Graceline – From your Pastor

Desecration

I recently was surprised, though I really shouldn’t have been, to see this come into my email inbox. “Pride flag as an altar frontal: Leicester Chancellor delivers her verdict”. St. Nicholas Church, a historic church in Leicester, England with a Nave dating back to 879AD, was given a gay pride flag frontal in September of 2022 to display on their altar. An altar frontal is the fabric that hangs down in front of the altar. We use altar frontals here at Grace Lutheran Church and they are part of our parament collection. “The paraments, including” the altar frontal, change with the church seasons and especially on feast and festival days like Pentecost and the All Saint’s Day. Our altar frontal during the season of Lent is purple and has the words “King of Kings” across the front. Recently a complaint was filed by someone outside the Diocese of Leicester over the use of the gay pride flag on the altar at St. Nicholas. Permission was sought to continue to use the altar frontal but with the addition of a cross. In response, the vice chair of the advisory committee recommended to not use the frontal on a permanent basis but that it could be used on occasion.

The article goes on to quote Dr. Ian Paul, a member of the Archbishop Council and General Synod, that the “purpose of the table at which holy communion was celebrated was to focus the congregation on remembering the death of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, and not to focus on contemporary and political issues; and that the presence of the Progress Pride flag introduced a tension with the teachings of Jesus and the scriptures as a whole into the center of the rite of communion. In addition, he stated that the teaching of the Church of England was that marriage was between one man and one woman, and the proposed frontal brought to the center of the rite a contradiction to the Church’s teaching”.

St. Nicholas’ attendance has almost doubled since 2022, mainly because they have become known as a safe place for LGBTQIA+ people. And though the Chancellor of the committee expressed some concerns about the impact that not using the altar frontal would have on their ministry to the LGBTQIA+ people, she ultimately denied the petition as not reflecting a unifying belief and that not all were represented in the design. You can read the article for yourself at https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2024/23-february/news/uk/pride-flag-as-an-altar-frontal-leicester-chancellor-delivers-her-verdict.

So why do I bring this up, after all this is happening in England, over 4000 miles away. I bring this up because this is not just an England issue – it is a Christian issue. We have seen in the news in the recent years how the stalwart of conservative Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church, has been crumbling under the attempt to be welcoming and accepting of all. We have heard of the sparkle creed and other abuses within Christianity, including the Lutheran Church. This issue is not just a European thing – it is a world thing. And I think we can make the case, especially with the brazen use of the gay pride flag on the altar, that prophesy from the Bible is being fulfilled. Scripture verses like Daniel 11:31 and 12:11, Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14, point to a time when the Jerusalem temple was desecrated by Antiochus IV Epiphanes who set up a pagan altar in the temple, adding a statue of the Greek god, Zeus, to force the Jews to accept Greek culture and religion. The scriptures I mentioned, especially Matthew and Mark, pointed to the destruction of the temple in AD70 but also to the end times, referring to it as the abomination of desolation.

What is more “Greek” than the Hellenization it promoted, where Humanism rules the day, with the human being as the center of the universe? Hellenism supported and encouraged homosexuality, calling it “Greek love”. Are we not seeing that in our culture today? I understand being welcoming, loving our neighbor, wanting to be available to all. But we can love and welcome our neighbor without accepting their sinful behavior, whether it be homosexuality, drug abuse, gambling, or infidelity. No matter how the world and it’s spin doctors try to dress it, God is not accepting of sin and never will be. He calls us to repent, confess our sins, for 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:9 ESV).

So, as we continue through this Lenten season, I encourage you to keep your “Eyes on Jesus” our theme this year; He is the author and perfector of our faith. We have a God who is merciful, slow to anger, even as His Holy place is being desecrated and profaned. But even though His patience is long suffering, it is not forever. Could this desecration be a sign of the end? Maybe… Only God knows. God tells us through the pen of Paul, “12Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Phil. 2:12-16 emphasis mine) Shine that light. Time is of the essence. And to God be the Glory! Amen

Pastor Al

Our mission: “Bringing People to Christ by Bringing Christ to People”

Adapted from the series “Eyes on Jesus” Introduction.