Shamans Rock on Olkhon Island


Shamans Rock on Olkhon Island in Lake Baikal is the site of animistic worship. In past years, Shamans from around the world gathered for a conference of sorts to exchange experiences in spirituality.


Thirteen poles erected on top of the hill overlooking Shamans Rock serve as a place of adoration and worship to the spirits.


Offerings to the spirits include vodka, cigarettes, and coins. We watched a young lady bow three times to the poles in adoration to the spirits.


Far from being eliminated, paganism continues and thrives not only in remote places, but increasingly in places formerly considered Christian. Natural religion, the thought that man must do something to appease God or the spirits is second nature to us. The only remedy is the proclamation of the Word of God, Law and Gospel. Instruction about the Creator of all things, the command to have no other gods, and the Gospel that Jesus Christ redeemed the world on the cross. Kyrie Eleison!

- Posted by Dr Albert Collver on 16 August 2013 using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Sakhyurta,Russia

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“Redeeming the Time” – Sermon at Evening Prayer for the Doxology Insight Conference

Preached by Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil,Executive Director for Spiritual Care

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Ephesians 5:15-16

“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, (redeeming) the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:14-15

It’s time to wake up. Oh, I know it’s been a long day and we all could use some shuteye; but this is not about the hour of the day, it’s about the hour of action. When it comes to Christ’s Church, it’s high time we wake up. These are the days in which we need to rise and shine. We’ve been undercover long enough; God doesn’t need any more secret agents; what He needs are men and women of courage and integrity who are willing and eager to seize the day; to stand up and let their lights so shine before others that by seeing the good works of Christ’s people, others, too, may glorify the Father who is in heaven.

This exhortation from our text: “Walk as children of the light,” needs to be our watchword especially now in our time. And that’s as it should be, for God is all about light, you see.

Into the black void and chaos of the first creation God spoke: “Let there be light!” And there was Light. And that’s the way it’s been ever since the world began. God has always been in the business of creating Light in the midst of darkness.

When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under law, to redeem those who were under the Law. He was the eternal Word from the Father by whom all things were made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. And that Light, my friends, still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

And that’s why we have come together in this sacred space here at the end of the day; to find strength and courage in the Light of God’s Son not only against the darkness of this night, but more importantly against the spiritual darkness that rapidly encroaches all around us in our time.

Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, and because He is our Light, He will be our hope. You see, the God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Cor. 4:6

And that’s a good thing. For before you and I can be lights in this dark world, the light of Christ needs to shine in our own hearts first. The darkness we face is not all out there somewhere, it’s in here (point to self) – we have all sinned much and deserve nothing but God’s wrath and punishment. Our thoughts are desires have been soiled with sin. There is nothing good that dwells within us, that is, in our sinful nature. Out of the heart proceeds murders, adulteries, thefts and fornication. Sadly you know how bitterly true that is, don’t you?

And yet whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything. Jesus knows those sins of yours better than you do, He knows your remorse and guilt and shame intimately well, for He bore them all in His own body on the tree. In Christ Jesus, God has removed your sins from you as far as the East is from the West.

He has trodden all your iniquities under foot; He has cast all your sins into the depths of the sea. For Christ has redeemed you as His very own, purchased and won you from sin, death, and the power of the devil not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.

Now you belong to Him; now you have been redeemed; you are His very own precious son or daughter … to live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

And you and I are set as bright beacons of hope to bring light and life to a world which knows only darkness and death, where the classic Christian virtues of what is good, right and true have been set aside and traded in for what is expedient, fulfilling and fun.

Certainly in a world like ours we are no pie-eyed optimists; we know full well how difficult is our challenge, we know the formidable powers against which we wrestle, and we know the tide is against us in this struggle.

But friends, be of good courage. For Jesus our Lord told us about this ahead of tie. He said: “In this world you will have tabulation; but do not be afraid, for I have overcome the world.”

Yes, it’s time and high time we wake from our slumber to spread Christ’s light and life in this dark world. And you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this. Yes, the days are evil, but redeem the time just as you have been redeemed. This is your moment to rise and shine, but with a borrowed light – the light of Christ, who is your LIfe.

Thank God, through you even in these grey and latter days that Light of Christ still shines in the darkness – and the darkness shall never ever overcome it.

+In the name of the FATHER and of the SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT+

*To learn more about Doxology go here.

Place for Idol Worship in Siberia


Traveling through Siberia going North from Irkutsk, we came upon a place dedicated to idol worship in the Ust-Ordynsky Autonomous District.


Horses are very important (perhaps almost worshiped). The Buryat people were the people who inhabited Eastern Siberia before the Russians arrived. According to the legend, Buryat means wounded warrior. Supposedly, Ghengis Khan from Mongolia left behind his wounded warriors who married the local people. Many of the Buryat people are animists who offer sacrifices to idols.


The sign reads: One may worship by sacrificing with coins. Keep this place in order.


Sacrifices of coins, rice, cigarettes, and vodka were made by the Buryat people to the idols. We saw a woman sacrificing to the nearby shrubs, and a family sacrificing with vodka at the site.


Sacrifices made to the shrubs.


The ribbons around the horses leg are to appease the spirits.


The countryside in Siberia near the place of sacrifice to idols.

As Francis Pieper noted in Christian Dogmarics, “How many essentially different religions are there in the world? … There are not a thousand, not even four, but only two essentially different religions: the religion of the Law, that is, the endeavor to reconcile God through man’s own works, and the religion of the Gospel, that is, faith in The Lord Jesus Christ…”

In remote Siberia, Russia, a group of people practice a religion of the Law, seeking to appease the spirits through sacrifice to idols. Kyrie Eleison!

- Posted by Dr Albert Collver on 15 August 2013 in the Ust-Ordynsky Autonomous District in Siberia, Russia using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Russia

Former Lutheran Parishes in Siberia, Russia

Since the end of the 5th ILC World Seminaries Conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, we have traveled to Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, and Irkutsk. In both Irkutsk and Tomsk, one can find the sits where thriving Lutheran churches once existed.

Tomsk


Devils Wheel

Tomsk, located north east of Novosibirsk, is one of the oldest cities in Siberia at 409 years old. It was a town where Germans had settled and the Lutheran Church along with a Lutheran school had been established. Under communism in the 1930s, the Lutheran church was destroyed and an amusement park was built in its place. A ferris wheel was built on the site of the Lutheran church. The residents of Tomsk call the ferris wheel by another name, “devils wheel.”


Saint Mary’s Lutheran Church

Some years later, the German government assisted in the rebuilding of the Lutheran church in Tomsk. Today, Saint Mary’s Lutheran Church stands near the site of the original Lutheran church.

Irkutsk


Irkutsk was founded in 1661 on the Angara River. Both during and after the Great Northern War (Peter the Great defeated Sweden in 1721), Lutherans began to settle in Siberia, Russia. A Lutheran church was established in Irkutsk. The first Lutheran church was wooden. It was built in 1826, but burned down during the fire of 1879. A stone church was built in the 1880s. However, it was closed in 1919. Then it was used as a student hostile. In 1952 it was completely demolished, and at that location a Lenin monument was erected which remains today.(http://library.thinkquest.org/05aug/01907/lutheran.htm)


The monument to Lenin was put up on the site of the Lutheran Church in 1952 and manufactured by well-known sculptor M. Tomsky. Stones from the altar were used in the base of Lenin’s statue.


Alexey Streltsov and Albert Collver sit not far from where the altar would have been located in the original church. During the communist period in Russia, nearly all (if not all) the Lutheran churches were destroyed or repurposed for other uses — swimming pools, gyms, museums, et al.

“Seventh, the holy Christian people are externally recognized by the holy possession of the sacred cross. They must endure every misfortune and persecution, all kinds of trials and evil from the devil, the world, and the flesh (as the Lord’s Prayer indicates) by inward sadness, timidity, fear, outward poverty, contempt, illness, and weakness, in order to become like their head, Christ. And the only reason they must suffer is that they steadfastly adhere to Christ and God’s word, enduring this for the sake of Christ, Matthew 5 [:11], “Blessed are you when men persecute you on my account.” They must be pious, quiet, obedient, and prepared to serve the government and everybody with life and goods, doing no one any harm. No people on earth have to endure such bitter hate; they must be accounted worse than Jews, heathen, and Turks. In summary, they must be called heretics, knaves, and devils, the most pernicious people on earth, to the point where those who hang, drown, murder, torture, banish, and plague them to death are rendering God a service. No one has compassion on them; they are given myrrh and gall to drink when they thirst. And all of this is done not because they are adulterers, murderers, thieves, or rogues, but because they want to have none but Christ, and no other God. Wherever you see or hear this, you may know that the holy Christian church is there, as Christ says in Matthew 5 [:11–12], “Blessed are you when men revile you and utter all kinds of evil against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” This too is a holy possession whereby the Holy Spirit not only sanctifies his people, but also blesses them.” (Martin Luther, On Councils and the Church, AE 41, 164-165)

- Posted by Albert B Collver on 15 August 2013 using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:улица Сухэ-Батора,Irkutsk,Russia

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Saturday Sessions at the World Seminaries Conference

Saturday was the final day of presentations as the conference officially ends following the Divine Service tomorrow morning. The exploration of the conference theme, “Suffering, Persecution and Martyrdom as Marks of the Church” culminated in the paper presented by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Ochola Omolo, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya Lake Diocese and Rector, Matongo Lutheran Theological College, Kenya.

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Suffering, Persecution and Martyrdom as a Mark of the Church
How Has This Affected Theological Education
A Practical Perspective

1. Introduction

I hope to reveal that the witness born in the Holy Scriptures and in the Lutheran Confessions, especially in the the Seventh Mark as pointed out by Dr. Martin Luther, were present in his day, and such signs are also present today, helping us to understand how such marks show the life of the Church, not only in Africa, but also in other parts of the world.

Although no one willingly welcomes suffering and persecution, it is necessary to note here that suffering is part of the life of the church and that Christians should see this as a challenge.

2. Biblical Witness on Suffering and Martyrdom
Recounting the Biblically attested marks of persecution and martyrdom, Omolo reviewed the history of the Church Fathers: “some being burned alive, others skinned alive and still more others given to lions to be torn into pieces as they bore witness by their blood (martyria. As all these were happening, the church continued to be strong in faith.

Now you need not wonder what happens to faithful pastoral servants of Christ when the world ridicules and persecutes them! All those witnessed by their blood, generally received the treatment that was imposed upon them just as it did to the Crucified Lord God Himself and His apostles, prophets and evangelists. In the Baptismal Call the child of God is to deny oneself, take up the cross, (which is the denial of self) and follow Jesus. But to follow Jesus often leads to one’s personal cross of suffering, persecution and, perhaps even Martrydom.

3. Lutheran Confessions on Suffering and Martyrdom
Omolo took care to clarify and explain what is meant by the Church in regard to suffering, persecution and martyrdom, using the Lutheran Confessions to make his clear point and concluding with explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles Creed.

“In the Confession, we have presented this sentence almost, word for word. The Church is defined by the Third Article of the Creed, which teaches us to believe that there is a holy Catholic Church. The wicked indeed are not a holy Church. The word that follow, namely, “the common of saints,” seems to be added in order to explain what the CHurch signifies: the congregation of saints, who have with each other the fellowship of the same Gospel or doctrine and the same Holy Spirit.” – from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

Omolo listed each of the seven marks of the church:

  • 1. First, the holy Christian people are recognized by their possession of the holy Word of God.
    • 2. Second, God’s people or the Christian holy people are recognized by the holy sacrament of baptism, wherever it is taught, believed, and administered correctly according to Christ’s ordinance.
    • 3. Third, God’s people, or Christian holy people, are recognized by the holy sacrament of the altar, wherever it is rightly administrated, believed and received, according to Christ’s institution.
    • 4. Fourth God’s people or holy Christ’s are recognized by the office of the keys exercised publicly.
    • 5. Fifth, the church is recognized eternally by the fact that it consecrates or calls minister, or has office s that it is to administer.
    • 6. Sixth, the holy Christian people are externally recognized by prayer, public praise and thanksgiving to God.
    • 7. Seventh, the holy Christian people are externally recognized by the holy possession of the sacred cross. They must endure every misfortune

4. Contextual Analysis of Suffering Persecution and Martyrdom as a Mark of the Church:

Bearing the Cross Contextually: The Seventh Sign in the the Context:

Luther says that Christian people are externally recognized by the holy possession of the Sacred Cross. How can this affect the life of a pastor in his pastoral work? …

On the one had, sometimes a pastor may find himself in difficulties with a congregation or a parish due to his own sinful or selfish behavior.
A pastor may be rejected not for faithfulness to Christ and His Gospel but because he has acted unilaterally, as God himself, not merely His Servant. If the the “mark of the Sacred Cross is present in this instance it is upon the congregation and not the pastor.

On the other hand some congregations and parishes may refuse to support or put up with their pastors’ physical needs because the congregation has an underdeveloped sense of stewardship. Likewise the pastor may deny following misinformed teachings, thus rejects wrong doctrines or wrong ethic the congregation may want to adopt. The congregation may force the pastor to adhere to their needs. I believe, bearing the cross falls in the category of “the Mark of the Sacred Cross,” on the part of the pastor and most times upon his family as well.

There also may be another form of persecution we may call corporate persecution. Omolo described this as when wealthy donors force their hand through their financial gifts, laying down conditions contrary to the Gospel in order to receive those gifts is also the bearing of the Holy Cross upon those affected.

Uganda

Omolo shared the story of the Uganda martyrs who were converts to the Christian faith and murdered for their faith because they refused to offer sacrifices to traditional gods and for their resistance to the King’s homosexual practices.

Kenya

In refugee camps Jihadists have assaulted and killed Christians. Churches have been bombed. Yet the people remain faithful.

Somalia

“There is no more lawless country than Somalia,” said Omolo, who noted that only .05% of the population is Christian and 99.95% are Muslim. Converts from Islam to Christianity are executed, as are those who evangelize with the Gospel. Beheadings, shooting, loss of jobs, homes, and families are all common forms of persecution in Somalia.

In all these examples it is evident that, they (believers) must endure every misfortune. They must endure persecution.They must endure all kinds of trials. Yes they must endure evil from the devil, the world, and the flesh.They must endure inward sadness.They must endure timidity and fear.They must endure contempt.They must endure illness.They must endure weakness, writes Father martin Luther. (volume 41 Luther’s Works)

Towards a Lutheran Seminary’s Response to Suffering, Persecution and Martyrdom as a Mark of the Church in the Theological Education with Reference to Theological Education in Africa.

In African context where theological education is coupled with several contextual challenges (enculturational theology of the Roman Catholic, syncretistic theology, health and wealth theology, and the quest for African theology to mention just a few. The sound biblical theology of the cross forms a point of departure in presenting the theology of suffering, persecution and martyrdom as the mark of the true Church.

When persecution comes, the devil believes he can eliminate the church; and God, according to His foreknowledge, He knows it will happen. But He intends that it will be a blessing for the Church just as it was in the early church when the devil tried to stop the church. In spite of that, the Lord used that persecution to spread the Gospel. So as Christians we receive the negative outcome of persecution, we don’t want it, it is very painful but God intends that to be a blessing to His Church.

In summary, some of the great enemies of the Church in our time may be grouped as: traditional cultural religiosities, political oppressors, Muslim jihadist, the liberal wing of Christianity, the new Pentecostalism with their health and wealth theology of glory, and post modern ideology.

The Church must be aware of her enemies to make Her stand firm, ready with Word and Sacrament and proper proclamation of the Gospel. For all these challenges, within and without this context the Lutheran Theology of the Cross is the answer.

Following Bishop Omolo’s paper there were a number of questions and comments.

Q&A

Q: In regard to the prosperity Gospels, Omolo responded:

Many people who are hungry or sick, when they hear that there is some miraculous healer somewhere – when I get such questions about them, I am thinking of the early church, despite the prosperity of the Roman government, the Apostles and the Church Fathers followed the crucified Lord, they didn’t want to twist the real message, they still worshipped and confessed the God who was crucified, shamefully hung on the tree. Why? Because this is the truth of the Gospel, this is what God has done. Whether you follow it or not in the long run you will come to your senses and come to know the truth. We tend to not like suffering, so prosperity Gospel preachers come and go wherever they want but finally the truth will appear and that will set the people free. So in our context, we are speaking the truth of the Gospel. I think the view of the cross, when it comes, that is when one’s life will be changed. He will know through Christ’s suffering on the cross he has saved the whole world.”

Q: In regard to traditional religion:

I want to give an example in my tribe when husband dies they use the wife. The cultural religion is that the husband has to be the elder, so they have one of the brothers to take that wife. This is a very strong custom,connected with worshiping of ancestors. One woman from my area, was old, her husband died, her sons forced her to be physically abused by another man. Because of the cultural practice, the woman was forced to be abused sexually. She turned violent, became totally mentally disturbed, walking around saying about what her sons had done to her. Traditional religion is very, very strong in our context. There is no book – when crisis happens in the family the people will talk about old family things. The dialog with the people is a good way to do it. But to write these things in the books in the seminary and Bible studies, and to teach our Christian people about these things, openly talking about them openly to teach them the truth of the Gospel.

Q: In regard to mercy work and people who want God to completely heal them in this life:

This is when the truth is revealed because of those who are running after evangelist to get well or help and they discover they can’t get there because they are still here in the world. Health is the same, always, malaria is problem, then the heart stops and finally we die. The people finally come their senses when they ant’ get what they wanted.

When they come to us we want to preach Christ crucified, that salvation is only in Christ. it is very important to tell them. God produces ways, medicine, these are God’s providence to us, but these are not a means of salvation, finally we will die, and then we will be resurrected when the Lord comes. The Lord has promised His Church the reality of that. In a continent like Africa, where people are sick, orphaned, live in poverty, it is easy to think of works of mercy as the most important thing. And when they think they don’t need the Gospel, we need to teach them that any provision we may receive as Christians is result of the Gospel. We want to see it in that light.

ILC Future Direction

Participants also heard presentations about the LCMS Global Seminary Initiative and the Chemnitz Library Project, both intended to strengthen global Lutheran seminaries worldwide.

Rev. Michael Kumm, Chairman of the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg made a presentation on the the Wittenberg Project, an effort to establish an educational and outreach center in the heart of Wittenberg in the soon-to-be restored old Latin school.

Following a delicious Lithuanian lunch the conference goers enjoyed an afternoon of site seeing in the Baltic seaside resort of Palanga.