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Archive for August, 2012

Luther on Confessing the Faith – Lifestyle and Good Works



We talked about Confessing the Faith in the 21st Century.  Luther had something to say about confessing and witnessing in a sermon on 1 Thessalonians 4.

This lesson is easy of interpretation. It is a general and earnest admonition on the part of Paul, enjoining us to an increasing degree of perfection in the doctrine we have received. This admonition, this exhortation, is one incumbent upon an evangelical teacher to give, for he is urging us to observe a doctrine commanded of God. He says, “For ye know what charge [commandments] we gave you through the Lord Jesus.” Whatever Christians do, it should be willing service, not compulsory; but when a command is given, it should be in the form of exhortation or entreaty. Those who have received the Spirit are they from whom obedience is due; but those not inclined to a willing performance, we should leave to themselves.
But mark you this: Paul places much value upon the gift bestowed upon us, the gift of knowing how we are “to walk and to please God.” In the world this gift is as great as it is rare. Though the offer is made to the whole world and publicly proclaimed, further exhortation is indispensable, and Paul is painstaking and diligent in administering it. The trouble is, we are in danger of becoming indolent and negligent, forgetful and ungrateful–vices menacing and great, and which, alas, are altogether too frequent. Let us look back and note to what depths of darkness, of delusion and abomination, we had sunk when we knew not how we ought to walk, how to please God. Alas, we have forgotten all about it; we have become indolent and ungrateful, and are dealt with accordingly.

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Confessing the Faith in the 21st Century



Martyria – Witness

The “Bold Witnesses” District Standing Committee in North Dakota is planning a conference for pastors and laity called “Confessing the Faith in the 21st Century” on Saturday, October 27, 2012, 9am-5pm at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, Fargo.  One of the main speakers is Adriane Dorr, managing editor of the Lutheran Witness.  Dorr will speak on “Confessing the Faith through the Lutheran Witness” and “Women’s Role in the Church.”  The other speaker is Rev. Jonathan Fisk, speaking on “Confessing the Faith through the Internet” and “Why the Small Catechism Totally Rocks.”  For more information, contact Rev. Mark Chepulis in Cavalier or Rev. Adam Moline in Hankinson.

This is an interesting topic in the environment that we find ourselves in today.  America can really no longer be considered a Christian country and we have entered that strange area that Germany is in now.  Small groups of confessing Christians trying to work their way in the world and remain true to Jesus Christ.  Here in America the church has, in my opinion been relegated to the back burner of life.  We are one thing on a menu of things that people can do with their time.  One of my fears is that we are really only talking to ourselves.  Witnessing the faith for many, at least it is my observation, is protecting and reproving mistakes in dogmatic formulations; arguing about the position of the baptismal font, the pulpit and the lectern; rehashing a prayer that was spoken in Yankee Stadium over a decade ago; timing the signing of the cross in the liturgy; and keeping people away that we should be inviting in.  We spend too much time with those who are like us rather than trying to figure out how to reach those that do not know Jesus Christ.

Maybe my problem is in the word “confessing”.  The primary task of the church is to confess, witness to Jesus Christ and Him crucifed.  Of course part of confession is rightly ordered doctrine, but it is also winsome discussion with the world around us about who Christ is and what he has done. It is as Peter says, being willing to give an account of the hope that we have and do it with respect and patience.   I am hoping that our Bold Witness standing committee will address this issue at this conference – looking forward to it – by the way early bird registrations end September 1.  After that it is full price.  Go to

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Luther’s Preaching on Work and Effort, and well, Preaching.


Miraculous catch of fish

Luther preached on Luke 5:1-11.  It is a marvelous sermon on labor and how we make our way in this life, but it is also a great stimulant for preachers and the effects of preaching.   Preachers need to work hard and not be slovenly in their preaching.  They need to be faithful and diligent and like the net of Peters that gets wet and broken, preaching is a life of tension and sometimes frustration and sometimes we break.  Trying to get the right words in the right order is hard work. Looking at the same text that you have preached on twenty times and trying to find something “different”, finding somethig diferent may not be a good thing”.   The effort it takes ot not use a text as a “pretext” for our own little issues and foibles is hard work.  Somewhere in the sermon Luther says that preachers need to understand that “It is our comfort, however, that Christ, through our preaching, will lead his own into the boat, and will keep them there, although we know that we cannot make devout men of all to whom we preach, and that we cannot escape persecution on account of our office; yea, though we know that many will fall away even among those of whom we felt sure that we had them in the net.”

This is not a built-in excuse or reason to be a judge and decide who is a pagan and who isn’t.  This is not the licence to decide who we will minister and who we won’t.  It is a comfort that it is after all still Christ’s Church.  It is encouragement to, as Paul says, become all things to all people so that by all means we might win some.  Here is Luther.

 Where I have preached and taught during the past ten or twenty years, there another could, perhaps, have done more in one year; and one sermon may bring forth more fruit than many others. Here, also, it is true that our labor, diligence and effort can accomplish nothing. These two things must go together, namely, that each one does his duty, and that he, nevertheless, acknowledges with Peter: “My labor cannot bring forth anything, if thou dost not give the increase.” As Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase,” etc.
28. In short, all human nature and life are so that, until God gives the increase, we may often labor long and much, and all to no purpose. But the work is not to cease on that account, nor should any man be found without work. He must wait for the increase till God gives it, as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 11:6: “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou knowest not which shall prosper, whether this or that,” etc.
29. However, the circumstances are especially pointed out under which work becomes useful and fruitful, namely, when Christ appears and commands to let down the nets, etc., that is, when there is a faith that takes hold of his Word and promise and then, cheerfully and bravely, does what has been commanded, waiting, with prayer and supplication, for his help and blessing. This is to say with Peter: “Lord, I have indeed done and labored and suffered ninth, but I know that I shall accomplish nothing thereby, unless thou art present to give strength and increase. I will therefore depend, not upon myself or my own works, but upon thy Word, and will leave everything to thy care.” Thus shall we prosper; and experience shows that Christ, when he is present, gives more as the result of little labor and effort than any one would have dared to hope. For there can be no failure or scanty fruits where he adds his blessing.
30. Thus the disciples could see the experience for themselves what a difference there is between the work they had done all the previous night without faith in Christ, and the work they did when, without prospect of taking anything, they nevertheless, through faith in Christ’s word, and at one draught, drew in an overflowing multitude of fishes. Therefore, if we accomplish little or nothing through our labor and effort, we must put the blame upon our unbelief, or upon the weakness of our faith, and not upon anything else.
31. Yet this is also true, that Christ often delays the bestowal of his help, as he did on this occasion, and on another, John 21, when he permitted the disciples to toil all the night without taking anything, and really appeared as if he would forget his own Word and promise.
But this he does that he may drive us to implore his help the more earnestly, and that we may learn to strengthen and maintain our faith, so that we do not doubt, or cease to labor, but continue to wait for the bestowal of his gifts in his own good time and way. For it is his purpose to guide all Christians into a knowledge and experience of the fact that their livelihood and help do not depend on what they see or do, but upon what is invisible and hidden. This he therefore calls his “hid treasure,” as we have already said in regard to Psalm 17:14:, that is, such blessing, help and deliverance as we have not perceived or laid hold of before, but are hidden in his Word and are grasped by faith.
32. Behold, this is the first part of our Gospel, the events of which took place and were recorded that Christians might be instructed and comforted by the fact that Christ cares even for the temporal needs of his Church, so that it is fed and supported, although it should come into a distress where everything is at the point of ruin, and where it seems to have done and suffered everything in vain. Always and everywhere does it happen that the Gospel, as it advances, brings poverty in its train, together with hunger and nakedness and want. But at last, when the storms of the devil have blown over a little, and the world’s greed and appetite have been satisfied, Christ comes and declares that he, too, is a Lord of the earth. For in Psalm 24:1 it is written: “The earth is Jehovah’s, and the fullness thereof,” etc.

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More on the LWML and Anniversaries

Bethesda Hospital – India

For those who don’t read comments my friend Mr Ravi sent this concerning yesterdays blog –

Ravi Jesupatham:

A good tribute for the great works being done by the LWML Pastor Seter! The LWML is helping international mission endeavors as well. In India contribution of LWML in developing hospitals and schools are tremendous. The Bethesda Hospital in Ambur, Tamil Nadu State is the witness to the mammoth efforts of LWML for the India Evangelical Lutheran Church.

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Anniversaries -Good Things 2!

I have been going back and reading the histories of various churches in Minnesota and North Dakota.  It is interesting reading for a variety of reasons.  One is the absolute hardship these early Lutherans experienced.  I am reading about a Pastor that had a school besides his preaching duties. In January of 1887 a three day blizzard hit and he and the children managed to stay alive but he had to care for them all in a two room shack that served as the school.  It is said that 128 people died in that storm.  Whole schools and their teacher didn’t make it but this pastor did.  Another interesting part of this is the subtle way that women enter the picture.  One Pastor was picked up and taken to his new parish in an oxcart.  The driver told him that he could say hello and goodbye in the same sentence because they had no way to provide him anything let alone a salary.  A recent hailstorm had destroyed everything.  Anyway upon arrival one of the women simply said “we’ll make this work”.  She fed him for quite awhile in a one room shack.  He sat on an empty nail keg and she fed him with empty cartons as the table.  Intuition tells me that if the women would have balked he would have gone back the way he came on the oxcart. Since many of the preachers covered a wide area, local women of the church took it upon themselves to garner the supplies that would feed the horses of the traveling preachers.  It may have been the beginning of women’s auxiliaries in our churches.
This is LWML’s 70 Anniversary.  Here is a portion of the history written by Marlys Taege Moberg – you can find it at –
Beginning in the 1850s, women of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS, started local auxiliaries to meet the needs of people; mending clothes for seminarians, equipping hospitals, establishing schools, developing convalescent and retirement homes, assisting orphanages and residences for people with disabilities, gathering clothing, furniture and food for indigents, and funding mission endeavors at home and abroad.

Not until the 1920s, however, did members of congregational societies begin to coordinate their efforts by uniting in state and regional leagues. Oklahoma was first in 1928, but it took more than a decade before official approval was granted for a national LCMS women’s organization.

Although the U.S. was at war and travel was difficult, the founding convention, held July 7 and 8, 1942, in Chicago, was attended by over 100 women from 15 districts. The 28 delegates adopted a constitution, approved a name, chose two projects, and established a Literature Committee to publish books, a national magazine, tracts and programs. They also determined that 1/4 of the mission gifts collected in local societies would be given to the national organization and 3/4 used for district projects.

The purpose of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML), delegates agreed, was to develop a greater mission consciousness among women (“missionary education, missionary inspiration and missionary service”) and to gather funds for mission projects for which no adequate provision was made in the LCMS budget. “Missionary” meant the individual member, who was to “win and hold souls for Christ the Master, visit the sick and the shut-ins, relieve the needy, and cultivate the spirit of sisterly good cheer and fellowship.” 

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Anniversaries – Good things !

Dr. Baneck in Kenya

Dr. Baneck recently celebrated 25 years in the ministry, the first 6 years of which were spent in Kimball MN.  There is our connection.  A very good organist he recently played for the wedding of Roger and Joanne Drevlow’s daughter Erin.  The Drevlow’s son is a Pastor in Breackinridge and Joanne went to Kenya back in 2005.  The connections are all over the place.  Congratulations and God’s continued blessings on Dr. Baneck who was instrumental in making Project 24 an official emphasis of our District.  I missed the celebration that was recently held in his honor but I am sure it was day of remembrance and joy, and I here offer my congratulations and prayers for the future.  I never sent a card so I hereby offer to Rev. Baneck some instructions on how to eat his favorite food.  For you pleasure – “How to Eat Ugale……….

Cincopa WordPress plugin


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Notes on Preaching 6 – “The Voice of the Gospel”.

“For the church is born out of the word of promise through faith, and it is fed and preserved by the same word, that is, it itself is founded through the promise of God, not the promise of God founded by the church. For the word of God is without parallel over the church, in which nothing has legal power to enact anything, to ordain anything, to do anything, rather the church is founded, ordered and made as a creature.” (Luther, WA 6, 560, 33-561, 2.)

For, prior to Lord’s Supper and Baptism the Gospel is the one most certain and preeminent mark of the church. For only through the Gospel is she conceived, formed, fed, born, raised, cradled, clothed, adorned, strengthened, equipped and protected. In brief the entire life and nature of the church consists of the word of God … When I speak of the Gospel, I understand in that the oral word, not the written word. … Only through the oral word (verbum vocale), through the oral, publically echoing voice of the Gospel (vocalis et publica vox Evangelii) does one experience where the church and the mysteries of the kingdom of God are.  . WA 721,12.15:” WA 7,720,32ff.:

Cranach did this painting of Luther in the pulpit and his preaching sets before them Christ the crucified.  Luther said, “Christ before his death commanded and ordained that his Gospel be preached in all the world.  Thereby he gave to all who would believe everything he had…….”

Pretty heady stuff that.  Through preaching we give everything Christ had – “his life by which he swallowed up death, his righteousness by which he blotted out sin, and his salvation by which he overcame everlasting damnation”.  That demands our best.  Preachers need to be reminded of the words engraved in some pulpits around the world – “sir, we would see Jesus”.



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Notes On Preaching 5 – Liturgy Vs Preaching.

Pfotenauer Monument not far from Ortonville MN

Pfotenhauer was installed on Nov 7, 1880 in a small house near this area.  The members of his “church” kept the edges of this 40 acre tract of land that he would come to own black to keep him from being killed in the frequent prairie fires that ravaged the area.  His installation took place in a one room shack and he knelt on a home made chair that served as an altar.  No records exist that he wore a chasuble or who the “cantor” was.  Pfotenhauer not only preached around Millbank and Odessa SD, but he went into the James River valley on North Dakota and all the way to Bozeman Montana and wherever he went he established “preaching stations”.  His brother Albert and he served one of the preaching stations at Hannover North Dakota in 1886.  Records from those days talk about the service being conducted in one to three room homes while sauerkraut was being cooked over a wood stove in what some would call a kitchen.  No mention is made of pipe organs or Gospel processions with crucifixes.  If sauerkraut cooking can be descirbed as incense then I guess they had some.

I can count at least 22 preaching stations that became congregations because of the direct work of Fredrick Pfotenhauer who became President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  Yesterday I heard that the beneficiaries of his work and descendants of his toil reported that they preferred no visitors to the worship they conducted on Sunday mornings because “the Divine Service is meant only for LCMS members in good standing”.  The whirring sound that you hear may be Fredrick turning in his grave.  Records tell us that looked for Germans in the cast plains that were his charge so that he could gather them into congregations, but there are no records that anyone else was excluded.  If you could understand German you could come to the preaching, and questions about communion are seldom raised.  In fact Pfotenhauer’s own words to the Mission Board, “dakota must become Lutheran” may prove that the preaching stations were to be not only for the faithful Lutherans but also for the pagans.  Reading the old records all one sees is references to “preaching” and send us more “preachers”  Never a word about “liturgists”.

I had a discussion concerning an individual that assiduously worked at the liturgy and felt that everything must be done exactly right and at the right time.  Hands lifted at the right time, sign of the cross made at the right time, not to late or too early.  Turn to the congregation and back to altar at the right time and in the right direct etc etc etc.  When it came to the sermon however communication actually seemed to a secondary consideration and getting through 12 minutes of a dense exposition of a text seemed to be the goal.  Whether anyone was listening or could understand was not important.  Luther talked about the centrality of preaching and that the “publically echoing voice of the Gospel” was essential and primarily.  I remember sitting in on a meeting of a group of Pastors that spent 1/2 an hour arguing about whether we were to turn to the right as we moved from facing the congregation and truning to the altar.  Which was more liturgically correct.  The phrase “who cares?” was banging in my head but it was obvious that they did!

This from President’s Harrison’s blog – Mercy Journeys

We are today given the impression that worship in the ancient church was quite exclusively liturgical — as we still find it, for example, in Eastern Orthodox churches. But in a sermon one of the ancient Church Fathers sets forth in very vivid fashion the fault he has to find with the contemporary liturgical service. The congregation is not there, he reports. The people are wandering about outside, the boys and girls lounging about during the performance of the liturgy. They have a watchman posted at the door, however, and when the distribution of the elements in Holy Communion is about to begin, a signal is given and the young people rush into the church like a pack of hounds, snatch up the host from the clergyman’s hands as a dog snatches up a piece of meat, and then depart. I am not suggesting that this sort of thing was the general practice, but it happened. –

Sermons were not dull doctrinal addresses in our sense of the term. Congregations were attentive. Records reveal the tremendous, dramatic emotion which the sermons evoked, even the cries with which the auditors interrupted the preacher. The stenographic reports give us all sorts of information, even that Augustine had a bad cough on one occasion. This is alluded to in a passing remark, ‘Pardon me, I could not help coughing, for I have been preaching a great deal the last few days.’

“If one reads the great sermons on the dogma of the ancient church which Gregory Nazianzen preached in Constantinople before he was elevated to the patriarchate—the entire dogma of the ancient church is contained in four sermons which have been published on the basis of stenographic reports— one must be astonished at the intellectual and spiritual power of the preacher, who was able to communicate the teaching of the church to his hearers in such a compact, vivid, and existential manner, for what he treated concerned life and death. This is what services were like in the ancient church. Our honored liturgiologists . . . will say that all of this is well known. But there is still danger that we misinterpret the ancient church when we see it only in the light of the Benedictine investigations and inquire only about the origin of the Kyrie and ask when the Hallelujah was first employed. . . .
“The impression has gone abroad, and our liturgiologists are at least partly to blame for this, that the preaching, teaching church is to be replaced in some sense by the liturgical church.  – Werner Elert
Get Rev. Harrison’s “At Home in the House of My Fathers” and look up Pfotenhauer.  Amazing stuff.
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Mercy and Witness – the Old Days

Al Collver is always finding new and cool things that work on the iphone.  This new application lets you take a picture and do the effects that you see here.

I have been looking at the old histories of the churches up here and I have a hard time seeing the attitude that we discussed a lot at the LWML retreat earlier this summer; that many churches don’t want to do anything in their own communities as far as mission and mercy is concerned, let alone going off and doing stuff in Africa.  The reason is that the church itself is the mission.  There is so much invested in staff and equipment and buildings that some believe there is no time energy or resources that can be expended anywhere else.

Zion English Lutheran dedicated their first church in Grafton in 1950.  The congregation had been meeting in the Episcopal church but had purchased 4 lots in the city.  The congregation had moved into the town of Grafton – some had gone to Drayton, but histories record that the first work by our church in the city of Grafton took place in 1933.  The point is that they did not seem to be in a great hurry to build a church.  There is almost 20 years between the “congregation” going to Grafton and the dedication of the building.  I  don’t know what the Episcopalians thought.  In fact I am not sure where the Episcopalian church is today.

What is clear is that before they built their own church, the Pastor was doing work at what was called at that time , the “State School for the Mentally Retarded”.  Times have changed.  It was called worse.  Today it is called the “State Developmental Center”.  At any rate the Pastors that were called to Zion in Grafton all worked at the Center and in 1956 Rev. David Brammer confirmed 31 persons at the center.  In 1970 through offerings gathered throughout the whole State the All Faith Chapel was built as a permanent worship facility.  President Kennedy’s sister, Eunice came to the dedication.

So the folks at the center had their “own church”.  But somewhere in this time frame the North Dakota District in a deliberate act of witness and mercy called a full time chaplain and a full time teacher to the center.  A full time ministry has been going on there ever since.  The Grafton congregation began the outreach to the center and the District picked it up and carried it forward.

My point in all of this is that there was outreach going on before there was a church, and the outreach was going on to folks who probably would not be able to attend the church once it was built.  Interesting concept.  The District in a churchly act of “witness” decided to fund a ministry to people who probably would never be able to contribute to the financial cost of the ministry that they were receiving.  Interesting concept.

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The Mary Okeyo Travelers are at work……….

Candice Bicondoa at Retired Teachers Banquet

Candice has been giving presentations I understand in several different places as are the other other travelers.  I believe that all of them have made at least one presentation.  They are available for giving talks.  Contact the District Offices or me and we can gets you in contact.  In the meantime the travel fund needs to be replenished.  The Mary Okeyo Student Fund for Travel is administered at the North Dakota District Office, and you can send donations to PO Box 9029 Fargo, ND 58106-9029 attention Bill Sharpe.

The presentation above is at a retired teachers banquet in Brainerd.  That’s a lot of retired teachers.  Nice gathering and thanks Candice!

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