Beloved People of God,
Greetings in our Messiah.
1. Tidbit, just to give you an idea of NYC proportions: The Empire State Building occupies half the long block from 5th to 6th Avenue and the whole short block from 34th to 33rd Street in Manhattan, rising 102 stories to dominate the midtown landscape. The 70 feet deep, 16 acre basement area of the World Trade Center, enclosed twice as much space as the entire Empire State Building.
2. The place of this attack in the scheme of things: We at Messiah's have, over the last many years, devoted great energy to identifying, defining and explaining the war we as Christians have been engaged in against Humanism. With that war abating not an iota, we have been thrust into a new war with Islam. The absolute necessity of recovering a covenant consciousness has never been greater. American Christians are largely ignorant of the covenant and its implications. The bookend errors of monolithic Romanism, on the one hand, and hyper-individuated "Me and Jesus," dispensational thinking on the other, have compromised our ability to think clearly about Christianity and Christendom. We have tended to identify it either exclusively in institutional terms, or in experiential terms. Both are inadequate. The covenant alone will aid our thinking.
And this war may force us to rethink these (among many other) things. We may soon rediscover the Biblical idea of the objective covenant, joined to our subjective submission to its terms, as God's provision of a ground for Christian self-understanding: Christian, as in individual, familial and corporate self-understanding. Consider that this week, 16 Christians-- including a pastor, women and children-- were gunned down in Pakistan during a worship service. The significance of this atrocity extends beyond the obvious and initial horror we feel when hearing of any mass murder. For these Protestant Christians were slaughtered in a space freely lent to them by the local Roman Catholic church. And the murderers saw the killing as a generic attack upon "Christians," not Protestants, not Roman Catholics. In fact, one observer has said that this war forces us to go "back to the conflict between Saladin and Richard the Lionheart, [and] that means the revival of history, that means it's East against West, Islam against Christianity."
In fact, the NY Times reported that this unprecedented attack was uniformly interpreted as meant to avenge American bombing of Afghanistan. "'The Americans are attacking Afghanistan, and we are Christians, and America is mostly a Christian country, and so it is a matter of revenge,' said Elizabeth David, a nurse at the railway hospital in Mulitan." This interpretation was shared even by Muslim clerics and Hindu sadhus who came to express sympathy at a remembrance service.
But if Christianity is confined to a denomination, and America does not endorse, let alone consist in, one denomination, how can we be regarded as Christian? And if Christianity consists only in personal experience, how can this be conceived of as a war between Christianity and Islam? The only way to resolve these, and other difficulties, is to come to understand that we are indeed a Christian nation, but one which has seriously lost her way.
We have dealt briefly with these and like questions in two sermons: 1) The World Trade Center Tragedy and the Covenant, and 2) The World Trade Center Tragedy and Joshua. Both are available, for a time, at sermonaudio.com. The first has been getting airplay in the West and Southwest and the response has been strong. Some comments we've received:
- "We've never heard preaching like this before. We thank God for it."
- "This preaching is edifying and encouraging during this tragedy."
- "There are 15,000 people in our little town in Nevada and seven churches, but it so refreshing to hear preaching that actually FEEDS us. We didn't know we were so deficient until we heard Pastor Schlissel's message on the WTC. Praise God."
We DO NOT report this to blow our own horn, but to encourage you to listen to the tapes so that together we might seek a better understanding of our circumstances.
Preview: We hope to further address this matter in the next Messiah's Update, which supporters of our ministries receive by "snail mail." We would like to explain why it is not only Romanists and Baptists who need to rethink covenant, but many (most?!) Reformed brethren, as well. The Reformation was not the last word. Much remains to be done, if I may state the obvious!
3. We have made our first disbursement. A Christian woman from Long Island contacted us. A young mother of three children — ages 9, 7, and 4 — her husband was called up by the Naval Reserves to provide security for the port in a city in Italy. The port is strategically significant to the USA. The family income, however, has declined by roughly $700 per month, seriously compromising the family's ability to pay for heating oil this winter in their old house on the cold South Shore of Long Island. We've had several conversations with her pastor, have determined the genuineness of the claim, and have forwarded $2,000 to her church to pay for the family's heat this entire winter. Her own church will administer the funds and provide records to us. Thus, your contributions are not only keeping a family secure and warm this winter, while a brave husband serves his country in a foreign land, but the money is strengthening the bonds between local churches here in the New York area. Praise God.
4. We know several collections are still scheduled, and that's fine. But we believe it is best to consider the 9-11 Relief Fund of Messiah's to be full, unless something happens which we cannot anticipate just now. We are doing what we can to locate Christians who, as a consequence of the attack and its aftermath, find themselves in need. But identifying people whom it is appropriate for us to help — i.e., churched people who have "slipped through the cracks" — has been difficult. Surely, as word continues to get out, as the ramifications continue to mount, and as the dust settles and opens up a clearer vista, we will come across many other circumstances where the moneys you have sent will be of use in Christ's hands to bring glory to God through ministry to His people. But it does seem that the funds in hand, combined with those expected to be received by year's end, are adequate. Do remember that Messiah's General Fund, on the other hand, is still saying "Ouch!"
Here are the numbers through 11/01/01. In our last CityDate we reported domestic receipts of $167,667.32, plus foreign receipts which, after conversion, came to $76.59, yielding a total of $167,743.91. To this we add the following, an inflow obviously and appropriately abating:
- From Individuals/Couples/Families in the United States (amount of contribution followed by State abbreviation):
$10.00 - MI
$20.00 - AZ
$25.00 - MI
$30.00 - IN
$50.00 - IL
$50.00 - TN
$100.00 - WA
$100.00 - CT
$100.00 - IL
$225.00 - IL
$239.00 - IL
$300.00 - IL
$500.00 - OR
- From Churches/Organizations/Businesses in the United States:
$445.00 - CA
$729.00 - IL
$1,000.00 - OH
$2,290.00 - NY
This brings the total receipts to $173,956.91.
- In addition, the following foreign donations were received from individuals/families:
$15.00 (Canadian Dollars) CANADA
$30.00 (Canadian Dollars) CANADA
These foreign donations will be incorporated into next week's total after deposit/conversion.
I want to thank you again for your involvement and your prayers. Remember Messiah's General Fund, please! Thank you to those who have sent recent help, and to those who have written to release previously restricted funds into the General Fund. As the donor, you are the boss, we are the servants.
Remember, please, to pray for the officers of the four overseeing churches here, and for Messiah's (exhausted) staff. God bless you richly and in every way.
Yours and His,
Rev. Steve M. Schlissel
2662 East 24th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11235-2610
PS. Those donating $250 or more to Messiah's General Fund may request R.J. Rushdoony's 2-Volume, 1300 page set, "Systematic Theology." You may donate by phone using a credit card, during normal business hours (Eastern Time). 1-800-288-6202.
- Steve M. Schlissel
Steve Schlissel has served as pastor of Messiah's Congregation in Brooklyn, New York, since 1979. Born and raised in New York City, Schlissel became a Christian by reading the Bible. He and Jeanne homeschooled their five children and also helped raise several foster children (mostly Vietnamese). In 2003, they adopted Anna (who was born in Hong Kong in 1988, but is now a U.S. citizen). They have eight foster grandchildren and fourteen "natural" grandchildren.