Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Readings for Sunday, March 18, 2018

Hello Everyone,

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and start to your week. Don't forget that there is "Coffee, Cookies, and Conversation" at Peace United Church at 6:00 PM tonight and then at Grey Eagle UMC at 7:30 PM.

This Sunday we continue with our worship series "The Road to Light". Our emphasis will be "Road Through Darkness". Here is a synopsis:

"The world needs its victims to maintain a tentative, shaky peace. In the centuries before Jesus and even in the centuries after Jesus in many parts of the world, the victim was sacrificed to the gods who demand a price for injuries the gods receive from humans. Even when animals are substituted for people in the sacrificial system, humans, even children, were often sacrificed. Humanity was often ignorant (darkness) to the system, which is why it worked. To cover the collective guilt of humanity, lies - myths - were told of the guilt of the victim. Jewish scripture started the revelation of the truth which was completed and fulfilled in Jesus, son of God."

Our readings this week are:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 – This is one of the most famous quotes from the prophet Jeremiah. God says that God will pour his law into the hearts of the people of Israel and Judah (can we expand this to include all followers of Jesus or perhaps all people?). Once everyone knows (experiences) God’s law then we will no longer need to teach anyone about God and the laws. (No more Sunday School and Confirmation Classes?)

Psalm 51:1-12 – The psalmist asks God to wash away everything that makes him impure. He calls on God to give him a new, right, and clean spirit that he may experience the joy of God’s salvation. This is the Psalm we read on Ash Wednesday.

Hebrews 5:5-10 – This doesn’t seem to fit the idea that God is changing our hearts. However, in being obedient to God, even going to death on the cross, Jesus was (made) perfect in his love for God and humanity. This became the source of our salvation that changes our hearts and gives us the ability to obey him. BTW, the name in verse 10 is pronounced “Mel-keys-a-deck” 

John 12:20-33 (34-36a) – This opens with a request of some Greeks to speak to Jesus but Jesus turns the conversation to his upcoming death. He alludes that his death is like a grain of wheat planted in the ground that produces much fruit. He also says that he will not turn away from what must happen because it will bring glory to God, his Father. When he is “lifted up” (re: the snake on a pole in last week's reading) he brings judgment on all humanity, drives Satan out, and will draw all people to him. The only way to draw all people to him is for our hearts to be changed when we witness the horror of what is done (throughout history down to today).

Have a blessed week!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Readings for Sunday, March 11, 2018

Hello Everyone,

First, do not forget to set your clocks ahead one hour before you go to bed Saturday Night. "Spring Ahead" as they say. If you forget, you will arrive at church in time for fellowship (GEUMC) or lunch (PUC).

Second, this Sunday Grey Eagle UMC is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the new church building. They are also celebrating the 140th year of being a church in the Grey Eagle area. From what I gather an informal church began worshiping in a log cabin on the north shore of Big Birch Lake in 1878. In 1879, a United Brethren in Christ church was incorporated as Swan Lake Chapel. Then, in 1881 those two groups merged to form Lake Valley Church. In 1883, a small wood-framed church was erected in the Village of Grey Eagle. This building was torn down in 1922 and our former building was erected.

This Sunday we will continue with our worship series "The Road to Light". Our focus is "Take the Light on the Journey". Here is the synopsis I wrote:

"For God so loved the COSMOS . . . that might be the light Jesus offers us along the way. Things will get ugly for Jesus and it seems to always be ugly 2000 years later. For those who believe in Jesus, follow in his Way, live by his Truth, and seek Life in him, they have salvation, eternal life. Judgement come to those who love the lie (darkness) and reject the truth (light). To be the light, Jesus must be lifted up on the cross."

Our readings for this week are:
Numbers 21:4-9 – This is a troubling reading. The Israelites are traveling the long way around the kingdom of Edom and they begin grumbling against Moses and God. "Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents . . . so that many Israelites died." (The Lord did what? I imagine that they were moving and griping; came upon an area infested with the snakes that killed them; and naturally blamed God.) The people repented and Moses was instructed to make a poisonous snake and put it on a tall pole. Then, whenever someone was bitten, all they had to do was to look at the snake on a pole and they would be healed. This incident is mentioned by Jesus in our Gospel reading.

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 – Give thanks to the Lord who has delivered us from our sinful ways. This sentiment is repeated 5 times in verses 1, 8, 15, 21, and 31.

Ephesians 2:1-10 – What you do won’t get you eternal life! Faith in the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ will! This is God's free gift to you.

John 3:14-21 – Jesus says the Son of Man must be lifted up like the snake on a pole from our Numbers reading. Of course, John 3:16 is here but what about verses 17 and 18? However, those who don't believe, who don't see the light, have already judged themselves. Those who do evil will usually want to avoid scrutiny (stay in the dark) while those who do what is true and right will do it in plain sight.

How are you taking the light of Jesus Christ into your world?

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Readings for Sunday, March 4, 2018

Hello Everyone,

Our Worship Series this past Sunday, "Road to Light: Mapping the Journey" asked the question "Why did Jesus have to go to Jerusalem? Why did Jesus have to die?" I talked about "Atonement Theories" and I apologize for getting into the weeds of theology. Hopefully you remember that theories don't save us; Jesus does. If you are interested, I have posted a compilation of some my newsletter articles on atonement from 2008-2010. You can find it at: Atonement Theories - a summaries by Gary. We will be talking about this at our "Coffee, Cookies, and Conversation" tomorrow night at 6 pm at Peace United and 7:30 pm at Grey Eagle UMC.

This week our Worship Series focuses on "Clear the Way for the Journey". Here is what I wrote about it:

What gets in our way to see and hear the Good News that Jesus gives? Our privilege as white Americans? Our wealth? Our power? Our pride? Why do Christians often fall back into the old ways of dual thinking: us vs. them; white vs. everyone else; America vs. the world; male vs. female vs. non-conforming; Christian vs. Muslims vs. Hindus vs. Buddists. What needs to be cleared out of our Temple of Power?

The Lectionary Readings are:

Exodus 20:1-17 – “The Big Ten” and not the college sports conference.

Psalm 19 – In praise of God’s Law. Verse 14 should be very familiar to you.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 – Our witness of the cross may seem like foolishness to others but it is the power of God that saves us. If Jesus is God, and we believe he is, then his death on a cross might make God seem foolish and weak. But, “for God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”

John 2:13-22 – In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the clearing of the Temple by Jesus happens in the last week of Jesus’ life, some 5 days before his crucifixion. In the Gospel of John, this episode happens at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Why do you think John wanted this story here?

Have a great week serving God by serving neighbors!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor