Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Readings for Sunday, August 4, 2013

Hello Everyone,

During the Month of August, our scriptures and my sermons will be on the theme of “A Place at the Table”. This series will explore several sections of the Great Thanksgiving Liturgy that is used when we have communion. I will be choosing scripture lessons that focus on that theme. Here are the four parts of the sermon series:

August 4 – “Setting the Table”
August 11 – “Invitation to the Table”
August 18 – “Blessing the Table”
August 25 – “Extending the Table”

The scripture I have chosen for this week are:

1 Corinthian 10:16-17 – These two verses will be read each week during the series. They are a little bit out of context when read alone but they do focus us on the idea that together we are the body of Christ. In context, it is all about not worshiping or following idols. Paul states that we cannot in full conscience eat at the table of the Lord while we feast at the table of idols. What are today’s idols? Money? Status? Power? What keeps us from fully following Jesus? Paul deals with the troubles of the church in Corinth when it comes to table fellowship at chapter 11:17-34.

Luke 22:7-13 – For four day, beginning with his entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus taught at the temple and engaged his critics with parables and questions. On the day of Passover Jesus sends Peter and John to secure and prepare a room for the celebration. Luke does not give us any details of how they prepared the room to receive Christ, the other disciples and other followers. We can only imagine: tables and lounging mats to be placed in the room; food to be prepared (leg of lamb, herbs, flat bread, etc.); a foot washing basin; a hand washing basin; etc. How do we prepare the table? How do we prepare ourselves to receive the gift of bread and wine?

During August, I will not neglect the Lectionary Readings and I invite you to continue reading them.

Hosea 11:1-11 – You may as well read verse 12 which ends the chapter. After reciting the ways in which God has led Israel and how they constantly turn away, God decides that abandoning Israel is not his way. I think that the key verse here is verse 9. This represents a major shift in the ancient understanding of the nature of God. Mortals use violence and wrath but God is not mortal and is, therefore, not wrathful.

Psalm 107:1-9, 43 – The psalmist recited the many times that God has brought Israel through their troubles. He concludes, “Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.”

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23 – “All is vanity.” The Teacher notes that all the things that humans do is in vain like chasing after the wind. What do we get for all the work we do? Absolutely nothing: days full of pain, vexing work, restless nights. Overall, the book of Ecclesiastes is quite a downer.

Psalm 49:1-12 – What will the accumulation of wealth get us? In the end, nothing. A very apt Psalm to go along with Ecclesiastes.

Colossians 3:1-11 – What does it mean to live life in Christ? To begin, Paul says we are to set our mind on Christ, on the things above. As is typical for Paul, he starts by telling the church, and us, what not to do: actions that hurt others and hurt ourselves. Using a metaphor of clothing Paul say that in accepting Christ we have taken off the old clothes of worldly pleasure and put on the new clothes of Christ. In this new way, all the differences that humans use to hurt others are no longer valid. (Note, while Paul drops the “male and female” difference here, it is included in a similar passage at Galatians 3:28.)

Luke 12:13-21 – Be on guard against all kinds of greed! Did you ever thing there were different kinds of greed? Isn’t greed just greed? Greed for money, for things, for power, for influence, for social position; aren’t they all just the same thing? What does greed do? It interferes with relationships. What if the man in the parable used his excess to help the poor and hungry instead of hoarding it all? Would his relationship with his community have been better?

Have a great week serving the Lord in all you do!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Readings for Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hello Everyone,

First off, I offer my sincere thanks for all the Grey Eagle people who helped with today’s funeral for Gerty Perlinger. Without the help of the people of both churches to make everything happen we would simply be a Meditation and Singing Group that meets once a week.

Secondly, let’s keep inviting people to church. Just because someone says “No” the first time doesn’t mean we should stop asking them. A church whose people are constantly inviting others into fellowship and worship of God is a church that is growing. If we stop asking we become a dying church. Therefore: keep asking! (Also, if all the people you know are faithful church goers then you are the luckiest person in the world AND you need to make new (unchurched) friends.)

Starting August 4th I will begin a 4 week preaching series titled “A Place at the Table”. We will be looking at the various parts of our communion service and explore the idea of having communion more than once a month.

Our readings this week are:

Hosea 1:2-10 – Why, why did the Lectionary Committee leave off verse 1? You might just as well read it. What did God command Hosea to do and why? Who did Hosea marry and what did she do? Who are the children born to Hosea and what did he name them? As you read the text pay attention to the footnotes that explain the meaning of their names.

Psalm 85 – What does the Psalmist want God to do? How does he appeal to God? What has God done in the past that the Psalmist wants God to do again? How is the Psalmist’s hope expressed in verses 10-13?

OR Genesis 18:20-32 – What does God intend to do in verses 18-20 and why? Who begins bargaining with God in an attempt to stop God? What does this person appeal to? You should probably start reading the text at verse 16 and finish off the chapter with verse 33.

Psalm 138 – Sometimes the Old Testament contains hints of polytheism and verse 1 contains one of those references. Verse 2 has one of the OT’s themes about the nature of God. What are the two natures? What has God done for the Psalmist to deserve his praise? Why will all the kings of earth praise God?

Colossians 2:6-19 – I had to read this a couple of times. Maybe I am a bit tired. Paul uses a lot of metaphors in this passage: faith rooted in Christ; established in faith; being taken captive; deity dwelling bodily; spiritual circumcision; buried in baptism; raised through faith; dead in trespasses and forgiven; disarming the rulers and authorities; and finishing with the metaphor of the body. The point I think Paul is making is that in Christ we never have to worry about these things as we continue to walk in Christ (another metaphor, I know). Life is lived in its fullest measure when we have received and know Jesus.

Luke 11:1-13 – Verses 2-4 are Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer. Compare these verses with Matthew 6:9-13. How do they differ? What words do Matthew include but Luke leaves out? What words do we pray that Matthew and Luke do not contain (and Catholics generally don’t pray either)? Notice that Matthew uses “debts and debtors” while Luke uses “sins and debtors.” Some churches use “trespasses and trespass” (GEUMC), some use “sins and sinners” (Peace United Church) and some use “debts and debtors.” Why the differences? In verses 5-8 Jesus compares prayer to a persistent neighbor and then, in verses 9-13 tells us that asking, searching, and knocking will produce results. Why, in your experience, do prayers seem not to work?

Have a great week everyone. Keep asking (your neighbors to join you in church), searching (for those who need church fellowship) and knocking (on their doors, desks, windows, or whatever persistently).

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Readings for Sunday, July 21 and a Thought on the Zimmerman-Martin Trial

Hello Everyone,

This past Saturday word came that the jury in Sanford, Florida, acquitted George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Treyvon Martin. It seems like everyone has an opinion about this case and for the last three days every one of those opinions have been aired on TV, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, Web Blogs, and any other media you can think of. Everyone who thinks the verdict was wrong blames (pick as many as you want): the prosecution, the six white women on the jury, the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida, racial profiling, and/or the ongoing racism in the US. Everyone who agrees with the verdict is shocked at the depth of passion by those who disagree.

However you feel about the case we need to keep all in our prayers: George Zimmerman who must live with the outcome of that fateful day; the family of Treyvon Martin as they continue to mourn his death; the lawyers on both sides who did their best; the women of the jury who had to come to some sort of decision; the people of Sanford and Florida; and our society writ large as we continue to come to terms with race in our multiracial society and how we live out the neighborliness of the Good Samaritan story. Instead of trying to fix the blame let us all look within our own hearts and the prejudices we all carry against the “other”. Only then can we begin to love all of God’s people as God loves us.

Our readings this week continue our readings in Amos, Colossians, and the Gospel of Luke.

Amos 8:1-12 – One of the major themes of Amos is the disparity in Israel between the rich and the poor. There was probably no “middle class” as we would call it today. Amos pronounced the judgment of God upon Israel because the rich continued to take advantage of the poor for their own personal gain (verses 4-6). God’s judgment is that God will no longer be present with Israel (verse 2) and God will not forget what they have done (verse 7). What would Amos be like to read today if we were to substitute the word “United States of America” for the word “Israel”?

Psalm 52 – In an apt Psalm to accompany our Amos reading, the psalmist takes deceitful people to task and praises the righteous who fear the Lord.

OR Genesis 18:1-10a – The story of Abram (Abraham) and Sarai (Sarah) begins in chapter 12. God makes a covenant with Abram and changes their names in chapter 17. Our story in this reading actually goes through verse 15. A & S are camped under the oak trees of Mamre when the LORD, in the form of three visitors stop by. Being the good host that he is, Abraham asks the guests to sit a spell, tells Sarah to prepare flour cakes, and has the servants slaughter and roast a calf. (How long did the three guests have to wait?) The guests (the LORD) promise A & S a son in due season. Let’s not forget that Abraham is 99 (17:1) or 100 (17:17) and Sarah is 90 (17:17). I think the point of the Lectionary Committee cutting the story short by 4 verses is to emphasize hospitality. What is “hospitality” and how can we as a church be more hospitable?

Psalm 15 – This is almost the flip side of Psalm 52 above. Who can live in God’s tent? Verses 2-5 answer this question. “Those who do theses things will never be moved.” (verse 5b)

Colossians 1:15-28 – Did you ever want to know what God is like? Then look at Jesus. Just as a photo of you is the image of you, so too is Jesus the image of God. Paul, however, goes much deeper than just this metaphor. Jesus is also Creator of all things, before and after all things, the glue of all things, the vessel holding the fullness of God, and, last but certainly not least, the reconciler of humanity and all things to God. This is the Gospel that Paul dedicated his life without regard to the suffering he endured. “It is he whom we proclaim . . . so that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (verse 28).

Luke 10:38-42 – If you recall the encounter of the lawyer with Jesus in last week’s reading you know that the story of the Good Samaritan was in response to the question “Who is my neighbor?” That question was a follow up to the two great commandments: Love God and Love neighbor. Luke moves immediately to a story that illustrates the first part of the Great Commandments with the story of Mary and Martha.

Jesus visits them and Martha is busy with the things a good host does for her guest, much like Abraham asked Sarah to do for their guests. Her sister, Mary, on the other hand, sits with Jesus and listens to him. Martha, of course, complains but Jesus will have none of it. Who was being the good host, the one who works so that the guest may have food and drink or the one who stays with the guest? Not an easy question to answer because both must be done. Maybe Martha could have been a little more like Mary and Mary could have been a little more like Martha. (And where is Lazarus in this story?)

When the Martha/Mary question is applied to the church we sometimes feel that there are too many Mary’s and not enough Martha’s. How about everyone being both? Everyone one contributes work in the church and contributes to the work of the church. Everyone attends to the worship and praise of God. We will be a better church when we do both.

Have a great week serving God by serving your neighbor.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Readings for Sunday, July 14 2013

Hello Everyone,

I think the dog days of summer are upon us. Here is a link to the Wikipedia article: Dog Days. What do you think of the Roman practice of sacrificing a brown dog on the first day of Dog Days to appease an angry star/god Sirius?

Our readings this week begin two series: the Minor Prophets Amos and Hosea for four weeks and Paul’s letter to the Colossians for four weeks also. This week’s Gospel lesson is the wonderful parable of neighborliness.

Amos 7:7-17 – Words of judgment against the northern kingdom of Israel. Amos is a simple herdsman from the southern kingdom of Judah who was commanded by God to prophesy in Israel. In verses 7-9, Amos sees a vision of a plum line. (This follows two other visions in verses 1-6.) God says that he will no longer support Israel or its king, Jeroboam. The priest of Bethel, Amaziah, confronts Amos and tells him to go home. Amos says that God sent him and then pronounces judgment against Amaziah. Tough words. While the words may be against the nation of Israel, its king Jeroboam, and priest Amaziah, how do we measure up against the plum line God holds for us?

Psalm 82 – Much of what Amos prophesies against in Israel is nice summed up by this Psalm. Verse 1 literally says that God is present in a divine council with other gods. What do you make of this? Verses 2-4 could just as easily be spoken by God to the rulers of the world including our governments. In verses 6 and 7 God speaks to the other gods as if they were God’s children. How are we to understand these words?

Deuteronomy 30:9-14 – If I were to choose which OT passage would be paired with the Gospel lesson this would not be the one. There seems to be a connection with the idea that if we are obedient to love God we will be prosperous with children, livestock, and produce. Do you feel this is true?

Psalm 25:1-10 – The psalmist asks the Lord to teach him and guide him in the ways of living a righteous life and to not remember the ways of his youth. Twice he invokes the notion of God’s “chesed’ (Hebrew for kindness or love) and “emes” (Hebrew for faithfulness), a common theme throughout the Old Testament.

Colossians 1:1-14 – This is Paul’s letter to the church located in Colossae, whose people were known as Colossians. Colossae is located in the south central portion Asia Minor, now known as Turkey. These opening verses, after a perfunctory but standard greeting, Paul reports his and his companions’ joy at how well the church is doing since the day they heard the Gospel. Then Paul says that they have all been praying for the people’s growth in the Lord. Are you praying for your church and the worldwide church that it may grow in the knowledge of God, have spiritual wisdom and understanding, and that it will bear fruit for God’s Kingdom?

Luke 10:25-37 – This is one of the most beloved parables, along with the Prodigal Son, in the Gospels. It begins with a question put to Jesus, “How can I attain eternal life?” As a scholar of the Torah, he must have known the answer because Jesus turns it back to him with another question, “What does scripture say?” The man answers, “Love God, love neighbor.” Jesus says, “You got it! Go and do just that! That is life!” But then the man springs his trap, “So, who is my neighbor?” That is the question we must always ask ourselves! Are the immigrants, documented and undocumented, who have moved into town over the last 10 to 15 years from Mexico and points south my neighbor? Are the refugee immigrants from Somalia, Rwanda, Congo, and Ethiopia my neighbors? Is the same sex couple with kid who purchased the house down the road my neighbors? Who are the people we love to hate and are they not our neighbor? Who is your neighbor and who is mine?

Have a great week as you delve into the Wonderful Words of Life!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Small Churches

Hello Everyone,

Here is a great article from the Alban Institute about the current reality of small churches. Many are stuck on mourning "the past" but the reality is small churches can and do make a difference in rural and urban settings.

Being the Church Today by Steve Willis

Please take a few moments to read the article.

Pastor Gary

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Readings for July 7, 2013

Hello Everyone,

Our Readings this week are:

2 Kings 5:1-14 – Elisha heals Naaman, a commander of the army of the king of Aram. Jesus references this story in Luke 4:27. Some questions: Who initially sent Naaman to seek out Elisha? Who did Naaman first talk to? What was the letter to the King of Israel and why did the king tear his clothes? What did Elisha instruct Naaman to do? What did he think of that advice? Who set Namaan straight? Elisha and Naaman are the most important characters in the story, but who are instrumental in the healing? How is God working in someone seemingly inconsequential to bring healing to you?

Psalm 30 – The psalmist praises God for his healing. This is appropriate for the Elisha-Namaan story but could just as well have been spoken by Job. How do you praise God and proclaim God’s goodness when you have been healed and lifted up?

Isaiah 66:10-14 – This is a wonderful example of the feminine nature of God. The first “hers” refer to Jerusalem and how the people can be nursed and comforted at her breast. Verse 13 then turns the feminine image toward God. Are you ever comforted God like a child is comforted by her/his mother? The lectionary committee stops short of the verses where God will destroy those the opposition.

Psalm 66:1-9 – In this part of the longer Psalm 66, the psalmist praise God for God’s wonderful deeds in saving the people of Israel. Does God still work to save groups of people such as churches, towns, states, nations?

Galatians 6: (1-6), 7-16 – This is the last of our readings in Galatians. The optional section, 1-6, seems to be a series of instructions: gently restore one who has fallen away; bear each others’ burdens; each person should test their own work not another’s; share the teachings with others. The second section, 7-10, uses a farming metaphor of sowing seeds. What kind of seed do we sow and then what is the fruit we reap? The third section, 11-16, is Paul’s final defense of his message. What do you boast of? Do you boast of all you do or have or, like Paul, do you boast only in Jesus Christ?

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 – Jesus sends out 70 (or 72) disciples and gives them instructions. Did you know that the fields are still ready for harvest for God’s Reign? Why do you think that Jesus wanted them to carry nothing on their journey? Why were they prevented from changing the place they were staying? What were they to do when a town rejected their message? We often think about the message of God going out to individuals but this passage speaks about town accepting or rejecting it. So, since Jesus brings up Sodom in verse 12 (another section skipped by the lectionary due to its difficulty), what if there is but one new believer in the town? (Abraham talked God down to 10 righteous people. Why didn’t he get down to 1?) What do you think Jesus meant when he said “I saw Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning”? One of my favorite books on human nature is “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning” by Rene Girard. To get the gist of what the book is about read the reviews at Amazon.com.

Have a great week serving God by serving you neighbors.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

It Takes Two to Make a Sermon

A lady of one of my churches brought me a daily meditation article. This comes from “Daily Walk with God: Meditations for Every Day” by Herman W. Gockel (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1982) for July 1.


Read Luke 8:5-15

It Takes Two to Make a Sermon

“Then pay attention to how you listen.” (Luke 8:18)

During these days our pastor is busy, preparing for next Sunday’s sermon. He is devoting many hours to prayer and study in order that he may bring us some important message from God’s Word. He devotes much time to the preparation of each sermon, because he considers this one of the most important functions of his ministry.

But has it ever occurred to us that we, too, have a share in the responsibilities of this preparation? That we can prepare ourselves to hear a sermon just as the pastor prepares himself to preach it? As someone has well said, it takes two to make a sermon – the one who preaches it and the one who hears it! Whether or not a specific sermon will accomplish its God-intended purpose will depend, at least in part, on how well the worshiper has prepared him-or-herself to hear it.

Whether or not you and I will be fruitful hearers this coming Sunday will depend very much upon our frame of mind – yes, our “frame of heart” – today, tomorrow, and throughout the week. Keeping late hours on Saturday, or engaging in family quarrels and bickerings until just before leaving the house in anger five minutes late for church, will surely not prepare our hearts for a fruitful sowing of the Word.

We shall take to church in our hearts next Sunday what we put into them today. How important, then, that already today, by prayer and meditation, we prepare the soil of our hearts so that the precious seed might enter! “Take heed therefore how ye hear!”

Well might we pray, not only each time we open this book for personal or family meditation, but also each Sunday as we enter our accustomed pew:

Lord, open my heart to hear,
and through your word to draw me near;
Let me your Word e’er pure retain,
let me your child and heir remain.


I paraphrased the last poem from Mr. Gockel’s original and I used the NRSV Bible for the opening quote where Mr. Gockel used the KJV.

Later today I will post the lectionary readings with some of my comments. The intent of that post is to prepare our hearts for the upcoming Sunday Worship Service. I pray that the seed planted with that email will bring God’s harvest to fruition on Sunday.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor