Please keep the people of Japan in your prayers as they struggle to recover from the devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami last Friday. Pray also for the workers and engineers who are struggling to control their nuclear reactors in Japan. For the people of PUC, donations to relief work in Japan can be made through the UCC church’s One Great Hour of Sharing by indicating how much you want to donate and writing “Pacific earthquake/tsunami” on the check. For the people of PUC and GEUMC, donations can be made to UMCOR by writing “Pacific Emergency #302131”.
Tomorrow we start our Wednesday Lenten services. I am focusing on Matthew’s Passion in chapters 26 and 27 and on the Servant Songs of Isaiah along with appropriate Psalms. Tomorrow the theme is “Betrayed” and we are reading Psalm 64, Isaiah 42:1-9, and Matthew 26:31-56. The service will be a modified Taizé Service with three periods of silent prayer or contemplation. Please join us at 6:00 pm at Peace United Church North or 7:30 pm at Grey Eagle UMC.
This Sunday we begin four weeks of readings from the Gospel of John and we continue with readings from Romans. Our scripture readings are:
Genesis 12:1-4a – The story of God’s plan for the redemption of humanity begins and it starts with one man, Abram (later to be known as Abraham). God called an old man, 75 years old, to pick up and leave his ancestral home and travel to a new place where his descendants will be great. Other than the Bible nothing is known of this man Abram. This is to be expected. He was just one old man with a wife, servants and workers. As he passed through various lands that God led him to, who would take notice and remark about him. Just an ordinary guy whom God calls. How does God call you? Do you think your age matters to God?
Psalm 121 – The Psalmist wonders who will help him when he needs and his answer is “God” who never slumbers or turns away.
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 – The entirety of chapter 4 is Paul’s midrash (commentary or explanation of Biblical Texts common with Jewish rabbis, teachers, and scholars which Paul was one) on the Abraham story. Basically, Paul says it is all about faith. Abraham was accounted (treated, deemed, acknowledged) as righteous because he believed and followed. Therefore, all who believe and have faith will be accounted as righteous. This is the primary doctrine of the Protestants since Luther and Calvin: we are saved only by our faith in Jesus Christ. Those who don’t believe, well . . . . However, last week we read “ . . . so one man’s (Jesus) act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.” How do we reconcile these two issues: only those who have faith are saved verses all people are justified and given life?
John 3:1-17 – Nicodemus is an interesting character in the Gospel of John. He appears three times and this is the first. He comes in secret to Jesus with many questions but hardly gets a chance. After Nick acknowledges that Jesus cannot perform the signs without the presence of God Jesus says that only those who are born from above can see God. When Nick questions this, Jesus teaches what it means to be born again. The big question for interpreters in chapter three is where does Jesus’ speech end? Some maintain that it ends at verse 15 and 16-21 is John’s commentary. Others hold that the speech goes to the end of verse 21. The famous John 3:16 is also seen as supporting the “faith alone” doctrine, but verse 17 might be its counter: Jesus comes to save the entire world.
I pray that these midrashim (plural of midrash – I learn something new everyday) on the reading will guide you to the texts and bless you in your walk with Christ.