Contact us LOGIN
Gathering service Banner
Worship and Sermons
Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

May 2021


May 2, 2021  "Love Actually, Part 3: Love and God" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 2021


April 25, 2021  "Love Actually, Part II: Love in Action" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 18, 2021  "Love Actually, Part I: Love and Family" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

Easter, April 4, 2021  "How Does It End?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2021


March 28, 2021  "The King We Weren't Expecting" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 14, 2021  "The Cure for Snake Bite" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2021


February 28, 2021  "Are you Kidding, God?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 14, 2021  "Premature Joy" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 7, 2021  "Need a Liftt?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

January 2021


January 31, 2021  "Are You God's Prophet?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 24, 2021  "God's Annoying Grace" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 10, 2021  "Light to See" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 3, 2021  "The Outsiders' Perspective" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2020


December 24, 2020  "Light in the Darkness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 20, 2020  "Are you a Royal?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 6, 2020  "While You're Waiting..." by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2020


November 15, 2020  "Accepting Your Mission" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 1, 2020  "The Hope of the Saints" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2020


October 18, 2020  "Whose Image Do You Bear?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 11, 2020  "Righteous Clothing" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2020


September 13, 2020  "The Circle of Grace" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

August 9, 2020

“Faithful Witness in Thyatira” by the Rev. Don Wahlig, August 9, 2020, Year A / 10th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14) –  Part 4 of Sermon Series on Revelation, Exodus 20:3-6 & Revelation 2:18-29

THEME:  Reach out in friendship to those who are captivated by the world’s idols and share the good news of the Christian alternative.

 

If I were to ask you what the book of Revelation is all about, what would you say?

Many people, including many Christians, would say it’s a prophetic vision of the way the world will end.  And they are partly right. 

It is a vision – that’s true.  But not just any vision.  It’s Christ’s vision, his judgment of how faithful his churches are as they face times of testing in preparation for his return and the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth. 

This vision has been given to a man named John of Patmos.  John is a Jewish Christian living in exile.  He’s probably been expelled from the mainland of Asia Minor for preaching the gospel.  Now, he finds himself living on a small island in the Aegean Sea, about 30 miles off the coast of modern-day Turkey.

This vision comes to him 60 years after Jesus at a time when Christians are being persecuted throughout the Roman Empire.  These were dangerous days to be a Christian.  Belonging to a Christian church in the 1st Century was like belonging to a secret anti-government conspiracy.  It could – and frequently did - lead to imprisonment and even death.

Rome was usually tolerant of those who followed different religions.  As long as they worshipped the Roman gods, the Emperor didn’t care which other gods they worshipped.  In fact, the more gods that were being worshipped, the better.

Christians, however, were a problem.  Christians refused to worship any other gods but their own.  Romans believed that would anger their pagan gods, and that put the Empire at risk. 

So, Christians were sporadically killed throughout the Empire, including right here in Thyatira, where at least one member of the church has already been martyred.  It was a violent reminder of the immense pressure to conform to the Roman culture around them.

They felt that pressure every day at work.  Thyatira was a thriving commercial hub, most famous for its purple cloth. There were also manufacturers of wool, fine linen and garments.  There were leather workers, potters, bakers, slave-dealers, and bronze-smiths.  

And each trade had its own guild,  In fact, no other city in the ancient world had such a complete roster of these trade guilds.

If you worked in one of these businesses, as no doubt most in the congregation did, you belonged to one of these guilds.  Each guild was associated with a pagan god.  In the eyes of the other guildmembers, keeping that god happy was essential to their prosperity.

So, after a guild meeting, there would usually be a feast, followed by worship perhaps including fertility rituals at the shrine of their patron god.  Every Christian knew that was a clear violation of the second commandment against idols.

Within this congregation, however, a self-proclaimed prophet is teaching other church members that this is permissible.  They even call it deep wisdom.  But as John’s vision reveals, in the eyes of Jesus, this is not OK, not in the least.

Just as the wicked queen Jezebel led Israel’s King Ahab to worship idols of pagan gods, this heretical faction in Thyatira is leading others away from God.  They are conforming to the pagan world around them, and it will lead to a disastrous end, just as it did for Jezebel and Ahab. 

500 years ago, our theological ancestor, the Protestant reformer John Calvin, wrote that human nature is “a perpetual factory of idols."   That was as true then as it was when Aaron created the golden calf.  And it’s every bit as true today. 

Presbyterian pastor and author Tim Keller defines an idol as "anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God."

The world we live in today worships an endless array of new idols.  We also feel the cultural pressure to redirect our hearts, minds and resources toward the classic idols that have captured our hearts since the beginning of human social groups. 

If you want to know what they are, just take a quick look at what’s on the Netflix home screen.  You’ll see the full lineup of our timeless idols:  sex, beauty, power, success, money and, yes, even family and fertility.  (Anybody watch Breaking Bad?  Family is the idol there.)

None of these are inherently evil.  In fact, God intends them as blessings.  They become sinful only when we treat them as divine and give our obedience to them instead of God.

This is not just a problem for individual Christians.  Churches confront idolatry, too.  That’s true even if we’ve been like the church in Thyatira, full of love, faith, service, and patient endurance, with works that are greater today than when we first set out to follow Jesus.  Come to think of it, that pretty much describes us here at SSPC.

But we, too, face pressure to conform to our culture and its idols.  In fact, you could argue that, in the first half of the 20th century, organized Christianity was the idol. 

And as recently as two generations ago, there was broad consensus here in America and throughout the West about the positive value and dominant role of Christianity.  But in recent generations, that consensus has broken down. 

Increasingly, we find ourselves living in a world that is more like the world of the ancient church, where Christians were the minority.  This trend leaves those of us in the church feeling like John of Patmos, like exiles whose faith has put us at odds with the broader culture.

The question is, how should we respond?

Carey Nieuhoff, one of today’s most insightful church leaders and visionaries, describes 4 basic approaches churches take. 

Some churches simply ignore the changing culture.  As a result, they become old and irrelevant.   

Others choose what has been called “The Benedict Option”.  Paralyzed by fear, they simply retreat into insular, localized faith communities.  They isolate themselves from anything that is deemed ‘secular.’  As a result, many of their members don’t even know non-Christians, let alone reach out to them as the hands and feet of Christ.

Other churches do reach out to the world outside, but only to criticize and malign them because their lifestyles, actions and words are not overtly Christian.  The result of this narrow-minded, judgmental approach is to scare off the very unchurched folks Jesus calls us to reach.

Clearly, none of these first three approaches is helpful.  The good news is there is a better way.  Regardless of how we feel about the direction the culture is heading, you and I can embrace and love the people within it. 

In these polarized times in which we live, many people -  Christians and non-Christians alike - have simply rejected those with whom they disagree.  And so, when you and I reach out to embrace our neighbors with genuine care, regardless of who they are, what they think or what they’ve done, we will get their attention. 

There has rarely been a better opportunity to embrace our neighbors and love them as Jesus did, precisely because so few people are willing to truly do this!

And when our friendships lead to a discussion of the cultural idols that have captivated them, we have the opportunity to gently suggest a better alternative.  And we may just be surprised at how open non-Christians are to hearing about it.

Take sex for example.  Instead of being just a gratuitous and ultimately self-serving act limited to its physical dimensions, we offer a far healthier vision of sex as the spiritual blessing that it is.  We see it as something sacred and holy, the seal on a love that joins two people together in a covenantal bond, echoing and affirming the covenant of love that joins us to God.

Or take money.  Instead of accumulating and hording wealth to appease our material fears and satisfy our competitive ambition, we thrive by discerning our God-given talents and employing them to earn an honest and satisfying living.  We praise God for his providence.  And out of gratitude, we share our wealth freely and generously with the church and those in need.

Or take power.  Instead of seeing power as a tool for manipulation, we exercise the dominion we have been given over creation, other people and circumstances as faithful stewards.  We understand that the power and control we enjoy is not our own.  It has been given to us by God, and so we use it for his purposes, not our own.

But we will never have the opportunity to share these uniquely Christian perspectives through life-changing conversations unless we are willing to take the bold step of reaching out to those who do not believe what we do. 

It won’t always work.  Not everyone will respond.  But some will.  And their lives will be changed.

I’d like to think that’s what happened in the congregation at Thyatira.  I can imagine that Christians in those Trade Guilds didn’t just reject their pagan colleagues.  Instead, they almost surely embraced them.  I can picture them showing genuine concern for their colleagues’ well-being, and for their families.

And, somewhere along the way, some of these friendships became the conduit for sharing the life-giving Christian alternatives to worldly idolatry.  That’s how the church grew - in Asia Minor, throughout the Empire and throughout the world. 

Friends, the same thing can happen here today.  Yes -  even in the midst of a world that seems to be turning away from Christ and his church. 

Who do you know who is captivated by the cultural idols of our age? 

When and how might you and I reach out and embrace them? 

First and foremost, we do that as a friend.  A friend who has good news to share, especially when the idols of this world prove false. 

 

And they always do.

 

May it be so.

 

Last Published: August 10, 2020 2:04 PM
Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

May 2021


May 2, 2021  "Love Actually, Part 3: Love and God" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 2021


April 25, 2021  "Love Actually, Part II: Love in Action" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 18, 2021  "Love Actually, Part I: Love and Family" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

Easter, April 4, 2021  "How Does It End?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2021


March 28, 2021  "The King We Weren't Expecting" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 14, 2021  "The Cure for Snake Bite" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2021


February 28, 2021  "Are you Kidding, God?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 14, 2021  "Premature Joy" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 7, 2021  "Need a Liftt?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

January 2021


January 31, 2021  "Are You God's Prophet?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 24, 2021  "God's Annoying Grace" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 10, 2021  "Light to See" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 3, 2021  "The Outsiders' Perspective" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2020


December 24, 2020  "Light in the Darkness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 20, 2020  "Are you a Royal?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 6, 2020  "While You're Waiting..." by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2020


November 15, 2020  "Accepting Your Mission" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 1, 2020  "The Hope of the Saints" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2020


October 18, 2020  "Whose Image Do You Bear?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 11, 2020  "Righteous Clothing" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2020


September 13, 2020  "The Circle of Grace" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

Gathering service Banner