the view from the pew 2-19-17

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I’ve been writing about the Latvian church but haven’t shown any pictures of it. Here is the altar. Well, the raised part is called the chancel, the altar is the table in the middle. It looks pretty much like any altar you’ll see in a Lutheran church. The altar is where, during Communion, Heaven and Earth meet. The blood and body of Jesus and the bread and wine of Earth go through consubstantiation, meaning that they coexist. This happens so you can be holy as Jesus is holy and when you perish, you can live in the presence of God.

Our songs today were ably played by Karl. He has been around since the olden days when Susan and I were married 30+ years ago though he hardly has seemed to age. We sang Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me; My Faith Looks Up To Thee; What Feast of Love; and ended with I Love to Tell the Story. They were played and sung in a strong, simple manner.

My son, Aleksandrs, read the prayers of the church. Our prayers included a clean and beautiful environment, harmony between all peoples regardless of age, sex or locale, for wars to cease, that peacemakers be given a voice at the negotiation table, for people with cognitive disorders and eating issues, and we pray for all who are discerning a call to ministry and those who accompany them.

Susan read the scripture verses, Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 and 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23. And read them well.

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Macitajs Lazdinš has the congregation reciting the 95 Theses Martin Luther nailed to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg. Actually, he mailed them to his bishop (of the Catholic Church), but it plays better in film and story as having been nailed on the doors where they were removed by his followers and copies run off of Johannes Gutenberg’s original printing press. They were passed out to the locals, thus starting The Reformation 500 years ago this October 31.

Boo-yeah!

The Latvian Church are reciting them in Latvian five at a time each Sunday until Reformation Day. 16 through 20 were read today.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ as do despair, almost-despair, and the assurance of safety.
17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror should grow less and love increase.
18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of increasing love.
19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured of their own blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.
20. Therefore by “full remission of all penalties” the pope means not actually “of all,” but only of those imposed by himself.

Macitajs’s sermon focused on Matthew 5:38-48, a section of The Sermon on the Mount. This where Jesus speaks about “an eye for an eye” and how Christians are commanded not fight back but, instead, to give good to your enemies. We are a species that enjoys our ‘revenge’ films and stories. Few things make us feel more satisfied than to see justice done by the hands of a victim or in their name by a united force against evil. Psalm 58 speaks about the human desire for revenge. Verses 10-11 say:

10-11 The righteous will call up their friends
when they see the wicked get their reward,
Serve up their blood in goblets
as they toast one another,
Everyone cheering, “It’s worth it to play by the rules!
God’s handing out trophies and tending the earth!”

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We want to see our enemy’s blood run red.

Jesus also commands us to pray for those who hate us. Why does He want that? He wants it for the same reason He wants them praying for you. That you benefit from His goodness and righteousness. We are all sinful and fall short of the glory of God. There certainly are extremes when you look at terrorist states and groups who torture, persecute and design horrible ways of killing their enemies. Then there is you. You don’t have murderous plans on the guy in the car that cut you off, the fellow who cheers for the wrong team or even the candidate who you believe is out to ruin your life. Your ideas of justice and revenge are nothing like what you watch what happening overseas. But you still wish ill on people you disagree with. A sin is a sin is a sin is a sin and any sin left without repent leads to death.

Years ago in Pennsylvania a madman shot and killed several children in an Amish school. We were stunned when two weeks later, the families of the murdered children approached the home of the murderer and offered forgiveness to the parents and family of the murderer. Most of the world reacted negatively to this. They said,” This isn’t the way people behave!”, while others suggested that forgiveness wasn’t a healthy attitude to have toward monsters. It’s rarely easy to take sides against what culture deems natural. It’s not natural for us to forgive. It’s not natural for us to pray for our enemies. Yet, it is what we are commanded to do by Jesus. Praying for your enemy does not mean praying he will fall in a hole. Jesus wants you to pray for the best for your enemy, that he will have long life, good health, success with others but ultimately that this person seek a life with The Risen Lord. Everything else we pray for means nothing if others are separated from God. So why pray for a good life for them? We pray for them to see God is a God of love and peace, that He wants the best for us. This is not to repeat the old Jewish notion that those who have success have it because they are blessed by God and those in poverty are distant from Him, resulting in their misery. No, not at all! A life with Christ gives peace and contentment. It offers a way of living that puts others first rather than being selfish and lashing out at others. A peaceful, contented life in Christ, dependent on The Holy Ghost for understanding, helps a person make thoughtful decisions in life. These decisions can only increase the welfare of a person who puts his trust in Him.

How do you feel if your neighbor prays for you? Are you offended? Is your life and soul none of his business? Does it get under your skin that he might be right or do you at least admit what you are doing is wrong? Every human soul has a conscience attached to it. It is meant to be listened to. Be grateful that anyone prays for you. The Church prays for you (you) weekly, that your life is well regarded and contented. It is always good to return the favor.

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