Sermon: St Simon and St Jude

The following sermon was preached in the seminary’s Chapel of Martin Luther by Dr John Stephenson on the Festival of St Simon and St Jude, Tuesday, 28 October 2014.

Jer. 26:1-16 & Jn 15:12-21

The Dutch-born church historian Heiko Oberman was equally fluent in English and German, albeit with a thick accent derived from his homeland, and with the pluck typical of one from a tiny country he loved to poke fun at his fellow academics from the English- or German-speaking lands. In a public lecture given at the University of Tübingen, Professor Oberman contrasted the tone in which British and German researchers would respectively deliver their findings. While the English scholar would clear his throat and diffidently announce, “I am inclined to hold that …,” his German counterpart would unhesitatingly boom out, “It is crystal-clear that. …”

Leaving aside the question whether Oberman’s observation applies to the lecturing style of your German- and British-born professors, we would have to agree that maybe, on balance, and perhaps are qualifying expressions that don’t belong in the pulpit; they have a place in learned journals, but they clog the arteries of proclamation and catechesis.

Since keeping saints’ days on Sundays is a judgement call made in the province of Christian freedom and 28 October rarely falls on a Sunday, most pastors are hardly ever called upon to speak about St Simon and St Jude from the pulpit. Here at the seminary, where we have weekday services, it’s a different matter, with the result that this is at least the third occasion on which the homily for the day of Simon and Jude has fallen into my lap.

But we are vouchsafed only a single detail about the Simon in the apostolic band not surnamed Peter, and oh dear its meaning is not crystal-clear. When Matthew calls him a Kanaanean with the variant Kanaanite, he likely does not mean to imply that Simon was a native of Cana in Galilee, nor is it probable that he was a pagan from the geographical area we know as Canaan: Matthew begins the noun that we render as the Canaanite woman with chi, the aspirated k. No, Kanaaenean with a kappa or hard c likely transliterates a Hebrew original and means the same as Luke’s information that he was “called the Zealot.” Even here, one website I surfed to insisted that Simon’s zeal had nothing to do with some political affiliation on his part, but described his ardour for Christ and the faith. Well, the balance of evidence indicates that, before our Lord called him, Simon was one of the liberation theologians of the day; there’s a good case for labelling him a terrorist or a freedom fighter, depending on your point of view. In this case, the king and the kingdom he first sought, and the king and the kingdom that came his way, were not at all one and the same thing. But, bless my soul, you really can’t base articles of faith on conjectures such as these.

Again, why do Matthew and Mark place the Judas not Iscariot (and therefore known as Jude to keep him distinct from the traitor) in tenth place in the apostolic order of precedence, while Luke lists him as apostle number eleven? Why does Matthew give him the name Thaddeus, and how come the textual variant Libbaeus crept in? Does Matthew’s putting Thaddeus immediately after James the Less, the son of of Alphaeus, while Luke pinpoints him as “Jude of James” mean that he is the brother of James the Less, and that there were thus three, not just two sets of brothers among the Twelve? Moreover, is it even remotely possible that today’s Jude is identical with the author of the letter that Dr Luther teaches us to call an antilegomenon, bracketing it off from the major writings of the New Testament, while not daring to exclude it from the canon? I certainly don’t have a definitive answer to any of the questions, which only underlines the point that you can’t base articles of faith on maybe, on balance, or perhaps.

It appears that we remember Simon and Jude together on account of the thinly substantiated report that they embraced martyrdom at the same place in Persia at the same time after giving their all in missionary apostolates devoted to carrying out the mandates of the Risen Lord. Well, the Church remembers that John was the only member of the Twelve to die in his bed, and so LSB plays it safe by having us hear of an upsurge of violence against Jeremiah that led almost but not quite to his death, and by having us listen to our Lord’s prophecy that as the world hated Him so it would also hate His emissaries.

But if the details of Simon and Jude are wrapped in a cloud of uncertainties, there are no ifs, buts, or maybes about the One whom they proclaimed and brought to people in the far corners of the ancient world. As they exercised the office with which Jesus invested them, Simon and Jude remain living stones in the foundation of the Church, and they discharge a corrective function as and when you and I align themselves with them in order to keep our proper place in the grand human edifice that the Lord is still building across time and space; and we do this by focussing on the Jesus whom they proclaimed to the world.

And Jesus preaches blessed certainty in response to the question posed to Him in the upper room by the second Simon, a question that is actually a cloaked complaint: “Lord, how come You are going to manifest Yourself to us and not to the world?” In other words, “Why won’t You be the kind of Messiah that the unreconstructed Zealot within me thirsts for You to be, the sort of Messiah who rules in the manner of Tiberius and holds sway over a kingdom that we can see with our eyes and measure with regular verifiable, tangible instruments?” Simon had a whole season of ministry to wrap his mind around our Lord’s response, an answer that speaks to us as we prepare once more to approach the altar: “If a man loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him and We shall come to Him and make Our abode with him.” Here we have something sure and solid that transcends the scholarly tones of one nation or another; here everything hinges on a word spoken without coercion, with a two-way flow of love, and with the wonder of wonders that the Blessed Trinity takes up residence in the depths of your being. Let this word of Jesus illumine the communion you have today with Him, with Simon and Jude, and with all the saints.

 

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Sermon: St James of Jerusalem, 23 October 2014

The following sermon was preached in the seminary’s Martin Luther Chapel by Dr Wm Mundt for the Festival of St James of Jerusalem on Thursday, 23 October 2014.

10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will. 12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, 16 “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” 22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. (Acts 15:10-22a)

If there is anything we take away from this observance of St James’s Day perhaps it should be an appreciation for the example or model he provides as a man of moderation. Not moderation in the sense of neither hot nor cold, or indifference, in regards to spiritual matters. The little bit we know about his life easily repudiates such an assertion. Piety was important to him. Remember that point; we will come back to it. Josephus refers to him as “the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ,” and reports that he was much respected even by the Pharisees for his piety and strict observance of the Law. Jerome quotes Hegesippus’ account from the fifth book of his lost Commentaries: “After the apostles, James the brother of our Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one was holy from his mother’s womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ate no flesh, never shaved or anointed himself with ointment or bathed. He alone had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since indeed he did not use woollen vestments but linen and went alone into the temple and prayed in behalf of the people, insomuch that his knees were reputed to have acquired the hardness of camel’s knees.” (Orthodox Wiki)

Paul described James as one of the persons to whom the risen Christ showed himself (1 Co 15:3-8) and in Galatians as one of the three pillars of the church, along with Peter and John. Acts shows that James was respected as an important figure. When Peter was miraculously freed from prison and had to flee Jerusalem, he asked that James be informed (12:17). As we see in our text, when Antioch Christians were concerned about what Gentile Christians needed to be saved, they sent Paul and Barnabas to confer with him. And when Paul arrives in Jerusalem to deliver the money raised for the faithful there, he goes to James (21:18).

His influence was by no means confined to Jerusalem. As Bishop he occupied a position of unrivalled importance in the early Christian movement. One indication of this is that although the name “James” was fairly common, he could be identified simply by this name with no need for further explanation.

Even his death, like his life, demonstrated more excess than moderation. During his thirty years as Bishop of Jerusalem, he converted many Jews to Christianity. Annoyed by this, the legend goes, the Scribes and Pharisees plotted to kill him. They led him to the pinnacle of the temple and asked what he thought of Jesus. According to Eusebius (following Hegesippus), they entreated him to “restrain the people, who are led astray after Jesus, as if he were the Messiah.” Instead of denouncing Jesus to the people, he confessed Christ as the Messiah. Greatly angered, the Jewish teachers threw him off the roof. He did not die immediately but with his final strength, prayed for his enemies. Eusebius adds that after the fall failed to kill him, they stoned him and at last broke his skull with a club. This martyrdom is usually ascribed to AD 62.

Not much moderation to be seen here. But he did moderate a dispute over piety or pietism, the form or expression one gives to his/her faith. Perhaps of note is that in spite of his own intense vow as a Nazarene and a corresponding lifestyle of holiness and purity, he was willing to allow Gentile converts to develop and pursue their own expression of faith with only a few conditions. The conference could have ended quite differently. As church history shows, division rather than unity is frequently the result of conferences and conventions and disagreement over practices frequently the cause.

Perhaps the problem is that we are all pietists at heart. The opinio legis convinces us that we must do something to please God—even after we have embraced the Gospel—and furthermore it and our pride generally convince us also that our expression of faith, our form of piety, is to be preferred. This has led to some ugly outcomes: church splits, cutting off fingers in the two- or three-digit controversy in Old Russian Orthodoxy about how to make the sign of the cross, etc. (no, that’s not what happened to me).

Usually where the gospel itself is concerned, a proper distinction between Law and Gospel readily reveals to us that we cannot save ourselves. Time and time again we will be privileged to proclaim and to explain to listeners in sermons, classes and conversations how God’s all-embracing love provided a miraculous remedy for our sinful condition. It was not always that way, of course. In the beginning God designed humans for perfect fellowship and enjoyed daily conversation and walks with his special creations. But Adam and Eve were not programmed like robots; there is no glory for God if one worships and obeys only because there is no other choice. Love, freely received and returned is what God envisioned for His children. But that freedom also allowed a negative choice, a turning away, and with that choice came a curse on all subsequent humans. God’s desire remained for all to be saved, so He sent Jesus to be our substitute under the Law, to suffer and to die as if he had broken the entire Law of God, but in so doing to redeem us, to set us free from such a condemnation. His resurrection assures that because He lives, we shall live too. That’s the easy part to confess.

But in the confession or expression of that faith, sanctified stubbornness becomes perseverance or steadfastness and yielding on any point approaches a near impossibility, taking on the form of an unforgiveable sin. Peter certainly had a stirring and dramatic introduction to the discussion: “we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will,” but would that be enough to restrain the pious, previous Jews from insisting on conformity in all aspects of ceremonial Law? Or should one remember to differentiate between the content of faith and the form or expression of that faith?

That always needs to be the starting point. In the Lutheran confessions, the controversy over worship and forms began of all things over the reintroduction of the surplice. Hardly a life or death matter from our point of view. But the issue had already been addressed in the Apology where it was determined that “there are at least four principles applicable to liturgical usages” 1) liberty (compulsory adiaphora is a contradiction in terms); 2) orderliness (Lutherans follow rites and traditions as a matter of utility not merit. Allbeck notes: “It is easy to imitate rites, but not faith. When confidence is placed in rites, many evils follow, the gospel is obscured, and ordinary obligations are neglected. Consciences are disturbed lest something has been omitted. The many books written show the excessive concern with rites. Better than this false wisdom is the gospel of free grace and of liberty from the tyranny of ceremonies” (173). Add to these two the principles of 3) historicity and 4) edification.

I feel sorry for pastors who seek to minister with a my-way-or-the-highway approach, as if everything depended upon them and their personal purification policies and as if their expression of piety was the only permissible (read: God-pleasing” one). I feel sorry for pastors who cannot consult, either with the brethren or even with their members. What might have happened if James had not intervened? We will never know. Rather he gives us a model of moderation, that is, he moderated the discussion, finding a solution which apparently no one else had thought of yet. Perhaps there is a lesson for us all in that approach?

That is one of the advantages of committees, group-think, brain-storming, etc. despite our normal dislike and impatience for meetings. Ministry can happen in meetings, perhaps more so there than in Sunday service, although of course in a different form. Meetings present teaching opportunities, moments when connections between the Bible and the daily business of the church can be made in realistic, relative ways. Since every person around the table or room has a slightly different experience and background, creative conversations can present and evaluate various solutions to the same problem. I have yet to meet a single pastor who knows all the answers (although I have encountered not a few who imagine they do). But ultimately, of course, everything must be decided in a God-pleasing way. Frequently—in fact almost always—the how a decision is achieved is more important than the decision itself. James gives good advice, based on the observation that there were always God-fearing men familiar with Moses’ works even though not Jewish. Should we therefore, he says, turn away people of other cultures and customs who believe in Christ? Should we not be embracing them as brothers, for Christ’s sake, despite varying opinions about Christian piety? Fortunately for the Church-at-large, James’ argument won the day. One of the realities of life in a parish for which we sadly do not prepare you, is the role of mediator or moderator, or more simply put, conflict resolution. Peter and James got it right because they remembered to keep the main thing the main thing. That is, faith in Christ.

Over the years battles have been fought over forms. Our own Synods at times faced the quandary: Can you really be Lutheran if you do not speak German? Löhe decided no, and sent out German instructors to the natives in Michigan so they could eventually study the Catechism once they had mastered the only language God speaks. At Jerusalem the issue was: How Jewish do you have to be in order to be a Christian? And James provided insight in how to evaluate and decide such difficult cases. The ultimate question is not: will that adopt our life style but how can they serve Christ in their culture (and language). Most of the profs here have had the privilege of attending international gatherings of like-minded Lutherans. While we may not always appreciate their music or style, we recognize there is more that unites than divides. Christ is the common denominator; people create denominations. Often for good reasons; other times, for not so good reasons. The LCMS transition was necessitated by a World War but accomplished with relative little upheaval and splitting.

Duplications of the Jerusalem Council will continue to be part of the Church’s life as she struggles to make a bold confession of Christ in an increasingly (or at least it seems so) secular and anti-Christian society. And as God brings His Word of promise of salvation by grace through faith on account of Christ alone to other lands and other peoples, we will be faced with similar fellowship questions and challenges.

Perhaps we should let God have the last word. This time not through James but through St Paul: For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus ChriSt 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.(Rom 15)

May God grant us all a St James-like attitude and approach. IJN.

 

 

 

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Harvest Day 2014: Oh Sing to the Lord an Old Song?

The Society for the Archaeology of Ancient Music

The Society for the Archaeology of Ancient Music

We have probably all heard about ancient music but the 79 members of the Seminary Guild and community actually had a chance to hear—and even try singing—some at the annual Harvest Day, held Saturday, 18 October. Guest presenters were Daniel Lantz and members of The Society for the Archaeology of Ancient Music, a student club at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, ON.

Guild Executive: Judy Zastrow, Nancy Bryans, Bonnie Stephenson

Guild Executive: Judy Zastrow, Nancy Bryans, Bonnie Stephenson

Other activities that morning included a student-led worship service with Concordia Seminary Student Association president, Paul Schulz, as the preacher. A brief business meeting resolved to continue refurbishing the seminary’s wooden chairs in the library and seminar room. And a delicious catered lunch provided Guild members the opportunity to greet, meet, and eat with their adopted students. (For more information on this programme, please contact Dr Wm Mundt, Dean of Students.)

The day began with students unloading donations of groceries for the seminary food bank. All this care and support, one new student remarked, was a great surprise and a little overwhelming.

Students and families introduce themselves

Students and families introduce themselves

More photos can be seen here.

A video of the musical presentation can be watched on our YouTube channel here.

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Culture Clash: A One Day Conference on “Militant Secularism”

"Militant Secularism" Conference

More than 50 guests attended the conference

What is a believer to do when surrounded by a host of –ism’s seeking to silence and to undermine historic Christian faith and teachings? What should churches do when they find themselves on a collision course with sweeping cultural changes affecting mindset, morals and the meaning of life? Should believers and their churches try to coexist peacefully? Withdraw from the world? Change the world?

These were some of the issues considered at a one-day conference at Concordia on

LCC President Robert Bugbee welcomes guests

LCC President Robert Bugbee welcomes guests

Thursday, 16 October. Representatives of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) reflected on “Militant Secularism: Its Cause, Cost and Cure.” Special thanks to Terry Bodnar of FI Capital for sponsoring the event.

The presenters were Dr John Stephenson from Concordia, retired Anglican Bishop Donald Harvey from Newfoundland, Dr Joel Lehenbauer from the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations, and Dr Jonathan Riches from the Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

"Militant Secularism" Conference

Panel Discussion (l to r): Jonathan Riches, Joel Lehenbauer, +Donald Harvey, John Stephenson

During the presentations and panel discussion it became clear that the 1960s were the pivotal years. This was a time when secularists seemed to be making progress, perhaps, as Bishop Harvey noted, because they encountered too little resistance from Christians. Dr Stephenson noted that those growing up during this era might rightly be considered victims as well as products since they were often deprived of insights and experiences common in former generations. Nevertheless, Dr Lehenbauer pointed out, there is still hope. Perhaps at no other time has North American culture so closely approximated the days of the early church. Then, and we pray now, the indifference and increasing hostility directed at the Christians provides a stimulus for Christian witness and renewal. Dr Riches further underscored the importance of churches and Christians not becoming too complacent or too quietistic, but daring to continue confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.

The full programme can be see here. Video recordings are available on our YouTube channel. The lectures are also available to download in audio format:

More photos can be seen here.

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Fasting and Feasting – New Wineskins for New Wine

The following sermon was preached by Revd Dr Thomas Winger for the opening Matins at the “Militant Secularism” Conference, held at CLTS on Thursday, 16 October 2014.

Thursday of 18 Pentecost 2014 – Mk 2:18-22

Dear fellow members of the Body of Christ: If I were inventing a sacramental meal for the fledgling Christian community, I would do it somewhat differently than our Lord did. I would have fresh, crusty bread with copious amounts of sweet butter. I would serve Niagara VQA wine in delicate, but generous goblets. The wine would flow till hearts were lightened and tongues were loosed and the cares of our lives were momentarily forgotten. It is, after all, a wedding feast—and who would dare serve a single bite of flatbread and a brief sip of sweet wine from a single shared cup in celebration of such a joyous event? I suspect the Stephenson family have something better in mind for next Friday—and this time it’s not even a royal wedding! Surely when our Lord transformed the old Passover meal into a feast celebrating His marriage to the Church He could have improved upon it, not diminished it. Why does He choose the least festive parts of the Passover—not the bitter herbs, thankfully, but the unleavened bread that was meant to remind Israel of their hasty departure from Egypt? He keeps the wine, but reduces it from three or four cups to just one. The Mishna specified a minimum amount of wine that everyone was supposed to imbibe—enough to bring that moment of joy—but our Sacrament gives us only a sip. Luther once wrote that if our Lord wished to create a memorial meal as Zwingli would have it, He would have kept the roast lamb—which is a much more fitting symbol of His body than a piece of unleavened bread. Surely it would have also been more festive. But instead He chose to take up that simple bread, that NT manna, and say, “Take eat, this is My Body.

If I were to create a sacramental meal, … we’d probably end up in Corinth. The rich would arrive early to get the best seats. They’d bring their own food and wine and dig in before everyone else arrived. By the time of the sermon they’d be drunk and abusive. The poor would be left lonely and hungry, excluded by the meal that was meant to unite. The festive meal, the wedding banquet, would become a family feud. And Paul would say, “when you come together in the same place it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat” (I Cor. 11:20). What Paul means is that it’s not up to us to decide what makes a true feast. If the Sacrament were a festive meal in the way of this present age, this is where we’d end up: in division and strife and self-destruction. What was meant to draw us close to God would pull us back into the ways of the world. The ancient Greeks coined a verb to describe the way the pagan Corinthians celebrated in their temples: κορινθιάζομαι “to corinthianise”, meaning to carouse and get drunk and cavort with sacred prostitutes, of which Corinth was said to have a thousand (Strabo, Geographica, 8:6.20). Perhaps if Jesus were still visibly with us, as He once walked with His disciples, we might have festive meals with a little more feasting and drinking—that is, after all, the kind of behaviour that sparked the people’s question in today’s second reading. He was reclining at table with tax collectors and sinners (Mk 2:15-16), eating and drinking and carrying on in a way that seemed quite un-messianic. “Why don’t you and your disciples fast like the disciples of John and the Pharisees?” (Mk 2:18), the crowds ask. And Jesus counters, “The wedding guests can’t fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? For as much time as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast” (Mk 2:19). But, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day” (Mk 2:20).

We live in that day, in that in-between time when the age that was past and the age that is to come overlap. The Bridegroom has come; His people rejoiced to feast with Him; and now He has hidden Himself for a time. He has gone away to prepare a place for His Bride, and He will soon come to bring her home amid cries of rejoicing (Mt. 25:1-13). He will soon draw her into the wedding feast of His kingdom that has no end (Mt. 22:1-14). But in the meantime we fast. Fasting and feasting go together as this age and the next. Just as fasting without feasting is mere starvation, feasting without fasting loses its meaning. Holding back from the meal makes its coming all the more joyful. But there’s more to this age of fasting than just such a psychological truth. Fasting is a confession that we don’t belong to the age that’s fading away. The Latin word for “age” is, of course, saeculum. “Secularism” is an unhealthy attachment to the present age. “Militant secularism” is a fight to the death to cling to this age, a steadfast refusal to accept that it’s fading away, a violent opposition to the coming of God’s eternal age.

The modest feast of the Lord’s Supper is a perpetual reminder that we live in the overlapping of two ages, between the First Coming of Christ and His Second. Its spare table of unleavened bread and modest wine teaches us that the things of this world cannot help. It’s not a feast in the way of this world. The bread and the wine aren’t the big thing. To take the old Passover and just make it bigger—more bread, more wine—would have been, in the words of Jesus, to “sew a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment,” to “put new wine into an old wineskin” (Mk 2:22). The new thing that has come, the living God come to earth in human flesh, is filled with such life that, like new wine still fermenting, it will explode any old vessel it’s put into. The only thing to do is to begin afresh, to take just a little foretaste of the feast to come, to receive in bread and wine the precious Body and Blood of Christ that we might be ever kept focussed forward on His return. Like pilgrims leaving Egypt, we eat the unleavened bread of haste that reminds us of our departure from the present age. And like pilgrims marching towards the promised land, we take a brief refreshing drink from the wine that will overflow in the age to come. The wine reminds us that our Lord is coming to redeem us. The Lord’s Supper is a defiant shaking of the fist in the face of “Militant Secularism”, that “present evil age” (Gal. 1:4). It draws us away from our sinfulness, our dying, our addiction to the ways of this world. Each time we come to the altar we fast and feast at the same time. We set aside our fleshly desires for food that satisfies only in this age, we “lift up our hearts” and set our minds on heavenly things (Col 3:1-2), and we open our mouths to food that feeds us eternally. “Wide open stand the gates,” sings Löhe. “This sacrament God gives us / Binds us in unity, / Joins earth with heav’n beyond us, / Time with eternity!” (LSB 639:3). Amen.

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Meet Me at the Fair!

On Tuesday, 7 October, Dr Mundt and the Evangelism in the Parish class spent the day at the Norfolk County Fair.

Norfolk Fair Evangelism 1We were not there for the pie judging, the carnival rides, or even the intense rivalry played out in various competitions between area high schools. It was “youth day” and that meant lots of children and youth wandering through the exhibit halls. Many could be coaxed into spinning a wheel and answering a Bible trivia question in hopes of winning an apple or one of the other prizes available in the Lutheran Churches of Haldimand booth. Lutheran Hour Ministries provided the materials, including free DVDs for daily draws.

Such in-the-field practice is always part of the Evangelism class and varies from year to year. The goal is to assist a District congregation with its own ongoing outreach efforts. This year we are working with Rev. Dan Abraham and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Simcoe. Pictured are class members Sue Knowles, Andrew Cottrill, Roland Starke, and Paul Schulz, along with Dr Mundt in front of the fair booth.Norfolk Fair Evangelism 4

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Faculty Call Process Begins

22.4.2010: Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, RavennaIn view of an impending retirement in June 2015, CLTS announces the beginning of the call process.

Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, will be calling a Professor of Theology to take up office in July 2015. The candidate must be an ordained pastor of Lutheran Church­–Canada or a church in fellowship with her. The preferred candidate will have:

  • a strong commitment to sound, confessional Lutheran theology;
  • significant parish and/or mission experience;
  • an earned doctorate;
  • a specialty in Dogmatics or Old Testament;
  • experience and/or understanding of the Canadian context;
  • interdisciplinary teaching capability;
  • research and writing competence; and
  • a collegial personality and attitude.

Interested candidates are asked to submit their curriculum vitae by 31 December 2014 via e-mail (twinger@brocku.ca) or post to:

President Thomas Winger
Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary
470 Glenridge Ave
St. Catharines, ON L2T 4C3
Canada

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Sermon: Clothes Make the Man (Mt. 22:1-14)

The following sermon was preached in the seminary’s Martin Luther Chapel by Pastor Alan Bauch on Wednesday, 8 October 2014. As this is the Gospel text for next Sunday in the three-year series, this may be both devotionally helpful and inspiring for preachers.

Back in my career in the paper industry a group of us were on a business trip. We had spent a long day working at the paper mill in Luke, MD, a very small town in western Maryland. We were hungry, but it was late, and where were we going to find a restaurant open at eight or nine o’clock in Luke, MD? One of the engineers from the paper mill said, “No problem—I belong to a private club. I’ll take you there and you’ll be able to get something to eat.”

So we cleaned up enough to be presentable and drove across the border to Keyser, WV. We were surprised to find anything at all in this small town, but we followed him to the club and walked in ready to eat. As we came in we were met at the door, where we pointed to our guide. But the doorman who met us had a response we never expected. He said, “You can’t eat here dressed like that. You’ll need jackets to eat here.” Oh, no, we thought. We’ve been told we aren’t classy enough for a hole in the wall club in a non-descript town in West Virginia!

At first we thought we were being told to leave, but then the man continued, “So come with me to select your jackets.” Our host chuckled as we discovered this was a formality we hadn’t expected to encounter. The club attendant then opened a closet that displayed the most hideous collection of clothing you’ve ever seen. Some of us went for the plaids and the stripes, but I chose an olive green special that probably wouldn’t match with anything I’ve ever worn before or since. We got plenty of laughs over dining in this club with an exclusive dress code, but the fact was we were made ready for the supper that was to come.

We were there that night because we had been invited. But our admittance was by reception of a very special gift—the right clothes for the evening.

In Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast—continuing the stories He told after entering the Temple during Holy Week—the message was again clear to those who heard it. The Jews had been invited to God’s heavenly banquet, but had refused to attend. They were busy with what they perceived to be the important things in life. They were no more interested in this Galilean rabbi than my colleagues and I would have been interested in this supper club, if we thought we had other options.

But Jesus warned them that the king was going to host this feast with or without them. If they would not believe in the prophets who invited them to turn to the Lord and repent; if they were going to mistreat and kill the servants who were calling them to eat of it now—then God would send His servants to find new people to take their place, even if these new guests were not from the chosen people of Israel.

This wedding banquet in Jesus’ story was the ultimate “Come as you are” party: the guests were found on the highways and there was no discrimination between good guests and bad guests—all were invited. The focus wasn’t on the honour of the guests—the focus was on the honour to the king’s son, and therefore, the honour of the king himself.

The man in the parable who is stunned when the king declares him unworthy of his son’s wedding banquet was right to come there because he was invited. But he didn’t belong there because he had refused to wear the robes he was handed at the door. “Hideous,” he must have thought. “I’d much prefer to wear my own clothes, rather than sit here in these robes that don’t match the wardrobe of my life.”

Fact is, none of the guests had time to bring fine clothes with them. They had been found on the highways. But they fit in well with the king’s crowd when they were covered with the robes that honoured his son.

Of course, Jesus was talking about Himself. This was the Son of the King they were talking to. They had been waiting 2000 years as the chosen people of God, the descendants of Abraham, but they were about to forfeit their invitations because they would not believe.

That’s how faith works. We are all invited. The Word of God calls us to come to the house of God, to be filled with heavenly food, and to rub elbows with the King and His Son. In this feast of faith, God does it all: plans the banquet, makes the preparations, sends the invitations, gathers the guests, even provides the clothes—all we do is come and enjoy the abundance that the king sets before us.

We are called to God’s kingdom because God has invited us through His Word. But we receive the blessings of His rich food and refined wine because God has clothed us in the robe of Christ’s righteousness. And He never fails us. “For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).

And in His kingdom there is a feast going on that has the taste of Word and Sacrament. In faith we come to God’s Divine Service because we know we’ve been invited to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest our salvation proclaimed. In faith we come because the baptismal water of God’s grace has covered us, so we come in exercise of the daily power of our own baptisms—the new Adam rising each day as the old is left in the font of God’s cleansing.

Lest we ever fear we’ve either forgotten or soiled our wedding clothes, the pastor speaks words of absolution as Jesus breathes forgiveness on us and even those secret sins of our inmost hearts are blown away.

In faith we come to the earthly banquet, where Christ’s own body and blood is served for our forgiveness, life, and salvation. We come in the appropriate dress for the banquet because God provides it, and He invites by grace without any merit or worthiness in us.

And so, together we proclaim our thanksgiving that we—the bad and the good who were gathered on the road—have been clothed in the robes of Christ’s own righteousness, so that we do belong here.

The invitation bearers—those who have known the taste of God’s grace—are out combing the highways, looking to invite the good and the bad, making testimony to the quality of the food and to the hospitality of the host. But not all the invitees are in attendance. Many have found other things to do. “Not interested in Your party,” they say to God. It’s pretty clear that in Jerusalem, days before His crucifixion, many are refusing to come to the banquet in Jesus’ honour. “You don’t impress us as royal,” they replied. But it wasn’t wise for the people of Jesus’ parable to refuse the invitation of the king. The book of Hebrews warns, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). Sadly, many of those invitation-decliners today are people around us whom we love and cherish.

But some will take the invitation and come to eat the finest meal they’ve ever had—maybe even thanking us for finding them on the road. Some will come in, only to withhold their full participation, instead of taking the clothes of celebration, stubbornly protesting with clothes of bitterness or self-trust. Hear the Word of God: we don’t own clothes good enough for this feast. We are called to come and put on the fine garments of grace and salvation—these are robes supplied by God and received in faith.

Be you among the good or the bad along the road, hear that there is a royal feast of everlasting life as Christ and His Church rejoice. The King greatly desires your presence inside. When you get to the door, He will issue you a lovely jacket that says “You belong here!”

Coming to the feast prepared by our Lord makes no sense without wearing the clothes of grace that He provides. Praise and thanksgiving make no sense without the gratitude of receiving God’s grace. Remember the promises God makes to us in our baptism: perpetual cleansing, eternal righteousness, the power of faith to trust in Him, the strength to endure in this life, and the hope of the life to come. Don’t ever take off those robes of Christ’s righteousness. Remind others of the gift they, too, have in the call to the wedding feast of the lamb, whose kingdom has no end. You have been invited by the Word and you have been chosen in faith. Now enjoy the party. Amen.

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“I Wanna Be an Angel” – Sermon for St Michael and All Angels 2014

St Michael and All AngelsThe following sermon was preached by Rev. Kurt Lantz in the seminary’s Martin Luther Chapel for the divine service in celebration of St Michael and All Angels, 29 September 2014. The text is Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3.

Dear messengers of the Gospel,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Belief in angels is alive and well in our society. Despite the efforts of rationalists and evolutionists and atheists, who have been able to successfully combat belief in a bodily resurrection, a six-day creation, and a divine moral absolute, those who eat up what spews from their mouths inexplicably digest a belief in supernatural beings at work beyond the realm perceived by our five senses. It seems that it is okay to believe in the supernatural, as long as you don’t believe in a god.

What happens to angels in a belief system where there is no god? First of all, you have to explain how they came to be, and people have been taught that everything comes to be by evolution. And so it is that the existence of angels is explained by an evolution that continues beyond the grave. The dead die and become angels. Children die and transform into cherubs. Parents and older siblings pass away from this life and yet live on to watch over us who are still trapped on this earthly plain—our guardian angels assigned to keep an eye on us. And so we progress in our false Angelology to define what it is that angels do.

What do angels do in a belief system where there is no god? They do whatever we want them to do. It is no longer the LORD’s bidding they answer, but ours. They are only around when we want them to be here. They only see what we want them to see. They only interfere when it supports our idea of what should happen—to avert a car accident in order to save our lives, or direct the fall of a tree so that it narrowly misses our home. Otherwise the angels stay out of it. They do not transgress the bounds of our will or the limits of our experience.

But what if there is a god, an Almighty God, who created not only heaven and earth, but the angels and us? Then we would have to submit to what God has revealed about these created spiritual beings, regarding where they came from, what they do, and whose bidding they answer. We don’t want to submit like that. It is one thing to be submissive in moral behaviour (we struggle with that enough on its own), but to submit in areas of theology and belief, is asking too much for anyone, isn’t it?

After all, don’t we all want to be angels, and angels free from submission to a higher authority? Don’t we want to be the ones to engage the demons in battle, to be in control of the front lines of the war that is not against flesh and blood? Don’t we want to be the ones to deliver that one-time Gospel message that will change everything, that insight into eternal truth that has never quite been expressed this way before? Don’t we want to be a Michael, a Gabriel, a Raphael, an Uriel?

And we want it all without submission to the LORD of hosts. We don’t want to risk being assigned some menial task, aggravating the junior tempter Wormwood when we could be the one to bring about the downfall of his exalted uncle Screwtape (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters). Why risk being sent as an errand boy to some obscure young girl in the north country, or a few winy women in a cemetery, when we could choose where and when to appear, perhaps above the altar at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne or atop the steeple at Ulm Minster in Germany. We could deliver that divine annunciation that would re-Christianize, no, re-Lutheranise Germany, instead of twittering about on the internet or preaching to only a few dozen people from a plywood pulpit.

Ah, but then we would be acting against the very thing which we prayed in the Collect of the Day. The Collects of the Church help us to keep on track. The everlasting God has “ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order.” By submitting to the Collect, formulated on the teaching of Scripture, we are submitting as the Bride to her Bridegroom, in order to keep that wonderful order ordained by an Almighty and Omniscient God who does in fact exist, who created the angels and directs their service so that everything does not devolve into chaos.

It is a well co-ordinated battle being waged by the heavenly host—one that serves the furtherance of the Gospel and has throughout the ages. As Michael was dispatched so that the heavenly messenger could bring his news of consolation to Daniel, so the unseen warriors continue to battle back the demons that would derail the coming of the good news to those in need, to such an extent that it is a grave matter to interfere with the evangel being delivered to even the littlest in the kingdom (Matthew 18:10).

Fashioned by Almighty God at the creation of all things as immortal heavenly creatures, these messengers bring the Word of the Lord to His people, announcing forgiveness and deliverance through the incarnation, resurrection, and return in glory of the One who accomplished even what they are unable to do. They are the LORD’s soldiers, fighting for the kingdom of heaven, fighting for us, protecting the people of God and escorting the message of salvation to young and old. These angels lead in the symphony of praise sounded forth by all of God’s creation. With us they laud and magnify His glorious name forever.

Without these obedient servants to the Almighty where would we be? We would not ascend to the heights of spiritual grandeur that we imagine for ourselves. We would not be able to take their place or to do the job that they have been assigned. Without angels in the wonderful economy of God’s created order the Gloria in Excelsis would never sound forth, for it would not have been announced to the shepherds on that night when now all Christians sing. Without angels the women would have left the tomb in despair and the apostles would have been wondering who stole the body of Jesus, for which they were being framed. Without the angels they would have been left staring up into heaven at His ascension and paralyzed by the thought they might never see Him again. Without angels the little children of the kingdom would be constantly assaulted on every side with every demonic device within imagination and beyond.

That is how it would be if there were no angels, or no God to order their mission. That is how it would be if we became angels and were left to decide for ourselves how we would go about our skirmishes against the old evil foe. But that is not how it is. There are angels and they work in a wonderful order orchestrated by the Creator of heaven and earth and all they contain.

And as a result the good news of salvation has come to us. In our time of despair and in answer to our prayers the angels have ridden shotgun to the Good News of forgiveness and salvation being dispatched to us. They have penetrated every ambush that the evil one has put in the way to prevent the annunciation of the forgiveness of your sins. They will continue to get the Gospel through until the day of our climactic deliverance when the earth gives up her dead and the faithful shine with the brightness of the sky, not as angels, but as the redeemed of the Lord, risen to everlasting life, and shining like the stars for ever and ever.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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One Day Conference on “Militant Secularism”

ACNA Conference posterWe invite you to attend a one day conference on a topic of profound relevance to the church’s ministry in the modern world:

“Militant Secularism: Its Cause, Cost, & Cure”

Featuring two speakers from the Lutheran Church and two representing the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the open conference is a prelude to a regular meeting of the ecumenical dialogue between ACNA, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and Lutheran Church–Canada.

The conference takes place on Thursday, 16 October 2014, at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, who are hosting the subsequent ecumenical meeting. There is no charge for admission, though a free will offering will be taken to cover the cost of lunch. Please pre-register by contacting the seminary by  e-mail (concordia@brocku.ca) or phone (905-688-2362) .

Please advertise this event in your congregation or institution with this poster.

Agenda

9.30am      Matins

10.15am    Greying Canadians & Americans Today: Products & Victims of the 1960s (John Stephenson)

11.15am    Break

11.30am    She’s Gone, Boy … She’s Gone (Donald Harvey)

12.30pm Lunch

1.30pm Jesus as Culture Warrior? A Cross-shaped Strategy for Being Church in a Hostile Culture (Joel Lehenbauer)

2.30pm Culture of Want, Culture of Ruin? (Jonathan Riches)

3.30pm Break

4.00pm Panel Discussion, Q&A

4.45pm Evening Prayer

 

 

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