“Here Is Lutheran Theology” – Grace Alone
ONLY ONE MASTER
Christian News, August 27, 2012
Comments prepared by the editor for the 50th wedding anniversary of Rev. Kenneth Fischer and his wife Sheila at the Old Hickory Golf Club, St. Peter, Missouri, August 26, 2012.
Grace and I were thrilled when we received your invitation. Both of us were among the few here this afternoon that were present when Sheila and Kenneth Fischer were married on August 4, 1962 at Zion Lutheran Church in St. Louis.
We were preparing to attend the wedding of my sister Marie the following week in New York just before our wedding in Iowa, where Grace was a deaconess. Berthold von Schenk and the Catskills Lisa, Todd, James, all of you grandchildren and other relatives and friends: Ken Fischer and I grew up together. When as a teenager he was keeping a bar and hotel afloat in Saybrook, New York in the Catskills after the early death of his parents, I was across the Hudson River working on a dairy farm during summers. I came from the Bronx close to the church of Dr. Berthold von Schenk. This well-known pastor and theologian claimed to be the father of the high church liturgical movement in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Dr. von Schenk began a church which started in Ken Fischer’s bar and hotel. The editors of Lively Stone – The Autobiography of Berthold von Schenk published by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau in 2006 write in their acknowledgements:
“To Pr. Kenneth Fischer of Ballwin, Missouri, we owe deep gratitude and appreciation. He shared so generously and sincerely many personal recollections of von Schenk as a pastor, father, and guide that informed his own rich years of ministry; his observations of von Schenk at work, whether haying on the farm or cultivating the life of the Church, have affirmed the narrative here set forth. We must also thank him for his gift of von Schenk’s long out-of-print The Presence, his suggestion to include the appendix, his provision of pictures, his assistance in connecting us to von Schenk’s granddaughter, and numerous helpful comments along the way” (8).
While I was mowing and raking hay with a team of horses on the east side of the Hudson River, I could see the Catskills on the west side of the Hudson. The mountains formed what we called Rip Van Winkle while sleeping. Kurt Marquart Later we became good friends at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He roomed with Kurt Marquart at Concordia College, Bronxville, also visiting the Marquart home. When I spoke last year at Concordia, Wisconsin, I told the students and faculty I would much prefer if Kurt Marquart, whom Concordia Wisconsin had honored with a doctorate, were speaking instead of me. The same is true this afternoon. Dr. Marquart, who is now in heaven, was the guest speaker at a retirement dinner for Kenneth Fischer. In my estimation and that of others, Dr. Marquart was one of the greatest Lutheran theologians of our time. C.F.W. Walther the first president of the LCMS, is frequently called “the American Luther.”
Marquart, who was fluent in several languages including Russian, traveled and lectured widely and has been referred to as “The Inter- national Luther.” Ken Fischer was present at Camp Trinity in New Haven, Missouri when a “40ft 21st Century Reformation Cross was dedicated to the memory of Kurt Marquart .it has a 6’x8’ steel Bible on the bottom with the words “It Is Finished” and “He Has Risen.”
Marquart’s Legacy, published a few weeks after “The International Luther” died has a photo of Kenneth Fischer, Kurt Marquart, and Herman Otten in the Fischer home just after a marvelous dinner prepared by Shiela Fischer. It was the last time the old friends were together.
The book has this statement by Kurt’s former roommate, Ken Fischer: “Sometimes on Friday nights at the St. Louis Seminary a number of us would hop in the car for a trip downtown to The Bavarian Inn on Gravois and Arsenal. Often as many as 15 or 20 of us would sing some old German songs while consuming a stein of bier and munching on gehoctes fleish, black bread and raw onions. We would often ask Kurt to accompany us but he would always decline. He had so much to read, discuss and think through. However, on one and only one occasion I prevailed and he did allow me to take him along to our ‘Little B!’ Of course, he wore his suit and collar. Halfway through the meal Heinz called me over to the side. Heinz played the accordion while his son played the drums.
Heinz was considerably older than we; he had served in Uncle Adolf’s army on the Eastern Front. ‘Who is that?’ he asked as he pointed to Kurt. ‘That’s my old roommate Kurt from New York, from Bronxville.’ ‘No,’ said Heinz. ‘Where was he born? Where did he come from originally?’ ‘Kurt is from Germany and his grandparents from Estonia. When the Russian armies were coming in for the last time and everyone realized the Germans were losing they burned their home on their estates travelled to the Baltic never to return.’ ‘Oh, mein Gott,’ Heinz said with tears in his eyes. He is a descendant from the old Teutonic Knights. I knew it by the way he carried himself. ‘Yes,’ I replied to Heinz, ‘We all think he is a special friend. He has a sterling character!’”
When Kurt died his old time friend, Kenneth Fischer, wrote in a statement appearing in The International Luther:
“A prince walked among us and we recognized him not. “We knew his gift in the language of apologetics; “His words strung together in hermeneutical expression touched our soul “We became quiet, all was still; in humility and gentleness he taught us. “He was our roommate; yet he stiffened upon hearing the unnerving fire-siren. “He would rise to his feet as if to look for a place to seek shelter. “We would put our pen down. We knew that the alerting wail was terrifying to him with the memory of making his way through war torn Europe as a ten year old boy.” Only One Master Pastor Fischer was not able to attend his own retirement dinner. He was taken to a hospital because of a heart problem. Marquart visited him there. I titled the report of the Kenneth Fischer retirement dinner: “Only One Master.” The report concluded:
“‘Otten’s Circuit Counselor Says He Should Be Certified Without Colloquy,’ reprinted in this issue from the July 24, 1995, CN shows that he has retained his independent and courageous spirit which bows to no man, including church bureaucrats and seminary professors. Pastor Kenneth Fischer has one Master and that is Jesus Christ. ‘One is your Master, even Christ,’ Matthew 23:8.”
It was Kenneth Fischer who encouraged Rev. Frank Zerbil, the vacancy pastor of Trinity Lutheran, New Haven, Missouri in 1957 to get his New York buddy Herman Otten to preach at Trinity, New Haven. The New Yorker has been there ever since. 1957 San Francisco Convention In 1959 Ken Fischer, David Scaer, Kurt Marquart, Walter and Herman Otten attended the San Francisco convention of the LCMS where they met Dr. Hermann Sasse and some other Lutheran leaders from Australia.
They later called Marquart and me to Australia. They may also have been interested in calling Fischer to Australia but he was more interested in seeing the San Francisco sights than spending time in theological discussions with the theologians from around the world who had gathered in San Francisco just before the convention.
Ken Fischer livened up the San Francisco trip. When we stopped to camp, rest, and clean up in a cold mountain stream, he would call to us from some hill he had climbed to get a better view. I took photos when we stopped at the Colorado River to clean up and where we swam in the river in our underpants. When Ken was told Dave Scaer was showing pictures of us in our underpants in Poconos, Pennsylvania, Ken wasn’t pleased. Years later he wrote to ask for the photo to show his children and grandchildren what a fine figure he had. Courageous Ken Fischer could care less what professors thought about being a close friend of Kurt Marquart and Herman Otten. When Marquart prepared “The Concordia Seminary vs. Otten Case” it was Ken who was working in the bookstore at Concordia Seminary at the time who used the seminary equipment to bind the book. Roman Catholic Psychologist Becomes a Lutheran Last week Kenneth Fischer told me that one of the most dramatic moments of his life in the ministry happened when he began in Deer Lodge, Montana, where he was asked to also serve as a prison chaplain. He became close friends with a Roman Catholic psychologist serving at a prison. He eventually joined the Lutheran church. And now the heartwarming letters and thanks Pastor Fischer has received from elderly shut-ins he has visited, during his retirement years, expressing appreciation for communing them have thrilled him. A recent thank you card he received last month said: “Dear Pastor Fischer, keeping you in my prayers and remembering your many visits to see my husband when he was so ill. We both appreciated your time and prayers and always looked forward to your words of encouragement from the Bible.” Sheila and the Home
Kenneth Fischer in his “How I Became A Pastor” refers to his “wonderful wife Sheila” he met on vicarage. Others will have to tell stories about Sheila as she was growing up. I did not know her before she married Ken. Now I can say this much. When Sheila and Ken visited our family in New Haven, Todd and James with their leder hosen (leather pants) looked like they had just come out of the Sound of Music and the Bavarian Alps. Their behavior showed us they had a good mother. When Grace and I went to Barnes Hospital when Ken was the first LCMS pastor to receive a new heart, through tears in my eyes, I saw a kind loving wife watching over him during his many days in in the hospital.
The hospital order was for only a five minute visit. Ken wanted us to stay longer. He said he had something important to tell me. The November 1, 2004 Christian News published a photo of Sheila kissing Ken. This caption quoted Pastor Fischer as telling me: “Here is Lutheran theology. I did nothing to deserve this new heart. It was totally a gift. God gives us a new heart and forgives our sins. We did nothing to deserve it. It is totally a gift.”
Sheila and not only Ken should be commended in an age when even the children of so many of our pastors have not remained faithful to our Lord Jesus and the Christian faith. All of their children regularly attend an LCMS church. They have sent their children to Lutheran schools.
May God grant that you children, grandchildren, other relatives and friends continue in the faith and because of your trust only in the merits of Jesus Christ as your savior from sin you all enjoy a heavenly reunion forever with your common Savior Jesus Christ.
Long after Kenneth Fischer, who now has Parkinson’s and Sheila are called to their eternal home, always remember what he said after receiving a new heart. “I did nothing to deserve this new heart. It was totally God’s gift. God gives us a new heart and forgives our sins. We did nothing to deserve it. It is totally a gift.”