Beginning this Sunday, I will be embarking on a sermon series based on Adam Hamilton’s book “Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today”. I think this will be an exciting series and I hope you can attend one of the Bible studies with this book. The studies begin on Tuesday, September 16, 7:00 PM at Grey Eagle UMC and Wednesday, September 17, 2:30 PM at Peace United Church. The study, like the sermon series, is 6 weeks long.
I have not decided which scriptures we will be reading as I do the series but I will continue to send out a weekly cheat sheet on the assigned lessons.
One other note, John Frerichs and I will be hosting a 4 handed cribbage tournament on Saturday, September 20 from 9:00 AM to Noon. If you and a partner would like to sign up please email me or call the church number below. There is no entrance fee and there are no monetary prizes. It is all for the love of the game.
Our readings this week are:
Exodus 14:19-31 – Death has come to the firstborn males of Egypt but has passed over the Israelites. Pharaoh tells Moses and Aaron to get out and the Israelites leave hastily. When they get to the Red (Reed) Sea they set up camp. But then the Pharaoh has a change of heart (his heart hardens) and he and his army chase after the Israelites. Charlton Heston (I mean Moses) lifts his hands and his rod, the waters part, the Israelites cross over, and the Egyptian army of chariots are bogged down and drown. This was a great movie but the reading still leaves us with many questions about God and violence. How do you understand the concept of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart? Why didn’t he soften it?
Psalm 114 – A short psalm celebrating God’s victory in the Exodus from Egypt.
or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 – Verses 1b-18 are a song remembering God’s victory over the Egyptian army. This song is attributed to Moses. Verse 22 is attributed to Moses’ sister Miriam. Notice the strong similarity to verse 1b. Some say that Miriam’s song is the older of the two and that the longer song is an expansion.
OR Genesis 50 15-21 – Following the death of Jacob, Joseph’s brothers seek Joseph’s forgiveness for what they did to him. Acknowledging what they did to him, Joseph feels that God took their bad intentions and turned it into something good. The brother have final assurance of their forgiveness from Joseph. Do you have complete assurance that God forgives you?
Psalm 103: (1-7), 8-13 – Please, ignore the verse marking here and just read the entire Psalm 103. I think this one Psalm boils down, in 22 verses, the essence of God: Holy, forgiving, healing, redeeming, loving, merciful, working justice for the oppressed, compassionate, everlasting to everlasting. Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Romans 14:1-12 – The weak and strong in faith should be sensitive to each other and not judgmental. The words about eating are about whether Christ followers should eat non-kosher meat or meat sacrificed to pagan gods (the only source of meat in many cities around the Roman empire). The words about honoring a certain day is about which Jewish festivals should Christians observe. And since we are all accountable to God we should not be passing judgment on others, for “ALL knees will bow to God and ALL tongues will give God praise.”
Matthew 18:21-35 – Let’s do some simple math to put the parable in perspective. A “denarius” is one day’s labor. Keeping it simple a worker works 8 hours a day for 5 days a week at $10/hour and he takes 2 weeks of unpaid vacation. So $10 x 8 hours x 5 days x 50 weeks = $20,000 a year. (This worker is poor!) A “talent” is equal to more that 15 years of labor work or < $300,000. The first guy in the parable owes the king 10,000 talents or more that $3 Billion (yes, with a B). He is forgiven. The second guy owes the first guy $800 ($10 x 8 hours x 10). Guy #2 is thrown into debtor’s prison. The king finds out and “unforgives” the first guy and sends him to be tortured. “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever is loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18). Reread the parable and consider verse 18. Do you see a connection? The judgment we pass will be the judgment we receive. The most troubling line in this text: “So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Jesus isn’t always as sweet as we want him to be.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor