Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Driven By the Scriptures

I'm sure there are lots of folks who'd just as soon not read or talk anymore about the ELCA's recent action on sexuality. But, there are times when it just can't be avoided. This week, we're particularly driven by the scriptures.

The scriptures printed on the bulletin cover this coming Sunday are among those that have been used in times past to help us define family and sexual ethics.*
  • The passage from Genesis (2:18-24) includes the line:"Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh."
  • The second reading (from Hebrews 1 & 2) speaks about how God gives responsibility for creation to human beings.
  • In Mark's gospel (10:2-16) we hear Jesus teaching: "From the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.'"
In many previous posts I have discussed how the ELCA’s recent action in adopting the social statement on sexuality denies that there is clear guidance in the scriptures as to God's male-female design and plan for family life. I have much appreciated the clarity with which those associated with Lutheran CORE and WordAlone have addressed this issue. I have recommended that our congregation adopt the Common Confession and join Lutheran Core "a sign of solidarity with the many who are dismayed at the ELCA’s recent move away from Biblical teachings." I'm tired of writing about this subject, but I just don't see that I have a choice, especially this week.

At our church, we're talking about all this. Some of us have thought deeply about these things for a long time. Others are just starting. Many of us would just as soon avoid it because it's hard to talk about serious issues. As I wrote to a church member last Thursday who is concerned that we're not moving fast enough:
God works with us and we all have different personalities. As I read the gospel accounts, Jesus was very patient with the disciples even when they doubted and questioned. After the Holy Spirit was given there were still discussions and meetings (see Acts 15:6 etc.). There are procedures and a general sense of helping people get on board that needs to happen...
Our church council is working. Please keep them in your prayers and talk with them. Better yet, write to our council! Let them know your questions and concerns. They can't read your mind!

Here are a couple of things the council has done so far and how this impacts the future:

1. The council held an open forum on denominational issues back on September 20. At the forum they distributed several items including the following:
September 14, 2009

An area meeting of pastors and lay people concerned about the recent decisions of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly will be held at Calvary Lutheran Church, Willmar, on Saturday, October 3rd. The purpose of the gathering is to discuss ways of responding to the decisions in faithfulness to God.

The meeting is from 9:30 am – 12:00 noon. Anyone concerned is welcome to attend.

For further information, contact Pastors Scott Grorud or Paulus Pilgrim at 320-587-2093.
2. The council had a special meeting last Wednesday and printed the following announcement inour church bulletin on Sunday, September 27:
Second forum on denominational issues

The Congregational Council is working to set up a follow-up forum to our September 20 discussion of denominational issues. It is hoped that a representative from the ELCA and from Lutheran CORE will be available to talk to our congregation at some date within the next month. Watch the Sunday Supplement for more specific information as it becomes available.

You can contact a Council member at any time if you have questions or comments. Council President is Gary Lankki, Vice-President Amy Schultz, Treasurer Mark Peterson, Secretary Jean Abrahamson, Greg Holt, Christine Lawyer, Jim Ponsford, Julie Chap, Sarah Bendorf, John Buschel, Diane Hanson, and Robert Morris.

More information about the denominational issues is available online at
www.elca.org and www.lutherancore.org.
As you can see, these are important days and weeks. Please spend at least some time on this. I think, at least this week, the scriptures don't let well enough alone.


*See for example the former ALC’s statement at http://archive.elca.org/jle/article.asp?k=207. I wrote about this last week in God's Care for Kids.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Because of the Name

This is the message I prepared to preach this morning at worship, was based on Mark 9:38-50:
38John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." 39But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

"If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

"For everyone will be salted with fire. 50Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."
Many things about the Christian faith are painful and irritating. We put up with it because of Jesus—because of the grace and mercy that comes from the good news Jesus has given his life for you! Because of Jesus, we put up with all kinds of confusion and irritation as we learn from our Lord.

What's painful and irritating and confusing?

For one thing, Jesus, the founder of the Christian faith--he exaggerates.

Cut off your hand?

Gouge out your eye?

What Jesus is talking about here is how serious it is when we do things that threaten God's love or God's reputation -- when we cause a scandal -- when we do something that might drive a wedge between ourselves and God -- or, even worse, between someone else and God. He really doesn't want us to cut or gouge -- just to listen and stop doing things that hurt that most precious relationship.

Any attitude, or any action, that makes someone think they aren't worth God's love, those things are huge problems. We need to pay a lot of attention to what we do, what we say, and how we care or don't care for those inside and outside the faith.

Still, it’s irritating, and sometimes I wish the words we read in scripture were more plain.

And speaking of that…

Another thing that's irritating is that Jesus didn't speak English. Why? Because you and I need to rely on Bible translators, and Bible translation is really hard work.
  • Sometimes there are words like "gehenna"--used by Jesus in the original Aramaic – it’s in verses 43, 45 and 47—the word “gehenna” is translated as "hell." The trouble is that as soon as we hear the word "hell" we think we know just what Jesus is talking about... the place where sinners will burn forever… but it's really not that simple. The word "gehenna" refers to a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem--fires and worms were there in that dump... honestly, it’s not that simple in scripture—the idea that sinners will burn forever is taken from analogies, not from clear teachings of Christ.
  • And then there's the word "stumble" in verses 42, 43, 45 and 47--such a poor, weak word. The Greek original is "scandalize"... doing something or saying something, like I said, that endangers our relationship--or someone else's--relationship with God.
These things are irritating. Sometimes I wish I could get around it and preach in a way that takes away all ambiguity and makes things more comfortable and civilized…

But that’s not my job. The job of the preacher, and the job of anyone who follows Jesus, our job is to be like Jesus—that means that sometimes we will be irritating too, that we will stir things up, because the purpose of the irritation, the purpose of the pain God’s Word brings, is to stir us up, and to not let us just be satisfied with ourselves the way we are.

When we come to church, we should expect to be bothered. Bothered enough to examine our hearts and change our ways. And it’s all worth it, because, in the end, the one who bothers us most, Jesus Christ, he gives us his life for all of us bound for gehenna and hell—he gives his life for sinners—to bring them back to God, to bring them into a stirring and lively personal relationship with the God who made our bodies and our souls.

It’s important that we not just push aside things that we think are just bothersome. After all, some of those painful words come straight from our Lord. Our Lord does not want us, primarily, to be comforted—except by the cross and resurrection of our Lord.

I think this feeling of being set on edge by Jesus Christ and God’s Word is what Jesus is getting at in verse 49 where it says "Everyone will be salted with fire."
It’s painful when salt is pushed into a wound. God's Word is painful like that. It cuts and it bothers us. It doesn’t leave us in peace.
But it is so much better to be irritated by the Word than to be satisfied and lost in sin.
  • Jesus wants us to be “salted” with fire instead of being burned.
  • We're warned about losing our relationship with God instead of losing it.
  • We come and get preached at instead of being punished.
Back at verse 50 it says "Salt is good..." it's good to let the Word of God cut and convict... but then it says “If salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?”

We should never water down our preaching or lose the edge of our teaching!

That's why some of us are so angry about anything that takes the force out of God's commandments.

When we are convicted by our Lord, it’s good to let it burn... don't run from the pain... it's okay...

God's grace is enough for any sin... our Lord loves us enough, though, to point them out, to not let us just go on hurting ourselves and others... it can bring us to ruin... and if we think we're not needing a savior, that can lead us away from God.

The job of every Christian believer, is to lift up the Word of God and the Law of God, even when it hurts... to preach all the commandments... the ones about loving God above everything else... the ones that teach us how we ought to love and care about others... in so many details of our relationships... financial, sexual, in our attitudes and in our actions... and to not let people explain God's Law away.

We don't need to make ourselves look good in God's sight. God knows all the grimy details anyway. We can let the salt and fire and sword of God's word cut and burn.

As we allow the truth of God to work on our lives, little by little, we will come to the Cross of Jesus laying down our burdens.

We will learn to forgive as we have been forgiven. We will grow in grace, in faith, and in love.

But it does take awhile. It takes awhile to learn that the fire we're being salted with is for our good.

Jesus’ final word in our gospel is to have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

First we apply the salt of God’s Word to our own sin.

And that will keep us plenty busy.

As far as others go, and their attitudes, and their actions, it’s not our job to point out their faults.

We just let the Word of God do its job.

And mostly, that means bringing ourselves, and every sinner, to the cross of our Lord.

Yes, it’s irritating and painful to be confronted with God’s Word. But it’s all worth it because of Jesus name, for he died and rose again to bring love and forgiveness and hope to every sinner.

Including to me.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

... but there is a storm ...

It's no secret that I've been a member of WordAlone for many years. Even though those in WordAlone who have been "politically active" in the ELCA can sometimes be as difficult to handle as Martin Luther was in his worst moments, I have found the teaching connected with the organization generally faithful to Lutheranism and orthodox Christianity.

I'm writing this post partly because, in our congregation and community, WordAlone, and its association with Lutheran CORE have gotten a bad name among some. I'm concerned that what these organizations stand are often judged, not on the basis of what they teach and advocate, but because the people within the organization sometimes sound alarmist or overly worried. They, and I, are sinners, in need of God's grace, but so is every messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to pay attention to their message more than to their personalities.

That does not mean we will agree with everything they say. I just think we need to take it into account.

Like Martin Luther, passionate people sometimes are more harsh and less careful than they should be. They speak strongly and with great emotion. Often, if they are wise, they go back and apologize for the words they have used or the "tone" of their speaking or writing. Of course, they are human and they do not always admit their faults.

But that does not take away the truth of what strident and even obnoxious people say. The person whose name is on our church, Martin Luther, is famous for his cruel words--especially against people such as the Jews. As someone pointed out at our denominational forum on Sunday evening, Lutheran Churches have apologized for what he has said--see the end of this post for some of what was actually said in apology. It is so sad. What Luther said was responsible, in part, for the holocaust. I talk about that in teaching our youth and in our new member classes.

Fortunately, Martin Luther himself also apologized for speaking too strongly against certain people. Evidently he knew he was a hot head at times. You can see one apology in a movie depiction of Martin Luther's trial before the Holy Roman Emperor and the authority of the Roman Catholic Church at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5P7QkHCfaI.

At his trial at the "Diet of Worms," (click the colored words to find out what that is) Martin Luther is asked if he will "recant" what he has written. In reply, he says that his writings are not all the same. Some even his enemies admit are helpful and true. But he admits that he has been too harsh (quote from the Luther movie):
"I have written against private persons and individuals who uphold Roman tyranny and have attacked my own efforts to encourage piety to Christ. I confess that I have written too harshly. I am but a man and I can err. Only let my errors be proven by scripture and I will revoke my work and throw my books into the fire."
It seems to me that, in his trial before Emporer Charles V, Martin Luther asks that we look beyond his personality and instead focus on the truth (and/or error) of what he says. I hope, and I pray, as we deal with the ELCA's current storm, that we do that too. Because, if we deal with difficulties in the church by focusing on personalities, instead of on the basis of God's Word and plain reason, we will be lost.

That's why I am so thankful for the devotion I referred to in yesterday's post entitled "Where We Put Our Trust." It points us to the Lord as the source of our peace. I did find it necessary, however, to revise it a bit after reading "Listen to the Lullaby or the Canary" found at http://wordalone.org/nr/lullaby-or-canary.shtml ... I changed the last paragraph (before the prayer) to read:
"Now, nothing I said here should to make you think there is no storm. A storm--a spiritual battle--is actually occurring in the ELCA. There is great danger. But, in the storm, remember this—Our Lord does not change, and neither do those things that strengthen our precious faith."
The messenger of "Listen to the Lullaby and the Canary" may be speaking too harshly for our ears, but I think it's an important message to consider. I do not think we can deny that there is a storm. Even so, there is no need for fear. The Lord will bring us through.

Lutherans all around the world have apologized for Luther's antisemitism. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod said:
"While The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod holds Martin Luther in high esteem for his bold proclamation and clear articulation of the teachings of Scripture, it deeply regrets and deplores statements made by Luther which express a negative and hostile attitude toward the Jews."
The ELCA offerred an even stronger condemnation:
"In the spirit of that truth-telling, we who bear his name and heritage must with pain acknowledge also Luther’s anti-Judaic diatribes and the violent recommendations of his later writings against the Jews. As did many of Luther’s own companions in the sixteenth century, we reject this violent invective, and yet more do we express our deep and abiding sorrow over its tragic effects on subsequent generations."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Where We Put Our Trust

Matthew 8:24-27
24A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but Jesus was asleep.25The disciples went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. 27 They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”
A church council member shared a devotion based on that scripture reading at our regular church council meeting in September. Our council president used it with the congregation at Sunday's evening's forum. I'm adapting it here for publication in our church's October newsletter, the Parish Pulse. It's a good reminder to turn our attention to the Lord in stressful times.
"As always, the behavior of the disciples in the gospel is not merely of historical interest, but more of relevance to our own lives. Although the account of Jesus in the boat is brief, it seems apparent that Jesus is disappointed with the depth of their trust. He wakes to quiet the storm, but says to the disciples: Why are you afraid, you of little faith?

Faith is tested and shows it's true character in difficulties, in crushing disappointment, in sorrow, or in betrayal. The demeanor of the disciples in their trial tells the rest of us that our faith is never to be taken for granted. How do we know our faith will hold up? What can we do to prepare ourselves for the times which try our faith?

Since faith is God's gift, we must trust God. It is God who sustains our faith. When we need a deeper faith, a faith that will stand up in all kinds of storms, we turn our attention toward God. We pray for that faith that allows us a deep confidence in God at every moment, in every hour, during every day and through every dark night.
There are many times when we cannot see how God will work it all out for good. Like the disciples in the storm, we wonder what is happening and we panic. But, when we turn toward our Lord, as he has always been revealed in scripture, we can be confident. We are never alone. God has kept us safe thus far. The storm will cease. And we will be safe in his care.

No storm is bigger or stronger than our God. So, as we move ahead toward the future God has promised and prepared, we do as we have always done. We pray every day, worship every week, read the Bible, serve and relate with others (it's so good for us!), and we continue to give as God has first given to us.

Now, nothing I’ve said here should to make you think there is no storm. A storm, a spiritual battle is actually occurring in the ELCA. There is great danger. But, in the storm, remember this—Our Lord does not change, and neither do those things that strengthen our precious faith.

So we pray:
Lord, we know from the Gospels your power and loving care; help us to trust you above all other powers and securities, and more and more put our trust in you rather than in our own power or our own plans.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Scary Evangelism Revisited

Back in March, I wrote the piece "Scary Evangelism" in which I said:
"...When I look at Jesus' ministry, and the ministry of the disciples in the New Testament, I don't see fear being used as a weapon to bring people to their knees. When Jesus talks about hellfire and damnation, it's usually as he is confronting self-righteous and self-confident religious people, not the common people who are twisted and turned by so many religious claims."
Reading what's assigned from Mark's gospel for this Sunday (Mark 9:38-50), I wonder if I don't have to eat my words. Jesus is frightening here, warning about "gehenna" where "where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched."

I use the Greek word "gehenna" here instead of the English translation "hell" because it seems to me that the doctrine or teaching that most of us are accustomed to about "hell" is too simplistic. There are several word pictures that are translated with the word "hell" in our English bibles, and many of us, I think, tend to take them too literally. It's clear that the Bible often uses stories, word pictures or "analogies" instead of scientific description to describe the things of God.

The clearest word on the consequences of sin, it seems to me, to be from Genesis 3, where the first man and woman are cut off from the source of life because they refused to trust and obey God's Word. This is picked up in Isaiah 59:2 where we read
"your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you..."
Then, in the New Testament, God's sentence is described as death itself. In Romans 6:23 it says simply this:
..."the wages of sin is death"...
I don't know just what "hell" is. I have a hard time reconciling everlasting punishment with a good God. Perhaps someone can help me with this. But I do know that in most cases, when the law and it's sentence comes down hard, it's followed by God's glorious promise. The wages of sin are horrible, eternal separation from God, from God who is the source of all life--but, what Jesus offers is not condemnation, but life. The wages of sin is death...
"...but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23b)
We find the same in Romans 5:12-17 --

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification*. 17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Though there are times when God, out of his great love for us, uses frightening picture language to get our attention, the point of it is to warn us of sins dire consequences -- eternal separation from God so that we will know our need of a savior.

Sometimes in this life we think we are quite self-sufficient. We become self-satisfied when we consider our lives to be "above average." But sin is sin, and no matter how much of it there is in our lives at any given time, is always enough to separate us from God and bring down God's punishment. I don't understand the details of that -- but I do know what God wants -- he wants us to be drawn to love him through the sacrifice of His Son.
*"justification" means that, because of Jesus, God looks at us "just-as-if" we'd never sinned.

Monday, September 21, 2009

God's Care for Kids

One of the best parts of my job is the time I get to spend in the Word of God. I've been reading in Mark 9-10, the section of Mark's Gospel that we're reading on Sundays at the end of September and the beginning of October. Beginning with Mark 9:33 (the lectionary reading from last Sunday) there are several references to children. Jesus speaks of children as the ones to welcome, protect, and bring to the Lord.

Children are precious gifts of God. They are signs of God's creative purpose. Children are to be treasured and received with love, whether they're our kids or others. The best, of course, is when there can be strong, loving intact families, where mothers and fathers care for their children. In fact, it's for the good of children that Jesus raised the standards for marriage, reminding the religious leaders of God's intent:
"...at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Mark 10:6-9)
In both Matthew and Mark's gospels, Jesus command about marriage is surrounded by concerns for children. Look a few paragraphs before and after Mk 10:1-12 and Matthew 19:1-9. It's no coincidence: because unfaithfulness in sexual intimacy affects family life and children so deeply, God gives special attention to commands focused on sexuality and limits his blessing to heterosexual marriage. Not unrelated to family life are the things Jesus condemns in this section: arguments about who is better than who (Mk 9:33-34), sinning and scandalizing children (Mk 9:42ff) or rejecting them (Mk 10:13-16).

In my opinion, all of this relates so closely to the current discussions around sexual boundaries that we are having in connection with the ELCA.

Perhaps you disagree. If you do, let's continue to talk together--but let's make sure we do so in connection with the inspired Word of God. God's Word is such a treasure--as are the kids we are to care for and raise, teaching them that same Word.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

After the Forum

I am thankful for all who spoke their minds at the forum on denominational issues that we had at our church tonight, but more thankful for the one who is the way and the truth and the life - the one who always has us on his mind and in his heart, the one God in human flesh, Jesus the Christ. Jesus reveals God most clearly as he suffers and dies for sinners on the cross and rises victorious to give us hope and peace and love for all.

I plan to keep learning love and courage from that same Jesus, as he is revealed to us in the scriptures and in the proclamation of God's Word. I hope we'll keep treasuring Jesus above all, and that we will continue to recognize the scriptures, seen through the bloody sweat and tears of Jesus, as the place where we go to discuss and resolve issues of life and faith.

Some quoted painful scripture passages tonight that, without the mediation of Jesus' sacrificial love, and without careful study, are just so painful to hear. I'd like to encourage us to become familiar with the ELCA confession of faith, particularly the section on scripture in C2.02. It's clear there that Jesus comes first, then the rest of the scriptures. You can find the ELCA confession of faith on my post dated Friday, Sept. 18.

As someone said toward the end of the forum tonight, so much changed with Jesus' sacrifice for us sinful humans. Some things did not change, but so much did. As to telling the difference between the two, I commend to you my friend Joel Berthelsen's book length paper A Welcoming Community of Grace: A Law and Gospel Approach to the Sexuality Debate.

Thank you to all who expressed their love and their willingness to keep praying us through. Peace to you in Jesus' name.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Not New and Not Alone

I'm thankful that I don't need to get ready to preach tomorrow morning. It's been a beautiful day and I've managed to get some minor chores done outdoors. We had men's Bible study this morning at church and I was over there once to get some things ready for the new member class, but otherwise I've been here at the parsonage. I've also been doing a bit of reading in preparation for tomorrow night's open forum on denominational issues.

Ever since the end of the churchwide assembly many people have stopped in to talk with me about their concerns. At least 125 questionnaires* on denominational issues were filled out and returned, many with lengthy comments.

As I have listened to people's concerns and read the questionnaire comments, it has become clear that some of our church members feel rushed or pushed.
  • Some have said that they think that the questionnaire itself was premature.
  • Some felt that the questions about the ELCA were misleading and/or loaded.
  • Others were offended by my letter to our church council president, recommending that our local church sign the Common Confession and join an organization called "Lutheran CORE."
  • Some think that joining CORE would mean automatically leaving the ELCA. (I tried to answer that question in a comment that you can read by clicking here.)
Some feeling rushed or pushed are pleased with the ELCA's new openness to same-sex unions. Others are ambivalent or opposed to same-sex unions but still feel rushed and pushed because it all feels so new. Why does one churchwide assembly cause such furor? How can things have changed so quickly?

Those of us who have been watching denominational issues for awhile know what happened in Minneapolis this summer was not "new." I tried to address that in my letter to the president of our congregation. In that letter I mentioned that I have been a part of WordAlone for ten years.** But it's not just people associated with that "network" that have been concerned, and the concern goes back much longer than 10 years.

One of the things I've been reading in preparation for tomorrow is the latest newsletter from the Fellowship of Confessional Lutherans (FOCL). I plan to make that newsletter available at tomorrow's forum. If you want, you can download it as a PDF (8 pages) by clicking here.

In one of the FOCL newsletter articles George Muendeking refers to Bishop Hanns Lilje, a "renowned church supporter of the resistance movement against Adolph Hitler." Dr. Muendeking remembers Lilje as "one of our noblest heroes of faith" and remembers hearing Lilje give an address at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary about five years after World War II.

Here's a quote from Muendeking's article (emphasis mine):
In his seminary address, [Lilje] discussed reasons why the Christians of Germany dropped so easily into Hitler's lap. He felt it was because the Church had abandoned its basic faith in the reliability of the Bible. Losing that foundational Lutheran heritage of 'Scripture Alone", church members were side open to the blandishments of any alien mythology or religion, in this case, the religion of Nazism.
I am not a fundamentalist when it comes to the interpretation of scripture. For example, I think many Old Testament stories are not meant to be taken as scientific truth. I am very comfortable with the notion that God speaks to us through poetry and "story." We'll be looking at the creation stories in our Youth Discipleship Training class this week--I do not insist that the youth believe that God created the world in six literal days about 6,000 years ago.

But I do believe, with the ELCA's official confession of faith,*** that the scriptures are inspired by God and that God wants them to be as they are. I believe that truth is found there--and though we may debate interpretations of scripture passages, we are called by God to use scripture as it is written to inform our decisions.

Lutherans use scripture to interpret scripture, and look at Jesus Christ as the center and main interpreter of the Bible. When in doubt, I will say tomorrow morning and when I teach our youth, look to Jesus, the center and pioneer of our faith. But the Bible needs to be at the center of our discussion at all times.

It's my opinion that we ELCA Lutherans, along with many other Christians, have been in danger of sliding away, for quite some time, from the foundation of our faith. The Summer 2009 FOCL newsletter includes articles reprinted from the 1990s. One by Pastor Gordon Selbo from the Fall of 1990 shares a concern that "tolerance" as expanded into "an unacceptable relativism." Another, written by former ALC president Dr. David Preus, who once preached the sermon that called me to consider being a pastor, says this specifically about the Bible and sexual ethics:
That the sanctity of sexual consummation is limited to marriage is a clear teaching of Scripture... Outside of marriage it is wrong. While we have always had trouble living up to it, most generations have not had trouble agreeing to the rightness of sexual life within marriage and the wrongness of sexual life (taken to the point of intercourse) outside heterosexual marriage.
Preus continues--this is in 1991:
It is now suggested we must rewrite our sexual codes of ethics. I believe it is imperative that those of us who believe there is a clear decisive word from God on this subject consistent with Christ, the Scriptures and our confessional heritage, must speak the fact openly, as lovingly as we are capable of doing while attempting to listen to those who are of a contrary mind.

This issue must be dealt with along with all other ethical questions to which a biblical address is made. All must be determined on the basis of faithfulness to the Word of God and not on the basis of cultural whimsy.

The Word of God can accomodate to a wide variation of cultural lifestyles. Think of music, folk-ways or food. But that which any culture suggests as right or wrong must be judged by Christ in the Scriptures and our Lutheran Confessions.
In all my years of serving as a pastor, I have tried my best to stand for what is right while at the same time not being too loud about my concerns or worries about what is wrong in my denomination. I have always tried to believe the best about those who have different opinions than I. Perhaps that's why for some this is so new. Perhaps I should have been more consistent in speaking up on issues that have concerned me. But I've always wanted to "major" in teaching and preaching the good news of forgiveness and mercy given in Jesus. I've never wanted to set myself up as a holier-than-thou wise guy who always thinks he's smarter than everyone else. I know I can get pretty preachy about my convictions. I've wanted to stay away from that as much as I could.

That has been true for a long time. But one thing is new now. My church denomination, the ELCA, has put some language into an official document of our church that seems to intentionally dilute what Dr. Preus said in 1991 -- that there is a clear sexual ethic in the scriptures that lifts up "the rightness of sexual life within marriage and the wrongness of sexual [intercourse] outside heterosexual marriage." This puts into question many, many things about family life, the raising and education of children, and the relevance of what the Bible says about personal morals.

I'm not alone in thinking all of this is very important. And many have been saying so for years. If I have not been forthright in informing you in the past, please talk with me so I can apologize face to face.

If you are in the Dassel-Cokato area, I hope will be able to come tomorrow evening from 6:30-8:30 -- the forum will give members of our church a chance to express themselves and ask questions on issues related to the ELCA and its recent decisions.**** And please pray that we will be kind as we speak and listen. Pray that the Lord's love would be present among us and that we will be patient with each other. As patient as you have been with me.


*See What's Being Done at ELC.

**For some my association with WordAlone is a problem. Members of our local church have had less than pleasant experiences with some folks associated with WordAlone. At times, people who are upset with the long term direction of the ELCA have not been the kindest folk you'd ever want to meet. In Crabby Christians I alluded to that.

***See toward the end of yesterday's post.

****Read Beyond Cokato ELC for more about why denominational decisions are important for our local church.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Sunday Morning, Sunday Evening

The Minnesota Teen Challenge Choir will be presenting a message of hope and joy this Sunday morning. I hope you will be able to come and hear the music and the testimonies to what God is doing in the lives of these men and women.

Between our two hours of worship I'll be teaching the first half of our new member class. At that class I always go through the statement of faith found in our church's constitution. That statement of faith is below.

On Sunday evening the church council is sponsoring an open forum in regard to denominational issues. We'll gather downstairs in the fellowship hall to share our varied thoughts and feelings and ask questions. Our congregational president will moderate and we'll do our best to answer questions. Notes will be taken -- questions and comments that cannot be answered Sunday evening will come back to the executive committee and a second forum will be held to address them in about two weeks time.

On both Sunday morning and Sunday evening, I pray that we will be submissive to the Lord above all. I am praying that our ears and hearts will be open and our voices filled with love and truth.

I believe we need to be completely compassionate and completely committed to God's created order at the same time. I believe that is what we have always taught and will continue to teach in and through our church.

Thanks for your continued partnership in the gospel.


Here's what we'll be going over at our new member class this Sunday morning, beginning at 9:45 in the church choir room. I hope you will consider listening in!

Confession of Faith
from the ELC constitution
This congregation confesses the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This congregation confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the Gospel as the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.

a. Jesus Christ is the Word of God incarnate, through whom everything was made and through whose life, death and resurrection God fashions a new creation.

b. The proclamation of God’s message to us as both Law and Gospel is the Word of God, revealing judgment and mercy through word and deed, beginning with the Word in creation, continuing in the history of Israel, and centering in all its fullness in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

c. The canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the written Word of God. Inspired by God’s Spirit speaking through their authors, they record and announce God’s revelation centering in Jesus Christ. Through them God’s Spirit speaks to us to create and sustain Christian faith and fellowship for service in the world.

This congregation accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life.

This congregation accepts the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds as true declarations of the faith of this congregation.

This congregation accepts the Unaltered Augsburg Confession as a true witness to the Gospel, acknowledging it as one with it in faith and doctrine all churches that likewise accept the teachings of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.

This congregation accepts the other confessional writings in the Book of Concord, namely, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles and the Treatise, the Small Catechism, the Large Catechism, and the Formula of Concord, as further valid interpretations of the faith of the Church.

This congregation confesses the Gospel, recorded in the Holy Scriptures and confessed in the ecumenical creeds and Lutheran confessional writings, as the power of God to create and sustain the Church for God’s mission in the world.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

God's Word

How wondrous is the Word of God.
  • God's Word is Living and Active. God's Word brought the universe into being. Through His Word, God came into this world after it had fallen into sin. And through His Word God continues to call me and all sinners to repentance and new life. God's Word descends to the depths and raises us from death and despair.
Let us treasure that Word. Read the Scriptures. Speak words of Christ's forgiving love. And remember there is no situation of life where we will ever be forgotten or abandoned. We know it is true because Jesus fulfilled it in his life, in his sufferings, death and resurrection.

Earlier this week I had an opportunity to share Psalm 56 with someone in despair. Perhaps someone needs this Word today.
Psalm 56
*(see note below on the interpretation of "enemies" in the scriptures.)

1 Be merciful to me, O God,
because I am under attack;
my enemies persecute me all the time.
All day long my opponents attack me.
There are so many who fight against me.

3 When I am afraid, O Lord Almighty,
I put my trust in you.

4 I trust in God and am not afraid;
I praise him for what he has promised.
What can a mere human being do to me?

5 My enemies make trouble for me all day long;
they are always planning how to hurt me!
They gather in hiding places
and watch everything I do,
hoping to kill me.
Punish them, O God, for their evil;
defeat them in your anger!*

8 You know how troubled I am;
you have kept a record of my tears.
Aren’t they listed in your book?

9 The day I call to you,
my enemies will be turned back.

I know this: God is on my side-
the Lord, whose promises I praise.
11 In him I trust, and I will not be afraid.
What can a mere human being do to me?

12 O God, I will offer you what I have promised;
I will give you my offering of thanksgiving,
13 because you have rescued me from death
and kept me from defeat.
And so I walk in the presence of God,
in the light that shines on the living.
Praise God for his Glorious Word! Because God has spoken, we know that no feeling, no situation, no sadness, anger or defeat is beyond His reach!

*Note: Though many suffer because of other people, our enemies are really the spiritual forces of evil. See Ephesians 6:12 and ask me sometime about how political and economic powers can be interpreted as spiritual. In any case, enemies are constantly are around us and within our own lives. No one is immune. God's Word is our help in time of trouble--convicting us of our sin and helping us when we are attacked.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Not Afraid to Listen, Not Afraid to Learn, Not Afraid to Love

When was the last time you felt uncomfortable? I don't mean physically. I mean uncomfortable with another person... When was the last time? Maybe you're feeling that way right now.

Maybe someone has hurt you. Maybe you've suffered the "deadly poison" of people saying bad things about you. Or maybe you know you disagree about something and just don't want to get into a difficult conversation.

When God came to earth--when the creator of the universe came to live as one of us humans--Jesus didn't seem to worry too much about making things comfortable.

In fact, in Mark 8, Jesus is the one who makes things uncomfortable.

"Who do you say that I am?" he says.

A very personal question.

Through God's Word He looks right at you today and asks the same thing.

Who do YOU, personally, say that I am?

And then he goes on to talk about the suffering HE will face and the ways we will be called to suffer for him.

If we listen, if we learn, that will make us feel uncomfortable. More uncomfortable than a meeting about the church kitchen. More uncomfortable even than a meeting about the ELCA.

We will be having a meeting about that next Sunday evening (Sep. 20). Tentatively it's planned for 6:30 at church. I hope you will come. It will be a chance to express our feelings, to ask questions, and to listen to what others have to say.

It will probably be a bit uncomfortable, but I don't know of anywhere where Jesus commands us to be comfortable--not in this life--not until we arrive in the kingdom of God.

From our scriptures today we can learn some things about how to handle uncomfortable conversations.

First, God wants us to listen and learn from him.

That’s where God wants us to start.

It's good usually to listen to each other too, but people are inconsistent. Sometimes we're wise and sometimes we're not. Not every opinion is equal. There is truth and there is falsehood. There is good and there is evil. Sometimes, our words are filled with deadly poison.

So we don't start with talking. We start by having our ears tuned in the right direction--tuned into God's Word--especially toward Jesus Christ, to what he has to say to us, and to all the scriptures seen through his love.

Only then when we listen first to God—only then we won't go wrong. As we have our ears and our opinions tuned to Him, we will not avoid conflict, we won't always be comfortable, but we will learn what is right.

Second, God calls us not only to listen, not only to CONSIDER what God has to teach us, but to learn, to allow God to change our thinking.

Many times I think that's why we don't want to listen to what God has to say to us. It’s easier for us to stay in our own opinions, in our own prejudices.

But when we come to know the love of God through Jesus Christ, and when our lives are changed by knowing him, then we will know it's okay to be changed.

In fact, we will want him to change us.

When we come to know that God doesn't only SAY he loves us, but that he came to be one of us and that he would rather DIE than lose any of us, then we'll allow ourselves to really listen and be changed.

I was talking with someone the other day about our confirmation program. She was saying that it doesn't make sense to try to teach unless people really want to learn. And we only want to learn after we've been convinced that God's love us for us, personally, that we can confess our sins and receive forgiveness because of what Jesus has done on the cross.

If you do not know yet how much God loves you through Jesus Christ, I pray that you will seek that truth with all your heart. Come to Alpha or come to Bible study or Sunday school or our youth pgoram—ask someone who has come to know the Lord’s love to show you the way.

Third, God calls us to love, even when it hurts.

It’s not always easy to be part of a church family.

Sometimes we might think it’s better to just stay home. All these confused people!

But Jesus teaches us to love even those we think are completely wrong. Look at the conversation Jesus had with his disciples—after asking the personal question—who do YOU say that I am—Jesus got a variety of answers. One was a right answer—Jesus is the savior, the messiah, God living among us to save us!

Peter got it right, but he was totally wrong too. He thought Jesus was going to be the kind of savior who would come against the enemy and destroy them. Instead, Jesus says he is going to save us by suffering and dying in our place.

Peter was so wrong, thinking that Jesus was going to conquer his enemies by force—Peter was so wrong that Jesus calls him a devil.

But even so, if you will keep reading, keep learning, you will find that Jesus’ love extends way beyond those who get the answers right. For it’s just that very man, Peter, who Jesus gives special responsibility to as a leader.

Human beings don't understand that kind of love. When we find ourselves rejected, we reject in turn. We don't stand in there and keep loving. In fact, we think that's pretty dumb. How could it be that the kind of the world would give his life for the criminals and for those who turned against him and then forgiven them and make them his own?

But that's the way of the cross. And knowing that Jesus went that way, we can follow, with love, without fear.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Alpha is Coming

A moment ago I sent this email to all the email addresses on our church system... I want to make sure no one is left out so I'm putting it here too.
Sisters and Brothers in Christ in the Dassel-Cokato area!

Come to the ALPHA CELEBRATION DINNER Sunday, September 27, 2009, 5:00 p.m., and BRING FRIENDS!

Hundreds of our neighbors and co-workers need signs of God's love to get them through the weeks and months to come. They need to know that they are treasured by God and by others.

Alpha is a proven way of sharing that love.

Alpha needs your support now.
  • Please give a financial gift to the "Alpha Fund" here at Evangelical Lutheran Church. About $3,000 in special gifts is needed to make Alpha possible. Just write "Alpha Fund" on the memo of your check or on your envelope.
  • Please personally invite and bring friends and neighbors to the Alpha celebration dinner - and attend yourself - Sunday evening, September 27, 5:00 p.m. Personal invitations are THE way of beginning the process of godly change in the lives of those we love. We have some invitations available for you to send to friends. Let us know how many you want.
  • Please consider how the Lord is calling you to personally participate this fall -- on the prayer team, in the children's program, as a group leader or helper, or in the ever-popular kitchen.
Alpha has taught me so much. I have learned that when God calls and when we leap in, God blesses us with spiritual strength that expands beyond Alpha to the rest of our lives.

If you have participated in the past, please come again. Every time I hear the teachings, participate with the leaders and the guests, go on retreat, I find God at work blessing and changing my life and others lives.

None of us are yet what God wants us to be. All of us in Alpha continue to need God's guidance, grace and mercy - please come and join with all the *imperfect people* who gather around our *perfectly loving God*.

Please don't wait another week to pray, to act, to give, to invite. Please don’t wait to find a perfect program with perfect people. You won't find it this side of heaven. Alpha is the best way at our church to share God's love with the world.

If you want to know more about what Alpha is about, go to http://www.alphausa.org/ or call us!

If you have any interest in blessing individuals and families this fall, I'd ask that you'd contact our wonderfully willing Alpha administrator, Veda Davis, at 320-286-5429 or vdavis@broadband-mn.com or the church office at 320-286-5964. You can also email me at sthorson@elchome.net. You will really help us if you'll respond to this note...

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Pastor Steve Thorson

Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cokato, MN
280 3rd St. SE, P.O. Box 448
Cokato, MN 55321

cell 763-291-3499
church office 320-286-5964
home 320-286-6169

I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls. Second Corinthians 12:15

PoWeRSuRGe – the way forward
Pray Every Day
Worship Every Week
Read & Study the Bible
Serve at and beyond Evangelical Lutheran Church
Relate with Others for Spiritual Growth
Give Generously as God has first given to you
If you're not in the Dassel-Cokato area, please keep us in prayer.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's Being Done at ELC

I returned a few minutes ago from Cokato Manor where I was able to share the gospel with our elders. What a wondrous thing to delve into the Word of God. We were reminded that none of us comes to our Lord as anything other than a sinner desperate for grace.

But I need to let you know what's going on--there have been many conversations--I am thankful for all who have called, emailed or spoken with me in person...

On the whiteboard in my office, and in my planning with our church council leadership, the following plan is taking shape as regards issues and relationship with the ELCA:
  1. Meet with other local ELCA pastors (has been done and is ongoing)
  2. Distribute "Questionnaire about denominational issues" (was in the Pulse newsletter and is available at church and by pdf by clicking here)
  3. Adopt the "Common Confession" (see letter below)
  4. Other actions as we decide (the church council and congregation will act)
  5. Focus on ongoing mission.
I hope everyone will fill out the questionnaire on denominational issues (available as a pdf by clicking here). It's not a perfect questionnaire. Some things could have been worded differently. Still, what you write will be important as we move forward.

The following letter and attachments were given to our church council president on August 24, about 10 days ago, immediately after the churchwide assembly. Our church council received copies via their church mailboxes on August 30. Copies will be placed in our Sunday bulletin this week.
August 24, 2009

Mr. _______, Congregation President
Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cokato, Minnesota

Dear _______:

Last week I attended the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

At the assembly the ELCA adopted a Social Statement that lifts up ones personal conscience over the Word of God in matters related to morality and sexual conduct. Though our church says that it “accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life” the statement claims not to find clear truth about God’s purpose for sexuality in the Bible. Instead, the statement calls us to respect a variety of positions, especially in regard to homosexuality (see lines 809 -858). Furthermore, it says that our church “will include these different understandings and practices within its life as it seeks to live out its mission and ministry in the world.”

Then, based on that social statement, the ELCA went on to endorse gay/lesbian sexual unions and will “find a way for people in such publically accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church.” I am not “anti-gay” but I am bound to the Word of God which, together with creation itself, testifies to the goodness of the male-female bond of marriage as the only God-blessed place for sexual intimacy. See my recent blog posts for more rationale.

For ten years I have been a member of WordAlone, a “network of congregations and individuals committed to the authority of the Word manifest in Jesus the Christ as proclaimed in Scripture and safeguarded through the work of the Holy Spirit. WordAlone advocates reform and renewal of the church, representative governance, theological integrity, and freedom from a mandated historic episcopate.” At a convention in 2004, WordAlone affirmed the “Biblical teaching about sexual life and its vision for marriage,” and rejects “any proposed change in standards and definitions for sexual life or marriage which contradicts this Biblical teaching.” The 2005 WordAlone annual convention called for an association of confessing congregations joined together by the Common Confession (click this link). That association became known as Lutheran CORE, the Coalition for Reform.

Lutheran CORE was an active presence at the just completed churchwide assembly. The Lutheran CORE website has more information on this group. I ask that our congregation approve the common confession and state its intent to join Lutheran CORE as a sign of solidarity with the many who are dismayed at the ELCA’s recent move away from Biblical teachings. I would like to meet with the church council about this as soon as possible. Please see [copy of CORE connection newsletter - click here for pdf) and the Lutheran Core website.


Pastor Steve Thorson
Attached to that letter was the Common Confession and a copy of a Lutheran CORE newsletter.

The next thing that happened was that our congregation president called a special "informal" council meeting. We met in the early morning (7 a.m.). People are busy and only 5 council members and 3 staff members attended. The council leadership will be providing information on Sunday. Our church council received copies of this last Sunday. Copies of this material will be in our church bulletin this Sunday, September 6.

None of this is trivial. All of this is important. We need to pray, speak honestly and with love, and listen carefully to one another. We will be providing an opportunity for our congregation members and friends to learn more at some sort of open forum--stay tuned for details.

In the midst of all of this don't forget about tonight's worship and praise event at the Dassel-Cokato High School PAC. I will have discount tickets available for tonight's EVENT. Just find me during the day or at the event. If you want to make out a check, make payable to Evangelical Lutheran Church for whatever you can afford.
  • 4:30 - Conversation & Bible study w/ Robin Mark (ticket required)
  • 6:00 - Food avail. from vendors - also conversation & prayer for our communities (no ticket required)
  • 7:30 - Praise & Worship in the PAC (ticket required)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Biblical Equality

My daughter Naomi begins an internship today at the Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE). Should be interesting.
CBE Mission and History

CBE is a nonprofit organization of Christian men and women who believe that the Bible, properly interpreted, teaches the fundamental equality of men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, all economic classes, and all age groups, based on the teachings of Scriptures such as Galatians 3:28:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (TNIV).

CBE Mission Statement

CBE equips believers by affirming the biblical truth about equality and justice. Thus all believers, without regard to gender, ethnicity, and class, are free and encouraged to use their God-given gifts in families, ministries, and communities.

CBE Core Values

1. We believe the Bible teaches the equality of women and men.
2. We believe God has given each person gifts to be used for the good of Christ's kingdom.
3. We believe Christians are to develop and exercise their God-given gifts in home, church, and society.
4. We believe the Bible teaches that Christians are to oppose injustice.

CBE Core Purpose

To communicate broadly the biblical truth that men and women are equally responsible to act justly and use their God-given gifts to further Christ's kingdom.

CBE Envisioned Future

CBE envisions a future where all believers will be encouraged to exercise their gifts for God's glory and missional purposes, with the full support of the Christian community.

History of CBE

Disturbed by the shallow biblical premise used by organizations and mission groups to exclude the gifts of women, evangelical leaders assembled in 1987 to publish their biblical perspective in a new scholarly journal, Priscilla Papers. Included in the group were Gilbert Bilezikian, W. Ward Gasque, Stanley Gundry, Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, Catherine Clark Kroeger, Jo Anne Lyon, and Roger Nicole. The group determined that a national organization was needed to provide education, support, and leadership about biblical equality.

With the help and vision of these individuals, Christians for Biblical Equality was established on January 2, 1988. Catherine Clark Kroeger served as the first president of the organization, and Alvera Mickelsen served as the first chair of the board of directors. Since 2001, Mimi Haddad has served as CBE’s second president.

CBE’s first major project was the creation of a statement, "Men, Women, and Biblical Equality," which laid out the biblical rationale for equality as well as its application in the community of believers and the family. CBE hosted its first international conference in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in July of 1989.

CBE has grown to include members from over 100 denominations and 65 countries. It conducts annual, international conferences; publishes three award-winning publications, a blog, and a weekly e-newsletter; and hosts an online bookstore devoted to reviewing and promoting resources on gender and the Bible from an egalitarian perspective.

Added Monday, Sep. 14: Sign up for the e-newsletter at http://www.cbeinternational.org/?q=content/arise-e-newsletter
What do you think? Please comment! Let's keep the conversation going.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Please Pray for Peace

The following is an email sent out to folks in our area a moment ago. I'd appreciate your prayers as well as you read this online.
Dear members of ELC and friends in the Dassel-Cokato area, fellow pastors, church friends, family, and many others.

May the peace of Christ dwell in you richly.

Please pray that many will get together to celebrate and pray on Thursday at the DC High School performing arts center. At 4:30 those who can be there will gather with Robin Mark whose church in Northern Ireland was born amid prayers for peace. After that there will be food available from vendors. At about 6:00 those who wish will get together to talk and pray for peace in our hearts, peace in our schools, and God's gift of peace in and among our churches. At 7:30 there will be a praise and worship concert with Robin Mark and Rachel Kurtz. Come to part of this or all of it as you can. Tickets are available at the door or at www.robinmarkconcert.com - they are $12 but I can provide them to you for whatever you can afford. Just ask me.

Please pray for me and for our church leadership. I am thankful for our local church leadership and ask that you be praying especially for them. As we move ahead, I sometimes don't know what the best thing is to do. On the one hand, I need to be sincere about what I believe. On the other hand I need to make sure all know that I am not all full of wisdom and infallible knowledge. I am a sinner and have fallen short of God's glory just like anyone else. I am praying that we can be good listeners to each other in and among our churches. I am praying that we will follow our Lord, NOT human leaders such as myself. We will not agree on the issues that have come before our ELCA church recently. We have a variety of opinion in my extended family. People I dearly love are on various sides of a variety of issues. I just pray that we can be kind and generous to one another as we walk together, one day at a time.

Please pray - and we will pray about these at the event on Thursday, for our schools, for our communities and community leaders, for families of all kinds, for our children, for our elders, for the poor and the distressed. I am thankful for our kind and generous Lord Jesus. He gives peace beyond understanding -- needed each day.

Please pass on these prayer requests as the Lord leads.

Sincerely yours,

Pastor Steven Thorson
Evangelical Lutheran Church
P.O. Box 448
Cokato, Minnesota 55321

www.equalsharing.com - my blog
www.elchome.net our church's under construction website

P.S. - Toni and I will be hosting two exchange students (both girls, both high school seniors) this year - one from Incheon, South Korea and one from Hong Kong, China. They fly in Saturday evening. They'll be with us through the school year, God willing. Please pray for them as they fly this way and for their welcome to our home and our town.
Many times I can be very strong in my opinions and thoughts. If I hurt you in any way, please know it's not intentional. I'm just praying that we can continue to listen and care for each other as we move along, one day at a time.