April 24th, 2022 – 2nd Sunday of Easter
UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF: April 25th – May 1st
Monday……………….. . St. Mark, Evangelist
6:00PM Men’s Group
Wednesday……………. 5:00PM Confirmation
Thursday………………. 10:00 AM Bible Study
Sunday: …………………. 10:00AM Worship
11:15AM Bible Study
You are supposed to count your blessings, but I usually end up counting failures. There are enough of those I might get to sleep before I’m done. One of the big one’s is not booking April 25th for some church activity yearly. April 25th is the Feast Day of St. Mark the Evangelist, this congregation’s namesake. If I remember right all the St. Mark’s in the area are “daughter churches” of the old main St. Matthew’s in Rochester. The area never got to a St. Luke, or the naming fad has changed to Epiphany or Peace by that time. But if your church has a Patron Saint name, his or her day should be remembered. Anybody got a good idea?
St. Mark has a lot of interesting stuff. The Lion, that guy up in the corner, is the animal icon associated with Mark. Why? The “four living creatures” in Rev 4:7 were assigned to the four evangelists, the winged lion to Mark. There is also an apocryphal story of Mark being fed to the lions, like Daniel, but the lions refusing to eat him. His gospel starts with “the voice of one crying in the desert” which was analogized as a lion’s roar. Like with most mascots, if you are early, you get to pick a cool one. And Mark was early. It is possible he was there in Gethsemane. The naked young man running away, not very lion-like, is often taken as the author signature. Mark went on the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas, which didn’t end well for him as he quit (Acts 13:13). Whatever happened, when Paul and Barnabas were preparing to go our the 2nd time, Paul refused to take Mark and the fight was bad enough that Paula and Barnabas split (Acts 15:39). Mark ends up being a helper to Peter (1 Peter 5:13). His gospel is said to be how Peter told the story. Compare Peter’s sermon in Act 10:34-42 to Mark’s outline. And by the end of Paul’s life he is requesting Mark come to him (2 Tim 4:11). The end of Mark’s life is told as the Bishop of Alexandria and a martyr, the founder of the church in Africa. Lots of stuff to spark the imagination. From a mouse that scampered away to a Lion.
PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION
Revelation’s letters to the seven churches (Revelation 1-3) are something that I go back to quite a bit. Our Epistle lesson (Rev 1:4-18) is the introduction to all of them. You have a longer form of the apostolic greeting. When I start a sermon I use the short form, “grace to you and peace from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We say it so often that the claim in there slips by. If you use a form of the Apostolic greeting you are claiming that what follows is the Word of God. Now we have all kinds of theology that has placed limits around that. An Apostle like John was truly sent by Jesus to the world. We pastors are called to a specific location. But in that time and place, for those gathered in the name of Jesus, that is what the sermon is supposed to be – a personal letter to the congregation in West Henrietta (or Gaspump or Millrun or Springfield) from Jesus. Sermons float around. I publish them on our church website. But absent that invocation of the gathered body, they aren’t quite the same.
John gives us a picture of the Glorified Jesus. And that picture should be both comforting and fear inducing. Christ standing in the midst of the seven gold lampstands. The lampstands are the churches. Christ is always in the midst of his church. That should be the comforting part. The fear part is the description. “His eyes as flames of fire.” I can’t read that anymore with thinking of “laser eyes”. The rest of the description is one full of power and glory. And this one still has words for us. Which is why when John sees him the reaction is no longer his friend but “I fell at his feet as though dead.” When we contemplate the power and glory that is an appropriate reaction, and that is the reaction throughout the bible to seeing the holy ones. But The Holy One lays his right hand on his friend and says “fear not.” That is the ultimate message of the entire book of Revelation: Fear Not. It is not that the future isn’t scary, but that we know who wrote it. “I am the first and the last…and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Everything we might rightly fear is the hands of the one Crucified for us.
I would be worth you while this week to read the individual letters. Take one a day. Is there anything described in any of them that is not still common? Is the message of the church fundamentally different that what Jesus tells them? Has the promise changed? There have been lots of schemes places on the sever letters. There seems to be a downward drift. But none of them are perfect. Even the first one, Ephesus, which if you read it will sound like the perfect church, but even Ephesus has “abandoned the love you had at first” and receives the call to repent. And they receive what might be the scariest warning, “do the works you did at first, or I will come and remove your lampstand.” I’ve often wondered if they get that not because it is not true for everyone, but they just might have the faith to hear and bear it. Ephesus is not the bruised reed that Philadelphia is. “I know you have but little power” but Christ is true to his word “I have set before you an open door that no one can shut…hold fast to what you have.” The Word of God to the churches is different. The LORD knows our frame.
That is not to say that the law changes. His words to each church in those regards are blistering. If a modern day preacher would stand in the pulpit and say things that way “our ears could not hear it.” What it does say is that the Christ of Glory is still the Christ of grace. It is the devil’s work, the way of the powers and principalities, to have an inflexible system. It is the glory of God to be gracious. And part of what revelation tells us is that one day we will be delivered from those systems of the powers that be and enter fully into the Kingdom of our Lord. “Behold, he is coming, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail.”
- Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – Continuing with Joseph Gen 39-41
- Confirmation: Lord’s Prayer – 4th Petition
- Life Application Fellowship (LAF): May 2nd, 6PM, Zoom
- Sunday Morning: Going to continue with the Psalms for a Season. Come Join Us in the prayer book of the Bible.
- Catechism Moment: Promise this will return this week. (Lord’s Prayer – 4th Petition)
LENTEN CHALLENGE THANK YOU & RESULTS
THANK YOU to all for your generous giving during our Lenten RHAFT Challenge. We contributed a total of 37 bags full of donations to our local food pantry during the season of Lent!