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Archive for April, 2011

Look twice

Rev Seter spent some time on earlier posts talking about cooperation in externals.  I suggest you reread those posts.

Today is Saturday and there is a blizzard ripping western North Dakota.  So, what I’m about to describe might not  happen today.  BUT, there’s an outisde chance if you are traveling today (and if you are traveling in western ND, I hope it’s for something really important.) that you might notice a pick up truck with Lutheran Disaster Response magnetic door signs pulling a Jewish Disaster Relief tool trailer.  The trailer has NECHAMA on the side which I’m told is the Hebrew word for “comfort”.  It would make me look twice.

The trailer is on loan and is full of tools needed to help muck out basements and fix things.  The volunteers in the truck are LCMS members.  It’s so unusal that the driver of the truck called me to let me know what he was up to.  He was concerned that LCMS members would call our office to complain.  Especially, if he parked the trailer in an LCMS church parking lot.  We are only using the tools.  Frankly, I’m not sure I could pick the Lutheran hammer out of a hammer line up!

I find it interesting in a state like ND where you can’t shake a stick without hitting a Lutheran of  one persuasion or another that Lutheran Diaster Response even needs to borrow a tool trailer.  Pray for these volunteers and the people they are helping.

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Tornado flashbacks.

A farm bin thrown up against the public school.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Who we are

Recent stories from two North Dakota pastors “refreshed my spirit”.  At separate times and places, they told me of experiences where members of their congregations had reached out to non members through acts of mercy.  Both congregations have now welcomed some of those families as brothers & sisters in Christ. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:6:

“I planted the seed.  Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” 

I read somewhere that the unchurched do not want to be someone’s “project”.   Planting and watering through our life of Christian vocation and acts of mercy are our natural expressions of God’s love for us.  They reflect “Whose” we are…not what “we” do. 

“Faith is a divine work in us which changes us and makes us to be born anew of God.  It kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different people in heart and spirit and mind and all powers and it brings with it the Holy Spirit.  O, it is a living busy active mighty thing this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly it does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them and is constantly doing them.”                                    Luther’s preface to Romans.

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Volunteers needed

Volunteers are needed to assist with flood relief efforts throughout North Dakota. Especially hard hit have been McLean & Ward counties (the surrounding areas of Minot & Garrison).

Lutheran Disaster Response is asking for volunteers to call 1-800-366-9841 or you may contact Joan Buchhop at

Kirk Rosin has a team in the field today (April 27) in the Wheatland/Chafee area. He has a tool trailer and he is willing to move it to where it’s needed and to help other volunteers. He and his team are extremely experienced in flood/water cleanup. If you are available, don’t hestiate to call the hotline or contact Joan.

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Connections – Partners – Seeds

John Halake is the General Secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya.  He is finishing some course work at Concordia Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Having no place to go at Easter he came to Drayton,  North Dakota and spent some time with Roger Weinlader, one of the founders of Project 24.  Roger has a seed company on the Red River that is the border between Minnesota and North Dakota.  He came to church on Maunday Thursday, Good Friday and Easter and spent the rest of his time loading seed bags.

John always bragged that as a young man he lived on one glass of milk a day.  His home in Marsibit has been undergoing a long drought and he was amazed at driving for miles and miles through fields flooded by the Red River.

John is a great friend and partner in the Gospel.  While staying in Drayton he was also working on course work, a paper on the “End Times”.  When I asked what the point of the paper was he said that “while we are waiting for Christ to come and judge the living and the dead, He is already here in the Sacraments”.  Good point that.  He is also present with us “in the body which is His church”.  Partnerships and friendships with people like John reinforce that merciful gift of God everyday.

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Body and Soul – “Ain’t No Grave Can Hold This Body Down”.

I heard a commercial for a popular program about crab fisherman in Alaska and they played a snippet of Johnny Cash’s song “Ain’t No Grave”.  I remember that song and like so much of Cash’s stuff it grabs and gets a hold of you on different levels.   I found the lyrics but I never listened back to his rendition – I just went and recorded how I remember the song.

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Paul said in First Corinthians 15

51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”55“Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

We are about to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The resurrection is proof that God cares about us “body and soul”.  Jesus cared about people body and soul and his ministry is our mandate to care about Body and Soul.  We in North Dakota care about our neighbors and “those in the household of faith” body and soul.

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Body of Christ stuff – we are in this together.

I am amazed at the amount of water that is out there and moving around in areas where I grew up – this is from Pastor  Rothschild who lives in Minot but serves a Parish I used to attend years ago in Kramer ND.  I remember in my younger years North Dakota being dry.  Driving with my Father down the county roads and having grasshoppers jump into the open windows of the truck. 

Here is Pastor’s story –

Flying to the Flock!

On a normal Sunday morning I drive about 150 miles to reach the three parishes (Faith, Towner; Zion, Kramer; and Bethlehem/St.John, Upham) I serve for Divine Service.  This is not so unusual in the rural western states.   However, the Souris River, which runs diagonally through my parish area, has flooded from this past winter’s snow melt blocking the east/west roads in the area making it rather difficult (i.e. impossible at this point) to get around.  While members of each parish can get to their congregation it is the pastor who is unable to drive from one to the other.  But thanks to Jan Rubbert (just one of a number who volunteered to help in the same way), a member at St. John, Upham, I was able to hop by plane from place to place to place on Palm Sunday.  Unfortunately, it looks like Holy Week, Easter, and perhaps a Sunday or two beyond may require the same sort of “parish hopping” as the waters look to remain high for some time to come.  So please, please, please pray for good flying weather for us!

Pastor on way to service

So to get some perspective what you are looking at is usually farm land and the streams or rivers in my day were “creeks” – we used to paddle across in a stock tank.

I remember as  boy fishing on the Upham Bridge and as a child I could cast a bronze spinner from one side to the other.  I’m not even sure where the river is anymore.

There’s a river down there somewhere

So why this on a mercy blog spot?   Because we are all parts of the body of Christ.  when Pastor Rothschild is struggling we are all struggling.  When he and his people hurt we all hurt.  Glenn Merrit of LCMS World Relief and Human CAre said it best –

“As we head into this Holy Week in full anticipation of the glorious celebration of the resurrection and the powerful presence of Jesus Christ in our lives, we know that there are those whose lives have been turned upside down by the recent disasters across much of the US. Some of your communities have been affected. Perhaps, you or members of your LCMS district have suffered loss or devastation. We, at LCMS World Relief and Human Care, stand ready to encourage and assist you as needed and requested. Your district has a great disaster response program which we know has already been implemented. If we can come along side of you with personnel, material assistance, or financial help please do not hesitate to call. As the LCMS, we walk together in good times and bad. Let us know how we can help, where we can help! We will be there for you, for your district, for your congregations. Please don’t hesitate to call me, Rev. Glenn Merritt, or my colleague, Rev. Carlos Hernandez. You know us both and we are ready to help right now, right away as needed. Because so many disaster events are occurring simultaneously any updates you can provide on the situation in your district would be extremely helpful. Our resources are limited and our personnel are even more limited but we will stand with you and beside you as you assess and response to the recent storms in your district. 

I am anxiously looking forward to hearing from you. May God grant many blessings on your ministries of mercy. We are all in this together—The Church ever sharing, ever caring. Thanks!”  Pastor Daryl Rothschild

Check out Pastor Rothschild as he seeks to proclaim the Risen Christ this Easter Sunday by plane, or boat, or whatever, by visiting him on facebook.

We will try and keep you informed about him and show other situations that we were “all in together” with a remembrance of the Wadena Minnesota Tornado of about year ago in future blogs.

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North Dakota Flood Waters


To all those affected by flood waters –

Once again, North Dakota is affected by ravaging flood waters.  It gets very discouraging to deal with a “once-every-hundred-years-flood” every year. Our hearts ache for all those whose homes are flooded, whose farm land is under water, and whose businesses are being severely affected.  Our concern is not only for our Missouri Synod Lutheran brothers and sisters, but for all our neighbors, family, and friends.

These flood waters are yet another reminder as to how deeply and devastatingly fallen and broken this world is because of sin and death.  St. Paul reminds us in Romans 8:22, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

And yet, later in Romans 8, St. Paul also reminds us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  Because He is a good and gracious God, God can and does take that which sin and Satan mean for our harm and turns it around and uses it for our good.

Think of the Easter hymn that says, “The foe was triumphant when on Calvary, the Lord of creation was nailed to the tree.  In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout and jeer, for Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones fear” (LSB 480).  And yet, three days later, that which Satan meant for Jesus’ (and our) harm – God turned around for good.  This was not only good, it was the greatest act in all the world – the salvation of the world and the reverse of sin’s devastating curse.

Satan cannot take these recent floods to destroy us.  He certainly cannot use them to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus!  While we (you) suffer, yet God is your strength and your salvation.  Do not lose hope, dear Christians; the God of forgiveness, comfort, and eternal peace also supplies His people with protection and daily bread to sustain us throughout this earthly life.

Dear Baptized in Christ, we remember the flood in the days of Noah when the water destroyed the impenitent.  However, Peter tells us, “Baptism, which corresponds to this [flood], now saves you…through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:21).  God keep you in your baptismal grace through this current crisis and for all eternity!


Prayer for Time of Flood

Almighty God, merciful Father, Your thoughts are not our thoughts, Your ways are not our ways.  In Your wisdom You have permitted this disastrous flood to befall us.  We implore You, let not the hearts of Your people despair nor our faith fail us, but sustain and comfort us.  Direct all efforts to attend the injured, console the bereaved, and protect the helpless.  Bring hope and healing that we may find relief and restoration; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.



Prayer for Planting Season

Almighty God, You bless the earth to make it fruitful, bringing forth in abundance whatever is needed for the support or our lives.  Prosper the work of farmers and all those who labor to bring food to our table.  Grant us seasonable weather that they may gather in the fruits of the earth in abundance and proclaim Your goodness with thanksgiving; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

II Corinthians 4:8-10

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.



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Cooperation in Externals part 2

Someone just wrote and said that we make this stuff too complicated.   Let’s make this simple.  There is a discussion among us and probably always will be, where one side says that we as members of a church should not participate with other churches in doing anything.  If we do that they say we “water down” our confession and give the impression that there are no differences in what we believe about other things.  Yet the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has said that we can cooperate with other churches and even non Christian organizations in meeting human need without messing up our confession of the Gospel.

Here is an example –

The Pit at Ground Zero

9/11 Memorial

Our Board of World Relief and Human Care was invited to attend the memorial for 9/11 in 2008.  Why?  Because we were one of the first organization to “do something”.  We did not know what to do so we sent money to use “as needed”.  The money was sent to Lutheran Disaster Response of New York.  They showed their appreciation to us by allowing us to go down into the pit with the families and lay wreaths observe a moment of silence.  It was an incredible and touching event.  We sat up in an office building looking at the vast hole in the ground where the World Trade Center had once been and listened to the stories of that day from people who had been there.  Pastor Harrison wrote on his blog (from which I borrowed the pictures) “We were particularly moved to hear that the head fireman on duty at the station across from the towers when they went down was an LCMS man.  He lost his life that day while serving honorably in his vocation. It was also great to see the visitors’ center next to the “pit” which is a memorial to the victims. You can see the sign for the “Tribute Center” next to the fire department. LDR NY used some of our dollars to put the first 100,000 dollars on the table to open that space which has served the community, another admirable “cooperation in externals” project. As the church participates in such “cooperation in externals” projects, the doors are open the church and residents recognize the value of the church as a good citizen in the neighborhood.  And ears are also open to Christ and his gospel”.

The externals are things outside of worship and mission activity.  They usually involve the alleviation of human suffering.

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Cooperation in Externals – what is that?

We’ve heard it before – that the church is to “preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments ” and that is all.  Sometime congregations wanting to “do something” to help neighbors in need seek to work with a community organizations and are told that they can’t because they “don’t share our confession”.  Sometimes we are held back from doing good and pious work because it might mean cooperating with another church organizations and Pastor says “no”.

One of the great experiences of my life was serving on the Board of LCMS World Relief and Human Care.  the first thing we did as a Board was ask ourselves why we did what we did as a Board and what was Lutheran about Lutheran Church Missouri Synod World Relief and Human Care?  What was “Lutheran” about caring for humans and if we couldn’t find a theological rational perhaps we should let the Red Cross do it all.  The work under the leadership of Matthew Harrison resulted in the “Theology for Mercy” and here is a piece of it.

“The church will cooperate with others in meeting human need. Cooperation in externals has long been an expression describing the church’s legitimate ability to cooperate with other entities (whether churches, societies, Lutheran, Christian or not) in meeting some human need. To “cooperate in externals” means to work toward common goals in endeavors, which do not necessitate, require or necessarily imply church fellowship (communio in sacris), or involve joint proclamation of the gospel and administration of the sacraments (worship). Such cooperative endeavors are entered upon often for practical reasons (e.g. lack of critical resources). But such endeavors are also often an expression of the belief (when entered into with other Christians entities) of the catholicity of the church (See Formula of Concord, Preface; Tappert p. 11), as well as an expression of love for fellow Christians. Through such endeavors, the LCMS will often have opportunity to insist on theological integrity, and the truth of God’s word, and thereby make a positive contribution to ecumenical activities. Such endeavors may range from providing resources for a simple community food bank, to the highly complex ecclesial and civil realities involved in operating a jointly recognized SMO. Such endeavors must recognize legitimate doctrinal differences, and provide for the requisite integrity of its partners.”

There are great reasons to participate with other entities in alleviating human need or addressing local issues.  In the next blog I will show you one little incident that had tremendous consequences.

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