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Archive for October, 2011

Luther’s Debate Placard revisited



Luther’s debate placard, also known as the 95 theses was basically a call to discuss the issue of “indulgences” or the purchase of guarantees that would release people from purgatory or in some way forgive sins.  My great interest is the Christian life of mercy.  Here are some of the debate points that speak to mercy.

Papal indulgences should only be preached with caution, lest people gain a wrong understanding, and think that they are preferable to other good works: those of love.

 Christians should be taught that the pope does not at all intend that the purchase of indulgences should be understood as at all comparable with the works of mercy.

Christians should be taught that one who gives to the poor, or lends to the needy, does a better action than if he purchases indulgences.

Because, by works of love, love grows and a man becomes a better man; whereas, by indulgences, he does not become a better man, but only escapes certain penalties.

Christians should be taught that he who sees a needy person, but passes him by although he gives money for indulgences, gains no benefit from the pope’s pardon, but only incurs the wrath of God.

Christians should be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they are bound to retain what is only necessary for the upkeep of their home, and should in no way squander it on indulgences.

 Christians should be taught that they purchase indulgences voluntarily, and are not under obligation to do so.

 Christians should be taught that, in granting indulgences, the pope has more need, and more desire, for devout prayer on his own behalf than for ready money.

 Christians should be taught that the pope’s indulgences are useful only if one does not rely on them, but most harmful if one loses the fear of God through them.

 Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of the sheep.

 Christians should be taught that the pope would be willing, as he ought if necessity should arise, to sell the church of St. Peter, and give, too, his own money to many of those from whom the pardon-merchants conjure money.

 It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.

Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others.

 The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word.


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Luther’s Debate Placard

People Reading and discussing Luther's "Little Debate Placard"

  “I never wanted to fight, either with the strongest or the weakest. My single intention was to stay hidden in the corner. But now that I have been, as it were, grasped by the ear, and dragged into the public eye by a single debate placard, I believe that this has happened according to God’s will. . . . I will fear neither the strong nor the loud. . . neither will I despise weak or any other completely unlearned man. Then I would be a truly miserable Luther . . . if I would not fight entirely in the faith of the God who alone works in me.”  Martin Luther after the publication of the 95 Theses.


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Walther on the church and the poor.


C.F.W. jamming at the organ

C.F.W Walther is going to have a birthday.  The father of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod would be 200 years old this month.  The drawing of him at the organ reminds me of the wonderful hymn he wrote called “He’s Risen, He’s Risen, Christ Jesus the Lord” sung to the tune of “My Darling Clementine” some say.

He has an interesting thing to say about so called “secret societies” or lodges as we call them today.  I had a tour of a Masonic Temple the other night and that is what brought this to my mind.  Walther is upset that many Christians were joining societies for the insurance back in the day.  He also goes off on what he saw as the coming welfare State.  He is probably spinning in his grace today.  Here is a quote from “The Pastor’s Responsibility to Care for the Physical Needs of Members of his Congregation”Translated by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison

 The zeal of congregations against the secret societies is completely pharisaic if it is not tied with sufficient concern for their poor and suffering. A Christian congregation can not simply claim that there are state funds for the poor and homes for them, which they also support. No Christian congregation should allow their poor to be cared for in this way. The state should much more see that it need not forcibly impose taxes for the poor in orderto maintain poor Christians, but only for those who have been forsaken by all the world. Christian congregations should view it as a disgrace to see their poor cared for by the secular state. In the so-called state churches, in which a confusion of the church and the state existed, it was a different matter. There the state institutions for the poor were essentially those of the church. Here, where church and state are strictly separated, the church should not allow its sole care for its poor to be taken away. If God already called upon the church of the old covenant that: “There shall be no beggars among you!” (Dt. 15:4), how much more does this apply to the church of the New Testament! If it dishonors God, if Christians among Christians have to go about as beggars because they are not provided with the necessities of life, so that Christ in them must go begging, what an insult must it be to the name Christian, if Christians close their hearts to their brothers, and they are forced to go begging from the loveless world!

I remember when I suggested that a congregation buy some groceries for a family that was having some difficulty.  Someone stood up and asked, “wouldn’t that be setting a precedent?”  Yea.  I guess it would.




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Ibada Takatifu

New Hymnal for our African Partners
Sorry about the picture from my computer through my camera – still learning. 
One of the great honors of my life was preaching at the dedication of the Uhuru Highway Church in Nairobi to be the cathedral for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya.  I got the “goose bumps” standing outside the church and singing “A Mighty Fortress” in Kswahili.  At that time the standard hymnal for the ELCK was Mwimbieni Bwana or “Let us sing unto the Lord”.  My friend John Halake was visiting this week and we discussed the new hymnal project and John gave me these insights.

Archbishop Walter Obare understands that a hymnal would help unify the church in its worship practice as well as unifying it with the church at large, and give the church a clearer identity. Hymnals are that important to a church body. While resources in Kenya are limited, a close relationship exists between the ELCK and the LCMS; thus Bishop Obare approached the LCMS in 2008 for assistance in the production of its first official hymnal. Dr. Kieschnick, LCMS president at that time, gave his blessing on the work, and six Concordia Theological Seminary faculty who had significant roles in producing Lutheran Service Book were encouraged to lend their expertise to this important work. Deaconess Sandra Rhein was appointed as Coordinating Editor. A Kenyan Hymnal Commission was established, and work has been underway since then.

 This first official hymnal of the ELCK has been named Ibada Takatifu(Divine Service). It will have approximately 350 pages with services for Holy Communion, Matins, Vespers, and Daily Prayer; Rites for Baptism, Funeral, Marriage, and Confirmation; Luther’s Small Catechism and the three-year lectionary, and 19 Introit Psalms with Antiphons. We hope to be ready to publish this book by February 2012, with a first copy run of 20,000 books.



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“On the Blessed Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood” by Martin Luther –

The Last Supper with Twelve Tribes by Hyatt Moore

 I found another blog that I am enjoying written by a women up in Canada.  You can find her at

This blog is attempting to show how the Lutherans in North Dakota and Minnesota North are bound together in many ways not the least of these is our faith and the bond that unites us in the body of Christ.  What creates that bond and feeds it and animates it is the Lord’s Supper.  Brigitte is interested in Luther and the Lord’s Supper and put together a long string of quotations.  I believe this one comes from Luther’s Treatise of the Blessed Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood”.  If I am wrong please. someone correct me.  Whatever treatise it comes from this section takes my breath away.

This is also a reason, indeed the chief reason, why this sacrament is received many times, while baptism is received but once… There is the devil, the world, and our own flesh and conscience, as I have said. They never cease to hound us and oppress us. Therefore we need the strength, support and help of Christ and of his saints. These are pledged to us here, as in a sure sign, by which we are made one with them–incorporated into them–and all our woe is laid down in the midst of the community…

There are those, indeed, who would gladly share in the profits but not in the costs. That is, they like to hear that in this sacrament the help, fellowship, and support of all the saints are promised and given to them. But they are unwilling in their turn to belong also to this fellowship. They will not help the poor, put up with sinners, care for the sorrowing, suffer with the suffering, intercede for others, defend the truth, and at the risk of life, property, and honor seek the betterment of the church and of all Christians. They are unwilling because they fear the world…

For this reason slanderers and those who wickedly judge and despise others cannot but receive death in the sacrament, as St. Paul writes in I Corinthians 11 [:29]. for they do not do unto their neighbor what they seek from Christ, and what the sacrament indicates. They begrudge others anything good; they have no sympathy for them; they do not care for others as they themselves desire to be cared for by Christ. And then they fall into such blindness that they do not know what else to do in this sacrament except to fear and honor Christ there present with their own prayers and devotion….

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Who “Builds” a Church?

This church in a nearby town has haunted me for a number of years.

I pulled this off of Al Collvers blog at for October 23.  This is a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

It is not we who build. Christ builds the church. No man builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever is minded to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess – he builds. We must proclaim – he builds. We must pray to him – that he may build.

We do not know his plans. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is pulled down.

It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions. Don’t ask for judgments. Don’t always be calculating what will happen. Don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Church, stay a church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord; from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.

I really like that sentence – “do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough.  But do it well!”

Declining numbers and dwindling budgets in rural churches is no excuse for laziness and inexactitude.  Do what you are called to do and do it well!
















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Dormitory of the Faithful Departed.

It is going to be a long day today.  I have a funeral this morning and a wedding this evening.  I have to admit that most of the time I appreciate the funerals more than the weddings.  Funeral goers have a more receptive mind than wedding attenders.  Something about death focuses the mind wonderfully.

This blog site is about our connections up here in the North country.  Another of the connections we have is the acquaintances of Pastors and teachers.  I had a gentlemen come and preach for me many years ago from Ada, Minnesota by the name of Dean Bell.  He was particularly impressed with the services at the Developmental Center.  Later he became a Pastor and serves Fosston and another congregation I believe in Hendrum Minnesota.  We have had some adventures together.  I remember vividly a discussion that he and I had in Boston as we discussed funerals.  Dean called the graveyard the “dormitory of the faithful departed”.  I like that and have searched for that quote long and hard.  The closest I have come is a statement that the graveyard was considered in the early church the “dormitory of the dead and the bosum of the church”, it is a “sweet station, for there the bones of the departed rest sweetly and await the advent of their Savior”.  This comes from a book called

Blessing the world: ritual and lay piety in medieval religion

By Derek A. Rivard

The book is a delightful read that is really about the little blessings of life, the benedictions that come to us sometimes unexpectedly but in the early days became integral to how one lived from day to day.  Funerals for me are like that.  They are a chance to think of the little benedictions that come to us every day through the lives of the saints that we are priveleged to serve and work among.  A funeral that focuses on Christ and His doing and dying is also a final benediction for the dead and a formal benediction for the living.

Rev. Bell’s erudition and humor are among those little benedictions that come to us in life..  I hope he sees this blog and if this book by Derek Rivard is where he found the quote, thank you for inspiring a good read.  If not please share your discovery with us all.

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His Banner Over Me is Love.

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 In the last few weeks visiting with Pastors in Minnesota North and in North Dakota I have been struck by the effect of losing long time time members to eternity.  There is of course the hope of the grand reunion in everlasting life, but there is also the void that can’t really be filled by that loss, especially for Pastors that have been in that parish a long time.  One Pastor from MN North wrote an email saying that when “grandma (you supply the name) died the church lost it’s historian, two families lost their matriarch and I lost a friend and mentor”.  That is powerful stuff.  Add to that the uncomfortable recognition that these elderly saints were the age you are now when you came to the parish, and you can get a sense of the loss that Pastors feel. not just of these friends, but of their own youth.  It causes one to ponder the “rapid flight of our days”.

Well, in the last few weeks I have lost two of those grandma, mentors and friends.  Amy Schumacher of Drayton and Frankie (Francis) Schulz of Crystal.  Both of these women exemplified the Christian virtues that Paul writes about in his letters.  Both led lives where it was obvious to all they met that “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy”–they thought about such things (Phil 4:8).  Both unhesitatingly gave witness to the hope that they had and that hope was the doing and dying of Jesus. 

When ever I think about these two a song I wrote keeps popping into my mind.  It comes from a rather strange citation from the Song of Solomon – “He has brought me to his banquet hall, And his banner over me is love”.  Song of Solomon 2:4.

These women lived lives that trusted in the grace of God in Christ for everything they needed in this world and the next.  For all the Pastors and everyone else that has had someone like this that graced your life, thank God for their influence, their witness and your memories of them.

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Mission Encounter at Moorhead –


A day of mission activity for the whole family at the Mission Encounter

Saturday, October 29, 2011.

Registration 9:15 AM                 Opening Devotions 9:45 AM

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 1000 14th St. S, Moorhead, MN

Purpose for the day is to learn about God’s mission and how we can be part of it

Children’s activities all day include:

  • Children 0-5 years old, will have story time and do a craft with Jean Kugler, Fergus Falls and her Jumping for Joy Program, childcare provided all day
  • Children, ages 6 through 6th grade all day activities including learning about Missionary Friends
  • The Youth will have a fun day being equipped and inspired to share Jesus with their peers through the five:14 witness training program with Abby Dawkins, Fergus Falls as leader

 Mission Speakers will inspire

Rev. Mark Peske, Fergus Falls Circuit Missionary who works with the Native Americans

Gary Thies, Mission Counselor from Mission Central inIowa

 Breakout Sessions will equip and encourage

Delano and Linda Meyer, former TIM Missionaries to West Africa

LAMP Mission Teams from Fergus Falls and Moorhead

Project 24 – Roger Weinlaeder and MNN and ND District Presidents

DCE Traci Kohls  “DO I Have a Story to Tell??!!??”

Lutheran Island Camp –Bill Schultz

 Receive a passport to visit and participate in The Mission Fair

Bring your favorite ethnic food to share at the ethnic potluck at noon.

Bring an item(s) for the ingathering:

  • Used eyeglasses for MOST Ministries – any condition
  • A staple food item (s) for the food banks in Moorhead
  • Used shoes and used tennis shoes
  • New undies and socks for men, women, and especially children for Orphan Grain Train
  • Bibles for Liberia

“five:14” with Abby Dawkins for Youth

What’s five14?

Part 1 – YOU: God’s One-of-a-kind Design

Part 2 – LIGHT: Breaking through darkness

Your Story

five14 Team Challenge & VIP Performances

Part 3 – WORLD: Revolutionizing your generation

Part 4 – five14 Personal Challenge: 5 friends + verse 14 principles

For more information go to

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Witch Hunts? A Little Less Heat and a Little More Light – Cooperation In Externals Revisited.

I have been accused of saying things to get a reaction.  I have been accused of being something of a “bomb thrower” when I get my dander up.  I like to think that I can be reasonable and listen to reasoned debate.  I don’t think I have ever been on a witch hunt or even condoned one but……

 Back in April (blog for 4/19) we talked about cooperation in externals and how that works.  The best explanation comes from President Harrison and can be found in “Theology for Mercy”.

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, or involve joint proclamation of the gospel and administration of the sacraments (worship).

A document called “Principles for Cooperation in Externals with Theological Integrity” and was prepared in response to Res. 3-03, which was adopted by delegates to the Missouri Synod’s 2010 convention.  Part of that document says

The ELCA decisions regarding human sexuality have clearly provided a tipping point, leading people to question any joint work with the ELCA. A legitimate concern is expressed over activities that might confuse the LCMS with the ELCA. In addition, the validity of the concept of “cooperation in externals” is also open to question by many. A question arises: Can we remain faithful in our confession before the world when we cooperate with another church body that has openly repudiated critical aspects of that confession?

So the Presidents of the Districts of the LCMS were asked to develop more in-depth theological criteria for assessing cooperative endeavors, determining what would necessitate termination of such cooperative efforts,” provide an assessment of the current state of cooperation in externals and a full report of criteria for ongoing assessment of the same by July 13, 2011Whereas;  Five questions were asked to specifically help in the judgment as to whether or not cooperation in externals can continue with a specific RSO;   1. Is the purpose of the joint work fully consistent with the positions, policies and objectives of the Synod?  2. Do cooperative efforts imply doctrinal unity with the ELCA or endorsement of ELCA positions on same-sex relationships or other matters of disagreement with the LCMS?  3. Does the joint agency or organization distinguish itself as an entity from the churches that support it?  4. Are all the policies and programs of the organization consonant with the doctrinal position of the LCMS?  5. Do the individuals who lead the organization openly support and encourage efforts, positions or policies which compromise the theological stance of the Synod?

Of course when all of this happned we start to hear the cry of “witch hunt”.  Sadly, in many cases the cry of witch hunt is coming from members of the LCMS.

Bob Sanderson is a friend of mine and he is the CEO of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota.  I and many other members of the LCMS have been on the Board of LSS of North Dakota.  Bob is aware of the theological position of the LCMS and is very appreciative of the place we find ourselves.  He recently published this letter online.

Bob Sanderson

Bob Sanderson

Recently there has been some information received from the LCMS about issues that could potentially arise between the LCMS and Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs), of which Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota is one.There was a conference call in August between President Matthew Harrison, some of his staff and about 20 CEOs of RSOs across the country. Hope Deutscher, our church relations coordinator, sat in on the call with me.

 From the call, I can tell you that there is no witch hunt going on or any strong desire on the part of the LCMS to interfere in our working relationships. However, there is a strong feeling on the part of the LCMS that the RSOs must respect the theology and doctrine of the LCMS.

 As an example, if Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota should receive a request from a gay couple wanting to adopt a child and the agency helps to expedite that adoption, then this would create a problem between our organizations. What the final result of this may be is uncertain at this time. The LCMS would definitely want to discuss such an issue with us. Whether it would cause the LCMS to no longer recognize us as an RSO is uncertain at this time.

 To the best of our ability, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota will respect the doctrine of both the ELCA and LCMS. We want to continue working in partnership with all Lutherans in providing healing, help and hope to North Dakotans. We will keep you informed about any discussions that may take place in the future.

Thank you Bob for putting some light on this situation.  Your leadership is appreciated.  We should all tone down the rhetoric and try and work toward a common understanding to ligitimaely be able to work together with integrity to meet human need.




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