Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Scripture Readings for Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hello Everyone,

We now return to using the Lectionary Readings for our Sunday Worship. The Gospel will finish four week of readings in the Sermon on the Mount some of which we read several weeks ago. The Epistle Lesson has also been a continuous reading in 1 Corinthians.

Our readings this week are:

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 – My Bible, the New Revised Standard Version, has the title “Ritual and Moral Holiness” on this chapter of Leviticus. This reading is an expansion of the 10 commandments. However, it opens with the admonition that we should be holy because the Lord is holy. Verses 3-4 summarize commandments 5, 4, and 2. (The Big 10 are at Exodus 20:1-17.) Verses 5-8 are about ritual sacrifice. Then, in two verse increments, we are commanded to leave some harvest in the field for the hungry, to not steal or swear falsely, to not defraud neighbor or cheat the workers, to be fair in judgment, and to not hate our kindred or take vengeance against our people. It ends with a command to love our neighbor as ourselves. Notice the fairly narrow definition of what it means to be a neighbor.

Psalm 119:33-40 – This is the fifth stanza of Psalm 119 which I discussed last week. The letter of the week is “He”, the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Every verse in this stanza starts with that letter. This section asks the Lord to teach us the ways of his commandments.

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 – Paul here is dealing with the divisions that exist in the First Church of Corinth. The church has many problems but the first Paul tackles is that different groups within the church claim to follow different evangelists. Paul says that new Temple of God, the church, is built not on the foundations of evangelist but only on Jesus Christ. He, Apollos, and Peter (Cephas) can only build upon that foundation. If anyone were to destroy that Temple they would be destroyed. After a sermon series in which I proclaimed that God, as known by Jesus, was without violence, how do we explain that Paul says God will destroy that person? I checked 5 different translations and they all say the same thing. I have an idea but you should consider the question. Paul ends by saying that all things belong to the people of Corinth, they belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. Therefore, all things belong to God and all of us belong to God. Who knew?

Matthew 5:38-48 – We dealt with this passage several weeks ago in my sermon series “Violence and God’s Redeeming Love”. Jesus, after proclaiming that he came to fulfill the Law, calls us to live to a righteousness above the righteousness of the Law. Verses 38-42 says we are not to resist the evildoer; in other words turn the other cheek, give the cloak, walk the second mile, and give to beggars. Verses 43-47 are a call to love the unlovable. Verse 48 is Jesus’ quote from our Leviticus passage. You know the one: be holy as God is holy. Tough stuff, no?

Have a great week serving God by serving others.

Pastor Gary

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Scripture Readings for Sunday, February 16, 2014

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

First, a short announcement. Peace United Church now has a website located here: Peace United Church. I have only just started to build it and what you will find now is a simple front page and a welcome message under “Recent Posts”. I will be working on this site whenever I can. Also, Grey Eagle UMC has had a site for several years now and you can find that here: Grey Eagle UMC. Don’t forget to check out our Facebook pages at : Grey Eagle UMC and Peace United Church. If you haven’t yet, please visit Peace United’s Facebook page and “like” it. I need at least 10 more “likes” to get a better Facebook web address.

This Sunday’s sermon will conclude our 5 week series, “Violence & God’s Redeeming Love”. Our theme this week is “Redemption with Compassion or Apocalypse”. Our texts are:

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 – This is the last of what has become known as the Servant Songs of Isaiah (the others are 42:1-4, 49:1-7, and 50:4-11). It has only been in the last few hundred years that these passages have been seen as something special. Who was this servant? Some speculate that it was Isaiah or perhaps the Jewish people. Christians see these passages as pointing to Jesus Christ and this last song certainly rings true to the passion stories found in the Gospels. Notice in 53:4 it says “we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted” (NRSV) but then in 53:6 it says “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (NRSV) and then in 53:10 it says “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain” (NRSV). This can be troubling and hard to interpret. Did we commit the violence against the servant and blame it on God or did God do it?

Revelation 22:1-5 – This is the final vision of John the Seer. He sees a river flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb. The Tree of Life (see Genesis 3:22) grows on either side and there are 12 kinds of fruit and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. There will finally be no darkness because the Light of God has driven darkness away. They, God and the Lamb, will then reign forever. Who is the Lamb? What did the Lamb do and when did the Lamb do it?

John 1:20-34 – John the Baptizer testifies about the Word, the Light, that has come into the world (John 1:1-7). In this reading John spots Jesus and declares, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. Notice that “sin” is singular. What is this “sin” that Jesus takes away? Also notice that John witnessed the descent of the Holy Spirit and then declares Jesus to be either “the Son of God” (NRSV) or “the Chosen One of God” (NIV). Does either translation make a difference in your understanding of this passage?

The lectionary reading appointed for this Sunday are:

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 – Moses, speaking to the Israelites, asks them to make a choice: choose the way (commandments) of God and life or choose other gods and idols and death. This passage is not a “prosperity gospel” saying if you choose God then God will give you everything you ever wanted. It is about choosing real life; life with meaning and value because you choose God. So, whom will you choose this day (see Joshua 24:14-17)?

OR Sirach 15:15-20 – This is one of the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books. Catholics and Orthodox Christianity accept these books of the Bible but Protestants and Jews do not. This passage is similar to the Deuteronomy passage and can be found here: Sirach 15:15-20.

Psalm 119:1-8 – Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible containing 176 verses. This is an alphabetic acrostic psalm meaning that letters of the alphabet are used at the beginning of each line or stanza in order. There are 22 stanzas containing 8 verses. Each verse in a stanza starts with the same letter and each stanza uses the next letter. Our reading is the first stanza and each verse begins with the first letter of the Hebrew language, alef. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come across in the English translations.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 – The controversies that are dividing the First Church of Corinth are beginning to emerge in Paul’s letter. In verse 3 we read that there is jealousy and quarreling in the church about whose teaching they will follow, Paul or Apollos. It is not about Paul or Apollos, Paul says, but it is only about God and what God is doing in the church. Paul uses an agricultural metaphor: he planted the seeds, Apollos watered the seeds, but only God can give the growth (implying here that the people need to quit fighting and let God’s growth happen).

Matthew 5:21-37 – We covered these verses in the sermon series three weeks ago. This is part of the “Sermon on the Mount” which covers chapters 5-7. “You have heard it said . . . but I say to you . . .” concerning anger, adultery, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and love for enemies.

Have a great week with the power of the Spirit overflowing your life.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Lessons for Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hello Everyone,

Our fourth installment of the sermon series “Violence & God’s Redeeming Love” is subtitled “Revelation in Jesus” and builds on last week’s theme of scapegoat, sacrifice, and mythology. Our lessons are:

Micah 6:1-8 – This lesson was one of the lectionary lessons last week. What did God do to drive us away? What can we do to get back to God? Shall we kill more animals or kill our children? No. What God requires is for us to seek justice, love kindness, and be faithful followers.

Hebrews 9:1-14 – The writer recounts the sacrificial system and the Day of Atonement of the ancient Israelites with the killing of bulls, rams, and goats and the scattering of their blood to cleanse the objects in the tent (eventually the temple). The priest also had to atone for his own sin and the sin of his family. The priests had to do this year after year to cleanse the sins of the people that have “accumulated” during the year. Christ is the highest high priest and Christ’s atonement for sins only happened once. Not only was Christ the best high priest but he was also the perfect sacrifice.

John 11:45-53, 12:27-36a – The first eleven chapters of the Gospel of John is sometimes called the book of signs. His last and greatest sign was the raising of Lazarus from death in the town of Bethany, which is just outside of Jerusalem. Following the sign many complained to the Pharisees who, along with the chief priests, called a special meeting of the Council. What will they do? If nothing, then the Romans will destroy the city because the followers of Jesus will rebel. Caiaphas, the high priest, tells them the miracle of killing a scapegoat: peace, “It is better that one many die for the whole people than the whole nation be destroyed.” In the second part of this reading, Jesus speaks of a new miracle of the scapegoat: light that drives out the darkness or, in other words, truth that will reveal the lie of the myth. Substituting “truth and myth” for “light and darkness” Jesus says,
The truth is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the truth, so that the myth will not overtake you. If you walk in the myth, you do not know [what you are doing]. While you have the truth, believe in the truth, so that you may become the children of the truth.
Next week we will talk about “apocalypse” which means “revelation”. What is being revealed by the death of Jesus on the cross? What question does Jesus’ death and resurrection answer?

The lectionary readings assigned for this week are:

Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12) – God tells the prophet to announce the sins of the people. The people ask why God won’t pay attention to them despite all the things they do: fasting and prayer. Yet, that is not what God want. The fast God wants is the sharing of bread with the hungry, homes with the homeless, cloths with the naked. Do these things and you will find God.

Psalm 112:1-9 (10) – The righteous are defined by what they do for others. This Psalm, without verse 10, is a nice pairing with the Isaiah reading above.

1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16) – In the final passage of his setup to dealing with the troubles in the First Church of Corinth Paul declares that he doesn’t speak with the wisdom of the world or with the wisdom of philosophers but with the power of God’s Spirit. It is a power that lives in human weakness and those who don’t follow God’s Spirit just don’t get it. How do we hear and understand the Spirit of God? Paul answers, “We have the mind of Christ.”

Matthew 5:13-20 – We dealt with verses 17-20 two weeks ago as we looked at Jesus’ call for us to live to a higher righteousness. In verses 13-16 Jesus says we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. What do you think Jesus meant? How can you and I be the salt of the earth and the light of the world?

Have a Spirit filled week as you love and serve your neighbors!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary