Church Write-Up: Despairing Elijah, Worship After Justice, Home for Unwed Mothers

Time for my weekly Church Write-Up.

A.  At the LCMS church, the pastor preached about I Kings 19, in which the prophet Elijah flees from the wicked queen Jezebel after the fiery demonstration of God’s divinity and might before Israel at Mount Carmel.  Elijah is despairing and lacks strength, and an angel strengthens and sustains Elijah with bread and water.  Dramatic phenomena—-a wind breaking the mountains, an earthquake, and fire—-pass before Elijah, but God in not in those things.  Rather, God speaks to Elijah in a still, small voice.

The pastor also referred to John 6, in which Jesus calls himself the bread of life.

The pastor told a story that he has told before, but he shared more details.  He went to the Grand Canyon to hike, and he got up at 3 A.M. to beat the heat.  He only ate two pop-tarts.  He did not manage to beat the heat, however, and the pop-tarts did not last that long in terms of giving him energy.  He sat down because he was tired and could not give any more.  Another hiker came by and gave him some bread, and that strengthened him enough to finish the hike and to make his way to the nearest McDonald’s.

The pastor told another story about a woman who was cutting his hair in St. Louis.  They got to discussing the pastor’s occupation, and the pastor told her that he was a Lutheran pastor.  The lady responded that she has always wanted to be a Lutheran, and the pastor asked why.  She replied that it is because Lutherans do not think that they have to be happy all of the time!

The spiritual lesson that the pastor derived is that we may find ourselves spent, and that is understandable because we are limited human creatures.  But Jesus meets us in our place of need, helping us through his presence in holy communion and in his word throughout the week.

B.  At the “Word of Faith” church, the pastor’s daughter was preaching about the Book of Revelation.  Her main text was Revelation 15:

“[1] And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God. [2] And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. [3] And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. [4] Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.  [5] And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: [6] And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. [7] And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever. [8] And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.” (KJV)

The pastor’s daughter drew at least three conclusions from this text.

First, she observed that people were praising God after surviving the turmoil.  They were like the Israelites who praised God after crossing the Red Sea, becoming free from the Pharaoh’s oppression and threat (Exodus 14-15).  Similarly, we may find ourselves praising God after being delivered from turmoil or depression.  She called praise the soundtrack of her life, as she remembers songs that she sang during difficulties that she  experienced.  Here, she seemed to present praise as something bubbling out of relieved believers after they have been delivered.  At other points in the sermon, however, she was stressing the importance of discipline and obedience.  She says that she struggles to get up in the morning to do her devotions and to read Ezekiel, and that there have been times in her life when she has been frustrated with people in church, because people are people.  But she sees value in praising the God of the universe and fulfilling God’s call on her life, so she does not simply press the snooze button when it comes to her Christian life.

Second, she talked about how God is a God of justice, one who is upset, not at sinners, but at sin.  God’s abhorrence at, say, human trafficking flows out of God’s love.  God in Revelation is bringing justice to the world.  God is not pleased with pouring out wrath, though, which is why the text says that it is one of the four beasts, not God, who gives the angels the vials full of God’s wrath.  God is distancing Godself from wrath here.

Third, she observed that people were not running away from God, terrified, but that the nations will come and worship God, happy that justice has come to the earth.

Those last two points can be critiqued, of course, and I do not want to mount a comprehensive critique here.  I will cite something that has long interested me about Revelation, though.  On the one hand, you have Revelation 16:9, which depicts people blaspheming God and refusing to give God glory in response to one of the plagues.  On the other hand, you have Revelation 11:13, which presents God sending an earthquake that kills people, and those remaining give glory to the God of heaven.  Are most people happy or rebellious when Christ returns?  Some may say that my question here is based on a hyper-literal reading of the text.

C.  Related to (A.) and (B.), I would like to share a couple of my posts from the past.  I usually share their WordPress version, but here I am sharing my Blogger versions because they have interesting reader comments.

Here is a post about I Kings 19.

Here is a post about whether most people at Christ’s return will be happy or rebelling against God.

On that note, I will leave open the comments on this post in case anyone wants to chime in.

D.  At the LCMS Sunday School, representatives from a home for unwed mothers, as well as unwed mothers themselves (with their babies), came to speak to us.  August is mission month.  Some points that I want to highlight:

—-The home is not a fit for everyone, and some have had to leave.

—-About five people at a time stay there, and it is generally for a year.

—-Each resident has to do twenty hours a week of either school or paying employment.

—-Each resident has to cook dinner once a week.

—-That they got a house with seven rooms for the home for a relatively inexpensive price is a miracle, especially in this area.

—-Convincing corporations to donate is a challenge, since some corporations are reluctant to help faith-based groups.  That is interesting to me.  You would expect this from government, due to church-state issues.  But it is true of some corporations, too, perhaps because they see religion as divisive and do not want to offend people.

—-One of the residents gave her testimony about how she was abused by her step-father and later lost custody of her first child because she hit him when she was high.  She felt horrible about what she did.  Now, she gets to be a mentor to other women at the home.   She also talked about how a Bible verse and a song touched her heart years ago and planted a seed within her, which later blossomed into faith.

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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