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