From Külli Tõniste BMTS Rector
I began this year at Cambridge, working on my commentary on the Book of Revelation. In light of that, it is hard not to reflect on the current times.
2019 went down in history as the hottest year on record. We began in 2020 with a lot of bad news. Australia is struggling with devastating forest fires and toxic smoke. The plague of locusts is causing food crises in East Africa, and China restricted travel for people in some cities due to dangerous coronavirus outbreak, Turkey experienced an earthquake. War, famine, pestilence and ecological disasters have become an ordinary part of our world. All of this is bad news. And the worse news is that this is our fault! Theologically we believe that sin, personal, and collective is causing death and decay in the creation.
These events remind me of the plagues described in the Book of Revelation. There are three sets of seven judgments (seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls of wrath) in that book. Repetition allows John to play the similar scenario of divine judgments through three times. Every sequence of judgments contains a comment about the people under judgment (6:16 they hide from God; in 9:20 they do not repent or change their ways; 16:11 they even curse God). They did not change. What does it take to change? In Exodus, it required an enormous intensity of 10 horrific plagues to get Pharaoh to submit to a higher power, and even then, he rebelled. Do we also deny, argue, analyze, justify, bargain, rage against, etc. anything, except change?
But there are other people in that book. Some belong to the Lamb. Who have washed their robes in his blood? They always follow Christ wherever he leads. They still display his name on their forehead. Not just when it is convenient. They worship with all living creatures in heaven and on earth, the creator God in heaven. They pray a lot and intensely. They witness all the time. In fact, these are their main activities. This picture of the church is generous, even idealistic. Revelation 2-3 also shows that the church is not yet all that it should be. The author shows through images (24 elders, two witnesses, bride, etc.) who the church needs to become. When we read this book and say that judgment is for “those sinners out there,” we are conveniently missing the point. Just as Christians are not exempt from suffering, we are also are not exempt from judgment. To say that we belong to the Lamb should not put us above criticism in all matters of life.
The church should not limit our witness to the matters of biblical doctrine, ethics, and human rights. We need to be faithful witnesses in all things. Let us do more in the area of environmental justice and become much more mindful of God’s creation of which we are a part. Critics of Christianity (like Yuval Noah Harari in his book Homo Deus) point out that Christians teach about humans being the crown of all creation, with the right to exercise dominion over the earth, while not caring about the species that are going extinct, cruel practices of industrial farming, ancient forests being cut down, oceans becoming polluted or glaciers melting. We must change our behavior to provide evidence to the contrary! The change begins by admitting that we have neglected our duty to protect the natural world that is also loved by God, and we have allowed the greedy and careless to act without limits and consequences. Documentaries like Dominion (2018), provide some evidence to our sin. Ignorance is bliss, but when we dare to face the facts, we discover that there is much work to do in bringing about healing balance in our stewardship of the earth. Harari is wrong implicating that biblical Christianity is causing abuse of nature. Indeed biblical Christianity affirms the goodness of God’s created world, our creatureliness, recognizes the effects of human sinfulness and lives in the hope that God can bring about healing.
The Bible also speaks of a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness lives. Where the sun does not scorch or burn when there is an abundance of healing water of life, and light, and where there is no crying, pain, suffering, or hunger. All life is focused on the one who sits on the throne. How or when that world is realized, we do not know exactly. We know this is where the Lamb is leading us. If so, then we as his people should be following Him in that direction while praying, “Your kingdom come!”
We have a wonderful reason to celebrate. The seminary’s end of the year campaign exceeded its 20,000 USD goal.
Together we raised 24,200 USD in Scholarship funds!
$14,200 donations + $10,000 matching funds
God has seen us through 2019; we trust in Christ in 2020.
THANK YOU FOR RESPONDING SO GENEROUSLY!
Save the date! Next Friends of Estonia gathering is scheduled to take place at Calvary UMC in Nashville, TN on April 30-May2, 2020. All BMTS supporters and partners are welcome to come and fellowship, receive updates about the work happening in Estonia. For more information about registration, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
I am always uplifted in the classroom by our students. Their level of engagement in class, reflection in prayer, and conversations during the break express desire to know their faith and to pursue their call. Please pray for them! Balancing the needs of ministry, home, and studies are difficult. For some, theological education involves sacrifice. Your scholarship support helps them greatly.
Best birthday wishes go to Rein Laaneser, who is such a blessing in BMTS everyday administration. Our bright faculty member Hindrek Taavet Taimla turned 30! Congratulations!
Warmest Happy Birthday to Meeli Tankler, our faculty member, and previously also BMTS rector! We wish happy birthday to Olav Pärnamets, BMTS founding visionary and board member to this day! May Lord God bless all the days, months, and years in your life!
BMTS has wonderful partners! I want to thank Tyndale House, Cambridge, UK, for offering me a great place to complete a research project. Their biblical studies library is one of the very best in the world. Tyndale house donated some quality books to our seminary (the number of volumes was limited only by my luggage space). Special thanks to Simon Sykes, Librarian and Vice-Principal and Kate Arhel, Deputy Librarian (on the photo below) for their help.
Our seminary graduate, Rev. Toomas Pajusoo, donated 59 practical theology books for our library. Topics include church growth, small group ministry, spiritual formation, Christian education, worship, exegesis, and ethics. These will be very useful for our students. Thank you so much!
Everyone can support seminary by donating undergraduate-level theology books. Especially welcome are theology books newer than 2000. Also, our LIBRARY WISH LIST gives an idea of what kind of books we need.
Donations to BMTS can be made through the Advance using website:
To find us search for Europe, Education, Estonia, Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary Scholarships
Advance # 15021B
Or use this link: