Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Readings for January 31, 2016

Hello Everyone,

This week’s reading include a call, the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit, and the conclusion to Jesus’ visit to his home synagogue.

Jeremiah 1:4-10 – The first three verses of Jeremiah give the context of who Jeremiah was (son of the priest Hilkiah), where he came from (the land of Benjamin) and when he prophesied (during the reigns of Josiah, his son Jehoiakim, and his son Zedekiah until the “captivity” of Jerusalem). Our verses are titled in my Bible as “Jeremiah’s Call and Commission”. God speaks to Jeremiah saying that God knew him before he was formed in the womb and knew that he would be a prophet. Of course, Jeremiah objects since he is only a boy, but God will hear none of it. God touches Jeremiah’s lips saying that God’s words are now in his mouth with which Jeremiah will speak to the kingdoms. Those words that he speaks will build up or bring down those nations. While your call and commission may not be as dramatic as Jeremiah’s, how has God called you to serve?

Psalm 71:1-6
– My Bible titles this psalm “Prayer for Lifelong Protection and Help”. The commentary at the bottom of the page says, “The prayer of an elderly person.” Our reading is but 6 verses out of 24 total and all 24 are worthy of your reading. Throughout the psalm, the writer in her/his old age does three things: praises God, petitions God for protection from enemies, and promises to serve God. This might be one way to think about prayer: Praise, Petition, Promise.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 – Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians was all about the gifts of the Spirit and how the gifts each person possesses contribute to the functioning of the church much like the individual parts of a body contribute to the whole body. At the end of that discussion Paul writes, “And I will show you a still more excellent way.” (12:30b) What follows is not a new idea or theme as we often treat it but a continuation of what Paul was saying. Of course, we all have heard 1 Corinthians 13 read at weddings and we associate it with the love of a woman and her husband. However, that is NOT what Paul is talking about. He is talking about the one gift of the Spirit that allows all the other gifts to work to the glory of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and for the sustaining of God’s people, the church: Love. All the other gifts of the Spirit, without love, are worthless. (verses 1-3). How that love is lived out in community is the next section, verses 4-7. Paul concludes that life is short and we never understand the full nature of God and his will in creation (verses 8-12). In the end there is only three things we can count on: faith, hope, and love. Of those three, the greatest is . . . .

Luke 4:21-30 – And now for the rest of the story. Last week we read about Jesus reading from Isaiah in his hometown synagogue. After some silence Jesus tells the crowd that the prophesy of Isaiah is being fulfilled in their presence. At that statement, the listeners were “wowed”. But Jesus continued to speak and he anticipated that they would want him to perform miracles like he had elsewhere (verse 23). He told them that prophets are not accepted in their home towns and reminded them of Elijah who lived with a Gentile widow during a three year drought and Elisha who healed a Syrian general of leprosy while others were stricken. This is the statement that angers the hometown crowd. Why would they be angry enough to want to throw him off a cliff? Perhaps they were offended to hear that God’s concern and care was not just for the select people, but for all those that society has turned its back on. How would we feel if Jesus said that God had little concern for the welfare of the privileged, relatively well off, white males of the United States? God’s work would be done among the peoples of Flint Michigan, Baltimore Maryland, Chicago South Side, Ferguson Missouri, Minneapolis North Side, the refugees from Syria and Iraq, the immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America, the women and children trapped in the sex industry, and the poor, hungry, and/or homeless throughout the United States. I think we could respond by either being upset at the message and the messenger or we could join with the Messenger in bringing the Good News. What do you say? Where could we be working with the Messenger to serve others in Long Prairie and Southern Todd County?

That was my question for you in last Sunday’s sermon. “Where can we be serving God by serving our neighbors?” “What mission could we be doing that will bring the Good News to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor?” Think about it, talk about it, and let me know.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Friday, January 22, 2016

Readings for Sunday, January 24, 2016

Hello Everyone,

Here I am three days late. The Grey Eagle UMC Facebook administrator, who uses this email for some of her postings, reminded me last night that I need to get this out.

This coming Sunday is the Third Sunday after Epiphany. Our readings are:

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 – Nehemiah, Jerusalem city administrator and governor of Judea after the return of the Israelites from Babylon, and the priest Ezra call all the people together at Jerusalem. When they gather, the Torah is read aloud to them from a platform. (The first skipped verse contains the names of those standing with Ezra.) As Ezra read the people worshiped and said “Amen”. (The next skipped verse contains the name of the ones who helped the people understand what was being read, perhaps translators from Hebrew to Aramaic.) When Ezra finished the people wept. But Ezra wanted them to celebrate and share their bounty with those who had none. When we hear the Good News, do we celebrate? Do we share our bounty?

Psalm 19 – The psalmist celebrates the Law of the Lord which is perfect and which revives the soul. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Amen.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a – Last week we read that the Spirit of the Lord gives everyone gifts. Every believer gets a gift of the Spirit suitable for that believer. Everyone doesn’t get the same gift. This week Paul says that the gifts of the Spirit within the Church, the Body of Christ, is indeed like a body. Each part has a function that is vital to the operation of that body. A foot cannot be a hand and an eye cannot be an ear. So to in the church. Each person has a gift to be used for the building up of the Body of Christ. Every gift is important, even your gift. What is your gift and how are you using your gifts for the Body of Christ?

Luke 4:14-21 – After Jesus’ return from the wilderness he begins traveling from town to town sharing the good news and performing some miracles. He goes to Nazareth, his home town, and on the Sabbath he goes to the synagogue (Note: Luke says that this was his custom.) He is asked to read from the scripture. He requests and is handed the scroll of Isaiah. He reads from Isaiah 61:1-2a and inserts part of Isaiah 58:6. (Is it notable that he does not read the second part of 68:2 “. . . the day of vengeance of our God.”) Then Jesus declares that the promise of Isaiah is being fulfilled that very day. Please note that this is not the end of what Jesus says to the congregation. Next week we will read “the rest of the story”.

May your day be blessed in the reading of God’s word. See you on Sunday.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Monday, January 11, 2016

Readings for Sunday, January 17, 2016

Hello Everyone,

With colder weather attendance at both churches have been down. Why is that? If tens of thousands of Viking fans can sit for nearly 4 hours in sub-zero weather, only to see the team lose in the last few seconds of the game, why is our attendance down? A question to be considered. Any thoughts?

Thank you for those who came to our Covenant Renewal Worship Service.

Our readings for the Second Sunday after Epiphany are:

Isaiah 62:1-5 – The prophet waits for the time when God will bring vindication and salvation to Jerusalem (Zion). Verse 4 is interesting because the prophet says that the land will be called “Married” and in fact will be married. God will be the bridegroom and the land (and its people) will be the bride in whom God delights.

Psalm 36:5-10 – The opening and closing verses of Psalm 36 concern those who are wicked and evil. These middle verses are all about God’s “steadfast love” (mentioned 3 times), “righteousness”, and “faithfulness”. God’s love is shown in judgment, salvation, abundance, life and light; all words that occur in the New Revised Standard Version Bible I read in worship. How is our love like God’s love? How can we grow in God’s love so that our love reflects the life and light of God?

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 – This is the classic verse when talking about Spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit. There are a couple of verses I will highlight. Verse 3b “. . . and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit”. When someone gives themselves to God and Jesus Christ for the first time they are responding to the work of the Holy Spirit within them. John Wesley called this “prevenient grace”. Verse 7, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” The gifts we have from the Holy Spirit are to be used to everyone’s benefit and for the glory of God. So I ask, what are the gifts the Spirit has given you and how are you using those gifts for the good of your church and God’s Kingdom?

John 2:1-11 – Jesus attends a wedding with his mom, Mary. Weddings in Jesus’ day were social events that lasted several days and some up to a week. The Bible mentions marriage multiple times but, as far as I know, there is no proscription how the weddings were to be performed or whether any religious person officiated. Jesus is at the wedding by invitation along with his disciples and was just keeping his head down for “his hour had not come.” When the wine ran out Mom insisted that Jesus could do something. What he does is change some vats of water it wine; not just any run of the mill sangria but the “good stuff”, the $50 a bottle good. What ordinary thing in your life has been changed into the “good stuff” by Jesus’ presence?

Have a wonderful week everyone. Love people like God loves you.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Readings for January 10, 2016

Hello Everyone and Happy New Year,

Yes, five days into the new year I am still having to think about writing “2016” on all my documents, etc. It will probably take a few more days until it becomes an ingrained habit or until “muscle memory” takes over and I don’t have to think about it.

The same thing is true for any new endeavor we take up. It takes conscience repetition until it “sets in”. The further between the acts of repetition, the longer before the new action becomes routine. For instance, with my diabetes I used to take multiple daily injections of insulin. When I started using an insulin pump I would change the infusion site every three days. It took me a while to make it routine; to go from a 20 minute procedure that I had think about each step to something that now takes 10 minutes or less. When I started my newest Continuous Glucose Monitor it needed to be changed every week. It took me a couple of months to no longer follow the step-by-step instructions. Now I change it every 2 1/2 weeks but I know the steps and it goes quickly.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I believe that attending worship to give praise and glory to God our Creator and to receive the Good News, the Word of Grace, need to something that we routinely do. We need to make it a part of our lives so that when we miss a week we feel like we missed something vital (which in fact you have). When we attend worship we make an additional connection with God and we connect with our brothers and sister who are also worshiping. We sing, we praise, we pray, we hear the Good News, we receive Communion and we leave as changed people.

This week both Peace United Church and Grey Eagle United Methodist Church will be holding our Annual Covenant Renewal Service. In this service we will hear the Good News, recommit our lives to follow Jesus Christ, remember our Baptisms, and receive the body and blood of Christ in Communion. If you are a regular attendee of worship this service will add new meaning to following Christ. If you are not in regular attendance, why not start this week? And then the next, and then the next, until it becomes a part of your life. Grey Eagle UMC worships at 9:00 AM on Sunday and Peace United worships at 10:30 AM. Will I see you there? I hope and pray so.

Our readings this week are:

Isaiah 43:1-7 – God declares that all the people of Israel have been redeemed and that God will bring back all those who are scattered throughout the world. The waters will not overwhelm them and the fires will not burn. For those whom God has called nothing will prevent their return. Is it possible to read about the waters and fire as being a reference to the violence of the world and that for those whom the world would destroy God will vindicate? Another note: this being “Baptism of Jesus Sunday” the Lectionary Committee chose this passage because of the “passing through the waters” in verse 2.

Psalm 29 – This psalm speaks about the power of the “voice of the Lord” which is over the waters (see Genesis 1:1-3) and flashes like flames in a fire. The Lord is “enthroned as king forever” and gives “strength to his people”.

Acts 8:14-17 – In the verses preceding this selection Philip has been traveling around Samaria preaching the Good News of Jesus, casting out demons, and healing the lame. Many people believed and were baptized by Philip. When word got back to the disciples in Jerusalem, they send Peter and John to check it out. Peter and John find that the people who believed were only baptized by water and not the Spirit. So they lay their hands on people and pray for the baptism of the Spirit which they receive. This is a troubling passage for many Protestant Churches. It says there is a two step baptism: one by water and one by the Spirit. I believe that the Spirit is always active in our lives and that in the act of baptism, whether the person is an infant, teenager, or adult, the Spirit is there. I may talk about this in my sermon this week.

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
– The first three verses are John the Baptizer’s declaration that the Messiah will be someone who is more powerful then he. The one who follows will judge with a winnowing fork and a fire. The final two verses are a very short non-description of Jesus’ Baptism. Luke simply says that AFTER Jesus was baptized and WHILE he was praying, the heavens opened, the Spirit descended upon him, and a voice from heaven declared the Jesus was the Son and the Beloved. This is a shorter description that Mark’s (1:9-11) and much shorter than Matthew’s (3:13-17). In all three version, Jesus then leaves for a 40 day wilderness experience.

Have a wonderful week serving God by serving your neighbors.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor