Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Readings for April 29 2012

Hello Everyone,

This coming Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, could be called “Good Shepherd Sunday”. As the Lectionary cycles through three years (Year A is dedicated to Matthew, Year B to Mark, and Year C to Luke) this Sunday squarely lands on Psalm 23 and John 10. The other readings will not have the shepherd theme but part of John 10 will be paired with Psalm 23 each year. Our readings this week are:

Acts 4:5-12 – After Peter and John’s testimony to the crowds following the healing of a crippled man, which we read last week, the authorities haul the two before the high council (verses 5-7). When they are asked by what authority or power they healed the man, Peter responds with a similar but shorter witness he gave to the crowds the day before (compare 3:12-26 with 4:8-12). The central point of both witnesses is “Jesus Crucified”, whom “God Raised”. It seems that when ever Peter gives a witness to the people of Jerusalem he points a finger of guilt by saying “Jesus whom you crucified”. Does he ever get the point that he was just a guilty when he denied Jesus? Do we ever get the point that we are just as guilty?

Psalm 23 – Try reading this Psalm from several different versions of the Bible. We know the King James Version so well even when we read it aloud we don’t truly hear it fresh. Then, try to write your own version. Mine might start “Jesus is my orchestra conductor . . .” and then I would play with that theme in each verse. As you read it, notice that the theme shifts from “The Lord is my shepherd” to “The Lord is my dinner host.” Perhaps your version could make a similar shift. (Some scholars think that there were originally two short Psalms that became one in the canonized version.)

1 John 3:16-24 – Have you read the entire letter called “1 John”? If you have not, why not today? It will only take you 15 minutes or so. The lectionary committee, for some reason, skipped over chunks that it may have been uncomfortable with. The verses preceding ours this week concern sin: those who sin belong to the devil and those born of God don’t sin. That is an uncomfortable concept that we should all struggle with. Our passage concerns love, but the lectionary committee skips the first three verses of the paragraph: the world hates us (vs. 13); we have transferred from death to life because we love (vs. 14a); those who don’t love remain in death (14b); and those who hate another are murderers (vs. 15). How do we know love and what should we do (vs. 16)? How should we love (vs. 18)? If our hearts condemn us (vs. 20) what is greater than our hearts? If our hearts don’t condemn us, what does that mean (vs. 21)? What are the commandments we are called to keep (vs. 23)? How do we know we remain in God (vs. 24)?

John 10:11-18 – To understand the flow of the narrative, you should probably read John 9 through John 10:10. Starting at John 9:39, Jesus is interacting with the religious authorities over his healing of the man who was blind from birth, which is the bulk of John 9. In the first part of chapter 10 Jesus talks about the sheep that follow the shepherd and about the gate for the sheep. These two chapters also contain several of the “I AM” sayings found in John: “I am the light of the world” (vs. 9:5); “I am the gate of the sheep” (10:7); “I am the gate” (10:9); and “I am the good shepherd” (10:11 and 14). Whom do the sheep follow and why? Whom won’t they follow? What is the characteristic of a thief and outlaw? What happens to those who enter through the gate which is Jesus? Why did Jesus come (to humanity? to earth?)?

May the good shepherd lead you to greener fields and cool waters this week as you read the Word of God.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Readings for Sunday, April 22, 2012

A few announcements before I discuss our texts for this coming week.

* Sauk Centre UMC is hosting a Movie Night and will be showing the documentary film “A Killer in the Dark”. The movie starts at 7:00 PM on Friday, April 20 at their church which is located at 504 Elm Street South. There will be refreshments and they will take a collection for “Imagine No Malaria.” I encourage you to go, see the movie, and give a donation. Then, when you come to church on Sunday, leave a larger donation to your church earmarked for “Imagine No Malaria”. Both churches are also raising money to fight malaria in Africa.

* On Sunday, April 22, at Grey Eagle UMC we will be taking a special offering for “Native American Ministries Sunday”. For more information about this Special Sunday offering go to http://www.umcgiving.org/site/c.qwL6KkNWLrH/b.3833863/.

* On Sunday, April 22, at Peace United Church we will have a “Hymn Sing” during worship which will be followed by a pot luck dinner. The service will still be a time of worship so we will still have the “Call to Worship”, the Scripture, Prayer Time and an Offering, and maybe even a sermon (“ette”?), but we will also have quite a few of the “Old Time Gospel” hymns. Bring your friends and neighbors.

Our lessons this week are:

Acts 3:12-19 – Peter and John heal a cripple man at the temple in the passage just before this one. A crowd gathers at the commotion and Peter sees the opportunity to witness to them. Who healed the man according to Peter? Whom has God glorified? What did the people and the authorities do to that person? Many are bothered by Peter’s accusatory stance and his use of “You” when he could have just as easily said “We”. Why would “We” have been a better choice of words than “You”? What did the prophets foretell? What is the answer for their sins (including Peter and John’s)? The entire sermon/witness goes until the end of the chapter. Please feel free to read the rest of it and the response of the authorities in chapter 4:1-22. (The entire story is 3:1-4:22)

Psalm 4 – Who is the psalmist speaking to in verse 1? For what is the psalmist asking? Who is the psalmist speaking to in verses 2-5? What are they doing to the psalmist and of what does he remind them? And finally, who is the psalmist speaking to in verses 6-8? What will be the result of the psalmist’s faithfulness?

1 John 3:1-7 – This passage actually starts in 2:28 and is about remaining in relationship with God. What is the metaphor John uses in verses 1 and 2 about that relationship? What is the hallmark of our participating in that relationship? Who will appear someday? What will we be like when he appears? What is sin, according to John? Who has no sin? Who removes our sin? What is the characteristic of the person who remains in relationship with God? Really?

Luke 24:36b-48 – This past Sunday I assumed that the Luke reading would be about the appearance of Jesus to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. Silly me. This passage is what happens on the evening of that walk. When Jesus leaves the two at the table in Emmaus, they rush back to Jerusalem to tell the others about the appearance. The story picks up in verse 36. What did the disciples think when Jesus appeared? What were Jesus’ first words to them? (Compare with John 20:19, 21, and 26b.) How did Jesus calm their fears? What was his proof of life? What do you make of verse 45 (compare this to verse 27 with the two disciple on the road to Emmaus)? What will Jesus send to the disciples?

Life in and with the risen Jesus is all about community. It is in community that we have the power of the Spirit that brings peace (Luke). It is in the community of believers that we have power to heal (Acts). And it is in the community of sisters and brothers of Christ in which we have no sin (1 John). Why to we come to church on Sundays to worship? Community.

May the Lord bless you in your community of believers.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Readings for April 15 2012

What a Great Easter Sunday. We had 110 people in worship at Grey Eagle and about the same at Peace United (two services). Thanks to all who helped with the breakfast at both places. When you got up this morning did you remind yourself that Jesus was risen and we arise to new life in Christ each morning. Hallelujah and Praise the Lord!

I will be officiating a funeral for Brigitte Skillings, 57, at the Williams-Dingmann Chapel in Long Prairie this Saturday. Brigitte and her husband David were not members of our churches but I am honored that I was asked to lead the service. Please pray for the Skillings family at this time of need.

Through the Easter Season, which lasts until Pentecost Sunday, May 27, our “Old Testament” lesson will be from the “Acts of the Apostles” (Acts) and our Epistle Reading will be from “1 John”. Our Gospel lesson will come primarily from “The Gospel of John” with one Sunday in “The Gospel of Luke”.

Our lessons this week are:

Acts 4:32-35 – Fundamental Christians, especially those who tend to glorify (and worship) American capitalism, probably don’t like this passage too much. What does it mean to be “one in heart and mind?” What does it mean “to hold everything in common?” Are there people among us who can bring a powerful witness to the resurrection of Jesus? What would our churches look like if no one in our churches had any needs? Is it possible for us to provide for the needs of all within our churches?

Psalm 133 – I like the way the Common English Bible translates the first verse, “Look at how good and pleasing it is when families live together as one.” What would it be like to have expensive oils poured over your head and onto your clothing? (UGH!)

1 John 1:1-2:2 – If you were in church on Easter, you may remember the story I told of the young seminarian who couldn’t write a sermon. The gospel in that story was “those who know tell those who don’t know.” That is basically what John is saying in verses 1-4: we heard and saw and now we are telling you so you can be in fellowship with us and our joy will be fulfilled. The thesis of this letter comes in verse 5. What does John mean when he says that God contains only light and NO darkness? What does it mean to live in the darkness? According to John, why will God clear away our sins? What happens when we do sin? Who will advocate for us?

John 20:19-31 – This is the second and third appearance of Jesus in the Gospel of John. The first was to Mary Magdalene at the tomb. The second was to the 10 disciples without Thomas. The third was to all 11 of the disciples. The last was to the disciple at Lake Galilee. What would it take for you to believe that Jesus was alive? Can you imagine a time where you wouldn’t forgive someone? Is it even possible for a Christian follower of Jesus to not forgive someone? Why does Jesus “breathe on them”? Did Thomas want more proof then the other 10 disciples got"?

May the joy and hope of the Resurrected Jesus fill you up this week.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Readings for Holy Week, April 2-8, 2012

First, thank you for your kind support and prayers for me an my family at the death of my father. Your prayers, cards, and gifts meant so much to us during this time. Dad lived a long, good life and he impacted many people through two separate long careers: as a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer in the Air Force and as a junior high school and alternative senior high school teacher.

Second, this week is both the low point and high point of the Christian Year. It started last Sunday with the celebration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and ends with the celebration of his resurrection. However, to use a geographical analogy, to get from the peak of one mountain to the peak of another mountain we must first go through the valley between. The valley between the peaks of Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is Maundy Thursday and Good (or not so good) Friday.

I have two calendars in my office that contain scripture readings, one from the United Church of Christ and the other from the United Methodist Church. The UMC calendar has scripture readings for every day this week. The UCC calendar only has readings on Thursday through Sunday. I will list all of them and you can decide where to start. Since there are so many I will not make any detailed statements or ask many questions, just one sentence summaries.

Monday, April 2
*Isaiah 42:1-9 – The first servant song of Isaiah
*Psalm 36:5-11 – God’s love is endless and priceless
*Hebrews 9:11-15 – Jesus is the sacrifice whose blood cleans us so we can serve God
*John 12:1-11 – Jesus with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus and Mary anoints Jesus’ feet.

Tuesday, April 3
*Isaiah 49:1-7 – The second servant song of Isaiah
*Psalm 71:1-14 – The attacked Psalmist hopes in the Lord
*1 Corinthians 1:18-31 – The wisdom of the cross is wiser than human wisdom
*John 12:20-36 – Jesus’ death is the judgment of this world

Wednesday, April 4
*Isaiah 50:4-9a – The third servant song of Isaiah
*Psalm 70 – The Psalmist seeks help from the Lord
*Hebrews 12:1-3 – Run the race and fix our eyes on Jesus who endured the cross.
*John 13:21-32 – Someone will betray Jesus and the Son of Man is glorified

Thursday, April 5 – Maundy Thursday
*Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 – God’s instructions for the first Passover
*Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 – Because God has been good, I’ll keep my promises
*1 Corinthians 11:23-26 – Paul’s instructions on Communion.
*John 13:1-17, 31b-35 – Jesus washes the disciples’ feet and Jesus commands them to love.

Friday, April 6 – Good Friday
*Isaiah 52:13-53:12 – The fourth and final servant song of Isaiah
*Psalm 22 – “My God, My God, why have you left me alone?”
*Hebrews 10:16-25 – We are have been made clean so we can serve our new High Priest, Jesus.
*or Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9 – We have a new High Priest who has made the right sacrifice for us.
*John 18:1-19:42 – The passion of Jesus according to the Gospel of John.

Saturday, April 7
*Job 14:1-14 – The destiny of humanity
*or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24 – The prophet blames God for what happened yet trusts God’s love
*Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 – The Psalmist requests help from God
*1 Peter 4:1-8 – Love because love brings the forgiveness of many sins
*Matthew 27:57-66 – The burial of Jesus and the placement of the guards at the tomb
*or John 19:38-42 – The burial of Jesus

Sunday, April 8 – EASTER SUNDAY
*Acts 10:34-43 – Peter preaches the resurrection of Jesus
*or Isaiah 25:6-9 – The Lord will save all people and death will be eliminated
*Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 – The Lord is our deliverance.
*1 Corinthians 15:1-11 – We are being saved because Christ was crucified, died, buried and rose on the third day.
*John 20:1-18 – Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb, Peter checks it out, and then she encounters Jesus.
*or Mark 16:1-8 – Three women discover the empty tomb with a messenger but say nothing.

May the readings this week bless you through the salvation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.