the view from the pew 12-22-18

Saturday evening service, Pastor McClean officiating

We sang these songs with Pastor playing guitar and Paul piano. “We Are Blessed”, “What Child is This?“, “Emmanuel“, “My Soul Rejoices” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain“. The final praise song was sung in ‘country twang’ mode, a little bit of foot-stompin’ but, thankfully, no yodeling. Thanks, Pastor! Thanks, Paul!

We shared Communion with each other. We prayed The Lord’s Prayer. We prayed for all persons, all families, all nations and the world to spin out of control. We prayed for peace. We prayed for honest accounting and fair trade. We prayed for The Gospel to be heard by each person and for people to be on mission with that same Gospel. We uttered The Nicene Creed as well as responsive scripture readings.

Susan read Micah 5:2-5a and Hebrews 10:5-10. Pastor read Luke 1:39-56.

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Sermon: Call Me Blessed: Reflections on Mary’s Prayer

One of my favorite Bible verses is from Luke, chapter 1

41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Either you believe the Word of God is inerrant or you believe it is errant. If you believe this particular verse is just something that happens all the time, that babies move around in the womb – and they do, but to just slough it off as hyperbole is to cast Elizabeth off as, well, what do you think she was? A nut? Merely a pregnant woman overwhelmed by hormones? A woman being a part of God’s plan for your salvation?

Not only did Elizabeth claim her baby leaped for joy when his savior entered the room but scripture also states that she was filled with The Holy Spirit at that very moment. This means the words she spoke afterwards were prophecy, words true of God and from God. The Bible’s claim is that His Word is righteous and true but to change a jot or tittle or replace a word with another should cause all scripture to fall apart. This is not to say that interpretations of men cannot be wrong which is why it is important to study the Bible diligently, to explain scripture against scripture. It’s because some willfully sinful persons are involved with determining what scripture means based on personal desires and purposeful misinterpretation is why we end up with many religions and denominations and fights and grief within His Church. Even if you don’t believe it is true, wouldn’t it be cool if you thought it was?

Pastor mentioned having ‘moments’ in your life. Have you had a moment where your world changed in a moment? Maybe you posted something on the internet and it went ‘viral’? Suppose you were in the right place at the right time to fend off an attack, save someone from doing harm to himself, or uttering a word which changed the course of another person’s life for the better? If you believe these ‘moments’ have happened in your life then why not Elizabeth’s and Mary’s?

Mary and Elizabeth were the only two persons ever, in a world which by some estimates state 20,000,000,000 (billion) people have ever lived, to hold a conversation about being pregnant with not just the last two prophets of the Old Testament era but one of them the Savior of all mankind … and being God. So there. From a dispassionate view it kind of makes other ‘moments’ pale in comparison, wouldn’t ya say?

Whereas we hope our own moments, especially on the internet or within our families, circle of friends or places of employments, will somehow bring us fame or fortune to, we find Mary giving glory to God, not herself. Whether she spoke the words magnifying God right then or after having spent time with Zachariah and Elizabeth, for a 13 to 15 year old girl she certainly spoke wisely and rightly of her Savior and God. Instead of going on about how great she was for being part of God’s plan she espoused His plan for the world. She knew she was blessed to be the mother of God but knew it wasn’t of her own doing but as an act of love on His part for every person born, unborn and not born.

Not only did Mary choose her words correctly but God chose Mary correctly. It was common knowledge at that time in Palestine the liberator of Israel would be a soldier, a person of wealth or a person of power and knowledge. God turned their ideas upside down by choosing the son of a carpenter and a virgin. God flips everybody’s lives upside down. Mary and Elizabeth were never the same. Moses went from being a shepherd to leader of the Hebrews. Saul went to persecute Christians in Damascus but had his eyes blinded by The Light. Later he would regain his sight, have his name changed to Paul and write books of the Bible which would influence billions of souls.

Sure, it is easy to look back in the Bible and find this guy or that woman whose life was changed by God to do His will but what about me? You? Anybody we know? That’s a good question. Is it possible that your ‘moment’ has come and gone without you realizing it yet? Or ever? Pastor Sattler told a sermon long ago which included the story of a fellow named James Riley, a ship captain in the early 1800s. He came to be shipwrecked off the coast of Africa and in the midst of traveling through the desert for rescue was captured  by Arab nomads and sold into slavery. He spent years in bondage and after his escape wrote a book called Sufferings in Africa detailing those years. Whether he knew if he changed the life of anyone around him at the time only he knows but what he couldn’t know was that his book was the major reason Abraham Lincoln grew up hating slavery. Riley had a ‘moment’; he just didn’t know it. We all have that same opportunity to have a moment which influences others to do good deeds and show God’s love to others. By following His Word and being our best to be like Jesus is a way we are ‘part of God’s plan for us’. Not many of us can or should be missionaries but God asks us to pray for missionaries. You and I can pray easily. We don’t have to be part of a rebuilding program for a devastated area but we can donate money and goods to help workers along. Helping God fix this mess on Earth can come in different forms. We can say ‘Thank you‘ to the cashier, hold the door open for the next person, or we can observe the traffic laws and be cautious drivers. Any of these simple acts can help someone else get to where they are needed to accomplish their part of ‘His plan for them’. Maybe you know about it, maybe you don’t. Is it about you? Or is it about God?

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Micah 5:2-5a
A Promised Ruler From Bethlehem

2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”

3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.

4 He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.

5 And he will be our peace

Hebrews 10:5-10
5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’”

8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

 

Luke 1:39-56

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Mary’s Song
46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

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