Come and see! Open day for high schoolers interested in seminary studies

This is a reminder of our upcoming high school open day during March break …

opendayflyer2017high_schoolHave you ever thought about becoming a pastor – or has someone told you you should think about it? Do you love Christ and his church, and wonder whether you could serve him in pastoral ministry or other theological vocations? Are you interested in theology, and desire to learn more about Christian faith, Scriptures and the hows and whys of Lutheran doctrine? Do you want to know more about practicalities of how to become a pastor, and whether this vocation could be for you? Then mark the date!

Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St Catharines (ON) invites high school students to come for a visit, to get a taste of what seminary life is like, and hear more about study opportunities in CLTS. On Thursday, 16 March, the doors swing open for highschoolers, 10:30am – 2:oopm.

During your visit you’ll get first-hand experience of how seminary education works. You’ll have a chance to talk with the professors, receive information about the practicalities of planning your pre-sem studies, and ask the questions you have concerning work in the service of the church.

If you’re coming from afar, we’ll arrange a room and a board for one night. All you need to do is let us know you’re coming and make your way to St. Catharines.

Interested to come? Let us know and receive more information via email: emurto@brocku.ca

Download a poster to put up at your church here.

“What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2)

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St Matthias, Apostle, 2017

MatthiasThe following sermon was preached by Revd Dr Thomas Winger in the seminary’s Martin Luther chapel on 24 February 2017, the Festival of St Matthias, Apostle. The text is Acts 1:15-26.

Dear brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ: Dr Stephenson likes to wear a cheeky t-shirt that reads, “Jesus is coming. Look busy!” I expect the returning Son of God will be able to see through any childish attempts just to “look” busy. But like the office worker who quickly alt-tabs his screen away from his game of solitaire when a co-worker pops his head through the door, we naturally feel guilty that we mightn’t be working quite hard enough at what Jesus left us to do. This notion might be encouraged by the words of the angels to the 11 apostles after Jesus’ ascension: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go” (Acts 1:11). In other words, don’t just stand there with your gob hanging open; He’s given you a job to do; get at it! And indeed a job He had given them: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). If the angels were ATS visitors, they’d be asking the apostles to make substantial progress on their five-year strategic plan and report back next October! It’s a task that’s mind-boggling in its complexity—to create an institutional structure to support the manpower needed to preach the Gospel to millions of people, province by province, to the world’s end.

And yet what do they do? Do they return to Jerusalem to engage an architect to design their purple palace, and establish a foundation to fund the mission, and begin interviewing potential missionaries? No. They go back to the upper room—the place where Jesus had met with them to break bread and give it to them as His Body, where He’d revealed Himself after the resurrection as the One triumphant over death, where He’d spoken His peace to them and given them the mandate to forgive sins—there they gathered with Jesus’ mother and brothers and the other women to pray. Prayer isn’t a strategy. Prayer isn’t a tool or a weapon. Prayer is the self-denying, self-emptying confession that there’s nothing in us that can accomplish God’s plan. Prayer is the humble acknowledgement that God is the One who does it all. That’s why they went back to the upper room. There they were reminded that Jesus hadn’t abandoned them to their own devices, but that He was still with them through the very things He’d done for them in that upper room. It was the place where He’d given them the holy mandate to forgive sins and sent them out in His name. It was a holy place, a place of true pilgrimage, a place for them to turn back to Him in prayer. And to go there was to be faithful to Jesus, who had said: “stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49); and “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). It’s passive. Wait, and you will receive.

And while they’re waiting, they turn to an order of business that’s as baffling to human eyes as the seemingly unimportant act of prayer. They turn to the Scriptures to find out what God has in store for them next. While waiting for the Spirit’s power, they listen to the Spirit’s words. And from the story of David they learn that the betrayer must be replaced. So the first action of this worldwide Christian movement is to fill a vacant position. “Let another take his episcopal office” (Acts 1:20b), they read from Psalm 109—words of King David crying out to God against his enemy that are fulfilled when the betrayer of David’s Son is punished and replaced. There’s no human logic to it. And I dare say that a former corporate gunslinger like Kirk would say that they should have taken advantage of the natural attrition brought on by Judas’ demise to move forward with a more lean and efficient ecclesiastical machine. But the Lord doesn’t work that way. There was a place in God’s plan that needed to be filled, an office left vacant. Jesus chose twelve, and twelve there would be. No matter how pointless it seemed to human minds, God’s Word and Spirit would determine the way of Christ’s Church. And so they put forward two men who fulfilled the apostolic requirements of being disciples of Jesus throughout His earthly ministry and eyewitnesses of His resurrection: “Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias” (Acts 1:23). If a nomination form was ever biased to the obvious candidate, this was it: there’s a man with three names who’s known to be “righteous” … and then there’s Matthias. But again the Lord does things His way. And as the early Christian community commit the choice entirely into God’s hands through prayer and the casting of lots, God chooses the lesser of the candidates. Matthias is added to the company of the apostles, God’s twelve are restored, He has His new Israel. And Matthias is never heard from again. He has had his hour upon the stage.

Do we have such courageous faith as these early followers of Jesus had? We make our excuses that such stories as this are descriptive, not prescriptive, and that we could never run the church this way. But is that just an expression of unbelief? This early post-Easter story teaches us in every line that God was running the show and that all He asked of His apostolic servants was to be His instruments. That’s the meaning of the continuous prayer that runs through our text—prayer doesn’t change things; God changes things; prayer is faith’s acquiescence to this truth. Prayer is the confession that it’s God’s plan that matters, God’s choice, not ours—even when His choice seems to make little sense. As it did when Christ chose Judas. For that’s there in the story, as well. Peter himself said it: “for he was numbered among us and he was allotted his share in this ministry” (Acts 1:17). The word there is κλῆρος, from which we get “cleric” and “clergy”—one allotted an office by God. The language echoes the life of an OT priest, who was born into office and served at the Temple when his straw was drawn. And so it was entirely in God’s hands. No one chose it. As Jesus Himself once said to the apostles, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you” (Jn 15:16).

In our modern Western society that’s obsessed with self-determination and freedom as the highest values, these are repugnant ideas. At least until people fail. For when we fall from the giddy heights where we’ve exalted ourselves, when our lives come crashing down around us—even if it’s just for a day or a week or a year—independence and self-sufficiency expose themselves for the lies that they are. And we begin to look longingly for someone who will look kindly upon us, who will care for us, who will choose us as His own. We put aside the silly pretence that it’s degrading to be chosen, dependent, and passive. And we hear Him calling gently: “Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Mt. 11:28-30). If He calls you to Him, then surely He has a place for you. We may not all be apostles; not everyone is a minister; but we are all “clerics”, allotted a place in His kingdom when He chose us through Baptism into His Son. There and then He reserved for us a place at His table. In His royal household there are no bad seats. He has a place at the table for you, the lot has been cast in your favour, your place is waiting. Come, and He will give you rest. Amen

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Sermon: St Timothy, Pastor and Confessor

TimothyThe following sermon was preached in the seminary’s Martin Luther Chapel by Dr Thomas Winger for a divine service commemorating St Timothy, Pastor and Confessor, 24 January 2017.

 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.  43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.  44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.  45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. (Matthew 24)

12 Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession,  14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 6)

Dear fellow members of our Lord’s household: When you reach the point that your children are old enough to leave home alone while you go on holidays, both parents and children experience a certain amount of euphoric freedom. The children have the run of the house. No longer hounded to wash up the dishes after every meal, pick up dirty laundry, or make the bed, the kids just might let things slide until the last minute, when they hurriedly clean up before the tired travellers walk back in through the front door. Occasionally, though, they get it wrong, and cry out in panic, “I thought you were coming home tomorrow!” For, of course, when deadlines are fixed and known, it’s quite impossible to be caught unprepared. Like the end of term. How is it that the date the essay is due has been known for four months, and yet the panicked student finds himself completely caught out when the last week of classes arrives? Is it laziness? Incompetence? Is it a spirit of entitlement that suggests deadlines don’t apply to me or that the professor is just unfair? Or do we encourage it with a culture of leniency that leads students to believe the prof will always give them more time? Whatever the reason, the sense of urgency has come too late to be of any use.

Both of today’s readings speak of our Lord’s return not with complacency or apathy, but with urgent expectation. “Stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Mt. 24:42). Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a homeowner who fails to defend his household because he’s asleep upstairs when a burglar breaks in. He has a responsibility not only to defend his property but to protect his family and servants. Given fair warning, if he’d known precisely when the burglar was coming, he would surely have been alert and on watch! So Jesus says to His disciples, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Mt. 24:44). And then a second example. The master goes away on a long journey and leaves a trusted steward in charge of his household. He has the cash and the keys and is expected to feed the family and servants while his master is away. But woe to that servant who takes advantage of his master’s delay by squandering the money and supplies on drinking parties with his lousy mates. For it’s not his household. He holds it in trust. Like the steward of Gondor, he’s simply to be faithful in caring for the kingdom until the king’s return.

These parabolic words of Jesus are aimed at His apostles on the eve of His passion. For, of course, He is that master who is going away and leaving them in charge of His ecclesial household. He has given His apostolic servants stewardship of the kingdom’s goods, which they’re to use not for their own enrichment but for the nourishment of those placed under their care. They’re like the three servants in Matthew 25, entrusted with the master’s wealth (the talents) and expected to put it to use while he’s gone. And it’s all of this that St Paul packs into the word ἐντολή when he writes to Timothy, “I charge you in the presence of God … to keep what has been entrusted to you [ἐντολή] unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Tim. 6:13-14). There’s a deep eschatological urgency to these words that’s at the very heart of the apostolic office to which Timothy was called. His calling was to be on watch for the Lord’s return, as the father of the household, so that those entrusted to his care are safe. Like the steward in the Lord’s parable, Timothy was to feed the household with the gifts entrusted to him, faithfully teaching the Word of God and caring for them in body and soul through sacramental nourishment. And unlike the mundane example in Jesus’ parable, this feeding isn’t merely daily bread to keep them alive and healthy. This feeding is itself a preparation for the master’s return. Timothy feeds the flock so they’re ready at any time for His appearing. He needs to make a clear and uncompromising confession of the faith. He needs to keep it spotless and deliver it faithfully to his people. It’s a matter of life and death for them, because Christ could return at any moment.

Over the years, I’ve tried to solve the panic problem in my classes by having students deliver progress reports on their major essays throughout the term, thus forcing them to work steadily towards their educational eschaton, to live in their end times. St Paul urges us likewise not to leave the proverbial washing up until the evening of our parents’ return, but to devote ourselves continually to being ready. He urges three things upon us. Firstly, he warns us to “flee” from false teaching, a conceited love of quarrelling, and attachment to the wealth of this world (I Tim. 6:3-10). Any one of the these can derail our journey towards God’s eternal kingdom. Secondly, Paul encourages us to aim instead at six divine virtues: “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (I Tim. 6:11). If we’re continually occupied with these things, there will be no room for worldly attachments. Thirdly, Paul urges, “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession before many witnesses” (I Tim. 6:12). This is a remarkable description of the Christian life. Paul says that the way to be prepared for eternal life is … to take hold of eternal life. If this isn’t an absurdity, it means that eternal life has somehow already been placed into our grasp. And indeed it was, when we were “called”, when God’s Word grasped hold of us with the waters of Baptism in the presence of many witnesses, when we died with Christ and rose again so that eternal life has already sprung up in us.

I think this perspective completely changes the meaning of “eschatological urgency”. It doesn’t mean fretting and worrying about being caught unprepared, failing the heavenly final, getting caught out by an angry father who expected better from us. No, we find the return of Christ urgent and compelling because we’re already with Him, already enjoying (if only in part) the gifts He brings. One way of saying this is that we’re already living in the end times, the “end of the ages has [already] come” on us (I Cor. 10:11). So we don’t have to stand and watch as if Christ’s coming were far distant and perhaps still a bit doubtful, maybe even losing hope. For He comes to us and feeds us even now in the meal of the eternal kingdom that we’re about to receive. And so the best way to be prepared for His coming is to meet Him here, to grasp hold of the eternal life held out to us in His living body and blood. Here we can never be caught unawares, for we’re already with Him and He with us, “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (I Tim. 6:15-16)—and yet who condescends to draw us near to Him. “To him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.

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Come and see! Open days for everyone interested in seminary studies

National Youth Gathering 2016, Brock UniversityHave you ever thought about becoming a pastor – or has someone told you you should think about it? Do you love Christ and his church, and wonder whether you could serve him in pastoral ministry or other theological vocations? Are you interested in theology, and desire to learn more about Christian faith, Scriptures and the hows and whys of Lutheran doctrine? Do you want to know more about practicalities of how to become a pastor, and whether this vocation could be for you? Then mark the date!

Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St Catharines (ON) invites students from universities and high schools to come for a visit, to get a taste of what seminary life is like, and hear more about study opportunities in CLTS. On Tuesday, 21 February, we call for university students (or those already graduated) and on Thursday, 16 March, the doors swing open for highschoolers.

During your visit you get a chance to sit in classes, getting some first-hand experience of how seminary education works. You’ll have a chance to talk with the professors and local pastors, receive information about the practicalities of planning your pre-sem studies and ask the questions you have concerning work in the service of the church.

We’ll arrange you a room and a board for one night, and even take you out to see the beautiful Niagara area. All you need to do is let us know you’re coming and make your way to St Catharines.

Interested to come? Let us know and receive more information via email: emurto@brocku.ca

“What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2)

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Summer Vicarages with Government Assistance

Together with our sister seminary in Edmonton, we encourage you to consider offering a summer vicarage opportunity to a first-year seminary student. Please contact President Thomas Winger (twinger@brocku.ca) if you would like information on available students.

It may be possible to procure government funding for the student’s salary. The Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) programme helps employers create summer job opportunities for full-time students aged 15 to 30 years old. This year, applications are being accepted online from 7 December 2016 until 20 January 2017, with students starting their jobs as early as April 2017.  For more information on CSJ, including the eligibility criteria and application guide, visit Canada.ca/Canada-summer-jobs or call 1-800-935-5555.

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Call for Award Nominations

Each May at the annual Call Service Concordia Lutheran 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 February 2017.

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Advent Newsletter 2016

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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Praising the Incarnate Christ through Lessons and Carols

31427286975_da3ce9e1dc_k“Tell us, art Thou He that should come to reign over Thy people Israel?” With these words the congregation of over eighty friends of the seminary began the traditional service of Advent Lessons and Carols in the Martin Luther chapel on Sunday, 4 December.

Through readings, hymn-singing, and choral pieces, they were led into the wondrous mystery of God’s incarnation—beginning with the promises of the coming Messiah in the book of Isaiah, then the birth of John the Baptist and the annunciation of Christ given to Mary, finally concluding in the familiar but ever-fresh words of St Luke: “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”

The service saw two choirs proclaiming the joyous message of Christ’s birth through the gift of music: the choir of Resurrection Lutheran Church, led by Dianne Humann, and the seminary’s own choir, led by MTS students Elisabeth Rehr and Laurin Fenn. (The service folder is available here and an audio recording here.)

31312387251_c08aae51be_kThe service was followed by coffee fellowship during which the seminary celebrated the
80th birthday of her founding father, Dr Roger Humann, and the 75th birthday of the longest-serving president, Dr Jonathan Grothe, as well as the 80th birthday of Rev. Erwin Brese, who served as an adjunct member of the faculty. Dr John Stephenson recollected his own entry into the seminary faculty, and pointed out how the emeriti, the current professors, and the contemporary student body represent the past, the present, and the future in the chain of servants of the church.

The evening concluded with a dinner the student body hosted for the seminary community and area pastors.

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Led by Fräulein Rehr, the students performed German Christmas songs prima vista. Slight weaknesses in pronunciation were easily overcome by the … cheerful atmosphere.

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Rev. Bishop St Nicholas of Smyrna also visited the dinner, giving gifts to the youngest members. Careful observers might notice an uncanny similarity with the fourth-year student Andrew Cottrill.

 

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RSVP Revisited: Recruiting church workers for a new generation

Feed: Canadian Lutheran Online
Posted on: Tuesday, 06 December 2016 3.17pm
rsvp-revisited

CANADA – Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) is re-launching the RSVP initiative, a church worker recruitment program that successfully identified a number of prospective pastors and deacons throughout the 1990s and 2000s, with hopes that LCC congregations will observe a Recruitment Sunday on January 22, 2017.

Resources from the earlier RSVP initiative have been revised in anticipation of the new recruitment effort, and LCC congregations are encouraged to make use of the new material. “Church workers are still needed,” an introduction to the new RSVP material explains. “The potential harvest is greater than ever. It is our prayer that congregations will make use of the revised Recruitment Initiative materials and forward the names of prospective students to Lutheran Church–Canada for follow-up.”

The RSVP material includes bulletin inserts, a Bible study, worship materials, a sermon, nomination forms, and more. You can download the full package here.

Churches are encouraged to read a letter from LCC President Robert Bugbee on January 15 to announce the initiative locally. “As long as there are people who don’t confess Christ… and churches needing faithful shepherds… and unreached communities, there will always be a need for pastors to bring the Good News,” President Bugbee writes. “Pastoral recruitment needs to be on the minds and in the prayers of every person in our church. For Jesus’ sake, please let it be on your mind, and take it into your prayers also!”

RSVP began in 1998, and provided resources to congregations for use on a Recruitment Sunday (preferably in January), in order to encourage members to identify prospective church workers. Those individuals were referred to their pastor, who interviewed them and then, if appropriate, forwarded their names to Synod for follow up by LCC’s seminaries and—at the time—college. The original RSVP program was discontinued after about eight years, ending around a decade ago.

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Sermon: St Andrew’s Day

St Andrew iconThe following sermon was preached by Dr Wilhelm Torgerson in the seminary’s Martin Luther Chapel for the divine service on the Commemoration of St. Andrew the First-Called. The text is St. John 1:35-42.

(Just a few remarks at the outset: St. Andrew is considered to have done mission work in south Russia, where the Christians consider him their patron saint; and he finished his work and life on the Peloponnesos peninsula in Greece. His head, and the X-shaped cross on which he was crucified, are revered in the cathedral in the city of Patras.)

But let’s consider today’s Gospel lesson as our text.

I’ll begin with the question: “When did you come to faith?”

Perhaps you have been asked just that: When were you converted? When did you accept Jesus? When did you make a decision to accept him as your Saviour?

There are certain Christian groups where it is of some importance to be able to give a precise answer to that question, to describe your conversion experience, even in some detail, pointing out the calendar day when that all happened.

On the Day of the Commemoration of St. Andrew the First-Called, if we listen to the story of our text in a somewhat superficial manner, we might suppose that we were just told such a conversion story; about how Andrew the Fisherman and his companion came to faith in Christ.

But listening more closely, our wish to find out about just how Andrew came to faith is not fulfilled. St. John the Evangelist deliberately does not talk about what happened in the heart, soul and spirit of Andrew that day. In fact, looking at the details of the event we learn that Andrew didn’t come to faith that day, rather the faith came to him.

And this not only applies to Andrew back then, it applies to us today. We did not come to, decide on, choose the faith; it was the other way around: the faith came to us. And the way that happened is still the same today as in Palestine back then. How does it happen?

Let’s look at the threefold truth: Faith comes to us

  • through the word of messengers
  • through being connected with Christ
  • through him who knows us before we knew ourselves.

I.

Alone and by himself Andrew would surely not have gotten the idea to believe in Jesus. After all, Christ didn’t run around with a halo so that everyone could have immediately recognized that Jesus is something special, indeed, that he might be

the Saviour of the world, the Lamb of God that bears the sin of the whole world. Nothing in Jesus’ appearance pointed to the fact that he was sent by God, that he was God-become-flesh.

It was only the message proclaimed by John the Baptizer which opened Andrew’s eyes for the fact that it is necessary to stick with this Jesus, to get to know him more closely, and to follow him. And it’s not different with us. When our hymnal invites and enjoins us to commemorate the holy apostles on certain dates, like on this day, then we are reminded that we have access to and connection with Christ through the apostolic proclamation and witness. Christ did not write a single word of the New Testament with his own hand. He reaches out to us solely through the word of his messengers; that’s the way he comes to us. And this word of his messengers is as powerful as if Christ himself were standing in this pulpit today. His word, proclaimed by messengers in his name and by his authority, leads people to saving faith.

And normally we did not come to faith because we sat in a quiet corner of the house and read the word of the apostles in the Bible. Rather there were people in our lives who brought this apostolic message to us, people, who like John the Baptizer, pointed us to Christ and often enough brought us to him. I’m thinking in particular of pious parents and God-parents who taught us how important it is for us to be in fellowship with Jesus. Perhaps there were faithful grandparents, even a pastor, who brought Jesus into our life.

What St. John the Evangelist describes in our text certainly applies to us: the faith came into our lives through the word of messengers, people that Christ used in his service to call into the fellowship of his holy Church.

II.

Faith comes to us through the word of messengers, true enough. But a statement like that, taken by itself, can be completely misunderstood, as if believing is merely a matter of understanding. Someone tells me something; I understand what he is saying, I assent to what I heard, I express my agreement. Accordingly faith is considered an intellectual process by which I decide to connect with Jesus.

John the Evangelist tells us a different story.

Jesus’ cousin, the Baptizer John, had sent Andrew and the other disciple to see what Jesus is up to. Jesus notices them and asks them what they’re looking for. And their answer is rather significant: “Rabbi, where are you staying?”

Did you notice? No request for clarification. No “who are you really?”, no “what’s your mission?”, and no “what do we have to do to join up with you?” These two men do not enter into a discussion with him about the meaning of life; they do not debate future plans; they just want to be with him, be where Jesus is. And Jesus

invites them to do just that: “Come and you will see!” And the two disciples don’t have to be asked twice. “So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day” (v. 39).

I have no idea what happened later that day, how long these two men stayed with him, how much they talked with Jesus or about what. St. John doesn’t say a word about it. Just that were at his home, in his presence, that they had fellowship with him, most likely fellowship with Jesus at his table; nothing more. And that’s enough.

So much so that afterward Andrew joyfully tells his brother Peter: “We have found the Messiah!” (v. 41)

So how does the Christian faith come to man? Yes, certainly as we heard, through the word spoken by messengers. “So faith comes from hearing” we read in Romans 10 —by the way, Luther translates that sentence: faith comes from preaching, from proclamation; and that is, of course, exactly what Paul meant. But faith also comes from being where Jesus is, where you are in his presence, where he bestows all those spiritual benefits that he so richly dispenses, not only in proclamation of the word, but also in the sacraments. The connection given there is more than any of our brain cells can fathom.

Do you realize now how important Gottesdienst is, being at worship, at church when and where Christ is present to shower on you all the benefits that can change your life and lead it to fulfillment? Again, do we always realize that? Being at the church’s worship service is not some onerous and irksome duty—I have to do something, get up early, be on my way. Rather in church you’re at the receiving end of God’s greatest gifts, where He in a very concrete and real way bestows on you all his love through the means of grace.

I realize, of course, sometimes the sermon is too long, seeks our full concentration, or is preached in a style that shoots right over our heads. It can either be too

demanding intellectually—or be so flat and shallow, that staying at home would seem to have given more food for thought. But then there also is the table to which Christ invites us. And all you do is follow that invitation: “Come and see!”

That is the way faith is nourished, given spiritual food for growth. Just being where Jesus is, where he dispenses that miraculous food, his body and blood. You can come and see! Not many words are necessary, merely “take eat, this is…”, and receiving and accepting. Faith comes to us because Christ comes to us, in what his messengers say and in what he has his ministers dispense.

III.

And thirdly: our text from St. John’s Gospel leads us to a deep insight. Twice our text speaks of Jesus “seeing” us. In v. 38 he sees Andrew, and in v. 42 he looks at Peter. The text is not talking about the fact that Jesus has 20/20 vision to take in the scenery or to look at the people around him. When Christ Jesus looks at us, it goes much deeper, for he looks at us as someone who knew us before we knew ourselves.

Andrew doesn’t even have the opportunity to introduce his brother Simon Peter to the Lord. Jesus looks at him—and knows him, knows his name, what kind of person he is, what to make of him. And makes him new, showing that by giving him a new name and taking him into his service.

Again, not we come to faith, as St. John makes abundantly clear with this story.

Long before we had the idea to say yes to Christ Jesus, long before then he saw us

and chose us. St. Paul says: “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4).

So indeed our faith in Christ is not based on our decision and free will; it is the gift bestowed on us by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace. Father Luther taught us: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe” (Small Catechism III). It is Christ’s will that we believe. He saw us, he called us by name in holy baptism, he called us to faith.

And having been called—like St. Andrew and the many others then and now—we join the fellowship of those who went before, who are now with us on the way of discipleship, and with those who will come after us, ever listening to his call and invitation, always receiving the means by which Christ keeps in the one true faith to everlasting life. Amen.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ, the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see, to him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.

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