Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Readings for September 5 2010

Hello Everyone,

First, an announcement for the Grey Eagle Church. Don't forget that we will be visited by one of the missionaries that we support. Ardell Graner, missionary along with her husband Gordon in Bolivia, will be with us tomorrow to share their story with us. We will have a potluck supper at 5:30 PM and Ardell will make her presentation following. I am excited and I hope everyone will be there.

Now for our readings:

Jeremiah 18:1-11 - Jeremiah is sent to watch a potter work with clay. This image is a parable about God and how God can mold nations for good or evil and then God can change his mind depending on the response of the people. This passage points to a God who is not immovable but who is willing to change with changing circumstances but always toward God's goal of his Kingdom. How often are we not willing to change with changing circumstances? We resist new things, new ways of worship, new people in our midst, etc. Our resistance to God's molding only delays but never eliminates the change.

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 - The first 6 verses are an acknowledgment that God knows everything about us. In the skipped verses, 7-12, the psalmist proclaims that he cannot hide from God. Verses 13-18 go back to the first statements and extends God's knowledge of the psalmist to his very conception. These 18 verses, along with the final two, 23-24, are a wonderful praise of God's knowledge (and complete love?) of us. As with many uplifting Psalms, this Psalm turns to the dark side in verses 19-22. I find it ironic that 21-22 the psalmist talks about hating those who hate God and then, in verse 24, asks God to see if there is any wicked way in his heart.

[Alternate readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (Follow God and you will be blest. Turn from God and you will perish.) and Psalm 1 (same themes)]

Philemon (Fi-lee'-mun) - There is only one chapter in this very short letter with 25 verses. The lectionary asks us to read verses 1-21 but we might just as well read the salutation also. Paul addresses this letter to a man named Philemon and the central concern was about Philemon's slave Onesimus (O-nees'-i-mus). Onesimus ran away from Philemon (a death penalty in the Roman Empire) to find and care for Paul who is a prisoner in Rome. Paul send him back and asks Philemon to forgive Onesimus and treat him as a brother and not as a slave. Paul says that he will repay Philemon what ever extra expenses Onesimus cost him. The last half of verse 19 is humorous: "I say nothing about your owing me even your own self." A new translation of the Bible called "Common English Bible" puts it this way, "Of course, I won't mention that you owe me your life."

Luke 14:25-33 - This is a very difficult text for Christians in Europe and North America who live comfortable lives. The basic message: Don't plan on being a disciple of Christ if you cannot give up everything you have (ALL your possessions), if you don't "hate" your entire family, and if you don't carry your cross and follow Jesus. Weigh the cost before you begin the journey! It will be too easy for me to downplay the words "all" and "hate" when I preach and very difficult to preach the severity of the words. What do they mean to you? Who knows? I may even have to preach on Philemon!

May these words inspire you to read the Bible and struggle with the message.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Thursday, August 26, 2010

September Newsletter Article

In my effort to post more often, here is my newsletter article for the September edition of the Long Prairie-Grey Eagle Parish Messenger.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Earlier today (Wednesday, August 25) I received an email from the office of the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ. This email is a 2 times a week newsletter that discusses current events, celebrations, opportunities, etc. of Minnesota UCC churches. Usually the main article is by Conference Minister Rev. Dr. Karen Sellers Smith. However, the last few issues have been discussing the call process UCC churches go through when they need a new minister. The first question and the first paragraph of the answer caught my attention today.

Q: You said that Search Committees shouldn't look for the "Perfect Pastor" but for the perfect fit - what does that mean?
A: Congregations are often looking for someone who can do it all and has no flaws... but none of us is good at everything and all of us have flaws! A good minster usually excels at three to five things, and that's really about how much a productive pastor can accomplish at one time. For example, a congregation might want someone who preaches, plans good worship, leads in the wider church, is a crack administrator, and is great with young people, and is growing the church... whoops! That's six - and we can pretty realistically predict that at least one of the six would consistently become a low priority - and pastoral care isn't even on the list! (COMMAntary, August 25, 2010)

“None of us is good at everything and all of us have flaws!” That line really hit home because lately I have been thinking about one of my weaknesses in ministry.

First, let me start off by saying that I know that I have those three to five strong areas in ministry that I really love doing: preaching, leading worship, teaching, administrating (keeping records, filing reports, etc.), and leading funerals and weddings (ministering to families at times of mourning and celebration).

The flaw I see in my ministry is typically called “visitation”. In my ten years of ministry, I have never successfully devised a plan to improve my visitations. Don’t get me wrong – I love to visit and I really feel good after spending time with someone. I just find it hard to do the visits.

There is an order to the types of visits that I do, from the most likely to the least likely: people in hospitals (when I know of them), nursing home, assisted living, home-bound, and everyone else. If you are someone who feels I haven’t visited enough, I apologize. The best remedy is to do one of two things: 1) pick up the phone and call me or 2) tell someone who sees me regularly at church or at meetings that you would like me to visit. Maxine R. called me fairly often and Elda K. told her brother. Both ways work for me and either way, I will come for a visit. Your help in this matter will help me keep on track in an area of my ministry that I know is weak.

Peace in Christ,

Pastor Gary

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wow, I really need to post more!

I notice that I haven't posted since early December, 2009. I am very delinquent in my duties. I now resolve to post at least weekly. To do that, I will post here some lectionary notes that I send out weekly to the people of the churches I serve. I will also post my monthly newsletter column that I write for "The Messenger"

The intent of the lectionary notes is not to give in depth commentary or interpretation, but to stimulate you to read the passages.

Here are the lectionary notes for Sunday, August 29, 2010.

Jeremiah 2:4-13 - Think of this passage as a courtroom scene. The Lord is the plaintive accusing Judah and Jerusalem of breaking their contract (covenant). Verses 4-11 is the Lord's direct accusations and questions. Verses 12-13 is an appeal to the heavens (the judge or the jury?) to listen to the Lord's case against his people.
Psalm 81:1, 10-16 - Verse 1 is the Psalmist's praise of God and verses 10-16 is God's plea for Israel to listen to and follow him. Verses 14-16 include an incentive for Israel to follow.
[Alternate readings: Sirach 10: 12-18 and Psalm 112. Sirach will be found in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles but not in Protestant and Jewish scriptures. Verse 18 in Sirach is interesting: "Pride was not created for human beings, or violent anger for those born of women."]
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 - You might just as well read the entire chapter. There is no central theme of this chapter just a series of admonitions of things all Christians should do: love, hospitality, remember prisoners, honor marriage, don't love money, remember your church leaders and imitate their faith, watch out for strange teachings, [a short comparison between temple sacrifice and Christ's sacrifice], look for the coming city of God, praise and confess God, do good, share what you have, obey leaders, and pray for us. Good things for all Christians to remember.
Luke 14:1, 7-14 - Verse 1 sets the who, what, when and where of the following section: Jesus and the leader of the Pharisees, a dinner, on the Sabbath, and at the leader's house. The skipped verses are very similar to last week's reading from Luke 13:10-17 which is a healing on the Sabbath. You would think that the subject of verses 7-11 is about how to make yourself look good at a dinner party, but note that Luke calls it a parable. Is this a parable on "the first will be last and the last will be first"? Verses 12-14 are about true hospitality. It is easy to have a banquet for friends, but what about inviting the homeless and hungry to dinner?
May these readings enliven your interactions with our Lord. Praise be to God!