Monday, February 22, 2016

Scripture Readings for Sunday, February 28, 2016

Hello Everyone,

Please don’t forget our Lenten Wednesday Worship Services. Peace United Church at 6:00 PM and Grey Eagle UMC at 7:30 PM. Our sermon series topic for Wednesday is “Evangelism and Tolerance”

Here are the readings for this coming Sunday, February 28, 2016:

Isaiah 55:1-9 – God invites all people to share in the feast that God has prepared. This feast is without cost, we only need to come. Why do we give our lives over to consumerism when our souls can fed by God and not things. We are invited to also seek the Lord for God will pardon us abundantly. However, to seek God is to learn that God’s way of doing things and God’s way of thinking (understanding, knowing?) are not the way humans do and think about things. So why do we persist in trying to make God into “mini-me’s”? Is God’s justice like our justice? Is God’s forgiveness like our forms of forgiveness? Difficult questions, right?

Psalm 63:1-8 – This psalm is 11 verses long yet the Lectionary Committee cuts the reading off at 8 verses. Why, you may ask? As happens so often in the Psalms often include a darker side: praising God on one hand and cursing enemies on the other. Usually the praises outweigh the cursing as here in Psalm 63. Our reading is the psalmist praising God for the provisions God give when the psalmist hungering and thirsting for the spiritual refreshment. Verses 9 and 10 the psalmist states that his enemies will meet their doom in the dust of the earth. The final verse then returns to praising God. We learn from the Psalms that it is okay to not only sing praises to God but to also give over our anger, hurt feeling, and frustrations to the One who can bear it all, even on a cross.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 – This passage will be useful for this Sunday’s installment of our Sermon Series “Ten Tough Topics”. Our topic will be “The God of the Old Testament”. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was a letter to a church divided. They argued over communion and the right way to worship. Sin was creeping into the fellowship of believers. In our passage, Paul is using examples from the Old Testament to warn the Corinthians away from immorality and false worship. In the examples he cites the Israelites’ sins that led many of them to die. Verse 5 states (or strongly implies) that many died because God was not happy with them. From the NET Bible: “But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were cut down in the wilderness.” However, Paul comes back to the idea that God is loving: “And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear.” How are we to understand God in the Old Testament exacts fierce judgment as opposed to the God who is Love in the New Testament? I will share my thought about this on Sunday.

Luke 13:1-9 – Ooh, I love this passage. Verses 1-5: Did you hear about the shooting in Michigan this weekend? Were the six people who died any worse sinners (and thus deserving to die) than the shooter who is alive and in custody now? Hopefully, all of you will be shocked that I am asking these questions. Hopefully you will all agree with me that no one who died deserved it. More thoughts about this on Sunday. Verses 6-9: My wife and I plant a one year old apple tree (standard size) we bought from a nursery. I dig a hole, place the tree in it, and backfill the dirt. Then each year I go to see if there are apples. None three years in a row. I grow frustrated and tell my wife that I am going to pull out the tree. She begs me to wait one more year and she will fertilize it with good manure and I can check in another year. Then, if there is no fruit I can pull it out. So, why do we expect new believers to be perfect fruit bearers right from the start? God is working on us that we may bear God’s kingdom fruit. Maybe not today, but some day. (In Methodist speak: the sanctifying and perfecting Grace of God is working on our spiritual growth.)

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Readings for Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hello Everyone,

Don’t forget, part 2 of our Sermon Series, Ten Tough Topic, will be discussed at our Wednesday night Lenten Services. 6:00 PM at Peace United and 7:30 PM at Grey Eagle UMC. The topic will be “Science and Religion”. Part three will be given on Sunday and is on “Other Religions”.

This Sunday’s assigned scripture readings are:

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 – God promises Abram (later known as Abraham) a son who will be Abram’s legitimate heir. However, Abram and his wife Sarai (Sarah) are old and she is beyond child bearing age. To cement the promise, God asks Abram to get a heifer, a female goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon. Abram slaughters the first three and cuts the carcasses in half laying each half next to the other. During the night a smoking pot and a flaming torch passes between the halves of the three carcasses and made a covenant with Abram that his descendants would one day occupy the land. Covenant making is gory business and confirmation kids love this story.

Psalm 27 – The psalmist places his trust in the goodness and salvation of the Lord. With enemies all around, he knows the Lord is with him and he will praise God. In this psalm, the writer alternates between asking for God’s protection and knowing (having faith) that God is with him.

Philippians 3:17-4:1 – Paul asks the people of the church in Philippi to imitate his life (in Christ is assumed). Another way of understanding the Greek would be “join with me in imitating (Christ is understood). Why imitate Paul? Because Paul is imitating Jesus Christ. Those who go their own way (imitating society or other people) have chosen their doom for their god is their belly. Those who choose Christ’s way of living (and imitate Christ) are citizens of heaven and whose savior is Jesus Christ. Jesus will change his people and the world into his glory. Therefore, when times get rough, stand firm in the Lord.

Luke 13:31-35 – Jesus is headed to Jerusalem. Some Pharisees warn him not to go there because Herod wants to kill Jesus. There are not a lot of places in scripture where the Pharisees are considered good. This is one of them. Jesus tell them to tell Herod that he is doing God’s work but would soon be in Jerusalem. Jesus then laments over Jerusalem as a place that kills the prophets and others sent to it. Jesus wants to comfort the people but they are now left to their own (self-destructive) devices. What is Jesus talking about?

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Readings for Ash Wednesday and Sunday, February 14, 2016

Hello Everyone,

First, an announcement. I will be taking Thursday off to go to St. Catherine’s University to see 8 one-act plays at the Minnesota State High School League 2016 State One-Act Play Festival. Cheryl, my wife, wrote and directed a one-act play called “An Uncommon Treasure”. She, along with the cast and crew of Eagle Valley Browerville High Schools, took second place at sub-sections and then first place at sections last Saturday. They will be competing on Thursday against seven other schools.

Both churches will be having Ash Wednesday Services tomorrow evening. 6:00 PM at Peace United and 7:30 PM at Grey Eagle UMC.

Our scripture lessons for Ash Wednesday are:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 – The prophet Joel warns the people that the terrible day of the Lord is surely coming. Then he assures the people that if they turn to the Lord there is hope.

OR Isaiah 58:1-12 – My Bible labels this section “False and True Worship”. What is false worship according to Isaiah? Going through the motions of worship and not having it make a difference in your life. What is true worship? Loosing the bonds of injustice; setting the oppressed free; feeding the hungry; giving homes to the homeless; clothing the naked. This is the worship God wants from us. (I will be speaking on this passage on Ash Wednesday.)

Psalm 51:1-17 – The psalmist knows he has sinned against God and calls on God to have mercy and cleanse him from all unrighteousness.

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 – Paul calls on the church in Corinth to be reconciled to God and to not treat the grace as a foregone conclusion. He is calling on this church (and our churches also?) to be changed by grace and to show that change in the ways they live their lives.

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 – This passage is from the middle of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”. The verses that are skipped are Jesus’ instructions on how to pray and his example of what that pray should be like, now known as “The Lord’s Prayer”. The verses that are included concern how we give, how we pray, how we fast, and how we save. Giving, praying, and fasting are to be done humbly and in secret. Saving, storing treasures, should not be about money and things but about God’s treasures.

On Sunday, I will be starting a Sunday-Wednesday sermon series I am calling “Ten Tough Topics”. This Sunday the topic is “Evil”. Our readings for Sunday are:

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 – When the Israelites finally possess the land, they shall give the first fruits of that land to God. When they do that there are words that they should say. When that is accomplished they will celebrate with the priests and with the aliens that reside with them. How will that play today with so much political talk about keeping out Muslims and Mexicans and South Americans?

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 – The words of that wonderful song “On Eagle’s Wings” come from this psalm. The psalmist is assured that those who place their trust in the Lord will know God’s protection.

Romans 10:8b-13 – Paul tells the church in Rome that everyone who confesses aloud that Jesus is Lord and who also believes in their hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead will be saved. Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth. Is that all there is to it?

Luke 4:1-13 – After his baptism, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus through the desert. Luke tells us that Jesus was tempted for the entire 40 days. At the end of the 40 days, the devil (diablos in Greek) has three special temptations: food security, political power consolidation, and spiritual power. The devil quotes Scripture to lure Jesus but Jesus, in all three temptations, grounds his resolve in a better understanding of scripture and human desire. At the end the devil leaves and waits for a “more opportune time”.

Have a great week serving God and serving neighbors.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Readings for Sunday, February 7, 2016

Hello Everyone,

May the grace of God, the love of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Spirit be with you today, tomorrow, and forever. Amen.

We are coming to the end of Epiphany, the season of insight. Here is the definition from “1) A Christian festival observed on January 6; 2) an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity; 3) a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience; 4) a literary work or section of a work presenting, usually symbolically, such a moment of revelation and insight.”

The last Sunday of the Season of Epiphany is “Transfiguration of Jesus Sunday” and the text is always the story of Jesus meeting Moses and Elijah on the mountain. The stories, slightly different, are at Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-8; and Luke 9:28-36.

Our readings this coming Sunday are:

Exodus 34:29-35 – At the end of chapter 24 Moses, Aaron, and 70 elders climb Mt. Sinai. The elders stop and Moses goes to the summit where he receives the commandments of God. Chapters 25-31:17 are all that God spoke to him. In verse 18, God gives Moses the two stone tablets. The story takes a dark turn in chapter 32 when the Israelites at the base of the mountain make a golden calf and worships it. God sees what they have done and threatens to kill them all but Moses talks God out of it. Then God sends Moses down the mountain where Moses breaks the tablets. He, Moses that is, then commands the Tribe of Levi to slaughter “brother, friends, and neighbors” and 3,000 are killed that day. The next day, Moses goes back up the mountain to talk with God (32:30-34:28) and get new tablets. When Moses finally returns to the Israelites, his face is shining because he has been in God’s presence. The people were afraid to approach Moses so he begins to wear a veil except when speaking with God and conveying God’s word to the people. Does your life shine with the love of God when you have been in God’s presence? What does it mean to be “in God’s presence”?

Psalm 99 – The psalmist praises God as King of all creation. God is a Mighty King, lover of justice, establishing equity, and bringing justice and righteousness to the House of Jacob (Israel). The psalmist mentions Moses, Aaron, and Samuel as God’s priests who God heard when they cried out.

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 – Paul claims that those who hope in the new covenant of Jesus Christ have had the veil (referring to Moses above) set aside so that we may see the glory of God. And since the Lord lives in us as the Spirit, we have freedom and are being transformed into the image of the Lord, from one degree of glory to another. Therefore, Paul argues, we do the work of God in this world and we refuse to engage in the ways of this world (cunning, deceit, etc.) What we choose to do is live in the “open statement of truth” and submit to the “conscience of everyone in the sight of God”. It is difficult to understand what Paul is talking about here. In my opinion, the death and resurrection of Jesus reveals to us what was once veiled: our enslavement to society’s system of sin and death. When we begin to understand what God has shown us, with the power of the Spirit, we are set free from that system. Once set free, we can speak the truth of that system and God’s desire for all people to live in God’s System of self-giving love.

Luke 9:28-36 (37-43) – The first nine verses are about the Transfiguration of Jesus and the optional seven verses are about the disciples failure to heal a demon possessed boy. A week before this event, Peter declares Jesus to be the Messiah (Christ) and Jesus tells the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem to be rejected, tried, crucified, and raised from death. The journey began at the top of a mountain. Jesus takes his three closest disciples up with him but they fall asleep. When they wake up, they see Jesus with Moses and Elijah (two figures from the history of Israel who may or may not have died). They also see that Jesus has be changed, transfigured or metamorphosed. Jesus’ face is changed and his clothes are shining bright white. Peter wants to build shrines to all three but the voice of God interrupts and declares Jesus to be the Son. God also gives them a commandment, though not written in stone, to “listen to him”. Peter and the others found that listening to Jesus was hard. Do we hear God’s voice and do we listen to Jesus? To listen to Jesus is to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, feed the hungry, visit the sick and imprisoned, and go into all the world sharing the Good News. How are we doing?

May the love of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bring change in your life and may you share that life-changing love will all people this week.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor