Rev. Dr Harold Ristau Accepts Faculty Call

CLTS Guild Day 2015Rev. Dr Harold Ristau has announced today that he has decided to accept the call to serve as Assistant Professor of Theology at CLTS. He will officially take up the new post in August 2017. Plans for his installation have not yet been determined.

Rev. Harold Ristau, PhD, is a native of Kitchener, Ontario. He served as pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, Montreal (2001-06). Since 2006 he has been a chaplain in the Canadian Forces and now holds the rank of major. He holds a PhD in Religious Studies from McGill University. He is married to Elise, and has five children (Katelyn, Simon, Marcus, Luke, & Matthias).

We give thanks to God and pray for the blessing of His Spirit on Dr Ristau’s new ministry among us.

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Honouring Humann and Grothe at Advent Lessons and Carols 2016

At the reception following this year’s Advent Lessons and Carols service we will recognise Founding Professor Roger Humann’s 80th birthday (18 May) and Emeritus Professor Jon Grothe’s 75th birthday (30 Nov.). Please join us as we host these special guests. In their honour, consider making a donation to the Humann Family Fund or the Grothe Fund in the Concordia Seminary Foundation.

annunciation-unknown-artist-c-1420-museu-nacional-dart-de-catalunya-barcelonaThe seminary community warmly invites you to our service of Advent Lessons and Carols. This treasured annual event takes place this year on the Second Sunday in Advent, 4 December 2016, at 3.00pmNote the earlier time.

The seminary faculty, staff, and students will be joined by Resurrection Lutheran Choir, under the direction of Dianne Humann. As members of the seminary community read lessons from the prophets that prepare for Christ’s coming, the congregation and choirs sing beloved Advent hymns and carols. The service culminates with the announcement of the Christmas Gospel, by which the students anticipate Christmas just before leaving for the holidays. Please join us for this service of Word, music, prayer, and praise.

(The service, unfortunately, will not be live streamed this year.)

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Rev. Esko Murto Accepts Faculty Call

Esko MurtoRev. Esko Murto announced to the seminary community today that he has decided to accept the call to serve as Assistant Professor of Theology at CLTS. Since he is already serving as a visiting professor, the transition will be smooth. He will officially take up the new post on 1 July 2017. Plans for his installation have not yet been determined.

Rev. Esko Murto, STM, is a native of Orivesi, Finland, and served as pastor of two congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (2009-15). Since 2015 Rev. Murto has been a visiting professor at Concordia, St. Catharines. He holds an MTh from the University of Helsinki and an STM from Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne. He will be married to Elisabeth Rehr on 30 December 2016, in Sottrum, Germany.

We give thanks to God and pray for the blessing of His Spirit on Rev. Murto’s ongoing ministry.

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Concordia Seminary Professor Featured in Prestigious Oxford Handbooks

stephenson-with-oxford-handbookThe newly-published book, The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theology, 1600-1800, has arrived in Concordia Seminary’s Martin Chemnitz library. It includes a contribution authored by our own Professor of Historical Theology, Dr John R. Stephenson.

Dr Stephenson’s article, “Sacraments in Lutheranism, 1600–1800”, is also featured in the electronic version, Oxford Handbooks Online: Scholarly Research Reviews.

Oxford Handbooks is a collection of the best handbooks in 14 subject areas, including religion.  Known as one of the most prestigious and successful branches of Oxford’s scholarly publishing, the Handbook series contains in-depth, high-level articles, with the latest research and writing from top scholars in their fields.

Dr Stephenson holds degrees from the universities of oxfordOxford and Cambridge, and earned his PhD from the University of Durham, writing on the Eucharistic theology of Martin Luther.  Widely published, he is a Reformation scholar and an expert in the history of the Lutheran Church.  His research interests include the history of Christian doctrine, Sacramental theology, and ecumenism. He has been a professor at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary since January 1989.

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Advent Lessons and Carols 2016

annunciation-unknown-artist-c-1420-museu-nacional-dart-de-catalunya-barcelonaThe seminary community warmly invites you to our service of Advent Lessons and Carols. This treasured annual event takes place this year on the Second Sunday in Advent, 4 December 2016, at 3.00pmNote the earlier time.

The seminary faculty, staff, and students will be joined by Resurrection Lutheran Choir, under the direction of Dianne Humann. As members of the seminary community read lessons from the prophets that prepare for Christ’s coming, the congregation and choirs sing beloved Advent hymns and carols. The service culminates with the announcement of the Christmas Gospel, by which the students anticipate Christmas just before leaving for the holidays. Please join us for this service of Word, music, prayer, and praise.

(The service, unfortunately, will not be live streamed this year.)

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Lutherans for Life: more than an anti-abortion group

tmw161115-02-2048pxConcordia Lutheran Theological Seminary was privileged to host, together with the Niagara Circuit of LCC, Pastor Michael Salemink, the executive director of Lutherans for Life since January 2016. During his visit in the Niagara area, Rev. Salemink preached in Trinity Lutheran Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake, gave a convocation to the pastors and laity of the circuit (hosted by the Resurrection Lutheran Church), spoke at the Brock University’s Lutheran Student Fellowship, and finally gave a presentation to the students, staff, and faculty of CLTS.

Rev. Salemink began by pointing out the common misconception of Lutherans for Life being merely an anti-abortion group of the Lutheran Chruch–Missouri Synod. His organisation is not limited to just the LCMS, pastor Salemink reminded us, nor are they focusing just on abortion: “Life issues” include much more than just that one question. Finally, Lutherans for Life are not a mere “anti” group, focusing on simply opposing things.

“Whenever God says no, He says so because He has something better to give to us”, Pastor Salemink stressed. Lutherans for Life want to present the Gospel of Christ, the value of God’s creation and God’s continual care as their main message. Their ultimate goal is not a change in legislation, but preaching of Christ to the world that needs to hear the good news of God’s love.

Rev. Salemink encouraged future pastors to introduce practices in their congregations that celebrate the gift of life, such as returning thanks when God provides healing to the sick or keeping the old and infirm connected to the life of the church through regular visitations not only by the pastor but other members of the congregation.  He reminded the students of the task pastors have as messengers of Gospel. “You cannot be the saviour to your people. Your task is not to solve their life issues.” What the pastors need to do is to listen, comfort, pray, and preach Christ’s love, Pastor Salemink stressed.

Video recordings of Rev. Michael Salemink’s presentations are available on the seminary’s YouTube channel:

Compassionate Conversation about Assisted Suicide

Implementing a Pro-Life Theology in Our Congregations

Audio recordings can be downloaded here:

Compassionate Conversation about Assisted Suicide

Implementing a Pro-Life Theology in Our Congregations

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Sermon: Commemoration of St Martin of Tours

The following sermon was preaching by Dr Thomas Winger in the seminary’s Martin Luther Chapel for a divine service with the Commemoration of St Martin of Tours (11 November 2016). The readings were Exodus 3:13-20 and Luke 20:1-8.

Dear brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ:

If the eldest surviving son of Hans and Margarete Luther had been baptised on a different day, I wonder whether Martin of Tours would have made the calendar of commemorations in LSB. Had little Luther been born a day earlier and baptised on the 10th, he might have been “Leo Luther”—but I doubt Pope Leo the Great would have thereby got onto our Lutheran list. A day later and he might have been christened after the early bishop of Avignon: “Rufus Luther” (how unfortunate). But “Martin” it was when he was carried to the font at St Peter’s Church in Eisleben on the 11th of November 1483—or was it 1482 or 1484, his mother wasn’t quite sure. In biblical thinking, one’s name was more than just a label, but described or even determined who you were—as we learn from Jacob/Israel who “strove with God”, or Abram/Abraham, the “father of many”, or Jesus, who would “save His people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21). Even God Himself discloses a name that says who He is and what He can be depended on to do:

“Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you. … YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name for ever” (Ex. 3:14-15).

God is what He does and has done, and you can count on Him doing it also for you. So what gift did God give Luther when He gave him his Christian name?

Martin, later to be known as bishop of Tours in central France, was born most likely in AD 316 (thus 1700 years ago) to pagan parents in present-day Hungary. At the age of 10 he became a Christian catechumen. Perhaps thinking it would distract him from his religious rebellion, his father pressed him into the Roman cavalry at the age of 15. A few years later, while serving in southern France, Martin carried out the simple compassionate act that would make him the most famous saint in France. Encountering a near-naked beggar in Amiens in a fearsome cold wind, Martin stopped, drew his sword, and cut his cape in two, giving one half to the beggar to keep him warm. That night he had a dream in which the Lord Jesus appeared to him wearing the half cloak and saying to the angels, “Martin, a mere catechumen, has clothed Me with this robe.” In some accounts, when he awoke he found his cape restored to wholeness. It later became a precious treasure of the Frankish kings, a holy relic that was put on display in little buildings called “chapels” and watched over by “chaplains”—both named for his “cape”. Martin the Roman soldier later determined that, as a Christian, he couldn’t shed blood. Just before battle near Worms, Germany, he declared, “I am a soldier of Christ. I cannot fight.” (Perhaps he added, “Here I stand.”)

There are ample reasons, then, why we might connect Martin’s story not just to his famous namesake but also to Remembrance Day: the soldier who chose peace over war, who gave us the word “chaplain”, who defied his Roman military superiors at the risk of his own life. He embodied the Christian opposition to violence, and though he once stood up to Emperor Julian the Apostate, he died a natural death, perhaps the first post-biblical non-martyr to be honoured as a saint. But he wasn’t a pacifist. His battle was simply with a different enemy; he fought “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of evil in the heavenly [places]” (Eph. 6:12). He laid down his arms and took up the sword of the spirit, the Word of God, just as Luther would later do battle by pen and preaching.

But before he became a preacher and a bishop, Martin’s act of compassion towards a poor freezing beggar expressed the more elemental and universal Christian virtue of love. His unpremeditated gesture declared the liveliness of his faith more clearly than this young catechumen could likely have done it with words. James put it this way:

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (James 2:15-16).

For as the later Martin would write:

Oh, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them. (Preface to Romans, AE 35:370)

This is the faith that Jesus seeks when He comes in judgement on the Last Day. For even more than James, this story with Martin’s vision of Christ puts us in mind of Jesus’ word to the sheep:

34 “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, 36 I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me. … Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.” (Mt. 25:34-40)

But Jesus wasn’t done with Martin that day. The vision of Christ drove him to something more sure and certain. He sought and received Holy Baptism. And in that act of compassion the roles were reversed. It wasn’t he who gave the hidden Christ a robe to cover Him against the cold, but the Christ hidden in water and Word who clothed Him with His own robe of righteousness. And going far beyond what partial mercy any man like Martin dared muster, Christ didn’t divide and share His robe, but gave it wholly. For He had set aside His divine glory to take on the form of a poor beggar. He laid aside His kingly robe, was stripped naked and nailed to a tree. He held nothing back for Himself, but gave His very life for us poor beggars. He chose not the way of glorious battle, but apparent defeat. He stood helpless before the Enemy, as Martin was once willing to do at Worms; but where Martin (both Martins, in fact) was given a gracious reprieve from seemingly inevitable death, Jesus took the blows of the Enemy on hands and feet and side and gave up His Spirit and life for us. That’s what He gave Martin and us in Baptism—death without suffering death, and life without deserving it. He wrapped us in His cape and keeps us safe in the unseen but impenetrable armour of truth and righteousness and the Gospel of peace and faith and salvation and the Word of God (Eph. 6:14-17).

I wonder if the second Martin (not Chemnitz but Luther) ever pondered the significance of his patron saint. Did he regret that the mediaeval church had exalted Martin’s act of charity for the poor over God’s mercy to Martin? Did he perhaps think that Martin’s compassionate care of the hidden Christ was far less significant than what Christ had done for Martin? Perhaps he did. But at the very least, each time Martin Luther penned his defiant cry against the devil’s attacks—“I am baptised!”—he spoke for the saint of old and for us, the saints who would follow. For we poor beggars have been Martined. And the robe that has been given to us, that protects us from an ill wind more biting and chilling than anything blowing in from the frozen north, the robe of baptismal righteousness that quenches and deflects the flaming darts of the devil’s sneering accusations, the shining white robe that makes us ready for the eternal wedding banquet of God’s kingdom, that robe is a holy relic more precious to us than a thousand capes of Martin. For the name it brings us is His, Christ’s, God’s Son, the name that does what it says and makes us God’s precious children and opens to us a seat at His table. Amen

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Call Extended for Two Seminary Professors

Pastoral staffFollowing interviews on Wednesday, 2 November 2016, with the seminary president, the Board of Regents, and the electors of Lutheran Church–Canada, the Board of Regents extended solemn calls to two candidates to serve as professors of theology.

Esko MurtoRev. Esko Murto, STM, has been called to serve as Assistant Professor of Theology with a specialisation in Systematics. Rev. Murto is a native of Orivesi, Finland, and served as pastor of two congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (2009-15). Since 2015 Rev. Murto has been a visiting professor at Concordia, St. Catharines. He holds an MTh from the University of Helsinki and an STM from Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne. He will be married on 30 December 2016.

CLTS Guild Day 2015Rev. Harold Ristau, PhD, has been called to serve as Assistant Professor of Theology. Dr Ristau is a native of Kitchener, Ontario. He served as pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, Montreal (2001-06). Since 2006 he has been a chaplain in the Canadian Forces and now holds the rank of major. He holds a PhD in Religious Studies from McGill University. He is married, with five children.

With these two calls, the seminary would restore its faculty to its normal complement of four full-time men. We hope to be able to announce their answers to the calls within a few weeks.

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Fall Time with Friends in the Seminary

The Fall semester of Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary has not only seen new students begin their classwork and old vicars returning from the field, but also many joyful encounters between students, their families and the friends of the Seminary. Trusting that one picture tells more than a thousand words, we are happy to present photo collage of recent events in CLTS!

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Opening retreat at the Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre allowed students time to get acquainted and be refreshed through word and prayer.

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The returning vicars had priceless field experience to share.

 

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Barbecue at the Burgoyne Woods brought together the families of the seminary community.

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The Lord has blessed the seminary with a large and lively student body this year.

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The Opening Service gathered the students, the faculty and the friends of the seminary to pray for blessing upon the new academic year.

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As part of the opening festivities, the seminary was proud to present Emeritus Crucis award to Rev. Timothy Teuscher as recognition of his long and committed service to the church.

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With October rolling in, the students got together for a final barbecue before the cold weather.

 

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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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