Virtual Bulletin – 4/24

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     

COMMEMORATIONS

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.”

BIBLE STUDIES

  • 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!  

Today is Different (Easter)

Biblical Text: Isaiah 65:17-25

The inspirations for this sermon were the Isaiah text, Chrysostom’s Easter sermon and a common conversation we have in confirmation class on the distinction between mercy and grace. Easter is grace.

Good Friday 2022

The service is a Tenebrae, which means there is a dowsing of the lights after each of the seven readings until the we are in darkness at the end. It is a moving service in person. I’ve left the recording complete. In most of the service posts I edit things to the sermon, readings and maybe a verse or two of the opening hymn. I do that primarily because our sound system isn’t so great as to record the congregation. But for this service it doesn’t makes sense. The “sermon” is really 5 mini-ones. Two of the meditations are musical. To give some time to meditate before rushing on to the next scene. The readings are longer and the hymns are present in shorter form, but to give response and guide meditation. It really all hangs together. And this package of homilies I one that I’m putting in the keeper pile. In the hope of the resurrection.

Maundy Thursday

Biblical Text: John 13:1-20, 31-35

Maundy Thursday, at least when I do it, is usually about the institution of the Lord’s Supper. This is still that, but this year I picked the alternate text. This text is the foot washing from the Gospel according to John. It is a more challenging text, but worth it from a Law and Gospel meditation. Because both are in this. And I’d bet that we miss it normally.

Three Ring Failure

Biblical Text: Luke 23:1-56

It was Palm Sunday which has morphed into the Sunday of the Passion. The Triumphal Entry is the Gospel of the Day in Advent 1. Maundy Thursday (the institution of the Lord’s Supper) and Good Friday (the crucifixion) have their own days, so I try to preach on the arrest and trials of Jesus. And I have to be honest that 15 years ago I don’t know if I was just naive or if things were really different, but these trials always felt like a different world. But with the number of polically motivated trials and refusals to prosecute that we’ve seen in the past few years, they have become much more real. This sermon meditates on how Luke’s portrayal of Jesus’ three trials: Chief Priests, Pilate and Herod represent three modes of failure to do justice: venality, cowardice and cynicism. How we often succumb to those failures. And How Jesus overcame them and deserves the crown.

Virtual Bulletin – 4/10

April 10th, 2022 – Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  April 11th – April 17th

Monday………………..            6:00 PM           Men’s Group

Tuesday………………..           7:00PM             Elders Meeting (Reschedule)

Wednesday…………….           5:00PM             Confirmation

Thursday……………….          Maundy Thursday

                                                 10:00 AM        Bible Study (Canceled)

                                                 7:00 PM           Maundy Thursday Service

Friday…………………..          Good Friday

                                                 7:00 PM           Good Friday Service

Saturday……………….           10:00 AM        Women’s Group

Sunday: ………………….          Easter

                                                 8:30AM           Easter Breakfast

                                                 10:00AM         Worship

                                                 11:15AM         Bible Study     

COMMEMORATIONS

This week is Holy Week, the heart of the Christian Calendar. Holy Week starts today with Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem with crowds waving Palms which culminates in the Cleansing of the Temple.  Monday through Wednesday are given to Jesus’ habitation and teaching in that cleansed Temple where he takes on all questioners and ends with his prediction of the Temple and Jerusalem’s destruction.  The glory of God leaves the temple with Jesus Wednesday evening. Going on in the background is preparation for the Jewish Passover. Thursday is Jesus’ Passover meal with his disciples from which the church receives its standing observation, the Lord’s Supper. Thursday evening into Friday morning are the arrest, trials and Passion of Jesus ending at Golgotha.  Saturday is something of the forgotten day.  It is captured in the Apostle’s creed as “He descended into Hell.” Tradition calls it the Harrowing of Hell. This requires a more Jewish or ancient understanding of Hell. We take that word merely as the place of punishment which after Holy Week Saturday it is.  But at the time, it was also “Sheol” or the abode of the dead.  Christ in triumph “bursts the gates of brass” and leads out the saints of old to paradise.  All of which leads up to the triumph over death itself on Sunday morning.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

In my sermon prep for the past few weeks there has been on observation by my favorite commentator that I just haven’t been able to fit in.  It is one of those observations that is true and witty but it just didn’t go anywhere.  Jesus probably spoke Aramaic in his daily life.  Aramaic was the universal language of the Near East which was in the process of being supplanted by Greek.  Aramaic is a close cousin of Hebrew and there is pun that the Jews liked.  “Ben” in Hebrew was Son – Ben Hur is Son of Hur. “eBen”, where the “e” is a very quick breath “eh” so it sounds the same, in Aramaic meant stone.  So, when Jesus asks the Chief Priest’s last week about “the stone the builders rejected,” he also asking them about the son the builders rejected.  And remember that Jesus’ favorite term for himself is “The Son of Man”.  Building your life on the rock is also building your life on the son.

So when the Pharisees get mad at Jesus at the Triumphal Entry and tell him to rebuke his disciples, Jesus answers, “If these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” It hits again.  If “The Sons,” the sons of Abraham, the gathered Jews, are not willing to give praise, then the stones, or the sons will cry out.  God always has his sons, even if he has to make them out of stones.  There is a reason Cephas became Peter, the Rock.

Between Rocks and Sons the Bible maintains a two way metamorphosis. Originally it is our hearts that are hearts of stone and not hearts of flesh.  Originally Christ is the Eternal Son.  The Eternal Son becomes the stone.  Whether that stone is as Paul said a couple of weeks ago the one that followed Israel which Moses struck and water pours fourth, or that stone is the foundation stone, the Son of God has been placed in our midst as our Rock in whom we trust. And we are able to trust in this rock because he has turned our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. He has removed the rock on the grave that stood between temporal us and eternal God. Standing on the Rock we have become sons of God and heirs of eternal life.

Praise is always the proper end of any theology. All theology ultimately breaks down into simple wonder. How does God make sons out of stones? It happens all the time. When the stones cry out.  The Hosannas to the King will be sung, may they also come from our lips.

EASTER BREAKFAST (8:30 AM, Easter Morning)

The Easter Breakfast is coming back this year.  Bring a dish to pass. The Church will provide Coffee, Juice and Bagels.

EASTER LILLIES

Easter Lilies will be ordered from Chase’s Greenhouse. The cost is $9 each. Money can be placed in the Blankenbush mailbox. There is a sign up sheet on the board in the hallway.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – Come to service in the evening
  • Confirmation: Lord’s Prayer – Third Petition
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  April 18th, 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: In your inbox, look for the email. (Lord’s Prayer – 4th Petition)

RUMMAGE SALE – April 23.

The preschool will start collecting stuff for the rummage sale Friday, April 15th. You can drop anything, except TV’s or Computers, any time that week.

A New Thing; Do You See It?

Biblical Text: Isaiah 43:16-21, Luke 20:9-20

The parable of the wicked tenants always feels a little like an overdetermined dead letter. Even the Chief Priests understood that Jesus told it against them. The Salvation History understanding is natural. But the problem is that history alone doesn’t preach. Especially if that history hasn’t been made one’s own. The biblical story, the story of Israel, used to be fully the possession of every Christian. But today I fear we have been severed. We still desire the form of the old things. We desire the sacraments. We desire that the bible mean something. But we want them to mean what we want them to be, not what God has clearly made them to be. And we will kill the heir to make them ours.

This sermon is an encouragement to lay hold of the new things of God, to perceive what He is doing. Before the vineyard is taken from us.

Virtual Bulletin – 4/3

April 3rd, 2022 – 5th Sunday in Lent

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  April 4th – April 10th

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

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

Wednesday…………….           Lucas Cranach and Albrecht Durer, Artists

                                                 2:30     Confirmation

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

Sunday: ………………….          Palm Sunday/Beginning of Holy Week

                                                 10:00AM         Worship

                                                 11:15AM         Bible Study     

COMMEMORATIONS

The saints the calendar points at this week were artists. Both Cranach and Durer were artists working during the reformation.  If you google their names, up will come several images that you are familiar with. Cranach was a portraitist mostly. Durer was a painter but is probably more famous for his woodcuts which adorned many of Luther’s Works in his lifetime and have continued to show up in books like the Lutheran Confessions ever since. But the point of the saints as those confessions hold is that “we might follow the example of their faith and good works according to our calling (Augsburg Confession 21).” Every vocation or calling is an opportunity to serve both God and our neighbor.  Those vocations are usually the means whereby God gives us and our neighbors our daily bread. The vocation of artist is an odd one. If you are famous, there probably isn’t one more esteemed. Yet parents hearing “I want to be an artist” from their children probably often council otherwise. Yet is there a way more people have received their daily bread than by an artists work? Or what parts of the artists calling might we follow in ours?

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

Philippians 3:8-11, our Epistle lesson, which is presented as a paragraph in our English, is one sentence in the Greek, which is a language that preferred complex compound sentences, like this one. The bad news is that you can loose track of what the writer is talking about.  The good news is that if you are willing to follow the entire argument is laid out.  In this case the Apostle Paul’s prime argument is “I count everything as loss.” That is a radical statement.  How many of us would count everything as loss? We are Americans and even in the midst of loss we usually attempt to spin it as a win.  But the Apostle is clear, it is all worthless.  Why?

First because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.  Anything that is temporal as everything in this world is, is inferior to the eternal.  Knowing the eternal is of surpassing worth.  So what does it mean to know Christ? To know Christ is to be in Christ.  Being in Christ is Paul’s shorthand for a lot of things but here he defines it specifically. To be in Christ is to have His righteousness.  And how does this righteousness come to us?  It comes not by works of the law, but by faith.  Paul doesn’t say that we might not have a temporal righteousness. We are constantly making temporal righteousness judgments.  We call it status. But worldly status is nothing compared to eternal righteousness that comes only by faith.

But why would I want this righteousness?  If it is given by grace could it not be taken away in spite? We all know that one minute we can be in favor and the next minute we are out of favor. Could not God work this way?  The short answer is no, God does not work this way.  He doesn’t work this way because it is tied to his honor.  He has promised his grace through faith in His Son.  To flake out on that would be eternal shame and division in the Godhead. That should be horrifying itself. But the way the Apostle tells it is that he counts everything as loss that he “might know the power of his resurrection…that by any means possible I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.”  Christ is risen which changes everything.  Someone who shares our flesh has been given the eternal.  And the promise is that this life we have been given temporally in Christ we will be given it eternally.  What we today hold on loan, then we will be given as ours. That in Christ likely includes a “sharing of his sufferings, and becoming like him in his death.” The loss of all things is going to happen.  It might happen earlier from following Christ.  It might happen later.  But everything temporal is going to be lost anyway. Paul’s argument ends up being pure logic.  What has changed is that in Christ we are offered something eternal.  Before Christ, sure, rack up as much temporal stuff as possible. It is better than the alternative. But in Christ we might know the resurrection.

I count all things as loss, because Christ is risen, and I too will rise. May the power of the resurrection so capture our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

EASTER LILLIES

Easter Lilies will be ordered from Chase’s Greenhouse. The cost is $9 each. Money can be placed in the Blankenbush mailbox. There is a sign up sheet on the board in the hallway.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story” – Jacob, Leah and Rachel
  • Confirmation: Lord’s Prayer – Second Petition
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  April 18th, 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: In your inbox, look for the email. (Lord’s Prayer – 3rd Petition)

RUMMAGE SALE – April 23.

The preschool will start collecting stuff for the rummage sale Friday, April 15th. You can drop anything, except TV’s or Computers, any time that week.