Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Readings for Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hello Everyone,

Each church will have a Thanksgiving Eve Worship Service with Communion on Wednesday, November 25. Peace United Church at 6:00 PM and Grey Eagle UMC at 7:30. If you can’t make one, you are welcome to come to the other. Be prepared to tell us what you are thankful for above and beyond “family and friends” for which we are all thankful.

This coming Sunday I will begin a new sermon series called “Testify to Love”. The sermon this week at Grey Eagle UMC will be “Testify to Righteous Love”. I will not be preaching at Peace United Church which will be having the annual Hanging of the Greens Service followed with a potluck dinner and our Annual Meeting.

We have two sets of readings this week, one for Thanksgiving and one for the First Sunday in Advent. Due to constraints on my time I will only make brief comments this week.

Joel 2:21-27 – The Lord call on the earth and its animals to rejoice and be glad for God has provided. The Lord calls on the people to rejoice and be glad for God is repaying all that has been lost and all shall eat and be satiated. They will never again be put to shame.

Psalm 126 – Another Song of Ascents which were sung or chanted as the people climbed the hill into Jerusalem and then to the Temple. We rejoice and give thanks because the Lord has done great things for us.

1 Timothy 2:1-7 – Paul says that we should be praying and giving thanks for everyone, especially national leaders so that we may live in peace and tranquility. This is right because God desires all peoples to be saved and to know the truth.

Matthew 6:25-33 – This is from the middle of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Jesus teaches us to not worry about what to wear or what to eat because God provides these to us. “Do not strive for these things.” Instead, first strive (seek) for the reign of God and God will provide. Verse 34 then says, “Do not worry about tomorrow . . . for today has enough troubles of its own.”

First Sunday of Advent:
Jeremiah 33:14-16 – The Lord says that there will be a time when a descendant of David will rule and that king will bring justice and righteousness. That time, or that king, will be called “The Lord is our righteousness.” FYI, the very last king of Judah, who ruled in the time of Jeremiah and at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians, was named “Zedekiah” which means “righteousness of the Lord.” (See 2 Kings 24:20b-25:7.)

Psalm 25:1-10 – The psalmist David asks the Lord for protection from enemies and to know the ways of God.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 – Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica in which he expresses his desire to return to them. Paul asks the Lord to let the church increase their love for one another and for all.

Luke 21:25-36 – This Sunday we begin a new year in the Christian calendar with Advent. We also begin a new Lectionary cycle, this year focused on the Gospel of Luke. And, as usual for the beginning of both the church year and the lectionary year, we look not towards Christmas but toward his next coming. Advent is a time of expectations and waiting. Even in this year when I have already seen the Christmas lights and decorations a week or two before Thanksgiving, we should have a sense of expectation of Jesus’ arrival. Watch for the signs and when you see the coming of the Son of Man raise your hand for your redeeming is near.

I hope to see everyone tomorrow night but if not, have a great Thanksgiving. Give Thanks for the Lord has provided!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Readings for Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hello Everyone,

I start with a reminder about upcoming Church Conference for Grey Eagle UMC and Annual Meeting for Peace United Church. These meeting are open to all who are members of their respective church. Grey Eagle UMC will have Church Conference this Sunday, November 22, at 2:00 PM. Peace United Church will have their Annual Meeting and Potluck Dinner on Sunday, November 29 at 11:45.

This Sunday is “Reign of Christ Sunday” or “Christ the King Sunday”. It is also the last Sunday of the Church Year and Lectionary Cycle B.

Our Readings Are:

2 Samuel 23:1-7 – “The last words of David” might simply mean they were the last oracle, poem, or psalm of David. His last words are the instructions he gives Solomon in 1 Kings 2:1-9. Here, David speaks of God who has worked through him to lead Israel. David also reaffirms the covenant God made with him in Chapter 7. The final two verses are about how the godless will be consumed by fire.

Psalm 132 – The psalmist sings praises of the Temple and of the Davidic Dynasty that God promised to David. This psalm starts with the words “A Song of Ascents” and may be one of the psalms pilgrims sang as they trudged up the hill into Jerusalem and then trudged up the hill to the temple.

OR Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 – As I mentioned last week, the visions of Daniel are recorded in Chapters 7-12. In this first vision, Daniel sees four “beasts” each more terrifying than the one before. In verses 9-10 Daniel sees the “Ancient of Days” who is dressed in white and with hair like pure wool (white, like mine, I think). Thousands and millions (people, angels, heavenly beings) served this Ancient One who sat in judgment. In verses 13-14 Daniel sees someone “like a human” (the Aramaic says literally “one like a son of man”). To this Human One the Ancient One gave dominion over all the earth, nations, and peoples forever. Who are the “beasts”? And what does the Ancient One (God) and the Human One (Christians would say this is Jesus Christ) have to do with the beasts? Some would say that the beasts were the emperors who ruled over Israel (one guess would be the Antiochus family who ruled Israel after Alexander the Great) and whose rule are short lived because ultimately all nations and empires are ruled by the Ancient and Human Ones. In other words, to a people who are being ruled over by some fairly despicable kings, there is hope that one day all will change.

Psalm 93 – The psalmist affirms that the only true king (of Israel, of the world) is God whose throne has been established from the beginning.

Revelation 1:4b-8 – The Revelation to John. Verse one says this document, this vision, is the Revelation OF Jesus Christ and given TO John. Which John? Hard to say because John was a fairly common name in ancient Roman Empire. Many date this writing to the 90’s AD and if the writer were the disciple John that would put him in his 80’s; vary rare but not unheard of then. John passes on the grace and peace from the “one who is and who was and who is to come” and from Jesus who is the faithful witness, first born from the dead, and ruler of all nations. He closes out the greeting by proclaiming that Jesus is the one coming with the clouds and with God saying, “I am the Alpha and Omega” (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, but I think you knew that.)

John 18:33-37 – We close out the year of Mark with a reading from the Gospel of John. We have spent a lot of time in the Gospel of John this past year due to the brevity of the Gospel of Mark so it is appropriate that we end the year with it. In our passage, Jesus has already been arrested, questioned by both Annas and Caiaphas and is now in Pontius Pilate headquarters. After asking the officials what he should do with Jesus, Pilate enters the room and asks Jesus if he is “The King of the Jews”.

“Who told you to ask?”
“Your people did. What did you do?”
“Well, my kingdom is not earthly otherwise my followers would be fighting.”
“So, you are a king (not truly hearing what Jesus said)!”
“So you say, but I came to speak truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

I wonder why the lectionary committee left off the last statement/question by Pilate? “What is truth?”

This Sunday we celebrate a King who died on the Cross saying “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified”. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Death of Rene' Girard

I just heard about the death of Rene' Girard, professor of literature, author of numerous books, and theorist who developed the idea that humans are driven by "memetic desire" (the desires we imitate from others lead us into conflict and when the conflict becomes great enough we seek a scapegoat who will relieve the conflict and bring peace). He was 91 when he died on November 4 and is survived by his wife of 64 years and two children. May he rest in peace.

Here is the New York Times obituary:Rene' Girard, French Theorist of Social Sciences, Dies at 91

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Readings for Sunday, November 15, 2015

Hello Everyone,

We are back on our regular Lectionary Readings this week.

1 Samuel 1:4-20 – A man named Elkanah had two wives, Penninah and Hannah. (There is a joke here somewhere.) Elkanah loved Hannah more than Penninah but Hannah bore no children and Penninah had many (verses 1-3, 5). So Hannah prayed and wept at the Tabernacle in Shiloh promising God that her first son would be dedicated to God’s service. Eli, the priest, saw her but did not hear her. Thinking she was drunk he chastised her for her spectacle. When she explained her situation to Eli, he blessed her saying that God has heard her. After they returned home, Elkanah performed his husbandly duty, Hannah became pregnant, and she gave birth to Samuel.

1 Samuel 2:1-10 – Hannah’s prayer of thanksgiving to a gracious God who healed her barrenness.

OR Daniel 12:1-3 – This is the last part of Daniel apocalyptic visions that is recorded in Chapters 7-12. In these three verses Daniel reports a vision of the end of days. Michael will come to save his people who are written in the book. The dead shall arise some to everlasting life and some to everlasting contempt. Those who are wise and those who lead others to righteousness will shine.

Psalm 16 – The psalmist sings the praises of God who is his counselor and protector and who shows the psalmist the way of life.

Hebrews 10:11-25 – As we have seen over the last few weeks, Jesus Christ is the Great High Priest who offered himself as the sacrifice that ends the need for sacrifice. Because of this we can have confidence to enter into the new way of life. We are urged to keep faith without wavering. Finally, we need to provoke one another to love and to do good deeds and meet together regularly. Think about the word “provoke”. What other word could we use? Incite. Spur. Spark. Help. Stir. Motivate. Encourage and help. All of these alternate words were found in the different versions of the English Bible. How do we incite others to love and good works?

Mark 13:1-8 – The temple will be coming down says Jesus. When? asks the disciples. I don’t know, but when you see war coming run for your lives. You must still proclaim the good news in all the nations (verse 10) even in Todd and Stearns County of Minnesota. Be alert (verse 23) and keep proclaiming. How many times over the centuries and in how many places has the end come? How do you survive the conflagration so that the Kingdom of God may be proclaimed?

Keep the faith, have confidence in God’s Way, incite each other to love, and when the times get tough proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Readings for Sunday, November 8, 2015

Hello Everyone,

November. It seems to be the reverse of March. In like a lamb, will it go out like a lion? We shall see.

We are coming to the end of our 9 week sermon series (Whew! That was long!) titled “On the Mend”. This final week our emphasis will be on “Healing Vision.” What is your vision for the church, your church?

Our scripture for “Healing Vision” will be Mark 10:46-52. Here is what I said about this passage two weeks ago:

Mark 10:46-52 – Jesus and the disciples are nearing Jerusalem and they pass through Jericho. As they are leaving they find blind man named Bartimaeus. (Mark is redundant here when he writes “Bartimaeus son of Timaeus”. “Bar” means “son of”. Ha Ha). This is a simple story: Jesus leaves Jericho; Bart cries out; the crowds shush him; Bart cries louder; Jesus calls him over; Bart jumps up throwing off his cloak; Jesus asks him what he wants; Bart answers, “Let me see”; and Jesus heals him with a few words. Questions: are we bold enough to cry out and name our need? Will God answer the way we want? Will we follow Jesus no matter what the answer?

I would also add: Did blind Bartimaeus have more vision about his future, and thereby emboldening his actions, then we have about our future?

The assigned Lectionary Readings for this week are:

Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17 – If I didn’t say it last week (and even if I did say it last week), PLEASE read the entire book of Ruth. Last week was just the beginning and this week has a nub of the middle and the ending. Chapter 2 is all about Ruth gleaning a field and Boaz taking an interest in her. The first part of our reading is Naomi’s scheme to get Boaz to take Ruth as his wife. The rest of Chapter 3 is about Ruth going to the barn where Boaz and the men have finished working. She waits until they eat, drink, and fall fast asleep. She then goes to where he is sleeping and slips under his covers. Boaz wakes up and talking ensues. Ruth spends the night and slips out before daylight. The first part of Chapter 4 is about Boaz making sure there are no other claimants to Ruth’s hand in marriage. Then they marry and Ruth becomes pregnant. When she gives birth to a son, the second part of our reading, the midwives take the child to Naomi who is now legally his grandmother. (In “levirate” marriage, the first son born to the widow (Ruth) is not the second husband’s (Boaz) son. He is the son of her first and now deceased husband (Mahlon, in this case).) By the way, the only love mentioned in the book of Ruth is not Ruth’s love for Mahlon or Boaz, but her love of Naomi, whom the midwives declares is worth more than seven sons. And don’t forget, Ruth is a foreigner, a Moabite none the less.

Psalm 127 – This is one of several short psalms in this section that are titled “A song of ascents”. Travellers would sing them as the made the long climb up the hill to Jerusalem and up the hill to the temple. The psalmist praises the Lord who strengthens the home. If the Lord builds it, how can it fall? The psalmist also praises the birth of sons who carry on the heritage of the family. As you read this please keep in mind the strong patriarchal (male driven and dominated) society in which the psalmist lived. This is also the psalm where a small, fundamentalist group of churches gets the idea, or name, for women having just as many children (sons preferred but not spoken out loud) as possible: Quiver-full. Here is the Wikipedia article: Quiverfull. The most famous family associated with the ideas are the Duggars of “19 Kids and Counting” though they don’t call themselves Quiverfull Christians.

OR 1 Kings 17:8-16 – The prophet Elijah, during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel in the northern Kingdom of Israel), predicts a long and sever drought. In our reading the Lord sends Elijah to the foreign city of Zarephath to live with a widow who will feed him during the drought. He meets the woman while she gathered sticks and asks her for some food. She says she only has a little barley and oil and that the sticks were to start a small fire so she can prepare one final meal for her son that they may then die. Elijah convinces her to trust him, feed him, and that the Lord God would give her an ongoing supply of barley meal and olive oil until the rains come.

Psalm 146 – We read this psalm last week in connection with our reading in Ruth. Praise God for all that God has done. Praise God always. Don’t trust your government officials for they, like you, will depart this earth. You will be much happier trusting God who is faithful to the end. I remind you of what I said last week, “The Lord executes justice for the oppressed, feeds the hungry, sets prisoners free, gives sight to the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down, watches over the strangers, and upholds the widows and orphans. How does God do all these things if not through us?”

Hebrews 9:24-28 – As we saw last week, this passage is dense. Hopefully I can clarify. Christ is now the great High Priest who does not enter a human made temple but who enters the heavenly temple. As High Priest he does not sacrifice other humans or animals to wash away our sins, but he offers himself into our sacrificial system to bear our sins. That one time sacrifice removes our sin forever and Christ now waits in the Heavenly Temple to save those who eagerly wait for him. The writer of Hebrews repeats himself/herself often just so we can begin to understand the significance of Christ way of salvation.

Mark 12:38-44 – Jesus is in the Temple courtyard watching and teaching. The scribes, Pharisees, and others have been questioning him and trying to trap him in a answer that could be used against him. “Where does your authority come from?” “Should we pay taxes?” “A women is married to seven brothers through levirate marriage but has no sons. They all die. She dies. In heaven, whose wife is she?” “What is the first commandment?” In our passage, Jesus mocks the scribes who parade around in their finest clothing, seek the finest seats in church and at dinner parties, and say long prayers just to look good. He accuses them of “devouring widows houses.” He points to a widow who puts two small coins into the offering plate. Jesus says others just give out of their abundance, what they have left over after paying the bills. The woman has put in “all she had to live on” or, better yet, she gave her life. The really big question: Is Jesus praising her for her faith and holding her up as an example for all of us? OR Is Jesus holding her up as an example of one who has had their “houses devoured” by the religious establishment?

I pray that the Holy Spirit will fill you up with God’s Love. So full in fact that you have to share it with others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor