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Nominal Me

I'm falling in love with my camera and taking photos everywhere I go. That, combined with my passions for politics, sports, religion and other things we all agree on, makes this blog persist.

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Location: Astoria, New York, United States

I'm born in Manhattan and raised in Queens.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Peachtree Presbyterian Church

With a friend of mine from my home church, I went to Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA.

It is a huge church, larger than many in New York City. The sprawling complex is quite ornate, and the parking lots are large enough that they have a shuttle service in them. This particular shuttle took us from the far part of the lot to a street curb, and from there we walked across the street to get to the church.

The church seems so popular that congregants take busses to go to service there. I could tell that I was far away from New York City while seeing this.

The sanctuary is beautiful and the sermon was powerful. With Peachtree attracting some of the city's high rollers, the sermon was titled "Seeking God in an Affluent Society" and talked about the role of money in a Christian's life.

Senior Pastor Victor Pentz discussed the seeming contradiction of the instructions of Jesus when it comes to the subject of money by highlighting two nearby texts, Luke 18:18-30 and Luke 19:1-10.

The first test states:

Luke 18:18-30

18 A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 19Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20You know the commandments: “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honour your father and mother.” ’ 21He replied, ‘I have kept all these since my youth.’ 22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money* to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 23But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. 24Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’

26 Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ 27He replied, ‘What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.’

28 Then Peter said, ‘Look, we have left our homes and followed you.’ 29And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.’

Pentz told his congregation that in this example, Jesus tells the rich and righteous man to "get rid of it."

Yet not to far later on, there is another story on the similar subject where Jesus gives a different kind of advice:

Luke 19:1-10

19He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ 6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ 8Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ 9Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’

The pastor asks, "who is the real Jesus?"

The first man, according to Pentz, is arrogant and shallow, but Jesus still loved him. Jesus asks him how hard it is for a rich man to enter heaven because being rich is the identity he has chosen for himself.

He adds that "there is a dress code for entering Heaven: it's naked as the day you were born. You can't bring luggage with you."

Zacchaeus, the man of the second story, was hated. He ran to Jesus, "shedding his dignity doing so." "Why doesn't Jesus tell him to give away all of his money?", Pentz asked is congregation. "Jesus asks him to stay in place and be a role model tax collector. 'That's how you will serve me.'"

The pastor's point is one of mindset. It is not the focus on net worth that is the standard, nor is money an equation to get into Heaven. "When you're filled you flow," said Pastor Pentz. "Salvation comes to the house."

It's a good thing for the Peachtree folks, because this church clearly has some serious financial backers. The church was impressive and the sermon very well thought out and powerful.

This church is so cool that they even have their own seal.

If you're in Atlanta and are looking for an extremely well researched, polished, and impressive sermon, you really should check out this church.