Sermon for the Presentation of Our Lord 2015

Presentation of our Lord - RublevThe following sermon was preached by Rev. Dr Wilhelm Torgerson in the seminary’s Martin Luther Chapel for the Feast of the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of our Lord (observed 3 February 2015).

St Luke 2:22-35

A newspaper reported that at the new Apple Store in Peking people had started to line up in mid-afternoon, and they stayed through the night. The reason: They wanted to be among the first to purchase the new Iphone 4 that was to be sold starting the next morning. More than a thousand people waited for the store to open. But they didn’t have that many Iphones to begin with, and so the management decided not to open the store at all to prevent uncontrollable chaos. And that really made people angry: waiting all night, and all for nothing!

And that is rather disappointing, isn’t it: waiting and waiting, and at the end to find out that it was all for naught. It seems to be a general truth: we don’t like to wait. Whatever we want, we want it as soon as possible and without too much trouble. It is rare that we consider waiting as something pleasant, except maybe the time before Christmas. That season is ending today, on the second of February, forty days after the birth of Christ.

We’re usually willing to wait for Christmas because we know exactly when it will take place and how we plan to observe it. But to wait for others to fulfill their promises, for them to do what they had said they would do, well, that’s an entirely different matter. It often leads to frustration and disappointment.

Today’s Gospel talks about someone who is waiting. He is not alone in his expectation, so the verses immediately following inform us; many others are waiting like him. They’re waiting not just for a few hours, not only through the night; they have been waiting for many, many years—and they’re still waiting. But they’re not waiting for the newest technical gadget appearing on the market. Rather they wait for something absolutely decisive, so significant for their life that they’re unwilling to leave the whole thing be after the disappointment of a few hours.

What are they waiting for? St Luke says: “Looking for the consolation of Israel”, or just a few verses after that: “Looking for the redemption of Jerusalem”. In other words, they’re waiting for God to keep his promise to send the Messiah, the Saviour of his people, who will not only rule over Israel, but lead the whole world to believe in the God of Israel.

I can well understand the people’s longing for Israel’s Messiah. It was a time of Roman oppression, when God seemed to keep silent. Their wait had seemed so futile! How long had it been that the people of Israel hoped and waited—and he still had not appeared. And all those who in the past had claimed to be the Messiah had proven to be bigmouthed fakes.

But had God not promised in his word that the Messiah would come? And so the pious ones in the land waited—they did not call for a revolt against the Romans, but they relied on God to do the right thing and the right time. And waited.

Now it is the old man Simeon that commands Luke’s special attention. Do you recall what was said about him? Simeon was not only waiting like all the other believers in Israel; but we are told that God the Holy Spirit gave him a firm personal promise: the Messiah will come not only in some undisclosed future, no, he will appear during your lifetime, Simeon! And more than that: Simeon would get to see his Saviour with his own eyes!

And holding fast to this promise Simeon waited; for how many months or years, I do not know. And I also do not know whether I—or you—would have relied on that promise for such a long time. Did we just image that, with that special promise? Did we make it up? Would we have been that patient?

Well, Simeon was; he kept waiting and didn’t doubt that God would keep his promise. And then finally, the day is at hand: the Holy Spirit urges him to be in the Temple on a specific day in order that the promise might be seen to be fulfilled. And so Simeon rushes up to Temple Hill.

What does he see there? Not a charismatic star with obvious leadership qualities; not a great orator to entertain the crowds. It’s just—a little baby. A baby that is presented to God in the Temple forty days after his birth; something that had been going on in Israel for more than a thousand years. Nor was the baby’s head surrounded by a halo, and his young parents looked just like the other happy parents that came to the Temple that day.

So how did Simeon saw what only one other person, old Hannah the prophetess, saw on that day? The Holy Spirit opened his eyes, the eyes of faith, and Simeon is able to recognize: this is He! This baby is the one I’ve been waiting for all my life, together with many others, as we relied on and believed God’s word of promise. And Simeon takes the child—surprise, Mary and Joseph!—and starts his beautiful hymn of praise:

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word;
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation”
(v. 29+30)

My waiting paid off; now I can die in peace, because Christ is the supreme and most beautiful fulfilment I can imagine for my life.

Simeon holding the Christ child in his arms—that’s the exact opposite of those disappointed yuppies in front of the Apple Store in Beijing. These guys were waiting for a status symbol they could show around—and an Iphone really does not serve well as life’s fulfilment. Surely there must be more to life than possessing the latest trendy mobile phone or some other new electronic gadget.

Simeon was not waiting for a status symbol. He awaited the One who gave his life hope and meaning and a future—and he was not disappointed. He is carrying in his arms the greatest blessing of his life.

But what does this story have to do with us? I think a whole lot. We are actually mentioned in Simeon’s hymn: He praises Christ as “the light for revelation to the gentiles.” Gentiles, people not of Israel, that’s you and me. This story teaches us how God, in and through this baby which Simeon holds in his arms, how God begins to extend his salvation, his redemptive work, to all people everywhere, even here in St. Catharines.

We celebrate this festival because we marvel at the fact that the light which this child spreads, no, which this child is, that this light shines into the darkness of our land and of our city, indeed, into the darkness of our own heart.

And what happens in our service today is just as unfathomable. As Simeon way back then took into his arms a seemingly helpless infant and praised it as his Saviour, so we will kneel at the altar, before what seems to be merely a piece of bread and some wine—and yet because of the word spoken with the eyes of faith we recognize in these elements the same Lord that moved Simeon to such worship and praise. We, too, have Jesus with us, in us, as he unites himself in his body and blood with all who partake. Such is the power which shines in this “light for revelation to the gentiles, and for the consolation of Israel” and Saviour of the world.

God fulfils his word—often in a manner quite different than we expect, and yet often much more wonderful than we thought possible. That’s the message of today’s Gospel!

And that, my Friends, leads us back to the waiting Simeon. For him and many before him it had been a long wait. At the same time he knew: After the arrival of the Messiah, those coming after us will not necessarily have an easier time of it. The child which Mary presented in the Temple will become “a sign that is spoken against”. And he says so to the young mother.

And that’s the way it is to this day: People will consider it sheer nonsense to believe in this child, or in the adult which it will grow up to be, or to put their trust in him. A great divide will pass through Israel, indeed, through humankind, a divide that separates those, like Simeon, who find in this child the fulfilment of their life, and those who completely disregard this Jesus because they couldn’t care less.

What is this child to you, my Sisters and Brothers? And I’m asking that question in view of the many Chinese who had gathered in front of the Apple Store just to get hold of some technical gadget they thought might change their lives. What is this child for you?

If we consider this child to be really important for us and our life, then we, like Simeon, will have come to this temple to meet the Saviour, here and now. Someone has carried the promised Messiah into this place this morning. This is where we meet up with the “the light of the gentiles” as his word is proclaimed and his sacred gifts of body and blood are distributed. What could there be legitimately keeping us away from God’s house?

As for your waiting, it’ll never be for nothing; you’ll never be disappointed. Christ himself comes to meet you here; he speaks life-giving words to you; he distributes life-sustaining food, spiritual medicine for living and for dying. So we join in Simeon’s joy:

Lord, now lettest thou they servant depart in peace, according to thy word;
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”

What else is there to wait for? Amen.

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Joint Boards Meet in St. Catharines

“So now come and let us take counsel together.” (Nehemiah 6:7)

“Isn’t it amazing how applicable Bible verses taken out of context can be for the circumstances in which we find ourselves? I suppose it is not always bad when one considers the sentiment involved and does not press for details or doctrines”—comments Dr William Mundt, who also serves as CLTS Director of Development.

Joint Board of Regents meeting, 26 January 2015Taking counsel together is exactly what the two LCC Seminaries do annually in a joint Board of Regents meeting. The latest one was held Monday, 26 January, at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines. The similar size and challenges provide opportunities for its Regents and those from Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Edmonton to learn from one another.

Long before the Memorandum of Understanding (2011) was formally adopted, such co-operation between the institutions took place through joint faculty meetings, faculty exchanges, and co-operative efforts on various levels. Shared goals and values means resource sharing is possible and desirable as regents discuss such concerns as faculty calls, recruitment, distance education, funding, and accreditation. With both seminaries needing to replace retiring faculty members in the coming year, and with the whole synod facing a financial crisis, joint counsel is wise and welcome. On this occasion, the group benefited from a board development session led by CLS President James Gimbel.

The two boards joined with the students for a divine service in commemoration of St Titus,Joint Board of Regents meeting, 26 January 2015 Pastor and Confessor—most appropriate for a seminary gathering. Rev. Rudy Pastucha, visiting with the Edmonton Board of Regents, preached to the gathered community. There was also an opportunity to get acquainted with the students and staff over lunch.

On Tuesday, 27 January, each Board of Regents met separately to ensure that individual issues are addressed.

The “Continuation Committee” comprising representatives of the two seminaries and the LCC Board of Directors met on Wednesday, 28 January, for ongoing review of the Memorandum of Understanding. A separate news story will shortly be issued concerning that committee’s important work.

 

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Book Donations the “Spine” of the Seminary Library

Luther's WorksOver the years, the seminary’s Martin Chemnitz Memorial Library has been expanded and enhanced by the generosity of donors who regularly contribute used books and journals to the collection.

In the last four years alone, we have received well over 5 000 donated books, though only 1 500 of those were suitable to be added to our library collection. The value of items added to our library since 2010 through donations topped $46 000.

Clearly, we would never be able to acquire that volume of material if we relied solely on our rather meagre library acquisitions budget. We are very thankful to all our supporters who have made these generous gifts.

Jeff Swords at work in the libraryWhile we continue to welcome your donations, we are finding it increasingly difficult to “rehome” donated books that are not needed because we already have them in our library. For this reason, we are encouraging donors to send us a quick email (concordia@brocku.ca) or to call the seminary at 905-688-2362, ext. 32, before bringing donations to the library. That way, we can save donors the time and effort of travelling to the seminary with boxes of items we are unable to use.

A reminder about the process we use for library donations:

  • First, we establish if the book is already in our collection.
  • If not, the Director of the Library reviews the item and determines if it meets a set of criteria that would make it appropriate for our library collection. Is the book relevant to the curriculum at the seminary? Does it have academic or research value? Is it in good physical condition? Books chosen for the collection are then assessed average retail values based on the used book market. Donors are issued a Canadian tax receipt for that amount.
  • Duplicate donations, or those deemed unsuitable for the library collection, are sold or otherwise disposed of and no tax receipt is issued.

TMW140507-33-4x6We value your book donations and look forward to hearing from you if you have items you feel would benefit our library. Please ensure that boxes of used books brought to the library include contact information—a donor’s name, address, phone number, and e-mail—and indicate whether a tax receipt is requested.

Thank-you to our past donors, and also to those who are considering us as the future recipient of their personal library collections. With your help, the Martin Chemnitz Memorial Library will continue to be a valuable resource to our students and the broader community.

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Advent Lessons and Carols 2014: A Festive Family Affair

CLTS Advent Lessons and Carols 2014

The service of Advent Lessons and Carols, held this past Sunday, 7 December, in the Martin Luther Chapel at Concordia, is our chance to share the celebration of the season before the semester break. President Winger explains the purpose in the introduction to CLTS Christmas Dinner 2014the service when he notes: “The Procession with Carols on Advent Sunday is a collegiate tradition that gives students the opportunity to anticipate Christmas together before heading home for the holidays.” It is also an opportunity for the seminary community—or perhaps better stated, the seminary family—to give back to the circle of supporters it has.

Area pastors, especially the field-work supervisors, members of the Seminary Guild, and CLTS Christmas Dinner 2014anyone else connected with the seminary and close-by that day, is invited to join us as we rehearse Advent lessons and songs and remind one another that our Saviour and salvation are, as the hymn-writer expressed it: “Of the Father’s love begotten ere the worlds began to be. He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He, of the things that are, that have been, and that future CLTS Christmas Dinner 2014years shall see evermore and evermore.” (LSB 384,1) This year fifty guests and participants took part. Special thanks again to Diane Humann and the Resurrection Lutheran Church choir.

After the reverberations of the majestic “Lo! He Come with Clouds Descending” (LSB 336) slowly dissipated and light refreshments were been enjoyed, the students, staff, faculty, and friends moved the festivities to Resurrection Lutheran Church, where the Concordia Seminary Students’ Association (CSSA) hosted the annual festive family gathering.

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Advent Newsletter 2014

The latest news from Concordia has been sent out to all congregations in Lutheran Church–Canada in our Advent Newsletter. You can read it online here. Please remember to support our mission as you consider your Christmas giving.

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Call for Award Nominations

Each May at the annual Call Service Concordia Luthern Theological Seminary has the opportunity to confer two major awards on worthy pastors or lay members of Lutheran Church–Canada. The recipient of the “Friend of the Seminary” award is nominated by the faculty or Board of Regents for making a significant contribution to the well-being of the seminary.

CLTS Call Service 2013The Delta Chi Medal, by contrast, is awarded by the seminary on behalf of the wider church. This “highest and most distinguished award” is “presented to an individual, either clergy or lay, whose life exemplifies service to Christ in his/her everyday living and vocation.” In nominating, one should consider the person’s service to the local congregation, the community, the synodical district, the church at large, church service organizations, and educational institutions. Delta Chi refers to the initials of the Greek expression διάκονος χριστοῦ “servant of Christ”.

Anyone in LCC may nominate a candidate for the Delta Chi award. No current faculty or board member is eligible. Please submit your nomination in writing to the seminary or via e-mail to concordia@brocku.ca. The deadline for nominations is 15 January 2015.

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Help the Seminary with Your Christmas Shopping

As you do your Christmas shopping, you can support the seminary in a few simple ways.

If you shop at Amazon, you can put your shopping to work for us as well. Anything you buy at Amazon can be credited to us if you enter Amazon through our seminary link. This applies to books, electronics, housewares, anything they sell. The price doesn’t go up; it costs you nothing more. But Amazon pays a portion of the proceeds to the seminary just for the referral. Simply go to the seminary’s homepage (www.brocku.ca/concordiaseminary) and enter Amazon (US or Canada) by clicking on the appropriate link, or just click the links below:

AmazonCA AmazonUS

Then just shop as usual and the seminary gets the credit (you need to click on our link each time you start shopping at Amazon).

You can also buy gifts from the seminary’s bookstore. As we move out of the bookshop business, all books are still 40% off! Gift certificates are available. Check the seminary website for book lists and shopping options or e-mail Sarah: scavanagh@brocku.ca.

We also have warm and stylish CLTS winter scarves for sale ($15), as well as CLTS ball caps ($10). Show your love for your seminary proudly!Scarf

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Give a “Perfect Holiday”–Tara Lyn Hart CD for Christmas

Tara Lyn Hart, Perfect Holiday“Perfect Holiday” is the perfect gift for the music lover in your circle of family and friends. Tara Lyn Hart’s Christmas album for a good cause is back for another season. First released in time for Christmas 2010, the CD includes old favourites like “What Child is This” and original works like “Christmas Alleluia” and “Perfect Holiday”. Proceeds from sales of the album go to Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary (CLTS) in St. Catharines. The album also features violinist Dianne Humann, wife of retired CLTS professor Rev. Dr Roger Humann.

Tara Lyn Hart’s roots in the Canadian music industry run deep. Following childhood performances in church and talent competitions near her hometown of Roblin, Manitoba, a three year contract with Sony Music allowed her to enter the music scene in Nashville where she would eventually perform at the Grand Ole Opry. In 2000, she won the Canadian Country Music Association’s Rising Star award and was further nominated for two Juno Awards for the title track on her album Stuff that Matters. She also ran a successful performing arts school in Cobourg, Ontario, from 2002 to 2008. Since June 2012 Tara and her family have lived in southern Australia where her husband Perry is Pastor for the Waikerie Parish of the Lutheran Church of Australia.

“Perfect Holiday” costs $10 and can be ordered by calling CLTS at (905) 688-2362 or emailing the seminary at Concordia@brocku.ca. It can also be purchased online at Tara Lyn Hart’s website. Individual songs are available at iTunes.

 

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Lessons from a Lifetime–Rev. Wallace Schulz Visits

Revd Wallace Schulz addresses seminary convocation hourRev. Dr Wallace Schulz has boldly proclaimed the Gospel in pulpits, in print, and over the airwaves throughout North America and around the world. This past week, 3-5 November, he served as a guest preacher and presenter at the seminary. In the chapel, in the classrooms, and during a lunchtime convocation he focused his listeners on clearly communicating the message of salvation through faith alone in Jesus Christ.

Drawing on his experience as pastor, Lutheran Hour speaker, former LCMS vice president, and evangelist for the Lutheran Heritage Foundation (LHF), Schulz continues to proclaim the Gospel in the United States and more than a dozen other countries by writing and editing Good News magazine, designed to introduce new Christians to the foundations of the Lutheran faith: Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

Revd Wallace Schulz addresses seminary convocation hour

Revd Wallace Schulz addresses seminary convocation hour

Rev. Schulz has spent a great deal of time overseas, doing the work of an evangelist. He was the first person from the LCMS to enter the former Soviet Union. Along the way, he found opportunities to tell people about Jesus Christ, and alerted the LHF executive director of the need for printed Christian materials. To help provide pastors, Rev. Schulz started a program to bring Russian men to study at LCMS seminaries. For more than a decade, he has also maintained contact with and assisted underground Christian churches in China and Cuba develop ways to distribute Christian materials in those countries.

Rev. Schulz’s ability to simply but powerfully explain Scripture also strengthens lifelong Lutherans’ faith and understanding. Concordia’s students, staff and faculty appreciated this opportunity to learn such lessons from a lifetime of ministry and mission work.

Rev. Schulz speaks to a dogmatics class

Rev. Schulz speaks to a dogmatics class

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Lutheran Pastor’s Desk Diary 2015

PDD cover 2015 (small)Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, is again pleased to offer to the church the annual Pastor’s Desk Diary. It contains readings from the three-year and one-year lectionaries, including variants for the major Lutheran churches in Canada (LCC, ELCIC, WELS). The original work of Thrivent Financial in the US has been adapted to the Canadian calendar.

Although we can no longer offer the diary for free, the cost has been kept to $19 (plus shipping and GST) through the support of our advertisers. The diary is available through lulu.ca, an online, print-on-demand service. You may order your diary, which will be shipped directly to you, by searching on lulu.ca or following this direct link:

http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/lutheran-pastors-desk-diary-2015/15517953

The base shipping cost in Canada is $5.99, but there are quantity discounts available if you can put an order together with other pastors or church workers. (It’s always worthwhile to check Lulu’s website for specials like discounts and free shipping.)

Please note that you must order this yourself. The seminary produces the diary as a service to the church and does not make a profit. Thus, our paid staff cannot be expected to order the diary for you. If you have difficulty with online ordering, please ask for help from a family member or parishioner.

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