Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Readings for the Week Ending Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hello Everyone,

We have a lot of readings for this week starting off with tomorrow’s Lenten Worship. Unfortunately, a family problem has come up and Cheryl and I must be in Fargo tomorrow night. Bob Kutter has graciously agreed to fill in for me and will be leading your worship.

Tomorrow night our reading is John 15:1-15. Jesus begins by saying that he is the true vine and his Father is the vine grower. The grower prunes away the unfruitful branches so the vine will bear good fruit. Jesus then talks about the branches being attached to the vine. In fact, he calls his disciples (and us?) the branches. In keeping Jesus’ commandments, and living (abiding) in his love, we will bear plentiful good fruit. And what are Jesus’ commandments? Last week in our Mark 12 reading we heard about the two great commandments: Love God and Love Neighbor. Here in John 15 it gets boiled down to one commandment: loving each other. The question for us today is, “Are we attached to the vine and are we bearing good fruit?”

Tweet: Reading the Passion of Jesus on Palm Sunday: From "Hosanna!" to "Crucify Him!"

This Sunday will be Palm and Passion Sunday. We will be reading the texts for both portions. It used to be that Palm Sunday only included the reading for the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. That was at a time when most church goers then came to Good Friday Services which were almost always held in the afternoon, because schools weren’t in session and businesses closed for a couple of hours on Friday afternoon. Since that is not the case these days, most people, including church goers, don’t hear the Passion of Jesus but only the glory of Palm Sunday and the glory of Easter. Hence, the necessity of hearing the Passion on Palm Sunday. (To get from one mountain top to another, you must go through the valley.)

Palm Sunday Texts:
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 – The title given to this psalm in my NRSV Bible is “A Song of Victory”. One verse in our reading is well known. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (verse 24) The most quoted Old Testament verse used in the New Testament is verse 22, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”

Mark 11:1-11 – Verses 1 to 6 are the preparations for the entry. Verses 7-10 are about the actual entry. Verse 11 is about what Jesus did after riding in: he looked at the Temple and then went out of Jerusalem to Bethany.

Passion Sunday Texts:
Isaiah 50:4-9a – This is part of the third of four Servant Song found in Isaiah which extends to verse 11. God has given the servant the gift of teaching and listening. God calls the servant to teach even though he is opposed by people who whip and beat him. Yet, God gives him strength and vindicates him.

Psalm 31:9-16 – This psalm in its entirety is the cry of a victim of society calling upon God to save him from his enemies.

Philippians 2:5-11 – Paul quotes an early Christian Hymn which affirms Christ descent from Godhood to humanness and his ascent back to God so that every knee should bow before him and declare him “Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Mark 14:1-15:47 (We will be starting at 14:12.) – I will simply share with you the titles of all the sections as the NRSV has it with some parenthetical comments:

14:12-21 – The Passover with the Disciples (Someone at the table will betray Jesus)
14:22-25 – The Institution of the Lord’s Supper (commonly called “communion”)
14:26-31 – Peter’s Denial Foretold (“No, I won’t!”)
14:32-42 – Jesus Prays in Gethsemane (Peter, James, and John can’t seem to stay awake.)
14:43-52 – The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus (Judas does the deed.)
14:53-65 – Jesus Before the Council (chief priest, high priests, elders, and scribes; not a “city council”)
14:66-72 – Peter Denies Jesus (Yes, he did.)
15:1-5 – Jesus before Pilate (Jesus only says three words, “You say so.”)
15:6-15 – Pilate Hands Jesus over to be Crucified (The chief priests were jealous; they stir up the crowd; “Crucify him”; Pilate caves in.)
15:16-20 – The Soldiers Mock Jesus (purple robe; crown of thorns; “Hail, King of the Jews!”)
15:21-32 – The Crucifixion of Jesus (Everyone mocks Jesus: the crowds, the chief priests, and the two crucified bandits.)
15:33-41 – The Death of Jesus (Darkness at noon, Jesus cries out, the temple curtain is torn, and a Roman soldier declares him “God’s Son”)
15:42-47 – The Burial of Jesus (Joseph, a member of the council, retrieves Jesus’ body and lays it in a tomb; two Mary’s watch.)

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Readings for the Week Ending Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hello Everyone,

Our readings this week begin with our “I AM” saying of Jesus in the Gospel of John, moves to an understanding of the new covenant in Jesus Christ, and end with the final teachings of Jesus before his last supper, betrayal, arrest, conviction, torture, and crucifixion on the cross.

Wednesday Lenten Worship on March 18 begins with a light soup and sandwich supper (5:15 PM at Peace and 6:45 PM at Grey Eagle). Thank you to all who have made these fellowship dinners a success. This week’s worship (6:00 PM at Peace and 7:30 PM at Grey Eagle) will focus on Jesus’ words, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” at John 14:1-14.

The Lectionary Readings at first reading may seem different but it is all about God working in and through Jesus to change our hearts.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 – This is one of the most famous quotes from the prophet Jeremiah. God say that God will pour his law into the hearts of the people of Israel and Judah (can we expand this to include all followers of Jesus or perhaps all people?). Once everyone know (experiences) God’s law then we will no longer to need to teach anyone about God and the laws. (No more Sunday School and Confirmation Classes?)

Psalm 51:1-12 – The psalmist asks God to wash away everything that makes him impure. He calls on God to give him a new, right, and clean spirit that he may experience the joy of God’s salvation.

Hebrews 5:5-10 – This doesn’t seem to fit the idea that God is changing our hearts. However, in being obedient to God, even going to death on the cross, Jesus was (made) perfect in his love for God and humanity. This became the source of our salvation that changes our hearts and gives us the ability to obey him. BTW, the name in verse 10 is pronounced “Mel-keys-a-deck”

John 12:20-33 – This opens with a request of some Greeks to speak to Jesus but Jesus turns the conversation to his upcoming death. He alludes that his death is like a grain of wheat planted in the ground that produces much fruit. He also says that he will not turn away from what must happen because it will bring glory to God, his Father. When he is “lifted up” he brings judgment on all humanity, drives Satan out, and will draw all people to him. The only way to draw all people to him is for our hearts to be changed when we witness the horror of what is done (throughout history down to today).

Tweet: “The Beginning of the Good News” moves to the final days of Jesus’ pre-crucifixion life. We will be reading and hearing Mark 12:28-13-37.

“The Beginning of the Good News” moves to the final days of Jesus’ pre-crucifixion life. We will be reading and hearing Mark 12:28-13-37. We pick up our reading where we left off this past Sunday, with Jesus answering his critics and sharing his “little apocalypse” with the disciples. In Mark’s telling, it is still Tuesday of Jesus’ final week. Section by section:

12:28-34 – A scribe asks Jesus the question “What is the greatest commandment?”. I am hoping that you already know the answer. The scribe affirms what Jesus taught and Jesus tells him that he is near the Kingdom of God.

12:35-40 – Jesus teaches that the Messiah cannot be the son of King David, which seems opposed to Matthew and Luke who take great pains at the beginning of their gospels to show that Jesus is the son of David. Jesus also denounces the scribes as being vain con men who take widows’ houses.

12:41-44 – And, speaking of widows, Jesus lifts up the actions of a widow who gave everything to God, her last two coins.

13:1-37 – Marks “Little Apocalypse”. Jesus teaches about the impending destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus died (and was resurrected) about 40 years before the Romans razed Jerusalem and the Temple because of the Jewish insurrection. I don’t think it is a real challenge to think that Jesus had (a God given?!) intuition about what would happen in the near future. There were several people in Jesus’ day that advocated for an uprising against the Romans and the Roman army had a well-deserved reputation for complete ruthlessness against rebels. Jesus say that his followers need to watch out for the signs and be ready to leave on a moments notice.

May God Bless You as you engage his Word, Jesus Christ.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Readings for the week ending Sunday, March 15, 2015

Hello Everyone,

We have a lot of readings for this week and I hope and pray that each day you are able to read one or more passages.

Tomorrow night we are continuing to look at the “I AM” sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Both churches have a Soup & Sandwich Fellowship beginning 45 minutes before worship: 5:15 at Peace United and 6:45 at Grey Eagle UMC. Worship is at 6:00 PM at Peace United and 7:30 PM at Grey Eagle.

Tomorrow night’s lesson is John 11:17-27, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life”. Come join us for our Midweek Lenten Services.

The Lectionary Readings for Sunday, March 15 are:

Numbers 21:4-9 – The snake on a pole.

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 – Give thanks to the Lord who has delivered us from our sinful ways.

Ephesians 2:1-10 – What you do won’t get you eternal life! Faith in the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ will!!

John 3:14-21 – Of course, John 3:16 is here but what about verses 17 and 18? Also note that the snakes on a pole are back.

Tweet: In church on Sunday we will continue with our series on the Gospel of Mark, “The Beginning of the Good News” We are reading Mark 11:1-12:27. This week Jesus arrives in Jerusalem and begins his teachings and gives responses to his challengers. Here is a breakdown of what happens:

11:1-11 – The Palm Sunday story of Jesus coming into Jerusalem. We will reread these verses on Palm Sunday, March 29.

11:12-14 – On Monday Jesus comes back into Jerusalem (he spends the night with friends in Bethany, just outside of town), sees a fig tree in full leaf but it has no fruit so he “curses” it. (What?)

11:15-19 – Jesus goes to the temple, does not like what he finds there and drives out all the “buyers and sellers”. The chief priests and scribes are not happy and start plotting on getting rid of this interloper.

11:20-25 – On Tuesday morning they return to Jerusalem and the disciples comment on the now dead fig tree. Jesus uses it as a teaching moment.

11:27-33 – (Wait, where’s verse 26? It may be a later addition and many modern translations do not include it.) Jesus’ authority is challenged and Jesus issues a challenge in return about John the Baptist’s baptism.

12:1-12 – Jesus teaches in parables. This is the parable of the vineyard, the owner, and the wicked tenants. Be careful how you interpret parables. Our first interpretations are not the only interpretations.

12:13-17 – Should we pay our taxes? Great question as we prepare our IRS tax returns. Jesus replies, “Give to Congress and the IRS what belongs to them. Give to God what belongs to God.” What belongs to God?

12:18-27 – There are seven brother. The oldest marries and then dies. The widow then marries #2 and he dies. Same with brothers 3-7. In the resurrection who will be her husband? Warning: Anti-family reply coming up! Jesus replies, “In the resurrection there is no marriage (or family?) and God is the God of the living not the dead.” (So there!)

In a culture so engrossed with death, how are we to understand a God of the Living? What does it mean to live life as if death were not?

May the Lord bless you this week as you make new friends and serve your neighbors.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Readings for Sunday, March 8, 2015

Hello Everyone,

Tonight you have an opportunity to worship at our Midweek Lenten Worship Services. 6:00 PM at Peace United and 7:30 PM at Grey Eagle UMC. There is a Soup & Sandwich Fellowship at each church starting 45 minutes before worship. During Lent our midweek worship is focused on the “I AM” sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Tonight it is John 10:1-18, “I AM the Gate and the Shepherd”. Grab your Bible from home and come and join us.

Saturday night, actually early Sunday morning, is the start of Daylight Savings Time. “Spring Ahead” by setting your clocks and watches one hour forward.

The Lectionary texts for this Sunday are:

Exodus 20:1-17 – “The Big Ten” and not the college sports conference.

Psalm 19 – In praise of God’s Law. Verse 14 should be very familiar to you.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 – Our witness of the cross may seem like foolishness to others but it is the power of God that saves us. If Jesus is God, and we believe he is, then his death on a cross might make God seem foolish and weak. But, “for God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”

John 2:13-22 – In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the clearing of the Temple by Jesus happens in the last week of Jesus’ life, some 5 days before his crucifixion. In the Gospel of John, this episode happens at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Why do you think John wanted this story here?

We will be continuing our sermon series “The Beginning of the Good News”. This week will be our longest reading yet as we read the entire Gospel of Mark. We will be reading Mark 9:30-10:52. In this section Jesus will twice tell the disciples that he will be arrested, tortured, killed and be raised on the third day and after each the disciples argue about who will be the greatest among them. Jesus will point to children as a guide to faith and warn the disciples about temptations. He will argue with some Pharisees about divorce and he will tell a rich man to sell all his things. Finally, Jesus will heal blind Bartimaeus. This will conclude Jesus’ ministry and next week Jesus will enter Jerusalem to face the “powers and principalities”. The story begins to heat up.

May the Lord Bless You as you read his Good Word.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor