We Are Strangers in a Strange Land

February 9, 2022

Leadership Notes


Starting next week, and running for seven consecutive weeks, in these weekly missives, I will share details of the seven letters to the seven churches in The Revelation to John that did not make it into the previous Sunday's message. I'm really looking forward to it.


One of the things to remember about The Revelation to John is that it is both a culturally and politically subversive book. It is written for people who are strangers living in a strange land. Too often, evangelical/ conservative Christians have identified with the Republican Party. Too often, progressive/liberal Christians have identified with the Democratic Party. But we are above Party Politics. We are strangers living in a strange land.


As followers of Jesus Christ, we pursue uncomplicated, God-honoring worship, love for each other, and being light in the places we live. We do the best that is humanly possible to not divide each other into ideological camps. For example, from the start of the pandemic, we said we were going to be reasonable, rational, and unafraid, trusting each person and family to decide what was best for them as far as masks, vaccines, and sheltering-in-place go. We wanted to avoid such identifiers as masked/unmasked and vaccinated/unvaccinated. When and how people return to regular worship is between them and God.


With Galatians 5:22-23 as our template, we share life, beliefs, conversation, challenges, things that are right about us and things we get wrong, all in pursuit of deeper truth and greater understanding, on the way to refining our Biblical worldview. That is a good thing.


Something The Revelation to John makes clear is that we are strangers living in a strange land. If anything, by nature we strive to be counter-cultural. It is not about party loyalty or affiliation. We ought to stand for no one, except for the gospel of Jesus Christ.


There are definitely things not to like about our culture. Today I was struck by something seemingly minor that really perturbed me. You know, I don't care about awards and/or awards shows. We watch what we want to watch, accolades aside. I went to "Entertainment Weekly" website to see if anything new was dropping on streaming services, when it just so happened it was the day The Academy Awards were announced. I know, who cares, right? Anyway, a story on "Entertainment Weekly" heralded, "Denzel Washington extends record as most-nominated Black actor in Oscar history." C'mon, man! That really chapped me. He is an actor and a fine Christian man. What is wrong with our culture? And for the record, "Man on Fire" is the greatest Denzel Washington movie of all time, and one of the five best movies of all time. Go ahead, try to change my mind.


That's minor, I know, but sometimes little things reveal deeper rot. Ours is a sin-sick culture.


The next one is not from "The Babylon Bee" or "The Onion." It is a real headline from a legitimate news source:


"Biden administration to fund programs that hand out crack pipes

to prevent infection and promote 'racial equity.'"


If I had a mind blown emoji I would insert it here. Apparently, The Health and Human Services department has launched, within in larger federal spending program, a $30 million grant program to purchase "safe smoking kits/supplies" for users of crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine. These funds will be prioritized to serve "underserved communities," such as African Americans or Native Americans, or LGBTQ people.


You can't make this stuff up. Ancient Rome ain't got nothing on us.


Okay, so that's a secular governmental agency {we are far from a Christian nation, which is good or bad, depending on your worldview}, but what about the church? The Revelation to John is full of warnings to churches sinking into the pit of being corrupted by the culture. And each generation faces their own unique challenges.


Last year, in a panel discussion on "Queer Theology," one pastor/ scholar panelist stated that, "Jesus transgendered himself" when he washed his disciples' feet {women's work, and all that, albeit totally wrong interpretation, but it fit his preconceived point}. And lest you think, "Those crazy Brits. People across the pond can be kind of loony, after all. I've seen my share of Monty Python movies and Mr. Bean sketch comedies," you would be grossly mistaken, with the emphasis on gross.


A theologian at Holy Cross, a private Jesuit liberal arts college in Massachusetts, speculated that Jesus of Nazareth may, in some New Testament writings, be seen as a feminine figure, and in other writings may be best read as a "drag king" with "queer desires." Culture corrupts. Which is why the church must be diligent in how and why it reads God's Word.


Finally, this from our neighbors to the east in Pennsylvania. With

taxpayer funding, the University of Pittsburgh conducted research involving

grafting fetal scalps, back flesh, and other tissue from aborted fetuses onto humanized mice and rats to study the immune system when the skin is grafted. Not to be outdone in barbarism, Stanford University conducted studies where they grafted the fingers of aborted babies onto humanized mice in order to regenerate cartilage.


We must open our hearts and minds to see what is really going on in the name of "science."


The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, is also the Lamb who sits on the throne of Judgment. Our role in this sometimes wicked culture is to be the Lamp of the truth of the gospel. The seven letters to the seven churches strike a clarion call to push back against that wickedness.


I know much of what I've written sounds awfully critical and negative. But as the character of righteousness, Creasy, illustrates, evil wins when good people do nothing. The Revelation to John teaches us that we've got to face the garbage before we break through to the glory. We will get there.


Meanwhile, a wise person once said, "Life is a playground filled with

innumerable opportunities to live meaningful lives." With Galatians 5:22-23

as our roadmap, may the journey be fueled by love for God, each other,

and the broken world Jesus Christ died to save.


Even When It's a Struggle, Being of Good Cheer,


Richard

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