Here is this week’s Church Write-Up about last Sunday’s services.
A. The LCMS service was led by the Youth Pastor and the kids. They talked about their trip to Texas to help victims of a hurricane. While there, they made sure that they were rooted and grounded in the faith by having Bible studies each morning. They exercised their gifts, and their presence cheered the people of the church there. Another theme in that service was newness. The kids put on a skit about babies who were reluctant to proceed to the next stage of their development, since they were used to where they were and were hesitant to change. But kids who had moved on were talking about the fun they were having: going on the swing by themselves, for instance. The point there was that we may fear change, but we can put our minds at ease, for God is with us.
B. The LCMS adult Sunday school class continued through I John. John was saying that God has loved us by sending Jesus Christ, and the result is a community whose ethic is love. The pastor said that the notion of a loving God ran counter to the Greek philosophy of the day, particularly that of Aristotle. Love implies that the object of God’s love can somehow move God, and that contradicted the Greek notion that the divine was changeless, since perfection implied changelessness. The pastor’s point made me think about Aquinas, whose Summa Theologica I am going through slowly. Aquinas, of course, sought to interpret Christianity in light of Aristotelianism. My impression is that he, too, had a problem with God knowing objects, so Aquinas argued that God knows objects through his knowledge of himself. And, for Aquinas, God’s love does not contradict God’s changelessness. It is not as if God is moved to love, whereas he did not love before, but God’s nature is love.
C. The “Word of Faith” church was continuing its way through Nehemiah. The pastor highlighted Nehemiah’s words: “The grace of the LORD was upon me.” Things were challenging the post-exilic Jews’ appreciation and appropriation of that grace. For one, there was covetousness, the love of money. Wealthier Jews were exploiting poorer Jews, thinking they were doing the poorer Jews a service: at least the poorer Jews were in debt to other Jews rather than foreigners! An over-attachment to money can warp our perceptions. Second, Sanballat and Geshem in Nehemiah 6 invited Nehemiah to Ono, but Nehemiah would not be distracted from doing God’s work. The pastor told a story about a couple years ago who decided to blow off church to have lunch with friends, and their children did not end up serving the Lord. The pastor said that it is not wrong to skip church service, but he asked if there is something inside of us that is dedicated to God and refuses distraction. Third, people in the land of Israel were accusing Nehemiah and the post-exilic Jews to the Persian authorities. The pastor said that the church is not a place of accusation. It may confront, but when it does so, it will not feel like confrontation. Rather, it will be asking people about their desire to leave behind the old for the new.