March 2015


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 Works 20:335).

     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 (Philippians 2:5).


Pastor Marshall





The Pope on Preaching


Keeping God’s Word Undistorted


By Pastor Marshall


Pope 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).


I like 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 Thessalonians 2:13).



President’s Report… by Earl Nelson


Lent 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 Touchstone magazine.  After checking out the website we visited and were hooked.  I 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 Elizabeth Olsen.  

     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 Parsonage.  The church building itself will continue to receive attention.  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 financial progress. 

     I look forward to serving the staff, the Council and the congregation of First Lutheran Church this year.







 Really, Should We Worry?



Therefore 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.                          Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34

These 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.  But!  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. 

─Bridget Sagmoen, Church Council


March Book

With the Mind:  Readings in Contemporary Theology

3-5 pm in the Church Lounge, Saturday, March 28th.

The 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.





FOOD BANK DONATION suggestions for March are canned meats, chilies and stews. 

2015 FLOWER CHART could use a few more families to sign up for Easter Flowers.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS West Seattle Food Bank 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.  Also West Seattle Helpline 10th Annual Taste of West Seattle on May 21st.  Tickets can be purchased in advance on the Helpline web page. 

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 bad!  And, 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 dead batteries.  They are not allowed in the garbage.  Pastor Marshall is willing to properly dispose of them if they are left in marked bags on the office window counter.  Thanks to those who participate in these programs. 




An In Utero Debate


Is There Life After Death?


By Pastor Marshall

Henri Nouwen (1932–1996), Dutch-born Catholic priest and former professor at Yale and Harvard Universities, tells a gripping parable in his book, Our Greatest 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 face-to-face.

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 alone.


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, Your Sacred 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 sparring with.






Romans 16.26

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 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).


Week I. 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 words preaching and mystery. Why is preaching needed? Isn’t knowledge enough? On this read Romans 10.14-11.6 noting the words heard, contrary and chosen. Why 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 hardens and wills. And why would God do that? On this read Romans 9.20-24 noting the words answer, right, wrath and riches. Does 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 the words suppress and 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 revived, proved and killed. Do these words take care of the change that is needed?


Week II. Read again Romans 16.26 noting that same line bring about the obedience of faith. So how about the mystery noted in Romans 16.25 from last week? What is it? On this read Romans 11.25 noting the mystery 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 wisdom and knowledge. What are they? For one, read Romans 5.9 noting how the blood of Jesus saves us from God’s wrath. Read as well Colossians 2.14 noting that this blood saves us by canceling the bond with its legal demands which stand against us. Note also how this sacrifice of Christ is fragrant to 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 God’s wisdom in Romans 11.33-36.


Week III. Reread Romans 16.26 noting the word command. Why is a command needed to get us to obey God? On this read Romans 2.5 noting the words hard and 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 gave-up, penalty, deserve and die. These 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?


Week IV. 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 molder and 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 vengeance, leave and repay. Why can’t we try to get even with our enemies? On this read Romans 15.1-3 noting the two references to pleasing ourselves. Those verses also block the satisfaction of trying to get even. On this matter read also Romans 13.1-2 noting the words resist, authority and God. These 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 gratifying 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?





The Annunciation

of Our Lord

On Wednesday, March 25th, the Feast of the  Annunciation of Our Lord will be celebrated in the chapel at 11:45 am with Holy Eucharist.  At this liturgy 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 following prayer: 

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.              Amen.


Sunday of the Passion


March 29th


9:00am Education Hour

Passion Faire – Parish Hall

10:30am Holy Eucharist Investiture of Acolytes


8:00pm Compline


Monday in Holy Week


March 30th


11:45am Holy Eucharist


7:00pm Vespers


Tuesday in Holy Week


March 31st


11:45am Holy Eucharist


7:00pm Vespers






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, Carl F. 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).

William Cowper





Remember in prayer before God those whom He has made your

brothers and 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 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:  Thomas Aquinas, teacher, 1274; Joseph, guardian of our Lord.


A Treasury of Prayers


 Father in 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.

                                                                              [For All the Saints IV:493, altered]