Greetings in Christ Jesus!
The summer months this year brought me the opportunity to travel to Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, meeting with church and seminary leaders in each place and teaching a master’s-level course on the Book of Exodus for a week in Brazil. What an eye-opening and enriching experience on so many levels! Let me mention just three.
First, in spite of our differing nations and cultures, it was sobering to learn that the main challenges being faced by these churches are quite similar to those we face. Shrinking numbers of young people interesting in preparing for pastoral ministry. A lingering sense of purposelessness, emptiness and isolation within the nation and within the church on the heels of the pandemic. Pastors who are struggling and hurting, including many whose marriages are conflicted. And a strong push against traditional beliefs regarding sexual ethics and gender issues. These are serious challenges. It reminded me how much we stand in need of our Lord’s intervention, help, grace and life-giving Word. It also reminded me how much we need one another, and how crucial it is that we build one another up and encourage one another.
Second, I have always known that Concordia Seminary has a history of global reach and partnerships, but this trip was a “deep dive” in exploring the extent of these connections in one region of the world. Many of the church leaders and seminary professors with whom I met had done some graduate study at Concordia Seminary or at our sister seminary in Fort Wayne. In each place, I met seminarians who are planning to come and study at Concordia Seminary in the next two years. For my teaching in Brazil, the translator was a Brazilian seminarian who had just returned from a year in St. Louis. There in Brazil, as I looked at photos from the history of their seminary, I saw pictures of Dr. Ely Prieto, who now serves on our faculty in St. Louis, as well as Dr. Vilson Scholz, who will be coming for two years as a visiting instructor for us beginning this month. I also saw pictures there of former Concordia Seminary professor Dr. J.A.O. Preus III, who was a visiting instructor at the seminary in São Leopoldo, Brazil, in 1993.
It was heartening to see that this wonderfully tangled web of connections was more than just Concordia Seminary having “influence” in some general sense, but rather to see the actual shape and content of this mutual influence: a living confidence in and devotion to God’s Holy Scriptures, a clear Lutheran focus on Jesus Christ as the sole-sufficient Savior, a deep appreciation for God’s gracious work through His Word and Sacraments, and an energetic engagement in Christ’s mission to the lost. Our church bodies need one another and continue to be a blessing to each other.
Third, nothing brings more light, hope and joy than the Good News of Jesus Christ. In spite of all of the new cultural and ecclesiastical experiences I had in South America this summer, the best thing of all about the trip came from something very, very familiar. In the weeklong course I taught with pastors from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Mexico, we repeatedly marveled and rejoiced in the various aspects of Jesus’ saving work, Jesus’ saving love and Jesus’ saving promises for us. Two of the pastors in the course were from non-Lutheran backgrounds. One of them approached me afterwards, thanking me for the course, and explaining that he came from a very legalistic church background. He was so thankful, he said, for his studies at Seminário Concórdia because he had come to understand Law and Gospel, and had encountered a theology that points him to Jesus. He thanked me for the class because, he said, the class had pointed him to Jesus again and again. In every different culture, every different place, every different context, people are different. But the most important thing of all is something that we all alike share: the need of a dying, lonely sinner to find love, mercy and life in Jesus Christ.
Our work here at Concordia Seminary is pressing on! We are so thankful for you, our alumni, and for the witness you bear to Jesus Christ in your congregations and communities. The Lord strengthen you in that work. The Lord encourage you with the knowledge that you are a part of His worldwide family, the Una Sancta, the Body of Christ! Soon we will all be together before His throne!
In Christ’s love,
Thomas J. Egger