Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Hardest Question. Readings for Sunday, September 4, 2016.

Hello Everyone,

This coming weekend is Labor Day Weekend. If you regularly attend either Peace United Church in Long Prairie or Grey Eagle United Methodist Church and you will be out of town this weekend, I encourage you and your family to find a nearby church and worship with with them on Sunday. Your presence will be a blessing to that church, especially if it is a small church.

If you are a regular reader of this weekly email and do not live in the Long Prairie and Grey Eagle area but will be in the area this weekend, I invite you to worship with us. Grey Eagle UMC worships at 9:00 AM and Peace United worships at 10:30 AM. Both churches will be celebrating Communion on Sunday and all are welcomed at the Table of the Lord.

Finally, if you live in our area but do not regularly attend, why not make this coming Sunday the beginning of you and your family being a regular part of our worship together. We miss you and we pray for you. Worship with us and let God's Spirit show you a new way, a new truth, and a new life.

This Sunday will be the eighth of eleven lessons in our sermon series "A Future with Hope". Sunday's lesson will be "The Sustaining". Marcia McFee, author of "A Future with Hope", keys in on Isaiah 50:4a, "The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word."

Isaiah 50:4-11 is the third of four so called "Servant Songs" in Isaiah. The others are 42:1-4 (5-9); 49:1-7; and 52:13-53:12. For our Jewish sisters and brothers this "servant" may be Israel itself (49:3) but Christians see Jesus as the Servant who suffers. In our reading, the servant not only suffers at the hands of the enemy but understands that it is God who will help him/her through the hardship. In suffering, the servant also knows how to help others who suffer; he will sustain other sufferers with a word. Finally, the servant knows that those who inflict suffering on others ("kindlers of fire") will also suffer.

Our Gospel lesson is Luke 14:25-33. Using a couple of analogies, Jesus warns his disciples and others that there will be a cost to them if they choose to follow him. The cost to follow Jesus will be family, friends, and even life itself. The analogies that Jesus uses is calculating the cost to build a tower and winning a war. If you can't afford all the materials you don't start building and if your army isn't strong enough to win you make peace with your enemy. And if losing family, friends, and life isn't bad enough, Jesus says that to follow him we must give up all our possessions. WHAT? Really? All. Our. Stuff.? You read it right. How does that speak to me? How does it speak to you? The hardest question.

Hope to see all of you on Sunday. God Bless.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Readings for Sunday, August 28, 2016

Hello Everyone,

First off, thank you to all who made Church at Birch a great success this past Sunday. While I couldn't stay for the brunch, I hear that the food and fellowship after the worship was wonderful. Thank you, Everyone. (If I tried to name everyone who contributed I know I would forget someone!)

This Sunday we will continue with our Sermon Series "A Future with Hope". The seventh in the series will focus on "The Bearing" and the scripture will be Philippians 1:3-11. Of this week's theme, Marcia McFee says:

"Once planted, nurtured, cared for, and tended, our gardens overflow. All of creation is pregnant with possibilities, bearing fruit and flower. The goodness must be shared with all. The diversity and variety of creation is cherished and celebrated. We vow to honor that diversity, to share God's overflowing goodness and to hold, carry, and bear the burdens of any."

Paul opens his letter to the Church in Philippi with his prayer for them, our reading. He gives thanks for them for they have shared in the Gospel from the first. He is confident that the work God is doing through them will continue until Jesus returns. He is also thankful because they keep him in their hearts, even during his imprisonment. The full point of Paul's prayer, however, is that love may overflow from them so that, one day, they will reap the full harvest that comes through Jesus Christ.

Our "Future with Hope" is a seed (the analogy the sermon series is using) that is planted in us by the Holy Spirit through attending to the words of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). The seed germinates, opens, through prayer (Luke 11:1-13) and is planted through giving (Luke 12:13-21) which seems counter intuitive. Once planted, the seed (seeds) need to be nurtured through trusting that God will provide but also by participating in God's work for God's Kingdom (Luke 12:22-34). Then there comes a time of waiting, residing where we are (Jeremiah 291, 4-7) during some difficult times (Luke 12:49-56). These difficult times does not mean we hunker down and ignore what's happening but that we reach out to the hurting world with Christ's love. It is also a time when we build the community of believers using the gifts that God has given to each of us (Ephesians 4), sometimes even if it means we ignore the "rules" to reach out and break the bonds that cripple us and others (Luke 13:10-17). As the seeds of hope push roots down and shoots upward it will begin to bear fruit; fruits of love that should be shared with others (see above). How this happens is all about how we treat others, whether in worship, at fellowship, or in mission (see below). [This, I hope, summarizes my sermon series so far.]

Our Gospel Lesson will be Luke 14:1, 7-14. The opening verse says that Jesus is headed to a Sabbath meal hosted by a Pharisee leader. We skip the verses about Jesus healing a man with dropsy. He arrives at the dinner and notices how the guests are seated according to their honor standing. He offers some sage advice about sitting at the lower honor seats and being asked to move up verses taking a higher seat and being asked to move down. I think for our sermon series verses 12-14 will be very fruitful. Jesus tells the host to not invite friends or family members to the dinners because they will simply repay. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, etc. precisely because they cannot repay. Then, repayment will come at the "resurrection of the righteous."

May the Lord God bless you this week with the opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. When this happens, and it will, the Holy Spirit will give you the word and strength you need.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Monday, August 15, 2016

Readings for Sunday, August 21, 2016

Hello Everyone,

This coming Sunday is "Church at Birch" for Grey Eagle UMC. Worship begins at 9:00 AM at John and Janet Roe's home located at 11057 County Road 47, one mile south of the church. There will be shuttle rides from the church beginning at 8:30 AM. Following the service there will be a potluck brunch. Church members are tasked with the potluck and everyone else can "Be our Guest, be our Guest, put our service to the test. . . ." (name the movie this comes from). Church members are also asked to bring a guest, so please invite and bring a former church member, a family member, a co-worker, a friends, or, more on the wild side, ask and bring an enemy!

This coming Sunday will be week 6 in our 11 week sermon series "A Future with Hope." This week's topic will be "The Building". Our texts will be:

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16 - Paul argues for the unity of the church but not uniformity. We are together, in all our diversity, one church - the body of Christ. He begins by calling all people to live a life worthy of being a follower of Christ: humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with each other in love, and working to maintain unity in the "Spirit in the bond of peace" (verses 1-3). There is but one body and one Spirit, one calling in hope, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, and one God, Father of all (verses 4-6). Now then, we have all been grace according to Christ's gift (verse 7). Verses 8-10 are an Old Testament quote and Paul's explanation. Verses 11 and 12 are a list of the gifts we have been given to us and the purpose for those gifts: to build up the Body of Christ until we reach a mature faith. We should no longer be children in faith but by speaking truth in love (a phrase often misused) we must grow up in Christ. When this happens and all are working together there will be, there is unity in Christ. So, what part of the Body of Christ, the church, are you? What is your function?

Luke 13:10-17 - Once again Jesus is at church. Actually, teaching at the synagogue on Saturday, the Sabbath. A woman show up who has been crippled, bent over by a spirit, for 18 years. Jesus calls her over, declares that she is set free, lays his hands on her, and she stands up straight. Aghast, the leader of the synagogue objects saying that there are six other days to heal. Jesus calls him a hypocrite and says that he takes his mule to the watering hole on the Sabbath, therefore, should not a daughter of God be set free on the Sabbath. The leader is put to shame and the crowds cheer (rejoice). So, when is it OK to break the rules, the commandments?

Have a great week, serving God and neighbor.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Readings for Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hello Everyone,
Grace and Peace to you and yours,

This week will be week 5 in our sermon series "A Future with Hope". This week our theme is "The Residing".

Our scripture readings begins with Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7. This comes from the same section of Jeremiah that opened our Sermon Series - Jeremiah 29:11. This chapter records a letter that Jeremiah sent to the exiles in Babylon (verse 1). Verses 4-7 is Jeremiah's admonishment to settle into their new situation by building houses, planting gardens, and to marry and have children and grandchildren. They should also seek the welfare of the Babylonian government, king, and the pray for them. Why? Verse 10 says that they will be there for 70 years.

Our Gospel lesson will be Luke 12:49-56. This will be a difficult text to use for "The Residing" because Jesus says that he will be the reason for divisions within the family. He also chastises his listeners telling them that they know how to interpret the signs of weather coming but not the signs of the present time.

Perhaps by understanding the words of Jeremiah, recognizing the turmoil of our times, and by placing our hope in God, we will be able to survive what is happening in our world and culture.

May God bless you this week in all that you do. Share God's hope with the people you meet.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor
Peace United Church, Long Prairie
Grey Eagle UMC, Grey Eagle

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Readings for Sunday, August 7, 2016

Hello Everyone,

Well, August is here and the humidity is rising. I hope you are able to stay cool and comfortable.

This Sunday will be Week 4 in our Sermon Series "A Future With Hope". This week's theme is "The Nurturing". Here is the synopsis by Marcia McFee:

We cannot abandon what we have planted. We must attend to our hopes, nurture them with living water in order to sustain growth. To attend over time is to know the fruit of discipline. What spiritual disciplines nurture our faith and hope? We affirm the abundance of God's grace poured out for us and we ask God to let the waters of justice and righteousness flow freely.

The reading for "The Nurturing" is James 3:13-18. The book of James is almost a practical manual on what it means to live as a follower of Jesus. We know from the book of Acts that the disciple James was martyred early on. We also know from Acts that James, the brother of Jesus, rose to prominence and leadership in the Jerusalem Christian church. This is the James that may have written this book. However, there is some doubt about this James being the author or if someone wrote using his name, a common practice in those days.

In our section, James writes that there is two kinds of wisdom: earthly wisdom and the wisdom from above. As the author states, if you have "bitter envy" or "selfish ambition" in your hearts (being) then it comes from earthly wisdom and it will bring "disorder and wickedness". If your lives are filled with purity, peacefulness, gentleness, full of mercy, and bearing good fruits without partiality and hypocrisy, then that is the wisdom from above.

I am deviating a little from the assigned Lectionary Gospel of Luke 12:32-40. Backing up a little and using the first part of this text, we will be reading Luke 12:22-34. Jesus is continuing his teaching about being on guard against all kinds of greed that we read about this past Sunday. The first part of this passage is familiar and is about trusting in the goodness of God. Jesus uses a teaching technique of going from a lesser to a greater good. If God feeds the sparrows, will God not also feed us? If God adorns the lilies with splendor, will God not also give us the clothes we need? Therefore, there is no need to worry about our daily lives because God will provide. It is the world's nations that worry about all these things. Or, using James' language, worrying about these things is earthly wisdom. Not only does God give us what we need (not necessarily what we want) but God desires to give us God's Kingdom. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

What do we need to do, if anything, to nurture the seed of hope in our lives? Where is your treasure stored?

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary