Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Readings for Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hello Everyone,

Just a reminder that worship at both churches will be changing times beginning this coming Sunday through the month of August. Peace United Church will have worship beginning at 9:00 AM and Grey Eagle UMC with start worship at 10:30 AM. Please remind your friends and neighbors who attend our churches about the time change.

This week we continue with our readings about King David, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John concerning the “Bread of Life”.

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a – Last week we read about King David’s affair with Bathsheba and his orders to have Uriah killed in battle. In the verses not read this happens. In verse 11:26 what is Bathsheba’s reaction to the news of Uriah’s death. Then what does David do in verse 27? The verses in chapter 12 are God’s, through the prophet Nathan, reaction to what David has done. What does Nathan tell David about a poor farmer, his only lamb, and the rich neighbor? How does David react to the story? What does Nathan tell David beginning in verse 7? What was David’s main offense against God? Notice the order of the offenses in verse 9: killed Uriah with a sword, taken Uriah’s wife, and used the Ammonites to do the killing (see 11:16-17). Notice though in verse 10 the serious offense is the taking of Uriah’s wife. What does Nathan say David’s punishment will be? Who seems to be the ones that will suffer the most in verse 11? What is David’s reaction to Nathan’s accusation? Also notice that throughout this reading and last week’s reading that the only time Bathsheba’s name is mentioned is when David asks a servant who this woman was. She is always referred to as “Uriah’s wife” or “the wife of Uriah”. Why do you think this may be? The assigned reading cuts the story off prematurely. Who is the one that ultimately suffers (verse 14 and verses 15b-19)? How do you and we deal with a verse that says “The Lord struck the child” who was a newborn?

Psalm 51:1-12 – There are several well known verses in this Psalm including one or two in the unread verses 13-19. Check out verses 1, 6, 10, 16, and 17. As I look at these verses, maybe they all seem familiar because I have read this Psalm numerous times. What is the anguish that the psalmist, David, is expressing. What does the heading indicate? (Note: in the TANAKH, the Jewish scriptures, the headings are given verse numbers, thus verse 1 in our Bible is verse 3 in the TANAKH Psalm 51.)

Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 – The Israelites are wandering in the desert and have run out of food. What is their complaint in verse 3? Where would they rather be? What will God do for them in verse 4? What will be given to the Israelites in the evenings? What is given to them in the mornings? What is the meaning of the word “manna” (you may have to check your footnotes)?

Psalm 78:23-29 – The entire Psalm is recitation of the history of Israel. This section concerns the gifts of food God gave in our Exodus reading.

Ephesians 4:1-16 – These verses begin the second half of the letter which might be called an “ethical” teaching. Last week’s reading was Paul’s prayer for the church that we would all be “rooted and grounded in love.” This love is the starting point for Christian living. In verse one, who is Paul writing to? You may have to refer to the beginning of the letter, verse 1:1. What does Paul want the church to do (verse 1) and how are we do do that (verses 2-3)? Name all the “ones” in verses 4-6. How is God described in verse 6? What were we given? List the various offices that some are called to in verse 11. What is the ultimate goal of those gifts and callings in verse 12 and 13? What are we not to be in verse 14 and what should we be in verse 15? In essence we should become Christ, or the body of Christ since Christ is the head. We can only be the body of Christ if we, the Church, work together with Christ.

John 6:24-35 – This story picks up the day after Jesus fed the 5000 and the morning that he walked out to the disciples’ boat and stilled the wind (6:1-21). You may as well read verses 22 and 23. What do the people want from Jesus according to Jesus? What should the people (and by extension, we) be looking or working for (verse 27)? According to Jesus, what is the work God performs in us (verse 29)? What miracle do the people mention in verse 31? According to Jesus, what is the true miracle that God gives to the people?

Some possible sermon topics: From 2 Samuel - What is the consequence of desire that leads to sin? From Ephesians – What does it mean to live a “Christian life” rooted and grounded in love? From John – What do we desire, how is that desire misdirected, and what does God give us for what we truly need? Maybe they can all be worked into a sermon?

Have a great week serving the Lord!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Readings for Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hello Everyone,

PUC’ers – This Sunday we will have our regular service at 10:30 AM at our South Building. You could, however choose to go to the Ecumenical Worship at the County fair on Sunday at 11:00 AM.

Everyone – Grey Eagle UMC Garage Sale is happening this Friday and Saturday from 8 AM to 2 PM on both days.

This week we begin 5 weeks of reading in the Gospel of John chapter 6. All of these readings center on the theme of Jesus being the “Bread of Life”. We also continue with Ephesians and our continuous readings in the Old Testament and the kings of Israel.

2 Samuel 11:1-15 – In the passages between last week’s reading (2 Samuel 7:1-14) and this reading, David and his army has gone to war and defeated various enemies: the Moabites, Zobah, the Arameans, the Edomites and the Ammonites. Our reading opens with the statement that David sent his army against the Ammonites but he stayed home. What does a king with nothing to keep himself occupied but cast a wandering eye on a youthful beauty? This, of course, is the story of David’s indiscretion with Bathsheba. Of course, Bathsheba is not totally innocent in this story, but the power of a popular king to misuse that power is a strong temptation. How many rulers, kings, and presidents have misused that power? One of the amazing points of the story is Uriah’s (Bathsheba’s husband, a Hittite and not an Israelite) faithfulness to his king and his fellow soldiers.

Psalm 14 – The Psalmist decries the wickedness and unbelief of people. He also is concerned with how the wicked, wealthy, and evildoers treat the poor of the world. (verses 4 and 6).

2 Kings 4:42-44 – This short little story is about the prophet Elisha and the feeding of hundreds of people with 20 barley loaves and some ears of grain. God says, “They shall eat and have some left”. This story was chosen to accompany the Gospel reading.

Psalm 145:10-18 – The entire psalm is in praise of God who is good and great. Please read verses 8 and 9. These statement sums up the revelation of God to the people of Israel and all the world. Please remember these verses as you read the rest of the Old Testament. This is the God Jesus knew and called “Abba”, “Father”.

Ephesians 3:14-21 – In verses 1-13 of chapter 3, Paul alludes to the revelation of the mystery of Christ that was given to him following his conversion. He talks about the grace that was given him to take that message to the Gentiles and make known the mystery of God’s plan. Please read those verses because it is on that basis that Paul starts this week reading with, “For that reason . . .” He prays for the church in Ephesus to have strength and power from the Spirit and that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith and grounded in love. He also wants the church to know the love of Christ and the fullness of God. Knowledge of God is call “theology” from the Greek Theo = God and Logos = knowledge. All of us have a theology, but is our knowledge limited to a few well worn phrases? While Christ’s love may exceed all knowledge, does that mean we should abandon learning all we can about God who is revealed in the Bible, and fully revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Several Christian writers have said that theology is “faith seeking understanding”.

John 6:1-21 – This passage basically retells the Mark stories we read the last two weeks: Mark 6:30-44 and Mark 6:45-52. John names the disciples who object to their feeding of the crowd. John also has a young boy offering the 5 barley loaves and 2 fish to the disciples. John also calls the feeding of the crowd one of the signs that point God coming to earth in Jesus. An excellent summary of the signs in John, including the sign of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, at Signs in John.

Have a great week serving the Lord. Invite someone to church this week.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Readings for Sunday, July 22, 2012

Thanks to all who helped with the Grey Eagle Community Island Service. The day was not too hot (at least until after the service) and the fellowship was wonderful. A lot of people did a lot to make it work: Jim Hammersten, his daughter Linnea Ingold, and the Tschida Family, John and Janet Roe, Bob and Nancy Kutter, Lois Sorenson, Tara Prout, and everyone who brought food for the dinner. Thank you all.

This week we will be taking a minor deviation from the gospel lesson because of last week’s deviation. Our readings are:

2 Samuel 7:1-14a – I am not sure why the Lectionary Committee decided to end the reading at the first part of verse 14. The reading should go to verse 17. David is now the undisputed king of the twelve tribe of Israel and all external enemies have been defeated. David even has a palace (home) to live in and wants to build a temple (cedar home) for the Ark of the Covenant. The bulk of the reading is God speaking to the prophet Nathan. Nathan is to tell David not to build the temple for God hasn’t needed a temple before. God will also raise up one of David’s sons to build the temple. God also promises that David’s “house”, meaning family, will rule Israel forever.

Psalm 89:20-37 – The first part of this Psalm, verses 1-37, describes and praises God for the covenant made with David for an everlasting dynasty. The second part, verses 38-52, chastises God for breaking that covenant. Because of this, we can infer that David did not write the Psalm and that it may have been written about the time of the Babylonian Exile. Our reading is a section that remembers the rule of David and God’s promise to him.

Jeremiah 23:1-6 – This is a warning to the leaders of God’s people. If the leaders scatter the flocks then God will raise up new shepherds to lead. Some have speculated that this was one of several passages that Jesus was referring to in John 10, the Good Shepherd discourse.

Psalm 23 – Is there anything left to say about this most famous Psalm? It comes up in our readings about 3 times a year. The last time was in April.

Ephesians 2:11-22 – There is a lot of thinking to be done with this passage. Two who were far apart, the Jews who were near to God and the Gentiles who were far from God, are brought together by the blood of Jesus Christ. The dividing wall has been torn down. The law has been abolished so God can create one humanity. The two are reconciled in one body because of Christ’s death on the cross. We are no longer strangers but are one family in God’s house in which Jesus is the cornerstone. Since I haven’t asked many questions today here are a few. Why does humanity keep putting up walls to divide: Democrat/Republican, Conservative/Liberal, citizen/non-citizen, Hispanic/black/Asian/white, rich/poor, straight/gay? As the late Rodney King asked once, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Isn’t that why we killed Jesus, because we need our victims, our stumbling blocks? But God took the block we stumbled on and made him the cornerstone of our new life in God’s household (1 Peter 2).

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 – We read 30-44 this past Sunday which was about the feed of 5,000. The skipped portion is the feeding (35-44) and Jesus walking on water (45-52). We will pick up the walking on water story and his healing in Gennesaret by reading:

Mark 6:45-56 – This story happens during the night following the feeding of the 5000 and is also told in Matthew 14 and John 6. Several interesting observations about this passage. 1. Jesus sends the disciples and then goes off to pray. Do we take time at the end of a busy and hectic day to pray? 2. The disciples struggle against an adverse wind, not a storm. Do we confuse the two, making storms out of adverse winds? 3. Jesus intends to walk past the disciples who shout out in fear of some ghost. Do we fear Jesus more then follow him? 4. Jesus speaks calming words, gets into the boat, and the winds cease. Again, like in Mark 4:35-41, the disciples now have to row to shore instead of using the winds. 5. Finally, in the healing scene, the sick and injured are laid in the marketplaces where they reach out to touch the fringe of Jesus’ cloak for healing. Do we sometimes fail to do our part to receive the healing of Jesus?

Have a great week reading the Word of God.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Readings for Sunday, July 15, 2012

To my Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

This Sunday is the Annual Island Worship Service at Hammarsten Island on Big Birch Lake. Service begins at 11:00 AM with a potluck dinner following. Pontoon shuttle service to the island is located at John and Janet Roe’s place at 11057 County Rd 47.

This also means that Peace United Church will be worshipping at 9:00 AM.

A quick rundown of our readings:

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 – David brings the ark (or tabernacle or chest) to Jerusalem. This reading makes it seem like the story happened all on one day. However, read the verses that are skipped. Who dies and why? Who prospers and why? Read verses 20-23. Who gets mad at David and why?

Psalm 24 – A psalm in praise of God and God’s creation.

Amos 7:7-15 – The plumb line has been set and no one measures up and the Lord will never ever forgive them again. Really?

Psalm 85:8-13 – This psalm in its entirety seems to be the antidote to the stern declaration of Amos.

Ephesians 1:3-14 – Now, take a deep breath and read this passage out loud as if it had no punctuation; like it was one long run-on sentence. Well, that what it is in Greek: one sentence. Check out the Trinitarian movement of this sentence from God to Jesus to the Holy Spirit.

Mark 6:24-29 – The execution of John the Baptist. What a bummer for the Island Worship. Instead, I will be reading . . .

(Mark 6:30-43) – The feeding of the 5,000. Actually, these two stories go together. Compare the feast of King Herod that culminates in the execution and the feast with next to nothing that feeds the multitudes. Mimetic rivalry verses abundant giving. The sermon almost writes itself.

Peace be with you as you feast on the word of God.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Readings for Sunday, July 8, 2012

Grace and Peace from God to All,

First, Suzann is on vacation this week but will be in on Friday afternoon to put together the bulletins for our Sunday churches.

Secondly, for all who knew her and her husband, Clarence, there will be a memorial service for Evelyn Fierabend at the Grey Eagle United Methodist Church this coming Saturday, July 7, at 11:00 AM. Clarence grew up in the Long Prairie Grey Eagle area. Clarence and Evelyn were faithful supporters of Grey Eagle UMC.

Third, as you have probably heard or read in the Messenger, Peace United Church and Grey Eagle UMC will be switching worship times in the month of August. Please make appropriate plans so that you will be in church. The vast majority in both churches of those responding to my survey in May said that they would be willing to worship at a different time occasionally or that they would worship no matter what the time. It is my feeling, and I hope it is yours also, that the time of worship should not stop us from worshipping. I hope to see as many, if not more, worshipping in August as in July or September.

Finally, our guest this past Sunday, Stephen Goss, has written a fictional story which you may be interested in purchasing and reading. The book is titled “Heidi’s Hope” and can only be found on Amazon (paperback or Kindle). Here is the link: "Heidi's Hope". If the link doesn’t work simply go to Amazon.com and search for Stephen Goss. It will be the first book on the results page.

Our readings this week are:

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 – You may as well read verses 6-8. With Saul dead and the enemies of Israel still active, the Israelites need a new warrior king. Since David has proven himself as a leader under both Saul and the Philistines, he is their choice. David then proceeds to capture Jerusalem and made it the new capital of the twelve tribes.

Psalm 48 – This is a psalm of praise for God and God’s city, Zion, which is Jerusalem, and the temple that is at Jerusalem. The ancient Israelites knew that God did not exist only in at city or a temple but that the city and temple became a locus for their worship of God. Much like the idea that Jesus cannot be contained in a church, worshipped on Sunday, and then left behind and forgotten the rest of the week. The church is the locus of our communal worship that is then extended into our everyday lives.

Ezekiel 2:1-5 – God calls to Ezekiel and gives him his mission: Go to the people (rebellious, hard-hearted, and hard-headed) and proclaim God’s word. It matters not whether they listen, they will know that you have become my prophet. When have we heard God’s word and been not willing to listen?

Psalm 123 – This is a psalm of confession and contrition seeking God’s mercy.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10 – Paul talks about himself in this passage. He uses a third-person perspective to mention the vision he has seen but cannot talk about. He also admits that he is not sure if this vision was “in the body” or “out of the body”. He then talks, in the first person, about his “thorn in the side” that he struggles with. He has pleaded with God to remove it but was told that God’s grace is sufficient. What “thorns in the side” do we endure? Is it physical? Emotional? Relational? How has God’s grace been sufficient in your life?

Mark 6:1-13 – There are two vignettes in this short passage: Jesus’s reception in Nazareth and the sending out of the disciples. When Jesus gets back to Nazareth he naturally goes to worship at the local synagogue and he preaches. People are astounded at the authority of his teaching. This is the main scripture that we learn that Jesus had brothers and sisters (typically, the brothers are named and the sisters are not). Mark tells us that Jesus could do no deeds of power except for the laying on of hands to heal people. The next story is about Jesus sending out the disciples to neighboring towns and villages. He gives them instructions and authority to heal the sick and cast out demons. When was the last time you or I healed the sick and cast out demons?

May God bless you in your readings this week. Read, pray, love, and serve the Lord.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor