Search This Blog

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

He Suffers for All

"It is our comfort (and we are therefore exhorted to take comfort in this) that this High Priest has prayed for you and me and for us all, for his crucifiers. For just as he suffers for us all, so he also prays for us all. Thus his crucifiers are not only the Jews and Gentiles, who at that time laid hands on him and nailed him to the cross, but also we ourselves and the whole world. For it was our sins which crucified him, wounded, and crowned him with thorns. Those crucifiers were simply our sins' servants and lackeys. Had your sins and mine not nailed Christ to the cross, those crucifiers would have had to let him alone. Christ is there the true Priest and Lamb of God paying for the sins and death of the whole world with his offering... For that reason his prayer covers the entire world. When Christ prays for those who crucify him, he is praying for all men, also for us who by our sins were the cause of his cross and death; and he does not pray for our condemnation but for our salvation."

--Martin Luther, "Fourth Holy Week Sermon," 2 April 1534. Luther's House Postils, vol. 1, 424-425.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Most Important Part of the Passion -- Luther

Jesus before Caiaphas

"Dear friends, you have heard how all of these things happened for our sake. It was for us that our dear Lord Jesus Christ took upon himself this burden of indescribable distress of soul and mind, not for his own sake, but rather for our sake. No one forced him to do that, neither an angel nor a devil, for he said, I could have summoned twelve legions of angels. But he was determined that by his suffering he would save us, just as it was for our benefit that he did everything, including the conquest of hell and death. "

"And that is the most important part of the passion of Christ, which was a spiritual suffering far greater than any kind of physical and temporaal suffering which result in the dying of our five senses. But spiritual suffering, which is experienced by a person's heart and soul, that is a torture immeasurably greater than physical death. That is why Christ, through his agony in the Garden, took upon himself the poison and bitter hatred of the devil. At the same time he also took upon himself the full wrath and condemnation of our Lord God and drained that cup to the dregs, so that we would not have to suffer those things, or, even if we might be asked to bear suffering, being in Christ, we would be able to bear that suffering and overcome it. God wants us to seek our comfort and consolation in that fact, and then, if spiritual terrors and despair do attack us, cling to our baptism in that man who for our sake has overcome all such suffering. This we must firmly believe and not harbor any doubts about it."

The second part of the passion... "in the house of Caiaphas false witnesses were brought forward to level charges against him..."

Second Sermon, Holy Week, Martin Luther, 25 March 1534. Sermons of Martin Luther: House Postils, 387-388.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Work of Your Synod 1929

One of the historical professors at Concordia Seminary found this document in some of his research and sent it to me. (Thanks Gerry!) The document shows some striking similarities between the Synod of 1929 and of today; as well as some differences -- some perhaps due to the age and some perhaps due to changing priorities and or piety. In any case, take a look at the images below. Some of the images will be captioned with highlights from the page. Enjoy!

FYI: President Fredrick Pfotenhauer, the last German born president and one of my favorites, was Synodical President in 1929.

The Synod was no doubt "missional" with some 902 church workers in the mission field -- 730 were ordained clergy. Also, educating pastors and teachers was considered missions. It is striking how transparent this report is; its honesty is almost shocking -- no one writes reports like this any longer.

For some perspective here, according to $100 in 1929 is equivalent to $2300 today, or $100 of today's dollars would by $4 of stuff in 1929.


The Work of Your Synod 1929

Summary of Synodical Budget

Synodical Treasury Budget 1929

For me this is one of the most interesting pages. It is of the Synodical Treasury Budget 1929. I haven't extensively studied the structure of 1929, but it seems that this in some ways is akin to the International Center's budget today. Note that of the $625,000 total, about $523,000 or about 84% goes to the Synod's colleges and Seminaries (the largest some to Concordia Seminary St Louis). Also, in 1929 the Synod President was paid $4,000 per year. Of this salary, he paid his own travel expenses and the salary of his secretary.

Home and Negro Missions

Foreign Missions

South American Missions and European Missions

Deaf-Mute and Blind Missions | Immigrant and Seamen's Missions

Indian Missions | Board of Support

Church Extension and Building Funds

Our Deficit 

In 1929, the Synod had a $751,000 deficit. Financial challenges are nothing new for the Missouri Synod. Nonetheless, in 1929, the Synod kept to its goals and borrowed money to support its mission. 

Passion of Christ and Our Suffering

In the House Postils preached in 1534, Martin Luther divides the Passion of Christ into five parts (Monday through Friday). On Monday Luther treated Jesus in Gethesemane. In this section Luther treated the difference between the suffering of the saints and the suffering of Christ. In light of the recent events, Haiti, Chile, etc., it is good to recognize that as great as the suffering is in this world, it is not the same as the suffering of Christ.

Luther writes:

"That is why we must be very careful to distinguish well between the Lord's suffering and that of others. For the devil and his cohorts suffer too; so also the pious and godly. The beloved saints, prophets, apostles, and martyrs suffered in their time, as do pious Christians in our day wherever they have been driven by persecution. The devil -- along with his angels, apostles, disciples, and pupils -- endures the fire of hell, but without becoming better thereby or holier. The beloved saints have suffered, and to some extend they still endure persecution and martyrdom at the hands of the devil and also the hostile world. But none of this suffering has the ultimate meaning and purpose of our Lord Christ's passion... We, however, preach the Lord's suffering in the way Holy Scripture does, emphasizing every aspect of Christ's suffering in the way the Scriptures do. That means that we show that Christ's suffering pertaining to his obedience under the will of his heavenly Father, as St. Paul says (Phil. 2:8), 'He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.' He exalted and praised God by his suffering, as other saints praise and thank God through theirs. However, beyond this there was specific purpose for which Christ suffered, a purpose which distinguishes it from all suffering of the saints, namely, that through his suffering the whole world was to be redeemed, heaven opened, hell closed up, and eternal life won. This underlying significance cannot be ascribed to any other suffering than to Christ's alone. Christ suffered to the praise and glory of God, rendering a well-pleasing service, but it was for you and me, all of us, for the sake of our redemption and salvation that he suffered, in order to free us of our redemption and salvation that he suffered in order to free us from the power of sin and death, and open heaven for us."

-- Martin Luther, House Postils, 1534. Sermons of Martin Luther, Volume 1, 374-375.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hosanna -- Save Us Now

Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem was no mere ticker tape parade. The crowd shouted out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (John 12:13) The word “Hosanna” is very important. It comes from Psalm 118:25, “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!” Many of the people in the crowd would have had Psalm 118 in mind when they shouted, “Hosanna.” “Hosanna” means “Save us now.” The crowd was crying out for Jesus to save them. This word goes very well with the name “Jesus” which means, “Yahweh, or the Lord, saves.” The crowd was calling on Jesus to live up to his name and save them. This word Hosanna was also a church or religious word. People did not say “save” in every day, common speech. “Hosanna” was not simply a greeting you would give the passing celebrity, it was a word reserved for calling on the Lord. On Palm Sunday, the people in the crowd thought that Jesus was either an emissary from God or that he was the Messiah himself. The people believed and said that he came in the Name of the Lord. When the people cried out, “Hosanna – save us now,” it is sort of like crying out, “Lord have mercy.” The people wanted to be saved from many things. They had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, perhaps, some hoped Jesus would raise their loved ones as he had Lazarus. Some cried out, “Hosanna” so that Jesus would heal them. Others cried, “Hosanna” for the deliverance that the promised Messiah would bring. Today we cry out, "Hosanna," Lord save us now.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Final Countdown

In keeping with the glam band, pajama-band theme of this past week, I thought we should recall the band "Europe" and conclude the week with the anthem, "The Final Countdown." As we countdown, you can listen below and read about it here in Wikipedia

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Another song in the theme of "waiting" ... "Patience" ... apparently Carrie Underwood has a version of this song now...

V, Fascism, Sinclair Lewis and Deconstruction

Recap of the Pilot from Hulu

It seems that many of the television programs I watched as a child are being re-made. As might be expected, the special effects are more advanced than programs from the 1980s -- sometimes these special effects detract and other times they add to the program. The re-made programs oftentimes are more edgy, and are updated to reflect today's societal concerns. For instance, Caprica, a prequel to Battlestar Galactica notes the intersection of a "virtual" worlds where immoral acts have no consequence and of the "real" world where they do. Ezra Pound reportedly said, "The artist is the antenna of the race." Art and literature then project back what the artist absorbed from the culture. This interaction forms a feedback loop or hermeneutical circle between the artist and culture, between the text and the reader.  For me, much of the entertainment value of a movie, television program, play, or book is in discovering what is behind the story -- the philosophy or cultural presuppositions of the story. Perhaps, I am a deconstructionist at heart.

In any case, one evening I hooked my laptop to my television, went to Hulu and watched the ABC remake of V. The recap of the pilot is given above from Hulu. For the sake of contrast, I also embedded a YouTube clip of the original series from the 1980s. The remake is more edgy than the 1980s version. The wardrobe updated for the 21st century; the special effects better, etc. But the core of the story is still based on Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here, first published in 1935.

 Sinclair Lewis' book was not about invading space aliens, but about the rise of a fascist regime within the United States. A populist movement elects a President who promises each citizen $5,000 a year from the government. He slowly dismantles democracy and becomes a dictator with concentration camps. Eventually, he obtains the power to alter the Constitution. However, most citizens support him, hence the title, "It Can't Happen Here." (Will refrain from any political commentary on the current state of America.) The model for Lewis' book is Nazis Germany. Whether fascists or aliens, the rightful place of God is taken over. Ironically in "V," the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church endorse the "vistors" while a skeptical priest in New York City has a crisis of faith because he does not agree with his church that these "visitors" are from God. No doubt there are parallels here to some of what happened in Nazis Germany.

The television series "V" is modeled after Sinclair Lewis' book. In "V", the "fascist" are aliens who want to take over the world. The television show has a youth corp, originally red uniforms, but grey uniforms in the ABC remake, instead of Nazis brown shirts. In "V", most of the world's citizens are pleased with the "Visitors," especially since the "Visitors" have provided cures for cancer and other diseases as well as technological advances. Hence, "It Can't Happen Here."Makes one wonder what else can't happen here.

Sinclair Lewis also wrote one of my favorite novels Elmer Gantry, which critics the American Evangelical movement. After reading Elmer Gantry written in 1926, one realizes the truism, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." When I taught "Church and Society" at Concordia University Ann Arbor, I always had the students watch the film Elmer Gantry which has a fabulous performance by Burt Lancaster. Elmer Gantry is worthy of a post of its own another time. In any case, Sinclair Lewis had more affect on American 20th century literature and culture than many realize.

So check out "V." Better yet, check out Sinclair Lewis' "It Can't Happen Here." Deconstructionists Unite!

YouTube Clip of the Original "V" from the 1980s.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Recent events have made me recall a song from my youth... "Wait" by White Lion. Currently, the only relevant word is "Wait." The song was released as a single in 1987 and went Platinum. It is from the album Pride. Listen below... Perhaps the next song from our youth to recall is Patience.

From Wikipedia:

"'Wait' is a song recorded by White Lion and written by White Lion vocalist Mike Tramp and guitarist Vito Bratta. It was the lead single from their second album, Pride. It is well known for its guitar solo at the 2:15 mark.
The single was released on June 1, 1987, but did not chart until February 1988, around the time the band filmed theirLive in New York concert for MTV. In May 1988, 'Wait' finally cracked the top 10 in the US, peaking at #8. The song also charted at #48 in Canada and #88 in the UK."

It's Time to Rock the Lutheran World -- Harrison

Check out what Matthew Harrison wrote about the future of seminary education. Check back for an example of how this can happen later.


It's Time to Rock the Lutheran World

In the mid-1990s, I met a friendly African man working in the print shop at St. Louis Seminary. I was immediately drawn to his winsome personality. I was on campus doing graduate coursework for a summer session. He was in St. Louis – on leave from teaching at the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, in Matongo, Western Kenya. A controversy over the bible’s teaching on the sinner's justification before God had rocked the church. Scandinavian missionaries in Kenya suggested Robert Preus be invited to speak on the topic. He did so. It was Dr. Preus who suggested that Walter study in St. Louis.

Next I heard of Walter Obare, he’d been elected Bishop of his Kenyan church body sometime early in the new millennium. This rather large and fast growing church had no official ties with the LCMS. In
2003, Walter wrote to me as executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care, and soon I was able to visit Kenya. We began an investment in the Kenyan church and its programs of mercy for the needy. This has borne fruit beyond anything we could have hoped for or imagined.

Soon Walter had convinced his church to seek fellowship with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. That was accomplished in 2005. The relationships with the Missouri Synod have continued to grow and blossom. A few years ago, as the Church of Sweden was devolving like so many liberal Lutherans, into the acceptance and promotion of homosexuality. A group of faithful Lutherans within that church asked Walter to come to ordain for them a bishop who could in turn ordain pastors who were faithful to the word of God. This was necessary because the Swedish church has for years harassed and denied ordination to young men faithful to God’s Word. Walter did so. But he soon was accused of “meddling” in the affairs of another church body. He was called on the carpet by the Lutheran World Federation leadership (the ELCA Bishop is also head of the LWF!), and even removed from the LWF theological commission.

Yet Walter did not, has not, looked back. In fact, I just received news that Walter traveled to Europe again last week. In Bavaria he received the Walther Kuenneth Prize for faithful Lutheran Confession, given by the remnant of faithful Lutherans in the Bavarian church (Sammlung um Bibel und Bekenntnis). He also traveled to Finland where he assisted in ordaining a Finnish Bishop for a group of faithful Lutherans there facing the same persecution and harassment (

The news of a black African bishop, coming to Scandinavia (the Kenyan church was the mission plant of the Swedish church and other Scandinavian mission societies), as a missionary seeking to re-introduce the true faith to the motherland, has caught the attention of not only the Lutheran World, but also the secular press.

All this happened because ONE student from Africa was given the chance to study at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

It’s time to rock the Lutheran world. It is time for us to shift 4 million dollars (as a start) from the total 80 or so million dollar budget of the national LCMS, to both seminaries. (In fact, with a bit more money our Canadian sister church and its seminaries could also help us rock the Lutheran world!). This will enable 100 international students per year on each of the two LCMS campuses (at about $20,000 a student). One of our seminary presidents was speaking with an ELCA seminary president recently, who complained, “The ELCA provides only 15% of our funding.” Imagine the shame in our man having to admit that the LCMS provides next to nothing for our seminaries! This is an immediate way to increase the number of students at our schools, increase the numbers of faithful Lutheran missionaries and theologians around the world, and to introduce the deaconess ministry as the option for the service of women in confessional Lutheran Churches around the world. Think of the benefits of our American students getting to know the next Walter Obare? Think of the lifelong missionary interest and knowledge of the world that will be shared! We have so much to learn from friends around the world! Think of a hundred Obares A YEAR going home to Asia, to Russia, to Eastern Europe, to India, to Indonesia, to Madagascar, to central and South America! We have a theological treasure to share with the world. As the ELCA has fallen off the cliff on the issue of sexuality and the authority of the bible (along with the host of northern and liberal Lutherans), the Lutheran world has never been more open to contact with the LCMS. These scholarships will be provided to top students from our partner churches, and from many other churches well beyond our traditional realm of cooperation.

Our seminaries know how to deal with international students. We have the room on the campuses. The people of the Synod want the seminaries supported. We could simply put up HALF the amount ($2,000,000) and ask the good people of the Synod to match it. Given the opportunity, I’d help raise this money myself. Every one wins. In fact, once the Synod begins actually supporting the seminaries (one of the main purposes of the Synod’s existence – long since forgotten; Constitution, Article III Objectives: “Recruit and train pastors… and other professional church workers”; “to support synodical …seminaries”), the money will roll in and the program will be expanded even more. I’ve worked long enough in the Synod’s bureaucracy to know what can and can’t be done. This not only CAN be done, it must be done. It only takes the will to do so. This will be money FOR CHRIST’S MISSION IN THE WORLD well spent! What I’m suggesting is a veritable “drop
in the bucket” compared to the dollars spent by national Synod. But it will be a drop with Tsunami like waves of mercy and grace for the world!

The simplest ideas are the most profound. It’s time to rock the Lutheran World. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine…” Matthew 5:14-16

Matt Harrison
Lent 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Coke Zero Can Exploded in Refrigerator

I opened the refrigerator and out fell this exploded Coke Zero can. What a mess! Makes you wonder about quality Control. I've never had that happen before. Wonder what the Coke Customer service line will say.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cycling the Chubb Trail

Late this afternoon, I went riding on the Chubb Trail. Earlier this week I hiked part of the trail with my father and my son. Today I decided to ride the Chubb Trail then took the Flint Quarry Trail (an old American Indian flint mining pits).

This photo is a view near the glade restoration area on a high bluff above the Meramac River.

The trail is one of the most physically demanding and technical that I have ridden (fitness level and riding skill).

Example of the trail, notice the large stones along the way.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Controlled Burn Powder Valley

Today at lunch I went to Powder Valley for a walk. The longer trail was closed because the Fenton Fire Department was doing a controlled burn of the underbrush, leaves, and dried grass. In the photo below, you can see the fire truck and smoke.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chubb Trail

Entrance to Chubb Trail

This past weekend, I went to the Chubb Trail with my son, Kit, and my father. Instead of biking the trail, we hiked it. I can't wait to go cycling on the trail. Chubb Trail looks to be more challenging than Castlewood; the first part of the trail appeared to have some technical areas that would be more difficult on the bike. Once past the beginning part the trail seems straightforward. The trail is described here:

"The Chubb is the most challenging trail in the St. Louis area. It is a seven-mile dirt and gravel trail between West Tyson County Park and Lone Elk Park (14 miles round-trip). It has very challenging hills and some very fast stretches. Terrain is rocky and usually slippery. There are some truly nasty drop-offs. After those tough climbs you are often rewarded with great views."

Kit sitting on a rock
Map of Chubb Trail (from GORC)

Interesting tree on trail

Example of the Trail

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lutheran Hymn Revival: Pastor Doris Jean Louis Murdered in Haiti

Pastor Doris Louis with Rev. Glenn Merritt
From Our Trip at the beginning of February 2010

Check out this blog post by Amberg (thanks Jim Voelz for the heads up) and hymn dedicated to Pastor Doris Jean Louis who was murdered in Haiti:

Lutheran Hymn Revival: Pastor Doris Jean Louis Murdered in Haiti

Blogger Amberg dedicates the following hymn "to the Lutherans in Haiti mourning his [Doris Jean Louis] death in Haiti." 

The death of those who knew their Lord
Who trusted in His holy Word
Is precious in the sight of God,
Who bought their souls with His own blood.

What crime, disease and wickedness
Abounds on earth, in all of us!
How weak we are - how poor and small!
Yet Christ our Savior loves us all.

And where and when it pleases Him
The Spirit works true faith in them
Who hear their Shepherd call and come
To pick them up and take them home.

Our God from all eternity
By grace alone chose us to be
His children and His holy heirs,
With whom He every blessing shares.

And though death cruelly takes our life,
Our fame, our goods, our child and wife,
What have we lost? Death is our gain,
All we have lost is sin and pain.

For once upon a cross of wood
All sin was placed upon our God,
Who was made flesh our flesh to save
And gives us vict’ry o’er the grave.

You loved ones of this Christian saint,
Pour out your hearts; sing your complaint,
Your Father hears your painful prayers
And knows your pain and counts your tears.

Lift up your hearts, weighed down by fear,
Your Lord and Brother still is near
To take your burden from your soul
And take your life in His control.

And soon Christ will the night destroy
And usher in the day of joy,
When we will see the saints in light,
And stand in robes of perfect white.

And we will gather round His throne
And with one voice praise God alone:
To Father, Son, and Spirit be
Praise now and eternally!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Kit's Birthday and Boy Scouts 100th Anniversary Knife

Grandpa Collver and Kit

My parents came to Saint Louis from Knoxville for the weekend to celebrate both my wife's and Kit's birthday. Both of their birthdays are toward the end of March. My wife received a dishwasher, which my father installed for her. She has been without a dishwasher for about one year; she is very happy to have a dishwasher again. Kit among other things received a Boy Scouts of America knife. The knife commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. It is a pretty cool knife. (Oh, I got one too.)

Blade of the 100th Anniversary Knife

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pastor Doris Jean Louis Murdered in Haiti

The Psalmist wrote, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  Psalm 116:15

This morning we learned of the murder of Pastor Doris Jean Louis, the father of Lutheranism in Haiti, truly one of God’s saints. Apparently as he was entering his residence last night he was attacked by some men and brutally murdered.

Here is a short video of him describing how he became the first Lutheran pastor in Haiti.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Haiti Projection Zion Lutheran and Lutheran Schools Week

Zion Lutheran Church, Litchfield, IL

Yesterday, Matt Harrison and I went to Zion Lutheran Church in Litchfield, IL. I had never been in Litchfield, except maybe for some fast food or a bathroom break on a trip going North. A good friend of mine from seminary and grad-school, Pastor Jonthan Bontke, originally from Dallas, TX, is pastor there. In fact, he has been pastor there ever since we left grad-school, for about 11 years. After the earthquake in Haiti, Pastor Bontke, the staff, and children at Zion wanted to do something to help those in need. The school teachers and children decided to support LCMS World Relief and Human Care's efforts to help people who are in need in Haiti. We were invited out to share some experiences from Haiti and to meet with the children. It is also nice that it is Lutheran Schools Week.

Video of Rev. Harrison Teaching Children to say "Splachna," "Compassion" in Greek

After the presentation and before we left, the staff showed us the connection point for Zion's relief efforts to Haiti.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Issues, Etc. Interview A Little Book on Joy

Todd Wilken Interviews Matthew Harrison

Today, we were in Illinois for Lutheran Schools Week (check back for that post). On our way back to Saint Louis, we stopped in Collinsville to see the Issues, Etc. guys and so Matt Harrison could do an interview on A Little Book on Joy. It was a fine spring day and a fine interview. Listen to it below.

Jeff Schwartz and Craig Feichtinger
Working Hard to Produce the Program


Well, I came home from a day trip to Illinois and while I was gone my wife had been cleaning the house and the bedroom, etc. In a bag of clothes to be donated, I found my old college sweat shirt. Back in 1991-92, I was a student at Concordia College, Ann Arbor (now Concordia University Ann Arbor) and lived in Barnabas dorm. Most of us who lived in Barnabas were pre-seminary students who were studying Greek and Hebrew. So we made a sweat shirt, "Sons of Encouragement" -- Barnabas. The Greek, "We are brothers," is declined improperly... my fault... old friends...

Monday, March 8, 2010

When ‘Wanting to Do the Right Thing’ Might Get You in Trouble

The original Story appeared in the Lutheran Witness Online Edition, March 2010.

Haiti, Volunteerism, and a Desire to Help

Commentary by Albert B. Collver III and Daniel Mattson

The earthquake in Haiti has shaken the entire world and refocused attention on the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world. People from around the globe have poured out help to this island nation. In particular, the United States has responded to the needs of her neighbor in the Caribbean. The American people have sent aid to Haiti through the U.S. military and a variety of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the American Red Cross and a multitude of church groups, including The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. In fact, so many NGOs operate in Haiti (about 3,000 according to some estimates), that some have called Haiti a Republic of NGOs. In a country filled with such need and limited capacity, these NGOs provide valuable assistance to people in need. The need in Haiti will continue for many years, perhaps even decades.

There is another side to providing aid and assistance to people in need. As non-governmental organizations and church groups rushed into Haiti, it became clear that the desire to help and do good to one’s neighbor is not the same as actually providing the help that is needed. The first rule of relief work is to not become part of the problem, that is, to not cause more problems than the people in need already have, nor to put yourself in a situation where you need to be rescued yourself.

In some cases, well-intentioned medical professionals arrived in Haiti without being prepared for the devastation and the suffering they would see. In other cases, well-intentioned organizations and church groups (and sometimes reporters) arrived in the Dominican Republic with no means to enter Haiti and without a place to stay once there. In this regard, The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod was blessed to have the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Haiti as a partner. In fact, other groups and organizations requested to “embed” with our teams as they entered Haiti.

Perhaps the most prominent example of a well-intentioned but ultimately unhelpful group was that of the 10 Baptist missionaries from America arrested for child trafficking. The details of this case have been reported extensively. No doubt some details will never be known. Some of the reported details are confusing, and others approach the bizarre, such as the group’s former attorney being wanted for crimes in Latin America and indicted in the United States on immigrant smuggling.

The undisputed fact is that 10 Americans affiliated with a Baptist congregation in Idaho were arrested when they attempted to take 33 Haitian children across the border into the Dominican Republic. The group of American Baptists saw a need, desired to help children in Haiti, but did so without having the appropriate government paperwork and without passports for the children. It appears that some of these Baptist missionaries are unfortunate victims of their group leaders’ lack of attention to the Haitian legal requirements for child adoption. Also, it would not be surprising if these well-meaning people had received bad or ill-informed advice from desperate earthquake survivors in Haiti.

At the heart of this particular example is the Lutheran two-kingdom doctrine. The right-hand kingdom is the realm of the Church where the Church lives in the Gospel. The left-hand kingdom is the realm of government and civil law. Both realms belong to the Lord, but the Church, while enlivened by Gospel, in this world is subjected to the government and civil law. In this world, the Church abides by the laws of the land she lives in, or of the land she is operating in, unless that law violates the Lord’s Law. (By the grace of God, the Church is in a position to distinguish between what God wills and what man wishes. Ignoring the Lord’s Law is not an option, as Peter and the apostles point out in Acts 5:29.)

In the case of child adoption, this means the Church must abide by the legitimate laws of the land or not be involved in the adoption of children. Even for conscience’ sake, or when the Church must obey the Law of God rather than the law of man, the Church must still be prepared to face the consequences of human law and must think carefully about the way in which she fulfills its responsibilities.

Because the Church has been enlivened by the Gospel, she must show Christ’s mercy to people in need. Christians forgiven by Christ not only share and proclaim the Gospel with others, but also share Christ’s love with people in need through acts of mercy. Nevertheless, when the people of God show mercy to people in need, they must abide by the laws of the land they are operating in. The Church must show mercy in a wise and responsible way, being aware of cultural and legal sensitivities. As a servant, the Church goes to people in need, most especially to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and says to them, “We want to help you. Tell us how we can best help you in your need.” In the process of helping those in need, opportunities will arise not only to show the love we have for others because of Christ but also to share His comforting Word.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus sent His disciples out for the first time with the instructions, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16 ESV). Especially in times when the need is overwhelming and people are desperate, the people of God must be truly wise as they try to help. Superficial expressions of care and concern are not enough. We must make every effort to understand the needs of our neighbors in need in Haiti and respond responsibly with glad and open hearts for Jesus’ sake.

When Civil Law and God’s Law Collide

Commentary by Albert B Collver III

In many ways, the experience of the Baptist missionaries in Haiti seems to offer a classic example of Christians caught between a desire to do good as an expression of their faith and the rules of temporal society.

As Saint Paul writes in Romans 13, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (ESV).

So even when the civil laws of a land are imperfect, the Church is obligated to abide by those laws unless the law imposed by the state violates the Law of God in such a way that a Christian cannot obey it in good conscience.

Even if a civil law could be better or is even unjust, the Christian is obligated to obey it unless it causes him to sin, then the Christian must obey the Law of God rather than man. Many times whether a law is just or is unjust is a matter we could discus with “learned, reasonable people or among ourselves” (Smalcald Articles III).

When a Christian for the sake of conscience obeys the Lord rather than civil law, there are consequences in this world that he or she will face. In the case of child adoption, this means the Church must abide by the laws of the land or not be involved in the adoption of children. If the Church disregards the civil laws about adoption, the state will not allow the church to sponsor adoptions for very long.

In the United States, where some states have passed laws allowing the adoption of children by homosexuals, for the sake of conscience, the Roman Catholic Church no longer sponsors adoptions in those jurisdictions. While corruption might be rampant in Haiti, and while we might even consider some Haitian laws unjust, it does not seem that the adoption laws in Haiti are a case in which it is better to obey God rather than man. In these very complex situations, the Church must consider how to best operate so as to help and do no harm either to those in need, themselves, or other agencies trying to assist.

How to Help

by Albert B. Collver III and Daniel Mattson
LCMS congregations and members who want to be involved in relief efforts in Haiti can contact Dr. Al Collver in LCMS World Relief and Human Care. His phone number is 800-248-1930, ext. 1637. His email address is

LCMS World Mission and LCMS World Relief have combined their efforts into one operation that works with the Lutheran church in Haiti and people known to that church body as well as with Lutheran World Relief (Baltimore), the cooperative Lutheran agency that specializes in major disaster relief and development.

Contributions to LCMS World Relief are tax deductible, and gifts to support work in Haiti are tracked carefully. To help immediately, go to to see current efforts and a button to “Donate Now” at the top of the page.

To volunteer for LCMS World Relief and Human Care’s Mercy Medical Teams, please register on the World Relief and Human Care’s volunteer database at and also send an email to with a copy to and advising of your availability for service, what your specialty is, and any previous experience in overseas situations. Please include your contact telephone and experience in your email notification for availability.

For information about short-term volunteer service in LCMS partner churches and mission fields, contact Jennifer Mustard at Her phone number is 800-433-3954, ext. 1311.
Information about current service opportunities can be found on the web at

About the Authors:
Rev. Albert B. Collver, Ph.D. (, is executive pastoral assistant for LCMS World Relief and Human Care.

Rev. Daniel Mattson, Ph.D., is associate executive director for LCMS World Mission.

Albert B. Collver III and Daniel Mattson

Return to Top

Biking Creve Coeur Lake to Katy Trail to Bangert Island

SportyPal Track from Creve Coeur Lake to St Charles
(For Larger Size Click Image)

On Sunday afternoon, I went for a bike ride beginning at Creve Coeur Lake, going across the Katy Trail Connector and the Page Extension Bridge, then taking the Katy Trail towards Saint Charles, MO. Along the way, I took a detour to Bangert Memorial Wildlife Area. Then I continued to the beginning of the Katy Trail in Saint Charles, MO. In total, I rode about 20 miles roundtrip. The SportyPal track is missing the first 4 or so miles of my ride as my Windows Mobile 6.5 phone crashed. I cannot wait to get rid of WM 6.5 and move to the iPhone or Nexus One once they are available on Verizon's network. Below a few maps and photos from each segment of the trip will be presented.

Creve Coeur Lake

Creve Coeur Lake is the largest park in the St. Louis County Park System, at a little over 2000 acres in size. The park has picnicking, athletic fields, a golf course, and trails. Creve Couer Lake also has a connector to the Katy Trail that takes you across the Page Extension Bridge. There is fishing and non-gasoline powered boating in Creve Couer Lake. According to the legend, the lake was created by the tears of an Indian girl whose lover had died. Her "tears" are the Dripping Springs Waterfall. Visit the official website here.

Creve Coeur Lake Map

Creve Coeur Lake

Dripping Springs Waterfall

Sunset Mallard Lake

Katy Trail State Park

The Katy Trail State Park is one of the longest rail to trail projects in the United States at 225 miles long. The trail is built on the former right of way for the Kansas and Texas Railroads along the Missouri River. The trail begins at Saint Charles and ends at Clinton. Generally speaking the trail is flat and has its lowest elevation near Saint Charles and its highest near Clinton, but the climb is gradual about 1 foot or so every mile going West. The trail is a lot of fun.

Map of the Katy Trail

Katy Trail Entrance from Connector Trail
Page Extension Bridge in the Background

Example of the Katy Trails Pug Limestone Trail

Bangert Wildlife Area

Along the Katy Trail just before entering Saint Charles is the Louis H. Bangert Memorial Wildlife Area. This wildlife area is an island in the Missouri River. Bangert Island is a fun place to ride with some interesting views. On this ride, a skunk came out and walked right past me. I think this is one of the few times I have seen a skunk in the daylight. See below for some photos and maps of Bangert Island.

From the website:

"Guests may enter the 160-acre park from the Katy Trail entrance along Old South River Road in St. Charles and then cross a slough that connects Bangert Island to the mainland.  While using the park's 2.6 miles of natural surface trail for hiking or mountain biking, guests may encounter white-tailed deer, turkey, raccoons, opossums, and a variety of songbirds.  A typical wooded Missouri River island, the land features cottonwood, sycamore, box elder, silver maple, and black willow trees.  In addition to bird-watching, hiking, bicycling, and photography, park guests may also fish along the banks of the Missouri River that flows below the park."

Bangert Island Map

Bangert Island Entrance Off of the Katy Trail

Stream on Bangert Island

Missouri River from Bangert Island

Example of the Trail on Bangert Island

Skunk (Black Thing Near Photo Center) on Bangert Island

A Video from YouTube of Cycling on Bangert Island

Saint Charles

Part of the Katy Trail State Park
Boat House and Lewis and Clark Exhibit

Trailhead Brewery in Saint Charles