December 2020



Advent is For Repentance


The days before Christmas –

the Season of Advent –

are for repenting.

That’s why half of the Sundays in Advent are devoted to John the Baptist. Changing the color of Advent from purple to blue, to shift from penance to hope, couldn’t remove John the Baptist. So don’t get out the peanut brittle too soon. Keep some good ol’ twisted pretzels around until the end of the month. They have long stood for repentance

     Along with those pretzels, dwell on these words from Martin Luther, which help us understand why our Lord Jesus insisted that if we don’t repent, we’ll perish (Luke 13:5). First, “to repent is to feel seriously God’s wrath because of sin, so that the sinner is troubled in his heart and plagued by a desire for salvation and for the mercy of God” (Luther’s Works 5:154). So keep that good plague in mind. And second, “true repentance is not contrition alone; it is also faith, which takes hold of the promise, lest the penitent perish” (LW 7:257). So building up has to follow all tearing down, otherwise repentance isn’t Biblical.

Pastor Marshall



PRESIDENT'S Cary Natiello


Dear friends in Christ,

How are you holding up?  I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty hard to crack a smile during these troubled times.  I can’t help but ask myself, “MY GOD, haven’t we had enough already?”  As pastor Marshall said in his November 8th sermon, “[I]…long for those good days – those happy days – because they make life sweet. Laughing together, and having good times with family and friends, makes life enjoyable…”  I know I can’t give into despair as I long for the good old days.  Here are some words from Pastor Marshall’s last couple sermons that helped me to keep things in proper perspective:

     Don’t think that what’s happening now is more important than what will happen when the world ends (John 5:28–29, 2 Peter 3:10).

      Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15).

      Don’t be so enamored with what’s going on in the world around you that you forget God (Colossians 3:2, Philippians 3:8).

      So believe in Christ, for he says to us all―“unhesitatingly set your foot on Me [for] I will be the Bridge to carry you across [into heaven, so] wager boldly on Me, go cheerfully and happily, and die in My name” (LW 24:42). 

      For Christ is “the blessed and joyful redemption from this vale of misery and wretchedness” (LW 35:316).  That it is by the Father’s sure knowledge and will that we suffer [and so] we ought to rejoice and to embrace the will of the Father with a joyful heart.  Indeed, we should take all of our tribulations and swallow them up and drown them like a spark in the sea of God’s infinite love and care for us” (LW 67:109).

     While I believe it is not ok to turn my back on the issues we face today, I also need to remember that what ultimately goes on in this world should not occupy all my time and energy.  If I lose sight of God, His mercy, gifts, and the love of Christ, it is easy for me to become depressed and feel helpless and hopeless.  I am so thankful that Pastor Marshall dedicates so much time to his weekly sermons for us.  Thanks be to God, Amen.

     So, what else is happening you ask?

     We continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and assess our reopening criteria.  As I am sure you are not surprised, the uptrend in COVID-19 cases continues to mean we will not have indoor worship services anytime soon, including Christmas.  Nonetheless, the council is continuing its work on establishing guidelines for indoor services.  Even after a vaccine becomes available for distribution, we will still need to follow safe opening guidelines well into 2021.

     At the end of September, we had $66,500 in the checking and at the end of October it was down to $61,300.  Our weekly envelope giving continues to be less than the first half of the year.  This is slowly eroding our solid financial footing giving us pause as we head into establishing our 2021 budget.  While we still have a good reserve of funds in our checking, if you are behind in your pledge or giving, please do the best you can to try to catch up.  Thank you to everyone who has met or exceeded their pledge, and thank you all for your continued support to maintain our beautiful church.

     Saint Nicholas Faire will have happened by the time you receive the December issue of The Messenger.  I’ll pray that our first virtual fund raising event goes smoothly.  Many thanks to Scott and Valerie Schorn for managing the event again this year!

     Merry Christmas!  Let’s all pray that 2021 will be a better year. 

Stay safe and may God’s Blessings be with you.







God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending

These words begin Hymn 408.  Each phrase of this hymn is a reminder that all that we have and experience are gifts from our Creator, and are ours on loan to share with the world in which we live.  Nature, Jesus’ sacrifice for us, our skills and time, our health and freedom, our daily labor, our talents, our treasures and riches, are given to us to help us serve others – our family, church, communities, our world. 

     These are different and difficult times of uncertainty, racial unrest, political confusion, and personal sacrifice for the greater good of our neighbors, far and near, due to the pandemic.  But our role is to rejoice and be grateful, and to stay faithful and engaged even when that is daunting to do.  St. Paul said many times in his writings that we are to always rejoice in the Lord.  And some of those times he was sitting in prison for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So our job is to follow the example of all those faithful Christians who have gone before us, from Jesus to the Saints, the Church Fathers, and everyday people like ourselves.  “Keep on, keepin’ on” as the old gospel songs encourage, is the posture of the devoted and faithful.  And in the final verse of Hymn 408, our prayer can be…..


Open wide our hands in sharing,

As we heed Christ’s ageless call,

Healing, teaching, and reclaiming,

Serving You by loving all.


     (P.S.  Our contributions to church are running consistently between $2,000 and 3,000 behind our monthly budget needs.  Can each of us give a little extra to make up the shortfall???  Treasure, too, you have entrusted…. ours to use…..  to spread the Gospel Word [Hymn 408, verse 3]).


                                                                              ─Larraine King, Church Council





Our Thanks!

To Scott and Valerie Schorn

 And team for all the work they did to organize and put on the

Saint Nicholas Faire. 

Once again it was an impressive event raising much needed funds to support our local West Seattle Food Bank and Helpline.





The Body


“I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

(Psalm 139:14)


You don’t know how the body is formed in the mother’s womb.”

(Ecclesiastes 11:5)




“Our skin is our largest organ, and possibly the most versatile. It keeps our insides in and bad things out. It cushions blows. It gives us our sense of touch, bringing us pleasure and warmth and pain and nearly everything else that makes us vital…. It looks after us…. It is thinnest on the eyelids (just one-thousandth of an inch thick) and thickest on the heels of our hands and feet…. The outermost surface of the epidermis… is made up entirely of dead cells. It is an arresting thought that all that makes you lovely is deceased. Where body meets air, we are all cadavers. These outer skin cells are replaced every month…. Run a finger along a dusty shelf, and you are in large part clearing a path through fragments of your former self. Silently and remorselessly we turn to dust [Genesis 3:19]… We each trail behind us about a pound of dust every year…. Nobody knows for sure how many holes you have in your skin, but you are pretty seriously perforated…. If you sink a spade into gravel or sand, you can feel the difference between them even though all you are touching is the spade. Curiously, we don’t have any receptors for wetness…. [And] the brain doesn’t just tell you how something feels, but how it ought to feel. That’s why the caress of a lover feels wonderful, but the same touch by a stranger would feel creepy or horrible. It’s also why it is hard to tickle yourself.”


[Bill Bryson, The Body: A Guide to Occupants (2019) pp. 11, 12, 13, 14.]




 Luther on Samson


By Pastor Marshall


Samson’s troubled life ends in spectacular victory – destroying the Philistine temple (Judge 16:23), and killing “at his death… more than those whom he had slain during his life” (Judge 16:30). Luther rejoices in this. “I hope,” he exclaims, “that it also happens to me that I, like Samson, bring more misfortune with my death than with my life. For Christ’s death, too, did more than his life (John 12:24)” (Luther’s Works 39:135). He agrees with the church father, Caesarius of Arles (470–543), who saw in Samson’s end an example that should “fit every servant of Christ” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, vol. OT IV, 2005, p. 167). Others, however, see in Samson’s end the bad example of the “first suicide-killer” which now plagues our world (D. Grossman, Lion’s Honey: The Myth of Samson, 2005, p. 143). All they see are “the perils of strength for man or nation, unless it is humbled, mellowed, and controlled by the direction of a wise and loving God” (P. Elliott, The Book of Judges, 1953, p. 798). But don’t forget that it was God himself (Judges 16:22, 28) who put Samson up to this – even though it seems “forbidden by divine law” (T. Butler, Judges, 2009, p. 358)!






The Apostle Saint Paul


“You’re children… in the midst of

a crooked and perverse generation.”



by Pastor Marshall


Martin Luther believed that the Bible was hated for speaking “so disparagingly… of the world” – and taking “in the entire world in one bite” as an evil place (Luther’s Works 23:319). He thought the world was like a “sow [that] lies in the mire or manure, rests and snores and thinks only of where there is slop and swill, knows nothing of death, fears no hell, looks forward to no heaven, and hopes for no future life; slop and swill are its heaven instead” (LW 57:27). “In the meantime… Christians serve as the legs,” he thought, “that bear the entire world. For this service the world rewards them by despising them, oppressing them, forcing them into mire and filth, disgracing them, reviling them, condemning them, yes, by chasing them out of the world…. [So] we are now obliged to suffer such filth and stench from [the world] as do the legs that carry the paunch and the reeking belly” (LW 24:82–83). Indeed, it is “really disgraceful the way the world carries on: it may be pious or it may be wicked, but either way it is worthless…. [It] does not know and honor the God who so richly and boundlessly blesses it; much less does it thank and praise Him” (LW 21:134, 14:112). And by calling our world “perverse and crooked,” this Philippians verse also maligns the world – confirming that we’re dwelling “in the midst of Sodom and Gomorrah and Babylon” (LW 36:305). It ignores all qualifications to the contrary. Even so, the church is “still the church,” because it knows how to “rule in the midst of… foes” – and “convert other nations,” by “being lights in the world among an evil and crooked generation” (LW 26:24, 29:57, 76:391). And it is not to worry, if in these adverse times it must “steal in the name of the Lord,” in order to keep advancing “the teaching and study of the Word” (LW 6:31). And that’s because if God’s word doesn’t prevail in such an evil and wicked place, then there only will be “furious and raging monsters everywhere” (LW 49:179). Then only “many teach, but few fight” (LW 29:30). And because of this wicked world, we’ll know why – and consequently won’t be “offended by… the small number of… believers” (LW 17:312). In fact, we’ll even act as though we don’t “see or know the hostile and ungrateful scorners of God’s Word” (LW 60:15).

     This verse from Philippians therefore serves us as a “warning” not to be positive about our world (Fred Craddock, Philippians, 1985, p. 46). Indeed, in every generation “those who view the world from God’s perspective have reason for alarm” (Bonnie B. Thurston, Philippians, 2009, p. 95). And so this verse calls for “an irrevocable break with certain concrete ways of life common in the world” (John Reumann, Philippians, 2008, p. 412). Those ways include “wealth without work; pleasure without conscience; knowledge without character; commerce without morality; science without humanity; worship without sacrifice; politics without principle” (George Hunsinger, Philippians, 2020, p. 79n.128). In contrast we should be positive about the light of Christ shining in believers. “For the stars shine in the night, they come to light more splendidly. But when it’s light they don’t come to light in the same way. So you too, when among crooked people you remain upright, you shine more” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on Philippians, trans. P. Allen, 2013, p. 183). But we have to be careful here. This is not “the Pharisaic ideal of being better than the wicked world…. It is in the struggle against themselves that [Christians] fight the struggle for existence. Pharisaism is nothing new in the world, no light in the darkness. That [light] appears where men [refuse to] join in the game of self-esteem, where man as such is assailed and called [into] question. Christians are such men” (Karl Barth, Epistle to the Philippians, 40th Anniversary Edition, trans. J. W. Leitch, 2002, pp. 76–77).






Compass Housing Alliance is in need of new or clean lightly used clothing or new Christmas gift clothing items (XL) for their housing centers for both men and women. Please make arrangements with the office for drop off options.  The items will be delivered before Sunday, December 13th.

FOOD BANK COLLECTION suggested donation for December is holiday foods.  We are still collecting food for the West Seattle Food Bank.  Please make arrangements with the office for drop off options. 

CHRISTMAS CAROLING PARTY:  Saturday, December 26th, Saint Stephen Deacon & Martyr, a virtual caroling experience will be available by email.  If you are interested in receiving this option please let the office know.

SACRAMENT OF PENANCE:  Because of Coronavirus concerns, the Sacrament of Penance is now offered on Zoom.  This brief liturgy enables people – one at a time – to confess their sin and receive the blessed assurance of forgiveness.  Email or call the office and talk to Pastor Marshall to set up a time for Penance.

PASTOR MARSHALL’s next four week class on the Koran starts on Monday, January 4th.  Call the office to register for the class. 

2021 FLOWER CHART:  The new chart for 2021 will be reserved until we have a clear message as to when our worship services and facility can be reopened. 

JOHNSON CN:  Our thanks to Ben Johnson and Johnson CN for the financial and technical support donated to the church office.  It is very much appreciated. 





Job 6.4

Monthly Home Bible Study, December 2020, Number 334

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). And don’t give up, for as Luther said, we “have in Scripture enough to study for all eternity” (LW 75:422)!


Week I. Read Job 6.4 noting the words arrows, poison and terrors. What is Job referring to? On this read Job 2.7 noting the loathsome sores. Why does Job describe these sores in such a gruesome way? On this read Matthew 26.41 about our weak flesh. How do we see this weakness? Check out 2 Corinthians 12.7 noting the word harass. Why aren’t we able to endure this pain of harassment? Read 2 Corinthians 4.7 about people being earthen vessels. So we aren’t powerhouses. Our inherent weakness drains our stamina. We aren’t mighty; we’re earthen. We aren’t able to sustain ourselves unceasingly. Note the fear of growing weary in Galatians 6.9, 2 Thessalonians 3.13, and Hebrews 12.3. So the call to always abound in the works of the Lord in 1 Corinthians 15.58 is an ideal that’s rarely done. But doesn’t practice make perfect? On this read Philippians 3.12 noting the phrase not… perfect. Why is that? Will it come eventually? Read Romans 1.25 about mistakenly exchanging the creature for the Creator. That would say no. Do you agree?


Week II. Read again Job 6.4 noting this time the words Almighty and God. Does God really want to hurt us and Job? On this read Job 2.6 noting how God puts Job into Satan’s power. But it is still Satan who inflicts Job with those sores. So why does Job think God has done it? Why doesn’t he think it’s a mystery – with the source of his misery unknown? On this read Isaiah 45.7 noting the words weal and woe. Note also wound and heal in Deuteronomy 32.39. And even in Job 1.21 note the words gave and taken. In all three God is responsible for both. Why would God send or allow woe to inflict us? On this read Leviticus 26.14 – 16 noting the words but, not, hearken and terror. So punishment is one reason for the woe. What does Job think of that? Read Job 9.15 noting the line I am innocent, and without cause in Job 9.17. Job, then, would think any divine punishment to be mistaken. Another reason for woe is in Romans 5.4 – it builds character. But if Job was the greatest man around, as says Job 1.3, then he wouldn’t need any character formation. Do you agree?


Week III. Reread Job 6.4 noting again those words Almighty and God. Why is Job upset with what he thinks God is doing to him? On this read Job 23.1–7 noting the words case and reason. He thinks that if he could only explain his side to God, he would agree with Job that he is suffering unjustifiably. Because he hasn’t had that chance, he’s mad at God. But does this take Isaiah 55.8–9 into account? There we learn how vastly greater God is than we are. If that’s so, then how could Job reason with God to change his mind? They aren’t on the same level. What is his recourse then? On this read Psalm 99.5 noting God’s footstool. Here reasoning is replaced with humiliation. And this is what happens when God finally shows up in a storm and says in Job 38.2 – “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” Do you see in that an invitation to Job to make his case against God? Why or why not?


Week IV. Read Job 6.4 one last time noting the same words Almighty and God. Is there anything that Job can do to placate God so that his fortunes and good health are restored? Complaining didn’t work. Demanding a hearing didn’t either. In Job 42.10 his fortunes are restored – to even twice what they were before. How did that happen? Job 42.10 says that it was because he prayed for his friends. Why would that work? On this read Matthew 6.14–15 noting how the two uses of forgive work together. Does that explain Job’s good fortune? Or does Job 42.6 and its words despise and repent add anything important? On this read Luke 13.5 noting the words repent and perish. Note also Job 40.4 and his confession I am of small account. What does that add? Does it refine repentance so that it doesn’t end up in ruin as it did with Judas in Matthew 27.3–5? 





A Dialogue on Grit versus Gift

Do We Basically Earn What We Have?


Jane Harty: Daniel Markovits begins his best-selling 2019 book The Meritocracy Trap with these four little words about American culture – “Merit is a sham.” His subtitle hints at what is to come in this ground-breaking argument against meritocracy: “How America’s Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite.” Right away Markovits describes his two-fold criticism of meritocracy, and of American culture in general:


First, meritocracy transforms education into a rigorous and intense contest to join the elite. It concentrates training in the narrow, super-educated caste that wins the competition for places and grades at the top schools and universities. Second, meritocracy transforms work to create the immensely demanding and enormously lucrative jobs that sustain the elite. It fetishizes skill, centering both industry and pay around a narrow caste of superordinate (highest in status) workers” (p. 5). The result is income inequality in which the top 1 percent capture about 20% of total income. “Meritocracy makes economic inequality overall dramatically worse today than in the past and shockingly worse in America than in other rich countries (p. 15).


Question 1: Does this sound like a good summary of the thesis of his book, and do these twin criticisms of meritocracy ring true to you?


Ron Marshall: Yes, that’s a good summary. I would only add that Markovits thinks that merit has boomeranged on us. It was first thought to be “the handmaiden of equality of opportunity” – allowing people in lower classes to work their way up simply by dint of hard work and elbow grease. But now it’s seen to stifle more than foster “social mobility” (p. xiv). And as for this thesis being true or not, I think it’s true that luck matters more than labor; gift more than grit; chance more than calculations. One could never become a public school teacher without graduating from college, but that alone doesn’t give you a good job when you start looking for one. Training is the necessary first step; but it’s not enough to find rewarding work. For that, a big dose of luck is needed. And that you can’t earn in school. Luck is wild – not tame. It blows like the wind. We’d love to learn how to harness it, but all our efforts have failed. Martin Luther thought luck was out of our control, in the way that divine grace is (Luther’s Works 17:265, 19:61, 41:53). Wayne E. Oates has developed this theme in his 1995 book, Luck: A Secular Faith. Indeed, Markovits even argues that “success demands a single-minded willingness to sacrifice in the service of ambition and requires luck even then” (p. 34). Luther develops this further stating that “no man’s plans have ever been straightforwardly realized, but for everyone things have turned out differently from what he thought they would be” (LW 33:41). So luck and life go together. For Luther then, “all merit is abolished” (LW 76:319). This is like Markovits opening sentence, “Merit is a sham.” Luther knew that knowing that we’re not in control of our lives is “an extreme trial” for us. Seeing our lives as a hunk of clay being formed however the potter wishes (Isaiah 41:25, Jeremiah 18:4, Romans 9:21), “demonstrates how insignificant” we are (LW 17:128). That means we are beholden to powers out of our control – whether we like it or not. That’s the truth Markovits builds on.


Jane: Markovits cites the most extreme examples of the shift in income levels since the 1960s: CEOs who were paid 20 times the income of a production worker then, are paid 300 times as much today. Medical specialists (e.g. cardiologists) earned 4 times that of a nurse then, and are paid 7 times more now. Lawyers at elite law firms were paid 5 times what a secretary made then, and 40 times more now. The most dramatic change is in finance (e.g. Wall Street): the Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman made 50 times that of a teller in 1969, today it is over 1,000 times! These huge increases are driven by “merit” – performance-related pay (p. 18). And this heightened economic performance is achieved because of elite (and very expensive) Ivy League educations, starting in pre-school. For example, 5 hours of homework every night in high school is a given (p. 32). Wealthy parents invest heavily in their children’s rigorous training to continue the upward spiral of familial wealth.


A fair question would be: What’s the harm if the middle class has enough? Markovits reminds us that middle class jobs are disappearing, and that as the meritocrats are paid large salaries for more and more work themselves, mid-skilled manufacturing, retail and middle-management jobs have gone away. Not only has the middle class lost jobs, but their pay has stagnated, and those workers are told that their work is no longer needed, adding insult to injury. “Receding opportunity saps energy and optimism, and enforced idleness draws contempt, invites indolence, and nurtures frustration and anger…. The two-pronged meritocratic assault on income and on status unravels the middle class” (p. 30). “The idleness that the meritocracy trap imposes on an economically superfluous middle class has exacted over a million ‘deaths of despair’ over the past decade due to suicides, overdoses of opioids and alcohol” (p.31).


Not only is the middle class demoralized, but the meritocrats are devoured by their work (p. 38) – “17 hours a day, seven days a week” for typical investment bankers (p. 10). High status and high income work is not “an opportunity for self-expression or self-actualization,” and is focused in “a narrowly restricted class of jobs…finance, management, law, and medicine” (p. 39). As children and future wealth-producers, their educations “are dominated not by experiments and play, but by accumulating the human capital needed for getting admitted to an elite college and, eventually, securing an elite job” (p. 38). What kind of life is this?!


Question 2: Does this description of the decline of American working lives, both for the middle class and the wealthy, seem right to you, or is it an exaggeration of the misery felt in both economic classes? Do you think, as Markovits does, that the middle class is in despair (p. 31) and that meritocrats’ inner lives are impoverished (p. 285)?


Ron: Yes, this highly competitive way of living and working appears to be killing us with higher and higher rates of suicide both while training in school and then in the workplace. See Connie Goldsmith, Understanding Suicide: A National Epidemic (2017). On this matter Markovits writes movingly. “A former lawyer… tells of the time when an associate in his firm passed out in the middle of a conference room, and the remainder of her team called an ambulance and, after the paramedics took her away, returned straight to work. (The associate eventually made partner, and observers treat her collapse as contributing to the promotion, by conspicuously demonstrating her commitment to her job.) Bankers have in some cases worked themselves literally to death, as when an analyst at Goldman Sachs was found dead from a high fall after repeated troubles concerning overwork. These accounts – right down to the gore – betray a monomaniac commitment to using, even abusing, oneself that is more familiar among elite athletes: they are white-collar versions of the NFL player Ronnie Lott’s decision to amputate a broken finger because surgery and a cast would have forced him to miss a crucial game” (p. 43).


Jane: Markovits does propose solutions to The Meritocracy Trap. First he calls for a “new politics” that “unmasks merit as a sham” (p. 285). Second he also proposes economic policies, in particular, reforming the federal payroll tax to encourage employers to create middle-class jobs (p. 281). Third, Markovits promotes “open and inclusive education [which] would create a broader and less extravagant elite” (p. 283). In other words, allow more students, especially lower-income students in (which would mean hiring more teachers, not less), reduce the dehumanizing competition for admission, and subsidize their costs. Finally, he describes the benefits of a more equal society: “The elite can reclaim its freedom and leisure in exchange for a reduction of income and status that it can easily afford… At the same time, the middle class can get relief from enforced idleness, and renew its income and status, in exchange for letting go of resentments that anyway provide no satisfaction.” (p. 286)


Question 3: Do these solutions seem possible to you? How do you get people to share work and income?


Ron: This looks like a good plan – even though it doesn’t seem very likely to succeed. What’s good about it is the goal – sharing with others. That’s a long-held social value – providing charity for the poor and needy. But the problem is how to get people to share. Two methods have been tried. The most common one has been enlightened self-interest. This one tries to get people to share by showing them that they actually help themselves when they share with others. Here the motivation is selfishness (Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, 1964). But more often than not, this method collapses into self-interest alone – leaving the neighbor out. Our needs are unending and tend to get in the way of helping others. The other less well tried method is self-denial. Here helping others is a sacrifice – nothing more. It replaces selfishness (Søren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination, 1851). This method doesn’t have the same problem of tripping over oneself. Its problem is the old one of getting started by seeing that something matters more than ourselves.


Question 4: What did you like and dislike about this book? Do you see a role for the church in promoting income equality in order to serve the neighbor, or is this strictly a secular issue?


Ron: This book exposes the darkness (Ephesians 5:11) and calls us to help our neighbors (Luke 10:37). Both of these are Biblical themes. Indeed, we’re taught that “if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). But there is a weakness in this book too. It can’t figure out a successful way to get people to help each other. According to the Bible – until the world ends, and Christ returns in glory – we remain in a perverted and crooked place (Philippians 2:15, Matthew 17:17). But until then, we still have to make every effort to help others and expose the darkness – all the while knowing that we won’t be able to make much progress on either of these. Luther thought obedience required this of us (LW 52:218). But perfection will constantly elude us (Philippians 3:12). Even so, we’ll continue learning how to be content with less than we’ve been hoping for, and still not give up trying to always do better (Philippians 4:11).


Jane: But it’s discouraging to think that we won’t be able to make much progress, as you say. Surely if our actions are in alignment with God’s because of our faith in Christ, wouldn’t it be possible that God will graciously allow those efforts to bear fruit? So perhaps the operative word in your statement is “we.” With God, however, all things are possible, even if not with us. Can we agree on that?


Ron: Yes, a better life is always possible, due to God’s mercy. But the likelihood that enough people will start sharing their work and income isn’t very good in this fallen world, where we are to long for the better life to come, after this world has been destroyed (Hebrews 9:28, 11:16, 2 Peter 3:10). Now when “hindered by the malice of men, [we] should bear it patiently and not cease [our good] works. Do not desert the battlefield but stick it out” (LW 15:106). So, all that God expects of us in tough times, is to “labor and commit the outcome” to him (LW 15:153).






Remember in prayer before God those whom He has made your

brothers and sisters through baptism.

Leah Baker, Dorothy Ryder, Melanie Johnson, Sam & Nancy Lawson, Marlis Ormiston, Connor Bisticas, Eileen & Dave Nestoss, Kyra Stromberg, Diana Walker, Tabitha Anderson, The Rev. Albin Fogelquist, The Rev. Howard Fosser,  The Rev. Kari Reiten, The Rev. Dave Monson, The Rev. Dan Peterson, The Rev Alan Gardner, Eric Baxter, Sheila Feichtner, Yuriko Nishimura, Leslie Hicks, Paul Jensen, Lesa Christensen, Maggie & Glenn Willis, Evelyn, Emily & Gordon Wilhelm, Karen Berg, Bjorg Hestevold, Garrison Radcliffe, Antonio Ortez, Angel Lynn, Garrett Metzler, Marv Morris, Noel Curtis, Randy Vater, Doreen Phillips, Richard Patishnock, Jeff Hancock, Yao Chu Chang, Marie Magenta, Will Forrester, Wayne & Chris Korsmo, Holly & Terrance Finan, Terry Fretheim, Heather Tutuska, Josie West, Anthony Brisbane, Lori Aarstad, Ty Wick, Dan Murphy, Pete Forsyth, Randy Lonborg.

     Pray for our professional Health Care Providers:  Gina Allen, Janine Douglass, David Juhl, Dana Kahn, Dean Riskedahl, Jane Collins and all those suffering from the coronavirus pandemic.

     Pray for the United States during this presidential election year, and for unbelievers, the addicted, the sexually abused and harassed, the homeless, the hungry and the unemployed.

     Pray for the shut-ins that the light of Christ may give them joy:  Gregg & Jeannine Lingle, Bob & Mona Ayer, Joan Olson, Bob Schorn, Doris Prescott, C.J. Christian, Dorothy Ryder, Crystal Tudor, Nora Vanhala, Martin Nygaard, Anelma Meeks.

     Pray for our bishops Elizabeth Eaton and Shelley Bryan Wee, our pastor Ronald Marshall, our choirmaster 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


Merciful Father, we are surrounded by the needs of your people, and we are overwhelmed by their suffering. Touch our hearts. Help us to stand with your suffering children and to advocate their needs to those who do not care about them. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


 [For All the Saints III:42, altered]