Reminder that Daylight Savings Time ends Sunday, November 2 at 2:00 a.m. So please remember to set your clocks back one hour before going to bed Saturday night.
How dare we call ourselves Saints? No, not the New Orleans kind, but the kind of people that strive to be holy because God is holy. Well, the church has consistently done that ever since it started reciting the Apostles’ Creed some 1500 years ago:
“I believe […] in the Communion of Saints”
Yeah, from that crying baby in the church nursery to the 101 year-old lady and everybody in between, God considers us all Saints. Now God doesn’t do that in a Catholic kind of way:
“In Catholic terminology, the communion of saints is thus said to comprise the church militant (those alive on earth), the church penitent (those undergoing purification in purgatory in preparation for heaven), and the church triumphant (those already in heaven).”
Instead the Reformation has stressed the Priesthood of all believers, which basically means that there are no Saints that are more saintly than any other Saint.
That’s why Martin Luther on the occasion of All Hallows Eve (Halloween is the evening before All Saints Day) in the year 1517 made the point that was spelled out in Scripture before:
“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and the Lamb!”
(Revelation 7:10 – Watchword for the Week of Sunday 1 November 2014)
That was revolutionary news back then: In order to graduate from purgatory to heaven your deceased relatives needed your help. Namely the church wanted you to pay cold hard cash for a letter of indulgence to shorten their time of suffering. It was like the church owned a treasure chest of salvation and you had to buy in, for yourself and everyone you cared for. Luther spoke out against the practice of indulgences because: Salvation does not belong to the church but Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and the Lamb! God gives salvation for free to everybody!
That still is revolutionary news today: There are churches out there that will tell their people that they have to believe or act or love or be a certain way or they will not get saved. They put pressure on you for not giving enough money, for not following their moral code. They tell you they know how to “get saved”.
The Good News of Reformation Day / Halloween / All Saints Day is this:
You are a Saint! You are saved no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey!
Jesus Christ is the Light of the World!
Sometimes it is hard to see the light. With the holidays coming up there will be all the more occasions to miss the ones you have lost to death and remember the wonderful times you had together.
It is this season of the year, when the days get shorter and it seems like darkness would be able to overcome the light that the church has always reminded itself that All Saints are resurrected to eternal life. The Sunday before All Saints Day is a reminder that the light will cast out every darkness, a reminder that life will win over death.
Please join us at St. John’s United Church of Christ on Sunday, October 26th 2014 at 10 a.m. to celebrate the memory of loved ones who have passed on. Everyone is invited to light candles in memory of people they have lost. Members of our congregation who died since last All Saints Sunday will be lifted up by the entire congregation and next of kin are specifically invited to light a candle for them.
Whether we live or whether we die we will always be in God’s loving hands. May our God be with you also as you are adjusting to a life without having the ones who died around.
Dost Thou Speak King James? And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the Lord, dost thou offer it at your own will? No, really, on a scale of 1-10 with ten being God-like: How Holy Art Thou? How do you rate your own Holiness? That is the challenge that the Holiness Code offers with its motto:
“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”
(Leviticus 19:2 – Watchword for the Week of Sunday 26 October 2014)
God is a 10. That’s easy, nobody and nothing could possibly be holier than the Holy One! But God does not just rest there in all God’s Holiness. God picks, elects, drafts, calls up God’s chosen people: first Israel and eventually all the peoples in Christ Jesus. That includes you and me. And the charge to God’s people remains in effect: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” If you did not rate yourself to be a 10 on the Holiness scale you got your work cut out for you!
How do I do that – become more holy? Forget most of the religious knowledge and practice you have learned over the years! Yes, the Holiness Code has some religious and cultural stuff listed but that is mostly common-sense or general moral practice. At its core the Hebrew word for “holiness,” “kedushah” (Hebrew: קדושה) has the connotation of “separateness”. So since God is separate from the world so God’s people are supposed to be special. That is in our everyday dealings and not a flashy worship kind of way.
Holiness does not show when you are in Sunday best but working towards a farmer’s tan. Here is an example from Leviticus 19:10
“You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.”
The way you go about to your day job shows how much you are attuned to the Divine and the people around you. When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment all he could think of was the summary of the Holiness Code from Leviticus 19:18
“love your neighbors as you love yourself.”
Learning to speak King James and saying the most beautiful prayers and thinking the most pious and righteous thoughts is so easy but are you willing to work on your Holiness the hard way? Do you dare being separate, special, holy?
Every old song used to be a new song. Karl Vaters wonders who the first worship director was who said “hey, I like that new song John Newton wrote,” before introducing Amazing Grace to the church. Whoever it was, he probably had to deal with complaints from church members who didn’t think it was as good as the hymns they were used to singing. “In six verses the name of Jesus isn’t mentioned once, but it says ‘me’, ‘my’ and ‘I’ thirteen times! Today’s songs are so self-centered and shallow!”
The 1941 hymnal that we use at St. John’s United Church of Christ is kinda like that: It has countless numbers of hymns from 1930s and 1940 because they were the most popular songs back then. The church has a long tradition of hiring the greatest musicians of the time and commissioning the most extravagant compositions. And every time the “new hymnal” is introduced the generations who grew loving the previous ones get up in arms. Remember what that was like when the 1941 Hymnal was new? It was a radically new approach! Nobody could have ever imagined that Evangelical Christians and Reformed Christians could ever merge into the one Evangelical and Reformed Church. Well, they did and they even came up with this new 1941 hymnal celebrating their unity combining favorites of both traditions for a new era. After all that’s what the Psalmist charges God’s people to do:
“O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.”
(Psalm 96:1-2 – Watchword for the Week of Sunday 19 October 2014)
St. John’s United Church of Christ has been working toward getting a new hymnal for quite some time. A group of musical experts has been assembled and charged with giving the congregation a feel for what is out their until we come closer to a phase of deliberation and a process of decision making. Stay tuned.
As you plan your trips to church the next couple of weekends please be mindful of the following road closures:
The City of Rosenberg has received notification from TxDOT that construction on the Interstate 69 (US59) expansion project will necessitate closure of the following intersections:
FM 2218 at US 59 – intersection to close Friday, October 10 from 9 p.m.
to 5 a.m. Monday, October 13
SH 36 at US 59 – intersection to close Friday, October 17 from 9 p.m.
to 5 a.m. Monday, October 20
Baring any unforeseen circumstances, the work is not expected to affect the main lanes of traffic on US59/I69. Message boards and detour signage will be in place. Drivers are asked to exercise caution in the area, and to plan alternate routes and additional travel time accordingly.