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Introducing Pastor Russell Turnswich: As He Consoles a Beloved Parishioner Cast into Doubt Regarding the Civil Realm by The Rev. Steven K. Gjerde

  • June 30, 2015 - 4:04 pm
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Pastor Russell Turnswich set down his coffee, leaned back in his office chair, and sighed contentedly as he gazed at the calendar.  August 1, 2003: just one more week, and his wife and he would dig their toes in the sunny sands of Sanibel Island, far away from the heat and fervor of ministry.  Ahhh, yes.  That was the life!  Pr. Turnswich closed his eyes and began imagining a myriad of ocean-side frolics . . . .

A knock on the door roused him from his reverie.  He sat up and tried to look professional.

“Come in?”

Pr. Turnswich groaned inwardly as he watched Higley Sollicito walk through the door.  Higley was always worried about something, and it usually took a good hour of conversation to settle him down.

“Higley!  Hello!”  Be positive, Pastor Turnswich told himself.  “What brings you in today?”

“Oh, Pastor!”  Higley shook his head as he slumped into a chair.  “It’s this war in Iraq.  What do you think about it?”

Pr. Turnswich wiggled his nose, as he often did when executing a quick side-step.  “The war?  In Iraq?  Why does that concern you?”

Higley sat up, animated.  “Well, Pastor!  Why wouldn’t it concern you?  We’re sending all sorts of young men and women overseas to fight a war in a foreign country, all over oil!  People are dying!  Don’t you care?”

“Oh, well, now.”  Pr. Turnswich scritched in his chair.  “Yes, yes, of course—and you may have heard me pray about it two or three weeks ago in church.  But, ah, I—well.  What has you specifically concerned?”

Higley slumped back in his chair.  “I dunno.  It just seems we should be doing something.  Protesting, or something!  Making a stand for God’s way of peace!”

Maybe it’s time for a joke?  Pr. Turnswich smiled benevolently.  “Oh, now, that doesn’t sound very Lutheran!”  Pr. Turnswich forced a prolonged and horsey laugh.

Higley did not laugh.

Pr. Turnswich cleared his throat.

Higley continued to gaze at him, waiting.

“Yes, well.”  The hapless pastor searched for something to say, and that was when it happened: he glanced at the wall behind Higley, where Mrs. Turnswich had hung the faded photographs and portraits of all the Turnswich men who had ever served in the public ministry—a long line of them, stretching all the way back to the Revolutionary War.  Seeing them, Pr. Turnswich suddenly knew what he had to say.  He leaned forward.

“You know, Higley, I think what you have to accept is that this war is now the law of the land.”

Higley blinked, looking a little startled.  Pr. Turnswich nodded.

“It’s true, you know.  The president has called for this action in Iraq, and the congress has affirmed it by an overwhelming majority.  It’s the law of the land.”

Higley’s brow furrowed.  “But—but why does that matter?”

“Well.”  Pr. Turnswich sat back in his chair and rested his hands on his stomach, suddenly thankful that he had paid a little attention in that elective course on Luther’s writings 35 years ago.  “As Lutherans, we believe in the two kingdoms, you know, the civil kingdom and the, uh—well, ah, what was it now?—oh, yes!  The church kingdom!”

Higley frowned.

“Yes, so, now, in the church kingdom, see, God sends us to proclaim the gospel and care for souls.  But God created the civil kingdom to make laws about things like taxes, war, and marriage.  Luther was very clear about it.”  Pr. Turnswich could feel his theological juices flowing.  “So, we in the church don’t really have any cause to protest anything the government does with respect to this war, because it is now the law of the land.  God’s kingdom on the left hand”—Pr. Turnswich waved his left hand in the air—“has spoken.”

Higley cocked his head.  “Does every pastor and bishop in the ELCA think about it this way?”

Pr. Turnswich nodded.  “Oh, yes!  See, that’s why you haven’t heard people like our presiding bishop, Mark Hanson, or anyone else protest this war in Iraq, but instead enthusiastically support it.  It’s the law of the land.  The civil government has the right to wage war, just like it has the right to change the laws on taxes or marriage, and the question isn’t if we will accept and support it, but how we will do so.”

“But what about Dietrich Bonhoeffer?”

“Well, let’s not confuse things.”

“But doesn’t God want us to pound swords into combines?”

“Plowshares.”

“Right.”

“Right—well, see, the Bible was written in a different context from ours.  Back then, there wasn’t much metal, see, and so they had to recycle.  It’s different today, when we have lots of resources to make weapons.  So that text doesn’t really apply the question of war and peace in a modern context.  Plus, the threat back then was Babylon and Persia, and today it’s Iraq and Iran, which is totally different.”

“Oh. So the ELCA supports the war in Iraq?”

“Of course!  Just as we support all the laws that the government passes in its function as God’s civil kingdom.  It’s the law of the land.”

Higley’s suddenly brightened.  “I see!  And so the ELCA supports the death penalty, too?”

Pr. Turnswich wracked his brain.  Had there been a statement on that one?  “I imagine so . . . . It is the law of the land . . . or at least certain parts of our land, or—.”

“And St. Paul in Romans says that the government has authority to wield the sword to punish bad behavior, right?”

That seemed about right.  “Yes, exactly!  Now you see how it works.”

Higley seemed relieved when he left.  Pr. Turnswich could feel himself relaxing, and he paused to gaze contentedly at the pictures of his forefathers.  He was very thankful that he saw them just in time!  Their example inspired his own.

For there hung the image of old Theodosius Turnswich, the very first Turnswich to serve as a pastor in the colonies.  He had once penned a sermon, a copy of which Pr. Turnswich still had, in which he had explained very carefully that Britain had every right to tax the colonies as much as it wanted, and quarter soldiers in homes, and disperse public assemblies.  It was the government’s divine right to pass such laws, and Christians just had to accept it—

Pr. Turnswich suddenly frowned, thinking for a moment.  Things hadn’t turned out so well for Theodosius, had they?  Come to think of it.  Tarred and feathered after that sermon, run out on a rail—Pr. Turnswich blushed and shook his head.  That was a long time ago.  A different context.

He leaned over, pulled open his desk drawer, and started leafing through his travel fliers on Sanibel.

Lutheran CORE Voice no. 4

  • June 30, 2015 - 12:39 pm
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Lutheran CORE Voice no. 4 is a special issue, celebrating the Ministry of Bp. Paull Spring.

Click here to read it: 4.2015

Tuesday, June 30th Devotion

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“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.  You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’  Therefore you will flee!  You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’  Therefore your pursuers will be swift!” (Isaiah 30:15-16)

Listen carefully to the Word of the Lord and understand what He says.  Many who reject His Word with an excuse that they cannot understand the meaning, but here it is clearly spoken.  The Lord desires repentance and then that we rest in Him.  Resting in Him.  Do not become anxious and try to figure things out.  The Lord knows what He is doing, and it is being done.  Trust in Him and rest in His provision.

Lord, I want to lean on my own understanding.  I want to know how things are going to be.  What this really means is that I do not want to trust You.  Help me overcome my sinfulness by leading me into repentance that I may simply rest in You.  Guide my thinking that I may know that You already have everything done according to Your purpose and that all will be as You have planned.  In You alone is there hope, because You have created everything for its time.

Lord Jesus, You have come in physical form that we might rest in You.  Help me, I pray, to repent truly of my sin, learn to live in obedience and be guided in the rest that You alone can give.  Help me not stray as the world strays that I may know that in You alone is there hope and a future.  Keep me this day from being wrapped up in the world’s anxiety that I may be a witness of Your presence in my life.  Amen.

Devotional Based on The Common Confession, Article 2 by Rev. Dennis Nelson

  • June 29, 2015 - 12:36 pm
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2) The Gospel of Salvation

We believe and confess that all human beings are sinners, and that sinners are redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God alone justifies human beings by faith in Christ – a faith that God creates through the message of the Gospel. As ambassadors for Christ, God uses us to speak his Word and build his kingdom. (Commentary here)

 

THE MANY FACETS OF SALVATION

A Devotional Based on The Second Article of the Common Confession

by Dennis D. Nelson

The second article of the Common Confession is entitled, “The Gospel of Salvation.”  Have you ever thought about how incredibly deep and rich and broad and many-faceted God’s gift of salvation actually is?

For example, in the synoptic Gospels Jesus speaks of the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God, which has come near.  In John’s Gospel Jesus promises eternal life to those who believe.  The apostle Paul wrote to many churches, telling them that if they have faith in Jesus Christ, God will declare them righteous.  The kingdom of God, eternal life, justification by faith – three different ways to speak of salvation.

In Genesis 3, after our first parents fell into sin, we see four different aspects of God’s gift of salvation.  God came seeking, while Adam and Eve went hiding.  God provided an animal skin as a covering for their shame.  It was a covering that could cover in a way in which their own efforts to cover – with fig leaves – were not able to cover.  In order to have an animal skin, an animal had to die.  God provides a substitute, who dies in our place.  And God promised ultimate victory over Satan, even though Satan had just won the first skirmish.  The descendant of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, while the serpent would only crush the heel of the descendant of the woman.  God comes seeking.  God provides a covering.  A substitute will die.  And God will win the victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil.  Four different ways to speak of salvation.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, has many different ways of speaking of salvation.  In chapter two, verses eleven through fifteen, he uses one phrase after another to tell of what God has done.  “In him you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision.”  “You were buried with him in baptism.”  “You were also raised with him through faith in the power of God.”  “When you were dead in trespasses . . . God made you alive.”  “He forgave us all our trespasses.”  He erased the record that stood against us.  He set it aside, nailing it to the cross.   And he disarmed the powers of darkness that were threatening to overpower us.  Paul describes Jesus as like a victorious Roman conqueror, who is marching triumphantly in a victory parade, showing off the vanquished citizens of the country that he has just defeated.

The blind poet and song writer Fanny Crosby, in her song “Blessed Assurance,” gives musical and poetic expression to some of the many facets of salvation.  She begins with, “Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine.”  Then she speaks of herself as “heir of salvation, purchased of God, born of his spirit, washed in his blood.”

Paul’s desire for the Ephesians was that they would have “the power to comprehend . . . what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”  (3: 18-19)  As you consider some of the richness of the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s gift of salvation – which must be described in so many different ways, because no one way will do – may you know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.

Monday, June 29th Devotion

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“This sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant.  It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.” (Isaiah 30:13,14)

This prophecy speaks of sin growing and growing until everything crumbles.  This is the sin of history, where nations and empires increase, grow haughty and then quickly crumble.  The illusion masks reality until reality can be hidden no more.  The only hope there is in the One who never changes, does not sin and cannot be effected by sin.  Trust in the Lord alone, for all other powers are fleeting.

Lord, help me to step back and see that it is true that in You, there is hope and a future.  Apart from You, there is nothing.  Guide my thinking to see that nations rise and then crumble and if I look, I will see the increase of sin until they crumble.  The fragments of the nations ripple through history and there are pieces of them scattered all over the world to this day, but none last.

Lord, You alone last forever.  Your righteousness cannot be crushed.  Guide me into the truth of the life You offer that I may learn once again to live it today, seeing that in You alone is my hope, my stay and all that I need.  May I be faithful to You, not trusting the temporary and see that in You I can and do have hope and an eternal being.  Lead me today, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Sunday, June 28th Devotion

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“Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!”  Therefore this is what the Holy One of Israel says: “Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. ” (Isaiah 30:11-13)

Now as then, people do not want to hear the truth of the Lord.  They would rather gather for themselves people who will tell them what they want to hear.  Our ears need to be opened.  Often, the truth is a bitter sound, but it is always good, for it leads us into reality.  We desire what is good, but goodness only comes through the Lord and only in the way He establishes it.

Lord, You have set everything in its course.  Help me live by Your standards and not by the standards I would establish.  Keep me from going after what is false and fleeting and help me stay the course You have already established for Your disciples.  Where I have rejected Your message, open my heart to once again receive the message You give and live according to Your never-failing principles.

Lord, I cannot do anything without Your help and guidance.  Guide me this day to live into the hope You give, knowing that in You alone will I find my being.  Guide me into the way of life that You have established from the beginning and keep me from straying.  In all I do, may I grow each day in the likeness of Christ, my Savior, living according to Your Word which You have given from the beginning.  Amen.

Lutheran CORE Response to the Supreme Court Decision on Same Sex Marriage by Rev. Dennis Nelson

  • June 27, 2015 - 1:40 pm
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by Rev. Dennis Nelson
Lutheran CORE President

Dear Friends in Christ;

Several times in his letter the author of 1 Peter refers to his readers as aliens and exiles.  Using Trinitarian language, he opens the letter by describing them as “exiles of the Dispersion . . . who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ.” (1: 1-2)  And then in the fourth chapter he says to these aliens and exiles, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you.”  (4: 12)

I am sure that all of us for some time have been feeling more and more like aliens and exiles in a culture that is drifting further and further away from the beliefs and values of the historic Christian faith.  And that sense of being out of place is only increased as we have been feeling more and more like aliens and exiles in church bodies that are not maintaining and contending for the historic Christian faith, but instead are increasingly reflecting the beliefs and value system of the surrounding culture.

The recent Supreme Court decision to make same sex marriage legal throughout the country has only increased our feelings of being aliens and exiles.  As the author of 1 Peter wrote, we should not be surprised.  In a culture where marriage is defined in terms of human rights instead of in terms of God’s will for human relationships, we should only have expected the outcome that has taken place.

The decision that has just been handed down should only increase our resolve to be bold in our witness and fearless in our living according to Biblical standards.  We need to pray for congregations and pastors who are going to be placed in difficult situations.  We need to pray that the laws of our nation will continue to protect the religious freedoms to marry and not marry according to personal faith convictions.  And as the situation continues to develop, unfold, and change (as we all know it will), we need to be ready to stand with and stand for congregations and pastors who find themselves in the middle of the spiritual battle.

The sixth article of the Common Confession clearly states –

We believe and confess that the marriage of male and female is an institution created and blessed by God. . . . We teach and practice that sexual activity belongs exclusively within the biblical boundaries of a faithful marriage between one man and one woman.

The board of Lutheran CORE believes that the recent Supreme Court decision makes our work even more important.  Now even more Lutheran CORE needs to be a SHELTER for confessing Lutherans and a VOICE for Biblical truth.  Thank you for standing with us as we all support each other as we serve God and live out our faith during the time of our exile.

 

Lutheran CORE Response to SCOTUS ruling on Marriage by Rev. Steve Gjerde

  • June 27, 2015 - 1:14 pm
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by Rev. Steve Gjerde
Lutheran CORE Vice-President

Christians should neither celebrate nor grieve the recent decision of the Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage.  Like every law ever enacted by the United States of America, it is part of a world that is passing away, and it will not stand, as the resurrection and ascension of our Lord have revealed for us.

Instead, Christians rejoice and give thanks for God’s holy Word, by which He institutes and blesses the lifelong marriage of man and woman.  In this marriage, He gives us a picture of the union between Christ and His bride, the Church.  Because she is so blessed by the faithfulness of her Lord, that Church embraces His gift of marriage as an earthly shelter for families and a foundation stone of civil peace.

Christians should also take this decision as an opportunity to repent of their own misguided trust: any time when they have placed their faith in the plans, organizations, and constitutions of human making, whether civil or ecclesial, or made allegiance to such plans a mark of righteousness before God.  Christ Jesus alone is our righteousness, and in Him alone do we trust.

God have mercy upon all His wayward creation, and speed the day of our rejoicing.  In the meantime, may He continue to grant a foretaste of that joyful day to those husband and wives who cleave to each other, one flesh, without shame.

 

 

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.  
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.

                ~ Psalm 146:3, 5

Saturday, June 27th Devotion

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“For these are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction.  They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right!  Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.” (Isaiah 30:9-10)

The bane of humanity, all along, has been an unwillingness to listen to the Lord.  Learn to listen.  Learn to obey all that our Lord has commanded.  Yes, we are saved by grace, but the grace is to enable us to overcome the obstacles that sin brings in order to learn obedience.  Grace is not a shortcut, it is that which grants the beginning of learning what the Lord desires.  Pleasantries and wishful thinking are merely disobedience.

Lord, all along, You have called for Your people to come back to You and learn obedience.  Keep me from wanting only pleasantries and wishful thinking.  Help me do the hard work of being a disciple.  Grant that I would hold onto Your Word of truth in all situations.  Help me not reject Your Word of truth, but instead, embrace it, as I learn to love You as You have always loved those whom You have created.

Lord, I do need Your grace, for I am guilty of wanting only what I want and not listening to Your Word of truth.  Help me fall in love all over again with truth, goodness, kindness and all of the things You will teach me.  Help me spend the time necessary in Your Word to learn from You.  Bring me to prayer and keep me connected with You.  Help me be a disciple and not turn away from what You are offering me.  Amen.

Friday, June 26th Devotion

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“To Egypt, whose help is utterly useless.  Therefore I call her Rahab the Do-Nothing.  Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness.” (Isaiah 30:7-8)

We think we have friends, but in times of genuine trouble, some of those friends end up being fair weather friends.  Do not rely on those who will not be there when you need them, but upon the Lord, who is always there.  Do not trust in those who are not trustworthy.  This simple advice the Lord gives over and over again.  People will fail you, but the Lord will not.  He is always faithful.

Lord, grant that I would learn wisdom from You and live according to the wisdom You give.  Over and over again, You have shown how those whom we thought we could trust were untrustworthy.  Keep me close to You.  Show me that what You offer is forever.  It may not be what I desire in the moment, but time and again, You have shown that it is good, for You are good.

Lord Jesus, You have come showing the love You have for the world.  Help me move from the place where the unfaithful and unbelieving live to the place where I walk alongside You at all times.  Guide me in this call You have given me, that I may live for the purposes You have for my life.  May I be faithful this day with all You share with me and put into action those things which are pleasing to the Father.  Amen.