Monday, May 30, 2011

Readings for Sunday June 5

Grace and Peace of our Lord and Savior to all,

First, an announcement: This Sunday gospel singer and guitar/banjo/mandolin/ukulele player Mike Turner will bring his skills and testimony to our worship at Grey Eagle. This special event is for ALL our worshiper in BOTH churches. Peace United Church people, please take advantage of this special worship service. Service begins at 9 AM and will include communion. Regular worship service with communion will still happen at 10:30 AM at Peace United – South.

This week we celebrate Ascension Day and the 7th Sunday of Easter. According to Luke in Acts 1:3 Jesus appeared to the disciples and others for 40 days following his resurrection. He then gathered his disciple and ascended to heaven. Ascension Day is always on a Thursday in the sixth week after Easter which is June 2nd this year. The first set of scriptures is for Ascension Day while the second is for the 7th Sunday of Easter (though it also includes the ascension text).

Ascension Day:
Acts 1:1-11
– The writer of Acts, assumed to be Luke but not directly named, addresses this account to his friend Theophilus. He then recounts the final words of Jesus and describes how Jesus left them.

Psalm 47 – The Psalmist celebrates God’s rule over all peoples and nations.

Ephesians 1:15-23 – Paul gives thanks for the faithfulness of the church in Ephesus. He prays that they will receive wisdom and power, the power that God gave Jesus in the resurrection and in the heavenly places.

Luke 24:44-53 – When appearing to the disciples Jesus opens their minds (helps them to understand and truly know?) to the scripture and how he fulfilled them. Verses 50-53 are a shorter version of Jesus’ ascension.

Seventh Sunday of Easter:
Acts 1:6-14
– Same as above with the added dimension of the disciples returning to Jerusalem to pray.

Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 – The Psalmist praise God for all that God is and all that God does. God drives away the wicked and brings rains to the earth. God is father of the orphans, protector of widows, and gives homes to the homeless.

1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11 – This is our final reading in 1 Peter and, in the first section, Peter returns to the theme of suffering because of our hope and faith in Christ because Christ suffered for us. In the second section Peter gives a list of things all Christians should be doing: be humble, cast anxiety on Christ, be disciplined, keep alert, and resist the devil.

John 17:1-11 – The lectionary divides John 17 into three chunks for the 7th Sunday of Easter in each of the cycle’s years. Chapter 17 is Jesus’ Prayer for his disciples, those who come after them, and for the world. This Sunday we get the first part, Jesus’ prayer for the disciples.

There is a lot to read this week and I pray that your spirits will be strengthened and lifted as you study God’s Word.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Readings for May 29 2011

Good Afternoon Everyone,

Grace and Peace to all.

If you are reading these comments weekly and would prefer to receive them via email please send me you name and email address to Pastor Gary at "lpgeparish @" (without the spaces).

Now, on to the scriptures.

This is the Sixth Sunday of Easter and we continue our readings in Acts, 1 Peter, and John.

Acts 17:22-31 – The Apostle Paul is on his second missionary and itinerant journey through Asia Minor (now Turkey), Macedonia, and Greece. (I would be willing to bet that you have a map of Paul’s journeys at the back of your Bible. Check it out!) After a rough three weeks in Thessalonica Paul was sent to Athens by the new believers. Athens was the nominal capital of Greece and was very cosmopolitan. It had temples and shrines to all the Greek gods and many gods of foreigners. He spent his days arguing in the synagogues and the common marketplaces about Jesus. Some Greeks thought he was crazy but many wanted to hear more because philosophical debate was common in Athens and many liked to learn new things. So they invited Paul to speak at the Areopagus (hill of Ares, the god of war, and next to the Acropolis). Paul’s short speech is our text today. His argument is that he knows who the “unknown god” is and everyone has been searching for God. Yet, God is near and God sent the one who will judge all.

Psalm 66:8-20 – A psalm of praise for God who brings us through all our troubles and whose love has been steadfast.

1 Peter 3:13-22 – Peter encourages his church to continue doing the good things that defines the church even if they suffer from doing those things. His logic seems flawed to us: “It is better to suffer from doing good then from doing evil.” Don’t we wish that those who do good should be rewarded while those who do evil should be punished and suffer? If you are going to suffer you might, through the love of God, try to relieve someone else’s suffering, right? The “Why?” is answered “because Christ suffered for sins once and for all”. A stranger section is verses 19-20 which declares that Jesus preached the good news to those who died in the Flood. If you know how to explain this please let me know.

John 14:15-21 (22-31) – This is the second section of seven in Jesus’ Last Discourse which goes from Chapter 14-16 and is followed by Jesus’ prayer in Chapter 17. The lectionary cuts off the reading at verse 21 but we might just as well read the entire section. Three ideas are present here: 1) Jesus is leaving and returning for good reason, to do God’s will; 2) Followers of Jesus will obey his commandments which is really only one at 13:34, “Love one another”; and 3) God will send the Holy Spirit, also know as the Advocate, to lead us in truth, remind us of Jesus’ teaching, and teach us new things.

May these comments lead you into all righteousness (help you to grow in love) and prompt you to read the Good News.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Readings for May 22 2011

Hello Everyone,

Our readings for this week includes the stoning of Stephen, the declaration that we are God’s people, and Jesus as the Way and the Truth and the Life.

Acts 7:55-60 – At the beginning of chapter 6, Stephen was one of seven men chosen by the apostle to serve the Hellenistic (Greek speaking) widows. The power of the Holy Spirit was strong with Stephen and he began to preach and perform wonders and signs. This lead to his arrest by the council. The trial was short and full of lies. When given a chance to answer his accusers, Stephen witnessed to God’s working with the Jewish patriarchs and founders culminating in his denunciation of what the council did to Jesus and will do to him. Stephen’s defense is 7:1-53. Why the Lectionary Committee left off verse 54 is curious. It tells of the reaction of the priests, elders, and councilmen to Stephen’s words: anger. Stephen then says he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Now the leaders are furious. They haul Stephen to the outskirts of town and stone him all the while young Saul (soon to be Paul) approved. As he dies, Stephen asks God to forgive the mob.

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 – The psalmist asks God to deliver him from his tormentors as he seeks refuge in the rock that is God.

1 Peter 2:2-10 – Last week we read 1 Peter 2:19-25 and this week we skip back. The central point of this passage is that we have been chosen as God’s people and God’s church is built upon the “stone rejected by the builders”. This is a reference to Psalm 118:22 and is one of the favorite OT passage of the NT writers. Jesus is the stone that is rejected by the “community builders”; a scapegoat for all their troubles. The community of God is built on the victim. With the death and resurrection of Jesus the old way of building community around the death of a victim loses its power. The new community founded on the cornerstone of Jesus is built and held together with love, grace and service (verses 11-17).

John 14:1-14 – I often use verses 1-4 in my funeral Gospel along with verses 18-19 and 25-27 which we will read next week. Jesus is in the upper room with the disciples, has washed their feet, predicted his betrayal, and Peter’s denial. In chapters 14-16 Jesus tries to teach them about what will happen and in Chapter 17 he prays for them (and us). In this opening, Jesus tries to comfort the disciples about his coming death (“going away”). He tells them that he prepares a place for them and they know the way to that place. When Thomas asks about that way, Jesus says that he is the way and the truth and the life but doesn’t really explain what he means. In my thinking the most important point comes when Philip asks Jesus to show them God (“the Father”). Basically Jesus says that he and the Father are one and the same. Know Jesus? You know God. See Jesus? You’ve seen God. Jesus = God. Jesus is the full revelation of God to humanity and why I believe that God is without violence, vengeance, retribution, killing, or death. If you don’t see it in Jesus it is not a attribute of God. Jesus = God and “God is Love” (1 John 4:16).

Have you lived your life following the Way, Truth and Life or have you stopped up your ears and picked up a stone to throw (figuratively)?. Have you stumbled over that rejected stone or used it to build up God’s community and our churches?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Readings for May 15 2011

Peace and Love from Jesus Christ Our Savior,
To all my Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

This week we are back to the Gospel of John through June 12 and we continue our readings in Acts and 1 Peter.

Acts 2:42-47 – This short passage tell us a little bit about the life of the new church and its believers following Pentecost Sunday. Verse 41 says that, as a result of Peter’s preaching on Pentecost, 3000 were baptized and joined with the apostles and disciples. Verse 42, which I read this past Sunday, says that the people devoted themselves to 1) the teachings of the apostles; 2) fellowship; 3) breaking of bread (communion); and 4) prayer. Fellowship consisted of being together (daily?) and the communal ownership of everything which was distributed to any who had the need. They worshiped together in the Temple and celebrated the Lord’s supper at their homes. The people were joyous and generous and had the goodwill of the people of Jerusalem. And each day there were new believers. How do our churches and lives measure up to this standard?

Psalm 23 – This beloved psalm is read several times a year. As you read it ask yourself, “What is new for me this time?” Perhaps read a different version, like “The Message”, and hear it anew.

1 Peter 2:19-25 – The Revised Common Lectionary Committee chose to omit verse 18 from this reading. Read without 18, the passage is an encouragement to all who are suffering at the hands of the authorities because of their faith. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” However, if you read the first sentence of the paragraph, verse 18, then the entire tenor of the text changes. This entire reading is directed to slaves, encouraging them to endure any harsh treatment they receive from their owners. There is a reference to sheep that have gone astray and returned to the shepherd and the flock in verse 25 which connects it to the John reading.

John 10:1-10 – The fourth Sunday after Easter is occasionally call “Good Shepherd Sunday” and the readings for each lectionary cycle, (we are currently in year A) come from John 10. In this reading we don’t actually have Jesus saying “I am the Good Shepherd” (year B) but he does call himself the gate to the sheepfold. He also implies that he is the shepherd whose voice the sheep follow. All others are thieves and bandits. Please notices that 10:1-19 is a continuation of the dialog between Jesus and the Pharisees that started at the end of chapter 9 and the story of the man born blind since birth (see my notes for April 3). What is it about Jesus as Shepherd and us as sheep seems to be so endearing? Are we supposed to be mindless followers, as sheep seem to be? Or devoted to only one Shepherd as sheep seem to be?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Readings for Sunday, May 8, 2011

Our Gospel reading switches to Luke this week but we will be back in John the following 5 Sundays. We also continue reading in Acts and 1 Peter.

Acts 2:14a, 36-41 (42) – This story records the reaction of the crowd who listened to Peter on Pentecost. “What should we do?” they asked. “Repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” said Peter. That day 3000 were baptized. The lectionary leaves off verse 42 but it is part of the crowd’s reaction to the preaching and the gift of the Holy Spirit. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (This is 4 things: study, fellowship, communion (or dinner), and prayers.)

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 – This reading, without verses 3 and 4, was part of the lectionary on Maundy Thursday. The psalmist who is encompassed by death is saved by God. Verses 12-19 is about giving back to God in gratitude.

1 Peter 1:17-23 (24-25) – This is an interesting if confusing passage. If we believe that God judges us by what we do then (the world’s way) we need to live in fear. However, Peter says, we have been saved from the world’s ways by the blood of Christ. Since we have been made clean (purified) we now obey the truth and have genuine love. We have been born anew by the word of God. That word is the gospel.

Luke 24:13-35 – This is the familiar story of two disciples, one named Cleopas and the other unnamed, walking to Emmaus on Resurrection Sunday and being joined by a stranger who interprets the events of the preceding days to them. When they reach their destination the two invite the stranger into stay with them. At the dinner table, the stranger took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the two disciples. In this action (compare to verse 22:19) the stranger was recognized as Jesus. Most commentators assume that both disciples were men but this is not clearly supported by the text. Jesus was invited to stay with them and shared a meal with them in their house. I think that the unnamed disciple was the wife of Cleopas and I believe that the text supports this.

Christ Is Risen! Christ is Risen, Indeed!

The Death of a Man Loved by God

Yes, you read the title correctly. This is about a violent man who was violently killed but who was also loved by God. Read on.

There is a great story told about a rabbi who was asked if God enjoyed all that God had done in history. The Rabbi said, “No” and then told a story of how the angels in Heaven where rejoicing and singing and dancing the day the Red Sea drowned the Egyptians who pursued the fleeing Hebrew slaves. When the Almighty came along and found them, they were dismissed from God’s service. “Why?” they asked the Lord, who replied, “How can you sing and dance when some of my children are drowning?” – from Mike Piazza, “Osama bin Laden is Dead” at

Exodus 20:13 – “You shall not kill (some English version have “murder”).”

Proverbs 24:17-18 – “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble, or else the Lord will see it and be displeased, and turn his anger from them.”

Matthew 5:43-45a, 48 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven . . . . Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

How should we react to the news on Sunday night that Navy Seals stormed the compound of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and killed him and 3 others? For many Americans the reaction was celebration. For many the reaction was a sense of relief and release. For some, it was a time of sadness, disquiet, and unease. I have found myself in this last category. I believe that God loves every human being, including Osama bin Laden, is saddened by all deaths by violence, and calls all people to give up violent ways. It is the violence that saddens me.

I deplore the violence this world resorts to time after time. I deplored the violence on 9/11/2001. I deplore the violence of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I deplore all the IED’s, suicide bombers, drone missile attacks. I truly believe that the use of violence only fuels more violence. As someone said in reaction to the news of bin Laden’s death, “Kill bin Laden on May 1 and face 10 bin Laden’s on May 2.” The use of violence to control violence only continues the deathly spiral that will end in the apocalyptic death of humanity. We must find a new way of stopping our violence. That new way is Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Jesus died on Good Friday to set us free from our slavery to sin and death. Jesus was raised on Easter Sunday as a sign of God’s forgiveness of our violence and to call us to live a new, peaceful lives by believing in, following, and imitating Jesus Christ. It is this Jesus who taught us to love God and love our neighbors including our enemies. Jesus’ life, teaching, death, and resurrection reveals to us that God is a God of love who abhors violence. God is even willing to suffer our violence by dying on the cross to show us that all violence is our violence.

Proverbs tells us to not rejoice at the failings of our enemies and Jesus tells us to pray for them. So, let us pray:

Dear God, we confess our violent tendencies and actions and we ask for your forgiveness. May your Holy Spirit lead us into lives of righteousness and peace. May your Holy Spirit guide the leaders of all nations and militant groups to the knowledge and realization that violence in never the answer so that the world’s stores of weapons may be turned into plowshares. We also lift up to your care all the families who have lost someone to violence and ask that your Holy Spirit comfort them in their loss. Give us the strength and will to follow Jesus in loving our neighbors and enemies wherever they may be. We ask this in the name of your son, Jesus the Christ, our crucified and risen Savior. Amen.