A Kingdom of Offense
Lent drives us relentlessly into Holy Week with the
disciples abandoning Jesus when he needs them the most
(Matthew 26:56). And this happens even after they say
that if they would have to die with him, they would
never deny him (Matthew 26:35).
So why do they cave in? And why do we? . . .
Saint Paul writes: “Having begun with the Spirit, are
you now ending with the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3) – and
“take heed lest you fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Talk
about instability! So where does this come from?
Well, it comes from Christianity being too
difficult for us (Matthew 7:14). For it asks far too
much of us (Matthew 5:48; Luke 14:33), while giving us
so little (Philippians 4:11; John 16:33). And that
rankles us! It offends us (John 6:61; Matthew 11:6).
Martin Luther put it this way: “Just as… the disciples
took offense,… so it will be to the end of the world….
For His is a kingdom of offense…. [But when] all that
are great,… learned,… and rich… take offense, then the
insignificant, poor, wretched sinners and disciples
cling to him” (Luther’s
We, then, are unworthy of our Lord’s many
blessings (Luke 17:10) – being the insignificant ones,
as Luther puts it. And so we can only beg. We can’t make
any claims on God’s blessings. All we can do is cry out:
“Have mercy on me a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
May that attitude carry you on through Lent and
into Good Friday and Easter this year. And may the
Almighty One see to it that we have this mind among us
The Pope on Preaching
Keeping God’s Word
By Pastor Marshall
Francis gives a considerable amount of time to the task
of preaching in his first apostolic exhortation,
The Joy of the
Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium, 2013). Among his many
points, he has this to say about the centrality of God’s
Word in good sermons:
[Preachers should] give their entire attention to the
biblical text, which needs to be the basis of our
preaching. Whenever we stop and attempt to understand
the message of a particular text, we are practicing
reverence for the truth. This is the humility of the
heart which recognizes that the word is always beyond
us, that we are neither its masters or owners, but its
guardians, heralds and servants. This attitude of humble
and awe-filled veneration of the word is expressed by
taking the time to study it with the greatest care and a
holy fear lest we distort it (p. 73).
the way this passage is in keeping with the splendor of
God’s Word in 1 Peter 2:24-25, and with the opposition
to the critical study of the Bible in Martin Luther’s
John sermons (Luther’s
Works 23:229-30). I also like the way the Pope’s
views refuse to conform to the skeptical, worldly
account of the Bible as helplessly and hopelessly
corrupted by wicked human interference (Romans 12:2; 1
by Earl Nelson
is here. As
I write this, it is two days before Ash Wednesday.
It is remarkable how the liturgical calendar
removes the believer from the world.
Each year it is the same.
The most important event in the Christian life is
Good Friday, when Christ frees us from sin.
I use the present tense: when He frees us from
sin, as if Christians had not already celebrated this
greatest of events many, many times.
And yet it is new each time, as if the world were
stuck in the same rut that Pilate was in, or Adam and
Eve when they (and we) fell.
Perhaps the only really new things each year are
the events of the liturgical calendar, because the world
is stuck in a rut, and only seems to go forward.
Thank God for Good Friday!
Thank God for Easter!
But for now it is Lent, and that means fasting.
Fasting is very hard to do and yet is such a
small thing compared to our hope of salvation.
Lent is a good time for some of us to skip eating
out and put the savings in the offering plate or in the
Food Box for the Food Bank, where the need is eternal.
First Lutheran Church is by far the most settled
and traditional church I have been a part of.
How did Carol and I come to be grafted on?
I am from Eastern Washington, the “dry side,” the
wheat fields, but my family left when I was 14.
I am still something of a farm boy, though I have
lived in cities since, here and abroad.
Carol was born in Michigan but mostly grew up in
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where we met.
We were married in the Lutheran church of Carol’s
youth, Holy Trinity in Chapel Hill.
Not so many years ago we were rather desperately
seeking a traditional Lutheran church in this area when
we read an article about Jonah by Pastor Marshall in
After checking out the website we visited and were
suspect there are more like us out there in the Greater
Seattle area who would find a home in this church, but
how to find them?
The Council is currently considering ways to make
better known both in and outside of church the many
educational opportunities Pastor Marshall offers.
As a fellow member said recently, we are
extraordinarily well served by the staff of this church.
I have been a member of the Church Council for
three years now and I am impressed by the diligence of
my fellow Council members.
I especially thank—Church Council thanks—Larraine
King, who has just finished a second term as President.
Larraine will again be spearheading the St.
Nicholas Faire this year, along with her daughter
There are many ways for us as members to
appreciate such dedication, and lend it support.
The Council this year will be seeing to
much-needed maintenance and improvements at the
The church building itself will continue to receive
These things require money, so remembering to give at or
beyond our pledges, when possible, is essential to the
life of our church.
Council will be reporting regularly on our
I look forward to serving the staff, the Council
and the congregation of First Lutheran Church this year.
Should We Worry?
I tell you, do not be anxious about your life,
what you shall eat or what you shall drink nor
about your body, what you shall put on.
Is not life more than food, and the body
more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air; they
neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not of more value than they?
And which of you by being anxious can add
one cubit to his span of life?
Seek first His kingdom and his
righteousness, and all these things shall be
yours as well. So do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.
Today’s trouble is enough for today.
could be difficult words for most people to accept.
For some, it could be hard to do considering that
there is so much more to worry about in today’s world
(utility bills, mobile phone bills, transportation
costs, computer costs, and retirement!)
More maybe than there was back in the day when
Matthew wrote his gospel.
Wasn’t it just last Sunday that Pastor Marshall was
saying “Put the Lord First!”
When we do this our worries go away.
Our personal needs are met.
From our thankfulness for these gifts we have the
strength to tithe willingly and cheerfully our 10%.
So, if we take care of the Lord, if we put him
first, He will always take care of us.
Sagmoen, Church Council
With the Mind:
Readings in Contemporary Theology
3-5 pm in the Church
Lounge, Saturday, March 28th.
book for March is
Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of
Jesus (2014), by C. Christopher Smith and John
Pattison. This book tries to learn from the failure of
the fast food industry. “Just as Slow Food offers a
pointed critique of industrialized food cultures and
agricultures, Slow Church can help us unmask and repent
of our industrialized and McDonalized approaches to
church. It can also spur our imaginations with a rich
vision of the holistic, interconnected and abundant life
together to which God has called us in Christ Jesus.” In
that Fast Church mindset, we have had “program upon
program upon program [that] entice us with promises of
miraculous results in just a few easy steps” (p. 15).
The key Biblical theme that motivates this study is the
slow growing leaven of Matthew 13 (p. 24).
A copy of this important critique of modern
church life, is in the church library. If you would like
to purchase one for yourself, contact Pastor Marshall.
Feel free to attend our meeting when we discuss the
debate between the slow way of Jesus and the fast lane
of modern life.
ANNOUNCEMENTS: WEB PAGE
FOOD BANK DONATION
suggestions for March are canned meats, chilies and
2015 FLOWER CHART
could use a few more families to sign up for Easter
MARK YOUR CALENDARS
Instruments of Change benefit & social hour: live
music, guest speaker, dinner, and a dessert auction at
their new location of the Seattle Design Center. Friday,
May 1, 2015, 5:30-9 pm.
Seattle Helpline 10th Annual Taste of West Seattle on
Tickets can be purchased in advance on the Helpline web
WEST SEATTLE RECYCLING
will buy your recyclables and then send the church a
10% bonus check a couple of times a year.
We recently received a check for $75, so not
Pastor Marshall is willing to take your donations
(newspaper and aluminum cans) if left neatly at the
back of the parsonage carport.
#6 Styrofoam can also be recycled (the kind
that snaps when broken).
Please bag securely before leaving.
Another thing that should be properly
disposed of are
They are not allowed in the garbage.
Pastor Marshall is willing to properly
dispose of them if they are left in
on the office window counter.
Thanks to those who participate in these
Is There Life After
By Pastor Marshall
Nouwen (1932–1996), Dutch-born Catholic priest and
former professor at Yale and Harvard Universities, tells
a gripping parable in his book,
Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring (1995). He
says he hopes it will help his readers “think about
death in a new way” (and not whether or not abortion is
right) (pp. 18–19):
Twins were talking to each other in the womb.
The sister said to the brother, “I believe there
is life after birth.” Her brother protested
vehemently, “No, no, this is all there is. This
is a dark and cozy place, and we have nothing
else to do but to cling to the cord that feeds
us.” The little girl insisted, “There must be
something more than this dark place. There must
be something else, a place with light where
there is freedom to move.” Still, she could not
convince her twin brother. After some silence,
the sister said hesitantly, “I have something
else to say, and I’m afraid you won’t believe
that, either, but I think there is a mother.”
Her brother became furious. “A mother!” he
shouted. “What are you talking about? I have
never seen a mother, and neither have you. Who
put that idea in your head? As I told you, this
place is all we have. Why do you always want
more? This is not such a bad place, after all.
We have all we need, so let’s be content.” The
sister was quite overwhelmed by her brother’s
response and for a while didn’t dare say
anything more. But she couldn’t let go of her
thoughts, and since she had only her twin to
speak to, she finally said, “Don’t you feel
these squeezes every once in a while? They’re
quite unpleasant and sometimes even painful.”
“Yes,” he answered. “What’s special about that?”
“Well,” the sister said,
I think that these squeezes are there to get us
ready for another place, much more beautiful
than this, where we will see our mother
Don’t you think that’s exciting?” “The
brother didn’t answer. He was fed up with the foolish
talk of his sister and felt that the best thing would be
simply to ignore her and hope that she would leave him
Nothing here, however, about the Redeemer, the Holy
Scriptures, or Judgment Day and Hell. Too bad. But
that being said, it still strikes a chord regarding
how our defiant self-confidence perilously restricts
our perception and understanding regarding life
after death. It also is good on elaborating the
famous verse, 2 Corinthians 4:17. So I find this
parable worthy of our contemplation, in spite of its
significant deficiencies. (There is also an inferior,
modified version of this parable at the beginning of
Wayne Dyer’s book,
Self, 1995 – as well as on many websites.)
Nouwen’s books have sold over seven million
worldwide and have been translated into 30
languages. He’s certainly a Christian author worth
Monthly Home Bible Study, March 2015, Number 265
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
then talk informally about the assigned verses together
as we have opportunity. In this way we can "gather
around the Word" even though physically we will not be
getting together (Acts 13.44). (This study uses the RSV
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).
Read Romans 16.26
noting the line
bring about the obedience of faith. How is this
brought about? On this read Romans 16.25 noting the
Why is preaching needed? Isn’t knowledge enough? On this
read Romans 10.14-11.6 noting the words
do not all who hear believe? It is because not all are
chosen. But why are not all chosen who hear? On this
read Romans 9.18 noting the words
why would God do that? On this read Romans 9.20-24
noting the words
this mean that a contrast is needed between the saved
and damned in order to show the glories of salvation? If
that’s so, why is it? On this read Romans 1.18 noting
truth. So is this contrast needed for breaking up
this suppression? On this read Romans 3.9 noting the
line all men… are
under the power of sin. So yes, this suppression
needs pulverizing! On this read also Romans 7.9-11
noting the words
killed. Do these words take care of the change that
Read again Romans 16.26 noting that same line
bring about the
obedience of faith. So how about the
in Romans 16.25 from last week? What is it? On this read
Romans 11.25 noting the
regarding belief among God’s chosen people, Israel. That
mystery has to do with their temporary hardening so that
non-Jews may also believe. But it also has to do with
there only being a remnant of Israel in Romans 9.27 who
are saved. Read as well 2 Thessalonians 2.7 noting
the mystery of
lawlessness. This is about our persistent sinfulness
– which is baffling in light of God’s many blessings.
Next read Colossians 2.2-3 noting the
mystery of Christ
and his treasures of
knowledge. What are they? For one, read Romans 5.9
noting how the
blood of Jesus
saves us from
Read as well Colossians 2.14 noting that this blood
saves us by
bond with its
legal demands which stand against us. Note also how
this sacrifice of Christ is
God when offered up to him, in Ephesians 5.2. Is that
enough mystery and wisdom? How so? On this read about
the depths of
in Romans 11.33-36.
Reread Romans 16.26 noting the word
is a command
needed to get us to obey God? On this read Romans 2.5
noting the words
wrath. So we are stone-cold and recalcitrant! On
this predicament read also Romans 3.11 noting the line
no one seeks for
God. Read as well Romans 3.18 noting the line
there is no fear
of God. How can this be disrupted? On the read
Romans 1.24-32 noting the words
hardships can change us. But what about the commands of
God? Can they act like these hardships do? On this read
Romans 7.13 noting the line
working death in
me. How much stronger change than that could be
brought about by a commanding word?
Read Romans 16.26 one last time noting the word
faith. Why is
faith rooted in obedience? On this read Romans 9.20-21
noting the words
potter. Because God is in charge is obedience all
that is left for us? How far does this go? On this read
Romans 12.19 noting the words
can’t we try to get even with our enemies? On this read
Romans 15.1-3 noting the two references to
ourselves. Those verses also block the satisfaction
of trying to get even. On this matter read also Romans
13.1-2 noting the words
verses put us on our guard. They say that we can’t act
like we’re running things. On this read Romans 12.11
noting the line
serve the Lord. So that’s our calling – not being in
charge. Read also Romans 13.14 noting the line against
desires. This also curtails us. Read as well Romans
16. 20 noting the line
God… will soon
crush Satan under your feet. Rather than trusting in
ourselves to get even, this work of God should be our
hope. Do you agree? If so, why?
of Our Lord
Feast of the
Annunciation of Our Lord
will be celebrated in the chapel
with Holy Eucharist.
we will honor the angel Gabriel's announcement to Saint
Mary that she will
be the Mother of Our Lord.
Prepare for this feast of the Church with the
Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we, who
have known the incarnation of your son, Jesus Christ,
announced by an angel, may by his cross and Passion be
brought to the glory of his resurrection:
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Sunday of the Passion
9:00am Education Hour
– Parish Hall
10:30am Holy Eucharist
Investiture of Acolytes
Monday in Holy Week
11:45am Holy Eucharist
in Holy Week
11:45am Holy Eucharist
Carl Schalk in 2006
Schalk on Cowper
By Pastor Marshall
Dr. Carl F. Schalk (b. 1929), the preeminent
American hymnist and church historian, has been a
guest in our parish (Messenger,
October 1993). He also has composed hymns for us on
various occasions (Messenger,
October 2002, November 2005, September 2013, March
2015). In a new book on him,
Schalk: A Life in Song (Concordia, 2013), by
Nancy M. Raabe, she writes: “Occasionally projects
crop up that Schalk can see are likely to never be
well received…. [That is true of a] commission he
received [in 2004 from Pastor Ron Marshall] for the
celebration of his ordination anniversary. ‘The text
is by a legitimate British writer, [William Cowper,
1731–1800],’ Schalk says [from a conversation in
2012], ‘but the first line was, “Thankless for
favors from on high.” I thought, That’s a downer!
With that title, I know it is going to just fly off
the shelf’” (p. 106).
prayer before God those whom He has made your
sisters through baptism.
Janine Lingle, Dorothy Ryder, Evelyn Coy, Kevin Lawson,
Jim Coile, Nora Vanhala, Mary Goplerud, Michael Nestoss,
Cynthia Natiello, Clara Anderson, Leah Baker, Peggy &
Bill Wright & Wendy, Bob & Barbara Schorn, Cameron Lim,
Ion Ceaicovschi, Luke Bowen, Tabitha Anderson, Kendel
Jones and her Family, Rosita & Jim Moe, Kristine and Ové
Varik, Dee Grenier, Carol McCord, Ruth Johnson, Stephen
Holliwell, Mario De Jesus, Lori Hovorka, Priscilla
Santee, The PLU Faculty, Jim & Sandy Otto, Larry Udman,
Paula Lindsay, Ken Sharp, Vickie Gunderson, Norma
Hernandez, Chris Griffith, Rich & Sandee Marshall and
those suffering from and fighting the Ebola virus.
Pray for the shut-ins that the light of Christ
may give them joy:
Clara Anderson, Donna Apman, Pat Hansen, 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 Lent.
Pray for the mercy of God for these people, and
for all in Christ's church to see and help those who are
Pray for our sister congregation
El Camino de Emmaus,
Skagit Valley, that God may bless and strengthen
Also, pray for our parish and it's ministry.
Pray that God will bless you through the lives of
Thomas Aquinas, teacher, 1274; Joseph, guardian of our
A Treasury of Prayers
heaven, I thank you that you are never at home with me.
Your love is always upset with me. Give me grace to
fight against those things that make me uneasy in your
presence, so that more and more I may find myself at
home with you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
All the Saints