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Sin Boldly… Pray Boldly

“Sin Boldly” is perhaps the most infamous Luther quote with the exception of “Here I Stand”. Yet, it is unfortunately removed from its context and often misunderstood.

On August 1, 1521, Martin Luther wrote to Philip Melanchton, whose contributions to the Protestant Reformation and its Lutheran tradition is undeniable. Melanchton was the ‘soft footed’ reformer who attended conversations with the Catholic Church on behalf of the ex-communicated Martin Luther, who feared execution. Melanchton was well-written, mild mannered, and a systematic theologian who provided the future Lutheran tradition with its own confessional writings.

In this letter, Luther wrote the following to Melanchton, his friend and colleague:

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly (or bravely), but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly – you too are a mighty sinner.

Martin Luther taught that ‘sin’ is being curved in on the self, which is a condition of our being and not necessarily our poor actions. Therefore, we are always in a state of sin for our focus and intentions are never purely spent on God or Christ reflected in our neighbor, particularly the most vulnerable among us.

Since sin is a constant state of being, the sins of fornication and murder mentioned are not the literally acts of sex outside of marriage and murder alone. The sin of fornication would be the lustful thoughts, glazes, or acts while the sin of murder would be any thought, word, or action that ignores, criticizes, or harms a person in body, mind, or soul. Thus, Luther’s assertion that our shadow side (sinful nature) commits “fornication and murder a thousand times a day” may not be an exaggeration.

Luther understood this shadow side of humanity, which should be acknowledged and not hidden.

The shadow side is always present, yet always forgiven by the pure grace of God.

The truer the shadow side the truer the grace that is needed and appreciated.

Remember, Sin boldly… but pray more boldly – you too are a mighty sinner.

But, may we pray and act more boldly for the sake of our neighbors, the world, and all creation. Amen.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2019 in Newsletter Articles

 

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Whoa, Holy Spirit, Whoa!

Our Acts scripture begun with 120 of Jesus’ followers gathered, spiritually and physically, in Jerusalem. These followers included the eleven, Jesus’ mother and brothers, and other men AND women, who had spent ten days in conversation, praying ‘Come, Holy Spirit Come’ with increasing impatience.

But, which Holy Spirit are they praying will come…
… the calming, comforting presence;
… the driving force, the motor, that will drive the Jesus movement forward gently;
… or the wild, uncontrollable source of inspiration and action.

Suddenly, a violent wind blows through the room. WHOA!

Suddenly, tongues (or flames) of fire rest upon the 120 men AND women. WHOA!

Suddenly, this chaos grabs the attention of the crowd outside. Jews of EVERY nation. WHOA!

Suddenly, the 120 are forced from the building, into the world witnessing to Christ in word and deed. WHOA!

Suddenly, the 120 can be understood by ALL in their native languages. WHOA!

Suddenly, Peter begins to preach and 3000 in the crowd join the Jesus movement. WHOA!

Apparently, it was the wild, uncontrollable Holy Spirit of inspiration and action that arrived. The Holy Spirit that most, especially mainline traditions, are the LEAST comfortable. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Pondering Church (COVID19)

It is worthwhile to continually discern our understanding of church, its essential elements, and the priorities it communicates, but the global COVID-19 pandemic offers a crucial opportunity as it challenges us to be creatively adaptive.

Holy Grounds, our informal faith-based discussion, was held digitally. I invited us to ponder church, the defining elements grieved in social distancing, and how our in-person gatherings will be different (at least temporally).

In regard to the national dialogue, our discernment is increasingly appropriate.

The church is indeed essential, but the church has never been closed despite the closed buildings because it is not a building or a specific community gathered at a specific location and time.

Martin Luther defined the church in The Papacy in Rome, writing: Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

This is an odd Sunday.

On Thursday, 40 days after the Resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven.
As seen on Facebook, “this is the day that Jesus begun working from home”.

And yet, the promised Holy Spirit has not arrived.

The disciples return to behind closed doors, similar to the in-between of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but without the fear.

The extended circle of disciples are spending their time in prayer.

I imagine with each day, these disciples are becoming impatient with a growing sense of being orphaned or abandoned for forever.

But, I have been pondering if this odd Sunday is oddly similar to our current situation.

  1. We are encouraged to work from our homes as able.
  2. We are encouraged to continue social distance, social isolation, and quarantine as able.
  3. We are becoming more impatient as it continues, especially with improving weather and a long weekend.
  4. We may be emotionally and/or spiritually restless, growing in a sense of being abandoned.

Arguably the disciples are praying for the Holy Spirit to come.
But, which Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is a paradoxical ‘person’ of the Holy Trinity. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Adopted: Always & Forever

John (my ex-husband) and I adopted Highlander and Valkyrie in July 2012. Highlander was a one-year old puppy and Valkyrie was a nine-week old kitten. These fur-babies were destined to be adopted into my home, but especially Highlander.

We drove about an hour to the Tacoma Humane Society after seeing Highlander on their website, but I was informed that I could not meet him because another family had him on ‘hold’ until 5:00pm. Since it was 4:30pm and John was looking at the kittens anyways, I told her I would wait and see if they came to adopt him. Then, she realized the ‘hold’ was from the previous day, thus I could meet him. She also noted she had told another couple earlier that he was not available at this time. Then, he apparently attempted to start a puppy fight on his way to meet us. If you are keeping track, that was three opportunities for Highlander to not be adopted into my home and life.

He quickly became a mama’s boy, but had separation anxiety. It begun to ease as he grew in confidence that I would always return.

He is now nearly, if not completely, blind.

When we are out in the yard, he has moments of confidence in his environment and my presence. He will begin to pick up speed while playfully running and at times does not heed my warnings to ‘slow down’ or ‘be careful’ or even ‘STOP’. He runs face first into a fence, tree, or pavers. He bounces back, shakes it off, ‘looks’ around, and is on the move again. These moments of confidence cause my heart to be filled with joy, but the ‘bouncing off’ moments cause my heart to ache.

Then, there are moments in the yard when he lacks confidence and begins to panic with overwhelming separation anxiety. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Troubled: the Way, Truth, and Life

This gospel is beloved among Christians.

  • It is a comforting passage often included in memorial services for our deceased.
  • It is the foundational passage for an amazing junior high retreat in Arizona that I volunteered.

And yet, this scripture troubles me despite Jesus beginning with ‘do not let your heart be troubled”.

This ‘trouble’ begins with a young, elementary aged Melinda, whose only schoolmate friend was raised by divorced parents. Her father was Roman Catholic and her mother had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church). We would compare and contrast the Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Mormons. At that point, I should have known I would be blessed, perhaps cursed, with a passion for religious studies.

Then, my under-graduate field was Religious Studies. Religious Studies is a relatively recent academic field in its current form, which is composed of:

  1. Establishing methods for the academic study of religion and religious traditions, as objectively as possible, whether Christian or non-Christian;
  2. Exploring theories about the definition, origin, and purpose of religion; and
  3. Comparing of religious traditions, as objectively as possible, through their core teachings, rituals, and histories.

This academic study of religion is a compilation of academic fields, including anthropology, psychology, and sociology.

Then, my graduate education was at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, a member of the Graduate Theological Union composed of multiple Christian Seminaries and non-Christian centers of study.

Thus, I have and continue to craft an intellectual and spiritual life rooted in the fertile soil of religious studies and diverse understanding. This is the foundation for my trouble with our passage. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2020 in Sermons

 

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National Day of Prayer Service (2020)

Invocation

Gathered in voice and heart, we pray for the creation, nations, and communities.

Prayers

International Governments

God of the Nations, you created ALL people.

Blessed be the peace-makers who seek to reconcile and build relationships across lands and oceans among diverse people.

Guide our international relations to reflect your light of grace and love.

Unite us in the seeking of justice and the merciful and compassionate service of the vulnerable, despite race, ethnicity, and nationality.

In your name, Amen.

National Government

God of the People, you liberate us.

Blessed be the elected officials of the United States of America.

Blessed be federal organizations and their employees.

Liberate Americans from our sins of self-centeredness and greed, racism and sexism, nationalism and all prejudice that enslaves us and our neighbors.

Strengthen our lovingkindness in service, so that we might be a collective light for all.

In your name, Amen.

State Government

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2020 in Resources

 

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Freed to Not Kill (COVID 19)

Our governments are discerning the appropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which balances the risk of the virus and the strain on the economy, the fears of the cautious and the voices of the protestors, and of course the emotional and mental impact of social distancing.

Meanwhile, we are called to discern our appropriate response. Although we should not impose our faith and its understanding upon individuals or society, it should inform our personal and congregational response. Thankfully, the Lutheran tradition benefits from the writings of Martin Luther, who was frequently engaged in civil matters while remaining firmly rooted in his faith and its understanding.

Luther wrote The Two Kingdoms, which discerns the relationship between and our role in the civil kingdom and the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is here in glimpses, it is near, and it is not yet fulfilled. As baptized Christians, we are called to exist within these two kingdoms, in order to further manifest the kingdom of God within our lives, communities, and the entire creation.

Luther also wrote The Freedom of a Christian. Freedom has always been a treasured principle, but especially within the United States. There are American communities currently protesting that social isolation and its restrictions are infringing upon said freedom. Luther understood that Jesus the Christ is our only lord, or governing authority, BUT Christ commands us to love and to serve our neighbors. In essence, we have been freed in order to seek justice, act with compassion and mercy, and to love and serve ALL people, especially the most vulnerable. Perhaps, the most infamous and conclusive statement within The Freedom of a Christian is:

A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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