"Apocalypse, 1831" by Ludwig Ferdinand Schnorr von Carolsfeld
Let Us Worship Together!
Our Saviour is incredibly pleased to have you join us for live in-person worship inside the Nave and Sanctuary on Saturday, November 12 at 5:30 pm (casual with Voices of Praise), and Sunday, November 13 at 8:00 am (simple service) and 10:30 am (traditional with choir and/or organ music). The Saturday evening and Sunday 10:30 am services will will also be online via Facebook Livestream!
Join your prayers with the community! During the live stream of the service, you are invited to type into the Facebook chat any prayer requests for those you want included in the prayers of intercession. (As always, you may also send your prayer requests by Wednesday the week ahead to firstname.lastname@example.org.) Please do this at the beginning of the service so that we can write them up and hand them to the pastors before the prayers start.
(Fast forward to 5:05 in the recording for the beginning of service)
Sunday 8:00 am — First Light Service
Sunday 8:45 am — Fellowship
Sunday 9:00 am — Sunday School for All Ages
Sunday 10:30 am — Traditional Service with Choir and/or Organist: Download Sunday’s Worship Bulletin & Watch Service Here
(Fast forward to 6:10 in the recording for the beginning of service)
Altar Flowers for this weekend’s services were donated by Bob & Betsy Springman in Celebration of the loving couples 35th Wedding Anniversary. ❤ ❤
If you would like to donate flowers in memory, honor or celebration of a loved one or special date, please sign up on the chart in the church office hallway or call the church office at (540) 347-3224 with your information.
Readings and Psalms:
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
23rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
Bedbug Blessings and Other Signs of God’s Economy
“Case number 10,000+ for how the Lord works in mysterious ways…thank you God, for bed bugs.”
That’s how the text from my big sister Judy started, and I admit I was hooked, instantly. I mean, bed bugs, as a thing to give thanks for? Surely not.
I remember when my neighbors had them. Kristy and Dave, with a daughter just a bit older than our child, had found the “rashes,” and learned what my sister learned last year: it takes a LOT of effort and resources to rid your home of bed bugs! You don’t need to throw everything away, as some people have heard, but you can’t do it half-way either. You bag up everything, you get rid of all the papers and cardboard boxes lying around, you trap the bugs in plastic—so, much, plastic!—you clean, and clean, and treat and treat, and heat and heat, and check and recheck, and eventually, after many tears and judging yourself (unfairly!) for not keeping a clean house, eventually you can move on with your life free of the critters. My sister called it a nightmare and described bags on tables all over the house to hold all their clothes—over a period of months. If you aren’t feeling just a little itchy yet, or if you still think that the nursery rhyme, “Good night, sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite” is something cute to say, you have not come across these little beasts!
Remembering that horror story from my friend, seeing my sister’s text caught my attention. You see, Judy had major surgery on Tuesday, and this text came the day after she spent her first night at home. She had the gall to look amazing not long after her four hours of surgery. (Leave it to my big sister to show us all up on that one—everything has to be a competition, doesn’t it. 😉) I knew many, many people were praying for her—including most of you. She especially loves the prayer shawl and prayer cloth y’all made and put in her care packet, and I’m not sure whether she or her husband will eventually lay claim to it. She sends her thanks, and I add mine to it. Her faith is strong, and learning she had breast cancer did not make that faith waiver. I know that she trusts in God to be with her, and she sees rainbows when the storms come. Still, thank you, God for bed bugs? While she is still carrying around medical equipment on her body and can’t shower???? That seemed way too extreme.
And yet, I have the text right here:
Case number 10,000+ for how the Lord works in mysterious ways… thank you, God, for bed bugs. If we hadn’t had that awful, frustrating time with bed bugs last year about this time, we wouldn’t have gotten a new, adjustable bed. I would not have been able to climb into the bed we used to have, and certainly would not have slept as well.
Even in the worst of times, she says, we can trust that our God will not abandon us and may even turn it around for good. It’s an example of God’s economy—where nothing is wasted. As one of my favorite verses in the Bible says it, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. … Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:28 & 39)
Judy knows that. And the people listening to Malachi and Jesus knew that. But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. Our first lesson speaks to a people burdened by pain and troubles. They needed relief from that pain, so they looked for hope in the future. And the prophet promised them a time when their pain would end, even if it seemed so horrible in the moment. When destruction rains around us, burning away the forest, God will bring life and nourishment from the ashes. Those who believe that God will stand with them, who remember to call out to God for help, will get that help, when the “sun of righteousness” rises, with healing in its wings. Good things will come, this pain will not last forever.
Jesus also reminded his people that God would waste none of their pain and oppression. Our story today has him speaking to people gathered around him in the Temple, the center of their religious life, a symbol of God’s presence with them through the ages. “Look at these stones, this amazing building—the size, their beauty!” they said in awe. And Jesus tells them even that impressive building would not last forever. In truth, by the time Luke wrote this down and shared his telling of the story of the life of Jesus, that temple had already fallen. The people hearing these words were distressed at the loss of their temple and its signs of community and God’s power and presence. Not only that, but Mount Vesuvius had also erupted into a massive volcano over in Italy, taking over 16,000 lives and destroying cities that seemed so powerful. Their world seemed to be falling down around their heads, and they were afraid. Jesus speaks into that fear and pain, reminding them that God would be with them through it all, giving them hope for the future.
“If you’re worried about being arrested or challenged for your faith,” Jesus promises, “Don’t be. Even that can be a chance for God to bring good out of evil. You don’t even have to prepare a speech in advance, for I will give you the words you need, wise words which will make a difference. No matter what you face, no matter how horrible,” says the Lord, “I will be with you.”
No matter what you face—whether breast cancer or losing the way you are used to “doing church” or whatever challenges and trials, God is with us, and will use those challenges to bring joy and life and good things.
And did you notice how the hearers challenged Jesus when he started his prediction about the destruction of the temple? “Show us a sign!” They wanted a magic show, but Jesus gave them a sermon about God’s presence. And, just a few words after this story, Jesus will go to the cross, giving the world a sign that our God is not like other gods. Our God came to walk with us through our pain, and Jesus joins us in our pain. Through the cross, the death and suffering of Jesus, God knows what it is like to feel pain, to feel the limits of these human bodies he created, to need hope for the future. God is so very with us in our pain that God died! And then God conquered death. Therefore, God turned even that torture device (pointing to the cross) into a sign of hope and new life.
So yeah, I suppose my sister wasn’t wrong, when she thought to thank God for bed bugs, as long as they are pointing us back to God and signs of divine presence. No matter what we face, God will use it to help show us love and give us strength for the future. No matter what, we will never be alone, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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