Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lectionary Readings for Sunday, May 5, 2013

Hello Everyone,
Grace and Peace to you in Jesus Christ,

First, GEUMC’ers, our semi-annual ditch clean out is happening on Thursday, May 2, at 9:00 AM. We will meet at the parking lot next to the post office where we will get our vests and bags. The more people that can help the quicker the work will get done.

Second, PUC’ers, we too need to clean our ditches on Highway 71. We didn’t have a successful clean up in 2012 and a lot of garbage has accumulated so I am praying for success this year. With that in mind, I am scheduling Wednesday, May 22 at 6:00 PM as our Ditch Cleaning Day. If you can be there please reply and let me know. Again, the more people that can help, the quicker the work will get done.

This coming Sunday is Communion at both churches and is a good time to invite someone (a former church attendee, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, etc.) to join you in worship.

Our readings this week are:

Acts 16:9-15 – After a week with Peter we now turn our attention to Paul. Paul and his troupe is in Asia (modern day Turkey) and they have tried to go to Bithynia but were stopped by the Holy Spirit (no explanation is given). While in Troas Paul has a vision of a man asking him to go to Macedonia (northern Greece) so they go across to Philippi. In verse 11 the third person narration turns to first person. Was the writer, Luke, part of Paul’s troupe? On the Sabbath, they go “down to the river to pray” and they meet and witness to a woman named Lydia. She believes and her entire household is baptized. This is really an amazing story. In those days, the faith of the male head of household determined the faith of all in the household. (See Acts 10 and the Centurion Cornelius). For a woman to lead her family in faith is truly the work of God’s Spirit and show us how God works to change our perceptions of what is acceptable. Does the Spirit ever stop you from doing something and nudge you to do something else?

Psalm 67 – The psalmist calls upon God’s blessing for all and calls on all peoples and nations to praise God for all that God has done.

Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 – John the Seer is taken to a high mountain to look upon the New Jerusalem that has come to earth. Verses 11-21 are John’s description of the city with its size, shape, and construction materials. There are two things that John does not see: a temple (verse 21:22) and a sun (verses 21:23 and 22:5). God is the temple and God is the Light with the Lamb as the lamp to spread the Light. The gates of the city will never be shut and people will bring the honor and glory of the nations into the city. John also says that nothing unclean will enter the city, only those written in the book of life. However, since the books were opened in chapter 20 and all were judged by their works (note: not faith) and since God made all thing new earlier in chapter 21, there should not be anyone or anything unclean remaining. The verses in chapter 22 describe the river of the water of life and the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24) whose leaves heal the nations and John states that nothing accursed will ever be found in this new life. What do you think John’s vision might have meant to people who were suffering persecution?

John 14:23-29 – This is a small excerpt from Jesus’ long discourse with his disciples which starts at 14:1 and goes to 16:33. Our verses pick up on the theme of the new commandment Jesus gave at 13:34-35 in last week’s Gospel. When we love Jesus we will keep his word and God’s love will be in us. Verse 24 is a little head scratcher: if we do not love Jesus we will not keep his words but the word we hear is from God. Huh? Jesus also says he will send the Advocate (Helper or Counselor), the Holy Spirit. The word “Advocate” (Paraklete in Greek) implies a lawyer for the defense. This is appropriate since the word “Satan” (hasatan in Hebrew) means accuser. This Advocate will teach us new things and remind us of Jesus’ teaching. The Holy Spirit is God’s defender against the accuser of this world. The final promise Jesus gives in this passage is the promise of Peace. This Peace is not the peace that comes at the end of a gun and threatens extreme violence but a Peace arising from love, grace and forgiveness. A Peace that absorbs the violence of the world and returns only love. How has God’s Peace filled your life? How has the Advocate taught you and defended you?

OR John 5:1-9 – I am not sure why the lectionary offers this alternate reading. In this short episode, Jesus heals a crippled man who had lived (or been brought there everyday by family) at the pool called “Bethzatha” (or Bethesda or Bethsaida). This healing happens on the Sabbath.

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us. May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him!” (Psalm 67:1, 7)

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Readings for Sunday, April 28, 2013

Grace and Peace to You in Jesus Christ,

I am writing this week’s email while on retreat. I am at ARC Retreat Center near Staunchfield (pop 200?) and north of Cambridge. The center is in a beautiful forest of white pines. The road and driveway were so sloppy I was glad to have my 4x4 pickup to get in. We are a group of four pastors, one of whom has been a friend for at least 20 years and the other two I expect will be friends into the far future. This has been a very uplifting and renewing experience.

Our readings continue in Acts, Revelation, and John.

Acts 11:1-18 – This reading is basically a retelling of the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10. Cornelius has a vision telling him to send someone to get Peter. Peter has a vision telling him to slaughter the ritually unclean animals which he refuses to do. This happens three time in the vision and three times the voice of God tells him, “What God has declared clean you must not declare unclean.” Peter then goes to Cornelius, a Roman Centurion (a gentile) to preach the Good News telling Cornelius’ family that he, Peter, should call no person defiled or unclean. Everyone believes and Peter has the entire household baptized. In our reading, the church council in Jerusalem has called Peter to account for his actions and so he retells the story. He recounts how the Holy Spirit came upon the family and then says, “Whom am I to hinder God’s work?” Who do we declare “unclean”? Hispanic immigrants? Welfare recipients? Single mothers using government assistance? How do we hinder God’s work?

Psalm 148 – A Psalm of Praise. Notice whom the psalmist call on to Praise the Lord: everything and every animal and every person. All of God’s creation is called to praise the Lord. Have you given Praise to God today?

Revelation 21:1-6 – I use this reading in funerals quite often and they bring a word of Hope to hurting, mourning family. They can also give hope to a hurting world. In the midst of pain comes a resurrected life. The old passes away and the new descends. God is not just something “out there” but God pitches his tent with his creation. The things that bring us the most fear – chaos (symbolized by the turbulent seas), death, mourning, and pain –will be gone. All things are made new. Life comes through the eternal waters that flows from God.

John 13:31-35 – Jesus and the disciples are meeting in a room for dinner just before Passover begin. Jesus washes the disciples feet and then asks them to do the same for others. He then declares that one of the disciples who is there sharing in the meal will betray him. Judas leaves and Jesus declares that he, Jesus, has been glorified and if he is glorified then God is glorified. Jesus then gives the disciples one commandment: Love one another! That is how people will know that we follow Jesus. Because we love one another and we love the other. How do you share your love, God’s love with others? How about the other who is unlovable? How about our enemies?

May God Love and Grace envelope you and move you to share that love with other!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Readings for April 21, 2013 with a Prayer for the Victims of Violence

Grace and Peace to you in Jesus Christ,
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I have been listening to extensive coverage of the Boston Marathon Bombing on NPR. If you haven’t already, we should pause a moment to say a prayer for the families that lost loved ones, and for the injured and their families in their healing. Did you also know that yesterday a bomb exploded in Iraq and killed 55 and injured hundreds? We are shocked at bombings and mass shootings in our own country but we barely notice the violence that happens in other countries, especially the so called third world countries. So let us pray for all victims of violence:

Oh Lord, most loving God: we know that you grieve the loss of lives and the pain of those injured in Boston yesterday. We give you thanks that your Holy Spirit, your presence that brings healing and comfort, is intimately involved with all of those lives at this time. We pray for all victims, those in Boston and the thousands of victims around the world, that suffer the effects of violence each day. We pray that those who feel the need to perpetuate violence may respond to your Holy Spirit and have a change of heart and mind. We ask that your comforting Spirit to be with those that mourn and heal those that are injured. We thank you Lord for your Son Jesus who shows us that the way of eternal life is without inflicting violence on other but to absorb the violence of others and reflect back your love. We pray with Jesus on the cross when he said, “Forgive them (and us) Father because they do not know what they are doing.” We pray this in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our readings this week are:

Acts 9:36-43 – Not all the disciples were men although if you randomly open the New Testament it would seem that they were all men. Our story this week is about a disciple named Tabitha (Dorcas) who also happened to be female. She became ill and died. Peter was fetched from a nearby town. Peter goes to the room where the body is lain, ushers out all the mourners, prays for a while, and then tells her to get up. Have we raised anyone from the dead lately?

Psalm 23 – I think the lectionary committee puts this in the cycle 9 times, or about 3 times a year. There is a small connection with the Gospel Lesson. Maybe also with the Acts lesson, because if anyone has been through the valley of the shadow of death it was Tabitha. There is also an overt connection with our Revelation reading.

Revelation 7:9-17 – Another worship scene in heaven with all the usual characters: a great multitude from all the nations, angels, elders, and the four living creatures. However, in this scene there are some new worshipers who are robed in white. These are the martyrs who have died (come through the great ordeal). They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and the Lamb with be their Shepherd. What visions of the Lamb that was Slaughtered have we had?

John 10:22-30 – The Lamb that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) has said, “I AM the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11). He is being challenged once again by the Jewish authorities while visiting the temple. “Are you or are you not the Messiah?” Jesus states that people who hear his voice and believe in him are his sheep and they can never be taken from him. Then in verse 30 Jesus says, “The Father and I are one.” Place yourself in the mind of the authorities. The man Jesus has just declared to be equal to God. What is your reaction? How do you feel about this? What do you want to do? (In the voice of a TV announcer) Now read verses 31-39 for the exciting conclusion of “Jesus in the Temple”.

Christ is Risen! Pass it On!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Monday, April 8, 2013

Readings for Sunday, April 14, 2013

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, Indeed!
Grace and Peace in our Risen Savior.

People of Peace United Church, remember to go over to the South Building to check out the remaining items. If there is anything that you would like to keep, either as a memory keepsake or because you can use it, please feel free to claim and take it. There are several items that will still come over to the North Building such as the tables and some office things, but everything else is available.

Also, if anyone has a need for a good used (but not used much over the last four years) copier/printer/scanner for your office or home office, let me know. It may need a little refurbishing due to disuse but it should still be good. A contribution to Peace United Church for the value you think it has would be appreciated.

One last item. I notice in my calendar that today is Yom HaShoah, a day to remember the victims of the Holocaust. The vast majority of victims of the Nazi Regime were the Jews living in Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, France, etc. Many others were also victims including Gypsies, Gays and Lesbians, and people who opposed the Nazis. Please take a moment to remember those victims of the darkest decade of the 20th century. Pray that our world will wake up from the horror of war, violence, and exterminations of other peoples.

We continue our readings in Acts, Revelation, and the Gospel of John this week.

Acts 9:1-6 (7-20) – The first six verses tells the story of Saul’s (later Paul) encounter with Jesus while travelling to Damascus. The optional verses are about a man named Ananias whom God sends to minister Saul. The overall result of Saul’s and Ananias’ encounter with Jesus/God is that Saul begins preaching the Good News. Have you had an encounter with Jesus? What was the result? How were you changed? (Often in the Bible an encounter with God brings change to a person signified by a change in name: Abram/Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Simon/Peter, Saul/Paul.)

Psalm 30 – The Psalmist gives thanks to God for the restoration, renewal of his life. There is an early hint of resurrection in verse 3. One Old Testament theme is reflected in verse 5: God’s anger is brief but God’s favor is forever. The end of the Psalm celebrates new life: mourning changed to dancing and sackcloth replaced with joy.

Revelation 5:11-14 – The lectionary skips a key interpretive passage for Revelation, so I encourage you to read verses 1-10. A scroll needs to be opened but none is worthy to open it. An angel declares that the Lion of Judah (the Old Testament King Saul, a military reference) can do it. John looks and doesn’t see the Lion but he sees the “Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered”. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is the “Lamb who takes away the sin of the world” and Jesus is crucified on the day the lambs are sacrificed for Passover. This Lamb is worthy and that is why the heavenly creatures sing in our assigned verses. The slaughtered Lamb is victorious.

John 21:1-19 – After the appearance of Jesus to the disciples that we read last week, John records one more appearance. Many, though not all, the disciples go back to Galilee and go fishing with Peter but the fishing is not good. Jesus appears on the beach and yells to them to cast the nets on the other side of the boat. They then haul in 153 large fish. Peter, who was fishing naked, recognized Jesus, puts on his robe, jumps in the lake and swims to shore. The others bring the boat to shore. There, Jesus cooks breakfast. Then, starting in verse 15, Jesus has a one on one with Peter and asks him three times if he loves him. Three times Peter says he does. After each response Jesus says: feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. Many believe that this encounter was to counteract the three time Peter denied Jesus. Peter will become a faithful apostle. How many times are we forgiven?

Have a great week serving the Risen Savior!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Becoming a Pastor at 43

Today, the United Methodist Church General Board of Higher Education and Ministry is emphasizing “Exploration 2013” and has asked all UMC bloggers to write about the person or people that influenced us in our decision to enter ministry.

For me it was a number of people over a 25 year period. God is patient and kept moving me into ministry over that quarter century. My first call to ministry came as I was about to graduate high school in Mountain Home, ID. My father was stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base and I was active in the Protestant Youth Group sponsored by the Chapel on the base. The youth pastor was an Episcopalian Chaplain whose name I no longer remember. About a month before graduation, in 1975, he stopped me after the youth group meeting and told me that he thought I had the gifts and graces to be a parish minister. He asked me to consider going to seminary after I completed college. I thanked him but said that I was going into music and would probably be a music teacher after college. That is how my college education and early career turned out. (The college I graduated from was St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN.)

My first job after college was teaching all levels of music in a small (pop. 300) rural town in central Minnesota. When I moved to Deer Creek I wanted to attend a local church. Deer Creek had two, a United Methodist and a Missouri Synod Lutheran. I started attending the Methodist church and became close friends with the pastor, Rev. Dick Jackson, and his wife, Nancy. Dick Jackson encouraged me to be a local lay speaker and I was occasionally allowed to preach at the three churches he served.

Years later I was living in Eagle Bend, MN and working as a bookkeeper/accountant for a meat packing company in Long Prairie. You can see how well being a music teacher worked out for me. During those years I had married, my wife gave birth to three beautiful children, and I had gone to Tech School to learn my new trade. We were now members of the Eagle Bend United Methodist Church. EBUMC was one church in a three point parish which joined, in 1997, with four other churches to form Communities of Faith Larger Parish. The pastors serving the larger parish, Rev. Rory Swenson and Rev. Fayetta Clark, convinced me to take a larger role as lay speaker for the parish. Each Sunday they would lead worship at three churches each and a lay speaker would lead at the seventh. I lead services one to two times a month.

In 1999 my work took me to South St. Paul during the week but I continued to live in Eagle Bend and lead worship on the weekends. Another change led to the breakup of the parish and I was ready to leave my work. I sent District Superintendent David Bard a message that I he needed someone I would be willing to work as a part time pastor in a four point parish. He sent me an email asking if I would consider being a full time pastor and after discussing it with my wife I agreed. That was in May of 2000 and at the end of June I was the pastor of the new four point Communities of Faith.

Notice that I did not go through seminary becoming a provisional elder which then would have led to being fully ordained in the United Methodist Church. The UMC allows an alternate route to being a pastor for people over 35 who cannot go to seminary. This alternate path to ministry is called “Local Licensed Pastor”. There are several steps in the process of becoming a LLP including attending licensing school, receiving an appointment, and then attending Course of Study in the summer at a UMC seminary.

This alternate route is ideal for 2nd or 3rd career people who feel a call to serve in the United Methodist Church. The UMC is actively seeking young people who feel the call but there is still a place in the church for older, sometimes retired, people. Young or old, if you are feeling called to serve in the UMC, or are perhaps curious about serving, contact your local pastor and let her or him know of your interest. You should also check out ExploreCalling.org. There is a lot of information that will be useful in your discernment.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Readings for April 7, 2013

Hello Everyone,

Thank you, Everyone, for the wonderful Easter Celebrations we had at Grey Eagle UMC and Peace United Church. Attendance at each church was 83 and 138 respectively. We must also acknowledge that it was a bittersweet day for Peace United Church as we worshiped for the last time at the South Church (AKA “The Golf Course Church”).

This week we will begin reading Acts (7 weeks), Revelation (6 weeks), and the Gospel of John (8 weeks). Acts will serve as our Old Testament lesson even though it is a New Testament book.

This week we begin reading through those books with:

Acts 5:27-32 – Peter and other apostle were healing and teaching the people of Jerusalem. They are thrown into jail. During the night an angel brings them out and tells them to keep preaching the good news. At daylight, they go to the Temple and do just that. When the jail cell is found empty and reports come in that Peter and the others are in the Temple, the police haul them before the Chief Priest and the Sadducees. Peter testifies to the risen Jesus who was crucified by those very same authorities. How will we testify when threatened?

Psalm 118:14-29 – There are three verses that are well known and oft repeated. Verse 22 is quoted often in the New Testament. Verse 24 is a common refrain that I am currently singing in my head. Verse 26 is quoted by the congregation in the Communion liturgy. You will recognize them all.

OR Psalm 150 – I often read this Psalm for families before the start of a funeral. It reminds us that we always need to praise God even in the depths of our grief.

Revelation 1:4-8 – First off the book is one Revelation and several Revelations. I often slip and say “Revelations”. One Revelation of Jesus Christ. This Revelation was given to Jesus by God according to verse one. Jesus then shares this Revelation with his servant John. John in turn shares this Revelation to seven churches in Asia (now modern day Turkey). These opening words praises Jesus and God.

John 20:19-31 – This is the report of Jesus’ first two appearances to the male disciples. Jesus has already appeared to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning. The first appearance to the men occurs in the evening of Easter. They are hiding from the authorities fearing reprisals against them as followers of Jesus and the doors are locked. Jesus appears speaking peace and he shares the Holy Spirit with them. Unfortunately, Thomas is not with them and when they tell him he demands actual proof. On the next Sunday evening Jesus again appears to the disciples including Thomas. When Jesus shows his wounds Thomas believes. Do we need “proof” to believe?

Christ is Risen!
Pass it on.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor