Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Readings for Wednesday, April 2, & Sunday, April 6

Hello Everyone,

On April 14-16, LifeTouch Photography will be at Peace United Church to take portrait quality pictures for our new Photo Directory. If you have not yet signed up to get your portrait taken please do so as soon as possible. Go to Peace United Church, scroll down a bit and click on the blue portrait box. You may also sign up at Peace United Church before and after church this Sunday.

If you can’t make it on these dates, LifeTouch will be at Grey Eagle UMC on June 20 and 21 and you can sign up at Grey Eagle UMC.

Our Scripture Lessons for the Wednesday Lenten Services tomorrow night are:

Psalm 42 – When life gets you down, and everyone seems to be against you, do you long for the presence of God? Does it seem as if God has removed God-self from you? Does it feel like God has forgotten you? This Psalm speaks of what we know of as depression. However, there are enough hints in the Psalm to believe that the psalmists has many enemies.

Isaiah 52:13-53:6 (part 1) – Of the four “Suffering Servant Songs” in Isaiah, this is the longest and most obvious in the amount of suffering the servant endures. The full reading is 52:13-53:12. Next week we will overlap a bit by starting at 53:4. Questions to ponder: How badly beaten is the servant (52:14-15)? What did the people think of him (53:2-3)? The last half of 53:6 reads, “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (NRSV) An alternate translation from the Hebrew might be, “But the Lord permitted us to throw all our sins upon him.” How would that sound in your mind?

John 18:28-19:16a – We continue reading the Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Last week we read about Jesus’s arrest and his appearance before Caiaphas, the high priest of the temple. We also heard Peter deny Jesus three times. This week we hear the story of Jesus and Pilate. What would you have done if you were in Pilate’s place? The local temple authorities want you to get rid of their problem but you know he has done nothing wrong. The crowds outside want blood and they are on the verge of rioting? Do you have enough soldiers in the city to put down a mob like this one? What will you do?

Our Lessons for this coming Sunday worship are:

Ezekiel 37:1-14 – The valley is full of dry bones. Can they live again? God wants Ezekiel to know the answer.

Psalm 130 – What if God kept track of every wrong we ever did? What is the primary character of God and how will that trait impact our lives?

Romans 8:6-11 – If we are dead in our sins, how will God give us new life? Can these dead dry bones be put back together again. Can Humpty-Dumpty be put back together again?

John 11:1-45 – Lazarus is dying, Jesus. Come quickly! Lazarus is dead, Jesus. Come whenever! Lazarus stinks, Jesus. Don’t roll back the rock! Look! Jesus must love Lazarus because he cries. What? Lazarus is alive? Jesus must be killed! Lazarus is the reason, in the Gospel of John, that Jesus must be crucified.

Have a great week serving God by serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Pascha - Reflections on Passion Week

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This month we, Peace United Church and Grey Eagle United Methodist Church, along with Christians around the world, will be celebrating “Easter”. I put the word in quotations because of murkiness of the origin of this English word. According to Harper Collins’ Bible Dictionary

Easter: the Christian festival that celebrates Jesus’ resurrection. The name “Easter” derives from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring (Eostre or Ostara), but the Christian festival developed from the Jewish Passover (Heb. pesech, Gk. pascha) because according to the Gospels the events of Jesus’ last days took place at the time of Passover.

Perhaps the better term for the celebration should be “Pascha”. This should not be limited to the one day of Jesus’ resurrection but should apply to the eight day observance we call “Holy Week”. Let’s review this last week of Jesus’ life:

Sunday, Palm Sunday – Jesus enters Jerusalem as the anti-king riding a lowly donkey. Only the Gospel of John records the use of palm leaves to cushion the feet of the donkey. The others have cloaks and leafy branches. According to Matthew and Luke, Jesus also drives out the sellers and money exchangers from the Temple. (John has this episode at the start of Jesus’ ministry.)

Monday to Wednesday – Mark has Jesus going to the temple to drive out the businessmen on Monday. All agree that from Monday to Wednesday, Jesus spends the day in or near the Temple teaching the crowds and the disciples about God’s Kingdom (or Realm).

Thursday, Maundy Thursday – All four Gospels agree that Jesus has a final meal with his disciples. Matthew, Mark, and Luke say that this is the first day of Passover (Heb. pesech, Gk. pascha) when the lambs are slaughtered (sacrificed). During the meal according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus institutes the sharing of the bread and wine as his body and blood. This is known as Communion, Last Supper, or Eucharist. John states that this is the day before Passover and Jesus teaches the disciples about what it means to serve by washing their feet. All agree that Judas sells Jesus out to the powerful of Jerusalem.

Friday, Good Friday – On this day, Jesus, who was arrested late in the evening on Thursday, faces his accusers in front of Caiaphas (the head priest of the Temple), Herod (the nominal king of Judea), and Pilate (the Roman Governor of the region). All agree that Peter denies knowing Jesus three times. Each Gospel emphasizes different aspects and records different speeches but the essentials are consistent: Jesus is beaten, scourged, and whipped; he it tried on spurious charges and convicted at the urging of the crowds; he is crucified; and Jesus dies and is buried in a nearby empty tomb.

Saturday – Nothing happens but the disciples hole up in shock and mourn.

Sunday, the Day of Resurrection – The Gospel of Mark says that the women who went to the tomb found it empty and an angel tells them that Jesus has risen. Frightened, they say nothing to the disciples. The original ending of Mark was probably verse 8, however, there are twelve more verses that are accepted cannon and should be taken seriously. Matthew, Luke, and John record different stories of different women finding the empty tomb and of the living Jesus visiting the disciples and giving them instructions to take the message to everyone.

So, the questions I would like to leave with you are these: What does this “Pascha” mean to you? Have you read all four stories including the resurrection stories (Matthew 21:1-28:20; Mark 11:1-16:20; Luke 19:28-24:53; and John 13:1-21:25)? What does it mean to believe in a dead (murdered, crucified) yet still living Jesus? Has it or does it change your life?

May God richly bless you this “Pascha” season and may the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection change your life. – Pastor Gary