Retirement: Carol Bratton

Today we thank God for Carol Bratton (here pictured with Dr. MacKenzie), who is retiring after ten years as Human Resources/Payroll Manager. This is her last day with us, as she will be joining her husband, Clarence (another former and beloved staff member at CTSFW), in retirement. Thank you for all that you have done for us, Carol!


New Staff: Shaina Wurdeman

If you watched daily chapel today then you have already met Deaconess Shaina Wurdeman. A 2008 CTSFW grad, Shaina is returning to us as she was installed this morning to serve as Deaconess Admission Counselor. She is currently serving in the position remotely, but will relocate here to Fort Wayne in May.

Dr. Grime, Dean of Spiritual Formation, prayed the following at the end of her installation:

“Almighty and most merciful God, as you chose Phoebe, Dorcas and other women to assist in the work of the apostles and to serve in works of love, so have you chosen Shaina to be a deaconess in your Church. Grant her grace and strength, that in her labors of love and by her good example she may serve You faithfully to the glory of Your name, to the help of those in need, and to the everlasting benefit of your Church; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”

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!

Commemoration: Aurelius Ambrosius

Savior of the nations, come,
Virgin’s Son, make here Your home!
Marvel now, O heav’n and earth,
That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood,
By the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh—
Woman’s offspring, pure and fresh.

#332 in the LSB was written by Ambrose of Milan, born in Germany in 337 AD and died on Good Friday, April 4, 397 in Milan, Italy. We commemorate Aurelius Ambrosius as a pastor and hymnwriter, one of the four great Latin Doctors of the Church alongside Augustine, Jerome and Gregory the Great.

Ambrose was chosen as pastor of Milan while still serving as a civil governor. History says that the Christians of Milan were divided into factions at the time, and when the 34-year-old catechumen addressed the crowd gathered to elect a new bishop (trying to seek peace between them), someone yelled, “Ambrose, bishop!” The entire crowd agreed, so after Ambrose was baptized on December 7, he was consecrated bishop of Milan. He was bold in his defense of the faith, and pivotal in the theological fight against Arianism (the heresy that inspired Santa Claus to supposedly slap Arius, as mentioned in yesterday’s post).

During this Advent, as at all times, we look to Scripture and Christ crucified as the defense against every false doctrine, and thank God for the servants He has given us across time and space to preserve His Church. If you are looking for materials that focus on Jesus during this holy season, check out the Advent devotional put out by Christ Academy. You can make it a part of your daily devotions by downloading it HERE or by clicking this picture of the cover:

Authors of the devotional include pastors and seminarians, many of them either former attendees or proctors at Christ Academy.

Dr. Rast: Honorary Doctorate

The following news release came from Concordia University Chicago, about their plan to award an honorary doctorate to President Rast. Thanks be to God for our faithful Seminary president! We’re proud to claim Dr. Rast as our own.

River Forest, IL (November 10, 2017) – Concordia University Chicago will award an honorary doctoral degree to Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast Jr., 16th president of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN, at the CUC fall commencement ceremony. Dr. Rast, who will receive the Doctor of Letters honoris causa, will act as commencement speaker at the undergraduate ceremony on Dec. 9.

Dr. Rast is also a professor of American Christianity and American Lutheranism at the seminary, where he joined the Department of Historical Theology in the fall of 1996 after serving as pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in Madison, TN. He earned his B.A. in theological languages from Concordia-Chicago, his M.Div. and Master of Sacred Theology from Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne, and his Ph.D. in American church history from Vanderbilt University.

As a member of the board of directors for the journal Lutheran Quarterly, Dr. Rast has authored numerous articles on a wide range of topics, with special interest in the growth and expansion of Lutheranism in the United States in the mid- to late-19th century.

In addition to serving at the seminary, Dr. Rast regularly presents at workshops, retreats and conferences around the U.S. He has represented the seminary and the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod at numerous international conferences and by teaching in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

The undergraduate commencement ceremony will take place in Concordia University Chicago’s Geiseman Gymnasium on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 10:30 a.m., followed by the graduate commencement ceremony at 3 p.m. Admission is by ticket only.

Book Signing: Pless & MacKenzie

After chapel today, Professor Pless and Dr. MacKenzie signed copies of their books in the CTSFW bookstore. Professor Pless was a general editor for two collections of essays, “Closed Communion? Admission to the Lord’s Supper in Biblical Lutheran Perspective” and “The Necessary Distinction: A Continuing Conversation on Law and Gospel,” which take a deeper look into Holy Scriptures and faithful practice. “The Reformation,” by Dr. MacKenzie, engages readers with historically-rich illustrations and facts.

Copies of the books can be purchased here:

Closed Communion

The Necessary Distinction

The Reformation


Reformation 2017: MacKenzie Book

Today’s already proving to be a Reformation-rich day here on campus. After chapel I asked Dr. MacKenzie to pose for a picture with his book, “The Reformation.” The coffee table-style book presents an overview of the Reformation through both images and text, and can be purchased from our bookstore here:

As a bonus, in the background you can see Dr. Grime (Dean of the Chapel) and a handful of seminarians preparing for this evening’s 500th anniversary worship service. If you can’t make it to hear President Harrison preach in person, you can join us by watching the livestream here on our Facebook page at 7:30 p.m. (EDT).

New Chair in New Testament and Early Church Studies

Dr. Bushur now occupies a chair in honor of Carl and Erna Weinrich, the parents of Dr. Weinrich. In celebration of the establishment of the Chair in New Testament and Early Church Studies, Dr. Bushur gave a public lecture on “The Catholic Paul: Allegory & Perspicuity in Irenaeus’ Reading of Scripture.” As a layperson (who, admittedly, struggled with the terminology), my takeaway of convocation was that though the Word is clear and perfect, we sinners can’t fully understand it either clearly or perfectly. That does not, however, make Scripture malleable. Instead, we strive to understand these things in the context of what God has submitted to our knowledge: the created world, and in the person of Jesus Christ.

Retirement: Karen Fuelling

After 17 years of faithful service to CTSFW, our friend and colleague, Karen Fuelling, is retiring this week. Her greatest joy has been to work with the LWML, Brakebush Chicken and other generous donors to provide for the daily needs of students and their families through the Food and Clothing Co-op, the Christmas Marketplace and Christmas gift cards.

Thank you Karen and God’s blessings as you enjoy a well-earned retirement!