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Archive for May, 2013

Witness and Mercy and Governments.

Cartoon lawless Gov

I think I finally figured out why we are in the mess we are.  Why are we confused about the government and its role in our life?  What are we to do as Christians when Government becomes basically lawless?  The President is bound by Law to produce a budget and he didn’t for four years.  There are laws against illegal immigration and they have not been and are not being enforced.  There was an article the other day that said that hundreds of thousands of Federal workers are not paying income tax.  I think I will try that this year and see what happens. IRS leaders have clearly crossed the line.  Department of Justice leaders have clearly crossed the line.  Most Christians believe that abortion is legalised murder and the list goes on.  There is no way to look at the health care law without looking at the 7th commandment. So what are we to do?  Should we insist on the government running on the 10 Commandments?  We have tried that.   This is from Hermann Sasse –

That final and ultimate proof that Protestant modernism is the end result of Christian legalism is clearly demonstrated in its confusion of the Law and the Gospel.  If Jesus Christ is to be understood basically as a teacher and giver of the Law, then there is no need for the old church dogma about his person and work.  Such a moralistic view of Christianity no longer requires a definition of the Gospel which depends on Christ’s redemptive death and resurrection.  With this kind of understanding, the church is nothing more than a one huge, immense reformatory school.   Her claim to existence would depend on the principles of morality she promotes and the ethical behavior which they produce.  If it seems that Christianity does not live up to the expectations of these moral principles, then all the evidence is in place for doing away with Christianity.  We would fair better to look around for another reformatory school other than the church to accomplish what we want.  Every attempt which history has undertaken up until this time to actualize the rule of God or Christ in the world by obtaining recognition of divine Law or the Law of Christ [lex Christi] has ended up in tragedy for the church.
What do we do?  As Matt Harrison loves to say, “we confess our way through it”.

 

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The Mary Okeyo Travelers – Stephanie Dilger

dilger

My name is Stephanie Dilger. I live in Mandan, North Dakota. A member at Messiah Lutheran Church in Mandan. I am a live-in care giver for my sister, Kristi. I am the younger if two daughters of Roger and Joann Dilger. I have two spoiled cats. I enjoy singing in our church choir. I like to scrapbook. I have also taken a pilgrimage trip to Israel.

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The Mary Okeyo Travelers – Nichole

 

 

 

 

 

nicholle anderson

My name is Nichole Anderson and I am 22 years old
*I am from Appleton, MN where I graduated from Lac qui Parle Valley High School in 2009
*Trinity Lutheran Church in Appleton is my home church
*My parents are Wes and Karen Anderson, and I have a brother, Nathan, who is 20
*Attend school at Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD where I will graduate in December 2013 with a degree in K-12 Vocal & Instrumental Music Education
*The NSU Marching Wolves marched in the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington D.C. this past January
*I teach math labs at NSU and also work in the President/Vice President/Academic Affairs office
*I am traveling to China in May to perform with my college’s music department
*My family owns WD Tours, a travel company. My favorite destinations include: Hawaii, Alaska, New York City,
Washington D.C., and the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena California (I have helped decorate a float for this parade working with Lutheran Hour Ministries).

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Mercy and the LWML – can you help?

Hope village

 

Hope Village Volunteer Packet

As an LWML District, we are planning to a have a special Servant Event to  help give more flood disaster relief to our Minot friends and  neighbors.  We are looking at the date of August 9-11.  Chantel Zeller,  VP of Human Care, has been diligently working to set this up with the  manager at Hope Village in Minot.  Please read her message carefully and fill out the attached forms and send  hem back to her asap, noticing the deadline of June 8.   We currently have 7 people committed, but would certainly like to see  that number grow to at least 20…please pray about this wonderful  opportunity.  We encourage spouses to attend with you…two or three of  our 7 are spouses as of now.  Please contact Chantel soon that you can attend!!

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In Memorium

Memorial-Day

The roots of memorial day run deep and the need to remember gets greater even as the number of those that remember decline.  Younger generations don’t seem much interested in things like Memorial day or even family reunions for that matter.

Found this little piece written by Craig Watts

With pounding insistence the call to remember is repeated throughout scripture. Remember that God called your father Abraham in his old age and promised him many children. Remember that you were in bondage in a foreign land and were freed by divine power. Remember that God brought Israel to greatness, though she was weak. Remember the commands of the Lord. The Psalmist summed up the message well when he wrote: “Remember the wonderful works that God has done, God’s great deed, and the judgments the Lord utter, O offspring of Abraham God’s servant.” (105:5)

Those who forgot the past fell into thanklessness. It is unlikely that we will do any better. If we forget the value of our heritage and the source of our blessings, it will become very easy for us to take for granted all that we have and all that we are. It will be very easy for us to begin believing that we can make our own way without God. With the blindness of pride we will very likely begin trusting in our own wisdom and power rather than relying upon the guidance and might of our Maker. Then in our wrong-headed self-confidence we will lose our way. For this reason it is crucial that we remember.

With Memorial Day upon us it is proper to think of the past and of those who have gone from this world. But for those of us who are Christians, this is not exclusively an exercise in looking behind and dwelling upon what has been. For we believe that more wondrous things are yet to come for those people of faith who have already died. We live in light of the resurrection and we believe that death will not be the end.
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Mercy and St. John’s Moore, Oklahoma.

st Johns oklahomaThis is the banner picture for the website for St. John’s Lutheran Church, Moore Oklahoma.  On the site I found this –

Our church building is in tact, as is our school. Our school children were in designated tornado “safe rooms” during the storm. Our staff and children were safe during the storm, however some families found their homes were extensively damaged.

We do have members of our congregation and school who have had extensive damage. We have appreciated all offers of help and prayer this week as we assess needs and match donations with immediate needs.

 I understand that they are becoming something of a shelter and I am sure the LCMS Mercy arm will be in touch.  This from our President –
You can help support your Synod’s disaster response relief effort by contributing today to LCMS Disaster Response. The Rev. John Fale, associate executive director of the LCMS’ Mercy Operations Group, said, “The needs are going to be huge. We don’t know yet the extent of what they will be, but, by the grace of God, we will be there to respond with the love and mercy of Christ to help those affected by the tornado to regain some sense of normality.”When the 6,200 congregations of the Synod respond, together we make an enormous difference by bringing our resources to bear where people are hurting. (Download a letter of encouragement I’ve written for our LCMS members and congregations here.)Now is the time to help. Support those in need by:

  • Making a donation online at http://www.lcms.org/give/disaster.
  • Mailing checks payable to “The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod” (with a memo line or note designating “LCMS Disaster Relief”) to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
  • Calling toll-free 888-930-4438 (8:10 a.m. – 4:10 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday).
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Mercy and legalism and our mercy travelers.

gnesio lutheran
It never ends.  The constant fight between works and faith is never ending either in our internal conversation or the observation of the world around us.  Is our outward face reveling an inner faith?  For Christians it would seem to be enough that Romans was written and Paul’s contention that the just live by faith and Christ removed the curse of the law.  If Christ came to free us from the Law why do we constantly attempt to put ourselves back under it and force others to do the same?
Our Mary Okeyo travelers are going to a place where the Missionaries said, “If you smoke or drink you will go to hell”.  If we do this and that we will go to hell.  Christ the new law giver might have punished them with AIDs as well.  Christian legalism is alive and well around the world and in our church too.  The fact that it never works is usually not mentioned.  We have never gotten past the question parents have to struggle with – would I rather have a child that outwardly looks good and inside is a pile of corruption, or a child that makes me crazy with disobedience but inwardly is a caring and loving person struggling with the reality of life, that the good I want to do I don’t always do?  Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is sin too according to our faith but…..We have a historical record to look at if we will.  It tells us that when we try to run the world by what we believe is the Christian “rule” we cause more problems.  I have to judge the missionaries success by what I see.  They taught folks that if they drank and smoke they would go to hell and I know they taught this because the people that told me the story were drinking and smoking.  No wonder Paul determined to know nothing among his hearers but Christ and him crucified.
“That final and ultimate proof that Protestant modernism is the end result of Christian legalism is clearly demonstrated in its confusion of the Law and the Gospel.  If Jesus Christ is to be understood basically as a teacher and giver of the Law, then there is no need for the old church dogma about his person and work.  Such a moralistic view of Christianity no longer requires a definition of the Gospel which depends on Christ’s redemptive death and resurrection.  With this kind of understanding, the church is nothing more than a one huge, immense reformatory school.   Her claim to existence would depend on the principles of morality she promotes and the ethical behavior which they produce.  If it seems that Christianity does not live up to the expectations of these moral principles, then all the evidence is in place for doing away with Christianity.  We would fair better to look around for another reformatory school other than the church to accomplish what we want.  Every attempt which history has undertaken up until this time to actualize the rule of God or Christ in the world by obtaining recognition of divine Law or the Law of Christ [lex Christi] has ended up in tragedy for the church.” – Hermann Sasse
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Mercy and the Angels.

crystal 2

It is interesting the things that go through your mind driving around looking at the water and trying to hook people up with their Pastors.  The folks from Cavalier were all evacuated and nursing home residents were transferred to our hospital and nursing home and I have been trying to get them in contact with each other.  On my way to visit the Red Cross shelter I came upon this little scene.  Now obviously the  driver was in four wheel drive.  He was in control of his speed and he thought he was in control of his direction, but if you notice the pickup simply slides off almost into the ditch and all the control that the driver thought he had was used against him by the road and the mud and the vehicle he thought he was controlling.

There is a metaphor for life in there somewhere.  We always think we are in control but we really aren’t.  Anyone who has ever been woken up in the middle of the night and told they have five minutes to pack a bag and get out knows what I mean.  Luther is fun to read on topics like this.  There are hints that he was much more in touch with the “battle going on all around us” than we are.  One of the great little hints was going through my mind along with Cowper’s Hymn was the line from the morning prayer, “let your Holy Angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me”.  He preached a Michealmas Sermon in 1530 where he tied angels and demons into the Two Kingdom doctrine in such a way that our everyday life is viewed as a battle ground that we serenely walk through never realizing the stuff going on around us.  I found an article by John Stephenson in “Lutheran Theological Review, Number 9.  Here is a comment about the fact that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour and God has his angels protect us what that meant to Luther and to us at times like these.

“Our post-modernist world can relate to Luther’s proclamation “that we do not sit in a safe garden”.  His drastic pulpit imagery rests on a proof text long familiar to him from the office of Compline, I Pet. 5:8. A whole paragraph is devoted to unpacking this verse spoken “not by a drunkard or a joker, but in great and mighty earnest”………

The author then goes on to comment on our fascination with angels as noted in jewelry and statutes and books –

“His (Luther’s) comments on the closing chapters of Daniel attest his view that under the hand of God superhuman powers of good and ill are at work shaping the fate of humankind. This opinion cannot be dismissed as unbiblical mediaevalism. And both Luther’s demonology and his angelology speak powerfully to our post-modernist world that in the last decade of the second millennium has developed an ambivalent fascination with angels. Weak man may not in fact be an independent rider capable of choosing his own course, (we can’t even control our pickups)  but rather a lowly beast ridden either by God or by the Devil. Beings touted as angels may turn out to be devils disguised as agents of light. Moreover, angels may not be accessible through the yellow pages, but may rather be servants of the crucified, risen, and ascended God-Man assigned to guard those who belong to Him. Indeed, our epoch of resurgent paganism may yet find much needed wisdom in the Reformer’s charming, naïve, and deeply believing Michaelmas sermon of 1530.”

 

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All of a piece…..

oklahomaI came part of the way home from Spring Valley on Sunday afternoon.  The entire trip was through extremely heavy rain.  Sometimes I had to pull over and stop because I couldn’t see.  In those rain storms I listened to the developing tragedy in Oklahoma and was constantly reminded that it was the same weather system that was bringing rain on me, that was bringing the tornadoes to Oklahoma.

When I got home the next day I found out that the little town of Crystal where St. John’s church is located was being flooded and a great deal of water was coming in from the North, also part of this storm system.  When I went to Crystal I was informed that a dam several miles to the North was a concern and that the entire town of Cavalier might be evacuated.

crystal 1

A Potato Shed at Crystal

About that same time I received calls worrying about the folks at Cavalier and if they were doing OK.  It is amazing how folks respond in these situations as we are seeing in Oklahoma.  The town was evacuated and a shelter was set up in the town of Drayton where Trinity Lutheran Church is located and several of our members offered to put up folks if needed.  So far there are not many people in the shelter which is normal.  Estimates are that about ten percent of those that are evacuated will be in a shelter and that seems to be a case in Oklahoma too.

crystal 3Farm implements

The weather system that brought the tornado brought the rain.  There are Bible verses about that.

A man by the name of Rob Morris from Moore Oklahoma, and an editor of the Moore Monthly Magazine spoke on a local radio station in Minneapolis the other day and gave a wonderful witness to God in the tragedy.  He said that God is always in control especially when things seem to be the worst.  He said that even in the worst of times, a time will come when God’s mercy and grace will come shining through.  It was a wonderful testimony and gave voice to what we have always called the theology of the cross.

Cowpers old hymn has been rattling around in my brain this morning.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds ye so much dread Are big with mercy and shall break In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour; The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err And scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.

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Speaking Jesus – The 75th Anniversary of First English Lutheran – Spring Valley MN

first english

I was honored to be invited to preach at the 75th anniversary of First English Lutheran in Spring Valley Minnesota on Pentecost Sunday.  There is an interesting parallel between my congregation – Zion English in Grafton and First English in Spring Valley.   The sense that I get from talking to the “old timers” is that the impression in their communities was that these churches were the “German” churches, which they were, and that no one else was welcome, which I can’t believe was true.  An easy solution seemed to be to throw “English” into the name.  At that time in Spring Valley and surrounding communities they were preaching in German and Norwegian and evidently there were no English speaking churches of the Lutheran Confession.

Whatever, the church is lovely and the people were delightful.  Pastor Lowell Wessel was gracious and kind and my hosts were marvelous.  I have been sworn to secrecy as to who hosted me and where I stayed so let me just say it was a great experience to recount the blessings of God for their 75 years of Witness, Mercy, and Life Together.  One sad note was that the day before the celebration the churches Secretary of 25 years passed away.  Here is the sermon I preached.  It is based upon Genesis 11 and Acts 2.

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. God spoke and the Word was - Jesus. When God spoke He spoke Jesus and the world was created.

You know that sin entered the world and the Creator God who spoke, spoke Jesus.  He spoke to Adam and Eve and He spoke to the serpent, the old evil foe " I will put enmity between you and the woman and between her seed and yours".   God speaks Jesus who would crush the serpents head.
The God who speaks creates a world that speaks. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork. Day after days utters speech and night after night shouts knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” If the universe speaks of God's glory so should I. So should you.  That is why right in the middle of Psalm 19  David says, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord”.
God created us to speak to him, of him, and for him. We are to speak his glory too. The problem with sin is that we are turned in on ourselves and so we have a constant conversation with ourselves.  Every one of us in this church today apart from Christ is like the Pharisee who Jesus said,  "talked to himself".  He prayed to himself saying, “God, I thank you that I'm not like other people, especially not like that tax collector” - the poor man cowering in the back of the church who said “God be merciful to me a sinner”.
The problem with sin is that if it is not a conversation we have with ourselves to ourselves, it is a conversation between sinful people who don't speak Jesus to one another, but speak about themselves to each other. Here is what God said, "And they settled on the plains of Shinar and they said to one another, 'let us make for ourselves towers that will reach to the heavens'.” And so God came down and confused their speech so that they couldn't speak to each other anymore, couldn't talk to each other anymore and if they could they couldn't understand.

On Pentecost God sent the Holy Spirit and reversed all that and everyone could hear the Apostle’s speaking in their own languages and they were speaking Jesus.  “We hear them speaking the wonderful works of God”, and those works of God are Jesus.  Jesus, who died for the sins of the whole world and for that reason God has made him Lord and Christ. They spoke Jesus who became a broken bloody sacrifice on a cross to free people from their constant conversation about and to themselves. 
The church hasn't stopped speaking since.  Your mother church was probably founded by one of the Pfotenhauer brothers or someone that they sent. Friedrich Pfotenhauer who became the president of the LCMS is famous for calling for Jesus to be spoken to the wild lands from Minnesota to the Dakotas to Montana and Saskatchewan and Manitoba. But what's interesting about that call was he specifically called for the speaking to be to scattered "Germans".
Your church here had its beginnings with the West End missionary Guild. Women who wanted to speak Jesus in Word and deed.  They wanted to be witnesses to Christ.  Witnesses speak Jesus. They cannot help but speak of the things that they have seen and heard. And they confess. That means they speak back to God what God has spoken to them. They confess that without Jesus our best efforts would all be Babel. Even building a church would become a conversation among us or a conversation about each other to each other.  “Let us build a church with a tower reaching to the heavens, and let us build this and that”. That is a temptation to be resisted and the only way I can be resisted is by speaking Jesus. Many a congregation has forgotten that once the church becomes about me or you or the pastor or the LWML or the LLL or the quilting guild or the kitchen or basement or cemetery, it becomes babble, the confusion of individuals all speaking different languages about themselves and what they want and what they need and the only remedy for the babbling confusion is to speak Jesus. 

Those women pioneers of the missionary guild got it. They wanted to do mission even though you're records hint that most of the men were busy having a conversation among themselves. The idea of a mission was met with "disapproval". I've seen that is churches too.  Mission, witnessing or reaching out to others is met with "disapproval" because the church is about us.  But the women persevered and became witnesses and your congregation grew and became witnesses.  Why? Because you called pastors who spoke Jesus who was and is mercy in the flesh.

Think of this – Because of the Holy Spirit who calls and gathers and enlightens us and creates the church, every Sunday is Pentecost and every Sunday the Spirit speaks Jesus.

In your baptism God spoke and washed you clean in the water. God spoke at Jesus' baptism and stuck him in the water so that when you were baptized you could bring Him out with you.  In your baptism you received a merciful washing so that you could live a merciful life.

In absolution your Pastor speaks you free so that you can go out and speak Jesus to your neighbors and speak them free too.

In the Lord's Supper you get Christ whole and entire. He speaks to you of his entire work for you, His suffering and death and resurrection and all the blessings applied to you and given through His body and blood so that you can give yourself whole and entire to your neighbors. Notice how all the speaking from our baptism forward turns from ourselves to our neighbors?
The life of Mercy is one where words become deeds and deeds become words. And that happens you know.  It happens when cliques and factions form in congregations and people are fighting in the church.  It happens when congregations don't get along with one another. Those deeds become words that speak volumes about who we are and what we are and what kind of speaking we are “doing” to one another and we're certainly not speaking Jesus.

Deeds can speak like words that speak Jesus too. When members of this church hauled rock from the quarry to the North to use in the construction, the community heard you speaking Jesus. I don't think they believed you were building a tower to reach up to heaven but you were building a church where you could speak Jesus. That act gave you a chance to tell them to look to the rock from which they were cut and the quarry from which they were dug and to look to Jesus the author and perfect of faith.

Words can be deeds and deeds can be words. When the church decided to help a homeless family in Germany after the war, you spoke volumes and you said “we're looking to do Mercy because we have been shown mercy” and that speaks volumes.
So you hopefully have been listening to the words that I've been speaking and if you have you realize we have witness, we have mercy, and that brings us to a life together. The three emphases of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod come together on this anniversary.  You have had a life together for 75 years because of Jesus. Without him you would live in a babble of individual desires and wants and supposed needs. When you speak Jesus, His life is ours and our sin is his.
I've been told that the stained-glass windows in this Church were designed by Richard Caemmerer Junior. His Father trained an entire generation of Lutheran pastors. He trained them how to speak Jesus. His son’s stained-glass windows grace your church depicting the life of Christ.  Why would they do that?   Because when they speak to you they speak of the life of Christ and that life is now your life and that life that He lives in you gives you a life together.
Martin Luther said that God does not give us his Gospel in dead books, but in a living voice. The voice of Jesus, the living voice of the gospel proclaimed, still needs to be heard. If you don't believe me remember that Jesus healed a deaf man who couldn't hear a word He was saying, by speaking!   He raised the dead and healed the lame and halt and blind by speaking.   He reversed babble and the confusion of our lives and our words are made simple - speak Jesus. I think you have been busy doing that. Your servants in Christ; your faithful pastors have been doing that. And to what end?  So that all of you will hear the voice of the good Shepherd and follow him, and that you will witness to others and try to bring them into the sheepfold with you.
You lost one of your own yesterday. She heard the voice of Jesus in her baptism. She was spoken free in absolution. She heard Jesus invite her to the feast of his body and blood. Yesterday she heard the voice of Jesus calling; calling her to life everlasting. I didn't know her.  I know nothing about her. I don't have to.  She was nurtured in this church and here she heard Jesus because you have spoken Jesus. Your pastors have spoken Jesus.   The Holy Spirit was busy speaking Jesus and you did your job.

Amen.

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