Convocation: Death & Resurrection Motifs

Dr. Pulse led Convocation Hour today after chapel, lecturing on his dissertation topic “Death and Resurrection Motifs in the Old Testament.” Associate professor of Exegetical Theology, Dr. Pulse successfully completed his PhD program at the University of Durham in England only a few months ago.

His lecture began with how we must read the Bible as a unified, theological narrative; that Scripture is one story, with Jesus Christ at the center. Thus the motifs (a fancy word for themes) that begin in Genesis weave through both Old and New Testaments and are brought to complete fruition in Revelation. When you understand the story that is being told, you can read backwards again into the Old Testament and see where Christ is, even when He is not explicitly named. One example of this is God covering Adam and Even with animal skins after their fall into sin, beginning the major motif of sacrificial atonement.

Dr. Pulse’s doctoral studies particularly focused on Joseph in Genesis, and the Christological themes of death and resurrection throughout (there are fourteen in all, such as three day/stage separation and restoration, barren womb and opening of the womb, being cast into the pit/Sheol and being raised/lifted up, famine and deliverance, stripped and clothed, etc.). Ultimately, the lesson to be drawn from Joseph is not “forgive your brothers and you’ll be blessed,” but a lesson about Christ and His mercy.

“There is a danger in appropriating Scripture for yourself,” Dr. Pulse said. Though he acknowledges that this can be a good thing when done correctly, he went on to explain: “We put ourselves in the wrong place in the story.”

When you put yourself in the place of Joseph, you take the Messianic role and cut Jesus out. As another example, this is imagining yourself as David in the story of David and Goliath, and turning it into a moral and ethical lesson about how trusting God no matter what will bless us. Rather, we are the people of Israel, wetting ourselves every time Goliath comes out and taunts us. When you understand that Christ is at the center of every story, then it’s clear that this is instead another lesson about the One who has become sin for us; the One who delivers us.

Presentation: PALS

Earlier today, Dr. James Baneck, executive director of LCMS Pastoral Education, met with many of our fourth year seminarians and a handful of their wives to discuss the PALS program in light of the fact that in only a few short months they will begin a life in the ministry; or, in the words of his presentation: “What to Expect When You’re Expecting…Your First Call.”

PALS (Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support) is designed, in many ways, as a continuing education program for new pastors, but it is also a way for these men to worship together, study, and commiserate with one another as they face the joys and challenges of their calls. Experienced pastors act as mentors in the program.

“Seminary can’t cover every situation you are going to face. You think, ‘Yeah, I know how it is.’ No. You don’t,” said Rev. John Genszler (pictured here), a current PALS participant in Ohio, speaking of his own experiences in the field. “You take the education you’ve received and apply it in ways you never knew you needed to.”

With Candidate Call Service only three weeks away, we pray for God’s richest blessings for these men, their families, the pastors that will mentor them in their calling, and the congregations who will take care of their new pastors even as their new pastor serves them.

Collegial Conversation: Wisdom

Once a quarter, President Rast holds a “Collegial Conversation” for all MDiv and Deaconess students in Sihler Auditorium. These conversations tend to contain practical advice, based in Scripture, for those anticipating a future in service to the Church and her members. Afterwards, students get together with their faculty mentors to discuss the day’s topic over lunch.

With Call Day exactly five weeks from today, this morning’s talk focused on pastoral and diakonal wisdom when serving and engaging with God’s people. “Learning to be a leader of a community joined together in confession but not always in action can be a tremendous challenge,” President Rast acknowledged. He turned to Titus chapter 1, where Paul explains that pastors “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it…[the defiled and unbelieving] profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (verses 9 and 16).
‍‍‍‍‍‍ ‍‍
“But when do you become convinced they have crossed that line: ‘detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work’?” President Rast asked. “When you recognize that YOU are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work. You and I are unfit too. You will learn – I hope – to say at the end of the day: we are unworthy servants.”
‍‍‍‍‍‍ ‍‍
Always a historian, near the end of his talk Dr. Rast included these words from C.F.W. Walther’s first speech as president of the Synod (1848):
‍‍‍‍‍‍ ‍‍
“But where the pastor is given only the power of the Word, but its full power, where the congregation, as often as it hears Christ’s Word from the mouth of the preacher, receives it as the Word of God, there the proper relationship between pastor and congregation exists; he stands in their midst not as a hired mercenary but as an ambassador of the Most High God; not as a servant of men but as a servant of Christ, who in Christ’s stead teaches, admonishes, and reproves…
‍‍‍‍‍‍ ‍‍
“The more a congregation sees that he who has the rule over them in the Lord desires nothing but that the congregation be subject to Christ and His Word; the more it sees that he does not desire to dominate them, yes, indeed, that he himself with a jealous eye guards the liberty of the congregation, the more willing the congregation will become to hear his salutary recommendations also in matters which God has not prescribed; it will follow him in these matters not as a taskmaster because it must, but as their father in Christ, because they wish to do it for their own advantage.”

Historical Presentation: Dr. Rast

President Rast spoke at “Take Heart, Take Action,” a theological conference hosted by the Michigan District. His session was on “Missouri in Mission,” which included a lot of historical stories about the Missouri Synod during the 1800s. In Dr. Rast’s words:

“There was an intentionality about the Missouri Synod and being doctrinally faithful and missional. Not one or the other. Doctrinally faithful and missional together. Because what good does it do you if you have all the pure doctrine in the world and you never tell anybody? Pure doctrine is what? Christ Jesus and proclamation of Him. And if you don’t know that doctrine, what are you going to tell people? You’ve gotta know something to tell people about Jesus.”

You can watch the video by CLICKING HERE. It starts at 2 hours, 30 minutes, and 7 seconds. Please note that the audio and the video are incorrectly synced for most of his lecture (which lasts for about an hour in all), but it’s worth keeping at least half an eye on the video for his use of visuals.

Symposia 2018

Dr. Rast opened Symposia 2018 with a word of greeting. Professor Ryan Tietz then led off with a presentation on “Finding Communion in Lament.” As you may imagine, we are spending a lot of time in Isaiah.

The CTSFW Military Project display is up in the commons as well. Deaconess Carolyn Brinkley is using Symposia as another opportunity for our deployed chaplains to receive notes from their brothers who are attending the conference.

Dr. Just presented on Unity in the Body of Christ. “Baptism creates a new creation family. It splices everyone into it. Paul is not speaking socially about our equality in the social world, but ecclesiastically and eschatologically about our unity in Christ in His body, which is also the Church.”

Dr. Abernathy took questions at the end of his presentation on “The Communion of Saints within the Community of the King in Isaiah.”

Dr. Abernathy is a guest from Wheaton College; the theological differences set off some good discussion. He also signed copies of his book, “The Book of Isaiah and God’s Kingdom: A Thematic-Theological Approach,” over the lunch hour. That’s one of our first years shaking his hand, plus a CTSFW grad from North Dakota waiting his turn.

Dr. Nordling spoke on “Communion at Philippi.” Because the Philippians were the only congregation that financially supported Paul for a missionary trip that ended in his imprisonment, “There are those scholars who suppose the Philippians have backed a bad horse, now that Paul is languishing in jail rather than sharing the Gospel,” Dr. Nordling said. “The major reason for writing the letter was not only to acknowledge grateful receipt of their support, but to assure them the Gospel is advancing beyond his and the Philippians wildest expectations” (See Philippians 1:12-14).

Dr. Walter A. Maier III spoke on the last topic of the  first day: “The Communion of Saints in 1 and 2 Kings: Timeless Truths.” Here are the first two truths (and present-day parallels) presented in Kings:

  1.  The Communion of Saints will be attacked: “No one minds when we speak of God in generic terms, but when we insist on the finality of Jesus Christ, battle lines are drawn.
  2. The Communion of Saints will be preserved: “The devil and the unbelieving world will not exterminate it. This gives us great comfort as we carry on our work. God carries on our endeavors with Word and Sacrament to maintain the body of believers from now until Judgment Day.”

Symposia began the next morning at 7:45 a.m. with sectional paper presentations; Dr. Bushur’s lecture on “The Early Christian Appropriation of Old Testament Scripture” counts as the first large session of the day. As per usual, you can see our Lutheran preference for backrow seating (or standing, in this case).

Dr. Bushur spoke of the sudden and powerful change in worship space for early Christians (many of them Jews). “In Christian assemblies, the body and blood of Jesus occupied the altar. Old Testament rolls had to find a new place in the sanctuary.” The Word became flesh; Jesus was the one promised in the Scriptures and their worship space changed, not simply for practical reasons as books replaced scrolls, but in reflection of this fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture.

Book signings over the lunch hour outside of the CTSFW bookstore. The lunch hour marks the break between the 33rd Annual Symposium on Exegetical Theology and the 41st Annual Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions. Left to right: Dr. Scaer, Dr. Gieschen and Dr. MacKenzie.

Dr. Gilbert C. Meilaender led off the 41st Annual Symposia on The Lutheran Confessions (Reflections on the Moral Life) with a talk on palliative sedation and whether it is appropriate to induce unconsciousness in order to relieve pain through the end of a patient’s life. Dr. Peter Scaer later closed out the day’s presentations with a question: is non-involvement in public ethical issues a confessional option?

His answer was no: “We neglect our duty if we do not bring Godly wisdom into the public square…’For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil’ (1 Peter 3:17).”

Dr. Grobien’s presentation the next day on “Christian Opposition to the New Sexuality: Optional or Not?” shared parallel themes with Dr. Peter Scaer’s topic from the night before. Where Dr. Scaer focused on the Christian voice in the public square, Dr. Grobien added that the Christian life and family that reflects our values and beliefs (such as marriage as an echo of Christ’s relationship with the Church, which also informs our understanding of the role of men and women) serve as a practical example and rational for that voice. “Words,” he said, “must point to a comprehensible reality.”

(Picture taken during yesterday’s book signing. Dr. Grobien’s book is “Ethics of Sex: From Taboo to Delight,” which can be purchased through the CTSFW bookstore at

Dr. Mayes also posed with his book, “On Interpreting Sacred Scripture and Method of Theological Study,” during yesterday’s book signing. He wrapped up the answer-and-question session following his lecture on “Vocation, Situation Ethics and the Disaster of Modern Sexuality.” A few highlights:

  • “We should not over specify vocation at the cost of Christian freedom…God’s main call is to belong to Him, and be united with Him.”
  • Allowing situation to determine moral law has led to the disaster of modern sexuality. “Circumstances do not alter rules and principles.”
  • Ultimately, we do not have to determine God’s call or how we ought to fulfill our duties from how we feel in our hearts or according to our situation. “These things are not determined by the hearts of individuals. They are not to be divorced from God’s instruction.”

A native of Finland, our last speaker of the day is receiving a cross-cultural experience here in Fort Wayne; he teaches at the Lutheran School of Theology in Gothenburg, Sweden where CTSFW has a site offering classes in our STM program, but this is his first time in our home city. Dr. Timo Laato will be with us through intensives, as he is teaching a graduate course.

This is also the professor who will teach the public lecture series (on the state of Lutheran churches in Scandinavian countries) coming up this Sunday. His topic for Symposia is “Salvation by God’s Grace, Judgment According to our Works.” One of his focuses is on the theological implications of “good works are necessary for salvation” vs. “good works are necessary.”

On the final day of Symposia, Chaplain (Colonel) Jonathan E. Shaw, Director of Operations, U.S. Army Chaplain Corps, Pentagon, asked a very Lutheran question in the last lecture of the 2018 Symposia Series: what does this mean? He was following up on the many studies that show the positive correlation of religion to health among soldiers.

“I can think of no position that more demands a right understanding of the two kingdoms,” he said, speaking of chaplains. As to soldiers, they need to be “spiritually empowered and confident to stand in the face of death,” for even in just war “the warrior must bear the human cost.”

In his presentation, Chaplain Shaw used the following words from a Gregorian chant written around 750 AD (“Media vita in morte sumus” or “In the Midst of Life We Are in Death”) as well as this picture:

In the midst of life we are in death;
From whom can we seek help?
From You alone, O Lord,
Who by our sins are justly angered.
Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and merciful Savior,
Deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death.

Private Paul Oglesby of the U.S. 30th Infantry; photo taken in Acerno, Italy, on September 23, 1943.

Only in Christ can men find mercy, peace, comfort and rest.

The final presentation of Symposia featured a panel discussion with Chaplain Shaw, Dr. Mayes, Dr. Peter Scaer and Dr. Grobien, with Dr. David Scaer moderating. The panel was specifically on “Church and Society: What Are the Rules of Engagement?” but was also a chance for attendees and panelists to ask follow-up questions about their earlier presentations.

Symposia 2018 concluded with Daily Chapel at 11 a.m.

CLICK HERE to watch this year’s lectures.


Collegial Conversation: John 10:2-5

Dr. Rast led a “Collegial Conversation” for all pastoral formation and deaconess students today after chapel. The topic was focused around visitation, which is central to both the pastoral ministry and diakonal service. Pastors and deaconesses need to visit and thereby come to know the people they shepherd or serve. In the words of Jesus, as recorded in John 10:2-5:

“But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Being a new pastor or deaconess can be a struggle. “Though a congregation knows you by your confession,” Dr. Rast said, “you need to visit people so they come to recognize your voice.” He added, “Visitation will teach you what you need to preach and teach about.”

In the dining hall afterwards, students met in groups with their faculty mentors to discuss the topic further.

Dr. Rast CUC Commencement Speech

Last Saturday, President Rast received an Honorary Doctorate at Concordia University Chicago and served as commencement speaker. The full transcript of his speech is below:

“The Desires of Your Heart”
Commencement Address at
Concordia University Chicago
Lawrence R. Rast Jr.
December 9, 2017

Greetings from the Board of Regents, faculty, staff, and, especially the students of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where I serve as president.

Thank you, President Gard, for the honor and opportunity of speaking to the graduating class of Concordia University, Chicago, this morning. My thanks also to the Board of Regents, faculty, administration, staff, and especially the family and friends who have done so much for the students who will be “walking” today.

But in the end, this morning is really about you, the students of Concordia University Chicago, who are going out equipped “to serve and lead with integrity, creativity, competence and compassion in a diverse, interconnected and increasingly urbanized church and world.”

That increasingly urbanized church and world into which you step is one that is quite different from the one I moved into in February of 1986 when I graduated from what was then Concordia College, River Forest. (Yes, I really am that old!) Certainly, there is the perennial problem of pronounced and obvious evil that confronts all of God’s children as they seek to serve him in their various vocations—but that is nothing new today. What we face today that is new is what Thomas Friedman has called “accelerations.” We live in a world that threatens to overwhelm us with the rapidity with which we encounter evil and injustice.

In the face of such challenges, David offers us Psalm 37. Please listen:

Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb. (Psalm 37:1-2, ESV)

Fret not. It sounds like St. Paul: “do not be anxious about anything.” (Philippians 4:6, ESV) If you knew me better you’d know that this is an impossibility for me. I’m anxious about everything! I hide it behind what I call “strategic planning.” But it’s anxiousness, nonetheless. And I expect you all are anxious, too, right now—anxious for me to finish this speech. But in all seriousness, there is much to be concerned about in our world today: financially, geo-politically, and, simply and directly, relationally. Challenges come at us so fast and so unrelentingly that they threaten to overwhelm us.

I am convinced that David, King of Israel, was as anxious as any of us. In Psalm 37 he offers us a path to peace in the midst of the anxieties of life.

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37: 3-4, ESV)

The picture is one of how the Lord provides for all that we need for this body and life. Our gracious Lord is one who lavishes His gifts on all.

There is nothing more difficult than this, of course. “Delight in the Lord.” But, we answer, I have a career to build, a family to raise! I have sickness to address and bills to pay! Be realistic!

I get it. I really do. When I was hanging around this campus from 1982 to 1986, I had dreams and hopes for my future—and I had a great, great time in the present. Then I graduated—and things got serious. I married, started seminary, and suddenly it’s 2017. What happened!?!

I tell you what happened. God blessed me—and He will bless you. I could not even imagine the path on which he would place me—with all of its accelerations—a path that would bring me to this place today. But through it all, the Lord gave me the desires of my heart as I delighted in the people and possibilities He gave. The chief of those blessings was the woman I met at this place. Together Amy and I have and continue to delight together in the Lord—and He has given us the desires of our hearts.

So now is a time to dream about your future. Maybe for some of you it is already clear. For others it may take a bit longer to bring things into focus. Either way it’s okay, because what you will find is that God will continue to provide surprises for you on your life’s path as your exciting future unfolds in ever more beauty and richness.

Why? Because God continues to work. And He works through people like you and me, the redeemed people of God in Christ. To put it differently, God’s church is about Christ in action. The church’s culture is unique. It is the dynamic setting of the Spirit’s activity in calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying the whole Christian church on earth (Luther, Small Catechism, Explanation of the 3rd Article). As such, the church is always at work—and more
than that, Christ is always at work through His Spirit in the church.

God uses all of us to accomplish His purposes. In my calling as president of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, I lead the seminary community in our mission to form servants in Jesus Christ who teach the faithful, reach the lost, and care for all. That means pastors, deaconesses, missionaries, and lay leaders for service here in the United States and throughout the world. It is a mission we embrace, and we do it in partnership with places like Concordia University Chicago, with its rich variety of programs and majors, which forms servants in a wide variety of fields – professional church workers for sure, but also: accountants, biologists, chemists, computer scientists, financiers, historians, marketers, psychologists, social workers, along with all of the other programs that CUC offers. We need them all for the rich tapestry that is God’s church at work through the power of His Spirit.

Dear Friends in Christ, CUC has made a promise to you. You know it, but hear it at least once more. “Rooted in its Christian heritage of engaging knowledge and faith, Concordia University Chicago aspires to be the destination university for all who seek to develop their full individual potential through a distinctive, innovative and dynamic environment of exploration, creativity and discovery for leading lives of servant-minded leadership.” Concordia has kept that promise. This morning your professors say to you, “You are ready.” You are ready for the next step of service to God and your neighbor.

You are ready—but you are not finished. There is more to learn, there is more service before you; you need to continue to pursue the desires of your heart.

As you “walk” this morning, you are stepping into an uncertain yet exciting future. Do so with the words of Psalm 37 once more ringing in your ears:

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37: 3-4, ESV)

Thank you for the honor of addressing you and congratulations to the Fall Class of 2017!

Convocation: Angelomorphic Christology

Dr. Gieschen led convocation hour this Wednesday to talk about Angelomorphic Christology, a religious and historical examination of how angel and angel-related traditions impacted the early Christian Church’s study of Christ. In honor of his book being republished in softcover, Dr. Gieschen also signed copies of “Angelomorphic Christology: Antecedents and Early Evidence.” Copies can be purchased at our bookstore, either in-person or online here:

Convocation: Baronnelle Stutzman (Part 2)

Dr. Peter Scaer and Barronelle Stutzman

On Friday, October 6, 2017, Concordia Theological Seminary (CTSFW), Fort Wayne, invited Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington florist sued after she refused to design floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding, to hold a talk in one of the classrooms on campus. Though her case is ongoing, Barronelle has chosen to travel the country so she can tell the story of courage, faith in action and God’s grace in all things.

A couple of months after Washington legalized gay marriage in 2012, Stutzman learned that Rob Ingersoll was going to ask her to design the arrangements for his wedding. Ingersoll was a longtime friend and customer, Stutzman said, and they simply clicked on a creative level. For 10 years she’d used her gift to help him celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with his partner, Curt Freed. However, when he came to her to begin discussing flower arrangements for his wedding, she gently declined, citing her relationship with Jesus Christ. At the time he told her that he understood, said that his mom felt the same way, and then asked for a recommendation. Stutzman gave him three.

The Washington Attorney General picked up the story from Facebook, where Ingersoll’s partner had written a post about the incident that had gone viral. In an unprecedented act, the Attorney General took matters into his own hands and sued her, both corporately and personally. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) quickly picked up the case, filing an additional lawsuit against Stutzman and her business on behalf of the couple. As a result of the suits, she stands to lose everything from her business to her home to her savings and retirement.

In February 2015 Stutzman lost in the lower courts, followed by a second defeat in November 2016 at the Washington Supreme Court. Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF) continues to appeal on her behalf. An attorney with ADF, Matt Sharp, explained that the ruling in the courts is based on laws created during the civil rights era to make sure all people have access to essential goods and services. However, in 2006 Washington added sexual orientation to the list (alongside such classes as gender and race) and currently takes a very broad definition of essential goods.

Unlike a grocery store bouquet, explained Sharp, people like Stutzman and Jack Phillips (the baker whom they are also defending in the Supreme Court for similar reasons) are artists whose creations are a form of expression. As such they deserve protection under the First Amendment. Though Stutzman has both served and employed those in the LGBTQ community, she cannot be a participant in an event that is contrary to her beliefs. The union between one man and one woman was established by God and echoes Christ’s relationship with His bride, the Church.

Stutzman summarized the judge’s decision even more succinctly: “You can have your faith, but you cannot practice it outside the four walls of your church.”

As the case unfolded, the Attorney General wrote her a letter, offering to drop the lawsuits if she’d pay a $2,000 fine and would no longer refuse to participate in same-sex weddings. Again, Stutzman refused. As she explained in her response letter to the Attorney General: “I cannot sell that precious freedom. You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.” And while she’s had to change the way she goes to work in response to the threats against her, she’s also received encouragement from people across the globe, 68 countries in all.

At the end of the talk, the students, faculty and staff stood to applaud her and, as she was wiping the tears from her eyes, sang “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Dr. Peter J. Scaer, associate professor of Exegetical Theology at CTSFW, gave her a replica of the statue of Martin Luther holding God’s Word, and explained: “You’re living out the story of Luther among us.”

Convocation: Barronelle Stutzman (Part 1)

We were fortunate to have Barronelle Stutzman on campus today, the florist who was sued after declining to prepare flowers for a same-sex marriage in Washington. She spoke to a large audience of students and faculty about her Christian convictions, the death threats she’s received along with the incredible outpouring of encouragement, and her Reformation-like conviction that here she stands, she can do no other.

Because her case is ongoing (she lost in the state courts, but Alliance for Defending Freedom continues to appeal on her behalf) we were unable to promote her visit. On Monday we’ll have more details about her case and her experiences on the front lines of the fight for religious liberty.

Update: Click here for Part 2