Monday, October 20, 2008

Blessings of Concordia Theological Seminary

I am confident to brag that Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne is the flagship of confessional Lutheranism in the world. It produces the boldest teachers, preachers, and scholars of the doctrine of our Lord. What distinguishes this institution from every other seminary is that it is radically Lutheran, radically catholic, and radically uncompromising in matters of doctrine. We reject the broader assertions of the Enlightenment and Age of Reason, which the modern world generally accepts as truths (evolution, the perfectibility of man, works righteousness, and the insistence that men are naturally inclined toward good and so forth). We operate instead from the starting point of what God has revealed to His people – that we live in a fallen world where misery, death, and pain are the consequence of sin. It has been revealed that God is the maker of all things, and that man was made in his image, to be the very crown of his creation. We were made that we might walk with God without shame, in the cool mist of the setting sun in perfect love. Man’s rebellion and quest to be God has cast the world into war, famine, death, and decay. Scripture certainly attests to this but even the drudgery of day to day experience calls to our mind that something has gone awry. Some remnant of a purely created yet sinful heart intuitively knows that somehow “this is not the way it is supposed to be.”

The way things are supposed to be has been fulfilled in Christ. This most intimate communion and fellowship with God has been gloriously restored. Men and women are converted into saints and walk again eternally with their Lord and maker in the calm mist of paradise. My daily studies are dedicated for the preparation to confess, teach, and preach a doctrine which the world finds utterly offensive and intolerable. This scandalous doctrine is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary, bore the sins of the world, was crucified, died, and buried. The third day he rose from the dead promised to be with his people ascended bodily to rule the heavens and earth. Christians participate in this death and resurrection in which God gives all blessings, purity, righteousness, and his very body and blood for the remission of sins. Sinners are reconciled back to God by sheer grace, without any merit or doing on our own part. Sinners are indiscriminately saved in their baptisms and enlivened and strengthened in faith by the preaching of the Holy Gospel and the reception of the Holy Supper. Sunday after Sunday, Christ promises to be present in His Body to announce the forgiveness of sins and all the benefits of the heavenly kingdom. For from the Scriptures we know that faith comes through hearing. God is heard and received orally in the Divine Service, in the liturgy, by Pastors who stand in the stead of Christ.

This is how God has chosen to renew and preserve his people, in the Divine Service of Word and Sacrament. He does not choose to deal with us elsewhere. Not in our private meditations, not in our serene moments with nature, nowhere of our choosing. Church is not where nice people get together for a civic social institution. It is where dying sinners, blind beggars, find food, solace, and eternal comfort – where real sinners find real forgiveness and eternal peace. These are some basic points of the theology in which we find ourselves.

Due to sin and general laziness, a disciplined prayer schedule is necessary. If it were left to me to pray when I felt like it, or when it is convenient I would rarely or never get around to it. Submitting to a prayer schedule is the only way to pray, for extemporaneous prayers are few and far between. It is a delight to chant the psalms and daily sing historic hymns with the brothers. The best way to become a theologian is to chant the psalms for in this way we become entrenched in the Lord’s very vocabulary. For the Lord gave us the psalms that we might pray them with him. We know that Jesus himself prayed them in the synagogue and most likely knew them by heart. We know from the scriptures that Jesus prayed the psalms as he was dying on the cross. In this way God prays the psalms with us, it is the songbook of our faith. They are the words that will echo in the halls of heaven with armies of angels.

Singing is a natural consequence of receiving the pure doctrine of our Lord. Why would one pray without singing or go about the day without singing psalms, hymns, and versicles of the divine liturgy? It is impossible to be without continuous song and singing if one is given the faith of our Lord. Many church goers unfortunately are deprived of the pure doctrine, the sacraments, and historic catholic Christianity, and therefore are without voice and without song. Instead they have an intellectual or scholarly discourse about the bible and lord over the scriptures instead of receiving Christ (for truely receiving is the only way to worship).

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