Easter Letter 2014

Easter paraments

Easter paraments in Martin Luther Chapel

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Doubtless, many pastors in Canada this year will draw a connection between the joy of Easter and the great relief of spring after a long, hard winter. Eggs and lilies picture for us the life of Christ that emerged from the death of His stone tomb. So also do shoots emerging from the cold ground and buds springing open on the stark, bare branches of fruit trees. This is what our new life in Christ is like—His death was real, not just apparent; but His life nevertheless triumphed over it.

Of course, this image only works for us Christians in the northern hemisphere, where Easter is celebrated in the spring! But it’s an ancient and enduring Christian image. The church father John of Damascus wrote an Easter hymn in the 8th century that sang:

’Tis the spring of souls today: Christ has burst His prison
And from three days’ sleep in death As a sun has risen;
All the winter of our sins, Long and dark, is flying
From His light, to whom is giv’n Laud and praise undying. (LSB 487:2)

St Paul writes to the Romans that each of us experiences Easter personally when we are baptised. In the early Christian community of Jerusalem catechumens were actually baptised in the cave where Christ was buried, to emerge into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for their first Communion on Easter Sunday. The new life of Easter is made that real for us, too, through Baptism.

It is perhaps a crude analogy to compare the life of the seminary to this high and holy truth. But we, too, are emerging into a new life of sorts. This past February we received a single large gift that erased the remaining portion of our debt, accumulated over 30 years. All of Lutheran Church–Canada rejoiced with us at the news. What a burden has been lifted! But as with the Christian’s new life in Christ, this is not the end but a new beginning. We now have the opportunity to tackle the challenges of the future without the weight of the past. We can concentrate on attracting men to the pastoral vocation to fill the crying need in our parishes. We can focus on providing ever better theological education to our students and to the laity of LCC.

As much as ever, we need your help. Pray that God would inspire men to enter the pastoral vocation. And please offer the faith-filled sacrifice of gifts to support our important work. You may send a cheque, phone in a credit card, give a gift through your congregational offering, or give online through Canada Helps. We are committed to dealing responsibly with the gifts of money and people that are placed into our care. Together we can joyfully participate in the mission of bringing Christ’s Easter joy to all people.

In Christ,

Rev. Dr Thomas M. Winger, President.

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Call Service 2014

Call Service 2008The seminary’s annual Call Service will take place at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, 213 Linwell Rd, St. Catharines, on Saturday, 31 May 2014, 4:00pm. We heartily invite members of LCC, and especially friends and family of the graduates, to attend this festive event.

As many as eight graduating pastoral students will receive their placements in congregations of Lutheran Church–Canada and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Two of those candidates will be especially honoured to have their father, Rev. Rolf Preus, as preacher for the occasion. Rev. Preus’s father, Dr Robert Preus, was instrumental in founding this seminary as an extension of Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, in 1976, and spent many years as a visiting professor.

The service will also honour Rev. William Ney, one-time Secretary of LCC, ABC District mission executive, long-time parish pastor, and now also a LAMP missionary pilot in his “retirement”. The faculty and Board of Regents have chosen him to receive the Delta Chi (Servant of Christ) award, the seminary’s highest honour.

Musicians from the Kitchener-Waterloo area, including organist Michael Nieminen and the Lutheran Chamber Singers under the direction of Heidi Gallas will support the service. Graduating student awards will be given–though the recipients remain a closely-guarded secret!

“Stay tuned” for further news on a Livestream broadcast of the service over the internet.

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Dr John Kleinig to Speak at Seminary Retreat

John KleinigLeading Australian theologian Dr John Kleinig is a familiar and beloved figure in LCC in general and at CLTS in particular. In October of 2013 he received a Festschrift in his honour, edited by Drs Winger and Stephenson. We are glad to announce that Dr Kleinig, accompanied by his wife, Claire, will be paying us a visit at the end of his trip to the USA in August of this year. Dr Kleinig will be addressing the Faculty Forum on Wednesday 27 August, and then will be the featured speaker at the seminary’s opening  retreat for the start of the academic year 2014-2015.

We would like to invite people outside the seminary community to consider attending all or some of the retreat. As has been our custom for more than two decades, the retreat–to be held this year from the afternoon of Thursday 28 till after lunch on Friday 29 August–will be held at the Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre in Niagara Falls, ON. Dr Kleinig’s topic, which is geared to pastoral formation, but also highly relevant to lay people, will be “The Spiritual Disciplines”. He will be presenting two lectures on Thursday afternoon and evening, with one concluding lecture and a question and answer session on Friday morning. The retreat includes a series of reflective prayer services, including late evening Compline in Mount Carmel’s beautiful main chapel, and gives new and returning members of the seminary community the chance to make and renew acquaintance over meals, during free time, and in such settings as walks to the Falls.

If you are interested in attending all or part of the retreat, please register online here. If you have any questions, contact Linda Lantz (concordia@brocku.ca, or 905-688-2362, x22). We need to inform the staff of Mount Carmel in good time how many will be requiring overnight accommodation, and which meals they will be needing. The full cost of the retreat is $150, though local guests may opt out of accommodation or some meals.

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Annunciation 2014

Annunciation_LippiAnnunciation 2014
Is. 7:10-14; Luke 1:26-38

Preached in the seminary’s Martin Luther Chapel by Dr John R. Stephenson on 25 March 2014 for the Feast of the Annuciation.

I like to use the first two verses of today’s Gospel to introduce our students to the discipline of history, which is something you can only practise by paying close attention to details of time, place, and person. Now, nobody in the academic world is going to deny that pregnancies that come to term go through a sixth month. Nor is anyone going to challenge the fact that Nazareth was and is a town in Galilee. And no one is going to bat an eyelid over the fact that a young woman in Nazareth was engaged to a man of royal descent. But I’m sure you already realise why secular scholars must shake their heads over my using these verses to get across the essence of history. God sending an angel with a name to a young woman in a particular time and place—hasn’t Luke crossed the line from genuine history into the bizarre and murky world of legend and mythology? Hasn’t he obviously either mixed fact with fantasy or concocted fact for the sake of ideology?

Before we grasp the secularist bull by the horns, let me emphasise that you are to cherish and treasure all the details of Luke’s account, which are to take deep root in memory and to be the fodder of ongoing, deepening meditation. God sent Gabriel, not Michael or Raphael. He did so in the sixth, not the fifth or seventh month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and this elderly woman was the wife of Zechariah, not of any other son of Aaron. And Mary was living in Nazareth, not Capernaum; and Nazareth was a town of Galilee, not of Judea or Samaria. These details are unalterable, and they’re important.

A hundred years ago two renowned scholars taught in the Protestant theological faculty of the university of Berlin. Adolf von Harnack knew just about everything there was to know, but he basically denied the supernatural. In the opposite corner Adolf Schlatter had a reverent faith in Scripture despite the fact that we would find his overall grasp of Christian doctrine somewhat defective. One day Harnack came into a faculty meeting and said, “Herr Schlatter and I are basically on the same homepage; we only disagree about the miracles.” To which Schlatter retorted, “No, Herr von Harnack and I disagree about God!”
With this bon mot Adolf von Schlatter hit the nail on the head and helped us a hundred years on to zero in on the bottom line of this sublime festival of the Annunciation. Yes, it’s all about God, the God whom Ahaz didn’t believe in, but Mary did, the God against whom Ahaz was a rebel and toward whom Mary was and is a handmaiden. Notwithstanding his distinguished line of forebears, it was way beneath Ahaz’s dignity to serve the God of his fathers. Mary, on the other hand, shouts loud and clear from the communion of saints that her chief glory is not that she is Theotokos, the Mother of God, but that she is δούλη κυρίου the slave-girl of the Lord.

Yes, it’s all about God. There’s a reason why we focus for a class period or two on the English Deists who thought they could throw out the God of Holy Scripture while keeping a scaled-down, neutered version of the God we know through natural theology. You can’t have a personal relationship with the Deist God; the Deist God can’t intervene here on earth; so it’s no wonder that the Deist God had no staying power, but soon gave way to the agnosticism and atheism that pervade our public culture.

Yes, it’s all about God, the God of Sacred Scripture, the God spurned by Ahaz yet accepted by Mary.

It’s quite mind-boggling that, when Ahaz was in a very tight spot geopolitically speaking, the one true God graciously invited his trust and asked him to name the sign of his choice. There’s something eerily modern about Ahaz, who slaughtered babies and sent them up in flames, who dismantled the apparatus of Temple worship and filled Jerusalem with idols. The CBC would just love Ahaz, and he would doubtless be received with the highest honours at today’s White House. Astoundingly, the God who creates out of nothing, justifies the ungodly, and raises the dead, this one true God bade Ahaz trust and challenged him to name his sign. In response to Ahaz’s refusal, God announces that He Himself will give a sign. Now, a young woman conceiving is in itself not much of a sign, but we are talking about a mega-sign when the Lord proclaims that He will keep His promise to the house of David while at the same time rebuking the faithless sons of David, who will not be permitted to perform the husband’s age-old role in the transmission of life.

In the opposite corner to blaspheming Ahaz stands blessed Mary who entrusts herself to the God who does the impossible, the only God who can turn around our misery and give a fresh start to mankind. You don’t need three doctorates in rocket science to work out that post-menopausal old ladies don’t bear children to old men who can no longer muster up a flicker of sexual prowess; and you don’t need to be all that bright to know that virgins do not conceive. But where Eve let herself be deceived and Zechariah voiced doubts even when face to face with a mighty angel at the altar of incense, Mary simply believes, trusts, and accepts. How can she be the Woman of Genesis 3:15, how can her aged relative bear a child, how can she herself be mother to the Son of the Most High? The How is God’s problem; her role is to put herself at the Lord’s disposal: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to Thy Word.”

Ahaz is now in firm control of the Western body politic; Christendom is crumbling, nay collapsing about our ears. And yet Mary’s God is our only help in time of trouble, the only one who can turn our misery around, heal our brokenness, and give a fresh start to mankind. Perhaps the greatest comfort of this day is that the Son given in response to her Fiat, her “Be it unto me” is bestowed not on her alone but on all who will receive Him. Blessed Martin Luther once pointed out that when we rightly receive Holy Communion we actually receive the self-same gift that dwelt in Mary’s virginal womb for nine whole months. Using terminology going back to Augustine and Peter Lombard, Luther emphasised that Mary was with child twice over, physically with the baby formed in her womb, and spiritually through her faith in the angel’s word concerning this child. Likewise the Lord’s body and blood enter into everyone who eats and drinks the consecrated elements, be they never so wicked and unbelieving. But if, despairing of our own resources we believe the word about the body given and the blood shed for the forgiveness of sins and the life of the world, then we also partake spiritually of the body and blood of Christ that enter into our mortal frames. In her faith in the one true God, Mary is the model of Christian piety and spirituality. As we approach the altar each one of us is invited to speak with her, “Behold the slave girl or slave boy of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy Word.”

Mankind still divides, as it has always done, into those who stand with Blessed Mary and Adolf Schlatter, on the one side, and those who align themselves with Ahaz and Adolf von Harnack, on the other. I don’t doubt where the tiny flock gathered in chapel today stand on this matter, but as dark clouds gather on the outside and Ahaz rules the worldly roost, I pray that our four pastoral graduates will be anointed boldly to proclaim the God who does the impossible and who gives His Son to be our Saviour through the virgin’s womb, and I trust that we may all be strengthened to be witnesses to the one Son of God and the Virgin through the supernatural food miraculously given us in this most holy sacrament.

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Annual Seminary Golf Tournament

2013 Tournament Winners

2013 Tournament Winners

Mark your calendars now! Concordia Seminary’s annual golf tournament is scheduled for Monday, 2 June 2014 at Sawmill Golf Course in Fenwick, beginning at 11:30 am.  The $100 per person registration fee includes BBQ lunch (sausages, hamburgers, hotdogs, and a non-alcoholic beverage), green fees, golf cart, chicken/rib combo dinner, dessert, and prizes.  Look for a registration form in your church bulletin (or dowload 2014 Golf Registration Form).  We are also collecting prizes. If you would like to make a donation to the prize table, please send it to the East District Office at 275 Lawrence Ave, Kitchener, or to the seminary at 470 Glenridge Ave, St. Catharines. Prizes need to be in by 30 May.  If you would like your prize donation picked up, please contact Linda Lantz at (905) 688-2362, ext. 22  (concordia@brocku.ca ). Linda is also looking for committee members to help with the tournament.

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CLTS Gets Social

There are now three new ways to receive news from CLTS, in addition to our Google Groups e-mail list and our WordPress blog. All stories posted on WordPress will be automatically shared with our new sites on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Follow us any way you wish, but please follow us!




CLTS FacebookCLTS Google+CLTS Twitter

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St Matthias, Apostle, 2014

MatthiasThe following sermon was preached by Revd Dr Thomas Winger in the seminary’s Martin Luther chapel on 24 February 2014, the Festival of St Matthias, Apostle.

Chosen to replace a traitor, lucky to choose the short straw, then to disappear from the face of the New Testament without further mention—it hardly seems that Matthias deserves a mention in the liturgical calendar, let alone the Bible. But as our Lord’s most interesting parables often have two fascinating characters—the Prodigal Son and his older brother, Lazarus and the rich man—so we find the meaning of Matthias as we set him alongside his predecessor, Judas.

Now, the New Testament shows no interest in rehabilitating Judas. The perspective supposedly adopted by the apocryphal Gospel of Judas, that he conspired with Jesus to betray Him (not against Him), that Judas was therefore a good guy after all, is certainly not the viewpoint of St Luke’s account. Instead we’re told that Judas bought a field with the “reward for his wickedness” (1:18). And that as a just reward for his disgraceful deed he didn’t live to enjoy it, but hanged himself and spilt his guts upon this “Field of Blood”. Poetic justice. Certainly God used Judas in his plan to sacrifice His only-begotten Son for this sinful world; certainly God’s holy Word prophesied that such a betrayer would raise his hand against the Anointed. But I suppose that if Judas had repented of this filthy deed, the Lord’s plan would not have failed. Another betrayer would have fallen to hand. But the fact remains that Jesus, knowing the wicked deed that Judas had in his heart to commit, nevertheless chose him to be one of the twelve apostles, sent him out on a preaching mission, taught him and loved him day by day, even invited him to that most intimate Last Supper. So the most puzzling question is not how Judas could have betrayed his Lord, but how that Lord could have chosen a traitor as His apostle.

Yet the Lord’s ways are not our ways. We choose the man to fit the job. We look for qualities and talents, commitment and vision. Very few of the apostles would have made it onto the faculty of Concordia Seminary. (We might have found room for St Paul.) Yet our Lord chose Judas. He chose him because there was an office to be filled, and it mattered little who would fill it. The office was the Lord’s, and the Lord’s to do with as He wished. It was never Judas’s. And when Judas betrayed both his Lord and his office, the office remained where he left it. The prophecy that came to Peter’s mind that day was that a dwelling place would be left desolate and that another would receive the office.

The call process by which that office came to be filled would scandalise any democratically-minded Protestant today. A crowd of 120 pushed forward two men and a new apostle was chosen by lot. Some higher critics have ridiculed this event, suggesting that the crowd was running ahead of God, who intended St Paul to be the replacement for Judas. But they’ve misread the text. For God was always running the show. Firstly, it was Christ Himself who established what it meant to be an apostle. St Peter put it into words: “So one of the men [ἀνδρῶν, no women apostles] who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when He was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness of His resurrection” (1:21-22). The Lord had already made these men competent for the office by taking them into His care, leading and teaching them for three years, and then choosing to appear to them after His resurrection. You see, Peter has nothing to say about eloquence or nobility or multimedia skills. The Lord’s apostles don’t fit into such categories of competence. Their duties are simple: to give public testimony to what they’d seen and heard, and to leave the rest to God. So by prayer and drawing lots in the age-old biblical tradition, the choice was left in His hands.

And then we hear nothing more. No more Matthias. It didn’t really matter what Matthias had to offer or would go on to do. The Lord once more had His twelve. The new Israel was reconstituted. God had filled the vacant place.

Over and done with. What comfort is in it for us? If it were a model for seminary education it would give great comfort to some of you, and strike terror into the hearts of the faculty. Good thing you’re not called to be apostles. Good thing we take seriously the admonition of St Paul to fill the office of the ministry with men who are “above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money” (I Tim. 3:2-3). I have no doubt that St Matthias and St Paul himself fulfilled all these qualifications that are demanded also of you—though it was not what made them apostles. Yet there is something in the choice of Matthias that is of immense comfort to every Christian. For I know that God has that place for me. He has His full number in mind. As there had to be 12 apostles for His people to be complete, so there are a symbolic 144 000 saints in St John’s vision of heaven, and the Lord will not allow devil nor world nor stubborn old Adam to rob Him of His full number. As the water was poured upon you the lot fell to you. He chose you not because He saw something loveable in you but because He wants you, that you may be His own, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. He has a place reserved at this table with your name already inscribed upon it, to receive that precious inheritance even now through the betrayed and battered, but ever-living Body and Blood of His Son. Amen

(Astute readers may note a resemblance to a sermon from 2008–Dr Winger was a last minute substitute for a preacher unable to make it.)

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CLTS Debt Eliminated! Thanks Be to God!

We rejoice to announce to the members of Lutheran Church–Canada that the historic accumulated debt of this seminary has been entirely eliminated. Thanks be to God! The background to this dramatic story takes a little longer to explain.

Board Chairman Rev. Robert Krestick and President Thomas Winger sign the agreement

Board Chairman Rev. Robert Krestick and Rev. President Dr Thomas Winger sign the agreement

One major factor that led LCC to establish a Task Force on Seminary Education in 2008 was a financial crisis at her two seminaries in Edmonton and St. Catharines. The story at this seminary was chiefly an accumulated debt that was becoming an unbearable burden. While the debt grew slowly over much of the seminary’s 38-year history, it grew more rapidly in the years immediately prior to the 2008 convention, reaching a high of $800 000. Interest payments alone had become a significant factor in the seminary’s budget.

The seminary leadership took immediate action. Through extensive cost-cutting measures, generous responses to appeals, and unexpectedly generous bequests in the following triennium, the seminary was able to announce to the 2011 LCC convention that the debt had been reduced to less than $600 000. The Memorandum of Understanding signed at that convention committed the seminary to running a tight ship financial in order to produce significant annual surpluses. It was hoped that, God willing, the remaining debt would be paid off within a decade, and progress was certainly made in the next few years.

Business Manager Mike Bauer signs the transfer slip to pay off the seminary debt

Business Manager Mike Bauer signs the transfer slip to pay off the seminary debt

But God ever surprises us with His goodness. Working through the generosity of a private donor, God removed our remaining debt in one fell swoop. President Thomas Winger and Board Chairman Robert Krestick met with the donors on Saturday, 22 February 2014, to sign the documents detailing the transfer of the gift and its terms of use. In addition to eliminating our existing debt, the gift will enable us to carry out needed maintenance such as replacing the seminary’s leaky roof.

These generous church members wish to give all glory and thanks to God, thus remaining anonymous. They are also quite insistent that their gift should be seen as an encouragement to the members of LCC to continue supporting this beloved seminary.

This gift enables CLTS to stand on a firm financial footing as it presses forward with its mission of preparing pastors and educated laypeople for Christ’s church. It allows us to concentrate on this mission—with your help. Pray for God’s continued blessing on us and our students, support us with your gifts, and encourage men to study for the holy ministry in Christ’s church. The world needs the Gospel.

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Taste of the Seminary

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe seminary left a good taste in the mouths of four potential students who visited on Tuesday, 18 February 2014. The day was chosen because it fell during the normal university reading week, when students were free but the seminary was still in session. One mature applicant travelled up from the Detroit area with his wife. (Three other prospects who were unable to come on this day will visit later in the month.)

The mystery of theological education was slowly revealed as our guests attended classes in Christian doctrine and preaching, and also participated in the weekly “Pericope Seminar” OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthat models how a pastor studies a text and prepares to preach. They attended Morning Prayer in the Martin Luther chapel. At a hearty lunch, shared with 30 members of the seminary community, new friends were made over chicken, pasta–and Olympic hockey on the students’ new big screen!

If you are interested in your own tast of the seminary, please contact us about a visit. We’ll be glad to have you.

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Nicaragua: The Tradition Continues

2014 - 57

Graduates gather outside the ILSN Mission Centre, Chinandega (Rev. Sang-Rog Choi of Vegreville, AB, middle)

Concordia has been involved with the mission and church in Nicaragua almost since its inception. The LCC website notes:

Our Nicaraguan mission began in 1997 after Lutheran Church–Canada received an invitation to share the Gospel in this Central American nation. Our first missionary was Pastor Sándor Argüello, a Nicaraguan refugee. His first months were tough. But, following Hurricane Mitch in 1998, people needed emergency help. The church responded. Arguello spread the Gospel, and God opened hearts and built a community of believers.

Pastor Argüello is a 1995 graduate of our seminary.

Nicaragua Graduation

Dr Winger (left), ILSN President Rev. Marvin Picado (centre), and Rev. Nolan Astley (right) present diplomas to the graduates

As the mission grew and more workers were needed, suitable candidates were identified and Dr Roger Humann, on behalf of LCC, organised classes and arranged for LCC pastors and professors to teach them. In recent years, owing to Dean Humann’s declining health, LCC Mission Director Dr Leonardo Neitzel has supervised the programme. CLTS has once again been requested to take a more active role in ministerial preparation. On 25 January 2014, Dr Thomas Winger, seminary president, preached at the graduation of the current class in which 12 pastoral graduates and 18 deaconesses were given their diplomas and vicarage (internship) assignments.

The LCC website explains the process:

missionaries work with community members to identify people who are eligible to serve God. Once identified, students enrol in the theological education programme, established by our synod’s mission and Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines, Ont. Of course, the missionary’s work is not yet complete. Students carry out vicarages and internships within the mission congregation.

Nicaragua meeting with pastorsTaking advantage of the large gathering from around the church on the festive day, Dr Winger and Rev. Warren Hamp met with the pastors to discuss their desire for continuing education and the possibility of another seminary cohort. At the top of their list is learning some Greek to help them with Scripture interpretation and preaching.

Dr Winger was not the only Canadian in the country. The graduation followed the synod convention, starting 9 January, and the dedication of a new church on 12 January, attended by team members from Waterloo, Elmira, Oshawa, Kingsville, Hamilton, and Mississauga (Ontario), who had arrived to continue construction of the new church building in Telica, a rural community just outside the city of León. They also led VBS work with children at four locations in and around León. In Nicaragua, the public school system’s Christmas break continues until February, giving children free time to attend the classes. Reports indicate that up to 600 children were expected to participate. Following the Fourth Convention of the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (founded in 2008), LCC President Robert Bugbee flew to neighbouring Honduras to visit sites where the Nicaraguan church hopes to expand its outreach.

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