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The Weekly Word for May 1, 2016


Rev 21:10, 22-22:5
Revelation 21:10-22:5 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

10 And in the spirit[a] he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

22 Then the angel[e] showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life[f] with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants[g] will worship him; 4 they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Sermon:

This week’s reading from Revelation is a continuation from last week as we began looking at the 21st chapter.
The 21st chapter begins a celebration tour for God after his victory over Evil.
And this week, that tour continues.
Revelation is filled with John’s visions.
And beginning with verse 9 we get John’s final vision: we get to see what the New Jerusalem will look like.

The New Jerusalem has the radiance of a “very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal.”
It has high walls built of jasper.
The foundations of the walls are adorned with jewelry like sapphire, emerald, onyx, and amethyst.
The city’s gates made of pearls.
The city itself is pure gold.
Even the streets are made of Gold.

So what does this mean?
It means New Jerusalem is going to be a fancy place.
But all the jewels and gold do NOT represent how RICH we will be.
The images explain how INCREDIBLE and MAJESTIC this city will be.
The beauty goes beyond any we have ever seen.

There are a few things the New Jerusalem will not have.
One of those things is a temple.

For Christians, especially those coming from a Jewish background, the temple was the center of worship.
The temple was where one would go to meet and worship God.
But in Revelation 21, John makes a BIG CLAIM:
In the New Jerusalem,
There is NO temple.
There is NO building.

GOD is the temple.

And God was now living with us in the New Jerusalem.

This is actually a theme that runs through the gospels.
People believed that to see God, to talk to God, they had to travel to far and wide to the Jewish Temple.
But then Jesus comes along.
And where does Jesus do the majority of his ministry?
Not in the temple.
Not in a building.
But among the people.
In many cities.
Covering hundreds of miles.
The people did not have to go to the temple to see God.
Jesus brought God to the people.

And in the New Jerusalem, the temple becomes extinct and is replaced by God himself.

What does that mean to you and me today?

For those of us worshipping right here at Grace Lutheran in Thomasville, the words from Revelation mean we do not worship this building.
We do not worship this building’s history.

We worship God.

I do not want to sound flippant about our sanctuary and our buildings, because I know many of you and your relatives at one time or another put a lot of equity into the upkeep of this property.
And for that I thank you.
More than I probably tell you.
But we must remember that we do not come to worship a building made of stone.
We come to worship the God who brought us together, who molded this congregation, and who placed us in this community.

This building is not the church.
WE are the church.
WE are the body of Christ.
WE are Grace Lutheran Church.

When the Sandwich Ministry goes out and feeds over 60 people every week, and someone asks where they are from, who they are, they don’t answer “We are from that building on Unity Street.” No, they say, “We are Grace Lutheran.”

When our Living Faith Sunday School class helps out families at Thanksgiving, or our congregation buys Christmas presents for children, we do not say, “Blessings from the Sunday School room. Or blessings from the Coffee Lounge.”
We say, “Blessings from the people of Grace Lutheran.”

Because we are the arms, the legs, the actions of the church that God has created.
We are the beams of light in this world.

Which leads to another major point that John makes today.
Light.

John says God is the Light.
Why is this important?

There was an ancient belief that the “darkness” was evil.
There was no redeeming value in the dark.
Only bad things happened at night.

Many of us have that same fear today.
How many of us are scared of the dark?

I remember when I became scared of the dark.
I was about seven years old, watching television on a Saturday afternoon.
And on came the movie that would shake me to my bones.

Dracula.
The original.
The one with Bela Lugosi.

This movie scared me to death!
I wanted to change the channel but:
The television was not remote-controlled.
So if I wanted to change it, I would have to walk the many MANY …feet…to do it.
Besides, I was so scared, I couldn’t move.
And that night I tried to fall asleep but I was convinced that every sound I heard was Dracula ready to come and make me one of his vampire army.

I could not stand being in the dark.
For years, I would need some kind of light if I were to get any rest.
Finally, as I got older, my fear went away.
I knew the “monsters” were not going to get me.
I replaced the fear with a hope that I would wake up and take on the other day.

But still, the “darkness” can represent bad things in our lives:
Depression.
Death of a loved one.
Loss. Of a job, a relation, of a house.
Addiction.
Abandonment.

And we all have lived with darkness.

But what John is saying is that with God’s victory over Evil, there IS no dark.
Darkness has been erased.
We don’t have to worry over the things that go bump in the night.
The darkness cannot get us.

Because God is RIGHT HERE
And his light destroys the darkness.
And it is God who provides the light in our lives:
The family
The friends
The strangers, even, who are placed in our lives to make sure we do not give in to our fears.

God’s light is greater than any darkness we can ever face.

One more part of our reading that I want to touch upon.
It’s a verse that we really need to study and pray about:

27 But nothing unclean (κοινὸν) will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination (βδέλυγμα) or falsehood (ψεῦδος), but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

“Unclean.”
“Abomination.”

Sadly, many Christians throw these words around, and they use them to describe people they do not like.
And that angers me.
It disappoints me.

And many will point to this verse as their proof that they are allowed to say it.

But let me share with you what these words mean, how they are used in the Bible:

One thing to keep in mind.
The words “unclean” and “abomination” are not used to describe PEOPLE.

When John uses “unclean” he uses it to define something, not someone, that is ceremonially impure. Something that “defiles.”

This is how “unclean” is used in other writings like the Gospel of Mark (chapter 7):

“2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them., 5- 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live[a] according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”?

Fortunately, Jesus was there to defend the practice of his students.

We see “unclean” in Acts 10 where Peter and God go back and forth about what is clean and unclean, with God winning that debate.

By the way, God always wins the debates.

Also from Acts, Peter preaches something that WE should hold dear:

From Acts 10: 28- “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”

And I want to add that we also should not call anyone an “abomination.”

βδέλυγμα
In the Greek, “abomination” is defined as something disgusting that arouses wrath, loathsome thing

The word is used in Revelation 17: 4 “The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication;”

Jesus even uses this word in Luke 16:15 “15 So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.”

Jesus does not call people “abominations.”
He calls what the people prized abominations.
That is very important.
At least to me it is.

Both Matthew and Mark (Matt 24:15; Mark 13:14) use “abomination” to refer to something that is abhorred because it defiles a sacred place and causes it to be left desolate.
Again, not people but things.

Here is my point.

Please do not use this word when describing people.
It is ugly.
It is mean.
It is NOT Christian loving

Do you know what it does to a person to be called an “abomination”?
Do you know what it does to a person to be called “unclean” or “unworthy”?

Too many people do.
Too many people have heard Christians call them these bad names.

You see, we like to put people in certain categories.
We like to give people, or groups, certain names.
Especially people with whom we have issues.

Some will say, “They are sinners!

They need to be told they are sinners.”

But there is a difference between telling someone what they are doing is wrong and telling someone that THEY are worthless!

And speaking of calling out sin:
Are you going to tell me that when we have confession, when we receive forgiveness, that we do not go out and sin?

Are you going to tell me we went a whole week without:
Using God’s name in vain?
Lying?
Worshipping another god like our phones, social media, money, a politician, a political party?
Bearing false witness against our neighbors?
Stating opinion rather than fact when it comes to people of this congregation, including me?
Talking bad about me, my family, or someone else who goes to this church?
Coveting?
Killing someone’s reputation?

Fortunately we have a God who is merciful and kind.
A God who WANTS to give us a new life.
A God who FORGETS and ERASES our sins.
A God who wants the best for us.
And the best from us.

Rather than telling people to get THEIR lives in order,
We need to spend more time on our own sins.

And we need to spend more time reconciling, and working together.

Rather than name-calling, here is what you can and should say to those you disagree with:

“Friend.
I may not agree with your political beliefs.
Your culture,
Your sexuality.
Your (fill in the blank).

But you and I are children of God.
We are family.
We are brothers and sisters.
And our Father, has given us a mission.

Let’s work together.
Pray together.
Worship together.
Break bed together.

Let’s be family.
Let’s be THE CHURCH.”

Yes.
Let’s be the church, folks.
Let’s start acting like the New Jerusalem is here right now.

We are called not to be the darkness in the lives of our neighbors.
We are called to be the Light.

Little Lutherans/Youth Breakfast THIS SUNDAY


All of our Little Lutherans (Pre-K-5th grade) and Youth (6th-12th grade) are invited to come to breakfast will begin at 8:30 AM and lead right into Sunday School at 9:00 AM. While the children are in Sunday School, parents are invited to join other Grace parents at McDonald’s for fellowship starting at 9 AM.

The Weekly Word for April 24, 2016


Revelation 21:1-6
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” 5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

Revelation Sermon Series Part 4: “God’s New Address”

Each week we have skipped chapters in Revelation.
This week we take what I call a quantum leap all the way to Chapter 21.

And our reading begins with “then.” (more…)

The Weekly Word for April 17, 2016


Revelation 7:9-17

9 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

 

 

Sermon : “The 8th Seal”

 

This morning we continue our series on Revelation.

Now you may have noticed that our scripture from Chapter 7 starts with “after this.”

So there is something we have missed between last week’s reading from Chapter 5 and this week’s reading.

So the first question we have to ask is, “After what?”
(more…)

The Grace April 2016 Newsletter


The April 2016 newsletter is here! April 2016

Little Lutherans/Youth Breakfasts and Lunches


We will continue to have our monthly Sunday morning breakfasts on the first of each month through June. All of our Little Lutherans (Pre-K-5th grade) and Youth (6th-12th grade) are invited to attend; breakfast will begin at 8:30 AM and lead right into Sunday School at 9:00 AM. While the children are in Sunday School, parents are invited to join other Grace parents at McDonald’s for fellowship.

The Little Lutherans and Youth will also have monthly meetings on the THIRD Sunday of each month after worship. We will have lunch and there will be separate activities for our two youth groups. Contact Leah or Deborah M. for more information.

Revelation Sermon Series 1: “The Revealing”


(more…)

The New Church Sign Is HERE!


IMG_0194We are happy to announce our new church sign is up and it is absolutely stunning.

2015-2016 Cub Scout Pack 57 Calendar is here!


Now that our website is back and better than ever, here is a copy of the Cub Scouts schedule for 2015-16. 2015-2016 Scout Calendar

Open Arms New Prayer Shawl Ministry


The Ella Bunting Open Arms Group has begun a prayer shawl ministry that will donate shawls to those going through chemo & radiation treatments. The Group is looking for people to donate their time to make knit or crocheted shawls. These can be any pattern you are comfortable working with. Sign-up sheets are outside the church offices, contact the church office, or contact Leslie Miller to be a part of this new venture.