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Archive for September, 2012

Mary Okeyo Revisited

Moline and Friend

        This little guy doesn’t seem too sure but he is Pastor Molines new friend.  The Kenya Task Force, Bob Wurl and Rev. Moline came back from Kenya.  Bob wrote a nice report and has pictures of Mary Okeyo’s son, husband and daughter.  As you know we have a travel scholarship fund set up in Mary’s memory.  Candice Biocondia who was a recepient is out doing presentations later this morning.  Kyle Novak made one last week.  Dean Lipinski and Mike Henke have been busy and I am sure others are as well.  God bless them and their messages.  Check out Molines report on

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Thoughts on the Church at Tigoi.

Church at Tigoi

After the Kenya Task Force returned they shared this picture of the church at Tigoi.  Yesterdays blog showed the congregation with out children.  It got me to thinking about the worlds of Luther about our beautiful churches and our “life together”.  This is from his sermon on 1 Corinthians 13………………

Of what benefit is it to your neighbor if you build a church entirely out of gold!? Of what benefit to him is the frequent ringing of great church bells? Of what benefit to him is the glitter and the ceremonies in the churches, the priests’ gowns, the sanctuary, the silver pictures and vessels? Of what benefit to him are the many candles and much incense? Of what benefit to him is the much chanting and mumbling, the singing of vigils and masses? Do you think that God will permit himself to be paid with the sound of bells, the smoke of candles, the glitter of gold and such fancies? He has commanded none of these, but if you see your neighbor going astray, sinning, or suffering in body or soul, you are to leave every thing else and at once help him in every way in your power and if you can do no more, help him with words of comfort and prayer. Thus has Christ done to you and given you an example for you to follow.

These are the two things in which a Christian is to exercise himself, the one that he draws Christ into himself, and that by faith he makes him his own, appropriates to himself the treasures of Christ and confidently builds upon them; the other that he condescends to his neighbor and lets him share in that which he has received, even as he shares in the treasures of Christ. He who does not exercise himself in these two things will receive no benefit even if he should fast unto death, suffer torture or even give his body to be burned, and were able to do all miracles, as St. Paul teaches, I Cor. 13ff.


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The Kenyan Task Force returns………………..

Pastor Moline (sans clergy shirt) and Bob Wurl in Kenya

Pastor Moline (sans clergy shirt) and Bob Wurl in Kenya

When the North Dakota District and the Minnesota North District adopted the building of three Project 24 Rescue Centers this summer, the North Dakota Distirct President Dr. James Baneck appointed Rev. Moline and Bob Wurl to be the Kenyan Task Force and their “task” is to coordinate the efforts with our partners in Kenya with interested donors and volunteers in North Dakota.   In order to get a sense of the land and people and the ongoing work going on there, they traveled to Kenya on their own “dime” and have returned.  We look forward to their report and will share it in these pages.  This picture was taken at the church at Tigoi.

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Luther – saved to serve.

Statue of Luther at Concordia Seminary

Luther wrote, every Christian is a priest, who freely performs good works in service of his or her neighbor and in glorification of God.  “Christ has made it possible for us, provided we believe in him, to be not only his brethren, co-heirs, and fellow-kings, but also his fellow-priests,” Luther wrote. And thus, in imitation of Christ, we freely serve our neighbors, offering instruction, charity, prayer, admonition and sacrifice.  We abide by the law of God so far as we are able so that others may see our good work and be similarly impelled to seek God’s grace. We freely discipline and drive ourselves to do as much good as we are able, not so that we may be saved but so that others may be served. We live so far as we are able the life of the Beatitudes, the virtues of poverty, meekness, humility, mercy and peacefulness.  “A man does not live for himself alone,” Luther wrote, “he lives only for others.”  The precise nature of our priestly service to others depends upon our gifts and upon the vocation in which God calls us to use them. n60 But we are all to serve freely and fully as God’s priests.  Such are the paradoxes of human nature, Luther believed. We are at once sinners and saints; we are at once lords and servants. We can do nothing good; we can do nothing but good. (From John Witte Jr.  BETWEEN SANCTITY AND DEPRAVITY: LAW AND HUMAN NATURE IN MARTIN LUTHER’S TWO KINGDOMS?

We do good not to be saved but so that others may be served.  Wow.

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Thoughts on Justice – Luther and Running for the Prize

Luther at Concordia Seminary


Luther wrote about running a race and winning the prize and in so doing he comments on justice as we have been thinking about it.  This is a part of his sermon on 1 Corinthians 9.


I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air.”

5. Paul here points to himself as exemplar and hints at the cause of failure, viz., lapse from love and the use of the divine word in a wilful, ambitious and covetous spirit, whereas the faith which worketh by love is lacking. Under such conditions, false and indolent Christians run indeed a merry race; yet God’s Word and ways in which they are so alert and speedy are merely a show, because they make them subserve their own interests and glory. They fail, however, to see that they race uncertainly and beat the air. They never make a serious attempt, nor do they ever hit the mark. While it is theirs to mortify ambition, to restrain their self-will and to enlist in the service of their neighbors, they do none of these things. On the contrary, they even do many things to strengthen their ambition and self-will, and then they swear by a thousand oaths that they are seeking not their own honor but the honor of God, their neighbor’s welfare and not their own.

Peter says (2 Pet 1, 9-10) this class are blind and cannot see afar and have forgotten they were purged from their old sins, because they fail to make their calling sure by good works. Therefore, it comes about that, as Paul says, they run uncertainly, beating the air. Their hearts are unstable and wavering before God, and they are changeable and fickle in all their ways, James 1, 8. Since they are aimless and inconstant at heart, this will appear likewise as inconstancy in regard to works and doctrines. They undertake now this and now that; they cannot be quiet nor refrain from factional strife. Thus they miss their aim or else remove the goal, and cannot but deviate from the true and common path.

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Thoughts on Justice part 3.

Gates of Paradise

For those who would turn our life together into a tribunal whereby we remove the troublesome and “sinful” from the church which is the body of Christ, I commend this quote from John Witte Jr.  If there is a need for due process in the world around us as society, how much more should there be in the church? –

Luther also believed that the ominous assurance of the judgment of God is ultimately a source of comfort, not of fear. The first sinners in the Bible – Adam, Eve and Cain – were given divine due process: they were confronted with the evidence, asked to defend themselves, given a chance to repent, spared the ultimate sanction of death and then assured of a second trial on the Day of Judgment, with appointed divine counsel. The only time that God deliberately withheld divine due process, Luther reminds us, was in the capital trial of His Son – and that was the only time it was and has been necessary. The political implications of this are very simple: if God gives due process in judging us, we should give due process in judging others. If God’s tribunals feature at least basic rules of procedure, evidence, representation and advocacy, human tribunals should feature at least the same.

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Thoughts on Justice part 2.

 I have been thinking about John Witte Jr’s presentation on ‘justice” at the symposium.  He quoted and man named Grant Gilmore –

“The better the society, the less law there will be. In Heaven there will be no law, and the lion will lie down with the lamb… . In Hell there will be nothing but law, and due process will be meticulously observed.”

Witte continued by turning this around and saying that “A Protestant faithful to Luther’s later and more enduring insights, however, might properly reach the exact opposite projection. In Heaven, there will be pure law, and thus the lamb will lie down with the lion. In Hell, there will be no law, and thus all will devour each other eternally. Heaven will exalt due process and each will always receive what’s due. Hell will exalt pure caprice and no one will ever know what’s coming.”

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Thoughts on Justice part 1.

I was privileged to be invited to speak at the Theological Symposium at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.  I graduated from there in 1978.  The place hasn’t changed much but I have.  Thirty four years of parish ministry and serving on the Boards of Human Care and World Relief and now the Board of International Missions has given me perspectives about life and salvation, service and duty, mercy and justice, that I did not have when I left.  I am more “liberal” about some things and more “conservative” about others.  Issues that I saw as fundamental and stuff upon which the Kingdom of God might stand or fall have faded and now the only thing that is important is the doctrine of “justification” which I believe is the doctrine about everything.

From “justification” comes the word “justice”.  That is what the symposium was all about.  My area was “Justice as Aid”.  Thinking about this word one comes to find very quickly that it gets confusing.  Justice is sometimes thought of as equality, fairness, reparation, reciprocity, just desserts, and even as redistribution.  All of these of course have problems.

One of the presenters has made me think of “justice” as being the freedom to discharge our duties under the 10 Commandments.   Because of Christ’s death and resurrection the Christian is the perfectly free Lord of all and subject to none, and the servant of all subject to everyone.  Here is what Luther wrote –

A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.

A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.

These two theses seem to contradict each other.  If, however, they should be found to fit together they would serve our purpose beautifully. Both are St. Paul’s own statements, who says in I Cor. [9:19], “For though I am free as all men, I have made myself a slave to all,” and in Rom. 13[:8], “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” Love by its very nature is ready to serve and be subject to him who is loved.  So Christ, although he was Lord of all, was “born of woman, born under the law” [Gal. 4:4], and therefore was at the same time a free man and a servant, “in the form of God” and “of a servant” [Phil. 2:6–7].

Because God judges us “not guilty” for the sake of Christ what bound us and destroyed us, the Law, now becomes a joyous duty for the new creation “in Christ”.  We are free to discharge our duties under the Law  as Christ lives out his life in us, and if you want to know what those duties are turn to the table of duties in the Lutheran Service Book.  We have the positive duty to honor God and worship him, and the positive duties to our neighbors under the second table of the Law.  That is behaving justly.

But there is more.  Our neighbors have the right to have those duties under the Law discharged for them, and under the “Law of Love” their claim of their own “rights” is a charitable act to us.  The problem is for our life in a fallen world defining what those rights are.  Authorities have the right that we will honor and obey them.  Spouses have the right to be honored and cared for.  All men have the right to have us protect their bodily life.  All men have the right to have us protect their possessions and their names.

These are some of the thoughts that were brought to the fore by  John Witte Jr.  We have been using this blog site to try and get people to understand why people in Minnesota and North Dakota should get involved in the lives and needs of partner Christians around the world.  We want them to be involved in Project 24 and 1001 Orphans and in our churches mercy and mission work through offerings and personal support.

Paul spent most of his ministry trying to convince Gentile Christians that it was a duty to give Aid to people half a world away that they would never meet and if they did might not like them much.  He called their duty to send money to these people a “liturgy (service)” a “fellowship” (the same term he uses for the Lord’s Supper), a “Grace”, and a chance for “thanksgiving being rendered to God”.  It is behaving “justly”.

We are going to spend some time on these justice issues because they are interesting and provocative and important.

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Theology and ethics: Jesus has discussed at length the need for undivided loyalty. One may find an earthly reward for what one does, or may be rewarded by God. One must choose his master, but it is God who provides everything one needs. The challenge for the disciple is to serve God. His acts of righteousness include almsgiving, prayer and fasting, but—above all—his life is marked by an active search and a striving to keep God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness first. ………. Bonhoeffer



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Communion of Saints part 4

The church was called “ekklesia”, the called out ones, or the gathered ones.  Luther said it is “sheep who hear the voice of the Good shepherd and follow him”.  Lately for some of us it seems to be Pastors whose job it is to train members to “pray, pay and obey”.  A while back a book was written that is hilarious and also very sad.  It is called “How To Be a Bishop Without Being Religious”.  It was written by Charles Merrill Smith

He gives Pastors the following advice……………

We can sum up the correct philosophy of church administration by setting forth two general principles for you to follow. If you let them shape your modus operandi success is bound to follow. They are: (1) Talk constantly about the democratic nature of the church’s organizational structure.  (2) So organize your parish that all really important decisions are made only by you.  Do not try to operate on either one of these principles without the other. If you utilize only number two (as many impatient and headstrong pastors do try to operate, always with disastrous results), you will soon acquire a reputation as a dictator, as overbearing and unreasonable. Such a reputation never helps a pastor in getting on with the Lord’s work.  Also, if you make no attempt to conceal the fact that you really run things, you will have no one else to blame when some plan or decision of yours backfires — as, sooner or later, it inevitably will. If you attempt to operate on principle number one, without including principle number two (as weak and indecisive pastors frequently do), you will exhaust your energies in the endless-effort to persuade pigheaded parishioners to make decisions any seeing-eye dog of average intelligence could tell at a glance are the right decisions.

A far cry from Bonhoeffer –

Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He does give us daily. And is not what has been given us enough: brothers, who will go on living with us through sin and need under the blessing of His grace? Is the divine gift of Christian fellowship anything less than this, any day,even the most difficult and distressing day?


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