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Archive for September, 2015

Of Mission fests and Bill Boards

photo (35)I had the opportunity and the great pleasure to speak at the Minnesota North LLL convention held at St. John’s Lutheran Church outside of Perham and to preach at the mission fest at Trinity at New York Mills.  It was a great week end and a fun time but as I was reconnoitering the area to make sure that I could be where I was supposed to be on time I saw this sign on Highway 10 and almost drove off the road.

I am sure that Sanford Health doesn’t went people driving off the road because of their bill boards but I had to turn around and go back and check this out.  I knew this person and still see her occasionally like at Christmas.  But a bill board is a whole different thing.

Selfies are a way that we try and get noticed.  The selfie craze has reached strange proportions but here is something different.  An advertisement for a major company using the image of one of their employees.  You might be able to see the name of this person on the picture but she hasn’t given me permission to use her name so….. If you know who she is hash tag her or tag her or whatever it is that you do these days.  I think this is pretty neat.

 

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Unreasonable Demands

photo (34)This sign got me to thinking, which is sometimes a dangerous thing.  Thinking is hard work.  Thinking makes us ask questions and look for responses that are reasonable.  Sometimes thinking makes us seem unreasonable.  It makes us ask what some call unreasonable questions.

Why this sign in this place?  The road did not seem anymore dangerous or difficult at this spot.  There was no more of a visibility issue at this spot than anywhere else as far as I could tell.  Why not 10 MPH?  12?  15?  What capricious will set this arbitrary limit?

There is a lot of unreasonableness out there.  The answers to my question seem to be in a philosophical sense, unanswerable.  Someone set this speed limit, at this place, at this speed because they could.  It is like the answer that my parents gave when I asked the reason for some rule that they had laid down.  Why? was always answered with, “because I said so”.

One of the universal issues that arise in questions of faith is the whys that we ask God.  Why did you do this, allow that, permit this. prohibit that?  The questions come back to the sinful mind as my parents answer, “because I wanted to”.   “Do what I say because I said so”.  It is not until the miracle of faith occurs that we can say with Peter, “because you say so”, and do it.

From Luke 5 -Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

 

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Getting Off the Train

crowded train

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, once said it something like this. If you board the wrong train that’s heading in the wrong direction it does you no good to run down the corridor of the train in the opposite direction.   At some point you’ve got to get off the train and start walking in the right direction.

The message of Jesus at the beginning of His ministry was “repent, the Kingdom of God is here”.  Repent means to turn or to get off the train and walk in the right direction.  Luther said that when Jesus said to repent he meant that our entire life is to be one of repentance.

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Confession and Salvation

Turk

I have been doing some research on Luther and the Reformation and the Rise of Islam.  I have been rather disparaging about our societies lack of knowledge about history and culture in general, and about religion in particular.  I am finding that Luther himself and the Reformers had to scramble to learn about the Islamic belief system because there was a general ignorance about Mohammed and the Ottoman Turks.  ” Many strange ideas about Muhammad circulated including the belief that he became a cardinal in the Catholic Church, then lost a papal election, and as a result sought revenge on Christianity. Another legend was that he was a magician who destroyed the Eastern Church.”  Adam Francisco writes that “the image of Islam throughout most of western Europe prior to and during the crusading period was severely distorted if not completely fictitious.”   Things hadn’t changed by Luther’s time and to his credit he pushed hard to get a copy of the Quran and have it translated into German so people could read it for themselves.

He has an interesting take here…………

” (The Turk)..Lays waste to the Christian faith and our dear Lord Jesus Christ. For although some praise the Turk’s government because he allows everyone to believe what he will so long as he remains the temporal lord, yet this reputation is not true, for he does not allow Christians to come together in public, and no one can openly confess Christ or preach or teach against Mohammed. What kind of freedom of belief is it when no one is allowed to preach or confess Christ, and yet our salvation depends on that confession? (LW 46:175)

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Reality Check 3

rescue centerI suppose some might say that I am Pope bashing.  I really do not intend to do that.  However there was a good question asked on one of the news channels this morning and that was “why doesn’t he talk about Jesus?”  I guess at the heart of my questions that is the big question .  Governments, political parties, politicians who take the words of Jesus and institutionalize and politicize them do more harm than good.  The visit of the Pope is trying to un – politicize mercy according to some.  Still others say that his visit is a flogging of the power structures.  The problem to my mind is that what passes for charity today always has strings and that many institutionalized forms of mercy are never meant to get people out of poverty, but to keep them there  more comfortably.  The United States has fought a war on poverty for one half of a century and there are more people in poverty in America than ever before.  Does anyone ever notice that every political season is a call to spend more on the poor and between campaigns more and more organizations rise up to do what the Government is failing to do even though it supposedly spends billions doing it.

Every campaign season we are called upon to spend more on education and yet the radio waves are flooded with the call for volunteers to teach children to read.

Every campaign season we are called to spend more on Veterans and yet the TV adds call for more and more donations for the wounded warriors and if what I read is correct 31000 veterans died waiting for appointments to a Dr.

My point is that private organizations rise up to fill in the gaps of what Government is not doing even though the government takes your money to do the things that they promised to do.  Governments pushed the churches out of the positions that were uniquely qualified to do and that was to take care of the local needs of the poor.

Case in point  – this from Trinity Lutheran church in Drayton who has actually served at a homeless shelter and engaged in many charitable projects and just recently hosted a blood drive.  Former LWML National President Kaye Kreklau has become the blood drive contact person.

Trinity Members,

Matthew 25:37-40

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and
feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and
welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and
visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to
one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Our LWML is giving all the members of Trinity an opportunity to heed the call of
Jesus to help the homeless in our area. We are collecting money and will in turn
purchase items for Northland Rescue Mission in Grand Forks.   They are in need of
many things this fall including new sheets and pillows, washcloths, men’s and
women’s underwear, cold medication, etc.

If you can financially help out with this project, please contact me, no later than
this Sunday, Sept 27th.

Thanks and God Bless you,
Cheryl Gjevre

Thanks Cheryl for mentioning Jesus.

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Realty check part 2

lawn mowerYesterday I talked about how we have difficulty when the ruling classes in whatever realm we are dealing define reality for us.  Case in point – a monsignor commenting on the Popes concern for the poor and needy and the immigrant said, “I tell my people all the time to pray for those who mow their lawns”.

I would like to tell the monsignor that I mow my own lawn, but somehow I don’t think he really cares.  The point is he lives in a world where most of his parishioners have “staff”.  He can afford to be condescending.

Peter Drucker said that a leader’s job is to define reality.  The leaders around us seek to do that by telling us what they want us to hear and keeping silent about other things.  They will flood us with information and entertainment but the fact channels are closed most of the time.  An interesting thing happened yesterday just as the Pope’s plane landed.  News was released that Osama Bin Laden’s  former body guard who was being held at Guantanamo had been released, and that Clinton had turned against the Keystone pipeline.  This was backed up by several sources, and the timing was obvious; all the hoopla about the Pope would drown out any coverage of these stories.  One would like to think that kind of cynicism is not going to work but we prove daily that our attention span can be measured in nanoseconds.

In the meantime some of the Republican candidates have contacted some “hunk” that dominated the twitter universe after one of the debates because he was good looking, and asked him to come and be a part of their campaigns. One would like to think that kind of shallowness would not be taken seriously by leaders in the free world but….

So where are we exactly?  Popes and politicians have talked about the poor as long as I have been alive.  The poor and needy are still here and still growing.  Prosperity is still for a few it seems.  Religion and faith are placed in the realm of entertainment.  Ecology is a religion that is taken over every aspect of our life and Pilates words are as interesting today as they were when they were so cynically uttered; “What is truth?”.

Luther had a pretty good view of life in my opinion.  He was a political figure and a religious figure but he always pointed to something greater than himself.  He understood that politics and religion were good gifts of God corrupted by sin and that even in religion one can only be saved “through faith”.  He said that “Jesus is the way and the truth and the life.  It follows then that anything that is not Jesus is not the way; anything that is not Jesus is not the truth; and anything that is not Jesus is not the life”.

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Reality Check

royaltyThere is a strange statement in 1 Samuel 15:23 – “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft”.  Israel wanted a king like the nations around them and God wanted them to understand that He was their King.  Once Kings were established they were the conduit to God.  The “divine right” of Kings was a rather large historical deal back in the day.  As the church developed there was a separation between Kings and the church.  One controlled the secular worldly sphere and the other the spiritual sphere.  It doesn’t always work well because human beings can’t be divided up like that.

The figment that is the separation of church and state as it exists today for some, is based on the states desire to control what is real and what isn’t.  The coming of the Pope to America shows, if we pay attention, that the political realm is determined to define reality.  Early this morning I heard the pundits in the press talk about the Popes speech on the environment as “social doctrine”.  Nothing more and Nothing less.  I wish someone would explain to me what that even means.  Social doctrine as opposed to what?  Unsocial doctrine?

Interestingly as we look we see the trapping of royalty all over the place.  The presidents and kings and politicians want the trapping of royalty and so does the Pope.  Well maybe he doesn’t want it as some of the pundits say.  He has done away with the expensive cars and the “shoes of the fisherman”.  He wants to be one of “us”.  Ok great.  The point is that the trappings of the Pope have for years been that of royalty.  Why?

Peter Levenda a conspiracy buff if there ever was one wrote these words, “The word “real” and the word “royal” are inextricably linked. Indeed, in some languages the word for “real” and the word for “royal” is the same, such as Spanish “real” . Reality is, in this view, linked with Royalty; what is real is what is part of the kingdom, the “real estate.” What is outside the kingdom is, therefore, outside of reality. It is not “royal,” hence it is not “real.”  Reality is a shape- shifter, dependent as much on political decisions as it is on scientific observations. And these decisions and observations are usually not the prerogative of the individual citizen. An essential part— a fundamental part— of the social contract, and imposed from the top down, is a general agreement as to what constitutes reality. To deviate from that agreement is to deviate from society— the kingdom, the real estate, the state religion— itself. It is to become, in a sense, a Satanist, a worshipper of an adversary; or a witch, a worshipper of an unapproved God.”

When Pilate asked Jesus if he was a King, Jesus said. “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” John 18  Jesus came to bring the truth.  Jesus came to define reality.  The reality is that Jesus came to save sinners.  Pilate the representative of the “king” expressed his truth, and that is that truth is malleable and shape shifting and expedient.

The reason a free press is important in a secular society is to help us define reality rather than to let the political class do it all alone.  Unfortunately the press is now a part of the “real estate”.  The press has become an extension of the ruling class.  Watch carefully as the press and the politicians will desperately try and define the reality of what the Pope says or doesn’t say.  The vice President will define the Popes words as they apply to say, climate change, as important and cautionary.  He will say that the Popes words on life and the concept that maybe selling dead baby parts to the highest bidder might not be a good idea as “social doctrine”.  It is the old bait and switch of American politics.  The ruling classes will not talk about their personal religious convictions when it comes to abortion because they don’t want to impose them on the rest of us.  Yet they will impose their personal convictions on us on everything else from climate change to gun rights, to what you can do with your own money, to what kind of toilet paper you will be allowed to buy.

I have heard many people utter the words “unreal” when they are describing what is going on in the world today.  Sadly it is all too “real”.  The unreality is felt when the ruling classes try and explain it.

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Worship at Wausau

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 went to church at Christ Lutheran in Wausau yesterday and enjoyed it
very much.  Met Denny Johnson who is with LCEF and we had a good visit. 
For those of you that may have been living in a cave, LCEF, Lutheran
Church Extension Fund is a way to save money and get a fair return and
give churches a place to get money at a fair rate as well.  Talk to Bill
Sharpe in North Dakota and George Miller in Minnesota North for more information.

Pastor David Wetmore had a great sermon on Spiritual warfare.  It made me
think about the word "reasonable".  Paul asks to be delivered from wicked
and evil men in his second letter to the Thessalonians.  The word
translated as "wicked" really means 'unreasonable".  They are out of
place, improper and warped.  Interestingly the opposite is applied to
Jesus as he hung on the cross.  The thief hanging there tells the other
thief that they are getting what they deserve, but of Jesus he says, "this
man has done nothing "unreasonable", out of line or improper.

The devil is unreasonable.  His reasoning is warped and out of place.  God is
unreasonable in his eyes because of His condescending love. 

What does it mean to be reasonable?  It means that you can yield and see
others viewpoints and be entreated. it is the opposite of self interested.
More on this later.

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Preaching….

pulpit pulpit 1Whether we hide behind the top one, or crawl up into the bottom one, preachers have a funny tendency when they open their mouths in the pulpit to preach what they call “the Gospel”.  Try this experiment with me in the next few weeks as you listen, (if you do) to preaching.  Tell me, if you dare, does not the preacher that you are listening to try in ways subtle or crass to smooth over or take away the absolute scandalous nature of the Gospel?  What is the Gospel?  The good news of how God in Christ “justifies” the sinner; makes right the ungodly; forgives the unforgivable.  Listen carefully how we preachers, if left to our own devices will try and turn the sinner into a seeker; the ungodly into the misunderstood; the unforgiveable into a decider for Jesus.  Listen carefully and the preacher, left to his own devices, we will make the sinner the chief actor in the sermon and the sinners heart or mind or sadness the reason for Jesus interest.

Luther understood our issue as preachers.  He said of the preaching office, “It seems so frail over against the fury of the world, since the persons administering the office are fugitives,that is, feeble and insignificant people.”  We are sinners too, and we spend our lives trying to justify ourselves before God and our neighbor.  We desperately need to hear the promise too.  It needs to come to our ears and into our hearts and then out of our mouths.  Christ came to save sinners, to seek and to save the lost.  No conditions, no if’s and’s or but’s.  It is the speaking of God’s act that accomplishes the deed.  The preachers task is to convey words that God uses to kill and make alive.  The old man dies and a new person arise in Christ.  The first death should be the preacher.

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The Old Lutherans …….

 

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I was able to do one of the things I enjoy doing and that is to get on a strange road and drive and see what’s out there. Between Wausau and Merrill Wisconsin and a little bit to the west is a spot called Berlin. it is not a town and it’s not a village but it is a historical site and a fascinating place to visit. It marks one
of the places where Lutherans, a part of the great Lutheran migration landed when they came to Wisconsin. In this particular spot it was Lutherans from Pomerania.  They call them old Germans, and they came to America out of the desire to not be forced to become part of the Union Church. Rather than worship with the Reformed, they would rather sell their possessions and move to America. Writers who studies such things were always a little bit surprised by the activity of these churches.  Among them it was said that each family owned their own set of Luthers works, and all were familiar with theological questions. They took their doctrines of church and ministry seriously. They took their belief in the confessions of the church seriously.  As one writer said about a particular community of  Germans, that
“it is not strange then that there are six churches there with three pastors, of whom one is independent, another belongs to the Iowa Synod, and another to the Missouri Synod.”  – Kate Everest, “Early Lutheran Immigration to Wisconsin”.
In a world in which doctrine is not considered important these old Lutherans seem strange. In a world in which it is more important to get along, their ability to discuss doctrine, and why it was important, is either weird, or refreshing depending upon your point of view.  They’re holding on to that Old Testament verse, that  all flesh is like grass: the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord
endures forever.” challenges us today to go back and look at that word again, and try to understand what it is that they “got”, that we don’t.  In a world in which people will forsake doctrine and go to a church because it is across the street, these old Germans seem like fossils.  And yet the decline of the church in America today can be directly traced to the attitudes and behavior of their children’s children who are willing to go along to get along.

 

 

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