Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Readings for Sunday, December 2, 2012

I would like to share several announcements here at the beginning.

1. Peace United Church will have the “Hanging of the Greens” with communion this Sunday.

2. Grey Eagle UMC will, like last year, have a progressive “Hanging of the Greens” where the greens will be hung over 4 Sundays.

3. Christmas Eve Worship will be at 4:00 PM for both churches this year. Grey Eagle UMC will be led by a supply pastor.

We begin a new liturgical year this coming Sunday, Year C, and we will focus on the Gospel of Luke. The season of the year that begins a new year is known as Advent. The seasons in a Liturgical Year are Advent (4 weeks), Christmas (12 days), Epiphany (5 to 8 weeks), Lent (8 weeks), Easter (7 weeks), and Pentecost (all the rest). (We will have a quiz this Sunday!)

This Sunday our readings are:

Jeremiah 33:14-16 – What was the promise that God made to the “House of Israel and the House of Judah” (in other words: Israel before the split)? It was the promise to David that his descendants would rule forever. Jeremiah was a prophet at the time when Judah (the southern half of original Israel) and Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonians and the king’s sons were executed, the king was blinded, and then carted off to Babylon. How will the old promise be renewed? There is a irony in verse 16 which says that Jerusalem will have a new name: “The Lord is our righteousness”. That is translated in Hebrew as “Zedekiah” who was the king I just mentioned when Jerusalem was destroyed.

Psalm 25:1-10 – The psalmist asks for protection from those who afflict him and seeks forgiveness of his past sins. A key phrase to consider is mentioned three times in this passage: “steadfast love”. What does steadfast love mean to you? Have you ever felt God’s steadfast love in you life? How do we reflect or imitate this steadfast love to the people in our lives? What about the strangers in our lives?

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 – Paul prays for the people and the church at Thessaloniki. He gives thanks for them, asks to rejoin them, prays for their growth in love, strengthened holy hearts, and blamelessness before God at the return of Jesus. Is there anyone you should be in constant prayer for?

Luke 21:25-36 – Two weeks ago we read from Mark’s Little Apocalypse (Mark 13) and this week we read from Luke’s version. There are three sections to this reading: verses 25-28 “The Coming of the Son of Man”; 29-33 “The Lesson of the Fig Tree”; and 34-36 “Exhortation to Watch”. (Those were the titles used in my Bible. Your titles may be different based on the version and publisher of your Bible. They are not part of the original text.) What will be happening before the coming of the Son of Man and what should be the response of Jesus’ followers? What were the disciples supposed to learn from the fig tree? What will endure forever? Why should we be watching for the signs? After 1,980 years, do we really need to be on the alert? Or were these words said by Jesus for a certain people at a particular time in history that have nothing to do with us today?

Happy New Year, Everyone. May the Lord bless your reading of our lessons this week!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Readings for Wednesday, November 21, and Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hello Everyone and Happy Thanksgiving,

We have two sets of readings this week, one for Thanksgiving and one for Reign of Christ (or Christ the King) Sunday.

Joel 2:21-27 – God promises abundance after years of drought and famine. Do we give thanks to God in times of trouble and having faith that God will provide?

Psalm 126 – This is both a psalm of thanksgiving for the restored fortunes of the people (verses 1-3) and a petition to God for that restoration (verses 4-6). Do we thank God for a restoration that may happen in the future?

1 Timothy 2:1-7 – Paul urges Timothy to engage in four kinds of prayer: supplication, prayer, intercession, and thanksgiving, to be lifted up for all people. Perhaps they are all one in the same. A prayer of supplication (asking for a need to be met) should also be a prayer of thanksgiving (for what has already been given). Tim should also pray for kings and rulers so that believers may live in peace and quiet. Who do you pray for? What do you pray for? Does prayer need to be about something?

Matthew 6:25-33 – This is a small part of the much longer Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Jesus’ instruction is to not worry about what to eat, what to wear, or for anything else. If God provides for birds and lilies then God will provide for us. Why do you think the Lectionary Committee chose a text about worry for Thanksgiving? Upon what or who should our lives be focused?

Reign of Christ Sunday
2 Samuel 23:1-7 – These are supposed to be the final words of David as he reflects on what God has done for Israel through him. I say “supposed” because 2 Samuel records other things that David did and ordered. A good question to reflect on is “What is God doing through me for others?”

Psalm 132:1-12 (13-18) – The psalmist asks God to remember all that David endured and how David served God. In verses 11-12 the psalmist remembers God’s promise to keep a descendent of David’s on the throne if they faithfully keep their covenant. Are our children supposed to keep the covenants we make or do the covenants need to be ratified with each generation?

Daniel 7:9-10 – In this vision, Daniel witnesses an Ancient One (with lots of grey hair) take its place on a throne of fire. (The throne had wheels of fire. Did the Old One need a wheel chair?) One hundred million creatures stood at attention while one million creatures served him. Then the books were opened.

Psalm 93 – God, who created all, is the ruler of all and all of creation (the floods) shout out (or witness to) that fact. How does our lives witness to God grace and glory?

Revelation 1:4b-8 – This is part of the greeting to the seven churches John writes as he begin sharing the vision he has had. He asks for grace for the churches from God (who was and is and is to come) and from Christ who saves us. God is the beginning and the end. What does this flowery language say to you?

John 18:33-37 – The Lectionary Committee leaves off a key verse, #38, “Pilate asked Jesus, ‘What is truth?’”. Pilate asks Jesus if he was a king. Being a king in the Roman Empire was not a capital offense as there were many puppet kings that served the Emperor. Being a king that would usurp the Emperor was, however. Jesus declares that his kingdom was something entirely different but Jesus never says he is a king. Jesus’ life had one purpose: to testify to the truth! So, what is that truth? Or, like Pilate, what is truth?

May the God who blesses us in all that we do, bless you with our readings this week. Praise be to God, who was and is and is to come!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Readings for Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Please note that there will be a Thanksgiving Eve Worship Service at both churches on Wednesday, November 21, 2012. Worship at Peace United Church will be at 6:00 PM and worship at Grey Eagle UMC will be at 7:30 PM. We will gather to give thanks to God for all the blessing that God has given us and to pray that we will know God’s will in using those blessings to be a blessing to our communities.

Our readings this coming Sunday are:

1 Samuel 1:4-20 – As we near the end of the Season after Pentecost we read the story of the birth of the Prophet and last Judge Samuel. The current Judge is Eli who expects his two sons to follow in his profession but they are corrupt. Elkanah had two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah had children but Hannah did not. The family travelled yearly to the Tent of the Ark of the Covenant and Hannah prayed for children. Eli observes her silent prayers and after he inquires about them he tells Hannah that the Lord has heard her. The family heads home and one thing leads to another and Hannah becomes pregnant and has a son, Samuel.

1 Samuel 2:1-10 – This is Hannah’s prayer of thanksgiving after she give birth and the prayer of Mary in Luke 1 is very similar. This prayer is read as a psalm response to the first reading.

Daniel 12:1-3 – The promise of the resurrection of the dead. Note here that it is Michael (the angel?) arises and SOME of the dead will be brought back to life. Note also that some arise to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt. This doesn’t quite fit with the common conception of what the resurrection will be like.

Psalm 16 – The Psalmist understands the choice he can make of God or the gods. The choice of God brings counsel, instruction, gladness, and security. Those who choose other gods have sorrow in multiples. In verse 10, Sheol and the Pit are simply the grave, not hell or eternal damnation. In verse 11, the choice of following God’s way, or path, brings the fullness of joy and boundless pleasure.

Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25 – This is the final reading in Hebrews and once again the writer emphasizes the perfect and perfecting work of Jesus in dying on the cross. Jesus, in giving himself to death on the cross, the single sacrifice that makes null and void all other sacrifice, washes away our sins and cleans our “evil conscience”. This leads the writer to several conclusions: we have an assurance of faith; we confess our hope; and we meet together so we can encourage each other in love to good deeds and love.

Mark 13:1-8 – This is also the last reading we will have in the Gospel According to Mark. Our lectionary readings are spread out over 3 years with Mark being the highlight of the second year, Year B. Chapter 13, as a whole, is Jesus’ warnings about the destruction of the temple, the persecutions, the sacrilege that will happen in Jerusalem, and the coming of the Son of Man. If Mark was written in the late 60’s as many scholars believe, then it was written at the time of the Jewish uprising. The words of Jesus about the persecutions and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple would have rung true to Mark. The Jewish Revolt started in 66 CE and the Roman army, after have been driven out of Judea, invaded from the north in 67 CE and besieged Jerusalem finally destroying it and the Temple in 70 CE. The need for watchfulness (vs. 32-37) was real for the Christians living in Judea at the time.

Next week is “The Reign of Christ” or “Christ the King” Sunday. The following Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent and the beginning of Year C in which we will be reading the Gospel According to Luke.

Have a great week reading the Word of the Lord!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Thursday, November 8, 2012

November 2012 Newsletter

The Messenger, the newsletter for Peace United Church and Grey Eagle UMC is now available.

The Messenger

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Readings for Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hello Everyone, Grace and Peace to you.

Please keep all our politicians in your prayers on this election day. Obviously, not everyone will win but we can pray for all that our country will come together to work to solve our national, state, and local problems. Pray for the decrease in divisiveness and the increase in cooperation.

Our readings this week are:

Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17 – Last week the beginning and this week the end without a lot in the middle. Remember that Naomi and Ruth are poor widows (Ruth, a Moabite, is now the foreigner) who can only survive by the generosity of Naomi’s distant relatives, the handouts of strangers, and gleaning the fields for leftover grain and grapes. Ruth goes to glean grain from Boaz’s fields. He is like a third cousin to Naomi’s now deceased husband, Elimelech. Boaz takes an interest in Ruth (she must have been good looking) and tells the field hands to leave extra for her. The two meet and Boaz tells her not to glean another man’s fields because she will find plenty in his. Ruth reports all of this to Naomi. That is the story in Chapter 2. In our readings, Naomi hatches a plot to get Ruth married to Boaz. In verse 3:4, most experts agree that uncovering Boaz’s feet is a sexual reference. Ruth follows Naomi’s instructions and Boaz agrees to marry her but he must first get another closer relative out of the way. Verse 4:13 says that they get married and she gives birth to a son named Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse who was the father of King David. So, the great grandmother of King David was a Moabite foreigner. Ruth is one of four foreign women with some questionable sexual ethics (the others are Tamar (Genesis 38), Rahab who is Boaz’s mother (Joshua 6), and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11)) listed in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. Also, how old is Naomi? Her two adult son’s have died and she declares herself to be too old to bear another son in chapter 1. Yet Naomi becomes the nursemaid of Obed. God works in mysterious ways indeed!

Psalm 127 – A short psalm celebrating the blessings God gives to our homes. There are small sects of Christians called “Quiverfull Christians” that take this psalm to heart and eschew all form of birth-control. The most famous family of this movement are the Duggars. However, this Psalm, written in an age of total male dominance, only celebrates lots of sons, not daughters. Also, pairing this Psalm with our reading in Ruth seems ironic. Ruth is recorded as only have one son, Obed.

1 Kings 17:8-16 – Elijah predicts a drought in verses 1-7 and then takes refuge with a poor foreign widowed mother who remains unnamed throughout her story (vs. 8-24). She is so poor that she only has enough meal and oil to bake something small for her and her son so that they may “eat it and die”. Elijah promises that when she makes a meal for him she will have plenty for herself and her son. And the Lord made is so that her jar of meal and jar of oil never ran out during the drought. This is the story Jesus refers to in Luke 4:25 when the people run him out of Nazareth. The second story of the widow concerns the death of her son and Elijah bringing him back to life in verses 17-24.

Psalm 146 – This psalm was partnered with our Ruth 1 reading last week. Here is what I said: “This psalm celebrates God who helps those in need and those who put their trust in God. Verses 5-7a says that God is happy with those who are faithful, who give justice to the oppressed, and who feeds the hungry. Verses 7b-9 states that the Lord sets prisoners free, gives sight to the blind, lifts up the oppressed, loves the righteous, watches over strangers, and cares for orphans and widows.”

Hebrews 9:24-28 – In the verses we skipped between last week and this, 15-23, the writer argues that blood is necessary for the forgiveness of sin. Even the covenant Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai and the tent with the ark and artifacts were sealed with the blood of calves and goats. In this week’s verses the writer says that it is Christ’s blood, given once for all people to remove sin. Christ’s appearance a second time will be not to deal with sin (this was done in his crucifixion) but to save.

Mark 12:38-44 – There are two very short passages in this lesson. The first, vs. 38-40, is Jesus warning the people about the scribes. Perhaps there were scribes that gave other scribes a bad name by demanding respect, being showoffs, and swindling widows out of their property. “They will receive the greater condemnation.” A question to ask, “Whose condemnation?” Think of the downfall of several prominent televangelists in the 80’s and 90’s. Whose condemnation did they receive? The second story is often referred to as “the widow’s mite”. Jesus and the disciples watch people give money to the Temple Treasury. A widow gives two pennies and Jesus praises her. She gave everything she had to live on. In other words, she gave her life.

Do we fully trust that Jesus’ self-sacrifice is sufficient to save us? Are we willing to trust that gift of grace and then give all we have and are?

May God’s Spirit lead you to greater faithfulness as you read the Word.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary