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Newsletter October 1, 2014 New Beginnings at New Hope VOLUME 3, ISSUE 4
Hail Caesar

It is common nowadays for some people, including theologians, to invoke Jesus' teachings to promote government programs, e.g., helping the poor. This is perhaps well-intentioned but misinformed. When Jesus said, "Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these", he was not suggesting you should have done it with a government credit card. If anything, Jesus was apolitical. He may have been the first important religious figure to advocate separation of church and state. His famous answer, "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" would suggest such a separation.

After two thousand years, the Western world has pretty much done that. But it took a while. The Emperor Constantine named Christianity as the state religion in 325 A.D. Along the way, this arrangement had its dark days, notably during the Crusades and the Inquisition. But Christianity is no longer vying for control over governments. That is not the case with Islam where religion dominates the state, frequently via theocracies, somewhat different from state sponsored religions. In a theocracy, religion defines the government. Saudi Arabia and Iran are examples. The caliphate that ISIL seeks to establish would replace government with Sharia law. The deposed regimes of Iraq, Egypt and Libya were not theocracies as such, nor is Syria. These were dictatorships, whose Muslim leaders used religion to advantage. Sadaam Hussein even had a Christian in his Cabinet. In either case, subjects are treated harshly and infidels (non-believers) are often persecuted, sometimes in shameful public displays.

From the Pastor

- Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns…George Eliot

- Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all…Stanley Horowitz

- I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air…Nathaniel Hawthorne

- The leaves of autumn bring striking color, inciting a refreshing feeling to the spirit. We read in Psalms 19:1: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.

God can talk to us through the leaves – not a real voice, but reminding us of some important truths as we look in wonder at the marvelous creation of our Heavenly Father. Every year God replenishes the leaves on a tree. The colors in autumn are brilliant and exhilarating. As the leaves fall to the ground, they decompose to nourish the forest floor. Do you know how long it takes for compost to become one inch of soil in an undisturbed forest: 100 years (South Carolina Master Gardener Curriculum, Clemson University).

God takes care of His world in quiet ways that many times we overlook. We have the four seasons: the spring, an awakening; the summer, abundance; autumn, harvest; winter, a time for rest.
Humans are similar to the four seasons: we also have the spring of our lives when we are awakening to the world and all it has to offer; then comes the summer of our lives when we put into practice what we learned in the spring – these two seasons of our lives are full of energy: we enjoy our health, we have ambitions to accomplish. The autumn of our lives may be a new beginning for many and for others it may be a reflection of spring and summer; winter, is a time for us to reflect on our experiences, to analyze our perspective and make adjustments if needed, to be flexible to the world in which we live, and to teach those who are in the spring, summer and autumn the truths of life as God has declared them.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…Ecclesiastes 3: 1

Let us listen to God as He speaks to us through His creation in every season of our lives.

God's Grace
Pastor Sandra

Crime and Punishment

Jewish history included its own versions of theocracy under Judges, then Kings, and finally, in Jesus' time, appointed officials. Rome had better things to do than to trifle with the barbaric, monotheistic Judeans. So they formed alliances with the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, Herod the Great in Galilee and tax collectors throughout the region. We recall that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Egypt when Herod, himself a Jew, sought to kill all male children under the age of two. Herod was known to have ordered deaths by hanging, stoning, strangulation, fire, sword, beatings, hurling people off of tall buildings and beheadings (John the Baptist). The cruelest form of punishment, crucifixion, was invented by the Romans and was useful as a teaching tool. Crosses like those on Golgotha could be seen for miles, a stark reminder to the people to stay in line. So torture and unspeakable horror is not new with Islam. It is just that Jews, Christians and others have moved on. Islam has not.

The Big Reveal

Scripture had promised a Messiah whom the Jews expected would overthrow Rome. But Jesus would reveal God's plan as something slightly different. He would offer redemption, salvation and a personal relationship with God. His kingdom would include everyone, even Gentiles and the hated Samaritans. People would be free to worship, not forced to worship. The Old Covenant with its hundreds of laws was replaced by a New Covenant written on the hearts of the people. Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself and go from there. It wasn't freedom from Roman rule but freedom from the weight of sin and freedom to worship as one chooses that Jesus offered.

"I am the Way, the Truth and the Light". Is a caliphate the way to the Father? Where children are taught hatred and armed with explosive devices? Surely not. Jesus' followers were known as The Way. They brought a message of peace, love, forgiveness and obedience to God. There's a lot of Truth in that.

Church Calendar

•  October 5: Sunday School, 10:30 a.m., Fellowship Hall.
•  October 5 : World Communion Sunday, 11:15 a.m.
•  October 12:
  - Recognition of New Members: Justine Halls, Glenn Houser, Newton Wannamaker 11:15 a.m.
  - Epworth Children's Home Special Offering
  - Fellowship Dinner, following church service