Monday, August 27, 2012

Readings for September 2, 2012

Hello Everyone, Grace and Peace to You,

Every once in a while I add someone to this email list whom I think will receive and make use of our readings in the Bible. If you do not wish to receive this weekly mailing please reply and ask me to remove you from my list. I will promptly comply with your wish.

Please note that worship times revert to our regular schedule starting this Sunday: Grey Eagle UMC at 9:00 AM and Peace United at 10:30 AM.

A question came up yesterday about why there are so many more readings listed here then I list in the bulletins. This happens primarily during the season of Pentecost which runs from the end of May or the beginning of June through the end of November. The other seasons of the church (Can you name them all? Answers below.) have only four readings: Old Testament (or Acts), Psalm (which is related to the OT reading), Epistle, and Gospel. During Pentecost there are two tracks of OT readings, a continuous reading (such as the story of Abraham and his descendants or the Kings of Israel) with a related Psalm or an OT selection that is related to the Gospel lesson and its related Psalm. Lutherans tend to follow the second option and most others follow the continuous readings as I do.

This week we beginning two new tracks and returning to another. The Old Testament readings for the rest of Pentecost will not be so continuous as we hit Song of Solomon (once), Proverbs (three times), Esther (once), Job (four times), and Ruth (twice). For the Epistles we will have five weeks of James and seven weeks of Hebrews. We also return to our readings in the Gospel of Mark.

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 – One commentator I read some time ago (I was preparing for a wedding in which the bride chose some passages from this book) said that more young boys would be reading their Bibles with a flashlight under their bed covers if they only knew about Song of Solomon. Another commentator said that between the matter-of-fact downer of Ecclesiastes and the the harsh words of Isaiah lies this book of soaring beauty and celebration of love. This is the only time in the 3 year lectionary cycle that we have a reading from Song of Solomon, also known as Song of Songs. This (too) short reading celebrates the coming of Spring and the return of the woman’s lover. As you venture into the Song please read whatever notes you have about this collection of love poems and the various speakers, mostly the man and the woman.

Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9 – The Psalmist celebrates the King who is anointed by God and who has good looks (verse 2), fine clothes (verse 8a), luxurious living quarters (8b), and beautiful women (9). Nice job if you can get it.

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 – This OT reading and the Psalm listed below are chosen by the lectionary committee to go along with our Gospel reading. If you remember from our other readings from Deuteronomy, this last book of the Torah is essentially a final address of Moses to the people of Israel before his death. The basic message in this reading is Moses’ exhortation to the Israelites to “NOT FORGET” what they have seen in their wanderings and what they are about to hear from Moses. By remembering and living the law other nations will know the goodness and greatness of God.

Psalm 146 – This Psalm reflect many of the laws given by Moses in Deuteronomy and also reflect Isaiah and other prophets’ call for justice. Not only is God the creator of all that is but God cares for those in need: justice for the oppressed, food for the hungry, freedom for prisoners, support to the broken, love for the righteous, care for the strangers, orphans, and widows. If God is concerned for all these people why does the United States of America, the greatest and richest nation, have oppressed people (inequality), hungry children and adults, overcrowded prisons, broken families in poverty, and no love for immigrants? I’m just asking.

James 1:17-27 – Many have characterized James as a book of works while thinking of Paul’s letters as being only about faith. Wrong on both counts. Paul calls us to faith but then reminds us that faith must be lived in the things we say and do. James is no different though we tend to focus on what James calls us to do. In verse 17 James reminds us that every good we do, every act of giving, is not just us but comes from God. This passage then proceeds to let us know what some of our behaviors should look like as faithful followers: listen more, speak less, be angry even less, live cleanly, and be doers of the word. These are some of the themes that James will return to. Finally, what is James definition of “pure, undefiled religion”?

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 – Please read the entire passage, 1-23. The scribes and Pharisee’s complain to Jesus that his disciples do not wash before they eat (Parents, can you hear yourselves with your children?) and therefore break Moses’ commandments (see the Deuteronomy passage above). How many times do we hear Christians complaining about other Christians breaking God’s law? Jesus turns their argument back on them by pointing out that some of them break the law by not caring for their parents. I can picture those other Christians using the same argument with the complaining Christians. What does Jesus say about washing hands in verse 15? [Note – most modern translations omit verse 16. Check the notes in your version.] Why do you think that Mark calls the words of Jesus in 14 and 15 and “parable” in verse 17? If food, even unwashed food, does not defile us, what does? Do you hear echoes of this in our James reading?

Have a great week exploring the wonderful Word of God.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Readings for Sunday, August 26, 2012

I am back from vacation although I didn’t go anywhere. I just hung around and did a bit of volunteer work with Hands of Hope Resource Center. I am pleased to announce that today the Todd County Board of Commissioners approved a lease agreement with Hands of Hope. During September Hands of Hope will be transitioning from their offices in downtown Long Prairie to the Todd County Annex. This change will not only be a place change but a change in the way Hands of Hope operates.

I apologize for not sending an email or posting to the blog site last week but it wasn’t high on my priorities. I thank Cathy Capp for filling in for me yesterday.

Last weeks lessons were:
1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14
Psalm 111
Proverbs 9:1-6
Psalm 34:9-14
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

This week we finish our readings about the kings of the united Israel, our readings in Ephesians, and our reading about the Bread of Life in John 6. Next week everything changes.

1 Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11) 22-30, 41-43 – Solomon became king after the death of his father, David, and proceeded to consolidate power. After three years of rule he began to build the temple that David had envisioned. 1 King 6 describes the temple and its furnishings. Chapter 7 describes everything else that Solomon had built. Chapter 8 returns to the temple and its dedication as the ark of the covenant is placed within the Holy of Holies. This reading is two portions of the prayer Solomon gave to God during the dedication. The prayer is verses 23-53.

Psalm 84 – Not all Psalms can be attributed to David as traditionally understood. As noted above, David did not build the temple in Jerusalem as he wanted but his son Solomon did. This Psalm is titled in my Bible (NRSV) as “The Joy of Worship in the Temple”. All titles of Biblical passages are not original to the Hebrew or Greek but are editorial titles by the various publishers. The Jewish Tanakh has no title. Another Bible (TEV) label this Psalm “Longing for God’s House”. As you can probably deduce, this Psalm was written sometime after the building of the Temple. People visiting Jerusalem for the first time would have been awed at its splendor even though it was small by today’s standards (90 feet by 30 feet or 2700 sq. ft.). This psalm is a reflection on that awe that worshipping God in the temple would have brought.

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18 – This reading comes from one of the last things that Joshua did before his death: he gathered the people together and exhorted them to renew their covenant with God. Joshua asks the people to make a choice: God or gods. One or the other. The famous verse here is that Joshua and his family chooses God. Whom will you choose?

Psalm 34:15-22 – This portion of the Psalm celebrates that for those who choose God, God will be with them and God will bring redemption.

Ephesians 6:10-20 – I remember a game/activity I did while in youth group. If I remember correctly it was called “Sword Drills”. Everyone in the group held their Bible closed, the leader would call out a Scripture verse, and everyone quickly tried to find it. The first to locate it would read it aloud and gain a point or something. That game came out of this passage where Paul encourages the church to put on the “Whole Armor of God”. This metaphor is used in other places in Paul’s writings so he and his followers must have been fond of it. It is interesting that a war metaphor is used to proclaim a gospel of peace (verse 15). As you read this passage what does each piece of armor correspond to: Belt, Breastplate, Shoes, Shield, Helmet, and Sword?

John 6:56-69 – As I am writing this I am eating a meat stick called “The Sasquatch Big Stick” made by Jack Links of Minong, WI. It is quite “meaty” but it also requires a lot of chewing. I bring this up because starting in John 6:54 the writer uses a Greek word that is often translated as “eat” but can also be translated as “chew”. So verses 54-58 may read:

Those who chew my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true (or real) food and my blood is real (true) drink. Those who chew my flesh and drink my blood abide (live/dwell) in me and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever chews me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died,. But the one who chews this bread will live forever.

One of the charges against the early followers of Christ was that they were cannibals and this passage did nothing to dissuade that accusation. What does is mean to “chew” Jesus? If this is hard to understand, you are not alone. Our reading affirms that many disciples left Jesus because of these teachings. How may we “chew” on Jesus each day and receive the Words of Life?

May you put on the Whole Armor of God in your daily walk with Jesus and may you eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus to receive the Words of Life.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Readings for Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Thank you to all who made the worship time change successful this past Sunday. Worship attendance at both churches were very encouraging. As an inviting church, let’s invite someone to worship with us this coming week.

We continue our readings in the OT stories of Saul, David and Solomon, in Ephesians and in John 6. Our scriptures for this coming Sunday are:

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 – The last two week we have read about David’s sin against Uriah. In the passages between that and this week’s David’s family life has gone to pot. Solomon is born to Bathsheba, the seventh son of his seventh wife. The other six were mentioned in 3:2-5. Ammon, the #1 son of the #1 wife falls in lust with Tamar who is sister to Absalom, the #3 son of the #3 wife. Ammon plots to get Tamar alone, rapes her, and banishes her. Absalom is mad but does nothing, yet. David is devastated but does nothing because of his love for Ammon. A couple of years pass and Absalom arranges to get Ammon out to the farm where he has his servants murder him. Absalom then flees. Joab, one of David’s top generals, manipulates things to get Absalom back but then David never sees him. A couple of years later, Absalom arranges to usurp David from his throne and David flees. Much other intrigue follows. All of this can be read in chapters 13 to 17. (A soap opera title might be “As Jerusalem Turns”) In our text this week, and a lot of interesting stuff is skipped over by the Lectionary reading, David prepare to battle Absalom and tell the generals and everyone not to harm Absalom. Absalom is riding a mule in the thick oak forests and his head gets wedged in the fork of one of the trees. Joab then kills Absalom as he hung there. A servant is dispatched to tell David of the victory of their troops and the death of Absalom and David mourns the death of his son. The one thing you say with certainty about the Bible is that it is an honest reflection of humans enslavement into sin and death.

Psalm 130 – This Psalm is used as a congregational Psalm in all the funerals I conduct. Could this Psalm also reflect the feelings of David upon hearing the of the death of Absalom?

1 Kings 19:4-8 – This is a small snippet from a longer reading of Elijah fleeing from the wrath of Jezebel. The story: Elijah challenges the priests of Baal and Asherah to a fire lighting duel. Who’s got the biggest god who can light the fire? When the priests fail and Elijah wins he has all the priests slaughtered, about 850 of them. Jezebel, Queen of Israel and a follower of Baal, is not pleased which sends Elijah running. Our section is about Elijah wishing to die because he is exhausted and frightened. He fall asleep and an angel wakens him with bread and water and tell him to eat and drink for the journey ahead. After eating and drinking, Elijah again falls asleep. The angel wakens him again with the same message and after Elijah ate and drank he continued his journey to the cave where he will hear the still small voice of God. The whole story starts at 18:1 and ends at 19:21 where Elisha becomes a disciple of Elijah’s. Why do you think it was necessary for Elijah to experience God as a still small voice? Relate this to the violence of the fire lighting duel.

Psalm 34:1-8 – This psalm says that the Lord will take care of the righteous. Verse 7 is the connection to the story of Elijah above.

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 – Paul gives us a model of faithful living: speak truth; acknowledge anger but do not sin; don’t steal; work hard; share with the needy; speak no evil; speak good which builds up others; do not grieve the Holy Spirit (I am not sure what this is about); put away bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, slander, and malice; and be kind tenderhearted, and forgiving of each other. All of this is done as we imitate God and love as Christ has loved us. In other words, we give ourselves up for others as Christ has given himself up for us. Think about the idea of us humans imitating God. How is that possible?

John 6: 35, 41-51 – Please read verses 36-40 as well since that puts the rising conflict between Jesus and the Jews authorities in perspective. The authorities don’t get it. How can Jesus be bread? Is he not the son of Joseph? Jesus says some very provocative things in this passage. According to Jesus those who follow him were brought to him by the Father? Yet, no one has seen the Father but Jesus. The true bread from heaven gives life while simple manna only sustains for a day. Jesus says that he is the bread from heaven. We who eat that bread will live forever. The bread that Jesus gives is his flesh. Is it a wonder that the earliest critics of the followers of Jesus were accused of being cannibals? This is difficult stuff if you really think about it. It even causes some to turn away from Jesus. How have you struggled with Jesus’ words?

May the lord bless you with his Holy Word this week! May the still small voice of God speak to you and may we all be imitators of God and Jesus in our love.