February 2016


Sin Boldly


Luther famously said in a letter dated August 1, 1521, that we should “sin boldly” (Luther’s Works 48:282). Lutherans, down through the generations, have thought this means that we shouldn’t be afraid to sin because there is forgiveness by way of the sacrifice of Jesus always there for us (“Only the Remorse of Judas,” The Bride of Christ, vol. 19, Pascha 1995, p. 29).  

     This opinion, however, is all mixed up and flies in the face of Romans 6:1–2, which tell us precisely to be very careful not to sin.

     Why then did Luther say this?

     The best understanding is that sinning boldly [pecca fortiter] actually means admitting that we are horrible sinners [fortissimus peccator]. Because we couldn’t stomach this far more severe understanding of what Luther wrote, we have distorted and twisted his words on purpose in order make them easier to live with.

     To guard against this misunderstanding, take Romans 7:13 to heart during these days of Lent (which begin on Ash Wednesday, February 10), and ponder how your sin should be made sinful to you – “beyond measure” [supra modum].

Pastor Marshall


X  X  X



                       PRESIDENT'S REPORT....by Earl Nelson


In Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul encourages the Church and reminds us of its purpose, “that [we] may know what is the hope to which he has called [us], what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.”  

     We don’t always feel that such power is with us when we sweep the floors here at church, or fix a switch, get the paraments right, meet our pledges in a timely fashion, or do any of the seemingly mundane tasks we perform here as a congregation.  But we do work in the service of such a Lord as Paul describes “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,” no matter how small our tasks may seem.  At First Lutheran Church of West Seattle, I have confidence that when I do some small task, it is for a church that preaches the Cross, through which Christ accomplished God’s work of salvation, in a world which denies the Cross.  The little work I do in support of my Church is more important than the job and career which take most of my time and energy.  Without the Church, my job and even my family life would ultimately have no purpose or meaning. 

     Elsewhere Paul says that we live by faith and hope and that we only see the glory of the Lord that is to come dimly, as “through a glass darkly.”  Living by faith and hope means that we do not know through our own faculties how our little efforts serve our Lord’s larger purposes.  We have to trust the Lord, and do what he tells us to do, though we cannot ourselves clearly see the purpose of it.  Perhaps it is meaningful to those who read this to hear that First Lutheran is a light unto my eyes and lamp unto my feet, for which I am deeply, if insufficiently, thankful.  Worship and fellowship at First Lutheran increases my faith and strengthens my hope, and this is made possible by all the acts of faithfulness of my fellow parishioners. 

     As we begin the 2016th year of our Lord at First Lutheran Church, we can be thankful that we met our financial obligations last year and both maintained and improved the church buildings and the parsonage.  Historically our giving lags at the beginning of the year and Church Council has to turn to extra cash left over from the previous year to meet our payroll and pay the bills.  We enter this year having used up our rainy day fund and the cash left over from the previous year. This means that this year we do not have any cushion to meet our needs when our giving lapses, as it regularly does in January and February.  Timely payment of our pledges will be of great value for the life of the church in the months to come.  For some reason, we seem to lose our footing as a congregation in this regard at the beginning of the year.  Let us remember our pledges, and how important they are in continuing to bring God’s Word to a fallen world.




We Can Always Do More


It is important to take time to really think about all of the work that goes on behind the scenes to make our church function on a daily basis for so many decades.  Though our members seem to be few, they are clearly the cream of the crop.  Everyone has something to contribute. 

     What I do know, is that we can always do more.  Just when you think you’ve hit your maximum giving threshold or have donated every hour that you have free, is when you need to push yourself to do a little more. This is the sage advice that was shared with me in the past.  There are times when I personally thought I would fall apart if I added one more item to my to-do-list.  I realized that when I started to do less in church, I felt more guilt.  I felt like I was cutting back in the wrong area.  I needed to undo other parts of my hectic schedule to free up more time to dedicate to church. 

     I know firsthand I only do a fraction of what I am truly capable of!  There are times when we all feel like we do so much but then we should look around at the people who REALLY keep the church operating day to day, decade to decade, and tell ourselves “Wow…I really don’t do much at all compared to them….”  Giving is not a contest between each other.  I guess it is a contest with yourself.  How much more can you push yourself to do?  When you step back from the church to free up time, is when you will miss it the most.  Don’t step back….step up.  Do more.  When you are busiest is when you are most productive.  Take a look at your giving.  Whether it is time, money, or a skill you can share… always know that the church needs more of you.  Don’t give because you think it will make you feel good.  Give because you know it is the discipline that is good for you.

                          Gina Allen, Church Council












The Endowment Fund


Putting the Church in Your Will


Our church endowment fund continues to grow.  We thank God for all who have made a gift to this fund and the support it provides.

     One significant way to support the fund is to include the church in your will.  If you would like to do this and have not done so already, think of giving 10% of the residual value of your estate to the church.  In this way you will be able to tithe the income the investments of your estate has earned over the years.  This is a fitting way to thank God for the blessings of prosperity we have been granted.

     Our endowment fund was established in January 1996.  The gifts made to the fund are never spent.  The interest earned is added each to year to help meet our budget.  In this way you can go on supporting our church long after you have departed to join the church triumphant.  Praise be to God!



Putting a Cockerel on Our Church


Pondering the Decree of Saint Nicholas I


By Pastor Marshall


Pope Nicholas the Great (d. 867) issued a decree mandating all churches to have a rooster or cockerel on their steeples. He did this to remind us of our Lord’s warning in Luke 22:34 that before the cock crowed, Peter would deny him three times (Luke 22:61; J. N. D. Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, 1986, pp. 107–109; Eric Sloane, Our Vanishing Landscape, 2004, p. 96).

This reminder is filled with dread because it tells us how even the best among us can fall from grace. Not one of us is immune (1 Corinthians 10:12). And we need this warning because we have a far too positive view of ourselves. All of us suffer from what Luther called “inflated self-importance” (Luther’s Works 52:208). That’s because we deny there’s “a deep, wicked, abominable, bottomless, inscrutable, and inexpressible corruption” in us from birth (The Book of Concord, ed. T. Tappert, 1959, p. 510).

This denial piles up “more atrocious sins” in our lives, and renders any restoration a matter of great “difficulty” (LW 8:325). Let us then take up this ancient decree – if not on our steeples at least in our hearts – and ponder Luke 22:34. Let us dwell on our wretchedness that we might be driven straight to Christ for mercy and salvation (LW 16:232). Let us quit defending ourselves by trying to show how we aren’t so bad after all. Defending ourselves in this way has rightly been called devilish (LW 22:397). 



New Luther Writings


Luther’s Works, Volume 78


By Pastor Marshall


Another volume in the new series (volumes 56-82) of Luther’s Works has been published. This volume, LW 78 (2015), is a new translation of some of the old J. N. Lenker translations of Luther’s sermons (mostly from vols. 4 and 8), plus a first time translation of Luther’s 1 John sermons from 1532–1533. Here are some of my favorites from LW 78:

“No book on earth can teach this except the one Word and Scripture given by God Himself,… that He sent His Son into the world to redeem it from sin and God’s wrath” (8); “God has not created the world in the same way that a carpenter builds a house and then goes away, leaving it to be however it is” (15); “The Father alone is [not] the Creator, or the Son alone the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit alone sanctifies” (26); “We do not make a heap or only one person out of [God]. That is why three distinct works are added, so that the ordinary Christian will make a distinction among the persons and yet not divide the nature” (29); “Nothing [should] be taught in Church other than what we are certain is God’s Word, not what human reason and wisdom think is good and right” (47); “If anyone is to enter heaven,… there must first be the sort of person who has… in Himself eternal righteousness and life, so that He can reconcile God’s wrath and blot out sin and death” (48); “The only Son of God had to take our place and become a sacrifice for our sin, through which God’s wrath would be appeased and satisfaction would be made” (50); “There is in [Christ] a salutary sin by which He delivers us, who truly are sinners, from the deadly poison. So He condemned sin on the cross, for sin wronged Him when it condemned Him and put Him to death” (52); “This form of a dead serpent [in Christ] is a saving death and a living medicine for all who have been poisoned and ruined through their sins to eternal death” (53); “Whoever feels God’s goodness also feels his neighbor’s misfortune” (57); “Faith saves and unbelief damns” (61); “We should despise [the rumbling spirits] with a cheerful faith, as if they were nothing” (66); “The world is such a brat (in the matters in which God has to deal with it)” (70); “No unity or agreement is ever to be hoped for” (74); “Faith [never] lies there completely empty and dead, [but] must always demonstrate its power” (77); “All people are by nature children of this fratricide Cain” (78); “Christ… called preachers ‘farmers’ who sow the Gospel” (88); “Everything that was wise, holy, rich, and powerful in the people was rejected by God” (90); “A soon as a person is born he belongs to the devil and is condemned, no matter what he does” (93); “Compulsion is necessary for the preaching of both repentance and the forgiveness of sins” (94); “Wrath and repentance force us to run after and cry out for grace” (95); “What the devil wants makes progress…. What God wants… makes progress nowhere and faces innumerable obstacles” (96); “Pride and arrogance are everyone’s enemy” (98); “Leave to the Lord… what will happen to the Church” (108); “Human intelligence does not have power over the future…. Everything turns out differently [than] imagined” (109); “God…. does not want worries in our hearts (since they… were put there by the devil)” (111); “The world is nothing but the devil’s den of robbers” (113); “If the body lies in drunkenness, the soul must already be a drunkard, not paying attention to God’s Word and prayer” (114); “We must separate the Word far from all reason and wisdom” (119); “The Church has been put into the world so that it must constantly run the devil’s gauntlet and without ceasing be sifted and winnowed” (127); “[Christ] is just like a unicorn, about which people say that it cannot be captured alive, no matter how much it is hunted and chased” (130); “Christ can make out of us such people as He Himself is” (132); “When you should praise Christ, you prefer to drain a mug of beer” (136); “We must always preach according to how the people are” (145); “The true sheep (unlike the wild goat) sighs and cries for its Shepherd and wants to be delivered” (146); “It is improper for a Christian to want to complain much and cry out about injustice” (156); “I endure [reproach] for God’s sake, who lets it happen” (168); “Our faith is not to serve us in acquiring money and goods in this life, but so that we come into a different life” (171); “I am afraid that most among us are heathen under the Christian name” (181); “Honor [God’s] Word and let it rebuke you” (193); “If Christ is to help, we must first despair of all human help, comfort, and ability” (205); “God wants just the opposite: that we keep the work and leave the worry to Him” (210); “You are to do the work, but not to rely on what you do, as if you had accomplished it yourself” (210); “How often it has happened that the best calculation [is] the worst in harm and ruin!” (211); “[We must not] reverse the two points,… as if we should first preach and give consolation about grace, and only then frighten with wrath” (215); “No greater torment and feeling of God’s wrath [comes to us] than from looking at the dying of the Son of God” (216); “Those who are still without any fear of God’s wrath… must only be admonished…. No Gospel, but only pure Law…. is to be preached to them” (217); “The teaching of the Law must… not… be done away with among those who are Christian” (217); “The fact that Christ Himself had to die for sin points out the great, serious wrath of God against sin” (224); “There is no one so perfect that he does not feel [the] dread of death and the grave” (230); “When we preach…. that no one should be angry with his neighbor,… then everyone wants the preacher to shut up” (242); “No one grants [true preachers] anything…. As a result, many… very capable people are being ever more frightened away from becoming pastors” (254); “God lets us… suffer,…. otherwise we would imagine that we do not need Him” (263); “We who believe in Christ are… to be… heirs. Who can finish praising this?” (276); “[Christians] should… become hostile to this sinful life on earth and to strive against it” (277); “One must struggle with Scripture against Scripture” (287); “If someone is so stiff-necked… that he will not accept directions, then let him go his own way” (292); “There are still many evil, unthankful, and false Christians among us” (299); “If we are to do [God’s] will, then we must know for certain what it is and how it is done” (300); “Do not trust your works even a hairbreadth” (302); “Christ [must not be] loosened, that is, the knowledge of Him [must remain] complete and firm” (304); “From time to time [God] allows His saints to stumble and suffer [so that] their faith is strengthened” (305); “Out of boredom with the grace and kindness of God [Christians] seek something new” (311); “[Christians] are still on the road, where we must always continue in the struggle we have begun against all the dangers and hindrances we meet” (315); “Something greater… than all good works must be present… before he does any good. Similarly, he must first be healthy in body before he can… do beneficial work” (320); “Faith is… a very powerful… thing, which at once… leads him into a completely new way of life” (322); “Scripture attributes both faith and good works not to our strength, but to God alone” (322); “If faith is true, then it does good” (322); “Let your eyes simply look at the good life and care nothing about the reward” (326); “I am not praising prostitution but the diligence it applies to wickedness” (328); “You will never find a church which teaches everything or believes and lives in perfect harmony without any dissension” (329); “The world is nothing but a great pigsty” (343); “[Suppressing] God’s Word… is the true chief sin” (357); “The old [sinful flesh] pulls me back like mud on a wheel” (368); “Even [God’s] wrathful works toward us who believe in Him must be called nothing but love” (373); “There is no wrath in [God’s] nature” (374); “It does not take great skill to begin the Christian life and love. However, it does take skill and effort to remain in it” (377); “We do not pay attention to what we owe God and to how we have thanked him so poorly for His love and kindnesses” (380); “Even God… cannot give to those who do not want to have it” (382); “It takes skill to lay hold of Christ in his last hour” (385); “If people thank me, good; if not, then it is all the same, for I am unwilling to have things better than my God and my Lord Jesus” (394); “I would long ago have stopped preaching and teaching,… if I did not do it only for God’s sake” (395); “It grieves me more than anything else on earth that I must see and feel such shameful ingratitude” (395); “If you have only a spark of grace and faith, that will be enough for salvation” (398); “Make sure [you] are serious” (400); and “Fear of the world…. is the greatest cross on earth” (404). Enjoy!  



Matthew 26.75

Monthly Home Bible Study, February 2016, Number 276

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 Matthew 26.75 noting the word remember. What does this refer to? On this read Matthew 26.34 noting the word deny. Why does Jesus warn Peter instead of keeping him from betraying him? On this read James 1.12 noting the words test and crown. Why does God test us instead of keeping us from failing? On this read Matthew 22.37 noting the words God and the three occurrences of the word all. Why do we have to prove this to God? Doesn’t he already know how we’ll do? On this read Philippians 2.12 noting the words work, out, own and salvation. Why does God want us to work so hard on our salvation? On this read Romans 5.3-4 noting the words character and hope. Isn’t there any other milder way to build character and have hope? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.16-18 noting the words wasting, unseen and eternal. Do these verses say that the only way we will ever look at what can’t be seen is if we have what can be seen, waste away right before our eyes? What if it does. Then what?


Week II. Read again Matthew 26.75 noting the same word remember. How did the cock crowing jog Peter’s memory? On this read Matthew 26.41 noting the line the flesh is weak. If that’s so, how did Peter remember the Lord’s warning from earlier that night? On this read John 15.5 noting the line apart from me you can do nothing. So how did God help Peter remember? On this read James 1.21 noting the words the implanted word. So if God implanted the words of that warning in Peter, how did they jog his memory after he had sinned by denying Jesus? On this read Acts 9.3-16 noting the words flashed and fell. Could it be that there was some sort of flashing and falling inside Peter’s head that jogged his memory? What would that have been like? On this read Acts 2.37 noting the words cut to the heart. What is that like? On this read Psalm 51.17 noting the words broken and contrite. What happens to us when that occurs? On this read Luke 15.17 noting the words came to himself. What do we see in ourselves when that happens? On this read Luke 11.35 noting the word darkness. What is this darkness? On this read Galatians 5.19-21 noting the works of the flesh. What then do we know about ourselves? On this read Romans 7.18-23 noting the words nothing and war. How bad is that?


Week III. Reread Matthew 26.75 noting this time the word bitterly. How ashamed is this? On this read Romans 7.24 noting the words wretched and deliver. What does it mean to think we are wretched? On this read Mark 7.20-22 noting the word defiles. What is it like to be defiled from within? On this read Romans 3.12 noting the line no one does good. How can that be? On this read Isaiah 5.20 noting how the two words, good and evil, get reversed. Why do we do this? On this read Luke 12.19 noting the word ease. Read also Amos 6.1 noting the admonition, Woe to those who are at ease in Zion. Why does the Bible condemn ease and comfort and nonresistance? On this read Matthew 7.13 noting the line the way is easy that leads to destruction. What do you make of that?


Week IV. Read Matthew 26.75 one last time noting the word wept. Did this weeping save him? On this read Matthew 27.3-5 noting the words repented and hanged. Why didn’t Peter also hang himself? Was it because he wept? On this read 1 John 3.19-20 noting the words truth, reassure, condemn, greater and everything. Is this assurance what Peter had and Judas didn’t? If so, why? Why didn’t Judas believe that God was greater than his self-condemnation and suicidal plans? Could Peter’s tears also have been tears of joy over the grace and mercy of God? On this read Ephesians 1.7-8 noting the words riches and lavished. What about that excess and surplus? Did Judas believe in that? Did Peter? Is 1 Peter 1.8 with its unutterable and exalted joy what made the difference? If so, how so?





of Penance


On the third Saturday of each month, between 3 and 5 pm, the Sacrament of Penance is offered in the Chapel.  This brief liturgy enables people – one at a time – to confess their sin and receive the blessed assurance of forgiveness.

     This liturgy is similar to the Roman Catholic confessional, but unlike it, in that it is done face to face with the pastor.  Copies of the liturgy are available in the church office.

     This individual form of confession is more forceful than the general form used during Advent and Lent in the Communion liturgy and at each Sunday evening Compline.  It allows for, but does not require, listing of specific sinful burdens. 

     Martin Luther's critique of confession never included the elimination of individual, private confession.  His critique instead only corrected the way it was being done.

     So we continue to honor his words in his Large Catechism:  “If you are a Christian, you should be glad to run more than a hundred miles for confession.” (The Book of Concord, p. 460).  Plan to come – Saturday, February 20th,  3 to 5 pm in the Chapel.  Blessings await you. 





Remember in prayer before God those whom He has made your

brothers and sisters through baptism.


Nancy, Sam, Kevin and Kim Lawson, David, Eileen and Michael Nestoss, Leah Baker, Kyra Stromberg, Peggy & Bill Wright, Bob & Barbara Schorn, Luke Bowen, Ion Ceaicovschi, Tabitha Anderson, The PLU Faculty, Robert Crowmartie, Celia Balderston, Mike Harty, Shirley Eaton, David Gehring, Angel Lynn, Asha Sagmoen, Dean Cheney, Stephanie Hoikka, Brayton Decker, Kevin James, Nancy Wilson, Gregg Carter, John Bechtholt, Rick Sitts, Ken Sharp, Dorothy Chase, Bruce & Margaret Kirmmse and the great migration from the Near East into Europe. 

     Pray for those who have suffered the death of a loved one: Pray that God will bear their grief and lift their hearts:  Pray for the Natiello family on the death of Cynthia Natiello, Cary Natiello’s wife.  The funeral is planned for Sat., February 27th at 11 am.

     Pray for the shut-ins that the light of Christ may give them joy:  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 February. 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: Martin Luther, Renewer of the Church, 1546; Saint Matthias, Apostle.

 A Treasury of Prayers


Lord of lords, I do not rely on my own good deeds, but on your great mercy. In your presence are not the powerful as nothing, the famous as if they never had existed, the learned as if without knowledge, and the intelligent as if without insight? So teach me to number my days that I might gain a heart of wisdom. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


[For All the Saints (ALPB, 1994-1996) 4 vols., II:1262, altered]