'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.
John's 'Christmas Card' is a mash-up of Halloween horror with godly pyrotechnics. A 'silent night' also brings about war in heaven! Join me for a few minutes with Revelation 12 and what Christmas Revelation-style means for our church today.
Music: 'This Little Babe' from 'A Ceremony of Carols' by Benjamin Britten. The lyrics are from sixteenth century poet Robert Southwell. A children's choir and harp are the perfect setting for God's ambush of Satan through the incarnation. I sang this in a boys' choir many years ago, and it is devilishly (lol) difficult.
This little Babe so few days old is come to rifle Satan's fold; all hell doth at his presence quake though he himself for cold do shake; for in this weak unarmèd wise the gates of hell he will surprise. With tears he fights and wins the field, his naked breast stands for a shield; his battering shot are babish cries, his arrows looks of weeping eyes, his martial ensigns Cold and Need and feeble Flesh his warrior's steed. His camp is pitchèd in a stall, his bulwark but a broken wall; the crib his trench, haystacks his stakes; of shepherds he his muster makes; and thus, as sure his foe to wound, the angels' trump alarum sound. My soul, with Christ join thou in fight, stick to the tents that he hath pight. Within his crib is surest ward, this little Babe will be thy guard. If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy, then flit not from this heavenly Boy.
'Let It Be So' - Southeast EngineThis is a band that started in my hometown of Dayton, OH. It's too bad that they're no longer around - this album 'Wheel within a Wheel' is fantastic, and closes with this song, which contrasts a relationship with God with something approaching the horrible beasts of Daniel and Revelation. Recognizing the beauty of Christ against the technological terror of the beast is one way to stay faithful in the face of hardship and persecution.
Revelation 11 has more action and plot twists than 'Avengers End Game', with even higher stakes! We find that the faithful church has incredible 'super powers' and fights deadly villains, but only if they follow some simple, yet unpopular ways. Pre-election 2020 is as good a time as any to take a closer look. (For the Old Testament background on this dizzying chapter, Zechariah, Daniel, and Ezekiel provide the 'prequel.')
Music Today: 'The Resistance' by Josh GarrelsGarrels released this in 2011, but the challenges of living for God in modern culture are still very true regardless of which party is in the White House.
'Hallelujah Chorus' by George Frederick Handel (1741)Far and away the best known music to draw directly from Revelation. Much of this is from chapter 19, but there is also this from 11:15 - 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.'As I've said earlier, Handel wrote this during the height of the Age of the Enlightenment, and the Christian faith was ridiculed and attacked in influential circles across Europe, considered a relic of a pre-scientific age. I think the composer would love that this piece has brought hope and joy to so many in the public square even today - in a modern food court!
What is the Matrix?Now over 20 years old(!), and followed by two very disappointing sequels, this movie still provides a fascinating analogy for following Jesus in a post-Christian world. Take a look at Ephesians 2:1-10, 6:10-20 as our two witnesses try to cross the street and dodge the 'woman' in the red dress.
Pastors - having a tough time getting inspired for Sunday's sermon? Join me for a few minutes in Revelation 10, one of the most powerful places I know for the authority of Scripture and the gut-churning call to preaching. While we may steward something as valuable as Orion in 'Men in Black', we also have a voice to declare what it is!
Music Today:Scott Blackwell - 'My King' When your sermon gets mixed for the dance floor, you know you're making an impact. S.M. Lockridge has an excerpt from his sermon 'That's My King' (likely completely extemporaneous here) that has been sampled several times since Blackwell put this together, but his version is still the
Olivier Messiaen - 'Quartet for the End of Time', Movement VII.'Tangle of Rainbows, for the Angel who announces the end of time'This was written in a German POW camp (Messiaen a captured French soldier) and premiered in the dead of winter at the camp in 1941, with German officers and Allied prisoners alike in attendance. It was composed for the instruments and musicians available: Piano, clarinet, violin, and a cello with three strings. The inspiration for one of the most tender, yet chilling works in 20th Century classical music is Revelation 10. If you listen to the end of movement 7, you'll hear where the composer of a certain theme for Hitchcock's 'Psycho' likely got his inspiration. (This movement runs from 37:17 to 44:42 in the clip)
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.