Church Write-Up: Help My Unbelief, I John 3, Calling and Humility

Time for this week’s Church Write-Up.

A.  The LCMS service focused on Mark 9:14-29, the story of the father with the demon-possessed son.  The father humbly said to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief.”  The youth pastor said that it is good to have faith, but we can always use more faith, and, when we ask Jesus for something spiritual, he gives it to us.  That encouraged me to think: rather than continually complaining about my inability to love, how about asking God more often for that ability?

B.  The pastor said that the people in the story were relying on their own strength, but Jesus was trying to direct their attention to himself, the only one who could solve their problems.

The pastor also referred to the transfiguration story, which precedes this story: Peter wanted to build tabernacles for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, and the pastor said this was Peter’s attempt to keep the experience going.

The pastor opened his sermon by referring to the movie, Finding Nemo.  The fish have escaped from the aquarium in the dentist’s office and are back in the ocean, and they wonder, “What now?”  Similarly, the church celebrated it’s sixtieth birthday.  What now?

We sang a hymn that stood out to me.  I had not heard of it before, probably because it is a distinctly Lutheran hymn.  It is called “O God, My Faithful God.” The third stanza especially stood out to me, perhaps because of my own desire to say the right things, in the right way:

Keep me from saying words
That later need recalling;
Guard me lest idle speech
May from my lips be falling;
But when within my place
I must and ought to speak,
Then to my words give grace
Lest I offend the weak.

C.  The Sunday school class on I John resumed.  I’d like to highlight two passages:

I John 3:2: Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (KJV)

The pastor said that Christians are the children of God right now, but it is hidden from the world, in a sense.  Christians still die.  They still stumble.  The world is such that people have reasons to argue against God’s existence.  What Christians will be like in their eschatological state is a mystery, and taking field trips in the mind of God leads to speculation.

I John 3:11-12: For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.  Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. (KJV)

I’ll quote the pastor’s comments in the handout:

“John gets back to the Gospel—-Jesus’ words to love one another—-as a witness to the world of whose we are and because we are loved by the Father in Jesus.”

I like this, even though I am one who usually recoils from sermons about love.  The pastor said that love brings people together, and I thought, “Well, there are plenty of people I would rather love from a distance!”  But I liked what the pastor said here: we are loved by the Father in Jesus, and we testify before the world of that by loving one another.

“Why Cain/Abel?  Remember Cain was warned the Devil was crouching at the door and chose to leave the family and leave God’s love—-just like the Devil was the first one to rebel against God, lie and kill—-so those who make a practice of hating do.”

The pastor said that Cain was an example of the sinner John criticizes in I John 3: one who lives to sin and rebels against God.  Cain gave in to jealousy and murder.  In the same way that Cain selfishly murdered his brother, so were the Docetists damaging the Christian community, without caring.

I struggle with this.  Were the Docetists living to sin and rebelling against God?  They didn’t think so, since they were seeking a connection with the divine.  But they were rejecting doctrines that John saw as foundational: by saying that Jesus was not flesh and blood, they were denying that Jesus shed his blood for people’s sins, providing atonement.  In addition, because they felt the physical did not matter, some Docetists went in an antinomian direction, indulging the flesh.

D.  At the “Word of Faith” church, we had a guest speaker.  This speaker spent time in basketball.  He now runs a basketball camp for youth, so he can mentor them to be better people the same way that his coach mentored him.  He sees this as his calling.  Because of that, he is not as bothered by criticism as he was when he was a basketball player, checking blogs after each game to see what they said about him.  But his head also is not big on account of any celebrity he has attained in broadcasting or in basketball, for these things serve as a platform for God’s calling.

 

 

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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