Here is this week’s Church Write-Up about last Sunday’s church services.
A. At the LCMS church, the pastor preached about Mark 6:1-13, in which Jesus sends his disciples out two-by-two to preach the Gospel, heal, and cast out demons. Jesus instructed his disciples to take no bread, staff, or money with them.
The pastor asked why Jesus sent them out, and why Jesus sends Christians out. Would we not rather want to stay, being blessed and uplifted by Jesus’ teachings, as opposed to going out? The pastor said that many of us discuss the details of mission, and practicalities are important, but such discussions may hide a fear about mission itself.
The pastor talked about ways that we go out. A group from the church is going to Houston to help people devastated by a hurricane. The church will be teaming up with a local Catholic church to fill up backpacks for kids who do not have enough money for school necessities. A couple from the church spent two weeks in Romania. We may go out to the store. We may go to work, and the person in the cubicle next to us may be going through a divorce and the gaps in his or her heart can be filled by Jesus. In all of these cases, God and who we are in God (beloved) goes with us. Similarly, the youth pastor in the children’s sermon talked about how, even if we have nothing to give, we have Jesus and can pass on Jesus’ love and forgiveness to others.
According to the pastor, Jesus sent the disciples out two-by-two because that got the mission done. The pastor shared about how he used to do door-to-door evangelism by himself, and he would circle around the house a few times, afraid to knock on the door! When he was with another person, however, they both went up and knocked on the door without hesitation, for they had each other for support. Another point that the pastor made is that the disciples needed to see that the Gospel worked, at more than on a theoretical level. They were surprised when they went out and the demons were subject to them!
I may help on that backpack project. I know the Catholic church is within walking distance (I lack a car).
B. The LCMS’s Sunday school is continuing to study I John. The pastor focused on I John 2:7-3:3. Some points that the pastor made:
—-John talks about the darkness not overwhelming the light, Jesus. Apollo was the god of light in Greek mythology, and Hades was the god of darkness. Both essentially were equal in power and influence. John, however, has a different perspective. Darkness is not an entity unto itself but is merely the absence of light. Jesus shines in the darkness and overcomes it. He did so on earth, as he brought the Kingdom of God wherever he went, in bringing healing, exorcism, and forgiveness to people.
—-The false teachers, the Docetists, thought that they were walking in light, but they were walking in darkness because they lacked love for the church: they thought that they were superior to other Christians because they felt that they had greater intimacy with God on account of their mental spiritual techniques, and they split the church. The pastor likened this to a charismatic movement that struck the Lutheran church when he was growing up. Some Christians were acting as if one had to have certain charismatic experiences to be a good Christian. They looked down on those who lacked such experiences, and they left the church. Eventually, they came back because the movement dissipated, as happens with darkness: it fades away.
—-Someone asked if John was being unloving by opposing the Docetists. The pastor replied that we can easily find ourselves hating those we correct, if we are not careful. John’s aim was loving: to show the Docetists the damage that they were causing to the community. Eventually, we may find, though, that we need to shake the dust off our feet and hope that God reaches the people we rebuke in some other way, if they are not receptive to what we are saying. We are not avoiding them out of hatred, but to protect ourselves from being negatively influenced.
—-The pastor talked about how the Gospel is new and old. The Word who became Jesus was around at the beginning, and he was foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament. Yet, at his coming, he brought something new: something new was coming into effect, having an impact, bringing heaven to people. It is like laws: they were passed, but they come into effect on July 1. Their authority and impact is felt then. Another way that newness was relevant was that some of the Christians in John’s church were enamored by Docetism because it was new to them. People like what is new. But John encouraged them to stick with the Jesus they already knew, the one who died for their sins and rose from the dead for their salvation.
—-John calls the Christians to whom he writes “Beloved.” The love that God has for them forms the context of his exhortations to them. Similarly, John was the Disciple Jesus Loved.
—-Someone asked what the Third Use of the Law was. The pastor replied that it was the post-conversion use of the law. It is keeping the law out of gratitude to God, and it is the law fulfilling its true function: for God’s people to live as God’s people. It is obedience out of love rather than obligation, flowing from a transformed heart that wants to live that way. The pastor noted that the word that John uses for commandment is entole. That can refer to a rule, but it can also refer to instruction. Instruction is more relational, personal, educational, and related to spiritual transformation and growth than merely obeying a rule. Similarly, the pastor last week highlighted that the Torah used the Hebrew word shamar for obedience, and shamar is about more than obeying: it concerns guarding God’s instruction, especially in one’s heart.
C. The pastor at the “Word of Faith” church was preaching about Jesus’ message to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. Among the lessons that the pastor derived from (or read into) the text are:
—-Forgiveness. The church at Ephesus was correcting others but was not doing so in love. Jesus was encouraging the church at Pergamum that God has manna—-provision—-for them, and exhorted them to be priests (the meaning of the white stone) to others. We can find ourselves resenting those who do not pay us back, but we should remember in those situations that God is our provider. When we do not forgive, we trap ourselves in a pit of torture from which God wants to deliver us (Matthew 18:34). Forgiveness includes seeing the potential of those who have hurt us as sons or daughters of God. It includes blessing others.
—-Christ assures the Philadelphians that he is the one who opens doors that no one can shut, and that the synagogue of Satan will acknowledge the love that God has for the Philadelphian Christians. Similarly, God may put a dream in our heart, but legalists will tell us that we are spiritually unqualified for that dream. We need to look to God as the one who opens doors that no one can shut.
—-The church at Thyatira was yielding to sexual immorality. Jesus stated that the one who overcomes will receive authority over the nations. The church today lacks authority in the eyes of many people due to its immorality.
—-The Laodiceans thought they were rich, but they were not. The pastor likened them to the prodigal son: he had the wealth of his father’s inheritance, but he was actually poor because he lacked a relationship with his father.