Here are some items on last Sunday’s church services:
A. The key text at the LCMS church service was John 6:34-36. Jesus
says there: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is
the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever:
but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye
shall be free indeed” (KJV).
In the part of the service for the kids, one of the children dressed
up like a king. The youth pastor’s point was that everyone except for
the king’s family had to bow down to the king. God, in Christ, has made
people part of God’s family. There are texts in Scripture about
Christians bowing to God (i.e., Ephesians 3:14), but the point is well
taken: Christians are not mere servants of God but are part of God’s
The pastor’s sermon talked about how Satan whispers in our ear to
estrange us from God, and Jesus sets people free from that. On one
extreme, Satan aims to discourage people, telling them that they are not
good enough or are too sinful to be in relationship with God. On the
other extreme, Satan tells them that they are fine without God. Of
course, people are sinful, but that is why God sent Jesus.
I thought of an episode of Superbook that I watched not long ago. I watched Superbook
when I was growing up, and it is about two children named Chris and
Joy, who go back to Bible times with their robot friend, Gizmo. What I
watched as a child were episodes from the 1980’s, but, every Saturday
over the past few months, I have been watching episodes from the 2010’s.
The episode that came to my mind was about the Book of Revelation.
Chris accidentally burned down the house, and he encounters an “angel”
who is actually the devil. The devil tells Chris that what Chris did is
too bad for Chris to be forgiven. According to the devil, Chris had
might as well despair of forgiveness from God and his parents and follow
Satan, who is also on the outs with God! Thoughts of spiritual
hopelessness have been in my mind before.
B. The Sunday school class was continuing its series on homelessness.
There was a Bible component to the class, though, as the pastor talked
about Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. What follows are
aspects of Luke 10, along with the pastor’s interpretation.
Galilee was an area of conservative Pharisaic influence, and many
Pharisees sought to earn God’s approval through good works and looked
down on Samaritans and the tax collectors and sinners with whom Jesus
associated. Jesus sent his disciples two by two, and Jesus is critical
of cities in this righteous conservative region because they reject the
disciples, after seeing their miracles. Jesus states that God has
revealed the truth to babes, implying that those who are wise by the
world’s standards need to become like children to receive God’s truth.
They need to become empty of their pride, ego, and self-righteousness,
A lawyer then asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. The
lawyer was not like Perry Mason, the pastor said, but was a scholar of
the Jewish law. He was like a seminary professor coming to test the
rural village parson. Jesus responds by asking the lawyer what is in the
law. Jesus is trying to show the lawyer that the law is not about
trying to earn God’s favor through rules but rather concerns love and
mercy: God’s love and mercy towards us, and the love and mercy that we
then pass on to our neighbors. The lawyer asks Jesus who his neighbor
is, perhaps because the lawyer excluded certain people from his
definition of neighbor: Samaritans, and the tax collectors and sinners
with whom Jesus ate.
Jesus then tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan, in which the
hated Samaritan helps the beaten-up man, whereas the esteemed priest and
Levite pass him by. The pastor said that the Good Samaritan was a
Christ figure. The Samaritan paid the innkeeper two denarii, which are
two days’ wages, to lodge the beaten up man. Similarly, Jesus went to
great lengths to save us. Someone in the class said that Christians are
like innkeepers, conveying care to the wounded on behalf of Jesus.
Someone asked about those who do not use God’s grace. The pastor
replied that there are people who may lack an opportunity to use God’s
grace, but they still have it and cannot run out of it. I appreciated
his point about opportunities: as a shy person who has had times when I
have not interacted with people, I have lacked opportunities to witness.
Still, I wondered what the pastor would say about the unprofitable in
the Parable of the Talents who was cast into outer darkness for not
doing anything with the talent given to him (Matthew 25:30). I didn’t
ask because I didn’t figure that was the time or the place, since the
class needed to move on to talk about homelessness.
C. At the “Word of Faith” church, the pastor was continuing his
series about Acts. One of the stories that he covered was in Acts 8.
Disciples are laying hands on people and giving to them the Holy Spirit,
and Simon the Sorcerer, who became a believer, wanted to buy the power
to confer this gift. Peter told him he was in the gall of bitterness.
The HarperCollins Study Bible refers to Deuteronomy 29:18, which likens
idolatrous Israelites to a root bearing gall and wormwood. Under this
interpretation, Peter may have simply been calling Simon a bad apple.
The pastor, however, said that Simon was actually bitter about
something. Simon had a reputation as one with the power of God, and the
apostles were moving in on Simon’s territory, lessening his influence.
Simon wanted to preserve or regain that influence by having the same
power the apostles had: to lay hands on people and impart the Holy
Spirit. A problem with bitterness, the pastor said, is that it
encourages people to exclude others from God’s table, and maybe even
exclude themselves, if they will not go to the table where certain
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