Friday, August 30, 2013

September 2013 Newsletter

Hello Everyone,

The latest edition of the Messenger is now available.

You may read it here:

September 2013 Newsletter

Have a great Labor Day Weekend.
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hello Everyone,

Since I have designated September to be the “Month of Invitation” I will remind you of our focus for that week. This week you should be inviting family members who don’t come to church regularly to come with you this Sunday for Communion. If they are one of your children, you can exert your parental pressure.

Did you watch the VMA (Video Music Awards) on MTV this past Sunday evening. Neither did I. However, if you have been watching the news talk shows you have probably already heard about Miley Cyrus’ raunchy performance that night. Most commentators found it disgusting, to say the least. Today, I received a link to an excerpt from Adam Hamilton’s book Love to Stay: Sex, Grace, and Commitment. The article was not sent in response to what Miley Cyrus did but it seemed appropriate to me. Check out the article: “The Trivialization of Sex” by Adam Hamilton.

Our reading for this coming Sunday are:

Jeremiah 2:4-13 – Starting with last week, we will have a total of nine weeks reading in Jeremiah (one of those weeks will be a reading from Lamentations which is ascribed to Jeremiah). In our passage this week the prophet Jeremiah relays the LORD’s message: What wrong has God done against Israel and why do they trade me in for other gods, gods that can do nothing? The last verse sums up God’s complaint using a metaphor: the people have turn away from the fountain of living, flowing water and built their own broken cisterns. In other words, the people have given up on God and made new gods.

Psalm 81:1, 10-16 – The first half of the Psalm celebrates the goodness and greatness of God, summed up in verse 1 and culminating in verse 10. The mood changes in verse 11 because the people won’t listen to God. Their punishment is simple, God gives them up to their own desires which lead to their ruin.

Sirach 10:12-18 – Good luck finding this in your Bibles unless you use a Catholic Bible. Sirach is not found in the Jewish Torah or the Protestant Old Testament. It is considered part of the Old Testament by Catholics and Orthodox. For Protestants, it is considered to be deuterocanonical (second canon) or Apocrypha. If you have a Bible with the books of the Apocrypha you will them between the Old and New Testaments and they will include: Tobit, Judith, Esther (the Greek version with extra chapters), The Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, The Additions to Daniel (“The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews”, “Susanna”, and “Bel and the Dragon”), 1 and 2 Maccabees, 1 Esdras, The Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, 3 and 4 Maccabees, and 2 Esdras. Sirach reads like Proverbs. Our reading this week is all about the consequences of Human Pride. The proud will be brought down and the lowly elevated into their place.

Proverbs 25:6-7 – Was Jesus, in our verses below, quoting this verse?

Psalm 112 – The blessings that those who fear the Lord, are righteous, and follow the commandments are numerous: they are happy; their descendants will be mighty; they will be wealthy; they are a light for the upright; they are generous and just; their hearts are steady and firm; they give to the poor.

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 – The love mentioned in verse 1 is “brotherly” love (Greek: Philae) and our reading touches on all aspects of a Christian life: love and hospitality (verses 1-2); love and care (verse 3); love and fidelity (verse 4); love and contentment (verse 5-6); love and loyalty (verse 7); and love and worship (verse 15). Verse 8 seems a bit out of place: Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Verse 16 sums it all up: do good and share; these are pleasing to God.

Luke 14:1, 7-14 – You might just as well read verses 2-6, in which Jesus heals a man with dropsy while traveling to a Pharisee’s house for dinner on the Sabbath, and verses 15-24 in which Jesus tells the parable of the great feast while still at that dinner. In our passage, Jesus watches the guests arrive and how they vie for the places of honor at the table. His advise: sit at the lowest places so you may be moved up rather than sitting at the honored places and then asked to move down when someone with more honor arrives. Then some advise for the host: don’t invite those who can repay you but those who can’t repay. Repayment will come with the Kingdom of God. Is this simply good advise or is this something more about the Kingdom of God?

Have a great week loving and serving God by loving and serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hello Everyone,

This week we will be finishing our sermon series on “A Place at the Table”. Our topic will be “Extending the Table” and our readings will be:

Genesis 22:15-19 – This passage comes from the longer narrative of Genesis 22:1-19, the near sacrifice of Isaac. According to verse 1, God’s command is a test of Abraham’s faith. Behind the scenes, it might also be a test of Sarah’s faith. Another take on the story may be that since human, and child, sacrifice was common around the world, God’s “test” was in fact God letting Abraham, and later his descendants, know that child sacrifice was NOT OK. Notice how easily Abraham obeys remembering how he argued with God over the fate of Sodom. Notice too the name shift for God. In verses 1-10 the name is “God” (“Elohim” in Hebrew). In verses 11-19 it is “LORD” (“YHWH” or “Yahweh” in Hebrew). “Gods” demand human sacrifice. YHWH does not. In our reading the angel reaffirms the LORD’s promise to make Abraham’s descendants a blessing to all the nations.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17 – Our theme verse for the sermon series. See commentary from 3 weeks ago.

Acts 1:1-11 – This will be our Gospel lesson. “The Acts of the Apostles”, otherwise known as “Acts”, is part 2 of “The Gospel According to Luke”. After the opening lines addressed to Theophilus (Greek for “God Lover”), Luke recounts the last day of Jesus on earth, overlapping what we read this past week in Luke 24 but adding more detail. Verse 8 is the verse for the sermon series: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” As disciples of the risen Christ, are we being witnesses in Long Prairie, Grey Eagle, in all Todd County and Minnesota, and to the ends of the earth?

If you are following the Lectionary Readings, which I will be returning to on September 1, the readings are:

Jeremiah 1:4-10 – This begins a nine week reading of the Prophet Jeremiah and Lamentations (usually associated with Jeremiah). The prophet lived at a time of great turmoil and witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem in about 586 BCE. This passage recounts Jeremiah’s call by the LORD to be a prophet when Jeremiah was still a boy.

Psalm 71:1-6 – The Psalmist, as victim, asks the LORD to protect him from the hands of the wicked. Both Jeremiah and the Psalmist acknowledge that the LORD has known them from their birth or before.

Isaiah 58:9b-14 – The LORD, speaking through Isaiah, says that if the people begin living the life God calls them to live, no gossip, feeding the hungry, meeting the need of the afflicted, observing Sabbath, etc., then they will be blessed in many ways.

Psalm 103:1-8 – The Psalmist remembers all the good the LORD does: forgiveness, healing, redeeming, etc. As I have stated many times in the past one enduring theme in the Old Testament is “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (verse 8).

Hebrews 12:18-29 – The book, more like a long sermon, of Hebrews can be somewhat dense. As I read this passage, I kept wondering, “What is he talking about?” According to the note in my Bible, verses 18-24 contrast the fear the Israelites and Moses had of the holy Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19) and the joyful freedom followers of Christ have when they come to Mt. Zion (Jerusalem). In verses 25-29, the author look forward to a time of God’s new kingdom which replaces the earthly kingdoms which can be shaken.

Luke 13:10-17 – Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath in a synagogue. Compassion trumps rules but the keepers of the rules don’t see it that way. Jesus argues that if donkeys can be untied from their manger to be led to water on the Sabbath then a woman can be set free from bondage also.

Have a great week serving the Lord by serving your neighbor!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Here are a couple of opinion pieces by two bishops in the United Methodist Church about the value of small membership churches. The first is by Bishop Will Willimon who leads the episcopacy of North Alabama. He feels that small churches are more of a drag on the United Methodist Church than are large and mega-churches. The second is by Bishop Scott Jones who leads the Great Plains Episcopal Area which comprises Kansas and Nebraska. He argues that small churches are the presence of Christ in urban and rural areas that are not served by the mega-churches. (Ginghamsburg UMC is the exception: a mega-church in a town the size of Grey Eagle.) The two articles are:

The Tough Truth about Our Small Churches by Will Willimon

Why Willimon is Wrong about Small Churches by Scott Jones

What do you think? How are our two small churches serving Christ by serving our community? If you don’t have an answer then what should we be doing? Is there a ministry you want to do? Are there people who might help you? If so, when can you start? If you serve on one of the councils, what can they be doing to encourage invitation, outreach, and faithfulness?

Our readings for church this week continue the theme of “A Place at the Table: Blessing the Table”.

Joel 2:26-29 – God will bless the people and they will never be put to shame. Young or old, women and men, slaves and free will witness to the blessings of God’s Spirit.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17 – We who are many are one body because we partake of the one body.

Luke 24:44-53 – Jesus’ final appearance to the disciples in the Gospel of Luke.

Our Lectionary Texts assigned for this week are:

Isaiah 5:1-7 – An Old Testament parable of the unfruitful vineyard. Have you ever tasted wild grapes? If you have then you probably understand the concern of the Lord. You might just as well plow it under and start again.

Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19 – The first part of this Psalm, verses 1-7, is a plea to God for restoration as is verse 19. Verses 8-18 reflect the imagery of Isaiah 5.

Jeremiah 23:23-29 – God speaks against the prophets who tell lies, calling them prophesies, in God’s name, for God sees and hears what they are doing and speaking.

Psalm 82 – The first verse, and the entire Psalm, understands God to be the greatest God of the gods. It is God who admonishes the other gods for ignoring the plight of the weak and the orphans.

Hebrews 11:29-12:2 – After discussing the faith of Abraham and Moses, the writer touches upon the faith of many others who died for the faith yet never got a chance to see the coming of the Messiah. This cloud of witnesses are the example by which we “run with perseverance the race set before us.”

Luke 12:49-56 – This is a difficult reading. Jesus comes not to bring peace but to divide families, friends (and churches?). If we can interpret the signs of the weather, why can’t we interpret the signs of the times?

Have a great week serving God by serving neighbor!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Friday, August 9, 2013

The New Fundamentalists

Hello Everyone,

There is a great editorial at the Washington Post about the Millennial Generation, those born between about 1980 and 2000 and their propensity toward something they detest: fundamentalism. The article is here:

The New Religious Fundamentalists? Millennial Christians

There is a lot to think about in the article but I also think that it is a warning to all generations. We can all become self absorbed and idolatrous.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Readings for Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

This Sunday we will continue the sermon series, “A Place at the Table” with our look at the second section of the Great Thanksgiving (the prayer I say and the congregation responds to as we prepare to receive the bread and cup). This Sunday’s subtitle is “Invitation to the Table”. The theme verse for all four weeks is from Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17 – See last week’s comments about these verses. Note that the order of cup and bread is reversed from what I say in the Great Thanksgiving which is bread before cup. Check out 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, which has the bread first followed by the cup. Why the difference?

Luke 22:14-23 – This is Luke’s version of the Last Supper. Check out Mark 14:22-25 and Matthew 26: 26-30 for their versions. Count the cups in Luke’s version. As I understand it a traditional Passover meal had four cups and the two cups that Luke has may relate to the second and fourth cups. Jesus takes a traditional celebration (Passover) and transforms it into a simple service that recalls his sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of all. Two common elements that are consumed every day in Jesus’ time take on new meaning. This simple act of remembrance invites us to become part of the story and that story transforms those who participate. What does Communion (also known as the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, the Last Supper, and Holy Mass) mean to you?

Our lectionary texts for this week are:

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 – The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz. God challenges the people of Israel and Judah to defend their ways and their sacrifices, which in reality have no meaning. This is a court scene in which God is the prosecutor and the people are the defendants.

Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23 – Another court scene with God as prosecutor and judge. A verse that is left out, verse 9, has a famous, and somewhat humorous, rendition in the old Revised Standard Version, “I (God) will accept no bull from your house.”

Genesis 15:1-6 – God’s covenant with Abram that Abram’s descendants will out number the stars.

Psalm 33:12-22 – Worldly power will be in vain for only God and God’s steadfast love can save us.

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 – The preacher’s take on the meaning of faith and the example of Abraham.

Luke 12:32-40 – Two lesson here: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be” and “be ready for the Son of Many is coming at an unexpected hour.” What do you do with your wealth and are you ready for Jesus?

Have a great week serving God by serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 2013 Messenger

The August 2013 edition of the Messenger is now available. Follow this link:

"August 2013 Messenger"


Pastor Gary