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Advent Devotions From Kenya – Mark 1:1-8

GET READY FOR THE LORD
While coming to school from Juba we met with a group of Nomads bringing their cattle from Magwi to Juba. For 2 KM the cattle filled the road, preventing our car, or any cars or lorries from passing; reminding me of how a smooth road is – no dirt roads, no slow uphill climbs, no getting stuck, no roundabouts, no frustrations, just moving through.
The gospel of Mark begins with the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness. “Prepare the way of the Lord.” The prophet Isaiah announced, “Comfort! Prepare the way of the Lord; He is your God.” When Jesus was coming to him, John the Baptist pointed to Jesus saying, “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) John is calling the people of God to prepare the way for the Lord; get the road ready for the coming of the Lord – make it straight make it smooth. He is talking about removing all the obstacles in our lives, urging us to make smooth the rough places in our lives, filling in the hollows, making low the mountains and hills that will prevent us from welcoming Jesus and His message of salvation. Repentance clears away all rubbish that blocks the coming of the Lord: John is urging all to repent, be turned away from greed, selfishness, unkindness, thoughtlessness, saying bad things, anger, laziness, and poor commitment to God and His church. John shouted the message of God’s grace and mercy. Jesus comes to us so we can have a closer relationship with God. God sent us His Son, who makes right what has gone wrong. Jesus has come and brings forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus came the first Christmas in the flesh bringing peace to troubled hearts and a troubled world. He came to deal with sin. He came to bring forgiveness and renewal into lives. Today He is saying to each of us, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If you want peace and joy, and life and love, then I am the One who can give it to you. I am the One who is the way to eternal life. There is no other way.” Christ came to give His power so His love, peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness, flow through us into the lives of others. Through Word and Sacrament the way of the Lord is prepared in us and through us.

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Advent Devotions from Kenya continued….

GOD DID ALL AWESOME THINGS IN JESUS
When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down; the mountain quaked at your presence. Isaiah 64:3
In South Sudan in Western Equatorial State Tambura, there is an old saying of Azande’s wise words, “A great hunter with nets use to die where those nets are.” Because the great hunter makes the nets he will also die where those nets are. Christ Jesus is our defender; likewise we are “all the work of His Hand.” He is our owner; Christ Jesus came down and willingly died for us the sinners. True love often leads to death of your beloved friend; Jesus showed the sinful people of this world, that He truly loved us.
Advent season demonstrates God’s love, promises and fulfillment of the foretold coming Messiah. Advent reminds believers to prepare their ways of life before God and to welcome the promised Messiah. God, from whom all promises are rightly fulfilled, promised from the beginning that our salvation would come through His dear Son, who left all glories in heavens and came down for our sake. Our prayer this Advent is to remember we are but clay and He is the potter, so that He may dwell in us in spirit, till his physical final coming to judge both the living and the dead. Amen

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Advent Devotion from Our Friends in Kenya

Advent Devotions

The devotions are a project from an advanced writing class at Neema Lutheran College at Motango.  Here are the authors in alphabetical order – Alloys, Domisian (Rev); Alot, Otti Charles (Rev.); Nassia, Thomas Francis (Rev.) In
remembrance of 500 years — Guest Writer: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther

HE COMES TO YOU
“You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off“ Isaiah 41:9b

Jesus comes; He comes to you. In fact, you do not go to Him; neither do you go after Him. He is too high for you and too far away. All your wealth and wisdom, all your work and efforts, will not bring you near Him, lest you pride yourself that your merit and worth had brought Him to you. Dear friend, all your hard work and good deeds will not help you. There is nothing in your favor because you are altogether unworthy, while, on the other hand, God offers pure grace and mercy. This is where man in his poverty and the Lord in His unsearchable riches come together.

So learn from the Gospel when God begins to build you into His image, and learn what it takes to become a saintly person. There is no other beginning the minute your King comes to you and begins to work in you. You do not look for Him, He looks for you’ you do not find Him, He finds you. Your faith comes from Him, not of yourselves. And where He does come, you must remain outside. And where there is no Gospel, there is no God, but only sin and destruction. Therefore, do not ask where to begin a Godly life. There is no beginning except where this King comes and is
preached. (Martin Luther)

Blessed Jesus, we thank You that You have come. We thank You that You came not only for the whole world, but also for as individuals. Thank You, especially, that You look for us, since, because of our sins, we are unable or unwilling to look for You. Thank You again for coming, dear Jesus. Stay with us, because we need You day by day. Amen

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A Kenyan Devotion

Bob Wurl and a Seminary Student at Motango

The devotions are a project from an advanced writing class at Neema Lutheran College at Motango.  Here are the authors in alphabetical order – Alloys, Domisian (Rev); Alot, Otti Charles (Rev.); Nassia, Thomas Francis (Rev.) In
remembrance of 500 years — Guest Writer: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther

REAL COMFORT COMES ONLY FROM GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST

When we lose any of our beloved ones, we need comforts from our closest friends -for comfort brings hope. Likewise our God the Source of all comforts is now comforting His people by assuring them of the coming of the promised Messiah.

God Himself decided to show love to us through His Son Jesus Christ, even without any sign of our contrition. God the loving Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom everything is possible, sent the Incarnate God, Jesus, in the flesh to
demonstrate all veiled secrets of the heavenly kingdom to mankind and reconcile the whole world to Himself. Contrition and confession for our sins leads to true reconciliation and helps us to understand the true meaning of Advent in our lives spiritually, not mere physical preparation, but the preparation of the hearts to receive the coming promised Savior.

As Isaiah the prophet was advising people about the voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way for the Lord, so will our hearts be prepared by His word for our Lord’s final coming.

Collect: Oh God the source of all comfort, who comforted the whole world to have future hope, in this season of Advent, help our belief in Him, the real Comforter of the world and help us to be comforted spiritually by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in word and Sacraments; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever – Amen

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A Wonderful Gift From Kenya

Missionaries Outside of Motango Seminary

I received this in the mail the other day and will be sharing the work of the young men mentioned by the author.

Grateful for a Savior who willingly came “to be sin for us, that we might become the
righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
Dear Family, Friends, Prayer and financial partners in Mission
As we leave Kenya and head back to our US home, we give thanks to God for His love
and mercy and for the love and support of you are family and friends. We pray the
attached Advent devotions, written by the Advanced Writing class at Neema Lutheran
Theological Seminary in Matongo, Kenya, will bring peace and joy to you as you
prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s birth.
The three writers decided to take on the challenge and worked hard to accomplish the
task. All three are Lutheran pastors (and ESL students); Otti Charles and Thomas
are pastors from South Sudan and Alloys is a pastor from Tanzania. Otti Charles and
Alloys were both blessed with baby daughters during this semester and were looking
forward to celebrating with their wives during the Christmas break. The South
Sudanese pastors are both living and serving in refugee camps; Pastor Alloys serves
multiple congregations and cares for many orphans and widows. They know the reality
of the love and mercy of God and have taught us that the joy of Christmas really
does lie in that manager so long ago and that the message is still that of the angel
who proclaimed to the lowly shepherds, “For unto you is born this day…a Savior, who
is Christ the Lord.”
We also thank the sainted Martin Luther’s contributions to our devotions as even now
we remember his Christmas words of encouragement “…that nothing else should be
preached except that this child is the Savior and far better than heaven and earth.
Him, therefore, we should acknowledge and accept; confess him as our Savior in every
need, call upon him, and never doubt that he will save us from all misfortune.”
Jan and I join our prayers that your season of celebrating His birth is blessed and
Joyful
God keep you safe and faithful
Froh

Rev. Charles Froh
Professor and Dean of Chapel
Matongo Lutheran Theological College
Box 45 Sondu via Kisumu 40109 KENYA

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Joan Buchop – Retirement

http://simplebooklet.com/publish.php?wpKey=VxNQIaTQx1XWBYiFXMAuoa#page=7

 

I tell folks that it is important to learn from and listen to, and perhaps memorialize if possible the folks that are around us who do work and take care of things that we may never completely understand.  The depth of knowledge and experience that can be shared is invaluable.  I worry that we don’t always do that and what happens is we all start over again and try and reinvent the wheel.  It seems to be a peculiar human trait that we do not always learn from history and that everything did not start the day we were born.

There is an incredible knowledge and activity “dump” going on and we may not be aware of it.  Folks are coming of an age where the are retiring and sadly some are dying.  I have spent time on this blog bemoaning the lost of Evelyn Allensworth and Bill Sharpe this last year.  Evelyn’s work as the religion teacher at the All Faith’s Chapel also involved decorating seasonally, ordering client records and movements, community liaison, and as they say, things too numerous to mention.  Bill Sharpe was the same kind of multi tasking, wide range of activity position, that a job description would never quite cover.  Tammi Ulland will be a great business manager but her job would be a bit easier if we ever thought to have Bill write up a task list.  I am starting to get a handle on Evelyn’s shorthand and note taking that helps some but it is still a project.

I just heard of another retirement that should be noted.  Joan Buchop is retiring from Lutheran Social Services ND Disaster Response after 20 ½ years.  Today is her last day in the office and she retires the last day of the year.  She writes to her colleagues that “It has been my privilege to work beside you as we served those impacted by disasters and shared what is learned with others facing the same challenges.”

When Lutheran Church Missouri Synod World Relief and Human Care decided to build capacity to do our own disaster response rather than counting on others, Joan’s name was invoked as someone who was on the cutting edge of disaster response and developing protocols to facilitate volunteers and agency reactions.  She was a great resource for LSS and a wonderful ambassador for the work that they do.  Joan received the North Dakota Family Based Services Association special recognition award in 2011. She receive the reward because of the responses to immediate needs during the terrible flooding in Minot in 2011. She developed a case management system that provided data management for homes and homeowners affected by the flood. Her database allowed her to watch the progress of homeowners and their response to the flood as well as helping to anticipate needs that otherwise may have been a surprise. She was especially focused on the so-called “vulnerable populations in the community”. She was able to bring many agencies together to respond to the crisis in a family-based way.  That may sound like agency gobbelty gook but when your house is underwater and so is most of your community and support base, family based crisis response is a gift of God.

Anyway,  congratulation Joan and God bless you and your retirement.  Well done good and faithful servant.

 

 

 

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Luther and the Pope Again ……..

There is a certain amount of hand wringing among those who care about such things that the Pope seems to want to rewrite the Lord’s Prayer.  Evidently he doesn’t like that bit about “lead us not into temptation”.  Being the “papa” that he is there is a certain amount of concern for “his children” worrying that God might lead them astray.  He is also trying to defend Jesus at the hint that God is a tempter like the devil.  Once again, 500 years too late.  Luther was way ahead of him.

Luther’s Explanation to the 6th Petition.

The Sixth Petition

And lead us not into temptation.

What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

So Pope, rest easy.  Let the handwringing cease.  Everybody take a deep breath and get a catechism of Luther.  Concordia Publishing House sells them.

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The Herald and the Hearers – Looking at Pathology

 

 

Sunday is the 2nd Sunday in Advent as we prepare for the coming of the Lord.  A memo to preachers.

Suidas, the tenth-century AD Greek lexicographer, said, ‘A herald is in time of war what an ambassador is in peace.’ The herald would go into ‘enemy territory ahead of an advancing army to warn the enemy of certain destruction unless they accepted the proffered terms for peace.’ Therefore, the king would invest the herald with power ‘either [to] accept surrender on behalf of his king or to declare war if those terms were rejected.’ The herald’s authority is completely derived and is legitimate only to the degree that he faithfully represents the one who sent him.

Martin Luther –

At the end of his lectures in 1531, Luther uttered a brief prayer and then dictated two Scriptural texts.  The prayer; “The Lord who has given us power to teach and to hear, let Him also give us the  power to serve and to do.”

LUKE 2 – Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, Good will to men.

ISAIAH 40 – The Word of our God shall stand forever.

Luther’s belief in the Biblical assertion that the word of God would stand forever does not mean that he believed that people would always believe it.  He listed all the places in the world where the Gospel had sped on and conquered and people believed and how after about a generation it all faded away and the people became pagan.  I have been reading and hearing more and more there is talk of a “churchless Christianity and a Christless Church.”  How is that possible if the Word of the Lord stands forever?  If most Christians have forsaken the public worship of the church at least in America, and the people who do go to church are going to hear a therapeutic “Jesus is your life coach” sermon are we not by Suidas definition both ambassadors and heralds?  How does our understanding of the distinction between the Law and the Gospel engaged here?

Luther’s list of these particular verses is important because the Prophet Isaiah gives us the wonderful prediction of the Messiah’s special precursor  (40: 3-8). He gives us the theme that we dare not speak until spoken to.  John the Baptizer preached what he was prepared and given to preach before he was born.  The modern day preacher is in the same boat.  We dare not preach unless we are called and we dare not preach what we want to but what God compels us to.

 

John the Baptist will forcefully proclaim and herald what Isaiah does poetically.  The self satisfied can remain self satisfied only when they force from their minds that they are “Grass”.  The grass withers and the flowers fade and the Baptist will declare that it gets burned up.  Self satisfaction in the face of annihilation is pathological.  We are confronted in these texts by the sickness persistent and rampant in life.  Isaiah changes our usual formula by pronouncing “comfort” and forgiveness before telling us that we are grass that will fade.

 

 

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Salvation and the Wide Open Spaces

This is a picture that was taken in Leadville Co.  I lived there for many years and graduated from High School there.  I was born in North Dakota and was always impressed to come back to the prairies and the wide open spaces.  We brought my grandfather back to Leadville several times and to get there we traveled through mountain passes and valleys where mountains rose up on both sides of the road to where you felt like you were in an alleyway in a big city.  My grandfather always said that he was uncomfortable and felt walled in.  He was happy to visit but happier to leave.  He liked being in the spacious places on the prairie.

We mentioned in the last blog that salvation means, in one sense having space to move around in.  When Lutherans’ talk salvation we mean being saved from sin and death and the power of the devil all of which hem us in.  Luther comments on David’ words in Psalm 118  and he said “just as distress is a narrow place, which casts us down and cramps us, so Gods help is our large place which makes us free and happy” (Luthers Works” 14:59).  Oswald Bayer says that the German word is better translated as a spacious place.   So just as our distress or anxiety,our frustration,our fear is a narrow place that  casts us down and cramps us Gods help is a spacious place. Remember how Luther after years of trying to figure out what Paul was talking about when he finally understood what justification by faith meant,said it was as if he had entered paradise itself. Matthew Harrison in  his book “Christ Have Mercy” talks about how baptism saves us because Christ sticks himself into the waters of baptism. Then he describes the voice of God confirming Jesus as his Son, and the coming of the Holy Spirit showing Heaven was open. Harrison explains quoting Luther, that “heaven is nothing but open windows and doors”.   It’s a spacious place.  It is so spacious it has many mansions.  Modern translations say “rooms”.  We are so puny, we are so narrow, we can never quite grasp the spaciousness of God’s mercy and grace and His abundant love for us the fallen children of men. We can’t even accept the translation of Jesus words – “in my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.” Those words come in the middle of that marvelous statement were Jesus declares himself to be the way and the truth and the life, a super abundance of God’s mercy and grace. Because He is the way we can walk in the spacious places even though we are confined in the valley of the shadow of death. Because He is the truth we are opened up in the spacious place of absolute recognition of who we are – we are completely free lords of all, and also constrained by God’s love to be servants of everyone. We are free to serve. Because Jesus is the life we are not confined to the narrow place of constantly worrying about the cords of death entangling us. We’re going to a spacious place and in this life we are spoken to in an eternal and immortal way. God speaks to us as His immortal children. He speaks to us as a fruit of His Spirits grooming and His Son’s harvesting. He speaks to us as those who have everlasting life right now.

[1] Oswald Bayer,  “Living by Faith”

 

 

 

 

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Living the Dream.

One of the things that I worry about in all the changes and chances that take place in the world is whether or not we are communicating the truth of the Gospel in ways that people actually understand.  I have a friend that answers my greeting of “how you doing?” with “living the dream”.  I can take that as a statement of contentment and freedom or I can take that as a sarcastic commentary of life with it toils and vicissitudes.  It all depends on tone and expression and a certain amount of sensitivity.  There is a real thing called a “tin ear”.

How do we know in the church whether someone knows, or can hear what we are saying when we talk about things like justification or redemption or sanctification etc.  Fewer people are even aware of what used to be a common language of faith.

I was just reminded about what an old professor of mine said about the word “salvation”.   He wrote, “When the last Israelite with his possessions got safely through the waters of the Red Sea, salvation had come to that people. This is, in
part, the significance of the term “salvation.” Fundamentally it refers to having room enough to move around in. It also contains the thought of healing, of living beyond the frustrations and irritations which trouble us. The Word of truth, the Gospel  is good news because it consists of the proclamation that such salvation is already a sure prospect since we have been sealed by the gift of God’s Spirit in Baptism.”  We are living the dream, God’s dream dreamt for us to life in His story; the story of salvation.

 

 

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