Church Write-Up: The Way, and the Timeless Afterlife

It is late right now, so my Church Write-Up will be terse.

A.  At the Missouri Synod Lutheran church, the main Scriptural text was John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (KJV).  The youth pastor brought up a box of uncooked macaroni and cheese.  He bit into a raw noodle, then he took a bite of raw noodles with the cheese dust on it.  It did not taste good!  The youth pastor asked the child what they could do to make the macaroni and cheese taste better.  There were instructions on the box about how to prepare and cook it, the youth pastor observed.  But wouldn’t it be good if an adult fixed the macaroni and cheese for the kid?  And that is what Jesus did for us: he kept the law and died for our sins that we might have eternal life.  Jesus did not just show us the way: he is the way.

B.  In the sermon, the pastor talked about human attempts to search for God, on their own terms.  He likened that to the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, as people wrongly sought to build a tower that would reach the heavens.  John 14 itself has a similar theme: Jesus’ disciple Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father, indicating, to the pastor, that Philip wanted God to show up on Philip’s own terms.  Thomas wanted to know the way to where Jesus was going.  Jesus said, though, that he was the way.  The pastor said that many of us are on a spiritual search: we look for some way for our lives to matter, or to convince ourselves that our lives matter; we seek answers for why we suffer; and want to fill the God-sized hole in our hearts and find rest.  We can become so preoccupied trying to carve our own way to God, that we neglect what God has already done in Christ.  God has met us in Christ, understands and is with us in our suffering, and gives us hope and spiritual riches.

C.  As is usually the case, the Sunday school class on patristic interpretations of John got into a variety of issues.  There is Augustine’s proposal that the three resurrections Jesus performed symbolize the spiritual resurrection of those who sin in their heart, those who sin outwardly, and those who habitually sin.  There was John Chrysostom’s status as bishop at Constantinople, the capital of the Roman empire, and one of the wealthiest churches.  Senators attended it.  But Chrysostom took the bold step of giving a lot of the church’s wealth to the poor—-to make a soup kitchen, among other things.  That provoked ire on the part of his congregation.

The teacher got into the state of the dead.  The way he told it, believers, at death, go to a state of timelessness.  From other people’s perspective, their bodies are in the ground.  From the departed believers’ perspective, they are immediately at the bodily resurrection, with their body and soul united.  It was difficult to comprehend this.  A student was challenging the teacher, saying that the souls of believers go to heaven and wait until the final resurrection before their souls and bodies are reunited.  The teacher did not seem to believe in soul sleep (i.e., the dead are unconscious until the resurrection).  Like this student, I have my share of “But what about?”s to what the teacher was saying.  Still, the teacher was making an interesting point: if heaven is a realm of timelessness, then what does it mean for the dead to go to a timeless realm, a realm outside of our linear time in which the general resurrection is an event in the future?

D.  I went to the “Word of Faith” church, and the pastor’s daughter was preaching.  She recently came back from Columbia, and she shared how the people there were hungry for the Gospel, despite the language barrier and her cheesy skits (her words).  She believed the Holy Spirit was at work.  She talked about going out to pray out loud for someone’s healing, in that person’s presence: she was hesitant, but she said God told her that he would uphold his own honor.  She believes that person will be healed.  Another event that she considered to be a God-moment was when she saw a blind person in a fast-food restaurant: she asked God for a sign, and God said that the sign was that the person was blind and needed her help.  She said that many of us seek signs, even when it comes to areas where God’s will has been laid out: that we should do our devotions, or tithe.  Another point that she made was that we look to teachers to feed us, when we should remember that God feeds: her text for this was John 6, in which many Jews claimed that Moses gave the Israelites manna in the wilderness, whereas Jesus said that God gave the manna.

I am not endorsing all of this.  I am just relaying it.

Time for bed.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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