Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Readings for Sunday, October 2, 2016

Hello Everyone,
Grace and Peace to You,

This coming Sunday is "World Communion Sunday", the one Sunday each year when we will be celebrating Communion with Christians around the world. This is an excellent time to invite a family member or friend who hasn't been to church in a while to come with you to worship. Imagine if everyone had one guest with them this Sunday. Now, let's try to make that happen.

We are back to following the Lectionary readings until we begin a new Sermon Series at Advent titled "God Bless Us Every One: The Redemption of Scrooge". As you may imagine, we will be using Charles Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol".

Our Readings this week are:

Lamentations 1:1-16 - Lamentations is the cry of the heart by one, Jeremiah, or more people following the utter destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. This poem begins with the voice of a narrator but then shifts to the voice of Jerusalem in verse 12.

Lamentations 3:19-26 - This is the "Psalm" that is paired with the Old Testament reading above. After the painful cry in the first reading there is hope, love, and faithfulness with this reading.

OR Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4 - I have always thought this prophet's name was pronounced Ha-ba-COOK, but I guess it is Ha-BACK-cook. In the first part, this prophet's cry might be ours in the time: Why the violence and when will it cease? The second part contains the answer Jeremiah gave the exiles in Babylon: There is still a vision for the right time.

Psalm 37:1-9 - The psalmist call us to trust the Lord and wait for God to act. "But those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land."

2 Timothy 1:1-14 - According to the commentary in my edition of the Bible, this letter to Timothy may be more about me as a pastor than about you as the congregation. Paul gives thanks for the ministry of a young pastor and remembers his faithful grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice. He encourages Timothy to stay strong in God's work (a holy calling) by remembering that it is God's grace that strengthens. In one of the more amazing statements is "This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began." What does that statement mean to you?

Luke 17:5-10 - This is a section of Luke that most Bible editors don't know what to do with. My NRSV Bible labels this section "Some Saying of Jesus". What? There are three "sayings" and we have two of them. The first, which we don't have, is about not being a stumbling block and wearing a millstone around our neck and then being thrown into the sea. We get two: having faith the size of a mustard seed (pretty small) that can uproot a tree and not thanking a servant (slave) for doing what was ordered. This is strange stuff. I might throw in the millstone saying (verses 1-5) this week.

May God bless you in your work, in your play, in your waking, and in your sleep.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Future with Hope - Two Poems

A Future with Hope
       Two Poems

        (Inspired by the poem “The Welder” by Cherrie Moraga.)

The ember is placed
       and glows red, then ash-black
       Then Red

Is there fuel, leaves, bark, wood

Is there nothing

will the ember burst forth
       the fuel catching
       the sparks spreading
              What was an ember becomes
                     for cooking
                     for warmth
                     for companionship around

Or will the fuel turn to ash
       water smothering weight?
              and the ember is naught.

Burn enough ember to catch
       the night and burn bright.

The Tree
       (Inspired by the imagery of "A Future with Hope" sermon series by Marcia McFee.)

The seed was planted or
       a root sent a shoot

The seed was nourished in fertile soil
       the root found its place

The seed-root pushes up and out
       pushes down and deep
       a place to seek sunlight
              water, food

A sapling emerges and grows upward
       spreading out branches
              budding out leaves, growing fruit
       roots finding stability in
              rocks and soil

And to the tree comes life
       sparrows, crows, woodpeckers
       squirrels, chipmunks,
              ants and moths, and spiders
       and life thrives

Is this the place to send new shoots
       to drop new seeds
              to give life to this place?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Readings for Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hello Everyone,

I thought I would get a little jump on the email this week. I usually send this out on Tuesday but I will be out of the office Monday through Wednesday.

One announcement: Grey Eagle UMC's Annual Hog Roast will be this Saturday, September 24 starting at 4:30 PM. Grey Eagle people, we may still need workers and donations. If you would like to help out (and I hope you do) contact Janet Roe at janetroe@aol.com or Lois Sorenson at rlsbigbirch@meltel.com.

This Sunday will be our final installment of the Sermon Series "A Future with Hope". Here is a summary:

Our "Future with Hope" is a seed (the analogy the sermon series is using) that is planted in us by the Holy Spirit through attending to the words of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). The seed germinates, opens, through prayer (Luke 11:1-13) and is planted through giving (Luke 12:13-21) which seems counter intuitive. Once planted, the seed (seeds) need to be nurtured through trusting that God will provide but also by participating in God's work for God's Kingdom (Luke 12:22-34). Then there comes a time of waiting, residing where we are (Jeremiah 291, 4-7) during some difficult times (Luke 12:49-56). These difficult times do not mean we hunker down and ignore what's happening but that we reach out to the hurting world with Christ's love. It is also a time when we build the community of believers using the gifts that God has given to each of us (Ephesians 4), sometimes even if it means we ignore the "rules" to reach out and break the bonds that cripple us and others (Luke 13:10-17). As the seeds of hope push roots down and shoots upward it will begin to bear fruit; fruits of love that should be shared with others . How this happens is all about how we treat others, whether in worship, at fellowship, or in mission (Luke 14:1, 7-14). Once the fruit is producing, it must be sustained (Isaiah 50:4a). But sustaining the fruit comes with a cost, the cost of discipleship and following Jesus (Luke 14:25-33). Finally, as the future with hope begins to unfold in front of us we remember where we have been and come from. We remember that at times we were lost but the shepherd and the lady look for us and the heaven's rejoiced when we were found (Luke 15:1-10). While we remember what we have been we must let go of that past, we must cast our burden on the Lord, and we release what is keeping us from that future (Psalm 55:22. Sometimes that means we go against the world's way of doing business and we get in the business of forgiving all no matter the cost, and welcoming all into God's economy (Luke 16:1-13). Which allows us to trust that the Lord is gracious and we place our hope in his steadfast love as we move into God's Future with Hope (Psalm 33:18). We begin living that future today when we open our eye and our hearts to the needs of those around us (Luke 16:19-31).

Our first lesson this Sunday will be Psalm 33:1-3, 18-22. The psalmist sings of God's goodness, mercy, righteousness, and steadfast love. For those who put their whole trust in God ("fear the Lord") God will see them through the darkness and death to a future with hope.

Our Gospel lesson is a parable about ignoring the plight of those around us who are in need. We will be reading Luke 16:19-31. My Bible titles this section "The Rich Man and Lazarus". You know the story. A rich man, unnamed, lives in the lap of luxury: Manhattan Penthouse, Armani suits, a chef to make the finest foods, and a Lamborghini auto. A poor man named Lazarus (not Jesus' friend in the Gospel of John) camps every day at the entrance of the high-rise condominium begging for morsels of food. Lazarus dies as does the rich man. Rich man ends up being tormented in something we would call hell but Luke call Hades (and much of this scene is similar to the Greek mythologies of Hades). Lazarus ends up reclining and dining in the "Bosom of Abraham" (Old Spiritual "Rock-a My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham"). The rich man wants relief. Abraham says no. Rich man wants Lazarus to warn his brothers. Abraham says "What's the point? They won't believe even someone who comes back from the dead."

First, this is a parable as Jesus gives a retort to the Pharisees who were ridiculing him (verse 14) not an actual description of heaven and hell. Secondly, the message is simple and draws on Jesus' statement at verse 13, but I will let you draw your own conclusion. Third, is the Abraham's statement in verse 31 about Jesus' resurrection?

May the Lord bless you this week with opportunities to share the Good News in word and deed.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor