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Archive for December, 2017

Joan Buchop – Retirement


I tell folks that it is important to learn from and listen to, and perhaps memorialize if possible the folks that are around us who do work and take care of things that we may never completely understand.  The depth of knowledge and experience that can be shared is invaluable.  I worry that we don’t always do that and what happens is we all start over again and try and reinvent the wheel.  It seems to be a peculiar human trait that we do not always learn from history and that everything did not start the day we were born.

There is an incredible knowledge and activity “dump” going on and we may not be aware of it.  Folks are coming of an age where the are retiring and sadly some are dying.  I have spent time on this blog bemoaning the lost of Evelyn Allensworth and Bill Sharpe this last year.  Evelyn’s work as the religion teacher at the All Faith’s Chapel also involved decorating seasonally, ordering client records and movements, community liaison, and as they say, things too numerous to mention.  Bill Sharpe was the same kind of multi tasking, wide range of activity position, that a job description would never quite cover.  Tammi Ulland will be a great business manager but her job would be a bit easier if we ever thought to have Bill write up a task list.  I am starting to get a handle on Evelyn’s shorthand and note taking that helps some but it is still a project.

I just heard of another retirement that should be noted.  Joan Buchop is retiring from Lutheran Social Services ND Disaster Response after 20 ½ years.  Today is her last day in the office and she retires the last day of the year.  She writes to her colleagues that “It has been my privilege to work beside you as we served those impacted by disasters and shared what is learned with others facing the same challenges.”

When Lutheran Church Missouri Synod World Relief and Human Care decided to build capacity to do our own disaster response rather than counting on others, Joan’s name was invoked as someone who was on the cutting edge of disaster response and developing protocols to facilitate volunteers and agency reactions.  She was a great resource for LSS and a wonderful ambassador for the work that they do.  Joan received the North Dakota Family Based Services Association special recognition award in 2011. She receive the reward because of the responses to immediate needs during the terrible flooding in Minot in 2011. She developed a case management system that provided data management for homes and homeowners affected by the flood. Her database allowed her to watch the progress of homeowners and their response to the flood as well as helping to anticipate needs that otherwise may have been a surprise. She was especially focused on the so-called “vulnerable populations in the community”. She was able to bring many agencies together to respond to the crisis in a family-based way.  That may sound like agency gobbelty gook but when your house is underwater and so is most of your community and support base, family based crisis response is a gift of God.

Anyway,  congratulation Joan and God bless you and your retirement.  Well done good and faithful servant.




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Luther and the Pope Again ……..

There is a certain amount of hand wringing among those who care about such things that the Pope seems to want to rewrite the Lord’s Prayer.  Evidently he doesn’t like that bit about “lead us not into temptation”.  Being the “papa” that he is there is a certain amount of concern for “his children” worrying that God might lead them astray.  He is also trying to defend Jesus at the hint that God is a tempter like the devil.  Once again, 500 years too late.  Luther was way ahead of him.

Luther’s Explanation to the 6th Petition.

The Sixth Petition

And lead us not into temptation.

What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

So Pope, rest easy.  Let the handwringing cease.  Everybody take a deep breath and get a catechism of Luther.  Concordia Publishing House sells them.

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The Herald and the Hearers – Looking at Pathology



Sunday is the 2nd Sunday in Advent as we prepare for the coming of the Lord.  A memo to preachers.

Suidas, the tenth-century AD Greek lexicographer, said, ‘A herald is in time of war what an ambassador is in peace.’ The herald would go into ‘enemy territory ahead of an advancing army to warn the enemy of certain destruction unless they accepted the proffered terms for peace.’ Therefore, the king would invest the herald with power ‘either [to] accept surrender on behalf of his king or to declare war if those terms were rejected.’ The herald’s authority is completely derived and is legitimate only to the degree that he faithfully represents the one who sent him.

Martin Luther –

At the end of his lectures in 1531, Luther uttered a brief prayer and then dictated two Scriptural texts.  The prayer; “The Lord who has given us power to teach and to hear, let Him also give us the  power to serve and to do.”

LUKE 2 – Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, Good will to men.

ISAIAH 40 – The Word of our God shall stand forever.

Luther’s belief in the Biblical assertion that the word of God would stand forever does not mean that he believed that people would always believe it.  He listed all the places in the world where the Gospel had sped on and conquered and people believed and how after about a generation it all faded away and the people became pagan.  I have been reading and hearing more and more there is talk of a “churchless Christianity and a Christless Church.”  How is that possible if the Word of the Lord stands forever?  If most Christians have forsaken the public worship of the church at least in America, and the people who do go to church are going to hear a therapeutic “Jesus is your life coach” sermon are we not by Suidas definition both ambassadors and heralds?  How does our understanding of the distinction between the Law and the Gospel engaged here?

Luther’s list of these particular verses is important because the Prophet Isaiah gives us the wonderful prediction of the Messiah’s special precursor  (40: 3-8). He gives us the theme that we dare not speak until spoken to.  John the Baptizer preached what he was prepared and given to preach before he was born.  The modern day preacher is in the same boat.  We dare not preach unless we are called and we dare not preach what we want to but what God compels us to.


John the Baptist will forcefully proclaim and herald what Isaiah does poetically.  The self satisfied can remain self satisfied only when they force from their minds that they are “Grass”.  The grass withers and the flowers fade and the Baptist will declare that it gets burned up.  Self satisfaction in the face of annihilation is pathological.  We are confronted in these texts by the sickness persistent and rampant in life.  Isaiah changes our usual formula by pronouncing “comfort” and forgiveness before telling us that we are grass that will fade.



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Salvation and the Wide Open Spaces

This is a picture that was taken in Leadville Co.  I lived there for many years and graduated from High School there.  I was born in North Dakota and was always impressed to come back to the prairies and the wide open spaces.  We brought my grandfather back to Leadville several times and to get there we traveled through mountain passes and valleys where mountains rose up on both sides of the road to where you felt like you were in an alleyway in a big city.  My grandfather always said that he was uncomfortable and felt walled in.  He was happy to visit but happier to leave.  He liked being in the spacious places on the prairie.

We mentioned in the last blog that salvation means, in one sense having space to move around in.  When Lutherans’ talk salvation we mean being saved from sin and death and the power of the devil all of which hem us in.  Luther comments on David’ words in Psalm 118  and he said “just as distress is a narrow place, which casts us down and cramps us, so Gods help is our large place which makes us free and happy” (Luthers Works” 14:59).  Oswald Bayer says that the German word is better translated as a spacious place.   So just as our distress or anxiety,our frustration,our fear is a narrow place that  casts us down and cramps us Gods help is a spacious place. Remember how Luther after years of trying to figure out what Paul was talking about when he finally understood what justification by faith meant,said it was as if he had entered paradise itself. Matthew Harrison in  his book “Christ Have Mercy” talks about how baptism saves us because Christ sticks himself into the waters of baptism. Then he describes the voice of God confirming Jesus as his Son, and the coming of the Holy Spirit showing Heaven was open. Harrison explains quoting Luther, that “heaven is nothing but open windows and doors”.   It’s a spacious place.  It is so spacious it has many mansions.  Modern translations say “rooms”.  We are so puny, we are so narrow, we can never quite grasp the spaciousness of God’s mercy and grace and His abundant love for us the fallen children of men. We can’t even accept the translation of Jesus words – “in my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.” Those words come in the middle of that marvelous statement were Jesus declares himself to be the way and the truth and the life, a super abundance of God’s mercy and grace. Because He is the way we can walk in the spacious places even though we are confined in the valley of the shadow of death. Because He is the truth we are opened up in the spacious place of absolute recognition of who we are – we are completely free lords of all, and also constrained by God’s love to be servants of everyone. We are free to serve. Because Jesus is the life we are not confined to the narrow place of constantly worrying about the cords of death entangling us. We’re going to a spacious place and in this life we are spoken to in an eternal and immortal way. God speaks to us as His immortal children. He speaks to us as a fruit of His Spirits grooming and His Son’s harvesting. He speaks to us as those who have everlasting life right now.

[1] Oswald Bayer,  “Living by Faith”





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Living the Dream.

One of the things that I worry about in all the changes and chances that take place in the world is whether or not we are communicating the truth of the Gospel in ways that people actually understand.  I have a friend that answers my greeting of “how you doing?” with “living the dream”.  I can take that as a statement of contentment and freedom or I can take that as a sarcastic commentary of life with it toils and vicissitudes.  It all depends on tone and expression and a certain amount of sensitivity.  There is a real thing called a “tin ear”.

How do we know in the church whether someone knows, or can hear what we are saying when we talk about things like justification or redemption or sanctification etc.  Fewer people are even aware of what used to be a common language of faith.

I was just reminded about what an old professor of mine said about the word “salvation”.   He wrote, “When the last Israelite with his possessions got safely through the waters of the Red Sea, salvation had come to that people. This is, in
part, the significance of the term “salvation.” Fundamentally it refers to having room enough to move around in. It also contains the thought of healing, of living beyond the frustrations and irritations which trouble us. The Word of truth, the Gospel  is good news because it consists of the proclamation that such salvation is already a sure prospect since we have been sealed by the gift of God’s Spirit in Baptism.”  We are living the dream, God’s dream dreamt for us to life in His story; the story of salvation.



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Advent and Noah and Jesus Entry Into Jerusalem

Conditions are ripe today -“the earth is filled with violence” (Gen. 6: 11); “scoffers will come in the last day with scoffing, following their own passions” (2 Peter 3: 3-7); and we ourselves have need to have some-thing written to us about the
end time. (1 Thess. 5: 1 ) Be ready. A. Prepared -not with physical safe-guards, guards, burglar alarms; nor with delusions that if we do our best that we will make out all right. B. Prepared -with the preparation only God can provide: total trust in His message; total faith in His Son and way of salvation; total reliance on His grace -all that the Spirit Himself gives us. C. Prepared -to live the new life His coming brings. 1. Noah built his ark and “by this he condemned the world and be-came an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Heb. 11: 7) . The rain was a relief -after all the ridicule, the testing of his faith, to know for sure that the forbearing God was washing out the old to begin a new earth (1 Pet.3:20). And when “Noah went forth” he “built an altar to the Lord” (Gen. 8: 18-20) and lived the new life on the new world. 2. Many were ready to accept His entry into Jerusalem as the beginning of blessing for all-“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed be He who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matt. 21: 9) 3.  For “those who love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4: 8) the faith that Jesus “makes all things new” (Rev. 21: 5) makes each day new.

The above is an example of a sermon outline for the First Sunday in Advent from Theodore Delaney back in 1971

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Advent and Project 24 Memories

I spent Advent in Kenya 13 years ago I believe it was.  Amazing trip and I brought back some of these manger scenes.  I thought they were some of the neatest things I had ever seen.  They were made of corn silk and yarn and I loved them.  At one point I brought a whole lot back and sold them to support Project 24.  This showed up on Facebook and I wonder if any of the blog followers know where this is?

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Two Churches Will Exist Until the End of Time

Going back to Genesis and Luther’s Commentary has been a fun and fruitful thing to do.  Checking him out with an early morning cup of coffee is always a treat but seeing how he does what he said he did with the scriptures is fascinating.  He shook it like a tree until he got all the fruit that was ripe, then he went branch by branch and leaf by leaf until he had covered everything that it had to offer.  In the story of Cain and Able Luther sees the beginning of two churches

“Moreover, here the church begins to be divided into two churches: the one which is the church in name but in reality is nothing but a hypocritical and bloodthirsty church; and the other one, which is without influence, forsaken, and exposed to suffering and the cross, and which before the world and in the sight of that hypocritical church is truly Abel, that is, vanity and nothing. For Christ also calls Abel righteous and makes him the beginning of the church of the godly, which will continue until the end (Matt. 23:35). Similarly, Cain is the beginning of the church of the wicked and of the bloodthirsty until the end of the world. “



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