Child. Lamb. Citizen. Friend. All of these are true and important images describing our relationship with God. But in the end, there's one relationship descriptor more important than them all, and John resorts to shocking imagery to make sure we get it. Join me for a few minutes 'in the wilderness' of Revelation 17.
Music Today: 'She' by Laura MvulaMvula has a gorgeous voice, and this tender song simply sketches the hopelessness the world's abuse can heap on women - and yet also the voice of our divine Redeemer. 'This is what the Lord says - he who created and formed you, Jacob; 'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.' (Isa. 43:1)
'Hosea's Wife' by Brooke FraserThe Lord likens his love for us to a jilted spouse so much so that he called this Old Testament prophet to marry a woman he knew would be unfaithful to him. Chapters 2-3, 11 are some of the most poignant in all the Bible. Fraser does a beautiful job describing the painful price we pay when we lose our way with intimacy, and the hope God provides in a way out.
2020 certainly feels like a dark year. What do we have to be thankful for? Common grace and saving grace are two places to begin. Revelation 16 gives us a glimpse of what losing the first would look like, and 16:17 gives us a glimpse of how to find the second. The Lord bless and keep you in the face of Armageddon - which is actually a word of GOOD news for the Christian!
Music Today: "Land of the Living" by Matthew Perryman Jones.One of the most beautifully evocative songs I know calling someone to leave the false hopes of Babylon for the city of our true love and true home. 'You cannot love in moderation/dancing with a dead man's bones/lay your soul on the threshing floor.'
'You Want it Darker' by Leonard CohenNeither of these songs are hymns or praise songs, necessarily, but it's hard to define this as anything other than a Christian confession, written only weeks before Cohen's death in 2016. Cohen was famously decadent in the '60s, '70s, and '80s at least, but, like Bob Dylan, had biblical and Christ haunted lyrics occasionally peeking out of even his earliest music. His last three recordings show this spiritual wanderer moving more and more directly to the cross of Jesus Christ. The key word 'Hineni' here is Jewish for 'Here I Am.' Many of his late songs describe a despair that a life without God can lead to.
It's been a tough year by American standards, but that 'tough' doesn't mean that much compared to what hundreds of millions of Christ followers deal with in all years, not just 2020. Revelation, including chapter 15, is quite realistic about this, despite all the symbolism. Yet stay with me for a few minutes to share in the remarkable gift the persecuted church sings about here. A reminder for gratitude this Thanksgiving!
Music Today: U2, 'Walk On'. One of the ironies here is Bono wrote and dedicated this song to Aung San Suu Kyi, who at the time was a political prisoner in Myanmar/Burma. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and now Prime MInister, she nows appears to be turning a blind eye to the Myanmar military's current atrocities. A symbol, perhaps, of the difficult, twisted road toward justice on this planet that will only be perfected when Christ's return finally rights every wrong. One of my favorite worship services involved preaching on the coming justice of God at a contemporary worship service where a a gifted dancer (who had been in my youth group in a previous church) gave a stunning interpretation of this song for the offertory. Thank you Teresa VanDenend Sorge!
'You Bring the Morning' - Andy Squyres A newly recorded song on the tension of trusting in God's way of doing things while we live in a very different place. You bring the comfort I'll bring my thinking You bring the new wine, Lord I'll bring the drinking You bring Your spirit I'll bring my weeping I have nothing else But the promises You're keeping
'The Grapes of Wrath' a referred to in one of the most famous songs in American history as well as one of our best-loved novels. and indirectly, in the finest U.S. Presidential address ever given. The phrase comes from Revelation 14. Join me for a few minutes, especially if you wonder about 'the mark of the beast!'
Music Today: 'Finding Gabriel' by Brad Mehldau. The title track to last year's Grammy-winning Jazz album. Angels fill Revelation 14, and are messengers of God's hope as well as his just wrath. Mehldau quotes from the Book of Daniel, but it would be very fitting if he drew from these angels as well.
Sho Baraka: 'Maybe Both, 1865' from 'The Narrative' (Video marked 'Maybe Both, 1968')Baraka offers up a bracing rap on his attempt to find true friends for the African-American among Democrats or Republicans and not finding much success anywhere - except in God. "Is it a ballot or a bullet? Let me knowShould I fight or should I pray? Who's my foe?Are they killing with a pistol or a vote?Or, maybe, it is both?"Baraka finishes with a verse on Jesus - God bringing peace? Or the sword? Or both? If nothing else, this gives us a LOT to think about (as does the whole album, 'The Narrative')
Romans 13:1-7 on the one hand tells us that God allows and even establishes those in political authority. On the other hand, Revelation 13 tells us that these political authorities can become demonic. How do Christians understand the balance?
Music Today:"Carry the Fire" by Andrew PetersonPeterson does a beautiful job of describing our mission now in a Romans/Revelation 13 world by pointing us toward Revelation 21 and 22. A classic.
Last night our church session met in a virtual meeting to discuss our plans for worship in light of the latest guidance given July 15 from Governor Wolf. The governor specifically exempted churches from his restrictions of no more than 25 people in an indoor facility and has not placed Beaver County (or any other county in Western Pennsylvania) back in a ‘red’ phase.
We also carefully considered all the feedback we received from those of you who have replied over the past month to our questionnaire.
As a result, the Cup church session adopted unanimously the following policy:
We will continue to meet for sanctuary worship at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.
We are requiring masks through the entire worship service unless a medical condition prevents this. If someone desires not to wear a mask for personal reasons, we can provide a location for seating where the service can be heard, but outside of the sanctuary.
On that page, click on ‘subscribe’ and on the bell icon in order to receive a notification when we post the worship service for you to view. We are currently working on ‘live streaming’ the service and have had some technical difficulties in recent weeks, but are working on solving those. Additional subscribers to our YouTube channel will help our processing time in getting the video up, so please subscribe – and tell your friends about us!
We continue to monitor the situation involving COVID-19 and aim at providing the proper balance of spiritual and physical care to our congregation and community. Our policy will be adapted as circumstances warrant.
We are thankful for God’s provision and your support in these challenging times and look forward to the time when all of us will feel comfortable and secure in attending worship together. Until that time, let us ‘fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. . .so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’ (Hebrews 12:2-3)