Lutheran Theological Seminary- Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa
10-24 November 2012
I am grateful for the opportunity to make another teaching trip to Lutheran Theological Seminary. This time, I taught an ordination course for ten student students on “Luther’s Theology of the Cross in Preaching and Pastoral Care.” The class met for four hours each day (11:00 am to 1:00 pm and 2:00 – 4:00 pm). Students were provided with copies of the two major texts for the course: On Being a Theologian of the Cross by Gerhard Forde and Luther and the Stories of God by Robert Kolb. The class consisted of lectures and discussion of Luther’s Heidelberg Theses. With the basic framework of Luther’s theology of the cross in place, we examined Luther’s lectures on Psalms 51 and 90 as well as several of his house and church postils on Gospels in the lectionary to determine how Luther expressed this theology in proclamation and the care of souls. To look at Luther’s theology of the cross applied to the life under the cross, the students read Mark Mattes’ Lutheran Quarterly essay, “Discipleship in Lutheran Perspective”.” This essay generated good class discussion as distinguished a Lutheran understanding of discipleship from that of Evangelicalism on the one hand and liberalism on the other. Finally, we read and discussed Oswald Bayer’s sermon, “Wrestling for Grace” based on Genesis for a contemporary example of preaching profoundly informed by Luther. The students engaged the material and brought significant questions to the table for discussion especially in light of the African religious contexts where theologies of glory are often pervasive. Each student who enrolled in the class for credit wrote a sermon on I Corinthians 1:18-25. These sermons were also discussed in class.
Thanks to contributions from congregations and individuals in the States, I was able to bring the following books for St. Augustine’s Library at LTS:
The complete set of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s collected works in English
Commentary on Luther’s Catechisms: by Baptism and Lord’s Supper by Albrecht Peters
The End Times: Jesus is Near by Thomas Nass
The Reformation of Suffering: Suffering in Late Medieval and Reformation Lay and Pastoral Theologies by Ronald K. Rittgers
Theological Commonplaces: The Ministry-Part II by Johann Gerhard
Luther and the Stories of God by Robert Kolb
The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation by Allister McGrath
Theology the Lutheran Way by Oswald Bayer
Historical and Theological Commentary on the Book of Concord by Charles Arand, Robert Kolb, and James Nestingen
In addition to teaching, I had the opportunity to preach on Hebrews 13:1-6 for Matins at the seminary on November 15. This trip to LTS coincided with the end of their academic year. End of the year festivities included a “Prize Giving Day” on November 22. I gave the keynote address for this occasion, speaking on the topic “The Doctrine of Justification and Lutheran Missions.” The presentation suggested a soteriological understanding of mission rooted in justification by faith alone and proceeded to address three threats to authentic Lutheran mission - ideologies of autonomy, universalism, and synergism in light of Luther’s explanation of the three articles of the Apostles’ Creed. While the celebration of the closing of another academic year was marked with joy in what our students have received and accomplished, it was also colored with the recognition that lack of critical financial resources will necessitate a much smaller student body next year. In his remarks, Rector Weber recognized with grief the Liberian students who will not be returning to LTS next academic year for this reason.
Over the weekend of November 17-18, I travelled with Bishop and Mrs. Weber to Luneberg for a celebration of the 79th birthday of Dr. Wilhelm Weber, Sr. Sunday morning we journeyed from Luneberg to Piet Retief where Bishop Weber preached at the Divine Service for the Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year for the local LCSA congregation.
At the invitation of Mr. Manfred Johannes of St. Paul Lutheran Church, I met with a group of local Lutherans pastors (Rev. Martin Paul, Rev. Nathan Mntambo, and Rev. Klaus Damaske) interested in starting a campus ministry at the University of Pretoria on November 23. We discussed potential strategies and resources for this ministry.
As with previous trips, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at LTS. I am deeply grateful to Trinity Lutheran Church of Great Falls, Montana and their pastor, Rev. Gerald Paul for providing the funding for the ticket. Dr. and Mrs. Carl Rockrohr and their son, Ted, hosted me in their home for this two-week stay. I appreciate their generous hospitality and the opportunity for conversation. As always, I appreciate Dr. Weber’s invitation to come as a visiting lecturer to LTS. He is working under stressful and challenging conditions to deliver solid, Lutheran theological education for future pastors and deaconesses throughout Africa. I am happy to assist him and our colleagues at LTS in some small way to accomplish this end. Dr. Weber has invited me to return to South Africa at the end of February over the CTS spring break and I hope to be able to do this.
Prof. John T. Pless
November 24, 2012