Here are some items for this week’s Church Write-Up:
A. At the LCMS church, the pastor preached about Mark 6:45-56. The disciples were in a boat out in the sea, and the wind was especially strong, so strong that they could not row against it. Jesus saw this happening from the shore and walked on the water, intending to pass them by. Why was Jesus intending to pass them by? The pastor suggested that Jesus was planning to proceed past them and take care of the storm, but he saw that they were afraid and let himself be sidetracked in order to reassure them. The pastor told a story about when he was heading home from seminary. He was caught in a horrible snowstorm, and the snow was getting into his car’s radiator, thereby slowing him down. He decided to stop at a motel and used a pay phone to call his parents. His father assured him that everything would be all right and that they would come to pick him up. That made him feel better.
B. The Sunday School class was about I John 2:18-3:3. Because August is Mission Month, the Sunday School class during that time will be hearing from charities. I will see whether I attend that. The I John class will resume in mid-September.
The Sunday School class got into a variety of issues. First, John tells his audience that it is the last hour. The pastor was explaining the amillennialist perspective, saying that the end times have existed since the ascension of Jesus until today. We are in the tribulation, since the false teachers Jesus spoke about in the Olivet Discourse have existed since the first century until now; these false teachers come in the name of Christ but deny essentials of the Gospel. But we are also in the millennium: Satan has been defeated through Christ’s death and resurrection, and Christ reigns spiritually. That was the pastor’s response when I asked him how we could be in the millennium, when Revelation 20:3 states that the devil will be bound in the abyss during the thousand years so that he will not deceive the nations. Satan, as even the pastor acknowledged, seems to be active and deceiving the nations today. After the class, two people in the church were talking with each other about how they are not really persuaded by the amillennial position. They are premillennial and take the prophecies in the Old and New Testaments literally.
Second, the pastor talked about how I John 2:18-3:3 fit into its context. John was telling the Christians in his congregation that they had an anointing and did not need anyone to teach them. Their anointing either referred to their baptism or their anointing by the Spirit; the pastor referred to John 20, in which the risen Jesus breathes on his disciples, who before did not understand him, and they transitioned from being disciples (students) to becoming apostles, people sent out to proclaim the Gospel, which forgives and retains sins. (I am aware that I am mixing other Gospels and Protestant interpretation with John 20, here.) The Docetists had said that the Christians needed more spiritual knowledge, but John was telling the Christians that they already had the knowledge that they needed: Christ come in the flesh, his atoning death, and his resurrection. John was also reassuring them that they were loved by God, for they may have been questioning that, after the church split. Moreover, the pastor contrasted the Christian perspective, which is oriented around Christ, with the world’s perspective, which has the world as its starting-point.
C. At the “Word of Faith” church, the pastor was continuing his series through the Book of Revelation. The pastor said that he does not deny that the Book of Revelation is about how the world will end, but that he believes that it also relates to how Christians right now can live a victorious life. The pastor derived three lessons. From the plagues in Revelation, the pastor concluded that God will go to any lengths to free people from sin, as God sent plagues to deliver Israel from Egypt. Yet, notwithstanding the plagues, people did not repent. People repented when the plagues were accompanied by prophecy, God speaking into people’s situations through the two witnesses. Another theme is prayer, which is symbolized by incense. The pastor told a story of another pastor who had accomplished a lot in his ministry, but felt as if what he did fell short because he did not devote much time to prayer.
The pastor got into related issues in the course of this discussion. He lamented that people do not take sin seriously, as they joke about their drunken binges the night before. He talked about how our cheaper products are made by children under the whip, pointing to a cheap piece of technology that he was using in making this point. He said that Christians should be in the forefront of the ecology movement, not because the earth is warming or cooling, but because this is a beautiful home that God has given us, and God’s goal is to redeem the earth, so we should cherish and take care of it. The pastor then said that he is neither a liberal Democrat nor a conservative Republican. He belongs to another Kingdom, as he agrees with elements of both sides and values discussion, as long as people do not get nasty. “But I want a Republican pastor,” he said, putting words into some people’s mouths. “Well, they’re out there!”