March 2020

Live for Christ
Lent is a time to focus on self-denial (Luke 9:23) – by stressing fasting and repenting (Matthew 6:16, 4:17). But to what end? So that we no longer live for ourselves but for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15). Now when it came to oath-taking, Jesus told us to say just yes or no – without swearing by God’s name (Matthew 5:37). Keep it simple. Luther thought this simplicity extended to all Bible verses, thereby stopping turning them into a “purgatory” (Luther’s Works 21:104) by arguing over what they said, wondering what they could’ve meant, and twisting them to dodge them (2 Corinthians 4:2). Instead, we are just to hear them and do what they say giving-up on serving two masters (Luke 11:28, 16:13). So don’t say – a little for Jesus and a lot for me. Just keep it simple (LW 16:93): No to me; but yes to Jesus – by celebrating his advocacy and walking in his steps (1 John 2:1, 1 Peter 2:21). That’s what Lent’s about.

Pastor Marshall


President’s Report…by Cary Natiello


Hello again First Lutheran Church members,

     As we anticipated, 2020 is continuing the positive financial trend we began in 2019.  Our envelope giving for January was right on budget.  Thanks be to God.

     The Executive Committee has begun the process of reviewing our church Constitution and Bylaws.  We had intended on having this completed by the end of this year, but it looks promising that we can present the changes to the congregation at our mid-year meeting.  I will keep you updated.

     The Executive Committee will be preparing Pastor Marshall’s Pastoral Review this year.  The eight areas we evaluate are, 1) Presiding at Worship, 2) Preaching, 3) Teaching, 4) Writing, 5) Governing, 6) Visiting & Consoling, 7) Serving in Community, and 8) Personal Life.  As President, if you have had experience with Pastor Marshall or an opportunity to observe him in relation to any of these categories, I am interested and would welcome in your feedback.  At your request, I would share your feedback with Pastor Marshall anonymously.  Feel free to email me or call me 206-935-0129, or catch me at church (usually the 8 a.m. service).

     Frequently, there is a specific part of Pastor Marshall’s sermons that really resonates with me.  His February 2, 2020 sermon is one of those times.  The sermon was Suffer With Jesus.  As always, the sermon ended with Lead to Good Works.  We are taught that, “Faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2.26).  This time, as is frequently the case, Pastor Marshall turned the teachings from Martin Luther (Luther’s Works 56:321) for inspiration.  Here is what was said:


Martin Luther Teachings

on the Word

Christian Action in Response

(our good work)

Trust God


Receive the Word

Attend Bible Classes

Do good to your neighbor

Clothe and feed the poor; heal the sick;

use our skills, time and money for this

Be patient with your conditions

Accept that life has given you what God



     We have heard these things preached before in different contexts.  For me, having these together under doing our good works, and tying the word with the actions stuck with me.  I have continued to think about this daily since February 2.  The more I ponder it the more I feel compelled to apply these good works to my daily life.  Can you relate – when part of a sermon just simply resonates with you and you carry it with you for days?  This was one of many times it did for me.

     Blessings to you all.



Simply Given


A recent sermon by Pastor Marshall included a calling to simplicity and encouragement to not make things unnecessarily complicated. So, as we take another look at stewardship, let’s start with the simple: Tithing is good and we should strive to do it. Sharing what we have with others is good and we should do that, too. The giving of our time for the church and those in need is also good and we should do that as well. Pretty simple, if you think about it. But does it stop there? How much time with others do we spend? How can we best use our possessions to help others, and how often? How do we know? Again, simply speaking, seeking God’s will for ways to be good stewards of what God has given us is always a good starting point. Praying for guidance and inspiration is always necessary. Kierkegaard once observed: “A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening.” So, a beginning point in looking for ways to best be good stewards is to listen in prayer and be open to God’s guidance. So, we are called to provide for the church through the generous giving of our selves, our time, our wealth and our possessions. And, of course, when compared to what Christ did for us on the cross, we can never be satisfied with what we have done. Who could? We should be forever grateful, forever thankful, and forever indebted to Christ. So, let’s just take a minute to remind ourselves of what Christ did for us on the cross. 1 Peter 2:24 says: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed.” Jesus became our sin. He became, at the moment of his death, the worst of what we are – rebellious, corrupt, defiled and ugly. He became, at that moment, a thief, glutton, idol worshipper, murderer, etc. Martin Luther called this the “great exchange.” And this sacrifice was for us! His death on the cross was solely for us, our benefit. Amazing love! He took the wrath of God, which was supposed to land squarely on us, and took it on himself so we could become the righteousness of God in him. And he did this willingly. So should our giving be. Will our giving be a sacrifice? Maybe, if that’s how God is speaking to you. Will the stewardship of my time and my possessions inconvenience me? It might. But whether sacrifice or inconvenience, neither or both, the willingness to be used in this way is the important part.

-Benjamin Dobbeck, Church Council



March Book

With the Mind:  Readings in Contemporary Theology

12-2 pm in the Room C, Sunday, March 22nd


The book for March is Dying and the Virtues (2018), by Matthew Levering, professor of theology at the Roman Catholic Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. Levering begins his books with the Christian claim that dying is “both a devastating threat to be feared and, in Christ, a passage to the fullness of life whose mode is self-surrendering love” (p. 4). The rest of the book is a development of that mode in light of the virtues of love, hope, faith, penitence, gratitude, solidarity, humility, surrender, and courage (pp. 7–9). As a result, without “glorifying dying “as though it were intrinsically good,” Levering concludes that “the painful process of dying is the way in which God shapes the… new Adam out of the [old]; bit by bit [breaking] our willfulness and self-sufficiency so as to recast us for the freedom of his love” (168).

     A copy of this edifying 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 our faith helps us prepare for death.




Luther on Samson

By Pastor Marshall


Samson is notorious for loving wanton girls – those beautiful young pagan women (Judges 14:1–3). Modern scholars attribute his deviance to the “fascination of taboo behavior” (E. J. Hamline, Judges: At Risk in the Promised Land, 1990, p. 134); “spiritual and social anarchy” (R. D. Branson, Judges, 2009, p. 134); and being dominated by the “senses, not logic” (T. C. Butler, Judges, 2009, p. 332). But not Luther – he was impressed that Samson’s distressed parents signed off on their son’s wayward desire, forswearing “their own arbitrary will,” he says, in favor of Samson’s “advancement and need.” Even though Luther believed his parents had the “authority to tear apart” the lusty couple, digging in like that would have been “inhuman,” so he sides with Samson – and Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 (Luther’s Works 52:219).




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)


 The Brain


“The most extraordinary thing in the universe is inside your head…. If you were to lift   your brain out of your skull, you would almost certainly be surprised at how soft it is [like] soft butter…. The great paradox of the brain is that everything you know about the world is provided to you by an organ that has itself never seen the world [being like] a dungeoned prisoner [in your skull]…. Your brain churns through more information in thirty seconds than the Hubble Space Telescope has processed in thirty years…. Your brain requires only about four hundred calories of energy a day – about the same as you get in a blueberry muffin…. The brain is divided into two hemispheres, each of which is principally concerned with one side of the body, but for reasons unknown the wiring is crossed…. Thinking is our most vital and miraculous talent, yet in a profound physiological sense we don’t really know what thinking is…. [But] some of the things we do know are at least as amazing…. Consider how we see…. [Take] a bar of soap... [Its] lather is always white no matter what color the soap is. That isn’t because the soap somehow changes color when it is moistened and rubbed. Molecularly, it’s exactly as it was before. It’s just that the foam reflects light in a different way. You get the same effect with crashing waves on a beach – greeny-blue water, white foam…. That is because color isn’t a fixed reality but perception…. For all its marvels, the brain is a curiously undemonstrative organ. The heart pumps, the lungs inflate and deflate, the intestines quietly ripple and gurgle, but the brain just sits pudding-like.”


[Bill Bryson, The Body: A Guide to Occupants (2019) pp. 48–49, 51, 54, 56, 64.]


Hebrews 3:13

Monthly Home Bible Study, March 2020, Number 325

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 Hebrews 3.13 noting the phrase hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. What’s the risk here? On this read Hebrews 3:12 noting the line fall away from the living God. How is this possible if John 10.28 says that nothing shall snatch us away from Christ? On this read Romans 8.17 noting the line provided we suffer. And if we don’t? On this read 1 Timothy 1.19 about Hymenaeus and Alexander who made shipwreck of their faith. How were they able to do that? Luther thinks this is “an excellent metaphor from ships. In a single word,” he writes, Saint Paul “points out what the world and the sea are. We are carried into the midst of perilous storms. With trembling we must remain in the Word…. So it is not that we are safe. We are serving as soldiers. We have not been set up in a place where it is safe to leave the Word of God and hide it under the bench” (Luther’s Works 28:253). Is he right? On this read 1 John 5.19 noting the words whole, power and evil. Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Read also 2 Timothy 2.3 noting the word soldier. Is that right? And read Matthew 10.16 noting the word wolves. How can that be?

Week II. Read again Hebrews 3.13 noting the word hardened. Why such a severe word? On this read John 8.34 noting the word slave. Is that a hardening word? On this read Romans 6.16 noting the phrases yield yourselves and you are. Is that reversible? On this read Jeremiah 13.23 noting the question can the leopard change his spots? What do you make of this? On this read Luke 18.27 noting the words impossible and possible. What swings the pendulum? On this read Luke 11.13 noting the words more and ask. Can it be that simple? Why wouldn’t everybody be asking and receiving? On this read John 3.19 noting the words love and darkness. Read also Isaiah 30.10 noting the word illusions. Why are we so resistant? On this read Acts 7.51 noting the word stiff-necked. Read also John 8.44 noting the words devil, desires and liar. Lest you think this last verse doesn’t apply, read 1 Corinthians 10.6.

Week III. Reread Hebrews 3.13 noting the word deceitfulness. Why is sin deceitful? On this read 1 John 3.4 noting the word lawlessness. How is that deceitful? On this read Romans 7.9 noting the words alive, apart, revived and died. What kind of life was that? On this read Luke 12.19 noting the words ease and merry. What’s wrong with this light-heartedness? On this read John 16.33 noting the word tribulation. Read also Romans 7.24 noting the word wretched. And how do I die when sin is accentuated? On this read 1 Corinthians 14.24–25 noting the line the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and… falling on his face. How is this falling down a dying? On this read Luke 15.24 noting the equation of the words lost and dead. And how does the law revive sin? On this read Ephesians 5.11 noting the word expose. Have you tried that?

Week IV. Read Hebrews 3.13 one last time noting the line exhort… every day. Why is that needed? On this read 2 Thessalonians 3.6–12 noting the connection between idleness and exhortation. What makes us idle – so much so that we need pushing if we are going to get going? On this read 1 Corinthians 9.24 noting the words run and compete. These stand against laziness. Read also Philippians 3.13–14 noting the words straining and press on. These words also go against the laziness of the flesh – as in the laziness of drunkenness in Galatians 5.21. What’s behind our laziness? On this read 2 Timothy 3.3–4 noting the words pleasure and profligates or lovers of extreme luxury. What makes us like that? On this read Romans 13.14 noting the gratifying of the desires of the flesh. What draws us there? On this read 2 Corinthians 4.18 noting the word transient, and Colossians 3.2 noting the word earth. Is that why we need to be born anew in John 3.3?


 “The Good Samaritan” and “Mitty”

by Bob Baker


The parable of the Good Samaritan is so familiar that we may even think we have it nearly memorized. Jesus has been asked by a lawyer what he must do to inherit eternal life. The lawyer sums up the law saying that one should love the Lord our God with all one’s heart, soul, strength and mind; and one’s neighbor as oneself. Jesus says, “Do this, and you shall live.”

     The lawyer says, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds with this parable which is only recounted in Luke’s Gospel. With just about 170 words, Jesus sketches a verbal picture of a man [presumably Jewish] traveling to Jericho whom robbers strip, beat and leave half dead. A [Jewish] priest and then a [Jewish] Levite traveling that way each in turn see him and pass by on the other side. Then a Samaritan* came by, who, upon seeing the needs of the wounded victim, had compassion on him, treated his wounds and got him to an inn where he further cared for him, and, before resuming his own journey, paid the inn keeper to continue caring for the victim. When asked which of the three proved neighbor to the man in need, the lawyer said, “The one who showed mercy.” Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”

     On the one hand, the parable is a rather full sketch of the action, drama and point made. On the other hand, a lot seems left unsaid. Our imaginations tend to paint in more of the details; at least mine does. I always pictured the Samaritan as paying for the expenses of the man’s care out of the largess of his own surplus funds, and doing so without inconveniencing himself etc.

     However, last October, the book discussed at “With the Mind” was Breakfast at Sally’s, by Richard LeMieux. “Sally’s” we learn is short for The Salvation Army, and in this book it is in downtown Bremerton. In the first three pages of chapter 31 (page numbers depend on the edition of the book you are reading) we are introduced to Mitty. She is a regular at breakfast at Sally’s and has been for some time, yet Mitty is not homeless. (I have since learned that meals at The Salvation Army are called “community meals” and anyone is welcome to come and eat.)

     LeMieux tells us, “Mitty practiced random acts of kindness, often providing survival cash and expecting nothing in return. . . , [A] godmother to many, not only doling out dollars from time to time, but also taking food to poor people when they were sick, arranging rides to the doctor for those with no car or bus pass, and encouraging those who were too ashamed to ask for help.” LeMieux tells us that a movie should be made about Mitty, and yet he does not give us anything of a story board of what it would look like. No clue is given about what motivates Mitty, but perhaps the most important thing said about her is in one short sentence: “[S]he wasn’t a rich lady by any stretch of the imagination, but rather chose to deprive herself to help others.”

     Mitty . . . chose . . . to deprive herself . . . to help others.

     That haunts me.

     Now I read the parable of the Good Samaritan differently. I no longer think of the Samaritan as one who easily bank rolls the care of the victim, and who does so without inconveniencing himself. A road with robbers is not a place to go with more than minimal provisions. In caring for the victim and for his additional care, the Samaritan may well have chosen to deprive himself of desired provision for the rest of his journey. For example, instead of himself staying in an inn later on, he may have had to sleep in a stable or under a bridge, etc.

     Like the good Samaritan, Mitty had the capacity for compassion for those in need who were abused by some and neglected by others who passed by on the other side. Jesus instructed the lawyer to “Go and do likewise.” Mitty’s mantra was, “We have to help each other out when we can.” And she deprived herself so she could.

     Of what do I deprive myself to help others?

*It seems there was animosity between Jews and Samaritans as similar to that between ranchers and farmers in the old west, or between Republicans and Democrats in congress, or maybe between Boeing and Airbus, or between Protestants and Roman Catholics. But this Samaritan “crossed the aisle.”


Our Italian Reformation Heritage


By Pastor Marshall


Growing up I thought I had a Norwegian and German background – (my Mom’s side Norwegian – Liens and Andersons, and my Dad’s side German – Marzahl being the original family name). But a couple of years ago I discovered that Grandma Marshall (1893–1965) was not born Nellie Morris as we were told, but Nellena Marasco (her parents being Italian immigrants from Decollatura – Michael Marasco and Marie Gillete). This prompted further reflection on my Lutheran Italian heritage and the influential Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498) – whom Martin Luther called “an example of Evangelical doctrine and Christian piety” (Luther’s Works 59:81). Savonarola writes: “Since it is a Christian’s duty to defend God’s honor, the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, and uprightness of life, I,… watching Christ’s sheep stray… because of the poor example of many pastors, set about preaching the truth of the gospel, strengthening the faith, teaching the Christian life, prophesying future evils… so that I might exhort all mankind to penance,… and for all these things suffering persecution from wicked men” (Girolama Savonarola: Apologetic Writings, Harvard, 2015, p. 105). Because the Church couldn’t stand his biting, Biblical honesty, he was apprehended, tortured “and executed on 23 May 1498” (The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, 4 vols., 1996, 3:487). May this Italian – Lutheran – saint’s words and witness abide richly in us all.

Pastor Marshall with his sister, Doreen, at their home in West Virginia,

when Grandma Marshall was visiting in 1953.



ANNOUNCEMENTS:  SERVICE TEAM lists are available in the lounge.  Next will be the Easter Brunch, with Service Team 1 hosting, on April 12th. 

WEB PAGE ADDRESS:  Log on to see what is new! Also, if you prefer to log on using your cell phone try – our thanks to Kevin Klett.

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

2020 FLOWER CHART could use a few more families to sign up for Easter Flowers.  And, if you considered signing up for Altar Flowers this year and but have not had a chance, this would be a good time to see what dates are left.

SACRISTY NEEDS:  Please save large 46-49.5 oz. juice or broth cans for the Altar flower distribution each week.  Also please return if taken home.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS West Seattle Food Bank Instruments of Change benefit & social hour: live music, guest speaker, dinner, and a dessert auction at Seattle Design Center in Gerogetown.  Saturday, May 9, 2020, 6-9 pm. 

WEST SEATTLE RECYCLING will buy your recyclables and then send the church a 10% bonus check a couple of times a year. Pastor Marshall is willing to take your donations (newspaper and aluminum cans) if left neatly at the back of the parsonage carport. #6 Styro-foam can also be recycled. Another suggestion is 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. 

NOTE:  Postage for the home delivery of The Messenger is donated by JohnsonCN ‒  Computer Support for Business and Non-Profits ‒



Remember in prayer before God those whom He has made your

brothers and sisters through baptism.


Eve Young, 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, The Rev. Dan Peterson, The Rev. Eldon Olson, Sheila Feichtner, Richard Uhler, Yuriko Nishimura, Leslie Hicks, Eric Baxter, Nell & Paul Sponheim, Mary Lou & Paul Jensen, Hillary & Jim Thoren, Trevor Schmitt, Cheryl Atwood, Lesa Christensen, Maggie & Glenn Willis, Audrey Palomino, Garret Ross, Shirley Graham, Evelyn, Emily & Gordon Wilhelm, Satsuki Tanizawa, Karen Berg, Bjorg Hestevold, Wayne Korsmo, Garrett Metzler.  Also, pray for unbelievers, the addicted, the sexually abused and harassed. And, pray for those suffering from the flu epidemic.

     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 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


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 III:513, altered]