Spirit Power: Courage, Teaching, Peace

Biblical Text: Acts 2: 1-21, 22-47, John 14:23-31

This Sunday continues a couple of series. It continues our study of the book of Acts even if we have been “jumping around” in that book. This sermon ends up following up on last week. If last week was about the Spirit’s work “inside” the church before the public work that begins on Pentecost, this week’s is about the “outside” work, what the Spirit empowers in the world. The summary is the three word subtitle. The Spirit continues to empower courage. The Christian life comes with its own power source. The Spirit empowers the teaching of the church. The sermon reflects on the first sermon of the church and how it models ever Spirit filled sermon since. And the Spirit empowers a peace that the world cannot give.

Virtual Bulletin – 6/5

June 5th, 2022 – Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  June 6th – June 12th

Tuesday……………….            7:00 PM           Elders

Thursday……………….          10:00 AM        Bible Study

Saturday………………..          Barnabas, Apostle

Sunday: ………………….          10:00 AM        Worship

                                                 11:15 AM        Bible Study     

COMMEMORATIONS

Barnabas is one of those guys that pops up in the bible for a sizeable role and then disappears into tradition.  His given name was Joseph.  He was a Levite, so from the Jewish priestly tribe.  He was also a native of the island of Cyprus.  He’s recorded as one of the earliest believers.  His description as an apostle would probably place him as one of those 120 gathered after the Ascension as apostle is typically reserved for those who witnessed the risen Christ. His first act recorded is selling a field and giving the proceeds to the 12 Apostles.  That act, immediately followed by the strange story of Ananias and Sapphira who try and do the same thing, but both end up dead, is one of the strangest stories in the bible. It is Barnabas that eases the former persecutor Saul’s acceptance as Paul (Acts 9:27).  It is Barnabas who digs Paul back up in Tarsus and sets him on his course in Antioch (Acts 11:22ff).  And it is Barnabas who is Paul’s traveling companion on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:2) upon which he gets hailed as Zeus in Lystra (Acts 14:13). Mark was Barnabas’ cousin, and it would be Mark that would cause Paul and Barnabas to split (Acts 15:39). From that point Barnabas is handed over to tradition which has him stoned to death in his native Cyprus for preaching the gospel.  The name means “Son of Encouragement” which seemed to be his role.  He was always looking for ways to include in the mission.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

An article in The Atlantic by Jonathan Haidt recently used the Tower of Babel, our Old Testament lesson (Genesis 11:1-9), as its introductory image. For what he is trying to do in that article, it is an interesting choice. He is trying to describe a feeling about the present time in the United States.  In his words, “Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past.”  In that article, this state of being is portrayed as the negative outcome of social media.  We can’t go back before the new technology introduction, but we can learn to use it better, regulate its dangers, and resume the march of progress to a “more cooperative future.”

Why I say that it is an interesting choice is not because of the description of living immediately post Babel. I think he nails that.  Haidt even mentions that Google translate became widely available on smart phones in 2011. “We were closer than we had ever been to being ‘one people,’ and we had effectively overcome the curse of division by language. For techno-democratic optimists, it seemed to be only the beginning of what humanity could do.”  There is no doubt in my mind that to many folks who read the Atlantic 2011 probably felt like a unitary world of endless human possibility. The problem being in 2011 the ability for anybody who disagreed with that techno-future to express it was much more limited.  I have no doubt that for many of the good and great the 10+ years post 2011 have felt like living post-babel as they were forced to realize they shared a country with people who didn’t agree with them on very basic things.  And the inability to talk has only ramped up as “blocking” and yelling “shut up” seem to be the preferred strategies. But the Biblical story of Babel assigns curse and blessing to different states than Haidt.  The curse was the whole earth having one language and the same words.  The blessing of God was the confusion.

That may sound wrong or at least counter-intuitive.  The reasoning is that mankind has a God mandated purpose.  In Genesis that is to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over every living thing.” The deepest meaning and happiness that mankind can find is living the purpose for which God created them.  But the people of Babel had become fixated on a purpose contrary to the will of God.  The tower was fighting the last war.  If God sent a flood again, which he promised not to do, the tower was the defense and maybe even an offensive weapon to “storm the heavens”.  It was also directly contrary to God’s will in that the tower’s purpose was to prevent filling the earth and instead to stay together. Continuing to pursue this sinful purpose, a war with God, would only lead to misery.  It was God’s blessing to confuse the languages and spread them out.    

Now in a fallen world blessings can feel like curses or at least punishments.  The correction or even the limitation of sin (the first use of the law, a curb) can hurt.  As Jesus says in John 15:2, “every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” The Holy Spirit is the promise of the Kingdom Come.  In the Kingdom we will not have to ask because we will know as we are known (1 Cor 13:12). In the Kingdom, the confusion of languages isn’t necessary, because we are united in Christ.  Pentecost rolls back the confusion not because it was a curse, but because in the Spirit such a law is not necessary.  The many languages do not go away in Pentecost as they are all part of God’s good creation.  But all understand as if in their native tongue.  We so often strive after unity in external things which leads to sinful tyranny like Babel.  It is the unity in the Spirit the produces many types of fruit.   

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – The Passover & Jewish Festivals
  • Confirmation: Completed Year 1, return in the Fall
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Summer Break
  • Sunday Morning: Going to continue with the Psalms for a Season. Come Join Us in the prayer book of the Bible.
  • Catechism Moment: Baptism, in your inbox

Courage of the Spirit

Biblical Text: Acts 1:1-26

This Sunday on the church calendar – the 7th Sunday of Easter – to me is the strangest one in the entire calendar. The sermon gets into that a bit, so I won’t spell it out here. But sitting between The Ascension and Pentecost is a time of internal preparation. God never leaves His people, but sometimes there are some things to do before going public. This sermon is about the presence of the Holy Spirit with the people of God. It is about what the Holy Spirit enables, and how He enables it. It is about life in the Spirit.

Virtual Bulletin – 5/29

May 29th, 2022 – 7th Sunday of Easter

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  May 30th – June 5th

Monday……………….. .           Memorial Day

Tuesday……………….            The Visitation

Wednesday…………….           Justin, Martyr

Thursday……………….          10:00 AM        Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00 AM        Worship

                                                 11:15 AM        Bible Study     

COMMEMORATIONS

The Visitation is Mary’s visit to her relative Elizabeth.  Elizabeth is assumed to be 6-7 months pregnant with John the Baptists because Luke 1:56 states that Mary stayed “about three months.” It’s assumed that she stayed for the birth and a short time after.  If we think about the calendar, the annunciation to Mary was March 25th, so she is two months pregnant with Jesus.  She’d be returning to Nazareth 5 months.  The great addition to the Christian life that we have from this story in the Magnificat, Mary’s Psalm that mirror’s Hannah’s song from the Old Testament in praise of God’s fulfillment of His promises.  My favorite version of it is LSB 933, My Soul Rejoices, but there are 5 version in LSB alone (933-935 plus Vespers and Evening Prayer chants). Singing one on Tuesday might be a fitting piety.

Justin Martyr (c. 100-165 AD) is so often called that, that you might think Martyr was his last name. Justin was from a rather well off pagan family though he was born in Judea.  As a young man he found Christ after studying the Greek philosophers and became an apologist for the church.  It is from Justin that we have our earliest descriptions of Christian worship.  He wrote of a “gathering of all in one place on the Lord’s Day, where the writings of the prophets and apostles were read, the Presider delivered a homily inviting all into the pattern of these good things, prayer was offered and bread and wine were taken, blessed and distributed as the body and blood of the eternal Word.”  The Roman account of Justin’s martyrdom survives. One day Justin was commanded to sacrifice to the gods or face torture.  His reply to the Roman prefect was “That is our desire, to be tortured for our Lord and so to be saved.”

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

I’m not sure why the lectionary spends so long in the last two chapters of Revelation.  Theoretically the Epistle Lessons were chosen to allow a lectio continua – a continuous reading – through various New Testament books. But it jumps from chapter 7 to spend three weeks in chapters 21 and 22.  I guess you can say there is a small difference between those chapters.  21 is the MTV Cribs picture of the New Jerusalem.  Satan has been defeated and put away.  This old world has been rolled up and the new heavens and the new earth are created.  And the New Jerusalem has come down adorned as a Bride. Maybe you can say chapter 21 is the wedding day.  Chapter 22 is the only picture we have of life in the New Jerusalem, life in the age to come.

The first picture is the reappearance of something very old alongside a promise fulfilled.  The tree of life grows alongside a river of the water of life.  The River fulfills the image of Ezekiel 47:1 with the promise of John 4:10ff to the Samaritan woman at the well.  Jesus promised living water and here is a full river of it.  The tree of life was barred to us by the flaming sword of the cherubim, lest we live forever in our sins (Gen 3). But in the fulfillment there are three notable things.  The singular tree now grows along the entire river.  Its singular fruit is now 12 kinds each in their season.  And most importantly, its leaves are the for the healing of the nations.  The tree of life in the New Jerusalem is not barred.  No flaming sword denies us.  ‘No longer is there anything accursed.” It is worth reflecting that the trees are very fruitful.  Food is still taken in the age to come. Also there might be a slight comment on the length of time we spent in the garden.  Maybe it only had one fruit, because we only saw one month.  Likewise the mention of the leaves being for healing. There is a paradox in not having “mourning or crying or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” and needing “leaves for the healing of the nations.” I have trouble in chapter 22 thinking of this as healing of anything from before because “the former things have passed away.” But life in the New Jerusalem occasionally needs healing.  I guess the biggest thing is that it is always abundantly available, unlike here, where some things are just broken and cannot be fixed.

The rest of the picture strikes me as a bit an argument.  What is seen is too good to be true, “the big rock candy mountain.” This is probably where Freud grabs the popular idea of religion as wish fulfilment.  But the angel – the messenger – pleads with the Apostle John “these words are trustworthy and true…don’t seal up the book, let everyone read.” Unlike the prophet Daniel who was told to seal it up.  What he saw was too great for that time.  “Now the time is near…Behold I am coming soon.”  And you have the repeated plea, “Come”.  The Alpha and the Omega, “blessed are those who come wash their robes.”  The Spirit and the Bride, “Come.”  The one who hears, “Come.”  The one who is thirsty, “Come.”   The one who desires the water of life, “Come.”  It is not wish fulfillment, but divine promise. Christ and the angels and the Holy Spirit and the Church and the great cloud of thirsty drinkers all plead, “Come.”  You don’t want to miss this.  Come now, because He is coming soon. Amen, come quickly, both you and the Lord Jesus.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – The Exodus – the Plagues
  • Confirmation: Completed Year 1, return in the Fall
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Summer Break
  • Sunday Morning: Going to continue with the Psalms for a Season. Come Join Us in the prayer book of the Bible.
  • Catechism Moment: Continuing with the Lord’s Prayer

BOILER NOTICE – Congregational Meeting, Today (May 29th ), after service

We are calling a congregational meeting next week, May 29th after service.  The purpose, prayerfully, is to approve the council plan to fix the boiler breakdown.

Discipleship Itinerary

Biblical Text: Acts 16:6-15

The text as I read it had two parts. The first being something of a travel itinerary. And it was travel that was done under some uncertainty and stress. First Paul wanted to go West, but the Spirit stopped him. And he drifted north. When he runs out of North he decides to go east, but the Spirit of Jesus stops him. And eventually Paul has a vision, “come help us in Macedonia.” It’s not that Paul was doing anything wrong; he just didn’t have the necessary figured out yet. But when you figure out the necessary, there is only one choice – obedience. The sermon reads Paul’s itinerary as a metaphor for the life of discipleship. The second part of the text is what happens when you arrive at a new point. Paul and his traveling companions have gone to Philippi, a Roman Colony. And what they encounter is different. When we’ve come to something new in our discipleship walk, we have a choice.

Virtual Bulletin – 5/22

May 22nd, 2022 – 6th Sunday of Easter

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  May 23rd – May 29th

Monday……………….. .           6:00PM            LAF

Tuesday……………….            Esther

Wednesday…………….           Bede the Venerable

Thursday……………….          10:00 AM        Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00 AM        Worship

                                                 11:15 AM        Bible Study     

COMMEMORATIONS

I’m not sure what they were looking at, but on the pastor’s wives retreat Ellen texted me and asked “What would you write or teach about if Esther was the subject?” I replied two things: 1) the virtue of courage and 2) God working through means.  Esther is on the commemorations calendar this week.  It’s a short fun book in the Old Testament.  You might sit and read it in 20 mins on Tuesday.  If you do, tell me what you take away. I’d love to hear.

The other commemoration this week is one of those long middle-ages “names.”  Bede is early enough (672-735 AD) he is often the “End of the Church Fathers” but late enough he’s not part of the Mediterranean world.  Bede was born in Northumberland England and never went further than 100 miles from his place of birth. He was sent to a monastery by his parents at age 7. At age 14 plague swept through killing the entire monastery except the Abbot and Bede. His commentaries on scripture are still consulted today. He was also a prolific poet and Hymnwriter.  LSB 493, the Ascension Hymn “A Hymn of Glory Let us Sing” is Bede’s.  But what might be his most enduring work is an early History of the English Church which gives us much of early English history.  He died on Ascension Day working on a translation of John’s Gospel into Saxon, apocryphally completing it, singing a Glory Patri, and expiring.   

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

The world always seems to be on fire.  What is causing the flames seems to always be new, as one internet personality calls it “the current thing”, but the flames persist.  And like the old Billy Joel song recounting a list of past current things insists, “We didn’t start the fire.” Billy says he tried to fight it.  The Joker just likes to watch the world burn. But all of these things keep the focus on the fire. The purpose of Apocalyptic, like the book of Revelation, or you could say the Bible itself, is to learn to walk through the fire without being burned.  To learn to ignore the fire because that is the death pangs of a world already judged, a world that you have been rescued from.

Hear Jesus’ from our gospel lesson this week (John 16:22-33).  “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.”  Is the world on fire? Yep. It is a place of tribulation. Is it our job to put out the fire? No. Christ overcame the world.  Is it our job to feed the fire? Even less so. “God judges those outside (1 Corinthians 5:13).” So what is the Bible about if it isn’t about how we can save the world or defeat it? It is about peace.  “I say these things that you might have peace.”

And how might we have peace in the midst of flames, maybe even flames that we have caused?  First, know that you have caused the flames.  Denying it like Billy does no good.  Instead, confession is good for the soul.  “We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).”  And that is the fire on this old earth, sin.  It has been burning from the day Eve took the apple, probably prior, for where did that old snake come from? But if we broke it, doesn’t that mean we have to pay for it? Normally, but God loves his creation, enough to rescue it. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son (John 3:16).” But what if God changes his mind?  All those old pagan gods and even our new gods do that constantly.  Capricious is the world applied to them most often. Have peace in your hearts, “the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children (Ps. 103:17).” The word that most describes The LORD is steadfast love.  It is the Hebrew “Chesed” which can also mean faithfulness or covenant obligation or even grace.  When God makes a promise, he’s good for it.  Always has been.  Far from being capricious, The LORD is steadfast, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Read the entire story and tell me that isn’t true.

But why doesn’t he stop the fire?  Well, he has for those who will look up to the cross.  “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the son of man must be lifted up (John 3:14).”  That story is in Numbers 21.  “Fiery serpents” plagued Israel who were healed by looking up.  And we are likewise saved by looking to the cross. This is the peace that Jesus desires us to have.  He’s defeated the world and saved you.  Not that he’s taken you out of it.  You are his ambassadors of peace.  But you no longer need to fear the fire.  This world might destroy this body or this home, but you have the resurrection body and a better home.

Revelation shows us the fire in all its fury. The dragons and the beasts, the powers that be.  The four horsemen and the bowls and the trumpets.  These things continue.  They are the great tribulation.  But in the midst of all this, it shows us the sealed.  It shows us those who have come out of the great tribulation. And especially it says, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the lamb (21:9).”  And we are shown this great cube city (1380 miles wide, long and high) having the glory of God and made of only the best stuff. This is our home, the Holy City Jerusalem that comes down from heaven to earth.  This is the place that has been prepared for you.  Have peace, take heart, the bridegroom comes.  

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – The Exodus – the Plagues
  • Confirmation: Completed Year 1, return in the Fall
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  May 23rd, 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: Continuing with the Lord’s Prayer

Spirit Led Change: Vision, Experience and the Word

Biblical Text: Text: Acts 11:1-18, John 16:12-15

Change in the church is always a contentious issue. But even Jesus assumed that it would happen. And the book of Acts gives an example of a significant change. What these biblical texts give us is a Spirit Led pattern. This sermon takes Jesus’ words as the basis and Acts as the enaction of those words. Peter’s “ordered argument” is meaningful. It is not that revelation or vision and experience are meaningless. They are quite meaningful and Peter includes both as part of his argument. But his real argument is “remembering the Word of God.” This sermon looks at Peter’s Spirit led example and encourages us to examine our own changing in the same light.

Virtual Bulletin – 5/15

May 15th, 2022 – 5th Sunday of Easter

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  May 16th – May 22nd

Monday……………….. .           6:00PM             LAF

Wednesday…………….           7:00 PM           Church Council

Thursday……………….          10:00 AM        Bible Study

Friday: ………………….           5:00 PM           Confirmation

Saturday……………….           Constantine & Helena

Sunday: ………………….          10:00 AM        Worship

                                                 11:15 AM        Bible Study     

COMMEMORATIONS

In a supposedly post-Constantinian age it might seem strange seeing Constantine and his mother Helena show up on the list of commemorations.  There are plenty of educated despisers of various words like Ceasaro-Papism or Dan Brown conspiracy theorists around the Council of Nicea.  There are even many sincere advocates of a church purified of secular power.  But I think they miss the general good of a Christian ruler.  It is part of the Small Catechism in fact.  What is meant by daily bread includes “…devout and faithful rulers, good government…”.  The Edict of Milan in 314 ended the on and off persecution of the church.  After Constantine won the battle of the Milvian Bridge under the sign of the “Chi-Rho” which He had seen in a vision, it was no longer a crime to be a Christian.

Helena, Constantine’s mother, had become a Christian much earlier, and after his victories they were responsible for many fine things.  She built the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.  The same one you might catch on Easter broadcasts.  They also erected what is known as Old Saint Peters which stood over the tombs of Peter and Paul until the building of the present Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome.  Those are the big works, but Imperial favor helped in many ways throughout the empire. It was also Constantine who called the bishops to Nicea to make a clear statement about the Arian Controversy – what we know as the Nicene Creed.

We live in a “Two Kingdom’s World”.  Christ rules the gospel directly, but the kingdom of the law is ruled by the crooked timber of humanity. It is worth remembering those rulers who attempted to honor Christ as Lord and the good that they can accomplish.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

The largest chunk of the book of Revelation, roughly chapters 6 through 20, are the three cycles of seven: seals, trumpets and bowls.  Each cycle has at least one “close-up”.  The seal close-up is of the eternal election in Chapter 7.  The trumpets has two.  There is a close-up of the two witnesses in chapter 10 who represent simply the testimony of the prophets and the apostles which continue for the entire time.  If you are Lutheran you are tempted to say Law and Gospel, but that might be a little too far.  The trumpets also has an overview of church history from the incarnation to the end in chapters 12-14.  So you’ve had a close-up on pre-history, the eternal election.  You’ve had a close-up on the great span of history and the work of the church in that great span.  In the bowls section you get a close-up of the end, the fall of the beasts, the prostitute, Babylon everything meant to symbolize the devil, the world and our sinful nature. Christ has triumphed and reigns during the entire time which ends in the final defeat of Satan.  The purpose of the apocalyptic is to reveal to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. And what is revealed in all the cycles is that God is in control.  He knows who are his, and he saves them.  Whatever the enemies are doing, they can’t harm God’s elect.

But all of that is tough to preach on.  It is written for study and meditation. I think that is why the lectionary just skips to the end, to Revelation 21. Our epistle reading has 4 things to remind us of said clearly.  1) Our hope is a new heaven and a new earth.  This heaven – taken as space and the sky – and this earth are warn out, and God brings to completion his work of re-creation which was started on Easter morning with the resurrection of Jesus.  2) In this new heaven and new earth no longer will the highest heaven – the abode of God – be separate from the heavens and the earth.  “The dwelling place of God is with man.”  3) The dwelling of God with man is not to inspire fear or judgment.  Those things have been put behind when Satan and all of his were cast to the lake of ire.   The dwelling place of God is with man that he may wipe away every tear and death shall be no more.  The former things have passed away.  Behold, God does a new thing, he makes all things new. 4) And this salvation is placed in familial terms. “The one who conquers…he will be my son.” Not a slave or servant or a serf, but a son of the Household of God.

Each one of those things restores something that was originally lost: the goodness of creation not just its existence, the communion with God in the flesh, seeing God without fear, and a true fellowship with all.  There are lots of ways we try and create those things here, but they always end up rushing the not yet or slipping out of our grasp.  We have them instead by faith, because God has promised them, and He keeps his promises.  He is faithful to his covenant which He calls His steadfast love.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – The Exodus – the Plagues
  • Confirmation: Lord’s Prayer – Conclusion
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  May 16th, 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: Continuing with the Lord’s Prayer

Hearing the Voice of the Shepherd

Biblical Text: Acts 20:17-35

This Sunday is typically “Good Shepherd” Sunday. The Gospel text comes from John 10. The key verse of that being “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” The first reading assigned in from the end of Acts. And why it is paired up with the Gospel reading is because it is the answer to the natural question: How do the sheep hear the voice? This sermon meditates on the answer based on Paul’s “good-bye” message to the Ephesian Elders.

Virtual Bulletin – 5/8

May 8th, 2022 – 4th Sunday of Easter

Happy Mother’s Day 

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  May 9th – May 15th

Monday……………….. .           Job

                                                 6:00 PM           Men’s Group

Tuesday……………….            9:00 AM          Pastor’s Circuit Meeting

Wednesday…………….           Cyril & Methodius, Missionaries

                                                 6:00 PM           Women’s Group

Thursday……………….          10:00 AM        Bible Study

Friday: ………………….           5:00 PM           Confirmation

Sunday: ………………….          10:00 AM        Worship

                                                 11:15 AM        Bible Study     

COMMEMORATIONS

The Lutheran Service Book added a bunch of Old Testament personages to the commemorations calendar. I kinda get it.  My assumption is that with the declines in Sunday Schools and general Biblical Literacy they desired to inject something that would give a handle for a pastor to write a paragraph and encourage your personal study.  So on Monday, maybe read a chapter or two of Job.  The middle sections are slog without a group, but the beginning and ending (Chapters 1-2, 38-end) are graspable.  And the are relevant to concerns many have today about the faith in this world.

Cyril and Methodius were brothers in the 800’s. The lived in Thessalonica – the city of the Letter to the Thessalonians – which was part of the Byzantine Empire.  At that time a group of people known as “The Slavs” were often coming into the Empire and the brothers labored to teach the migrants the Christian Faith.  At the invite of a minor prince they would eventually be dispatched to the area of the Slavs itself to nurture and build the church.  They ended up creating the first alphabet and written language for this group of peoples.  We know it today as the Cyrillic Script of Russian, Ukrainian, Kazakh, Turkmen and over 50 other languages or dialects. They translated the bible into this written language.  They also created the liturgy of the Slavic church. It is this bit of history that would create tension.  It was authorized by Pope Adrian II and they continued in the vernacular while the Western Church used Latin everywhere.  Eventually areas that bordered some of the Slavic places, like Jan Hus’ Czechia and Luther’s Germany, also wanted to use more of vernacular in the liturgy and have the scripture in their tongue. The acts of two brothers to preach the gospel continue to have implications to this day.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

The core of the book of Revelation has three great cycles of seven: seals, trumpets and bowls. There are various interpretations, but the one that I’d hang my hat on is that each cycle is a repeat of history from the Ascension to the Final Judgement.  Each cycle with a slightly different focus. In the first two cycles, between the sixth and the seventh happening, there is a pause.  And in that pause there are these passages of hope.  As the chaos of the end hurtles closer and the powers that be know their time grows shorter, the message pauses to remind Christians that they are good.  Our Epistle Lesson (Rev 7:9-17) is from the first of those pauses. It is the vision of the divine election.  No matter what else is happening there are 144,000 sealed. That 144,000 has caused a lot of mischief.  Think of it like 12, the complete number from the old testament, times 12 the complete number from the NT, times 1000 a large complete number.  As Paul would say in Romans, “all Israel will be saved.” They have been chosen by God.  And just to make this clear, that the number is not literal, the vision of the great multitude is given.  “A great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and languages.”

John, the visionary, gets asked “who are these?” John doesn’t claim to know so the Elder tells him.  ‘These are the ones coming out of the tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.” These are the full number that were sealed before eternity.  The chaos as maelstrom of history were paused so that God could seal his own.  Regardless of what the powers would do, these would be enabled to stand.

And how does this happen in history?  “The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water.” Your Baptism in history is the sacramental reality of that election.  You have been lead to the spring of living water.  Likewise Christ has become your shepherd.  You have heard his voice and followed.  And the Father who has given you to the Son from before all time has made it sure that no one is able to snatch you away (John 10). Whatever judgments hit the earth from the seal and trumpets and bowls of wrath, you have been sealed.  The Good Shephed leads you beside still waters and restores your soul.   

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – The Exodus pt 1
  • Confirmation: Lord’s Prayer
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  May 16th, 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: Continuing with the Lord’s Prayer