Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Readings for Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hello Everyone,

I hope and pray you are keeping cool during these "dog days of summer". That is an interesting phrase that I had to look up. There is a nice graphic plus some information on National Geographic's website: "Why Do We Call Them the 'Dog Days' of Summer".

We will be continuing our Sermon Series "A Future with Hope" with our third installment "The Planting". Marcia McFee writes, "Germinated seeds must be planted in order for roots to begin to dig deep in the soil. Is the soil in which we plant our hopes fertile? Inherent in the action of planting in an action of belief that something will come of our effort. Can we imagine what will be? This is a work of the people for the sake of those who will come [later]. What are we planting for future generations?"

Our scripture lesson will be 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. The first part of this reading, verses 6-9, has often been used for stewardship messages and sermons. I am certainly guilty of this because it is a great reminder that we should give generously and cheerfully because God has provided us an abundance of blessings. Always remember: "God loves a cheerful giver . . . so that you may share abundantly in every good work."

The second part, verses 10-15, continues with an analogy that Paul started in verse 9: sowing and reaping. The One who asks us to sow is the One who supplies the seed and will provide the harvest for the bread. In generosity we will find our thanksgiving to God. And through the testing of our ministry in sharing the good news, the Gospel, we continue to receive and grow in the grace of God. Thanks be to God for those gifts.

Our Gospel lesson this week will be Luke 12:13-21. From this past Sunday's reading about prayer in Luke 11:1-13 to this week's reading we skip quite a bit of text. The titles of the various sections we skip that the editor of my NRSV Bible have given include "Jesus and Beelzebul", "The Return of the Unclean Spirit", "True Blessedness", "The Sign of Jonah", "The Light of the Body", "Jesus Denounces Pharisees and Lawyers", "A Warning against Hypocrisy", and "Exhortation to Fearless Confession." Whew!

Our reading is titled "The Parable of the Rich Fool." When I read it I thought this was the perfect Gospel lesson to go with our reading of sowing, reaping, and God's generosity in our lesson above. A voice in the crowd wants Jesus to render judgment in an inheritance dispute he is having with his brother. (Never heard that one before, I said with a smile.) Jesus' first response is to ask "Who made me your arbitrator?". His second response is to warn the man about greed. His third response is to tell a parable. A rich business man had a good year and got richer, so he devised a plan to put all his new found wealth in an illegal, high yield, offshore investment fund that protected him from taxes, his creditors, and the desires of his many ex-wives. With those plans in place he would then simply live it up. Yet that night he died and the ex-wives and creditors divided up his estate. "So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich to God." .

Two weeks ago the Grey Eagle UMC had their annual garage sale, bake sale, and luncheon. Because of your generosity in time, talent, and household items, funds were raised for the ministries of the church. When the sale was over, there were many clothes, household items, furniture, and appliances unsold. An ad was placed in the local paper that these items were free for the asking. A young couple with four kids who had recently moved to the area from Arkansas responded to the ad. The couple and her father arrived with a pickup and trailer and took as much as they could to help furnish a house. They were invited to return but said they didn't have enough money to pay for gas as both were still looking for work. Through the generosity of many church members, GEUMC had enough in their Good Samaritan Fund to help this couple out for the time being. Praise be to God who gives us enough so that we in turn can help others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Readings for Sunday, July 24, 2016

Grace and Peace from God to you and your families.

I hope you are prepared for this weeks forecast of heat in the 90's accompanied by high humidity. It might become "oppressive".

Yesterday, I used an 18" garden rototiller borrowed from a friend to re-till a 5 to 6,000 square foot yard. It was ripped up a month ago when I hired an Amish man with a team of 3 horses and a 5 foot tine-tiller to tear the sod up. I worked from 9 am to noon and 6 pm to 7:30 walking behind this small tiller. (Zachary finished up the last hour of tilling when he got home.) All in my effort to "KILL THE WEEDS". The end result of all my work was sore legs, hip, arms, and hands. Today, I am very stiff.

I am not seeking any sympathy but just to let you know that I, in my very small way, am being that farmer/gardener I wrote about last week and preached about on Sunday. I have hope that in the long run I will have a lush green lawn without weeds. This week we will continue our sermon series on "A Future with Hope". This week's focus is "The Opening".

Our scripture lesson for Sunday will be 1 Corinthians 15:35-38. Paul, in this section of his letter to the church in Corinth, is arguing for the actual, physical resurrection of the body and is the subject for all of chapter 15. But, he argues, the resurrected body will not be like the first body. It will be changed. In our four verses, Paul compares it to a seed which is sown, germinates, sprouts, and grows. The title of the sermon, "The Opening", is about the germinated seed that pushes open its shell. But don't ignore all the other images that come to mind when you think of "The Opening": a doorway, a gate, a vulnerable spot in an opponent's pieces in chess or in football, a moment when someone can be approached, etc. If, as I mentioned on Sunday, God is our only seed of hope, how will that seed germinate within us and our churches?

Our Gospel lesson this week will be Luke 11:1-13. Verses 2-4 are Luke's version of the Lord's Prayer. This resembles the version at Matthew 6:9-13, but there are a lot of differences. Also note that neither Luke nor Matthew's version, when translated into English, uses the word "trespasses". In 6 different English translations that I checked (including the 400 year old King James Bible), the Lord's prayer in Matthew has "debts and debtors" while the prayer in Luke uses "our sins and those indebted to us". Why do so many churches and church people insist on "trespasses and trespass"? Tradition, familiarity, comfort, TTWWADI (that's the way we've always done it)?

Luke 11:5-13 is Jesus' teaching on being persistent in prayer. Jesus compares praying to a friend who wakes you up in the night to borrow some bread. The sleepy friend, who does not want to get up, ends up giving the bread due to the "persistence" of his friend. However, I made a note in my Bible that the Greek word translated as "persistence" could also be translated as "shamelessness". Verse 9 is also familiar: "Ask . . . Seek . . . Knock". Verses 11-12 should be familiar as well. If a child asks for fish will you give it a snake or asks for an egg but receives a scorpion?. Verse 13 finally reveals what it is we will receive when we pray (and it is not the multi-million dollar PowerBall).

I pray to the Lord that the Holy Spirit will bring revival to your lives and your churches. I pray that the Holy Spirit will ignite a fire of love and caring in our churches. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you to share the Good News, invite friends and neighbors into fellowship, and bring life out of death. In the name of Jesus, our Christ. Amen.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Reading for July 17, 2016

Hello Everyone,

This past Sunday as I was preaching about the traumatic events of last week and relating them to Luke 10:25-37, Parable of the Good Samaritan, I upset some people when I retold Jesus' story using "a Donald Trump supporter" (DTS) and "a Bernie Sanders supporter" (BSS). In my retelling the DTS is riding his bike on Highway 287 and is struck by a car whose driver is unaware of the accident. I come upon the scene, see the crumpled bike, see the injured DTS, but pass by because I have an important worship service to lead at the church. A priest (Grey Eagle's version) or Pastor John of the LP Assembly of God (Long Prairie's version) sees the bike and the downed rider but passes by to get to an important youth group meeting. The third person to come by is the BSS who sees the results of the accident and rushes in to render aid (while calling 911). The DTS is saved by the willingness of the BSS to be his neighbor.

Please note that I did not bash either supporter or the candidates. (I kind of bashed myself.) My only intention was to illustrate the extremes that Jesus used in his story and how that would have scandalized some of his hearers. Samaritans and Jews did not like each other, yet one saves the life of the other. Jesus did not pass judgment on who was the better person. One becomes the neighbor to the other or, seen in a different light, they become neighbors together. I can imagine how some of Jesus' listeners may have been a bit upset with his story. Would it have been better if I had the BSS as the one hit by the car and the DTS the one to render aid? I don't know. Would it have been better if I left DT and BS out of the story? No, because it would have lost the lesson (or the scandal) of the extremes.

A lot of what Jesus said in his day caused pain; they were scandalous. The words he chose and the actions he took caused people to be scandalized (stumbling block in most translations) and some left him (John 6:66). Paul said that when we preach Christ Crucified we cause people to be scandalized (1 Corinthians 1:23). I think that 2000 years later and having heard the stories so often, we have lost the scandal of who Jesus was, what he said, how he died, and the ultimate scandal of being raised on Easter.

To those whom I caused offence, I am sorry. I apologize that what I said caused pain. That was not my intention. Please feel free to call me if you wish to talk about it.

On a lighter note: Our churches were designated a "Pokeman Go" spot. It is an app sort of like "geo caching". When someone who is playing goes to the spot they are supposed to collect something, but I was unprepared for this and have nothing to give at Peace United Church. For those working at the GE Church preparing for the garage sale, if someone stops by ask them if they are playing Pokeman Go and offer them a treat (there are some in the youth cabinet in the kitchen).

We begin a new sermon series this week called "Hope for the Future". Worship specialist Marcia McFee, designed this series for the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. It does not follow the Lectionary, which assigns lessons for each Sunday over three years. Each Sunday for the next eleven weeks we will read the assigned Gospel Lesson and the particular lesson for that Sunday of the sermon series.

One of the images that Ms. McFee uses is that of the fruit tree. Who are the most hopeful people in the world? Farmers. For the average farmer that plants and harvests annual crops, there are many months between planting seed and harvesting produce. For the owners of vineyards it takes up to 3 years following the planting of shoot to harvesting usable grapes. For an apple orchard owner who plants standard sized apple trees it takes six to ten years following planting for the tree to produce edible apples. A farmer planting apples seed has a lot of hope for the future.

The first sermon in this series is "A Future with Hope". It's lesson is from Jeremiah 29:10-14. Things may seem hopeless and it may seem that God has abandoned us. But God is never finished with us because God has plans. God will give us a future with hope.

The Gospel Lesson is from Luke 10:38-42 where Jesus visits Martha and Mary in their home in Bethany (no mention of their brother Lazarus). One of the stories we know so well. But do we? Where in this story will we find the Kingdom of God and a Future with Hope?

Have a great week everyone! Watch out for the Pokeman Go players.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Readings for Sunday, July 10, 2016

Hello Everyone, Grace and Peace to you.

This week I will be finishing up the current sermon series, "The Outsiders". This week's focus is on "The Neighbor". Beginning on Sunday, July 17 and running to September 25 our sermon series will be "A Future with Hope" based on Jeremiah 29:11. "For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope." This new series is not based on the Lectionary but I will continue to send out this email with the appointed Lectionary readings.

This week our lessons are:

Amos 7:7-17 - Verses 7-9 is the last of three visions that the Lord gives Amos: locusts eating all the crops, fire consuming all the land, and the plumb line set in Israel by which God will judge. (Amos is a prophet during the time of King Jeroboam of the northern kingdom of Israel.) A priest at the temple in Bethel named Amaziah complains to Jeroboam about Amos' prophesies of the destruction of Israel. Amaziah then orders Amos to go back to Judah but Amos responds with some pretty tough language. I will leave it up to your imagination about what Amos said, OR, you could read it for your self.

Psalm 82 - This is an odd little psalm. In it God calls together all the gods in council (verse 1). God then charges the gods with ruling unjustly (vs. 2). God gives the evidence against the gods (vss. 3-5). God then renders judgment against the gods (vss. 6-7). Finally, God alone is the judge of the earth and all nations belong to God.

OR Deuteronomy 30:9-14 - The last half of verse 10 is the theme of this passage: "because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." This commandment is not too hard because it is not in the heavens or beyond the seas; it is in our hearts (vss. 11-14). The result of turning to God will be "abundant prosperity". Please read carefully because this passage, along with a handful of others, can lead to "prosperity thinking" and eventually to a "prosperity gospel."

Psalm 25:1-10 - The answer to the reading in Deuteronomy is in this psalm. "Let me know again your ways, God. Teach me your truth. Love me with your steadfast love, forgive my sins, and remember me." All the ways (paths) of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness. Amen.

Colossians 1:1-14 - For the next four weeks we will be reading portions of Paul's letter to the Colossians. There is some dispute about whether Paul wrote this letter or if someone used his name and authority when writing (this was not unusual in the ancient world). Also, Paul did not start the church in Colossae or in nearby Laodicea. In these opening verses, Paul mentions that when he heard of their existence and ministry he began to pray for them. He prays for them to be filled with spiritual and understanding from God. In his prayers he also gives thanks to God for them.

Luke 10:25-37 - This is the passage where Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan and is unique to the Gospel of Luke. We all, I hope and pray, know the story. In fact the phrase "good Samaritan" has entered our vocabulary referring to someone who has done a good deed for another person, usually someone she/he doesn't know. Rather than retelling the story here are some questions for you to ponder. A lawyer challenges Jesus. What does he want to know (verse 25)? Jesus in turn asks him what questions (verse 26)? What does the lawyer answer (verse 27)? After Jesus told him to go, do that, and live, the lawyer asks him the question that leads to the parable. What was his question (verse 29). At the end of the parable, Jesus asks the lawyer one final question. What was it (verse 36)?

Have a great week serving God by serving your neighbors.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary