Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Readings for Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year Everyone,

As you celebrate the arrival of the New Year, please be safe. Remember, if you drive don’t drink and if you drink don’t drive. As I said in church on Sunday, I don’t want to be visiting you in the hospital or conducting your funeral. So, with that sobering thought, Happy New Year!

Due to the extreme cold and the fact that I worked last Monday, December 23, my usual day off, I will be working from home today. Tasks at hand include writing this email, posting it to my blog site (where you are now) and writing my newsletter article.

Speaking of which, the newsletter should be out by Friday, January 3. If you have any items for the newsletter please send it in for Suzann, lpgeparish@embarqmail.com.

This coming Sunday is known as either “The 2nd Sunday of Christmas” or “Epiphany Sunday” each with a set of readings. We, however, are celebrating “Covenant Renewal Sunday” and will be using a different set of Bible readings.

Our Readings for the Covenant Renewal Service:
Joshua 24:14-15 – Whom will you choose: God or the gods of money and power?

1 John 1:5-2:6 – God is Light and in God there is no darkness. Living in the Light means fellowship with each other. Claiming to be sinless we confirm that we still sin, but with confession God forgives.

John 13:12-19, 31-35 – We are to wash each other’s feet and follow Jesus’ commandment: love each other. By this the world will know that we are followers of Christ and that a new way of life is available to all: the way of love.

Readings for the 2nd Sunday of Christmas:
Jeremiah 31:7-14 – The Lord will gather all the scattered people of Israel and mourning with be turned to laughter and sadness into joy.

OR Sirach 24:1-12 – Wisdom, here as in Proverbs depicted as a woman, comes from God and exists with God from before the beginning. With God, Wisdom created all thing. Compare this with the Gospel of John reading below.

Psalm 147:12-20 – Worship God because God’s Word makes all things in creation happen!

OR Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21 – Wisdom, again a women, entered a man (implying Moses), helped him perform signs and wonders, led the people to and across the Red Sea, and destroyed (killed) the enemy. The people then praised the Lord.

Ephesians 1:3-14 – There is a lot going on in this passage so please read it slowly and carefully. God chose Christ from before creation to be our Savior through his blood so that we are adopted to be brothers and sisters of Christ and in turn we will receive an inheritance, of which, the Holy Spirit is the down payment. Whew!

John 1:(1-9) 10-18 – In the beginning was the Word. All thing were created by the Word. The Word became flesh, lived with us, and was rejected by us. The Word was the Light that shines in the darkness.

[Note: Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon can be found in Catholic Bibles or Bibles with the Apocrypha]

Readings for Epiphany Sunday:
Isaiah 60:1-6 – The Light has arrived and all will see it. I detect a theme with the readings above.

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 – You may as well read the entire Psalm. It starts off saying “of Solomon” and ends with “the prayers of David are ended.” This psalm may have been David’s prayer that Solomon, his son, would rule with kindness, justice, and fairness, so that all nations would revere him.

Ephesians 3:1-12 – This passage continues the theme discussed in our reading from Ephesians 1 above. We now have a responsibility to share, distribute, or witness to God’s grace given in Jesus Christ. This fulfills God’s (hidden?) plan that all should be redeemed and made whole.

Matthew 2:1-12 – The visit of the magi who come with three gifts. Why the three gifts? What do you think Joseph, Mary, and Jesus lived on in Egypt the years they were there.

There is a lot to read this week but you will be blessed if you take the time to immerse yourself in God’s Word.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Eve Worship at Grey Eagle UMC

Christmas Eve Worship is now available for your viewing on YouTube.

Grey Eagle UMC Worship

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Pastor Gary

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Blessings and New Facebook Pages

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

I hope and pray that God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, blesses you today and tomorrow as you celebrate the birth of Jesus. Jesus’s name means “God Saves” and at this time of year we remember that Jesus is also called “Emmanuel” which means “God is with us”. Have a blessed two days with family and friends. Take time this week to give a gift of love or service to someone outside of your circle of family and friends. Share the gift of the Christ.

Both churches now have Facebook pages. The Grey Eagle UMC page has been up for a couple of week while the Peace United Church page has been up for two days. Please visit these pages and “like” them. If you have something to share, like thoughts, photos, or music that is appropriate to our church pages, please feel free to share. The two pages are here:

Grey Eagle United Methodist Church

Peace United Church

Have a blessed Christmas! Worship today is at 4:00 PM at both churches. Please join us if you are in the neighborhood.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Monday, December 23, 2013

Readings for Christmas Eve and Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hello Everyone,

As we celebrate Christmas, I hope and pray that each of us can remember the meaning of Christmas rather than getting stuck on some sort of “literalness” of the stories. I say “stories” plural because if you read the beginning of each gospel you will see four strikingly different looks at the Christ event.

1. The Gospel of Mark – No birth story. Just a vague start with “The beginning of the gospel . . .” and then right into John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism by the Holy Spirit. For me, that is all I need to know.

2. The Gospel of Matthew – Starts off with a genealogy and then views the birth of Jesus through Joseph who has plenty of visits from angels. Notice that there is no registration for taxes and no travel to Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary are there in Bethlehem, their hometown. The magi visit, maybe up to two years after the birth and then the family picks up and moves to Egypt. (Joseph in Egypt – does this story remind you of another Joseph in Egypt?) When it is time to come home, the family ends up traveling north of Bethlehem to Nazareth. Jesus was know as Jesus of Nazareth.

3. The Gospel of Luke – This is Mary’s story. Mary is in Nazareth (1:26) and she and Joseph must travel to Bethlehem to be registered (2:4-5). Angels visit shepherds and shepherds visit Mary, Joseph and Jesus. After naming, circumcising and dedicating Jesus (2:21-24), the family returns to Nazareth (2:39-40). No magi, no death threats, no star in the sky. Jesus is back to Nazareth. Later, people will call him “Jesus of Nazareth”.

4. The Gospel of John – John takes the cosmic view of Jesus who is Word Become Flesh and who existed from the beginning. No birth story, no mention of Mary or Joseph.

What are the similarities of the two birth stories in Matthew and Luke? Jesus was born to two human parents, Mary and Joseph. Jesus was born in Bethlehem (not mentioned in Mark or John). Jesus grew up in and came from Nazareth, which all four Gospels recognize.

While I love to watch Sunday School or Adult Christmas pageants, I recognize, as should you, that those stories are a mash-up of Matthew and Luke. I think we lose the beauty of each story when they are not kept separate. Matthew emphasizes Joseph’s role and responsibility in keeping Jesus safe from a world only intent on money and power and how even Gentiles, foreigners, are welcomed with the Gospel, the Good News. Luke emphasizes the lowly status of Mary, a teenage, unwed, and pregnant girl, and the shepherds who were often viewed like the biker gangs of today. The Luke the Gospel is for the least, lost, and left out in the world.

Tomorrow night, as we hear the various scriptures concerning the birth of Jesus, let us remember the true meaning of the Gospels: God is with us (Emmanuel) and God saves (Jesus). “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Our readings for Christmas Eve, without comment are:

Isaiah 9:2-7 – The Birth of a King
Micah 5:2-5a – The Place of Birth is Named
Luke 1:26-38 – The angel tell Mary of her upcoming pregnancy
Luke 2:1-7 – The Birth of Jesus
Luke 2:8-20 – The Shepherd Visit
Matthew 2:1-11 – The Magi Visit
John 1:1-14 – The Light Has Come Into the World.

Readings for Sunday, December 29 are

Isaiah 63:7-9 – God’s Mercy for God’s People Remembered
Psalm 148 – Let Everything and Everyone Praise God
Hebrews 2:10-18 – God in Jesus becomes human and suffers and dies like us.
Matthew 2:13-23 – “The Empire Strikes Back” as King Herod fears a potential rival.

May God bless you this Christmas with family and friends. Merry Christmas and safe travels.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor
Peace United Church, Long Prairie
Grey Eagle UMC, Grey Eagle

Monday, December 16, 2013

Readings for Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hello Everyone,

First, this past Sunday Grey Eagle UMC began using video projection during our worship services. I have heard a number of good comments about the service but I have not heard any negatives. (Our offering was sharply down on Sunday. Was that the negative comment?) I know that some may have had some contrary views so please don’t be shy; let me know. Our intent is to improve worship in meaningful and heartfelt ways.

Secondly, Grey Eagle UMC is in the process of setting up a Facebook pager. We need 25 “likes” to be able to set a few changes. Please visit Grey Eagle UMC Facebook and “like” us. Once I get this figured out (kudos to Amy Hinman and John Young for helping) I will set up a Peace United Church page.

Third, our sermon series continues with “Awed & Odd: Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness”. I am again looking for photos to be used during worship, this week focusing on “Hope” and “Hopelessness”. If you have any pictures that you are willing to share, please email them to me. You don’t have to be a professional photographer, just someone who takes photos. Just remember the guidelines from last week.

We are nearing the end of Advent and it will soon be Christmas. Our readings for this coming Sunday are:

Isaiah 7:10-16 – King Ahaz of Judah is fearful of two rival nations, Israel and Aram. Isaiah asks Ahaz to trust God and to ask God for a sign. Ahaz refuses to put God to the test. Isaiah persists and say that there will be a sign: a young woman will give birth to a son named Immanuel and that before he is weaned the two rival nations will be gone and replaced by a bigger, badder nation, Assyria (verse 17). What does Immanuel mean? Who was the young woman? Why do you think Matthew (below) used “virgin” instead of “young woman”?

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 – The Psalmist pray for the restoration of Israel that they may be redeemed from their enemies.

Romans 1:1-7 – This is Paul’s opening to his letter to the church in Rome. Here Paul sets his “bona fide” or why the Roman Christian Church should believe him. He is:
1. A Servant of Christ
2. Called to be an apostle
3. Set apart for the gospel of God to be delivered to the Gentiles
What does it mean to be a servant? Or to be an apostle? Or to be “set apart”.

Matthew 1:18-25 – The very short story of Jesus’ birth and a longer story of Joseph’s willingness to do the right thing. It was not all that unusual in those days as these days for an engaged couple to participate in a little “hanky panky” and for the woman to get pregnant. They would just get married a little sooner then the families originally planned. If the woman got pregnant and the father was not her fiancĂ© then he could publically denounce her and have her stoned. The fact that Joseph was willing to quietly walk away shows his care for her. It also show us that he was not the father of the child. Fortunately, God has a different plan and sends the angel to him. Joseph is to do two things: go through with the wedding and name the boy Jesus. Matthew then quotes Isaiah from our passage above. The Hebrew word meaning “young woman” gets changed into the Greek word meaning “virgin”. Don’t get too hung up on that fact. The most important fact of this passage is “Emmanuel”. God became human. And God as human will save God’s people and all humanity.

Have a great week serving God by serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor
Peace United Church, Long Prairie
Grey Eagle UMC, Grey Eagle

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Readings for Sunday, December 15, 2013

Hello Everyone,

Soon, Grey Eagle UMC will begin testing the use of using video in worship to enhance our worship experience. (Hopefully, Peace United will also implement video sometime in the near future.) This does not mean there will be a wholesale change in how we worship. Worship will be similar to what we are currently doing only with images used to enhance the service. Worshiping God is more than just a single sense activity but it should involve our entire being including sight, sound, smells, taste, and touch. Our primary sense right now is sound, both hearing and vocal. We use sight in the reading of the bulletins and hymnals. The use of video will augment our use of both sight and sound. How do we use the other three senses? We use touch when we shake hands and hug as we pass the peace of Christ. We use taste when we receive Holy Communion. As for smell, where here I am hard pressed to say how that comes in. Most Orthodox Churches and some Catholic Churches us incense to bring our sense of smell into our worship. What can we do to include the sense of smell into worship?

Which bring me to this:

Calling All Amateur Photographers
If you are a “shutterbug” and would like to have your photos used for worship you may email them to me. Here are the guidelines:

1. They should fit the theme of the day. I will announce the theme in this email each week. This Sunday our theme is “Joy in the midst of Despair”. (Pictures of Joy might be easier to find and take than pictures of despair but I would like both.)

2. Send only one or two per week. If you have more that fit the theme of the week let me know and I may, if I need, ask for more.

3. You should sent only pictures that you or a family member has taken. Do not forward me any pictures from the Internet. I do not want to run afoul of Copyright Laws and put myself or your church in legal trouble. If it is not yours, don’t send it.

4. If you send me pictures then you are giving Grey Eagle United Methodist Church and Peace United Church permission to show the images during worship services and on any website where the worship service can be viewed, such as YouTube.com or Vimeo.com.

5. If you are able to place your name on the image (lower right corner preferably) please do so. People will then know what a great photographer you are and everyone will know that you own the copyright to that photo.

6. Finally, and even though I shouldn’t have to say it, send only photos whose subject matter is appropriate for church worship. I do not want to run the risk that some image, such as a nude, would get me in trouble with the church or the denominations. Therefore: no nudes, sex acts, or graphic images of violence. Check the background of your images and make sure there are no “swear words” or inadvertent nudes, etc. In other words folks, keep it clean.

I am now accepting your photos.

This Sunday is the Third Sunday of Advent. The sermon series this week is “Awed and Odd: Joy in the Midst of Despair.” Where do you see and find joy in times of despair?

Our readings are:
Isaiah 35:1-10 – Isaiah paints a picture of what God’s redemption will look like for God’s people. Here, redemption means to set free and the author may be referring to the Israelites in Babylonian captivity. Pay close attention to verses 5 and 6. You will read and hear them in our gospel lesson.

Psalm 146:5-10 – Like the Isaiah reading above, these words will reappear in Matthew 11. How will the Lord accomplish all that the psalmist promises if not through us, God’s Church? Who will set the prisoners free? Who will help the blind to see? Who will bring justice for the oppressed? If not us, who?

OR Luke 1:47-55 – This is common known as “The Magnificat” which is the Latin word for “magnifies” as in “My soul magnifies the Lord.” As one writer commented, this passage has more theology in it then most people realize. Read carefully and think about what Mary is proclaiming about God. What will God do through her son Jesus?

James 5:7-10 – This is a bit out of context, but the letter of James lends itself to small sound bites of exhortation. Here he is asking believer to wait patiently for the return of Jesus.

Matthew 11:2-11 – Last week we read about John the Baptizer calling people to repentance and good works. John is now in prison soon to be executed. He has heard about Jesus and what Jesus has been doing. These reports must suggest that Jesus is not living up to John’s expectations, so he send some guys to find out. Pay attention to verses 4-6 and notice their connection to our Isaiah, Psalms, and Luke readings. Then read the entire passage to verse 19. What do you think Jesus means in verse 12? If you don’t know then you join 2,000 years of Theologians who can’t figure it out either.

Have a great week serving God by serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December 2013 Messenger

The latest edition of the Peace United Church and Grey Eagle United Methodist Church newsletter is now available for your perusal.

December 2013 Messenger

Have a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Pastor Gary

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Readings for Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hello Everyone,

As we all know, online purchasing is a large reality of our economy today. Each year more people are shopping online, especially for Christmas, then the previous year. If YOU shop online, I know I do, you can support your church by using UMCmarket.org. If you start your shopping at UMCmarket.org and then click through to your favorite retailers such as Amazon.com, Wal-mart.com, Walgreens.com, etc. (I even found Woodwind and Brasswind, www.wwbw.com) those sites will give a percentage of your purchase to your church without raising your purchase price. WWBW will give up to 4.5% of my purchases to one of the churches. Here’s how to do it.

1a. Go to www.umcmarket.com
1b. Click on the “how it works” tab and watch the youtube video.
2a. Register
2b. Click on the “My Page” tab and fill out the needed information. Click “Save”.
3. Choose your church. On the organization tab search for Grey Eagle or Long Prairie. After you click on the church click on “join organization”. You can have more than one church to donate to. I have Grey Eagle and Long Prairie.
4. Go shopping. Click on the tab for “stores” or “travel”, search for the store you wish to shop. Choose the store and make sure that your church appears in the “My Donations go to” box. If you have more than one church you wish to support then choose one of them. When you go to another store or come back to the same store later you can choose the other church. Then click on “go shop” in that same box.

When you buy at one of the sponsoring sites they will donate to your church. What a Deal!!!

In other announcements: Peace United will be having their annual “Hanging of the Greens” service this Sunday and Grey Eagle UMC will have the Sunday School performing their Christmas show this Sunday. I will not be preaching at either church but will let the service and the children speak God’s word for me.

OK. On to the true purpose of this email – our lectionary readings. As you read these passages imagine how they could fit into the sermon series “Awed and Odd: Love in the Midst of Hate”.

Isaiah 11:1-10 – Jesse was the father of King David, so the reference to him in this passage is about a new King David who will follow the will of God. There will be a peace throughout all of creation as natural enemies will coexist peacefully. The one sour note in this vision of an idyllic kingdom is verse 4b.

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 – This is one of the Psalms not attributed to David. This one is “Of Solomon”. Please read the entire Psalm. This is a prayer for the king of Israel to be wise, just, long lived and respected by all nations (verses 8-11). This king cares for the poor and needy (verse 4 and verses 12-14). Could this psalm be applied to any of our nation’s leaders?

Romans 15:4-13 – You should probably start at verse 1 as this passage picks up in a awkward spot. Paul says that what was written in the former days (the Old Testament) was for our hope so that we may live in harmony. Paul boldly proclaims that Christ came to save all people Jewish or non-Jewish. In verse 12 he quotes from our Isaiah 11 reading above. (Where Isaiah says “nations” Paul says “Gentiles”.)

Matthew 3:1-12 – We are not to the Christmas story yet. Starting this week and concluding next week we hear the story of John the Baptizer. This week: his ministry before Jesus. Next week: his questions about Jesus before his beheading. According to Luke, John is a distant cousin to Jesus and is about 6 months older. He starts his ministry out in the desert and calls the people of Judah (Israel) to repent and change their ways. There is some speculation that Jesus spent some time with John and may have been his disciples before striking out on his own with a new vision of God’s Kingdom.

Have a great week and a blessed Advent.