July 2019

The Messenger Supplement



Isaiah 45 :7


“There is no real joy in this world except that which the Word brings when it is believed.”

[Luther’s Works 4:4]

Martin Luther gave me this verse about God both helping and hurting us – creating weal and woe, as it says. This surely changes the way we weather storms – knowing that God sends them – both to punish us and strengthen us, as the Lutheran Confessions say (The Book of Concord, 1580, ed. T. Tappert, p. 206). They’re not accidents – for not even a sparrow falls from the sky without God’s say-so (Matthew 10:29 – and Ulrich L. Lehner, God is Not Nice:

Rejecting Pop Culture Theology and Discovering the God Worth Living For, 2017). So how again does this verse help us endure hardships? Luther writes: “God does not want us to… imagine that there are several gods: one, the source of all good; the other, the source of all evil. God wants us to regard the evils that we experience as coming to us with His permission…. God permits evils to come to us; for it is His will that, when we have been chastened, we cast ourselves on His mercy…. By… these works God aims to humble us that we might… obey His will” (Luther’s Works 13:135).

         These insights have guided my ministry over these forty years – being chastened, begging for mercy, being humbled and strengthening obedience. Luther shows how all of these come together in Isaiah 45:7. So he concludes that “it is an outstanding gift of the Holy Spirit to believe that when God sends evil, He is still… merciful” (LW 12:374). Luther calls this double nature God’s duplex verbum or double word (LW 3:242 – and my article, “Duplex Verbum,” Pro Ecclesia, Fall 1994). Other similar verses are Exodus 4:11, Deuteronomy 32:39, 1 Samuel 2:6, Job 1:21, Psalm 75:7, Proverbs 10:29, Jeremiah 31:10, Ezekiel 17:24, John 9:39, Romans 9:13, James 4:12 and Revelation 3:7.

Pastor Marshall



I was happy when he was elected president of the congregation. We had been friends for years. But while on a week’s vacation on the Oregon coast with our three kids, he called saying that when I returned there would be a congregational meeting to fire me. All that was needed to schedule such a meeting, he said, was for the right number of people to request it, and they had. So out of love he advised me to quit before I was fired so it wouldn’t be on my record.

   Better Quit While You Can!


     I then told him that he had misread our parish constitution. What he was following was the rule for meetings having to do with matters not regarding the pastor. But if the meeting is about the pastor, then before there can be a vote, the Church Counsel has to determine if the charges have any merit (and later an outside investigation found that there was no merit to the charges). So I told him if he defies our constitution, has the meeting anyway, and I’m fired, I will not abide by the decision because the meeting was unconstitutional.

     He then erupted and yelled at me saying I was a bully and a tyrant. I was taking over the church and running out everyone I didn’t like. I also was betraying our friendship. I said back it wasn’t so. I was just trying to follow our constitution. If he thought it was wrong, then he should first have a meeting to change the constitution to allow for the kind of meeting he wanted. He then hung up without a goodbye. The next day he resigned as president and left the church. A few years later he divorced and moved out of West Seattle. I never had another conversation with him.

     What’s to be learned from all of this? First, love can go awry and become phony as his did for me (Luke 22:48, Romans 13:10). Second, having a fair constitution and knowing what it says is important – for the law curbs bad behavior (1 Timothy1:8–11, Luther’s Works 45:90). Third, hitting below the belt – attacking you while you’re on vacation – happens in the church with impunity. Cheating and lying flourish in the church. So never assume the best (Psalm 118:8, John 2:24–25, LW 30:326). And fourth, Luther was right – regarding the great Jan Hus (1369–1415) being literally burned alive by the church – that “no wrath in the entire world is more cruel than that of this bloodthirsty and hypocritical church” (LW 1:260). He then adds, lest we think this doesn’t apply to us, that Lutherans of every time and place “are all Hussites,” even if they never knew it (LW 48:153).

Pastor Marshall