26 September 2011

Teaching in South Africa, part 4

Monday, 19 September, was a unique experience. I had traveled all this way to teach seminary students on "Teaching the Catechism," but after my first two days of teaching I was "treated" to a three-day weekend. Due to re-scheduling of other classes already in progress, the powers that be did not give me class time on my first Monday here. So, since it was a free day, I decided to go for a long walk around Pretoria.

My first stop was to be the Pretoria Art Museum just a couple of blocks west from the seminary. However, they are closed on Mondays, so I had to move in my "walk about" journey.
From the Art Museum grounds I headed north to the Union Buildings. What a spectacular sight. The Union Buildings sit atop a hill overlooking much of Pretoria and house the administrative government offices for South Africa. They are named "Union Buildings" because "the two wings symbolised the union of the 'two races' in South Africa: the English speakers and the Afrikaners" (New History of South Africa, 233). The twin towers represent the two races and the central amphitheatre brings them together in harmony.

The Union Buildings sit on some wonderfully landscape grounds. As it is only early Spring here in the southern hemisphere, not many of the flowers and plants have bloomed fully, but it was still a beautiful sight to behold.

From the Union Building one can see a wide panorama of Pretoria. Yes, it is quite the modern city as you can see from this picture of downtown Pretoria.

The next stop on my Monday journey to Pretoria sights would be the Paul Kruger Statue in Church Square. Since this place shows up in the travel brochures, both online and print, I wanted to check it out. As I understand it Paul Kruger was something of the "George Washington" of  South Africa in that he both worked for Afrikaner independence from Europe and served as President of ZAR (the Republic of South Africa). The journey took a good while and it was quite the hike following Church (Kerk) Street toward downtown. Once there at Church Square, I took some pictures of the Paul Kruger Statue and the two old and beautiful buildings that used to used for official South African government business. After a bite of lunch that I carried with me, I began the journey back toward Hatfield, where the seminary is.

After a quick stop at Woolworth's to pick up some Coca-Cola and a snack (large Kit-Kat bar, if you really must know :-), then I walked past a park (sorry, I forget the name right now) which looks like it will be gorgeous once the plant life blooms in a few weeks.

To finish the journey I came past St. Paul's German Lutheran Church which lies just a block and a half east of the seminary.

After my three-hour walk around Pretoria, the afternoon provided a great time to rest, relax, and get read for Tuesday's teaching load of three class sessions, all before 12:00 noon (or as they note time in South Africa: 12h00).

Monday evening brought a very delightful evening with Guenther and Hannah Hohls, long-time friends of Pr. Daniel and Linda Preus. Pr. Preus had recommended that I get in touch with Guenther and Hannah, and so had Bp. Weber. However, over the previous weekend I received an email from the LTS secretary, Salome, which said that Guenther himself had taken the initiative to invited me to their home for dinner.

Both from Germany but now living in South Africa for many years, Guenther and Hannah, along with their youngest son Andreas, provided a delicious meal and delightful conversation. Guenther sure knows his history of the Lutheran Church in South Africa as well as the history of his country.

19 September 2011

Teaching in South Africa, part 3

Rev. Modise Maragelo
On Sunday, 18 September I had the honor and joy of attending the Induction (Installation) Service of Rev. Modise Maragelo at Kagiso ("Peace") Lutheran Church in Kagiso, just to the east of Johannesburg (or "Jo'burg" as they like to say here). The drive took about an hour or so, and we drove through some beautiful country as well as past the shantytown area of Soweto. We arrived plenty early to look around the church and get prepared for the service.

Procession around the block
The service began with a grand procession around the block. As the Deputy Dean said beforehand, "We want the community to know that this congregation is alive and has a new pastor." The singing for the procession was stunning. Everyone sang with gusto, but the women were especially joyous and their voices filled the outdoor air. No worries of the sound dissipating in the wide open space!

Holy Gospel, read in (R to L)  Setswana, Zulu, & English
As we entered the church, the clergy sat up front and the congregation filled the sanctuary, which also got increasingly fuller during the course of the service. The brass band even arrived late and filled the place not only with bodies but also with joyous sounds. The bulletin gave the time of the service as "09:00-13:00," and it certainly went all four hours. The service was a combination of the church's liturgy done in Setswana and/or Zulu, planned hymns with familiar hymn tunes (sung simultaneously in Setswana and Zulu, depending on the individuals, I presume), Epistle and Gospel readings each read in Setswana, Zulu, and English, spontaneous eruption of joyous singing that was sometimes allowed to continue and other times brought to a halt, and even unplanned singing groups.

The second men's choral group
One male trio was allowed to offer "two gifts" (songs) and another group of young men processed in singing one song and then sang another while standing at the front of the church. Evidently, these were community choirs, not members of the congregation. And the voices! Whether it's the women of the congregation or the men in these outside groups, they take great joy and pride in their a cappella singing, and their voices are absolutely stunning and voluminous.

It was quite the honor to be part of Rev. Maragelo's induction service. At one point in the service, during some singing, one lady brought a sheet of paper for the guests to sign and thus register their presence. A bit later in the service, the church elder, Gilbert (who served as deacon/master of ceremonies), paused to welcome the guests. As he read through the list, we were each asked to stand and be acknowledged by the congregation. As I was introduced, Gilbert simply read what I had written on the paper: "LCMS, United States." I trust the impromptu representation of my church body and country serves "good order."

Clergy laying hands on Maragelo & praying Lord's Prayer
When it came time for Rev. Maragelo's induction, the Deputy Dean gave each of the visiting clergy a Bible passage to read. The passage I was given to read was Luke 12:42-44. At this point I knew that my previous assumption that I was only attending the service was no longer accurate. I was to be part of the service even though not vested or expecting such duty. The induction rite concluded with the guest clergy laying their hands on Rev. Maragelo and praying the Lord's Prayer together.

Pr. Maragelo beginning his sermon (Note time on clock!)
Following the induction ceremony, with more joyous singing as interlude, Rev. Maragelo preached a very animated sermon. Weaving together the various languages - Setswana, Zulu, and English - he preached on 1 John 5:1-6 (not one of the day's readings) and how Christ's victory overcomes the many things that the world thinks great. From the English sentences and phrases woven throughout, I could tell that the preacher wanted to leave the congregation with a simple message: "Because of Christ's victory over sin and death, we Christians are better, even higher, than the world's ideals of greatness. Thus there's no need for us Christians to lower ourselves to the world's standards."

Rev. David Tswaedi, former bishop of the LCSA, presided for the Holy Communion liturgy. Even though I could not understand the language spoken, it was a comfort to know that we were following the church's liturgy - the Church's language - namely, the Preface, Proper Preface, Sanctus ("Holy, holy, holy"), "Lamb of God," and Words of Institution. As we communed, it was sheer joy to commune with brothers and sisters here in South Africa and realize that we are also communing with brothers and sisters back home as well as around the globe. Yes, the Lord's Holy Communion is truly our great unifier as we share in God's gift of fellowship with those who confess the same doctrine and faith.

After some impromptu revising of plans for collecting the offering the service began winding down. At first they planned to have the congregants process forward and put their offerings in to bowls, one for each side of the church. After some conversation, again as joyous singing is carried out, they decided to pass the bowls for the offerings as it would proceed more quickly given the larger crowd. However, one lady (the same lady who took the name of guest clergy) say up front at a table and a handful of women came forward to leave  envelopes with their offerings in them. These were then recorded in a book as the service continued.

Brass band - following the service.
Rev. Tswaedi concluded the service with the closing prayer and benediction. Following this one gentlemen stood up to give what was called a "Vote of Thanks" (I presume for the new pastor). However, this took quite a while. First, the gentleman, presumably a leading member of the congregation, asked for another song to be sung. Apparently, he wanted to ensure that we continued the service to the very top of the 1:00 p.m. (13:00) hour. After the song, he chose to read some newspaper article on the common, mistaken and yet humorous expectations some have of a pastor. And finally, he spoke on thanking God for this joyous day and for giving the congregation at Kagiso a new pastor. The service then ended (finally! :-) with some more singing and the band playing its joyful tunes. The band continued playing well after the service concluded and we clergy had gathered for photographs.

Participating clergy, Bp. Wilhelm Weber in front.
All in all, it was not only a great honor to be present for Rev. Margelo's induction and represent my church and country, but it was also a most interesting experience to witness and participate (as much as I could) in the great joy of hearing God's Word and praising our Triune God for His goodness of saving us from sin and death as well as providing a new pastor for this congregation.

The service was followed by what the bulletin simply called "Refreshments." But it was more than coffee and donuts or punch and cookies, as we Westerners might think of the term. This was a full-fledged meal with chicken, beef (both cooked in the big pots you see below), rice, coleslaw, salad, potato salad, a cornbread type of roll, and orange punch. The meal together is quite important for the community life, especially the community of God.

Woman cooking chicken in large pot of oil, removing cooked chicken.

18 September 2011

Teaching in South Africa, part 2

Day 2 of teaching was pretty subdued compared to Day 1. I had one class session in which the students took their first quiz on the material covered the first day, and then we read and discussed more on the "how-tos" of catechesis. This time we learned from Pr. Peter Bender's insights in the introduction to his Lutheran Catechesis materials. Two students who missed the first day joined us, and one of the first day's students was gone preaching somewhere.

Ginger, Zeal, and I again went to St. Paul Lutheran Church down the road a couple of blocks for lunch. Bishop Weber's sister, Renata, graciously provides lunch each week day for the LTS students and guests. And then the afternoon was pretty relaxing, with plenty of time for grading quizzes and mapping out the direction for next week's classes.

Friday evening brought a "hot night on the town." Well, okay, a trip to the Hatfield Plaza for a fish 'n' chips dinner and a movie. The girls, Ginger, Zeal, and their friend Coral, went to a "chick flick," and Christoff and I went to see "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Really, it was the only movie that looked halfway interesting, and actually I was surprised that it was a pretty decent story with some very good CGI effects for the apes.

Hatfield Plaza
Saturday began in relax-mode, getting up later than the previous days, cooking some breakfast, reading up on some history of South Africa, and then conversing with the ladies once they got up. Ginger and I decided to walk to Hatfield Plaza and shop for some odds and ends. She wanted to have some picture ID cards made for the students, a task she has been delighted to accomplish because this is the first time any of them have ever had such ID cards. We then grabbed burgers for lunch at a restaurant called "Wimpy." (Hmm, named after the Popeye character, I wonder?) Yes, South Africa has burgers - even McDonald's and KFC - and so we decided to try the local establishment.

Then we began the walk back to LTS. The journey from the seminary to Hatfield Plaza was only eight blocks--go east straight down Arcadia Street for six blocks, turn right at Hilda, and two blocks south to the shopping center, which fills a whole city block. After lunch we tried a different route home--down Burnett, which parallels Arcadia, and then turn right on another street, and - viola! - we should find Arcadia again. But something went wrong. (Shh, don't tell anyone!) The second block wasn't Arcadia, but South. So we had to turn back to Hatfield Plaza and regain our bearings (okay, I  had to regain my bearings!). And, no, we weren't lost! I knew exactly where were going ... or suppose to go. Our starting position just got turned in the wrong direction coming out of the mall. But we did find our way back, and had a good walk for exercise all around.

(Picture not taken by us.)
As we returned to the seminary, we noticed many people parking on the sides of the streets. A big rugby game was scheduled for Saturday evening, and it sure looked like streets around any American stadium - college or professional - when a big game is on. People in the streets were trying to direct the drivers to park in their places, and thus get the parking fee from them. Some individuals were selling their "concessions" on the street corners. Ginger and I also noticed that many people were doing something that looked suspiciously like tailgating--gathering with friends around the parked vehicles for food and drinks and casual conversation. We might call it "tailgating," but South Africans call it "braai" (Afrikaan for "barbecue"). And, yes, most of them had their barbecue equipment out.

L to R: Me, Benjamin (Mr. "Dangers for Pastor"), Zeal, & Kaine
Perhaps the highlight of our relaxing Saturday, though, was teaching some of the students that fine American game called "UNO." Zeal had first mentioned cards on Friday at lunch, and some of the students must have started thinking gambling and betting, but they were relieved and interested when we assured them that, no, UNO involves no bets and no money. Just some good, clean fun, with chances for gotcha moments, that is, with the cards Ginger calls "naughty cards" (Skip, Reverse, Draw Two, and  Draw Four).

Ginger popped popcorn for the festivities and provided some Cadbury chocolate along with some "biltong," a South African snack of dried and cured meat--similar to jerky in the U.S. The students sure enjoyed - and devoured - the snacks!

Clockwise: Eboro, Matthew, & Ben
The students really did take to playing UNO, even catching its similarities to the good ol' childhood game of "Crazy Eights." The problem was, however, that everyone wanted to apologize for playing the "naughty cards." So Ben would lay his "Draw Two" card for me and say, "Sorry, Pastor." Yeah, uh-huh! Another student, Benjamin, however started getting into the spirit of the game when he, after looking at the cards dealt to him and looking to me on his right, said, "Ooh. Lots of dangers for Pastor." Nothing a little "Reverse" card couldn't handle though!

17 September 2011

16 September 2011

Large Catechism, The Creed

Yes, our Large Catechism series on KFUO's "Studio A" continues, even as I'm currently in South Africa. (Ah, the marvels of radio technology, planning ahead, and pre-recording!) Click on this link to listen to yesterday's installment. In addition to discussing Creeds in general, we covered Luther's treatment of the Apostles' Creed as he brings out just how completely God gives of Himself as He creates us, redeems us, and sanctifies us.

Teaching in South Africa, part 1

So I woke up yesterday morning and found myself in South Africa, on the other side of the world, in the southern hemisphere, in Pretoria (Tshwane), to be exact. What a whirlwind of activity - combined with long hours on a plane - that brought me here!

On 31 August, Rev. Dr. Al Collver, Assistant to LCMS President Matthew Harrison, called me up and asked if I would be willing to travel to South Africa and teach a class on Luther's Catechisms at Lutheran Theological Seminary Tshwane, the seminary of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa. A matter of church relations necessitated them finding teacher different from the one originally scheduled for this class. After some initial praying, pondering, and planning, a unanimous blessing given by the Board of Elders at my congregation, and gracious support from many members at Hope, St. Louis, the decision was made. Yes, I would be happy to travel to South Africa to teach one of my beloved and "specialty" topics: Luther's Catechisms.

Flag of South Africa
Time for departure came on Tuesday, 13 September. My dear wife had to drop me off at the airport early, so that she could get to work at a decent time. I lounged at the airport, sipped some Starbucks, went through TSA security check (nope, no full-body scans or pat downs), and then traveled to Atlanta. Once there, I had to journey all the way across the Hartfield Airport, pretty much from one corner of the rectangle diagonally to the opposite corner. But since I had plenty of time - and plenty of hours of sitting yet to come - the walk would do me good. Finally, between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the international flight ensued. It would take sixteen hours ... including sitting in a middle seat, watching a few movies, enduring an aching backside, and getting precious little sleep ... and then I would arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa, at about 5:15 p.m. (local time) on Wednesday, 14 September (Holy Cross Day).

After the usual passport, collection of checked bag, and customs routines, I finally made my way to the new Gautrain, a high speed rail, for the final leg to Pretoria. That train is quite a nice ride, even if it did mean more sitting and traveling. The seminary student assigned to pick me up was there in Hatfield (in Pretoria), with a fellow student, and then we took the short drive to the guest house at Lutheran Theological Seminary.

Segoe Guest House
The LTS provides nice accommodations in the Segoe Guest House, and it's fabulous to have two other American guests here as well--Ginger and Zeal, LCMS missionaries en route to service elsewhere, but for a few weeks serving here at LTS, assisting the secretary with various odd jobs.

After a night of restful sleep (the SA climate and cool nights must be agreeing with me as we head into Spring here), I began teaching on Thursday, 15 September. The class of seven students (two more to join later) proves to be very interested in learning God's Word and, specifically, how to teach the Catechism when they reach their future congregations. Now if they can just get their American teacher to pronounce their names correctly!

LHF Hall (Classroom)
On the first day of class, we began with rehearsing the Catechism itself--the texts of the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer. Then we read together the little editor's introduction to Luther's Catechisms in Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. The students enjoyed learning the roots and meanings of words such as catechism, catechumen, and catechesis. We also learned and discussed why Luther kept and rearranged the three parts of Christian teaching--the Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer--and thus cleared the Catechism of much medieval clutter. And, finally, we discovered together Luther's great pedagogical insights for teaching the Catechism: first, pick a text and stick with it; second, teach the meaning, again with a fixed text; and third, bring in the Large Catechism for deeper meaning and applying the Catechism to various needs. Not only was I pleased with a first full day of class sessions, but the greatest delight came in hearing one student say, "I think I understand the Catechism better now." And we've only just begun!

St. Timothy Church
The worship life at LTS is a great blessing for the community. Each week day Matins is prayed together at 10:00 a.m. and Vespers at 6:00 p.m. Students lead the liturgy, and pastors/professors preach the sermon. It is truly an amazing thing to behold--African brothers and sisters eagerly singing and praying God's Word, a la Lutheran Service Book, and thus showing the great catholicity of the Church's worship and hearing the Gospel boldly and clearly proclaimed.

The Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Weber, Bishop of LCSA and Rector of LTS, preached at Vespers on 15 September. After the service the good bishop invited me to his home for a delicious dinner, cooked by his gracious wife Angelika, and some great conversation. After returning to the guest house at about 9:00 p.m., my first full day in South Africa was complete.

11 September 2011

Homily for 9/11/11

On this 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, we at Hope Lutheran Church, St. Louis, MO, observed a "Day of Supplication and Prayer," beginning the Divine Service with the Litany and then using the propers from Lutheran Service Book. With plenty of civil remembrances striking the national pride themes, we thought it best to do what God's people are always called to do: turn to Him in prayer and make supplication for His mercy.

The homily focused on the question that stills vexes us as a nation, and especially those most intimately involved in the aftermath ten years ago: "WHY?" While we may not always be able to answer the "Why?" question, at least not satisfactorily for some, we can certainly look to the Father who does still call us sinners to return to Him because of the suffering, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.

To listen to today's homily, "WHY?" on this occasion of a Day of Supplication and Prayer, click on this link and download the audio file.

10 September 2011

Hopeful Lamentation

Here's an excellent message from LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison on this tenth anniversary of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks.

"Flash Mob" Plays Ravel

We often hear of "flash mobs" gathering for less than decent purposes. Think of the recent riots in London. However, these new and ad hoc social gatherings sparked and organized by social media can also serve very salutary purposes, as shown in this video. Here's how Dictionary.com defines "flash mob": "a large group of people mobilized by social media to meet in a public place for the purpose of doing an unusual or entertaining activity of short duration."

No doubt, this video is intended to advertise the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra. But what a great joy for those in the train terminal who were treated to a free, one-piece concert! Just look at the expressions on the faces of the onlookers.

09 September 2011

Large Catechism, Commandments 4-10

Here are two links to the audio from yesterday's (9/8/11) "Studio A" program on KFUO in which host Roland Lettner and I discuss Commandments 4-10 a la Luther's Large Catechism. These commandments direct us in how God wants us to live with and serve our neighbor and the persons and things in our neighbor's life--even protecting our neighbor from us in our sinful words and deeds! But, as Luther reminds us, these commandments also teach us many salutary good works in which we serve our neighbor in our daily vocations and thus glorify our Father in heaven.

Since this week's installment ran 4:30-5:30 (CT), thus bridging the top of the hour break, you'll have to go to two different links to listen:

For the first half of the show (4:30-5:00), click here, and our Large Catechism segment begins at the half-way point.

For the second half (5:00-5:30), click here and simply listen to the first half of that hour.

07 September 2011

More Luther on the Ten Commandments

"So far we have learned the first three commandments, which relate to God.... Now follow the other seven commandments, which relate to our neighbor." (Martin Luther, Large Catechism, I:103)

Be sure to tune in to KFUO Radio - AM 850 (St. Louis area) or kfuo.org (worldwide) - tomorrow afternoon for our second installment of discussing Luther's Large Catechism on "Studio A." Tomorrow we'll discuss the "second table" of the Ten Commandments, that is, Commandments 4-10 which deal with our relationship with our neighbor.

Please note: due to scheduling another guest, our segment on the Large Catechism will run 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. (not the previously advertised 4 - 5 p.m.). This time is only for tomorrow's (9/8/11) show.

04 September 2011

Homily for Trinity 11

There is no one so alone as someone alone in his sin. That describes the Pharisee, not the tax collector, in Trinity 11's Gospel reading, Luke 18:9-14. The tax collector may seem all alone--standing in the back of church, too ashamed even to lift his eyes, and beating his breast--but he's not. He has the company of our Lord Jesus Christ who came to be the sacrifice for and friend of sinners. And going back to his house justified, as per Jesus' own declaration, the tax collector is "No Longer Alone." The same is true for you as you realize your sin and plead for God to have mercy on you, the sinner!

To listen to "No Longer Alone," just click on this link and download the audio file.

02 September 2011

Talk about someone who "Stands Behind His Product"!

Large Catechism, Commandments 1-3

What a joy it was to begin our radio series on Luther's Large Catechism, yesterday on "Studio A" on KFUO Radio (AM 850 or kfuo.org). We covered the first three of the Ten Commandments, the ones pertaining to our life and relationship with God. Probably a good thing we didn't try to cover more, as we would not do them, or Luther's instruction on them, due justice. So next week - September 8 - we will cover Commandments 4-10. Stay tuned....

Here's the link to the audio archive of yesterday's program.