Reflections for August 22, 2021
Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
Ephesians 6:10-2- (our middle reading for Sunday.)
I am drawn to this reading for this coming Sunday. Paul's language of the "armor of God", and other similar references remind me and us that the world is a dangerous and deadly place, or it can be in some ways. Paul is letting his readers know that we don't "gear up" for violence and aggression necessarily, but instead, put on the whole armor of God for protection and safety from a sinful world. My message comes largely from this reading, and will use the lyrics of a song by Johnny Cash from the late 1960's, "A Boy Named Sue". See if you can think of the connection between this reading for Sunday, and the lyrics to this famous Johnny Cash song.
The Authority of Scripture
"Sola Scriptura" - we see this in the banners in our church; we lifelong Lutherans have heard this phrase since we were in Confirmation; but do we really know what the heck this really really means? What does by Scripture alone mean? What does "the authority of Scripture" mean? And what does it mean when most of us don't know much about, or have difficulty understanding, the holy Scriptures, as I so often do?
The citation of Scripture - a biblical reference, is generally accepted as the authoritative way to support a particular position regarding the bible. Scripture is the final, and only source of
authority. But it wasn't always so. Prior to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, the
church, and specifically the pope, had the final say in interpretations of Scripture. I actually have a bronze like miniature statue of Martin Luther, holding one hand up to the sky, with the bible tucked securely under his other arm, with the inscription beneath it, "Sola Scriptura".
For centuries before Luther, lay people weren't even permitted to own any book of the Old or New Testament, not that many people even had access to a printed version of it/them. There was no need, the Roman church would argue, for people to own or read the bible, because the pope had "all the biblical laws in the chamber of his heart"? In other words, the pope was the ultimate arbiter as to what the Holy Scriptures had to say about anything biblical. And his interpretation was final! For most Christians before Luther, anyone caught reading a Wycliffe (translation) bible in London could be condemned to death. Whoa!
It's a long and complicated story, this Sola Scriptura thing, and Luther himself didn't even subscribe to it until he was teaching theology at Wittenberg. It was as he was beginning to be challenged by the church at Rome, later in his career, that he wrote, "I teach nothing save what is in Scripture." And later, he declared at the Diet of Worms, "Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God...God help me. Amen."
Luther felt that popes, church councils, and others, were no better than anyone else in conveying the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that often, these interpretations were riddled with error. Luther then, and we now, believe(d) that the Holy Scriptures were the inspired (God-breathed) word of God because they were written by the apostles themselves, or by someone supervising them.
You may know some Roman Catholics who only in the last half century began owning a bible in their homes. The reason no bibles before this? They relied on the pope to interpret Scripture, thus no need to own a bible. Go figure.
1. Covid concerns - The church council is regularly reading and discussing any necessary changes to worship protocols with increased Covid concerns. Presently, we all are urged to wear masks during worship, including when we sing. As things change, we will adjust our protocols accordingly. If you would like to see what our bishop has said recently about Covid-19, simply go to the Florida/Bahamas Synod's website at www.fbsynod.com, and click on the tab at the top of the home page.
2. Home visitation "team" - We're building a team to travel with me (Pastor Greg) as needed for home visitations. We have about 6 people interested presently. If you are interested, let Pastor Greg know. The group will be meeting shortly to look at schedules, protocols, and the like. With Covid flaring up again, some of our members in facilities are unable to be seen by outsiders and family members.
3. New flooring - We're getting really close to beginning the large project of replacing the flooring in the church - carpeting in the sanctuary, office, etc. and wood-like flooring in the church narthex/lobby, both of which are absolutely beautiful. As you can imagine, it's a massive job, that will take a deal of planning and coordinating. Watch for more details as we get closer to the installation date.