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A True Scandal

Syrian-Refugee-Banner

This is a banner picture from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services.  They have been desperately trying to get 10000 refugees out of Syria.  It has finally happened.  I am surprised and shocked at the details.  I wrote this yesterday and didn’t publish because I was not sure that I had heard or read it right.

Just when you think that there can’t be anymore scandals, 10000 refugees have entered the United States.  They are Syrian refugees and 45 of them are Christians.  You can be as uninformed as you want to be about the immigration and refugee issues that are going on today but don’t be uninformed about the religious structure of this current batch of refugees who are allowed to come here because of persecution.  Anyone who does not know what is happening to Christians in North Africa and Syria are either truly stupid or deliberately ignorant.  How is it possible that out of thousands of refugees who are Christian in camps, segregated camps, because the Muslims force them to leave and form their own camps, our State Department immigration folks can only find 50 to rescue?

The horror of Syria is that Muslims are being terrorized and killed as well, but the plight of Christians is absolutely appalling and must be addressed.

At our last convention  we passed a resolution that we encourage folks to educate themselves on the plight of the persecuted and marginalized Christians around the world and if nothing else we should pray for them.  You might also want to request that your elected leaders educate themselves as well.  I can’t do the math but 45 out of 10000 is paltry.  There are scandals and then there are scandals.  Participation in genocide either actively or by inaction and inattention certainly ranks high.

Our Synod in convention urges us to educate and act to help persecuted Christians.  Call your Senators and Congress people.  Call LIRS – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and ask them what in the world is going on?

700 Light Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
410-230-2700
fax: 410-230-2890
lirs@lirs.org

PresidentLinda Hartke
Contact: president@lirs.org or call 410-230-2785

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Survey Says –

Pew

Pew Research says that many people don’t go to church because they don’t have time.

Don’t go to church because Christians do un Christian things.

Don’t go to church because rational thought makes religion disappear.

Believe in God in their own way.

Pretty interesting stuff.  Moralism is a danger to a church that teaches we need a Savior.  There is nothing rational about human behavior or God’s reaction to it.  The first commandment is all about believing God in your own way.

And that time issue.  We will all have time to die.

 

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Watch Closely.

KravitzOne if the great comedic inventions of the 60’s was Gladys Kravitz and her long suffering husband Abner.  Gladys lived across the street or sometimes next door from Darin and Samantha Stevens.  Samantha of course is the witch in the TV program “Bewitched, who did her witchery by twitching her nose.

Gladys had a nose of her own and it was always stuck in the neighbors business.  She would stare intently at the neighbors house and the comedy ensued when she would witness some magical hocus pocus and try to tell her husband what she had seen.

This closely watching became an obsession with her and she even took to using binoculars.  She watched intently to find some weirdness and she was usually rewarded.  She could not get anyone to believe her but she saw some strange things.

In Luke 14 the Pharisees are “doing a Kravitz”.  They are watching Jesus intently trying to get something on him. The writer to the Hebrews says that we need to keep our eyes on Jesus because He is the author and perfecter of our faith. The Pharisees kept their eyes on Jesus and “watched Him from the side scrupulously and constantly” in order to catch Him up and accuse Him of being a Law breaker. Luke has an interesting use of one word that all of us have either undertaken, or have felt was happening to us. We stare at someone “from the side” to watch if they are behaving in a way that would cause us to make a judgment, or we have the feeling that everyone is watching us to judge us. Jesus enters into the situation where everyone is watching Him and looking for anything to pin on Him that would bring Him down and they do – He hangs around sinners and eats with them. Because of who He is the time will come when God who watches everything and claimed Jesus as His beloved Son will look away from Him as He carries our sins.

 

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Consciousness of Transcendant Worth.

 

Looking at the Letter to the Hebrews again.

The writer is apprehensive that some of his readers may have become indifferent to their Christian faith. This peril of indifference would grow more and more serious as time went on and Jesus delayed His return in glory to save those who were eagerly expecting Him. Therefore the author was moved to write these Christians this stirring epistle. The cold and indifferent among them must be startled our of their torpor and neglect and be roused to a new consciousness of the transcendent worth of that which they possessed. The epistle is, in the truest sense, an impassioned oration centered in recalling to unshakable devotion to Christ weary and wavering disciples, to a steadfast faith which would triumph over all trials, temptations, impending persecution and death. Some of these readers had become dull of hearing the Word, they had ears to hear but did not hear (5: 11) ; they were neglecting corporate worship (10: 25); and they were in great danger of apostasy. “Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day as long as it is called today” (3: 12,13). Paul Bretscher “Faith Triumphant”.

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The Prophets and Mercy and Order

Isaiah 58a

We looked at the Prophets and their look at social issues and mercy a while back from the perspective of Theodore Laetsch.  In their proclamation of Law they understood that only the Gospel can motivate.

“The prophets knew that this Gospel was the only means whereby a people could be called into existence that would be willing and able to comply with the high social standards set up by the God of holiness for His chosen nation. Therefore they were not satisfied with mere denunciation of social ills, with demanding justice and mercy and humility, nor even with what manner of outer social reform they might have attained. God was not satisfied with anything less than a change of heart, and a change of heart effected by faith in His Son as the promised Redeemer, and also the prophets were satisfied with nothing less. They would think of changing God’s plan as little as they would think of changing God’s demands. In the very center of the social order proclaimed by them as the will of God for His people stood the Woman’s Seed, the Messiah, the suffering Servant, and His vicarious death, from whom radiated strength and willingness into the hearts and minds and members of the believers to live up to the demands of this social code, constantly progressing in justice, increasing in mercy, growing in humility.”

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Project 24 and Other Partners – Can You Spare a Buck?

kenya-computers-RPT-IN-1

The picture is from Erik Lunsford and the article is from the LCMS Website

For an online donation of $1 or more, you can help provide computers for students at a Lutheran boarding school in Kenya, East Africa.

In its first two weeks, the Synod’s latest crowdfunding project, “Computers at Christ’s Care for Children: Kenya Library,” received $260 in pledges toward its $1,900 goal. As of this writing, about a month is left to raise the remaining $1,640, and the project will only be funded if the total is pledged by the Sept. 16 deadline.

“Crowdfunding” is the practice of funding a project by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.

The LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM) project — launched Aug. 1 in partnership with Wheat Ridge Ministries — seeks to purchase four computers for students at a “Project24” boarding facility in Chepareria, Kenya. Project24 is a partnership of the OIM and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya to establish 24 such facilities to house and provide care for students while they attend local primary schools. Four Project24 facilities — providing free lodging, meals, classroom supplies and medical/spiritual care for students who might otherwise drop out of school — have been started so far with funding from both church bodies.

“Most children in Project24 are academically challenged, due to their families’ backgrounds,” explains its director, John Kissinger Nyang’au. “Computer labs will provide an e-learning opportunity for children to improve their academic standards,” he says, as well as prepare them for “computer world technology.”

The Rev. Shauen Trump, area director for Eastern and Southern Africa with the OIM, notes that “around the world, computer literacy gives you a step up — a skill set that vastly expands your network and increases your earning potential. In the more developed world, children often learn to use a computer at home in their early years — and we presume that just about everyone in the workforce can do so.

“But in Kenya, computers are rare in homes and many adults never have the opportunity to learn, much less guide their children in utilizing this valuable resource.”

To give go here.

https://weraise.wheatridge.org/en/projects/32049-Computers-at-Christ-s-Care-for-Children–Kenya-Library

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Whatever Happened to Minnesota Nice?

trumpThe Star Tribune said that they were “unruly”.  I thought they looked like the old brown shirts.  Kicking and spitting on people, punching an old man and a woman.  I’m sure that the Trump supporters that were attacked in Minneapolis thought the folks attacking them were a bit more than unruly but it is all in the eye of the beholder I guess.  When I see well dressed families being attacked by hooligans with bandanas over their faces I think of robbery but that is my perspective.

I wonder what descriptor the Star Tribune would have used if a bunch of well dressed, well coifed, middle aged folks would have punched and kicked and spat on some of those “occupy types”.  Armageddon like language would have been used no doubt.  Unruly would have changed to thug like.

We should not be too surprised I guess.  A city council that spends an inordinate amount of time worrying about bicycle paths has let much of downtown Minneapolis turn into a danger zone.  Going out at night for supper can be hazardous to your health so why should a Trump Rally be any different?

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Mercy and the Social Order.

Micah

There used to be a general acknowledgement of something called natural law.  The gist I suppose, would be to say that there are certain things that human beings cannot help but know are wrong.  They are “written on the heart” and human beings violate them by ignoring their conscience.  Because of the flexibility of conscience and the human ability to self justification, Prophet voices hammered that Law home in the Old Testament.  Theodore Laetch wrote back in 1940 about the Law of God and the social order (CTM Vol XI).

“Wherever the social order as demanded by the Lord was maintained and complied with, this was due to the untiring efforts of the prophets of God and their conscientious preaching of God’s Word without addition or diminution. And wherever prophets so called, deviated from the Word of God or the people refused to hear and obey the faithful spokesmen of God, deterioration, disintegration of the social order, set in and increased in the same ratio that the setting aside of God’s Word became the accepted fashion of the times. Once more let us recall to memory that all the social messages of the prophets of which we have taken notice so far are addressed to Israel, the theocratic nation, divinely instituted as such. The prophets had messages also for the surrounding Gentile nations, and many of their proclamations to these nations or to individual members touched upon social questions. Consistent with their call to be spokesmen of God, they preached these messages with the same scrupulous avoidance of any addition or diminution. They left the Law of God unchanged, that Moral Law which obligates every human being to unselfish service of God and his fellow-man, that Law which God has inscribed into man’s heart. this Moral Law they proclaimed just as God had given it, without omitting or altering one jot or tittle of its demands, of its threats, of its universal obligation.”

Because the Law is God’s Law it has a universal obligation. It is not our morality that we are trying to impose on others, it is a universal obligation place upon all human beings because they are human beings.  The call of the Law is to unselfish service to God and our fellow man.

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John Vessey R+I+P

vessy

Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church in Garrison, MN lost a “chief vacuum cleaner operator, stewardship committee member, Bible study teacher, usher . . .” this morning when John Vessey went to be with Jesus.  He served the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod on the Board for Mission Services, the predecessor to the Board for International Mission and headed up a campaign to endow our churches colleges which was called “For the Sake of the Church.”  He described himself as a chief vacuum cleaner operator in an interview in the LCMS Reporter back in 2012 when he turned 90.

This kind of self effacing modesty marked his interaction with folks like me.  Someone introduced him to me awhile back at the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod International Center.  We talked for awhile and he went on his way and I remembered being taken by his modesty and range of theological interest.  The name was lost on me until I remembered the title – General.  Then my brain started to process facts that I had forgotten.  He was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff  under Reagan.  He is accounted with the greatest peacetime strengthening of the Armed Forces in history.

This from the Reporter article by Jeni Miller.

“General Vessey fought in North Africa and Italy in World War II, as well as in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

In addition to his extensive active service, he also served as first commander-in-chief of the Republic of Korea-United States Combined Forces Command and as the appointed Presidential Emissary to Hanoi to negotiate with the Vietnamese government regarding the fates of missing Americans.

His numerous honors include the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Defense Distinguished Service Medals, in addition to many other military decorations. He was the recipient of the Purple Heart and other medals from 19 friendly and allied nations. In 1992, President Bush awarded him the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  General Vessey is also the only person to have ever achieved every rank the Army had to offer.”

He liked to quote article 16 of the Augsburg Confession and gleaned from it that Christ is present with us wherever we are.  From the battlefield to vacuuming  at his church, John Vessey held onto Christ who redeemed Him with His blood and purchased Him, and now has taken Him to life everlasting.

 

 

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Prayers Ascend.

vikenI had the privilege of preaching in Hesperia California at Faith Lutheran church and talking about Project 24 a few years back thanks to Pastor Brad Viken who used to be at Immanuel in Grand Forks.  Hesperia is in San Bernadino Co in what is called the High Desert.  The so called Blue Cut fire on El Cajon Pass has brought a lot of evacuees into that town.  Pastor Viken posted this picture and these words.

“Fires are still crazy. Prayers encouraged. Several from the church are evacuated but no injured and among our church family there have been no structures lost. Several stranded away from home. Faith Lutheran church will gather today for those available from 3-6 for fellowship, games etc. at 5 pm we will eat pizza. At 6 pm we will gather in the sanctuary for a prayer service. Join us if you can.”

Lord Have Mercy.

 

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