Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Readings for July 24 and July 31 2011

Hello Everyone,
Peace and Blessings from our Lord and Savior,

This week I will give you two weeks worth of readings texts as I will be on vacation most of next week. We continue our readings in Genesis, Romans and Matthew. The alternate Old Testament reading is supposed to support the Gospel lessons and are used by the Lutheran Churches. There are a variety of Psalms that go along with the particular OT reading. July 24 has 7 readings and July 31 has 6.

July 24, 2011:
Genesis 29:15-28 – Jacob arrives at his ancestral hometown and meets his cousin Rachel, daughter of Laban who is Rebekah’s brother. They meet at a well where Rachel brings Laban’s sheep for watering. Jacob steals a kiss from her and she runs and tell her father (about the kiss or about the arrival of a relative?). Laban receives Jacob into his household and Jacob works for him a month. In our reading, Laban wants to know what wage Jacob expects. Jacob says he will work for seven years if he can marry Rachel, who was the younger of two daughters, Leah being the elder. Laban agrees. Seven years fly by and now Jacob wants to marry. After the wedding feast Jacob retires to his home and in the dark Laban brings Leah to him. In the morning, Jacob is furious for being deceived (remember how Jacob deceived his father Isaac and brother Esau). Laban say he must marry off the older daughter first and if Jacob agrees to work another seven years he can also marry Rachel. A week after the first wedding there is another and Jacob begins to work another seven years with two wives (and, it will turn out, the two wives handmaidens. The story continues with the rivalry between Leah and Rachel (whom Jacob loved more). All told, between Leah (6 boys, 1 girl), her handmaiden Zilpah (2 sons), Rachel (2 sons, the last one comes later in the Jacob story), and Rachel’s handmaid, Bilhah (2 sons) Jacob had 12 sons and 1 daughter, Dinah. (So, is polygamy Biblical and therefore appropriate for our times? Hmmmm...... Also, what about 1st cousins marrying? And what about sisters marrying the same guy? And what about giving another woman to your husband? My head is starting to spin and swirl! Don’t you love the Old Testament stories?)

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b – The Psalmist praises the Lord for the everlasting covenant he had with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

OR Psalm 128 – This is a little proverb and a little blessing. Proverb: Happy is the one who fears the Lord . . . Your wife will be fruitful and your children will be numerous. Blessing: May you be prosperous your entire life and may you live long enough to know your grandchildren.

1 Kings 3:5-12 – Solomon has ascended to the throne and in chapter 2 he consolidates his power by having his older brother and several other powerful men who supported his brother put to death. Chapter 3 opens with him marrying a Pharaoh's daughter, building his home, and building a wall around Jerusalem. He then goes to Gibeon to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. In a dream the Lord asks Solomon what he wants. “Wisdom,” Solomon says. The Lord is pleased and grants the request. The Lord also blesses him with more wealth and power. Notice that Solomon doesn’t ask for wealth or power because he already has them.

Psalm 119:129-136 – Refer to the comments for July 10 on the structure of Psalm 119. This is the 17th stanza and all the lines start with the 17th letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The psalmist asks the Lord for guidance in life and salvation from oppression and praises God for God’s good words.

Romans 8:26-39 – Paul continues his discussion on Life in the Spirit. The Spirit helps us, leads us, and prays our prayers for us. Therefore, if God loves us so much by the giving of his Son how will anything prevent us from experiencing that love? God justifies us and Jesus intercedes for us in the face of condemnation. This passage is generally understood as being for those who “love God” (vs. 28) but what is to prevent the entire passage as being about all of humanity (“all of us” in verse 32 could be interpreted to include all.)

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 – The parables of chapter 13 continue. In these verses we get the parables of mustard seed, yeast hidden treasure, pearl of great value, and a fishing net. This last one is a bit apocalyptic with its furnace of fire. Over three weeks we have read all the parables in chapter 13, but there are some crucial passage that were left out that helps us to understand parables. Reread verses 10-17 and 34-35. The consequence of not understanding parables may be reflected in the last verses of chapter 13 when the people of Nazareth reject him, verses 54-58. The Kingdom (and the kingdom parables) is a source of scandal which Matthew uses three times in this chapter. Verse 21 in the parable of the sower’s explanation: "when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away (“is scandalized”)”. Verse 41 in the explanation of the parable of the weeds: "The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin (“scandal”) and all evildoers..." Finally, in the scene when Jesus is rejected, verse 57: "they took offense at (“were scandalized by”) him."

July 31, 2011:
Genesis 32:22-31 – Jacob, at the end of his 14 years and slowly loosing favor with Laban (his uncle and father-in-law), decides to take his family, servants, and flocks and high-tail it home. (There is a lot of cheating on Laban and Jacob’s parts and a little bit of intrigue. Read chapters 30 and 31 for all the juicy details.) Now Jacob has to face his twin brother Esau. He sends presents to Esau to appease him but also decides to be prudent and splits the flocks and servants into two in case Esau attacks one the other will survive. In our reading, he then sends the group with him ahead of him and he settles in for the night alone. There is a wrestling match between Jacob and another man (vs. 24) or God (vs. 30). They wrestle to a draw, but Jacob’s hip is disjointed. Jacob wants to know the opponent’s name which is not given. The opponent then changes Jacob’s name to Israel saying, “you have striven with God and humans and have prevailed.” What does Jacob get out of this encounter? A new name, a bad hip, peace of mind, and, soon, reconciliation with Esau.

Psalm 17:1-7, 15 – The psalmist seeks the protection of the Lord from his enemies and the wicked. Verse 14 is a bit troubling. Is the psalmist asking God to give the wick more riches and food? In light of other Psalms where God is asked to kill the wicked, this is indeed strange.

Isaiah 55:1-5 – God, through the prophet Isaiah call everyone to eat and drink at God’s feast without cost. God’s covenant with the people will draw all nations to them.

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 – “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” 14-21 speaks of many ways that the Lord fulfills this statement.

Romans 9:1-5 – Paul’s letter to the Romans is to house churches scattered throughout Rome and consists of both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. In our passage Paul proclaims that the Messiah was sent to God’s chosen people, the Israelites, according to God’s covenants and promises. He wishes that all Jew would have accepted the gracious gift God gave them. We need to be careful not to blame or stigmatize the Jewish faith because of this or other passages. Remember, Paul was Jewish and many of the people he was writing to were Jewish. (Oh, yeah, Jesus was Jewish also.)

Matthew 14:13-21 – After 3 weeks of parables we now have 2 weeks of miracles. This is the first of two feeding stories in Matthew. The second is in the next chapter. In verses 1-12 we are told of the death of John the Baptizer. Compare the simple meal of bread and fish that gives life in our story to the feast that leads to death at the hands of King Herod. Also notice that Jesus commands the disciples to feed the crowd. The missionaries that Peace United Church supports, Muriel and Terry Henderson, run a program in Mexico called “Give Them Ye to Eat” from verse 16b.

Whew! This was a long post.

May the Lord bless you these two weeks through the reading of God’s Good Word.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Readings for July 17 2011

Thanks to all who made Sunday’s Island Service a success. I really enjoyed the day. The “Submarine Band” was also a hit. Thank you everyone.

Our readings this week:

Genesis 28:10-19a – Last week Jacob cheated Esau out of his birthright. Between last week’s reading and this week’s, Jacob cons his father, Isaac, into blessing him and not Esau. Esau is furious and plans to kill Jacob once Isaac dies. Isaac sends Jacob to Rachel’s hometown to marry one of his cousins (next week’s lesson). This week, Jacob is on his way and one night he has a dream of a ladder (or stairway, cue Led Zeppelin music from the 70’s) that reaches from earth to heaven and upon which angels climb. God tells Jacob that his descendants will inherit the land, be numerous, and will bless the world. This is a restatement of the promise that God made to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham. Jacob then wakes up, builds a pillar, places the rock he was using as a pillow on top, pours oil over it and names it “Beth El” (Bethel) or “House of God”. Verses 20-22 are Jacob’s promise to tithe to this house.

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 – David acknowledges that God knows him in totality. Where can he hide? Nowhere.

Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 – You will find this book in the Apocrypha or in a Catholic Bible. WoS is similar to Proverbs in that it is a book of wisdom (hence the name). This passage proclaims that God’s mercy is for everyone. Check it out here: Bible Study Tools

Isaiah 44:6-8 – God declares that there are no other gods.

Psalm 86:11-17 – The entire psalm is both a plea for God’s help and an affirmation that God is good. Verse 15 sums up God’s character: “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Romans 8:26-39 – Paul continues his discussion about life in the Spirit and what God’s saving grace is about. I read much of this passage during funeral services. The Spirit lifts up our deepest prayers. We have been called by God to be part of his family. Since God is clearly for us (humanity) who can be against us? The answer is “Nothing”. In absolute terms that may mean that not even sin and death (Paul names death but sin is included in “nothing in all creation”) will separate God’s love from humanity. Rob Bell may be right. “Love Wins”.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 – The first part is the parable of the weeds among the wheat and the second part is the explanation. Before you read the explanation stop to reflect on what else the parable may be about. The explanation turns the parable into a metaphor about the end time and is a reasonable explanation. However, it need not be the only one. Perhaps the parable is about us and how we are so quick to categorize people into the good and bad, the righteous and the evil, the wheat and the weeds.

May the Word of God bless you and your life this week.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Readings for July 10, 2011

I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July with family and friends.

One special announcement before I begin discussing the texts. This Sunday is the Annual Island Worship on Hammersten Island in Big Birch Lake. Worship for Peace United Church will be at 9:00 AM. Worship for Grey Eagle UMC will be on the island beginning at 11:00 AM. There will be communion for all and following the service there will be a potluck lunch. Pontoon boat rides to the island are available at John and Janet Roe’s home located about 1 mile south of the church on County Rd 47.

This week we continue our readings in Genesis, Romans, and Matthew. The alternate Old Testament Reading comes from Isaiah.

Genesis 25:19-34 – Abraham has died and we continue, not with Isaac his son, but with his grandsons. For some odd reason, Isaac plays a minor role in the story of Israel. Last week we read about how Abraham arranged for Rebekah to marry Isaac. Twenty years after their marriage Rebekah remains childless. Isaac prays to God and Rebekah conceives twin boys. The first to be born is quite reddish in appearance and covered with hair. They name him Esau which sounds a lot like the Hebrew word for hairy. His descendants will be the nation of Edom which means “red”. The second to be born is holding Esau’s heel on the way out of the womb and is named Jacob which either means “takes the heel” or “supplants”. Esau is a hunter and loves the outdoors. Isaac loved him best. Jacob is “bookish” and spends a lot of time in the tents. Rebekah loves him best. When they grow up, Jacob will begin to supplant his elder brother, first by conning him out of the elder’s birthright and later by conning Isaac out of the elder’s blessing. Jacob will be the son through which God raises up a nation, Israel. Isn’t it amazing how God works through flawed people? (Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Sampson, Saul, David, etc.)

Psalm 119:105-112 – Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible with 176 verses. (Psalm 117 is the shortest) It is an alphabet acrostic with 22 stanzas of 8 verses each, one for each Hebrew letter, and each line in the stanzas start with the same letter. This is the 14th stanza and uses the 14th letter of the Hebrew alphabet “Nun” or “N” and begins with “Your (Thy) Word is a lamp to (unto) my feet and a light to (unto) my path”. The point of these verses is that following God’s law is the psalmist way of life despite many difficulties.

Isaiah 55:10-13 – God sends the rain to water the earth so that there shall be bountiful crops. Likewise, God’s Word goes out to fulfill God’s purposes and it does not return empty. Verse 12 should sound familiar to all who have been in church the last couple of weeks as it is the sending song at the end of the service.

Psalm 65:1-13 – A psalm of God’s creation and God’s bounty which includes forgiveness for iniquities.

Romans 8:1-11 – Paul answers his question from last week’s reading, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” The answer is God through the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” No longer are we enslaved to sin and death which God has condemned. Notice in verse 5 and 6 that those who set their mind on human things (desires?) live in sin and death. Those who set their minds on things of the Spirit have life and peace. This means, in verse 11, that we are given true life in the here and now by the Spirit.

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 – This is about the parable of the sower who sows his seed with abandon. Read and think about the first part of the reading before you read the second part. This farmer is not a very good farmer! He does not remove the rocks, the weeds, or break up the ground so the seed could take root. He throws seeds on the path (wasteful!), in the rocks (again!), in the weeds (more waste!) and a few in the fertile ground. Any good farmer would chastise this man for his prodigal ways. From this parable we can discern an attribute of God: God throws his love everywhere with abandon. The second part still has meaning because God’s love will be rejected by some in various ways. Reflect on what a seed can do in the crack of a boulder. God’s love is like that.

May God bless you in your readings this week.