Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Readings for August 31, 2014

Hello Everyone, Grace and Peace to you and your families,

Only one announcement this week: Worship Times revert to the regular schedule: Grey Eagle UMC at 9:00 AM and Peace United at 10:30 AM.

Our readings for this week are:

Exodus 3:1-15 – Moses sees a (the) light, then hears God call to go back to Egypt to be God’s instrument to set the Israelites free. Moses, who throughout Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers is willing to argue with God, says God must have picked the wrong person. “No, it’s you I want.” “Well then, who should I say sent me?” “I AM, that’s who!” Moses will go on to argue three more time: they won’t believe me, I am a stutterer, and, simply, send someone else. God will have none of it. Moses is the man God wants. What about you? Do you ever argue with God? Do you offer objections when God calls you to do something? Remember, God is patient. It took me 25 years to answer God’s call to go into ministry. God will wait for you.

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c – This psalm recounts the might deeds of God for Israel. The first stanza, 1-6, is praise for God calling us to remember. The skipped verses, 7-22, recount what God did through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Verses 23-26 recount the people’s growth in Egypt and their enslavement necessitating God’s choosing of Moses and Aaron to lead them. The remaining verses recount Moses’ confrontation with Pharaoh, Israel’s exodus from Egypt, and God’s provisions for them as they travelled. Verse 45c: “Praise the Lord!”

Jeremiah 15:15-21 – Beginning in verse 10 of this chapter, Jeremiah complains to God about his troubles. Verses 15-18 has Jeremiah recounting how he has been faithful but wondering why he is being persecuted. Verses 19-21 are God’s reply.

Psalm 26:1-8 – This is very similar to Jeremiah’s words in our reading above. The psalmist states that he has walked in the way of the Lord and not taken up company with the worthless, the hypocrites, the evildoers, and the wicked.

Romans 12:9-21 – What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? Read these verses to find out as I won’t repeat Paul’s wonderful list here. One note, however, about verse 19. The Greek does not have “of God” following the word “wrath”. In Romans, the only place Paul actually wrote “wrath of God” is at 1:18. At all other places Paul simply writes “wrath”. Here is a short study on the word “wrath” in Romans: “A Re-Formation of Faith”. What are we saved from with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? I would contend that we are saved not from God’s wrath but from human wrath.

Matthew 16:21-28 – Last week, while on retreat near Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon replied “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” This week’s reading is a continuation of that discussion. It is very unfortunate that the Lectionary Committee chose to split up the readings. What does it mean for Jesus to be the Messiah? Going to Jerusalem, suffering at the hands of the leaders, be killed, and rising on the third day. Peter (née Simon) objects saying that that must never happen. Jesus call him Satan and a scandal (stumbling block). What does it mean to follow Jesus? Death. Death to self. Death to the world’s ways. Maybe even physical death. Pay close attention to verses 27-28. How will, or does, Jesus “repay everyone for what has been done”? Does this refer to some future coming of Jesus or to his resurrection?

Have a great week serving God while serving your neighbors.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Readings for Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hello Everyone,

Two short announcements before I get to the Scripture Readings for this coming Sunday.

1. This is the final Sunday for reversed worship times. Beginning August 31 Grey Eagle UMC will go back to their 9:00 AM worship and Peace United will go back to 10:30 AM.

2. Grey Eagle UMC will be hosting their 1st Annual Church on Birch (Big Birch Lake) at 11:00 AM. Pontoons, boats, canoes, kayaks, and other watercraft should meet at the sandbar near Hammarsten Island. Worship will be about 30 to 40 minutes in length and we will then gather at John and Janet Roe’s place for a potluck picnic. We will not be having Communion on the lake because we haven’t figured out the logistics. However, if several canoes and kayaks tip over we may have some baptisms (smiley face goes here).

Our readings for this week are:

Exodus 1:8-2:10 – With last week’s reading, all of Jacob’s (Israel’s) sons and families are now in Egypt. After that generation dies away and with the continued growth of Hebrew families the Egyptian king, or Pharaoh, becomes afraid and orders: harsher working conditions, midwives to kill newborn sons of Hebrew women, and finally all Egyptians to kill newborn Hebrew boys. As you read this passage, who are the heroes? Most are unnamed but two are remembered: Shiphrah and Puah. Praise God for brave women!

Psalm 124 – Praising God for delivering the people of Israel from adversity. Notice how the Psalmist equates enemies attacking with flooding. What might this say about Noah and the flood?

Isaiah 51:1-6 – The Lord, through the prophet, looks toward a time when all will be set right, the weary will have rest, the desert will bloom, and when joy and gladness will be found in the people. Even when the earth and the heavens pass away, God’s salvation and deliverance will be forever.

Psalm 138 – Praising God and God’s holy name for love, faithfulness, and strength. God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Romans 12:1-8 – At this point in his letter to the Church in Rome, Paul begins to lay out what it means for a Christ follower in their daily lives. We are to be living sacrifices to God, our minds transformed by God so we can discern God’s will. We are to not be haughty but recognized the many gift of all believers so we can work together with God for the kingdom. Some of those gifts are ministry, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, and compassion. Does any one person have ALL the gifts? Or is it that the many with their individual gifts work together?

Matthew 16:13-20 – Who is Jesus and what does he mean to you, individually, and to us, the church who follows Jesus? What does it mean to call Jesus the Christ or the Messiah (same word, one Greek and one Hebrew)?

May the Lord bless you and keep you and make light shine upon you in all that you do!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Monday, August 11, 2014

Readings for Sunday, August 17, 2014

Grace and Peace to All,

Our readings for this coming Sunday are:

Genesis 45:1-15 – The Lectionary skips a huge chunk of the Jacob (aka Israel) and Joseph saga. Yesterday’s reading (Genesis 37) was about Joseph being betrayed by his 10 older brother and sold into slavery. Genesis 38 is a wonderfully delightful tale of sexual intrigue by Tamar, the granddaughter-in-law of Jacob and the daughter-in-law of Judah. Genesis 39 returns to the story of Joseph who is now a slave to Potiphar, an Egyptian captain of the guard. More sexual intrigue here as Potiphar’s wife, unnamed, wants Joe but he refuses her advances. She accuses him of rape and Pot has Joe imprisoned. The jailer likes Joe allows him to care for all the prisoners. In chapter 40, Joe accurately interprets some dreams of the official cupbearer and the chief baker. Unfortunately, Joe remains in jail. In chapter 41, the Pharaoh has dreams of seven fat cows and seven thin, ugly cows which nobody can figure out. Joe, who now has a reputation as a dream interpreter, is brought before him and makes the correct interpretation. Delighted, the Pharaoh releases Joe from prison and gives him authority to oversee the preparations during seven bountiful years for the seven years of famine which follow. In chapters 42 to 44, Jacob’s family suffers from the region wide drought and the ten oldest brothers go to Egypt to beg for grain from our hero, Joe, but they don’t recognize him. Joe grants their request but tells them not to return without their youngest brother, Benjamin (Joe’s little brother). Of course, they return with Ben and Joe frames Ben for theft. Knowing that going back to Jacob without Ben would kill Jacob, Judah offers to give himself over in place of Ben. That bring us to our reading for this week: the big reveal! At the end of the reading Joe tells his brothers to go get Jacob and that is how the Israelites (the clan of Jacob) got to be in Egypt for next week’s reading. Chapters 46-50 records the travels of the clan to Egypt, settling in Goshen for the famine, the death of Jacob at the ripe old age of 147, the brothers taking Jacob’s body to be buried with Rachel, Joe’s reassuring his brothers that all is well, and the death of Joe at the maybe not so ripe age of 110. Next up: Moses!

Psalm 133 – A psalm of how unity within a family (or church or denomination?) brings blessings from the Lord.

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 – The Lord promises to bless the foreigners who follow him and to gather together outcasts and others to his house, “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Psalm 67 – God’s graciousness and blessings are for all peoples and nations and they are called to give their praise and reverence to him.

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 – In chapters 9 through 11, Paul has been working through a difficult understanding that his Jewish brothers and sisters have, for the most part, rejected the Gospel of Jesus. He comes to the understanding that the promise given to Israel is also for Gentiles and that there is still hope for Israel, whom God has not rejected. If God’s gifts and calling are “irrevocable” and we are all imprisoned in disobedience so God may be merciful to all, then is everyone saved (universal salvation)? Paul’s statements in these short verses are very intriguing, to say the least.

Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28 – There are two parts to this reading. The optional part is about how what we say can “defile” us or others. The second part is Jesus’ encounter with a Canaanite woman, or in other words, a Gentile woman. She is desperate to have Jesus heal her dying daughter. Jesus seems to have no compassion for her and implies (somewhat rudely?) that she and her daughter are dogs. Yet, she is not dissuaded and argues that even dogs eat the crumbs of the master. Amazed at her faith, he heals the daughter at a distance. One blogger suggests that we shouldn’t be upset when Jesus is a bit rude (Is it okay to notice that Jesus can be a jerk sometimes?). Others have suggested that this episode can show us the human side of Jesus and that he can grow in his understanding of what God calls him to do. What is your take on this short vignette?

Have a blessed week in the service of the Lord!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Readings for Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hello Everyone,

I just read a great article about congregations and why we need them. Here is a short quote:

Through the generations, congregations have been the kitchens where Christians are “cooked” into the sort of people God intends us to be. We worship, study, pray and share meals, knitting us closer to God and each other. Congregations matter because Christians would not be Christians if we did not have people with whom to practice loving God and loving neighbor.

You can read the entire article at “Why Do Congregations Matter?” Are we cooking and being cooked into the people God wants us to be?

Our readings for this week are:

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 – Much happens between last week’s reading of Jacob wrestling with a man and this week’s reading. Briefly, Jacob and Esau meet and make-up (chapter 33); Dinah is raped and her brothers exact revenge (chapter 34); Jacob returns to Bethel (35:1-15); Rachel dies while giving birth to her second son, Jacob’s twelfth, Benjamin (35:16-26); and Jacob’s dad, Isaac, dies at the ripe old age of 180. Chapter 36 is a recounting of the descendants of Esau and the clans of Edom. Our passage this week begins the story of Rachel’s first son, Joseph. Joseph is a dreamer, literally. As we have seen over the last few weeks, family life is messy. It seems that Joseph was Jacob’s favorite and the other 10, older, boys were jealous for Jacob made and gave Joseph a long sleeved robed (also known as a “multi-colored robe”). We skip the verses about Joseph having dreams that depict the other brothers bowing before him. So the brothers plan to lure Joseph out into the countryside to kill him but, in the end, they sell him into slavery. Aren’t families fun? This could be the TBS show “Dallas” all over again.

Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b – The first part calls the people to give thanks to God for all God has done. The second part briefly recounts the life of Joseph.

1 Kings 19:9-18 – Elijah, the champion of YHWH, has defeated and killed the priests of Baal and incurred the wrath of Jezebel so he flees to the mountains. He ends up in a cave on Mt. Horeb (Sinai?). The Lord asks him “Why are you here?”. Elijah tells him. Then God tells him to stand on the mountain for God will pass by. Elijah felt a strong wind but God was not there. Then came an earthquake but God was not there either. Then a fire but God wasn’t there. Then “the sound of silence”. Then the Lord asks him again, “What are you doing here?” Elijah repeats his response. The Lord then tells him to return and complete a few tasks. Have you ever heard “the sound of silence”? Is God found in our loud, proud, aggressive defenses of him or is he found in our simple service to him and others?

Psalms 85:8-13 – The psalmist understands that we need to listen a God who speaks peace. In and with God, love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness will become intertwined with peace; and faithfulness and righteousness will join together.

Romans 10:5-15 – This is a fairly dense passage. Paul starts by asking, rhetorically, can any pull Christ down from heaven or lift him up from the abyss? The obvious answer is “No.” Salvation is evidenced by confessing Jesus is Lord and believing that God raised him from the dead. It does not matter what someone’s circumstances are for “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”. Now, how can they call on God if they haven’t heard about God? How can they hear if no one tells them? And how can someone tell them if no one sends them? So, right here and right now I am sending you into the world, your community, to your next door neighbor, or to your workplace to be the one to proclaim that God and Jesus is Lord of All. Go. Tell. Show. Invite.

Matthew 14:22-33 – In last week’s reading, Jesus was out trying to find a place to be alone but the crowds would not leave him alone so he healed them and, eventually fed some 10,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. After everyone has dispersed, Jesus sends the disciples back across the lake in the boat without him (Jesus still needs some alone time.) A storm comes up and the waves on the lake become swells and the winds are against the disciples. Jesus calmly walks out to them and they think he is a ghost! Peter challenges Jesus to let him walk on water also. Jesus says, “Come”. Peter does and is pleasantly surprised to be able to, but as he looks around (as reality takes hold?) he falls into the lake. Jesus pulls him up and famously says “You of little faith, why did you doubt (unbelieve)?” John Ortberg has a fairly successful book titled “If You Want to Walk on Water You Have to Get Out of the Boat”. Do you want a safe and secure church that slowly gets buffeted by the winds or do you want a church that is doing the miraculous? If so, get out of the boat we call church and do the miracles Jesus tells us we can do.

Have a great week serving God by serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor