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