December 2013


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 Large Catechism (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 Journals 2:2153). And may Christ’s Spirit see to it that we also keep on.  

–Pastor Marshall




What a Relief to Read Luther


Kierkegaard’s Love for Luther’s Sermons


By Pastor Marshall


Kierkegaard was 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”

    One 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 “beautifully”

developed (Journals 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).

     May we with Kierkegaard find relief in Luther’s words as he did.



The Dog Who Belonged to Himself

(A Stewardly Reflection by Earl Nelson)

There used 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.

We also 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.

The Hebrews 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.

Because of 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.

Apparently 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.



                         PRESIDENT'S Larraine King


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 doing well.  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 Messenger online.  Not being tech-savvy, I had noticed through the past year that sometimes the pages of my Messenger overlapped 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 Advent devotion.

     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. (Hymn #23)




Sunday, December 2nd from 4pm to 7pm


     The feast day of St. Nicholas is almost here and preparations are almost completed.  All we need is YOU!!!  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.]  

     Admission is $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 West Seattle Helpline.  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



December Book

With the Mind:  Readings in Contemporary Theology

3-5 pm in the Church Lounge, Saturday, December 28th

The book 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.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:  GOLDEN FELLOWSHIP annual Holiday Luncheon is planned for Tuesday, December 10th.  Sign up on the sheet that is posted in the lounge.

NEW MEMBERS 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:  Suggested items:  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 December 16th. 

FOOD BANK COLLECTION suggested donation for December is holiday foods.  Don’t forget to bring a can of food to the St. Nicholas Faire!

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 congregation.  Everyone is welcome to come along.  Please sign up on the list that is posted in the lounge.

Sign up 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 month.  Sign up early for the best choice of dates.

PASTOR MARSHALL’s 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. 



Proverbs 12.10

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).


Week I. 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 others and 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 provoking your 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?


Week II. 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 trust and 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?


Week III. 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 words creatures, birds, beasts, all and good. What does it mean that all the animals were created good by God? On this read Matthew 10.29 noting the words sparrows, one, fall and 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 all and 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 but and 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?


Week IV. 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 local focus.

     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.


Ali Richardson

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. Visit or contact the church office for more information.


The Nativity of Our Lord

Celebrate with us the great Christmas feast of our Lord's Nativity.  May these days fill your hearts with thanksgiving and praise.  This year we will have the following schedule.


Christmas Eve

     On Tuesday 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 Cantores, at 11:00 pm.

Christmas Day

     Wednesday morning, December 25th we will offer a single Festival Liturgy and Holy Eucharist in the nave, at 10:30 am. 

Saint Stephen Deacon & Martyr

     Thursday morning, December 26th

Holy Eucharist in the chapel, 11:45 am

      Saint John, Apostle & Evangelist

     Friday morning, December 27th  

Holy Eucharist in the chapel, 11:45 am

       The Holy Innocents, Martyrs

     Saturday morning, December 28th,

            Holy 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 joy:  Clara 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, Peggy 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 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


O God, 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.


                                       [For All the Saints (ALPB, 1994-1996) 4 vols., I:213, altered]