Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Readings for Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hello Everyone,

Did you hear about the nun that recently won “The Voice Italy”? Sister Cristina, yes, she is a real nun, has just released a single, a remake of Madonna’s semi-scandalous song “Like a Virgin”. Sister Cristina has not altered any of the lyrics but when she sings it, and with the imagery used, it takes on a totally different meaning. Check it out.

This Sunday, in some mostly Lutheran churches, is Reformation Sunday. On that day many church remember the work of Martin Luther (all Lutheran denominations) and John Calvin (Presbyterian, Baptist, and other denominations). Less celebrated, but equally important, is the founding of the Anglican Church and the less heralded rise of the Anabaptist churches (Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren). Those are the four prongs of the Protestant movement of the sixteenth century (1501-1600).

Our readings for this Sunday are:

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 – This is the report of Moses’ death. Moses was not allowed to enter into Canaan because of a (slight?) misdeed recorded at Number 20:1-13 (compare to Exodus 17:1-7). He goes up the mountain as God commanded and God gives him a vision of all the land which will be inhabited by the Israelites. At verse 10 Moses is call the greatest prophet of Israel.

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17 – This psalmist begins by praising God for God’s greatness through eternity. Then, in the skipped verses, the psalmist states that the people Israel are suffering due to God’s anger and wrath with the people’s sins. In the final verses, the psalmist pleads with God to turn back and bless the people, working through them to do God’s work.

Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18 – Moses is given more “laws” for the people. God wants the people to be holy because God is holy (verse 2). Then follows a long list of “don’ts” some of which carry the death penalty: honor father and mother; keep Sabbath; no idols; eat the meat of sacrifices in 2 days for on the 3 day it becomes an “abomination” (this word could also be translated as “taboo” and it has a ritual understanding); leave gleanings in the fields at harvest time; don’t steal; don’t swear falsely; don’t defraud neighbors; and don’t revile the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. In the last part of our reading we have injunctions against unjust judgments, slandering, or profiting at the neighbors expense. The prohibition against hating, taking vengeance, and bearing a grudge is about the neighbor within the tribe, clan, or family. Compare this with what Jesus says in our Matthew reading below and also with the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.

Psalm 1 – “Happy are those who delight in the laws of the Lord!” Pretty much says it all.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 – Paul reminds the people of the church in Thessalonica of his time with them, how he brought them the Gospel with no expectation of monetary gain or adulation. He gave them the Gospel and he gave them himself.

Matthew 22:34-46 – Since Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem the priests, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees try to trick him into giving unpopular answers to various questions. The first part of this reading is the last challenge to Jesus: what is the greatest commandments. The question calls for one greatest commandment but Jesus gives them two. (Quick Quiz: What are they?) Jesus then asks them a question about whose son the Messiah is. Jesus’ answer depends on a slightly skewed reading of Psalm 110:1.

Have a great week serving God in Christ by serving other in all you do?

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Monday, October 6, 2014

Readings for Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hello Everyone,

I will be very busy this week. On Sunday afternoon I was asked to do a funeral for an unchurched man on Wednesday in Long Prairie. Today I was asked to do the funeral of a member of the Clarissa UMC where I was pastor 6 years ago. They are currently between pastors and the new pastor was unavailable to do the service. We also have two council meetings, PUC on Wednesday evening and GEUMC on Thursday evening. On Friday and Saturday I will be in Isanti, Minnesota, for a clergy gathering (Friday) and leadership meeting (Saturday). I need to start tonight and do one thing at a time, worrying only about that which is before me. Some days, some weeks, that is the best way.

Anyway, we are continuing with our Sermon Series “Making Sense of the Bible” with this week’s theme “Violence, Suffering and the Bible”. I will begin selecting scriptures for the theme after I get this email finished.

The scripture lessons that have been selected for the lectionary, I which I hope and pray you are still reading, are:

Exodus 32:1-14 – In Chapter 19 God calls Moses up to Mt. Sinai and then beginning in Chapter 20 God gives Moses the law starting with the 10 Commandments. God gives the law to Moses through chapter 23. At the beginning of chapter 24 Moses seems to have descended the mountain because God calls him up again. Moses and the elders go up again, God gives Moses more laws through chapter 31, and then God gives Moses the two tablets. The scene shifts to the base of the mountain with chapter 32. Something is distressing the people who demand a god, an idol. The excuse given by the people is Moses’ disappearance. Aaron acquiesces and, using gold from the people, he makes an idol. Idols represent the gods to whom sacrifices are made, both human and animal. Sacrifices are needed when there is turmoil in the community. Since the time they left Egypt, the Israelites have not needed sacrifices and God’s intention for their new community was to be a people who worship God without sacrifice. The story says that God got angry and was threatening to destroy all of them but Moses agues with God and God changes his mind. Following this incident, Moses will go back up the mountain and God will give him new laws that will include animal sacrifice. What to make of this story? Why is sacrificial violence so necessary?

Psalm 99 – A psalm that praises God because God is great and worthy to be praised. 95% of the psalm is in praise of God’s goodness but it seems that the writer, as in many psalms, can’t leave well enough alone and slips in a zinger. Check out verse 8c (the last third of verse 8) which says, “. . . but an avenger of their wrongdoings”. What does it mean for God to be an “avenger”?

OR Isaiah 25:1-9 – After praising God for the defeat of strong and ruthless nations while protecting the poor and needy the prophet says that the Lord God will make a feast for all peoples, lifting the shroud of despair and replacing it with joy.

Psalm 23 – “The Lord is my shepherd . . .” ‘Nuff said.

Philippians 4:1-9 – This is the last week of Philippians. Paul asks the people of Philippi to stand firm in the Lord. This is followed by a series of exhortations (urgings): to two women, friends and coworkers with Paul, so they may get along; to the church to always rejoice and live in peace; and for the church to keep doing those things they have learned. When you read this passage imagine that Paul is speaking directly to you and your church.

Matthew 22:1-14 – This is one of the more troubling parables in the Gospels. Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees and priests. A king prepares a wedding banquet and all the invited guest decide not to come, some even going so far as to kill the messengers. The king sends an army and kills them all. But there still needs to be quests at the banquet so the king sends servants to rounds up round up anyone and everyone. This is disturbing enough but there is more. One guest is not dressed appropriately. He gets bound up and thrown into the darkness (where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth). “For many are called but few are chosen.” What is Jesus trying to say? Why is he using such harsh language? Is this a parable where we are to associate “the king” with God? Or is Jesus saying something different? What do you think?

Lord, guide us in the reading of your word and in the meditations of our souls that we may see you in your son Jesus Christ. In his name we pray. Amen.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor