January 23rd, 2022 – 3rd Sunday after Epiphany
UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF: Jan 24th – Jan 30th
Tuesday.……………….. Conversion of Paul
2:30 PM Confirmation
Thursday………………. John Chrysostom
10:00 AM Bible Study
Sunday: …………………. 10:00am Worship
11:00am Bible Study
The lives of the saints from the get-go have been interesting. Paul’s conversion, the Damascus Road experience, remains the example of the dramatic reversal that the gospel can work. Saul, the zealous persecutor of the church, turned into Paul, the Apostle who walked the Roman world with the message of Jesus, whom I persecuted. John Chrysostom was a pastor and eventually Bishop of Constantinople c. 397 AD. He is primarily known for his preaching which can still be read profitably and clearly today. Chrysostom means “golden tongued.” To this day on Easter Sunday in Eastern Orthodox churches the sermon read is one he preached in 400 AD. Give it a read (http://anglicansonline.org/special/Easter/chrysostom_easter.html). The one with a golden tongue eventually picked a fight with Eudoxia the Empress over a silver statue of herself she wanted erected. She had him exiled not long after that Easter sermon. He died in exile, but about 30 years later they brought his bones back. The body of Christ recognizes its own and tends not to forget its saints.
PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION
“Divide and conquer” has been a proverb going back to at least Julius Caesar who used it to describe how he conquered “all of Gaul” by dividing it into three parts. But it is less a description of a military strategy or political program than simply a statement of human nature. The second we recognize a difference between people we can turn it into a status game or a reason for division. The common reasons for division that Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 12 (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) are “Jews or Greeks, slaves or free.” Jews and Greeks is important specifically because salvation comes from the Jews, but everybody thinks they are special. The Jews in biblical times used “the people” and “the nations” as the division. The Greeks divided between “Greeks” and “Barbarians”. Romans between “citizens” and “subjects”. China is the “middle kingdom” which puts the rest of us on the periphery. Turning to the other division, the ancient world ran on slavery. There was no more important division than slave or free. If Paul were to write to us, I imagine the Jew and American line would remain, but he’d probably call out some other divisions as well.
Because what Paul is preaching is that all of our human divisions are nothing in Christ. Anything we might consider as significant or identity defining from this world has to die. The church, Christians, share one baptism in which we receive one Spirit. We eat one meal where we receive one Lord. We are all incorporated into One Mystical Body. If your pride stands in the way of acknowledging unity of faith with those this world might look down upon, the one with the problem is you. In the world divide and conquer is wisdom; in the church it is heresy and not to be tolerated.
Now, looking at the current divided state of the church we might say there are significant problems. But return to the illegitimate reasons for division. They are personal characteristics or worldly status. The Kingdom of God does not care about these things because it is united in the Spirit. But are there legitimate reasons for division? Back in chapters 3 through 5 Paul address these things. Did they have theological divisions? Sure, “some followed Paul and others Apollos”. Paul’s conclusion is that “the Day” will disclose the quality of work. Just “let each one take care how he builds upon [the one foundation of Jesus Christ].” “The Day” will surely expose the quality of Lutheran or Dominican or Wesleyan work. But in chapter 5 Paul is more emphatic, not willing to wait for the day. “Purge the evil person from among you,” he writes. What brings on this more explicit division? “Anyone who bears the name brother who remains unrepentant.” It is not the sin that excludes, because repentance is immediately available and we have all fallen short. It is the hard heart that justifies itself separate from Christ and persists in evil.
The body of Christ is something distinct in this world. It is all of those who share the one Spirit. There are those who have rejected that one Spirit for their own way and the body is not wrong to recognize this. It has eyes that can see. But also, within the body the one Spirit gives a variety of gifts. That one Spirit appoints a variety of offices. None of these gifts or offices are for division the way the world divides. They are how God blesses his church. Instead of divide and conquer the proverb of the church might be unite and love, but that is getting to next week’s reading.
I was forced into doing some long-delayed church website maintenance which included changing the method of keeping the church calendar. It is now all on google calendar. You can add the church calendar to your calendar list from the church webstite (www.saintmarkslutheran.org) by clicking on the +GoogleCalendar in the lower right corner. And while I’m at it, do you know, besides the calendar, everything else that is on the church website? A recording of the lessons and the sermon is posted every Sunday. Sometimes a hymn or two is included. There are links to add the feed to your favorite podcast player. (I joke that the feed reaches 3-5x our in person attendence. Now if I could only get them here.) This newsletter (in shortened form) is posted weekly, along with notes about other events. Most of the people reading this are connected enough to never look at the website, but that site is the first thing anyone else sees about St. Mark’s. Take a look.
A COUPLE OF LONGER RANGE EVENTS
- Spring Beef on Weck is going to be on Saturday, April 2nd. There will be a couple of workdays prior. Please put it on your calendar, consider helping, and picking up a meal.
- The Elders would like to have a Potluck & Mission presentation following service on Sunday, March 13th. There are several things that happen in the church. This is an opportunity to fellowship over some food and to learn something about a few missions and how you might be able to get involved.
- Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story”
- Confirmation: Creed, Article 1, part 3
- Life Application Fellowship (LAF): I think I was told Mondays on Zoom for a bit. Jan 31st Next?
- Sunday Morning: Psalm of the Day for the Epiphany Season. Come Join Us in the prayer book of the Bible.
- Catechism Moment: In hibernation