Here is my Church Write-Up on last Sunday.
A. At the Missouri Synod Lutheran church, one of the texts was I
John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us
our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (KJV). The youth
pastor illustrated this by drawing a picture of a man, but the hands
did not look that good. The youth pastor feigned satisfaction with the
hands and was about to put the picture to the side. But one of the kids
erased those hands and drew better hands—-hands that actually had
fingers. The youth pastor said that we may find ourselves committing a
sin and thinking that it is no big deal, or forgetting about it, but
that is not the way to deal with the problem. We should confess our
sins to God, and the blood of Christ is what brings us forgiveness.
B. The text also included I John 1:1-3: “That which was from the
beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which
we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and
shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was
manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto
you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship
is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (KJV).
The pastor opened by sharing a personal anecdote. He said that he
has long felt as if he has started life late. He is usually the last
person to get a joke. And his mother called him their “gullible one”
when he was growing up. Indeed, he believed in Bigfoot, and he could
have sworn that he saw a UFO. Nowadays, he is more skeptical and
cynical, more so than his parents would want him to be if they were
alive today. But that is with good reason, as many wonder if they can
trust what they read, since things can be photo-shopped nowadays.
The pastor then discusses I John. There were people in that day who
questioned that Jesus died and rose from the dead. There were Docetists
who maintained that a divine being could not die and so Jesus only
seemed to be human and to die. As evidence, the pastor said, they noted
that the risen Jesus could appear and vanish in thin air (Luke 24:31;
John 20:19). Humans do not do that, so Jesus must have been other than
human, some argued. The pastor talked more about Docetism in his weekly Bible study last week.
On Sunday, however, he addressed more the implications of the emphasis
on Jesus’ physicality, both before and after his death, in the Gospels
and in I John. One implication is that Jesus really did shed his blood,
and that blood really does cleanse us of sins: when we wake up in the
middle of the night thinking about our past mistakes, we can go back to
sleep with the assurance that Jesus’ blood was shed to bring us
forgiveness. Another implication is that Jesus really did defeat death:
Jesus went through it and came out on the other side, with his physical
body risen and changed. The risen Jesus was not simply a ghost or a
phantom, but he rose as a human being, defeating death.
The pastor talked about the physical and the real in Christianity.
People are baptized in physical water. According to Lutherans, the
bread and the wine of communion contain the real presence of Jesus. The
pastor went on to say that Easter makes all the difference. Another of
the texts was Acts 4:34-35: “Neither was there any among them that
lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and
brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at
the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according
as he had need” (KJV). The early Christians’ confidence in Jesus’
resurrection led them to insure that no one went unloved in that church,
that all of the early Christians had their needs met.
C. A couple of Sunday school classes started at the Missouri Synod
Lutheran church. The one that I sat in on showed a brief Rob Bell
video. Rob Bell argued that, in terms of religious beliefs, the ancient
Christians overlapped significantly with the religions and the culture
around them. The early Christians believed that Jesus ascended to
heaven and was a mediator between God and humans; Mithraists thought
that about Mithra. The early Christians thought Jesus was born of the
virgin; that was claimed about Attis. Julius Caesar was believed to
have ascended to heaven. Caesar Augustus was acclaimed as a savior.
People would greet each other on the street saying Caesar is Lord. The
Caesar’s decrees would be called euaggelion, or good news, the Greek
word for Gospel. And, when regions accepted Caesar as Lord and Savior,
they became an ekklesia, the word that the Christians used for the
But there was a difference between the ancient Christians and the
Romans. The Romans sought to create peace through military force,
whereas the Christians renounced force and served others, especially the
disadvantaged. We were asked what difference our Christian beliefs
make in our lives: do we point fingers and try to make people believe
and behave as we want, or do we love people and try to listen and to
understand? The overarching question was: If people judged Christianity
by looking at you personally, what would they conclude? (And more than
one person replied, “I’m in the wrong class here!”) A lot of the
discussion got into the good old days, as older people reminisced about
how people used to be more of a community and to help each other; the
teacher replied, though, that we cannot go back to that time, for we are
where we are now. People find that they are too busy to show
hospitality, or they are afraid to invite people to their homes on the
spur of the moment, since the house may be messy. People shared about
their heroes in the faith. The teacher talked about how his father, who
was powerful in his line of work, still wept in humility when he was
asked to served as an usher at his church. The teacher also shared
about how he got to witness to a lady at work a long time ago: the lady
concluded by watching him that the world would not end without hope.
After the class, people still shared. One elderly lady said that she
was talking to an atheist who asked how she knows God exists, since she
cannot see God. She replied that she does not see air, but she knows
that she needs it.
D. I then went to the “Word of Faith” church, and the pastor’s
daughter was preaching. The church will be going through Ephesians, and
the pastor on video referred to scholarly disputes that Paul wrote
Ephesians; the pastor said that he himself believed that Paul wrote it,
and that it was Paul’s enthusiastic magnum opus.
The pastor’s daughter preached about Ephesians 1:1-6. She talked
about how Jesus gave us access to God. She said that Jesus chose us.
What about the unchosen? She said that the text was talking about the
chosen: we do not talk about the shoes or the TVs we did not buy, but
the ones that we did. I was unclear if she believed in Calvinist
predestination, though, since she seemed to be saying that Christians
should share with everyone that God has chosen them. She also talked
about adoption, another theme in the text: in the Roman world, people
adopted to benefit themselves. God, however, adopted us when we had
nothing to offer him.
I will stop here. I am sure some of these items can be critiqued. I decided to focus more on summary in this post.
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