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ON DEEPER REFLECTION -
by Pastor Wayne Olson
July 9, 2015
The Church in Exile
22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
25The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
28Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
29let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
30let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.
31For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
32but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33for he does not willingly afflict
or grieve the children of men. - ESV
Lamentations is truly an inspiring book written by the prophet Jeremiah who had witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians. This happened after he and many other prophets had warned the nation of Judah that it would take place because of their sinful behavior and their ignoring the Word of God that had been revealed to them. The above passage is taken from the mid-point of the book of Lamentations. It reveals that in spite of the grief Jeremiah had, the hope he had lost, and his sadness on behalf of the people of Judah he recognizes that the steadfast love of the Lord remains and that the hope of salvation remains, “For the Lord will not cast off forever.”
Truly, the Church today is in exile in the United States for the revealed Word of God is no longer acceptable in today’s society. Religious freedom is under attack and those that wish to practice the truth of Scripture are being attacked for their belief. Just as in the time of Jeremiah, even the church has succumbed to the tyranny of the state to the extent that it supports and even advocates for the cultural shift that has taken place. For example, the following words have been posted on a church sign, “WE TRULY REGRET THAT GAY MARRIAGE ATTACKS THE SANTICTY OF YOUR FOURTH MARRIAGE”
What the sign points out to me is that the church truly is in exile. I say that because the church has failed to support the sanctity of marriage for a long time. When we say nothing about those living together without marriage, when we don’t condemn sexuality outside of the bonds of a scriptural marriage, when we don’t object to the concept that marriage is just a piece of paper, or when we don’t object to fault free divorce, we have allowed Scripture to be put in exile. We can go on and on to talk about other sins which have been accepted by our society, for example the loss of the sanctity of life.
Therefore, like Jeremiah we can lament the exile of Scripture and the truth of God’s Word in the Church. However, like Jeremiah we must also accept that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” That means that we must continue to proclaim the truth of God’s Word. Let us remember what the prophet Isaiah said, (Isaiah 55:11) “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
April 12, 2015
The Apostolic Church
We say in the Nicene Creed “I believe in one holy Christian (catholic) and apostolic Church.” What does that mean? I believe that God in his wisdom allowed the apostle John to be the only apostle who did not die as a martyr in order to answer that question because that enabled John to be the last of the apostles to write. John spent a great deal of time in Ephesus and his writings date close to 90 AD when he would have had the benefit of the three synoptic gospels and Paul’s letters to attest to the truthfulness of the writings of all of the apostles. Below is the first five verses of the 1st Epistle of John.
1 John 1:1-4
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—  the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—  that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.  And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
Looking carefully at those first two verses we recognize that they go directly to the opening verses of John’s gospel, you know, the one that begins (John 1:1-5) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Also notice that in this epistle John uses the plural ‘we’ to tell us that he has witnessed the Gospel through hearing, seeing, and touching. Having all of the apostolic writing available to him, John’s use of ‘we’ is to assert the truth of the apostolic witnesses. He asserts that the apostles have proclaimed eternal life as given to them by Jesus who is the Word as proclaimed in his Gospel.
John then goes on to the 3rd verse in the epistle to pull all of us together in fellowship asserting that by the proclamation of the truth we have fellowship with the apostles, with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. It’s easy to see that if we have that fellowship then we must also have fellowship with each other. All of this is possible because from John’s gospel we read (John 1:14a) “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The apostles are the witness to the Word, the apostles have given us the Word and with that Word of God we too have fellowship with God, the Apostles, and each other. That is the source of our joy that John addresses in that 4th verse of his epistle when he says, “that our joy may be complete.”
Therefore, when we confess “the holy Christian (catholic) and apostolic Church” we confess our joy in being in fellowship with all who hold to the teaching of the apostles knowing that they have been given the Word of God through their witness of Christ. We have such joy because we can know everything we need to know about our salvation from Scripture Alone.
February 15, 2015
The Passing of the Baton
2And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.
Last Sunday was Transfiguration Sunday which, in my opinion, should be a grander celebration of the church. Our service Sunday was more celebratory than normal but due to the weather many were not able to experience this significance of the transfiguration. Let me try to put it in focus.
God reveals himself to us through his Word and that includes not only the written Word but it is how all of his actions take place. For example, God spoke and the universe was created, Jesus spoke and Lazarus came out of the tomb. We have his Word in the Old Covenant through Moses and the Prophets. We find a preview of the transfiguration through Moses who had to wear a veil when he descended from Mt. Sinai after speaking to the Lord. We have a preview of his bodily ascent into heaven through Elijah who we remember was taken up to heaven as we sing the spiritual, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” Together Moses and Elijah represent the Word given through Moses and the Prophets.
Therefore, at the Transfiguration Moses and the Prophets pass the Baton onto Jesus. Jesus is the Word, which is why God the Father acknowledges the transfiguration by telling us to listen to Jesus.
However, Jesus will also pass the baton, for just before he ascends into heaven he gives the Apostles and us the Great Commission, (Matthew 28:19-20) “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Yes, Jesus' transfiguration foretells our own transfiguration for through our baptism which we renew daily, we also are aglow with the righteousness granted to us thorough Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection and are therefore to carry out his mission and spread the Word of God to all nations.
January 25, 2015
God’s Grace Knows No Limit
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you." So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish."
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
The St. Timothy Annual Meeting is to be held on Sunday, January 25. Coincidentally, the Feast of St. Timothy is January 24th, so in honor of Timothy we moved the readings for that feast as the lessons for our Sunday worship. That meant that the above reading from Jonah was not heard on Sunday morning. Yet the story of Jonah and God’s work in Nineveh is so fascinating and also goes along with the theme for our Annual meeting, I must comment on it here.
Nineveh was an exceedingly evil, pagan city of the Assyrians. It was a city that no self-respecting Hebrew person would go to, especially if the purpose of the visit was to obey God’s call to challenge them on their evil ways and preach destruction to them. In response to God’s first call, Jonah might have even said, ‘not on your life’ before fleeing in the other direction when God called him to go to Nineveh. The words we read above are then God’s second call after having brought Jonah back by the use of a great fish.
Jonah reluctantly entered the city expecting to only spend three days there and be rejected. I’m sure he felt that he would then have the pleasure of seeing the destruction of the city as God’s punishment was carried out. Yet, only one day in the people came to believe. Not only did they repent of their evil ways, but they called out to God in faith and repentance. God’s love is shown to the citizens of Nineveh as he forgives them and does not destroy the city.
That is the extent of God’s love. He sends those who believe in him, in this case Jonah, and in the case of St. Timothy, our congregation to go amongst those who do not know God and proclaim the message of God. Jonah was a reluctant messenger and yet he went out, preached, and the people believed. God does not promise that his messengers will have the same success as Jonah, but he does call us to also go out and show God’s love to others. We know from the example of Jesus and from the history of St. Timothy as he journeyed with Paul that the message will not always be heard, but we also know that like Nineveh, God can work a miracle. So we go forth with God’s love to share with those around us.