That Magic Formula
1 Samuel 15:22 for Advent
During Advent this year, let 1 Samuel 15:22 be our guiding
light: “To obey is better… than the fat of rams.” Again and
again we need our obedience to the Lord renewed. In the
(1529), Martin Luther writes: “Learn well,… how important God
considers obedience, since he so highly exalts it, so greatly
delights in it, so richly rewards it, and besides is so strict
about punishing those who transgress it” (The
Book of Concord,
ed. T. Tappert, p. 384).
Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Luther’s best
student, also learned this – as all Lutherans should. So
he wrote that we “shrink from [obedience] as from
madness – that it could occur to any man to want to
impose such a task upon himself. But I have not imposed
this task upon myself; it has been imposed on me and
decided for me. There is a word which for me is a magic
formula: Obedience is more precious to God than the fat
of rams. If my meager effectiveness, a nothing compared
to the task, disappears, humanly speaking, I shall still
keep on: Obedience is more precious to God than the fat
of rams” (Kierkegaard’s
2:2153). And may Christ’s Spirit see to it that we also
What a Relief to Read Luther
Kierkegaard’s Love for Luther’s
By Pastor Marshall
Luther’s best student – reading his sermons diligently. “[What]
a relief [it is] to read Luther,” he says (JP 3:2464). This
makes Kierkegaard dear to me. He loved Luther’s sermons because
they preach us “farther out rather than backwards”
such sermon is on 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – about running the race
and fighting the good fight of faith. Kierkegaard thought
Luther’s sermon on this passage was “very impressive” and
6:6328). In it Luther says that “in the Christian
contest it is necessary… to renounce everything and to
devote oneself only to the contest. He who would in
addition seek his own glory and profit [would be] wholly
entangled in temporal glory and gain; bound hand and
foot, a complete captive. The race he runs is the mere
dream race of one lying upon his couch an indolent
captive… The cause of [this] failure [is the] lapse from
love and the use of the divine word in a willful,
ambitious and covetous spirit…. Under such conditions,
false and indolent Christians run indeed a merry race;
yet God’s Word and ways in which they are so alert and
speedy are merely a show, because they make them [serve]
their own interests and glory…. While it is theirs to
mortify ambition, to restrain their self-will and to
enlist in the service of their neighbors, they do none
of these things…. Their hearts are unstable and wavering
before God, and they are changeable and fickle in all
their ways (James 1:8)” (Sermons
of Martin Luther 7:95-96).
with Kierkegaard find relief in Luther’s words as he
The Dog Who Belonged to Himself
(A Stewardly Reflection by Earl
to be a “Little Golden Book” children’s story that went by this
title. It was not
part of my childhood but maybe you have heard of it.
It is a story about a dog who is his own master, and who
in the story resembles a solitary person more than anything
else. When I
noticed it as an adult I found it difficult to read.
A dog without a master is a pitiful and joyless creature
and not really a dog at all, at least to my imagination.
But then I had just as much trouble imagining a solitary
person. Like poor
solitary Adam in the Garden, for whom God could find no suitable
companion among the animals, until Eve was created, we are not
persons without other persons to talk and listen to.
There would be no “I” in language, if there were no
“you.” There would
be no language and no stories.
need a master, and are pitiful and joyless creatures without our
true Master. But
human masters are all counterfeit, and human servants are all
counterfeit. In the
old Soviet Union the workers said, “Our bosses pretend to pay
us, and we pretend to work.”
Adam and Eve fell wanting to go it on their own, and so
have we all ever since.
Our just reward has been and is that we have other fallen
humans as our masters in this world and we make both poor
masters and poor servants.
The hierarchy, the order of the Garden was true and
right; the hierarchy, the order of the world is false but
unavoidable for we, like the dog, require our Master, no matter
how much we clamor for freedom.
wanted kings like the other peoples.
God granted their wish but pointed out that they would
not be satisfied.
When the Messiah came the Jews wanted Him to be a worldly master
and to make them the rulers of the world.
Even the disciples quarreled about who should have the
highest rank in the new world order.
But God knew that such an order would be false until we
truly submit to Him, which we are powerless to do until Christ
takes away sin.
Christ, God graciously allows us, who are sinners, to address
Him directly, to say “you” and “we” in his presence, as at the
end of the Offering in the liturgy.
“We offer with joy and thanksgiving what you have first
given us – our selves, our time, and our possessions, signs of
your gracious love.”
Or “O Lord our God, maker of all things.
Through your goodness you have blessed us with these
gifts. With them we
offer ourselves to your service and dedicate our lives to the
care and redemption of all that you have made.”
The last words “the care and redemption of all that you
have made” always take my breath away.
What part of our lives or of Creation does it leave out?
Apparently we were supposed to be the crown of Creation,
its stewards and true lords.
All Creation was affected by our Fall and all Creation
will be restored with us.
God paid a great price to buy back his errant stewards.
we are to dedicate all that we do in life to God’s service.
God apparently wants his Creation back, and we are
supposed to be his obedient servants, in all our work and
relationships, while we are driving in Seattle traffic, when we
eat, shop or sleep, whether we are hungry or sick.
I confess it is difficult, and I seem to fail more or
less constantly. I
am probably more generous with my little stash of cash than when
I vote. But the faithful
adherence to the traditional norms of worship, the faithful
preaching and music and fellowship of the First Lutheran Church
of West Seattle help me to persevere.
I thank God that He has bought me and others with the
precious blood of Christ, and I thank God for his church through
the ages that has made it possible for me and others to hear the
news of God’s love.
Oh Lord, how shall I meet you, How welcome you aright?
Your people long to greet you, My
hope, my heart’s delight!
So opens the first verse of Hymn 23, one of my most favorite
Advent hymns. Each
verse contains many nuggets to focus on for prayer and
meditation as we prepare for Christmas, the coming of our
Savior, Christ Jesus our Lord.
Advent is such a special time of anticipation and
preparation – to be ready to welcome Emmanuel on Christmas.
There are many ways to make ready, among them taking time
for additional in-depth Scripture study on a subject pertinent
to the season.
There are books in the library that can help, or just pick
specific Bible sections to focus on and spend time with a
commentary or other exegetical work.
Take the Advent hymns in LBW – study the text, pray the
words, find ways to make them practical in daily life.
You will be rewarded and blessed because you are making
Jesus and the Word of God, the center of your Advent/Christmas
season. Part of our
responsibility as members of the body of Christ is to cultivate
our individual prayer lives.
We must be nourished ourselves, so we have more to share
with each other and those around us who are in need.
Financially to date, the church is
Contributions and donations have remained very consistent, which
makes meeting expenses more of a pleasure than a burden.
The council greatly appreciates everyone’s regular giving
and support of the church.
Just a note of caution, however.
The preliminary pledge card results for 2014 show that we
are around $22,400 below what was pledged in 2013, which works
out to be about $430 a week less for 2014.
Please pray about this as we enter the new year.
Another business item that I
learned last month has to do with how I view my
Not being tech-savvy, I had noticed through the past year
that sometimes the pages of my
each other and as a result were unreadable.
It was suggested that I use a browser other than Internet
Explorer, and voila!
All was well.
So if you have difficulty viewing
The Messenger online,
try Chrome or Mozilla Firefox as your browser.
It is almost time for the 5th
annual St. Nicholas Faire, which will happen on Sunday, December
8th from 4pm to 7pm in the transformed parish hall.
There will be gifts to buy, spiced cider to sip,
delicious food to eat, rings to toss (for prizes), and wine to
taste. All for two
great causes, the West Seattle Food Bank and the West Seattle
Helpline. Plan to
come both to support these organizations, and
to have a grand time at the event.
A win-win situation!
Come to the Christmas Eve
candlelight liturgy on December 24th at 11pm and experience the
mystery and wonder of the Christmas story interspersed with
choral anthems and carols.
It is a memorable worship service that enriches and
blesses all who come. And it is the fitting conclusion to your
As you are preparing during Advent
for Christmas, remember those who are in need, locally and
around the world.
If you can, bring some items that are always needed for the
Lutheran Compass Center (socks, sweats, gift cards), donate
regularly to the Food Bank (remember to buy an item every time
you make a purchase for yourself), give money to the relief
effort in the Philippines, find practical ways you can help
neighbors in your area who might have needs.
In a short phrase – pray to be a blessing in your
community, wherever you are.
Oh, kindle, Lord most holy, Your lamp within my breast
To do in spirit lowly All that may please you best.
2nd from 4pm to 7pm
The feast day of St. Nicholas is almost here and
preparations are almost completed. All we need is
And your friends and family to come and enjoy the
festivities. The cookies are baked, the pies are
prepared, the cakes look scrumptious, and we will all
have to walk just a little farther the following week,
but it will be such delightful fun. So plan to
join in the celebration.
We have gift baskets to bid on – breakfast,
coffee, fancy tea cups and tea (even an authentic
Japanese tea service from Japan), boy and girl activity
books, puzzles, Italian, wine, baking – just to
highlight a few.
Plus a wine toss game and wine tasting. [I heard
a rumor that there will be more Maryhill Port available
to purchase than there was last year, which is good news
for those of us who didn’t get a bottle last year.]
$5 per person or $15 per family if each attendee brings
a can of food, and $10 per person and $25 per family if
you do not contribute a can of food for each person.
Remember this is a fund raiser for
the West Seattle
Food Bank and the
Every dollar that is contributed will be given
directly to these two deserving extended ministries.
But it will not be a success
unless you come
and have a good time.
See you Sunday, December 8, 2013 from 4 pm to 7 pm!
Larraine King, Church Council
the Mind: Readings in Contemporary Theology
pm in the Church Lounge, Saturday, December 28th
for December is Imperfect
Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing With Others (2013), by
Stacy Horn, a New York City writer and contributor to National
Public Radio. This book is about the joys of singing in church.
It ends with these words: “Rehearsal was in the church that
night. It was a little on the dark side, but there was enough
light to see…. Voices sparked into life all around me, like
matches being lit, but gently, as if someone’s hands were
slightly covering and protecting the flame. The music we made
was as lyrical and angelic as anyone could have hoped. [But our
choir conductor] made a few comments about how we could do it
even better and once again raised his arms. I couldn’t believe
my luck. We were going to sing it again. Once more we intoned
the line Hinc ergo parce,
Deus…. While he concentrated on getting our voices just
right, we sang that section over and over, reveling in the warm
glow of our voices, and the magic current of potential that
comes to life whenever people are drawn together by the
astonishing and irresistible power of a song” (p. 264).
A copy of this beautiful book 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 this
wonderful study of singing in church.
Holiday Luncheon is planned for Tuesday, December 10th.
Sign up on the sheet that is posted in the lounge.
will be received on Sunday, December 15th.
There will be a cookie reception in room C & D following
the liturgy. The
December Service Team will be host.
COMPASS HOUSING ALLIANCE CHRISTMAS GIFTS:
gift cards in $5 increments for fast food restaurants,
coffee shops and grocery stores, and new sweatshirts and socks
for men and women.
Please leave your donations at the office.
Items will be delivered to the Compass Center on Monday
FOOD BANK COLLECTION
suggested donation for December is holiday foods.
Don’t forget to bring a can of food to the St. Nicholas
CHRISTMAS CAROLING PARTY:
Friday, December 27th, meet at Christo’s on Alki at 5:00
pm for a no host meal.
Then go caroling, to shut-ins in the
Everyone is welcome to come along.
Please sign up on the list that is posted in the
for the Bartell Drugs Scrip program and designate First
Lutheran Church of West Seattle.
4% of your purchases will be automatically
donated to the church.
2014 FLOWER CHART:
The new chart will be up toward the end of the
up early for the best choice of dates.
next Koran Class starts on Thursday, January 9th.
Call the office if you plan to attend.
THE KIERKEGAARD BICENTENNIAL
Guest Book is on the stand in the lounge for those who
missed the occasion and would like to sign it.
Thanks to all who attended and helped.
Monthly Home Bible Study,
December 2013, Number 250
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).
Read Proverbs 12.10 noting the word
cruel. Why would
anyone want to be cruel to animals? On this read Philippines 2.4
noting the line look… to
the interests of others. Read also the verse before it,
Philippians 2.3, noting the words
better. While these
two verses apply primarily to people, aren’t there also
implications for animals and wild life? And wouldn’t they be
that we should be kind to animals and beasts – instead of
abusing them because we think that we’re of more value than they
are? Would the same cruelty then extend to children? On this
read Ephesians 6.4 about not
children to anger.
Why is that? On this read the same verse again and note the
contrast with the idea of raising our children
in the… instruction of
the Lord. So rather than tearing down weaker creatures, like
our children, we should instead direct them to more fulfilling
lives of service to others. And all of this hinges on our
attitude towards them. Is that enough, then, to help us take
care of animals, rather than harm them? If so, how so?
Read again Proverbs 12.10 noting the same word
cruel, but this time
along with the joining word
mercy. Now, just how
are we able to think we’re being merciful when we’re actually
being mean to animals? On this read Isaiah 5.20 noting the
switch of goodness
for evil. If that
were to happen, then we could be mean even while thinking we’re
nice. How could that switching of evil for goodness come about?
On this read John 3.19 noting the line
men loved darkness rather
than light. Read also Romans 3.23 noting the phrase
fall short. How bad
is this fall? On this read Romans 7.18 noting the phrase
nothing good. Read
also Ephesians 2.3 noting the expression
children of wrath,
and the expression no
soundness in Isaiah 1.6. Are people untrustworthy, then? On
this read John 2.24 and Luke 18.9 noting the words
trusted. So saying
that we are being merciful doesn’t mean that we are. Is that why
we’re told in Mark 10.18 that
God alone is good?
Reread Proverbs 12.10 noting this time the word
beast. Why are
animals and beasts good? On this read Genesis 1.20-25 noting the
good. What does it
mean that all the animals were created good by God? On this read
Matthew 10.29 noting the words
will. Read also
Genesis 3.14 noting the phrase
cursed… above all wild
animals. Does that mean only the snake is sinful? On this
read Matthew 28.19 noting the words
nations. Is this only
about people? Is that why we don’t baptize our pets and domestic
animals? Are people worse off then than the animals? On this
read Jonah 1.3 noting the words
flee. Read with it
Jonah 1.17 and 2.10 about the obedient
fish, and Jonah 4.7
about the obedient worm.
Read also Numbers 22.21-35 noting the obedience of
Balaam’s donkey in
contrast to his own rebellion. Note also the
colt, the foal of an
ass, on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem in Matthew 21.1-7.
How are all of these animals so obedient? Are they sinful?
Read Proverbs 12.10 one last time noting again the word
beast. What does it
say about us if we mistreat our animals? Is that some sort of
judgment against us? On this read again Proverbs 12.10 noting
the words righteous
and regard. How is
this so? On this read Matthew 25.40 noting the word
least. While this
clearly refers to people, one cannot help but think it might
also cover other lower living creatures as well. On this read
Genesis 7.1-16 noting all of the animals taken on the ark. Why
are there so many more animals on the ark than people? But also
note that after the flood many animals were burned up as
offerings to God in Genesis 8.20-22. What does this say about
the value of animals? It says that they are valuable in quite
different ways to God. First, they sustain life for the humans,
and so they must be preserved on the ark. In Genesis 9.4 we are
told animals are to be food for us. But they also are to be used
for sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise to God. Do these
combined uses seem odd to you?
Extended Ministries for December
West Seattle Helpline
The extended ministry opportunity that we have chosen to
highlight this month is the West Seattle Helpline. You may have
heard Pastor Marshall mention it in his announcements or you may
have seen articles about it posted on the bulletin board next to
the library. We continue to draw your attention to this
organization because of its unique mission and its extremely
The West Seattle Helpline provides one time monetary and public
transit assistance to people living in one of the five West
Seattle zip codes. The organization is not equipped to provide
long term support, rather it is intended to help individuals and
families suffering from an emergency like being laid off,
furloughed, unions gone on strike, or a health crisis. Recently,
many people who have government related employment have been
calling in asking for help because of the wages they lost from
the recent government shutdown.
Additionally, the Helpline also runs a clothing boutique called,
appropriately enough, the West Seattle Clothesline. Here people
from any zip code and any income background can come and find
new and gently used clothing for their families. The happiness
on the faces of families finally able to find a winter coat for
their children or the restored dignity on the face of adults
actually able to have new underwear and socks is staggering.
Recently, Pastor Marshall made an impassioned plea to the movers
and shakers in the community on behalf of the Helpline at their
fall fundraiser event. The thrust of his message was simple and,
to use one of Luther’s favorite words, perspicuous, “we need
money!” The Helpline only has enough funds to help one in five
of the individuals and families who qualify for assistance. That
means that if the Helpline quintupled its budget it could just
barely satisfy the need.
Unlike other charities, the Helpline only has one employee, all
the rest of the work is done by volunteers. There are no leather
couches and flat screen televisions in the waiting room. All of
the money goes straight to the people who need it.
If during this holiday season you feel compelled to give, we
highly recommend giving to the West Seattle Helpline.
Extended Ministries Committee
The season of giving
This holiday season, we thank everyone who has supported
First Lutheran Church of West Seattle this past year with
their time, talent and financial contributions and look forward
to support from all of our members in the year ahead. If you
need a convenient way to make regular offerings or if you plan
to make an additional gift before the end of the year, we
encourage you to check out our electronic giving options. As the
pace of life speeds up, especially around the holidays, you may
find electronic giving a most welcome way to make contributions.
or contact the church office for more information.
Celebrate with us the great Christmas feast of our Lord's
Nativity. May these
days fill your
with thanksgiving and
This year we will have the following schedule.
evening, the 24th
of December we will offer the
Liturgy of Lessons, Carols, and Holy Eucharist.
This traditional candlelight liturgy will feature the singing of
carols; a procession; and anthems sung by the Deo Gloria
at 11:00 pm.
morning, December 25th
we will offer a single
Festival Liturgy and Holy Eucharist
in the nave, at 10:30 am.
Saint Stephen Deacon & Martyr
morning, December 26th
Holy Eucharist in the chapel, 11:45 am
Saint John, Apostle & Evangelist
morning, December 27th
Holy Eucharist in the chapel, 11:45 am
The Holy Innocents, Martyrs
morning, December 28th,
Eucharist in the chapel, 11:45 am
Remember in prayer before God those whom He has made your
brothers and sisters through baptism.
Vanessa Ormiston, Gerry Moulton, Leah Baker, Agnes Arkle, Clara
Anderson, Peggy & Bill Wright & Wendy, Bob & Barbara Schorn, Ion
Ceaicovschi, Cameron Lim, Ion Ceaicovschi, Luke Bowen, Tabitha
Anderson, Max Richardson, Gloria Belarde, The Jones Family,
Ginny Mitchell, The Khamiss Family, Kirsten Christensen, Kyle
Bogie, Anna & John Bertelsen, Kurt & Jenny Alfano, Robin
Kaufman, Eva Marshall, Kimberly Lawson-Singh, Kevin Lawson,
Rosita & Jim Moe, Dean Herrick, Jillian Wasielewski, Gift of
Grace Lutheran Church, Asha Sagmoen, Margaret Kirmmse, Dano,
Karen & W. Erick.
Pray for the shut-ins that the light of Christ may give them
Anderson, Agnes Arkle, Donna Apman, Pat Hansen, C. J. Christian,
Vera Gunnarson, Louis Koser, Anelma Meeks, Olive Morrison,
Dorothy Ryder, Lillian Schneider, Crystal Tudor, Vivian Wheeler,
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 Advent &
Christmas. 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:
Saint Thomas, Apostle; Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr; Saint
John, Apostle and Evangelist; and The Holy Innocents, Martyrs.
A Treasury of Prayers
source of life and love, strengthen my soul, awaken me from the
deathly sleep that holds me captive. Animate my cold heart with
your tenderness, that I may no more live as in a dream, but walk
before you as an earnest pilgrim in search of my true home. In
Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
All the Saints
(ALPB, 1994-1996) 4 vols.,