Story Magazine - First Quarter, 2005

The Seedbed: Generosity, a Joyful Surprise

by David and Muffy Tiede

David and Muffy Tiede visit with donors Louise and Lee Sundet.

In his letter "to the saints with the bishops and deacons in Philippi," the Apostle Paul expressed thankfulness to God for them and confidence that "the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1.3-6). Paul's greeting is also his hopeful farewell.

My final year as president of Luther Seminary is also about "Gratitude and Confidence." It's about you and God! Gratitude to you means thankfulness to God for you. Confidence is hope in God's ultimate redemption of whatever good has begun with your partnership in the gospel. In Christ Jesus, the best is yet to be.

The gratitude is filled with 18 years of memories and surprises. Some of the more difficult challenges have proved to be great blessings. Let me tell you a story.

Last week, my wife Muffy and I were discussing The Augsburg Academy for Health Careers, a new school sponsored by Augsburg College and Fairview Health Systems and supported by a grant from the Gates Foundation. The school is a project of Faith in the City, a collaboration of Lutheran institutions and the synods in the Twin Cities.

The Augsburg Academy and Faith in the City are great stories in themselves, but when Muffy related a conversation she had with a workman at the school, I knew, "She has it right!" (Muffy often has it right!) She agreed to write it down for you:

. . . . . .

One of the fun things about getting involved in a big project is how many interesting people you meet. A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a workman who has spent many hours on The Augsburg Academy for Health Careers. As it turns out, he is a Lutheran layman who was surprised to discover the relationship between this start-up high school and Luther Seminary. He was further intrigued to find that I was married to the president of Luther Seminary.

He asked me what a seminary president does, and when I put "raise money" right up near the top of the list he suggested that he could never do that. I related my similar feelings when David was first elected to the job. I figured all of it would be a perfect fit for his training, loyalty to the church, and love of teaching, except that part about raising money. I couldn't imagine how anyone could enjoy asking someone for money. But I told him that it has turned out to be one of David's joys in life. The conversation went something like this:

"You're kidding! He enjoys asking for money? Who does he ask?"

"Well, it's people just like you: Lutheran lay people who are active in and concerned for their own congregations, who know that the seminary produced their current church leaders and will send the next generation of leaders. They are pastors and lay people who care about the future of the church that will serve and challenge and love their children and grandchildren."

"How does the seminary identify the people who are rich enough to give?"

"Compared to most of the world, we are all wealthy. And these people know that. I've heard some of the donors talk about how their grandparents and great-grandparents, who had nothing compared to all of us, had the vision, faith and courage to build the wonderful Lutheran institutions we all enjoy today. Think of the beautiful country churches that poor farmers built, the colleges, the hospitals, the fraternal societies, the nursing homes, the social agencies. Our ancestors didn't live extravagantly, but they built the framework that still impresses and inspires us today. These are people who believe that all of us should at least be able to maintain and protect what we were given."

"So you identify a giver. Do they give more than once, or do they figure they have done their job and it is now somebody else's responsibility?"

"That's the most wonderful surprise of all to me. Generous people love to give. They know they won't be taking it with them. As my father-in-law once said, 'I've never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse.' They give from gratitude to God, from love of the church, from their faithful vision of a better future ahead. They encourage their friends to get in on the joy of sharing."

"I've never thought about this before. I suppose you're thinking that I could be a donor myself."

"Bingo! Did I say that? I think you've got it!"

. . . . . .

For many years, I have loved Max DePree's wisdom about leadership. He says, "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two the leader must become a servant and a debtor." (Leadership is an Art, p. 11).
Defining reality is probably the most exciting part of a calling like the presidency of Luther Seminary. As in any other ministry of leadership, it is a theological task, alive to God's promises and accountable to God's purposes.

In time, the servant and debtor roles emerge because the triumphs are God's through work of so many other people. The failures so often are yours. One of my faculty friends says, "You are humble because you have so much to be humble about!"

But I did marry well! So being a servant and a debtor is actually a happy state. And one of the great privileges of this job is the generous people both Muffy and I have met. Your gifts have sustained the mission. Your faith and kindness have brought Christ Jesus to us.

We thank you, and we give thanks to God for you "confident that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ."