Benjamin Mayes with the first-year SMP students as they tackle the Lutheran Confessions: Intro and Overview. Each day begins with early breakfast then Morning Office in chapel at 7:35 a.m., followed by a two hour class until daily chapel at 10, an hour long class at 11, with a three and a half hour class to finish out the learning for the day. Each day concludes with Evening Office in chapel at 6. Wives also take a handful of classes (most of them about networking and support) when they accompany their husbands to campus, though their days are less rigorously scheduled as they have time to see the campus, the city, and to fellowship with one another.

This year’s continuing education course with Dr. John Kleinig (who makes the journey from Luther Seminary in Australia to Concordia Theology Seminary in Fort Wayne every year) is on “The Role of Choral Music in the Divine Service According to Chronicles and the New Testament.”  He has covered many facets of the discussion, from historical use of instruments in worship to the arrangement and rites of the Divine Service (as per the Old Testament in Exodus, Leviticus, and the Books of Chronicles). Dr. Kleinig teaches not only the description of these rites but their theological significance as well in the Lord’s coming to His people to bless them and to dwell among them.

For example, as opposed to the teachings of pagan worship (that choral music in worship is entertainment for the gods, to put them in a good mood) as well as Pentecostalism (that worship is primarily praise singing to help ascend—via the Holy Spirit—into the heavenly realm), the true role of choral music can be found in Psalms and Exodus: “My tongue will sing of your word” (Psalm 119:172) and “The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…’” (Exodus 34:5-7). We sing His name as a proclamation of who He is, and to proclaim the richness of the grace He has poured out on His people.

From his Logia article “Bach, Chronicles and Church Music,” Dr. Kleinig noted that the common refrain “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever” found throughout Chronicles does three things:

“First, they invoked God by using his holy name: Yahweh, translated as Lord in English. They, as it were, identified him and introduced him by name to the congregation, so that the people had access to him there through his holy name. Secondly, they praised the Lord. They did not address their praise to God but to the congregation. In their praise they sang about his goodness and proclaimed his loving kindness to the assembled congregation, even as they stood in God’s presence…Thirdly, as is shown by the psalm given in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36, the singers called on the congregation, all the nations, and the whole of creation to join them in acknowledging God’s gracious presence with his people and in praising him for his steadfast love for them and his whole creation…

“[The theology of praise in Chronicles] connects the glorious presence of God with the performance of praise at the temple. Like the sun behind a dark cloud, God’s presence with his people is hidden from their sight. In fact, God conceals himself in order to reveal himself to them, without dazzling, overwhelming, and annihilating them. His glory remains hidden from them until it is revealed by the performance of praise. Praise announces God’s invisible presence.”

The doxology performs the same function. “The naming of God in these doxologies serves a very important ritual and theological function,” he wrote in another essay, The Mystery of the Doxology. “It identifies him by name and accounts his presence. More importantly, it also acknowledges that access to his divine presence and glory is gained by the invocation of that name rather than by contact with an idol…by performing that doxology, we tell the world that in and through the risen Lord Jesus we have access to heaven here on earth; we acknowledge, laud and proclaim the gracious presence of the Triune God with us.”

The course will continue through tomorrow, the 25th. This is not, however, the last opportunity for theological learning here on campus this month. You can still register for the course on angels and the Book of Revelation that is coming up this weekend, September 28-29. Learn more and register at www.ctsfw.edu/fallretreat. For those of you too far out of reach, you will at least be able to watch the livestream of Choral Vespers on Sunday, September 29, at 4 p.m. Eastern Time, celebrating St. Michael and All Angels.

Convocation: Same-Sex Attraction

Convocations at CTSFW began this Wednesday with a presentation by Mrs. Karen Hart from Keys Ministry. These hour-long lectures take place after chapel on Wednesdays during the academic year, and typically cover a subject that will likely come up in the field for our future pastors and deaconesses. This week’s convocation dealt with sharing the redemption we have in Christ with those who struggle with same-sex attraction.

 

Science and Redemption

Keys Ministry has served those burdened with same-sex attraction since the 1980s, when it was founded by a retired LCMS pastor who recognized that many who struggle with these sins are desperate for a Word of hope and healing. Mrs. Hart came onboard when the ministry, which first worked exclusively with men, began receiving requests from women who also struggled with same-sex attraction. A licensed psychologist, Mrs. Hart worked in mental health for 23 years in both state-sponsored programs and her private practice. She became director in 2005. By then, they were also caring for those with minor-adult attraction and transgenderism.

Mrs. Hart has no interest in politics. “It’s more important to win souls for Christ than it is to defeat any group politically.” Science, however, plays a significant role in the issue. Research offers both background to the discussion and hope to those struggling with the burden of these attractions. According to research, 1.4% of women and 2.8% of men have performed homosexual acts in the last year; 10-16% of men have practiced it at some point in their lives. The implications are clear: though media portrays all gay people as militant social justice warriors, many are simply ordinary people who do not want these attractions—and if the statistics are to be believed, many lose them.

Unfortunately, too often the voice from church has been one of condemnation, criticism, and even vitriol. “They are left with the impression that they must first clean themselves up by getting rid of their attraction before they can go to God,” Mrs. Hart said. “They’ve never heard the Gospel.”

Genetics and Behavior

Members in the homosexual community often subscribe to the “born that way” theory, or the idea that there is a “gay gene.” When Drs. LeVay and Hamer did a study on brain structure and attraction in 1994, the media ran with their conclusions (that differences in brain structure lead to homosexual attraction in men), despite the fact that the results would never be replicated. Nor did it take into account that sexual experiences lead to physical alterations. “Behavior by itself can alter brain structure,” Mrs. Hart explained. “Sexual behavior can alter the neurons.”

Mrs. Hart referred to this as the developmental theory, that, while there may be a biological component, environment and behavior play a significant role in same-sex attraction. Science bears this out. “Whatever issue your mind is focused on, neurons will develop to hold those thoughts,” she said. “The Creator of the brain provided a way for the brain to make changes. We used to think the brain was pretty much fixed by 20 or 21. Now we know better.” For example, we know that people’s attractions change over time. The couple that marries at 20 doesn’t find 50-year-olds attractive. But catch up with them in 30 years, and they’ll be attracted to their 50-year-old spouse.

And adolescents live in something of a state of flux, uncertain and confused. At the age of 12, over a quarter of adolescents (25.9%) were unsure of their sexual orientation. By the age of 17, only 5% were still unsure. Of the 95% who were sure, 99% of those were certain they were heterosexual. At 12, these young men and women need facts, reassurance, and encouragement to avoid experimentation. With help and support, most adolescents uncertain of their sexual orientation will find that they are straight by 17. Yet the pro-gay movement advocates for precisely that: experimentation. “They know perfectly well: there is such a thing as sexual imprinting,” Mrs. Hart said. “It never goes away. I’m pretty suspicious of their motives.”

Environment

In a study on risk factors in attempted suicide among gay and bisexual adolescents, researchers compared suicidal and non-suicidal homosexual teens and found that those who had attempted suicide were more likely to have divorced parents, been sexually abused, were using drugs, had been arrested, practiced prostitution, or were regarded by their peers as feminine. And the earlier an adolescent was identified as gay, the more likely he would commit suicide; the earlier he began to be sexually active, the same likelihood appeared. This is not a surprise: most youth say they hate being gay.

Risk factors for pre-homosexual boys include: distant or absent fathers; that they have no same-sex friends (studies have found that same-sex peer bonding is even more significant for developing boys than even their relationship with their father); or come from single mother homes where the woman, because of wounds in her past, despise or fear masculinity.

For lesbians, many report a bad relationship with their mother or that they come from a family that devalued its women. Their fathers were sexually abusive, contemptuous of women, and openly showed pornography with no respect to their daughter’s modesty. These girls craved protection but did not receive it. Males are perceived as selfish, unsafe, and predatory.

Of course, there are times when nothing in an environment fits these situations. “I describe same-sex attraction as a room with many door leading into it,” Mrs. Hart said. The man or woman with same-sex attraction had excellent parents, happy childhoods, and healthy peer groups. And sometimes a child can perceive their father as unloving or unavailable when he’s neither: simply unsure how to connect with a son who may not be as traditionally masculine. “It become a self-fulfilling prophesy,” she said, where demanding a boy “toughen up” backfires. Her recommendation: “He needs to show an interest in what his son is interested in. If the father’s response is to just love the boy as he is, spend time with him doing what he would like to do, there’s a high chance he will turn out straight.”

And for those who come from a background of pain, the developmental theory still must be approached with compassion and gentleness. “Never say homosexuality is a choice,” Mrs. Hart said. “They’ll usually put up a wall when they hear that. They were born this way; no other theory makes sense.” Instead, she suggests, “Recognize that they are not born this way: they were born into a set of circumstances that set them up to have these feelings.”

When approached with sensitivity and in a spirit of love, developmental theories expose people to the idea that they may not be stuck on a road they may have never wanted to walk. “Developmental theories give people hope: if there’s a path in, there’s a path out.”

A Word of Hope

The Keys Program was developed at a time when resources for those who wanted out of the lifestyle were few. The retired LCMS pastor went to the best resource he had: the Bible. It has been the textbook of the program since its inception in the 80s.

In the spring of 2007, the ministry began receiving an increasing volume of letters from both same-sex attracted inmates and incarcerated pedophiles. Many have no experience with Christianity, so the introductory packet begins with an explanation of the Gospel with relevant Scripture references: “No sins are better or worse. All need forgiveness. Society may have to treat some sins more harshly, but at the foot of the cross we are on equal ground. God’s forgiveness cannot be earned.”

Some she will never hear from again; others want in the program. “95% of the people who are contacting me have a very legalistic attitude about how to approach God,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard ‘I need to overcome this problem because it’s not God’s will for my life,’ this attitude that they have to clean themselves up then approach God. No, I tell them. You approach God so that Jesus can clean you up.

“The Bible promises deliverance, but I make it clear that deliverance does not mean they will end up heterosexual,” she added. “The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality. The opposite is holiness. This [program] is a pursuit of holiness. I share the statistics: that a third will turn out heterosexual, a third will reduce same sex attraction and gain a lot of good insight and spiritual growth but the attraction doesn’t come online, and that a third will drop out.”

The Keys Program

The program is broken down into five units with seven key lessons. These forty sessions are each composed of a devotion, Scripture readings, study guides, and a plan of action. Solitude ends up being a vital part of the program as the ministry demands that participants examine themselves in light of their pasts and the Word of God. Unlike other programs, Keys Ministry does not rely heavily on support groups. “There’s certainly value in it,” Mrs. Hart said, “but the danger when you have a group is the level of wisdom may not rise higher than the collective wisdom of the group.”

[At which point Dr. Peter Scaer, sitting to my right, quietly said, “Ah. Like a faculty meeting.”]

The Units and Keys are broken down as follows:

Unit 1: Getting control of your life.
Key 1 Desire: What is your motivation for overcoming these sexual desires? Mrs. Hart has found this key flushes out the legalism, providing an opportunity to teach the difference between Law and Gospel. Many who struggle with these sins have a tendency to be self-pitying, envious, and resentful. Participants identify those thoughts and begin finding Scripture to counter them.

Key 2 Faith: What is your faith in? Your own ability? Your righteousness before Christ? This unit also addresses a common but rarely voiced concern: what kind of person am I going to become as I do this program? Will I like that person?

This lesson also introduces the emergency prayer in Matthew 14:30: “But when [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’” Peter had no time for self-examination, he needed immediate rescue—and it was Jesus in verse 31 who immediately takes hold of Peter, not the other way around. “If we are blindsided with an unexpected onslaught [of negative thoughts, emotions, mindset], you can always pray this,” Mrs. Hart said. “Even if you don’t want to be stopped.”

Key 3 Scripture: The program teaches these men to use memorized Scripture to build faith, countering negative thoughts with a memorized verse. It’s crucial that they derail these thoughts as soon as possible. Mrs. Hart finds that these men cling to the verses that speak of God’s mercy as a free gift. “I had one man who used to yell Levitical verses at himself,” she said. “Guess what: it didn’t work. Focus on the cross and the ransom paid on your behalf. Don’t focus on sins but on the Savior.”

“Jesus fought the devil with memorized verses, as should we,” she continued. “Temptations are based on lies of the devil. Pray to the Spirit to expose lies. Sin is addictive, but the brain can be rewired. When one specifically blocks temptations with memorized verses, thoughts can atrophy. The Holy Spirit grows even as the literal meat of the brain grows.”

Key 4 Forgiveness: “The key of all keys,” she explained. Many come from backgrounds of hurt, preyed on by their own families, peers, molesters, and former partners. Peeling back this pain is like peeling an onion. “Forgiveness is complicated: facing painful memories without flipping into the anger to restore the sense of power that was taken away.” Instead, surrender. “Pour out your pain, grieving your losses in the presence of Jesus who bore our sins on the cross. When we’re wronged, we feel robbed; we want compensation. That compensation came on the cross. We don’t deserve a split second of time on the cross, but he gave 6 hours. We don’t deserve a molecule of blood, and he spilled quarts.” Participants are taught to pray for those who wronged them. “It restores the sense of power of which the victim was robbed.”

Keys 5, 6, 7 Love, Surrender, Rebuilding: We were beginning to run out of convocation time, so Mrs. Hart had to sum up the last few units quickly. The unit on love is important for those who never knew there was a difference between love and sex. “Some of them learn for the first time that love means self-sacrifice.” One man in the program admitted, “I always thought love was a word you used to get what you wanted from people.” Surrender, too, is a difficult concept. Participants are facing a lot of fears and insecurities, wondering where they are going to end up, if they are really willing to let God do what he will with their lives, and allowing Him to take their sexuality where He wants it to go. And rebuilding is also a matter of practicality: the time and energy they once spent pursuing their sin must be used differently. At this point they can look back and see how far they’ve come.

The next four units (Personality/Identity, Memories, Relationships, and The Miscellaneous Unit/Where do you go from here?) use the same seven keys, with different devotions, Scripture, and study guide questions. The program ends up cyclical, the participants revisiting every issue in all five units.

Not everyone makes it through the full 40 lessons; but not always for sad reasons. “Some gain freedom after only 1 or 2 units,” Mrs. Hart explained. “The rate of change varies. Weeks of calm can be interrupted by episodes of negative onslaughts. The secular world doesn’t like it when we call this an addiction, but giving up these old habits can feel like withdrawal.”

Throughout, these participants confront the lies the devil told them during their most traumatic moments, which persist long after the abuse is over. They confront painful memories, forgive the abusers in their own past, and learn of the power of Christ’s forgiveness in their own lives. “When a lie is identified and the truth of the Word counters it,” Mrs. Hart said, “it’s a very powerful moment.”


Learn more at www.keysministry.com. Mrs. Hart also passed out several pages worth of resources to the group, including the studies on which her talk was based, websites for several organizations that help those struggling with same-sex (and other) desires, plus book resources. You can access a copy of those resources by clicking HERE.

100 Years of Deaconesses

Today, September 17, 2019, we celebrate 100 years and one month of deaconesses in the LCMS:

The roots of the office of deaconess go back to the first two verses of Romans 16, when Paul commends to the saints at Rome “our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae…for she has been a patron of many and of myself.”

Some 1,800 years after Paul wrote this letter to the Romans, Lutheran deaconesses in Germany were bringing aid to widows, orphans, and the sick and disadvantaged in response to the hardships that arose from the industrial revolution. These trained church workers particularly cared for women in distress, serving in girls’ schools, hospitals, homes for the mentally ill, and in training schools for teachers and deaconesses. Today, deaconesses function in much the same roles: as nurses, social workers, and parish assistants to pastors in a congregation.

However, when the LCMS came into being in Chicago in 1847, though the new Synod was well aware of the work of deaconesses from reports back in Germany, they were wary of doctrinal issues and cautious about beginning a training program on new soil. Some had accused (not always wrongly) deaconesses of being a copy of the Roman Catholic nuns, while others feared that training female diaconate would bring unbiblical ideas and practices into the Church.

For decades, the LCMS essentially left the issue alone. Each congregation cared for the needs of their own flocks, though as populations and need grew they began banding together into welfare societies and institutes that served wider geographic areas. In 1904, the Associated Lutheran Charities brought together every synodical agency involved in charity work and convened for their first convention. By 1908, a couple of pastors in the association noted that other Christian denominations used trained deaconesses to great advantage, and began the conversation of how to secure trained deaconesses for the Lutheran church. The suggested answer: “Why not begin the training of deaconesses for our work?”

Synod was not immediately enthusiastic. Though they recognized the gifts and talents of women in mercy work, officially recognizing a female diaconate and training deaconesses for service remained controversial because of the history of doctrinal issues associated with the role. In 1911, Rev. Herzberger, the first urban missionary installed in Missouri (and one of the pastors in the 1908 conversation), addressed Synod at Convention, hoping for their blessing on the creation of a Deaconess Home. He said (in part):

“We emphasize that this be a Lutheran Deaconess home. The representatives and supporters of this Lutheran Deaconess Home do not want it to be from the unbiblical Deaconess existence such as found in the days among the “schwaermer” schismatic and pseudo Lutherans who would have nothing more than a Protestant nunnery…

“What motivated the representatives of this conference to plan such a Deaconess Home is not because of business or to look for something new, but because of a crying need of the many places that desire such Deaconess ministry. Our Lutheran hospitals and boarding schools especially desire them. How greatly feminine care makes itself felt. Often it is difficult to obtain such a woman leader (head nurse) or Director in our Institutions.”

Synod didn’t reject the idea of the home, but neither did they give it their blessing. The committee that responded to the matter recommended that Synod not take the existence of the Deaconess matter into their own hands though a synodical committee should oversee and safeguard any such program from “getting out of hand.” The committee also requested “that Synod promise this establishment in the Lutheran—that is Biblical spirit—from the beginning and while in operation. Since Deaconesses, especially in our times, would find a blessed circle of activities in the hospital, in city missions as care givers for the sick and the poor in our congregations, in our mission to the heathen, being recognized as care givers they could bear witness to the Gospel in the course of their service of mercy.”

Four months later, Rev. Herzberger expounded on the scriptural and historical basis of a confessional Lutheran diaconate. Only notes from the presentation, written down by a pastor in attendance (the Rev. Herman Bernard Kohlmeier), remain. Seven alphabetized points summarized Rev. Herzberger’s main arguments, three of which were:

A. There is only one divinely instituted office, the holy ministry. All other offices are auxiliary offices, and may be established, changed, abrogated by the church as she deems best for her welfare.

B. The office of the female diaconate is such an office. It flourished in the early Christian church, lost its character, however, and disappeared under popery, and has been re-established in some parts of Christendom in our time.

E. It is not implied that deaconesses are a special spiritual order in the church, nor serving in the ministry. Scripture bars women from the office of the ministry but they can exercise the right and obligations of the priesthood of believers. Therefore deaconesses give instruction, admonition, comfort of Scriptures as the situation requires.

The presentation kept the discussion alive in Lutheran circles for the next eight years, while Rev. Herzberger (and others with the Associated Lutheran Charities) wrote letters to the presidents of districts and Synods affiliated with the Synodical Conference. These men began to express their support for a deaconess training school. In 1918/19, Rev. Herzberger wrote a tract on “Woman’s Work in the Church,” expanding on these points:

“So we learn direct from Scripture [earlier in the tract he referenced Romans 16:1 and 2 as well as the saintly widows in 1 Tim. 5:9 and 10] that it was customary for the congregations in times of the Apostles to employ women workers! They were servants of the particular congregation in which they labored and were under the jurisdiction of the local congregation and assistants of the pastor or bishop. It is of the highest importance to remember that fact that the female diaconate is an auxiliary office of the Holy Ministry…there is but ONE divinely created office in the Church viz. the office of the Holy Ministry. The pastor is exclusively THE teacher, THE shepherd and overseer of his congregation and will have to give an account to God for his stewardship. (Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:1-3; Hebrews 13:17). Because of that fact all other offices in the Church are but human ordinances. They can and ought to be created as exigency and the welfare of the local congregations demands. But they must all have their root in the divinely appointed Ministry and stand in vital relation to it…

“The Apostle Peter tells us emphatically, I Peter 3:7: “that Christian women are heirs together with the men of the grace of life” and hence, they belong to that “chosen generation and royal priesthood” of which he speaks in his second chapter, “who are to show forth the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light.” On account of their SPIRITUAL PRIESTHOOD women have the same call to labor in the Church of Christ that Christian men have. There is but one limitation—imposed by the Lord of the harvest Himself—they are not to preach the Gospel in public worship [I Cor. 14:34-35 and I Timothy 2:11-14)…

“Our sorrow grows greater when we think of the many opportunities we miss for winning souls for Christ because of our NEGLECT in training and supporting gifted and pious women in our midst for missionary and charitable work. The World War may be over, but the sad conditions it has created in all ranks of society are not over! If ever the Church of Christ was called upon to bend every effort for the saving and uplifting of redeemed souls that time is NOW!”

Diaconal service grows from the mercy so richly poured out on undeserving sinners. “Mercy is central to who God is, as evidenced in the Father’s compassionate giving of His Son, in Christ’s bearing of our sins, and His sacrificial work on the cross for us, and in the faith-creating and sustaining work of the Spirit,” Associate Director of the Deaconess Formation Programs at CTSFW, Deaconess Amy Rast, would write nearly a hundred years later. “Mercy is a way of life for God’s people, as they respond to His mercy in faith toward Him and in love toward one another. Therefore, mercy is central to the life of a deaconess as she attends to physical needs, shares God’s Word, teaches the faith, encourages believers in the Christian life, consoles the suffering, confronts the sinning, and tells the Good News of salvation. CTSFW Deaconesses teach, reach, and care—and that is a life of mercy.”

Years of writing letters, giving presentations, and persistently teaching the Biblical basis of the role of women in the Church and their work as members of the royal priesthood met with success. One hundred years and one month ago, on August 17, 1919, the Lutheran Deaconess Association was formed at a meeting held at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne. Diaconal training in the LCMS had begun.


Today’s history lessons was summarized with quotes ransacked (save for the quote from Deaconess Rast) from the first chapter of “In the Footsteps of Phoebe” by Cheryl D. Naumann (CPH, 2009).

2019 Field Education Assignments

Supervising pastors and first-year seminarians sign in before the Field Ed convocation.

Today after chapel, our first year class of pastoral and diaconal students received their field education assignments. Each student is assigned a congregation, where they will serve under a supervising pastor for two years during their education. Prof. John Pless, Director of Field Education and head of these assignments for 20 years, began his short lesson about the role of field education with Paul’s first letter to the young pastor under his wing, Timothy:

“Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:15-16).

“‘Practice these things,’” Prof. Pless repeated. “It’s really the purpose of field education to put into practice what you are learning in the classroom.” He spoke of his joy as a teacher as well as the joy of a congregation in seeing the progress of their fieldworkers as they begin this first step of many. “You are being entrusted with the Lord’s Word,” he continued. As fieldworkers, these students are already expected to look beyond the demands of the classroom to those they will serve for the next two years. “It’s about the salvation of the people He is placing in your care, who need to hear the Word of the cross…that they might be strengthened, built up, and know themselves to be sheep of the Good Shepherd.”

Prof. Pless begins the convocation.

The students stood as each of their names were called and their assignments given, to exchange waves and/or nods with their supervising pastor. A meet-and-greet lunch in the Dining Hall always follows field education assignments, giving these men and women a chance to meet and begin getting to know one another.

The Seminary Guild was also on hand to gift a copy of the “Pastoral Care Companion” to each residential pastoral and diaconal student who received a fieldwork assignment today. Though the book has “Pastoral” in the title, the content is useful and appropriate for both male and female churchworkers as it is designed to guide those caring for individual in times of both celebration and distress with suggested readings, hymns, liturgy, and prayers.

Women of the Seminary Guild hand out copies of the Pastoral Care Companion as the students were leaving with their supervising pastors.

Donors from across the country have made this project possible for the third year in a row. Mrs. Ilona Kuchta must, in particular, be pointed out this year, as her generous donation paid for all of this year’s Care Companions. You can learn more about the Legacy Project at www.ctsfw.edu/SemGuild. Mrs. Deborah Steiner of the Seminary Guild spoke to the students, introducing the women who made this particular gift happen, and then finished on the words of the apostle to the saints at Colossi:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).

Thanks be to God for all those who care for these students as they train, including the many local and area churches who volunteered for a fieldworker but were not needed this year. Your interest in serving in the training process and your love for our future pastors and deaconesses is a source for much joy. As always, we also look to you, our brothers and sisters, to pray with us as we ask the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers, so that next year we need all 62 volunteering congregations and eventually every church seeking a candidate receives one. The harvest is plentiful and the sower continues to sow.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Isaiah 55:10-11


To learn more about the pastoral or diaconal programs at CTSFW, visit www.ctsfw.edu/Admission. If you would like to recommend anyone as a pastor or deaconess, you can also contact our admission counselors at [email protected] or by calling (800) 481-2155.

The Seminary Guild’s 80th Donation Day

In a booklet for the 35th year of the Concordia Seminary Guild, 1974-1975, there is a note that reads:

“Concordia Seminary Guild was organized in February 1939 for the purpose of promoting the annual Donation Day and to further any other projects to materially aid the Seminary that the Synod could not provide.”

Meetings are held the first Wednesday of each month from October to May, excluding January, in Selcke Lounge.

The meetings are now held the second Tuesday of each month from September to April (still excluding January), but in Luther Hall at the Fort Wayne campus where the ladies begin with a devotion and a keynote presentation from a staff or faculty member before getting down to business. This month’s business is the same one for which they were formed: Donation Day.

Phyllis Thieme, president of the guild, addresses the 2018 Donation Day visitors.

This year’s Donation Day is coming up on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, the 80th year of the Seminary Guild’s existence. Donation Day precedes the formation of the Seminary Guild by many years, but is directly responsible for it. As food and board costs rose for seminarians in the 1930s, the 1938 Donations Day Committee chairman, Mrs. Baepler, floated the idea of forming a new society to meet these needs. They held the first meeting of the Seminary Guild less than four months later, on February 1, 1939. Seventy-five women attended.

In the Guild’s 10th anniversary year, the Donations Day Committee reported record-breaking donations: 5,000 quarts of home-canned goods; 221 dozen eggs; 97 chickens; 57 pounds of lard; 50 pumpkins and squash; 106 bushels of potatoes; and cash donations totaling $1,500.

By the Guild’s 25th year of existence, the stereotypical seminarian had changed from young, single men (not allowed to date nor become engaged until after graduation) to second-career students, many married with children. Plans for a Student Adoption Program began. The Seminary Guild opened the first food and clothing banks for the students.

Their efforts thrived: last year, the CTSFW Food & Clothing Co-op fed 435 students and their family members, boasting even greater numbers of donations given over the 2018-2019 academic year through their generous supporters: 36,296 pounds of fresh produce; 626 pounds of hamburger (plus two and a half butchered cows, yielding an additional 2,159 pounds); 12,398 pounds of pork; 4,000 pounds of Brakebush Brothers Chicken; 6,000 pounds of food from the local food pantry; 500 dozen local farm eggs; 2,741 gallons and 878 pints of milk; and $12,225.06 spent at local grocery stores.

Through the support of local and national donors, many of them backed, encouraged, and promoted by our LWML sisters, the Seminary Guild and the entire wider community of the Church continues to feed, clothe, and care for her students.

All are welcome to join us in this endeavor. To learn more about the items that are in particular need at this time, to view the schedule for Donation Day on October 8, or to register for the annual gathering, CLICK HERE. You can also register by emailing [email protected] and paying the $15 fee (which includes lunch) when you come to campus for the day. RSVPs are due in two weeks, on September 27.

If distance prevents your presence, join us in prayer, in support, or as an associate member of the Guild. You can learn more about their work at www.ctsfw.edu/SemGuild.

Deaconess Katherine Rittner, Director of the Food & Clothing Co-op.

The historical information referenced in this article was discovered in the archives of the Seminary Guild, from the article “Through the Years…Guild helps students through thick and thin,” by Dorothy Klug. You can read the original article by clicking on the title. Written in 1992 and republished for use in a fundraising project in 1995, a year before the Seminary’s 150th anniversary, today’s article is written a year before the Seminary’s 175th anniversary. “We strive,” wrote Seminary Guild member Bonnie Hazen in September 1995, “to assist the seminary with the training of men for the holy ministry.”

May we strive to do the same. Thanks be to God.

The Seminary Guild and Disruptions in the LCMS

Rev. Fundum leads devotion.

The 2019/2020 academic year marks the 174th year of our existence, but it owns another significant milestone: it is the 80th anniversary year of the Seminary Guild. Yesterday was the first monthly meeting of the academic year for the women who work so tirelessly to support our students. Formed in 1939 in response to rising food and board costs, their support has been ongoing for 80 years.

Rev. Jim Fundum, admission counselor at CTSFW and spiritual advisor to the Guild, opened the meeting with a devotion, using Scripture passages that reference 80 years. Moses came up (he was 80 when God called to him from the burning bush) as did Barzillai from 2 Samuel 19 (verse 32, “Barzillai was a very aged man, eighty years old,” began the reading, but Rev. Fundum had to stop at this point in the verse as the Seminary Guild women in their 80s had a good laugh over the description). He finished with Psalm 90:10: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.”

But Psalm 90 does not end there. Verse 12: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” and at the last, in verse 17: “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!”

“That’s why you’re here, serving the Guild,” Rev. Fundum said. “He establishes the work of the Seminary Guild’s hands.”

President of the Guild, Phyllis Thieme, sits in the foreground of this shot as they study God’s Word.

Dr. Lawrence Rast Jr., President of CTSFW, served as yesterday’s keynote speaker. A historian first and foremost, Dr. Rast spoke of the Guild in the context of church history, particularly that of the Lutherans in America, focusing around the three major “disruptions” that rocked the Synod’s history. These are times when all seems to be in flux. “We as a church body, as a seminary, as congregations, find ourselves in situations that are unique,” Dr. Rast explained. “We experience things we have never experienced before, that threaten to derail our work.”

These disruptions are a reality of the fact that we are a member of the church militant. “’Their span is but toil and trouble,’” Dr. Rast quoted, calling back to Psalm 90.

Yet through those disruptions, through the toil and trouble, next academic year CTSFW will celebrate 175 years of existence, grown from a class of 11 students in October of 1846. The following year, our entire church body will celebrate another 175th anniversary: that of the LCMS. “That really is something,” Dr. Rast said. “One hundred and seventy-five years. God continues to bless us.”

Lutheranism in North America officially set foot on the continent 400 years ago this month. A few days into September of 1619, Lutheran Danes attempting to find a route to China got stuck in Hudson Bay. Realizing that winter would soon set in, on September 7 they decided to make camp at what is now Churchill, Manitoba; an area famous (though unknown to the 66 sailors onboard their ship at the time) for polar bears. Their Lutheran pastor, Rasmus Jensen, held the first Lutheran services on the continent. Of the 66, three men survived the winter (Rev. Jensen not among them), most dead of scurvy or lead poisoning. The survivors returned to Denmark.

Nearly 250 years later, the LCMS formed on April 26, 1847, in Chicago. At the time, there were dozens of Lutheran synods. So why begin another?

When the LCMS started in 1847 as Die Deutsche Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern Staaten, the “Deutsche” (“German”) was inclusive, not exclusive. Germany didn’t exist and wouldn’t until 1871. German speakers hailed from across Europe, from many smaller states and regions that fall under entirely different countries now. The first-generation of Dr. Rast’s family in America spoke German and are listed in the US census as either Prussians or Russians. Though that particular geographic area is now in the middle of Poland, the family remains emphatic: “NEVER Poland,” Dr. Rast insisted, laughing.

In 1847, including all German speakers was an important part of the church’s outreach strategy. Into the early part of the 20th century, Lutherans were the most ethnically diverse denomination in America. It wasn’t just the Saxon church or the Prussian church; it was the church for all German speakers. The language was central to the Lutheran church’s identity.

However, by 1917, that became a liability: WWI had begun. The “German” in “German Lutheran” was suddenly dangerous. For example, Dr. Rast’s vicarage church, Immanuel Lutheran in Terre Haute, Indiana, originally had a school. But in 1918, the school was forcibly closed when the town grabbed the school’s only teacher and threatened to tar and feather him for, as they claimed, “Teaching the children to be German spies.” He escaped tarring and feathering, but was driven from town. Immanuel Lutheran hasn’t had a school since. In Nebraska, new state laws demanded that the German Lutherans stop teaching in German. The Lutheran church fought the law on legal grounds, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court. They won. “And then stopped using German a couple of years later,” Dr. Rast finished with a laugh.

Dr. Rast asked the women of the Seminary Guild to imagine how the transition, pressed on them by outside forces out of their control, must have felt to the founders and first generation. Their children were bilingual, many of whom favored English over their parent’s native tongue, but for that first generation of immigrants, German was their heart language.

By 1938, the LCMS had officially stopped using German as the Synod’s official language. “It was almost a non-event,” Dr. Rast said. In 1917, Die Deutsche Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern Staaten dropped “Deutsche” from their name and thought that would be enough. It was not. In 1921, they officially adopted the English translation: “The Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States.” Seventeen years later, at the 1938 Synod Convention in St. Louis, a delegate got up and suggested they no longer keep minutes in German.

Another delegate seconded, and that was it. “In 20 years,” Dr. Rast pointed out, “they went from a German Church to an American Church.”

The Seminary Guild came into existence in 1939, less than a year after Synod officially dropped German from their minutes and during CTSFW’s Springfield days. The Fort Wayne Seminary had already moved twice at that point, first to St. Louis in 1861 to study alongside their sister seminary (reputedly to keep their students from being drafted into the union army, “But I suspect that was just a smokescreen,” Dr. Rast added as an aside. “The frugal Germans wanted to save money. Two seminaries, one faculty.”), then to Springfield in 1875. Between the two seminaries they had run out of room and Concordia Theological Seminary decided to move to Milwaukee.

It was a practical choice: the area was filled with Lutherans and Lutheran churches, which offered plenty of fieldwork opportunities for their students. However, at almost the last moment they received an unbelievable deal in Springfield instead. The city had only one Lutheran church, but the campus and grounds were basically given to Synod. The frugal Germans were pleased. They taught seminarians in Springfield for 100 years, until Concordia Theological Seminary moved back to Fort Wayne in 1976.

Dr. Rast points out the Seminary Guild sign, recently discovered in the archives of the Seminary–meaning, he explained with a laugh, that it had likely been found and dug out of a closet.

The year that the Seminary Guild formed in 1939, the Wizard of Oz had premiered in Hollywood (asbestos served as the snow in the poppy field scene), the Girls Scouts sold Thin Mints for the first time (then known as Cooky Mints), and on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland; Britain and France would declare war a couple of days later. The longest-serving president of the Synod had recently begun his first term in 1935 (he would remain in office until 1962), just as WWII would bring a second wave of anti-German sentiment to America.

Known as one-eyed Jack (an accident with a baseball had robbed him of an eye when he was a child), the Rev. Dr. John Behnken was the first truly bilingual president. He was American-born and preferred English. Dr. Rast’s connection with Dr. Behnken is even more personal: One-eyed Jack (then serving as a District President) introduced his grandfather to his grandmother. Dr. Behnken asked two sisters to sing a duet at the young Rev. Rast’s ordination service, then gave this sage advice to the new graduate: “Choose one.”

He chose Edith. Then, twenty years later, the former district president found a place for one of their sons at Concordia River Forest. The young music teacher met a Chicago undergraduate. “My mother,” Dr. Rast explained. “I owe Dr. Behnken my life, not just once but twice.”

With these stories always come the “What if?” What if he’d missed the train? What if he’d worked somewhere else? What if Dr. Behnken hadn’t asked two sisters to sing a duet? “You all have stories like these,” Dr. Rast said to the women of the Seminary Guild. “Stories end up fitting together, working together. The Lord has put all these pieces together.” He has done so in the small, personal matters; He has done so through the disruptions that have shaken the LCMS throughout her history; He has done so on the cross, where justice and mercy at last met one dark Friday afternoon.

Dr. Rast’s concluding point: 80 years is something to celebrate, as is the ongoing impact of the Seminary Guild to the Seminary’s mission. “It’s huge!” he declared. The Seminary Guild serves in “small” ways. They provide snacks for the students during finals week, birthday cookies for the single students, homemade t-shirts and booties for the newborns, furniture projects in student services, a book project for the new students during fieldwork assignments, and the annual donation day to support the work of the Food & Clothing Co-op. “We can’t qualify [these tasks] from this side of heaven,” Dr. Rast said. Only when we step back—and perhaps only when we finally step back into eternity—will we see how the puzzle pieces all fit together, according to God’s good will and purpose and promises.

Members of the Guild register for the first meeting of the year. Deaconess Amy Rast (in black), Dr. Rast’s wife, greets the ladies.

From 1932-1962, the LCMS doubled in size from one to two million. This is not the trend we see today; we too are living through significant disruption as the world howls in hostility at the inerrant Word of God. “We remember the really good days, always,” Dr. Rast said. But the reality is that the golden years were probably not as golden as we imagine. “Don’t pine for a past that probably never was.”

Instead, we are simply called to be faithful. And so we pray Psalm 90, the only psalm attributed to Moses, a man of God whose life began, in many ways, at 80:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.

You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.

For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!

Back-to-School Appeal

Our Advancement Office wishes you greeting on this, the second day of the 174th academic year at CTSFW, and wanted to pass on an opportunity to serve our future pastors and deaconesses through your financial gifts. For those of you who receive our mailings, this year’s back-to-school appeal was printed on diamond-shaped cards, in honor of the Concordia bricks that make up much of the architecture of campus. You can read a bit about the symbolic significance of the bricks by clicking the picture below.

As King David neared the end of his life, responsibility for the brick-and-mortar work of building God’s house passed to his son, Solomon. We read in 1 Chronicles 29 that God’s people responded generously to support this work with their offerings. Together they built God’s house!

Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly.
1 Chronicles 29:29

Today, the work of servant formation at CTSFW continues for the next generation. This work is firmly rooted in our mission statement: Concordia Theological Seminary exists to form servants in Jesus Christ who teach the faithful, reach the lost, and care for all.

As we open our 174th academic year, we ask for your prayers and for your gifts in support of the brick-and-mortar work of building current students to become future servants.

Your gifts are needed in two area. Please consider a gift to:

  1. The Fund for CTSFW: Your gifts help our students by providing resources for the day-to-day operations of the Seminary as well as meeting the 100% Tuition Grant. This is the area of greatest need.
  1. Tuition Aid: Your gifts specifically provide for the 100% Tuition Grant, now in its second year, for our residential seminarians and deaconess students.

To make a donation, go to www.ctsfw.edu/make-a-gift. The form is automatically set to designate any gifts to the “Fund for CTSFW,” though you can choose “General Student Aid” (for the tuition grant) in the drop-down menu next to “Designation.”

As future servants start a new year of formation at CTSFW, please join us in assisting them as they begin or resume their studies and preparation. We welcome your prayers and financial support. Together we will provide workers to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and care for God’s people for future generations!

Sermon Transcription: Opening Service for the 174th Academic Year

Preached by the Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr., President of CTSFW.


What is there not to like about a text like this? Luke 18:18-30. It is the perfect text for an opening service.  I know this because I preached on it at the Opening Service in 2016. That means you can go back into the archives and see if this is the same sermon.

It’s a great text. It’s straight forward. And in a sense it’s rather easy, isn’t it? You have something of a David and Nathan situation (2 Samuel 12), where Jesus takes the place of the prophet and the rich ruler becomes “that man.” Jesus sets the man up to be confronted by his own self claims. And yet the resolution is quite different in the two stories.

David’s anger is kindled against “the man” that Nathan is about to show him is himself. He is confronted, and he is crushed. And Psalm 51 shows his repentance. The rich ruler, on the other hand, fades out of the story without resolution. He is sad. But, nevertheless, it is clear that he is the bad guy and we do have a righteous and prophetic interpreter who unmasks his hypocrisy. Couldn’t be clearer!

But as I worked with the text, I began to wonder: where is the good guy in all of this? It seems to me that this story lacks an overt hero. Yes, obviously Jesus is good. Only God is good, as we hear. But where is the hero? Shouldn’t there be someone who jumps in and says “I have done all these things!” And yet we don’t find him. We don’t have a Lutheran in the crowd who would explain all the points of doctrine to all the hearers. “This is what this means.”

Well, in a sense I suppose, “This is impossible,” is the correct response. But the simple fact is that the story lacks a clean, human outcome. It isn’t tied up neatly. In fact, I think if St. Luke had submitted this to our faculty, they might’ve returned it and said, “Needs more work.”

Honestly, that’s unfair, and misses the point. For this narrative of the interaction of Jesus and the rich ruler, and the response of the crowd, and then the response of Peter, this narrative gives us a great summary of the human condition—all facets—in about 250 words. The rich ruler starts the whole thing out right, at least in a sense, by asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Not “earn” but rather “receive as a gift.” That’s a well-formed question, I would say. He doesn’t say, “It’s all about met.” Yet.

In fact, it is Jesus who turns the conversation to doing. “You know the commandments,” he says. “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother.” Do, do, do, do. It sounds like the baby shark song. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just check on YouTube, join the other three million viewers who’ve watched that video.)

Now that I’ve distracted you, let’s get back to the heart of the matter. Jesus recognizes that the rich young ruler knows the commandment and therefore he should do them. It’s the moment of truth. And the rich young ruler fails. “All these I have kept from my youth.” There’s your hero! Right?

The thing is, I believe he truly means it. He believes it. “All these things I have kept from my youth.” So Jesus calls his bluff. Let me telling you what doing actually looks like. “One thing you still lack” (seems to me it’s more than one) “sell all that you have, distribute to the poor—you’ll have treasure in heaven—and come follow me.”

Sell. Distribute. Follow. Simple enough, right? And simple enough for the rich ruler to fold his hand; Jesus has trumped. At which point, to return to our earlier point, it seems to me that there should be someone who jumps in and says, “I have done that.” Rightly! But instead, the crowd has gotten Jesus’ point quite well. I suspect that initially all of them would have said, “I have done this.” But by this point in the narrative, they see where Jesus is going. When Jesus says, “Sell, distribute, follow,” they realize they cannot do it. And their cry is a new one: “Who then can be saved?”

And Jesus answers, “What is impossible with man, is possible with God.” And it is more than possible. It is finished.

What is impossible with man is possible with God, for Jesus not only knows the commandments, He has done them; for us. For Jesus, true man and true God—or (to put it a little differently) the true rich ruler—became poor and emptied himself, that we in turn might become rich. He gave it all away, everything that was his by rights. To you and to me. Distributed it to us, by His grace. That which He had earned by His perfect life and His suffering and death on the cross. The fruits of His resurrection, His life, suffering, death, are yours. Perfect. End the story here, and you have the hero.

But then there’s Peter. As, after Jesus has re-centered His hearers on His person and His work for them, Peter tramples all over the narrative by shouting, “See! We have left our homes and followed you.”

And then there’s us. We are the Peters of this text. If you haven’t said this already, you will. We all do. It is a way of making a claim upon God on our part. “God, I have done all this for you. I have left everything. I have sold all. I have gone to the Seminary. I am the hero.” And so we might expect Jesus to crush Peter and to crush us, just as he did the rich ruler. But then comes the wonderful twist of this narrative, where Jesus says to Peter (and to you and me and all those gathered), “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come, eternal life.”

You have left your homes to follow Jesus. But this act in and of itself won’t save you. There is only one who saves; our Lord Christ. Your actions in the classroom over the next 10 weeks will not save you. Nor will the ones in the years to follow. Grades do not save. Grace alone saves.

But, as those who have left home and family and familiar settings to follow Christ, His promise of blessing for you is sure and certain. The inheritance is yours, earned by Christ for you. The call to service in His service begins anew today, our 174th academic year. And the promise of blessing for each and every one of us at this Seminary is firm. You will receive many times more, in this time, and in the age to come, eternal life.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Congregation: Amen.


And finally, Dr. Rast’s words of greeting at the end of the service, which mentions the two installations that followed the sermon, for Rev. Adam Koontz (Assistant Professor of Exegetical Theology) and Deaconess Katherine Rittner (Director of the Food & Clothing Co-op):

Left to right: Dr. Rast, Deaconess Rittner, Prof. Koontz

It is a delight to welcome you here on this day we open our 174th academic year, and anticipate the manner in which our Lord will continue to bless and preserve His Church. We are particularly thankful for the gifts that he bestows on us in such a concrete way: the gift of Professor Koontz, Deaconess Rittner, and our incoming class. It is good to welcome all of you to this place, and to look forward to the way God will continue to shape you and through you shape all of us as we carry out our mission of forming servants in Jesus Christ who teach the faithful, reach the lost, and care for all.

First-year seminarians line up outside Kramer Chapel for the processional for Opening Service.
This year’s class of first-year, residential deaconess students.