Virtual Bulletin – 9/19

September 19th, 2021 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Sept 20th – Sept 27th

Mon – Wed:………….              Pastor at Doxology (Mon Afternoon – Wed Morning)

Monday: ………………             6:00pm             Women’s Group

Wednesday…………..               5:30pm             Confirmation

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

The creeds that we say every week have their three-article structure with each article confessing a person of the Trinity.  But also when confessing that person they confess a particular action most associated with the person.  The Father is the Creator.  The Son is the Savior.  The Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier.  Out of that basic structure grew the classic outline of theology.  The first locus would be The Doctrine of God.  In many individual theologies that doctrine starts out with the god of classical theism, the god of the Philosophers.  If you have met this god it is probably in the list of divine attributes: unity, simplicity, immutability, omnipresent, eternal and so on.  But that god never revealed himself.  Much of that is confirmed in revelation, but it remains largely speculation of an unknown god.  The Father revealed himself.  He revealed himself in the work of creation.  He eventually reveals himself most fully in Jesus.  The God we can know and love is the revealed God.

The second doctrine is typically the doctrine of Man.  What is man?  What does it mean that God has become man or a man? With what type of nature did God create us? Small questions. Eventually the theology has to answer and not just pose questions.  If you are Descartes you say that man is two-fold – a mind and the body.  I think, therefore I am.  And that is how most of our world continues to thing about man leading to such things a the “mind-body” problem or the problem of consciousness. How does the mind interact with the body?  How does the material body produce the mind?  Why do separate minds appear to share the same material universe? (That’s The Matrix problem.  How do you know that the entire world is not just a projection fed your individual mind?)  Not that Christian Theology has never delved into those things, but Christian Theology has tended to see man not as dual but in three parts.  The emotions and base desires with the seat of the gut.  The rational mind with its seat of the head.  And joining these is the will with its seat of the heart.  Ignoring, or maybe I should just say accepting naïve reality, Christian Theology, especially Reformation Theology, has stressed that it is our will, our hearts, that are wrong.  It is not just that we desire, gut level, the wrong things, but that we then tend to translate that desire into active will.  And we turn our reason into self-justification.  I have taken x, because I wanted x, so brain explain why this is good, right and salutary when it is not.

This is what James picks up this in this week’s Epistle reading (James 3:13-4:10).  “If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” Our reason would do exactly that.  It will deny the truth and boast about other reasons, to cover actions of jealousy and ambition. The world is status market full of pushing and grabbing, and if you don’t promote yourself, nobody else will.  But James insists that wisdom is in works of meekness.  We will the wrong things.  “Is it not your passion at war within you? (James 4:1)” that produce our quarrels.  Our envy of things we think should be ours and yet aren’t leads to murder or simply hatred of the one who has.  Why don’t we have?  God wishes to give us the bounty of his providence.  “We ask wrongly, to spend it on our passions.” We take God’s good and perfect gifts and use them to further our quarrels.  We take the gifts of God to make peace with the world or to buy our way in it.  “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4)?”  And so God, if he is merciful, spares us this by not giving us what we ask.  James is pointing why we do not have and all the ways our hearts – our wills – have gone wrong.

At the end he returns to the thought, or maybe question at this point, if God wants to give us the gifts of his grace, how does grace work?  “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).”  God’s greatest gifts are not things we strive after, but things he gives away.  The way of the Kingdom is not the way of the world.  Yes, if you are in the world, you better run your own PR.  If you are of the Kingdom, “humble yourselves before the LORD, and he will exalt you (James 4:10).” The doctrine of man?  Fallen, but redeemed. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, but restore unto me the joy of Your salvation. Seek first the Kingdom, and all these things shall be given unto you.  Lord so move our hearts toward your good fruits (James 3:17) and friendship with your Son.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: 1 John, Darkness and Light, The Antichrist, Children of God, Love one another, good time to join!
  • Confirmation:  Covered the Intro, be prepared for the First Commandment
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  This Thursday, Fruits of the Spirit: Gentleness
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: Baptism continues in your inbox

WOMEN’S GROUP

6 PM Monday here at church.  Dinner and fellowship. All invited. (They might have an actual agenda also.)

SOMETHING FUN?

An internet friend is gathering a survey of LCMS Lutherans for a Grad School project.  It takes about 15 mins and asks some questions about your religious upbringing and the current LCMS.  If you would like to take his survey it can be found at https://t.co/EcKTWk3pxF?amp=1

Virtual Bulletin – 9/12

September 12th, 2021 – 16th Sunday after Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Sept 13th – Sept 19th

Monday: ………………             6:00pm             Men’s Group

Tuesday………………              Holy Cross Day

Wednesday…………..               5:00pm             Confirmation

                                                 7:30pm             Church Council

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

REGISTERING ATTENDENCE

We are back to recording weekly attendance.    Please help with this. Record your presence in the pew books!

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

In Sunday morning bible study we recently were reading Mark 13, which is the Markan apocalypse. Jesus is leaving the temple grounds for the last time and the disciples are marveling over “such large stones”.  Jesus tells them “not one stone will be left on top of another.”  At least a world is ending, if not the world.  And such a prediction spurs the disciples to two questions: 1) When will these things be, and 2) What will be the signs?  Jesus’ answer contains a little of AD 70 when that temple was destroyed and not one stone was left on top of another, and a little of a much larger apocalypse.  If the first had some signs, like “when you see the abomination of desolation”, the second does not.  No one knows the time, not even the Son (Mark 13:32).  Which supports one of Jesus’ mantras – “keep awake (Mark 13:37).”

The concern within Christian circles always seems to be with the second part – the end of the world.  But as a preacher, if I am being true to the scriptures, I find that part boring.  The only message one can preach is “watch.” Which is important, but eventually you become the boy who cried wolf if you bring it to the foreground all the time.  “Watch” to me is more that salutary reminder that “today your soul might be required of you.”  Or as the hymn puts it “for the foe, well we know, is a harvest reaping, while the saints are sleeping.” These days I find myself thinking about the first part.  If everything in scripture is given to us to learn from, what happens to Israel happens to all, what does AD 70, the end of a world, tell us?  And what signs will be given that our world is ending, not the world but the big stones of our temple coming down? And if you think God is not involved in the nations intimately start with Acts 17:26, Deuteronomy 32:8, Job 12:23 and Isaiah 41:2.  I think Jesus even points a bit at this when he says “from the fig tree learn its lesson (Mark 13:28).” One day, on the way into Jerusalem, Jesus spies a fig tree in full leaf, but it has no fruit, so he curses it.  And by evening on the trip back, the cursed fig tree is dead.

There seems to me to be a tension between that parable of the fig tree, which is about the immanent judgement of the LORD and another tree parable, the barren fig in Luke 13: 8ff.  In that one the man who planted the tree has given it three years and it is still fruitless, so he orders it taken out.  But the vinedresser argues with him, give it one more year, I will take some extraordinary steps.  The problem in both is fruitlessness.  Repent and bear fruit is always an answer.  But sometimes the sign is a call of extraordinary attention, and others the final pronouncement.  Some signs are “wars and rumors of wars…earthquakes and famines.” Some signs are towers falling.  Like the tower of Siloam (Luke 13:4-5). They are extraordinary steps to say “do you think you are better than other sinners? No I tell you, repent or perish (Luke 13:4-5).” But some signs are the abomination of desolation, the cursing of the fruitless fig.  It is mildly disconcerting the other 20th century superpower left Afghanistan in defeat in February of 1989, and by November of 1989 the Berlin Wall had fallen and a world ended.

But even in the midst of these things Jesus tells us three things: 1) God is working for the sake of the elect.  There will be signs and wonders, but it is impossible to lead astray those God has chosen. 2) Be on your guard.  The five wise virgins brought oil with them. 3) I have told you these things beforehand.  Worlds end, even the world will end.  But they do so at the command of the LORD.  And as much as we might be formed by the big stones of the temples of this world, Our Rock is not in this world. Our temple is a heavenly one. We worship with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven. And nothing shall pull that Rock down.  The house built on the Rock stands.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: 1 John, Darkness and Light, The Antichrist, Children of God, Love one another, good time to join!
  • Confirmation:  New Class Starts this week
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Paused for now?
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: Reading the catechism on Baptism directly to your inbox.

MEN’S GROUP

6 PM Monday here at church.  Dinner and fellowship. All invited.

SOMETHING FUN?

An internet friend is gathering a survey of LCMS Lutherans for a Grad School project.  It takes about 15 mins and asks some questions about your religious upbringing and the current LCMS.  If you would like to take his survey it can be found at https://t.co/EcKTWk3pxF?amp=1

COFFEE HOUR

If you could pick up a week, the sign-up sheet is on the first bulletin board.  Thanks!

Virtual Bulletin – 9/5

September 5th, 2021 – 15th Sunday after Pentecost

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

Monday: ………………             Labor Day

Tuesday………………              First Day of Preschool

                                                 7:00pm             Elder’s Meeting

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

James is an odd little book, but it might not be so odd if we categorized it right.  The Bible has a lot of genres in it.  There are historical narratives and biographies.  There are poems and hymns and prophetic oracles including apocalyptic ones.  There are letters and something called wisdom literature. And that is where I think some of the confusion sets in.  Most of the New Testament is apostolic letters.  James itself looks superficially like a letter.  But we try to read James as if he is doing the same things as Paul. Paul is preaching and correcting and encouraging people he usually knows.  Romans is the exception, but even in Romans, paul imagines a specific congregation and a specific purpose.  He wants their support for his missionary work and the letter is sharing what Paul preaches.  James is wisdom literature, like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. James is an apostle and relative of Jesus sharing his best advice.  He is the head apostle of the Jewish church in Jerusalem sharing sanctified wisdom won through long experience. As such, maybe it doesn’t always apply.  That is part of wisdom, discerning when things truly are different.  The race is normally to the swift and the battle to the strong, but occasionally the tortoise beats the hare.  James is about normally.

Normally we are desirous of status and money.  Money isn’t always status, but it is usually a floor.  Even the church is not immune to such things (surprise!). James’ sanctified wisdom is to fight against that normal pull.  “Show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (James 2:1).”  And in this case James gives his reasoning.  The world of the gospel is topsy-turvy. “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith (James 2:5)?” Is that always the case?  No.  Even Jesus would say “with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27)” in response to the same thought.  But there is something about the rich not needing Jesus quite as much.  Picture the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. So much so that even the thought of needing something outside himself, as the gospel is proclaimed to us from outside of ourselves, often invites persecution.  “Are the rich not the ones who oppress you, and drag you into court, and blaspheme the name (James 2:6-7).”

And then that topic is put down and another picked up.  In our reading today (James 2:1-18) that topic is the connection between faith and works.  Paul and the entire Reformation is about preaching “grace alone through faith alone, so that no one can boast.”  Our salvation is never our work and James would agree with that.  But his wisdom is still that works are necessary.  The Reformers would agree.  From the Book of Concord, the Lutheran confessional documents, “Good works certainly and without a doubt follow truth faith, if it is not a dead but a living faith, just as fruit grows on a good tree. (Formula of Concord IV p. 6.).” And also, “We also believe, teach and confess that all people, but especially those who are born again and renewed by the Holy Spirit, are obligated to do good works (FC IVp8).”  James’ wisdom?  That faith which does not produce works willingly is a dead tree.  “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:17).”

Wisdom literature can serve as law.  Looking in the mirror of James, am I a dead tree?  This is probably how it normally is taken as we compare ourselves to “normally.”   Wisdom literature can also be gospel. “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it (James 2:10).” And we have all fallen short, yet God has not abandoned us.   

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: We are going to read the letters of John, new start, good time to join!
  • Confirmation:  Tentatively starting Sept 15th
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Returning – Huddling after service today to talk?
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: We will continue the sacraments, sorry about this week.

Virtual Bulletin – 8/29

August 29th, 2021 – 14th Sunday after Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Aug 30th – Sept 5th

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

This Sunday is our last reading in the book of Ephesians (Eph 6:10-20).  We first said that Paul’s letters are usually divided into two parts. The first part is the main argument which in Ephesians used financial (“in him we have the redemption”), familial (“we have obtained an inheritance”) and cosmic (“chosen before the foundation of the world”) language to proclaim the gospel – what Christ has done for us.  The second part of Paul’s letters turns to how we then live the Christian life.  In Ephesians the key is “walk in love as Christ first loved us.”  And Paul continued the financial language describing those who “have no inheritance” while also encouraging us to “not become partners with them” but with the wise.  He described how walking in love looks in the family – husband and wife, children and parents, and the larger household of the day.  He saves for his poetic ending the cosmic language.

“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  Such a message is hard to hear for modern materialists like ourselves.  If one doesn’t believe in Satan, or if one’s conception of God is a very distant watchmaker who does not really participate in his creation, cosmic powers get reduced to things like bad government policy or systemic effects.  Utopia is just the right policy, some remediation and good education away.  And one goes off to battle without even recognizing the enemy, believing it is just flesh and blood, blind and naked against such cosmic powers.  Such leadership, such education, is quickly and easily routed. The best of intentions turned to partnership with this present darkness.

Paul’s encouragement is that God has given us what we need for this cosmic battle.  “Put on the whole armor of God.” He portrays the eternal things as the Legionnaires battle gear. Truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, the word – these are how one stands on The Day. The solider on enemy ground – in the world of the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers – keeps communications live (“praying at all times”) and keeps guard (“keep alert with perseverance making supplication for all the saints.”)   Walking in love cosmically is being the outpost of the Kingdom of Heaven in enemy territory. But the call of duty is not kill them all and let God sort them out.  It is not the conquest of this world, for this world is passing away.  The call of duty is to hold onto those eternal things in the midst of the changeable world “that we might withstand in the evil day and stand firm.”  The specific call might be quite different person to person, hence the supplications for all the saints, including Paul’s request for himself “that I might open my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains.”

We walk in love in a loveless world.  The Kingdom of God is one of love.  The Kingdom’s of this world are ones that use love for other ends, to lead you, if possible, into darkness.  But cosmically, you have been chosen before the foundation of the world. You have a calling. Put on the armor and join the fight.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: We are going to read the letters of John, new start, good time to join!
  • Confirmation:  Tentatively starting Sept 15th after school
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Returns in September
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: We started the Sacraments this week.  If you didn’t receive, make sure I have your email

DIRECTORY/ROSTER

Thank you for all those who have already returned the contact information. For those who have not been present, we will be mailing out the info form.  We will also be moving on to getting updated photos for everyone.  If you have a photo that you like, and it is in digital form, you can email it to John Bayer who will also be taking photos at church.  He can also scan in physical photos.

RIDE REQUEST

Thank you to those who have contacted me. 

Virtual Bulletin – 8/22

August 22th, 2021 – 13th Sunday after Pentecost

Flowers in Honor of Wayne & DeeDee’s Wedding Anniversary

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

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

Paul’s argument in the second half of Ephesians is that the Christian life is walking in love. And as he shows us what that means there are three concepts that are important.  Love itself, which is the concept that is being fleshed out as Christ incarnated it, is the first concept and the one being defined.  Last week the concept was wisdom. Walking in love means being able to discern the wise from the unwise.  And the path of wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord – “understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph 5:17).”  Paul’s fleshing out of love ended last week with the third concept, submission.

Christ himself submitted to the will of his Father.  “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph 5:2).” We submit to wisdom, but wisdom is a tricky concept.  What that really looks like is a submission to the correction of the wise.  “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser (Prov 9:9)” is how Proverbs talks about it.  The wise recognize wisdom and submit to it.  In the Christian community that often means one another on a rotating basis.  That is why Paul ended last week with “submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ (Eph 5:21).”  The community walking in love should also be the community of the wise instructing each other in the way of the Lord.

So walking in love is Christ’s submission to the Father.  Walking in love is the mutual submission of his disciples to the Word and to each other that we might be wise.  And this week (Eph 5:22-33) walking in love is the special case of marriage.  In marriage Paul says we have an image or an icon of Christ and the church (Eph 5:32). It is here that Paul brings the three concepts – love, wisdom, submission – into their closest alignment.  Paul’s summation (Eph 5:33) I believe addresses directly the most foolish things we are tempted towards in marriage.  Husbands are tempted to treat their wives as extraneous instead of part of themselves in the one flesh.  Wives are tempted to belittle and disdain their husbands, which also is a denigration of the one flesh. Now this is a generalization, but these are foolish because these are how the other is most grievously hurt. The path of wisdom, a walking in love in marriage, recognizes this asymmetry in God’s creation of man and woman.  “Let each [husband] love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Eph 5:33).” This is where wisdom, submission and love meet.

Submission is love, and love is submission, but the emphasis is different depending upon who we are.  Love for Jesus was submission to the Father and to Pilate, which ultimately was the cross.  Submission for the husband is to love your wife as yourself in the same way that Christ loved the church.  This will mean personal costs, if not the cross.  Love for the wife is submission to the husband in the same way the church seeks out the Word.  This also is not something easily or naturally done.  How well does the church listen to the Word?  At the lowest level this is wisdom in that things go better, even though our world doesn’t believe that.  At the higher levels this is wisdom in that it conforms our most important life to the divine life.  We become an icon that shows divine grace.  May we learn to walk in love and display the grace of the Father.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: We are going to read the letters of John, new start, good time to join!
  • Confirmation:  Returns in September
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Returns in September
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: Will Start the Sacraments this week. Check you inbox

DIRECTORY/ROSTER

Thank you for all those who have already returned the contact information. For those who have not been present, we will be mailing out the info form.  We will also be moving on to getting updated photos for everyone.  If you have a photo that you like, and it is in digital form, you can email it to me and we will use that photo in the directory.  John Bayer will also be taking photos at church.

RIDE REQUEST

I’ve been contacted by an incoming Freshman at RIT who would be looking for a ride to church.  His address is Nathaniel Rochester Hall room 7103 on Lomb memorial drive (the school address).  I’ve got his phone number.  If some people might be able to give him a lift please let me know.  I’ll get you in contact.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

If you have anything you wish to get in the weekly newsletter, please contact pastor or just email him what you would like included usually by Thursday evening.  Thanks!

Virtual Bulletin – 8/15

August 15th, 2021 – 12th Sunday after Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Aug 16th – Aug 22th

Monday: ……………….           6:00pm             Women’s Group (cancelled, next meeting 9/13)

Wednesday: ……………           7:30pm             Church Council

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study Cancelled (My Daughter’s Move-in Day)

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

The second half of Paul’s letters are instructions on the Christian life.  His summary from last week of that life is “Walk in love as Christ loved us (Eph 5:2).”  Because we are no longer under the law such walking is not the punch list of do this don’t do that, but what does it look like?

That is what the rest of the letter to the Ephesians attempts to paint and our reading (Eph 5:6-21) is the first brushstrokes.  There are two things that Paul excludes right away, but their connection is already deeply established in the Old Testament.  “Everyone who is sexually immoral…or an idolator, has no inheritance in the kingdom of God.”  Read the short book of Hosea if you want the most explicit prophetic connection between adultery and idolatry.  The short summary is faithfulness to one’s spouse has relationship to faithfulness to God.  And if salvation is by faith, those who are faithless are outside the Kingdom.  That idea is given broader spiritual meaning when Paul says, “Don’t be deceived with empty words, the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience, therefore do not become partners with them.”  As Proverbs would contrast Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly, Paul reminds us that our adversary will tell us many sweet nothings, but don’t become partners in darkness.  “Now, you are light in the Lord.”  The Spiritual Life – The Christian Life – is a partnership with God the Holy Spirit.  Satan, The World, Lady Folly all say all the fun in is the dark.  “The Freaks come out at night!”  But everything done in darkness eventually comes into the light, which is the stick, to the carrot of the promise of resurrection, “Awake O Sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  The bible really doesn’t think of Love in an abstract way.  It is not the philosophical virtue we often make it, or the word emptied of objective context.  The Christian walks in love when being faithful to Christ.

So the Christian life, a faithful walk, is often more about wisdom and folly.  “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise (5:15).”  And the application of wisdom is prudent judgment. “Understand what the will of the LORD is (5:17).”  Where do we find that?  His word.  Become familiar with it.  “Don’t get drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit (5:18).” If we are looking for that experience that excites and fills us with joy, don’t go the easy artificial route.  Wine might work now, but tomorrow morning you’ll feel it.  Seek out the fullness of God.  “Make melody to the Lord giving thanks (5:19-20).”  Israel wandered 40 years in the desert because they grumbled.  Our sinful desire, our natural setting is to grumble.  Tom Wolfe wrote “the typical American plumber lives in a manner that would make the Sun King of France blush.” Not only has the common blessing of God been showered on us, but the salvific favor of God has also been given to you by grace in Jesus Christ.  You are the most fortunate people in all of history.  Yet we long for Egypt.  Turn away from the grumbling toward thanksgiving.  Know the Word that you might have a psalm in your heart for all occasions.  This is the way of wisdom, a walk in love.

WOMEN’S GROUP

No meeting this month.  Next meeting September 13th, a week early.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: We are going to read the letters of John, but I’m taking Anna to school this week, so no Thursday.
  • Confirmation:  Returns in September
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Returns in September
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: We are back! Finished the Lord’s Prayer and moving into the Sacraments.  Check your inbox.

Virtual Bulletin – 8/8

August 8th, 2021 – 11th Sunday after Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Aug 9nd – Aug 15th

Mon- Fri………………..           Preschool Summer Camps

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

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

Paul’s letters typically have two sections.  The front section is Paul’s big argument – what he is writing to express.  And in most of the letters that is some form of the good news.  In Ephesians we’ve heard the financial (“In him we have the redemption through his blood”), the familial (“We have obtained an inheritance”), and the cosmic (“he chose us in him before the foundation of the world”). And Paul has developed his argument such that we have a cosmic equity (“one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God the Father”) while also receiving different gifts.  Today’s Epistle lesson (Eph 4:17-5:2) starts the second section.  Our translation chooses to use an emphatic change word “now…now this I say and testify.”  Now, remembering that argument.  Now, on the basis of all that good news.  Now, since you have heard the big picture.  Let me – the apostle Paul– try to apply this to some specific problems in life.  In many of the letters, Paul has to be responding to other letters sent to him.  Ephesians feels like one of those letters.  How do you live the Christian life, let me tell you.

This inheritance, this election, this redemption, is not so that you can just go on living as you have.  “You must no longer walk as the Gentiles do in the futility of their minds.”  You know!  You have the mind of Christ.  You have been enlightened with His gifts.  He bought you with his blood not so that you could live like animals but so that you would be “the new-self created in the likeness of God in true righteousness.”  Using the gospel to justify “deceitful desires” is “grieving the Holy Spirit.”  What might we be talking about? Oh, let me see what people have written.

“Put away falsehood, let each one speak truth with his neighbor.”

“Be angry but do not sin.”  Settle your arguments so the devil has no opportunity.

“Tell the thief to get a job.”

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up.” What did mom say? If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything?

“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander be put away, along with all malice.”  So you didn’t listen to the first warning about anger, I mean it.

Instead of all these “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving.”  But the Christian life is not one run by a checklist.  The law is helpful, but you are not under the law, and it has no power anyway. The reason you have been chosen from before time and given an inheritance is because you are the children of God.  As such you are imitators of God.  “Walk in love as Christ love us.”  Follow Christ.  Out of his love, love your fellow believer.

Paul’s examples pick back up in parts that our lectionary leaves out.  What does love not look like? Read Eph 5:3-5. Instead, what does walking look like?  Read next week.  But there is one last bit to contemplate.  There are plenty of passages that would universalize the behavior that Paul is talking about (ex. The Good Samaritan), but Ephesians is concerned with how Christians treat each other.  You collectively have been chosen.  “We are members of one another.”  If we are one body growing into the fullness of Christ, this is the life blood – love.  If we do not have this, we are nothing.  

MEN’S GROUP

We haven’t had a men’s group in a while.  I’m lighting the grill Monday.  Everyone of the male persuasion welcome.  I’ve put out a sign-up, but if you aren’t on, don’t let that stop you.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: We are going to be looking at the short book of Jude which has an interesting problem.  Come Join!
  • Confirmation:  Returns in September
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Returns in September
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: I promise to be back.

Virtual Bulletin – 8/1

August 1st, 2021 – 10th Sunday after Pentecost

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Aug 2nd – Aug 8th

Mon- Fri………………..           Preschool Summer Camps

Tuesday: ……………….           Elder’s Off for Summer

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

One of the big fights in our culture today is between two words – equality and equity.  Equality is the old term probably best defined most recently by MLK as “being judged by the content of your character not by the color of their skin.” The content of your character is something that you can build and reinforce or demolish and deconstruct daily.  The hope is that opportunity might roughly be given to those with appropriate character. Equity is something quite different.  It asserts that character and the right to judge character are of no concern.  Opportunity is not what is of concern.  It is material outcomes that matter.  Everybody should receive the same, and if they don’t there is no good reason for that.

In our Epistle lesson today there is an equity portion.  “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, on God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”  The mystical body of Christ is one.  The same Spirit that resides in you because of your baptism resides in all according to their baptism.  We all have the same hope in Christ and likewise we have the same ground of our being in the Father.  We have equity in this. It is also all completely given by the grace of the Triune God.  There is also an equality portion.  The gifts that Christ has given to his people come in different forms: “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.”  The opportunity in these gifts is for all to “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”  The gifts differ.  The parts of the body differ. But the opportunity is the same, to grow into Christ “each part working properly.”

For me there are two points of temptation.  The biblical witness is that the grace of Christ, the equity portion, is so much greater than anything in the equality portion as to make comparison meaningless.  We’ve been forgiven 10,000 talents, do we really want to argue over 100 denarii?  The first and greatest temptation is to spurn the gifts of God that we have been given, to deny the grace.  The second point of temptation is rooted in what we are aimed at by our Creator and the indwelling Spirit.  We are aimed toward love for God and love for our neighbor – “makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  The temptation is to disagree with what God is calling from us.  I have not been given enough honor.  I cannot be called to love this person or task.  But that is the equal opportunity of the Kingdom, to grow in love.  This temptation fractures the body, “driven to and fro by the waves, carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”  Since I have been given such a poor plot, I shall take my own.

Help us to be equipped and joined and held together by every joint that we might “walk in a manner worthy of the calling.”

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: Galatians, come join us!
  • Confirmation:  Returns in September
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Returns in September
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: Ok, I promise, I’ll get back to this.  If you didn’t get it in your inbox, let me know please!

COFFEE HOUR

We have resumed coffee and cookies after services.  We also have a gorgeous new serving cart from the Warriner family begging to be used.  If you could pick up a week, the sign-up sheet is on the first bulletin board.  Thanks!

Virtual Bulletin – 7/18

July 18th, 2021 – 8th Sunday after Pentecost

Note about Virtual Bulletin: This is a shortened form of what gets emailed (if I have your email) and what is passed out with the bulletin on Sunday. I take out the very congregation specific info. If you want to ensure you get that, please contact me with your email.

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  July 19th – July 25th

Mon-Mon.………………           Pastor’s Vacation (Stay Mon-Wed, Out of Town Thur-Sun)

Mon…………………….            6:00pm             Women’s Group

Wednesday……………..           7:30pm             Church Council

Thursday: ………………           10:00am           NO Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

Devotion & Prayer Thought

One of the cheats to following Paul’s letters is often to look for the prepositions or transition words, like “therefore” or “since” or “so then”.  Right before our Epistle lesson today Paul has restated what for me is a better gospel in a nutshell than John 3:16.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  Therefore…

What Paul says today rests on that statement of the gospel.  And what he speaks about is a new unity.  The world was once divided into Jews and Gentiles.  And this type of division was not unique then and continues to be common.  There were Greeks and Barbarians.  From what I have been told there are “Han” which means “the people” in China and everyone else. The United States certainly thinks of itself as a country set apart.  Each “tribe, people, language and nation” has “dividing walls of hostility” that are maintained by law, ordinance and culture.  Now Paul maintains that the Jewish law is special in this regard in that the Jews through Abraham also had the covenant of promise.  But by both the Jewish law and every other law, everyone was once cut off from God.  But in his flesh Christ has broken down these walls.  Christ is our peace.  He has made things that were natural enemies one in himself.  All of mankind’s laws died when Christ was crucified under Pontius Pilate.  Those who were near and those who were far have all been called to the foot of the cross to be reconciled to God.  What is divided by the fallen nature of creation has been united in one Christ, the firstborn of the new creation.

“So then…”. What does it mean that we have been united in Christ?  You who have been united to Christ, Jews and Greeks, Greeks and Barbarians, Americans and foreigners, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens.  You are citizens together with all the saints, and you are members of the household.  More than just fellow citizens, you are brothers and sisters, because Christ has joined us. Yes, this world and its laws will continue to separate, maybe even with hostility.  But this world is passing away.  To be part of Christ is to be freed from those separations and to grow together into a holy temple of the Spirit. God has made his dwelling place here, with you, and with all who have been called to the foot of the cross for that peace.  There are many things that divide us.  But in the church, these all disappear at the foot of the cross.  And not the least because none of us gathered here has done anything to deserve it.  The unity is a gift that flows from the grace of God which we receive by faith. May we learn to live out this faith and to live into this unity in the bonds of peace.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: Galatians, come join us! (But not this week.)
  • Confirmation:  Returns in September
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Returns in September
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: Lord’s Prayer.  If you didn’t get it in your inbox, let me know please!

Virtual Bulletin – 7/11

July 11th, 2021 – 7th Sunday after Pentecost

WORSHIP & Bible Study

Worship is at 10AM, Bible Study after service or 11:15ish

This week’s service Bulletin/Worship Link Here

Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6458485288?pwd=R2xGZkRNVi9TdzFPQzlaVnluNWo4QT09

Zoom Meeting ID: 645 848 5288 Passcode: miracles

Today is the last of our “Zooming” of worship services.  In the Spirit of Hebrews 10:25 we wish to encourage all to “not neglect to meet together but gather to encourage one another.”

Devotion & Prayer Thought

I think I’ve said prior that Ephesians is the Pauline letter that most resonates with me.  It does so because its metaphors are financial, familial, and cosmic, and those are the ones I get at a gut level.  Almost all of Paul’s letters start the same way.  The first couple of verses are like the return address and basic greeting.  From: Paul To: The church at Ephesus.  Grace and Peace to you.  But then, at various different lengths in the letters, Paul introduces the themes of the letter.  That introduction is our Epistle lesson today.  The cosmic background of the letter is first up.  “Blessed be God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” Everything that is in heaven has been given to you, and this was the plan from before the world was made.  The best in all creation, before there was time, is yours in Christ.  You don’t get more cosmic than that.  Such stakes will of course bring in cosmic “bad guys”, but fear not, this is God’s plan.

What is his plan?  “In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ…in Him we have obtained an inheritance.”  These are the familial themes.  We have been made part of God’s family.  And being part of God’s family means we have an inheritance.  God is not some beggar, but the cosmic King.  You have been made princes of the realm.  Even though we are but dust, we have great expectations because Our Father has given us all spiritual blessings.  The honor of His house, of our house, depends upon God keeping his promises.  Herod felt that weight of his promise enough to deliver the Head of the Baptist to Herodias, how much more The King delivering on something to his family that has been his grand plan all along?

So what are the financial stakes?  Think about the fall of man as an enemy combatant capturing a part of the King’s territory and enslaving those people.  That is what happened in the ancient world when you lost the battle.  That is exactly what Satan did in the garden.  “But in Christ we have redemption through His blood according to the riches of His grace.”  The Father would not withhold the Kingdom’s most precious item, the life of the crown prince.  The King redeemed his territory through Jesus.  And we have been given the Holy Spirit –“You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession.”  The Holy Spirit is the earnest money.  If the King doesn’t complete the transaction – the resurrection – we keep the Spirit.  He’s going to complete it.  You don’t walk away from a person of the Trinity, if such a thing were even possible. Yes, we don’t have that inheritance just yet.  The family is still growing.  Soon.

There are other metaphors for what God has done for us in Christ: sacrificial, creation/light, food, and others.  But I’m a sucker for a big canvass that tells a family story.  What is the language of grace that most speaks to you?  

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  July 12th – July 19th

Mon-Wed.………………           Pastoral Continuing Ed

Wednesday……………..           10:00am        Saver’s delivery

Thursday: ………………           10:00am Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am          Worship

                                                 11:00am       Bible Study

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: Galatians, come join us!
  • Confirmation:  Returns in September
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Returns in September
  • Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
  • Catechism Moment: Lord’s Prayer.  If you didn’t get it in your inbox, let me know please!