One of those pictures shared by National Geographic in their traveller’s competition for 2015 posted this week. At Seminary we’re somewhat out of the rat-race of everyday business as you know it. Still just as the desert fathers of old knew very well, even if you’re in the desert, you are not just above the things of this world and its daily temptations and hardships either – not even if you’re above the clouds like this Seminary in a monastry in Albania.
As we at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane (Pretoria, South Africa) continue to feel with our students, who have suffered loss (Tsheriletso Lonyatso returned home to Botswana to bury her mother, who was also looking after her child), are suffering from illness (John Magala from Congo was on the brink of death as he lived through a coma due to the stress of diabetes, that has now been diagnosed and is being treated) and going through spells of ill health (Ben Mokopanele from Ramathlabama, NW was at the doctor more than once taken there by Mrs Hanna Hohls and is now home in Mafeking, where he hopes to get even better help and especially enjoy the comforts of home).
Other students are going through periods of hardship and duress – even as you would expect in a society as diverse and struggling as ours – and I’m not talking about power outages, dislike for our regular breakfast of porridge or the loads and loads of homework and class preparation either. I’m talking about serious issues like coping with addiction, depression and post-traumatic stress. It’s not for nothing that we have regular devotions, responsive prayers, sermons, singing faithful hymns and psalms, going about confession & absolution, but also personal mentoring and tutoring, student meetings and meals together. This weeks devotions were focussed on the “Good & wise stewardship”. Thankfully we have Pastor Musawenkosi Mntambo of the Seminary congregation right with us and the pastors Paul & Damaske visit regularly too.
Friends and family, visitors and passersby come in to see how things are going. One student’s father stops by with his huge truck, when he was working down the road. Another student’s pastor drops in to see, how the son of his congregation is doing. Friends from the university, other seminaries, colleges and local institutions come by and see how things are doing at the Seminary. Sometimes people come by just to catch a breather or have a bit of a chat with this or that one. Now with the guest lectures of Prof. Dr. Werner Klaen we had old boys coming in and refreshing their close ties with the Seminary and the Lutheran theology learnt and acquired here. So vicar Thulani Hadebe came all the way from Dumbe, KZN, where he is doing his internship with Pastor Mthimkhulu to join these intensive sessions. Pastor Paul Mosenogi from Botswana and now Mafeking, NW came by as he was getting all the business for transferring his car from BW to SA done here in the capital.
On Wednesday most of us went over to the University of Pretoria, where Professor Lize Kriel had invited to the book presentation of Hoffmann Project of Cultural Knowledge.1 Just as we are also working on the history of our Church and Lutheranism in Southern Africa – especially in Zululand, Mpumalanga and in the North-West – so it remains a constant challenge to hear about the ongoing studies of others as they try to come to grips with our complicated and intricate past so as to ponder a way forward together. This obviously does not just concern the predominantly Lutheran efforts of Hermannsburg or Berlin missions, but also those of Leipzig (Tanzania) and others like that of James Stuart etc: Makewu, James Stuart Archive and http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/hia/summary/v038/38.1.hamilton.html
In class we’re busy with “Christology”, “Luther’s Galatians commentary” and also the topic of “Women in the church”. Since we’re working in English it’s really a lot easier than it was for my father and Bishop Schulz DD + at Enhlanhleni, who had to do all their work in either isiZulu or seTswana. The advantage of that work in the vernacular was, that the notes were then published with the help of the Lutheran Heritage Foundation and we now have some substantial Lutheran theology in these languages too – Commentaries on Timothy, Lutheran Dogmatics I-III, the Book of Concord, Devotionals (Orate fratres) and also some anecdotal history of the early days of our Church. Well, we’re now able to make use of the huge resevoir of Lutheran theology that has been translated into English. Obviously it’s never going to be our mother tongue, but we’re at least getting the opportunity to read more and more substantial books both in our library and those provided for our personal use as students and staff. A example of this huge advantage and tremendous privilege is that huge volume edited/translated by Matthew Harrison: At Home in the House of our Fathers. How else would we realize our close affinity and relationship with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod if not through these detailed writings of their fathers, who are very much our uncles and teachers too.
In closing I want to share some of those articles, that have caught my attention this week. It’s about Luther obviously, this one is written by by Michael Trowitzsch, but there is also that video on the translated speech (he speaks English and is translated into German) given by the fascinating Indian author Vishal Mangalwadi, whose book “The book that made your world” has captivated me so.
The current crisis in Southern Africa is not letting us go either. So there’s trouble with the ruling party under Zuma’s failing leadership and the far too rapid demise of parastatal institutions like Eskom. It’s not just about the rotten state of the ruling party and their chaotic splurge on the graveytrain, but about the ever widening bunch of clowns and the strange phenomenon of those unrelenting supporters, who continue to deny all wrong doing. This really is of ongoing concern to the wellbeing of our people and country.
Obviously the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing is a milestone and the New Yorker has a substantial article on that one too.
Finally here’s a hymn, which has been sung at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane ever since Pastor Daniel Preus was with us in the previous decade:
I Walk in Danger All the Way
By: Hans A. Brorson
I walk in danger all the way.
The thought shall never leave me
That Satan, who has marked his prey,
Is plotting to deceive me.
This foe with hidden snares
May seize me unawares
If I should fail to watch and pray.
I walk in danger al the way.
I pass through trials all the way,
With sin and ills contending;
In patience I must bear each day
The cross of God’s own sending.
When in adversity
I know not where to flee,
When storms of woe my soul dismay,
I pass through trials all the way.
And death pursues me all the way,
Nowhere I rest securely;
He comes by night, he come by day,
He takes his prey most surely.
A failing breath, and I
In death’s strong grasp may lie
To face eternity today
As death pursues me all the way.
I walk with angels all the way,
They shield me and befriend me;
All Satan’s power is held at bay
When heavenly hosts attend me;
They are my sure defense,
All fear and sorrow, hence!
Unharmed by foes, do what they may,
I walk with angels all the way.
I walk with Jesus all the way,
His guidance never fails me;
Within his wounds I find a stay
When Satan’s power assails me;
And by his footsteps led,
My path I safely tread.
No evil leads my soul astray;
I walk with Jesus all the way.
My walk is heavenward all the way;
Await, my soul, the morrow,
When God’s good healing shall allay
All suffering, sin, and sorrow.
Then, worldly pomp, be gone!
To heaven I now press on.
For all the world I would not stay;
My walk is heavenward all the way.
Notes: Hymn # 391 from Lutheran Worship
Author: Geistreiches Gesangbuch
Tune: Der Lieben Sonne Licht Und Pracht
1st Published in: 1704
Closing off with a photo taken on the road through Hatfield. The car in front of me had a number plate Psalm 40. Well, I don’t know that off by heart – so here is the version from the New International Version (NIV): https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+40
Praying you have a very pleasant weekend and blessed new start of the week tomorrow, the 11th Sunday after Trinity Yours sincerely Wilhelm .