Devotion for Saturday, May 14, 2022

“At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you” (Philemon 1:22).

Despite life’s circumstances, the one thing that is consistent with our life of faith is hope.  Even in prison, Paul had hope.  Ultimately, what we really have been given is hope in Christ.  Though the world may pass away, we have been given the hope that because Jesus lives, we too shall live.  Live then in this hope which you have been given and do not fall into the snares of this world which would strip you of hope.

You have been promised salvation through the grace of Christ.  You have been promised that through this faith You have been given, you would do many things.  Do you live by faith, or by  sight in this world of woe?  Go into all the world as Jesus said in the confidence of hope you have through Him knowing that He is working all things together for good for those who love Him.

Lord Jesus, You have come into this world so that as many as would be joined with You would not perish but have everlasting life.  Lead me, Lord, in order that I would now and always go in the way You lead.  Help me through all obstacles to put these things You teach into place.  Through Your goodness, I am more than able to conquer the obstacles that will get in my way.  Be the only One who leads me, Lord.  Amen.

Devotion for Friday, May 13, 2022

“Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say” (Philemon 1:21).

If you were in the position of Philemon, would someone like Paul be able to say that they were confident in your decision?  Do you trust the Lord enough to put into place the principles He teaches you?  These are important questions, for they speak of what the Lord is doing in you through the salvation he gives.  Be confident and give confidence, for the Lord’s will is being done in you.

Lord, guide my life such that I do the things You would have me do.  Lead me in the right way of living life so that I put into practice the things You are teaching me.  Help me to not just be a hearer of Your Word, but one who does what You say.  Grant me confidence so that I may give others the confidence through faith You would have me give them.  Help me to be one who does more than just what I say.

Lord Jesus, You said that if we had faith a small as a mustard seed, we could do great things.  Lead me, O Lord, in the way of this faith You have given me so that I would do what You ask.  Guide me through my doubts and frustrations in order that I would continue to grow in faith such that I become like You.  Through all things, guide me, Lord Jesus, in the narrow way that You have established.  Amen.

May 2022 Newsletter

Devotion for Thursday, May 12, 2022

“I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.  Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ” (Philemon 1:19-20).

Where did this idea that a Christian has no obligations to practice his faith, and may do nothing nor ask for anything, come from?  Straight from the pits of hell.  It is okay to ask for righteousness’ sake.  The worker is worthy his wages.  Philemon owes and Paul is collecting for the sake of the church.  Let this principle become a part of your thinking.  The world thinks everyone selfish.  Perhaps we are. The Lord always provides.

Lord let me see that just because someone is demanding something, it means nothing, unless they are righteous in their demand.  Show me, with clarity, the difference between selfish and righteous requests.  Guide me to learn how to avoid disappointing my heavenly Father.  Lead me according to Your goodness to grow in faith and to be thankful for those who have invested themselves in my life and given so that I may receive Your Gospel.

Lord Jesus, You have asked of nothing less than the whole of me to follow You.  Keep me from the devilish game of withholding from You even one small piece of who I am.  Guide me in Your goodness to learn these things and put them into effect in my life.  Help me now and always to look to You, the giver of all good gifts, and by Your example, live out the grace You have given me unto eternal life.  Amen.

Weekly Bible Studies on the Lectionary Readings

One of the goals and purposes of Lutheran CORE is to provide resources for confessing Lutherans.  On our website we have daily devotionals as well as suggestions for hymns, Scriptures, and prayers related to the themes for each Sunday.  Here are links to these resources.

Daily devotionals

Scriptures and hymns suggestions  

Prayers of the church

A new resource that is now available is a Bible study that I am doing each week based upon the lectionary readings for the following Sunday.  The resource includes a twenty-five-to-thirty-minute video and a two-page study guide.  A new one is available each Tuesday and is dated on Wednesday, because that is when the church where they are recorded posts them.

Many thanks to Living Water, an ELCA congregation in Scottsdale, Arizona, where my wife and I are members and where the studies are recorded.  Many thanks also to Shepherd of the Hills, an LCMC congregation in Fountain Hills, Arizona, for permission to provide a link to their website where the videos and study guides are posted.

It is a great joy and privilege for me to be able to provide these studies, and I am very happy whenever anyone finds them helpful.

What’s Next for the Pro-Life Movement?

Pro-life folks are celebrating the strong probability that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, which as even the late Justice Ginsburg acknowledged was too far-reaching and too sweeping. While she and I disagree on the outcome we desire, I affirm with her that any reforms to abortion regulations (and they were needed in 1973) should have involved legislative processes along with judicial ones (I would say legislative instead of judicial decrees).

But before we party too heartily, this is far from the end of debates over issues of abortion (or other matters regarding the sanctity of life). As Churchill said after the Battle of El Alamein, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will not end abortions in this country, but it will create hundreds of new challenges as the debates move where I believe they should always have been, to the Congress and the legislatures of the various states. And my sense is that most of us are not equipped to accomplish what is needed — to change hearts and minds of those who genuinely believe the debate is about “women’s rights” or “women’s health care.”

The reality is that over the past 50 years, the same arguments have been repeated (ad nauseam, I might add), by those on both sides. Some folks are persuaded by one set of arguments and some by the other. But there is no attempt to find a reasonable place most of us can move beyond our slogans to look for common ground.

As I see the various memes on my Facebook feed, folks are lobbing slogans and in some cases hysterical screeds that have no chance of persuading anybody to look at the matter differently. No, the next step is not to ban interracial marriages (I have actually seen posts to that effect), and no, it is not the end of abortions in America. [As an aside, those who laugh at believers in some massive Q conspiracy seem to be susceptible to their own conspiracy theories.]

A story: Way back in 1984, I was a delegate to the convention of the Lutheran Church in America in Toronto. My bishop assigned us to attend various workshops, and perhaps mischievously and perhaps wisely he sent me to one on the topic of abortion. The room was filled with pro-choice folks. My friends will be amazed that I kept a low profile, and once those gathered realized that the place was “safe,” they started sharing their dismay at the huge number of abortions being performed. Finally I went to a microphone, identified my position, and suggested that we had more in common than it appeared. A reporter for UPI even interviewed me afterwards, and the conversation became much more constructive.

We who are pro-life need to take seriously that many of those holding a pro-choice position are uncomfortable with the death of babies. And we should be uncomfortable with some of the rhetoric on our side which leads people to believe that we have no concern for very difficult decisions women and doctors sometimes need to make on terminating a pregnancy. Burn me at the stake if you wish, but there are times when an abortion may be a responsible decision. I believe this should be rare, but even the Roman Catholic Church permits abortion of an ectopic pregnancy.

Another story: When my mother learned of my pro-life views, she said, “There is something you need to know.” In 1948 she was in renal failure at Geisinger Hospital as she was carrying me, and the doctors told my father they couldn’t save both of us. He told them to “save the baby,” and in his best military veteran’s style would add later, “I don’t know what I would have done with a [bleep] baby.” Now as it turned out, my mother outlived my father by a quarter of a century, and I am still journeying around the sun 74 years later. My mother never had any doubts or reservations about the decision my father made; had she been able, she would have made the same one. But looking back (I hope with gratitude and humility) I do not believe my father could have been condemned had he chosen the opposite. Oh, and this was 25 years before Roe v. Wade but abortion would have been an option.

I have been told that after Roe v. Wade, Senator (and Lutheran) Mark Hatfield was prepared to introduce a human life amendment which probably could have passed. The problem was that some pro-life advocates wanted an absolute prohibition, and others wanted to include exceptions (rape, incest, preserving the life of the mother). Sen. Hatfield knew that he would not have enough votes if either group voted against it, so he told the groups to work out their differences and give him a bill they could all support. Sadly, that never happened, and millions of lives have been sacrificed. As is so often true, the perfect can be the enemy of the good.

We who are pro-life will never win the victories that matter in congress and state legislatures unless we are prepared to address the legitimate concerns of the large number of people who really are “pro-choice” and not simply “pro-abortion.” There are absolutists on both sides, and all they do in either case is radicalize the other side. Again, Justice Ginsburg recognized that Roe v. Wade empowered the pro-life movement (and I suspect, bears much of the responsibility for the ugliness of the political wars wracking our nation right now).

So I would challenge my pro-life friends — Tone down the rhetoric! Listen to the legitimate concerns of those persuaded by the pro-choice arguments. Take seriously the genuine compassion they feel toward women in crisis pregnancies. Be prepared gently to respond to the lies which are widely believed, such as that pro-life people don’t care about the child after it is born. And show by your actions that you do care! The narrative spread by the media and the abortion advocates is that we are a bunch of hateful fanatics (mostly males) who want to oppress women by forcing our narrow religious doctrines on them. You and I know that isn’t true, but sometimes we let ourselves get carried away in the heat of argument.

If in fact the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, our work will just begin. Are we prepared to engage in the hard work of speaking and acting in ways that might change the hearts and minds of those who disagree with us? Are we prepared to listen more than to argue? The lives of thousands, maybe millions of human beings will depend on our answer.

The Trials, Tribulations and Challenges Facing Pastors in 2022

I have been a subscriber to Christianity Today since the early 1980’s.  I have always appreciated the quality and Biblical orthodoxy of its articles.  Recently both the CT magazine May/June issue, and its quarterly supplement “CT Pastors”, focused on the current challenges facing congregational pastors in the U.S.  These challenges include both increased internal congregational conflict and decreasing worship attendance.  One result of these challenges has been a great many “burned out”, discouraged clergy.

Regarding internal conflict within the Body of Christ, the “CT Pastors” editor, Kelli Trujillo, quoted Clement’s letter to the church of Corinth in 96 AD.  “Have we reached such a height of madness as to forget that we are members of one another?”  Well in some U.S. congregations, especially since early 2020, the answer is apparently an emphatic “yes”.

There is no doubt some comfort in knowing there has always been some level of internal conflict and disunity in the life of the church.  However, many pastors are saying that the last few years have been, by far, the most difficult years of their ministries.  One pastor, who was interviewed for the CT article, “Emptied Out”, described what he has experienced in his last two years of ministry in one word: “Excruciating”.

Scott Thumma, director of the Hartford University’s Institute for Religion Research, recently surveyed pastors.  His survey found that two-thirds considered 2020 “the hardest year in their ministry experience.”  From CT managing editor Andy Olsen: “The past few years of social and political upheaval have taken a particular toll on ministers.  Countless churches are threatened by an epidemic of pastoral burnout.”

So what are some of the causes contributing to both congregational conflict and frustrated, discouraged pastors?  At least two immediately come to mind.

1. Not surprisingly one cause has been pandemic-related ministry challenges since early 2020.  An additional quote, this one from CT writer Kyle Rohane: “The digitization of church services, sped along by the pandemic, has twisted the knife” when it comes to member dissatisfaction with their pastors.  “Since the pandemic, the debate over in-person versus impersonal preaching has been complicated considerably.  For the first time, due to the recent proliferation of live-streamed and recorded services, local pastors are in stiff competition with obscure preachers from other states.”  Kelly Kapic, writing in her “CT Pastors” article, said: “The long COVID-19 pandemic has increased the difficulties for many (churches), resulting in less church involvement and more mental health challenges, less relational connection and more political polarization.”  On a personal note, I know of two pastors—both serving smaller congregations—who have each had five or six active couples angrily leave their churches in the last two years.  Oddly enough, in one church it was because the pastor followed state guidelines regarding in-person worship and masks, while in the other church the couples left because that pastor did not strictly follow those same state guidelines.  A classic “lose-lose” scenario.

2. A second cause contributing to both congregational disunity and pastor “burn out” is an accelerated decline in worship attendance.  While the pandemic contributed to this decline for most churches, the majority of these congregations were unfortunately already in decline before 2020.  A 20-year study from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research found that small churches (100 or fewer in weekly attendance) now make up 70 percent of US congregations.  According to one “CT Pastors” article, “The median crowd at church on a Sunday morning is half what it was 20 years ago.  In 2000, the median worship attendance at US congregations was 137; now it’s down to 65.”  My own observation, after consulting with hundreds of pastors and congregational leaders over the last 30 years, is that congregational decline often increases the likelihood of internal conflict, and directly contributes to the discouragement and stress experienced by pastors.

Not surprisingly, these ministry challenges are contributing to many pastors re-evaluating how long they want to remain in the ministry.  From writer Kyle Rohane: “What’s unusual about our current situation, is the sheer number of pastors wanting to leave ministry simultaneously throughout the US and across demographics and traditions.”  He also writes, “The aging of American pastors is a well-established phenomenon.  Baby boomers have stayed in ministry longer than expected, and we should expect to see a natural rise in retirements as they finally transition out of lead roles.  But the pressures of the past two years could cause many to retire early.” (Emphasis mine) Even more specific to our immediate challenges, author and pastor Dane Ortlund tweeted, “A tidal wave of pastor resignations is coming in 2022.”  And one last quote from Kyle Rohane: “A nationwide pastor shortage could be a death knell for many smaller churches.”

So what can be done; whether at the direction of pastors or lay leaders?  To begin with, there needs to be awareness that a significant percentage of serving pastors are dealing with an “affirmation deficit”.  Given the realities of pastoral ministry since early 2020, a pastoral support group is more needed than ever in congregational life.  (And this is at least one group of lay leaders that should be hand-picked by the pastor.)  Given the current clergy supply crisis, I can state unequivocally that you do not want your current pastor to be retiring or leaving sooner than necessary.  This is a good time for lay leaders to step up and provide emotional and spiritual encouragement for their pastors.

In addition, pastors and lay leaders alike need to address the issue of congregational unity.  Granted, this might be more challenging now than it would have been a few years ago.  However, this makes it that much more urgent and necessary.  Kelly Kapic writes, “When things are especially challenging for church leaders, it can be hard to even see the good that has been given, because we feel overwhelmed by the hardships and disappointments.  Maybe we need encouragement to look again with grace…Jesus promises to meet us in and through his imperfect people…Our confidence is not in our faithfulness but in God’s.  God knows our limits better than we do, so by loving others well, limits and all, we participate in God’s work without being crushed by it.”

To end this column, here is one specific and particularly practical suggestion that can contribute to congregational unity.  It was hi-lighted in Ike Miller’s article (in “CT Pastors”) entitled, “The Myth of Thick Skin”.  The subtitle to this article is “The surprising cure to painful criticism: Invite more feedback”.  The concept is straightforward.  Congregations need regular, healthy ways for members to voice their concerns to lay leaders.  And these listening sessions need to be done without the pastor present.  The lay leaders — perhaps those who are also in the pastoral support group — take notes during these listening sessions; notes that will be passed on to the pastor while not revealing the individual “source”.  In these “listening sessions” disgruntled and/or concerned members can be heard without being challenged.  Additionally, the pastor can learn of their concerns in a manner where he or she is less likely to feel unfairly and personally criticized.  A final quote from Ike Miller:

However tempting it may seem, the secret to dealing with criticism as pastors isn’t to avoid it     or hear less of it. The secret to handling criticism well is to create channels and practices that allow for more of it, but in healthier ways…Healthy feedback tools provide less-personal pathways for this communication to take place so that we, as leaders, can remain humble, teachable, and receptive to wise counsel without being destroyed by the emotional blows that often accompany it.

Ike Miller

Resources for Ministry to LGBTQ+ Identified Persons

In the January 2022 issue of CORE Voice and the February 2022 letter from the director I had a two-part article entitled, “How Did It Happen?”, in which I explained how groups such as ReconcilingWorks have made use of the principles of community organizing so that they have been able to completely take over the ELCA with their LGBTQ+ values, priorities, and agenda.  A link to the article in the newsletter can be found here.  A link to the letter from the director can be found here

At the end of the second part I described the need for resources for parents, church leaders, and LGBTQ+ identified persons which are Biblically sound, scientifically based, and compassionate in their approach to matters pertaining to same-sex attraction and gender identity, and more broadly relating to sexuality and gender.   

Next month – June – the LGBTQ+ community will be celebrating Pride Month.  In anticipation of that event Lutheran CORE has gathered a list of resources that will provide Biblically sound and compassionate answers to such questions as, “What do I do if I am gay?” and “What should I do now that my child or friend has come out as gay?” 

We began the task of developing this list with the clear understanding that the Bible does not allow for same-sex sexual activity and/or misrepresenting one’s biological sex.  No resource that takes an LGBTQ+ affirming point of view would be included unless in that resource the LGBTQ+ affirming point of view is in dialogue with the traditional point of view regarding sexuality.

The goal in providing this list is to reach LGBTQ+ persons for Christ, to acknowledge their struggles with same-sex attraction and/or gender dysphoria, and to help them find a healthy way forward and assist them in their efforts to live biblically.

We do not believe that the Bible promises that same-sex attraction and/or gender dysphoria will disappear if only we will _____.   Rather we are reminded of how God did not remove Paul’s thorn in the flesh (whatever it might have been) in spite of his fervent prayers (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10), and we understand that the Christian life – this side of heaven – is a constant struggle between the flesh and the spirit, as Paul describes in Romans 7.  

The goal is to help same-sex attracted persons live according to a Biblical sexual ethic.  We acknowledge that some will choose to live a celibate life.  Some will marry a person of the opposite sex even though they still struggle with same-sex attractions. 

When working with transgender identified persons, regardless of the initial stance taken on identity markers, the end goal is to help them accept their biological sex. 

We commend these resources to you, and we pray that they will help all of us live in the spirit of what the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans –

“I appeal to you, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  (Romans 12: 1-2)

Video Book Review – “Martin Luther’s Theology of Beauty”

Lutheran CORE continues to provide monthly video reviews of books of interest and importance.  Many thanks to Maurice Lee, NALC pastor and theologian, for doing a review of Mark Mattes’ book, Martin Luther’s Theology of Beauty: A Reappraisal.  Dr. Mattes is Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Grand View University in Des Moines.

Dr. Lee begins by referring to Dr. Mattes’ “astonishingly prolific and insightful scholarship over many years.”  He then goes on to mention how Luther would have come to a conclusion similar to that of the philosophical tradition — that truth, goodness, and beauty are closely interconnected — but only on the basis of his rigorously Christological perspective, in that we can rightly see truth, goodness, and beauty only in the light of Christ crucified and risen.

Luther and the Lutheran tradition did not remove music and the visual arts from the church.  In fact, Luther’s praise for music was second only to his praise for the Word of God. This deep appreciation for beauty was in line with Luther’s understanding that God’s Word comes through earthly, physical, and bodily means.  The finite is capable of bearing the infinite.  The body and earthly things can be channels of grace when appropriated by the Word of God.

This review, as well as 18 others, has been posted on our YouTube channel.  A link to the channel can be found here.


If you would like to watch Lutheran CORE’s playlist of all of our video book reviews, click here, then scroll down and start the video by selecting the play button or click on the three vertical lines near the top right of the first video to select a new video from the list that will pop up. 

Did Jesus Die For Our Sins?

I am very grateful for all the people who expressed deep concern over the movement I described in my April letter from the director to “cancel” the Gospel of John and remove John 18-19 from the lectionary readings for Holy Week, because of the claim that they foster anti-Semitism.  A link to that letter can be found here.

In that same article I mentioned an even deeper concern – a movement not just to cancel the passion narrative in John, but to “cancel” the passion.  There are many within the ELCA and other liberal/progressive, mainline denominations who reject the teaching that Jesus died for our sins.  Instead they make Good Friday into the supreme example of Jesus’ bold political protest against the Roman empire, even unto death.  And now we need to join in the work of dismantling empires and all other oppressive, political and social power structures. 

One pastor wrote, “Empire killed Jesus for being a good rabbi, telling the truth, and therefore was a threat to the power structure.”  Unfortunately, many agree. 

Another pastor offers the following rewrite of two verses of the hymn, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”

Verse 2

What you, dear Jesus, suffered casts light upon our way,

We see the cost of loving and living for the day

When all God’s children flourish in justice and in peace,

When hungry mouths will be fed and warring ways will cease.

Verse 3

What language shall I borrow to thank you, dearest friend;

For this your selfless living, your love that did not bend?

May my life bless all people, may my love bring you praise,

That all might share God’s blessing, that all would know God’s grace.

According to this approach, I do not need a Savior to die in my place, forgive my sins, break the power of sin, and defeat the great enemy death.  Rather I just need to be inspired and motivated to join in the effort to oppose all oppressive power structures.

But the Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus died for our sins.

In 1 Corinthians 15: 3-4 the apostle Paul emphatically states, “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day.”  Paul clearly states that not only did Jesus die for our sins, but also that that teaching is “of first importance.” 

Revelation 1: 5 – part of the second reading for the second Sunday of Easter – says, “To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood.”  First John 2: 2 describes Jesus as “the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  In John 1: 29 John the Baptist calls Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  Is there any way to interpret that verse except to say that John is comparing Jesus with the Old Testament lambs upon whom the sins of the Israelites were laid and who died in their place?  Paul also wrote to the Corinthians, “He made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5: 21).     

Now certainly there are many additional ways to describe the saving work of Jesus.  He came to seek the lost (Luke 19: 10).  He rejoices when He finds us and when we come home (Luke 15).  He forgives, restores, and gives power for new living (John 8: 3-11).

I think one of the best passages for describing the rich variety of ways in which God has acted in Jesus can be found in the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. 

We were buried with him in baptism and raised with him through faith in the power of God (v. 12).

When we were dead in trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ, when he forgave us all our trespasses (v. 13).

He erased the record that stood against us with its legal demands (v. 14).

He set this aside by nailing it to the cross (v. 14).

He disarmed the rulers and authorities and triumphed over them (v. 15).  (Based upon my reading of Ephesians 6, I am certain that Paul meant the spiritual powers of evil, not the political powers of Rome.) 

He made us alive. The charges against us were dropped.  The powers of evil were defeated.  All this Jesus did through the cross and the resurrection.  And that is a whole lot more than just calling on us to join with Him in His struggle against oppressive political and social power structures. 

Those who reject the teaching that Jesus as God the Son died for our sins do so because they claim that that teaching makes God the Father into a cruel, vindictive child abuser.

I would reply that rejecting the teaching that Jesus died for our sins is missing the whole point of the seriousness of our sins and the depth of God’s love.  Romans 6: 23 clearly says that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  It is not that the Father inflicted His wrath upon the Son in order to satisfy the anger that He felt towards us.  Instead in giving His Son, God out of His great love for us gave Himself.  He Himself paid the price for us.  He satisfied His own requirements of justice.  And He won the victory over death and the power and penalty of sin.

But how widespread is it in the ELCA to reject the teaching that Jesus died for our sins?  I am not aware of any official doctrinal statement that has been approved by the ELCA Church Council, the Conference of Bishops, and/or a Churchwide Assembly which says, “We no longer believe that Jesus died for our sins.”  But evidence of how widespread this belief is is abundant, and it seems to be growing.  Here are some examples.  I will begin with two more extreme examples.


Illustrated Ministry is a curriculum company whose faith formation resources are popular among many in the mainline denominations, including the ELCA.  Here is a link to an Easter resource. 

This resource describes itself in this way.  “This script outlines the way in which Jesus upended corrupt systems of power.  Because of his power, popularity, and message, those systems retaliated.”  It also says, “The good news of Jesus is often bad news for those who would like to accumulate power over others.  But in the end, death was not the end of Jesus!  We witness how Jesus lives.  His message of love and justice gives us hope.”  Did you get that?  Jesus dies only because he “upended corrupt systems of power.”  It is not that our sins need to be and are forgiven.  Rather we are to go and do likewise.


Daneen Akers, author of the highly popular progressive/liberal curriculum, “Holy Troublemakers,” is another person who believes and who spreads the belief that Jesus died because he upset the status quo.  Here is a link to her article.

In this article she quotes another person as saying, “Jesus’ death was an interruption in his ministry, not the point of it.  His message of love-your-enemies, the last-shall-be-first, and God’s-realm-is-for-all was deeply threatening to the status quo.  So he was executed by the state as a cautionary tale for those who would follow his teachings.  This is why Jesus died: His teachings upset powerful hierarchies and status quos, so he was executed by the state.  The good news is that death and violence didn’t have the last word.  It’s a love-ultimately-wins story.” 

Many of the books in the picture in the article are published by Augsburg Fortress and/or are assigned or recommended as texts in ELCA seminaries.   

But some might say, But that does not mean that anyone in a leadership position in the ELCA is saying anything like that.  Is anything like that being said by anyone who would officially represent the ELCA?  Here are three examples. 


Here is a blog post from the Rev. Dr. Kristin Johnston Largen, president of Wartburg Seminary, in which she condemns Isaiah 53 as “abusive” in theology.


Here is a Huffington Post editorial by the Rev. Dr. David Lose, former president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and author of “Making Sense of the Cross” (published by Augsburg Fortress).  Dr. Lose also condemns “Christ died for our sins” as abusive theology.


Here is a video from the “Animate: Faith” curriculum, published by Augsburg Fortress, in which famed ELCA pastor and public theologian Nadia Bolz-Weber condemns the idea that Christ died for our sins as divine child abuse.

I do not hear what Drs. Largen and Lose, and Pastor Bolz-Weber are saying as going as far as Illustrated Ministry and Holy Troublemakers are going in totally reinterpreting the life, death, and ministry of Jesus, but I also know that things never stay where they are now.  What is extreme now will soon become norm.  There is nothing about the ELCA that would tell me that the ELCA is able to go “just a little bit off base” without soon being “very far off base.”  Especially if more popular and accessible materials like those from Illustrated Ministry and Holy Troublemakers, and the content of books which are assigned as seminary texts, have a far greater influence on the average person and seminary students/future pastors than the writings of current and former seminary presidents. 

God is not a cosmic child abuser.  God is not wrathful and vengeful and anxious to take out on Jesus the anger He feels towards us.  But the Scriptures are very clear in teaching that Jesus died for our sins.  Any theology of what Jesus did on the cross must take that clear teaching into account in order to remain faithful to the Bible.   

There are many things that these people are saying that we need to hear, such as –

  • The cross is God’s greatest expression of love rather than an expression of God’s wrath.
  • The cross shows that when humans do their worst, God can bring about His best. 
  • The cross shows that God is with us in all of our suffering.
  • God is on the side of those who are the victims of the abuse of power, rather than on the side of the abusers of power.

From the cross Jesus cried, “It is finished.”  He did say that those who wish to follow Him must take up their cross.  But from the cross He did not cry, “Go and do likewise.”