January 2020

Biblical Christmas


Each year the Twelve Days of Christmas take us right up to the Feast of the Holy Epiphany on January 6 – when the Magi come from the East to worship Christ in Bethlehem.

     What do we learn about Christmas from the magi? Well, that they were able to find their way to Jerusalem with the help of the star – but that the Christ child was not there as they thought (Matthew 2:2). And no one in Jerusalem knew where Christ was – because he had only been revealed to the shepherds out in the fields (Luke 2:9). But then there was the breakthrough – the ancient prophet, Micah, prophesied that he’s in the little “cowtown” of Bethlehem (Martin Luther, House Postils, ed. E. Krug, 1:203). What a surprise! Kings belong in the capital city – but not this one.

     Kings command “money, possessions, land, people, and power” – but not this one. Christ instead rules over “sin, death, righteousness, truth [and] life” (LHP, I:205, 206). May this always fill our Merry Christmas greetings to one another – so that our celebrations are Biblical.  

Pastor Marshall


PRESIDENT'S REPORT....by Cary Natiello


Hello again First Lutheran Church members,

     Last month I thought I would try to do something different, possibly fun, yet telling.  For my December President’s Report, I put “THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK”.  I listed my phone & text numbers and my email.  I said if you want to find out why the space was blank, please contact me to find out.  My goal, if contacted, 1) try to get a sense of how many people actually read the Messenger (and the President’s report), and 2) ask them what they would like to see in the Messenger from the President.  Disappointingly, I can count on one hand how many actually took me up on my offer to give me feedback.  So, what can I conclude for the low response rate?  That hardly anyone reads the Messenger? No, I doubt that is true.  That when read, there is little interest?  No, I doubt that too.  That readers skip the president’s report? Maybe.  That my little experiment was not well received?  Possibly.  I guess that is the risk when trying something different….You never know what you’ll get (or not get).  But even though there was a tiny response rate, I did get a suggestion that when possible I should include biblical and faith connections to my reports.  I thought that was good feedback.  In any event, I would be interested to hear from anyone else who might have feedback on what they would like to have included in the President’s Report.  Thank you to those who did inquire about my experiment.

    Thanks be to God that our congregation has the ability and wiliness to give so generously in support of our church.  Our blessed teacher, Martin Luther, explains that the church is the assembly of saints who share the association of the same Gospel and of the same Holy Spirit, who renews, consecrates, and governs their hearts (The Book of Concord, Articles VII and VIII: 8).  I dare say that must be what happens with our congregation.  YTD through November we gave ~$221,000 against a budget of ~$204,000.  And, the first two Sundays of December our general giving was ~$9,400.  Also, YTD through November, our operating expenses were ~$101,000 against a budget of ~$90,000.  The $10,000+ overage in our expenses was

 predominantly spending on the necessary maintenance of our Church building. 

     Our annual congregational meeting is on Sunday, January 26, 2020 after the 10:30 service.  At this meeting we will be presenting our 2020 budget.  We had a solid financial year through November 2019 and anticipate that trend to continue into 2020.  As part of the 2020 budget, the council is proposing salary increases for some of our staff, as well as significant contributions to our maintenance accounts so we can take good care of our holy house of worship.  I hope you will plan to attend and participate in the discussion.



Time, Talents, Tithe


(Twenty-nine years ago – April of 1991 – our then Council President, Al Larson, started this stewardship article in an effort to help us all remember the importance of our personal sacrifices to God through First Lutheran Church of West Seattle.  It is reprinted here with just a few small changes.) 

“This world runs on information, therefore this column is being added to The Messenger in an effort to inform and to educate the members of First Lutheran Church of West Seattle on what it means to be a true steward of the church.  Being a steward of the church means much more than just giving 10% of your money to the work of the church.  Being a steward means volunteering your time and utilizing your individual talents in helping the church achieve its mission in the world. 

     Volunteering your time gives one a sense of accomplishment and pride in the work of the church.  There are many areas in need of volunteers and fortunately God has given us all special talents.  Stewardship means using our talents to glorify God.  There are the high profile organizations such as the Choir, the Council, or becoming a Church School teacher, all very important functions.  But if these organizations are not for you, you might consider a Service Team, or Altar Guild, equally important; and then there is volunteering for listed needs by the Facilities Committee. 

     Stewardship also means giving our tithe to the Church.  A church needs money to achieve its mission.  A minimum off the top of what we receive goes to Extended Ministries.  However, to continue to operate, money is also needed for heat, lights, water and sewer bills, building maintenance, salaries, supplies and other essentials. We need to consider prayerfully our call to tithe and to strive to achieve this goal and our lives will be enriched for it.”                                                                                                 

Jeff Sagmoen, Church Council


Our sincere thanks to Scott & Valerie Schorn and their many volunteers for all of the work they did

    to organize and put on the Saint Nicholas Faire!  

Once again a brilliant affair, bringing in over 

$11,700.00 for our local

West Seattle Food Bank &

West Seattle Helpline.


FOOD BANK COLLECTION suggested donation for January is pasta, noodles and sauces, but any non-perishable foods are acceptable.

OFFERING ENVELOPES for 2020 are now available on the office window counter. 

2020 FLOWER CHART is available for sign up.  Sign up early for the best selection!

ANNUAL REPORT for 2019:  Staff, officer and committee reports are now due. 

SUNDAY ADULT EDUCATION:  In January the class will be Why God Doesn’t Change: Kierkegaard’s Famous 1855 Discourse – In this four week class we will study Søren Kierkegaard’s 1855 discourse on the changelessness of God. We will do this by reading Pastor Marshall’s analysis of it from his book, Kierkegaard for the Church (2013).

PASTOR MARSHALL’s next Koran Class starts on Thursday, January 16th.  Call the office if you plan to attend. 

Many Thanks to those who put together Christmas gift bags to cheer the elderly who are not able to make it to church.  Pastor Marshall delivers the bags when he makes his regular visits.  Also our THANKS to all those who helped with decorating the church. Once again, it was beautiful!  And Thanks to those who bought Christmas gift items for Compass Housing Alliance.  This year Pastor Marshall was able to deliver two sweatshirts, five pair of gloves, nine winter hats, one pair of socks, seven pounds of personal size toiletries, and fourteen $10 gift cards to fast food restaurants for men and women to the Compass Center downtown.

30th Anniversary: certus sermo (read the story at flcws.org)




Our Best Bible Teacher

“Luther is… a real teacher of Scripture, to whom God’s

way of thinking, as it is in the Scripture, has been clearly

revealed…. He works at them in their original sense and

understands them in the spirit in which they were written.

That spirit will never be discovered to be more faithful to

the Scriptures and lively than in the writings which he

himself has written, which dissect the prophets and

apostles as they thought and wrote. Therefore, you have

to listen to Luther not with ears of the flesh, for what he

says has not been revealed to blood and flesh but by the

Spirit of God, for he speaks in the natural, real meaning

of Scripture itself.”


[Urbanus Rhegius (1489 –1541), translated in Robert Kolb,

Martin Luther as He Lived and Breathed (2018) p. 96.]


America’s Nadir

Pastor Marshall


Some say the worst day ― or nadir ― in American history is September 17, 1862 ― the day of the Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg, Maryland), “a scene of horror beyond imagining. Nearly 6,000 men lay dead or dying, and another 17,000 wounded groaned in agony” (James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, 1988, p. 544). Others say it was between March and November in 1918 when close to 650,000 died of the Spanish Flu. New York City “ran out of gravediggers [and] was using a steam shovel to dig trenches for mass graves” (Peter Davies, The Devil’s Flu, 2000, p. 86). Or was it April 4, 1968, when Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, and rioting swept across the nation for the next five summers, burning 118 cities including destroying 300 square blocks on Chicago’s West Side (Clay Risen, A Nation on Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination, 2009)? Well, whatever day it may be, let us still pray for our country anyway (1 Timothy 2:1-2).



Romans 13:13


“Make no provisions for the flesh,

to gratify its desires.”



“The flesh should not be encouraged

in its lusts, for… he who cherishes his flesh

nourishes an enemy, and again, on the other hand,

he who destroys his flesh kills a friend.

But it is not the flesh but the vices of the flesh,

that is, the lusts, which must be destroyed.”

(Luther’s Works 25:484)


January Book


12-2 pm in the Room C, Sunday, January 19.


The book for January is Educated: A Memoir (2009), by Tara Westover. This book tells the story of how a young woman trapped in an extreme family in rural Idaho, escaped through education. This entrapment included a hardline, sectarian version of Christianity. In the second half of the books she writes: “It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you” (p. 199). This is where differentiation and distinctions come in for Westover. She finally learns that you can continue loving your family without giving inordinate power to them over you. That’s the secret of leaving your parents in Genesis 2:24 – which doesn’t give up on the honoring them in Exodus 20:12.

     A copy of this stirring book is in the library. If you would like to purchase one for yourself, contact Pastor Marshall. Feel free to attend our meeting when we discuss how faith can go wrong and hurt people – and what it takes to break free. (Lunch is also provided.)


Our Dilemma:

Two Christianities


“There are… two Christinaities in the world today.

There is (1) the Christianity of the New Testament,

and there is (2) the Christianity of accommodation

to modernism, egalitarianism, niceness, naturalism,

pop psychology, secular humanism, relativism,

subjectivism, individualism, Enlightenment rationalism

or postmodern irrationalism.”


[Peter Kreeft, Between Allah & Jesus (2010) p. 18]





of Our Lord


January 12, 2020

Festival 10:30 am Nave


“Holy Baptism is given… honor… by a great

and glorious sign from heaven. As though it

were not enough that Christ Himself

submitted to Baptism,… as soon as he comes

out of the water, the whole heaven opens

up so that the divine Majesty comes down

and appears visibly. Although it is told

simply, it is certainly the greatest sign and

most glorious revelation ever heard or seen.

Here God actually shows Himself….

All three persons of the Godhead….

In this way, the mouths of… pernicious

spirits who disparage Baptism [are] shut.”


(Luther’s Works 57:163)




Pastor Tollefson


Pastor Marshall’s

71st Baptism Anniversary


November 28, 1948

Our Savior Lutheran Church

Bonner, Montana


The Rev. Gordon V. Tollefson




Marie Lien Onsum, Godmother


Wallace R. Otterson, Godfather

(1928–  )


Pastor Marshall with his Godfather in Tucson,

November 2018.



Ugly Christ



 “He had no form or comeliness that we should

look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him,…

as one from whom men hide their faces.”


(Isaiah 53:2–3)


“Christ is… the King of kings, without equal.

Yet this is true only if you look at the spirit

and not at the external appearances of the flesh….

For the world,… the sight of Him is unbearable….

His beauty… was nauseating and an abomination

to them…. In the flesh all the sons of men are more

beautiful than He, and only this King is ugly.”


(Luther’s Works 12:208)


Romans 11.20

Monthly Home Bible Study, January 2020, Number 323

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 Romans 11.20 noting the words faith and awe. What if awe also means fear [φοβος]? On this read Hebrews 10:30 noting the words fearful, hands and living. Why is God so scary – even when we believe in him? On this read Romans 9.16–18 noting the play between the words will and wills. Why is this play scary? On this read Romans 2.5 noting the line storing up wrath for yourself. So the consequence of no mercy is wrath – and not some holding place of neutrality and waiting. Why would we store up wrath for ourselves? On this read Romans 1.18 noting the phrase suppress the truth. And why would we do that? On this read Romans 1.25 noting the line serve the creature rather than the Creator. Why would we do that? On this read Romans 7.23 noting the line captive to the law of sin. What drives us in that direction – especially knowing what the consequences are? On this read Romans 6.20 noting the correlation between slavery and freedom. This freedom to do whatever we want is what drives us to take the risk of incurring God’s wrath on Judgment Day. Make sense?



Week II. Read again Romans 11.20 noting the same words faith and awe. How does our yearning for independence and freedom make us risk wrath? On this read Romans 11.8 noting the phrase spirit of stupor. This is an adverse spirit that blocks us from seeing and hearing what’s truly righteous. Where does it come from? Read again Romans 11.8 – noting that it is God who brings it about. Why would he do that? On this read Romans 11.25 noting the words mystery and hardening. Are God’s ways unexplainable then? On this read Romans 11.33 noting the words unsearchable and inscrutable. Why is this important? On this read Romans 9.21 noting the words potter and clay. Is there any shared agency regarding what will become of the clay? On this read Romans 9.16 noting the line it depends not upon man’s will or exertion. Why is that? On this read Romans 3.24 noting the word gift. So what?


Week III. Reread Romans 11.20 noting the same words faith and awe. If faith and salvation are gifts, then what is our role in believing and being saved for eternity? On this read Romans 8.17 noting the phase provided we suffer. How do we do that? On this read Romans 12.2 noting the line do not be conformed to this world. Do we generate that nonconformity – and so suffer? On this read Romans 10.17 noting the two uses of the word comes. Is there any personal agency on our part in that coming of faith? On this read Romans 3.11 noting the phrase no one seeks God. Read also Romans 7.18 noting the phrase but I cannot do it. Do those two verses wipe out human agency in things divine? On this read Romans 4.17 noting the line things that do not exist. How can non-existent things have agency? How can what’s dead generate life?


Week IV. Read Romans 11.20 one last time again noting the words faith and awe. If we are dead, how does life and faith come into us? If we don’t join in on God’s gift-giving, how can we actually believe in him? Won’t faith always fall just outside of us? On this read Roman 8.10 noting how the dead become alive. What generates that – do the dead spontaneously regenerate? On this read Romans 8.2–4 noting the phase for God has done – and how it contrasts with the phrases set me free and fulfilled in us. So God operates on us – not only outside of us, as in the just requirement of the law, and he condemned sin. How does this crossover happen? On this read Romans 7.23 noting the line in my members… at war with. Does this mean that we don’t begin apart from God and then try to find a way to connect with God? On this read Romans 8.15 noting the wearing out of fear. Is sonship the clue? Does it imply a prior connection? And it is that enough? Not if the word some is true in Romans 11.14. Do you agree?


Merry Christmas!


The Epiphany

of Our Lord

On Monday, January 6, 2020

The Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord will be celebrated at our 11:45 am chapel liturgy as the conclusion of the Christmas Season. 

     Only Matthew's Gospel remembers this event.  Celebrate the magi's coming to worship and bringing gifts to the Christ child.   




Remember in prayer before God those whom He has made your

brothers and sisters through baptism.

Karen Cady, Martin & Lauri Nygaard, The Tuomi Family, Pete Morrison, Sam & Nancy Lawson, Bob & Barbara Schorn, Aasha Sagmoen & Ajani Hammond, Connor Sagmoen, Eileen & Dave Nestoss, Kyra Stromberg, Alicia Carnevali, 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, Sheila Feichtner, Richard Uhler, Yuriko Nishimura, Leslie & Mark Hicks, Eric Baxter, Nell & Paul Sponheim, Mary Lou & Paul Jensen, Rubina & Marcos Carmona, Rosita Moe, Tatiana Ceaicovschi, Hillary Thoren, Trevor Schmitt, Cathy Conord, Virginia More, Kalani Gamble, Cheryl Atwood, Randy & Lesa Christensen.  Also, pray for unbelievers, the addicted, the sexually abused and harassed.

     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 Christmas & New Year. 

     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 Peter; Saint Paul; and Martin Luther King, Jr., martyr, 1968.


A Treasury of Prayers


King of heaven, thank you for bringing me into your church to praise your holy name. May I ever cherish the gifts you’ve given me – the gold of faith, the frankincense of prayer, and the myrrh of my contrite heart. After this life, grant me that Great New Year – the jubilee of everlasting life in heaven with you. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.


[For All the Saints , III:211, altered]