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Archive for October, 2012

Happy Halloween

I haven’t figured out how to “photo-shop” something.  I wanted to put a pumpkin in Luther’s arm.  When I went to school there was always a pumpkin in Luther’s arm on Halloween.

From the Lutheran Witness that you can get on line now. You can get an app for the Ipad too …………………

It was no coincidence that Martin Luther chose Oct. 31 as the day to nail his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.

For most people, October means cooler weather, raking leaves, and, at the end of the month, celebrating Halloween. For Lutherans, October includes the commemoration of Reformation Day–the day Martin Luther is said to have nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

It may seem strange that a day so preoccupied with the devil and death is also Reformation Day. But Luther chose this date with a purpose. His theses (academic statements for discussion and debate) were on the topic of indulgences, and Luther chose the eve of All Saints Day–when the church commemorates the faithful departed–as the date to make them public.

The Witness then defines indulgences…..

For money (and sometimes even goods like fowl and dairy products), a person could buy an indulgence that claimed to offer the merits of the saints–and even of Christ–on behalf of the owner, and, in that way, sins were forgiven and a place was secured in heaven.


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Bold Witnesses – Confessing the Faith in the 21st Century.

I was not able to attend all of the Bold Witness Workshop that was held in Fargo on Saturday.  What I saw was very well done.  Rev. Mark Chepulis is the head of the “Witness, Mercy and Life Together” task force, Rev. Adam Moline is the Chairman of the Bold Witness Standing Committe.  These guys did a great job in setting up the workshop.

Bill Sharpe serves as the Vice President for LCEF in the North Dakota District and Bob Wurl is the head of the Kenya Task Force.  These folks came up with a great idea.  They have figured out a way to set up a “Joyful Response” electronic withdrawal donation that will be split between the Mary Okeyo Scholarship Fund and the Project 24 centers.  For $24 a month you can be an Elephant donor, $50 a Cheetah, $75 a Lion, and I am not sure if a Rhino is $10 or $100.  This isn’t a very good picture but here is the brochure –

For more information check out or call Bill Sharpe 701- 361-0867 or Bob Wurl at 701-640-3681.

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Lefse and Mercy

We started this blog to talk about mercy and the connections of our life together.  Here are the ladies of Trinity at a lefse baking party.  They sell the lefse and the proceeds go to missions.  Back in the day there were a lot of ladies that participated in this work while many of these ladies were working or raising their children.  Now some of them are learning the art.  The old lefse makers have moved on to the church triumphant, but the lefse goes on.


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Luther on Visitation revisited

Mary (and Jesus) visit Elizabeth

We have been talking about getting along and forgiving in our life together.  We have talked about the trans -parochial nature of the church and how when congregations suffer we all suffer.  When one struggles we all struggle.  We are all in this together.  There are those that do not want to be part of one another as Christ calls us.  They want to be individual franchises.  There are some who refuse the mutual consolation and admonition of the brothers and deny the right of other Christians to even visit with them.

Luther reinstituted the ancient custom of visitation.  The idea was that the bishop, or overseer, would visit Pastors and churches and see how things were going.  It fell into disrepute over the years and Luther wanted to start it again.  Our Missouri Synod President Matthew Harrison wants to start it again.  A lot of folk that I talk to don’t want to do it.  I wonder why?

Luther may have been pressing the point a bit but he said that Jesus was the ultimate “visitor” and he started in the womb when his mother went to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

Here is a quote from John Pless who did a paper on visitation in South Africa a few years ago.

The ancient fathers, Luther observed, also practiced visitation. In fact Luther argues that the essence of the episcopal office is to visit and examine. To be a bishop is to be asupervisor or visitor. Archbishops supervise bishops. Bishops oversee the work of parish pastors. Yet Luther argues the office fell into abuse and misuse. Luther writes “The holy synods were forgotten. In brief that is what befell so worthy an office and nothing remained of it except the burdening and banning of people because of money, debts, and temporal goods and the making of a divine order out of the bellowing of antiphons and versicles in churches. No attention is paid to how one teaches, believes, loves, how one lives a Christian life, how to care for the poor, how one comforts the weak, or punishes the unruly. They are altogether officious and gluttonous fellows who destroy what belongs to the people and do worse than nothing for them. This office has fared like all holy and ancient Christian doctrine and order – it has become the farce and contempt of the devil and Antichrist with awful and terrible destruction of souls” (AE 40:270).

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Can’t We all be patient?

Matt Harrison did a post on an Advent sermon by Hermann Sasse back in the bad old days when the Nazis were on the rise.  He encourged his congregation to be patient.  We have been talking about the seeeming inability in our life together to be patient, especially when it comes to forgiveness and peace.  Sasse needs to be heard today.  It’s not Advent yet – but…..
But the church has a special understanding of time. She can wait. For nineteen centuries she has sung in her liturgy the “Hosanna to the Son of David.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of theLord!” For nineteen centuries she has lifted hearts high to him who will come to judge the living and the dead. For nineteen centuries she has prayed”Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” and heard the Answer, “Yes, I am coming soon.” For nineteen centuries she has heard the sneering question”Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers died everything remains as it always has been since the beginning of creation.” (2Peter 3:4). Through all these centuries right up to the present time she has received no other answer than the comforting and warning words of the New Testament to the Christendom of that time, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to persist but everyone to come to repentance.” (v9). Cod has been patient with us. So the church waits with patience. This patience is foreign to the world. It can’t wait. It must always have everything straight away. That has been true for the entire modem world of humankind in the last century. For it a hope that still hasn’t been fulfilled after nineteen centuries is simply makes no sense. Dear Advent congregation, we all need to be quite clear about what fools we make ourselves in the eyes of the world when we gather here in this house of God today in 1936 in order to have our hope strengthened in the coming of the Lord, and to pray with the Christendom of every century “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
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Hero Worship and the Church

Watching the political campaigns is tiring.  I think “rock Star” politicians have run the course but I could be wrong.  I am not sure that hero worship has a place in the political realm but it sure doesn’t have a place in the church.  Matthew Harrison had a great blog and quote from Herrman Sasse. (Mercy Journeys with Matt Harrison Oct 16)

Let the world admire its heroes and live by hero-worship. In the church there is no hero-worship. Paul, who was a remarkable genius – that outstanding genius who produced the spiritual life of the early imperial age, was on the same level as Apollos and the other apostles who were probably not geniuses. The hero of faith, Luther, is no higher than a man of doubt who folds his hands praying “I believe dear Lord, help my unbelief.” Francis of Assisi and the holy Elizabeth are no higher than the simplest deaconess losing herself in the service of the poor and oppressed. The spiritual giants of Christianity, an Augustine, a Thomas of Aquinas, are no higher than the poorest of the spiritually weak children in the orphanages of Bodelschwingh who can’t learn anymore than the singing of a Christmas carol to his Savior. There is no hierarchy, no ranking of the worthy, no noble line of blood or spirit. There is only that poverty expressed by Augustine in his favorite saying of the New Testament. It is in our chapter. “What do you have which you did not receive?” And Luther, in the last word he wrote: “We are beggars for sure.” There is only that wealth given us by God. I and my life are nothing on this earth. What Christ gives me, that is worthy of love.” In the church man is nothing and God is everything. And all that man has received as natural gifts from the creator – without merit and worthiness – it all receives its significance and worth only when it is placed in the service of God.

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Can’t We all just get along – part 6

There are all kinds of books like this on the market.  I usually get nervous when they talk about “power”.  There is a tendency among us to do one of two equally damaging things – expect perfection or condone sin.  We can’t accept and be patient with the weaknesses among us.  Good thing Christ can and does.  This is Luther on 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 that talks about “leaven”.
This is Christ’s thought when he says to his disciples (Jn 15, 3), “Already ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you,” and in the same connection he declares that the branches in him must be purged that they may bring forth more fruit. And to Peter– and to others he says (Jn 13, 10), “He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.” These passages, as is also stated elsewhere, teach that a Christian by faith lays hold upon the purity of Christ, for which reason he is also regarded pure and begins to make progress in purity; for faith brings the Holy Spirit, who works in man, enabling him to withstand and to subdue sin.
 16. They are to be censured according to whose representations and views a Christian Church is to be advocated which should be in all respects without infirmity and defect, and who teach that, when perfection is not in evidence, there is no such thing as the Church of Christ nor as true Christians. Many erring spirits, especially strong pretenders to wisdom, and precocious, self-made saints, immediately become impatient at sight of any weakness in Christians who profess the Gospel faith; for their own dreams are of a Church without any imperfections, a thing impossible in this earthly life, even they themselves not being perfect.
17. Such, we must know, is the nature of Christ’s office and dominion in his Church that though he really does instantaneously, through faith, confer upon us his purity, and by the Spirit transforms our hearts, yet the work of transformation and purification is not at once completed. Daily Christ works in us and purges us, to the end that we grow in purity daily. This work he carries on in us through the agency of the Word, admonishing, reproving, correcting and strengthening; as in the case of the Corinthians through the instrumentality of Paul. Christ also uses crosses and afflictions in effecting this end.
He did not come to toil, to suffer and to die because he expected to find pure and holy people. Purity and holiness for us he has acquired in his own person to perfection, inasmuch as he was without sin and perfectly pure from the moment he became man, and this purity and holiness he communicates to us in their flawless perfection in so far our faith clings to him. But to attain personal purity of such perfection requires a daily effort on the part of Christ, until the time shall have come that he has wrought in us a flawless perfection like his own.
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Can’t We All Just Get Along – part 5

Dr. Al Colver sent me this picture.  I know not where it was taken but he asked if I was born in one like it.  As I get older young whiper snappers are sayong lots of things like that.  This is a rather modest abode but it might have been the birth place of a great and important person.  Luther says that Paul describes the Christian life as being something like this little house.  It may not look like much but God can do great things with the lowest and meanest.  It says something of how we should get along.  Fom Luthers Sermon on 2 Corinthians 6:1-10…..
1. This lesson is an admonition to the Corinthians calculated to stimulate them in the performance of the duties they already recognize. The words are easily enough said, but execution is difficult and practice rare. For Paul gives a strange description of the Christian life, and the color and characteristics with which he exhibits it render it decidedly unprepossessing. First he says:
“And working together with him we entreat also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.”
 2. He calls the Corinthians co-workers, as in First Corinthians 3, 9, where he puts it: “We are God’s fellow-workers; ye are God’s husbandry, God’s building.” That is, we labor upon you with the external Word–teaching and admonishing; but God, working inwardly through the Spirit, gives the blessing and the success. He permits not our labor with the outward Word to be in vain. Therefore, God is the true Master, performing inwardly the supreme work, while we aid outwardly, serving him through the ministry.
The apostle’s purpose in praising his co-laborers is to prevent them from despising the external Word as something inessential to them, or well enough known. For though God is able to effect everything without the instrumentality of the outward Word, working inwardly by his Spirit, this is by no means his purpose. He uses preachers as fellow-workers, or co- laborers, to accomplish his purpose through the Word when and where he pleases. Now, since preachers have the office, name and honor of fellow-workers with God, no one may be considered learned enough or holy enough to ignore or despise the most inferior preaching; especially since he knows not when the hour may come wherein God will, through preachers, perform his work in him.
3. Secondly, Paul shows the danger of neglecting the grace of God. He boldly declares here that the preaching of the Gospel is not an eternal, continuous and permanent mode of instruction, but rather a passing shower, which hastens on. What it strikes, it strikes; what it misses, it misses. It does not return, nor does it stand still. The sun and heat follow and dry it up. Experience shows that in no part of the world has the Gospel remained pure beyond the length of man’s memory. Only so long as its pioneers lived did it stand and prosper. When they were gone, the light disappeared; factious spirits and false teachers followed immediately.
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Can’t We Just Get Along – part 4

For those of you wondering why I am hammering on this theme the answer is that it is important.  We have a threefold emphasis in our church body – Witness, Mercy, and Life Together.  Our life together is suffering becaue we have two kinds of people in the church living under the umbrella of sinners forgiven for the sake of Jesus.  We have the weak and wrong headed and wandering types, and we have the bull headed, know it all, pious types that really get upset with the weak and wrongheaded and wandering.  They rant and rave and want to “trim and press” everyone to their understanding of the faith to the point where the Gospel no longer predominates.  Luther had some wonderful comments about this in his Sermon on Romans 15 and bearing with the weak.

Therefore, the Christian must on this point discriminate between the two classes mentioned. The weak should receive his kindly and patient instruction, but the roving, ranting kind are to meet with his earnest opposition. Let him teach and perform everything calculated to annoy and oppose the latter, and quietly omit whatever is pleasing to them, and let him honor their ban with a great easel-box. This is the consistent course of Christian love. It is the treatment every man desires for himself. Were any one of us misled by a weak conscience, he would desire a little time to retrieve instead of being precipitately cut off from the Church. He would like to be kindly instructed, to be borne with for a while and to be delivered from the wolves. Such is Christ’s conduct toward us, and such does he desire our conduct toward one another to be.
11. The second cause of discord Paul also removes. There is, and always will be, among Christ’s followers a class who are weak and sickly in good works, just as the first were defective in faith. We have, then, two kinds of invalid Christians–those affected inwardly, in faith and conscience; and those outwardly unsound, in works and deportment. Christ desires none of them to be rejected, but would have all received. He would give Christian love abundant opportunity to exercise itself, to heal its neighbors, to do them good and to bear with them, in matters inward and outward–in faith and conduct. The weak in conduct are they who sometimes fall into open sin; or again they who are called in German “wunderliche Koepfe und Seltsame,” people easily irritated or with other shortcomings which make it difficult to get along with them. Especially have we instances among husbands and wives, masters and servants, rulers and subjects.
  12. Now, where Paul’s Christian doctrine does not obtain, naturally each individual forgets the beam in his own eye and perceives only the mote in his neighbor’s. One will not bear with the faults of the other; each requires perfection of his fellow. Hence they reflect upon each other’s conduct. One resorts to this subterfuge, the other to that, to evade the harassing censure and displeasure of his neighbor. He who can, cuts the other’s acquaintance, drops him, and then justifies himself with the excuse that his motive was love of righteousness; that he did not want to associate with wicked persons, but desired the company of only the good and godly like himself.
  13. This evil holds sway chiefly in individuals ranking more or less high in the estimation of their fellows, who lead respectable lives and are particularly favored. These puff themselves up and put on airs. Whoever is not just like them is held in disgrace, in disparagement and contempt. Only themselves are worthy of admiration. But he who measures up to them, whose life is equally respectable-ah! he is righteous and a good friend; with him they can associate with perfect satisfaction to themselves as individuals who love only righteousness and the righteous, and hate nothing but wickedness and the wicked. They are not aware of the secret satanical pride in the inmost recesses of their hearts, which pride is the very reason they haughtily and meanly despise their neighbors for their imperfections.


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Can’t we all just get along – part three

It may be a story that changed the world but it doesn’t seem to have changed the church much.  One of our synod officials recently said that he was appalled at how much unreconciled conflict existed in our life together.  Unreconciled conflict is an inability or unwillingness to forgive as we have been forgiven.  Luther had a lot to say about this in his sermon on Matthew 18…….

This is what we have often said, that we Christians must break forth, and show by our deeds and before the people that we have the true faith. God does not need your works, he has enough in your faith. Yet he wants you to work that you may show thereby your faith to yourself and all the world. For God indeed sees faith, but you and the people do not yet see it, therefore you should devote the works of faith to the benefit of your neighbor. Thus this servant is an example and picture of all those who should serve their neighbor through faith.

24. But what does he do? Just as we who think we believe, and partly do believe, and rejoice that we have heard the Gospel and can say a great deal about it; but no one wants to follow it in his life. We have brought matters so far, that the doctrine and jugglery of the devil have been partly overthrown, and we now see what is right and what is wrong, that we must deal with God alone through faith, but with our neighbor through our works. But we cannot bring it to pass, that, as to love, one does to another as God has done to him; as we ourselves complain that some of us have become much worse than they were before.

25. As this servant will not forgive his neighbor, but seeks to collect his claim; so we also do and say: I am not in duty bound to give what is my own to another, and yield my rights. If another has offended me, he owes it to me to reconcile me and ask pardon. For thus the world teaches and acts. And here you are right, and no prince or king will compel you to give to another what is your own; but they must permit you to do what you wish with your own. The civil government only compels so far, that you may not do with another’s goods what you would, not that you must give your goods to another. This is right before the world, as reason concludes: To every one belongs his own. Therefore, he does not do wrong, who uses his goods as he will, and robs no one of his own.

26. But what says this Gospel? If God also would have acted thus and had maintained his right and said: I act in harmony with justice, when I punish the wicked and take what is my own, who will prevent me? where then would we all be? We would all go to ruin. Therefore, because he has given up his claim on thee, he desires that you too should do likewise. Therefore, also give up your right and think: If God has given me ten thousand pounds, why should I not give my neighbor a hundred shillings?

27. Thus your goods are no longer your own, but your neighbor’s. God could indeed have kept his own, for he owed you nothing. Yet he gives  himself wholly unto you, becomes your gracious Lord, is kind to you, and serves you with all his goods, and what he has is all yours; why then will you not also do likewise? Hence, if you wish to be in his kingdom you must do as he does; but if you want to remain in the kingdom of the world, you will not enter his kingdom. Therefore the sentence in Matthew 25:42, which Christ will speak on the last day belongs to those who are not Christians: “For I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink,” and so on.


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