Sermon for St Luke, Evangelist

st_luke_the_evangelistThe following sermon was preached by Rev. Esko Murto in the seminary’s Martin Luther Chapel for a divine service on the occasion of the Festival of St Luke, Evangelist, Tuesday, 18 October 2016. The text was Luke 10:1-9. 

Christ said to his disciples: Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.

What would you think of an optimistic mechanic who, when asked to do a check-up with your car, would always tell you “Everything is fine”, no matter what goes on under the hood? Or what would you think of a friendly teller in a bank, always giving you a nice, reassuringly high number when you inquire how much money you have on your account? We could come up with a lot of examples like this – situations where people who should give us accurate information even if it makes us worried, out of kindness lie to us. I assume we can all agree that these people are not doing a very good job. Actually they are downright harmful to others despite their friendly and nice appearance. Nice words are not that nice if they hide from us the truth we need to know.

Let us examine one more vocation: the honest preacher, troubled with the aforementioned examples and wishing to avoid them in his ministry. Not wanting to forget the truth for the sake of appearing friendly, he wonders how he can honestly preach the Gospel anymore. How can he proclaim: “Your sins are forgiven”, when he can never be fully certain that the one hearing him actually has true saving faith? How can he preach: “You have peace with God, be of good cheer!” when he still is unsure whether his hearers truly believed that? “After all”, the honest preacher might say to himself, “it is true only if they have faith. And I don’t dare to assume they all believe – so how could I say that?”

And thus the honest preacher begins to add conditional clauses in his sermons, his prayers, even his words of absolution. “To all of you who truly believe, I say, your sins have been forgiven”, he might announce. “Christ has saved you – as long as you believe!” he preaches.  There always is that condition. Most often it is a mere footnote, small print at the end of a longer sermon, a quick disclaimer he has to include there to free his conscience. After all, he wants to be just honest, not giving false promises. He fears that some people would, in vain, imagine that they are saved.

For most of the congregation, that is not a problem. Over time they learn to ignore these small additions and subtle reservations. But there are some who wonder. They wonder what is wrong with them, since it sounds like the preacher is doing a good job and proclaiming the gospel just like it is supposed to be…but still they cannot quite grasp the joy of these good news. It’s a bit like going out for a holiday and wondering if you left your stove on: you are heading for good times and you’re almost 100% sure that your home will not be a smouldering pile of ashes when you come back, but still there is that gnawing, nagging question in the back of your head: “What if?” Similarly there are some in the congregation who get stuck in these footnotes and disclaimers of the honest preacher, and can’t get through them.


Now, you honest preacher, listen to what Christ said: Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’

The Lord said: “Whatever house”. Stop and think about that word. Does it make a distinction between houses, saying that in some cases do this, but otherwise do that? No. “Whatever house” means “without distinction” – always, everywhere.

The Lord commanded: “First say”. Time of probing and discussion and assessment and evaluation and personalized study questions (you so enjoy) might come later, but it is not where you begin. You don’t know who they are and you don’t stop to find out. Say this thing first.

The Lord says: “Peace be to this house!” Indeed, it is Lord himself who says that, after all he teaches in the same passage: “the one who hears you hears me.” Peace of Christ is pronounced and declared with these words to the people in the house. It means: peace with God, forgiveness of sins, true life and salvation.

And listen, you honest preacher: “If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.” Do not worry about what happens after you preach the gospel. It is in the hands of the Lord. He knows the hearts of men so you don’t need to. Just go and declare what has been given to you to declare: Good News.


For this is the secret that the Honest Preacher missed: that there is no such thing as believing the Gospel in vain. Certainly, if your mechanic tells you your car is doing fine while in fact the engine will blow up during the next thousand kilometres, then he is fooling you because your faith in the durability of your car does nothing to the engine. Or if the teller in the bank is lying to you about your account balance, he is doing a disservice because your false sense of economic security doesn’t help you at all if the account is empty and rent is due.

But such is not the case with Gospel. For anyone who believes what the gospel says, there and then, without any requirements or conditions, also receives what the gospel promises. The honest preacher is worried that there might be someone in the pews who hears his proclamation of gospel and takes it too seriously, not realizing that it doesn’t apply to him because he doesn’t have faith. But you foolish honest preacher, can’t you see that the moment that person ‘takes the gospel too seriously’, he has indeed moved from unbelief into faith and thus all the promises of the gospel are true for him?


Therefore, you restless sinners in the pews! No matter who you are, or what you think, or what sins you have on your conscience, or how miserably weak your faith is: Peace be to you and your house. Christ has died for your sins and has been resurrected for your righteousness. He suffered your punishment so that you could be free. You have peace with God. Amen.

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A Fair Day at the Fair

CLTS Students at Norfolk County Fair, 2016-10-05Five CLTS students travelled to Simcoe, Ontario, to assist in an annual outreach initiative of the local congregations at the Norfolk County Fair. The seminarians were given the opportunity to develop outreach and evangelism skills through the oversight of Pastor Dan Abraham. Andrew Cottrill relayed the experience of the fair as being “a great chance for the church to maintain her presence in the community, and a practical way for seminarians to apply what they’re learning to everyday folks with whom they share the gospel.”

The congregations of St. 20161004_145626-2048pxPeter’s (Simcoe), Peace (Tillsonburg), Christ the King (Port Rowan), and Trinity (Fisherville), have maintained a fair booth presence at the Norfolk County Fair for over twenty years with the assistance of the Lutheran Laymen’s League.

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Seminaries Sunday 2016

Seminaries Sunday 2016

“Christ, who is God over all, be blessed for ever. Amen.” (Romans 9:5)

Lutheran Church–Canada no longer designates a specific day “Seminaries Sunday”, but encourages her congregations to remember the two seminaries with prayers and offerings.

You may wish to observe it in conjunction with an Education Sunday in the autumn, remembering the opening of our academic year. We encourage you to use the propers appointed for the day, but you may also choose to make use of the seminaries’ joint theme verse (above).

Liturgical resources and a bulletin cover / insert are available for your use here. You may encourage offerings towards the seminaries’ operating budgets through your congregational offerings, or request special envelopes by contacting the seminaries directly.

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Give Thanks to God for Your Seminary

C. S. Lewis Course Students

C. S. Lewis Course Students, May 2016

At Thanksgiving we not only give thanks to God for the blessings of our country and its rich harvest, but we remember His grace shown to us in Jesus Christ, our Saviour. That message is the focus of the Holy Ministry that Jesus instituted to preach the Gospel to all the world.

This Thanksgiving please remember the needs of the seminary, which is dedicated to preparing men for Christ’s ministry. President Winger writes about two parables from Luke’s Gospel that give us a divine perspective on our money in his Thanksgiving letter to the Church. Read also about student Kirk Radford and his family.

You may donate online through Canada Helps, or learn of other ways to help from our website: “Support Us”.

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Sermon: St Michael and All Angels

St Michael and All AngelsThe following sermon was preached by Dr Thomas Winger in the seminary’s Martin Luther Chapel for the divine service for the festival of St Michael and All Angels, 29 September 2016.

Dear brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ: There are three things that God doesn’t need the angels to do for Him.

Number one: He doesn’t need angelic armies to fight His battles. Nowhere is this made more clear than at the Exodus. God beats back the Egyptians with ten plagues. God Himself passes through the land of Egypt to strike down the firstborn in every household. His people Israel carry no weapons when they march forth from Egypt. And when Pharaoh’s troops pursue them, we see no battle of armies with God’s people rescued at the last moment by an angelic cavalry. Rather, God acts alone. He lures Pharaoh’s troops into an ambush at the Sea of Reeds. And as they approach, God announces to Israel:

13 Do not fear, stand firm, and see the salvation of YHWH, which He will work for you today. For those whom you see today, the Egyptians, you shall never see them again for ever. 14 YHWH will fight for you, and you yourselves are to be silent. (Ex. 14:13-14)

Just stand back and watch, He says! And when it’s accomplished, God will point back to that mighty event and say that His right hand won them the victory. And yet …. There’s our reading from Revelation (12:7-12). God could have bared His mighty right arm and swept Satan’s rebellious hosts from heaven like brushing crumbs from the dinner table. But instead He launched His angelic shock troops, with Michael at their head. In a primordial cosmic conflagration, God’s army defeated the devil and cast him with his fallen angels down from the heavenly heights. God didn’t need to use His angels, but He did.

Number two: The word “angel” means messenger. But God doesn’t need angelic messengers to bridge the divide between heaven and earth. Once again we see this in Exodus. God spoke to Moses face to face on Mt Sinai. He thundered and the people below heard His voice. He gave Moses instructions to erect a Tent of Meeting in the midst of His people. And from that Tent God would speak (Ex. 29:42). Moses would hear His voice from the throne-like space above the ark of the covenant. God needed no angel to carry His Word. And yet …. Time after time God sends His angels to speak for Him, from the first promise to ancient Abraham that Sarah would bear a son to the greater fulfilments of that promise when Gabriel appeared to Joseph and Mary to proclaim the Messiah’s conception. God sent hosts of angels to fill the sky and proclaim Jesus’ birth to the shepherds in the fields. He sent angels to John to reveal the mysteries of heaven and the coming age in his great Revelation. Still, God doesn’t need the angels to speak for Him. And nowhere in the New Testament is this more evident than in the same John’s Gospel, where angels never once utter a word. For in his thinking, Jesus alone is God’s Word to the world.

Number three: God doesn’t need the angels to worship Him. Oh, of course, this is perhaps their greatest joy and duty. From Psalms to Revelation the angels are pictured in their glorious myriads, surrounding God with their constant praises like swarms around the queen bee. In every moment not occupied with battles or earthly missions for the saints, this is what they do. “Bless the Lord, O you His angels, you mighty ones who do His word” (Ps. 103:20), cries the psalmist. “Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts!” (Ps. 148:2). This is what “YHWH Sabbaoth” means, the Lord God surrounded by His hosts. When John is given His blessed vision of heaven above and sees God seated in glory on His throne, He writes:

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:11-12)

This is what they do, and it will be what they do when Christ returns in glory (Mt. 25:31), appearing in the sky surrounded by His adoring angels, terrifying the ungodly and giving blessed relief to His saints in the great tribulation. And yet, God doesn’t need their worship. He’s glorious without them. He’s the one eternal God who needs no one but Himself.

There are three things that God doesn’t need from you and me. God doesn’t need us to fight for Him. This is often the hardest thing for us to accept when we look at the decline of our society into immorality and godless rebellion, when we see our churches torn in two by false teachings and unfaithful practices, when we see empty pews and offering plates. But God is perfectly able to fight these battles for Himself. In fact, He has fought them and won. He won the only battle that matters in His Son Jesus, who as the greater Michael defeated the devil, triumphed over death, and brought us with Him into eternal life. And God offers us the protection of Christ’s armour, the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of His righteousness, the short sword of His Word, and asks us just to stand firm and let Him fight for us.

And God doesn’t need us to speak for Him. God is perfectly capable of redeeming His chosen ones in this world without our help. His Spirit works when and where He wills. God can speak from a cloud or from an ass’s mouth. But, of course, He preferred to come in person. He took on human flesh and a human mouth. In Jesus He preached to those far off and those who were near. Jesus showed mankind the gracious face of God, He spoke the forgiveness of sins, and gave courage and faith to those who heard Him.

And God doesn’t need our worship. Is He a hungry God who needs to be fed morning and night with the flesh and blood of goats and bulls? Does He need sheaves of wheat and libations of wine? No, He wants nothing more than a repentant heart, a faith that’s willing to be given to, thanksgiving for His gifts, and a humble willingness to call upon Him in our every need (Ps. 50:7-15). And unlike any pagan god of human imagination, God made the greatest act of worship Himself, when in human flesh He offered up His own body and blood on the cross to atone for our rebellion, and then placed that flesh and blood on a banquet table for us. God doesn’t need our worship. But we surely need Him.

Isn’t this the way with true love? I didn’t marry my wife because I needed her to cook and clean for me, to prepare my meals, to stare at me in starry-eyed adoration. I married her because I wanted to express my love to her. And I accept her love in return, I treasure her baking and her little gifts and her conversation not because I need them but because I want them. And so God shows His love to His angels and to us not because He needs to but because He wants to. Like a father who takes great delight in watching his children do something that he could do far better himself, God rejoices to send His angels into battle for Him. He created and equipped and led them. Their victory is His victory, but it pleases Him to let them do it. And so He sends them to care for us. They do battle at our side against the evil Foe’s forces when we can neither hear nor see them. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Ps. 34:7). He appoints His angels to comfort, protect, and serve each one of His children. He sends His angels to support the preaching of His Word. As His messengers they continue to work in every church through God’s ministers, as the seven angels of the seven churches in John’s Revelation imply. And like planting professional singers into each section of an amateur choir, God seeds our feeble worship with His heavenly worshippers, filling the empty seats, surrounding us and uplifting our puny voices with their majestic praise. And so God is delighted with their worship … and with ours.

For what’s true of the angels is true also of us. He wants us to be His children not because He needs us to do something for Him, but simply because He wants to show us His love. And while He certainly doesn’t need you or me to fight for Him or preach for Him or worship Him, He’s pleased nonetheless to use us as His “synergists” (I Thess. 3:2). We can’t and won’t succeed at these tasks because we’re talented or smart or pious or brave. But as the Father that He is, God is overjoyed when we His children join Him in His work. When we’re called to battle, He supports us by sending holy angels to our side. When we’re called to praise Him, He adds their glorious voices to ours in divine harmony. He forgives us for the way we fall short of how He could do it Himself. And He accepts our works and worship for the sake of the perfect service of His Son Jesus Christ, who leads us today from this altar, with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven to laud and magnify His glorious name. Amen

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Lutheran Pastor’s Desk Diary 2017

2017 Lutheran Pastor Desk DiaryWe recently announced that the seminary would not produce a Lutheran Pastor’s Desk Diary for 2017, since the American publishers had ceased production of the “mother” product.

We are pleased to discover and forward the news that Rev. Alex Klages of Morden/Winkler, Manitoba, has stepped in to fill the gap. “I built it for my own use upon hearing of the discontinuation of the seminary’s planner because I am very much a creature of habit, and thought it might be of use to others”, he recently wrote.

Rev. Klages’s diary lists the readings for the 1-year and 3-year lectionaries from Lutheran Service Book, commonly used in congregations of Lutheran Church–Canada and the LCMS. Note that it does not contain readings from the lectionaries used in the ELCIC/ELCA or WELS. Pastors from those church bodies may still find the diary useful, though, as it still provides space for service planning and appointments.

You may order the diary at:

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Sermon for St Matthew, Evangelist

matthewThe following sermon was preached by Rev. Esko Murto in the seminary’s Martin Luther Chapel for a divine service on the occasion of the Festival of St Matthew, Evangelist, Wednesday, 21 September 2016. The text was Matthew 9: 9-13. 

“Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”

Thus answered Aslan, the Christ-figure in the Narnia-stories from C.S. Lewis when one of the protagonists wanted to pry into his divine knowledge and ask about others. “No one is told any story but their own.”

This sentence struck me already as a child when I followed the adventures of Shasta and Aravis, and it resurfaced now as I read the Gospel lesson for this day of St Matthew. For sometimes I am struck not only by what is said in the Scripture, but also what is left unsaid. The calling of Matthew the tax collector is only briefly told, and almost nothing is explained. What was Matthew’s background? Why had he chosen a rather despicable profession of a tax collector? Was he happy? Was he sad? Did he have a guilty conscience? And what went through his head when he heard the words of Christ: “Follow me.” What made him decide to follow Jesus? What did he hope to find with Christ?

Scripture is silent, which is even more surprising if we think that the Matthew who is now called is also the evangelist who later writes these words. He of all people should be able to give answers, but he does not do so.

No one is told any story but their own. This seems to be a prevailing theme throughout the many encounters the gospels tell us. Scripture focuses on what was said and what happened then, but very rarely if ever do we get even as much as a faint glimpse into the inner thoughts and experiences of people called by Christ. The question, “What did it feel like?”, so often asked today in interviews and ‘human interest articles’, is left out.

Why? I offer you three possible reasons.

Firstly, what happens in the soul of a man when God’s Holy Spirit enters, bringing light into the darkness, is a mysterious, even delicate event. These are great and wonderful things, but also very personal and intimate, not meant to be shared simply to satisfy the curiosity of others or. Martin Luther, known for his robust language but also capable of beautiful expressions, spoke of God’s law as a maid who leads the bride to her groom, but once the two, Christ and the believer, enter the wedding chamber of the gospel to spend their night together, the maid must remain outside. It is not for the eyes of the others. And here we really encounter the limits of our language – should one try to explain the miracle of personal conversion, it seems almost unavoidable that every expression would just make it more banal and mundane.

Secondly, the silence in these matters might be guarding us, the readers, against the error of imitation. How often it has happened, that when joyful conversion stories are shared in detail with others, especially those young in faith, the joy is mixed with the feeling of uncertainty or even insufficiency. Why didn’t it go like that with me? Why didn’t I feel that way, why didn’t I go through that phase, why didn’t God address me and my soul in that manner? Is there something wrong with me, is my conversion lacking? Such is our nature that we compare and imitate, and through comparing and imitating either feel proud or insufficient. So the Scriptures might be silent just for this reason – to keep us from doing what we so naturally would do when confronted with detailed descriptions of other people’s religious experiences.

Thirdly, and I would say this probably is the main reason, Matthew the evangelist wants to direct the attention of his readers to the thing that matters: Christ’s all-powerful word. The calling of Matthew is preceded by the healing of the paralytic, and very similar ways of speaking are used. With the paralysed man, Christ said: “Rise, pick up your bed and go home. And he rose and went home.” Now he says: “Follow me. And he rose and followed him.”

The focus point in the gospel is not Matthew. It is the powerful call of Jesus Christ. The healing of the paralytic is paired with the calling of Matthew to show how Christ’s word raises both men up from their sickness. For the first man, it was very visible and bodily sickness, for the second, a sickness of spirit, the paralysis of Matthew’s heart and mind and soul. Through his word, Jesus reaches out, not touching lame legs or blind eyes this time, but grabbing the tax collector dead in his sins and giving him new life.

The brevity of this story puts the focus on Jesus and his call. It is not what happens in Matthew’s hear that really matters; it is what happened in Christ’s heart that saved him.

Calling of Matthew led immediately to a meal together with Jesus. Again, not much is told of the people who came, the focus is solely on Jesus. All we really know of them is that on this meal the Holy one of God ate and drank with ‘many tax collectors and sinners’. This is the kind of people he came to call – not the righteous (or those who imagine themselves to be so) but sinners. With Jesus, they, the moral rabble, are taken into the mysterious, glorious tradition of God eating with humans. The promise of the seed that would come to be a blessing to all nations was given to Abraham over a meal. It was a sacred meal that God instituted as a sign of his people’s freedom from the slavery of Egypt. On Sinai the elders of Israel celebrated the covenant by eating and drinking on the mountaintop as they saw God. And the feast on the Holy Mountain of Zion is the image Isaiah uses to describe the ultimate salvation of mankind. Throughout the history of God’s people, their Saviour has sat down to eat with them, and here he is, in the man Jesus, eating and drinking with sinners.

If only Jesus would call me and you in likewise manner! If only he would come and ask us to similarly dine with him!

But he has. And he does.

Even today through his word he says again, his words always fresh and new: I have come to call sinners. He says to you: Follow me! He sits down to eat and drink with you, saying: Eat! This is my body, given for you. Drink! This is my blood, shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Those who have no sin, don’t need to bother. But all those who are sinners, sick and dying, paralysed in their hearts and spirits, come! Let me feed you, forgive you, heal you he says. No one is told any story but their own. But with Christ, his story becomes our story. We become part of the story of his people. And so we too are taken into the same table with Abraham, Isaiah and the elders of Israel, the disciples and Matthew as we eat and drink the meal of salvation, forgiveness and healing.


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Volume 28 of Lutheran Theological Review Released

Lutheran Theological Review is an annual journal published by the two seminary faculties of Lutheran Church–Canada. It provides a forum for our professors and pastors to publish their research, and for the seminaries to provide resources and to stimulate the minds of our pastorate and laity. Free copies are sent to every pastor in LCC, and paid subscriptions are available.

In public service to the church we also provide the full text in pdf format on our website. Click here to download volume 28, the latest issue. This volume, guest edited by Dr John Stephenson, contains sermons and essays from the 14 September 2015 conference, “Pastoral Perspectives on Paul”. The conference recognised the release of Dr Thomas Winger’s Concordia Commentary on Ephesians. In addition, there are essays by LCC’s Communications Manager, Mathew Block, and President James Gimbel of Concordia Lutheran Seminary, Edmonton.


Pastoral Perspectives on Paul

Sermon: “You, then, my son” (I Cor. 1:18-24)
Roger E. Winger

Toward a Pauline Shaping of Pastoral Formation
Warren G. Hamp

Pastors and People Pelted by the Prince of the Power of the Air
Esko T. Murto

To Hear and Learn Jesus: Growing a Seminary from New Testament Seeds
Thomas M. Winger

Sermon: “Jars of Clay” (II Cor. 4:1-2)
Kurt E. Reinhardt


Winger’s Ephesians: Views from Three Corners of Christendom
Jonathan F. Grothe, John Hunwicke, Stephen Westerholm


Authority in the Church: Lutheran Reflections on Vatican II
Mathew Block

A Theological Christian Perspective on Physician-Assisted Death
James R. Gimbel


East District Church Workers’ Conference Devotions
David P. Saar



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Candidate Kurt Schultz Placed, To Be Ordained

TMW110325-11 (Schultz)CLTS student Kurt Schultz was certified for the holy ministry at the seminary’s Call Service on Saturday, 28 May 2016. At the time, his placement into a congregation was pending.

We are pleased, by the grace of God, to announce that Kurt has been commended to the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and has been placed to First Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 470 North Main St, Wellsville, NY.

Kurt will be ordained on Saturday, 10 September 2016, 11:30am. A luncheon will follow. Please help to ensure enough food ‎is prepared by letting Kurt Schultz ( know if you plan to attend and stay for the luncheon.

The seminary community joins Christ’s whole church in praying the blessing of His Spirit upon Kurt in his new vocation.

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Lutheran Pastor’s Desk Diary

00_COVER_2009We are sorry to announce that 2016 was the last year of publication for the Pastor’s Desk Diary. Thrivent Financial in the US have provided us with files to edit for the Canadian context over the past decade or so. But recently they announced to us that they are discontinuing the diary. We do not have the resources to produce it on our own.

We will, however, continue to provide the poster-sized liturgical calendar to all LCC congregations. This is valued by pastors, altar guilds, and musicians as a handy way to plan out the seasons.

If you are looking for a replacement for the desk diary that covers the LSB lectionary, you may wish to consider an electronic alternative. The iCal produced annually by CPH and provided for free can be viewed online or subscribed via a calendar programme or app on a smartphone:

For other Lutherans using the Revised Common Lectionary, see

For the WELS lectionary see

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