Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Readings for Sunday, October 22 and 29, 2017

Hello Everyone,

I will be on vacation this coming Sunday. Please welcome Bob Kutter as he leads worship. His text for this Sunday, October 22, will be:

Luke 10:1-11 - Here are some notes I wrote about this passage on July 2, 2013:

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 – Jesus sends out 70 (or 72) disciples and gives them instructions. Did you know that the fields are still ready for harvest for God’s Reign? Why do you think that Jesus wanted them to carry nothing on their journey? Why were they prevented from changing the place they were staying? What were they to do when a town rejected their message? We often think about the message of God going out to individuals but this passage speaks about town accepting or rejecting it. So, since Jesus brings up Sodom in verse 12 (another section skipped by the lectionary due to its difficulty), what if there is but one new believer in the town? (Abraham talked God down to 10 righteous people. Why didn’t he get down to 1?) What do you think Jesus meant when he said “I saw Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning”? One of my favorite books on human nature is “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning” by Rene Girard. To get the gist of what the book is about read the reviews at Amazon.com.

On October 29, I will return to our sermon series on "Difficult Scripture". Our theme is "Death and Afterlife". What happens when we die? Do we immediately get transported to heaven (or hell for that matter)? Will we know and recognize our loved ones? What will we be like - human, angel, or something else? Our lessons will be:

Ecclesiastes 9:1-6 - All humans, good, bad, and indifferent, will die as will all animals. Evil happens; good happens; and all will die. The dead know nothing, they have no reward, and even the memory of them are lost. All is vanity and we are all but dust.

1 Corinthians 15:12-25, 35-38, 42-44, 50-57 - This is a very long passage and I have tried to condense the reading by eliminating the bunny trails that Paul takes. Christ has been resurrected and because of that we will all be resurrected. When we are raised, what will our bodies be like? Paul doesn't know but he is assured that God knows. He says that our physical bodies will become spiritual bodies. But note that none of that happens until the end, when Christ returns and the "trumpets will sound". What I believe that Paul is saying is that when we die we are dead. When Christ returns at the end we will be raised. "Thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

John 3:16-17, 5:24-29, 12:44-50 - If Jesus comes to save the world (cosmos) and not to condemn it, are all saved (3:17)? Will all the dead (sinners and saints alike) be saved when they hear the voice of Jesus (5:25)? Or will sinners be raised to a resurrection of condemnation (5:29)? If Jesus doesn't judge those who reject his message (12:47) and he states that the Father's commandment is eternal life (12:50), are all saved in the end?

Aside: In theological terms, it is all about Universalism (all are saved), Eternal Punishment/Reward (you either go to hell or heaven forever) or, for the punishment portion, Annihilation (you are punished for a limited time and then you are no more.)

The Lectionary readings for October 22 can be found on the October 16, 2011 portion of "Readings for Sunday, October 9 and 16, 2011". The readings for October 29 can be found at "Readings for Sunday, October 26, 2014".

Have a great week! Invite a friend to church this week!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Monday, October 2, 2017

Prayers for Victims of Las Vegas shooting and Readings for Sunday, October 8, 2017

Hello Everyone,

This morning we woke up to the shocking and tragic news of the shooting in Las Vegas. The last I heard, the gunman killed 58 and wounded 515. Here is the prayer I said, wrote, and posted on Facebook:

O Lord, most Gracious and Loving God, we cry to you this day for the families of those killed in Las Vegas. Send your comforting Spirit into their lives to give them strength through this difficult time. We cry out for the people who were injured. Send your healing Spirit into their lives. Guide the doctors, nurses and technicians who are caring for them. We cry out for the victims of violence anywhere in the world. When will the carnage end? When will people learn to love, respect and forgive others? When will our idolatry of money, sex, guns, power, and greed end? Send your Spirit, Breath, and Wind throughout the world to bring us to a time when your Love will reign/rule on earth as in heaven. We ask this in the name of your Son, the one who died at the hands of our violence, the only Son whom you lifted from the grave with Love and Forgiveness. In his name we pray, Amen.

This week we will begin a 6 week sermon series titled "Difficult Scripture". I received many suggestions, more than I can speak on in this series. Only two topics were voted on by two people. It seems like people have their own individual "difficult scripture". This week we are beginning with "Money".

Sometimes it seems that pastors/clergy will get into trouble with a few people in their congregations when they talk about politics, sex, and money. When talking about money, do people get upset because they know they may not be giving enough to the church? In other words, are they feeling guilty?

I don't intend to make anyone feel guilty, but maybe all of us can re-examine the reasons we give what we give. Every single one of us can pray about and ask ourselves, "Am I giving what God desires from me?"

Our texts are:
Malachi 3:8-10 - It seems that the people of Judea are beginning to return from Babylon and the temple, a smaller, less ornate version of King Solomon's Temple, has been rebuilt. However, there is the issue that not enough people are bringing their tithes of grain and animals and the priests are being denied their sustenance. God issues a challenge: if you bring your tithes God will "open the windows of heaven" and "pour down an overflowing blessing" in return. Are we being like the Judeans by scrimping on our giving and not trusting God to provide?

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 - In his letter to the Romans, and in other letters, Paul says we are no longer bound by the law. Does this mean we no longer have to give to the church? In this passage from his second letter to the 1st Church of Corinth, Paul echos Malachi's point: one who gives as little as possible and begrudgingly, will similarly get little. But someone who gives bountifully and happily will likewise reap God's bounty. Paul reassures us that God will "provide you with every blessing in abundance". Finally, don't forget that God loves a cheerful giver. When it comes to giving to the church, are you the tightfisted giver or the cheerful giver?

Matthew 19:16-26 - What do we need to do to gain eternal life? That is the question of a young man to Jesus. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. "Which ones?", the man asks. (I assume that Jesus meant all of them.) Jesus gives him a short list: don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, honor mom and dad, and love your neighbor as yourself. "I've done all these! What else?" the man says. "Well," says Jesus, "sell all you have and give the money to the poor." I can just see and hear the reaction of the young man. Saddened, he leaves for it turns out the man is wealthy and has many possessions. What is our relationship to our possessions? Does the fact that we have so much mean we are violating one of the commandments which Jesus didn't mention: we should not bow down to worship idols? But, praise be to God for through God all things are possible!

For some commentary and questions on the assigned Lectionary texts see http://ruralminnesotaministry.blogspot.com/2011/09/readings-for-october-2-2011.html.

For a slightly different take on the same Lectionary lessons see: http://ruralminnesotaministry.blogspot.com/2014/09/readings-for-sunday-october-5-2014.html

Have a blessed week serving your neighbors. Love for others starts with God and moves through you.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Scripture Readings for Sunday, October 1, 2017

Hello Everyone,

My heartfelt thanks go to the people of Peace United Church who helped celebrate the life of Irma Lunceford on Friday. My heartfelt thanks for all the people of Grey Eagle UMC who help with the hog roast on Saturday. The people working in the church in these celebrations bring Glory to God. Thank you.

Our text for this coming Sunday are:

Exodus 17:1-7 – The wandering Israelites have run out of water and are complaining to Moses. Moses says they are quarreling (arguing) with him and testing the Lord. A commentary I just read (Opening the Old Testament) says the word “testing” is more like “bringing a lawsuit or suing”. The people are waging a lawsuit against God. The issue is their lack of water and their thirst, but the greater issue is the people’s feeling that God has abandoned them. “Is the Lord among us or not?” (verse 7) Do you ever feel abandoned by God? What does it take for you to know that God is with you? Always with you. A miracle or just the reassurance of the Holy Spirit?

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16 – A number of Psalms are the recounting of Israel history. Some are longer, such as Psalm 105, and some are short, such as Psalm 114. Psalm 78 is one of the long ones which is why we only have nine verses for this reading. The first four verses are the introduction that says the writer (and subsequent readers) will tell the stories through the generations. Verses 12-16 briefly mentions the crossing of the sea with the parted waters, the leading of the cloud during the day and the fire at night, and the water that came from the rocks (see above).

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 – According to the commentary in my Bible, the proverb in verse 2b is about the people thinking that their present sufferings are a result of a previous generation’s sin. God says that all human life belongs to him and it is only the person who sins who will die. (Since we all die at some point then we must all be sinners.) The people claim that God is unfair, inferring that their sufferings comes from God for no good reason. God states that it is the people who are unfair and when they turn away from righteousness they will die. A close reading of this passage (verse 26) shows that it is not God who will bring their death but the choices they make. Choosing to follow God’s way brings salvation and life. “I have no desire for the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.” How much suffering is the result of our own choices? How much suffering is the result of the choices of other people? Does God make us suffer (the prime question of Job)?

Psalm 25:1-9 – In one respect, this Psalm seems to be David demanding God to protect him. Read another way, it might be David pleading for protection and forgiveness. Have your pleadings ever bordered on demands? Do you think God is bothered by the way we pray? Does not God understand us and look past the “tone of voice” we use?

Philippians 2:1-11 – One of the greatest passages of the New Testament! Perhaps we should all take time to memorize all eleven verses. First, we are to take the example of Christ in our treatment of others. We are to place other people’s sufferings and interests before our own. We are to treat each other as equals. Beginning at verse 5, many people believe that Paul is quoting an early church hymn. Jesus did not hold on to his "God-hood" but gave it up to become one with us. In Jesus’ humanity he died on the cross with humble, self-giving love. Because of that act, God (not Jesus) lifted him up. Notice the downward and upward movement of the words. Does Jesus becoming human make a difference in the way you respond to God’s love? To quote a song, “What if God was one of us?”

Matthew 21:23-32 – In the telling of Matthew’s Gospel, this story happens the day after Jesus entered Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) and cleansed the temple of the buyers and sellers. Jesus is challenged by the chief priest and elders of the community to tell them where is authority comes from. Jesus challenges them about the authority of John the Baptist. When they are unable to answer Jesus, because any answer they give will put them in a bad light with the people, he poses a parable, “A father asks two sons to do some work; one says ‘No’ but does it anyway and the other says ‘Yes’ but doesn’t do it. Who did the will of the father?” Then, one of the most difficult statements of Jesus for those of us who profess to follow Jesus, “The tax collectors and prostitutes are going to the Kingdom of God before you.” Not only did Jesus make the statement to the religious leaders of the Temple, I think he also challenges all of us who are comfortable, complacent, or feeling secure in our place in the Kingdom. Are we doing the work of the Father who asks? Are we responding to his call? Are we willing to be challenged?

Have a great week!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary