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Archive for July, 2012

“Constant Trimming and Pressing”

This picture is not of my family.  It is entitled “Getting Ready for Church”.  I know it is not of me or anyone I knew because we would NEVER have worn tennis shoes.  I include the picture because the overall body language is instructive.

Sunday mornings at my house were something like what I imagine Marine boot camp might be like.  Clothes were pressed, laid out, and I tried to wait until the last moment to put the tie on because I didn’t want to wrinkle the shirt.  We ate breakfast with towels covering us so that there could be no spillage that might stain.  Hair wasn’t just combed, it was combed and some kind of product was applied that made it impervious to a comb later let alone whatever wind  that might be blowing.  For that reason the oringinal combing took a long time and had to be pretty much perfect.  Teeth were brushed once when we got up and again before we left.  There was a handkerchief (ironed and folded) in each suit coat pocket but it was never to be used.  My mother carried a large amount of kleenex in case of emergency.  In the wintertime overcoats were humg with care and also pressed.  Shoes were polished the night before and buffed upon the way to the car.  Their was alot of ‘trimming and pressing” that went on in the car, and one last shot in the coat room at the church.  This whole procedure really got interesting when I starting shaving.  I figure that adolescent milestone added an hour to the whole process since we had one bathroom.  I tried shaving in the kitchen sink one time and when my mother found out we had to take  a trip to the emergency room since she thought she was having a heart attack.

I remember one Sunday when I really tried to get everything just right to avoid the stress and the last minute panic.  I got up early, got dressed before anyone else, hung my suit coat up to avoid wrinkles,  waited for my hair to be combed, and then put on my overcoat and sat in the car and waited for everyone else.  At the church to my mother’s horror I had commited the unforgiveable sin – I had forgotten my suit coat.  I sat through church on a winter Sunday in suit slacks, a white shirt and a tie.  The Pastor told me later that when he saw me without a suit coat he got so nervous he forgot the sermon text.

The trimming and pressing was a good exercise in discipline and putting your best foot forward.  Sometimes however, I felt that we were missing the point of it all.  To look, act and be our best out of response to Christ’s love is a good thing, but I never figured out until later that was what my parents were trying to teach.

There is a lot of hobeln und feilen, trimming and pressing in our life together.  I have heard that a District that shall remain nameless passed a convention resolution that only Lutheran Service Book songs, hymns and liturgy can be used at gatherings and conventions.  I’m sure the resolution was meant to “harmonize” our “life together”.  When the vote is taken and it’s 51% for, and 49% against, harmony seems to be out of the question.

I would like to do some “timming and pressing” as well.  I think that gathering and conventions should only be held at venues that have a pipe organ.  I would like a resoution at the next Synodical convention that those Pastors that insist on chanting actually be able to chant.  I would like to see that a special commission of the LCMS visit each congregation where chanting the litugy is going to happen and test the cantor.  If the chanting makes the local dogs bark perhaps we should speak the liturgy.  If I have to sit through a service in which the chanting makes me grind my teeth to a point that I am losing enamel, it effects our life together.  To look act and sing our best is obviously important so why not a cantor exam and audition?  I think a part of seminary instruction and testing should be chanting ability.  If we are about “trimming and pressing” let’s do it where it matters and obviously the “ancient liturgy” matters.

Paul had something to say about our life together in Collosians 3 –

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves   with compassion, kindness, humility,   gentleness and patience.   13 Bear with each other   and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love,  which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ   rule in your hearts, since as members of one body   you were called to peace.   And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ   dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom   through psalms,   hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do,  whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks  to God the Father through him.”

Just make sure to use LSB amd if you have a grievance wait until the next convention and pass a resolution to make people do what you want.  All you need is 51%.

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What Think Ye of Miracles?

Seter and John Fale at the St. Thomas Basilica in Chennai India

My friend Mr Ravi took this picture of John Fale and me at the Basilica of ST. Thomas in Chennai.  He is close to the ocean.  Here is a story from the Chennai Newspaper.  This is after the Tsunami of 2004…..

The tsunami waves have subsided, but a miracle is being talked about across Chennai. It is the story of how St Thomas’ miraculous post kept the invading waves away, sparing the newly renovated Santhome Cathedral.
The Cathedral, the world’s second basilica built on an apostle’s tomb, has been giving shelter to hundreds of tsunami victims ever since the waves ravaged many buildings across the coast.
But even though the killer tsunami waves devastated the Chennai coast, Father Lawrence Raj, the parish priest of the Santhome Cathedral Basilica, says “the sea did not touch our church.”
The reason? “We believe the miraculous post of St Thomas prevented the sea waters from entering the church,” says Father Raj.
The church that sits at the site where St. Thomas, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ, was buried after his death in the year 72 is located a few metres from the sea. While all the buildings on either side of the church were hit by the tsunami waves, the Santhome Cathedral remained unaffected.
Local people now say it is the St Thomas’ miraculous post that has kept the sea away on December 26.
According to Father Raj, the legend is that when St Thomas planted the post at the top of the steps leading to the Cathedral, he said the sea would not pass that point.
The priest saw from the terrace of church the angry sea in action, as it surged across the road and flooded the huts in front of St Thomas’ post, which is an innocuous looking log of wood, mounted on a cement pedestal.
The belief goes that a village in the Mylapore area was flooded when a huge tree trunk fell across the river. The local king brought a royal pachyderm to lug it away, but the task seemed impossible.
Then, according to legend, St Thomas came along, removed the girdle from his waist and handed it to a bystander and asked him to yank the log with it. He did so and the log was moved easily.
A mural in the Cathedral museum illustrates this incident. Father Raj says the current post is believed to be from that same log of wood.
Hundreds of homeless survivors who have been staying in the church ever since the tragedy hit them have prayed to St Thomas for saving them.
“It is St Thomas who has saved me. This church was untouched by the waters because of the miraculous power of the St Thomas post,” said K Sebastiraj, a fisherman who sought shelter in the Santhome Cathedral.

At the epicenter of the destruction was Banda Aceh on the Northern tip of the Island of Sumatra.  There the waves went to the top step of the Grand Mosque and then receded.  This too was seen as a miracle.  Why was the mosque spared and why did the tsunami happnen.  The mosque was spared according to the Muslim clerics to remind people of the importance of “Sharia Law” and the tsunami happened because the Achehnese were not devout enough, the women not covered enough, and the foreign visitors drink beer, (see Robert Kaplan, “Monsoon”, Random House 2010 page 261).

Photo by Akmet Buntek

The disciples according to Mark 6, terrified that Jesus was a ghost as he came across the water were terrified and “they did not understand about the loaves and their hearts were hardened”.  They had participated in the feeding of the 5000 and had seen a lot of miracles by this time and they regarded them with suspicion and confusion.

What think Ye of miracles?  I contend that they are all around us.  Our Baptismal life is a miracle.  Baptized into the death of Christ we are new creations.  In that merciful washing we are free to lead a merciful life.  Do we see that?  Do we view one another in the church as brothers and sisters or as objects?  Members of the body or pagans in need of conversion?

Absolution is a miracle?  We are spoken free to speak others free.  Do we see that or do we believe that absolution is the property of a priestly class that doles it out or withholds it as they will?

The Lord’s Supper is a miracle.  We are given Christ whole and entire so that we can give ourselves whole and entire to our neighbor.  The fellowship that receives this is one “loaf and one cake”.  Do we believe this or are we individual operators and it’s a “me and Jesus” thing?

Are we of the type that talks about the “efficacy of the means of grace” and yet denies their power?

Do we understand about the loaves or is our heart hardened?



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Life Together, Vocation, and the Keys – Luther’s Sermon on Matthew 9:1-8

I love this very African picture of Jesus healing the paralytic.

Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

3 At this, some of the teachers of the Law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But so that you might know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sin . . . .” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”

7 And the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe, and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.

One of the great treasures of Lutheran, and being a Lutheran is the notion that God deals in the world through estates – the church of which all people are a part by creation (even unbelievers), the family, and the political realm.  One of the great difficulties of being a Lutheran is the understanding of the Law and the Gospel in these spheres.   Preaching as exhortation doesn’t help in fulfilling some law or requirement, it works a kind of self satisfaction that needs to be understood as sin in itself.  When we seek to do works of righteousness, the next step is to categorize them.  Luther said in a sermon on Mathew 9:1-8 –

Our foolishness consists in laying too much stress upon the show of works and when these do not glitter as something extraordinary we regard them as of no value; and poor fools that we are, we do not see that God has attached and bound this precious treasure, namely his Word, to such common works as filial obedience, external, domestic, or civil affairs, so as to include them in his order and command, which he wishes us to accept, the same as though he himself had appeared from heaven. What would you do if Christ himself with all the angels were visibly to descend, and command you in your home to sweep your house and wash the pans and kettles? How happy you would feel, and would not know how to act for joy, not for the work’s sake, but that you knew that thereby you were serving him, who is greater than heaven and earth. . . .

In our dealing with one another in vocation and in the church the “law finds fulfillment in love and righteousness in mercy” as Oswald Bayer so beautifully writes.  Luther goes on….

Therefore we are to regard the kingdom of Christ as a large, beautiful arch or vault which is everywhere over us, and covers and protects us against the wrath of God; yea, as a great, extended firmament which pure grace and forgiveness illuminate and so fill the world and all things, that all sin will hardly appear as a spark in comparison with the great, extended sea of light; and although sin may oppress, it cannot injure, but must disappear and vanish before grace.

That is why I said in a previous blog that the Keys are primarily about forgiveness.  Matthew 18 is primarily about forgivenss.  I have argued that Matthew 18 from the perspective of a Rabbi, which Jesus was, has nothing to do with excommuncation at all.  Want an excommunication passage? – “if your right hand offends you cut it off and throw it into the fire….”.  That passage uses the “body” language that tells what the church is, and offense language that makes the sin so reprehensible.

That is why preaching should be about Christ, promoting Christ, proclaiming Christ and His forgiveness. Matthew Harrison has said that preaching is a “fingerpointing business”.   The finger point illuminates that fact that all sin is “my sin” and righteousness is God’s that is given to me as a gift.  Luther again…..

Our piety before God consists entirely in the forgiveness of sins, must be rightly comprehended and firmly maintained. We must therefore get beyond ourselves and ascend higher than our reason, which keeps us in conflict with ourselves and which reminds us both of sin and good works; and we must soar so high as to see neither sin nor good works, but be rooted and grounded in this article and see and know nothing besides. Therefore let grace or forgiveness be pitted not only against sin, but also against good works, and let all human righteousness and holiness be excluded. Thus there are in man two conflicting powers: Externally in this life he is to be pious, do good works, and the like. But if he aims beyond this life and wishes to deal with God, he must know that here neither his sin nor his piety avails anything. And though he may feel his sins which disturb his conscience, and although the law demands good works, he will not listen nor give heed to them, but will boldly reply; If I have sin, Christ has forgiveness; yea, I am seated on a throne to which sin cannot attain.

Now seated on that throne, those in Christ are free to serve in love.  Life Together, Vocation and the Office of the Keys bring together a marvelous “Lutheran” world view and it is that of service.   “In Christ” in our life together I am free to serve you willingly and without compulsion from the Law (although the Law informs what I do).  “In Christ”, I am free in my vocation to serve the whole created order.  “In Christ”, we are free to speak each other free through forgiveness for “Christ’s sake”.  The constat “trimming and pressing” (see Schwann’s Theses on Unevangelical Practice in Harrison – “At Home in the House of My Father’s) to create Christians in our own image is unimaginable in this new life.

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Office of the Keys – Have We Forgotten Something?


That the great freedom of the Reformation is truly the liberty of the gospel is demonstrated first of all by the fact that in the New Testament the potestas clavium [power of the keys] is not conferred once but three times: Matthew 16 to Peter, John 20 to all the Apostles, and Matthew 18 to the entire ekklesia (church). These bestowals dare not be separated from each other. Neither may one place one into the foreground at the expense of the others and consider that the true form. And when Jesus gives to the twelve His commission to preach the gospel to every creature, and through Baptism to make disciples of all nations, when at the Last Supper He instructs them, “This do in remembrance of me!” then who are the twelve? They are the first to stand in the office of the ministry. From them proceeds the ministerium docendi evangelii et porrigendi sacramenta(preaching the Gospel and Administering the Saraments) . But they are at the same time the church, the ekklesia, the representatives of this new “People of God” of the Last Days. Thus it is simply impossible in the New Testament to separate the office of the ministry and the church from each other. What is said to the church is said to the ministry, and vice versa. The ministry does not stand above the congregation, but invariably within it.
Hermann Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors VIII, July 1949

This is an interesting statement conceming the office of the Keys.  It was a Small Catechism section that was often quickly rushed through as we forgot that it was one of the “6 Chief Parts of Christian Doctrine”.  I always worry about the way it is presented because it always comes down to church discipline and excommunication.  It is a lot more than that and it is really about the power to “forgive”.  Someone once said to me that they felt like their Pastor believed that he was the church and that the people in the pew’s job was to “Pray, Pay and Obey”.  Someone else said that they felt the church was becoming the “clergy protection union”.  When Pastors get together they sometimes talk as if they had no rights (especially on certain blogs) and that the laity are pagans in need of conversion rather than members of the body of Christ and the “new people of God” of the last days.  Doesn’t bode well for our “Life Together”.

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Demuth Rides Again! !

Demuth and His Bike at Tour de Pink

There was a movie with James Steward that was remade with Audy Murphey just after I was born called “Destry Rides Again”.  I haven’t seen it in years but I thought about when I saw this –


First Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids, MN recently participated in a fundraising effort for Habitat for Humanity. Pastor Greg DeMuth and 134 other cyclists from Minnesota and the northern mid-west rode 500 miles through southern Minnesota July 15-21. A total of $328,000 was raised by the riders and their congregations: enough to purchase materials to build six homes.  First Lutheran’s participation in this project reflects our mission value to be a family friendly congregation sharing the love of Jesus with our community.  Habitat for humanity is a Christian ministry dedicated to providing decent and affordable housing for people in need. Last week the 2000th home was dedicated in Minneapolis. More info can be found on Pastor DeMuth’s mission blog entitled “As the Wheels Turn”

You can read about the other ride by going on this site to September 2, 2011, and October 11, 2011.


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Peter’s Song

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I said that if someone would have told me back in the third grade that I would have done the things that I have done and gone to the places that I have gone I wonder what I would have said?  I don’t know but it is a great question.  I wonder what the Mary Okeyo scholarship fund travelers  would have said even a few years ago if someone would have told them they would go to Kenya and do what they did?

This Sunday is the Gospel lesson from Mark 6 where Jesus walks on the water.  What is interesting to me is that Matthew tells us that Peter walked on the water too and then almost drowned when he took his eyes off of Jesus.  Mark who we believe is Peter’s secretary or amanuensis doesn’t tell that part of the story.  Now Mark tells a lot of embarrassing details about himself and Peter.  Why not this incident?

One blogger Mark Bradford explains it like this –

Mark and John leave out this part of the story.  Many Biblical scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark is actually the Gospel according to Peter. Mark was Peter’s frequent companion, and it’s believed that the stories of Jesus that Mark relates are stories he heard Peter tell. If that’s true, it’s interesting to me that Peter left out the part where he walked on the water and sank. Maybe he didn’t want to glorify himself by saying he also walked on water, or maybe he was embarrassed about sinking, or both. It’s possible Peter didn’t like to tell that part of the story. John wrote his gospel after all the others, and may have felt that this part had been covered, so he didn’t need to repeat it. Since Luke didn’t tell this story at all, it seems to me that Matthew probably felt that this part of the story needed to be told, whether Peter wanted to tell it or not.

Maybe Peter just didn’t want it told but Mark tells of Peter’s denial of Jesus.  Embarrassment shouldn’t be an issue.  Another embarrassing situation  happens later after Jesus ascends and the church is starting to grow.  In Acts 12 Peter is miraculously freed from prison and he wanders the streets until he gets to a house church and knocks at the door.  They have been praying for his release and when a girl named Rhoda sees who is knocking at the door she is so excited she runs and tells everyone else that Peter is outside and they argue about it while he continues to pound on the door.  Funny stuff.  Pretty informative about the human nature – people earnestly pray for something to happen and when it does they don’t believe it.  Peter released from chains and walks through 4 squads of guards and through an iron gate of the prison, but he can’t get into the house where people are praying for him to be released.  There is a sermon there somewhere.


Benjamin West – Peter released from prison

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I Wonder What You Would Have Said?

My Third Grade Class

So I wake up one morning and see this on the internet – Facebook to be exact.  A classmate of mine named Karen Dunscomb Grossaint is getting comments about the old school days in Leadville Colorado and she posted this picture of my 3rd Grade class.  I thought to myself  “what would I have said to someone back them if they would have told me that before the age of 60 I would  travel around the world and meet some extremely fascinating people and be in on the ground floor of some pretty amazing things within the church?  I don’t know what I would have said but I wondered the same about the young people that we have sent over to the Kenyan church?  What would Olivia or Kyle or Tianna or Christiana or Dean have said back in the third grade?  Mike and Candice and all of our travelers should talk about that sometime.

I wondered about people like Peter – if you told him in the same day he feed five thousand people with some fish and a little bread and later that night he would walk on water and almost drown what would he have said?  So I wrote a song about for a CD called “With Jesus Right Where You Are” and sometimes that is a strange place ideed.  We will try and download tbat someday.  By the way I am the blond with the big ears and the white shirt second from the left after the teacher in the middle row.


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Steph and Annies Song

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Palanga Lutheran Church

Palanga Lutheran Church

On 14 July 2012, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania dedicated the recently completed church in Palanga, Lithuania. Nearly seven years ago, on 30 July 2005, the corner stone for the Palanga Lutheran church was laid, after the Iowa East District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod formed a partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania. The Lutheran Church in Palanga burned down in 1938, and during Soviet times the congregation disbanded with her members relocating to other cities.  The Lutheran church returned to Palanga just 15 years ago, after the Lutheran church had been persecuted, deported, and exterminated in Lithuania. During the time of communism, only 6 Lutheran pastors remained in Lithuania. There new Bishop Sabitus gave thanks to the Lord who is merciful and to all the people both in Lithuania and in the United States who made it possible for the construction of the church in Palanga. He gave special thanks to the people of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, especially to the Iowa East District.  We are seeing the fruition of an idea started in 2003 of “partnering” Districts and various mission fields to do witness and mercy work.  The idea of partnering the North Dakota District with Kenya started in 2003 and is bearing fruit today.

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The Mary Okeyo Travelers – Christiana speaks



Christiana Wolters writes this article today.  As I read these and go back and look at the other posts from the other travelers, the commitee that choose them did well.. Outstanding group of young people………


This sign was behind the altar at the home church of Archbishop Walter Obare.  We were blessed to worship with this small but joyful congregation on Sunday morning. I asked Archbishop Obare to translate it and as soon as he did, I was reminded once again of why we were on this trip. We may live on a different continent, struggle with some different problems, have different skin, and eat different food (did anyone else ever get used to ugali?), etc. but one thing is true for all of us: the sin affecting our lives and the need we have for a Savior. Why was I reminded of this? The sign said “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

We witnessed the effects of sin on this trip. Signs for HIV/AIDS prevention were common. Deaconess Dorothy took us to visit a woman whose grandchildren were left parentless because of this disease. We visited another woman who was suffering physically from not having enough to eat and not having proper care. The hundreds of children we saw throughout the trip had physical, spiritual, and emotional needs that we couldn’t possibly meet. We may not struggle with quite these same problems here in America, but we live in a sinful world and struggle with it just like our brothers and sisters in Christ in Kenya. And the wonderful news is that we have the same Savior, Jesus. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

When I left on this trip I was struggling with some things in my own life, and still am every day. It was truly a blessing though to meet and spend time with friends in Christ in Kenya because they encouraged me in my own faith. They taught me lessons in trusting God for daily needs, in praising Him and being thankful in all circumstances. They helped me in ways they might never know that they did. This trip helped me grow in ways that I know will be a life-long learning process and blessing to me and those God sends me to serve. For those who are maybe considering making this trip in the future, or those who are considering giving to make it possible for others: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This is what unites us in Christ; this is why we travel all the way to Kenya to share faith, love, and hope with fellow Christians and those who are still in need of salvation.

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