GCI Update

Kingdom wine

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

Have you noticed how Jesus makes a party even better? John 2:1-10 tells of the time Jesus saved a wedding party from embarrassment by turning water into the highest quality wine. I’d love to have a taste, agreeing with Martin Luther that “beer is made by men,” but “wine by God.”

Though Scripture doesn’t say which grape Jesus had in mind when turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, perhaps it was the one that comes from the Vitis vinifera vine, which is the source of most of the grapes used to make wine in our day. That vine produces grapes that have thicker skins, larger seeds and typically are sweeter than the table grapes we’re familiar with.

Vitis vinerva grapes (source – 99roots.com)

I find it interesting that Jesus’ first public miracle (John 2:11a) was essentially private—accomplished without the knowledge of its main beneficiaries, the wedding party. Nevertheless it was of great importance in that it provided evidence to Jesus’ disciples (John 2:11b) that Jesus truly was the incarnate Son of God sent to save the world. Perhaps that’s why one theologian quipped that “wine is like the incarnation—both divine and human.”

“The Marriage at Cana”
(via Wikimedia Commons)

Though Jesus’ miracle saved the wedding party in Cana from a major social faux pas, it did not address human suffering in the way his many healings and exorcisms did. Nevertheless, turning water into wine strikes me as a good first miracle for Jesus, not because wine is the most healthful and hygienic of beverages (as claimed by Louis Pasteur), but because by turning water into wine, Jesus demonstrated his power over nature. He didn’t just change the water’s flavor, he changed its molecular structure! By doing so he showed both the power and goodness of God.

That the setting for Jesus’ first public miracle was a wedding seems to me to carry great meaning. Perhaps that’s because I’m thinking a lot about my daughter’s upcoming wedding, but most of all it’s because Scripture tells us that those who receive Jesus in faith (the church as one body) enjoy an intimate, eternal relationship with Jesus as his “bride” (Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 19:7-9). In Scripture, wedding celebrations often serve as metaphors of the messianic age and the fullness of the kingdom. Jesus desires that we not only anticipate that fullness, but that we pursue it. He makes this point in several of his kingdom parables, including this one:

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matt. 13:45-46)

In this parable Jesus shows that the kingdom (and particularly the king of the kingdom) is the most valuable thing we’ll ever possess. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states that parables are “almost always formulated to reveal and illustrate the kingdom of God” (vol. 3, p. 656). In Parables of the Kingdom, C.H. Dodd adds that a parable is “a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought” (p. 16). Though not parables per se, many of Jesus’ miracles were kingdom-focused. In turning water into wine, he made a point similar to the one he was making in some of his kingdom parables, likening entrance into the kingdom to attending a great banquet.

In John 2:11 we’re told that the miracle of turning water into wine was a “sign” by which Jesus “revealed his glory.” But in what way? In healing people, Jesus revealed his authority to forgive sin. In cursing the fig tree, he showed that judgment was coming upon the temple. In healing on the Sabbath, Jesus revealed his authority over the Sabbath. In raising people from the dead, he revealed that he is the resurrection and the life. By feeding thousands, he revealed that he is the bread of life. And by miraculously providing abundant blessings for a wedding banquet in Cana, Jesus seems to have been revealing that he is the one who provides the abundant kingdom blessings of God that contribute to joy and life, both now and in the fullness of the kingdom. The miracle at Cana thus fills out for us a little more of Jesus’ true purpose and character. When I contemplate that miracle, I can’t help but consider how Jesus is transforming us into something far more glorious than what we would be apart from his miraculous work in our lives.

Jesus’ miracle at Cana often comes to mind when I’m enjoying a glass of fine wine. By saying that, I’m not advocating the abuse of alcohol in any way. As Paul would say, “God forbid!” The Bible frequently warns against such abuse (Gal. 5:21) and Jesus forbids drunkenness (Luke 21:34). That being said, reading of Jesus’ miracle at Cana helps me live and work in a way that points toward the coming fullness of the kingdom of God when Jesus will have removed all the residue of sin and we will sit down with him at the greatest family reunion banquet of all time. Perhaps Jesus will provide some of that wine from Cana! It will surely “gladden” our hearts (Ps. 104:14-15).

Raising my glass in a toast to the kingdom,
Joseph Tkach

SC church celebrates 50th anniversary

Open Hearts Fellowship, GCI’s congregation in Lexington, SC, celebrated its 50th anniversary on Sunday, July 16 with about 200 members, friends and guests attending. GCI Vice President Greg Williams (pictured at right) gave the sermon, titled “Seasons of Life, Seasons of the Church.”

Several charter members and/or their offspring were present for the celebration. Three former pastors and a good number of guests from at least three groups with former WCG members attended. One member summed up the event this way: “The room was beautiful, the music and service were inspiring, the food was delicious and the fellowship was wonderful.”

The choir sings
L to R: Open Hearts Pastor David Allen, Judy Allen, Susan Williams, GCI VP Greg Williams

Baptisms at Good Shepherd Church

On Sunday, July 9, Good Shepherd Church (GCI’s congregation in Cicero, IL) held a baptism service. “It’s always been a desire of mine to have baptisms here at our building—this year we did it for the first time, and we hope for many more,” said Pastor Israel Hernandez.

The baptism service, which began in the sanctuary, continued outside where ten young followers of Jesus were baptized in a pool (seven were participants in the GenMin camp in that region). Many non-member family and friends attended, bringing the total to 95 people witnessing this joyous occasion. After the ceremony, the children jumped into the pool and a picnic-style potluck was served. Here are some pictures (for more, click here).

Dead Sea scrolls lecture in Duarte

On July 22, Grace Communion Seminary (GCS) instructor and retired GCI pastor Neil Earle (pictured at right) gave a lecture at the Duarte Public Library in Southern California on the 70th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. “The Dead Sea Scrolls evoke mystery and legend,” Neil told the audience. “It’s a fun subject when you start with this young Bedouin goat-herder named Muhammed the Wolf throwing a rock and hearing a clunk and discovering these stone jars that contained copies of the Hebrew Bible transcribed about 150 years before Christ.”

According to Neil, the challenging part was helping the audience see that the Dead Sea Scrolls should be evaluated by the official Jewish Masoretic Text that forms the Old Testament in many of our English Bibles. “It’s almost a case of ‘I’ve told you this story to tell you another one,'” Neil said. The significance of the scrolls is that scholars could now have an earlier Hebrew text than the Masoretic manuscript that makes up the Law, Prophets and Writings that Jesus bore witness to in Luke 24:44.

“It’s in describing the skill of the authorized Jewish scribes that the audience comes alive,” Neil added. “Those Masoretes counted the middle letter of the Torah, of the Hebrew Bible, and of each book and numerous other references as well. William Foxwell Albright, the great scholar of the early 20th century stated that there is no other ancient text that has been so well handed down.” Neil also gave thanks to GCS professor Tim Finlay (who also teaches at Azusa Pacific University) for his help in preparing the lecture. “With a subject this fascinating, you want to make sure you get the finer points right,” said Neil.

Rethinking prayer

Here is a short video with Fuller Theolgical Seminary professor Oliver Crisp discussing ways to think more broadly about prayer.

On YouTube at https://youtu.be/Sx19DLADT70.

Death of Jim Reyer

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of retired GCI pastor Jim Reyer. After spending the evening with several family members, he passed away in his sleep in his favorite chair.

Here is his obituary:

Jim Reyer

James (Jim) Reyer, of Shepherd, MT, age 85, passed away on August 3, 2017, from complications of a stroke. He was born September 27, 1931 in Fort Wayne, IN, and lived there until 1972. He spent the last 27 years of his life in Montana.

After serving four years in the Navy on a minesweeper during the Korean War, Jim returned to Indiana and became a journeyman electrician, working for the family business, Hambrock Electric. It was in Indiana that he met his first wife, the former Alice Easley, and is where their three children were born. He became a minister in 1965 and pastored WCG churches in California, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming. Because of these moves, he had numerous friends and impacted people’s lives all across the United States.

Jim had a John Wayne-type persona and enjoyed the life of the west. He and his wife Sondra owned and enjoyed horses, as well as other animals on their small “ranchette.” He was a man of his word, tough yet generous and hospitable, had a great sense of humor and could carry on a conversation with anyone he met. He was a very practical man and could do most of his own home maintenance and remodeling. As a younger man he coached and played sports such as basketball and softball and was a very good athlete. A lover of the outdoors, Jim took advantage of opportunities to camp, hunt and fish. He had a lifelong dream of going to Alaska, which was fulfilled by a fishing trip with his wife, son and daughter-in-law in the mid-1990s. He also loved music and family gatherings where music played a part. He lived life to the full.

Jim was preceded in death by his first wife of 30 years, Alice, a daughter, Rhonda, and brother, William (Bill) Hambrock of Indiana. He is survived by his wife of 29 years, Sondra, daughter Lori (Denny) Sexton, son Dan (Ardys) Reyer, daughter Martie Panarelli, daughter Kellie (Nigel) Bearman, son Rob (Karen) Barrett, son-in-law Gary (Rhonda) Castle, 15 grandchildren, 6 great grandchildren, and sister Judy Furge of Indiana. He also leaves behind nieces, nephews and numerous friends. He will be greatly missed.

Cards may be sent to:

Mr. Daniel L. Reyer
PO Box 309
Shepherd, MT 59079-0309