We need a manger to mark the arrival of Jesus Christ for Christmas. We need a different shelter for a different set of animals as we prepare for His return. Revelation 19 is combination of beauty, power, and horror that is unmatched in Scripture. Let's get ready for our approaching Savior!
Music Today: 'Hallelujah Chorus', George Frederick HandelYes, I've already used this once, but the text itself draws from Revelation 19 (in part) and deserves all the majesty and glory this version from the Sydney Opera House provides.
When we look at all the luxuries this world can offer, what do we see? Revelation 18 has us look all the way to the bottom of the packing list before we decide which way to throw our allegiance.
Music Today: Josh Garrels, 'Zion and Babylon'.I've brought this song forward before, but it's simply one of the finest Christian songs written in the last 20 years. Garrels begins with a view of life from Babylon (rebellion against God) and then Zion (life under God). Beautiful, convicting, and ultimately uplifting, with one remarkable lyric after another.
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
As we near the climax of the Advent season in 2020 with the celebration of Christmas and the
coming of Jesus, we are also living with the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic have
brought to us in Western Pennsylvania. Your Session and I, your Pastor have prayed, conferred,
debated, and finally arrived at a decision for our worship life together during the next few
weeks that we believe will provide the appropriate balance of physical, spiritual, and emotional
support, understanding that the Lord continues to be in control of our world and our lives as He
always has been.
Here’s our plan for each of our services from December 13 through January 3:
DECEMBER 13: 10:30 worship in the sanctuary, with masks worn through the service.
The service will be streamed online via YouTube at www.cupepc.org.
DECEMBER 20: 10:30 worship in the sanctuary with masks worn through the service.
We will be offering our traditional Christmas Eve LESSONS AND CAROLS service at this time, in a
shortened format, and Communion will NOT be included as a part of the service this year.
The service will also be streamed online via YouTube at www.cupepc.org.
We will have some very special guests reading our Scripture Lessons ‘virtually’, so please join us
one way or the other!
DECEMBER 24: WE WILL BE OFFERING A PARKING LOT WORSHIP SERVICE at 4 PM.
The format of the service is to be determined, but we will broadcast through a radio transmitter
so everyone can keep their windows up! We plan on providing a variation on our candlelight
conclusion that will be meaningful as we celebrate Jesus’ birth and look with joy to his return.
Come ready to sing! Visitors, as always, are welcome!
DECEMBER 27 AND JANUARY 3: We will be streaming the worship service at 10:30, but worship
will be ONLINE ONLY. (www.cupepc.org) Only those directly involved in leading worship will be
allowed in the building.
We pray that the current wave of virus cases will wane, and we look forward to being together
in an easier way as soon as it is prudent to do so. Our final decision in how to conduct these
services wasn’t unanimous, but all of us as Ruling and Teaching Elders are able to support it,
and believe the Lord has good plans and purposes for us as we reach out in His name in these
days. God bless you all, and we look forward to worshipping our Lord with you now and
throughout the New Year.