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Archive for May, 2017

The Back Channels of History and Journalism

I wonder if there is such a thing as a journalist anymore and if there is what kind of education they get?  Most news reports seem to be psychological analysis, poll studies, hit pieces and jargon.  Propaganda is a word that comes to mind.  Fake news rings true.

It appears obvious that journalist don’t study history and if they do it may only come from pop culture blockbusters and TV shows.  Had they read any books they might have understood the fact that back channels for all leaders, be they kings or dictators or presidents are important, and legal.

For Presidents back channels are not only frequent and common, they are sometimes essential.  When I heard the attack on the new President that back channel talks were off the map, I just about screamed.  Not mentioning anyone but the pantheon of Democrat Party god’s there are back channels everywhere and their work was considered heroic.

FDR had Viscount Murray with the British and if journalists only care about movies and media they must remember the back channel FDR set up with Britain and the Soviet Union in “Pug” Henry.  The “Winds of War” protagonist is the perfect example of the type of back channel operative presidents look for when they cannot trust their own government, or the press that covers it.

Maybe the back channel champion is JFK whose hagiographers report that his back channel workings were the product, of course, of his being smarter than the rest of us.  His “two track approach” was so smart that the rest of us should thank God we had such exceptional leadership, Berlin Wall, Bay of Pigs, Missile Crisis, etc, etc, not withstanding.  In fact, a President that got us into so many crisis used back channels to get us out of them and for that he goes down in history as the apotheosis of the cool and the smart; that is until Obama came along.

The press might want to pay attention to movies to learn about back channels.  Another hero and denizen of the left is Tom Hanks.  Tom Hanks was in a great movie entitled “Bridge of Spies”.  This is the story of an insurance lawyer who will ultimately become a back channel to Castro for Kennedy, James Donovan.  Of course the use of Donovan was audacious and perspicacious but if Trump has one it must be nefarious and probably stupid.

The biggest back channel of all was Robert Kennedy, the president’s brother who was named as Attorney General, a bit of nepotism that was of course audacious and perspicacious.  Robert was up to his eye balls in back channels with the Soviet Union who knew Washington well since FDR had his love affair with them through his administration.  They certainly knew the best restaurants in the Capitol and Robert knew where he could find them for those famous martini lunches.  The press could have figured it out of course, but we have to remember that the press was aligned with Kennedy to an extent that we may never see again especially with Republican Presidents.  In todays world if Trump brings members of his family into the White House with some kind of power position it is nefarious and probably stupid, but I digress.

We are living in a strange time when history is being rewritten and changed for the benefit of something that we do not yet see quite clearly.  When a candidate for President remembers Richard Nixon being impeached when he wasn’t, and her husbands entanglements and impeachment are ignored and there is no comment on anything, let alone the irony, we are living in strange times.  When everything that we read and hear comes from unnamed  sources and even after the story is proven wrong it becomes fact, we have some real issues of trust.  When those who reported poll after poll that were so widely wrong it was stunning, continue to use those polls, we are living in a strange land.

What are the back channels that so called journalists use to publish stories that according to the people that were actually there never happened?  What are the sources for direct quotations that are not sourced?  Why are so many stories simply not reported or under reported?  If the press is protecting their back channels, to what end?

 

 

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Memorial Day Echoes

There are many Pastors in Minnesota and North Dakota who have children in the Military.  We appreciate their service and we offer prayers for them every Sunday.  Our Synod President Matt Harrison has said many times that the Missouri Synod is an incubator for good citizens.  Here is a picture of Minnesota North District President Fondow’s son and grandson.  Learning how to respect the flag of the United States used to be part of our heritage.  Those days are gone but the tradition is proudly carried on by many.

 

 

 

 

 

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Memorial Day

For whatever reason Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem has always been a part pof my Memorial Day remembering.  As you visit the graves today it might become part of yours too.

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mercy Care Sunday Pentecost June 4

 

A District-Wide one-day opportunity for congregations to focus on Mercy through tangible, compassionate opportunities serving those in need, in the name of Christ.

Martin Luther writes,

“Being rooted in the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won for us on the cross, mercy means feeding the poor, taking care of the sick, and caring for the orphans and widows.”

MercyCare Sunday – Step by Step

  1. Identify a need. Each congregation, by God’s design, is nestled into a community filled with need. Children? Adults? Seniors? Other? Where do you see a place where compassionate action can raise hearts and give a glimmer of hope?
  2. Create a Congregational Project. What can you as a congregation do to meet that need in a hands-on, tangible way? Involve people. Engage hearts. Like David Cummings says, “Relationships are the bridge that Jesus uses to walk from one heart to another.” Let’s build bridges of Christ-filled Mercy.
  3. After the church service on Pentecost, involve as many from your congregation in your MercyCare project. Load the cars and head out. Make serving in the Name of Jesus a big thing! Enjoy the connections, the friendships, and together enjoy the pure joy of touching hearts with the Mercy of Christ!
  4. Record what happens! Take pictures, interview participants, talk with those who are helped. Create a story-like record of what you did and how your Mercy-filled actions impacted
  5. Submit your story (stories)!
    Send your story to:
    MercyCare Sunday
    c/o Our Savior Lutheran Church
    3705 – 11th St. SW, Minot, ND 58701Stories, photos, and videos will be compiled to share the whole of the District as we set aside one day in the life of the District to live out the compassion of Christ.
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When the Devil Goes Crazy.

“If the devil were wise enough and would stand by in silence and let the gospel be preached, he would suffer less harm. For when there is no battle for the gospel it rusts and it finds no cause and no occasion to show its vigor and power. Therefore, nothing better can befall the gospel than that the world should fight it with force
and cunning.”  That is what Luther said a long time ago.

The world fights the Gospel at every turn.  Even Christians fight the Gospel with self justification and reason.  Every time I try and justify myself I fight the Gospel.  Strangely enough we can fight the Gospel when we try and explain it rather than preach it.  Some believe that we fight against the Gospel when we try and defend it.

Siebert W. Becker wrote an article in the Concordia Theological Monthly in 1958 about Luther’s view of “apologetics” or the defense of the faith.  The WA’s are the citations from Luther’s Works.

“We are zealously to guard against all attempts to explain the way of God. If the Lord has not Himself revealed it to us in His Word, we must take off our hat and stand in awe of His majestic excellence. And if men murmur, let them murmur. God will not be changed to suit their ideas. If many are offended and leave, the elect, at least, will remain. If men ask us, for example, why God created Adam in such a way that He could sin, we can only reply that He is God and His will has no rules and regulations according to which it must act (WA 18, 712). The writings of Luther abound in warnings against this why, this effort to find a rational explanation for the ways of God, which are past understanding (WA 16, 143f.; 43, 76f.; 47, 540). He even invented a name for those who ask this question. He called them “Whyers” and “Whatforers” (WA 43, 77: Curistas et Quaristas). God’s acts or words do not require explanation or justification. They are right and good simply because they are the words and acts of God. To demand that God should conform to human patterns of thought and earthly standards of conduct is to shut God up in a glass where I can observe Him (WA 16, 141). Before such arrogance, Luther recoiled in horror.”

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Censorship and the Circle of Ignorance – Why Not Lavender Branches?

There is more than one way to censor things that we don’t like or remove things that offend us.  Just recently a Bible class for 1st graders was cancelled because of a group of atheists who claimed that teaching the Bible to little children is “child abuse”.  I am told about the myriad of things that offend me on radio and TV and in the movies and on the news that I should turn it off.  That is a form of censorship.  I censor what I don’t like by not listening, watching, or reading.  Others censor what they don’t like by judicial force or political attack.

A host of articles on the Presidents trip overseas focus on his handshake (about five seconds longer than normal), jostling for position in the picture line, and facial expressions of the folks that he is visiting with.  I learned nothing about the substance of the trip but I learned that somewhere there is a standard time limit for handshakes, a polite way to cut the line when a photographer is trying to set up a picture, and a catalog of expressions for faces that tell us a lot about the person we are sitting next to rather than saying anything about us.  I wish there was a catalogue of the kind of pathology present in the fools that write these articles but that misses the point that the article itself is a form of censorship.  Rather than stating the facts of who, what, when, where, and why, the writers engage is a form of petty psychological analysis and so I will no longer read those authors.  So they censor what I read by writing foolishness and I censor myself by no longer reading.  The circle of ignorance grows.

I just found out about one of my favorite books, “The Hammer of God” by Bo Giertz, was censored in a way that I would never have known since I don’t read Swedish.  I used to visit with a women who was fluent in Swedish and she had read Giertz in the original.  She mentioned that she always loved a passage that described the setting of a sermon and how the women in the pews had placed lavender branches in their hymnbooks.  I searched and searched and could not find the passage.  Then I found out that the English translation has been extremely abridged or perhaps censored.  There are many wonderful sermons and theological discussions in the book that make for fine reading for a confessional Lutheran, but many more that simply were changed or left out to reduce what some would call the argumentative and judgmental nature of the discussion.  I may be wrong but if I understand what is left out or down right changed it seems to be an attempt to make the book less conservative oriented.  The separation of the various Lutheran bodies over not only scripture but sociology might have been the reason but who knows.  Had the passages remained intact we might understand the weird necessity in parts of Minnesota and North Dakota of having two Lutheran churches across the street from one another, or a covenant church and a Lutheran church 1/2 mile apart that pretty much share members. If it was censorship, to what end?  Why would the translator want us to miss that beautiful image of worshippers with lavender branches in their hymnbooks?

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Prayers For An OK Pastor.

One of the reasons that we started this blog was the crossings and the comings and the goings of the Minnesota North and the North Dakota Districts.  Backgrounds and friendships and common work and mission are always grounds for discussion.  Project 24 is our partnership that brought the blog into existence but there is more.  There is a kind of cross pollination that goes on usually to the benefit of the church and Kingdom.

Rev. Larry Harvala is one of those ubiquitous fixtures in both Districts of the church.  Always quick with a joke and an occasional hundred dollar bill, Pastor Harvala has been a great blessing to so many.  He pastored in North Dakota so long,  he became District President and then went to Fort Wayne Seminary to teach.  He now serves as the Minnesota North congregational health director.  Pastor Harvala is also an “ok” preacher.  By that I mean he is an Office of the Keys preacher.  His preaching conveys and offers the forgiveness won by Christ on the Cross.  Larry doesn’t talk about the Gospel he proclaims it as what is is – the power of God.  He wrote an article about that a while ago called “He’s OK – They’re OK”.  He gave a  “whole new meaning to this exchange: “What did you think of the pastor’s sermon?” “It was OK!” In this sense, OK would mean “It was Office of the Keys.” It was not just routinely adequate, or “ok,” but it was a powerful display of God’s Word being delivered in such a way as to unlock heaven through the forgiveness of sins, or “OK.” Instead of preaching about forgiveness, it is preaching that actually declares that forgiveness with the full power and authority God has placed into the Gospel.”

Rev. Harvala is hospitalized this morning in Fargo.  Pray for him please.  I know as a President and Seminary prof and Pastor he offered up prayers for all of us.  If you get a chance drop in and visit.  See if he has a $100 bill laying around.  I will save what that is all about for a time I need another blog idea.

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Prayers For Manchester

The slaughter of innocents has always awakened a sense of horror in individuals who have any sense of a moral compass.  Societies and governments are particularly tasked to protect the innocent.  We have failed in so many ways that the list would be beyond this space and my patience in writing it.  It would also seem to be political at a time like this and so the best I can do is pray for our allies and friends, our missionaries and brothers in sisters in Christ around the world who are or could become targets of a monstrous scourge that is at large in the world.

I am not sure if I can print the words of the hymn here, but I would suggest that hymn 764 in LSB be our prayer.

The Hymn is titled “When Aimless Violence Takes Those We love” by Joy Patterson.

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So This is Progress.

I grew up with the word “mod”.  It was a short form of “modern” created by folks who were “far out”, “cool”, and “groovy”.  We were “with it” and “wow” and against the “establishment” because if was stodgy and old.  The “Mod Squad” was a TV program about far out, cool and groovy, young,  hip, and with it, undercover cops who showed us all how cool they were by their hair and the fact that they never wore ties.  Looking like a chia pet and making grimaces at the camera was considered progress.

Modernity makes promises about “progress”.  Progress means moving forward into a brave new future where things get better and better.  That’s why the hip and cool and with it today call themselves “progressives”.  That is to separate them from “conservatives” who want to conserve the status quo and restore or conserve the past.

Just look at what progress we see in the world today just in something as simple as the news we consume.  Huge stories based upon unnamed leaks and unnamed sources.  The old days, where a Biblical command held sway even in a news story that “every accusation be verified by two of three witnesses” (Matthew 18 and 2 Corinthians 13), really are the old days.

Look at the progress we have made in societal norms.  I went into the restroom at an airport because I thought I saw a man come out of it.  I could tell very quickly it was the ladies room so I quickly backed out just as a women was coming in.  I told her “I thought I saw a man come out of here”.  She said, “don’t worry he probably ‘identified'”.  It is a bit funny if it wasn’t so sad.  To think that an entire political legacy for some boils down to the “progress” of letting anyone go to the bathroom wherever they want!  We have come along way baby, as they used to say.  It is possible to go a long way backwards too.

Luther said something about progress that will make you think and think again.  ““To progress is always to begin always to begin again”.  Modernity promises what only God can deliver.  When preachers and churches take their cue from modernity and focus on a sort of progressive vision that “everyday in everyway I am getting better and better” we forget that life is lived, by a Christian, in the promises of God.  In Christ God promises a hope and a future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Denominational Novels 2

For Lutherans the great read has to be “The Hammer of God” by Bo Giertz.  Sadly the original has been badly served by American translators who all but excised Giertz’s defense of Confessional Lutheranism and his attack on a watered down version of Christianity.  Yet there is some good stuff left.

“Read God’s Word now as God’s Word, without skipping anything. Underline heavily everything about what our Savior has done for us. And if you like, write ‘For me’ in the margin. You need this yourself, and it is your duty to preach it to your congregation, as well.”
Bo Giertz, Hammer of God   

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