An Open Letter from the Pastor

The Bible speaks of “principalities and powers” and their kin taking two forms. 1) They exist as the supra-personal powers that live in the “heavenlies” or “airy spaces” that exist between heaven and earth. 2) They also exist in concrete historical form. In the New Testament, Rome was a power, so was the Temple, so was Pilate, and, of course, so was the kingdom of God preached by Jesus and the prophets. The late William Stringfellow a Washington attorney defined the powers as:

“…all authorities, governments, corporations, institutions, traditions, processes, structures, bureaucracies, ideologies, systems, sciences, and the like.”

Some people dismiss the powers as purely mythical, and this allows them free reign over those persons. That the powers are purely myth is a lie fostered by the “father of lies,” aka “the prince of the power of the air.”

Others people dismiss the powers as purely evil, and this is equally unfortunate. According to the book of Colossians, the principalities and powers were “created in Christ,” and thus have tremendous potential for good. The power of human collectives to do good is hard to overestimate. We are always stronger, smarter, and more adaptive when we work together.

The powers can be quite visible and power-full. Or they can be quite low-key and subtle. People say that racism is all about economics and social standing. I don’t think so. Though my dad went to college following his service in WWII, I come from a predominantly blue-collar family. Yet, I do not remember any overt racism in my family. Indeed, my relatives that worked at RJR Tobacco Co. were sharing meals with black friends in the company’s lunchrooms long before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and their positive attitudes about race affected our whole family. Oh, we have some guilt, but our guilt was and is the guilt of failing to speak and act. We were among those white Christians who disappointed Martin Luther King, Jr. by not coming to the aid of the Movement. We thought of ourselves as “good Christians.” How then did we fail to recognize the prophetic voice of the herald? I suppose we failed to “discern the spirits.” Ouch!

Of course, some of my family’s silence and inaction can be attributed to an unthinking loyalty to our own, and a desire not to rock the boat. We knew we did not want to call attention to ourselves. We did not know that we were unconsciously fearful of confronting the darker side of the powers. You see, though the powers possess great potential for good, the powers, like people, exist in a world that is sick with selfishness and sin. Thus the powers serve evil as readily as they serve good. They do this much more easily than individual people do. This simple truth helps to explain phenomena like “mob violence.” Good people, who, acting individually, would never hurt anyone by word or deed, can hurt many people and inflict death on some when they get swept up in the movement of an angry mob. Here is another sobering thought: Though directly created by human beings, principalities and powers and the like survive long after those individuals who created them have passed into dust, or, as I believe, to stand before the judgment of God. Thus the Nazis party outlasted Hitler, and racism in America survives long after the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, albeit a poor one, I have a hope. My hope is that we might learn afresh that love is the one true power. That is why the cross of Christ towers over all the failed empires and ideologies of history. It matters not if one is a believer or an unbeliever; in every age the cross is a symbol of hope for those who are brave enough to run against the mob, and pick up a cross of their own, even a little one. Likewise, the cross reminds us that in persecuting our brothers and sisters who are different from us are also persecuting him who “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…and was wounded for our transgressions.” As Jesus himself said, “If you did it, or did it not, to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it, or did it not, to me.”

As I said, I don’t believe that racism is all about economics and class. However, I would be remiss if I did not point out that Jesus himself positioned Mammon (wealth, money) as the power that is often in most direct completion with God. He said in no uncertain terms:

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Money can be a very good thing, when it serves us. When we serve it, and place it in the first place in making every decision, it is anything but good.

I have said enough. It is a confession, really. It is a confession on my part because, at 70, I now know that if we are not a part of the solution, we are a part of the problem. That is God’s truth, and I feel it as much as know it, because the Living One has convicted me of it. I am no prophet, but I am a preacher, and I know that he is the one thing worth preaching, and I know beyond doubt that he suffers still, and will to the end of time. He suffers the suffering of unrequited love, and he suffers when those he called his brothers and sisters suffer. He wept over Jerusalem. I assume he weeps for us all, and will continue to do so until we discover that in neglecting the needs of others, we are neglecting him, and, of course, ultimate, we are neglecting our own needs too. It was a wise woman who said, “There is one well from which to drink. If we poison it against others, where will we find water for ourselves?”

Readers may post this anywhere they like.

As we seek to do his will, may God bless us all– our church, our city, our nations, our world.

Worth Green, Pastor
Fries Memorial Moravian Church

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The Holy Spirit in the 4th Gospel

The “Dove” is often the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

Check out the pastor’s video message here. And don’t forget to come to the drive-in communion in the lower parking lot of the church between 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. The pastor will share only the words of institution. You must furnish your own “bread and cup.” Bring a mask so you can greet people afterward on the lawn of the church from “a safe social distance.”

Sometimes it is instructive simply to do a word search and follow it where it leads.

I used my Bible search software to search just the Gospel of John on the word “Spirit.”

The first use of Spirit is in John 1:32,33:

32 And John (the Baptizer) bore witness, “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

The Spirit is at the center of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born “anothen,” a Greek preposition meaning “again” or “from above.” Jesus means “from above.” Nicodemus hears “again.” He says, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb?” In John 3:5, Jesus answered:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

To enter the kingdom of God, each of us and all of us must be born “anothen,” from above, by the Holy Spirit. However, this does not mean that the experience of the Spiritual birth will be the same for all of us. Jesus makes this plain in John 3:8 when he says:

“The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.”

In John 3:34 Jesus points out that God does not skimp when it comes to bestowing the Holy Spirit on his followers: (Skip to page 2 below)

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Communion in Your Car: 10:30 AM, Sunday the 31st

This Sunday we are having a “drive-in” communion from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM. Communicants are asked to bring their own B&W–bread & Welches, remember open containers of wine are not permitted in your car in North Carolina.

The service will be quite simple. Pull into the lower parking lot. When it is your turn, drive up to where I am standing. I will have a prayer with you, and conduct a short service, sharing the communion with you. After you have been served, drive out and find a parking place in front of the church if you wish to greet others from a safe social distance. Please bring a mask to wear when you exit you car. Of course, greeting friends from a safe social distance is optional. You may simply return to your home.

If you can’t come to the drive-by–or even if you can, don’t miss Fries at Five Worship on Zoom meeting. Email frieschurch6@gmail.com for an invite to the meeting. Don’t forget to pray for Fries daily, and if you have prayer request send them along to friesprayers@gmail.com. I know that you are praying for:

  • An end to the pandemic
  • Those who are ill
  • Those who have lost loved ones
  • Those who face financial hardship
  • That justice be done in the distribution of US bail-out funds
  • Those who are in harms way to serve the rest of us
  • Those who are hungry, anxious, and in fear of losing their homes
  • Forsyth Prison Ministries, including residents and workers
  • ….

Churches around the country are starting to reopen. We don’t know when Fries will worship in the church building again, but it is interesting to contemplate the possibilities.

I recently read an article about churches reopening in a state on the far side of the USA, but it is dealing with the same Covid-19 Pandemic we are. California Governor Gavin Newsom’s has modified his state’s stay at home order re churches:

The new guidelines for “places of worship and providers of religious services and cultural ceremonies” stipulate religious centers must limit attendance to 100 persons or 25% of the building’s capacity, whichever is lower. The guidelines recommend against:

...passing collection plates and baskets or sharing other communal religious objects, and urge worshipers to refrain from singing or performing group recitations because of the “increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets.”

Naturally, worshipers are encouraged to wear mask, and maintain a six-foot distance between themselves and others. Obviously, social distancing is still the order of the day.

The source of the following is NPR.Org. If it is not on you radar, perhaps it should be. It is a very informative news source with free access.

Pastor Green

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Wonderful Words of Life: Love

1st Corinthians 13

A video of this text is available here. Regretfully, I had to movie the taping of the video back inside, as the traffic around my house has increased to the point that is distracting. I am sorry. Please watch the video, or read the text, which includes Scripture references the video does not, and join us on Zoom for Fries at 5:00. Email frieschurch6@gmail.com for the link.

Today we consider one of the Wonderful Words of Life: Love.

In 1st Corinthians 13 St. Paul gives us his definition of love. He writes:

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends… So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Why is love the greatest? Two reasons.

First, because love reveals the heart. The apostle writes:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Second, love is superior to faith and hope because it more enduring.

“We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” That is Romans 5:2. “(But) hope that is seen is not hope. We hope for what we do not see, and we wait for it with patience.” That is Romans 8:24. Likewise, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” That is Hebrews 11:1. But the day is coming when faith will give way to sight, and we will stand in the more immediate presence of God. And, as we read not once, but twice in 1st John 4, “God is love.”

Before the foundation of the world God existed in perfect love, a harmony between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God created the Cosmos not out of necessity, but out of a desire to share that love. The ultimate expression of Gods love is found in John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus spoke of the importance of love. In Matthew 22:37-40 a young lawyer ask him which is the first and great commandment, and Jesus said to him:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mindThis is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.

And in Romans 5:5, St. Paul reminds believers that, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts thought the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.”

Finally, on Memorial Day, we remember those Americans who gave the last full measure for their country–and their brothers & sisters in arms. And we remember how Jesus said, “Greater love hath no one than this, that one lays down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Prayer: We are experiencing this pandemic in so many ways. It will build the faith of some, and devastate the faith of others. Give us spiritual insight to understand that you. O, Lord, are close to us, and care about us even when you seem far away. Even Jesus knew the angst of feeling abandoned, as when he cried, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani.” You rescued him from death. Rescue us in death, and in life. We make our prayer in the name of him who taught us to pray:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Blessings!

Worth Green, Th.M., D.Min.

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Wonderful Words of Life: Faith (Text and Video)

The Evidence of Things Not Seen

A video of this message is available here. It is a little longer, but it may be for you. I put these videos out in faith that those who need them will find them. And don’t forget to join our Zoom Meeting, Fries at Five. Email fries6@gmail.com for a link.

This morning I am beginning a little series on, “Wonderful Words of Life.” We begin at the beginning with faith. [Click on page 2 below to continue.]

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