Monday, September 26, 2011

Readings for October 2 2011

Grace and Peace to All,

First, the funeral for Paul Engel, who was a member of the Grey Eagle UMC, will be at 10:00 AM on Wednesday, September 28. Visitation will be on Tuesday, September 27, from 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Grey Eagle UMC and also one hour before the service on Wednesday. Please keep Pam and all their family in your prayers.

This coming Sunday is World Communion Sunday. Please invite a family member, friend, or enemy who is not involved with our church or any church to come with you. Churches that grow have members that invite others to share in their loving community of believers.

Our readings this week are:

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 – The people and Moses have reached the base of Mt. Sinai and Moses has gone up. Chapters 20-31 are all the laws that God gave Moses at that time. The end of 31 implies that ALL those laws were written on the two tablet stones. As for our readings this week you should probably read all the verses from 1 to 20. These are the Ten Commandments. 1 to 4 concern our love and worship of God and 5 to 10 concerns our love and respect of others. Pay special attention to #10. If you violate 10, that could easily lead you to violate 9, 8, 7, and 6. #5 comes with a blessing.

Psalm 19 – What is the theme of verses 1-6? What is the theme of verses 7-12? Does verse 13 seem out of place? Where have you heard verse 14?

Isaiah 5:1-7 – This “song” is more like a “parable”. Who is speaking? Who or what is the vineyard? Who is the planter of that vineyard? What did the vineyard produce? What will become of the vineyard? What was the ending explanation?

Psalm 80:7-15 – This psalm reflects the song of Isaiah 5. Who is speaking here?

Philippians 3:4b-14 – What has Paul given up to be an apostle? What is he striving for? In verse 8, the word translated as “rubbish” in my Bible is more like that word that describes farm animal waste. Where does Paul’s righteousness come from in verse 9? The answer is, in Greek, pisti Christi, or, in English, faith Christ. Most translations insert “in” in between for “faith in Christ.” But you could also put “of” there for “faith of Christ”. Does this make a difference for you? What is the goal that Paul strains for?

Matthew 21:33-46 – Another parable of the vineyard. Two Sunday’s ago we had the vineyard owner who hired many to work and some grumbled about the equal pay. This past Sunday was the parable of the father who asks his two sons to work in the vineyard. Without trying to assign parts to the various characters, who builds the vineyard and what is included? What does he do with the vineyard once it is completed? What happens to the servants? To the son? What is Jesus’ question and what is the answer by the priests? How might you imagine this parable applying to today’s life and Christianity?

Have a great week reading the Word of God!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Readings for Sunday, September 25, 2011

Grace and Peace through Jesus Christ,

We continue with our readings in Exodus, Philippians, and Matthew.

Exodus 17:1-7 – Where have the people of Israel traveled to? What is their complaint to Moses? Who does Moses turn to? What is the solution or resolution to the complaint? What does “Massah” and “Meribah” mean in verse 7 (you may have to check your footnotes or commentary at the bottom of the page)?

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16 – If your Bible has a title to this psalm, what is it? Who is speaking in the first 4 verses? What is the purpose of this long psalm? What 4 things does God do for the people of Israel in verses 12-16?

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 – What does God complain about to Ezekiel in verses 1-2? How does God see the current situation? In other words, who sinned and brought the current calamity? What does the community complain about God in verses 25 and 29? What will happen to the righteous when they turn away? Who brings about their death? (If you answered “God” then look again.) What does God want in verse 32?

Psalm 25:1-9 – What two things does the psalmist want from God? What are some of the traits that the psalmist ascribes to God?

Philippians 2:1-13 – How can the people of Philippi complete Paul’s joy? What 5 things does Paul ascribe to Jesus in verse 1? How should we live as described in verses 2, 3, and 4? What do you think verse 5 means? Verses 6-11 are believed to be an ancient Christian hymn that Paul used in this letter. It is often described with a Greek word kenosis which means “emptying” which is found in verse 7. Notice the top-down-bottom-up-top pattern to the hymn: God-emptied-human/death-exalting-Lord. Does this pattern describe the Gospel of Matthew or Luke? Who works in us in verse 13? What does that allow us to do?

Matthew 21:23-32 – Jesus has entered Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple, and cursed the fig tree. It is now the Monday before his arrest and crucifixion. Where did Jesus go? What did the chief priests and elders want to know? What is Jesus’ challenge to them? Why does Jesus ask about John the Baptist? What is their response? Have your children ever acted like the two sons in the parable? Who will get to the kingdom ahead of the priests and elders? Why? What is Jesus saying to you through this parable?

May the Lord strengthen you for work in His Kingdom through these texts this week.

Readings for Sunday, September 18, 2011

This week we begin a four week reading from Philippians and continue with Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem in Matthew and the Israelite’s journey to the Promised Land in Exodus.

Exodus 16:2-15 – Verse 1 will give you the context of where the Israelites are and how long they have been moving. You may also want to read the entire chapter for the full story. Why did the Israelites complain? Who did they complain to (or against)? What was God’s response to Moses? What were the Israelites instructed to do five days a week? And on the sixth day? What about the seventh day? What was special about the seventh day?

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 – This Psalm is a hymn of praise to God recounting the history from Abraham to Moses. How would you categorize verses 1-6? And verses 37-45?

Jonah 3:10-4:11 – Jonah is a very short book and you should read all of it. Chapter 3:1-9 are essential in setting up our reading. What did Jonah do when he got to Nineveh? What was his message? What did the Ninevites do? What was God’s response to the Ninevites? What was Jonah’s response to God and why? What do you surmise the central message of Jonah to be (don’t worry about the fish, Nineveh, or even Jonah)?

Psalm 145:1-8 – My Bible titles this psalm as “The Greatness and the Goodness of God”. Is that an appropriate title? Does verse 8 sound familiar?

Philippians 1:21-30 – The Philippians are the people of the city of Philippi. Check the maps in the back of your Bible and you will find a map of Paul’s journeys. Locate Philippi. You may want to read Acts 16 also. Is Paul ready to die (I don’t think this is about suicide, but about his possible execution) or is there still a purpose to his living? Which is better? How should the Philippians live? What are the struggles that Paul had and is now having and the Philippians are having?

Matthew 20:1-16 – We have hopped right over Jesus’s teaching on divorce (we’ll get it when we get back to Mark next year) and his encounter with children and the rich young man and some oft quoted verses. Check out verses 23-26 (Joke: How do you get a camel through the eye of a needle? With a really good blender.) and verse 30. Our verses are a parable concerning the story of the rich young ruler. Compare 20:16 to 19:30 to get the connection. To what can the kingdom of heaven be compared? How many times does the landowner go to hire workers? How long did the first hired work? How about the last hired? What did they get paid? What was the complaint and the response? (We seem to have a lot of complaining in Exodus, Jonah, and here in Matthew.)

May the Lord bless you as you read His Good Word.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Readings for September 11, 2011

This Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the airliner attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nearly 3,000 innocent people died that Tuesday because 19 men hated the Western World and believed that their God wanted or sanctioned this attack. Here is a link to the Wikipedia article: September 11 Attacks. Many who died were police and firefighters who were trying to rescue as many as possible.

Since then the United States of America has entered 2 wars: Afghanistan and Iraq. In Iraq, over 4,400 US troops have died and nearly 32,000 have been wounded. In 2010 the US military made an estimate of all deaths as a result of the war of “109,032 deaths broken down into "Civilian" (66,081 deaths), "Host Nation" (15,196 deaths),"Enemy" (23,984 deaths), and "Friendly" (3,771 deaths).” (Casualties of the Iraq War)

In Afghanistan, about 1,700 US troops have died and nearly 10,00 have been wounded. 1,000 Coalition forces have died. 1,800 contractors have died. 9,400 Afghan Security Forces have died. 38,000 Taliban and insurgent troops have been killed or captured. Anywhere between 10,560 Afghan civilian have died (BBC News Report). The total for Afghanistan through 2009 is about 24,500 not counting the Taliban (How many died and how many were captured? If half were killed the total would be 43,500 dead.)

Except for the US and Coalition deaths, all of these numbers are somewhat nebulous. Just do a Google search on Iraq or Afghanistan war casualties and you will get the idea. The numbers I have listed above comes to about 133,500 to 152,500. One site puts the death toll for both wars nearly 950,000. Keep these numbers in mind as your read this week’s scriptures.

Exodus 14:19-31 – The Israelites are at the Red (or Reed) Sea with the Egyptian cavalry in hot pursuit. How did the angel of God protect the Israelites? How were the waters parted? Why were the Israelites able to cross but the Egyptians were not? Again, like last week, we confront a texts that portrays God as a God of vengeance and death. How can we struggle with these passages with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ?

Psalm 114 – Can you answer the questions in verses 5 and 6?

Genesis 50:15-21 – This text was chosen to accompany the Matthew text. Who does Joseph forgive? Why? What reason does Joseph give for his forgiveness?

Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 – What is the Old Testament formula for who God is in verse 8? How does God deal with humanity? How far does God take our sins away? How great is God’s love for us?

Romans 14:1-12 – This is the last week of our readings in Romans. How are we to welcome the weak in faith? Who are the “weak in faith” that Paul writes about? What seems to be the quarrel that Paul is addressing in this passage? What issues divide the church today? How are we to treat each other when we have differing convictions? Could those who are strong in faith (they believe that they can eat meat sacrificed to idols and they can work on Sabbath) be compared to those who believe that gays and lesbians can be called to ministry in the church and be able to marry? Could those who are “weak in faith” (they believe that they must still follow the Law by not eating idol meat and not working on Sabbath) be compared to those who still believe that gays and lesbians cannot be called to parish ministry in the church or marry? Does Paul say one side or the other must change their minds? What does Paul say about how we should treat each other?

Matthew 18:21-35 – What is Peter’s question and how does Jesus answer? In the parable, how much does the man owe the king? (if figured at $10 per hour, 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year and a talent equals 15 years of labor then 1 talent equals $312,000. Total amount owed is $3,120,000,000) Could the man ever hope to repay the debt? What does the king do for him? How much does the second man owe the first? (A denarii is one day’s wage for a laborer. Total owed is about $8,000.) Note the extreme difference. What does the first man do for the second? What is the reaction of the king? What is Jesus’ conclusion? Do you think he is serious or is Jesus just using hyperbole? If Jesus is serious then we are all in trouble if there is anyone we haven’t forgiven. Is this injunction to forgive applicable only to individuals or can it be applied to nations? How many lives, US-Coalition-Civilians, could have not been taken if the US as a nation and a people responded to 9-11 with forgiveness instead of vengeance?

Forgive me, Lord, for my unforgiving heart. Forgive us, Lord, for the vengeance that wells up within us. Let your Spirit work in all of us to soften our hearts and lead us in the way of forgiveness for others. Amen.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor