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Archive for October, 2017

Word For Word Expositions.

In a book called “Reformation Thought” Alistair McGrath writes,

“Martin Luther arrived at his earthshaking conclusions imbued with biblical exposition. As a professor, he taught the book of Psalms verse by verse from 1513 to 1515, Romans from 1515 to 1516, Galatians from 1516 until 1517, the book of Hebrews from 1517 to 1518 and then the Psalms again from 1519 until 1521.”

There is something to be said about being home in the Word of God.  Today is Reformation Day and we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the posting of the 95 Thesis.  Luther was convinced of what he was doing because he was convinced by the Word of God.  He was familiar with the Psalms to an uncanny degree and his commentary of Genesis is considered a masterpiece as is the commentary of Galatians.  He said of his own method that “I study my Bible like I gather apples. First, I shake the whole tree that the ripest may fall. Then I shake each limb, and when I have shaken each limb, I shake each branch and every twig. Then I look under every leaf. I search the Bible as a whole like shaking the whole tree. Then I shake every limb – study book after book. Then I shake every branch, giving attention to the chapters. Then I shake every twig, or a careful study of the paragraphs and sentences and words and their meanings.”

One of the questions that kept coming up to Luther that troubled him at first, was who he thought he was that he knew more than Popes and Councils and a thousand years of church history?  The answer was he knew his Bible better.  He trusted God’s Word more than anything else and on that the hinge of history moved.


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Reformation Shorthand

The Reformation was about Justification.

Justification by grace through faith” is Confessional shorthand for “radical Gospel”.  “God, to whom man can find no way, has in Christ creatively opened up the way which man may and must go”. Martin Franzmann

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The Reformation in 85 Words

The Reformation of course was a dispute.  There is a difficulty when speaking of this epochal event in saying too much or too little.  Here is an explanation in 85 words.

“This dispute has to do with the highest and chief article of all Christian doctrine (Justification}, so that much indeed depends on this article, which also serves preeminently to give a clear, correct understanding of the whole Sacred Scripture and alone points the way to the unutterable treasure and the true knowledge of Christ, and also alone opens the door to the whole Bible, without which article no poor conscience can have a constant, certain consolation or know the riches of the grace of Christ.”  Apology to the Augsburg Confession IV


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You Are Invited

Reformation Festival Poster

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God Is Everywhere It Is True – But Here He Is Present For You.

God is everywhere that is true.  One of the lasting points of the Reformation comes from Luther’s arguments with Zwingli over the Lord’s Supper.  In that argument there was the contention that God is everywhere even in a bowl of pea soup.  The omnipresence of God is an attribute that Christians have believed and the Od Testament folks before them.  That Christ reigns with God means that wherever God is there too, is Christ.  Christ is everywhere, but in the Lord’s Supper He is there for me and you personally.

The gift of the Holy Supper gives us a strengthened faith, patience under trials, and of course the forgiveness of sins.  Bishop Ignatius of Antioch, described the Eucharist as “the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying but which causes that we should live forever in Jesus Christ.”   It is strength and hope for the dying and so as someone once said, “You go to the Lord’s Supper as if going to your death, so that you can go to your death as if you are going to the Lord’s Supper.”

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Joint Reformation Festival Service Coming Sunday

A Joint Circuit Reformation Festival Service will be held Sunday October 29th at Immanuel Lutheran in Grand Forks.  The service will comprise churches from the North East Circuit of North Dakota and the Crookston Circuit of the Minnesota North District.

The service itself will be Luther’s Deutsche Messe for the most part. We will be having a 30 minute Pre-Service Musical Concert.  This Pre-service Concert will begin at 3:30 pm on October 29 at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1710 Cherry St in Grand Forks.

The main service will begin at 4:00 pm. There will be a mass choir.  The meal afterwards will be provided. Brats, hot dogs, and pulled pork will be offered along with salads, beans and bars and cake et al for dessert.  The offerings will be donated to the Synod for the work of Rev. Doug and Angie Thompson in Sierra Leone, Africa.

Let’s get together and kick off the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in a big way.

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Examples, Models and Impressions.

Paul wrote this to the Thessalonians in the first letter.  Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

Paul is the one who made famous the wonderful triad of faith and hope and love.  His hymn to love in 1 Corinthians 13 is said by many to be some of the greatest literature ever penned.  These three things abide, faith hope and love but the greatest is love.  These three things are so active and visible among the Thessalonians that Paul says they became a model.

I said on Sunday that I did not like the word model because someone called me a model Pastor one time. When I sat up straighter in my chair, he said that means “you are a small imitation of the real thing.  The word used here for model comes from the image or mark that is left behind when something is repeatedly struck.  The impression left behind when something is forcibly stamped, like a coin, is the image here.  They were struck with persecution, physically assaulted, taken to court, economically blackmailed and generally smacked around because of the Gospel and the trust they had in Christ.  The impression all this turmoil left witnesses was that the Thessalonian Christians were an example of how Christians should live and how their faith and witness and confession should be “lived”.

The Thessalonians were surrounded by functional atheists and they were the brunt of attacks at every level and yet they worked and labored and loved to the point that many historians have called them a “working church”.  That is a good word and a fine epitaph.

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The Wind Blows Where It Wants Too.


One of the things that I’ve often thought about living up here in the North country is the wind. There are some years when the wind seems to never stop. In boxes the compass. Truckers joke that when they’re going south the wind is coming from the south into their faces, and when they turn around and come home it’s coming from the north so it’s in their face again. It’s sometimes blows so hard that empty trailers being hauled  blow over into the oncoming lanes of traffic. Wind of course is a force of nature, it is that by definition, but that has a different connotation up here. It is not just a force of nature and weather, sometimes it almost seems to be an entity.

The last week has been particularly windy and it is had some interesting results. One day the air was so full of seeds that it almost seemed as if it were snowing.  Whatever the seeds are, cat tail, cottonwood, thistle, it has been quite a sight.
One farmer in church told me that one of his black fields that he and cultivated was so covered with seeds that it looked as if manna had fallen. The field looked he said, “just the way the Bible describes manna, like a fine hoarfrost covering the ground”.  Exodus 16.  I have a screened in porch that has so many seeds on it you cannot see out three of  the sides..

In Jesus day and his culture the weather was as important as it is today in our farm communities. We spend a lot of time observing the weather, and commenting on it. Jesus said the wind blows where it wants to and we don’t know where it comes or where it goes.  This Sunday morning it was quiet but as I made my rounds to the different churches it started to pick up again. Today it’s from the southwest. I watched a murder of crows trying to maneuver over some stash of food they found and it looks like hard going.  So the seeds and difficulty of movement for trucks and birds are the result of wind but not the wind itself.  We can’t see the wind.  We see the effects of the wind.

The Bible uses the word “pneuma” for wind, breath, and spirit.  We cannot see the Spirit of God.  We see effects.

C. H. Spurgeon once said, “The great King, immortal, invisible, the Divine person, called the Holy Spirit: it is He that stimulates the soul, or else it would lie dead forever; it is He that makes it tender, or else it would never feel; it is He that
imparts power to the Word preached, or else it could never reach further than the ear; it is He who breaks the heart, it is He who makes it whole; He, from first to last, is the great worker of Salvation in us, just as Jesus Christ was the author of Salvation for us.”

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From the Barricades to Google Search

Earlier in the week I quoted from Shakespeare. “Hung be the heavens with black” which comes from Henry V. Now we have a new quote the comes from Henry V, as well.   “The empty vessel makes the most noise”, of course was replaced with “barrel”. I also mentioned before that we might start to be getting more erudite in this country because the press have to scramble to figure out what “dotard” meant when the Korean dictator called Donald Trump one. Suddenly the media is scrambling to look up all kinds of words and phrases that they obviously never heard before. The vituperous comments on some media outlets about words that were never used in white people’s neighborhoods such as empty, barrels, and noise, seems to be rather strange and probably racist. I guess there are no empty barrels in white Boston neighborhoods. They only exist in the south, and must have been used for lynching.  Lunacy like that could probably use some serious scholarship to figure it out, or maybe some serious couch time.

We live in interesting times when “the resistance” has to leave the barricades and find a dictionary or run to Google search.

I had two aunts who were very classy and they had wonderful vocabularies. They could insult you five different ways in a short conversation and you would go away feeling good about yourself. I was proud that they cared enough to insult me.  Further more it helped me learn stuff.  A few minutes with them and I was wandering off looking for a dictionary.  The medias various hobby horses, like the connection between the poem at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty and the statue; the meaning of “ban”, “dotard”, and “illegal”, who it is that actually is supposed to originate spending bills under the constitution; etc, can be quite educational in a country that seems to be more and illiterate as time goes on.  Of course when some who are not naturally obtuse decide to deliberately be stupid the education takes on some added importance.


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Denise Lien R+I+P

Denise Lien was baptized and confirmed at Zion English Lutheran Church, and graduated from Grafton High School and North Dakota State School of Science. We knew her as Denise Schultz. Denise married Roger Lien on September 3, 1983 in Grafton, ND.  She died last week October 7 in Lakeville MN.

Denise is survived by her husband, Roger; sons, Tim and Jason; grandson, Isaak; brothers, David (Karen) Schultz, Allan Schultz, and Loren Schultz; father and mother in-law, DeWayne and Bonnie, and seven nieces and nephews. Denise is preceded in death by her parents, Earl and Grace Schultz. Funeral services were held at Farmington Lutheran Church on Friday. There will be a burial at the Zion Acton Cemetery in Grafton, ND on today at 12pm. Friends are welcome and a fellowship lunch is planned at Zion afterwards.


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