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Archive for February, 2016

6 Degrees of Separation and Palindromes – Ada and Green Meadow

ada

I wrote the “Open Prairie Grave” song many years ago when we had a winter burial.   It was so cold that  the flowers that were thrown on the casket froze and shattered like glass.  It was a uniquely memorable event.  I watched a physics experiment take place in real life.

When the “Open Prairie Grave” song hit face book I received a note from Pastor Jon Ellingworth from New York that his Father was buried in a grave like the one I pictured in the blog.  I asked him where that was and he told me Ada, Minnesota.

Ada, apart from being a palindrome, is a subject of 6 degrees of separation.  Ada has been a big part of the Project 24 story and has been supported through all of the ups and downs.  Please go back and check the blog for Nov 21, 2011.  There you will many connections and now Pastor Ellingworth is another member of the Ada club.  Please scroll down on side and find November 2011 and check out that blog.Nov 21, 2011

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Monarchies, Oligarchies, and Polyarchies.

polyarchyListening to the pundit class I sometimes get confused as to whether we live in a monarchy where there is one supreme leader who has all the power or an oligarchy where a class of folks has all the power.  The “special interest” label is bandied about over and over again.  The problem with the label is that everyone of us fits into a special interest.  Then there is the “establishment”, that is darkly muttered about as a secret government that really runs the government.  The idea that things will never change because the government is run by mindless bureaucrats, got a big boost this morning when we sit and watch the Veterans Administration basically say that they can’t do anything to fix a criminal conspiracy that  killed a lot of Vets.  When administrators spend their time trying to figure out how not to provide services for Vets who need it and who while waiting die, it seems to me that we have a conspiracy.

So think about this for a moment.  We have wonderful organizations that spring up to help fill the gaps.  There is literally dozens of private organizations that are set up to help Vets.  Think of where we would be without the private donations coming in?  In one sense these groups get the government off the hook unless they specifically exist to help vets through the bureaucratic nonsense.  In some ways it is a double whammy for folks who give to charities – we pay taxes for the government to not do what they said they would, then we turn around and give money to folks to do just those things.  My point about all of this is that we live in a polyarchy.

There is a great article in “Imprimus”, a document sent out by Hillsdale College last January.  “Charitable Giving and the Fabric of America” by Karl Zinsmeister explains the fact that we really do live in a society that has multiple nodes of power and individual charitable givers are a huge part of our life together.  Those gifts that are given to church and local charities are a huge cultural statement and a force driver mostly for good.  So when politicians cry out that you are greedy and selfish if you don’t want to pay into another ridiculous program that is unsustainable, unaccountable and frivolous spend a few bucks for a charity that you love.

One more thing to think about.  Jesus says that when we “do charity” we should not let our right hand know what our left hand is doing.  It is a call to stop the kind of math that makes a gift a transaction a government office would say is based upon a fair share.  Our Christian Charity and stewardship is based upon the “self donation of God” as someone has said.

I don’t know who said this but it should be mounted on your refrigerator and embossed on your check book – “A mechanistic computation of the extent of debt that one group of Christians owes another, or what a single Christian owes his congregation is irrelevant.  When viewed from the total self sacrifice of Christ it is shameful”.

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Project 24 Forum

20160218_104827 (1)Dinner served at the Project 24 forum.  Seated here in the front is Shauen Trump the Regional Director for East Africa.  Continue to pray for Project 24.

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The Inexplicable Mercy of God.

great mystery

The funeral homily for Antonin Scalia included a letter the Justice had written wherein he explained his dislike of “eulogies” or good words for the deceased at funerals.  I have commented occasionally when someone says after a funeral, “he was such a good man”, that if they were good men they wouldn’t have died.  A bit harsh perhaps, but nevertheless true.  Scalia says in the letter that a funeral should be about the “inexplicable mercy of God”.

Sunday after Sunday we try and explicate the inexplicable.  At it’s heart the Gospel is a mystery.  Paul says it too – “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory”. 1 Timothy 3:16.

“It is not because of how we are but in spite of how we are that God loves us and saves us”, writes Robert Rosin.  That is the inexplicable mercy of God that we seek to explicate.  God gives us the strength to do so!

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Open Prairie Grave – The Song

snow cemetary

Cincopa WordPress plugin

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Open Prairie Grave

snow cemetary

This has been a tough week.  Many folks in my congregation and people that I know have gone through the shock of the sudden death of a loved one.  They had to travel far for funerals and I thought about them because all of us go through this sooner or later and it is not easy.  The loss of mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles is the way of the world.  We die the common death of all men because the wages of sin is death.  Even though we don’t know when death will come, come it will.  The funeral service to me is one of the most important things that we do.  It is a chance to witness to the love of God.  It is a chance to reach people who are at that point receptive to hear

There was another sudden death this week and I am watching the funeral service for Antonin Scalia.  His son is the preacher.  I much appreciate his opening lines that proclaimed that they were gathered there in that huge Basilica because of one man.  Then He said they were gathered there because of Jesus Christ.  I am so happy to see that witness and I appreciate it very much.  The inexplicable mercy of God for sinners became the theme.

This has brought to my remembrance the old days when we would go out to the cemetery even in the depths of winter to bury those for whom we mourned.  That is a custom that is slowly being phased out but it was powerful ceremony for a young Pastor.  To stand in the snow and the cold and officiate at the committal and burial was a tribute to the dead and a closure for the families.  I wrote a poem about it.

Cold was the wind and dark was the sky o’er an open prairie grave.

Words meant for comfort can be cold like that wind, when you hear somebody say –

We’ve brought nothing into the world, and we’ll take nothing away, but don’t you grieve like those with no hope, we believe we’ll rise someday.

The Lord has created and the Lord has redeemed and the Lord has taken away.

Cold was the wind and dark was the sky o’er an open prairie grave.

Snow starts to fall on a landscape of ice but there’s still more left to say –

“I know that my Redeemer lives”, my ransom has been paid.  And even though this body’s destroyed, I’ll stand with Him someday.

The Lord has created and the Lord has redeemed and the Lord has taken away.

There will come a day I don’t know when, heaven and earth will pass away.

The Lord of life will gather His sheep and they will hear Him say,

“Come O blessed of my Father’s heart, come and rise like Me.  Come to Kingdom I have prepared for a bright eternity”.

Angels will come and look down in awe at an open prairie grave.

They’ll lift up there voices in praise to the Lamb and we’ll join them to say –

The Lord has created and the Lord has redeemed and the Lord has taken away.

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Project 24 Forum completed.

20160218_102519 (1)The Project 24 Forum was held on February 17th.  We were not able to get anyone to attend from here because of timing, but here you see the folks that did.  A Forum is when all the stake holders in the project get together to discuss success, failures, issues and problems.  They celebrate the good stuff and work together to figure out how to fix the issues that might arise.

Problems that existed with Project 24 were a loss of local control and “buy-in; separation of boarding school sites from churches; lack of identity in the areas where sites were built and a general organizational malaise.  That is why these forums are so important.  The folks who have “skin in the game” gather  and have a pretty good time.  They combine the forum with a Bible competition.

The site has been picked for the North Dakota/Minnesota North joint center and we are expecting some more reports soon.   Thank you for you support and donations.  Please mark your checks “Project 24”.

Donations can be sent to  Minnesota North at

P.O. Box 604

Brainerd, MN  56401

or North Dakota District at

PO Box 9029
Fargo, ND 58106-9029

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Kurt Daudt is Speaking.

IMG_0192This is Kurt Daudt the Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives.  Here he is in Kenya visiting some families in the hills above Kisumu and making a video for Project 24.  Kurt has the requisite 6 degrees of separation because he went to school in Grand Forks at UND.  Kurt is speaking at the Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty Conference – A Conference for Laity and Church-Workers of the Minnesota North and North Dakota Districts.
I don’t know if it is too late to register – but I am sure that it will be worth your while.
If you can go call your District Office and see if there is room – do it today!
North Dakota District – 701 – 293 – 9001

Minnesota North 218 829 -1791

Conference is February 19-20, 2016 at
Ramada Plaza
Fargo, North Dakota
1635 42nd Street South

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Narcissists Then and Now.

narcissist

Someone put one of my pictures on my post that was a few years old and then I posted another recent one with the same tie.  The whole thing makes me uncomfortable.  I look awful in pictures and detest having my picture taken.  The selfie thing is abhorrent to me.  It reeks of narcissism.

Chad Bird wrote these words in a great article on funerals in the “Federalist”.  “There is no greater threat to the cohesion and perpetuation of a society than narcissism. The narcissist operates not according to an objective set of values or beliefs, nor are the needs of others an impetus for his actions, but his whole world is centered in the navel at which he gazes. The be-all and end-all reason for his existence is the man in the mirror. Therefore, the question he poses, whenever any decision must be made, is quite simply this: “What’s in it for me?”

Narcissism certainly poses a threat to society and how great the threat posed my show up in the political discussions that we are having right now.  One of the candidates wants to be your daddy.  One believes that a women who doesn’t vote for another women has a special place in hell.  Another official talks about the presidency being “serious business” which led one wag to say, “that is true if you think fund raising and golf playing is serious business”.  The obverse must then be true – stopping the world wide martyrdom of Christians; protecting borders; making sure that enemies are controlled;that the laws are faithfully administered; that the constitution is defended and protected; must be fun and games.

Paul talks to Timothy in 2 Timothy 31-7 and basically writes the definition of a narcissist.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.  For men
will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers,
disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers,
without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying
its power.  And from such people turn away.”

Narcissism and funerals is a good topic for discussion too.  In the meantime thanks for the comments on the tie.

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Old Age and Grey Hairs

Isaiah 46

ISAIAH 46:4 = “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
The God who remembers His mercy sustains and rescues.  When we sustain someone it means to give support or relief. This word gives us the picture of one person helping to hold up another. Some people are so ill that they have to be held up to eat or to drink.  In their weakness they cannot even help themselves to the things that will give them life and have to be led to them or supported to receive them. The picture of Good Samaritan comes to mind, binding up wounds and feeding and helping etc.

We have a God who promises to lift us and support us and feed us and provide for all that we need.  He gives us the 1st article gifts. He gives us everything that we need for life in this world and life in the world to come.  At any time, we can lean on Him, in fact He asks us to.   In reality He demands that we do.

Anytime life seems to be more than we can bear, that is the spot where God comes and confronts us with His mercy.  It is in what Luther calls the “narrow places” that divine mercy makes sense.  It is there when we have no where else to go that we are forced to lean on God and He will nourish our soul.
Anytime we feel weak and unable to stand on our own that is where the realization comes that God is there to hold us up.  That is where he will “strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand upheld by His righteous omnipotent hand”. (LSB 728 Concordia Publishing House 2006)


We have a God who rescues us. What else can salvation mean than to be rescued?  Rescued from sin and death and the power of the devil we are snatched from the narrow places and let loose in spacious places of grace. 
God also sustains and recues through means.  Baptism and the Lord’s Supper and the preaching of the Gospel are means that God uses but they do not come out of thin air.  They are mediated through the means of others.  We must hear the Gospel through the means of another human voice proclaiming it.  We are baptized and we receive the body and blood of Christ through the hands of other human beings and we are sustained through the other human beings that make up the body of Christ.  All of these are a part of God’s mercy and grace.  God serves us in the worship service and gives us His gifts.  God has mercy on us in the Divine service and helps us to remember what He remembers; “his mercy and love for the children of men”.  The Divine service is God’s gifts to us and in that service God remembers – brings His love and forgiveness in Christ into our present; and we remember too.  In the remembering mercy becomes active through faith.

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