First Congregational Church UCC
220 West Lyon Avenue
Lake City, Minnesota 55041
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 SUNDAY, MAY 15, 2022

Good Morning!  

Gemstones are incredible.  
  
In a raw state they are magnificent.

In a cut and polished state they are gorgeous.

And in the Bible they have meaning.

Gemstones can guide the way we live for God.

Let's put our gemstones on.


-Pastor David
 

Wisdom is more valuable 
than gold and crystal...
Precious peridot from Ethiopia
cannot be exchanged for it.

Job 28:17,19 (NLT)

God's wisdom in our lives inspires us to be generous.
 
 
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Thank you for your generosity!  
 
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First Congregational Church UCC
114 North Oak Street
Lake City, MN  55041
Here Is Today's Message

"God's World According To Your Birthstone"
A message from
Rev. David S. Badgley

 May 15, 2022

     This morning I have some birthday related questions for you.  I will ask a question and you think of the answer.  Here we go.
     What month were you born?  
     What astrological sign are you? 
     What is your birthstone?  
     Do you know your character traits according to your astrological sign?  
     Do you know your character traits according to your birthstone? 
     Perhaps it is news to you that your birthstone, like your astrological sign, says something about your personality, character and emotion.  
     Birthstones and astrological signs are connected. There are twelve birthstones just as there are twelve astrological signs.  Birthstones are assigned to each month, while astrological signs cover dates that stretch between two months.  Being born under a particular sign suggests certain personality traits, and wearing a birthstone is believed to imbue the wearer with personality traits.
     
     Both the zodiac and birthstones have ancient origins, and both are connected to the Bible.  The zodiac was developed in ancient Babylon, which you may recall is the empire that conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C. 
      Babylon was advanced in mathematics and astronomy and is the background of the magi who traveled to visit the infant Jesus after interpreting a star in the sky to indicate a new king had been born.  
     The magi observed the zodiac.
     Birthstones have their origin in the biblical book of Exodus (28:15-21), which describes a religious piece worn by the Jewish high priest. It was a square shaped woven bib, or breastplate worn on the torso.  
     Stitched into the woven bib were twelve stones in a pattern of four rows of three stones each.  
     The first row was carnelian, chrysolite, and emerald.  The second row was turquoise, sapphire, and moonstone. The third row was jacinth, agate and amethyst.  The fourth row was beryl, onyx and jasper.
     In this replica of the breastplate, the stones do not match exactly the biblical description.
     Geologists know that gemstones mentioned in the Bible have different names today. For instance, a sapphire mentioned in the Bible is probably what we know as lapis, and Chrysolite is probably peridot. The Bible mentions jacinth, which may be sapphire.  
     So the biblical list of stones doesn’t exactly correspond to the birthstones we use today.  Yet, these 12 biblical stones worn by the priest are the origin of birthstones. And just as with the Jewish high priest, wearing the stones has spiritual and emotional significance.
     I have provided images of the birthstones in their natural state and in their cut and polished state so that you can appreciate their incredible beauty both ways.   
     The birthstone for January is garnet, which is blood red in color and is associated with faith, love and constancy.  
     February is amethyst, purple in color, associated with strong relationships and courage.  
     March is aquamarine, pale blue, and represents mental clarity, hope, and inspiration.  
     April is diamond, and is associated with everlasting love, purity, eternity and courage.  
     May is emerald, green in color, and represents wisdom, patience and goodness.  
     June is the pearl, unique because it is formed from a living creature (an oyster), and represents purity.  
     July is ruby, red in color, and is associated with harmony, enthusiasm, and integrity.  
     August is peridot, light green in color, and represents fidelity, strength and faith.  
     September is sapphire, deep blue in color, associated with wisdom, loyalty, and serenity.  
     October is opal, a mixture of colors, and represents faithfulness and confidence.  
      November is topaz, yellow in color, and associated with love, affection, wisdom and courage.  
     December is turquoise, greenish blue in color, and represents peace, patience, happiness and good fortune.    
     You may notice that there are no negative qualities to the birthstones.  It used to be that people tried to collect all 12 birthstones so they could wear the corresponding stone each month, to be imbued with the qualities.  They are entirely beneficial, providing the wearer with wholeness, which impacts relationships and behaviors in the world.  
     Birthstones make people better and make the world a better place.   Just imagine what the world would be like if we all wore our birthstones, or if we all lived up to the attributes of our birthstones.   
     The Bible has something to say about that, and it comes from a fantastic image in the book of Revelation.  
     Revelation is a letter written to Christians in about the year 95.  The one who writes the letter is a man named John, who is also a Christian.
     Christianity was an outgrowth of Judaism that believed a prophet and rabbi named Jesus was God’s Messiah and Savior.  Jesus was crucified by the Romans nearly 70 years earlier yet John and the other Christians continued to live out the teachings of Jesus because they believed Jesus had been resurrected and his power remained alive and well.  
      At the time John wrote Revelation, the Roman Empire ruled the known world.  One in every four people on earth lived under Roman domination.  
     Rome achieved its power by exploitation, greed and oppression.  It was a challenge for Christians to remain true to the way of Jesus, which taught service, generosity and compassion.  So John writes a letter to seven Christian communities in seven cities in Asia Minor to keep them from being seduced by the ways of the empire.  
     John uses various images to represent Rome, including a sea monster and a dragon with seven heads.  And in the midst of this frightening chaos and monstrous brutality, John has a beautiful vision.   He says,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Revelation 21:1-2 (NRSV)

     Twice before Jerusalem and its temple had been violently destroyed, first by the Babylonian Empire in 586 B.C., and then by the Roman Empire in 70 A.D.  
     But this new Jerusalem is different than before.  God will live there without a temple.  John says, 

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them and be their God;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4 (NRSV)
     And then John provides a physical description of the New Jerusalem that is beautiful and highly symbolic.  And here’s the real gem:  John’s vision includes those stones we’ve been talking about.   
     John says, “The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width…fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal.” (21:16, NRSV)  
     The shape John describes is a cube, which was the same shape as the Holy of Holies, destroyed by Babylon and Rome.  The Holy of Holies was where the high priest wore the bib with the twelve stones, representing the twelve tribes. 
     Yet, no Jewish temple exists on earth anymore, and there is no temple in John’s vision.  But there’s a reason for that.  John says, “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”(21:22, NRSV)  
     God is the temple.  And unlike the Holy of Holies, admission to the temple is unrestricted.  No longer is it only the high priest who meets God. Now, everyone meets God.  
     And the twelve stones are no longer in the bib worn by the priest. They are located somewhere else.
     John says the New Jerusalem is built with walls and gates just like every ancient city. Yet hear this.  John says,  “The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.”(21:19-20) 
     Those are the twelve stones.  And they no longer reside on the priest’s garment. They are the foundation of God’s city. And if you think of them as birthstones, it means that God’s city is built upon all those marvelous qualities. And those qualities are manifested in the lives of those who are born in those months.
    What I see is an image that is beautiful and energizing for us as God’s people.
     God’s city, God’s glory, God’s place in the world is built upon you and me.  In the letter to the Ephesians Paul says, “Together we are God’s house.  We are carefully joined together becoming a holy temple for God.”(Eph 2:20-21)
     And in the first letter of Peter it says, “You are the living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.”(1 Peter 2:5)  
     What that means is that we are the ones who give a foundation to God’s city.  And in John’s vision, the foundation is adorned with all the birthstones. 
     Imagine if we all put on our birthstones (whether or not we actually own one). Imagine if we all start wearing other birthstones as well, not simply our own, bringing those qualities to the world around us.  You and I need to take that seriously because it is so needed in our world today. 
    We live in a world that often resembles the Roman Empire.  Greed, oppression, and exploitation put people in power.  There is violence and cruelty. 
     It is easy for us to be seduced by that, to start acting the same as the world around us.  Yet, John says, “No.  That is not who we are in Jesus Christ.”  We must hold on to our values.  We must hold on to our birthstones.  That’s John’s vision and it’s my rally cry.
     Let every one of us bring the positive attributes of our birthstones to the world!
     Let us live our lives for Christ as we manifest our birthstones to those around us!
     Garnet, bring constancy.  
     Amethyst, bring strong relationships.  
     Aquamarine, bring hope.
     Diamond, bring courage.  
     Emerald, bring wisdom.  
     Pearl, bring purity.  
     Ruby, bring harmony.  
     Peridot, bring strength.  
     Sapphire, bring serenity.  
     Opal, bring faithfulness.  
     Topaz, bring affection.  
     Turquoise, bring peace. 
     Let every one of us put on the attributes of other birthstones to make a difference in the world!  
     The world needs us.  
     The foundations of God’s city are adorned with this.  
     It is time for us to be the people who create God’s world according to our birthstone!  


     -Pastor David
Click here for previous Sunday Morning Reflections
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