Why Saturday evening service so often? It’s because my son, Aleksandrs, prefers this service and Susan and I like to attend with him. We enjoy a more sedate piano/acoustic guitar duo than the classic hymn-driven service with the organ cranked up above a sanctuary full of worshippers. And the 11 AM praise (read: rock-n-roll) service? My modern beat-musik days have faded with the years except for The Beatles, some Alice Cooper and the odd The Cars song, but in church? Not so much. It’s not wrong, just a choice.
Even while sitting in the pews, it pays to be on your toes during a Pastor McClean service. You never know when you’re going to be asked to stand up for the final verse of a song or give a group answer to questions he asks the congregation during the sermon. He helps by telling us the answer so you should always get an A+ in church. That’s the same A+ you’ll receive as a believer to get into Paradise. Jesus hands those out in the portico outside the gates of Heaven.
This past weekend was Epiphany Sunday although the epiphany occurred on January 6 (Friday), traditionally 12 days after the birth of Jesus. It celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles such as when the Magi discovered the Holy Infant; or in spiritual terms when Jesus was baptized by His cousin, John the Baptist. God opening up the Heavens and stating “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” was a moment of sudden realization (epiphany!) of His divinity to those present at the Jordan River. Pastor taught that Jesus’s baptism was done to fulfill all righteousness, that He was doing the things the Israelites failed to do as a nation after the Exodus from Egypt. Moses sent 12 spies, one from each of the tribes, into the land of Canaan to scope out the ‘land flowing with milk and honey’ but they were scared off by the much larger squatters living there already. They voted 10-2 in favor of skedaddling the scene. God ‘rewarded’ their lack of faith by sending them on a 40 year journey through the desert before allowing them back to inherit their rightful home.
By being baptized, Jesus showed His faith in God whereas the Israelites failed to do so. He used it to teach of God’s love for all people. He also stressed justice for everyone but particularly for the poor and miserable.
Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy”
Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;
Luke 11:42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
Luke 4:18-19 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
So while to the uninitiated, Jesus is typically regarded as a man who talks about you loving your neighbor, He also stresses justice for all and to all. To saints living on Earth, we know Him as pure human and pure God, the one who, when the Law and the Gospel intersect, will bring judgement upon mankind. What does this mean to you? If you are not familiar with Jesus the Messiah, it would behoove you to check in with a friend or an associate who you know to be a Christian and ask them about a life with the Christ and the fruits that accompany such a relationship. If you are a Christian, you know to do your best to love your neighbor and through kindness and forgiveness bring them into a life with Christ. It is also the desire of your Lord for you be involved with the plight of the poor and afflicted, those who suffer merely for being uneducated, foreign, disabled, or stricken with poverty. If you ask The Lord, He will lead you to where you will best fit in. Don’t worry, He won’t make you live somewhere where you don’t know the language and live in a thatch hut … probably. No, He knows the people He has in mind to serve in foreign ministries, but He does ask you to pray, pray for workers because the harvest is plentiful. There are many opportunities for you to help those in your own town or neighborhood. Ask your pastor. He’ll point you in the right direction.