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Archive for October, 2015

Perspective part 4

angry-jols-x3When you are out tricking and treating or turning off your lights and hiding in your basement or whatever you do on Halloween I hope you take a few moments and remember the Reformation……

Reformation Day can too easily become a day of pride for those who claim the legacy of Martin Luther, but it can also too easily be forgotten or distorted. We are not here for hero worship of a man but to give thanks to God for Luther and those of every generation whose voices have been raised in faithful witness to the Gospel. At the same time, we are here to affirm that this Gospel remains under threat from both within and outside the Church. So we must take up in our own generation the call to renew the careful distinction between Law and Gospel, to affirm the authority of the Word of God as source and norm of our faith and teaching, and to herald the clearest proclamation of Jesus Christ crucified and risen to pay the cost of our redemption and justify the sinner before God. With joy, we affirm this salvation is by grace alone and not of our own works and that we apprehend this by the Holy Spirit’s work of faith in our hearts. ( From CPH Creative Worship)

 

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Perspective part 3

psalm_46_10-707093On the eve of the Reformation I am thinking about Psalm 46 – the psalm which we believe Luther based the hymn “a Mighty Fortress is Our God”.   After listing all kinds of things that are going on in the world, the psalmists pictures God saying be still, desist and be quiet and know that I am God.

I love going back and reading the thoughts of folks that were around before I was born.  Here is a study of the last verse of Psalm 46 that was written a year and a month before I was born.  It was written by a Pastor Viehweg.  I can imagine him drinking his coffee on the eve of the Reformation celebration and worrying about his world and writing……….

Desist and know that I (am) God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted on the earth.” These words are spoken to the discomfited foes of Jehovah and also to His people . It is a majestic “Hands off”. God wants to bring also His enemies to their senses, to repentance, while they still have a chance.  All their attacks cannot dethrone Him, put Him out of existence. They are destroying themselves. These words may also be applied to believers when they are in danger of being overwhelmed by fear. Then the Lord tells them: “Be still, stop fretting and worrying, don’t forget that I am God, that I am able and willing to deliver you from all your troubles.” “Jehovah of Hosts (is) with us; a Refuge for us (is) the God of Jacob. Selah.” This triumphant shout of confidence and defiance, which closed the second strophe, is here repeated and closes the entire Psalm. This blessed truth deserves to be sung twice, it does not get tiresome to a believer. We cannot hear it too often, because we often forget it. As long as the Lord of Hosts is with us, all is well, we need not fear. In the time of the Reformation the Pope and the Turk were the most formidable enemies of the Church. Although many do not realize it, the Pope is still such an enemy, no essential change has taken place. The blasphemous decree of the Council of Trent, putting a curse on sola gratia, has not
been revoked; it is still off1cial doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.  The severe verdict of our Confessions, denouncing the Pope as the very Antichrist, is still true. The Turk is no longer a threat as a political power, but Islam still is. In some parts of the world Islam is gaining ground at the expense of Christianity. There is the dreadful monster of Communism, occupying a large part of Europe and
Asia, growing by leaps and bounds, steadily undermining many other countries from within. Communism is not only a political theory, but it is a fanatical obsession, yea, a devilish religion. To these enemies which threaten the Church from without must be added paganism and atheism; from within she is threatened by worldliness and indifference, unionism and separatism. When we commemorate the Reformation of
the Church by Luther, it is well to recognize and face the enemies threatening us today. Humanly speaking, the future of the Church does not look very promising. We are facing overwhelming odds, but also we can boldly bid defiance to all our foes and say: “God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in trouble. Thereforewill not we fear. -The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge.”

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Perspective -part 2

DSCN0124

I believe that this is Pastor Benjamin.  I met him in Wamba and milked his camels.  Well I tried to milk his camels.  Pastor Benjamin has taken a new position in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya.  He is showing some of our Pastors a Project 24 Boarding School.  It struck me as I looked at the building and the bunk beds that an interesting perspective emerges.  We have a lot of folks out there with ideas about mission and ministry and many of them have strong opinions about theological education being the most important thing that we can share with out partner churches.  I don’t disagree with that at all.  But another perspective tells me that for theological education to take place there need to be folks to educate.  In order for there to be folks to educate we have to have religious instruction in the primary grades.  In order for that to be effective we need to have some boarding schools for children with special needs or who come from special circumstances and for that to happen we need something as simply as mosquito nets to keep children from dying before they can even learn about Jesus.

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Perspective

perspective

Some believe that perspective is everything.  We don’t get much perspective in this country anymore.  No one wants to be called a sexist, racist, homophobe, or any of the other myriad label’s that liberal theologians and politicians lay on us.  To be called a member of the Taliban because we object to butchered baby parts being sold out of coolers doesn’t really contribute to a reasoned debate, but the fact that we have to approach baby parts being sold at all is pretty unreasonable so…

http://www.washingtonpost.com/people/anthony-faiola Writing about the Vatican City Synod on family issues held the other day Anthony Faiola gives us an interesting perspective. Sometimes it’s nice to hear other perspectives. The synod on family issues marked the Vatican’s second in two years, with a meeting last year touching off the debates on divorce and homosexuality. Unlike last year, when several controversial clauses failed to garner a required two-thirds majority, all the recommendations made this time reached that bar. But some said that was partly because of an attempt to make the language more palatable and ambiguous. Signaling the intensity of the debate, there were more than 1,300 amendments proposed by the more than 260 delegates.

This year, homosexuality became less a focus than divorce. But some conservative bishops argued that the synod was being hijacked by liberals overwhelmingly focused on “Western” or “Eurocentric” issues. Bishop Joseph Anthony Zziwa, a conservative Ugandan bishop, said there had been far too much talk about homosexuality, which is criminalized in his country, as well as divorce. Bishops even disagreed initially on the definition of a family — which in Africa, he said, often means extended families, compared with nuclear ones in Europe and the United States. Africans more generally, he said, had far bigger problems . “You keep asking someone from Nigeria to tell me about homosexuality, to tell me about divorce, when five of his children have been abducted by Boko Haram? You think that person has time to talk about that?” he said.”

 

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The Christian and the Culture.

culture

Malcolm Boyd said something already back in 1957 (completely unaware of the even more massive changes that were coming), “We cannot disengage ourselves, as Christians, from the mass media themselves or from the problems with which they challenge us. This is true for two main reasons. First, our missionary imperative commands us to preach the Gospel to all men. How can we, in the face of our Lord’s will, refuse to use such potentially vital methods as mass media in reaching out with God’s Word to desperately isolated men and women? Secondly, it is increasingly becoming obvious that we are being evangelized by our secular technical society far more than we are in the process of evangelizing it for Jesus Christ. The Church’s manifest task is to evangelize this society and age and condition.”
Boyd was an Episcopalian priest and a counter culture hero.  He was also a homosexual who might have been surprised to see how the “mass media” has sought to proselytize for homosexual “rights” while denigrating evangelizing for Jesus Christ.  Another example of the problems by which we are challenged is the proclamation of a truncated Gospel and use of frail human beings to use it to advance their ends, rather than the Kingdom of God and of His Christ.

Lutherans believe that the Holy Spirit calls, gathers enlightens and sanctifies.  That is his task.  Our is to witness in word and deed.

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Missionary Encounters with the Culture….

church state

“Gladstone was surely right when he pointed out that the Roman Empire could give equal tolerance to all religions just because it could be quite adamant about something much more important than religion, something thing required to keep society from disintegrating, namely, the veneration of the emperor. On that there could be no compromise, and I think we have to acknowledge at least some truth in Gladstone’s argument. No state can be completely secular in the sense that those who exercise power have no beliefs about what is true and no commitments  to what they believe to be right. It is the duty of the church to ask what those beliefs and commitments are and to expose them to the light of the gospel. There is no genuinely missionary encounter of the gospel with our culture unless this happens. Here we must face frankly the distortion of the gospel that is perpetrated in a great deal that passes for missionary encounter. A preaching of the gospel that calls men and women to accept Jesus as Savior but does not make it clear that discipleship means commitment to a vision of society radically different from that which controls our public life today must be condemned as false.”

From “Foolish to the Greeks; The Gospel and Western Culture” by Lesslie Newbigin, Eerdmans Publishing

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Preaching as an Event. Mercy as the Subject.

Rev. Joshua D. Reimche took this picture.

DSCN0271I am not sure what it means but it is, as they say, evocative.  It evokes strong images and memories of close calls and near misses.  It reminded me of my interpretation of a quote from Margaret Atwood – “when you find yourself at the mercy of events you quickly find that events have no mercy”.

It is purely by the mercy of God that the blackspots in our life and soul do not destroy us completely.  It is purely by the mercy of God that we are declared righteous and free and sinless.  Events have no mercy but God does and the task of preaching is to announce that mercy in Christ for sinners.

Luther’s emphasis upon the principle that the “preached word of God was the word of God”, did not imply that the content of the sermon was not important or even of secondary significance. To a preacher who could not proclaim God’s grace, but who instead raised doubts in people’s minds, Luther suggested that it was reasonable to say, “If I am to hear no other comfort from you than this, that I can never know how I stand with God, then be the devil’s confessor, and be a preacher in the abyss of hell.”[1]

[1] Heiko A. Oberman, “Preaching and the Reformation,” Theology Today, 18(1962), pp. 27ff

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Mercy and Witness….

DSCN0077I always loved the soft light of the evenings in Kenya.  They do not last that long.  I was always surprised that those long twilights that we have way up here in the North country are not there.  The sun goes down and very quickly it is night.  But those few moments of twilight always remind me of the evening prayer –

Joyous light of glory of the immortal Father,
Heavenly, holy, blessed Jesus Christ,
We have come to the setting of the Sun
And we look to the evening light.
We sing to God, the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
You are worthy of being praised with pure voices forever.
O Son of God, O Giver of Light,
The universe proclaims your glory.

We are living in the twilight of the world and the glory of God still shines in the face of Jesus and it is the church that witnesses to His glory.  The Psalmist wrote (115) Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto your name give glory, for your mercy, and for your truth’s sake.

One of our tasks is to respond to God’s mercy to us by acts of mercy that we bring to others.  Because of God’s great love for us we are bearers of mercy to others and it is not in sharing the Gospel alone, but also in deeds of mercy and care that bear that love for others around the world.

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Welcome Back Cassada…..

IMG_1373Missionary Rachel Cassada, GEO for Ghana,  concluded her service, and was recognized for her service in chapel on Friday, October 16th. There was, of course, cake and punch following chapel. I was honored to thank Rachel for her service, and offer her best wishes for her transition back to life in the U.S from all of you.  Thanks for your continued support of the missionaries and Projects around the world.

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The Corporate Reality of Need.

DSCN0131There is nothing wrong with garbage picking.  It is a needed and sometimes rather lucrative endeavor.  I had a friend who put three children through college by recycling stuff from the garbage.  Going through the garbage for something to eat is a different thing.  There are folks who eat what we throw away, we know that.  There are people made homeless by disaster and there are the poor that Jesus said would always be with us.

The first corporate action by the congregation of Jerusalem of which we have record is that which concerned the proper care of the widows who were neglected in the daily ministrations (feedings). Acts 6: 1-3. In a similar way, one of the first recorded activities of the young congregation at Antioch in Syria is described in the words “Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea; which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.” Acts 11: 27 -30. The first corporate action of the congregations which had been established by Paul and Barnabas and further built up in their Christian relationships on later visits by the apostle and his companions had distinct social implications; for it had as its object the helping of the poor brethren in Judea. 1 Cor. 16: 12; 2 Cor. 8: 10-13; 9: 1-14 (cp. Acts 21: 17,18).

These corporate realities were brought to light on many occasions in World Relief and Human Care days and many congregations that were struggling were reminded of a world beyond their roofs and parking lots and fellowship halls to a world of fellow Christians suffering and in need around the world.  President Harrisons’ reminder of the Theology of Mercy made huge impressions in our church and around the world. A decade has passed since that emphasis and in many ways we seem to be relapsing into a closed system of protecting what we have and concerns that there is a diminishing “pie”.  There is an atmosphere of “Kingdom building” or at least the accusations being leveled in different areas.  The same can be said about a new colonialism and concern about turf.  It is a far cry from the young church and it’s exuberant look around discovering need and working to help.

 

 

 

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