Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Scripture for Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hello Everyone,

Tomorrow evening we begin our Midweek Lenten Worship. Peace United Church will have worship at 6 pm and Grey Eagle UMC’s will be at 7:30 pm. Both churches are having a Soup and Sandwich Fellowship beginning 45 minutes before the start of worship (5:15 and 6:45 pm respectively). Come for the food and fellowship and stay for worship.

The theme for the midweek services is “I AM” and we will explore 5 of the “I am . . .” sayings of Jesus found in the Gospel of John. Tomorrow night our scripture will be John 6:22-35, “I Am the Bread of Life”.

The lectionary texts for this coming Sunday, March 1, are:

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 – God tells Abram, who is 99 years old, that they are to be in covenant and God will bless Abram with numerous descendants. God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and, in the last two verses, changes Sarai’s name to Sarah. God also promises to give Sarah, who is 90, and Abraham a son. In the skipped verses, the sign of the covenant was for all the males in Abraham’s tribe to be circumcised (ouch). We also don’t read the part where Abraham falls on his face and laughs.

Psalm 22:23-31 – Jesus quotes the beginning of this Psalm while hanging on the cross in Matthew 27:46, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Many in Jesus’ day would have known that the end of this psalm is a positive affirmation that God will save all. “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; all the families of the nations shall worship before him.” It proclaims that even the dead in the earth and future unborn generations will worship and serve God.

Romans 4:13-25 – Paul writes to the church in Rome about their inclusion in God’s promise to Abraham. Abraham trusted God and that was enough for God who declared him righteous. This was not the work of the Law, which Abraham didn’t have, but the work of faith.

Mark 8:31-38 – This will be included in our sermon series on the Gospel of Mark below.

We are in week 8 of our 13 week series covering the entire Gospel of Mark. This week we will read Mark 8:27-9:29. This is the turning point in the Gospel and beginning this week Jesus is going to Jerusalem.

Verses 8:27-30 – Jesus and the disciples take a much need break from their ministry and head north to camp. Jesus ask “Who do people say that I am?” After offering answers about what others were saying about Jesus and having Jesus egg them on, Peter says “You are the Messiah” (Christ or Anointed One). Yeah for Peter.

Verses 31-38 – So, what does it mean to be the Messiah. Jesus says it means suffering, rejection, being killed, and resurrection. Peter says “No, you can’t do that” and Jesus tells Satan to get behind. Calling the crowds he explains what it means to be his follower: deny themselves, take up their cross, and losing their life.

Verses 9:1-13 – Six days later, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the mountain where Jesus is transfigured and visited by Moses and Elijah. P, J, and J then hear a voice that declares Jesus to be “my Son, the Beloved” with the instruction (11th commandment?) to “listen to him”. On the way down the mountain, they discuss what happened and the significance of Elijah. From this point on, Jesus is headed to Jerusalem and the Cross.

Verses 14-29 – When the four of them get back to the other disciples they discover them arguing with some scribes. If you remember, back in chapter 6 Jesus sent out the disciples to proclaim the gospel, heal, and cast out demons and they were successful. Now, the disciples were unable to cast out a spirit in a boy. (Mark’s description makes it sound like it might be epilepsy.) It is hard to impute emotion in written text but verse 19 sounds like Jesus is quite frustrated with disciples. Jesus quizzes the father of the boy about how long the attacks had been happening. Here the conversation gets a little strange. The father asks Jesus to help the boy “if you are able”. Jesus turns the statement back on the father and add that all things are possible with belief. The most famous line from this passage come not from Jesus but from the father: “I believe. Help my unbelief.” Jesus then rebukes the spirit and it leaves the boy. The story finishes with a little bit more strangeness. When the disciples ask Jesus why they couldn’t cast out the spirit Jesus replies that this type of spirit only comes out with prayer. Look closely. Did Jesus pray?

Have a great week serving God by serving your neighbors.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Readings for Ash Wednesday and Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015

Hello Everyone,

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and is the beginning of Lent. Lent is a 40 day period of reflection and repentance culmination in the Resurrection of Jesus. By the way, there are more than 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but since each Sunday is a “mini-Easter” they are not included in the count.

Both churches have worship services tomorrow night with Peace United Church at 6:00 PM and Grey Eagle UMC at 7:30 PM. During Lent, but not on Ash Wednesday, both churches will have a soup and sandwich supper beginning 45 minutes before their Wednesday worship services.

The Lectionary Readings, without comment, are:

Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
or Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 51:1-17
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Sunday, February 22
Genesis 9:8-17 – God’s covenant with Noah
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Peter 3:18-22 – Baptism is like the flood
Mark 1:9-15 – Jesus’ baptism and temptation in the wilderness

In our sermon series, “The Beginning of the Good News”, we will start covering more than one chapter. Our reading this week is:

Mark 7:1-8:26
7:1-23 – The Pharisees challenge Jesus about the disciples eating with unclean hands. Jesus challenges them back about how some use “shelters” to protect their assets instead of caring for their parents.

7:24-20 – Traveling outside the Galilee area a Gentile woman begs Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus scoffs and seemingly puts her down but she persists. Impressed, Jesus heals the daughter without going to see the girl.

7:31-37 – Jesus heals a deaf and unspeaking man by sticking his fingers into the man’s ears and then spitting on his finger to touch the man’s tongue. Jesus orders him and his companions to tell no one but, as we have seen in Mark, nobody can keep their mouths shut.

8:1-10 – Another feeding story but instead of 5 loaves, 2 fish, 12 baskets of leftovers, and 5000 men we have 7 loaves, a few fish, 7 baskets of leftovers, and 4000 people.

8:11-13 – The Pharisees demand more signs from Jesus (Haven’t they been paying attention?) but Jesus refuses.

8:14-21 – Jesus warns the disciples about being like the Pharisees or Herod but they don’t get it. They don’t understand the signs of the two feeding miracles. (We were also told this when Jesus walked on water and calmed the wind.)

8:22-26 - At Bethsaida, on the northern shore of Lake Galilee, a blind man is brought to Jesus. Taking him away from the crowd, Jesus uses spit to clean the eye but there is only partial restoration. Jesus again touches the guy’s eyes and sight was fully restored. Did Jesus fail the first time?

We have healings and challenges. What, in your opinion, should I talk about this Sunday?

Have a great week serving God by serving people!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Readings for Sunday, February 15, 2015

Hello Everyone,

We are continuing our in-depth reading of the Gospel of Mark. It will also be the last week when we read only one chapter. Beginning next week we will have to read 1½ chapters if we which to conclude with the resurrection of Jesus, Chapter 16, on Easter Sunday.

This Sunday is also “Transfiguration Sunday” on the church calendar and the lectionary texts revolve around that theme.

Mark 6:1-56 – There are a number of stories in this chapter including a “flashback”. The two central stories are the report of John the Baptist’s death and the feeding of 5,000 men. I will comment on each story.

Verses 1-6a – Jesus finally get back to his hometown and goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath. I am fairly certain that Mary and Joseph were faithful members of the synagogue and Jesus was a familiar figure. Just like one of our youth returning to church after a 10 or 15 year absence. Was he a quiet kid because when he spoke the people were astounded by his power? Could this really be Mary’s eldest child? (Joseph may have died by this time as Mark doesn’t mention him.) Why would Mark report that the people of the synagogue (and town) took offence?

Verses 6b-13 – Jesus sends out the twelve disciples to preach, heal, and cast out demons. They go in pairs and they take nothing with them except a walking staff. They are to depend on the generosity of the people in the towns they visit.

Verses 14-29 – King Herod hears about Jesus and people around him thought John the Baptizer was raised from the dead. Mark then “flashes back” to tell the story of John’s death. Herod throwing a party. Herod’s wife, Herodias, holding a grudge against John who spoke against Herodias, who had divorced her first husband, Philip, who was Herod’s brother. (Cue the theme music from “Days of Our Lives”)

The seductive, erotic dance by Herodias’ daughter. Herod’s wild, perhaps drunken, promise. Herodias’ head-separating revenge on John.

Verses 30-44 – The twelve disciples return from their preaching and healing tour and report their success to Jesus. Jesus invites them to get away for some much needed R&R. They sail to the east side of the lake but still can’t get away from the crowd, but Jesus was compassionate. At the end of the day the disciples want to send the crowd away so they, the disciples and the crowd, could eat. After telling the disciples to feed them, Jesus shows them how to feed the crowd with five loaves of bread and two fish. Is this the miracle of multiplying bread and fish or the miracle of unbinding the hardened hearts of the crowd? Which would be the greater miracle?

Verses 45-52 – After dinner, Jesus sends the disciples back across the lake so that he could have some alone time to pray. A stiff wind comes up out of the west and the disciples are getting no where with their oars. Note, Mark does not describe this as a storm, only a stiff wind. Early in the morning, the disciples see Jesus walking on the water going past them. Thinking Jesus was a ghost, they cry out in terror. Jesus calms them down and get in the boat as the wind suddenly dies away. What do you make of Mark’s concluding statement of this story, “And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened”? While we often read the Gospels in small, discreet stories, no story stands alone. What is the link back to the preceding feeding story?

Verses 53-56 – One of Mark’s summary statement on Jesus’ mission and work. See also 1:38-39 and 4:33-34.

Lectionary Readings for Transfiguration Sunday

2 Kings 2:1-12 – Elijah is taken up to heave by a whirlwind and yes, there are chariots of fire in the scene. It is at this time that Elijah passes the mantel on to Elisha.

Psalm 50:1-6 – The Lord God calls upon the heavens and the earth to witness the judgment of faithful. The heavens declare God’s righteousness to judge.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 – We don’t see the light of God’s love in the glory of Jesus Christ because the world’s social, political, religious, and military powers, the powers and principalities, the gods of this world, has blinded us. Only the love of Christ that shines in love from each of us can change the hearts of others.

Mark 9:2-9 – Jesus, Peter, James, and John go up to a mountain where Jesus is changed and his clothes glow white. The three disciples see Jesus with Moses and Elijah and Peter wants to put up three tents for them. A voice from heaven speaks to them with what I might call the Eleventh Commandment: “Listen to him!” Do we do what God commands? Do we listen to Jesus?

Thank you for bearing with me to this end. I hope and pray that you will be moved to actually read all of the scriptures I have talked about. What are your questions about them? How is God leading you and our churches into new life? Where can life blossom in the midst of a world of death? Blessing this week as you serve God by serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Readings for Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hello Everyone, Grace and Peace to you in Christ,

We are in week five of our in-depth reading of the Gospel of Mark. Week five means chapter 5 but soon we will be covering 1 1/2 chapters on Sunday. In Chapter 3 we heard about the opposition to Jesus that was beginning to get organized. The powers and principalities (as Paul puts it; this can be equated to “satan”) do not like people who seek a new way based on love. In Chapter 4 Jesus told some parable about that should help us understand the nature of God Rule and how God’s Word will undermine our social systems based on victims. The last story in Mark 4 was Jesus stilling the storm and that can also be understood as a physical manifestation of our social systems that Jesus has authority over. As I think back on my sermons this past Sunday, I am not so sure I effectively communicated those ideas.

Mark 5:1-43

Chapter 5 continues the theme of Jesus’ authority over demons, disease, and even death. After the storm is stilled, the disciples row to the other side of the lake, the east side. As soon as they land and disembark, Jesus is accosted by man possessed by a Legion of demons. As you read this story, notice how Mark describes the man, how the town’s people have treated him, and how they treat Jesus when they find out what Jesus did. Why do you think they wanted Jesus to leave? Shouldn’t they be happy that the person who gave them so much trouble was now cured? If society is founded on victims perhaps not having a victim was scarier than the demon-possessed man. The man wants to go with Jesus but Jesus sends him back to town to proclaim the good new.

Jesus then crosses back over to the west side. Crowds gather to hear Jesus and to be healed by him. This section of chapter 5, verses 21-43, contains a story within a story; something Mark is fond of. First, Jesus is confronted by a leader of the synagogue, Jairus, whose daughter was very sick. As Jesus follows him to his home a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years touched his garment and was immediately healed. Feeling the power flow through him, Jesus demands to know who touched him. When she comes forward, Jesus commends her faith and send her home in peace. At that point, Jairus’ people come to tell him that his daughter has died. Jesus says to him, “Do not fear, only believe.” Arriving at the home, Jesus sends the “mourners and wailers” out and takes Jairus, his wife, and the disciples in. Taking the girl’s hand, Jesus commands her to get up and she gets up and walks about.

Sometimes people and churches are so comfortable and familiar with the way they have always done church that they are afraid of casting it off and try something new, even if the old way no longer works and the church is dying. We need to hear Jesus’ words to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” Expecting people to just show up because they once came to church, or because we are here waiting for them, or because everyone should come to church doesn’t work anymore. We must work at forming new relationships with people. We must be willing to share the God Moments in our lives. We must be willing to invite people into a life changing, life affirming relationship with Jesus. People won’t have the chance to touch Jesus, or be touched by him, if we don’t take Jesus to them.

Our Lectionary Reading assigned for this week are:

Isaiah 40:21-31 – Who is it that has created all things? Why do we think and feel that God has forgotten us? Isaiah tells us that when we wait for the Lord, the Lord will not disappoint.

Psalm 147:1-11, 20c – The Lord is good, the giver of all good things, and we should sing God’s praises.

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 – Paul will do whatever it takes to win people to Christ. “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.”

Mark 1:29-39 – Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law and then begins going to other towns and cities with the good news.

Have a great week serving God by serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary