Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther “nailed it” with the posting of his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. That event is being celebrated around the world this year, one half a millennium later, as it began the “reformation” of the Catholic Church. As we write this letter, the sounds of the music at worship this morning continue to echo in our heads. The processional was Nicolai Grundtvig’s “Built on a Rock, the Church Doth Stand,” accompanied by organ and trumpet. “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word,” written by Martin Luther, was the gospel response. The hymn of the day was Luther’s words for “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” set to music by the incomparable J. S. Bach, a powerful hymn, well known to Lutherans everywhere. The hand bell choir played Samuel Stone’s “The Church’s One Foundation” for the offertory and the service closed with a hymn very familiar to the Luther College family, “Soli Deo Gloria.” Wow, what a morning of amazing and powerful music!
The sermon talked about the revolution that Martin Luther began with the posting of his Ninety-five Theses. In full disclosure, I am a physician and not a theologian, but what I heard this morning was Luther’s message that while we are all sinners and must constantly repent, God’s grace is freely available to us, and we are saved by His grace and not by our works. This bold challenge to the existing idea that we were able to earn our salvation by doing good works started the movement that became the Lutheran Church. Think about how this singular act changed religious history. There may have not ever been a Luther College without this event!
We live in tumultuous times. Everywhere around us is conflict and dissent. People against people, class against class, culture against culture, country against country. In the period of just several weeks, we have seen devastation from hurricanes, earthquakes, and forest fires. But even with all of this and our human weaknesses, we live in the knowledge that God is in the world, and we live with the assurance that He has a plan. The statement that really stayed with me from the sermon this morning was “as Christians, we are keenly aware of our sinful selves, but joyfully wrapped in hope because of God’s grace.” This was the message we heard starting 50 years ago at Luther during our freshman “Core” curriculum. This message was reinforced during the remaining years of our college education, not only in the classroom, but by the role models we had in the faculty and staff of the college, as well as fellow students.
Carolyn and I will be forever thankful for the experience we had at Luther, and for the experience that both our sons had there. Perhaps this experience will happen for grandchildren in the not too distant future.
May God’s blessings be upon you as we begin the holiday season. Amidst the “busyness” of the season, we hope you remember the real reason for celebration, the birth of Christ, who would later give his life for us, so that we may have the assurance of being saved through God’s grace.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Bill and Carolyn Kobler
1970 Class Agents
Diane Alshouse of Roseville, Minn., is a retired district court judge.
Sue (Johnston) and Lyle Luzum have donated their 170-acre farm near Calmar, Iowa, to the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust – the largest donation ever made to SILT. The donation includes their home, outbuildings, and equipment. Lyle’s family has farmed the land since 1873, but they decided to pass it on to SILT as a way to profit future sustainable farming practices.
Pam (Espinosa) McFarland of Fresno, Calif., was recognized by Lawyers of Distinction as a distinguished lawyer within the top ten percent of lawyers nationwide.
Kurt Sandstrom of Pittsburgh is a self-employed consultant with experience in Logistics Business Development.
Dennis Johnson of Eldridge, Iowa, died July 31, 2017, at age 69. Born in Decorah, he majored in physical education at Luther. Dennis married Linda VanGorp on Aug. 21, 1971, in Decorah. He served six years in the Army Reserves. For more than 40 years, he was a teacher, administrator, and softball coach for North Scott High School. Dennis began his career teaching driver’s education and went on to become dean of students and activities director, starting the high school’s At Risk Program. He coached 1,249 wins for the North Scott High School softball team, taking the team to state ten times, winning the championship twice. Dennis also coached girls cross country from 1978 to 1990, winning state in 1998. He was the only North Scott coach to win state championships in two sports and was inducted into the Iowa Girls Coaches Hall of Fame in 1998 and the North Scott Hall of Fame in 2013. Dennis was selected the Athletic Director of the Year for his district in 2006. He enjoyed watching Western movies, playing pinochle and golf, fishing, hunting deer and pheasant, taking annual trips to Minnesota with his family, and spending time with his grandchildren. Dennis is survived by his wife, Linda; children, Troy (Tomomi Watanabe) Johnson and Kelly (Justin) Diercks; three grandchildren; two brothers, Davis Johnson ’66 (Shirley [Rovang] Johnson ’66) and Mark Johnson; sister, Wanda (Ron) Hemesath; and a large extended family. He was preceded in death by his parents.