Friday, February 23, 2024

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Retirement Gathering Thank You, February 10, 2024

[I shared this thank you during a gathering held yesterday at Living Water Lutheran Church. It was originally scheduled for January 6, but I contracted COVID right before it was scheduled and it was postponed until yesterday. The gathering happened yesterday.]

Hebrews 1:3 says this of Jesus (I’m reading from the Good News Translation): “He reflects the brightness of God's glory and is the exact likeness of God's own being, sustaining the universe with his powerful word. After achieving forgiveness for the sins of all human beings, he sat down in heaven at the right side of God, the Supreme Power.”

Today, I thank God that in Jesus Christ, all my sins and all your sins are totally, completely forgiven.

Jesus, God the Son, achieved the forgiveness of our sins by dying on the cross.

God the Father confirmed this victory by raising Jesus from the dead.

Today, Jesus sits at the right side–the power side–of God the Father, the Conqueror of sin, death, and the devil, all for our sake, all to give us life with God that is ours today and will be forever.

Our call is to daily turn from sin and death–to repent–and to follow Jesus, trusting that–as you’ve heard me say before–when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant it.

He has done everything needed for your salvation, everything needed for you to be reconciled to God, everything needed to set you free to love God and love your neighbor.

Today, I also thank the people who have helped me to partake of the freedom of Christ and who have supported, encouraged, and nudged me not only as a child of God, but in my calling as pastor.

I thank Ann for being my wife for more than forty-nine years, for nagging me into going to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Columbus, where I, a rebellious sinner, an atheist, heard the Word of God that convicted me of my sin and then set me free with the Gospel about Jesus.

I thank Ann that she was supportive to me when I threw her the most unexpected curveball of her life. “Ann,” I said, “I think God is calling me to be a pastor.”

I thank our kids for enduring the lives of “pastor’s kids.” Both planned on being here when this gathering was originally scheduled. But after COVID scrubbed that and our son had to eat the cost of his airfare, we told both kids they didn’t need to be here.

Thank you to Living Water for going to the trouble of putting this gathering together. I feel a bit guilty about it when I consider all of the people who come to the end of their working lives without so much as a pat on the back. But thank you anyway…and thank you for the past ten years!

Thank you to my internship congregations and my internship supervisor and his wife, Pastor Jim and Jan. They gave me opportunities most pastoral interns don’t get: to preach and lead worship every single week.

Thank you too to the other congregations I’ve been privileged to serve as pastor–Bethlehem at Okolona, Ohio; Friendship of Amelia; and Saint Matthew in Logan.

Thank you too, to those from those congregations who are here today–and those who showed up a few weeks ago to find that the event had been indefinitely postponed. It has been an honor to serve as a Minister of Word and Sacrament and to have acquired lifelong friendships in each of these churches and communities.

Thank you to all of our friends–those we’ve known since elementary school, high school, college, seminary, early married life, and through all the subsequent years. We have laughed with you, cried with you, worshiped and prayed with you, in some instances traveled with you…and lived to tell about it. Each of you have been important in helping us to know God’s grace and in keeping our sanity, what’s left of it.

Thank you to all of you!

In retirement, I pray that God will help this saint and sinner to proclaim in whatever ways I can that, because in Jesus Christ, God the Son, all our sins ARE forgiven, we can trust in Him.

“For,” as Saint Paul tells us, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Thank you.

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Revelation, Part 2 (Video YouTube Version)

[This is the second episode of my study of Revelation. It begins as a Facebook Live event and then gets edited into a podcast. Why the opening logo gyrates, I have no idea. I'm still figuring this podcast and iMovie editing out.]

Thursday, February 01, 2024

A Bit About Revelation

[This is a document I created to which I refer in my first podcast. It introduces some basics about the New Testament book of Revelation.]

A Bit About Revelation

(Pastor Mark Daniels, January 31, 2024)
“No other book of the Bible has attracted so much attention and caused so much consternation as the Book of Revelation. No other book has been so widely read and wildly misread.” (Richard L. Jeske

1. The first thing to be understood about Revelation is to understand WHO and WHAT it is about. It’s NOT about the antichrist. It’s NOT about what’s called “the tribulation.” The closest thing we have for a title from the author comes at the very beginning of the book: Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. This literally means: “The unveiling or revelation of Jesus Christ.” In Revelation, Christ and the triumph of Christ for all who believe is revealed. That’s the revelation that it gives to Christians.

2. Bottom line: This book which is so often used to incite fear or a false sense of security placed in one’s own righteousness or right actions, is about Jesus Christ, the only place that hope is found for this life or the next.

3. Who wrote Revelation? The author identifies himself simply as John. There were several notable people among Jesus’ early followers named John:

John the Baptist, who died well before Jesus’ death and resurrection and exhibited a less than full understanding of Jesus’ office and ministry and is, therefore, unlikely to be the author of Revelation;

John Mark, part of the ministry team of Paul and Barnabas mentioned in the Book of Acts, is also traditionally thought to be the author of the Gospel of Mark; and

John, the son of Zebedee and probable younger brother of James. The earliest Church Fathers identified the author of Revelation as this John. The evidence suggests this John lived in Ephesus in what is today Turkey, where he was bishop. He was for a time exiled to the island of Patmos for his faith in Jesus, but returned to Ephesus. He lived through the first seven decades of the Church’s life, living to a ripe old age.

4. Was Revelation always widely accepted as canonical? Some will know that Revelation is often referred to as one of the “disputed books” we today have in the New Testament, along with 2 and 3 John and Jude and even Hebrews. In fact, the evidence suggests that when John first composed Revelation in the late first century, it was received, like other books now in our New Testament, as an apostolic Word from God, equal to both books in the Old Testament and other books accepted in the New Testament. A later-generation Church Father, Dionysus, and others who followed his lead, questioned whether John was the author of Revelation and whether it deserved equal treatment with other books of the Bible. But this was never the prevailing view, nor was it the earliest view, of the Church. We can, I think, safely regard Revelation as the last proclamation of the definitive apostolic Word about Jesus and therefore, part of the canon, the standard for the proclamation of God’s Word today.

Louis A. Brighton writes: “Revelation is…the culmination of the entire salvation contained in the Bible…it draws all of revelation, both prophetic and apostolic, to its final goal: the exalted reign of Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords (19:11-16) and the fulfillment of the promise of the new heaven and earth (21:1).”

He continues: “As the last book of the Bible and the completion of God’s revelation to his church, it is the lens through which the entire Scripture is to be viewed. Revelation reveals and  confirms the Christ was prophetically promised and that his incarnation, death, and resurrection happened sp that God’s creation could be restored to its original glory and righteousness.”

5. What kind of book is Revelation? John himself describes Revelation as prophecy. Most scholars, conservative or liberal, would say that Revelation represents a kind of prophecy or a separate genre related to prophecy, apocalyptic.

The term is from the Greek noun that actually begins Revelation, ἀποκάλυψις (apcalupsis). The word means uncovering or unveiling. Apocalyptic literature in the Bible uncovers the truth about God for the benefit of believers. Apocalyptic literature is highly visual. Understanding the visual signs God gives to the recipient of them is completely dependent on God’s Word. Usually, God sends angels to deliver apocalyptic visions to particular recipients, like John.

The most prominent Old Testament example of apocalyptic literature is Daniel. Some apocalyptic elements are seen in Ezekiel and in other Old Testament prophetic writings, including Isaiah and Haggai. There are some places in Jesus’ discourses in the gospels and in the writings of Paul where apocalyptic messages are given.

Revelation is the only book of the New Testament that is almost completely given over to the apocalyptic genre, although in a way, it starts out as an epistle, a letter. The entire book, in fact, is an apocalyptic letter written to the seven churches mentioned at its beginning.

Apocalyptic literature was meant to assure people in uncertain situations that God was still in control and that all who trust in Him have hope that cannot be taken from them. This is why, though Revelation was addressed to first-century people faced with particular circumstances, we too can be comforted by its message.

6. John is clear that in Revelation, the events he refers to are not all centuries removed from his time, but mostly in the lifetimes of his original audience. He tells them that they will be blessed in the reading and hearing of his words–just as he had been blessed in receiving the visions and the accompanying words from God–”for [or because] the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)

John wasn’t presenting some gnostic puzzle requiring specially trained guides to solve. And he wasn’t giving some obscure playbook for world history. John was sharing the conquering Lamb of God, Who consoled Christians of his own time and Who consoles us still. The events to which John refers in Revelation were imminent the people of his own time.

7. An important point to remember is this: Like John, like every human being who has lived since the resurrection of Jesus, we live in the end times. The “thousand years” referred to in Revelation is not an exact period of time; it’s not literally “one thousand years.” Apocalyptic language is figurative language. Just as we might say things like “a month of Sundays” or “as old as Methuselah” or “forever and a day,” the phrase “a thousand years” is a way of saying a long time.

8. Revelation tells believers, as Jesus did, to be prepared for Jesus’ return when He will judge the living and the dead, send unbelievers to condemnation, and when the new heaven and earth will descend to believers. Believers, who are part of the Church, need to hold fast to Christ (2:10) and complete our mission of sharing the gospel with others (10:11)

9. Revelation reveals two ongoing phenomena, Brighton says, “the terrifying sufferings and horrors on earth, and the reign of Jesus Christ as Lord in his heavenly exalted glory.” Revelation underscores the truth revealed by Saint Paul in Romans, that no matter how horrifying life in this world may be and no matter if death visits us before Jesus’ return to the world, nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)

Helpful resources:
Johnson, Dennis E. Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation.

Brighton, Louis A. Revelation-Concordia Commentary.

Revelation, Part 1

Here's the first episode of my new podcast, 'Route 66: A podcast journey through the Bible.' Naturally, we're starting with the last of the Bible's 66 books, Revelation. Please share the podcast with others!

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Gun Violence in America

France24 has details on today's school shooting in Iowa.

I pray in Jesus’ name that God will give us both the wisdom and the courage to act on the wisdom He gives to end the tragic nonsense of gun violence in our country.

No other advanced Western-style democracy deals with gun violence to the extent that we do in America.

Is there more mental illness in America than in other countries? The data I’ve seen suggests that’s not the case. What the definitive answers might be, I don’t claim to know.

Many of the answers will be rendered in the country's political life and, as a pastor, I stay out of politics.

But, as a Christian who cherishes all human life, just as I pray babies will be kept safe in their mother’s wombs, I pray too that those babies, grown older, will also be kept safe in classrooms.