April 2015


Aliens at Easter

Why are we most to be pitied, if only for this life we have hoped (1 Corinthians 15:19)? We need to answer this question at Easter when we are called to long for the life to come (2 Corinthians 5:2; Philippians 1:23; Hebrews 9:28). For Easter is the time to celebrate life after death through the resurrection of Christ our Lord (2 Corinthians 4:14), but this, as we see in this question, will evidently take some doing.


    Simply put, the reason we are to buck the trends and long for heaven is because it is better than this earthly life (Hebrews 11:16; Luther’s Works 8:114). Luther says in his Large Catechism that we rebel against this Biblical truth and use our money and property to make a paradise for ourselves here on earth – rather than long for heaven, which is our true home (Philippians 3:20; The Book of Concord, p. 365). So at Easter we not only are called to rejoice in the resurrection from the dead, but also fight against our taste for this life.

    Therefore Saint Paul says we will have to think of this life as refuse – or stercusin the old Latin Bible (Philippians 3:8) – in order that we might gain everlasting life. This, indeed, will turn us into aliens on earth (1 Peter 2:11). As arduous as this may be, it is only then that we will hunger for the bread of heaven, our resurrected Lord Jesus (John 6:34-35). Kierkegaard processed all of this and concluded in 1854: “Man by nature wishes for what can give him pleasure in life, the religious person on active duty needs a proper dose of disgust with life in order to be fit for the task” (Journals 6:6932).

     May this Biblical disgust also resonate in our hearts this year as we celebrate Easter.

Pastor Marshall


President’s Report…by Earl Nelson


You may have noticed two things on the church grounds that changed in March.  The parsonage got a new coat of paint—earlier than expected thanks to the dry weather we’ve been having.  Less noticeable perhaps is that three vine maples were moved from in front of the chapel to the courtyard. 

     By the time this hits the press, it may already be Easter.  But right now it is Lent which is a good time to reflect on God’s holiness.  “Holy” is related to the word “whole” and also “hale,” as in healthy.   The English word “holy” is used to translate Hebrew Kadosh, I am told, which also means “sacred.” The sacred is set apart from the ordinary, the profane.  When we enter the sanctuary at church, we should feel that we are entering a different kind of space, with different meanings from those of a supermarket or a school.  To think of God’s holiness then is to reflect on the ways that He is higher, better, truer, more whole than we, who spiritually speaking, are messed-up, Fallen, and neither whole nor hale.  I like to feel  how different God is when I enter our church.

     Only a few pages at the beginning of Genesis describe our human life before the Fall.  When God made Adam and Eve they were in His image and shared in His holiness.  The unspoiled goodness of the Creation (Genesis 1 and 2) lasts two or three pages.  When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden they were no longer holy and could not be in God’s presence in the Garden.  They lost the image of God, so that their descendants, and you and I, are now in the image of Adam: “When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (Genesis 5:3).  Even the ground is cursed because of the Fall (Genesis 3: 17).

The Creation still manifests something of God’s holiness, as we find in many Psalms.  “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork,” begins Psalm 19.  But such beauty does not save us any more than the Law, which is also beautiful.  Like the Law, it may only fill us with a longing that cannot be satisfied by anything in ourselves or in Creation.  God is apart, separate, yet He excites in us a desire to praise Him, as Augustine says in the prayer at the beginning of his Confession.  God does this in spite of our exile and in spite of the testimony of sin, which is death.  God has provided a way back to Him.

     This way is Christ.  By dying on the Cross, Christ made it possible for us to be reborn, not out of our mother’s womb again, as Nicodemus scoffed (John 3:4), but reborn in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that Christ, later in John, told the Disciples he would send after his death.  This is how we can be made holy (whole, healthy) again, and the promise of Easter is that we will even be resurrected in new bodies that are without sin.  Perhaps Nicodemus’ absurd notion is not so far from the mark.

     In the joy of Easter, which has not yet come as I write this, let us continue to work for God’s Church here at First Lutheran Church of West Seattle, by keeping the Sabbath holy, by meeting or exceeding our pledges, by remembering the poor, by meditating on the Word and by waiting on the Holy Spirit.





The 10/10/80 Principle


Often when discussing financial management tools, we hear of the 10/10/80 principle. Meaning, we Give 10%, Save 10%, and Spend the remaining 80%. This tool is often used by youth and adults to grow in discipleship financial management.  It may come as a surprise then that we start with “giving 10 percent.”

Why do we start with giving?

·         Giving begins with receiving. We recognize and acknowledge that we receive everything from God.  “The earth is the Lord’s …” (Psalm 24:1).

·         We respond to God because we are grateful; this is worship.  “Celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you” (Deuteronomy 26:11).

·         We respond because we trust God; it is about faith, and that is why we first give our best to God’s work and to all that glorifies God.  “It is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Why give a significant amount?

·         So you notice your act of giving as Godpleasing rather than casual.

·         So you can better celebrate how “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, Luke 12:34).

·         Consider tithing 10 percent. Why? It is a significant amount, and it is a good traditional guideline for enabling God’s work in the world and it’s Biblical.

·         Have you already met the goal of 10 percent? Prayerfully consider blessing the church above and beyond with additional gifts.

Why tithe?

·         It helps you gratefully establish your priorities and obey God.

·         It is wise financial management, leads you to appreciate conservation and simplicity, encourages you to continue to grow in becoming generous, and reflects a life journey, not an amount of “money” or “dollars.”

·         You learn how God blesses you to grow.

·         It is God’s way for your congregation’s priorities and mission statement to come to fruition.

Excerpt from www.ELCA.org

Submitted by Janine Douglass, Church Council



“We Had to Have Him Put Away”


Praising the Schalk-Kennedy Hymn

By Pastor Marshall


On Passion Sunday, we sang “We Had to Have Him Put Away” as our gradual hymn. I commissioned it in thanksgiving to God for the 35th anniversary of my ordination on June 25, 2014.

      The tune was composed by Carl F. Schalk (b. 1929) – one of the leading church musicians of our time. The text was composed by the poet, X. J. Kennedy (b. 1929), winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize in 1961, and the Poetry of America’s Robert Frost Medal for lifetime service in poetry in 2009.

      Dana Gioia, the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California, the former chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts (2003–2009), and an active Roman Catholic, says that the Kennedy text makes for “a fine hymn.” And Carl E. Braaten, Professor Emeritus at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, thinks that the text isn’t confusing, but “crystal clear.” And Michael Aune, Professor Emeritus of Liturgical & Historical Studies at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary of California Lutheran University, notes that the text is “very Forde-ean (as in Gerhard) where the atonement has a head-on collision with sin, evil, and the powers-that-be,” which makes it a “most apt” gradual hymn for Passion Sunday.

     Philip H. Pfatteicher, liturgical scholar and author of many books on Lutheran worship, believes this is a “bold” hymn precisely because of its text. And Deborah Loftis, Executive Director of the Hymn Society in the US and Canada, also finds the text to be “provocative,” and thinks Schalk’s tune is “well-matched and sings easily.” Sean Burton, editor of The Choral Scholar, also likes the tune and thinks the hymn is “well-suited” for use as a gradual hymn on Passion Sunday. Paul Westermeyer, Emeritus Professor of Church Music, Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minnesota, and author of the acclaimed study, The Church Musician (1988; revised 1997), likes Schalk’s “mournful” tune, and thinks the “shock-value” of the text makes it a fine hymn for Passion Sunday – even as the Hymn of the Day.


April Book

With the Mind:  Readings in Contemporary Theology

3-5 pm in the Church Lounge, Saturday, April 26th

The book for April is The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy (2006), by Martin Mosebach (and translated from the German original by Graham Harrison). Mosebach is a widely read novelist and lay Catholic activist. In this book he bemoans the loss of the historical Roman order of worship since Vatican II is the late 1960s. The problem with the new version is that it is “too anemic, too artificial, too little religious, too lacking in form…. to constitute a seminal fact in the life of the nations” (p. 121). It also buys into the principle of modern art: “No longer would it serve. It demanded for itself the reverence – undiminished – that heretofore had been directed to its subject matter” (p. 77). Both of these deficiencies have resulted in robbing revelation of any veiling – something which seems contradictory. But unless Christianity’s revelation is somewhat veiled, it’s reduced to “nothing but naked materiality” (p. 173).

     A copy of this important book on the demise of modern Catholicism, is in the church library. If you would like to purchase one for yourself, contact Pastor Marshall. Feel free to attend our meeting when we discuss how much change the Church can endure before it collapses.


SCRAPPERS will meet Wednesday, April, the 22nd.  Feel free to join them.    

READ THE KORAN IN FOUR WEEKS:  Thursdays, 7-9 pm, April 9th, 16th and 23rd, and 30th. If you are interested in joining this class, talk to Pastor Marshall.

Compass Housing Alliance needs new or lightly used bath towels.  Every year they go through hundreds of towels at their facilities, especially in the Pioneer Square Hygiene Center, where 150 people get a free shower every day.  Donations can be left at the office.

WEST SEATTLE FOOD BANK BENEFIT:  The 8th Annual Instruments of Change Benefit Dinner is planned for Friday evening, May 1st, this year.  There will be a Happy Hour with games, Liquor Tasting, Photo Booth and great items in our Silent Auction, then dinner prepared by Tuxedo and Tennis Shoes with a dessert dash.  This fundraising event is at the Seattle Design Center, 5701 6th Ave S.  Tickets: $100.  Also, get your tickets early on the Helpline web page to the very popular West Seattle Helpline 10th Annual Taste of West Seattle on Thursday, May 21st.   


Standing Against Us


Jesus Christ on the Lilies & the Birds

By Pastor Marshall

In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us to quit worrying and learn to live according to the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. This comparison is included in the list of offenses in the Schalk-Kennedy hymn, “We Had to Have Him Put Away.”

     For nature-lovers and avid gardeners, this is a sweet little story – but not for Luther. He instead saw shame, disgrace and embarrassment in the admonition to live like the lilies and the birds (Luther’s Works 21:196–200). This is because in the example of the lilies and birds we are told that “being greedy or anxious and being a believer…. are intolerable to each other.” The one “has to eliminate the other,” for “no greedy belly can be a Christian” (LW 21:201). So it is “to our eternal shame and disgrace [that] each individual flower is a witness against us to condemn our unbelief before God and all the creatures until the Last Day.” For we refuse to trust in God to care for us like they do.

     The lowly lilies and birds teach us this great lesson in faith, even though we are God’s “highest creatures” and should be their teachers (LW 21:200). But as it turns out, we who are “rational people and who have the Scriptures in addition, do not have enough wisdom to imitate the birds” (LW 21:198). Think of it! From the lilies and the birds, then, we are given this life motto: “Not by seeking, but by His generosity; not by finding, but by chance” (LW 21:208). No wonder, then, that this comparison in Matthew 6 disgraces, embarrasses, and offends us. As such the reference to the lilies and the birds is well placed in the hymn, “We Had to Have Him Put Away,” which is about our offensive Lord Jesus.



Our Cry for Deliverance


Professor Rozentals on the Power of Easter


By Pastor Marshall


My teacher on John’s Gospel at the seminary, Professor Janis Rozentals (1904–1997), a refugee from Riga, Latvia, and student of the famous German Lutheran New Testament scholar, Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976), has written one of my favorite statements on the gift of everlasting life – an elaboration of the “better country” in Hebrews 11:16, and the “eternal” in 2 Corinthians 4:17. Here is that excerpt from his book, The Promise of Eternal Life: Biblical Witness to Christian Hope (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1987) pp. 29–31. It’s worth carry around with you during the glorious season of Easter:


In human life there is a desire that cannot be satisfied through what is relative and perishable. But that means the human search transcends the offerings and possibilities of earthly life, and that our deepest longings will not be satisfied in this life. Horizons and possibilities wider and greater than those in which we find ourselves present themselves to us. We are always on the way – in process of becoming – and never reach that which we really ought to be. We find ourselves on the way from that which is imperfect and inauthentic to that which is perfect and true…. The world of plants and animals can realize all its given possibilities – death is for them only a natural end. For human beings, on the other hand, death and age bring the realization of human possibilities to a screeching halt. In extrahuman life death is natural; in human life it is paradoxical – at the same time natural and unnatural…. We know that life is mortal, that life is fleeting, and that every day death is coming closer. Yet we are loath to acknowledge this fact, for death is foreign to our existence…. Thus it becomes dismally clear that the goal of human life cannot be reached within the limits of this perishable world…. Human life cries for deliverance – for the transformation of the present order.



Exodus 4.10

Monthly Home Bible Study, April 2015, Number 266

The Reverend Ronald F. Marshall

Along with our other regular study of Scripture, let us join as a congregation in this home study. We will study alone then talk informally about the assigned verses together as we have opportunity. In this way we can "gather together around the Word" even though physically we will not be getting together (Acts 13.44). (This study uses the RSV translation.)

We need to support each other in this difficult project. In 1851 Kierkegaard wrote that the Bible is "an extremely dangerous book.... [because] it is an imperious book... – it takes the whole man and may suddenly and radically change... life on a prodigious scale" (For Self-Examination). And in 1967 Thomas Merton wrote that "we all instinctively know that it is dangerous to become involved in the Bible" (Opening the Bible). Indeed this word "kills" us (Hosea 6.5) because we are "a rebellious people" (Isaiah 30.9)! As Lutherans, however, we are still to "abide in the womb of the Word" (Luther's Works 17.93) by constantly "ruminating on the Word" (LW 30.219) so that we may "become like the Word" (LW 29.155) by thinking "in the way Scripture does" (LW 25.261). Before you study, then, pray: "Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in Our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen" (quoted in R. F. Marshall, Making A New World: How Lutherans Read the Bible, 2003, p. 12).

Week I. Read Exodus 4.10 noting the word eloquent. What is eloquence, and why does it matter? On this read Exodus 4.14 noting the couple words speak well. Why does speaking well matter to Moses? On this read Proverbs 25.11 noting the words fitly, gold and silver. What makes fitly spoken words so valuable? On this read Exodus 9.7 noting the word hardened. Because people can be hard to get through to, do we think fitly spoken words can make a difference? On this read Proverbs 15.1 noting the words soft, wrath, harsh and anger. Is this the power Moses was looking for? On this read Proverbs 12.18 noting the words wise and healing. Do you think such wise words could have changed Pharaoh’s hard heart? On this read Jeremiah 13.23 noting the line can the leopard change his spots? So how powerful can words be? On this read James 3.6 noting the line the tongue is a fire. This is surely about destruction. But can it also do as much for good? On this read Proverbs 28.23 noting the words afterwards and more. Is this reassuring? If so, explain why.

Week II. Read again Exodus 4.10 noting that same word eloquence. Is there anything wrong about eloquence? On this read 1 Corinthians 1.17 noting the words eloquence and emptied. How can such a wonderful thing as eloquence empty the cross of its power? On this read 1 Corinthians 2.4-5 noting the words plausible and rest. What then would keep eloquence from pulling us away from God like this? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.7 noting the words earthen and belongs. So if this includes simple, plain, earthy speech, how does that break our illegitimate hold on God’s power? On this read Romans 9.20 noting the words who, answer and God. Does our eloquence make us think we have the right to contend with God for a better life for ourselves? On this read Romans 3.19 noting the line every mouth may be stopped. Does this mean we are wrong to think we can debate with God over what’s best for us? On this read Job 40:1-4 noting the words contend, argue, small and hand. Does that settle it? If so, how?

Week III. Reread Exodus 4.10 noting that same word eloquence. Is there anything else wrong with eloquence? On this read Psalm 55.21 noting the words speech, smoother, war and heart. Does this mean that fine speech can cover up the truth? On the read Isaiah 30.10, noting the words speak, smooth and illusions. How does something so refined end up being so bad? On this read Psalm 73.9 noting the words against, heaven and struts. How does this strutting go against God? On this read James 4.6 noting the contrast between the two sets of words oppose and proud, grace and humble. Is it impossible, then, for the eloquent to be humble? On this read Luke 18.9-13 noting the two lines trusted in themselves, and prayed thus with himself. Who would say that this Pharisee wasn’t well-educated, well-off, and well-spoken? Does that then finish off the dangers of the eloquent?

Week IV. Read Exodus 4.10 one last time noting that same word eloquence. What then is the alternative to eloquence? On this read Exodus 4.12 noting the line I will teach you what to say. Is that the only way around it? On this read Exodus 4.13-16 noting the words other and Aaron. Are there then just these two alternatives to eloquence? On this read Matthew 5.37 noting the line say simply Yes or No. Could it be that eloquence is of many words and the better way is of just a few words? On this read Ecclesiastes 5.2 noting the line let your words be few. Read also Proverbs 17.1 noting how being quiet can end strife. Add to this Proverbs 10.19 noting how restraining lips are prudent. So more speech isn’t better – even if it is eloquent. On this read Proverbs 26.4 noting the play between the words answer, fool, folly and like. Why isn’t the wise and eloquent person able to refute the fool without becoming foolish in the process? On this note the little words little and leaven in 1 Corinthians 5.6-7. Does that settle it? Explain your answer.


Welcome to

First Lutheran Church

of West Seattle

4105 California Avenue S.W. Seattle, WA 


2015 Holy Week and Easter Schedule


March 29  Sunday of the Passion

                           8:00 am    Holy Eucharist – Chapel

                         10:30 am    Holy Eucharist – Procession with Palms

                           8:00 pm    Compline

March 30  Monday in Holy Week: Jesus’ Cleansing of the Temple

                         11:45 am    Holy Eucharist – Chapel

                           7:00 pm    Vespers:  The Great Litany - Chapel

March 31  Tuesday in Holy Week: Anointing Jesus for Burial

                         11:45 am    Holy Eucharist – Chapel

                           7:00 pm    Vespers:  The Great Litany – Chapel

April 1      Wednesday in Holy Week: The Betrayal of Jesus by Judas

                           9:30 am    Matins - Chapel

                         11:45 am    Holy Eucharist – Chapel

                           7:00 pm    Vespers:  The Great Litany – Chapel

April 2      Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper

                         11:45 am    Holy Eucharist – Chapel

                           7:00 pm    Solemn Eucharist:  Stripping of the Altar

April 3      Good Friday: The Crucifixion of Our Lord

                         11:45 am    Holy Eucharist – Chapel

                                               (Reserved Sacrament)

                           7:00 pm    Office of Tenebrae

                                            A Liturgy of Lessons, Hymns and Prayers

                                               (Reserved Sacrament)

April 4      Holy Saturday: The Burial of Our Lord

                         11:45 am    Liturgy of the Burial – Chapel

                  Easter Vigil

                           7:00 pm    Liturgy of Light, Readings, Baptism

                                            and Holy Eucharist

April 5      The Resurrection of Our Lord – Easter

                      9:00 to 10:00 am Easter Brunch in the parish hall.

                    10:30 am     Festival Eucharist

                      8:00 pm     Compline


Kris, Grandma Eva, and cousin Ruth in 2007.


Faith as a Mustard Seed:

At the Funeral of Kristophor Robert Marshall


The Rev. Ronald F. Marshall


Christ the King Lutheran Church

Goldendale, Washington

March 7, 2015


ON BEHALF OF MY FAMILY I want to thank you for being here today. We are heavy with grief these days, weighed down with much sorrow over the death of my 36 year old nephew, Kris. Your presence today helps us bear this heavy load, for by being here, you console us with the consolation you yourselves have received from Christ the Lord (2 Corinthians 1:4). And so I say to you what Peter said on the Mount of the Transfiguration long ago—it is good that you are here (Mark 9:5).

       I say that with Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams in clear sight on this sunny day. But I’m not deluded—I know that we are not high up on a mountain. But the words still ring true. For you truly help us with this sadness. When I heard about Kris’ death I had been listening to Bob Dylan’s new album, Shadows in the Night (2015). I especially like the song, “What’ll I Do.” In that song Dylan lingers over the line—slowing it down and hanging on every syllable: “What’ll I do with just a photograph to tell my troubles to.” That’s how much it hurts right now for our family. Dylan expresses well that pain in that short line.

But it is also good that you are here because even though Christ’s resplendent glory is not shining on us, bright as the sun, at it did thousands of years ago on that distant mountain top for the first disciples—we still have his glory here among us in his Word—both verbally, as it is read to us, and visibly, as it is consecrated for us at the Altar in the Lord’s Supper. And that Word is mighty and wonderful just as it is. For it is “a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path” as we walk through the darkness of this world (Psalm 119:105). And it is certainly that—even though not everyone believes it is. Many today, I am sure you would agree, don’t think of the Bible as God’s Word, but only as some ancient Middle East artifact, at best, or an immoral hoax, at worst. In the New Testament we even read about troubles in the churches over this Word. And so Saint Paul loved the people in Thessalonica because they remained steadfast and regarded the Word, not as words from men, but as God’s very Word spoken to them and the whole world (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Many years later—during the time of Martin Luther (1483–1546)—he also acknowledged that God’s Word was still being disputed, and admonished the true believers to “keep God’s poor candle burning” (Luther’s Works 47:117). “God’s poor candle”?—just think of it. But that’s what happens to the Holy Word of God when it is maligned and taken to be anything but sacred and God’s very voice sounded forth to us poor, lost sinners.

So for those of us who rejoice in its revelation, what do we hear when we listen to the Bible? “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Now that is a great word, if ever there was one. God is gracious to us even when we don’t deserve it—when we’re disqualified due to sinning and falling from his glory. This is especially sweet because it is precisely in his dying that Christ makes peace with God (Romans 5:1). And that’s just what we need because God is at war with us and wants to punish us—tearing us apart like a mother bear robbed of her cubs, as Hosea 13:12 puts it, and as Luke 13:5 echoes it, in the eighteen people God killed when he brought down the tower in Siloam upon them. Ouch! These are surely rough words. But what comes from them is full of peace and salvation. And so attacking bears and falling towers are averted. We escape unscathed. Alleluia!

But how can all of this come to each of us? How can we individually get this promised relief and salvation? Famously, Mark 16:16 says simply: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” There you have it—pretty simple and to the point. No convoluted theology or rocket science here. But, with that said, one little curve remains—and that has to do with faith. Baptism is simple—when it happens, it is unmistakable. You can even get a signed certificate to prove that it happened—to say nothing of the family photos that testify to its factual nature. But what about belief? How do we know when it happens?—when it shows up? That’s a different story—because belief properly resides in the heart (Romans 10:10), hidden where only God can see it (1 Samuel 16:7; Colossians 3:3). What is more, it admits to degrees—something baptism never does. For no one is almost baptized or only baptized a little—no, it’s all or nothing with baptism. But faith comes in greater or lesser degrees (Romans 12:3; Matthew 8:10; Luke 17:5). And so we wonder how much is enough. Shouldn’t we all be filled up to the brim with faith, shouldn’t that be a strict requirement?—having no doubts; loving everyone; understanding all doctrine; witnessing freely to anyone when asked; thinking better of others than ourselves; always helping the poor; repenting often and sincerely; tithing a full ten percent; stamping out all pride, foolishness and drunkenness. Maybe so. But what does our Lord Jesus have to say about that—surely he who called us to faith (John 14:1) knows something about faith. Well, he surprisingly says just a little bit will do you! Can you imagine that? Yes, just a small amount of faith is enough. When looking for an image to drive this most contentious point home, Jesus picked up the smallest thing he could find—a teeny-tiny mustard seed—and said if your faith is just that big, it can do all things (Matthew 17:20; LW 12:262, 67:318, 79:240). That’s a famous verse—and yet we don’t give it the credit it deserves. Jesus sets the bar very low here and we must not miss it. And he reinforces it when he says that you’re for him, just as long as you’re not against him (Luke 9:50 > Luke 11:23)—so you can be for Jesus without saying you are. Astonishing, isn’t it? That's a very low mark. But I guess that’s what’s needed when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and when we can't even do the good we want to do (Matthew 26:41; Romans 7:18). That’s mercy for you and it makes faith possible. But still it sounds too good to be true—so I checked with Luther. He confirms the good news here by saying that we should let a view stand just as long as it is not against Scripture. He goes on to add that the one who despairs and thinks he “doesn’t believe,” is the one with the “greatest faith” of all (LW 40:241, 77:375, 78:166, 398).

But just as surely as this low bar stands, our Lord Jesus also sets one as high as possible by saying that we are to love God “with all of our heart, soul and mind” (Matthew 22:37)—and that’s extremely high. Now some say this is contradictory—that you can’t have it be both demanding and lenient at the same time. But I think not. I think it’s perfectly coherent—just as a realistic note can gowith one that aspires to greatness. The low bar welcomes us poor lost creatures into the game—and then the high bar beckons us forward to always greater heights (Philippines 3:12–14; LW 79:226-27). In that way, the high bar and the low bar don’t contradict each other, but go together perfectly.

So let’s try it out. Let’s run someone through the Biblical mill of faith and see what happens. So who wants to go first? How about my wife, Jane? No! I didn’t mean to say that! I almost made a bad mistake. That wouldn’t be fair. So, I guess it’ll have to be me. And what happens when I go through the Biblical mill? You might think preachers would have it made in the shade. Well, think again. We’re a pretty sorry lot, if truth be told. Just remember the priests or pastors of old—Aaron making the golden calf (Exodus 32:4), Amaziah throwing Amos out of temple (Amos 7:12–13), Pashhur giving Jeremiah, that great prophet of God, a terrible beating (Jeremiah 20:2), and the high priest instigating Christ’s crucifixion (Matthew 27:1–2)? Who would want to be a preacher with those famous examples looming large? And Jesus also was harsh: “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Well, pastors certainly bring up God’s name a lot—well, too bad for them. So just because I’m a pastor doesn’t mean I’m a believer. I had a pastor one time who told me he didn’t go to church unless he was preaching! Whatever happened to keeping the Sabbath Day holy for him? Then there are the movies—they also do a good job exposing bad preachers—with Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry (1960) and Steve Martin in Leap of Faith (1992). So how do I fair? Well, I was baptized. That’s clear. As for my faith, only God knows. And so I must say, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief, and have mercy on me a sinner (Mark 9:24; Luke 18:13).

So let’s try one more: Kristophor Robert Marshall. How about him? He was surely baptized. And he was confirmed at age 13. He served as an altar boy. He was kind to a fault—willing to give the shirt off his back even when it was all he had. He wore a crucifix around his neck the last 18 years of his life—never taking it off. He attended church up to the end of his life, receiving Holy Communion at Ascension Catholic Church in Spokane and Christ the King Lutheran Church in Goldendale. He was never known to speak against the Lord Jesus Christ. But he probably didn’t pray enough, or worship enough, or read the Bible enough, or witness enough, or repent and tithe enough; or fast enough. But did he believe enough? Only God knows. But who among us would say that faith the size of a mustard seed wasn’t in him? No, not one—that I know of. So let us rejoice and be glad today in the midst of our sorrow, remembering the one who died for us when we were still sinners, and Kris who was baptized in his name, and also had that little mustard seed of faith in Jesus—deep inside him. Amen.


(printed with changes, as preached from notes)



Remember in prayer before God those whom He has made your

brothers and sisters through baptism.

Jeannine Lingle, Dorothy Ryder, Jim Coile, Nora Vanhala, Mary Goplerud, Michael Nestoss, Cynthia Natiello, Clara Anderson, Leah Baker, Peggy & Bill Wright & Wendy, Bob & Barbara Schorn, Cameron Lim, Ion Ceaicovschi, Luke Bowen, Tabitha Anderson, The PLU Faculty, Jim & Sandy Otto, Larry Udman, Ken Sharp, Vickie Gunderson, Norma Hernandez, Chris Griffith, The Richard Marshall family, Alan & Robin Berg and those suffering from and fighting the Ebola virus. 

    Pray for the shut-ins that the light of Christ may give them joy:  Clara Anderson, Donna Apman, Pat Hansen, C. J. Christian, Louis Koser, Anelma Meeks, Dorothy Ryder, Lillian Schneider, Crystal Tudor, Nora Vanhala, Vivian Wheeler, Peggy & Bill Wright.

     Pray for our bishops Elizabeth Eaton and Brian Kirby Unti, our pastor Ronald Marshall, our deacon Dean Hard and our cantor Andrew King, that they may be strengthened in faith, love and the holy office to which they have been called.

     Pray that God would give us hearts which find joy in service and in celebration of Stewardship.  Pray that God would work within you to become a good steward of your time, your talents and finances.  Pray to strengthen the Stewardship of our congregation in these same ways.

     Pray for the hungry, ignored, abused, and homeless this April.  Pray for the mercy of God for these people, and for all in Christ's church to see and help those who are in distress.

     Pray for our sister congregation: El Camino de Emmaus in the Skagit Valley that God may bless and strengthen their ministry. Also, pray for our parish and it's ministry.

     Pray that God will bless you through the lives of the saints: Albrecht Dürer  painter, 1528; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, teacher, 1945; Saint Mark, Evangelist; Catherine of Siena, teacher, 1380.

 A Treasury of Prayers

O eternal God, let this mind be in me which was in Christ Jesus our Lord; that as he from his loftiness stooped to death on the cross, may I also in lowliness be humbled, become obedient, and even die to your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

                                [For All the Saints (ALPB, 1994-1996) 4 vols., I:946, altered]