Psalm 13 and Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 and Jeremiah 28:5-9
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me,
and whoever welcomes me
welcomes the One who sent me.”
- Matthew 10:40
First, a message from our Interim Conference Minister, Rev. Denise Mason Bullitt (dated June 23, 2017):
“Friends, in just one week we will fulfill the hope-filled wish of CAC’s late Conference Minister, the Rev. Dr. John Deckenback when we kick off the 31st General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Baltimore - the geographic heart of our Conference. This moment would not have been possible without the enormous sacrifice and service of so many of you who have been faithfully working to bring it to fruition for the last 4 years. While our words are inadequate, THANK YOU! Thank you, one and all – for the tireless gifts of prayer, time, talent, imagination and MONEY !
I, on behalf of the Central Atlantic Conference Board of Directors, am eternally grateful for all that has been offered and will be offered over the next 12 days. God is truly blessing us and the UCC because of the faithfulness of each of you.”
[This Thank-You applies to us at Bethel because we have sent money to the Conference to help host the General Synod, as well as a separate gift of money to buy snacks for folks who come from all around the nation and the world to attend the General Synod]
Rev. Denise Mason Bullitt adds this invitation:
“All who are able, please plan to join us on Saturday, July 22nd, 11:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. for A Celebration of Thankfulness & Blessing at the new CAC offices in Catonsville [Maryland]. It will be our time to thank all you volunteers, prayer warriors, and financial underwriters for the gift of General Synod that you have given our church. We will also officially bless our new offices and ask God’s ongoing provision for the work and service that happens in this place.
In Christ ! (Denise)”
One thing the United Church of Christ stands for is “Extravagant Welcome” – going out of our way to show hospitality to people in Jesus’ name.
This week, I won’t get to enjoy the great privilege I ordinarily do, of getting to proclaim God’s good news to you on Sunday morning. Nevertheless, I have been reading the Scriptures that you’ll be dealing with. They include these well-known lines: the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ (Romans 6:23).
You know what a geek I am, getting off the well-traveled trail and down among the weeds of words ! Here are some notes that I hope you’ll enjoy about the words in that famous verse.
“wages” – the word is opsonia, which literally means a cooked relish— meat and/or vegetables (usually onions)— that soldiers might purchase using money to go with the rations of bread that they would get anyway, just for being in the army.
I imagine that Paul was comparing all of us humans to the Roman soldiers he knew, who got paid in both bread and money. Because a diet of only bread is both boring and unhealthy, we go out and buy ourselves some opsonia to liven things up a bit... but if we get our opsonia by sinning, it poisons us.
“sin” – the word is hamartia, which literally means “missing the mark.” When we disobey God, it’s as if God had given us a target at which to shoot our arrows (our actions), but we either shot in a totally different direction or we failed in our attempts to hit the target God was telling us to shoot. Imagine soldiers or police, who are supposed to learn when and where they should shoot, but for various reasons, they may shoot badly, or shoot the wrong people or objects. Shooting wrong has consequences !
“free gift” – the word is charisma— still in use in our English language today. As a person may possess the gift of “charisma”— the gift of an attractive personality, the gift of being the kind of person people want to be around and follow— charisma meant a gift that one gets “naturally,” that is, without any effort on one’s own part. The root word of charisma is charis, which is almost always translated “grace.” Think of the quality of a gifted musician or athlete or dancer who performs fluidly and seemingly with little effort: gracefully.
“eternal life”— zoe aionios: literally, “life for the ages.”
We are currently living in an age of birth and dying, of flesh and blood straining to mix with Spirit, but we pray,
“Come, Lord Jesus.”