Nov 13

Questions Answered: What has happened that more people do not attend church on Thanksgiving Day?

From the District President
President Bertsch! What’s this about?

Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Over the years as a pastor, I have found that many times people have questions that they are bashful to ask or think that they are the only one with that question or concern. Of course, you are not all alone; so I have taken that opportunity to teach with newsletter articles. Hopefully, you find these enlightening for yourself, also.

This is a continuation of questions that are brought to my attention and I am sure others have the same questions.

This Month’s Question: 

What has happened that more people do not attend church on Thanksgiving Day?

When I was growing up one of the most important rules in our house was the “thank you” rule.

I would venture to guess that your families and mine have this in common. Gratitude is something we learn as we grow, and expressing gratitude is just as important as feeling it.

Over the years of ministry, on the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving, I tell the congregations that they would want to get to church early on Thanksgiving day so that they will have “their place” or “a place” to sit due to everyone coming to church to give thanks to God. For, how else would you celebrate the day?

For, in order to say “thank you,” you need to be thanking someone for something. You don’t just sit around alone in your room saying “thank you” to nothing and no one in particular. Or do you?

For most Americans, Thanksgiving is a day set aside for us to give thanks to God for our many blessings. But many secularists and atheists have a problem with this.

You see, as many secular and atheist groups are aggressively arguing for the elimination of religion from the public square, they are taking away the very meaning of days like Thanksgiving.

They are fine with the idea of a day of giving thanks. They just don’t want us to actually thank anyone—especially not God. Does this sound confusing? Good. It should!

Suppressing the religious nature of holidays, and leaving only meaningless days off work, is a sure way to beat down natural human expression. Religion is part of what gives our country a vibrant, thriving culture.

Years ago, Becket Fund founder Seamus Hasson wrote a brilliant piece about Thanksgiving and why religious holidays are an appropriate and positive piece of American culture. I found the article interesting and want to share it with you.

 

Forgetting the holy; The Feast of the Intransitive Verb

Published Thursday, November 25, 1999, in The Washington Times

By Kevin “Seamus” Hasson

 

“Every fourth Thursday in November work and school are canceled so that families can gather together for the day and thank – well, we’ll get to just who it is they may be thanking in a minute. They also enjoy good food, good company, and good football. The holiday is currently called Thanksgiving, although there is reason to think that may have to change.

 

Just about every other religious holiday has been stripped of its original meaning and transformed into a more secular version of its former self. Why should Thanksgiving be any different? In Pittsburgh, Christmas and Hanukkah morphed into “Sparkle Season” and then disintegrated further into “Downtown Pittsburgh Sparkles.” Public school systems across the country are renaming the Easter Bunny the “Special Bunny.” Even Halloween is being transformed out of concern for its rampant religiosity. In many places, it is now the “Fall Festival Celebration.” Surely Thanksgiving, a state-sanctioned holiday that purports to give the nation a day to thank God, cannot withstand the small, furious army of radical secularists determined to take the “holy” out of our holidays. A day set aside to thank God can hardly be appropriate when the celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah and even Halloween has become taboo. Something will have to be done.

 

So I have a modest proposal: Let’s practice truth-in-labeling and call the November holiday that was formerly Thanksgiving, “The Feast of the Intransitive Verb.” Intransitive verbs, as we all remember from those unpleasant days of diagramming sentences in grammar school, are verbs that do not require an object. Verbs in sentences like “The horse ran” and “The wind blows” are intransitive because the horse doesn’t have to run anything or the wind blow anything. They can simply run and blow without any object at all. Well, what about the verb “to thank”? It’s supposed to have an object. You can’t just sit there and “thank.” You have to thank someone. Which is why secularists don’t use that word much in late November anymore. Their creed requires them to celebrate the day by being grateful while thanking no one. And it’s embarrassing to have to choose between being politically and grammatically correct. So secularists prefer the circumlocution “to give thanks.” It doesn’t require an object. You can get away with “giving thanks” without having to be grateful to anyone in particular. It’s much more comfortable that way. Thank whomever you want. Or, don’t thank anyone; it’s entirely up to you. Either way you can still “give thanks.” That’s the beauty of using an intransitive verb; it doesn’t need any object.

 

Of course, once the object of our gratitude is out of the way it’s all downhill. The rest of the day is uncommonly easy to secularize. It has none of the outward trappings of a religious holiday. There are no babes in mangers or symbolic candles to remove from courthouse steps. No one is ringing church bells that require silencing or allowing children to hunt for eggs that must be renamed. The staples of Thanksgiving – turkeys, cornucopias and pumpkin pies – in and of themselves present no real threat to the secularist ascendancy. And the football games are an absolute godsend (so to speak) for secularists. After all, the more distracted we all are the easier it is to forget about the one to whom we owe gratitude.

 

So let’s hear it for the Feast of the Intransitive Verb. It’s a worthy companion to “Sparkle Season” (formerly known as Christmas), “Special Person Day” (previously St. Valentine’s Day), and the “Spring Festival,” which was once Easter. Of course, if all this isn’t agreeable to you, if it all seems just a little bit extreme, or even if you’re just worried that turkey and cranberries may never taste the same again, you could always be a thumb in the eye of the radical secularists. You could insist on thanking God, and not settle for generically “giving thanks.” You could tell your neighbors that you’re grateful to God for all He’s done for you. You could even go so far as to tell your children to do the same – to make sure that amidst all the construction paper turkeys they fashion in school they get the message across that they, too, are thanking God.

 

Defending the public integrity of our holidays is not just petulance. Cultures are built, and eroded, by a succession of public acts both great and small. Everything from the arts we exhibit to the table manners we display makes a difference in building up or wearing down our culture. Public holiday celebrations are particularly potent engines of culture – which is why the secularists have poured so much energy into changing ours. Pittsburgh’s “sparkle season,” for example, has done great damage, not only to Christmas in Pennsylvania, but to our culture nationally. But the fight is far from over. So this month, enlist in the culture war and thank God.”

 

Psalm 118:1-4, 28-29: Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever. Let Israel say: His love endures forever. Let the house of Aaron say: His love endures forever. Let those who fear the LORD say: His love endures forever.

You are my God; and I will give You thanks; You are my God, and I will exalt You. Give thanks to the LORD; for He is good; His love endures forever.

 

Blessings to you from our Lord Jesus and Happy Thanksgiving to our Lord Jesus,

Your servant in Christ,

President Arie D. Bertsch

Aug 02

Questions Answered: “How can I ‘forgive and forget?'”

From the District President

President Bertsch! What’s this about?

Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

     Over the years as a pastor I have found that many times people have questions that they are bashful to ask or think that they are the only one with that question or concern. Of course, you are not all alone; so I have taken that opportunity to teach with newsletter articles. Hopefully you find these enlightening for yourself, also.

 

This is a continuation of questions that are brought to my attention and I am sure others have the same questions.

This Month’s Question:  
“How can I ‘forgive and forget?'”
     Last month’s article was on Confession and Absolution which seems to have stirred another question, “How can I ‘forgive and forget?'”
   Many people have spent a considerable amount of time trying to forget sin so that they can forgive or feel that they have forgiven others. One problem with this is the forgiving ends up in the one trying to forget. Another problem with this is that you think that sin is only forgiven if forgotten. In the Bible there are many cases of sins not forgotten, such as the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3), the sin of King David (2 Samuel 4), and the sin of the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), just to name a few. None of these sins have been forgotten. In fact, they have been written down for us to know what happened in the past to understand the future and guard and warn us from the present and the future.
     God gave you a subconscious mind to protect you. When you remember (say, bad things from the past that have happened to you, and they are happening again) the flags go up warning you of a danger that has happened before so that you may avoid it, if possible now, and in the future. Also, if you believe that forgiveness is based on your ability to forget, you are doomed. Actually, when someone tells you to forget something, you actually do the thing you are not to do. Try it yourself. For the next five minutes-do not think about a white buffalo.
     The more you try to forget it, the more you remember it. The more you remember, it the more angry you become, the more depressed you become, the more ______ whatever you become. The more thinking you do on negative thoughts, the more you forget specific parts of the event. When that happens, not every detail of the whole event is remembered. People will add details that did not happen, or they will eliminate details they did not think were important.
     All of this is important in understanding forgiveness. Let’s say you are in conflict with Jack because Jack reported at a voter’s meeting that you miscalculated the church budget. You keep thinking about the incident in your mind and you refuse to forgive Jack. There are three options available to you: (1) run from Jack, (2) attack Jack, or (3) forgive Jack. If you are unwilling to forgive Jack, you will do one of the other two things: run or attack. Running involves not serving the Lord at all in the church, quit going to voter’s meetings, going to a different time of church service, quit church completely, or go to another church even if the theology is wrong. Attacking involves verbally attacking Jack at the voter’s meeting, or via E-mail, or Face-book. You are getting your army against his army, so the war has begun. Whether you run or attack the problem is unforgiveness.
     Unforgiveness takes place when the sinful act is replayed over and over again in ones mind. You might be encouraged to forget or stop thinking about it. The thought is that by forgetting it you will have forgiven it. But when you tell someone to stop thinking about a sinful act against them they will remember it all that much more and the unforgiveness grows deeper. But remember the white buffalo? Unforgiveness needs to be interrupted.
     Forgiveness is always in the hands of our Lord: “By His wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24).” The thinking that we must forget in order to forgive is not helpful. For the forgiving gets put in the hands of the one trying to forget. But forgiveness comes from the One who sacrificed Himself upon the cross, Jesus Christ. It is through His blood that you are justified and redeemed. By the water of baptism, by the body and blood of Jesus that you eat and drink in the Lord’s Supper, by the Word, and by the words of absolution you are forgiven.
     When God forgives He looks at us differently, He remembers us differently. God no longer sees our sin condemning us to the eternal death of hell. God sees Jesus justifying and redeeming you as resurrected children of God who have life.
     You can run from Jack, you can attack Jack, or you can forgive Jack. By the gracious work of Jesus, you can forgive Jack. The goal is not to forget but to forgive, and we forgive because of how Christ Jesus has forgiven us. You will remember what Jack did, but if you have forgiven him, you will remember it differently. Forgiveness ends the endless emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual turmoil. Forgiveness says that by the work of Christ I will not bring this up again or use this against them.
     You will probably remember your own sins and the sins of others against you, but there is great joy and peace knowing that the Savior has forgiven your sin, and you are able to forgive others. When you struggle with forgiveness, ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you where you cannot forgive perfectly (which you will never be able to do). Therefore, we remember sins of others against us differently; we remember them as being forgiven by the wounds of Jesus Christ.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Arie Bertsch

Jul 03

Questions Answered: What’s the proper way to dispose of unusable Bibles?

President Bertsch! What’s this about?

Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Over the years as a pastor, I have found that many times people have questions that they are bashful to ask or think that they are the only one with that question or concern. Of course, you are not all alone; so I have taken that opportunity to teach with newsletter articles. Hopefully, you find these enlightening for yourself, also.

This is a continuation of questions that are brought to my attention and I am sure others have the same questions.

This Month’s Question:

What’s the proper way to dispose of unusable Bibles?

This is a good question, at least for a pastor to hear asked by one of the flock of believers. It means that a Bible has been used so extensively that its binding is falling apart and the pages are worn, torn, and stained from years of good hard use. However, it is sad how many Bibles are in mint condition, even after having been owned for decades. Bibles should be well-worn, underlined, and written on in the margins with personal notes and thanksgiving to God who sent His One and only Son in the flesh to die for our sins.

A side note from the question: Now I know there are some who feel that a Bible shouldn’t be written in or marked, but it is not the paper and ink that the Word of God is written on that is sacred. If marking and highlighting it makes it more usable and memorable as you study it, then it is a good thing. For the Word of God is living and supposed to be written on our hearts. As the Bible itself says, 1 Peter 1:23 reads, “For you have been born again, not by perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God.” And another few verses from Proverbs 7:1-3: “My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.”

The last paragraph was a side note, although, it does point out what is understood about what the Bible is to you. Is it something that you carry under your arm or set on your end table like a lucky rabbit’s foot, or is it used as a means of grace (a way that God gives, keeps, and strengthens faith in you)?

The “Word of God” is holy and sacred, but the pages, bindings, and ink of the book are the vessels that carry them. Therefore, a Bible could actually be disposed of like any other book, especially, if you have not read it, never written in it, and for some reason just left it out in the rain, then dispose of it. I don’t believe God would be offended, as more Bibles will be printed than you can ever throw away. You could throw away one every day for the rest of your life and not have an affect. Better it is to read and write in it or give it away if you’re not using it.

But I personally would have trouble with this for myself. I still consider the Bible somewhat like my body that is the temple where the Lord lives. The words that come out of the Bible accomplish what they were sent to do (Isaiah 55:10-11). Therefore, it would be more proper for me to dispose of it in a non-defiling or non-irreverent way, such as not throwing it out with the regular household trash and allowing it to be subjected to gross conditions. Some would suggest burning it; but again, for me, that has a negative connotation because usually books were or are burned because of heresy or trying to keep the truth from being known. Some would suggest recycling the Bible with other paper products practicing good stewardship of God’s creation. Some would suggest burying it by wrapping it in a protective covering, placing it in a wooden box, and having an appropriate liturgy of committal. Such as:

Opening Sentences:
We gather today to dispose of these treasured texts, which have been used beyond being useful. We are burying them not because we idolize Scripture but because we honor it as a vehicle of the Spirit and Word of God.

Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Psalm 119:97-105

Prayer of Thanksgiving:
God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through the words of this book you have spoken to us, to our Church, to our children and more. We return these physical bearers of Your wisdom, guidance, and salvation to Your earth. We give thanks for the authors of these Scriptures, for translators and transmitters, for those who preserved and those who printed. But most profoundly we thank You for inspiring them by Your Spirit, for being present in them in moments and trials in life so that by these words we have known You and Your Son Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Hymns: “Jesus Loves Me” “I Love To Tell the Story”

Benediction: The Lord bless us and keep us. The Lord make His face to shine upon us and be gracious to us. The Lord look upon us with favor and grant us His peace. Amen.

As you have probably gathered by now (from my rambling), there is no set and proper way of disposal of a Bible. Whatever method of disposal you may decide to use, make sure that you thumb through it first, checking for notes or family history recorded with in it. A Bible that has been used for many years by you also may have many written notes in it. There is always room on a bookshelf somewhere for that Bible as a reference. You never know when an old Bible with notes will come in handy to remind you of a time in your life or an earlier walk with the Lord. Also, if it is your Bible, by placing it on a shelf, it could provide insight into your life for your children and grandchildren to witness the use that that Bible had by you. We can’t see faith, but we know that by the Word of God faith is given, kept, and strengthened. What a comfort this is for loved ones at the time of your departure from them. You could ask your family if anyone wants your Bible as a keepsake. My daughters have asked for my Bibles. You could even have in your funeral arrangements the request to have it buried with you. What better way to dispose of a Bible than to take it to the ground with you!

Your servant in Christ,

President Arie Bertsch

Jun 08

Questions Answered: What is the importance of Confession and Absolution?

From the District President

President Bertsch! What’s this about?

Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Over the years as a pastor I have found that many times people have questions that they are bashful to ask or think that they are the only one with that question or concern. Of course, you are not all alone; so I have taken that opportunity to teach with newsletter articles. Hopefully you find these enlightening for yourself, also.

This is a continuation of questions that are brought to my attention and I am sure others have the same questions.

This Month’s Question:
What is the importance of Confession and Absolution?

First off, confession is what Christians do. We confess our sins and hear from God that our sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ.

Confession and Absolution are the first things that we do every Sunday in the church service. Actually, it is the most important part of the service for you. After you have confessed your sins you hear that they are forgiven; and where there is the forgiveness of sins there is life and salvation.

From God’s Word we understand and confess our sins because we know that we are born with sin and therefore have a sinful nature. Psalm 51:1-5 states: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

From Romans 5:10 we hear that “we were God’s enemies.” We are enemies because since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin all humans are born with sin. That is why we die, “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). That is why even babies die. And so, we confess, from God’s Word, that we are sinners who deserve to die. For, as we say in the liturgy from 1 John 1:8-10, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”

In the Absolution we hear from 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” He made payment for our sin so that we are no longer in our sin. Therefore, we are able to approach God. Prior to our confession and absolution we are unable to approach God, because in our sin we cannot be in the presence of God. Holiness and sin cannot be together.

Now that we understand that we are sinners and that Christ Jesus has made payment for and removed our sin, how is it that we receive this forgiveness, absolution? In John 20:22-23, we understand that God does this through those who are called to proclaim this to us. “Jesus said, (to the disciples before He ascends into heaven) ”Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, ”Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Many are surprised today to hear that Jesus has given His church on earth the power and authority to forgive and retain sins.

In Matthew 16:19, we read, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” From Luther’s Small Catechism we confess, teach, and believe that, Jesus calls this authority His “KEYS.” Jesus’ keys can be briefly described as “the peculiar power which Christ has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of the penitent sinners, but to retain the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent.”

Jesus has given to each congregation these keys and the congregation uses these keys, working through the pastor, the authority to forgive your sins, to open the door of heaven; and to retain sins, to close the door of heaven to those who refuse to repent.

In other words, Jesus has authorized pastors to announce the forgiveness of sins that He earned through His bloody death on the cross. This is known as the absolution.

The absolution is not simply talking about God’s Gospel of peace, pardon, and forgiveness; it is the announcing of God’s peace, pardon, and forgiveness through His Son, Jesus Christ. Maybe this example will help you understand this better: Let’s say you are sitting in prison for a crime that deserves death. While you are waiting for that death to happen you hear much talk about your pardon, forgiveness, and freedom. This is fine to talk about and to hope for. But until you hear the warden or governor say, “You are pardoned” will you have the joy of the pardon? So it is when you hear from the pastor, as from God Himself, that your sins are forgiven and you will not die but you will live. This is just as valid here on earth as in heaven.

God could have done this pardoning many different ways: Sending angels, putting the message right into your heart, calling all people to Himself, or proclaiming it with a loud voice from heaven. Instead, He uses men. That is why Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38).

After that He said, “Go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:7-8). As they were able to heal and cleanse in Jesus’ name so they were able to forgive sins in Jesus’ name.

God has used the church with the “KEYS” to open or shut heaven for you. The church calls pastors to announce that your sins are forgiven; and they are forgiven.

May this understanding create an urge to hear the forgiveness of your sins every week.

Your servant in Christ,
President Arie Bertsch

Apr 17

Questions Answered: Easter

President Bertsch! What’s this about?

Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Over the years as a pastor, I have found that many times people have questions that they are bashful to ask or think that they are the only one with that question or concern. Of course, you are not all alone; so I have taken that opportunity to teach with newsletter articles. Hopefully, you find these enlightening for yourself, also.
Greetings, in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This is a continuation of questions that are brought to my attention and I am sure others have the same questions.

This Month’s Question:

Doesn’t it seem like Easter has lost its importance in our world?

The simple answer is “Yes”. But why has Easter lost its importance, maybe even for you? As the world around us, most certainly here in the U.S., loses the true God, then something else has to step in and take care of the number one enemy, “death”. That is why many consider death to be natural. With that thinking, we are born, we live, and then we die. That is the end of a cycle of life.

Originally, death was not part of man’s nature; he wasn’t created to die. He has died though and returned to the dust he was made of because of sin. Sin has provoked God’s anger and wrath. The wages of sin is death. We see that it is God Himself who executed the death sentence. So death is not natural; it was never meant to be.

But, if you lose this understanding of death, then there must be ways to avoid it or at least delay it. Advances in medical technology have prolonged life and have, at least temporarily, lessened the effects of aging and disease. Improved diet and regular exercise are thought to delay death. Efforts in education are done to increase public safety, making death less likely on the highways and in the workplace. There is a constant effort to renew and repair the body to maybe even make death obsolete. But again, when these things fail, we may try to set the time and place of death which, of course, only leads to the wrong things of euthanasia and or suicide.

For all of our attempts to naturalize death or prevent it, when we lose the true God with the link of sin to judgment, we then at least want to have our life mean something, to have been worth something. Thus, we see the long obituaries and eulogies at funerals. The only thing going for those who have lost the true God is their eulogy at the funeral. They attempt to justify or give God a resume as to why God should have this person in heaven. Think about this: if death is part of life, why do people work so hard to avoid it or to defend themselves against it?

Christians are able to see death for what it is-God’s own termination of sin. God’s law speaks and carries out a death sentence. Human beings are sinners who must die. The answer to death is not found in trying to find a way around death but to find the forgiveness of sins, for where there is the forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation. Death is robbed of its terror by the forgiveness of sins. Death is swallowed up by the death of Jesus on the cross.

By Jesus’ death, the last enemy is disarmed, for where the forgiveness of sins is, death is deprived of its sting; for there is only life and salvation with sins removed. Easter robs death of the ‘dignity’ it claims for itself. It gives us the sure and certain word that Jesus died for our sins and, therefore, the grave cannot hold us.

Jesus’ resurrection from the grave is more than a confirmation that there is life after death. Death is not part of the inevitable cycle: life to death, and then back to life again. Jesus is raised from the dead free from our sins that He took to the cross; they are buried forever. Put to death for our trespasses and raised again for our justification, Jesus, through His resurrection, declares that our sins are forgiven.

All of us will die. Unbelievers die in their sins. The result of that dying in sin is hell. Believers die to their sins. The result of that is heaven. The forgiveness of sins gives the gift of the resurrection to life everlasting. That is what I am telling you in the absolution in-the-stead and by the command of Jesus.

Easter robs death of the dignity it claims for itself. Easter frees us from all the false ideas and false hopes that the society would want us to have. Easter gives us something far better. Easter gives us a sure and certain word: Jesus died for your sins. God raised Him from the dead. The grave did not and could not hold Him. Neither will it be able to hold those who belong to Jesus. Happy Easter! Alleluia! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Arie D. Bertsch
North Dakota District President

Feb 06

Transitions


Pictured above is Rev. Dr. James Baneck at his installation as  Director of Pastoral Education.  With him, from left to right, are Dr. Dale Meyer, president, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis; LCMS President Matthew Harrison, Dr. James Baneck, CTSFW President Lawrence Rast.


Rev. Arie Bertsch was installed as North Dakota District President. Pictured with him from left to right are Rev.Daryl Rothchild, Rev. Nabil Nour, Rev. Arie Bertsch, Rev. Josh Reimche, Rev. Scott Ramey, and Rev. Carlyle Roth.

Feb 06

Questions Answered – What is Ash Wednesday?

Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Over the years as a pastor, I have found that many times people have questions that they are bashful to ask or think that they are the only one with that question or concern. Of course, you are not all alone, so I have taken that opportunity to teach with newsletter articles. Hopefully, you find these enlightening for yourself also.
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday is a call for us to begin and participate in the Lenten journey of Christ approaching the cross for our sins. This Lenten journey is a time of 40 days. We are reminded of Moses’ presence on Mount Sinai for 40 days, the 40 years that God’s people, the Israelites, were led in the wilderness, Elijah’s 40 day fast on his pilgrimage to Horeb, and of course, our Lord’s fast of 40 days in the wilderness after His Baptism and being tempted by Satan.
If you take the time to count the days from Ash Wednesday to Easter you will notice that there are more than 40 days. The reason is: Sunday’s are not counted because sorrow is not appropriate for the celebration of Easter: Jesus victory over death and the grave, of which we celebrate all year long.
There is the custom of “The Imposition of Ashes.” This is not something I have done at St. Paul’s in Minot (where I am continuing to serve this year along with being District President) and one I had not experienced growing up in my rural congregation in South Dakota until I went to the seminary; therefore I do not do that practice and neither do my elders ask me too. Now, of course, if they did ask me to do the “Imposition of Ashes” that is what I would do. Note to you pastors: you are called to serve even with some traditions that you may not be accustomed to as long as they are not unscriptural or against our confessions. And to you, the members of congregations, please be patient with your pastor if he is not accustomed to the way you do things until he understands them and why you do them. I am sure he would do them if they are not unscriptural. I have come to know that there are many LCMS churches that do use this custom; if your congregation does not, don’t feel that this is only a Roman Catholic thing. This is an ancient practice as a gesture of repentance and a powerful reminder about the meaning of the day. Throughout the Old Testament when someone was in great sorrow they would wear sackcloth and ashes. Ashes can symbolize dust-to-dust and remind worshipers of the need for cleansing, scrubbing, and purifying, before dust-to-dust occurs.
The ashes are commonly taken from the palm branches from the prior Palm Sunday service and mixed with oil to make them stick. They are applied on the forehead in the form of the cross showing that in Christ’s work on the cross the filth of our sins are removed. Also, as I mentioned above, “to remind worshipers of the need for cleansing, scrubbing, and purifying,” it is a task to wash off these ashes mixed with oil. Ashes alone from my wood stove in my garage are hard enough to wash off. Also, if the ashes are applied during an act of kneeling, the very posture of defeat and submission expresses humility before God.
Lent is a harsh season, yet deep and somehow calm: a bittersweet time. It can begin with ashes and the sign of the cross. It ends at the Baptismal font. For all of us, Lent means remembering our Baptism.
Baptism begins a lifelong process of dying and rising again, as Luther teaches in the Small Catechism. We drown the Old Adam in us every day so that the New Adam may come forth. Baptism is not only an event, but a continuing process which does not end until we enter the grave for the final time, and God raises us up to a perfect life with Him through Christ Jesus. During Lent, we turn to God so that the work which He began in us at our Baptism may result in our growth into His image in which we were created.
May we not be content with a marginal faith but seek for ourselves the ending power of sin, death, and the devil in us and have the fullest realization of God’s salvation in Christ. Having been baptized, we thereafter seek the living waters and cannot rest until we drink from the water that flows from the throne of the Lamb, recorded for us in Revelation 22.
 
May this enlighten your season of Lent and enrich your Easter joy again for every day of this life unto eternal life.

Your servant in Christ Jesus,

Rev. Arie D. Bertsch,
District President

Jan 09

President Arie Bertsch? Now, Who is He?

To know me is to know how God was and is involved in my life.  We understand God in our lives in terms of three kingdoms, as Luther’s Small Catechism outlines it: God’s Kingdom of Power, God’s Kingdom of Grace, and God’s Kingdom of Glory.  God’s Kingdom of Power is the world into which we are born and in which we live and serve each other.  God’s Kingdom of Grace is the Christian Church by which we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit through the waters of Holy Baptism and serve God in this kingdom.  God’s Kingdom of Glory is heaven by which we are taken in death to be with the Lord forever.
I was born into this Kingdom of Power on July 11, 1957 in Freeman, South Dakota, the first-born child of five to Martin and Arlene Bertsch.  I was raised on the family homestead farm along with my father’s parents.  The main income for this farm was dairy.    After high school in 1975, I attended a vocational college for building construction and became an architect and estimator of homes for lumberyards; two years in Plentywood, Montana and another two years in Belle Fourche, South Dakota.
I met Doris Rowe of Mitchell, SD and married her on April 29, 1978.  We were blessed with two daughters, Crystal and Virginia.  Both daughters are married and have blessed us with 4 grandchildren.  In 1981 we moved back to the family farm and milked 85-100 cows with my parents for 13 years.  In this kingdom of power I enjoy God’s creation with hunting and fishing.
Since flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven I was brought into the Kingdom of Grace by baptism on August 17, 1957 at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Clayton, SD.  I attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible School there along with 4 years of confirmation on Saturday mornings and was confirmed into the faith on May 16, 1971.  I served in this Kingdom of Grace as a high school Sunday school teacher for 13 years, along with being a trustee, financial assistant, and congregational chairman.  In 1994 we moved to Concordia Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN.  I served as a vicar in New Rockford, ND under the supervision of Rev. Larry Harvala in 1996-1997.  I graduated from the seminary in 1998 and was ordained and installed as a pastor at St. John’s Lutheran, McClusky, ND on June 21, 1998.  I served St. John’s for almost 4 years and have now been at St. Paul’s Lutheran of Minot, ND for over 15 years.  In these years of ministry in this Kingdom of Grace I have served as a Circuit Counselor (Visitor) for 9 years, 2nd Vice President and 1st Vice President for a total of 8 years; and now as your ND District President, finishing former District President Baneck’s term for one year.
I have been blessed in life and desire to serve my and your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to await the day of the resurrection of all flesh.  “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
I learned one very important thing on the day of my ordination and installation at St. John’s Lutheran Church, McClusky that I share with you now: Before the ordination and installation service this elderly gentleman, with his cane in hand, comes up to me and asked, “And who are you?”  I thought he was asking because there were a lot of pastors around with clerical collars on, so I said, “I am your new pastor,” to which he responded, “Oh, you think so.”  It was at that moment I realized that I can claim to be a lot of things, but until I became his pastor I was not.  I knew theologically I was, but not in his eyes.  I did become this dear man’s pastor by caring for him with God’s Word.
The reason that I share this with you is that I can claim to be your district president, and so I am, but I will need to become that for you.  God with me this will happen.
Your fellow servant in Christ,
President Arie D. Bertsch

Dec 01

Thank You!

[I] give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in [my] prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 ESV)

Dear Baptized in Christ,
At that end of this month, I will be moving to St. Louis to begin my new duties at the International Center of the LCMS.  Thank you for putting your trust in me to serve you as the North Dakota District President for the last eight years.  My prayers will continue to be with you and the entire District in the coming months and years.

Also, as this is the month of the celebration of our Savior’s birth, I pray each and every one of you has a most blessed Christmas with the reality that God became flesh, dwelt among us, was our substitute on the cross, and is present with us daily in His holy Word and Sacraments.  This is our Lutheran faith as we are baptized Lutherans for this moment.
According to the Synod and District Bylaws, the first vice-president becomes the new district president in the event that the current district president does not fill out his term. This being said, on January 1, 2017, Rev. Arie Bertsch will be the new North Dakota District president.  This is not an interim position, but Rev. Bertsch will be the full-fledged district president with all its responsibilities.  Bertsch’s installation will take place at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Minot on Monday, January 2, 7:00 pm.  Installing Bertsch and preaching at this event will be our regional LCMS vice-president, Rev. Nabil Nour.  More information will follow.  Rev. Bertsch will continue his call at St. Paul’s, Minot, for the remainder of this district triennium.  The next North Dakota District Convention will be January 21-24 in Dickinson, ND.
According to the Bylaws, the current second vice-president, Rev. Tom Eckstein, becomes the first vice (east region).  The Board appointed Rev. Kirk Peters as second vice-president (west region).
Peace in Christ be with you all.

Apr 26

All in a Day – Calling a Seminary Candidate

This feature gives the District insight into the daily life and ministry of the District President

From about November through March, the District president helps congregations who desire to call a candidate from the seminary.  Here are some of the things that take place:

If a congregation is vacant, I ask the congregation if they desire to call a candidate.
If so, I have the congregation fill out call papers.
In the meantime, I meet with the placement committee from both seminaries, describing the vacancies and how best to fill them.
Also, I continue to be in contact with both seminaries, working with their placement
committees, determining the availability of candidates.  (Some years there are more candidates than calls, other years is the opposite).
I continue to encourage the congregation to finish their call papers. Sometimes this takes a lot of reminding.
The sooner the congregation submits their call papers, the easier it is to pre-slot candidates.
When the call papers are complete, they are sent to me. I sign off on them and send them to Synod.
These documents are reviewed at Synod and often times adjustments or clarifications need to be made concerning health care, salary, moving expenses, etc.
A few days before the call service, I meet with the placement committee once again. By this time, a candidate has been pre-slotted for our district.  At this meeting I can either accept or decline the candidate, which always makes things interesting.
Finally, when all the men are slotted, the Council of Presidents reads off each name, prays over them, and votes on all the placements.  The calls are then sealed until call night when the candidate hears for the first time (in most cases) where his first call will be.
Immediately after the call service, the district presidents meet with their new candidates and welcomes them into their District.
While we can be critical of our process at times, it actually is treated with great and holy respect. After all, it’s about the office of the holy ministry.

Continuing to serve the North Dakota District…
– Pastor Baneck