February 2020

Fasting with Luther


Luther witnessed the abuses of fasting in the monastery – and also over-eating once he escaped. But he still favored fasting since Jesus did (Matthew 9:15) – and so should we. Lent – a season of repenting and fasting – begins on Ash Wednesday, February 26. Use these words from a newly translated sermon by Luther as a guide for fasting during Lent:  

It is right for people to fast much so that the body may be tamed and subdued. For otherwise, when the body is in full strength, it serves as a hindrance against preaching and praying and studying and doing  any other good thing, and then God’s Word cannot remain. One should not, however, fast because one wants to merit something by it as through a good work, but only so that (as was said) one may remain armed and equipped to handle God’s Word, that the body may be hemmed in and kept in check and room left for the Spirit. No one may fast for any other reason.

Therefore, it does not matter if you eat meat or fish, and it does not matter how many days you fast. Otherwise, if you wanted to follow Christ’s example exactly, you would have to eat nothing for forty days and nights. (Luther’s Works 56:26).

Pastor Marshall



PRESIDENT'S REPORT....by Cary Natiello


Hello again First Lutheran Church members,


We closed 2019 with an outstanding financial performance.  In 2019 our envelope giving was around $250,700 against a budget of around $261,000.  Also, YTD through November, our operating expenses were around $113,200 against a budget of around $98,100.  The $15,000+ overage in our expenses was predominantly spending on the necessary maintenance of our Church building and office supplies.  The good news is that we were able to cover these necessary expenses from our checking rather than from savings.  We are going into 2020 with over $50,000 in our checking.  This means that we should be able to continue to grow our major reserve accounts while paying for continuing expenses from our checking.  We also had large designated gifts to the endowment fund and extended ministries in 2019, not to mention the successful St. Nicholas Faire generating over $11,000 for the West Seattle Helpline and Food Bank.  Thanks be to God that our congregation has the ability and willingness to give so generously in support of our church.  

     On a different note, I recently had a conversation with one of our congregation members.  It was about the Bible studies and other classes offered by Pastor Marshall.  I had not attended any of Pastor Marshall’s classes for a long time and I have never attended a Wednesday morning or evening Bible class.  But recently I attended Sunday’s education hour on the Book of Esther – one of the shortest books in the Bible and one where God is surprisingly never mentioned.  How intriguing I thought.  So I went.  I am so glad I attended the class.  This class was interesting and thought provoking.  Pastor Marshall presented different perspectives through the use of other authors and articles relevant to the subject.  The discussion often included the difficulty Christians have with God, how to interpret what the Scripture is telling us, how difficult it can be to accept, and how it may apply to the current day.  It was always a great discussion.

     It is clearly evident that Pastor Marshall’s depth of knowledge about the Bible and its teachings is great and that we have an extremely knowledgeable and high caliber teacher of the Scripture right here in our little church.  So I started to ask myself some questions.  Why are Pastor Marshall’s classes so poorly attended by our congregation?  Why does Pastor Marshall spend countless hours each week putting together the Sunday morning Education Hour and the two Wednesday classes (one morning and one evening class), each on a different book, for just a handful of students?  Not to mention the Home Bible studies he puts together each month for us.  Why doesn’t our congregation want to take advantage of having such a knowledgeable teacher who is right here in our midst?  Why don’t more council members attend these classes?  Why don’t I attend more often?  I’m retired so I have no excuse AND I really enjoy them.  When I started asking myself all these questions I realized I need to change my behavior.  I thought to myself ― it is one thing to support our church through financial means and by serving on the church council, but continuing to educate myself on the Bible and being a Christian is just as important.  Pastor Marshall’s Bible study is a gift we all should consider taking advantage of whenever possible.

     If I have learned one thing about Pastor Marshall, it is that numbers and attendance don’t matter.  As long as there is one to hear, he will be there.  This is his calling and he takes it very seriously.  On Sunday, January 19, Pastor Marshall included an insert in our bulletin entitled House of Studies outlining all the Bible and related studies he offers.  I encourage you to review this material and see if there is an opportunity for which you can take advantage.  I hope to see you there!






Helping the Poor


As we take another look at stewardship it helps to be reminded that providing money to the church is only one way of being a good steward. Christians believe that everything we have belongs to the Lord and that we are to manage these things wisely. David begins Psalm 24 with the declaration, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” All of us are managers or administrators, of our little corners of God’s blessings. So, stewardship and giving go hand in hand, and being generous is one of the primary ways in which Christians reveal the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Of course, this is never easy. The tithe is not merely an Old Testament teaching, but rather an act of joyful worship. It is worthy of working towards. Pastor Marshall has rightly encouraged all of us to gradually increase the percentages of our giving, as we are able, to reach the 10% goal. And even then, who of us can say we have given enough? When you look at the life of Christ, his example to us all, especially during this Easter season when his suffering, death and resurrection to conquer death and give us life eternal are celebrated in awe, the tithe doesn’t quite seem enough. So, it is a key point in Christian teaching that everything we have belongs to God, because it came from God. So, we look at other areas of stewardship as well, such as how we use our possessions. Many of us have loaned a car to a friend or relative when they were in need. It was probably a simple decision, saying to ourselves, “We can live with one car for a week,” We do this almost instinctively because it exemplifies the work of Christ in us, but also because that car and truck are the Lord’s. In the same vein, if someone’s home needs an extensive repair, there are those of us who would gladly open their home to that person during repairs. The same reasons exist for such generosity; it springs from Christ’s work in us, and it’s the Lord’s house anyway. Corporately as a congregation, we demonstrate stewardship in so many ways; such as supporting the West Seattle Food Bank and the West Seattle Helpline, the support the El Camino de Emaus and world missions through India Transformed. And then, of course, we believe that our time also belongs to the Lord, and that we are to use with care the time of which we are stewards of. We have been called as believers to special times of rest and worship. Through Jesus Christ, all the time God has given us is holy, set apart for God and intended to be used for salvation, healing, and living a just life. We are the trustees of the time, talents, gifts, treasures and the values of the community we all live in. We have a limited time to be good stewards of all that is the Lord’s. As Martin Luther once penned, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all. But whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess.” So, whether it’s giving money, serving the poor, encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ, or providing the needs of those we love, remember that it’s all God’s, and that through Christ’s example and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, we can practice good stewardship.

-Benjamin Dobbeck, Church Council



Job 1.5

Monthly Home Bible Study, February 2020, Number 324

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 1.5 noting the word continually. Why did Job continually sanctify his sons and make offerings to God on their behalf? On this read 1 Samuel 3.13 noting the words punish and restrain. Did Job think his sons were like Eli’s sons? On this read 1 Samuel 2.12, 17 noting the line the sons of Eli were worthless men; they had no regard for the Lord [and] they treated the offering of the Lord with contempt. Is that what Job worried about – and so he was trying to restrain them by sanctifying them and making offerings for them? But why did he think that might happen? On this read Job 1.1 noting that Job was blameless and upright. Shouldn’t that goodness have rubbed off on his sons? Was there any reason for Job to suppose that this transference hadn’t occurred? On this read Genesis 37.2 noting the ill report from Joseph to his father, Jacob, about his brothers. What was it about? On this read Genesis 35.22 noting Reuben’s incest with his father’s concubine, Bilhah. So if goodness didn’t transfer from Jacob to Reuben, might not Job reasonably worry too about his sons?


Week II. Read again Job 1.5 noting the little word may. Was there a good chance, then, that this possible infraction had happened? The word may, then, seems closer to likely. Is that why he was on top of it because it already had happened before – and Job worried about it coming back? If not, is Job then simply neurotic? But that wouldn’t be becoming of such a fine man! Even though there aren’t any reports of his sons cursing God at their parties, Job acts as if there were and he is now trying to soften the blow before it happens again. Note that he actually sanctifies his sons after their parties – just in case. On this realistic view of evil, see Genesis 4.7 noting the line sin is couching at the door. Would this sin also include lying? And does that explain why Job doesn’t first ask his sons if they have sinned before he sanctifies them? On this read Psalm 116.11 noting the line men are all a vain hope – or all are liars. Pretty bad, don’t you think?


Week III. Reread Job 1.5 noting the same line Job… would rise early in the morning. Why does he get started so early covering for his sons? On this read Acts 12.23 noting the words immediately and smote. Is that why Job couldn’t waste any time? But isn’t God also slow to anger – as in Exodus 34.6? Couldn’t that happen too? On this read Ecclesiastes 8.11 noting the line fully set to do evil. Would that be a reason for God punishing quickly? On this read Revelation 3.19 noting the fast transition from love to chastening. So is delaying punishment unloving? On this read 2 Thessalonians 2.11 noting the category of strong delusion. Is this like the giving up in Romans 1.24? What shall we then make of God tormenting us? On this see Romans 5.3 noting the words rejoice and suffering. Why would we do that? On this read Romans 5.5 noting how suffering is correlated with God’s love for us. Is that only because of what the suffering brings?


Week IV. Read Job 1.5 one last time noting the word hearts. Why add that qualifier? Is it to show that what Job fears most is that his sons sin on purpose and not inadvertently? On this read John 3.19 noting the phase men loved the darkness. That sounds like they have their hearts in it! On this read Ezekiel 11.19 noting the line I will take the stony heart out of their flesh. Read also John 3.7 noting the line you must be born anew. Why is this massive change needed instead of some midcourse correction or life improvement plan? On this read Isaiah 1.6 noting the line no soundness. Read also Romans 7.18 and the line nothing good dwells within me. Are such draconian solutions needed because our diagnosis is so unremittingly bad? If our hearts are so bad, do we need hearts of a completely different sort? On this read Matthew 22.37 noting the line with all your heart. Is that what it’s like to have one thing… needful (Luke 14.42), instead of being distracted by things… on earth (Colossians 3.1)? Does Job, then, have the mind of Christ – as in Philippians 2.5? Is that what Job 1.5 is about?


Luther on Samson


By Pastor Marshall


Samson’s life begins before he is born – when an angel of the Lord appears to his parents to tell them that their son will deliver Israel from their enemy, the Philistines – and to do this he should never cut his hair (Judges 13:5–6). This angel, we’re told, looked like a flame of fire (Judges 13:20). Luther called this appearance a “union of effect” (Luther’s Works 37:298–99).  What they saw was fire – but in it they also beheld an angel and his message about their son. According to Luther there’s no conundrum here for the “two kinds of being have become one.” This double effect says that this boy will be remarkable.




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)



“Sleep is the most mysterious thing we do. We know that it is vital; we just don’t know exactly why…. Sleep is clearly about more than resting…. [And] no one understands the yawn. Babies yawn in the womb. People in comas yawn. It is a ubiquitous part of life, and yet what it exactly does for us is unknown…. Yawning doesn’t even correlate reliably with how tired you are…. Perhaps the least explicable aspect of yawning is its extreme infectiousness. Not only do we more or less yawn when we see others do so, but just hearing or thinking about yawning causes us to yawn.”


[Bill Bryson, The Body:

A Guide to Occupants (2019) pp. 260–61, 273–74.]



ANNOUNCEMENTS:  NEW MEMBER ORIENTATION will start on Sunday, February 2nd immediately following the 10:30 am liturgy, in room D.  If you know someone who is interested in the class, have them to talk to Pastor Marshall. 

FOOD BANK COLLECTION:  Suggestions for February are canned fruits & vegetables. 

SUNDAY EDUCATION:  Cain & Abel in the Cainite Church: Luther on Genesis 4:1-16.  This eight week course – during February and March – will explore the differences between Cain and Abel according to Martin Luther – and how they help us understand the church today. Each class session will be based on a worksheet of questions handed out the week before.

WEB PAGE ADDRESS:  www.flcws.org.

ASH WEDNESDAY this year will be on Wednesday, February 26th with the Imposition of Ashes liturgy at 7 pm.

HOLY EUCHARIST – Communion:  Those who are baptized in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and believe are welcome to receive the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.    If you are not able to walk up to communion but would like to receive, contact the Parish Deacon before the liturgy.




The Chapel of the Resurrection


The columbarium chapel was dedicated on November 25, 2001 with forty-nine niches installed on the north wall.  All 49 of the north wall niches were sold.  In the second phase of construction another forty-nine niches at the south wall of the columbarium were built and completed in December of 2008.  All monies for this project were raised through the pre-sale of the niches.  The cost of a niche is $800.  If you are interested in purchasing a niche, a payment plan may be arranged with the church office. 

     We believe that this form of burial provides great comfort to the members of our parish family. By being able to inter their ashes in the church, a sacred resting place is provided. Burial in the columbarium of our church is a glorious way to care for the remains of loved ones.

     If you have not yet made burial plans for yourself we encourage you to consider a niche in the columbarium, The Chapel of the Resurrection. Forms are available on the Narthex table and in the church office. Call us if you have any questions.


The Presentation

of Our Lord —

Sunday, February 2nd 


“The divine Word is opposed by all the factions…. For Christ must be a target or sign to be spoken against, as it is written in Luke 2:34, and yet He is also a precious sign. Thus the Church of God was also one and singular from the beginning, and yet she was in great turmoil, for she had a clear and singular doctrine. Nevertheless, they all lie in wait for us…. There is all this ranting and raving against us, and they are madly furious at us. This is the ‘dwelling,’ as the psalm says, ‘among your enemies’ (Psalm 110:2). The flock that truly has God’s Word must suffer, but the others… they can tolerate.”


(Luther’s Works 68:265)




Remember in prayer before God those whom He has made your

brothers and sisters through baptism.

Pete Morrison, The Tuomi Family, Sam & Nancy Lawson, Bob & Barbara Schorn, Connor Bisticas, Eileen & Dave Nestoss, Kyra Stromberg, Tabitha Anderson, Diana Walker, The Rev. Chelsea Globe, The Rev. Albin Fogelquist, The Rev. Howard Fosser, The Rev. Kristie Daniels, The Rev. Kari Reiten, The Rev. Dave Monson, The Rev. Paul Smith, Sheila Feichtner, Richard Uhler, Yuriko Nishimura, Leslie Hicks, Eric Baxter, Nell & Paul Sponheim, Mary Lou & Paul Jensen, Hillary & Jim Thoren, Trevor Schmitt, Audrey Palomino, Cheryl Atwood, Lesa Christensen, George Roney, Ward Bonaci, Joe & Kyle Drakulich, Marann Beede, Maggie & Glenn Willis, Garret Ross, Shirley Graham, Emily, Evelyn & Gordon Wilhelm, Satsuki Tanizawa, Karen Berg, Bjørg Hestevold.  Also, pray for unbelievers, the addicted, the sexually abused and harassed. And, pray for those suffering from the devastation of the Australian fires.

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


Treasury of Prayer


Dear Lord God, help me handle money properly. I thank you for all of the life and joy it has purchased – bread for the family table, the saving visit of the doctor, houses for the homeless, the book that taught the young, the support for churches and missionaries. And I ask forgiveness for all the harm it has done – buying booze for drunkards, guns for criminals, time from a prostitute, and contaminates that foul nature. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.


[For All the Saints (ALPB, 1994-1996) 4 vols., IV:1158, altered]