This morning's Scripture is going to sound very much like what you've heard before. The book of First John is a song with only three chords: God loves us. We love God. We love one another. We know this song. Or maybe I should say we've heard this song. But do we really know it? What's so special about a 1-4-5 chord progression?
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Ten years ago, this church made the incredibly difficult and incredibly courageous decision to become officially Open and Affirming. This is a specific designation and commitment in the United Church of Christ to welcome all people, specifically including people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. Like all true commitments, this cost us something. It cost us actual members who could not reconcile themselves theologically to this decision.
This morning Rev. Welsch is going to speak to us on some selected verses from chapter two of the book of First John. Last week we set the stage by saying that this book was written to "reaffirm the beliefs of the community during a time of spiritual upheaval or confusion," which is a feeling we understand today. The author we call John uses themes that are familiar to us from the Gospel of John; themes of word and light and love and truth. There are also strong statements in here about sin, meant to correct the false teaching of some people who were trying to lead the community astray.
This morning we begin a five week study on the book of First John. Earlier this year, we spent months in the Gospel of John, and in many ways First John is a companion to that book. Although they share a name, most scholars no longer believe that they were written by the same person. It's more likely that they were written by two people who shared Christian beliefs that were shaped by John. Much of the language and ideas are the same. You will hear themes of light, love and truth. But some things will sound very different, such as direct statements about sin and forgiveness.
This morning we wrap up our study of the book of Ruth, a story about God's faithful loving-kindness and redemption, set in ancient Israel when chieftains ruled the 12 tribes. This book is like an ancient Jane Austen novel that starts with tragedy and, as you'll hear in just a minute, ends with a wedding and a baby. Remember that last week Ruth went to meet Boaz in the middle of the night and asked him to act as kinsmen-redeemer for her and Naomi, to protect and provide for them as members of his family.
Our guest preacher today is Lisa Ho, associate chaplain at Ohio Wesleyan University. Lisa holds a Bachelor of Science in communications from Ball State University and a Master of Arts in higher education from Geneva College. She joined the Chaplain’s staff at Ohio Wesleyan in 2004. At OWU, Lisa serves in various capacities. As an associate chaplain, she provides support and guidance to the Christian student groups while mentoring numerous students one on one.
This morning we are continuing our series on the book of Ruth. Ruth is an Old Testament book set in the time of the Judges, when the Bible says everyone did what was right in their own eyes, before Israel had a king and instead chieftains ruled 12 tribes. It's like a play. In Act 1, Naomi and her family move from Israel to Moab because of a famine. While there, her husband and sons die, leaving behind Naomi and the sons' wives, Orpah and Ruth. Hearing that the famine in Israel has ended, Naomi decides to return there.
This morning we begin a new series on the book of Ruth. This book takes place during the summer and is traditionally read during the Jewish season of Shavuot, which Christians celebrate as Pentecost. Let's set the stage. I'd like you to imagine a small country where the rule of law is weak, and strong men prey on weak women and children. Security is found in networks of extended family who try to care for one another as best they can. The people survive mainly on what they can grow and earn from day to day. And then an even greater disaster: a famine.
This is our final week in the letter from Paul to the church at Philippi. Last week we talked about how God invites us to be motivated by love and not by fear. We are called to follow the example of Jesus who modeled God's righteousness, extending love to all. As we wrap up this letter, we will consider what our life together looks like when put together all these themes of joy, gratitude, unity, humble love, and God's righteousness.
This morning's passage is from a letter from the apostle Paul to the Christians gathered in the city of Philippi. For several weeks we have been exploring the themes of this letter: joy, gratitude, unity, humble love, righteousness. This morning is part two of the Scripture we looked at together last week. If you missed it, that's OK. We're going to read the whole passage with last week's verses to hear the progression of Paul's thoughts. As this letter builds in logic and intensity, these Scriptures are the high point.
This morning as we continue through our discussion of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, we are going to hear to some verses that may get some us in areas where we feel sensitive. They might remind us of harsh things we've heard in church in the past, or times when God has not been presented as loving. But the fact that other people have used these texts poorly is not a reason for us to ignore them. This is our sacred text, and we are not afraid of what's in here. When the Bible gets difficult, it is tempting to pull out all the reasons that it might not speak to our culture. For example, the Bible doesn’t account for the range of gender roles, sexual identity and expression that we now understand exists in the world. Our topics for this morning—adultery, marriage, divorce and making promises—were different in the ancient world. And this is important for us to realize, especially because it can keep us from using the Bible against other people.