I’m Back! June 25, 2012
It was so good of the church to give me that three month leave of absence. I felt so welcomed when I returned in May, wonderful people! I have been revising and preaching the sermons I wrote while on leave. Also the ABC conference encouraged me to video record my messages, so those are being put up on our website as well as the audio versions.
I had not expected what I discovered about the book of Romans. Paul is making peace between groups who are conflicting with one another, in this case Jew and Gentiles in the church. His purpose is to restore them to our God of Hope, restoring them to joy and peace by the Holy Spirit. It’s now amazing to me that some pastors use Romans to condemn people, when Paul is doing exactly the opposite! He’s a peacemaker. Check out today’s sermon, you may find it useful. We are four Sundays from the end of Romans, then we will tackle Psalms.
It will actually take five Sundays before Psalms because on July 8 we will have a Fourth of July service with stories from a couple who immigrated from Great Britain and a veteran with passion for our country. They will speak about what the USA and the flag means to them. I will lead out to focus on the Lord.
The church building is all refurbished with new windows and new paint. Looks freshened and people are noticing. We love our little building. Thanks to Malcolm and Virgil for their efforts.
Pastor Lynn Takes a Leave of Absence January 31, 2012
The American Baptist Church USA provided me with a trip to Orlando to attend the New Pastors’ Orientation… for free! It was a wonderful and useful time for me in two ways. First, I bonded with the denomination as we worshipped together. There is no ethic group in the ABC that has a majority! So, our worship was very diverse, from speaking in Spanish, to a hymn in Cherokee, to the wonderful singing and preaching of our African-American brothers and sisters. The theme and the speakers were emphasizing that we are on our journeys with God and He doesn’t take the time to read our mission and vision statements. Like Abraham and Sarah, we have little idea where He is leading us; we have only to trust and obey and go ahead together. Even though the oasis are restful, He meets us in the deserts, so the difficult desert times are also his leading. With that in mind, I met other pastors and students that helped me come to a difficult decision. The chronic condition mentioned in my last entry has not improved, partially due to the three hour drive up and back from my home in St. Paul, so I am going to try healing during a leave of absence for three months. We have no idea what the Lord is doing or where he is leading, but here we go!
Rev. Dick Grenell has graciously offered to lead in worship and preaching while I am gone. I may be able to continue my series on Romans as a sort of radio preacher, uploading them as usual to the sermon page of our website. Our study of Romans has been so interesting to me that I am reluctant to stop before we finish it. Check in there to see if I can do so.
I haven’t entered anymore sermons on the list of sermons because I haven’t been able to travel for a couple weeks due to a chronic condition flare-up, but God has me reading and thinking about Romans 9-11 in faith that I will be able to return to teach. I wondered what had Paul so anguished about. He lists the blessings of Israel, but assumes his readers know what he is talking about. His writing seems like a movie that leaves out all the transitions, so anyone gets confused who, like me, is not skilled in filling the blanks.
It appears that God is using this annoying time to sit me down with too much time and inability to do anything else, to read. I have. Jeremiah. My goodness, now I can see why Paul was so anguished. He knew what was coming! Last time Israel rejected God, he sent them to Assyria and Babylon and utterly wiped Jerusalem off the map including temple. He utterly destroyed his enemies! What was he going to do when the leaders of Jerusalem killed the Messiah who had been promised and anticipated for centuries?! I think Paul saw the incredible horrific destruction of Jerusalem by bandits within and Romans outside. Josephus tells us the entire city was leveled and grass grown over the place. Most of the people were taken as slaves and spread all over the Roman world. No wonder Paul was anguished.
That thinking led me to see that the whole book of Romans is a Jewish book! Written by a Pharisee…a Messianic Pharisee to be sure. A very learned teacher of the Law who had become Christ’s interpreter. Then, I began to understand that the whole New Testament is a Jewish book. It’s not a break from the Old Testament, but a continuity with it. So, now I intend to reread the NT with a Jewish filter. To get that filter, I need to refresh my OT, like starting with Isaiah, with it’s many predictions of the Messiah. Maybe then, I will know what to do with the Psalms too; how to understand all the blood thirsty images in there. Up to now, I can hardly read those Psalms without wondering if we are talking about the same God we know and love. But that’s another day and hopefully God doesn’t have to use discipline like my last couple weeks to get me to sit down and read the Bible. How about you?