Evangelfesting at the Seminary

Evangelfest 2015 - Rev. Jonathan FiskThe fields were white for harvest, or in the case of the Niagara region, fruits were ripe for picking, as Evangelfest was held during the last weekend of September. Hosted this year by Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, the annual two-day conference gathered more than 80 people to hear and discuss how to share the Gospel with unbelieving world.

Christianity, unlike all other religions, is firmly rooted in historical events, including not only Christ’s earthly ministry, but also and especially his resurrection. Examining the various theories concerning the mystery of the empty tomb, the main speaker of the conference, Rev. Jonathan Fisk (St. John Lutheran Church, Oakes, North Dakota) showed that a mass of historically sound and rational reasons also testify to the fact that Christ truly rose from the dead. Faith in Christ who conquered death needs to be the main point of the Church’s witness.

Evangelfest 2015 - Rev. Jonathan FiskWith meticulously thorough yet lively and engaging style, Rev. Fisk led his hearers through the sermons preached in the Acts of the Apostles. The example set by the apostles shows that their message consistently focused on Christ crucified and resurrected. Against the temptations, so prevalent today, to change the focus of our preaching to better fit with the expectations of our hearers, the witness of the early church shows that proclaiming the good news of God’s justifying and life-giving grace to sinners is the only way to lasting success in mission work.

The East District Mission Encourager, Rev. Ron Mohr, started off the conference with an engaging presentation on the joy of mission, as it is described in the New Testament. Retired professor Dr William Mundt and Pastor Marvin Bublitz were sectional presenters.

Video recordings of the four major presentations are available on the seminary’s Youtube channel.

More photos are available here.

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St Michael and All Angels 2015

St Michael and All AngelsThe following sermon was preached by Rev. Prof. Esko Murto in the seminary’s Martin Luther Chapel for the divine service in celebration of St Michael and All Angels, 29 September 2015. The text is Matthew 18:1-11.

In the year 2010, movie theatres showed a film based on true events, called “127 Hours”, where a man named Aron Ralston is caught in a rock climbing accident. His right arm gets stuck between two massive rocks, and after multiple failed attempts he realizes that death by either hypothermia or dehydration is unavoidable unless he finds a way to get himself freed. In a desperate and frankly gruesome scene, Ralston wraps a tourniquet around his arm, and using only the short blade of his multi tool, uses the cuts through his skin, flesh, bone and nerves, until finally his right arm is severed and he is free again. Suffering from shock and loss of blood, he manages to climb the cliff and walk eight miles to reach safety. As viewers, we are moved by his horrible suffering, but at the same time we can’t but admire his resolution, endurance and sheer strength of will that enabled Ralston to go through such pain to save his life. And still we can’t but wonder: would I have been able to do the same thing, had I been his position? Or would I have been unable to bear the pain, thus remaining trapped until death unavoidably claimed me? Needless to say, we hope we would never, ever find ourselves in such a desperate situation.

In today’s gospel lesson, we hear Jesus talking about similar gruesome things: cutting off your arm or foot, or tearing away your eye, if they tempt you. But now our Lord is not simply talking about saving ourselves from the dangers of hypothermia and dehydration in order to preserve our temporal life; he is talking about temptation to sin and choosing between eternal life and the fires of hell. The stakes are higher, and hence also the task is even harder for us, for even though a man may be capable to go through horrible things to preserve his temporal life, our sinful nature will not and cannot save ourselves from sin and judgement, no matter how hard we might try.

Christ says “IF your arm tempts you”, but knowing from experience, we might just as well leave out that little word “if”. Replace it with “when” and what happens? You cut away an arm, a foot and one eye. You still have one of each left, and they will surely tempt you as well. Cut them out too, and eyeless, armless and footless, you still are tempted. For Christ says: out of the heart come murder and adultery. But then, to cut out your own heart, it would mean killing yourself. The thought horrifies, but has some desperate rationality in it: the only way to stop the temptation once and for all would be to rip out your heart and die.

But that is not what Christ says. He hears his disciples wondering once again how to become great in the kingdom of heaven. Or perhaps he today hears someone despairing over the question of how could I ever be allowed in the kingdom, no matter great or small! So our merciful lord suddenly turns everything around by taking a little child and telling them and us: whoever humbles himself like this child, will not only enter, but also be great in the kingdom of heaven.

Children are not exemplary because of what they have, but rather, because of what they don’t have – they have no strength, no cunning or wisdom, no merit or glory. They are exemplary in the way they need and receive care from others. To be spiritually child-like means to confess before God that we do not deserve, nor can we earn anything by what we are or do, but must rely solely on God to save us.

With this understanding, how do we hear the words of Christ about cutting away our feet or arms or plucking out our eyes, if they tempt us? The Bible regularly uses “arm” as a metaphor for strength and power, whereas “eye” is used to symbolize understanding and discernment. So perhaps we should understand Christ’s words as warning, yes, but not directed only against those things in us which we consider our most shameful shortcomings, but also against the things we might perceive as our greatest strength and source of our pride. The things we consider our best assets are often the areas where the most dangerous temptations occur: temptations of pride, arrogance, false wisdom, spiritual hard-heartedness, and most of all, self-justification – the reliance on our own strength and understanding above God’s power and his wisdom.

Call to become like children is, in a sense, both law and gospel to us. It is certainly law in its sharpest form when it strips away all delusions we might have of entering the Kingdom through some merit of our own. Yet the promise in these words is still greater, the trustworthy promise of Christ, that we who are like children who find themselves without any strength or merit of our own in the eyes of God, will see the gates of Heaven opened.

How can this be? Christ Jesus became blind for our sake, when the soldiers put a blindfold over his eyes and struck him. He allowed his hands and feet to be pierced by nails and his side, innards and heart penetrated by the soldier’s spear – for our sake. His body was cast away into the tomb, so that we would not be cast into the lake of fire. And through his resurrection he has given us a certain assurance that not only our feet, arms and eyes, but out whole being will also one day rise in glory, free from sin and temptation.

Today we celebrate St Michael and all the angels, and they too can be seen as examples of this. In today’s gospel lesson our Lord describes the angels of these little ones as ones who always see the face of our Father who is in heaven. Christ could have truthfully said a lot more about angels, about their spiritual power and understanding so superior when compared with us. But we only hear this one definition: they always see the face of Father in heaven. Their strength lies in the fact that they are constantly strengthened by God. Even the great captain of the formidable angelic host, Michael, bears this testimony in his name: Michael, ‘who is like God’, Michael, whose whole strength and essence is from God alone.

Today we will come to the Lord’s Table and pray: “Save me Jesus, not only from my crude sins and vices, but also from my prideful spirit and self-centered virtues, in short, save me from myself, for all that I am and what I have is tainted by sin, and is need of your saving mercy.” And the same Christ who once took an earthly child and placed him in front of his earthly disciples, perhaps he will turn to his angels and, pointing to his church on earth, say: look, theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven, for these are my children, who always see Father in me.” And the angels and the archangels and all the company of heaven will say– -Amen.

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Faculty Call Process

22.4.2010: Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna

Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, will be calling a Professor of Theology to take up office in July 2016. 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 2015 via e-mail (twinger@brocku.ca) or post to:

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

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Academic Year Opened by Celebrating the President’s Commentary on Ephesians

Pastoral Perspectives on Paul: CLTS Conference in Recognition of Winger Ephesians CommentaryThe new academic year at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary started off with a bang when over seventy pastors, students, staff members, and supporters of CLTS gathered to celebrate Holy Cross Day and commemorate the recently published commentary on Ephesians by the seminary president, Dr Thomas Winger.

Dr Stephen Westerholm

Dr Stephen Westerholm

The free one-day symposium was organised under the title, “ ‘You Then, My Son’ – Pastoral Perspectives on Paul”, and in addition to the jubilian himself, included presentations from three speakers: Revd Warren Hamp from Faith Lutheran Church, Kitchener; Dr Stephen Westerholm, Professor of Religious Studies in McMaster University; and Revd Esko Murto, a visiting scholar and the newest addition to the faculty of CLTS. Dr Lawrence Rast, president of Concordia Theological Seminary, attended to congratulate Dr Winger on behalf of our mother seminary in Fort Wayne.

In his presentation, which Dr John Stephenson, the main organiser of the event, also dubbed his “severely delayed inauguration lecture”, Dr Winger expounded on the way the Gospel of Matthew describes the pastoral formation of the twelve disciples.

­Although Jesus gives the disciples themselves the authority to heal diseases and even raise the dead, one never gets the impression that they are at His side merely to learn a technique.

They are His witnesses. They watch Him raise the dead so that their puny faith would be strengthened to believe that He is truly the Holy One of Israel. And they watch Him so that they can be His witnesses, to testify to Israel and the Gentiles to the truthfulness of the Gospel.

Where did Paul get the idea that the minister is to preside over the Church as over a household? From our Lord Himself, who entrusted His stewards with all that He had commanded them, giving to them the keys to open the very treasuries of heaven, so that until He returns they might feed God’s children with the riches of His storehouse. May we be found faithful in the same task!

Revd Alvin and Jean Borchardt

Revd Alvin and Jean Borchardt with Dr Winger

As the day served also as the opening of the academic year, the tradition of granting awards was observed in the closing Vespers. Revd Alvin Borchardt received the Emeritus Crucis award in recognition of more than 50 years of parish ministry. The award was given on behalf of LCC’s Central District, where Pastor Borchardt served the majority of his ministry.

The Seminary Guild, responsible for much of the heavy lifting in practical arrangements, provided the participants with a free Mediterranean-themed lunch. The day culminated with a banquet at Alphie’s Trough, an on-campus restaurant with long academic tradition at Brock University. Joyous fellowship, shared devotions and theological content deeply rooted in the shared faith of the Church amalgamated into a symposium that served well to equip the students, the faculty, and the friends of the seminary for the year to come.

More photos are available on the seminary’s gallery. Audio recordings of the symposium are available here:

Warren Hamp, “Pauline Perspectives on Pastoral Formation”

Stephen Westerholm, “Paul, the Good, and the Letter to the Romans”

Esko Murto, “Pastors and People Pelted by the Prince of the Power of the Air”

Thomas Winger, “To Hear and Learn Jesus: The Seminary Grown from New Testament Seeds”

Video recordings are available on the seminary’s YouTube channel.

The essays may also be published in written form at a later date.

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Seminaries Sunday 2015

Take My yoke upon you,
and learn from Me,

for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”
(Mt. 11:29)

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 September, 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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Opening Festivities for the 2015-16 Year

Ephesians_poster_for_Winger_event The official opening of the 2015-16 academic year will be proclaimed on Monday, 14 September, at a 9am Matins service. This service is also the opening of the festive convocation, “‘You Then, My Son’: Pastoral Perspectives on Paul”. For this reason, there will be no Sunday afternoon opening service (as has been our custom).

Details about this conference, held in recognition of the release of President Thomas Winger’s Concordia Commentary on Ephesians, are available here. We enourage you to register your desire to attend as soon as possible. There is no cost for the conference. The evening banquet has limited seats available at $35.

Emeritus crucisAt Vespers, 4pm on Monday afternoon, the seminary will present the annual Emeritus Crucis (“Veteran of the Cross”) award to Rev. Alvin Borchardt. Given on behalf of LCC’s Central District this year, the award recognises a man who has devoted his entire ministry (more than 30 years) to parish work. The seminary is pleased not only to thank Pastor Borchardt for his Herculean labours, but to hold him up to the students as an example of the vocation into which they may be called.

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Job Posting: Development Officer/Bookkeeper

Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, is seeking a part-time Development Officer/Bookkeeper. The qualifications are:

  • working experience in fundraising/community relations and basic accounting knowledge;
  • above-average computer experience with word-processing and desktop publishing;
  • working knowledge of donor management software, accounting software, spreadsheets and website maintenance;
  • familiarity with Lutheran Church–Canada, its institutions, auxiliaries, and sister synods.

The work includes processing accounts payable, accounts receivable, donor appeals; receipting; and relations, events and administration assistance. The position reports to the Business Manager and the President. It starts at 20 hours per week.

Please send applications to Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, c/o Mike Bauer, 470 Glenridge Ave., St. Catharines, ON L2T 4C3; or e-mail mbauer@brocku.ca by 6 August 2015.

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Trinity’s Anniversary Celebrations Support the Seminary

Trinity Lutheran Church, NOTL, 60 Anniversary Celebration

Trinity Lutheran Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake, celebrated her 60th anniversary on Sunday, 28 June, with the theme, “The Gifts Christ Freely Gives”.

The celebration began with organist Michael Nieminen giving a recital of Reformation-era chorales that touch upon the Christian prayer life. These chorales continue to serve as a source of comfort and instruction through their inclusion in Lutheran Service Book. “To God the Holy Spirit Let Us Pray” (Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist, LSB 768),  “Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest” (Komm, Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist, LSB 498), and “Lord Jesus Christ, Be Present Now” (Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend, LSB 902) are just three of the many chorales that to this day are the mainstay of congregational singing in our Lutheran churches.

The anniversary celebration continued with a catered rotisserie chicken dinner. While everyone was enjoying the apple pie, greetings were given by District President Paul Zabel, Seminary President Thomas Winger, and District Gift Coordinator Alfred Feth.

Following dinner, Pastor Kurt Reinhardt gave a presentation on prayer. He spoke of howCelebrationwe often attempt to pray in the way of the Law, as if we had to twist God’s arm to get what we want. However, our calling in Christ is to pray in the way of the Gospel, trusting that our heavenly Father is good and gracious, and relying on the gifts of Word and Sacrament.

The evening concluded with Vespers. Pastor Larry Ritter preached about the two ways of treating forgiveness—forgiveness as achieved by Christ on the cross on Good Friday and forgiveness as distributed to us today. Forgiveness comes to us in specific ways. Forgiveness is not in the air we breathe, nor does it come to us through a beautiful sunset or because we think we are too nice not to be forgiven. Rather, God pours His forgiveness into us in Holy Baptism, and places His forgiveness into our ears through Holy Absolution and preaching, and even places His forgiveness into our mouths in the Holy Supper.

Trinity would like to thank the sixty-nine people who came out on a wet afternoon to help her celebrate her sixty years of receiving Christ’s gifts and for helping her raise funds for seminary’s fall symposium, “ ‘You Then, My Son’: Pastoral Perspectives on Paul”. $527.30 was given in support of the seminary ($1,027.30 with the FaithLife matching grant). Thanks be to God!

More photos are available here.

Trinity Lutheran Church, NOTL, 60 Anniversary Celebration


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Practise These Things (Vicars’ Retreat 2015)

Vicars receive their placements at the Call Service

Vicars receive their placements at the Call Service

The collect for the vicars at the Call Service asked the Lord of the Church to give these young men “zeal and faithfulness to perform their tasks to the edification of Your people and their progress in preparing to serve as pastors in Your Church.” The transition from academic learning to active, on-the-job learning is not always so easy. Newly-assigned vicars have lots of questions about their upcoming year of service, and also concerns about living accommodations, starting dates, etc.

Vicar Milton Lam meets supervisor Rev. Alex Klages (CLTS alumnus 2003)

Vicar Milton Lam meets supervisor Rev. Alex Klages (CLTS alumnus 2003)

To aid the vicars in preparing for this new phase in their training, Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, provides an opportunity for vicars and supervisors to meet in a retreat format. This year’s retreat took place 2-3 June at the seminary under the guidance of the seminary Vicarage Supervisors, Dr William Mundt and Dr Wilhelm Torgerson.

In addition to talking about general concerns and conditions of a vicarage, each vicar had specific times and specific assignments to discuss with his supervisor. The wives joined the group for dinner Tuesday evening, where retired pastor Frank Silver and his wife Mary highlighted some of the challenges they encountered on vicarage and first placement and encouraged the students to be patient and faithful.

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Golf is More than a Game

The Winning Team!

The Winning Team!

Golf is More than a Game. … At least it is for dedicated players. Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary thanked the supporters of the game for their commitment to the cause of preparing servants for God’s mission, since the tournament is also one of the major annual fund-raisers.

On Monday, 1 June, the 83 golfers got ready for a shotgun start in 2015 Tournament held at Sawmill Golf Course, just outside of St. Catharines. Although cloudy, and a little cooler than usual, the rain stayed away. The day ended with a delicious chicken and rib dinner and the awarding of prizes.

Seminary President Dr Thomas Winger thanked everyone for their support and introduced a few present who have played in every tournament. But equally exciting was to see a number of younger, first-time participants. Special thanks to the club, the hole sponsors, the prize donors, and Linda Lantz, the seminary’s Administrative Assistant, for ensuring another successful tournament this year.

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