* NATIONAL GIRL SCOUT WEEK (The following comments are adapted from the weekly bulletin of Grace Lutheran Church, Sleepy Eye, Minn. Paul Fleischer is pastor)
This last week (March 8-14, 1998) you perhaps noticed that there were ads in the paper promoting the Girl Scouts. One ad we saw says little which, on the face of it, one would consider objectionable. Yet as discerning Christians expected to be sensitive to ideas and philosophies in conflict with biblical Christianity, we read the Scout promotional literature with a critical eye.
Here’s what the ad said: “Girl Scouts are good sports! Whether displaying their skill in track and field, or displaying goodwill towards others, Girl Scouts sport the confidence that comes from being the best they can be.” It goes on to “salute this worthwhile organization for the role it has played in helping girls and young women throughout the world achieve their full potential for over eighty-five years.”
For us the red-flag words or phrases are “be the best they can be” and “achieve their full potential.” Such phrases–similar to the scout oath where a scout promises to “keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight”–imply that a girl scout can attain these goals in and of herself and her own inner resources. All she has to do is “put her mind to it,” and she will succeed or excel in whatever she attempts or does. While such a philosophy or approach may work when it comes to civic, social, academic, or athletic pursuits, it will not work in the realm of the moral, religious, or spiritual. If it does “work,” it can only lead to pharisaism.
That is our concern–that children who participate are misled spiritually. Recently in Catechism class we reviewed the spiritual “raw material” of each of us sinners. It’s hardly flattering, but the fact of the matter is that each of us must confess with St. Paul: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Rom. 7:18). And with David: “Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5). In other words, apart from Christ and with such raw material to work with, none of us can even begin to keep ourselves “morally straight,” be “the best we can be,” or “achieve our full potential.”
It is in Holy Baptism that we are first brought to saving faith in Christ and given a new and clean heart by the Holy Spirit. It is none of our doing at all! “No one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2 Cor. 5: 17f). Yes, “all this is from God” and, furthermore, not just any “god,” but the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
The Girl Scout organization may imbue its participants with a certain self-confidence and esteem, but the direction is self-centered and pharisaic rather than Christ-centered and therefore Christian. Here is how Paul summarizes the latter: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
* RATE AND PAGE INCREASE
The recent CLC Convention approved the slight increase in subscription rates reflected in the listing in the masthead. The main reason the rate increase was sought was to allow the Spokesman to have a monthly standard 20 pages rather than 16.
Four pages may not seem like much per month, but over 12 months it amounts to a total of three more 16 page issues. Pray for us, that we might continue to pass along to our readers solid spiritual food.
Besides the articles you’ve already become accustomed to finding on these pages, we can promise in the future some new series, including ones on Christian marriage and on prayer. We also encourage our readers to pass along Sunday bulletin and congregational Newsletter items they find especially helpful. Even shorter comments on happenings in the church scene or religious world in general would fit our SMORGASBORD column nicely. Thank you!
* A VIEW FROM THE PEW (From the Fall 1997 Messiah Messenger, Messiah Lutheran Church, Eau Claire, Wis.; Pastor Paul Tiefel writes.)
Messiah has received many blessings from having a second pastor. I also have received benefits from having a co-worker with whom the work can be shared. One of the benefits that I had not counted on is the joy of being able to sit in the pew and to be able to worship God while sitting with my family. Being able to go to church as a hearer rather than as the preacher has allowed me to see things from a different perspective. For many years I have had to go to church prepared to preach; now every other week I have to be prepared to hear.
A while ago I came across some tips for profitable listening to a sermon. Since I have to practice that now myself, I thought I would share some of the suggestions.
*Pray for the preacher. As pastors we pray that God bless our preaching that Jesus may be glorified. It would surely be helpful if the hearers would add their prayers for God’s blessings upon the sermon for their own faith-living.
* Read the Scriptures. It is a helpful learning technique to be able to read the Scripture selections and sermon text yourself. This is the reason we have printed out the readings in the bulletin. (Some pastors put next week’s sermon text in the bulletin for home reading – Ed.)
* Stay alert. This seems rather obvious, but it may require some advance planning. At which service am I better prepared to stay alert? (Messiah has two Sunday morning services – Ed.) Adjustments may need to be made to get adequate rest the night before; be prepared to stay attentive.
* Listen attentively. The pastor’s voice and gestures will signal emphasis; sit where there are fewer distractions to your attentive hearing of the Word.
* Judge content rather than preaching style. We need to train ourselves to see past the obvious and to focus on the Word. As hearers, we need to attend to the message with ears rather than eyes.
* Make mental notes or take written notes on the sermon. Talking about the sermon serves a similar purpose. Thinking and pondering over God’s message will help in remembering it. Share suitable thoughts with friends and the pastor.
As preachers of the Word we have a sacred responsibility to deliver God’s Word. As hearers of the Word, we have a sacred responsibility to listen to God’s Word. May He bless us both and thereby cause us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
* TORNADO DISASTER RELIEF
Most of our readers know that the editor’s congregation is in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, which is but 15 miles from Comfrey, a small Minnesota city which suffered severe losses in the March 29th tornado. As the storm continued on, a number of farms in a half-mile wide swath took a direct hit, even as did most of the city of St. Peter. As one tours the ground-zero countryside, the view is numbing. Farm buildings and homes were either completely destroyed or severely damaged. If one doesn’t experience it first hand, it’s impossible to grasp the force of “nature’s wrath” in the aftermath. Entire farm groves are now nothing but five-foot-sentry stumps. No matter, the homes, barns, and sheds they guard no longer exist, “swept off the face of the earth.”
The miracle(!) is that there was not more loss of life. One boy in St. Peter and an older gentleman in rural Hanska died. An editor’s pictorial perhaps said it best. Shown in the picture are a family standing tall and safe while their property lies in ruins. The caption includes this stanza from William Cowper’s well-known hymn:
"God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform: He plants His footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm."
Here is another spiritual perspective: “Even the created world praises the Lord for his acts of salvation. Nature did not sin, nor is it capable of sinning. But when man sinned, the whole created world came under the curse of sin. Animals suffer and die. Plants suffer from disease and drought. Natu re is wracked by storms and earthquakes. Our environment, which was created for our benefit often battles against us.
” . . . The natural world does not need forgiveness of sin, but it does need redemption from the effects of sin. In Romans 8 Paul tells us, ‘The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage of decay, and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (vv. 19-21).
“This world will not simply be put out of its misery; it will be brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. When Christ returns, there will be new heavens and a new earth which will serve as our eternal home (Rev. 21 & 22)…” (People’s Bible, Psalms, Vol. 2, p. 101ff)
Grace of Sleepy Eye served as collector of monies for disaster relief given by CLC members nationwide. The $3,820.00 received came from CLC individuals and churches in the states of Washington, Idaho, Virginia, North Dakota, Michigan, Colorado, Texas, and Arizona as well as Minnesota. As determined by the Grace Church Council, the above amount was divided between the Comfrey Disaster Fund and the Hanska Tornado Relief Fund.
* NOTED IN BRIEF
“Looking Back In The Lutheran Spokesman” — reprinting articles which appeared thirty years ago — has been an off-and-on feature of this magazine ever since this magazine observed its 30th anniversary. Of late fewer articles have been reprinted, the reason being that when we “look back,” we are searching for articles more doctrinal than devotional in nature. It stands to reason that, in the formative years as the church body struggled with birth pangs, there were more of the former. And as time went on, the Spokesman more and more evolved into being a devotional magazine.
Thirty years ago the now sainted Pastor Otto Eckert, at that time the CLC’s own Luther expert, noted an event on the 1967 church scene which called for comment. His comments on “Marian Piety” which appear in this issue were prompted by a visit of the pope at the time to the Shrine of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of what Catholics believe was the first of a series of visions of the Virgin Mary there. Lutherans in the know realize that Roman Catholic Mariolatry continues apace. We feel Eckert’s comments, including his words of and from Luther on the subject, are as timely today as then.