Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Readings for February 5, 2011

Hello Everyone,

Today, the New York Times, in their “Room for Debate” series, had five interesting takes on Mormonism. Of course, many people are concerned about presidential candidate Mitt Romney being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormon). Here is the link:

What Is It About Mormons?

I grew up out west and many of my friends were Mormon, including a girl I tried to date in 10th grade. I learned a little bit about Mormonism and was never convinced of their faith claims. Mormons, in many respects, should be admired by most Americans: 80% tithe to their church, most serve a year or two in mission between high school and college, the divorce rate is very low, and family values are held in highest esteem (if only our churches and their people could live up to those standards). Their social ideals, whether you agree with them or not, are not much different then the Catholic Church or many conservative evangelical Protestant churches.

So, should people not vote for Mitt Romney solely because he is a Mormon? No. If you agree with his politics, his being a Mormon should not be an impediment.

A bigger question being raised by many is, “Are Mormons Christian?” If you define “Christian” as simply being a follower of Jesus Christ, as the Mormon Church says it is, then yeah, maybe. However, the theology and basic tenets do not match the historic creeds, Nicene Creed and Apostles’ Creed, espoused by all Christian Churches - Orthodox, Catholic, and the denominations of the Protestant Churches. For instance, we believe that God and Jesus have a relationship of Father-Son AND we believe that Jesus is one with God, that is Jesus is God. Mormons believe the first but not the second. This is but one of many points of difference.

So, are Mormons Christian? In my opinion, no. But that should not preclude anyone from supporting and voting for a politician with whom they agree who also happens to be Mormon.

Enough of my soapbox! On to the texts!

Isaiah 40:21-31 – I often use part of this passage, verses 28-31 along with verses 1-8, in funeral services. After a series of questions in verses 12-20, the prophet begins to offer the answer: God. The main question is asked in verse 27: where is God in all our troubles (many Israelites are exiled in Babylon)? Verses 28-31 are the reply: God has not forgotten his people and he will strengthen them so that they may soar like eagles.

Psalm 147:1-11, 20c – A psalm of praise for God who creates all things. You may as well read the entire psalm because it continues the list of all that God does. My main question: despite all of these great things, in whom does the Lord delight and take pleasure?

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 – Following his discussion on the eating of meat sacrificed to animals Paul defends the rights of apostles to be supported by the church. Beginning in verse 15 Paul argues that he has not made use of that right. His one duty/obligation is to proclaim the gospel and if something he does would subtract from that message then he won’t do it. When proclaiming the Gospel to Jews then he will live up to their standards so as to not appear a hypocrite and thus push them away from the Gospel. The same holds true for other people: those outside the law (Gentiles), the weak, and others. The ultimate goal is to win some people to the Gospel. Is there anything in your life that would cause others to reject Christ?

Mark 1:29-39 – Whose house did they go to spend the night? Who was there and was sick? What does this tell us about Simon (Peter)? After sundown (that is, after the Sabbath) who came to the house? What did Jesus do for them? Before sunrise where did Jesus go and for what reason? Why do you think everyone was searching for Jesus? Where did Jesus want to go and why? What was the message Jesus wanted to proclaim (see 1:15)?

May the good new, the Gospel, fill you up and may you share the Good News with all you meet this week!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Readings for January 29 2012

Hello Everyone,

BK sends out a weekly email to the members of the GE Choir and it usually contains a pun. The pun this week is “Atheism is a non-prophet organization.” I don’t know about you but I chuckled.

And speaking of “prophets” the Old Testament (also known as the Hebrew Scriptures or the Tanakh; see here for the meaning and derivation of the word) lesson in Deuteronomy is all about the prophets that come after Moses.

Deuteronomy 18:15-20 – This passage actually finishes with verses 21 and 22 which concerns discerning true and false prophets. Who is speaking here (the majority of the book is essentially his last will and testament)? Why is it necessary for the people of Israel to have prophets? What should the people do when they hear the words of a prophet and what will happen if they don’t? What will happen to a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods? What will happen if they speak false words claimed to be God’s?

Psalm 111 – Where will the psalmist give thanks for the Lord? Describe the “Works of the Lord”. What has the Lord done? In verse 4, how is the Lord described? In verse 9, what did the Lord do?

1 Corinthians 8:1-13 – This is the entire chapter. What is the main concern for Paul and the Corinthians in this passage? The primary source of meat in Corinth in those days was from the animals slaughtered at the many temples to the false gods of the Greeks and Romans. Why would this be a problem? What is Paul’s rationale? What is his ultimate decision? How would this apply in our lives today? What should we do?

Mark 1:21-28 – Where does Jesus and the first disciples go? What did they do on the Sabbath? What did Jesus do first and why was the congregation amazed? Who interrupts the proceedings and what does he say? What was the response of Jesus? Again, what was the congregation’s response? What are the demons of our times? How should we respond?

Have a great week studying the Word of God and may that study bless you in all you do.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Readings for January 22, 2012

Yeah!!!! Jonah’s Back. So here we go.

Jonah 3:1-5, 10PLEASE, Please, please read all of Jonah. It is only 4 chapters long. Here is the synopsis and with only one question: Jonah is called to go east to Nineveh but hops a ship to go west. Ship runs into a nasty storm and as a last straw the crew throws Jonah overboard. Jonah is swallowed by a (pay attention here) large FISH, not a whale. Jonah prays to God. Fish vomits Jonah up on a beach. Jonah goes to Nineveh as prophesied “Forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown.” All of Nineveh repents, from the king to all the people to even the animals and God has mercy. Jonah pouts and pouts (he hates Nineveh). God makes a bush grow and die and then chastises Jonah. What does Jonah do? That is the question for us today.

Psalm 62:5-12 – Verses 5 and 6 are a repeat of verses 1 and 2. Verses 3 and 4 tell us that the psalmist is suffering at the hand of others. Who is the psalmist waiting for and why? Who is the psalmist speaking to in verses 8-10? What does he want them to do? What 2 things belong to God in verses 11-12? What does the last part of verses 12 say to you and how do you resolve it with Paul’s teaching that all are saved by faith alone?

1 Corinthians 7:29-31 – This is the second week of five we will spend in 1 Corinthians. This can be a difficult passage to understand. What is Paul asking believers to do and why? What is Paul’s expectation when he wrote the letter? What about our times? How should we behave?

Mark 1:14-20 – Mark is in a hurry to tell his story so he doesn’t elaborate on the details. Verses 12 and 13 are about Jesus’ temptation with no details. So too verses 14 and 15 about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Just a brief mention. Matthew 4 and Luke 4 give more detail to both. Where is Jesus in verse 16? Who were the first two disciples and what was their occupation? What did Jesus say they will do? Who were the next two disciples? Who was their father? What were they doing at the time?

One more thing. Please keep my father in your prayers. He has had a rough 3 weeks and has been in and out of the hospital 3 or 4 times. It seems that when the doctors figure one thing out something else goes wrong. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Readings for Sunday, January 15, 2012

Our readings this week, the Second Sunday after Epiphany, are all about being called (and not the ring-ring type of call, although, who is to say that God couldn’t do it that way). As you read the lessons, think about any feelings of being called in your life. Did you ignore God’s call or did you follow through?

1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20) – To get the background on this story, please read 1 Samuel 1 and 2. There is lots of intrigue in those two chapters. There is competition between the two wives of Elkanah, Hannah, who has no children, and Peninnah, who has several. And the two sons of the priest Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, are wicked and God will not let them follow in their father’s profession. A miracle happens and Hannah give birth to Samuel whom she dedicates to the Lord by giving him to Eli when he is weaned. Which brings us to this reading. What was not happening in Israel? What is the matter with Eli? What does Samuel hear and what does he do? What is Eli’s response? How many time did this happen? What was Eli’s final instruction and what happened to Samuel? What did Samuel become as he grew up?

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 – I am not sure why the Lectionary Committee left out verses 7-12 because they fit very well with the other verses. I can certainly understand why they left off verses 19-24 because the Psalmist asks the Lord to destroy the wicked. In verses 1-6, what does the Lord know and do? In verses 7-12, where can the Psalmist go to avoid the presence of God? In verses 13-18, what did and will God do for the Psalmist and what is his response?

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 – As I read through this passage I couldn’t quite figure out what it has to do with being called. I suppose that when we are called by God and we follow our entire being, heart, mind, soul, and body, should be dedicated to God. What is the primary concern of Paul in this paragraph? To whom does our body belong? What happens when we are united to the Lord? What should our bodies be for the Lord and why?

John 1:43-51 – We should really read verses 35-42 in conjunction with these verses and my questions will include them. In verses 35-42, where is the location of the action? What does John the Baptizer proclaim about Jesus? Two of John’s disciples follow Jesus, one named and one unnamed. Who is the named disciple? Who is his brother? What did the first brother say to the other? What did Jesus rename the second brother as? Look at the notes in your Bible. What does that new name mean? Who did Jesus encounter on the next day (verse 43)? Who did this person go to get and what was their relationship? What did Jesus say of this new brother? What was the conversation between Jesus and this new brother? What are the names of the four named disciples?

How has God called you? What did or what do you say in response, “Here am I” or “What good comes out of Nazareth?”

May you hear God’s call once again this week!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Readings for Sunday, January 8, 2012

Peace and Goodwill to all in the New Year,

First, I would like to remind everyone that our one and only Bible Study at each church is changing times. The study at Grey Eagle UMC is moving from Thursday nights to Wednesday afternoons at 1:00 PM. The study at Peace United Church is moving from Wednesday nights to Wednesday afternoons at 3:00 PM. The new times start tomorrow, January 4. For the first four weeks we will be studying “The Verbs of God: How God Moves on Our Behalf” with Margaret Feinberg giving the lessons on DVD. She writes, “The Verbs of God remind us that God is a God of movement and he’s in the business of redeeming, restoring, and renewing us. By looking at just how active God is in scripture, we’re reminded of how active he is in our lives each and every day. In the process, we find our hope in God and resolve to follow God strengthened.” This will be a good follow-up to our Covenant Renewal Service we had this past Sunday. I hope to see you there.

Friday is Epiphany (please refer to my newsletter article") and the lessons, without comment, are:

Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

I sent those readings, one of four sets, in my email last week. This coming Sunday is celebrated as “The Baptism of the Lord” and the lessons are:

Genesis 1:1-5 – What was the earth like when God created it? What swept over the waters? I will answer that question because the one Hebrew word “rauch” can be translated three ways in English: Spirit, breath, or wind. It might be helpful to hold in tension all three understandings in our minds when we hear “the ‘rauch’ of God”. What are God’s first words? What happened as a result? And what did God think of this happening and what did God name it? What three things in these 5 verses would relate to our Gospel reading?

Psalm 29 – What is the primary subject of verses 3-9? Where is this thing and what is it able to do? What are the final two wishes of the psalmist?

Acts 19:1-7 – Who did Paul find in Ephesus when he got there? What did he ask these people? What hadn’t they received when they became believers? What did Paul do so that they would receive this? What did the people do following Paul’s action? How many were there?

Mark 2:4-11 – Where did John the Baptizer appear and what did he do? What did he look like? Who came to see him? What was his proclamation? Who showed up while John the Baptizer was active? What did John do for Jesus? What three things happened as Jesus was coming out of the water?

Some additional questions to ponder – Do you remember your baptism? If not, do you remember your confirmation? How was your life changed? Was it a sudden shift or did the changes come slowly over time? If you do not believe that you were ever baptized please contact me because I can help.

May the Spirit of God affirm God’s love to you through your encounter with God’s Word.

Newsletter article for January 2012

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

And before you say that I am late on my “Merry Christmas” I must tell you that Christmas happens twice each year. Protestants and Catholics celebrate on December 25 and the Orthodox stream of Christianity celebrates Christmas on January 6, which is Epiphany. So, Merry Christmas one more time!

And that brings me to the subject of Epiphany. It is a Christian holy day (holiday) that actually predates Christmas. With a capital “E” the word refers to this holy day but with a small “e” it mean “the appearance or manifestation, usually of a deity” or “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” (These are the 2nd and 3rd definitions given on www.dictionary.com.)

Epiphany, the holy day, is the least celebrated of the holy days (Easter, Pentecost, Christmas, Ash Wednesday and Epiphany). Only when it falls on a Sunday is it taken seriously by some Protestant denominations. (I would venture to say that Catholics and especially Orthodox give it more respect.) The Protestant denominations that follow the church calendar, roughly Advent (4 weeks), Christmas (12 days), Epiphany (5 to 9 weeks), Lent (6 weeks), Easter (7 weeks), and Pentecost (all the rest of the year), usually skip the actual day of Epiphany and jump from the first or second Sunday after Christmas to the Baptism of Jesus Sunday, the first after Epiphany.

On Epiphany, the church celebrates the manifestation of God to humanity in his son, Jesus. In Luke 2, Jesus as a Jewish baby is presented to God and the Jewish faith at the Temple. In Matthew 2, the rest of the world, represented by the Magi from the east, recognizes the new king in their visit to Bethlehem. This story is the primary celebration of Epiphany for all three strains of Christianity. The Orthodox Churches also celebrates the birth of Jesus, his naming (Luke 2:21), his presentation at the temple (Luke 2:22-38), his childhood (Luke 2:41-52) and his Baptism in the River Jordan (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22). It is at the Baptism that the Spirit of God comes upon Jesus and the voice of God declares him to be the beloved Son.

How has God been made manifest (defined as “readily perceived by the eye or the understanding; evident; obvious; apparent; plain”) in you and in our churches? When did you have that “sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning” of God’s love for you and his offer of salvation through Jesus Christ? When did you awake to the idea or feeling that life truly has meaning when it is lived in Christ? How have you made Christ manifest to others? What have our churches done that people can look at us and declare that Christ lives in us?

May Christ be manifest in all of us in 2012!