“Judensau”: Polemical challenge

Luther and the Jews. That´s a mouthful. Thomas Kaufmann has said, what is to be said and the recent publication on the “Wittenberger Sau” gives an update on the present controversy. It´s causing waves even across the Atlantic as Nathaniel Jensen pointed out to me. In the ongoing polemics around the plaque on St.Mary´s, I miss aspects of Luther´s context and the hermeneutical and theological challenge he faced headon. So, please bear with my attempt to tackle the thorny issue.

Luther´s relation to Jews changes as he grows older, but in one issue he remains constant – and that´s the basic message on the altar of “his” church St. Marys, which proclaims the apostlic words of St. Paul as foundational and central to its entire setup:

For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ.

1. Corinthians 3,11

In the early days of the reformation Luther had high hopes of Europe seeing the light of the Gospel as he had done by God´s grace alone. In the latter stages of his life the old stalwart had lost quite a bit of the earlier hopes. The emperor had denied the reform and actively strove to crush it. The pope had refrained from meaningful reform. The peasants had resorted to force and the nobility had reacted in kind – both against the outspoken critique of the Reformer. The sacramentarians refused to accept Luther´s reading of scriptural foundations. Enthusiasts continued to flit about as their spirits felt inclined. Humanists like Erasmus had not been convinced. Close connections had turned their back on the Wittenberg movement and gone their own way.

Despite all these disappointments Luther was no pessimist. Not by a long shot. He did not give up the faith. He was not down in the dumps although he had enough reason for sure. Despite serious health issues, he was surprisingly active and productive. At the end he was still busy trying to resolve family disputes amongst local royals of Mansfeld in his birth town Eisleben. It was just, that his faith did not rely on princes. He knew, that even amongst the best of men and in the most prominent families, the most positive was but bleak, miserable and nothing much to build our sure hopes on. His faith was firmly grounded in Jesus Christ alone.

There hope springs – and that eternal. Hope and faith as matters of the 1st commandment are reserved for God alone. He alone can help. He alone will help and change all and everything for the best. That´s for sure. This was Luther´s trust to the end: Our help is in the name of the Lord. And if You ask, who that is, He is called Jesus Christ, the Lord of hosts (Sabaoth). There is no other God. He must prevail. He is victorious and reigns now and always. Now we believe this, although we don´t see it clearly yet. However, there will be a time, when we all will see it. Then, when he returns in glory and all knees will bow before him and all tongues will confess, that he is Lord of all and God alone. He holds the field victorious: Das Feld muss er behalten!

See, Luther initially nurtured high hopes, that the people of old Israel – the Jews – would see the light and come to believe the gospel, that Jesus Christ is their promised Messiah after all. The Son of David, the sure hope of Abraham and the promise of all the prophets from the very beginning. That was his hope. Jesus Christ is the only way to life and salvation. There is not use trusting in the flesh, bloodlines or gene pools. No racial advantage whatsoever. For Luther that was a matter of God´s faithfulness, the trustworthiness of his holy Word, the promises made true one and all in the one, born of the Virgin Mary – just as His gospel preached and the apostles taught in His name and authority and we have believed with the one holy christian church – made up of Jews and Gentiles from the very start.

The Letter to the Romans and Galatians is nothing but a strong case by the apostle St.Paul that IX was the fulfilment of the Old Testament hope and faith. All else was vain and plain shit as the holy Apostle explains drastically to his beloved Philippians. That is why the Old Testament has to be read from this Christological perspective and in the light of His fulfilment. That´s the clue for understanding the Old Testament. Without Jesus Christ, the Old Testament remains empty, cultural trappings, historical detail yes, beautiful sure, but lastly without eternal perspective – without salvific importance – and thus in the big scheme of things vain and worthless, just some rustling in the wind.

Luther saw a lot of good in the Old Testament – poetry, wisdom, richness, tons of good history – but the crown jewel, the pearl worth all else is Jesus Christ alone. He is the one to come and crush the head of the serpent, the root of Jesse, the Son of David, the promised one, virgin´s boy child – Son of Man, the ancient one of old – the bread of life, water of life, the true vine, the good shepherd, the final and true temple, the one holy divine sacrifice, effective, salvific, sufficient, vicarious, justifying and totally redemptive – once and for all. No need for any more of that kind etc. etc.

Everyone, who doubted that was on the false track and barking up the wrong tree. And Luther would not let him get away with that – be it pope, emperor, Turk (Muslim), professor of whoever. Luther was enrolled in the Lord´s army. He was on a mission from God. Called to be apostle to the Germans. Prophet of truth and faithfulness. This was an epic battle with eschatological consequences. It´s a question of either or, for or against – no middle room. No room for cheap grace or pardon. No prisoners taken either. That explains partly the drastic words and crude style adopted in this struggle. After all it was a matter of life and death – not just academic fancy. Luther´s fight was part of the heroic efforts to clean out the filthy pigsty after centuries of neglect, decay and serious corruption. Luther saw himself as doing the rough job, whilst leaving the niceties to his sidekicks – Melanchthon & Co.

At the frontline university Wittenberg Luther had the chair for biblical studies concentrating on the Old Testament. So, he was responsible to teach proper exegesis, hermeneutics and application of the biblical text i.e. understanding, preaching and teaching the text in a time and age, when the Old Testament was seriously underrated, misread and misunderstood by most. This is very real stuff. Sort of a Semiotics professor like Umberto Eco of that time. Or Salman Rushdie in the Islamic realm. No quarter, no pardon. It´s serious stuff – discrediting holy writ as Satanic verses. It earns You a Fatwa. Well, Luther knew all about it. By discarding canonic law, he risked being outlawed. Well, he got what he bargained for, but gave his opponents their fair share too.

Thomas Müntzer and his crazy enthusiasts had earned Luther´s wrath by misusing scripture, misquoting him and just going off like loose cannons, but proclaiming to be faithful interpreters of Holy Writ. Well, Luther would have none of that. He fired volley after volley against these obvious false prophets, heretics, sectarians, ideologues and demagogues. There band was ever growing: Pope, sacramentarians, Erasmus, Karlstadt etc. The list was sheer endless.

The Jews claimed special right to the Old Testament. Luther´s knowledge of the Jews was scant. There were none living in Wittenberg and hardly any in Saxony due to political rulings. He did meet a handful during his lifetime, but those weren´t the best experiences either. So he relied mainly on hearsay – social media/fake news – for his updates. Sometimes he even twittered stuff like: “My sore neck/throat is hurting. Probably the Jews in the village we just passed are breathing their icy curses down my spine, causing my suffering.” Well, You better take that with a whole load of salt. It´s not the gospel. Don´t take it as such. Luther didn´t either. He said and twittered a lot of things. Not all memorable. Not all pure bullion either. This kind of stuff did not make it into the confessions. Don´t You mistake it for such.  

However, Luther´s knowledge of the Old Testament was not negligible. It was profound. And he was an expert. Probably the expert for that matter. And that was, what this battle was about. He would not cede this place voluntarily to anybody denying Jesus Christ´s sole legitimacy to victoriously fulfilling all and every OT prophecy with a loud yes and clear Amen. Those, who taught a message from the OT without or beyond Jesus Christ by reading it as some sort of occult code of numerical values attached to the Hebrew alphabet like the Kabbala – giving special attention to the magical name of God (Shem Hamphoras) and misusing it as some holy grail, lost arc and secret code – are just fooling around or if they believe it themselves, seriously mislead others, while in deep trouble of losing out on the true meaning of the biblical message – the saving Gospel of IX – the Scriptures, that give life as they proclaim IX, the Son of the living God and born of the Virgin Mary as the Apostolic Creed teaches. Reading the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament in such a cabbalistic way, was practically like looking for the truth in a teacup or searching for it in tealeaves. It´s speculative nonsense. Truly fake news. Conspiracy theories going haywire. Or take reading someone´s palm of the hand or the flight/song of some bird. It´s brain-dead. Or in the intestines of an opened-up yet living cat/fowl or human child as Greek and Germanic runic readers, soothsayers, seers, fortunetellers, wizards used to do.

Or – and that is the point of the graphic tableau on St. Mary´s depicting the “Judensau” – reading the Bible from a Cabbalistic point of view is like looking into a porker´s backside. You´ll find no answer there. It´s bottled shut. You don´t find the saving truth in cabbalistic interpretations and such speculative rereading of God´s Word. You should just stick to the text and read it as it points to Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of the only saving faith. That´s what the plaque insinuates. It´s not about race and it´s not about the Jews per se, but rather addressing a certain hermeneutic, which lastly proves to be detrimental and fatal. It´s the dramatic struggle for the true understanding of the biblical message, which is not found in the cabbalistic reading, but in the Christian understanding of the Old Testament as recorded in the New Testament. Here in Jesus Christ, You find life and salvation. That´s the teaching of the church. And outside of the church there is no salvation. That´s why the plaque is outside the church and crying out a dire warning to the Israelites then and now – just like the prophets used to do ages back – return to the Lord Your God. For He is one and there is no other. His name is Jesus Christ. The Lord of hosts (Sabaoth): He holds the field victorious. Amen.

In a time, when people are going on to the streets for freedom of expression and religion, when people get all worked up about Mohammed caricatures, a reminder might be in order, that this is something of a polemical cartoon from Ages past – long before Luther already – posting its drastic message, which truth be told, is still part of the Gospel. Our Lord Jesus Christ himself told the Jews:

You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me, but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.

Gospel of St. John 5,39-40

Remember the one and only living God´s rules laid down in Deuteronomy for us and our salvation? Well, right there in the 18th chapter we read His voice loud and clearly:

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, you must not learn the abhorrent practices of those nations. There must never be found among you anyone who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, anyone who practices divination, an omen reader, a soothsayer, a sorcerer, one who casts spells, one who conjures up spirits, a practitioner of the occult, or a necromancer. Whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord, and because of these detestable things the Lord your God is about to drive them out from before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God. Those nations that you are about to dispossess listen to omen readers and diviners, but the Lord your God has not given you permission to do such things.

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you—from your fellow Israelites; you must listen to him. This accords with what happened at Horeb in the day of the assembly. You asked the Lord your God: “Please do not make us hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore or see this great fire anymore lest we die.”  The Lord then said to me, “What they have said is good. I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them whatever I command. I will personally hold responsible anyone who then pays no attention to the words that prophet speaks in my name.

“But if any prophet presumes to speak anything in my name that I have not authorized him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. Now if you say to yourselves, ‘How can we tell that a message is not from the Lord?’ whenever a prophet speaks in my name and the prediction is not fulfilled, then I have not spoken it; the prophet has presumed to speak it, so you need not fear him.”

Deuteronomy 18,9-22

Luther´s writings are explosive and not only with regards to the Jews. In an age of political correctness and given the challenges of giving no offense he is a loose cannon and his writings a veritable minefield. Still, it´s helpful to remember, that for Luther these considerations were unheard of and that for him it all boiled down to the 1st commandment – and whether Jesus Christ is Lord or not. That really is the crucial matter – and like any good prophet, Luther presses that point home – much like the orthodox adage – in a state of confession there are no neutral issues. The decisive problem is clear cut – either for or against. No middle ground. You are either inside or outside the church – and Jesus Christ is the corner- and touchstone.

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Just another morning in Advent

Got a letter from the superintendent asking for a police clearance certificate (Führungszeugnis). So, I got out of the den – and surprise, surprise – the earth is turning, all the world´s on the move and life is going on outside. It could have been any day of the week really.

On the way to the civic center (Rathaus), I dropped off my library books and came across Jochen P. (hunting buddy), who was booking a holiday at the tourist bureau (DER Deutsches Reisebüro) on the market square and on his way to get a haircut.  After all, he is going on a hunt today, so he had to look his smartest. Not difficult for him. He´s still makes a fine gentleman at 70+.

Luther was there too, but he was as pensive as always. Not very talkative. Just pointing to Scriptures on his high pedestal. I wonder, if he would have cared to be more conversational with an African like me back in his days or whether he would have been just as aloof as nowadays – just busy with theology and really important things. I wonder, if I would have managed to get his attention anyway and gotten into his circle of friends. Perhaps if Bugenhagen or Justus Jonas would have introduced me most kindly. I sure would have like that – listening to their table talk, trying a bite of Katie´s food or just soaking up the atmosphere of rekindled faith, hope and love in those Reformation days. Now – it´s him and Melanchthon keeping their distance in the public square – up high, far apart and a long distance away from most of us. Looking down on us passersby from on high. Done and dusted. Not much of a conversation going on there. More like a soliloquy. Just like in my little bookstore.

Getting to the library, I ran into Michael B, who works up on the 4th story and whose offices are being moved due to pending renovations to the “Alte Rathaus”. So, she´s desperately trying to get rid of excess stuff – posters, books etc. I got posters last time. Next time, it´s books. Just let her boss sort through those piles first. For now, she was on her way and I on mine, but first we exchanged smiles, friendly words and encouragements. It´s nice to have friendly people around.

Then the books were handed in. No replacements this time. I´ve got enough on my hands as it is, without the burden of unfinished books constantly pleading for attention and accusing me of neglect, discrimination and other terrible offenses. Such books can get a very legalistic demenour after a while and if You get to know them a bit. Even without words, they keep pointing fingers – and it strikes me every time: Guilty as charged!

Getting to the civic center I got the Nr 1 table and faster than I could have imagined Marie B. had my request lodged and I was off with proof in hand. These German bureaucrats are highly efficient. I asked her, whether last time around, she hadn´t been sitting at another table to serve me. Well, seems they move around and get to another desk every day. Sort of keeps the place functional optimally and very focussed even though it still has a nice comfortable touch about it and not too official and office like at all: Colourful, light and inviting – even in the darkest time of winter.

Ha, mission accomplished and in next to no time I was heading back to my solitary cave. But before getting there next to St. Mary´s Sister Elisabeth was on her bicycle. So, we caught up with this and that – both grateful to see a known face alive and smiling. She´s been to a number of spiritual retreats and excercises recently, making the most of this forced shutdown according to the slogan: “Less is more!” Man, it´s good to see such a row of friendly faces – endearing, heartening, uplifting – and not just virtually, but very real.

Hopefully, You run into some friendly ones too today. Have a wonderful day – even as the forced isolation continues and we look forward to the 3rd Sunday in Advent – yearning for the light at the end of the tunnel. Remember the divine blessing, which talks very much of the triune God showing You His friendly face:

+++ The Lord bless and keep You. The Lord make His face shine upon You and be gracious to You. The Lord lift up His countenance upon You and give You peace +++

Remember God´s promises through the prophet Isaiah (40,1-11), which have been put to music by Johann Olearius (1611-1684) and translated into English by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1887). He means it – and it is for You too:

1 Comfort, comfort ye my people,
speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
comfort those who sit in darkness,
mourning ‘neath their sorrow’s load.
Speak ye to Jerusalem
of the peace that waits for them;
tell her that her sins I cover,
and her warfare now is over.

2 Yea, her sins our God will pardon,
blotting out each dark misdeed;
all that well deserved his anger
he no more will see or heed.
She hath suffered many a day,
now her griefs have passed away;
God will change her pining sadness
into ever-springing gladness.

3 For the herald’s voice is crying
in the desert far and near,
bidding all men to repentance,
since the kingdom now is here.
O that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way;
let the valleys rise to meet him,
and the hills bow down to greet him.

4 Make ye straight what long was crooked,
make the rougher places plain;
let your hearts be true and humble,
as befits his holy reign.
For the glory of the Lord
now o’er earth is shed abroad;
and all flesh shall see the token
that his word is never broken.

Johann Olearius (1611-1684)

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Fix it

There was a time, when I outgrew my shoes. Even the old trusted vellies were due for replacements in the new year. We´d go to Cuthbert’s in Victoria Street. They´d measure the foot, add half an inch for growth and any other uncertainties and you´d be off with some change for the R10-00 note in your pocket. Well, those times are long gone. Now I just wear down those shoes and after some years, they slowly come loose at the ends until they finally more or less fall apart. Kathrina used to take them away long before that happened – and we were spared the thought of passing time and our coming end. Or they´d be picked up by a lucky finder, while you were swimming in the sea or praying in the mosque or other holy place. Now, we´re not so fortunate. Time flies by and before You even know it, your shoes have had it. The holes are just too much and the seams are too unraveled. It´s time for some serious reflection.

Well, here in Lutherstadt Wittenberg You´ve still got cobblers. Not just one in the many museums, but a long list of options – and doing well by the looks of it – even in the pandemic. The one closest to the Old Latin School – Rozonsky in some back yard of mayor´s street (Bürgermeisterstraße) – fixed my suspender, which were coming loose too. No, they were not under too much strain 😉 They´re just not the same quality as they used too be. Probably made in China by some Ungurean slaves. No wonder they´re not made to last. They´re probably all out to sabotage cheap exports to get the industry of the dragon on its feet again. You know those stories from the old concentration camps, don´t You? Anyway, the cobbler got it done. It took him 2 days and cost me some 150 cents. A good deal.

That got me thinking. My wife is busy teaching. She doesn´t have time to patch my torn hunting garments, nor my Sunday best worn through by excessive use during our celebrations following the regular Sabbath. Back in the days one of my brothers would have started wearing that suit – or whoever. Now it just keeps hanging in there. So, now and again it tears somewhere, some seems gets loose and it all needs needle and thread and serious fixing. Now, if You don´t have time and I don´t have the skills and patience, well, there are tailors and seamstresses in this town too. Just around the block we´ve got 5 different shops to choose from. I chose the one, which took it even just a day before the Reformation Holiday. Today I got it back – for just 300 cents. That´s my working suit to last another day or some – for next to nothing. Now I don´t need to buy that new one off the hanger for an arm and a leg. I like it. I´m sure it´s not really going to make Germany great again, but it sure is sustainable – and I last longer that way too despite Corona.  

Now let´s see, what else needs fixing?

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It´s Luther´s birthday and time to get the goose going…

Today´s Luther´s 537th birthday and tomorrow is the Holiday of St. Martin (Bishop of Tours). That´s the day little Luder (ne Luther!) was baptized and christened with that name in St. Peter and Paul.

Many Germans celebrate this holiday with a roast goose (Martinsgans!), because when the French Saint was elected as bishop, he modestly hid in some goose pen. The geese made such a racket, that the hiding Martin was quickly found and installed. This is the gist of that old legendamong others – which has “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” sing about it:

„Wann der heil’ge Sanct Martin
Will der Bischofsehr’ entflieh’n,
Sitzt er in dem Gänsestall,
Niemand find’t ihn überall,
Bis der Gänse groß Geschrei
Seine Sucher führt herbei.

Nun dieweil das Gickgackslied
Diesen heil’gen Mann verrieth,
Dafür thut am Martinstag
Man den Gänsen diese Plag’,
Daß ein strenges Todesrecht
Geh’n muß über ihr Geschlecht.“

Des Knaben Wunderhorn

If You want to try this delightful fowl for tomorrow, I recommend the recipe by star cook Witzigmann. He uses common mugwort (Beifuß) – and there´s no way You can leave that out. The dry and unimpressive herb is an absolute game changer. Angelika picked it up along the Elbe and it made all the difference. Try it and You´ll be pleasantly surprised. And there´s plenty time to get set for the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving still 🙂

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God will send the prophet You want (Dt.18,16)

Dr. Martin Luther continues his commentary on Deuteronomy 18 verse 16: “Just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb” – translated by Richard R. Caemmerer in Luther´s Works Volume 9, pages 180-182:

We read nothing about any such prayer in Ex. 20. Why, then, does Moses say this? Answer: Moses infers from the very words of the people that this request was in them when they said: “I will not further hear the voice of the Lord my God, and I shall not see this mighty fire any more, lest I die.” From these words, I say, he takes, not what they say but what they desire; for he looks at their inmost feeling and at the core of their desire. They had been so moved by terror of the voice that with the greatest ardor of the heart they longed for a gentler and more pleasant word. Death itself, being held before them through the voice of the Law, forced them to sigh for life and for the Word of salvation; and in such anxiety they rather wish than dare to pray for another word. But God, who searches the depths of the heart (Acts 15:8), hears and answers, not according to the outward sound of the words but according to the feeling burning inside, just as in the Gospel Christ looks upon Zacchaeus, not according to what he was saying in public but according to the feeling in his heart, Luke 19:2 ff. Zacchaeus would not have dared beg publicly that Christ enter his home, yet inwardly he wanted nothing more than he wanted this. Therefore he also received Christ with joy, since his desire, which he himself barely sensed before was fulfilled.
In this passage Moses shows with what fervor and longing of the heart the Word of grace should be desired. It is truly that gift of God about which Paul seems especially to be speaking when he says to the Ephesians (3:20): “God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” He hates lazy and cold petitioners, who hope to gain their end through much speaking (Matt. 5:7); he wants sighings that cannot be uttered (Rom. 8:26). Certainly no one can have all this who spends his days in a good life and dwells in the land of luxury. This is only for those who are moved to despair by the feeling of death and the bite of sin, so that, like the people of Israel, they refuse to go on hearing the voice of God or seeing the mighty fire, that is, the power of the Law and the prick of sin, namely, death and the wrath of God, which already consumes them like a fire, so that they long to hear the Word of life.
Note how beautifully Moses yields his ministry to the future Prophet. He says that the people asked for another prophet to be raised up, although in Ex. 20:19 they asked that Moses himself speak, but said nothing of another one to be raised up besides Moses. With these words Moses indicates that because of anxiety the people had not known what they were asking for or how they were praying. It was stupid to ask to hear Moses, when Moses had to teach or proclaim nothing else than what they themselves heard at the mountain, that is, the Law. Thus frightened and anxious people tend not to know what they are praying for, as Paul says Rom. 8:27: “We do not know what we are to pray or how we ought to pray, but the Spirit intercedes for the saints, etc.” Therefore here, too, Moses interprets their request according to their inner feeling, as though he were to say: “It was stupid of you to ask that I speak to you, since you were afraid to hear that voice on the mountain and this is the voice of my ministry forever. But God, who looks at your heart, sees that you desire not me but another, who would speak more gently than I. And in answer to this request He will give you the kind of Prophet you want.
“But what kind do you want? Certainly one who heals those who are smitten through my voice, that is, through the Law of sin and wrath; who makes sound those who are contrite of heart; who frees and consoles those who are frightened and broken. With what medicine? Certainly with the Word of life and salvation, that you might hear the voice of those who proclaim peace and good things on the mountains (Is. 52:7). You want the One of whom Malachi later foretold (3:1): ‘And suddenly will come to His temple the Messenger of the covenant, whom you desire’; and after him Isaiah (61:1–2): ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me and sent Me to proclaim the Gospel to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart, to preach the year accepted by the Lord.’ Such a One you asked for in Horeb when you stupidly asked me; and such a One the Lord will therefore give you in the place of me. See that you hear Him instead of me. To Him I shall yield, because you cannot bear me, and you have asked that I be silenced and put aside.”

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Jesus grants, what Moses demands… (ML on Dt.18,15)

Dr. Martin Luther continues his commentary on Deuteronomy 18 verse 15: “The Lord Your God will raise up for You a prophet like me from among You, from Your brethren – Him You shall heed” – translated by Richard R. Caemmerer in Luther´s Works Volume 9, pages 176-180:

This is the chief passage in this whole book and a clearly expressed prophecy of Christ as the new Teacher. Hence the apostles also courageously adduce this passage (Acts 3:22–23; Acts 7:37). Appropriately, Moses places it here at the end, after he has finished his discourses concerning the priesthood, the kingdom, the government, and the whole worship of God. It is his purpose to show that in the future there will be another priesthood, another kingdom, another worship of God, and another word, by which all of Moses will be set aside. Here Moses clearly describes his own end, and he yields his mastery to the Prophet who is to come. Let us therefore examine his words rather carefully.
First, it is necessary for this Prophet to bring a new word, a word which Moses has not taught, because here God promises that He will put words into His mouth. But if this were not another word, there would be no need to promise that it will be brought by this Prophet; it would have been enough to say: “He shall be a mouth for you,” just as is said of Aaron in Ex. 4:16, which would mean that the Prophet would teach the words of Moses and his written Law. Now when he says: “Heed Him who will be raised up like me,” he teaches plainly that his own word is different from the Word of that Prophet. And this he confirms when he says that the people on Mt. Sinai demanded such a prophet to speak to them, since they had already heard the whole Law through Moses.
But there cannot be another word beyond the word of Moses, unless it is the Gospel, since everything that belongs to the teaching of the Law has been transmitted most perfectly and amply by Moses, so that nothing further can be added. For what could be added to the Decalog, to say nothing of the rest? What loftier thing can be taught than to believe, trust, love, and fear God with one’s whole heart, not to tempt God, etc.? Furthermore, what rules can be more just and holy than those which Moses ordains concerning the external worship of God, government, and love for one’s neighbor? Therefore the Jews have no cause here to gabble that this Prophet will be one who interprets Moses. Moses interprets himself in this book so well that there is no need of another; nor can another add one jot or tittle to make him clearer or more perfect. Since, therefore, there cannot be another word beyond the perfect teaching of the Law unless it were the Word of grace, it follows that this Prophet will not be a teacher of the Law but a minister of grace. Thus this text clearly forces the Jews to expect from this Prophet something other than what they have in Moses.
Secondly, unless that new Prophet were to bring another word, Moses would not need to compare Him to himself when he says: “The Lord will raise Him up, like me.” All the other prophets who taught Moses and did not raise up another word were not like Moses or similar to Moses but inferior to Moses, namely, servants of the word of Moses, teaching what Moses had commanded. Therefore in all of them the people did not hear anyone else or themselves; they heard Moses himself and his words. For Moses speaks in them and puts his words into their mouths, and they are his mouth to the people. This Prophet, however, he does not dare subordinate to himself and put his words into His mouth; but he says that He will be like him in service and obedience, by which he certainly excludes Him from obedience to him and places Him above all prophets who taught on the basis of Moses.
But to exclude Him from obedience to Moses and to prefer Him above all prophets teaching on the basis of Moses is to affirm positively that the ministry of the Law is to be ended and a new one to be set up, since no man is free from the service of the Law but all are subject to the Law. Therefore it is necessary that this Prophet, who is like Moses—in respect to authority of teaching and commanding, that is, for this is what he means when he says “like me”—be superior to Moses and teach greater things. Unless He were greater than Moses, Moses would not yield obedience and authority to Him. Moreover, unless He taught greater things, He could not be greater. He is not speaking here of similarity between Moses and that Prophet in regard to personal worth but of similarity in authority or office. He is not dealing here with the life, morals, or deeds of Moses and this Prophet but with doctrine, as the text sufficiently proves; for a prophet is a prophet because he teaches and comes to teach, and here the command is to “heed Him.”
If, therefore, the doctrine of both is considered, it will be easily apparent from the comparison of their doctrine what He must preach. Moses is a minister of the Law, sin, and death; for he teaches and stresses works, and through the rays of the Law he makes everyone guilty of death and subject to punishment for sin. He demands, but he does not give what he demands. However, since this Prophet finds Moses teaching this and is Himself set up as a Teacher next to him, His Word must teach something else. But He cannot teach anything else than sin, wrath, and death unless He teaches righteousness, grace, and life. Therefore it is necessary that He be a teacher of life, grace, and righteousness, just as Moses is a teacher of sin, wrath, and death. But both teachings must be heard just as they have been raised up by God; for through the Law all must be humbled, and through the Gospel all must be exalted. They are alike in divine authority, but with respect to the fruit of their ministry they are unlike and completely opposed to each other. The sin and wrath which Moses arouses through his ministry that Prophet cancels through righteousness and grace by His ministry. This Prophet, therefore, demands nothing; but He grants what Moses demands.
In this passage we have those two ministries of the Word which are necessary for the salvation of the human race: the ministry of the Law and the ministry of the Gospel, one for death and the other for life. They are indeed alike if you are looking at their authority, but most unlike if you are thinking about their fruit. The ministry of Moses is temporary, finally to be ended by the coming of the ministry of Christ, as he says here, “Heed Him.” But the ministry of Christ will be ended by nothing else, since it brings eternal righteousness and “puts an end to sin,” as it is said in Dan. 9:24. Therefore the Levitical priesthood is wholly ended here and set aside, because it was established to teach Moses. But if the priesthood is ended, the Law is also ended, as it is said (Heb. 7:12): “When there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the Law as well.” Thus this Prophet can be none other than Christ Himself.
From all this it follows how completely foreign and even pestilential those teachers in the New Testament are who trouble consciences with laws and works, when this prophecy concerning Christ totally wipes out and does away with that ministry. Even more pestilential are those who weary the earth with their traditions and human laws. If the ministry of this new Prophet does not endure the Law of Moses, which is divine, how will it endure the laws of men in His kingdom? You see, therefore, that by this one text the whole chaos of papistic tyranny, together with its monks, is completely upset.
But here you will say: “You will find commands everywhere in the gospels and the epistles of the apostles. Therefore either our Christ will not be this Prophet, or His doctrine will not differ at all from the Law of Moses.” To reply briefly: The commands of the New Testament are directed to those who are justified and are new men in the Spirit. Nothing is taught or commanded there except what pertains solely to believers, who do everything spontaneously, not from necessity or contrary to their own will. But the Law is directed to the old man, who is dead in sin, to urge him on and to show him his sin. This is the true and proper teaching of the Law. Therefore the Law finds man not only unwilling but also unable to do what the Law demands. Thus he says here in the text that on the day of the assembly the people refused and could not hear the voice of the Law, and that therefore they asked for another teacher, one who would speak to them a word they could bear.
The understanding of this matter lies in recognizing and truly distinguishing the Law and the Gospel, that you may know that the teaching of the Law commands only what is to be done by the ungodly and lost, as 1 Tim. 1:9 says: “The Law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless.” But where the godly are, there the Law, which is intended only for the humiliation of the ungodly through the recognition of their sin and weakness, is already abolished. The Gospel teaches from what source you receive the power to fulfill the Law. In this respect it commands nothing; nor does it force the spirit, which hastens of its own accord by faith. It adds some commands, but it does so to kill the remnants of the old man in the flesh, which is not yet justified. From these commands, however, the spirit is free, being satisfied with faith alone. Of this matter we have spoken amply elsewhere.
Now let us look at the words: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among you, from your brethren—Him you shall heed.” Here he prophesies that Christ will be true man and will come from the blood of the Jews, because salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22). No one has ever arisen from this people who taught a different word from the word of Moses and set up a new ministry except this one Christ of ours. However many prophets there were before Him, they all preserved and taught Moses. This Prophet freed not only the Jews from Moses but all nations throughout the world and gave them the new Word of the Gospel. That He was from the Jews, both the Gentiles and the Jews being witnesses, proves that it is He of whom Moses speaks here, and that this prophecy is fulfilled in Him.

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Life and works of God´s people governed by the sure Word of God

Dr. Martin Luther continues his commentary on Deuteronomy with this brief introduction in chapter 18 – translated by Richard R. Caemmerer in Luther´s Works Volume 9, pages 174ff:

He closes off his introduction with the careful and yet insightful comments on the various sages, soothsayers, guessers, cunning enchanters and other pagan abominations:

The third and last addition to all that has been said concerning the outward worship of God is the command to beware of the abominations of the Gentiles, which he lists here in order. He enumerates nine, all of which conflicted with the true and pure worship of God instituted through His Word. Even if we cannot vouch for the Hebrew with certainty throughout, we distinguish these with plausible conjectures, somewhat in this way: The first, which Moses calls קֹסְמִים, we call “seers” or “soothsayers”; it is taken in a good sense only rarely, just as the name “prophet” is sometimes taken in an evil sense. Seers, therefore, are those who prophesy the future or interpret Scriptures and the words of God, but do so according to their own understanding. The second are the מְעוֹנְנִים, who, as the Jews and almost all others agree, are observers of days. The third, מְנַחֲשִׁים, we call augurs, although they are so termed because they watch birds. Nevertheless, in Num. 23:23 this word signifies observing other things too: “There is no augury in Jacob, etc.”; and Gen. 44:5: “Is it by this that my master divines?” The fourth, מְכַשְׁפִים, we think are really sorcerers and wizards (Ex. 22:18): “You shall not permit a sorceress to live.” The fifith are חוֹבְרִים, of whom the psalm attests that they are soothsayers, when it says (58:5): “It does not hear the voice of charmers or of the cunning enchanter.” The sixth, אוֹבוֹת, is the python, the spirit spoken of in Acts 16:16, which reveals things that are secret and concealed; in the vernacular we speak of “wise men and women.” The seventh, יִדְעֹנִים, are fortunetellers, interpreters of signs, or guessers. The eighth, those who inquire of the dead, consult nocturnal spirits and ghosts, which they think are sometimes the souls of the deceased. The ninth, whom Moses puts in first place, purify their sons or daughters through fire; that is, they give of their progeny to the idol Moloch, as he says elsewhere (Lev. 18:21). All these—since they are human inventions without the Word of God—must be condemned among the people of God, whose life and works must be governed by the sure Word of God.

Martin Luther on Deuteronomy 18 (LW 9, Pg. 75)
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Missiological formation in seminary education in South Africa

St. Paul was probably the missionary par excellence. Winfred Boniface did quite a magnificent job of missionizing the Germans. Hudson Taylor in China could be quite relevant as a missionary to the Far East too. However all three did not go through a Seminary training like we know it today. Paul learnt the trade at the feet of a Jewish rabbi. Boniface was a Roman Catholic priest and Hudson Taylor trained as a physician before striking out East. Yet all three were doubtless suitable missionaries. How does Seminary education in South Africa include missiological formation?

Missionaries are different. There is not a standard mould formatting all subsequent witnesses of Christ. Therefore their formation is also risky business. Optimum outcomes are not guaranteed. A number of those, who were trained by best practices during the last century and who by human standards would have past every test with flying colours still got the disqualifying message from their hosts: “Missionary – go home!” That moratorium cameafter the century had kicked off with such exuberant optimism: “World Evangelisation in this generation”. Things in mission seemed so doable, practical and manageable that relatively sensible, sober and sophisticated missionaries and their societies and institutions felt it’s the time to just get on with it and finish the job. The anniversary Edinburgh 2010 will remind us of this unrealistic confidence. That and the unfinished business of Christian missions especially cross-culturally to the still mind boggling number of literally billions of so-called “unreached” people, who yet have had no contact with the gospel of Jesus Christ in Muslim countries, India and China should leave no doubt in us about the urgency of missions today. That adds to the relevance of the given topic, how to incorporate missiological formation into Seminary education?

In hindsight it seems to have been a lot easier years ago to give a definite answer to this question, but the experience in Missions over the past decades warn us that our attempts today might be just as utopian as those proposed in Edinburgh. Successful missiological formation remains an open question perhaps even more so than before. The Lord of the Church and all the world opens and closes doors as he desires. There are times conducive to missions and others in which evangelisation seems impossible. Our Lord prophesied that there would be times coming, which would be night preventing any work. The Holy Spirit calls, saves and keeps people by faith in Jesus Christ as he wishes by deploying his effective instruments of grace, wherever it pleases him. God’s timing and placement in history determine missionary outcomes. We are not masters of our destiny never mind that of Seminarians, Churches or the universe. The Church and its evangelistic mission remain part of the triune God’s mission and thus subject to the clause of St. James: If the Lord wills, we will do this or that, here or there. The triune God alone determines growth, success, failure or retreat – even in missions. However it is he, who has all authority in heaven and on earth, who said: “Fear not, but rather go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them.” Under his guidance and motivated by his promise the Church faithfully continues with calling, training, installing, ordaining and sending men to do the work Christ has mandated it to keep on doing until he comes. Like the Father sent him, he sent us. In his authority we do his work and put all our faith and hope in him. Knowing Him and his pledge, we are assured that this endeavour in missions is not in vain, but rather accomplish all he wants to have done and accomplished when- and wherever he stipulates.

The words of our Lord: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you… Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld,”  which are part of the confessional services of Christian congregations throughout the world, demonstrate how the very inner workings of the Church are determined by its mission to all people. Therefore even when the Church seems so busy with itself as in a confessional service, it is being missionary. The universality of this good news is the reason for its global reach crossing all borders of language, culture, tradition, race, politics, ideology and economics be that in New York or in Timbuktu or Hong Kong. The missionary dimension of the gospel pushes the Church continually outward and beyond its own limitations and borders. In Löhe’s words: “For mission is nothing but the one church of God in its movement, the actualization of the one universal, catholic church.” This is because Church and mission are two sides of the same coin.  Even St. Paul the missionary cannot be understood without him being a theologian and today we realize that Martin Luther the reformer was also very missiological and a influential missionary – even though he did not get far beyond Wittenberg, Germany.

So foundation and goal of missions are not in question, but how to do this best is. The strategy varies, because times and places, people and situations vary and in this it is also opportune to look at how missiological formation is optimally carried out during Seminary education.

Africa – like everywhere else – is part of the global village. You have Africans from all over the continent living in a rural village like Hermannsburg never mind the rest of Europe. Training missionaries at any Seminary today does not have the luxury of aiming all its strategies at just one homogenous people. Only a few decades ago Seminarians were more or less uniform in their worldview, whereas today’s are as pluralistic as the fellow-citizens of the world. Pluralistic backgrounds, traditions, languages, cultures, qualifications, skills, values and frames of reference characterise the setup of every Seminary class.  Just consider that South Africa has eleven official languages, Uganda has 43 living languages and Nigeria even 514. Compared with that China has “only” 292. Although Mission is a global affair on six continents it is also true that most countries today are a world in one country. For a long time mission no longer is a one-way traffic [if it ever was!], but rather a dialogue, networking and intricate merging of horizons of giving and taking, sharing one world, living together in one world, flexible, on the move and sharing constantly changing paradigms with ever changing citizens of the earth. At a Seminary like ours the teachers don’t know the context of their pupils back home. We staff members are not the experts about the mission field the students are coming from and going to. The students have far more first-hand experience, know-how and expertise about this. So also in this process of Seminary education the teachers are not the have’s, and the students the have-nots. Rather they are partners in an ongoing educational and learning process deliberating about how best to carry out our Christian calling into God’s mission wherever he sends us and in whatever service and ministry he wants us. Obviously Seminary is not only a one-to-one situation between teacher and student [or even worse computer and student], but rather a network of relations between dozens of students from very different walks of life, countries, tribes, age groups plus a wide range of teachers from various continents. Future pastors and missionaries in a global village need this exposure and what a blessing is it not, that again more than twenty teachers challenged our students to grow in their perspective of God’s works, miracles and wonders throughout the world and through many ages. Living together at close quarters in Seminary helps Seminarians to understand other Christians, traditions and cultures first-hand – and everything in the light of God’s word which dominates the Seminary atmosphere and permits optimal spiritual growth and missional formation, because they are thereby encouraged to look at foreign ways, words and worlds and learn to understand them from a theological perspective. 

This is vital Seminary education and students are thereby already formed missiologically. Luther writes that Christians know where they are coming from and where they are going and that they therefore have all reason to not give up, but rather keep the faith and be joyful, because their Lord is coming for sure! This is another witness Christians – and especially Seminarians on the way out into the world – need to internalize and which they owe to the world in a confident message of hope and comfort. Even if we Christians suffer like the rest of the world or even worse, we have a sure hope in God’s future and a peace, that passes all understanding – and everybody is welcome to share this hope and to receive it as a free gift from Christ our Saviour. Missiological formation at Seminary reckons with this migratory character of Christians under the cross and in the suffering of this world and especially of missionaries consciously crossing the borders of disbelief. However it also has to take into account the uncertainty exerted by constant changes on humanity and the compensation traditional religions, rational ideologies and  other human schemes offer without giving real and sustainable outcomes. This necessitates that Seminarians seriously take into consideration the ways of this world in thought, word and deed. They need to sympathize with the people in this world without getting lost to the world. The diversity and complexity of our existence in this world should prevent any reader from expecting to many straightforward, simple recipes for missiological formation’s inclusion into the Seminary education even in a small Seminary like ours in Tshwane [Pretoria, South Africa]. We don’t have a list of thirty “Do-Missions-yourself” steps with a give-back guarantee if this methodology doesn’t work out. We are not a technical college, which teaches missionary engineering (cf. Elert). Rather we are a Lutheran Seminary, which tries to give a good account of what Lutherans teach about God and the world and to live accordingly every day of our lives. It is an explicit aim of our Seminary to have the Seminarians get to know this over a period of four years before they are deployed again into many different countries on this continent in the hope that they will then demonstrate this Lutheran way of godly life and teaching to people, who are not familiar with it yet inviting them also to be part of this new life with Christ.

Churches have used their Seminaries to equip pastors optimally for the challenges facing the church in its context. The current slogan from theologians at the University of South Africa to have their students grow strong roots into the foundations of the Christian faith and to have them simultaneously grow strong wings to fly into the promised future of the triune God illustrates the idea. Seminaries teach what the Church has been teaching on account of Christ’s commission [Mt.28, 20a] all along in the traditional disciplines of biblical, historic, dogmatic and practical theology. These areas belong to Seminaries core business whether they taught in Enhlanhleni [Umsinga], which is the poorest part of South Africa or in its capital Pretoria. The direction from rural areas into urban centres dominates in Lutheran Churches in Southern Africa as well as their tendency to raise the academic standard consistently – starting off with rudimentary schooling, tertiary education and finally homing in on university level graduation and accreditation. Another common denominator is the change from the vernacular to English as medium of instruction. That brings a number of other changes with it too: Literature, books, library, World-wide-web; international studies and teacher/student exchange come to mind. I am confident that these changes will help Seminarians to not only be “bush-wise” in rural areas like Umsinga, Marang or even Matongo or but rather street-wise in metropolitan areas like Tshwane, Lagos, Nairobi and/or Khartoum. This enables the students to join University [Sport, Culture, Academics and Politics], to be at home in the public forum [Movies, Restaurants, Banks, Museums, Parks, Zoo, Medical Centres, Media, Embassies, Libraries and State Theatre] and comfortable moving around on the modern highways on the ground, in the air and across the world-wide-web.  As theologians the contact with other churches [Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Dutch Reformed and all sorts of independent sects and groupings] grants exposure to the wide range of denominations out there. Added to that are other religions and ideologies [Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian Science, Traditional African Religion], who are all occupying space in the modern metropolitan areas. Although this is not so much part of the formalized training it does prepare them for the world we are living in. Experiencing this first-hand with fellow-Seminarians gives the opportunity for critical reflection, discussion and a responsible integration into an accountable frame of reference.

During their Seminary education the students are encouraged to do some advanced studies in missiological and pastoral theology accompanied by practicals and internships in various congregations and institutions of the Church. The aim is to expose our students to parts of the Lutheran Church, which they are not familiar with. For example our Seminarians have visited the following congregations and institutions during their studies.

  1. St. Peters in Fairlands [German/English congregation of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa, which serves a modern suburb of Johannesburg]
  2. St. Thomas in Phoenix [A English congregation of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa serving predominantly people from an Indian township in Durban on the Indian Ocean]
  3. Ohlangeni Lutheran Church [A congregation with seven different parishes served by a team of a German missionary and a Zulu pastor in a rural area of KwaZulu having a unique men’s ministry including a cattle improvement project and a debating forum]
  4. Themba High School [A high school serving Zulu children in Mpumalanga]
  5. Mafeking Lutheran Church [A village/rural congregation serving SeTswana people]
  6. Serowe Lutheran Church [A village congregation serving SeTswana and Basarwa people and having an orphanage, HIV/Aid’s ministry and also active outreach ministry to people living on the border of the Kalahari desert]
  7. Francistown Lutheran Church [A urban congregation with a ministry in a traditional Tswana village and also a growing refugee ministry]

These missionary experiences broaden the perspective of our students. They hear Professors from abroad, missionaries from the continent and local experts teach history, theology and practice of missions. They are exposed to conferences of the Africa Institute for missions [Hammanskraal]; courses of the Inner City Mission [Tshwane] and post-graduate studies in Missions at the University of Pretoria. However “missiological formation” is also included in regular Seminary education. Let me explain: Wherever the Christian faith is professed there this confession airs its intrinsic missionary perspective, which is given by the universality of the gospel of the triune God, who is the only true God over all. Therefore all members of the Christian faith baptized into the holy, Christian and apostolic Church are thereby integrated into the apostolic mission of the Church.  Just as all other aspects of Christian nature and character need to be explained, elaborated and taught to the Christian congregation and especially the catechumens and new converts, so also this missiological and/or apostolic dimension of the Church, congregations and Christians needs to be communicated, practiced and filled with everyday life. This happens and most of our students are aware of this when they arrive at Seminary. They now want to deepen their insights and broaden their perspectives and hone their expertise.

In the threefold setup of reading, meditation and temptation Seminarians are to get to know the origin and foundation of the Church and the Christian faith, its life and teaching throughout history and how it lives and teaches in the present age and world.

Therefore these theological studies are only the first aspect of the Seminary education even if it remains a substantial and vital one. Very important are also the other aspects running simultaneously in Seminary, which are not so readily formulated and a lot less examinable and controllable in their outcomes than these theoretical basics in theological theory. They are aptly summarized by the further steps of meditation and temptation or if you will, the pastoral and missiological formation of students. See by learning theology, the student is confronted with the ecclesial roots of the Christian faith, which is more or less his own too. This the student reads and hears and starts to comprehend as he begins to meditate, think, pray and chew on them. By not having to work for housing, clothing or food he is free to dedicate his time, energy and compassion to think on these higher, theological and eternal things of God’s reign and mission. Seminary provides the necessary space and time for this reading of the Christian matrix and also for its meditation. Again and again, day in day out the Seminarian is literally bombarded with God’s word and Luther’s teaching. From morning to evening he is subject to the flood of theology pouring over him – in class, in chapel and in his own office or residence. The Seminary is the hot-house of theology!

Because of this optimal environment Seminary easily becomes an ideal setting and Seminarians often have difficulty moving out and on. However it needs to be stressed again, that Seminary is just a thoroughfare even if is most times seems like quite a peaceful one. Just like Jesus admonished St. Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration to desist from building houses and settling down up there, but rather to descend once again, so also Seminarians have to learn that theirs is not to stay at Seminary, but rather to move out into the mission field – even if it is the more difficult and challenging route. It is only a fraction of graduates, who come to return to Seminary as teachers. The majority is utilized outside of Seminary in the world. Therefore Seminary does not specialize predominantly in training future professors, but focuses rather on the education and formation of future pastors, evangelists and missionaries. 

Obviously the temptation does not stay outside the Seminary gates either. This temptation of the theologian or student of theology is brought about by the confrontation with the world. Here on this cutting edge the theologian is tempted by disbelief, false belief, doubt, ignorance, despair and other great shame and vice. It’s not only the news from home, the media, the colleagues or the visitors who bring this along to the Seminary. No, these things come from inside the Seminary and its Seminarians. The theologian has no other way out than to fall back on to the study/reading of just the external Words taught in and by the Christian Church throughout the Ages. It is like the constant regression of any Christian to his initial baptism into the Christian life, which characterizes the daily life of every faithful necessitated by the abiding fallenness of even the most justified saints. Especially the theological learner, who is breathing excess of theology continues to chew on temptation simultaneously and therefore needs to regress persistently to the font of all wisdom, grace, peace and truth – the Word of God. Wherever a student is engaged in this truly existential hermeneutical circle and whenever this fusion of horizons takes place because he does not prematurely shy away or flee this divine mill, winepress and saintly formation, that’s where the theologians life and the practice of theology becomes the all encompassing reality of Christian existence. Here his own ideological and philosophical conceptions are transformed by the workings of the Holy Spirit into the realities of Christian faith. Obviously this can happen anytime and anywhere. It has been the conviction of the Church that Seminary is a conducive environment for just this theological experience, which forms the true theologian. Just like the old church fathers in the desert the Seminary does not offer distraction from this vital confrontation of God’s word and worldly temptation in our own soul, mind and heart, but rather allows and encourages Seminarians to face up this continual struggle under the cross head-on – depending not so much on our own strength or ability, but rather with the never-ending plea: Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison and yet again Kyrie eleison! And it is a Seminary – like in the rest of the Church – where the Seminarians may hear again and again the brotherly encouragement of the father confessor: God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith!

The idea is that the gifted people, who come to Seminary have been recommended by their congregations/churches or do so due to an inner calling or persuasion. They do not come to Seminary because they want to become something for which they are not suited. On the contrary, they have the potential and want this aptitude to be developed, expanded and fine-tuned. Seminary – like primary and high school, like vicarage and other ecclesial courses and training programs – is a stepping stone on the way. It is neither the beginning or source nor the end or goal of the theological existence.

Seminary as suggested above is like the seminal hothouse, where seedlings are planted and grown under optimal circumstances for growth because it grants protection from adverse conditions outside and gives everything required for strong development and progress. However Seminary is not a cloister giving permanent shelter, but on grants a temporary condition for Seminarians before they necessarily return into the real world outside, where strong winds blow into your face and the heat is turned above or below far beyond moderate comfort levels.

In the time at Seminary Seminarians are encouraged to experience and practice so called “real life situations” in an experimental or controlled environment – like learning to walk with a walking aid. This does not only hold true for the worship situations like preaching, teaching and leading the liturgy, but also for Bible studies and discussions, interaction amongst brothers, friends, fellow students, teachers, guests, visitors and strangers. They witness, partake, suffer and thus experience these things besides learning-by-doing themselves. Living with fellow Seminarians on close quarters for at least four years makes for a very intensive experience – hopefully not too depressing. Just like nobody can fool his wife, so it is very difficult to fool a fellow-Seminarian over that course of time and at such short distance. That makes it more and more difficult to live in illusion about ourselves. It prevents self-righteousness, because we learn to accept the judgment of others over us – even if it only happens hard way. We get to know others too – the good, the bad and the ugly! You can take my word for that. That could prevent us from despairing about ourselves too, because brothers in the faith support us and accept us, because they forgive us as Christ has forgiven us – even though they know me and what I am, the worst of despicable sinners! Seminary thus becomes a school in the Christian creed in the justification of sinners by faith alone!

It is also a school to differentiate the two kingdoms and reigns of Christ. At Seminary dishes need to be washed, leaves need to be raked together and disposed of, dust needs to be vacuumed and blocked toilets need to be freed. Test have to be written, assignments need to be researched, papers need to be finished. All that does not happen by faith alone, but through dirty works. Blessed are those Seminarians, who learn in time to get their hands dirty and recognise that their calling into the office of the ministry is one of pastoral service. It does not come as a surprise then, that our Lord preferably used the example of shepherd, gardener and fisherman to describe his calling and that of his disciples. All of them get their hands pretty much fouled up – calloused, stained, cut, bruised and tarnished. However we all know how those very hands  – by they of our mother or our father – can be very soothing, comforting and healing for that matter. Another point is that these people shepherds, gardeners and fishermen often [not always] work in teams and our Lord sent out his disciples in twos. I believe that we should be very careful not to be too quick to leave any pastor, evangelist or missionary to his own devices, but rather support him with a team. This is good tradition in the Church universal and even in the local one too!

At the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane we try to train Lutheran pastors, missionaries and evangelists for Africa. No doubt, quite a mouthful, but that’s what this institution has been doing more or less adequately for the past century or so. How do we want to do justice to the expectations of people, Christians, congregations and Churches or institutions utilizing pastors in congregations, schools, military, prisons, hospitals, care-centres, orphanages across Africa? And even more radically, but most importantly, what does the triune God expect of a Seminary like ours?

David Bosch has pointed out, how important it is to read the Bible from a missiological perspective. In the mean-time even Church history is being looked at from this angle. At CS St. Louis they have at least one specialist for missions in every traditional discipline. I believe there is a lot in favour to take up this cue and to practice our entire theology along this line of thought in South Africa. Just as CTS Ft.Wayne offers a PhD in Missions I believe the Lutheran Church in Africa needs to pursue this too. We need serious missiological studies from a Lutheran perspective to research the history, practice and theology of missions in the African context. That will help to strategize the way forward until finally all planning and missionizing will come to an end, when the Lord comes again to make manifest, what he has fulfilled in glory.

At last the triune God is manifest as focal point of the universe. The Father has enthroned the lamb Jesus Christ amidst all the heavens and all the powers therein for everyone to behold. The cherubim and seraphim, the glorious company of the apostles plus the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of martyrs and that victorious multitude, which nobody can number from all nations, tribes, people and languages assembled to proclaim his praises: “He is the king of glory, the everlasting Son of the Father”, who has finally come to be our judge. He judges heaven and earth, the living and the dead without favour and bias solely on the grounds of his everlasting will revealed to us by the Holy Spirit active in and through faithful pastors and evangelists, teachers and preachers, congregations and churches throughout the ages in word and deed, through hymns, creeds and sermons of all kinds, but also through his most venerable sacraments as the “verbum visibile” to taste and to see, how friendly their gracious Lord is! It is they who taught us everything he entrusted to his disciples throughout the ages. Granting a safe haven to the Church as God’s people on their sojourn through time and space on their way home, while they are continuously calling, inviting and  welcoming all those others by the wayside with the good tiding: Christ came into this world to save sinners. So come, there is still room for you too!  

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus+

Posted in Articles from South Africa, Gedankensplitter, Histories, biographies and other stories, Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane, Lutheran World, Lutherische Mission, Saints of the church, St.Paul | Leave a comment

Illustrious names

The list of previous scholars in the Old Latin School is long. You find famous people amongst them: Paul Luther, personal Physician of the Saxon elector; Wilhelm Weber, the Physicist and inventor of the electro-magnetic telegraph (forerunner of the iPhone) and Johann G. Galle, the astronomer and discoverer of the planet Neptune. The latter is one of three now decorating the outside of the Old Latin School together with Hans Sachs and Friedrich Brandt.

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There´s a skeleton in our lift

Check it out: That´s what they found, when they dug deeper into the foundations of the Old Latin School to fit in the elevator (lift). Remember, it was originally part of the bigger cemetary of St.Mary´s and there was a bone-house here before the Old Latin School was built back in 1564.

Today those skeletons are in safe-keeping in Halle – and the appropriate authorities watch over them. Further research is expensive, but we´re working on it. Hopefully, you´ll be able to see them up in the Old Latin School one of these days. Hey, they´ve been part of the family here for much longer than me 😉

A big Thank you goes to President Matthew C. Harrison for sharing these pictures.

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