Time for this week’s Church Write-Up about last Sunday’s services.
A. The main text at the LCMS church was Hebrews 9:28b: “unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (KJV).
The pastor in his sermon was talking about how Christians, as a
result of Christ’s sacrifice, are in the world but not of the world and
are to testify to this world that this life is not all that there is:
that it is not a matter of “whoever dies with the most toys wins.”
Christians have the hope that they will one day experience the benefits
of God’s salvation full blast. The pastor talked about how, in his
pastoral visitations this last week, the theme of Hebrews 9:28 came up
multiple times, without his promptings, as people talked about how they
are looking forward to seeing Jesus and those who have come before them.
The pastor also tied his message into Veteran’s Day. Veteran’s Day was
originally Armistice Day, a day celebrating the end of World War I as
the war to end all wars. People back then hoped for peace, as Christians
anticipate Christ’s second coming. Also, our veterans sacrificed
themselves for something greater, and Christians are to realize that
this life is not all that there is, that there is more than our moments
in this life.
During the Scripture reading part of the service, I was thinking some
about the relevance of Hebrews 9:27 to Hebrews’ argument. Vv. 27-28
state: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that
look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto
salvation” (KJV). A lot of times, v. 27 is cited when Christians are
claiming that reincarnation is a false and nonbiblical concept: men die
ONCE, not many times, and afterwards is the judgment. But why is the
author of Hebrews making this point? It has to do with Jesus only dying
once for our sins.
That raises questions in my mind. Would Jesus have had to die
multiple times, if humans die multiple times rather than once? Elements
of this make sense, and elements of it do not make sense. On the one
hand, Christ is humanity’s representative, so it would make sense that
he would die once, due to people dying once. On the other hand,
Christians can cite reasons that Christ died only once that have nothing
to do with how many times humans die. Christ only needed to die once
because his sacrifice was sufficient to cover everyone’s sins, due to
his vast worth. In addition, there are exceptions to the “die once”
principle: there are people in the Bible whom God raised from the dead
in this life, who died twice. Jesus did not die a second time for them.
His one death sufficed for their salvation.
Is the author of Hebrews simply drawing an analogy? Humans die once
and then experience the judgment, and, similarly, Jesus died once and
will bring Christians salvation when he comes in judgment.
I will leave on the comments in case anyone wants to chime in. I
should check commentaries to see how they handle this, but it is late,
so I may save that for another time.
B. The Sunday school class got into a variety of issues, as it
usually does. Its topic is the Trinity and the incarnation. Among the
questions that were engaged: Were the church fathers wrong to try to
understand God, since God cannot be comprehended? Does all this
theologizing contradict having the faith of a child? Why were Christians
debating about whether Jesus was fully God, when the Gospel of John
says that he was? Does Sola Scriptura mean that “me and my Bible” is
enough, or is it consistent with interpreting Scripture in community? In
what respects can a non-believer of a religion understand that religion
better than a practitioner, and in what respects does a practitioner
understand it better? And why would a non-believer study and write books
about a religion? How did the ancient Christians believe that Jesus, as
God, could be human, since something that makes humans human, their
appetites, was deemed to be selfish and sinful?
The teacher offered answers to a lot of these questions: children ask
a lot of questions and try to understand and reconcile what they hear,
while trusting the one who is teaching them; Augustine was not saved by
his intellect, but humans are still creatures with intellect, so they
should try to understand things about God; Sola Scriptura meant
Scripture without Catholic teaching, not “just me and my Bible”;
community can be a place of correction (“But what about this?”) and
encouragement; John depicts Jesus as God, but Mark highlights Jesus’
humanity and human limitations; the teacher has studied Talmud and may
know more about it than the average Jew in a synagogue, yet that average
Jew in the synagogue, as a practitioner of Judaism, knows things about
Judaism that he does not.
On the thorny question of how Jesus’ divinity and humanity
interrelate, I did not hear an answer, but I will see what the class
A question was raised in our reading of a Robert Wilken article.
Wilken noted that the church fathers, in discussing Jesus’ divinity,
started with Jesus’ resurrection. That is not where most contemporary
theological treatments of the incarnation and the Trinity begin. Romans
1:4 states that Jesus was declared to be Son of God through his
resurrection. Was not Jesus already Son of God, before that? The teacher
said that perhaps Romans 1:4 was saying that Jesus’ humanity was made
to be divine, or something to that effect. I may be mangling or
misunderstanding what he said there. I was thinking of asking for
clarification, but I was unclear about how to formulate the question
How does Jesus’ resurrection relate to Jesus’ divinity? The standard
Christian interpretation of Romans 1:4 is that the resurrection attested
to the divinity that Jesus already had: it did not make Jesus divine,
but showed the world that Jesus was divine. The teacher did not say
that, though. I sometimes got the impression from what the teacher was
saying that the church fathers were not just wrestling with how the
pre-death Jesus was God-incarnate, but with how the risen Jesus was
God-incarnate. The Robert Wilken article and the teacher were
highlighting other ways that the resurrection was relevant to Jesus’
divinity. Jesus’ resurrection is why Jesus’ divinity matters: prayer to
Jesus and the Eucharist would be pointless, if Jesus were not
resurrected. Plus, saying that Jesus rose invites the question of why
and how he was human in the first place, for, to die, he needed to be
What I especially enjoy about this teacher’s classes is the
historical context that he provides. Nicea was a city in Asia Minor
(modern-day Turkey), and it was Emperor Constantine’s annual resort.
Many of the older Christian bishops who came to the Council there bore
wounds, due to the intense persecution that Christians experienced in
the third century CE at the hands of imperial Rome and locals. Legend
states that Constantine humbly kissed the wounds of the bishops when he
met them. The Council of Nicea produced the Apostles’ Creed, not the
Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed came out of the later Council of
Constantinople, and it is called the “Nicene Creed” because it is based
on conclusions that were reached at the Council of Nicea. Lutherans
recite the Apostles’ Creed on non-Eucharistic Sundays, and the Nicene
Creed on Eucharistic Sundays. This tradition goes back to the Council of
C. At the “Word of Faith” church, the pastor was continuing his
series about Acts. Specifically, the title of the series is “There’s a
Place at the Table.” Past sermons in the series have affirmed that there
is a place at the table for the religious, for the pagan, and for the
broken. This week’s message was that there is a place at the table for
The pastor’s main text was Acts 17. Paul is in Athens, a highly
intellectual city, and notices all of their idolatry. Intellectualism
can easily degenerate into “what we have done, or what we can do.” The
pastor talked a lot about idolatry. It cheapens or denigrates the image
of God within us, and it replaces a real Jesus with a Santa Claus Jesus
who caters to our idolatry. We also debase God’s gifts—-sex, alcohol,
recreational sports—-when we abuse them or make idols of them.
Over the last few weeks, people from church have delivered
testimonies, as they sit at the table with others who have delivered
testimonies. When the series started, someone talked about his
background in a legalistic religion; his family refused to buy clothes
from the Goodwill because the clothes may have demons attached to them!
The next week, someone talked about his background in Chinese paganism.
The following week, a lady talked about her broken marriage and her
sensitivity to rejection. This week, someone talked about being an
How was he an intellectual? Essentially, he was curious and loved
learning. He loved to read books. But he also wondered what made people
tick. Although he was a nerd back when he was in high school, he hanged
out with jocks and rednecks because he wondered how they approached
life. He has held political office and has been all over the political
spectrum: Republican, Democrat, Green. He grew up as a conservative
Lutheran in a church that was anti-Catholic, but, later in life, he was
curious about the Holy Spirit, so he found himself attending a
charismatic Catholic church to learn more. He also enjoys solving
problems. He still enjoys learning, but, as a Christian, he has
concluded that politics is not where the solution lies. He also thinks
that his intellectualism can get in the way, if he is not careful: for
example, he struggles with praying to a God who already knows how things
will turn out.
I will stop here.
Does life matter?
13 minutes ago