Weekly Bulletin

March 12, 2023 Reflection for Sunday Morning Worship Sharing below-


TUESDAY March 14       
USFW meeting, 7:00 PM by Zoom or at parsonage

WEDNESDAY March 15   
Prayer Soup supper, 5:30 PM @ parsonage
                          –Vocal choir practice, 6:30 PM @ meetinghouse
                          –Welcome Class Bible study, 7:00 PM by Zoom 
                          –Possible chiming choir practice, 7:15 PM @ meetinghouse — watch for word from the director

THURSDAY March 16        
Food Pantry Annual Meeting, 5 PM @ public library

    FRIDAY March 17        
St. Patrick’s Day

SUNDAY March 19  
  –Meeting for Worship-Sharing, 10:00 AM, both in person at the meetinghouse and online via Zoom
–Community Food Pantry Sunday (3rd Sunday each month)
–Trustees meeting, 3:30 PM by Zoom
–Missions & Social Concerns Committee, 4:30 PM by Zoom    
THE UNITED SOCIETY OF FRIENDS WOMEN group will hold their March meeting by Zoom or in person at the parsonage this Tuesday March 14 at 7:00 PM.  All women are invited to attend.
THE WELCOME CLASS BIBLE STUDY will meet this Wednesday March 15 at 7:00 PM by Zoom to study Lesson 3 (“Rules, Relationships, and Ritual,” drawn from I Corinthians 7 in the winter Illuminate quarterly.  All are welcome — request a quarterly or the Zoom link from the church office.
READ THROUGH THE BIBLE IN 2023:  This week’s chapters are Joshua 7-24 and Judges 1-4.  The year’s daily reading schedule is on the parlor table.
AN UPDATED ADDRESS LIST of Winchester Friends participants is available on the southwest parlor table, or by request in the church office.
THE BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP is now reading the novel Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, for discussion on April 3.  Copies are available for loan from the church office.  All Friends are welcome to participate.
MARCH’s MONTHLY MEETING FOR BUSINESS approved on March 1 the establishment of a fund to collect and hold Friends’ donations to help cover the expenses of the Meeting’s 150th Anniversary celebration on May 7.   Those will include a commemorative landscaping project on the annex lawn, a partly-catered luncheon, possible guest speaker and musician, and other one-time expenditures.  Friends are invited to contribute by designating your gift “150th Anniversary” and placing it in a Sunday offering or sending it to the church office.  Any excess donated to this fund will be given to help the Community Food Pantry.

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN $10 bills are available to Friends willing to carry them until led by the Spirit to share it with someone needing a bit of help and a reminder of God’s love.  See Ron Ferguson to obtain one.   

Winchester Friends Church           765-584-8276
124 E. Washington St.      Winchester, IN  47394
March 12, 2023 Reflection for Sunday Morning Worship Sharing on Zoom and in the Meetinghouse
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this:  If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.     
Jesus to the disciples, Matthew 24:36, 42-44
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.  Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.        II Peter 3:8-12
Theology 101:  Eschatology, the Doctrine of Final Things
We have gathered for worship today on another of those occasions when most of our nation, and about 70 other countries around the world, have reset their clocks overnight in mutual agreement to change our description of time for the next eight months.  Some people say it is done to conserve energy and save money.  Others see it as an opportunity to make more money.  It very well may be these days that the real reason is to increase the amount of time available for leisure activities during the warmer summer months in the Northern Hemisphere. 
As evidenced in the Bible passages above, humans have been interested in understanding and managing time for their own benefit for thousands of years.  As one of those humans, I got a fairly early start on that interest at age ten by watching a 17 year-old Kansas kid named Jim Ryan become the first high school athlete ever to run a one-mile race in under four minutes – three minutes and 58.3 seconds.  My physical education teacher made sure we knew about that, and he wore a stopwatch on a lanyard around his neck so he could time us when we ran races in class.  It didn’t take long for me to start wanting a stopwatch of my own.  I think I thought it would make me run faster so I could qualify for the Olympics.  I’m not sure if it was a birthday or Christmas gift, but at some point one of my parents found a store that sold stopwatches and bought me one.  It came in a perfectly-sized little box lined with fluffy cotton.  For a long time, I carried that watch around in my pocket and timed just about anything that moved.  I remember checking my parents’ driving speed on our way to church by measuring our time between those white airplanes painted every mile on the highway surface.  My classmates and I timed each other practicing our races, but I’m not sure that knowing our times ever actually increased our speed. 
In this digital age, there is a clock or timer involved in most athletic contests.  Today’s instruments measure time in one-hundredths or even one-thousandths of a second, not just tenths.  Sometimes referees have to take five or six minutes — in a game that’s not even close — to review a play that was disputed over a difference in perception of a few hundredths of a second.  Thinking about that reminds me of discussions I’ve had with people down through the years about popular “end times” books which briefly capture Americans’ interest.  They would read the book (or watch the movie), look up a few Bible verses, and suddenly consider themselves well-versed in biblical prophecy and ready to explain how and when the end will take place.  All the while, their personal lives were a spiritual and moral mess.  There have been many sad instances of such people persuading others of their theories and convincing them to sell all their belongings, gather in some special place at a specific time, and wait for Jesus to appear and take them to heaven.  It has been almost 2000 years now, and so far, they’ve all been mistaken. 
As we consider the eschatological component of “the full message of this new life,” it’s again important to note that each section of systematic Christian theology is a vast topic worthy of lifelong contemplation and study.  These few paragraphs provide only a framework for that study, and a conversation starter for Friends’ time spent in spiritual exploration.  We must also acknowledge that Christian eschatology depends almost entirely on Scripture as its source.  Good systematic theology includes a doctrine of the end of human time which highlights the things that are known and predictable, and acknowledges those which remain mysteries.  It also recognizes that no one biblical writer received a complete view of the final things, but rather received segments, glimpses, and pieces.  Bible students for 2000 years have been comparing, combining, and contrasting those pieces in an effort to discern a composite picture of what is to come.  
What the Bible Says       Bible scholars usually say that on the timeline of the human story, we are currently living in the Church Age (or the Age of Grace) which began when the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh at Pentecost (Acts 2) in AD 30.  Prior to that, the timeline shows “the Inter-Testament Period” which began around 444 BC with the Persian king’s decree to rebuild Jerusalem after the Exile (Nehemiah 1,2), and ran through the crucifixion of Jesus in about AD 30.  During this Church Age, the Holy Spirit has filled all who would accept him and empowered them to share the good news of Jesus’ forgiveness and transformation which makes eternal life in God’s presence possible.  Jesus seems to have left the impression with his disciples that the Church Age would be relatively brief.  In Matthew 16:27,28, he told them that he would come in his Father’s glory with angels to “reward each person according to what he has done,” and that “some standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (see also Matthew 24:33-35).  Since human time has not yet ended, Jesus obviously meant something else by that statement.  Most scholars think he referred to his transfiguration, or perhaps his resurrection.  Regardless, Christians for 2000 years in this Age of Grace have been assigned urgently to share and spread his Gospel “while it is day, for night comes when no one can work.”
               Tribulation (Matthew 24:3-21; Revelation 6, 7, and 13:16,17; Daniel 9:27 and 12:1) is a word which means extreme inflicted trouble or difficulty.  In eschatology, it refers to a period of seven to ten years at, or just after, the end of the Church Age when evil will seem to have free reign on earth.  Life will get very difficult for everyone, especially for any who try to remain true to Christ. The Antichrist will rise to prominence with false promises of peace.  Jesus’ lengthy description of this time in Matthew 24 is the one that includes false Messiahs, wars, famines, and earthquakes.
               Rapture (Matthew 24:22,36-44; I Thessalonians 4:14-18) is the eschatological term referring to Jesus’ bodily reappearance to earth in a cloud to rescue his faithful followers from the Tribulation and gather them to himself.  It includes the opening of the graves of the righteous who have died, to reunite their bodies with their spirits.  Some theologians (usually evangelicals) believe the Rapture will occur just before the Tribulation begins.  Others point to passages indicating it will happen after the Tribulation has begun, and some believe it will happen simultaneously with the Revelation, only after the Tribulation is over.
               Revelation (Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 19) refers to the bodily return of Jesus to earth.  At the climax of the Tribulation, with God’s enemy threatening to destroy the entire earth through the battle of Armageddon, Jesus will again appear in the clouds with all the saints, angels’ trumpets will sound, and the sun will be darkened.  Satan will be defeated and chained, and Christ’s rule on earth will be established.
               Millennium (Revelation 20:4) is a period of 1000 years after Satan and his followers are removed from the scene during which Jesus and his saints will redeem the earth in peace and rule it with love. 
               Judgments (I Corinthians 3:12-15; II Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15; Matthew 25:31-46)  Paul writes to the Corinthians that at the end of the Millennium, every human will appear before a judgment of works.  The Great White Throne judgment of eternal destiny – more of a sentencing since guilt or innocence has already been established – will usher in eternal life of union with God in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21) or eternal death of separation from God and love (hell, Hades, sheol, gahenna, lake of fire (Matthew 25:30,46; Revelation 20:14).
What the Bible Teaches      As with the other doctrines of theology, we are asked to trust that righteous people long ago listened to God, faithfully recorded what they were told, and preserved those writings for our benefit today.  The details may be cryptic and culturally disguised, but the principles of eschatology are clear.  The Scriptures teach us that human time is moving towards an endpoint foretold by the prophets, Jesus, and other New Testament writers.  Even the most diligent scholars of prophecy do not know when that endpoint will be reached.  Our personal destiny, where we’ll spend eternity, is not predetermined.  It is our own choice to make.  Our eternal destiny and our readiness to meet it is inextricably linked to our choices of how we live here on earth.  Given Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) and of the shepherd’s sorting of sheep and goats, there will be eternal rewards for faithfulness to God, and eternal costs for choosing to reject his offer of life.  While Jesus urges us to be watchful for signs of his return’s approach (Matthew 24:42), that watching must not become a distraction or obsession which keeps us from faithfully living out his love in our daily lives.  Because God is patient, the strong probability is that the separation of our eternal spirit from our mortal body – physical death — will be the mode by which most of us experience being transported into God’s presence “in the twinkling of an eye.”  For those in whom Christ is Lord, that is a reunion to be joyfully anticipated, not dreaded, because our eternal life has already been underway ever since we allowed him to take charge of our heart, soul, mind, and body. 
Eschatology-Informed Discipleship      In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1-5), Jesus criticized the Pharisees for berating a brother who had a speck in his eye while ignoring a plank in their own eyes.  His primary concern was their judgmentalism, but his love for the Pharisees meant that he also wanted them not to be blinded to big problems in their lives by the distraction of small things (like the coach arguing with the referee over half a second on the shot clock when his team is losing by 30 points).  Understanding biblical eschatology matters, but there is very little we can do about most of it.  Our times are in God’s hands, and he may choose to wait another 2000 years before bringing the Age of Grace to a halt.  What we can do is learn to live joyfully and contentedly with the dual awareness that today might be the day I meet the Lord face to face — but it also might be a day when my witness and service for Christ is the catalyst someone else needs to seek and find true life in him.  As the old chorus goes, “may I do each day’s work for Jesus with eternity’s values in view.”  Let’s rededicate ourselves to living with that redemptive perspective.  Let’s be Friends.
–Ron Ferguson, 12 March 2023
Queries for Worship-Sharing and Reflection
1)  What do you think it means, that God has waited so long to put a halt to life on earth?
2)  Eschatology is often used to scare people into becoming Christians. What is a more positive use of this doctrine?
3)  Why should we even care about biblical eschatology?  Why does it matter to God?  Why should it matter to us?
4)  If you’ve read the Left Behind novels or other similar end times books, what was valuable about them to you?