Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Readings for Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hello Everyone,

This week we will continue our sermon series on “We Believe”. This week the topic will be “We Believe in Christ’s Universal Church”. What does it mean to have a “Universal Church” when there are three major branches of Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant) and perhaps thousands of “denominations”, especially in the Protestant branch. What does it say about Christ’s Universal Church that some of our branches believe that they may be the one true church and everyone else has got it wrong? Does “Universal Church” have any meaning for us in the 21st Century? Reminds me of a cartoon I have shared before:

Our readings are:

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a – This is the continuation of the David-Bathsheba-Uriah story. Uriah is dead because of David’s orders. After Bathsheba observes the mourning period David brings her to his house and marries her. (11:26-27) If the story ended there then we might think that David got away with it. However, God has other plans and sends Nathan to David. Nathan tells David a story of a farmer with one sheep which was like a pet to his family and a rich man with many sheep who steals and slaughters the farmer’s sheep. David is angry and vows justice for the farmer. Nathan responds, “You the Man!” How is God holding us accountable? Is there someone like Nathan to say to us what needs to be said? At the end of our reading David says, “I have sinned against the Lord.” That, however, is not the end of the story. Read verses 12:13-23.

Psalm 51:1-12 – The superscription (the portion before verse 1) says it all: “To the leader: a Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” ( ;-) Who is the “he” that went into Bathsheba? David or Nathan?)

OR Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 – The Israelites are complaining to Moses about their lack of food. God gives them quail in the evenings and manna in the mornings. Moses told them, “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”

Psalm 78:23-29 – The entire psalm is about God’s redeeming acts in the history of Israel. These verses recount the giving of manna and quail to the Israelites. If you venture to read the verses around these assigned verses you will note the psalmist retelling of the times that God killed many of them. We must continue to struggle with the notion that God, in God’s anger, will kill. How do you, we, make sense of this?

Ephesians 4:1-16 – Paul turns his attention to what it means to live as a community of believers. Please remember that the letter was written to a church and “you” is plural. There are many phrases in this passage that are well known: verse 1b, 4-6, and 11-12. Paul state that there are several purposes for the followers of Christ: “building up the body of Christ”, “coming to the unity of faith”, and “building itself up in love”. This will be the starting point for my sermon “We Believe in the Christ’s Universal Church.”

John 6:24-35 – When the crowds gather around Jesus on the day after the feeding of the 5000 (see last week), they want to know how he got there, what works of God they can do, and what signs he will do like giving manna? Jesus challenges them on their presumptions and desires throughout this passage and through the rest of the chapter, which will come up the next three weeks.

May God bless you with insight and understanding or confusion and questions as you read this weeks lessons. May you live into Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit by living for others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Readings for Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hello Everyone,

Before I list and comment on our Lectionary Readings for this coming Sunday I invite you to read “What It Takes to Revitalize the Mainline” written by our UMC Bishop Bruce Ough and Big Waters District Superintendent Rev. Susan Nienaber. While the article title says “Mainline” the contents are about revitalizing congregations within the denominations. They have eight suggestions which I list but you will have to read the article for their full discussion. The eight are:

1. Prayer is Absolutely Essential
2. The Belief that God is at Work and Well Work to Guide and Direct Our Efforts
3. Looking for the Miracles that are Happening and Telling the Stories of Transformation
4. Developing a Clear Sense of One’s Mission as a Leader (Note: this is more than your pastor, DS, Bishop (UMC), or Conference Minister (UCC)
5. Being Willing to Color Outside the Lines
6. Being Fearless in Making Extremely Tough Decisions and Choices and Managing the Anxiety that Is Generated
7. Humbly Admitting Mistakes and Working to Fix Those
8. Always Being Grateful

This Sunday we continue with the Sermon Series “We Believe”. Our topic will be “We Believe in the Holy Spirit”. Our lectionary readings are:

2 Sam 11:1-15 – King David, Bathsheba and her husband Uriah. The whole story is told in 11:1-12:23. Several points to consider include verse 1 which reports that David did not go out to wage war as was the custom; verse 2 reports that the woman was bathing either near an open window or outside (but please note that this fact does not absolve David nor places blame on the victim); verse 4 reports that Bathsheba was purifying herself after her menstrual period (I don’t know why this had to be reported); and verses 6-13 where Uriah refuses to go home to enjoy the company of his wife.

Psalm 14 – A longer and poetic version of Paul’s “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. At the end there is hope for the deliverance of Israel and Judah (Jacob).

2 Kings 4:42-44 – From 2 Kings 4:1 to 5:19 we read about the miracles that the prophet Elisha performs: the near endless jar of oil, raising a dead boy, purifying a pot of stew, feeding one hundred men with some fruit, some barley loaves, and fresh ears of grain, and the healing of an Aramean General, Naaman, who had leprosy. The text this week is the feeding of the 100 men and was chosen by the Lectionary committee to compliment the Gospel text.

Psalm 145:10-18 – The entire Psalm is in praise of the generous goodness of God who gives to all who need.

Ephesians 3:14-21 – This will be the text that begins our discussion this Sunday of the Holy Spirit. As you may have noticed the last two weeks, Paul writes of the work of God, and Jesus, and the Spirit, often, it seems, in the same sentence. Here, Paul prays that the Father, God, may grant the church in Ephesus strength in the Holy Spirit so Christ may dwell in their hearts so they may be rooted and grounded in love. The result of this is that the church may experience the fullness of God. As we think about, read about, and talk about the Holy Spirit (or Jesus Christ for that matter) we are also thinking, reading, and talking about God and Jesus. The work of the Spirit is the work of God. The work of Jesus Christ is the work of God.

John 6:1-21 – This passage is the first of five weeks in John 6 and the “Bread of Life”. Two things happen in this passage: Jesus feeds 5000 people with 5 barley loaves and two fish and Jesus walks on the water of Lake Galilee during a storm.

Have a great week serving God and neighbor!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Readings for Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hello Everyone,

First, some announcements:

1. Grey Eagle UMC is holding their annual Garage Sale this Friday and Saturday from 8 AM to 2 PM each day. There will also be a craft sale, a bake sale, and a luncheon (on Saturday, I believe).

2. Tonya Brownlow, director of Emma Norton Services in St. Paul, will be speaking during worship at Grey Eagle UMC this Sunday. We are collecting items for the women and families at Emma Norton so that we can shower her with them. Please bring to the church by this Sunday any of these items: twin fitted sheets; Standard pillows; brooms and dust pans; dish soap; deodorant; shampoo and conditioner; lotion; body sponges; socks; shower shoes; laundry detergent; and new or gently used plates and drinking glasses.

We will continue our sermon series “We Believe” with “We Believe in Salvation through Jesus Christ”. One of the hardest questions that Christian thinkers have to wrestle with is, “How exactly are we saved and how does Jesus figure in to that?” I hope to be using our Ephesians reading again this week to begin the discussion. [Note: Grey Eagle UMC may have to wait for this sermon until the following week due to Tonya Brownlow’s visit.]

Our readings are:

2 Samuel 7:1-14a – David wants to build a temple to God. The prophet Nathan says, “Go ahead!” God tells Nathan, “No.” But God also promises David, through Nathan, that a messiah will one be raised up from his descendants.

Psalm 89:20-37 – The first 2/3rd of this Psalm remembers God promise for kings of one family who will rule Israel forever. Our reading is from the second third and the psalmist repeats God’s promise for a Davidic king no matter what happens. However, the last third (vs. 38-52) cries out against God because there is no longer a king. As the commentary in my Bible says, “this section accuses God of renouncing the covenant that was supposed to last forever.”

OR Jeremiah 23:1-6 – The prophet warns the kings of Israel to be good shepherds of God’s people. He accuses the kings of driving the flock away and says that God’s will gather that flock back together and raise up a new shepherd who will rule wisely and justly.

Psalm 23 – The Lord is my shepherd, what more can I say?

Ephesians 2:11-22 – The death of Jesus Christ (his blood) breaks down the walls between Jews and non-Jews so that all people can come together in the One Church to become one body, one family, one together as citizens in God’s reign. Together we receive peace, salvation, and the Holy Spirit. God’s purpose is to bring all people together. So why do many churches put up “walls” to keep people out. Let’s try this for a change: Kindness Blog (everybody, no matter what, is welcome!).

Mark 6:30-34:53-56 – The disciples return from their mission trip and Jesus takes them to a place across the lake to get away from the crowds for a little while. When they get there the people are there (sheep without a shepherd) so Jesus ministers to them and then feeds them (not part of this reading.) Following the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus sends the disciples back across the lake and he goes off to pray. A storm arises, the disciples struggle, Jesus walks on the water, and the storm ends (again, none of this is in the reading). When they got back to the other side, the crowds were there and Jesus cared for them.

Have a great week serving God by serving your neighbor.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Readings for July 12, 2015

Hello Everyone,

This week, I will begin doing a new summer preaching series titled “We Believe”. It will be based on retired Bishop William Willimon’s 2007 book “United Methodist Beliefs” published by Westminster John Knox Press. For those who come from the UCC tradition at Peace United Church the vast majority of basic Christian beliefs are shared in common with nearly all denominations. Sometimes the terminology is distinctly Methodist but the meanings of the words are shared. I think that only in the last week will the topic veer into unique understandings that Methodist have. I will also bring in some of my own understandings derived from the work of Rene Girard and others into the conversation of what we believe. Our topics will follow the nine chapters of Bishop Willimon’s book:

1. We Believe in the Triune God
2. We Believe in Salvation through Jesus Christ
3. We Believe in the Holy Spirit
4. We Believe in Christ’s Universal Church
5. We Believe in Practicing Theology
6. We Believe in Transforming and Perfecting Grace
7. We Believe in Faith and Good Works
8. We Believe in the Coming of God’s Realm and Reign to the World
9. Thinking like Wesleyans

During this series I hope to use at least one of the Lectionary Readings for the topic at hand, but we will see as we go.

Our readings this week are:

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 – King David brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and the party begins. The lectionary committee leaves out a very disturbing story in the skipped verses. In verse 5 there is dancing and singing as the ark comes to Jerusalem, but it never arrives for in verse 6 Uzzah, one of the men traveling with the ark, grabs the ark to steady it because the oxen shook the cart it was riding on. verse 7 says that God was angry and God killed Uzzah. David then become angry with God and refuses to have the ark brought into Jerusalem. The ark is then kept in someone’s home for three months where the family was blessed. When David finally brings the ark to Jerusalem, the singing and dancing resumes, a large sacrifice is made and all the people eat freshly cooked meat. One last little disturbing bit of information is given us: Michal, daughter of King Saul and wife to David, is made angry by David shameless display during the processional. More information is given in verses 20-23.

Psalm 24 – This is a psalm of praise for God and God’s glory. The psalmist asks “Who can be in God’s presence in the holy place?” He also provides the answer: only those with clean hands and pure hearts.

OR Amos 7:7-15 – In verses 1-9, Amos sees a vision of locusts, fire, and a plumb line. Amos pleads with God not to send the locusts or the fire and God relents. Our reading includes the vision of the plumb line and the priest at Bethel complaining to the king about Amos’ words. The priest tells Amos to go to Judah (the southern kingdom, two tribes) to prophesy there. Amos says that he is not a professional prophet but a simple shepherd whom God sent to Israel (the northern kingdom, ten tribes).

Psalm 85:8-13 – The psalmist wants to hear what God will speak knowing that God’s salvation is near. Verses 10 and 11 are especially beautiful. Please read them in context of these six verses.

Ephesians 1:3-14 – This is probably the text I will use for the first “We Believe” sermon, “We Believe in the Triune God”. Paul writes that we have been blessed in Christ by God, who is Father of Jesus, and that we have been chosen by God for adoption as God’s children through Jesus Christ. Paul brings in the Holy Spirit in verse 13 as the seal and pledge of redemption. It is a bit wordy and complicated. You may wish to read it three, four, or five times.

Mark 6:14-29 – Mark uses a “flash back” to tell us the story of the death of John the Baptizer. King Herod hears of Jesus and the work the disciples were doing when Jesus sent them out (Mark 6:12-13). Some people think that Jesus is John raised from the dead, but others think it is a prophet of old. Herod believes it is John back from the dead and Mark then tells us the circumstances surrounding his death. You have probably heard the story many times before but if not now is a good time to get acquainted with it. You may want to compare this short story with the death of Jesus in Mark 14 and 15. Also compare it to Stephan’s death in Acts 6:8 to 7:60.

Have a great week serving the Lord by serving others. Take a moment this week to tell someone of God’s love and forgiveness.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary