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Resurrection Faith: 1st Corinthians 15:3-11

Listen to the service and the sermon live at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRncGcR3EDI

The idea that human beings survive death is nothing new. In 399 B.C. Socrates thought that we had at least a fifty-fifty chance of life after death, and he was cautious. Many ancient civilizations believed in an afterlife, including the majority of Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans

Ironically, the ancient Jews were harder to convince than their pagan neighbors. The vast majority of Old Testament texts affirm that every person is a unity of body, mind, and spirit, and when the spirit, the breath of life, the soul, leaves the body the whole person is dead.  They are consigned to Sheol where there is no activity, memory, or praise of God, but only endless sleep. The intertestamental book of Sirach summed it up nicely when it said: “The living may debate whether life is for ten years, or a hundred, or a thousand, but … the dead are just dead.”

We know from their debates with Jesus that the Sadducees of the New Testament Era taught God’s blessing was for this life only and denied life after death. Once, at a wedding, a devout Jewish man, knowing I was a Protestant clergyman, said, “Worth, has it ever occurred to you that, though there is a God, God may not choose to raise the dead?”

Now do not despair! As Jesus said, you may have to search for it (John 5:39), but there is a thin thread of hope in the Hebrew Bible. In Isaiah 26:19 we read:

(O Lord) Your dead shall live, and their bodies shall rise. (Those) who dwell in the dust, will awake, and sing for joy!

Likewise, in Ezekiel 37 the prophet has a vision of a valley of dry bones brought to life by the breath of God.  And Job declares, “I know that my redeemer lives, and without my flesh, I shall see him.” And who can forget the very personal confession of Psalm 16:

(O Lord) You will not give me up to Sheol or let your (holy) one see the Pit. You show me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

We know from the gospels that the Pharisees of the New Testament Era believed in life after death and looked for a General Resurrection at the end of history when God would raise the unrighteous dead to the Judgment that they escaped in life and the righteous dead to eternal life in the heavenly Kingdom. Continue reading

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Christian Love Is an Action

1st Corinthians 13:1-13, but especially verses 4-8.

A lot of people love a romantic comedy. What is your favorite?

TCM fans may prefer the Frank Capra classic “It Happened One Night.” Made and set in 1934, at the height of the depression, when everyone needed a laugh, it is the story of a spoiled rich girl and a hard-bitten newspaper reporter who wants her story until he discovers he wants her more. There is a happy ending in the movie—the guy gets the girl, and for the movie because “It Happened One Night” is one of only three movies to win all five major Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screen Play.

Perhaps you prefer less comedy and more romance like 1957’s “An Affair to Remember.”  Many women and some grown men have been known to cry when the hero discovers that the heroine did not meet him at the top of the Empire State Building—or seek him out after because she was hit by a car and left unable to walk.

Perhaps you prefer your romance with a big slice of action like, “An Officer and a Gentleman.”  It is the story of a troubled young man who overcomes all odds, including a tough-as-nails Drill Instructor to become a Navy officer and a gentleman.   It is also the story of a young Puget Sound woman who thought she would do anything to catch a Navy pilot in the making so that she can break free of her dead-end life. In the end, she can’t for her courage and character run too deep.

There are some notable exceptions–perhaps even those mentioned, but most romantic comedies perpetuate the myth that love is a powerful feeling, rooted in biology, and stirred by the fates until it lifts all who serve it “…up where we belong, where the eagles cry, on a mountain high.” Continue reading

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Zoom Worship ONLY, Sunday January 30, 2022

The streets are clear; but, unfortunately, the walks and steps of the church are not. So, once more, in an abundance of caution, we are canceling 11:00 a.m. worship at the church.

Follow this link to an 11:00 a.m. Zoom service. There is a liturgy based on 1st Corinthians 13. and the pastor will speak on the subject, “Christian Love Is an Action.” Download Sunday’s bulletin here. Of course, there will be plenty of time for fellowship and sharing.

If you wish to participate in the 9:00 a.m. Zoom Sunday School Meeting, contact sister Margaret Couch at gretc@bellsouth.net  and she will be happy to email you a link.

Let us see this as yet one more opportunity to help defeat Covid!

 

Pastor Green
By Direction of the Board

 

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Gifts of Healing in the Age of Covid

1st Corinthians 12:1-11

In the time of Jesus—“in the days of his flesh,”  medicine was still in its infancy, and spiritual healing was important

Gentiles practiced spiritual healing. Aesculapius was the Greek god of healing, and temples erected in his honor were scattered all over the Roman Empire.  Many of those who went to these temples and received healing erected expensive tablets in honor of their god. Few people would have done this had they not actually been healed.

What then do these pagan healings mean for us?  At the very least they indicate the power of faith to affect our physical health, however well placed or however misplaced that faith may be. 

Some years ago, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention caused a stir when he said that God did not hear the prayers of non-Christians, but Psalm 36 declares that “All people find shelter under (God’s) wings.” I have no doubt that God overhears prayers that are not even directed to him.

Spiritual healing was important to the people of Israel, too. At times they blamed illnesses on sin and sought relief in the temple, where priests offered sacrifices on their behalf. At other times they blamed physical and mental illnesses on demons and called upon Rabbis and Holy Men to cast them out. [Note 1:]

In the gospels, Jesus imitated the healing practices of his time. He did this when he cast out demons, and when he healed the blind man of Bethsaida. In the case of the blind man, Jesus spat on the man’s eyes and then laid hands on him, which was something Jesus’s contemporaries did. (Mark 8:22f).  Of course, in the gospels, Jesus raised healing to new heights. He cleansed lepers, restored the sight of one who was born blind, made the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak. Continue reading

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