Holy Saturday

Hebrews 4:1-16

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.


Ralph, Who Left Home

When Concordia Seminary in St. Louis was shattered in February 1974, it was the inevitable clash of cultures. For seminarians like me who entered the reconstituted seminary without property or dorms and who were not “legacies” of pastor fathers, grandfathers, and even great-grandfathers, there was no great longing for what had been left behind. A large percentage of the LCMS pastors active in ministry had been educated by some of my professors before the split. In our congregation, five of the six pastors were trained for the pastoral ministry by some of the same men. When I asked my Texas District President, Carl Heckmann, where I should go for seminary. He paused and slowly said, “I can’t recommend that you attend the (so-called) seminary in exile, but I can hardly speak ill of the men that trained so many of us.”

Therein lay the dilemma for many. On the one hand, the St. Louis faculty had educated so many pastors. On the other hand, they were no longer the faculty of the then, almost empty St. Louis seminary. Entire families were torn up by the argument within the LCMS. Ralph, one of the younger professors and one of two Bible professors with Harvard doctorates, was the son, brother, and nephew of conservative pastors. Family events such as weddings, funerals, and other milestones were suddenly awkward. Pastors and their wives could no longer commune in churches where they had been baptized and confirmed. In the almost fifty years since, several books and numerous articles have been written about those days. The story is told differently according to which side one took. The nickname Seminex (seminary-in-exile) became either a badge of honor or the mark of the beast according to who rendered the narrative.

I heard before, during, and since that these professors denied the Virgin Birth of Jesus, the Resurrection of Jesus, the seven-day creation, Noah and the ark, and Jonah in the whale. In almost four years on campus, I never heard one professor put forth such ideas whether in class or in sermons. I did have professors, like Ralph, who offered alternative theories as to who authored the Pentateuch, but he never said in my hearing that this was more than a popular theory. Pastor Kuppler, who was a student at the time of the so-called walk-out or so-called exile, depending on your point of view, and Pastor Bergbower and Pastor Hoyer, who graduated in 1973 and 1971, respectively, can speak of the upheaval that the Vietnam war brought to the campus. Several of the profs were reserve or retired military chaplains, while several profs like Ralph and his fellow Harvard grad Ev were strongly against the war.

The student body was largely long-haired, and doubtless some of them were only there to avoid the draft. As with Dick and Esther’s stories about First Lutheran, I heard gossip (after the fact) about pot-smoking students on campus with loose morals. During my seminary days, one of my profs was arrested for homosexual activity in a police sting operation in a public park. Nothing much was said, because an administrator at what was left of Concordia Seminary was apparently caught in the same sting. I believe the phrase used was mutually assured destruction. So, neither side made hay out of the other’s woes.

I have learned over the past forty-six years that there are conservatives, moderates, and liberals all who have excellent command of the biblical languages and have varying degrees of acumen in their fields. The key difference is hermeneutics (the art of interpretation). At seminary, Ralph, in his younger days, often mocked those with whom he disagreed as if they were not as smart. Reading him through the years, I noted two changes: one, he no longer mocked conservative scholars, and two, he chose to go farther and farther from “home” in his acceptance of homosexual pastors in committed relationships. Several years ago, I read a piece in which Ralph fantasized about being able to go home to Concordia Seminary and to be accepted back in the fold. It was a cry of the heart from a boy who had gone far from home.

On this day in which we celebrate the Easter Vigil and renew our baptismal vows, we remember that the Word of God lays bare everything in us that is hostile to God’s will but also offers grace to us sinners.

Dear Father, thank you for Ralph and all those who devote their lives to the study of your Word. At the last, grant us grace to throw ourselves upon your mercy for all our manifold sins. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Put forty-six pennies, nickels, or dimes in a bowl or box today for Ukraine relief.

Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, NC

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.