Well I made it safe and sound! Thanks for all who offered a prayer on my behalf. Roads were surprisingly clear and the weather reports were overstated. My trip, which included only one stop, was completed in 8 1/2 hours (a record for me.)
As usual my annual journey to "The Fort" has been amply rewarded. A trip to the bookstore, numerous visits with dear old friends, and stimulating lectures filled the first day. I look in three of the first lectures in full, and part of the fourth. Dr. Geischen's lecture on "Christian Identity in Thessalonica" offered me a perspective into this book by Paul that I did not have before. The book of Thessalonians essentially asks the question: What is it like to be "in Christ," what is it like to be a Christian? Paul surprisingly answers, in part, by pointing to himself. But before anyone becomes too defensive, let it be known that he does not point to any sense of piety, or moral purity, but rather to the cruciform pattern of his life, which he came into through Baptism. It also showed itself in what Just would later call his "Jesus scars," the physical signs of his suffering for the sake of the Gospel. As pastors we also carry out our ministries as "living epistles" pointing to Christ, bearing in ourselves our own Jesus scars from a life under the cross. (BTW, Dr. Gieschen is the upcoming author of the new Concordia Commentary on Thessalonians to be published by CPH in the future. Dr. Gieschen and I served together at Trinity in Traverse City, MI many years ago. I appreciate the pastoral sensitivity he brings to his teaching.)
Dr. Just in the second lecture initially seemed to be responding to reactions to his previous year's paper on Galatians. He said that Lutherans seem constrained to read Paul through 16th century lens. Most read Galatians in light of the doctrine of Justification alone, and miss other significant aspects of the book. He reminded his hearers that we need to read Paul in the context of his own time and culture; we need to hear him as his First Century readers would have heard him. It is helpful to be reminded that we should endeavor to understand the background of each book and the culture out of which the writer is working. The ancient world simply did not see the world as post-modern Americans do. I found it interesting to consider whether Paul's "Damascus Road Experience" was a call or a conversion. Was Paul familiar with Jesus and his teachings? Considering that Paul may very well have been in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, it would seem probable that Paul was indeed familiar with what he said and did. When he was baptized later by Ananias we note that no catechesis is offered. He didn't need any more than to know that Jesus was the answer to all he had learned to this point (including his extensive knowledge of the OT), just like the converts on the Day of Pentecost.
The third lecture by Dr. Malherbe again was interesting in considering the world out of which Paul worked and taught. Paul's letter to the Corinthians reflects the world of philosophy to which the Corinthians would have been exposed and in which they thought and reasoned.
These are mere highlights of what was discussed, and in no way do justice to the overall content of the lectures. I will have to spend more time digesting what I heard and probably reread the lectures on the web once they are published (see www.ctsfw.edu).
Well, supper beckons. I will write more tomorrow as time allows. The Lord be with you all!