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Archive for February, 2013

Martyria – Does Confession mean never having to say your sorry?

MartyriaWitness and Confession are really the same thing.   An “apology”, and apologizing can really be opposite things.  The Apology to the Augsburg Confession is a defense.  The confessors rather that saying they were sorry for it were defending it.  We apologize when we are sorry.  In our church body however there are certain sets of folks that never really apologize.  They may be sorry that you took something the wrong way but they are not sorry for what they said.  Some of the most hateful, sad and silly things can be said and yet never apologized for as long as we are “confessing” the faith.  Some of the most vituperative things that I have read were written by Christians who are supposedly “protecting” God’s Word.  I am all for confessing the faith but I am also for unity, mutual consolation of the brethren, and some kind of gentleness and respect.

1 Peter 3:8-15 –  Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil  and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous  and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[; do not be frightened.”[ 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

All baptized should  be prepared to make a defense (apologia) of the good hope within us  The thrust of this passage it seems to me is that “in Christ” we live in such a way that people will come to us and ask us why we are different and what is the hope that we have? They ask us because we are different.  Why do you live this way? Why think this way? Our vocations are evangelical.

If we are so odious in word and deed that we are unapproachable there is no chance for this kind of evangelism or witness either.  Of course if you care more about “Doctrine” than the people the doctrine is designed to save it doesn’t make much difference.

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Martyria – Witness and Jesus Standing at the Right Hand of God

Martyria

Mark 16:19  So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.

We speak these words  every Sunday when we recite the creed.  It is called Christ’s secession at the right hand of the Father where he rules all things for the church.  The anointed Prophet, Priest, and King fulfills these offices even today.  As Prophet He continues to proclaim the Gospel as He rules the Church as its head.  As Priest He intercedes for us and as our King He rules all things for the church as He sits at the place of power in Heaven.  All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him because of His redemption of the world through His blood.

It is our task to witness to Him in Word and deed.  Our churches emphasis on “Witness, Mercy and Life Together” brings this idea to light and we seek to honor Christ by a proper witness and confession as well as deeds of love and mercy for the neighbor.  Martyria means witness or confession and the first martyrs witnessed to Christ by their death.

Stephen was a martyr.  Because of his witness he was stoned to death and therein lies as they say, a tale.  When Stephen made his testimony and confession and witness we read this in Acts 7 – When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

There is a wonderful old book (written 2 years after I was born) called “The Theology of Evangelism” by T.A. Kantonen.  In it he says that the early church took this to nean that Jesus is so concerned about this faithful witness that in anxiety he stood up.  That is God’s glory.  That he is still concerned about His witnesses and their witness.  That is our joy and strength.

stoning stephen _Rubens_RUP060

Rubens Altarpiece on Stoning of Stephen

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The Joy of Being a Lutheran

Luther young

 

“The law says, ‘Do this,’ and it is never done.  Grace says, ‘believe in this,’ and everything is already done.”   Rev. Dr. Martin Luther. 

One of our Pastors has this on his email salutation.  After you meditate on these words a while it puts our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in proper perspective. We can do nothing. God in His mercy has done everything. All praise to God!”

There is a comfort there that means the world to burdened consciences and troubles hearts.

 

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The Internet Gives and the Internet taketh away, Blessed be ……..never mind!!

internet frustrationsGod so loved the world that He didn’t send a committee or an email.  I spend at least an hour every morning sending or responding to emails and I get really frustrated when I have a policy to answer an email within 5 hours of getting it and no one else in my circle of communication has the same policy.  If it takes you a week to get back to me – don’t bother, I have probably moved on and don’t remember why I wrote you in the first place.

I went back and reread Ecclesiastes 7 – The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.

9Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.

10Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.

Now I feel better.

We have been taking applications for the Mary Okeyo Scholarship Fund and I have received several calls from folks that have gone to various websites and tried to download applications and get information and have not had any “joy” as they say.

Here is the situation as near as I can figure.  The connection (link) to the Minnesota North website on this blog was wrong for a while but I have been told it can be fixed and I hope it has.  If not here it is http://mnndistrict.webplus.net/

On the North Dakota side a new provider was chosen and evidently there are some issues – here is what you will find on that site =

Please be patient as we get everything updated after a switch to a new hosting provider for the District Website. Please contact the webmaster if you are in need of some assistance while we fix broken links and the like. You can reach the webmaster at: webmastermarie @ gmail.com  Thank You for your continued patience!

The Project 24 website is also under construction and we hope to have that new and improved.  It should be ready soon.  Thank You for your continued patience!

So it has been a tough couple of weeks for the Internet and some of you have taken to using telephones thus exhibiting some desperation.  Since this is a blog about mercy we ask for your forgiveness as well as your patience.  The deadline for the applications is February 28.  If you can’t find one call me at 701-520-0154 or email me at bernie@polarcomm.com.

 

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The Joys of a Rural Ministry.

snow storm

There is a road out there somewhere.

Any proverbs about weather are doubly true during a storm.  That’s what Ed Nordstrum said, or maybe it was Terry Guillemets.  That’s one of the problems of the internet.  Hard to tell sometimes who said what.

It’s fun to talk about the weather and it is usually a conversation starter.  One of things that we share up here in the North Country is the fascination with weather.  Some would call it an obsession but you have to be up here for a while to get it.  We say things like “we have some weather coming”, or that was “some weather”.  It is not just a force of nature, it is a personal entity that sometimes seems to have a mind and a will all of its own.

One of the “joys” of a rural ministry is the confrontations with weather.  When Pastors get together to have meetings I love to listen and hear the stories of a hospital run at 3 in the morning in the snow.  There usually is no embellishment or explanation, just the bare facts of the story.  For those of us that have done it there is no more detail needed and for those that never have no details will be enough.  The jolt of that phone call and the next jolt from getting out of a warm bed and wander out to a cold car;  the lonesome drive in what seems to be a pillow case and being thankful and fearful that no one else is on the road at the same time.  Thankful because you don’t have to worry about running into someone and fearful because if the ditch catches you it might be nice to have some company and a tow rope.  That trail of melting snow that you leave behind as you slink down the empty hospital hallways trying not to wake up the sleeping patients, and the fog from you glasses waiting to be wiped away so that you can see where you are going.  The prayer as the warmth of the room finally begins to sink into your bones and the commendation of the dying, for that is usually what this trip at this hour means.

The surprise encounters with weather though are the ones you remember the most.  I took the above picture when I ran into a snow storm that I do not believe had been forecast.  In literally two minutes I went from great visibility to having to pull over for a few minutes becasue I couln’t see the road.  Like lightening out of a blue sky the blizzard that comes suddenly and unforcast can be interesting.  We live in a part of the world where that is still possible and it makes me think of Psalm 147:12-18

“Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!… He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes. He casts forth His ice as fragments, Who can stand before His cold? He sends forth His word and melts them. He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow.”

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The Joy of Beauty.

DSCN1389

This is one of my favorite pictures.  There is something about it that encapsulates for me some of the beauty of Africa and when I see it I can actually recall the smells and the sounds of the Mara.  It also brings to mind the words of Ecclesiastes 3 – “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  We have eternity set in our hearts.  We know when we see something beautiful, or hear a beautiful peace of music, or offer up a fervent prayer that we are meant to be here, and yet this is not all there is.  These glimpses are reminders of the perfection to come and the glory to be revealed.

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Partnerships – news from the delegation in Kenya and the LCEF

ELCK Offices at Uhuru Highway

ELCK Offices at Uhuru Highway

I related the story about my first visit to the Uhuru Highway Church in Nairobi years ago and the fact that the Pastor had a goat tied up behind his office.  I thought it was very neat that right in the middle of a metropolitan area that was very much like downtown Chicago or Minneapolis someone could have a sheep tied up in the back or his office.  It was one of those things about Kenya that I fell in love with.

Later I was invited to preach at the dedication of this church as a Cathdral.  Pastor Bakari translated and that is Bishop Obare far right.

Me preaching at Uhuru Highway

Me preaching at Uhuru Highway

Later on a trip with Bill Sharpe the LCEF Vice President from North Dakota, discussions were held about an LCEF loan to build the office building on the site of this church for the ELCK and also to rent space to others so they could receive some income.  It is a beautiful building and a wonderful sight.

As our delegation was leaving Kenya they related that the office complex at Uhuru Highway has been a great blessing.

So there we illustrate the partnerships again.  We partner with the Kenyans to build Project 24 Centers.  We partner with 1001 Orphans to support the people who live and work there.  We partner with the LCMS to administer the funds and LCEF to give the loans.  We partner with LCEF for the Big Five Giving Club, and with DCM Kenya for management.

If you live in a cave or a backwoods cabin and don’t know about LCEF check out their wedsite http://www.lcef.org/ or check out

Minnesota North – The Minnesota North District consists of 203 LCMS congregations. Contact LCEF Minnesota North District Vice President George Miller for more information about LCEF.
http://mnndistrict.webplus.net/

or

North Dakota – The North Dakota District consists of 88 LCMS congregations. Contact LCEF North Dakota District LCEF Vice President Bill Sharpe for more information about church extension.
http://nodaklcms.org

 

 

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We have a delegation in Kenya …

For some great stories on this and other stuff from Africa check out Al Colver’s great work on http://wmltblog.org/.  This is taken from yesterdays blog………………….

The newly published hymnal “Ibada Takatifu” for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK) was dedicated at the Uhuru Highway Lutheran Church in downtown Nairobi on Sunday.  Present at the service was Rev. Al Colver Director of Church Relations for our church and Rev. Randy Golter the new Director of the Office of International Missions.

The hymnal is, in some ways, modeled after the Lutheran Service Book (LSB) in style. The hymnal contains a fresh translation of Luther’s Small Catechism in Swahili (unfortunately, they could not secure rights to use the translation done by the Lutheran Heritage Foundation). At least for the ELCK, the version of the Small Catechism found in the hymnal will become the new standard for Kenya.

The picture brought back many memories for me as I was invited to preach at the dedication of Uhuru Highway church when it became the Cathedral.  That is a great honor in my life  Uhuru Highway Cathedral is right in the midst of a bustling metropolis that is Nairobi.  When I first visited the church in 2003 the Pastor had his sheep tied up behind his office.  Now the Kenyan Church Head Office occupies a large office building

Uhuru Highway churchHere is John Halake, no stranger to these pages and Deaconness Sandra Rhein, the coordinating editor of the Kenya Hymnal Project.

Halake and Rhein

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Deaconess Needed?

Phoebe

Phoebe

We read this at the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans – ” I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.”

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” wrote St. Paul to the saints in Galatia (Gal 6:2). He was calling them to bear witness to the Christ who was in them by showing mercy and compassion to those in need. Jesus taught his disciples that a lively confession of the faith must always be accompanied by a life of charity and forgiveness.

Concordia Theological Seminary was founded in 1846 by pastors in order to share the precious Gospel of Christ as biblically and historically confessed by the Lutheran Church. One of those pastors, Pastor Wilhelm Loehe of Neuendettalsau, Bavaria, Germany, was committed to the training of deaconesses for service in the church as a part of the seminary’s mission. In Germany, Loehe supported a thriving group of deaconesses devoted to providing acts of mercy and charity to those broken by sickness and sin. When the seminary began its deaconess program in the fall of 2003, it was simply continuing a tradition begun by Pastor Loehe over 150 years ago.

A deaconess is a woman who is theologically trained and dedicated to sharing the Gospel of Christ through acts of mercy and human care.  The role of deaconess finds expression in diverse settings and specializations, whether in a congregation, in an institution, or on the mission field. Serving alongside the pastor, she embodies Christ’s incarnational care in the midst of suffering.

Many years ago I met a deaconess named Jeanne Dicke.  She was working at Bethesda and gave us some training on working with folks with developmental disabilities.  A few years ago the Bethesda position went away.  I received this from her.
Two years ago my position with Bethesda was cut. Since then I have been working for a small Christian pro-life women’s ministry in the heart of a very diverse neighborhood in Minneapolis. This experience has been challenging and rewarding. It has helped me grow both spiritually and professionally. Professionally I’ve had the opportunity to share the Gospel with women from very diverse backgrounds and see how poverty impacts peoples lives. Spiritually I’m learning to pray more and be better prepared to share my faith.
I am at another transition time in my life as the ministry recently cut a rental assistance program that I worked with. This means that at the end of March my position will become part time. I’m seeing this as God’s way of directing me elsewhere.
If you know of anyone who would be interested in a deaconess with my gifts and experiences please share my resume with them. My family lives in Minnesota, but I would be willing to consider calls from neighboring states.
If you know of anyone looking for a deaconness or a person of Jeanne’s strengths give me an email blast and I will call her.
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Man Does Not Live By Bread Alone…………………

Man does not live by bread aloneTemptations always start by guestioning what the Word of God says, and then go on to make you wonder, “if God said it, did he really mean it?”  The old nature never wants to think that what it wants can be be sin.  Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted just like Adam and Eve were and He uses the Word of God as a shield and an answer.

People in churches in emerging nations are understanding the fact that they may not have a lot of bread or the stuff that we think is necessary for life but they have the Word of God and they believe in it’s authority.  They are not willing to give up that authority for the political and social notions of the day.

The International Lutheran Council was formed to bring Lutherans who still confessed the authority of the Word of God and the importance of adhering to the Lutheran Confessions into a group that could provide mutual consolation and aid in those confessions.  It was formed by churches that no longer wanted to be a part of the Lutheran World Federation because of their more liberal views on many issues.

Last week in Ghana the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, some 7 million strong, broke ties with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America over the issue of the authority of God’s Word.   Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) / ILC Chairman, wrote them this letter in part.

We, the members of the International Lutheran Council and the attendees of the African Lutheran Theological Conference held in Accra, Ghana, on 12 – 15 February 2013, heard the report of the EECMY to sever fellowship with both the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) over the issue of same-sex marriage and the ordination of practicing homosexuals into the pastoral ministry. We want to commend and thank you for taking a stand on the Word of God. In fact, we praise the Lord that he has brought this good work to fruition in the life of your church. Your conscience bound view that the Scripture Alone is the only source of authority in deciding this matter is the view shared by the members of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). We pray that the courage you displayed in standing upon the Word of God will spread to other churches in Africa as they struggle on how to approach historic partners who have departed from the Word of God.

These people didn’t break with the temptation to go along to get along and not loose support from folks around the world.  They stood up against that temptation because they took a “stand on the Word of God”.  The Word of God is Jesus.  He did what they cannot do and what we cannot do.  He underwent the temptations of the “old evil foe” and defeated him for us and our salvation.  Now we stand on that Word and on the Word in which He feeds us, leads us and guides us and “brings good works to fruition in the life” of His Church.

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