Church Write-Up: Stressed Moses, Three Mountains

I went to the Pen Church and the LCMS church last Sunday.

A.  The pastor at the Pen Church started a new series on stress.  His text was Exodus 18.  Moses is stressed out over judging the people of Israel’s cases all day, so Jethro suggests that Moses appoint judges to lighten Moses’ load.  Similarly, we should feel free to say “no.”  The pastor also discussed other ways to alleviate stress: to have family meetings in which the family members can share what people in the family can do to make the other person’s life more peaceful, as well as the importance of prioritizing listening to God, as that can lead to a smoother family and work life.  The pastor’s father-in-law used to be the pastor of this church, and the father-in-law liked v 24: “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said” (NIV).

B.  The LCMS church was having its 60th anniversary service.  Instead of having two services—-traditional and contemporary—-it merged the two services into one for this occasion.  This service had hymns and also contemporary praise songs.  It was interesting to see the traditional people try to adept to the contemporary songs.  I used to attend the contemporary service, but I have gone to the traditional one for the past nine months.  One reason is that I want to go to Sunday school, which is after the traditional service, and it is sometimes at the traditional service that a new Sunday school class is announced, on the very day that it is beginning!  If I were to go to the contemporary service, which is after Sunday school hour, I would miss out on that information.  Another reason that I go to the traditional service is that I have come to know people there.  Two people were saving me a seat, and that was nice of them!

I like the traditional service, since there is something to reading and singing the old hymns.  I also prefer the pastor’s sermon delivery at the traditional service.  At the contemporary service, he uses pictures on the overhead, whereas, at the traditional service, he does not have that and relies on his storytelling ability; the latter allows for a more compelling delivery, in my opinion.

Still, in singing the contemporary songs, I realized that I somewhat miss the contemporary service.  I have heard these songs at other churches and in other settings, but this LCMS church performs them the best.  I think that is because other churches make them sound like rock songs, whereas the LCMS service adds a dimension of cheerfulness and sweetness to them: the service is called “Morning Song,” after all.  I may attend both services on some Sundays.  I somewhat have a niche at the traditional service (assuming I didn’t unintentionally burn social bridges today).  But it would be nice to go to the contemporary service, every once in a while.

The sermon was delivered by one of the church’s past pastors.  He talked about the current predicament of the church today, with the Roman Catholic scandals and the skepticism that many have about Christian institutions and beliefs.  He spoke of three mountains.  One was Mount Hermon, a site of rife paganism, close to where Jesus affirmed that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church.  The second mountain was Mount Tabor, where the transfiguration traditionally took place.  Peter, James, and John ended up looking at Jesus alone, as we should.  The third mountain was Calvary.  The pastor also commented on John 21.  Jesus asks Peter two times if Peter loves him, using the Greek word agape, meaning divine love.  Peter replies that he loves Jesus, using phileo, which refers to friendship.  Jesus finally asks Peter if Peter loves him, using phileo.  According to the pastor, Jesus was accepting whatever inadequate love Peter offered.  Scholars have been skeptical of the radical differentiation between agape and phileo, seeing the two words as interchangeable.  Still, I wonder if there is significance to Jesus using agape two times, then phileo the third time.

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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