One announcement: Grey Eagle UMC’s 8th Annual Hog Roast is this Saturday, September 27, starting at 4:30 PM. GE people, there are still jobs to be done and if you want to volunteer call Janet Roe or Nancy Kutter. PUC people, make plans to enjoy the dinner and fellowship.
While we are not currently following the lectionary appointed texts in our worship on Sunday I hope you will continue to read the Bible. Following the lectionary texts is one way, of many, to read the a good portion of the Bible. If you have your own daily reading plan, I encourage you to continue. If you don’t have a plan there are many available on the internet (www.biblestudytools.com or www.biblegateway.com and look for the links to the reading plans). Or, if you have a smartphone, you can use the app “You Version” which is available for all platforms and is 100% free. This app also supports many reading plans.
Our text for this coming Sunday are:
Exodus 17:1-7 – The wandering Israelites have run out of water and are complaining to Moses. Moses says they are quarrelling (arguing) with him and testing the Lord. A commentary I just read (Opening the Old Testament) says the word “testing” is more like “bringing a lawsuit or suing”. The people or waging a lawsuit against God. The issue is their lack of water and their thirst, but the greater issue is the people’s feeling that God has abandoned them. “Is the Lord among us or not?” (verse 7) Do you ever feel abandoned by God? What does it take for you to know that God is with you? Always with you. A miracle or just the reassurance of the Holy Spirit?
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16 – A number of Psalms are the recounting of Israel history. Some are longer, such as Psalm 105, and some are short, such as Psalm 114. Psalm 78 is one of the long ones which is why we only have nine verses for this reading. The first four verses are the introduction that says the writer (and subsequent readers) will tell the stories through the generations. Verses 12-16 briefly mentions the crossing of the sea with the parted waters, the leading of the cloud during the day and the fire at night, and the water that came from the rocks (see above).
Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 – According to the commentary in my Bible, the proverb in verse 2b is about the people thinking that their present sufferings are a result of a previous generation’s sin. God says that all human life belongs to him and it is only the person who sins who will die. (Since we all die at some point then we must all be sinners.) The people claim that God is unfair, inferring that their sufferings comes from God for no good reason. God states that it is the people who are unfair and when they turn away from righteousness they will die. A close reading of this passage (verse 26) shows that it is not God who will bring their death but the choices they make. Choose to follow God’s way brings salvation and life. “I have no desire for the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.” How much suffering is the result of our own choices? How much suffering is the result of the choices of other people? Does God make us suffer (the prime question of Job)?
Psalm 25:1-9 – In one respect this Psalm seems to be David demanding God to protect him. Read another way it might be David pleading for protection and forgiveness. Have your pleadings ever bordered on demands? Do you think God is bothered by the way we pray? Does not God understand us and look past the “tone of voice” we use?
Philippians 2:1-11 – One of the greatest passages of the New Testament! Perhaps we should all take time to memorize all eleven verses. First, we are to take the example of Christ in our treatment of others. We are to place other people’s sufferings and interests before our own. We are to treat each other as equals. Beginning at verse 5 many people believe that Paul is quoting an early church hymn. Jesus did not hold on to his “God-hood) but gave it up to become one with us. In Jesus’ humanity he died on the cross with humble, self-giving love. Because of that act, God (not Jesus) lifted him up. Notice the downward and upward movement of the words. Does Jesus becoming human make a difference in the way you respond to God’s love? To quote a song, “What if God was one of us?”
Matthew 21:23-32 – In the telling of Matthew’s Gospel, this story happens the day after Jesus entered Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) and cleansed the temple of the buyers and sellers. Jesus is challenged by the chief priest and elders of the community to tell them where is authority comes from. Jesus challenges them about the authority of John the Baptist. When they are unable to answer Jesus, because any answer they give will put them in a bad light with the people, he poses a parable, “A father asks two sons to do some work; one says ‘No’ but does it anyway and the other says ‘Yes’ but doesn’t do it. Who did the will of the father?” Then, one of the most difficult statements of Jesus for those of us who profess to follow Jesus, “The tax collectors and prostitutes are going to the Kingdom of God before you.” Not only did Jesus make the statement to the religious leaders of the Temple, I think he also challenges all of us who are comfortable, complacent, or feeling secure in our place in the Kingdom. Are we doing the work of the Father who asks? Are we responding to his call? Are we willing to be challenged?
Have a great week!
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor