This started out as a mercy blog and it branches off into other areas from time to time. We started off a few years ago to define and study the connections and relationships that develop and exist, sometimes without us even knowing it in the North Dakota and Minnesota North Districts. Mission Societies and other organizations that function sometimes outside of knowledge of the church as a whole are huge up here in the North Country and we are trying figure out how many of us out here are doing what and where so that we can measure outcomes and needs.
That gets tough sometimes and folks think that we are trying to control and manage when we are really looking for ways to communicate and collaborate. The fear that I have is that in some areas the work of mercy gets moved to the rear and sometimes forgotten of denigrated. There is a lot of hand wringing out there that mercy work takes away from our chief work and that is Gospel proclamation. I had hoped that we had moved beyond that sad and paltry position but it is still there. There is also a kind of gloomy “che sarà, sarà” approach that borders of fatalism. Somewhere between a morbid view of mans action and a constant “trimming and fidgeting” with policy and alignment there has to be a way that we can all move forward.
We must have a “purposeful reliance” upon doctrine. I have seen too many times in my ministry where I or the folks that I am working with use Biblical language to justify a course of action but we never really relied upon that doctrine to inform decisions or ideas. When problems arise we are disconnected from the doctrine and floating free from its ability to inform our actions. We become people who, as Luther once said, are saddled with the “furious worry over penalties”. We can become arrogant when successful and worried when things go wrong. My doctrine tells me that I am not “condemned to success”, as Oswald Bayer says, and even though I cannot see through the “web of motives” behind my actions, and fail to foresee, let alone predetermine their results, that should not prevent the concern and the basic needs of our neighbors….from showing me plainly enough what I ought to do. Justification by faith tells me that my silly and sometimes shabby efforts are the way that God “rustles around in this world”. It is not an excuse to be silly and shabby, it means that I cannot claim any totality or perfection and sometimes not even any success in what I do.
 Oswald Bayer, Living By Faith, Lutheran Quarterly Books, Grand Rapids 2003 page 38
 LW 45;331