Saturday, February 6, 2016

4 leadership lessons from Rosa Young on leaving a lasting impact



During Black History Month, we celebrate the life and work of pivotal leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. However, few may know that before Rosa Parks, there was Rosa Young.

I recently attended a showing of The First Rosa: Teacher, Confessor, Church Planter.  Produced by LCMS Communications in conjunction with LCMS Black Ministry, this 42-minute documentary gives a historical look into the life and work of Rosa Young, a strong, compassionate, determined leader who loved the Lord and valued His children.



The film depicts Young's life of service to the glory of God and her ability to enable others to have the same. Among her many accomplishments, Young taught more than 2,000 students quality, Christian education during a time when education for children of sharecroppers in the South was limited.  Many of these students went on to enter professional church work as pastors and teachers because of Young's influence. Read more about her life and accomplishments here.

Young is a leader of our church body whom I deeply admire. As I watched The First Rosa and read about her story, four key leadership principles on leaving a lasting impact stand out to me.

Here's what I've learned from Rosa Young:

1. You don't have to be a pastor to make a lasting impact in the church. In fact, you don't even have to be born and raised a Lutheran!  Young was born the daughter of a Methodist minister and wasn't connected to the LCMS until Booker T. Washington advised her to write the LCMS Mission Board when she was in need of financial assistance because the cotton boll weevil had brought economic hardship among the families of her students.  Young wrote the board, and a partnership was born.

Furthermore, Young was an African American woman in an economically poor area of the South during the early 1900s.  The odds were not exactly in her favor to create an educational powerhouse for Lutheran education.  Yet, that is exactly what she did.  I admire Rosa's boldness and courage to faithfully pursue the good work God had prepared in advance for her to do despite the hard realities she faced.

2. Think and live outside the box. Sometimes help and new partnerships come from unexpected places.  I wonder what Young thought as she wrote the LCMS Mission Board for financial assistance.   She had no ties to the LCMS or anything to give her sway.  How easy would it have been for the Mission Board to blow off her letter, a letter from a non-LCMS woman down in Alabama requesting financial assistance?  And yet the Mission Board took her request seriously, went down to meet Young and toured her school.  They saw the work taking place and the vision Young had.  As a result, they agreed to fund the school, pay Young's salary and allow her to expand her vision by opening up additional schools.  All while, they took the time to train Rosa and teach her the Lutheran faith.

This is a challenge and encouragement to me to seriously consider the requests of people in need and of people with whom I have no connection.  It also makes me evaluate my current network of colleagues and consider what new partnerships may be beyond my current reach just waiting to be formed.

3. Value Christian education. Young recognized the value of Christian education. Her mission from day one was to provide quality Christian education to those for whom none was available.  Something I celebrate among our church body is its ongoing investment in Lutheran education. As a product of a Lutheran grade school and university, I have seen firsthand the benefits of attending Lutheran institutions and its impact on my life as a follower of Christ.

I wonder where today there are youth with limited access to quality Christian education. How can we individually and collectively help make Lutheran education a viable option for these students?  How can we continue to value and invest in our existing Lutheran grade schools, high schools, universities and seminaries?

4. Value young people. Young recognized the value of young people.  The film included interviews with some of her students. Now fully grown and graying themselves, many of them shared a similar story of Young seeing something inside of them they hadn't yet recognized in themselves.  She inspired boys and girls almost willing them to continue their schooling and become pastors and teachers and leaders in the church.

We can learn from Young's life that the way to leave a lasting legacy is by investing in the next generation.  As parents, teachers, pastors, youth workers, coaches, etc., we have the opportunity to greatly influence the next generation of youth inspiring them to grow in becoming the men and women God has created them to be.   We have the opportunity to greatly influence the next generation of youth inspiring them to pursue careers in professional church work.  We have the opportunity to invest in the next Rosa Youngs.

For more information on Rosa Young and the film, The First Rosa, visit  

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Obituary for Rev. Stratman

Reverend William Warner “Bill” Stratman

Reverend William Warner “Bill” Stratman CODY, WY — Funeral services for Reverend William Warner “Bill” Stratman, 64, will be held at 10a.m. on, Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Torrington, Wyoming with Reverend Dr. Ron Garwood, Reverend Tim Schnare, and Reverend Scott Firminhac officiating. Burial will follow in the Valley View Cemetery. Bill died, after a courageous battle with cancer, on January 21, 2016 in the Special Touch at Torrington Community Hospital with his family by his side.

Visitation hours will be held at the Colyer Funeral Home Chapel on Monday, January 25 from 3pm to 5pm. The casket will be closed at the church. The family would appreciate memorials directed to either Our Savior Lutheran Church in Torrington, Wyoming or Christ the King Lutheran Church in Cody, Wyoming. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Colyer Funeral Home and friends are invited to send condolences to the family at

Bill was born on March 6, 1951 in Scottsbluff, Nebraska the son of W.W. “Buck” and Velma (Williams) Stratman. Bill grew up and received his education at Lingle, Wyoming; graduating Lingle High School in 1969.

Bill then worked as a farm hand and implement mechanic in the Goshen County area. He married Kathy Lacy Prucha on July 19, 1972 in Lingle, Wyoming and the couple had three children. The family moved to Cody, Wyoming where Bill fulfilled his ranch dream and worked as ranch foreman on the South Fork at the Flying H. In January 1986 his wife, Kathy, was tragically killed. Bill worked to get his life up-right again and in July of 1988 he married Joan Evans and to this union a son was born. It was at this time that Bill found his calling in the religious life and entered the Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana where he graduated on May 30, 2000 and was ordained on June 25, 2000 at St. John’s in Rushmore, Minnesota. He then served as Pastor in various Lutheran Churches including Minnesota, Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming.

Bill never lost his love for ranching and over-the-road long haul semi trucking to Alaska; but in September 2014 he was diagnosed with AML (acute myeloid leukemia) and life took on yet another meaning and new journey.

Bill loved the mountains, fishing, and hunting. He was a Big Game hunting guide in the Big Horn Mountains and he enjoyed camping trips with his family. Throughout his life, Bill continued to love ranching and pastoring. He especially loved his little dog, Phoebe, who was always by his side.
Bill is survived by his wife, Joan of Cody; his 2 sons, Terry (Stacy) Stratman of Reynoldsburg, Ohio; and Samuel Stratman of OFFUTT , AFB, Omaha, Nebraska; his 2 daughters, Rebecca (Mark)Ellis of Miles City, MT and Darcie (Cody) Rosenthal of Ord, Nebraska; 4 grandsons, Hayden and Avery Stratman and Cord and Cleve Ellis; 3 granddaughters, Faith Kelly Ellis and Katie and Gracie Mae Rosenthal; his mother, Velma Stratman of Torrington; 2 sisters, Connie (Dick) Ziller of Iowa and Charm (John) Friedlan of Torrington; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, his father, his first wife, Kathy, and a son-in-law, Tuck Seeley.

Sermon for 24 January 2016, Septuagesima

The Rev. Paul J Cain
1 Corinthians 9:24–10:5
Grace Alone
Septuagesima, 24 January 2016
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Christians are saved by grace alone. Sola gratia. That’s the Latin. We’ll talk about faith alone in two weeks and Scripture alone next Sunday. What does it mean to be saved by grace alone? We are saved by the work of Jesus Christ in our place as our substitute. Our salvation from sin, death, and the devil is a gift from God. That we are saved by grace alone means that you and I are saved apart from our conduct, apart from our good works, apart from an act of our will, apart from our piety. And we dare never claim that faith is our doing. Faith, too is a gift of the Lord.

Kristyn Getty says it this way:
What grace is mine that He who dwells in endless light 
Called through the night to find my distant soul 
And from his scars poured mercy that would plead for me 
That I might live and in his name be known  
So I will go wherever He is calling me 
I lose my life to find my life in Him 
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies 
I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him  

The Epistle for this Sunday from the first letter by Holy Spirit and St. Paul to the Corinthians speaks of this taking up of our crosses in faith, following Christ.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

One of the saddest conversations I have ever had was with a parent who claimed to be atheist (denying the existence of God), but functionally was agnostic (not believing in organized religion), because she admitted praying to the God she said wasn’t there. Her prayer was simple, that her children would have a better life than the one she was suffering through. Her life seemed self-sacrificial in many significant ways. She was willing to do anything for her kids but held out no hope in this life or even a chance at heaven for herself. I still pray for this family.

As Christians, our run of faith has the aim of eternal life and faithfulness to the Lord in this life. We do not “box as one beating the air.” The discipline we practice in heart, body, and mind is to keep ourselves under control, lest we “be disqualified” “after preaching to others,” even our own families and friends.

We run in this world with a worldview and perspective from eternity. Some “prizes” of this world are worthless from an eternal point-of-view. We don’t need to go much farther than “You can’t take it with you” as one point in this discussion. The real danger of some things that people pursue in this life is that they often lead to something worse than death: falling away from faith, embracing an idol substitute for the one true God.

Note: Luther spends more time on the First Commandment than on any other portion of the [Large] Catechism, explaining how essential it is to know, trust, and believe in the true God and to let nothing take His place. He was convinced that where this commandment was being kept, all other commandments would follow. A right relationship with God produces right relationships with fellow human beings.

You shall have no other gods.
1 What this means: You shall have Me alone as your God. What is the meaning of this, and how is it to be understood? What does it mean to have a god? Or, what is God? 2 Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in all distress. So, to have a God is nothing other than trusting and believing Him with the heart. I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. 3 If your faith and trust is right, then your god is also true. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God [Hebrews 11:6]. Now, I say that whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is truly your god.

Let’s pause in the middle of this portion of Luther’s explanation of the First Commandment and deeply consider his last statement: Now, I say that whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is truly your god. That’s deep. What you spend your time worrying about, what you spend your time on, what you give your devotion, that is your idol, your false god. There are many who worship other divinities at other altars with various kinds of sacred rites. Trust doesn’t make a false god real. A person’s false trust in a false god is a real waste of time, a waste of a life, and a waste of a soul for eternity.

Back to Luther: 4 The purpose of this commandment is to require true faith and trust of the heart, which settles upon the only true God and clings to Him alone. It is like saying, “See to it that you let Me alone be your God, and never seek another.” In other words, “Whatever you lack of good things, expect it from Me. Look to Me for it. And whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, crawl and cling to Me. I, yes, I, will give you enough and help you out of every need. Only do not let your heart cleave to or rest on any other.”

5 This point I must unfold more clearly. It may be understood and seen through ordinary, counterexamples. Many a person thinks that he has God and everything in abundance when he has money and possessions. He trusts in them and boasts about them with such firmness and assurance as to care for no one. 6 Such a person has a god by the name of “Mammon” (i.e., money and possessions; [Matthew 6:24]), on which he sets all his heart. 7 This is the most common idol on earth. He who has money and possessions feels secure [Luke 12:16–21] and is joyful and undismayed as though he were sitting in the midst of Paradise. 8 On the other hand, he who has no money doubts and is despondent, as though he knew of no God. 9 For very few people can be found who are of good cheer and who neither mourn nor complain if they lack Mammon. This care and desire for money sticks and clings to our nature, right up to the grave.

10 So, too, whoever trusts and boasts that he has great skill, prudence, power, favor, friendship, and honor also has a god. But it is not the true and only God. This truth reappears when you notice how arrogant, secure, and proud people are because of such possessions, and how despondent they are when the possessions no longer exist or are withdrawn. Therefore, I repeat that the chief explanation of this point is that to “have a god” is to have something in which the heart entirely trusts.[1]

Jesus is worthy of your trust, your true faith:
What grace is mine to know His breath alive in me 
Beneath his wings my wakened soul may soar 
All fear can flee for death's dark night is overcome  
My Saviour lives and reigns forevermore  
So I will go wherever He is calling me 
I lose my life to find my life in Him 
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies 
I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him  

St. Paul returns to the contrast between faith and unfaith, a self-controlled and disciplined race and those who run after evil:
10 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

Why were they overthrown? They failed to keep the First Commandment.
You shall have no other gods.
What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.[2]

If we press on to read just a little more after today’s appointed Epistle, we hear this: Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were;

Idolatry is the issue. Moses called them to repentance. St. Paul called his hearers to repentance. Jesus, our Master, calls us to repent of any sense of entitlement. The Denarius given the workers in His Matthew 20 parable was given out of generosity. It was the promised payment for the service of those who began working early in the morning and continued working all day long. Did they deserve more? No. Did the others, those hired at the third hour and after deserve less? Yes. Did they receive less? No. All benefit from Jesus’ generosity.

Do you hear the spiritual danger that Moses, Paul, and Jesus all warn us about? It is idolatry. It is a First Commandment issue, like Luther says, yet it is the idolatry of believing in a false god that saves us because we supposedly deserve it. We don’t. I don’t and you don’t deserve anything but eternal condemnation and life-long suffering before that.

That’s why we Christians speak about grace, why we say that we are saved by grace alone. We can’t earn salvation. We can never deserve salvation. We can only receive it as a gift from Christ. Good works save us only when they are done by Jesus Christ. Our own good works serve our neighbor and prove that our faith is living. We are saved by grace alone.

Consider two very familiar verses from Ephesians 2 followed by a less-familiar verse: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Our good works are not salvific. Our good works are the prepared-beforehand service to our neighbor, your Thank You Note to the Lord for His gift of salvation by grace alone, your disciplined, faithful race in Christ for the prize of eternal life.

So I will go wherever He is calling me 
I lose my life to find my life in Him 
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies 
I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him  

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

[1] McCain, P. T. (Ed.). (2005). Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (p. 359). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
[2] McCain, P. T. (Ed.). (2005). Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (p. 317). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

Monday, September 14, 2015

13 September 2015, The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Pastor Cain and Immanuel
welcomed home the Rev. James Moshier
as guest preacher at Matins and Bible Class leader.