Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Readings for November 14, 2010

First, don't forget that we are collecting non-perishable food for the food shelf before Thanksgiving. Bring at least one item, or more if you can, the next two Sundays.

Here are the readings for this Sunday.

Isaiah 65:17-25 - This reading is similar to Revelation 21 and 22 in its declaration of God's new Creation. In fact, John may have borrowed some of the images seen in this passage. The new will replace the old and the old will not be remembered. Everyone will live extremely long lives and no one will die prematurely. Life will be productive and lived in joy. This is the promise!

Isaiah 12 - This short chapter is used as the Psalm of the Day. It is a song of thanksgiving and praise for God's salvation and glory.

[Alternates: Malachi 4:1-2a, God's coming judgment of the arrogant and evildoers, and Psalm 98, a song of joy at the victory of God.]

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 - We conclude our reading in 2 Thessalonians and as usual the lectionary leaves off quite a bit. I will probably read the entire chapter in services this week which means we will have read the entire letter. The only other letter we have read in its entirety is Philemon. As Paul concludes the letter, he asks for prayers that his ministry will continue and then warns the congregation against idleness. It seems that some thought that the end was near and they didn't need to work any more. Paul uses language here that is similar to some of the other letters: imitation. Basically, imitate Paul (because Paul imitates Jesus).

Luke 21:5-19 - The verses from 5 to the end of the chapter are sometimes called Luke's "Little Apocalypse". In our passage Jesus warns the disciples that they will suffer, be persecuted, arrested and tried. and some put to death. He says that they do not have to prepare a defense because he will give them the words to say at that time. Words that cannot be refuted. He also promises that they will not perish (even if put to death because God is a God of Life; see last week's lesson.)

How are we being useful for the Lord? Are we too idle? Are we willing to suffer for Jesus? Do we trust the Holy Spirit to give us the words we need to share God's Kingdom with others?

May you be blessed by the readings this week!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November Newsletter Article

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I wrote the following on Monday, October 25 and had forgotten that I had written about stewardship the month earlier. Oh, well, churches should talk often about stewardship.

As we approach the end of the year our church will be dealing with items we struggle with each year: money and membership.

The money is all about how our churches run: utilities, pastoral compensation, apportionment (UMC) and Our Churches’ Wider Mission (UCC), missionary support, office support, and building maintenance. So often we want to focus on holding costs down or cutting back in certain areas. We must always be faithful stewards of all that we are entrusted with. Sometimes, however, faithful stewardship might mean having to spend more money. This is especially true of buildings; if we don’t spend to keep them up to standards they rapidly deteriorate. Two items in our budget that will be going up and with which we have no choice is my compensation package: health insurance is going up 5% and my salary, which is the minimum required in the Minnesota Annual Conference, will go up 4.6%. Keeping everything else the same the total salary package increase will be 4.1%. One good piece of news for expenses is that apportionments and therefore OCWM will be going down a few hundred dollars for both churches.

However, there is another way of looking at a budget and every organization that uses a budget needs to also look at it in this way: revenue. For every profit making entity, revenues MUST exceed expenses if they wish to remain in business for long. This is true for a business of one person to a multinational corporation. For non-profits and governments revenue needs to equal expenditures. While churches are technically non-profits and revenues (tithes and offerings) should equal or exceed expenses, too often we only see expenses. What about our giving? By that, I mean all of us giving to the church. If all of us gave a tithe our churches would be awash in cash. Now, that doesn’t mean we would triple my salary and launch lavish building projects. We, the church, still need to be faithful stewards of what you and I give. But it does mean we could give and spend in Kingdom Building ways: education, missions, food shelves, evangelism, home building, etc. You and I have everything our churches need to work for God’s Kingdom. We have the money. We have the talent. We have the time. We have the gifts. We have the vision. How do I know all this? Because I believe that God gives lavishly for God’s Kingdom growth and we who are moved and led by God’s Spirit are God’s Kingdom.

As we look forward to Advent, Christmas, and the New Year, please pray about how you can increase your contribution to your church and God’s Kingdom in 2011.

Next month I’ll write about membership.

Readings for November 7 2010

Don't forget to vote today if you haven't already. I am posting this on election day and when I came to the site I saw an ad for Michelle Bachmann. I did not put that ad up, it was Google. I do not support Ms. Bachmann (she's a bit over the top for me) nor do I live in her congressional district.

Also, don't forget to set your clocks back one hour on Saturday night. If you forget you will arrive at church 1 hour early on Sunday.

Our readings this week:

Haggai 1:15b-2:9 - Depending on the version of the Bible you are reading, the first phrase "In (of) the second year of King Darius" could be the end of the previous paragraph (". . . on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month of the second year of King Darius.") or the beginning of chapter 2 ("In the second year of King Darius, in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month . . ."). Whatever the translation, the important point is that the Word of the Lord comes to Haggai in chapter two one month after the action in chapter one. Haggai prophesied in Jerusalem following the return of the Israelites from captivity in Babylon. In chapter one the Lord wants to know why they haven't started rebuilding the temple. In chapter 2:1-9, God wants to know why the people are delaying the project. Haggai brings the Lord's words of encouragement.

Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21 - The entire chapter is in Praise of God's Greatness and Goodness. A key verse that some feel is the central tenant of the Old Testament is a verse that is skipped, verse 8: "The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding is steadfast love." The rest of the chapter is commentary on that verse.

OR Psalm 98 - Similar to Psalm 145. Key verse is 3: "He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel."

[Alternates: Job 19:23-27a (Job realizes that God will ultimately redeem him, only Job doesn't know when) and Psalm 17:1-9 (the psalmist calls on God to vindicate him from his persecutors)]

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17 - The second letter to the Thessalonians is concerned with the coming of Christ. Something must have happened or someone in authority for the church must have said something to trigger some anxiety about the "Day of the Lord". Paul reassures them that, yes, Jesus is coming, but no, not at this moment. He also asks them to "stand firm and hold fast" to the teaching they have already learned. The skipped verses, which should have been included in the reading, are about the coming conflagration (extreme violence) when the world can no longer maintain peace without God.

Luke 20:27-40 - Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-40) and driven out the merchants at the Temple (Luke 45-48). Because of that action, chapter 20 is about the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees challenging his authority. In this lesson, the Sadducees take their shot. The Sadducees give scriptural authority only to the first five books and do not believe in a resurrection (the Pharisees do) and use the Levirate Laws (Deuteronomy 25:5-6) to debunk it. They also believe that if there were a resurrection then God would have told Moses (God's friend) about it. The Levirate Law says that if a married man dies without having a son, his brother is obliged to marry the widow and the first son she bears would be the son of the dead man, thus preserving the dead man's legacy. When the Sadducees' question is posed, Jesus uses Moses' experience with the burning bush (Exodus 3:6) to define God as a "God not of the dead, but of the living; for to [God] all of them are alive."

So, how do you see God? How does that definition affect your thoughts and actions? Is God a God defined by violence or by love? Is God a God of death or of life? To begin to ask these questions and form some answers to them is to do "theology".

Have a great week of theologizing!