January 2024 Newsletter

Aging and End-of-Life Decisions

“Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and will bear, I will carry and will save.”  Isaiah 46:4 (ESV)

Among the important “Aging and End-of-Life Issues” presently being confronted in both the church and in our North American secular culture is euthanasia. A recent article in the Washington Post Newspaper stated that the number of Americans over the age of 65 continues to be rising quickly.  “In the past century, it’s grown five times the rate of the rest of the population and is now approaching 60 million people.”  While this is welcome and good news for people who are enjoying happy, healthy golden years, for many others the “golden years” are not so golden.

Providing care and the costs of care for an aging population are often overwhelming issues for seniors, their children and society in general.  One’s view of euthanasia is a faith issue impacting a variety of aging, quality of life and end-of-life decisions.

The biomedical evolution has touched the lives of all of us, and this means that as the end of our life or that of our loved one approaches, increasing numbers of us will be called upon to apply the principles of our faith and God’s Word in making decisions about the meaning of life. Being a church that believes in the sanctity of life, how can we facilitate helpful conversation and provide guidance in decision-making that often involves complex issues and requires theological and spiritual integrity? 

Writing about euthanasia as members of The North American Lutheran Church Life Ministries Team, our purpose is to lift up God’s gift of life across the entire span of human life from conception in the womb to the end of life and all circumstances in between. Our Lutheran understanding about aging, illness and end-of-life decisions pivots around two central points: Upholding the sanctity of life because life is a gift from God to be received and lived with thanksgiving; and providing hope and meaning as the end-of-life approaches.  Such hope and assurance are possible even in times of suffering, and death itself: Truth powerfully proclaimed in the resurrection faith of the church.

So, what is euthanasia and how do Christians who believe in the sanctity of life respond?

“Euthanasia,” in its proper sense, is derived from two Greek words meaning “a good death.”  Euthanasia is something we do or fail to do that causes, or is intended to cause death.  For some, the word “euthanasia” is a synonym for “mercy killing.”

Surrounded by a culture of death, which chants, “My body, my life, my choice,” what is our Christian response?

Many of us who are pro-life hold that there is a difference between “active” and “passive” euthanasia.  Christians in North America face strong forces contending for “mercy killing” and assisted suicide.  We must lay a sound foundation for our own understanding of what it really means to provide care at the end of life and then work together to oppose the terribly-distorted image of care that is projected by “mercy killing.” Active euthanasia refers to an action one takes to end a life, such as a lethal injection.  Passive euthanasia refers to an omission, such as failing to intervene at a life-threatening crisis or failing to provide nourishment.

It is important to not confuse passive euthanasia with the morally legitimate decision to withhold medical treatment that is not morally necessary, and respects that God alone is author of life and of all our days.  When the God-given powers of the body to sustain its own life can no longer function and doctors in their professional judgment conclude that there is no real hope for recovery even with life-support measures, a Christian may in good conscience “Let nature take its course.”  At such times medical interventions are no longer effective expressions of Christian care but instead involve burdensome prolongation of a person’s dying.

Does a person have the right to refuse medical treatments, or must one always use every possible medicine and medical technology available to keep ourselves or another person alive who is dying? 

Believing that life is a gift from God, “Lutherans for Life” opposes physician-assisted suicide and other efforts by individuals and medical professionals to take life or speed a person’s death through so-called “mercy killing.”  Destroying life created in God’s image is contrary to core Biblical teaching about the sanctity of life.  Scripture tells us that even our suffering entrusted to God will not be in vain and can bring glory to God (Romans 8:18-28).  Our last days can witness our faith to family and others, deepen our relationship with Jesus, bring reconciliation with loved ones, and see dying in Christ as a good part of life.

Lastly, it is important to be honest with each other that in making end-of-life decisions, pastors, family and medical professionals who are committed Christians can disagree.  Deliberate and prayerful conversation needs to continue regarding the meaning and definition of passive euthanasia. As Creator, God alone knows with certainty whether an illness or an injury is incurable.

Our disagreements may remind us that Martin Luther once said that there are times we “sin boldly” knowing even our best efforts may lead to error; yet, we are forever covered by God’s “Word of Grace and Forgiveness” through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We move forward boldly living by Grace, pondering God’s guidance, and seeking ethical and lawful ways to bring God’s love to each other and our neighbors in promoting a culture of life.  Life is not ours to give, nor is it ours to take.  Respecting the sanctity of life God assures us that even in our old age with gray hairs, he will bear us, carry us and he will save.

The Rev. Dr. Alden W. Towberman,

The North American Lutheran Church Life Ministries Team

You Can’t Have God’s Kin-dom Without God’s Kingdom

With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? –Mark 4:30

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness* with our spirit that we are children of God. –Romans 8:15-16

The first time I read the phrase “kin-dom of God,” I rolled my eyes. It looked to be another attempt to make Christian terminology politically correct—something I have a personal aversion to. So, when I was asked to write a piece on this particular phrase and its usage, particularly amongst progressive Christian circles, I thought I now had an opportunity to academically hammer the phrase.

However, after research, I have become a little more sympathetic to the term. Although, as the title indicates, there is no “kin-dom” of God without the Kingdom of God. Explanation is in order.

The Origins of Kin-dom

Multiple sources trace the origin of “kin-dom” to Georgene Wilson, a Franciscan nun, who spoke it to her friend, mujerista theologian, Ada María Isasi-Díaz.1 Isasi-Díaz then incorporated it into her theological framework and wrote about it in her work “Kin-dom of God: A Mujerista Proposal.”2 Unfortunately, I was unable to find this primary work online, so I am dependent upon a lengthy article by Bridgett Green, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Austin Presbyterian Seminary for insight into Isasi-Díaz’s thoughts.3

For Isasi-Diaz, “kindom” better reflects Jesus’s familial understandings of the community of disciples. Jesus envisioned an extended family with God as father. He announces that all who hear the word of God and do it are his family (Luke 8:21; cf. Mark 3:31-35 and Matthew 12:46-50). Further, Jesus links discipleship to membership in the family of God, saying that any who have left their blood relatives for the sake of the good news will receive back hundredfold in relationships and resources now and in the coming age (Mark 10:29-30, Luke 18:29-30, and Matthew 19:29). Jesus creates and grounds his community of disciples in the principles of kinship—and kinship with God comes not through blood relations but through participation in the duties and responsibilities proclaimed in the Torah and by the Prophets. “Kindom” evokes these values in horizontal relationships among all God’s beloved children, calling disciple communities to live into familial ideals of inclusion, mutual support, and sharing of resources.4

Professor Bridgett Green

I am quite sympathetic to this understanding of how disciples of Jesus interact with each other. St. Paul is emphatic that when we trust in Christ, we are adopted sons and daughters of God. Paul incorporates familial language throughout his letters, in the same vein Isasi-Díaz highlights. If highlighting this aspect of Christian thought was all that was going on, I don’t think there would be much of an issue with using the terminology of “kin-dom” as it would simply be an emphasis of the language of family used throughout the New Testament. However, there are proponents of this terminology who want to get rid of kingdom language totally and replace it with kin-dom. I find this problematic.

Why Erase Kingdom?

According to proponents of “kin-dom,” the language of kingdom presents multiple problems. It has been used by the church to make itself an earthly kingdom with earthly power and might.5 It tends towards exclusivity and can foster competition between kingdoms sometimes leading to violence.6 It is patriarchal in nature.7 And it “includes the specter of humiliation, subordination, punishment, exile, colonialization, sickness, poverty, as well as social, political, economic, and spiritual death.”8

In their view, “kin-dom” represents a much better understanding of what Jesus taught about God’s overall rule and what Jesus’ parables lead us toward.

Let’s work through a few of these things and offer some critique. First, I think we must separate the intent of Jesus’ teachings on God’s Kingdom (and the vision of how it works when God rules) from how sinful human beings have appropriated it. Many of the critiques of kingdom language resonate with the experience of human history, and one needs only pick up a history book to see the truth of what is being said. However, does human failing nullify biblical intent and understanding? Hardly.

Several years ago, I attended a mandatory boundary training in my synod. We were cautioned and steered away from using familial language to describe the church. The reason? Because families are places where abuse takes place; where neglect happens; where harm and pain are caused. It was not until a day or two afterwards that it hit me: not a single good thing was shared about what happens in families. No one spoke about parents who lovingly raise and sacrifice for their kids. No one said a word about how spouses care for each other and build one another up. No one spoke about the emotional support and foundations that are laid to help us cope with things that happen in life. No one said a thing about how the vast majority of parents feed, clothe, shelter, and spend hours upon hours of time with their children raising them to be productive citizens of society. All of the focus was on the bad, and not a single thing was said about the good. Do we abandon the metaphor because there are times of failure? Absolutely not!! Especially when the biblical witness emphasizes the metaphor so much.

I believe the same application is warranted here. Yes, there are, but the vision set forth in the Gospels, epistles, the book of Revelation, and even in the Old Testament lead us to use kingdom language. Why? To emphasize the goodness of God’s rule, and to show that there is a future hope which is a corrective to the failings of humankind.

Second, the kingdom of God is indeed exclusive, and I do not think this is something we as Christians should feel shame about. Paul is explicit in his writings that a person is either “in Christ” or “in Adam.” There is a strong line of demarcation, and the only way to go from one side to the other is through the cross. Essentially, a person either trusts in Christ’s work for salvation (in Christ), or they trust in themselves (in Adam). Either one trusts in grace for one’s righteousness, or one trusts in one’s works. There is no middle ground.

When you trust in Christ and His works, you shift your allegiance. No longer do you live for self: for self-indulgence; for self-affirmation; for self-preservation. Instead, you live for Christ. You live for God. No longer do you lay claim to the throne, but the rightful, righteous ruler is now seated upon the throne of your heart. You now serve a new master. (Romans 6) This is at the heart of the Christian creed, “Jesus is Lord.” You are announcing that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. You no longer rule over your life. Jesus does. And when He is king of your life, you enter into the Kingdom of God.

If you do not trust in Christ’s work, then you are not in the Kingdom of God. You are consumed by other hungers. You are on the outside looking in. In this fashion, the Kingdom of God is indeed exclusive, but, this does not lead to violence and conflict. It is self-righteousness which leads to such things, and a person who knows God’s grace is not self-righteous. They know they have no righteousness of their own. They know their sin. They know their dependence upon God and Christ’s grace. They also know they are commissioned to make disciples of all nations. They know the great command to love their neighbors as themselves. They do not seek to impose the faith or the Kingdom by imposition, but rather by invitation. The doorway to the Kingdom of God is always open, and the desire is to welcome all. Even though it is exclusive, it seeks the inclusion of all. This is not something to be ashamed of in the least.

A final word about patriarchy. Please know that I am using the following definition of patriarchy: a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line. The Kingdom of God is a patriarchy since God is our Father. As such, this is a rather neutral understanding.

However, there is another definition of patriarchy which oftentimes gets applied. “A system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” The Kingdom of God was never meant to be such a thing. One would garner that self-evidently from Jesus’ own teachings on the Kingdom as well as St. Paul’s baptismal theology. However, living this ideal out on earth has proven to be quite difficult, and the Church has fallen very short of the ideal.

But again, the question must be asked: do we abandon the language because the ideal has not been met? No. There is no justification for that. You cannot change reality just by changing language.

Embracing Kingdom

And the reality of the Christian faith is this: you cannot have the “kin-dom” of God without the Kingdom of God.

As I hinted at previously, our Christian faith begins with God’s great grace poured out through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This grace captures and changes our hearts so that our allegiance shifts from ourselves and the desires of the flesh to allegiance to God and the desires of the Spirit. This is a vertical relationship, and it is primary. It must take place first. For through it, we actually fulfill the first and greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Everything starts with this vertical relationship.

Then, it moves to the horizontal. Then, it moves into our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Then, it moves to the second great command to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is where “kin-dom” language can come into play, but again, we must be careful.

Our neighbors may not share the same allegiance that we do. Our neighbors may not have Jesus as their King. They may still be “in Adam.” They still may belong to the kingdom of the world.

I was struck by a paragraph in Professor Green’s article:

This is the expansive sense of family to which Bishop Oscar Romero appealed when he exhorted the soldiers in El Salvador in 1980 before his assassination. He reminded them of Jesus’s vision of kinship, reminded them that we are all children of God, that we are connected through an honor code that values all, that provides security and a foundation for each person to be able to extend themselves into the community without losing their identity and sense of self.9

Bishop Romero appealed to the idea of “kin-dom” with the soldiers of El Salvador, but they still assassinated him. Why? Because they were serving a different master. They were serving a different king. They were not serving the King of kings and Lord of lords. Their hearts had not experienced the grace of God which would lead them away from committing such a heinous crime. The vertical relationship must always come first, and the Church’s primary job in the world is the proclamation of the Gospel which makes disciples of all nations–which calls our neighbors to have the same allegiance as we do.

To erase kingdom and replace with “kin-dom” means to place the second commandment above the first. It seeks to establish the kingdom without the King. That is not an option within the Christian faith, and it ultimately leads to failure. You simply cannot have the “kin-dom” without the Kingdom.

1. Florer-Bixler, Melissa. “The Kin-dom of Christ.” Sojourners. Nov. 20, 2018. https://sojo.net/articles/kin-dom-christ,

Green, Bridget. “On Kingdom and Kindom: The Promise and the Peril.” Issuu. Fall 2021. https://issuu.com/austinseminary/docs/insights_fall_2021_i/s/13746319

Butler Bass, Diana. “The Kin-dom of God.” Red Letter Christians. Dec.15, 2021 https://www.redletterchristians.org/the-kin-dom-of-god/

2.Green. https://issuu.com/austinseminary/docs/insights_fall_2021_i/s/13746319



5.Butler Bass. https://www.redletterchristians.org/the-kin-dom-of-god/

6.PCUSA. “Bible study at GA223 will Explore ‘kin-dom’ versus ‘kingdom.’” Feb.12, 2018


7.Montgomery, Herb. “A Kingless Kingdom.” Renewed Heart Ministries: eSights and Articles. May 31, 2019. https://renewedheartministries.com/Esights/05-31-2019/

8.Green. https://issuu.com/austinseminary/docs/insights_fall_2021_i/s/13746319


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.”

Video Book Review – “Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther”

Lutheran CORE continues to provide monthly video reviews of books of interest and importance.  Many thanks to Ethan Zimmerman for doing this month’s video review of Roland Bainton’s classic, “Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther.”  Ethan is an NALC college student who plans to attend the NALC seminary.  He is part of Lutheran CORE’s younger persons group and has been a college-aged mentor with the NEXUS program of Grand View University.  A link to his review can be found here.

In this review Ethan focuses on three events in the life of the reformer.  The first one is the time when Luther celebrated his first mass.  He was utterly terrified because he did not feel worthy to consecrate the elements.  Ethan mentions that this shows the genuineness and sincerity of Luther’s faith.  He really cared about what he was doing.  The second event is the Diet of Worms, where Luther proclaimed, “Here I stand; I can do no other.”  Having personally come under attack for his faith, Ethan was inspired by the courage and conviction of Luther as he was being attacked for his faith.  Ethan said, “I felt like I was in the room with Luther.”  The third event is the death of his fourteen-year-old daughter Magdalena.  Ethan shares how he was deeply moved by this giant of the faith and giant of history showing his humanity in his expression of sorrow over the death of his daughter. 

This review, as well as ten others, have been posted on our YouTube channel.  A link to the channel can be found here.  Many thanks to those who have made the reviews.   

Our plan is to publish a new video book review during the first week of every month.  Many of the books that are being and will be reviewed are described either in the List of Confessional Resources on the Seminarians page of our website or in the Resources for Youth and Young Adults on the Young Timothy page of our website.  Those lists can be found here and here.

When you look at a video review for the first time, please click on the Subscribe button.  As enough people do that, it will eventually help us to get a channel name that will include our organization’s name.  

Repenting of the Sins of Our Nation: Part I — Accepting the Call

Editor’s Note: Pr. Craig Moorman is a board member of Lutheran CORE as well as a mission developer and pastor of River’s Edge Ministries (NALC-LCMC) in Mt. Airy, Maryland. This is the first in a series of articles entitled Repenting of the Sins of Our Nation. Future articles will focus on Proclaiming the Word and Stewarding the Awakening.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ —

Over the course of the past few months, I have gained a much greater appreciation for the Book of Daniel and the message of hope that it brings to the Church for the living of these historically challenging days. But on a more personal note, on this particular day as I move into my 66th year of living, I’d like to make a b-day wish in the form of a prayerful declaration: I want to be like Daniel when I grow up! Here I am, nearly 35 years into my call, and only now am I beginning to understand the extent of what it means — and what it might mean — to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  

In Daniel 9:3-19, we hear this well-seasoned prophet pleading and imploring Almighty God to show mercy to His people, the Israelites. He begins, “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking Him by prayer and supplications with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, ‘O Lord, the great and terrible God, who keepest covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments and ordinances; we have not listened to Thy servants …” (vv. 3, 4) Yes, I want to be more like Daniel with whatever time the Lord allows me in this precious gift of living. I want to turn and set my face continually to the Lord God. I want to seek Him earnestly, even ‘wearing’ sackcloth and ashes (in a non-Pharisaic sort-of-way) … and empty myself of self, in all humility at the footstool of His mercy seat. At this stage in my life, I desire to go deeper in my confession and repent, not on behalf of ‘their’ sins, but repent on behalf of our sins … my sins!

Throughout his seventy years in exile, Daniel remained a pliable vessel of God and continually sought out the Lord’s mercy and steadfast love on behalf of his people Israel. Again, only now am I more fully embracing this essential ‘detail’ of my call, truly bearing the priestly role. I guess some of us are just a bit more stubborn and slower in understanding what it really means to serve in the ministry of Word and Sacrament.

I’m also reminded of a letter written by one of the Apostolic Fathers, (Bishop) Ignatius of Antioch, who was eventually condemned and sent to Rome to be killed by ‘the beasts’ in the amphitheater @108 A.D. While journeying to this final resting place, Ignatius wrote letters to various churches in Asia Minor, including these words to the Church in Rome:

I am writing to all the Churches, and I give injunctions to all men, that I am dying willingly for God’s sake, if you do not hinder it. I beseech you, be not ‘an unseasonable kindness’ to me. Suffer me to be eaten by the beasts, through whom I can attain to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread of Christ. Rather entice the wild beasts that they may become my tomb, and leave no trace of my body, that when I fall asleep I be not burdensome to any. Then shall I be truly a disciple of Jesus Christ, when the world shall not even see my body. Beseech Christ on my behalf, that I may be found a sacrifice through these instruments. (Ignatius to the Romans, IV. 1, 2)

Bp. Ignatius of Antioch

Fascinating. I first read these words 37 years ago and am still challenged to the very core of my being, and wondering if I could ever present that ‘core of my being’ to the Lord in such a way? (cf. Romans 12:1) Ignatius continues in his words about what it means to follow Jesus Christ and be obedient in that calling, “Grant me this favour. I know what is expedient for me; now I am beginning to be a disciple.” (V. 3a)

Ignatius’ words are full of so much grace. Only “beginning to be a disciple” … This profoundly humble statement encourages me to remember, first and foremost, that as one called into ministry, I am to remain teachable and malleable. So, in light of the lives of Daniel and Ignatius — and all of the saints that have gone before us — it is with great humility that I begin this three-part article, Repenting of the Sins of the Nation. In Part I — “Accepting the Call”, you’ll quickly recognize that it’s a personal grappling — an open confession — with how I am trying to navigate through the turbulent waters of these desperate times. No doubt, this is a journey we are all needing to face, and necessarily needing to face … together. In fully accepting my call, I realize that these times require me to engage both pastorally and prophetically.

Suffer me to be eaten by the beasts, through whom I can attain to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread of Christ.

Bishop Ignatius of Antioch to the Romans, IV. 1, 2

There is something insidious permeating every nook and cranny of every segment of our present-day society. Have you felt it too? I believe it started with the mid-1960’s countercultural movement and it has evolved immensely over the past two decades. Some citizens of this country and much of the Western world have been more purposefully redefining new ways of living out truth, justice, compassion, love, etc., according to their own morality and rooted deeply in secular humanism, Marxism, utopistic pursuits, etc. Let’s, then, call this redefinition, a transformative awakening.

Herein, we quickly discover that these redefined core values for living clash painfully with more traditional systems of authority-governance, orthodox Judeo-Christian values, long-established interpretations of our history and the American Dream, etc. I believe the buildup of tension we are presently experiencing equates to a significant season of great shaking, shifting, and sifting in our nation and our churches. We reluctantly find ourselves at a most critical crossroads, a place of tension — this transformative awakening — where revolutionary choices will be made, new leadership will arise, causes will be defined, and life wholly changed. But we’ve been here before, this place of choosing (potentially) between life and death.

In Joshua 24, history records that Joshua “ … gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God.” (v. 1) Then he continued speaking to the People of Israel, helping God’s People to remember who they were; and, thus, re-enter into a covenantal agreement with the Lord on that day: “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods which your fathers served … choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (vv. 14, 15)

Of course, this has been the story of God’s People, our story, from the beginning of time — facing many a crossroads and needing to choose between that which is life-giving or life-stealing! Darkness and Light stand juxtaposed — hoping to either take captive or captivate the souls of those most vulnerable or receptive. One entity, darkness, will coerce itself into/upon that life (*nephesh, נֶ֫פֶשׁ‎ nép̄eš = soul) and, ultimately, steal away that life (John 10:10a); and, the other, Light, will graciously extend an invitation to that life to receive the fullness of Life (John 10:10b). (*It’s interesting to note that this Hebrew word, nephesh, when combined with another Hebrew word, rûach-רוּחַ‎, meaning “spirit”, connotes a part of humanity that has no physical form, like one’s mind, will or seat of emotions, intellect, personality, etc.)

At this monumental historic crossroads, who or what will win the day and take captive or captivate the life, the corporate soul — minds, wills, intellects, and personalities — of our nation? It seems clear that this transformative awakening will, I believe, produce either death or life in our nation, depending on how it unfolds. There is much conversation these days about the woke culture, a slang term that is finding its way into the mainstream vernacular. This word, added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in September of 2017, states: “If you frequent social media, you may well have seen posts or tweets about current events that are tagged #staywoke … awake is often rendered as woke, as in, “I was sleeping, but now I’m woke … ‘Woke’ is increasingly used as a byword for social awareness … Stay woke became a watch word in parts of the black community for those who were self-aware, questioning the dominant paradigm and striving for something better. But stay woke and woke became part of a wider discussion in 2014, immediately following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.”

Unfortunately, the word woke became enmeshed with the Black Lives Matter organization and other radical, leftist organizations (i.e., Antifa, etc.) and is now being exploited to bring societal change through radical and often violent means. Its agenda is not life-giving, and its understanding of resolving injustice and racial tension is polar-opposite from that of a traditional, orthodox theology/ideology, where genuine reconciliation can be found. An even greater concern is that this form of bringing about a transformative awakening has infiltrated every segment of our society, including the government on all levels.

Our nation does not need a transformative awakening that is bent on dismantling and even destroying all that has existed for 245 years; it needs, instead, one that transforms the hearts and minds of her citizens with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through another Great Awakening. In fact, we need another awakening that would dwarf our country’s first two Great Awakenings in the 18th and 19th centuries. And with any Great Awakening, there should be a deliberate and long season of listening to the heart of God through passionate, intercessory prayer on behalf of the nation.

Again, I’m hearkening back to Daniel’s approach in continually (throughout the entire twelve chapters of the Book of Daniel) resolving (1:8) to confess and repent, seek out His mercies, pray, and give praise to the Lord for His sovereign goodness. Only then will we able to faithfully and effectively call the nation to repentance and graciously challenge her citizenry, beginning with us/me, to turn back to God, specifically in Jesus Christ. But, will I be part of it? Will we, as Lutherans, be part of it?

In Part II — “Speaking the Word”, I’ll be addressing how we are witnessing the rise and intensification of darkness; but I will also lift up the eschatological reality that during this same season of dread (cf. Matthew 24), the brightness of the Light will shine brighter through the grace of the Holy Spirit. So, we must hold on to such a Hope. In the meantime, and in the midst of it all, should we not be carefully weighing the cost and calling of entering into this reality? Everything is on the line. Again, what or who will take captive or captivate the soul of this nation, at this hour? If the Church remains oblivious of such a ‘harvest’ (cf. Matthew 9:35-38), then surely the devil and his minions will expediently pounce upon these ‘little ones’ and drag them into the pit of despair and darkness. Or we could rise to the occasion and be the Church — here and now, for such a time as this — and reap a harvest of souls who could be ushered into the transformative awakening of a life claimed by Jesus Christ! Amen?

Our nation does not need a transformative awakening that is bent on dismantling and even destroying all that has existed for 245 years; it needs, instead, one that transforms the hearts and minds of her citizens with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through another Great Awakening.

This is what I’ve been intensely struggling with, especially these past few months. In a nutshell, here’s my angst and concern in the form of a question: “Will I or will I not find the courage to accept the call to step into this place of mess, that chaotic void, and engage those who are desperately seeking truth, justice, compassion, love, etc. and point back to the cross, etc.” At the same time, I find myself crying out, “Lord, show me how to lead at this hour … beginning with my own family!” A simple question and plea, but wow, so difficult and complex at the same time. As leaders in the Church, we should be thriving now; but, to the contrary, it seems that many of us have been struggling and agonizing over how we should respond to this day and age. It is time, Brothers and Sisters, to reclaim who we are as “the children of the Kingdom of Light” (cf. 1 John 1:5-2:6 and Ephesians 5:8), and to remember that we have already been given all that we need to fully accept our call … and enter into the arena. (cf. Ephesians 6:10-20)

No doubt, many of you are familiar with one of the most widely quoted speeches of Theodore Roosevelt’s career; here’s an excerpt from that speech given on April 23, 1910:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt

Only by God’s grace will we be able to enter the arena of our culture. But enter we can and must. Certainly, there will be Jonah moments … fleeing from the Lord … experiencing mighty tempests … being tossed out of the boat … being swallowed by a whale … anger and regrets … but, in the end, I encourage us to assume the posture of another prophet, Daniel, and remain resolved and humble before the Lord (Daniel 1:8). Until next time, stay the course …

In Christ’s love,

K. Craig Moorman

Spring Devotional

Editor’s Note: This piece was written by a Luther Seminary student earlier this spring.

I can’t tell you what spring is like in places beyond the Midwest — I’m sure they have it but it certainly pales in comparison to the spring that we enjoy in Minnesota. Saint Anthony Park and the ever-creaky Bockman Hall were covered in snow one day this week and basked in warm sun the next. Through open windows a new breeze blows in and with it the promise of a new age. A new age not held by the chains of ice and cold but one dominated by the warmth of the sun.

It is on to this odd state of transition that I cannot help but project my own faith. We as believers live in a time of transition. We have felt the warmth of the Son but are all too familiar with the cold and death of sin. Yet just like those experiencing spring in Minnesota, we know that the days of sin are numbered. We may not know for certain what that number is but that God has assigned it.

There is a moment in early March (and yes, I am a hardy one) when we first feel the warmth that God has given us. It is a feeling unlike anything else as it brings us to the end of our reality and then on to the next. That first warm day in March announces that winter is ending and summer is soon to follow. It is a sweet promise but one that loses its meaning if we spend the rest of the season behind closed windows and in a dorm. There, away from the sun, the promise becomes stale.

I remember the moment when I first felt the warmth of Christ. It brought me to the end of my reality and onto the next. Yet it is a warmth unappreciated when it is followed by distance and silence; by greeting the new breeze with closed windows and walls. Like students in spring, we as believers must live into the warmth and not merely observe its effect through a double-paned window. We will never replace the experience of when the Son first broke the cold but we can continue to live into the promise of that which the Son brings.

How do we live in the sun in a time when winter looms so close? I really couldn’t say but certainly we must first step from our dorms and houses and into where that light shines. We know darkness because we have seen light; cold because we have felt warmth. There is wisdom in that simple pairing — now that we have known, we should know.

The snow on my window’s ledge is gone but, without any regard of my own attitudes, it may return tomorrow. Spring is a time of transition, one that aims to break us of winter and usher in a period where we need not worry about snow. Until that time, I will have to wait and celebrate the warmth as it is given — that is the reassurance that allows us to hope for summer even when winter surprises us again.

A. Nestenprest

Letter From The Director – April 2020

Dear Friends in the Risen Lord:

Every morning – when I turn on my computer – I wonder, “How much worse is the news going to be today than it was yesterday?”  How many more confirmed corona virus cases will there be?  How many more people will have died?  What kind of greater precautions will we need to take, and what kind of greater restrictions will be placed upon us?  How much more will the stock market plunge?

In the midst of all this, we need encouragement, a source of strength, and hope.  What greater source of encouragement, strength, and hope could we have – and could we be able to share – than the good news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead?  He is with us in our struggles, and He has defeated our greatest enemies – sin, death, and the power of the devil.

I would like to share with you four sources of strength and hope from the account of the Israelites’ crossing the Jordan River on their way to the Promised Land, as recorded in the early chapters of the book of Joshua. 

First, in Joshua 1: 2 the Lord said to Joshua, “My servant Moses is dead; now proceed to cross the Jordan.”  The Lord did not say, “Moses is dead; you might as well give up.”  Nor did He say, “Moses is dead; so why not go back to Egypt.”  “Moses is dead; it will never be the same again.” Or “Moses is dead; what hope do you have now?”  Rather the Lord said, “Moses is dead; now proceed to cross the Jordan.” 

We have heard it said over and over again.  We are living in unprecedented times.  We were not prepared for this, nor did we see it coming.  We do not know how long it will last or what life will be like after it is over.  We know it will be different, but we do not know how it will be different.  In many ways Moses is dead.  The realities, resources, and support systems that we had been counting on no longer exist.  And they disappeared so quickly.  But just as God said, “Moses is dead; now proceed to cross the Jordan,” so God is saying to us, “Life will be different, but it is not over.”  With God’s presence and power – with the hope of the resurrection – we will be able to get through this.  One year from now we will be able to look back and say, “God is good, and He saw us through.”  Moses may be dead, but we still need to and we still can cross the Jordan. 

Second, three times in the first nine verses of Joshua 1 God says, “Be strong and courageous.”  In verse 6, verse 7, and verse 9.  “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

It would be very easy today to be frightened and dismayed.  We have many, very valid reasons to be frightened and dismayed.  Just like the disciples of Jesus, on the evening of Good Friday, had many, very valid reasons to be frightened and dismayed. 

But the angel told the women who came early on Easter Sunday morning to the tomb, “Do not be afraid.  I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here.  He has been raised.  Come, see the place where He lay.  Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has been raised from the dead.”  (Matthew 28: 5-7)  So we, too, need to see the place where He lay.  We, too, need to see that the tomb is empty.  Then we, too, need to go quickly and tell people that He has been raised from the dead.  This year – during the upcoming Holy Week season – may God give you even more strength of conviction and mountain-moving faith, so that you will be able to believe with power and with boldness, “Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead.”

Third, in Joshua 3: 2-4 we read that the leaders of Israel went through the camp and commanded the people, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord our God being carried by the levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place.  Follow it, so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before.” 

What do we need the most as we go through a national and global crisis unlike any we have experienced before?  We need to know that God is with us and that He goes before us, “for (we) have not passed this way before.”  I remember a poster I had on my wall in my dorm room in college.  It showed a mushroom cloud from an atomic explosion.  It asked the question, “Is there a future?”  It gave an answer from God.  “Yes, I am already there.”

Paul describes Jesus as “the first born from the dead.”  Jesus has already gone through the experience of death ahead of us.  And He has broken the power of death over us.  Therefore, “nothing in all of creation” – and that includes the corona virus – “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8: 39)

Fourth, Joshua 3: 15-16 tell us that “when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still . . . while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off,” so the people were able to cross over on dry ground. 

There was a miraculous crossing of a body of water at the beginning of the time of leadership of Moses (the Red Sea), and there was a miraculous crossing of a body of water at the beginning of the time of leadership of Joshua (the Jordan River).  But there is a significant difference between the two.  In the case of Moses and the Red Sea, God sent a strong east wind that blew all night.  In the morning there was a dry path. The people did not need to step into the sea until they had a dry path.  In the case of Joshua and the Jordan River, somebody had to step into the water first before the flow of the river stopped and a dry path became available.

I know that I, for one, would like to have a dry path before I have to step in.  But that is not the way it always goes.  It sure would be good to know how this pandemic will end and how long it will last, but at this point we do not know.  But still we need to step in, take necessary precautions, help those who are most vulnerable, and see this time as an opportune time to show the kind of courage and compassion that Christ can give. 

I remember several years ago a woman who was very close to dying from cancer read the lessons on Easter Sunday.  Never before had those Scriptures passages spoken so strongly to me as they did that day as they were being read by someone who would soon be dying and who believed with all her heart that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

This Easter season may your faith in Jesus be even bolder, your hope in Jesus be even greater, and your love for Jesus be even stronger.

Dennis D. Nelson
Executive Director of Lutheran CORE


Our prayers are with all confessional Lutheran pastors as you find and develop ways to stay connected with your congregations, give your people hope, courage, and strength, and reach out to your communities during these most unusual times.  On our website you can find a list of some congregations that are livestreaming and/or posting recordings of their worship services.  A link to that list can be found here.  Please let me know if you would like to be added to that list.

Devotion for Monday, August 27, 2018

“Who understands the power of Your anger and Your fury, according to the fear that is due You? So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:11-12)


When things do not go the way we want them to go, we call that Your fury and anger. I suspect You call that the truth. You give a heart of wisdom to those who will come into Your presence and see things as they are. Lead me, O Lord, to see clearly the truth of the life into which You invite those who will come into Your presence. You offer to guide us through these limited days.

Lord, when I was young, I thought in terms of forever. As I get older, I see the foolishness of such thoughts. My days are numbered. Help me to live according to the days You have given me that I may abide in You as You abide in me, doing those things which will grow in me what You have always intended. Help me to be lifted up according to Your will.

Lord Jesus, You have told us that we must be united with You. Saint Paul told us that we must be united in Your death in order to be united in Your resurrection. Help me, O Lord, to overcome the obstacles of the way this age thinks that I might see things as You would have me see them, knowing that all things are in Your hands. Guide me, O Lord, to walk in Your ways now and always. Amen.

Devotion for Sunday, August 19, 2018

“Remember what my span of life is; for what vanity You have created all the sons of men! What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?” (Psalm 89:47-48)


How much time do you have on this earth? The young will think it is a long time. The old know that it is like vapor, here for a moment and then gone. We were created for eternity. Your life is in the Lord and if not, then here today and gone tomorrow. “Come,” says the Lord, “let us reason together.” Do not shame yourself by thinking that it is in your hands, but come to the Lord and live forever.

Lord, You have planted in us the desire for eternity. You have given the sure promise of eternity. Guide me in the way I need to go that I would walk now and forever in the way of the eternal ones that will be with You forever. Do not let me linger, but grow in me the hope of glory that I would now and always live into the life You hold before me knowing that only in You is there hope.

Lord Jesus, You are the strait gate and only in and through You is there hope for every day. Guide me, O Lord, in the way You would have me go that I would now and forever live into the promise You give through Your salvation. Help me through every obstacle that I would abide in You and You in me now and forever. Keep me close to You that I may abide in Your goodness and mercy. Amen.