Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Readings for Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hello Everyone,

THANK YOU to all who helped with the Grey Eagle UMC Annual Hog Roast on Saturday and the Community Friendship Dinner hosted by Peace United Church on Sunday. Your efforts make these event successful. Thank you.

This Sunday is World Communion Sunday and is celebrated by many churches and denominations around the world including the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church. Monies given to WCS for the United Methodist Church (Grey Eagle and 1/2 the donations at Peace United) “support scholarships for graduate national and international students, Ethnic Scholarships for national and international undergraduates studying within the United States and ethnic in-service training.” The other 1/2 of the money given at PUC goes to the UCC’s “Neighbors in Need” that “supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States with one-third [supporting] the Council for American Indian Ministries and two thirds is for the Justice and Witness Ministries to support a variety of justice initiatives, advocacy efforts and direct service projects.”

We will continue with our sermon series “On the Mend” with the topic this week of “Healing Pride”. I will be using Mark 9:30-37. Here is what I wrote two weeks ago:

Mark 9:30-37 – Jesus is teaching his disciples and ducking the crowds. He gives his second prediction of his Death and Resurrection. When they get to their base of operations, Capernaum, he asks the disciples what they were arguing about. Chagrinned, they admit they were arguing about who would be the greatest disciples. Jesus responds with “the first will be last and the last will be first”. He then places a child in their midst and says that those who welcome a child will welcome him and when they welcome him they welcome the One who sent Jesus. As followers of Christ we are to give up our ambitions of power and riches and humble ourselves to serve and welcome the most vulnerable.

The assigned Lectionary readings this week are:

Job 1:1, 2:1-10 – You should probably read the entire introduction to Job from 1:1 to 2:10. The setup to the Book of Job is that he is a “upright and blameless” man who loses everything: cattle, sheep, camels, servants, sons, daughters, and his health. The only thing he didn’t lose was his land and his wife, who doesn’t come off too well in our reading. The reason for this loss? God takes pride in Job and Satan challenges God to allow Job to be tested. Satan believes that Job will curse God for what has happened. Please don’t read too much into this story. It is simply the setup to the rest of the book.

Psalm 26 – The psalmist pleads with God for justice and vindication because of lies that are being told about him (verses 4, 5, 9, and 10).

OR Genesis 2:18-24 – God, who has created a man (generic and not necessarily male), decides that the man needs a companion. So God creates all the animals for the man to name but none are good partners. So God puts the man to sleep, extracts a rib, and creates woman. Why did the lectionary leave off verse 25, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Too racy for Sunday?

Psalm 8 – God has created humanity and made us a little lower than angels, the psalmist declares. God gives us “dominion” over the Earth and all the animals. Yet we need to also remember that we were created out of dust back in Genesis 2:7. Which is it? Are we next to angels, dust of the earth, or a little of both?

Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12 – This begins a seven week reading of the Letter to the Hebrews. However, it is less like a letter and more like a long sermon about Christ and our relation to Him. In the first four verses the writer of Hebrews declares that God has spoken to us through his Son who is a reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s being. When you see and know Jesus you see and know God. In the second part the writer wants us to know that it is through Jesus’ suffering of death that we have found salvation. Hebrews is a difficult book to read but it is ultimately rewarding.

Mark 10:2-16 – This is the difficult reading about divorce. The reason the alternate Old Testament reading from Genesis 2 was chosen was that Jesus quotes a line from it. Many people use this quote by Jesus along with the reading from Genesis 2 to argue that marriage is only for opposite sex couples, heterosexuals. However, the issue before Jesus in this reading is not same-sex marriage but the easy availability of divorce in which women were easily cast aside by the men of Jesus’ day. Note, Jewish law allowed only the man to divorce his wife but Roman law also allowed a woman to divorce her husband. These two divorces and remarriage by King Herod and his wife Herodias was what John the Baptist railed against and probably what led to him being beheaded (Mark 6:17-29).

Have a blessed week serving the Lord and your neighbors.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Readings for Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hello Everyone,

There are lots of things happening at our churches this week.

1. Grey Eagle UMC has their Annual Hog Roast on Saturday, September 26 beginning at 4:30 pm.
2. Peace United Church will have the wedding of Megan Moller and Jon Nelson also on Saturday (Kali Christensen is presiding).
3. Peace United Church will be celebrating the life of Gerret Browen, who passed away yesterday, on Friday.
4. Peace United Church will be celebrating the baptism of Tristan Hudalla during Sunday’s worship.
5. Peace United Church will host the Community Friendship Dinner at the American Legion on Sunday at 5:00 pm.

(I am already feeling overwhelmed.)

If you can pitch in to help with any of these activities please do so.

We are continuing our sermon series “On the Mend”. This week it is “Healing Fear” and we will be using Mark 8:27-38. Here is what I said about this passage two weeks ago:

Mark 8:27-38 – Jesus asks the disciples what the people are saying about him, who he is. They give a variety of responses: John the Baptist, Elijah, another prophet. Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah. Why do you think Jesus then orders the disciples not to tell anyone? Jesus then goes on to tell them what that really means: suffering, rejection, and death. Oh, yeah, and resurrection on the third day. Peter objects to this idea of what a Messiah is. His, and the Jewish culture of his day, thought was the Messiah would be a military leader who would defeat the Romans and reestablish the Kingdom of Israel. Jesus rebukes Peter by calling him “Satan”. Do we, like Peter, harbor the wrong idea of who Jesus is and what Jesus will do? What does it mean for us when Jesus tells the crowd that anyone who wants to follow him must take up their cross (gallows, firing squad, electric chair – the cross is a device for execution)? How must we die for Jesus?

Our Lectionary reading assigned for this week are:
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22 – One of two books in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the other being Song of Solomon, that doesn’t mention God. I encourage you to read the entire tale of Queen Esther, wife of King Ahasuerus of Persia and Media, who saves her people, the Jews, from the murderous intrigues of Haman. This story is read on the Feast of Purim which will be March 23, 2016.

Psalm 124 – The opening of this Psalm says it is a song of Ascents. These songs were sung or recited as pilgrim ascended the hill leading into Jerusalem and the hill up to the Temple. This Psalm praises God as the one who delivers the people from their enemies.

OR Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 – The people of Israel are grumbling, “Manna, manna, manna everywhere and still there is nothing to eat. We want meat!” God gets angry, Moses gets “displeased, and they argue it out, with Moses asking God why God burdened him with these ungrateful people. God tells Moses to gather 70 people and God’s spirit rested upon them all.

Psalm 19:7-14 – The last half of Psalm 19 praises God perfect law which revives the soul and makes wise the simple. The closing verse is easily recognizable: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

James 5:13-20 – This is our last reading from James. He says that we should pray if we are suffering and sing if we are cheerful. The elders of the church should anoint the sick and the Lord will raise them up. Those who commit sin will be forgiven and therefore we should confess them to each other. And if anyone has wandered from the faith then we should work to bring them back. James is not writing to the pastors of the churches he is writing to; he is writing to the people. We pray for each other. We heal each other. We forgive each other. And we restore each other. That’s what churches, meaning the people of the church, are supposed to do. How are we doing?

Mark 9:38-50 – At the beginning of this reading, John complains that there is another person, not one of the disciples, who is casting out demons using Jesus’ name. Jesus says to leave that person alone. Anyone who does something good using Jesus’ name will no longer be able to speak against Jesus. He also says, “Those who are not against us are for us.” He goes on to say that no one should cause a child (referring back to 9:37) to stumble. Please note that the passage from 42 to 48 has some interesting translations. The words “stumbling block” and “stumble” is a form of the Greek word “skandalon” which is related to our English word “scandal”. It is also translated as “take offense”. The word “hell” is the Greek word “Gehenna” which is a transliteration of the Jewish name of the garbage dump, which was continually burning, just outside Jerusalem and where several child sacrifices happened (see 2 Chronicles 28:3 and 33:6). Finally, notice the verses. In our modern translations verses 44 and 46 are missing and there should be a footnote about that in your Bible. The end of our passage Jesus commands us to be at peace with each other. So, how does scandal lead to the fiery garbage dump? Why is it important that we remain at peace with each other?

May your week be blessed by the presence of God’s Spirit!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I Am - a poem

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

For the last three days I was at a retreat with other clergy as we explored what it means to Lead with Courage. One of the exercises we did was to make lists of people, places and things of our past that describe who we are today. From those lists we were to then find a way to express our past. This is my poem.

I am

I am from Saudi Arabia Germany Florida
Wisconsin North Dakota Oregon
Idaho
California California California
Minnesota

I have been Bitburg Al Khobar
Klamath Falls Grand Forks
Indian Springs Milwaukee
Modesto Modesto Modesto
Mountain Home
Northfield Deer Creek Eagle Bend

I have seen hangers and helicopters
jets and bombers
forests and deserts and deserts
fields of tulips and hops and corn and rye and mint
Mountains valleys and Crater Lake
dirt roads, paved roads, eight lane highways
foot paths and motorcycle paths

I work with tires and trucks
dishes and cleaning supplies
kids in music and people’s taxes
paying for cattle and truckdrivers
I supervise hire and fire
and make pizza

I eat beets horseradish
blue cheese anchovies
shark and squid
drink coffee beer
wine and cognac

I relate with Archie Shirley Jerry Betty
Dorothy and Evelyn Anna Diana Joe and Christy
Robert-Bob Virginia and Leslie
Megan Jennifer Leighana and Zachary
Cheryl

I am son and nephew
Grandson and uncle
Father and grandpa
Driver and cheerleader
Shoulder and sounding board
Pastor for many
Companion, lover, friend
And Husband to One

I am; I will be
Me
Beloved of God

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Readings for Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hello Everyone,

This post is really early this week due to the fact that I will be at a retreat Monday to Wednesday and then a meeting in Minneapolis on Thursday.

Today we started our sermon series “On the Mend” with “Healing Intentions”. Next Sunday our second sermon will be on “Healing Inhibitions”. The Gospel text for the sermon will be Mark 7:24-37. From two weeks ago I noted:

Mark 7:24-37 – This reading contains two stories. The first is Jesus’ encounter with a Gentile woman near the city of Tyre. Jesus is taking a (much needed) break from ministry, but the woman shows up insisting Jesus heal her possessed daughter. Jesus rebuffs her saying “it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” The woman’s reply, “Even dogs eat the children’s crumbs”, causes Jesus to proclaim her child free of the demon. The second story is about a deaf man who couldn’t speak. After Jesus healed the man he ordered the bystanders to not tell anyone. Did they listen to him? No, they proclaimed Jesus’ healing powers. Are you proclaiming the healing powers of Jesus? Are you standing up for justice for those who cannot claim it on their own, much like the woman in the first story?

The Lectionary Texts for this week are:

Proverbs 31:10-31 – My Bible titles this section “Ode to a Capable Wife”. I think I have also heard it called “Ode to an Ideal Wife”. The woman depicted in these 22 verses does everything: she makes her husband proud, gathers or buys wool and flax and makes clothing, she brings food from long distances, she gets up before sunrise to cook and to direct the servants, she buys fields and plants vineyards, she sells the things she makes, she never sleeps, and on, and on. These were from verses 12-18. Can any woman live up to this standard? Does a passage like this set up unrealistic standards that then bring dejection when they can’t be met?

Psalm 1 – There are two paths that we can follow but we must choose one of them: the way of wickedness that is fleeting and leads to destruction or the way or righteousness which is sturdy, enduring, and leads to God. The rest of the Psalms will elaborate on these choices.

OR Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1 – As I mentioned last week, the Wisdom of Solomon is part of the Apocrypha in the eyes of Protestants and Jewish believers. The Catholic Church and many Orthodox churches accept it as scriptural canon. In the Catholic Bible it comes right after Song of Solomon. These 2 verses speak about the ungodly who befriends death. Here is a Link: Wisdom 1:16-2:1

or Jeremiah 11:18-20 – The Lord show Jeremiah a plot against his life. Jeremiah calls on the Lord to bring “retribution” on the enemies because he, Jeremiah, is committed to the Lord.

Psalm 54 – The Psalmist calls on God to vindicate him in the eyes of those who have risen against him. He is sure that God will repay his enemies for their evil. Then the Psalmist will offer sacrifices in praise of God. Have you ever bargained with God saying, “Do this for me, God, and I will be faithful.”?

James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a – There are several things going on in this passage but I believe they relate to each other. The first is our choice of either the wisdom of the world (which brings “envy, selfish ambition, disorder and wickedness”) or God’s wisdom, the wisdom from above (which is “pure, peaceful, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy, and without partiality or hypocrisy”). The second is James’ question about why there are conflicts and disputes within the congregation. This is a result of choosing the world’s way or wisdom. Finally, James says we need to submit ourselves to God so that God will draw near to us. Many of the conflicts we experience in families, churches, and communities are because we want what we cannot have or have what we do not want to share. To desire God’s will (or wisdom) and to live into what God wants for us is to live peaceably in God’s family.

Mark 9:30-37 – Jesus is teaching his disciples and ducking the crowds. He give his second prediction of his Death and Resurrection. When they get to their base of operations, Capernaum, he asks the disciples what they were arguing about. Chagrinned, they admit they were arguing about who would be the greatest disciples. Jesus responds with “the first will be last and the last will be first”. He then places a child in their midst and says that those who welcome a child will welcome him and when they welcome him they welcome the One who sent Jesus. As followers of Christ we are to give up our ambitions of power and riches and humble ourselves to serve and welcome the most vulnerable.

How are we choosing God’s way? Are we giving up the world’s way? How would we welcome the least, the lost, and the left out? How do we live into God’s Kingdom?

My assignment for you this week was “As you interact with others this week, what are your intentions?” Be aware of those intentions and choose God’s way.

May your week be blessed by God’s love and may you share that love with all others!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Readings for Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hello Everyone,

This coming Sunday we will begin a new sermon series titled “On the Mend” and we will follow the lectionary readings in Mark but beginning two Sundays ago. Each week we will focus on the healing power of God for our lives. This week: Healing Intentions. The following eight weeks we will look at Healing Inhibitions, Healing Fear, Healing Pride, Healing Divisions, Healing Trust, Healing Hold-Outs, Healing Power, and Healing Vision.

This week Gospel Lesson will be:

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 – The lectionary has given us only part of the story focused on cleanliness going into the body versus coming out of the body. It skips the part where Jesus chastises the Pharisees for being hypocrites. I will probably use all 23 verses. The question that we might want to ask ourselves is, “Which does more harm to God’s Church and/or God’s children: what I eat and drink or how I verbally abuse other people?” With the focus on “Healing Intentions” the question we may also want to ask “What are my intentions for my life, for others’ lives, and for God’s Reign and Realm?” Is it our intention to make others tow the line, follow the rules, or do certain acceptable things OR is it our intention to bring God’s love to others?

The Lectionary Reading for this week are:
Proverbs 1:20-33 – As a friend said to me this morning about this reading, “God show up as a woman”. A woman named “Wisdom”. In this reading Wisdom warns us that unless we seek her while we are able she will not answer our cries when times get difficult.

Psalm 15 – What does it take to live in the house of God? That person is the one who lives without blame, does what is right, speaks truth and not lies, does no evil, and honors others who fear the Lord. If we looked at our own lives, would we be included? Probably not, but thanks be to God who sets us right through Jesus Christ.

OR Isaiah 50:4-9 – Verses 4-11 constitute the Third Servant Song of Isaiah. It is difficult to know whom Isaiah was speaking about in the Servant Songs. Was it an individual, maybe even Isaiah himself? Was it the people of Israel? This song show us the agony of the servant as he suffers at the hands of oppressors. It also show us his utter trust in the Lord?

Psalm 116:1-9 – The Psalmist gives praise to God who is Gracious, Righteous, and Merciful and who has saved the Psalmist from death.

OR Wisdom of Solomon 7:26-8:1 – This reading is from the Apocrypha, books accepted by Catholic and many Orthodox Christians, but relegated as something good to read but not the Word of God by Protestant Christians and the Jewish faith. What is Wisdom? She is a “spotless mirror of the working of God and an image of his goodness.” Check out the full reading here: oremus Bible Browser.

James 3:1-12 – James makes an analogy between a bridle for a horse and a ship rudder to our tongues (meaning the things we say). As the horse goes where the bridle guides it and the ship sails the direction that the rudder steers it, so the our tongues guide our lives. If we don’t have control of our tongues then we don’t have control of our lives. He then compares the tongue to fire, other animals, poison, a spring of water, and a fig tree. He is basically saying that we should learn to say those things that show God’s love to others. How are we managing our tongues and speech?

Mark 8:27-38 – Jesus asks the disciples what the people are saying about him, who it is. They give a variety of responses: John the Baptist, Elijah, another prophet. Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah. Why do you think Jesus then orders the disciples not to tell anyone? Jesus then goes on to tell them what that really means: suffering, rejection, and death (see the Isaiah reading above). Oh, yeah, and resurrection on the third day. Peter objects to this idea of what a Messiah is. His, and the Jewish culture of his day, thought the Messiah would be a military leader who would defeat the Romans and reestablish the Kingdom of Israel. Jesus rebukes Peter by calling him “Satan”. Do we, like Peter, harbor the wrong idea of who Jesus is and what Jesus will do? What does it mean for us when Jesus tells the crowd that anyone who wants to follow him must take up their cross (gallows, firing squad, electric chair – the cross is a device for execution)? How must we die for Jesus?

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Readings for Sunday, September 6, 2015

Hello Everyone,

I will be finishing our sermon series, “We Believe”, with the subject of “Thinking like a Wesleyan”. I did a quick skim of the final chapter of Will Willimon’s book on which this series is based and I think we could rename it “Thinking like a Follower of Christ”. It will be based on this week’s reading from James 2.

Then, on September 13, we will begin a series titled “On the Mend”. Here is the blurb that was in our bulletins this week:

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Are you ready to be “on the mend”? In the Fall series we will uncover the wounds that hold us back from the fullness of life. The readings from the Gospel of Mark offer many stories of Jesus healing and speaking about what brings wholeness (the “Reign of God”). Join us as we move out of old ways of being into new possibilities! (Adapted from Marcia McFee at Worship Design Studio, www.worshipdesignstudio.com)

Our Scripture readings for this week are:

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 – Because I know that the readings for the next three weeks from Proverb don’t include them and because I have had white (read: gray) hair for a long time now, I offer you my two favorite Proverbs verses: 16:31 (“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.”) and 20:29 (“The glory of youths is their strength, but the beauty of the aged is their gray hair.”). Our verses in Proverbs this week focus on the rich and the poor and the relationship between the them and with God.

Psalm 125 – This little psalm is about those who trust God. They shall not be moved and evil will not overcome them. It also says that those who trust in God will not be able (or allowed) to wrong. Stay with God and everything will be alright. Turn from God and you will be no better than the evildoers.

OR Isaiah 35:4-7a – The longer reading of Isaiah 35:1-10 (the entire chapter) is all about hope that God will make things right. God will come to save the people and lead them back to Jerusalem and the promised land. When God comes to save the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will run, the speechless will sing, and waters will break forth in the deserts. It is a glorious vision. Read the entire chapter please.

Psalm 146 – The psalmist praises God who protects and saves the poor, executes justice for the oppressed, feeds the hungry, frees the prisoners, gives sight to the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down by life, watches over the strangers among us, and upholds the orphan, and the widows. Who else might we add to this list in our day and age? Those dispossessed by war and bombs? Those without life supporting jobs? Whom else? Happy (blessed) are those who hope is in the Lord God!

James 2:1-17 – James is concerned with people in the congregations he writes to that they are playing favorites. The rich get preferred seating and treatment while the poor are ignored and relegated to inferior seating. He warns them that God favors the poor and that the rich are the ones who sue and haul people to court. He reminds his readers of the second great commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He equates showing partiality with sinning. He also reminds his readers that it is not enough to just say “We have faith”. That faith must be demonstrated by how we live and what we do – in other words, by our works.

Mark 7:24-37 – We will be using this reading on Sunday, September 20. This reading contains two stories. The first is Jesus’ encounter with a Gentile woman near the city of Tyre. Jesus is taking a (much needed) break from ministry, but the woman shows up insisting Jesus heal her possessed daughter. Jesus rebuffs her saying “it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” The woman’s reply, “Even dogs eat the children’s crumbs”, causes Jesus to proclaim her child free of the demon. The second story is about a deaf man who couldn’t speak. After Jesus healed the man he ordered the bystanders to not tell anyone. Did they listen to him? No, they proclaimed Jesus’ healing powers. Are you proclaiming the healing powers of Jesus? Are you standing up for justice for those who cannot claim it on their own, much like the woman in the first story?

May your faith be lived out by all you help this week? Seek the kingdom by helping those in need and you will find it.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor