WIC Weekly October 18th 2020
Warsaw International Church
Mobile +48 601 331 032
Worship every Sunday at ul. Miodowa 21 (near Old Town) at 11:00 AM
Entrance from Schillera Street
Last Sunday was partially devoted to looking back at the life of Tony Marotta, who passed away in August last year. Apart from Tony's wife Ewa, we were pleased to welcome her cousin Maciej, and family friends Magda as well as Bogusław and his wife.
Online viewers please note that the Church Council is aware of the continuing sound problems with recordings of our services, and our technical expert Eric is working hard to resolve this issue.
For future weeks, for your safety:
- Please stay at home if you feel unwell! You don’t want to make life worse for either yourself or others, and you can always follow the service on YouTube.
- If you decide to come to church, please remember that we will start the service punctually at 11 am because of those worshippers connecting with YouTube at that time.
- Before entering the church, cover your mouth and nose with a mask, and keep it on throughout the service, even for singing.
- At the entrance, you’ll have your temperature taken and you’ll be able to disinfect your hands.
- There will also be an attendance list for you to enter your name, ID number and phone number, in case there’s a coronavirus scare and the authorities will want to trace those attending the service.
- The church will be well aired throughout the service – some, if not all, windows will be open.
- Our ushers will show you where to sit in the church – social distancing at all times is vital.
- Please avoid shaking hands, hugging or kissing those who are not from your family.
- Instead of the usual collection, there will be a collection basket on the table at the back of the church, where you can leave your offering as you leave the church. If possible, consider sending your offering through e-banking.
The items above may be modified from time to time, depending on our experience and on how the COVID situation in Poland and Warsaw develops. However, with such basic precautions, I firmly believe we can still enjoy exciting worship in these difficult circumstances!
Also, because of the ever-changing situation and the greater likelihood that those of you playing a key part in our services may be absent at short notice, if only because of a bad cough, our services may sometimes not run so smoothly as usual. I'd appreciate your understanding if that is the case.
Thank you for all your support and prayers for our church and for one another!
Should you wish to make a contribution to WIC, the church's bank details are as follows:
Warsaw International Church
Santander Bank Polska S.A.
IV/Oddział w Warszawie
ul. Jana Pawła II 17
Polish złoty (PLN) account: PL 63 1090 1056 0000 0000 0600 9128
This Sunday's sermon will be delivered by Christopher Stone.
Here is your link for the online service at 11 am CET:
If you enjoy watching our YouTube recordings of the service, please like and subscribe to the channel. The more people that like and subscribe, the more YouTube will share the content to people who might be interested. Recently, we have already been getting far more viewings than we have worshippers!
Recordings of our Sunday services are also available on our wic.org.pl website or by googling "Warsaw International Church YouTube".
REVIVAL WILL ONLY COME AS PEOPLE EVERYWHERE REPENT OF THEIR SINS AND TURN TO JESUS ALONE FOR THEIR SALVATION! As COVID-19 continues to affect increasing numbers throughout the world, we Christians have a duty to pray for the lost and for the Lord to have mercy on them. More and more people are falling into confusion, fear, depression and despair all over the world as a result of the virus and its social consequences. People are more spiritually hungry than they have been for decades. BY GOD'S GRACE, THIS IS THE GREATEST OPPORTUNITY THAT CHRISTIANS HAVE HAD IN A LONG TIME TO EXPLAIN THE GOSPEL OF JESUS AND PRAY FOR THEIR FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES. MAY WE BE SERIOUS ABOUT THIS! God will direct us to the persons we are to pray for, if we ask Him to use us in His service.
Please pray for the continuing improvement in health of members of families of our worshippers who have been infected with COVID-19.
Your prayers are always requested for the safety of all of us connected with WIC, whether we meet in church, at the workplace or elsewhere.
A Brother is suffering from back pain involving slipped disc problems. Please continue to pray for him to trust in the Lord's healing power and be healed completely from this illness.
Please pray for Brother Tony's widow Ewa, who is herself infirm as well as still grieving over the loss of her husband. Pray that Jesus may become real to her.
Sermon preached by Pastor Harry on 11 October
2 Kings 2, 1-11; 1 Corinthians 1, 18-31; Luke 11, 9-10.
I like reading the Bible stories of the Old Testament kings of Israel and Judah! And I sometimes regret not knowing and enjoying more of these colourful, dramatic stories. They really stimulate a child’s imagination – and many of them would make really good films!
Today’s story comes from the life of King Hezekiah. He’s not a fictional character! He lived 700 years before Jesus, and was 52 years old when he died. You can read his story in two Old Testament books: 2 Kings chapters 18 to 20, and 2 Chronicles chapters 29 to 32. This man was one of the greatest kings of Judah. Actually, the Bible says there was no other king like him, either before or since. He trusted in God, was faithful to Him, carefully kept God’s commandments – and so God was with him, and he prospered in the things he did. He defeated his enemies, because he trusted the Lord to give him victory. He made his country strong and wealthy, building up a well-equipped army and accumulating silver and gold from his victories. He even built a reservoir and dug a tunnel to channel the water into Jerusalem. He destroyed pagan places of worship. And he purified and re-dedicated the temple that King Solomon had built, and that had been neglected by Hezekiah’s father, the bad king Ahaz.
Today’s reading is an account of the last part of Hezekiah’s life. We just learn that he fell seriously ill with some kind of boil – or maybe it was cancer – and was going to die. In fact, the prophet Isaiah, who lived at the same time, confirmed to Hezekiah that he was indeed going to die. Hezekiah must have been about 37 at the time. And he didn’t want to die! He felt he still had a lot of things to do – like defending Jerusalem against the Assyrians. So he cried out to God and pleaded with God to heal him. And Isaiah informed him that God had heard his cry and would heal him.
But now we come to the really interesting bit. After being treated with figs (as Isaiah had instructed), Hezekiah recovered. He felt better. But he wanted proof of his healing. “Isaiah, give me a sign that I am healed!”. I love that comment! It’s so typical of us, isn’t it? He could have just accepted Isaiah’s word that he would recover – and in fact he had already recovered. But that wasn’t enough for him – he wanted more evidence.
Dear Friends, if Jesus had been there, he would have said to the king: “Oh you of little faith! Why don’t you just believe you’ve been healed? You’re already feeling well – what more do you want?” But you know, Hezekiah’s reaction speaks so much to me right now. And maybe this can help you with your faith, when you have a health problem and you’re praying about it. Let me tell you. I have an illness issue I’ve been taking to God in prayer – for His healing. And for a couple of weeks now I feel healed. But that would be so incredible that I can’t properly believe it! Just like Hezekiah, I’d like more evidence. The evidence for me is that the illness won’t come back. Maybe in six months’ time I can give you a proper testimony. But I really do understand Hezekiah!
Hezekiah asked for a sign. And God made the shadow on the stairway of Ahaz go back ten steps. That was just as miraculous as the healing! The stairway was actually a sun dial in the form of a stairway – it was built by Hezekiah’s father Ahaz.
I chose this reading because I think God answers our prayers for healing more than we imagine. We have a pain, for example, and we cry out to God to help us and take the pain away – and very often He does, but we then somehow forget to thank Him! Maybe if God gave us an extra sign of evidence that He had healed us, maybe then we would be more thankful? But don’t be so sure about that! This same account of Hezekiah’s healing is found in 2 Chronicles chapter 32. Do you know what it says there?: Hezekiah was healed, but he was too proud to show gratitude for what the Lord had done for him! Not even the miracle of the shadow on the stairway kept him praising God for long. He became arrogant, and forgot what the Lord had done for him. Just like many of us.
Brothers and Sisters, the Christian message is not just that we should ask God to heal us if we are sick, or to save us if we can’t go on any longer. It’s not just a question of “ask, and it shall be given to you”, but of believing in God’s power to heal, and save, and forgive. Many ask because they are told to ask; but in their hearts they don’t really believe. They don’t really believe that God can heal and save them. They don’t really believe in the power released by Jesus in His death on the cross. In their hearts, they say it’s foolishness.
But tell that to a friend of our church who gave her testimony some months ago about how she was healed of a debilitating sickness which had made life miserable for her for many years. She studied in her Bible how Jesus never turned away anyone who came to Him for healing. She believed firmly in the Christian message that healing power is released because of what God did on the cross – and she was healed instantly! She now helps other people with their problems to find the way to God and to receive healing.
Today’s passage, about the cross being foolishness to those who are perishing because they do not believe, is the sad part of my sermon today. There are people who think the message of God’s power on the cross is foolish – and they are in danger of perishing. I don’t know how they will perish – I leave that to God. But if they ignore God, and ignore His power to save and heal and forgive, they are opting out of heaven. They’re saying “no thanks” to God – and God respects that. Churchpeople may not always respect it when you say “no” to them – but God respects your intentions. Say “no” to God, and you will face the consequences. That’s not what I teach – it’s what the Bible teaches, and I believe it.
My prayer is that we may all know that the blood of Jesus on the cross is our salvation, and our healing. May the Lord be praised, forever and ever, Amen.
In Memoriam Tony Marotta 12.4.1932 – 28.8.2019
Time plays strange tricks on us. It doesn’t seem so long ago that some of us were celebrating Tony Marotta’s 87th birthday – those who came to the Bible studies at Kredytowa Street, which Tony also regularly attended. And yet the fact is that Tony hasn’t been with us for over a year now, which is so hard to believe – particularly, I imagine, for his dear wife Ewa. As we remember him, I want to present the major facts of his life to you, to give you some idea of how talented and inwardly rich Tony was.
Tony was born on 12th April 1932 in Chicago, of pure Italian blood. His mother had been born in America, but his father had come to the USA from Naples. They had six children: the first two were daughters, both of whom dying at a very young age; and then four sons, Tony being number 3. Actually, he was baptized as Samuel – but the Italian community called him by his second name, Antonio, and so he became known as Tony. Being brought up in an Italian family, Tony learnt to speak Italian, though English was generally spoken at home. And of course, he was given a proper Catholic education in Chicago – first at Loyola elementary school; then at Loyola high school; and finally at Loyala University, where he studied History.
Going through all stages of a Loyola education – Ignatius Loyola was the founder of the Jesuits – it was not surprising that Tony revealed another aspect of his personality when he decided to join the Jesuit Order. This involved several years of studying Catholic Theology, which he did in Rome, and finally, in 1962, he was ordained as a priest and celebrated his first Mass, also in Rome. People in Italy were impressed by his English – one lady in particular must have thought he was Italian, because she very much wanted to teach him better English!
So Tony served as a priest for several years. This was the time of the Second Vatical Council, which introduced a number of controversial reforms in the Catholic Church. Many priests left the priesthood because they were unhappy with the changes, and Tony was unhappy because many of his friends had left. So Tony left too – he stopped being a priest. At this time, he also met his future wife Ewa – they met in 1967 in Montreal, where Ewa had travelled for the baptism of her sister’s son in Canada.
Tony started an academic career in the United States, teaching at various universities. His courses included Western Civilization, American History and even Italian. He kept in touch with Ewa and visited her in Poland, and they finally got married in a civil wedding in Warsaw in 1972. After that, Tony concentrated on teaching at US military bases connected with the University of Maryland, in various European countries such as Luxembourg, Germany, Spain, Britain and Greece. In 1994 he made Warsaw his permanent home, teaching at the American Studies Centre at Warsaw University, though he also spent 16 years teaching in Italy until 2016 (in Verona, where there was a branch of the University of Georgia, he taught a total of 34 courses!). Ewa and Tony’s church wedding took place in 1998 at St. Anthony’s Church in Warsaw, just by the Saxon Garden (Ogród Saski) near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Tony was already in his mid-eighties, but was still teaching! In 2016-2017, he taught at the Open University which is part of Warsaw University. Teaching was his passion, his greatest hobby, and he was always very popular with his students because of his gentle, easy-going nature.
Tony and Ewa had attended our church quite regularly for many years, where Tony felt very much at home, particularly because of our fellowship after the services – the coffee hour, which reminded him of his younger years in the States. Tony and Ewa had actually stopped attending Catholic church a long time ago, because they were unhappy with the various abuses by priests and bishops. So Warsaw International Church was their final spiritual home.
I shall never forget Tony’s contributions to our Bible studies at Kredytowa Street on Thursdays. He’d attend almost every time, travelling there on his bike, and loved the small-group atmosphere with our informal discussions. Because of his vast teaching experience, he accumulated knowledge about other religions and ideologies, but I sensed that this had made him confused over the years, because he now seemed to be searching for real truth, and not just different philosophies. He really wanted to find a more personal relationship with God, and I felt that he was achieving that with every Bible study he attended.
A week before his death, Tony was already in hospital with acute leukaemia, but he must have thought that he’d get over this, because he asked Ewa to pay for the next year’s subscription to their daily newspaper. Sadly, it was not to be, and he passed away last year on August 28th.
Ewa and Tony were very close as a couple. In fact, Tony was such a kind, generous, warm-hearted man that he must have been close to many people. Love was what really characterized him. I wish he’d have lived just that little bit longer. But I’m sure that, when God called him to Himself, Tony was ready to go, and had found what he’d been searching for: the Truth – Christ our Lord.
Readings for 18 October
18 October is the 20th Sunday after Pentecost.
Verse for the week: [Jesus said:] "Who do men say that I am?” (Matthew 16, 13).
Responsive reading: Psalm 2. Old Testament reading: Isaiah 9, 6-7. New Testament reading: John 8, 54-58.
I cannot imagine a more ideal childhood than my own. A godly, pastor-father led our home with strength and purpose. We believed our dad had the greatest, most important job in the world; and we often saw around us the evidence of changed lives resulting from his ministry. God so prospered my father’s hand that the churches he pastored experienced some of their greatest days during his tenure.
Dad’s life challenged his three sons and one daughter. He lived on purpose – to bring men and women, boys and girls to Christ – and he passed this desire to us. When God called each son into the preaching ministry and the daughter to be a preacher’s wife, we saw this calling as a privilege, not a duty, and responded with joy and gratitude.
And my mother filled our home with light. Unshakable faith, eternal optimism, and simple joy flowed freely from her heart and wrapped our home in a warm blanket of security. She gave us the legacy of unconditional love.
As a child, I assumed every home was like mine. We had no overwhelming difficulties nor great complications. Even in my early years of adulthood, when I attended seminary and began my full-time ministry, I often wondered why our family had been touched by so little pain. But that soon changed.
The Pain of Sin
My father had been so used of God that he was asked to give oversight and help to large groups of churches within our denomination. By the time he reached the mandatory retirement age, Dad had accomplished all of his goals and more. However, over a period of several months he experienced a series of disappointments, followed by a season of depression and despair. This vulnerable time opened a window of temptation.
My father then faced and failed the greatest test of his life. He fell into an immoral relationship.
Through the providence of God we became aware of what was happening. I was shocked to even consider that my father had fallen into such sin, but the evidence continued to mount. Finally, my brothers, sister, and I did something we never dreamed would be necessary. Together we went, unannounced, to my parents’ home where we confronted our father. It was our great love and our desire to see him rescued that compelled us to take such a difficult step.
Sin always brings turmoil, and our family was no exception. We boarded a roller-coaster ride of uncertainty and upheaval that lasted for over two years. Dad went up and down, and back and forth. One day we would think his heart was returning to his family and his God, only to be disappointed. There was a time when he left home, then returned several days later. I vividly recall pleading and reasoning with my father as we talked in his workshop, trying desperately to pull him out of this awful confusion.
We all prayed, and fasted, and wept ...and HURT.
Much of my theology was shaken. Everything I had ever known was called into question, for the one from whom I had learned these convictions was falling.
"Why would God allow this to happen?" I questioned. "Weren’t we trying, as a family, to serve Him? Why wouldn’t God answer our prayers and answer them now? How could a loving God allow His children to suffer so? Is God always true to His promises?"
One day, upon returning home from an errand, my mother found a simple, sad note on the kitchen table. Dad was gone.
In the subsequent days my father initiated a divorce and married someone else. Dad had walked away from our lives.
The Power of Forgiveness
It is still amazing to me that the one who hurt the most outdistanced all the rest in her response. But then, that is the kind of woman Mother was. The breadth of her forgiveness sprang from the depth of a relationship long-developed with the Lord. She had her questions, fears, doubts, and pain; but she clung to the Lord with amazing faith.
It was from my mother – through her words and life – that I learned the power of forgiveness. At every turn she chose to handle her hurt God’s way.
About a year after my father left home, we began to notice some unusual behavior in my mother. A series of tests revealed that she had Alzheimer’s disease, and we were told that it was progressing rapidly.
As Mother deteriorated, we moved her from her home to a nearby apartment. My sister and her family, and my wife and I, then had the privilege of taking care of Mother. Although difficult, it was an honor to give some return to this one who had given so much to us.
One day I went into Mother’s room and found her in a semi-conscious state. I picked her up in my arms and literally carried her to the car, then rushed her to the local hospital. There the doctor informed us that Mother had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. That afternoon she slipped into a coma, and we were told that she might not live through the weekend. Both my brothers were away – one living in another town and the other on a preaching mission in Romania. For several days I tried unsuccessfully to reach my brother in Romania. I finally told the Lord He would have to get in touch with him because there was no way I could. About three hours later he phoned. When I asked him how he knew to call, he explained that he had felt deeply impressed to contact us. I told him that Mother was dying and that if he wanted to see her he needed to come as soon as possible.
After a week in a coma, Mother woke up. My brothers and their wives were scheduled to arrive the next day. My sister and I strained to understand Mother as she tried to talk, but it was very difficult. Only one word was clear to us, and Mother repeated this word at least three times...
"Forgive," she said.
We were overwhelmed. We did not know if she was telling us to be sure and tell Dad one more time that she had forgiven him, or if she was reminding us to continue to forgive him. We finally decided to let the Holy Spirit apply this to each of our hearts as He desired.
The next day our family gathered around my mother’s bed. She was awake and able to hear. For three hours we experienced the greatest worship service I may ever know this side of heaven. We sang and prayed, read Scripture, reminisced, and laughed and cried. We thanked Mother for her tremendous sacrifices and the manifold investments she had made in our lives. God gave us a precious time around her bedside...and the best was yet to happen.
The phone rang. We stood in stunned silence when we realized the call was from my dad. Although all of us had talked to Dad at times, and had taken every biblical step we knew to help bring him to repentance, it had been over two years since he had talked to Mother. But when we put the phone to her ear, her face lit up with joy. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she tried to voice words of forgiveness and love. Dad expressed his great sorrow and repentance, and asked Mother if she could find it in her heart to forgive him.
After my brother spoke briefly to Dad, he relayed the whole conversation to all of us. There was silence...and then waves of great joy and thanksgiving as God filled that hospital room with His grace and healing. It was a holy moment.
The next morning when I entered the room, Mother was talking! She said, "Billy, isn’t it great about Dad calling! Why, this is what we have been praying for, that he would return to the Lord!"
Later that night, Mother slipped into a coma again. To the amazement of all, she lived another five weeks. We often wondered why God allowed her to linger, but later realized that someone had heard about Christ in that hospital room almost every day. God’s delay in delivering Mother physically was, in reality, His design for delivering others spiritually.
Our entire family was able to gather one last time around Mother’s bed just a few days before she died. This time there was something very different...Dad was with us. God had given us back our father! The grace God had given my mother to forgive had paved the way for him to repent and return. Since that day, my father’s repentance has been abundant and clear, and he has granted me permission to tell his story, hoping it might spare others from making similar destructive choices. He and his wife have been fully restored to fellowship with all of us, and God has once again used my father to minister in the lives of many.
My mother loved poetry. During the last two years of her life she often recited the following verse:
He drew a circle and shut us out; Daunting rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had a whit to win; We drew a circle...and brought him in.
God Is Bigger Than Our Hurts
In the early days of this ordeal, my mother had an encounter with the Lord that shaped her future responses. In fact, she often mentioned it to me as one of those watershed moments in her spiritual pilgrimage. As she wrestled to understand God’s purposes, she came to a point of surrender where she told the Lord, "All I want, Father, is for You to receive glory."
Mother knew she would never be remarried to her husband. She knew her life would never be the same. She realized the road ahead would be filled with suffering, but she also knew a God who had walked with her throughout her life and had prepared her for an eternity beyond.
Her settled surrender to a higher purpose determined the course for her days and opened the door for God to use her life as a testimony of forgiveness and faithfulness.
What about you? As your children and grandchildren hear the story of your life, what will they learn of God? Will they perceive a God who is bigger than any problem or hurt...that is perfect in His dealings and redemptive in His work? Will they "taste and see that the Lord is good"? (Psa. 34:8).
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