Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Readings for Sunday, August, 3, 2014

Hello Everyone,

Two quick notes to begin with:

1. Funeral services for Tom Roe will be on Saturday, August 2, at 11:00 AM at Grey Eagle UMC with visitation starting at 9:00 AM.

2. Worship services will be reversed for the next four Sundays: Peace United Church at 9:00 AM and Grey Eagle UMC at 10:30 AM.

Our readings for this coming Sunday are:

Genesis 32:22-31[For the short version, skip to the next paragraph.] The lectionary skips a huge chunk of Jacob’s story between last week’s reading and this week’s. Last week we read that Jacob marries his two cousins, Leah and Rachel. Jacob loves Rachel more than he loves Leah but it is Leah who gets pregnant. What is implied is that Jacob is keeping his husbandly duties to both wives. Leah first has Reuben, then Simeon, then Levi and finally Judah. (Add up the time: three and a half to four year without Rachel becoming pregnant.) Rachel gets upset and gives Jacob her handmaiden Bilhah with whom they have two sons Dan and Naphtali. Leah then gives Jacob her handmaiden Zilpah who bears the sons Gad and Asher. (We are up to eight boys by three women. Is your head spinning?) After a bargain with Rachel for some mandrakes (an aphrodisiac and fertility drug) Leah becomes pregnant a fifth and sixth time and bears Issachar and Zebulun. (She also becomes pregnant a seventh time and bears the one and only girl mentioned in this family, Dinah.) Finally, God remembers Rachel and she becomes pregnant with Joseph (of the amazing Technicolor coat). Much later, Rachel will bear the twelfth son Benjamin. In the mean time, Jacob becomes rich by stealing the weakest sheep and goats from Laban (his uncle and father-in-law) and breeding them into strong and healthy flocks. When Laban finds out, he gets angry and Jacob, with his two wives, two concubines, 11 sons, one daughter, many servants and, by now huge flocks, must flee. When Laban catches up to them they come to a peaceful agreement but Jacob must still deal with his twin brother, Esau, because that is where he headed.

Just prior to our reading Jacob sends a message to Esau and Esau, with 400 men, decides to meet Jacob in the wilderness. Jacob, being afraid of him, divides his extended family and flock into two units sending them in different direction. He also sends a large number of flock to Esau to try to appease him. In our reading for Sunday, Jacob sends his wives and children ahead of him across the Jordan. While alone, a man wrestles with him through the night. When they wrestle to a draw the man puts out Jacob’s hip joint. The man demands that Jacob let him go before daybreak but Jacob demands a blessing. The man blesses him by changing his name to “Israel” which means “strives with God”. Jacob wants to know the stranger’s name but does not learn it. When the man leaves, Jacob names the place “The face of God” or Peniel. Who or what was Jacob wrestling with? A man? An angel? God? His own fears? What have you wrestled with? [Note: with the birth of Benjamin the twelve sons will be the Twelve Tribes of Israel.]

Psalm 17:1-7, 15 – The psalmist asks God to listen to his pleas and to protect him from his enemies.

OR Isaiah 55:1-5 – God call all people to come to the waters and drink. Come to the table and feast. Price of admission: Nothing, nada, zilch. Just come, listen and learn.

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 – Verses 8 and 9 are the standard description of God and you may want to memorize it. Verses 14-20 elaborates on this understanding.

Romans 9:1-5 – After stating that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ (8:39) Paul states that he is saddened by the thought that the Jewish people (for the most part) and authorities did not accept what God did for them in Jesus Christ. The adoption into God’s family (8:14) belonged to the Israelites but is now extended to all humanity.

Matthew 14:13-21 – Following Jesus’ teachings using parables he travels to Nazareth where he is rejected and he learns of the death of John the Baptist. That news prompts Jesus to retreat to a quiet place but the crowd will not leave him alone. With compassion, Jesus heals the sick among them. Late in the evening, the disciples want Jesus to send everyone home for dinner. Jesus tells them, “You give them something to eat.” They object saying they only have five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus asks everyone to sit down on the grass, he takes the bread (and fish), blesses it, breaks it, and then gives it. (This is communion: take, bless, break, and give although I generally break the bread while blessing it.) Matthew tells us that all ate and were full and there were 5,000 men with women and children with them. (15,000 people?) When have we been able to do so much with so little?

May the Lord fill you with love and kindness and may you serve the Lord by serving the people.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Readings for July 27, 2014

Hello Everyone,

I hope you are surviving the one or two hot and humid days. My truck isn’t, however. Cheryl and I were in St. Cloud, MN, yesterday doing some shopping. It was 93 degrees and lots of humidity. My truck’s air conditioning was working just fine for the first half. After the third or fourth stop, we got in and I started the truck. I quickly turned on the AC and nothing happened. No blowing air. I turned the blower fan to off, then to 1, then to 2, then to 3 and still no air. I then turned it to 4, my highest fan speed and there it was full blast cold air. Back down to 3 and nothing. And that is the way it is: full blast #4 cold air or nothing. However, when set to 1, 2, or 3, I can still get some cold air but only if the truck is moving. It also helps to open a back window to allow air to flow through the cabin. Taking it in to my mechanic on Monday. Thank goodness it is cooling down for the next few days.

This week’s readings include:

Genesis 29:15-28 – Jacob arrives at his destination and meet (and falls in love with) Rachel. He then begins to work for Laban who is Rachel’s father and who is Jacob’s uncle, his mother Rebekah’s brother, which makes Rachel his first cousin. Our reading is about the agreement of Jacob to work for Laban for seven years after which he will get to marry Rachel. After seven years the wedding takes place. Jacob never actually sees the bride for she is covered. They consummate the wedding that night in their tent but in the morning Jacob discovers that the woman is Leah, Rachel’s older and still unmarried sister. Jacob has been cheated and he is mad! Laban say that he can also have Rachel if he agrees to work another seven years. Ahhhhh.... Biblical marriage where one man can marry two cousins and, as we shall hear later, mate with their two personal handmaids as well thereby having twelve sons and at least one daughter (only one is ever mentioned, Dinah, in chapter 34). Oh, and back in chapter 28 we read that Jacob’s brother, Esau, marries his first (half) cousin who was the daughter of Ishmael, half brother to Isaac. Gotta love the Bible.

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b – We are called to give thanks to the Lord for all the wonderful things God has done. The psalmist, in our passage, remembers God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

OR Psalm 128 – For those who fear (respects) the Lord, the Lord will be with them. The man’s wife will be fruitful and will bear many children and he will see the prosperity of Jerusalem and his many grandchildren.

1 Kings 3:5-12 – God appears to Solomon in a dream and asks “What do you want me to give you?” Solomon’s reply: “Wisdom”. God is pleased.

Psalm 119:129-136 – Remember that Psalm 119 is 22 stanza of 8 verses each. Each verse within a stanza starts with the same Hebrew letter and each stanza is the Hebrew alphabet in order. This stanza all the verses begin with Pe פ. Here the psalmist remembers God’s promises of redemption and protection.

Romans 8:26-39 – The Spirit of God knows our every prayers and that all things work together for good for those who love God. God was even willing to send his Son for us. Who then will be able to stand in the way of God’s plan? Who or what will keep us away from God? No one, that’s who!

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 – Five more very short parables: mustard seed, yeast, hidden treasure, merchant, and a net thrown into the sea. On Sunday I read verses 34 and 35 but didn’t really mention them in the sermon. I will try to cover those verses this Sunday. What do you think Jesus was talking about when he says, “I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world?”

Have a great week serving the Lord and serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Monday, July 14, 2014

Readings for Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hello Everyone,

I am working today, Monday, July 14, despite the fact that Monday is my usual day off, my Sabbath. Tomorrow I will be in Alexandria babysitting this wonder girl, my granddaughter.

Our readings this week continue in Genesis, Romans and Matthew.

Genesis 28:10-19a – In last week’s reading, Jacob cheats Esau, his older twin brother, out of his birthright. In Chapter 27 Jacob cheats his father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing that was intended for Esau. At the beginning of chapter 28, Rebekah, Jacob’s mom and Isaac’s wife, convinces Isaac to send Jacob back to the family homeland to get a wife. This will also keep Jacob safe from Esau’s murderous hatred. In our reading this week, Jacob is on the way and stops for the night using a stone for a pillow (ouch!!). There he has a dream of a ladder to heaven and angels ascending and descending. The LORD (Yahweh) appears in the dream and repeats the promise of offspring and a nation that the LORD gave to Abraham.

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 – A psalm of a God from whom we cannot escape, who is with us wherever we go, and who knows us entirely. In the NRSV, the version of the Bible I use, the second half of verse 8 says, “. . . if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.” So, in your understanding, what is “Sheol”?

OR Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 – Pastor Gary, where is this in my Bible as I can’t find it? If you have any Protestant Bible then you will not find it. What you will need is a Bible with the Apocrypha or you have a Catholic Bible or to follow this link: Wisdom.

or Isaiah 44:4-6 – God declares that there is really no other god and we are God’s witnesses.

Psalm 86:11-17 – The psalmist asks God to teach him God’s ways for God’s steadfast love has sustained and protected the psalmist. Verse 15 is a prominent theme of the Old Testament: “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Romans 8:12-25 – Here are a few of the key points of this passage. If we are led by the Spirit (which Paul affirms in verse 9) then we are the children of God. When we cry out to God it is the Spirit witnessing to us that we are God’s children, adopted into the family and heirs to God’s kingdom with our now brother Jesus Christ. Whatever we suffer in this present world will be made up by the glory of God’s revelation. All of creation awaits that revelation so creation will be free of decay and rot. We currently have the first fruits of the Spirit and as we wait for the revelation to come we wait in hope with patience.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 – The parable of the weeds. The first section is the telling of the parable and the second section is the explanation. A person sows wheat in a field. At night someone else sows weeds in the same field. In Jesus’s world there was a plant, thought to be darnel, which looked like wheat in the early stages of growth so that you couldn’t tell the difference. To try to weed out the darnel risked pulling out the wheat. It is not until the darnel and wheat mature can the farmer tell the difference (wheat becomes brown and darnel becomes black). Darnel can also be infected with a poisonous fungus, hence the need to separate the darnel from the wheat at harvest time. Now remember, parable are designed to make us think. Setting aside the explanation given in 36-43, what other ideas can this parable generate?

Have a great week serving God by serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Readings for Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hello Everyone,

Genesis 25:19-34 – At the beginning of chapter 25, Abraham has been a busy man following the death of Sarah. He married again and his new and probably young wife bore him six sons. Then Abraham died at the ripe old age of 175. Isaac and Ishmael come together to bury their father with his wife Sarah. There is no note about what happened to Ishmael’s mother, Hagar. In our verses this week, Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, gets pregnant with twins who fight within the womb. She inquires of the Lord and is told that the older boy will serve the younger boy (a recurring theme in the Old Testament). The first to be born was red and hairy. He was named Esau, which I believe means “hairy”. A few verses later we learn that he is also named Edom, which means “red”. The next to be born followed immediately by holding on to the foot of Esau. He was named Jacob, which may mean “grabby”. In verse 28 we learn that Mom loved Jacob because he was a bit of a homeboy and Dad loved Esau because he was an outdoorsman. In verses 29-34 we also find out that Esau was none too bright because he traded away his birthright for a bowl of stew.

Psalm 119:105-112 – The longest book of the Bible (176 verses and 4 1/2 pages in my Bible). It consists of 22 stanzas of 8 verses each. The 8 verses in each stanza all begin with the same letter of the Hebrew Alphabet (or should I say Aleph-Taw). Our verses consist of the 14th stanza and the letter “nun”. Verse 105 is the opening line of a famous Amy Grant song. (Amy Grant song).

OR Isaiah 55:10-13 – You really should read the entire chapter which my Bible labels “An Invitation to Abundant Life”. Come to God’s market and receive food, wine, and milk with no price attached. Look for the Lord while he is near. In verse 8, God says that his thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways. Why then do we, and I am as guilty as anyone, try to define God’s judgment and mercy in the ways humanity defines judgment and mercy? In our verses for this week God brings the rains and snows to water the earth that it may flourish. So too, God’s word goes out and accomplishes God’s work in the world before it returns to God. All of this bring joy to God’s creation such that the mountains and hill sing and the trees clap their hands. Here another hymn to listen to: You Shall Go Out with Joy.

Psalm 65: (1-8) 9-13 – A Psalm of praise for God’s creation and God’s role in taming creation and bringing forth the earth’s bounty for God’s people.

Romans 8:1-11 – I read from Romans 8 at a lot of the funerals I lead. In this chapter Paul turns to the Spirit of Life that sets us free from the Law of sin and death. Paul’s argument may seem a little dense as he keeps returning to the law of death which continues to live in us. He says that we have been set free by Jesus Christ and that God has condemned sin in the flesh (through the death of Jesus on the Cross. Please note that God did not kill Jesus but that Jesus confronted the sin of this world, took on that sin, and died because of it. This sets us free.) Paul then says that we who have believed in Jesus have been given the Spirit of God which leads us to all righteousness. With Christ in us, even though our body would be dead because of sin, our bodies have been given new life. Like I said, it’s complicated. We will spend two more weeks on Chapter 8 and all of Paul’s argument for Life.

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 – We skip all of chapter 12 which includes the disciples working on Sabbath (plucking grain); Jesus healing a withered hand on the Sabbath and the Pharisees conspire to kill Jesus; he heals a blind, mute, demon possessed man and the Pharisees claim Jesus has a demon; Jesus teaches about good and bad fruit, the sign of Jonah, the return of unclean spirits, and who his true family is (and it is not his mother, brothers, and sisters). Our reading this week is the parable of the sower. The first section is the parable and the second section is the explanation of the parable. The skipped section is Jesus’ explanation of what parables are for, which is to confuse those who think they know and make his words understandable to the innocent. I suggest that you read verses 1-9 and ponder them, trying to forget what you have known about the parable from verses 18-23. What do you think the parable may mean? Could there be more meaning in the parable than is presented in the explanation? What other ways could we understand what Jesus is trying to tell you?

I won’t answer these questions now because I have a novel understanding of this parable that I will present on Sunday. If you want to know come to worship at Grey Eagle UMC at 9:00 AM or Peace United Church at 10:30 AM. See you then.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Readings for July 6, 2014, and Other Thoughts

Hello Everyone,

Well, I am back from vacation. The last two weeks of the three week vacation was spent traveling to and from Meridian, Idaho, which is a bedroom community to Boise. I traveled with Cheryl, my daughters Megan and Jennifer, and my granddaughter Leighana to visit my mother Virginia, my sister Leslie, and my aunt Dorothy. Our ages from oldest to youngest are 76, 75, 56, 55, 55, 26, 25, and 9 month. Four generations.

I was thinking about this recently as I watched a video of a young UMC pastor, Karen Hernandez, talk about the small church she serves in Kuna, ID. Her church is not far from the Meridian UMC that Mom attends and in fact, this pastor makes a reference to Mom’s church. She talks about how her aging church caught a vision from God about how they can be “the church that feeds people.”

As you watch this video ask your self these questions:
1. What is God calling my church to do?
2. What is God calling me to do?
3. How can we serve our community, because to love others is to love God?

Here is the video. It is a bit long but she is very engaging.

Karen Hernandez :: Focus! (how Kuna UMC discerned our mission and restructured everything else revolve around it) from Relevance Ministries on Vimeo.

Note: during the Season after Pentecost the Lectionary offers two options for Old Testament readings, a continuous reading with an appropriate Psalm, or a reading tied to the Gospel lesson with a Psalm. Our readings for this Sunday are:

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67: This is week 3 of 18 in Genesis and Exodus. This week’s story is about Abraham sending his trusted service back to the land of Ur to get a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. The story actually starts at verse 1 of chapter 24 so I encourage you to read the entire chapter. Now you would think Isaac would have a greater role in the story than he does but, truth be told, after last week’s story of the near sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, he seems to be a generational place holder between Abraham and Jacob, Isaac’s son, whose birth we will read next week. The story moves from the older to the younger and then to the younger once again. How can we pass the church down to the younger generation? Do we sacrifice them on the alter of “that’s the way we have always done it” or do we graciously allow the younger generation to take control even if it means everything will change?

Psalm 45:10-17 – A Psalm for a Royal Wedding. Verses 2-9 focus on the groom. Verses 10-15 focus on the bride.

OR Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) 2:8-13 – One of the few times the lectionary has a reading from this very sensual book. In our reading it is spring and love is in the air. These verses are spoken by the woman but she quotes the man in verses 10-13. One of the difficulties of translating this book from Hebrew is figuring out who is speaking, the man, the woman, or a handmaiden.

OR Zechariah 9:9-12 – The prophet predicts that God will put an end to all war, prisoners will be set free, and what has been taken will be restored double.

Psalm 145:8-14 – This might be a THE Old Testament creed on who God is: gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, good to all, compassion over all, faithful to his words, gracious in deeds, upholding the fallen, and raising up the bowed. Amen!

Romans 7:15-25a – This is the 3rd of 13 readings in Romans. Because Easter was so late we missed three readings that come before the Romans reading two weeks ago. The first three chapters of Romans sets up the problem: humanity has gone astray from God worshiping the created and not the Creator. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (3:23). Beginning in chapter four, Paul begins to explain how God remedies the situation through history and through Jesus Christ. In our reading, Paul says that despite knowing what is right he continues to do what is wrong. Who can fix that situation? Jesus Christ, that’s who.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 – These verses were spoken by Jesus in response to a visit by John the Baptizer’s disciples which starts in verse 2 and includes the skipped verses. In our verses, Jesus complains about two opposite people, Jesus and John, are rejected. When people are made uncomfortable by the messenger then they will find anything to discredit them. It happened then and it happens now. What are the things that are hidden from the “wise and intelligent”? Why are they revealed to infants? Could it be our violence soaked culture? Infants (probably an euphemism for the weak and innocent) have not been sucked into that which enslaves us and can perceive it. Jesus offers a different way. Yoke ourselves to Jesus’s Way and we will find rest. It's like the blue or red pill in “The Matrix”:

Have a great 4th of July Celebration and I will see you on Sunday.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor