Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Readings for Sunday, October 2, 2016

Hello Everyone,
Grace and Peace to You,

This coming Sunday is "World Communion Sunday", the one Sunday each year when we will be celebrating Communion with Christians around the world. This is an excellent time to invite a family member or friend who hasn't been to church in a while to come with you to worship. Imagine if everyone had one guest with them this Sunday. Now, let's try to make that happen.

We are back to following the Lectionary readings until we begin a new Sermon Series at Advent titled "God Bless Us Every One: The Redemption of Scrooge". As you may imagine, we will be using Charles Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol".

Our Readings this week are:

Lamentations 1:1-16 - Lamentations is the cry of the heart by one, Jeremiah, or more people following the utter destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. This poem begins with the voice of a narrator but then shifts to the voice of Jerusalem in verse 12.

Lamentations 3:19-26 - This is the "Psalm" that is paired with the Old Testament reading above. After the painful cry in the first reading there is hope, love, and faithfulness with this reading.

OR Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4 - I have always thought this prophet's name was pronounced Ha-ba-COOK, but I guess it is Ha-BACK-cook. In the first part, this prophet's cry might be ours in the time: Why the violence and when will it cease? The second part contains the answer Jeremiah gave the exiles in Babylon: There is still a vision for the right time.

Psalm 37:1-9 - The psalmist call us to trust the Lord and wait for God to act. "But those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land."

2 Timothy 1:1-14 - According to the commentary in my edition of the Bible, this letter to Timothy may be more about me as a pastor than about you as the congregation. Paul gives thanks for the ministry of a young pastor and remembers his faithful grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice. He encourages Timothy to stay strong in God's work (a holy calling) by remembering that it is God's grace that strengthens. In one of the more amazing statements is "This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began." What does that statement mean to you?

Luke 17:5-10 - This is a section of Luke that most Bible editors don't know what to do with. My NRSV Bible labels this section "Some Saying of Jesus". What? There are three "sayings" and we have two of them. The first, which we don't have, is about not being a stumbling block and wearing a millstone around our neck and then being thrown into the sea. We get two: having faith the size of a mustard seed (pretty small) that can uproot a tree and not thanking a servant (slave) for doing what was ordered. This is strange stuff. I might throw in the millstone saying (verses 1-5) this week.

May God bless you in your work, in your play, in your waking, and in your sleep.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Future with Hope - Two Poems

A Future with Hope
       Two Poems

        (Inspired by the poem “The Welder” by Cherrie Moraga.)

The ember is placed
       and glows red, then ash-black
       Then Red

Is there fuel, leaves, bark, wood

Is there nothing

will the ember burst forth
       the fuel catching
       the sparks spreading
              What was an ember becomes
                     for cooking
                     for warmth
                     for companionship around

Or will the fuel turn to ash
       water smothering weight?
              and the ember is naught.

Burn enough ember to catch
       the night and burn bright.

The Tree
       (Inspired by the imagery of "A Future with Hope" sermon series by Marcia McFee.)

The seed was planted or
       a root sent a shoot

The seed was nourished in fertile soil
       the root found its place

The seed-root pushes up and out
       pushes down and deep
       a place to seek sunlight
              water, food

A sapling emerges and grows upward
       spreading out branches
              budding out leaves, growing fruit
       roots finding stability in
              rocks and soil

And to the tree comes life
       sparrows, crows, woodpeckers
       squirrels, chipmunks,
              ants and moths, and spiders
       and life thrives

Is this the place to send new shoots
       to drop new seeds
              to give life to this place?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Readings for Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hello Everyone,

I thought I would get a little jump on the email this week. I usually send this out on Tuesday but I will be out of the office Monday through Wednesday.

One announcement: Grey Eagle UMC's Annual Hog Roast will be this Saturday, September 24 starting at 4:30 PM. Grey Eagle people, we may still need workers and donations. If you would like to help out (and I hope you do) contact Janet Roe at janetroe@aol.com or Lois Sorenson at rlsbigbirch@meltel.com.

This Sunday will be our final installment of the Sermon Series "A Future with Hope". Here is a summary:

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 do 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 . How this happens is all about how we treat others, whether in worship, at fellowship, or in mission (Luke 14:1, 7-14). Once the fruit is producing, it must be sustained (Isaiah 50:4a). But sustaining the fruit comes with a cost, the cost of discipleship and following Jesus (Luke 14:25-33). Finally, as the future with hope begins to unfold in front of us we remember where we have been and come from. We remember that at times we were lost but the shepherd and the lady look for us and the heaven's rejoiced when we were found (Luke 15:1-10). While we remember what we have been we must let go of that past, we must cast our burden on the Lord, and we release what is keeping us from that future (Psalm 55:22. Sometimes that means we go against the world's way of doing business and we get in the business of forgiving all no matter the cost, and welcoming all into God's economy (Luke 16:1-13). Which allows us to trust that the Lord is gracious and we place our hope in his steadfast love as we move into God's Future with Hope (Psalm 33:18). We begin living that future today when we open our eye and our hearts to the needs of those around us (Luke 16:19-31).

Our first lesson this Sunday will be Psalm 33:1-3, 18-22. The psalmist sings of God's goodness, mercy, righteousness, and steadfast love. For those who put their whole trust in God ("fear the Lord") God will see them through the darkness and death to a future with hope.

Our Gospel lesson is a parable about ignoring the plight of those around us who are in need. We will be reading Luke 16:19-31. My Bible titles this section "The Rich Man and Lazarus". You know the story. A rich man, unnamed, lives in the lap of luxury: Manhattan Penthouse, Armani suits, a chef to make the finest foods, and a Lamborghini auto. A poor man named Lazarus (not Jesus' friend in the Gospel of John) camps every day at the entrance of the high-rise condominium begging for morsels of food. Lazarus dies as does the rich man. Rich man ends up being tormented in something we would call hell but Luke call Hades (and much of this scene is similar to the Greek mythologies of Hades). Lazarus ends up reclining and dining in the "Bosom of Abraham" (Old Spiritual "Rock-a My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham"). The rich man wants relief. Abraham says no. Rich man wants Lazarus to warn his brothers. Abraham says "What's the point? They won't believe even someone who comes back from the dead."

First, this is a parable as Jesus gives a retort to the Pharisees who were ridiculing him (verse 14) not an actual description of heaven and hell. Secondly, the message is simple and draws on Jesus' statement at verse 13, but I will let you draw your own conclusion. Third, is the Abraham's statement in verse 31 about Jesus' resurrection?

May the Lord bless you this week with opportunities to share the Good News in word and deed.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Readings for Sunday, September 18, 2016

Hello Everyone,

Thank you for all at Grey Eagle UMC who helped host Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge Choir and who helped with the potluck dinner that followed worship.

Thank you, Peace United Church, for hosting the baptism of my granddaughter, Teagan.

We are on week 10 of our sermon series "A Future with Hope". This week's theme will be "The Releasing". Marcia McFee writes:

"We are getting closer to fall, the time when the leaves will fall off of the trees. This is a Sunday of honoring the role of "letting go" in order to allow new beginnings. As we approach the beginning of the school year and begin to plan for new schedules, what rhythm of life will we embrace and what letting go needs to happen to help us stay focused on the important things of life and faith?"

The theme verse for this week is Psalm 55:22. It comes near the end of a psalm of persecution. In Psalm 55, the writer complains to God that his enemies gather against him, a friend has turned against him and joined with the enemy, and his desire that God would destroy those who align against him. There is some very raw and heartfelt pleas that many of us have felt at some time or other. There is a change of tone when we read verse 22. The psalmist reminds himself that he should cast (release) his burdens on the Lord and the Lord will sustain him through his trials.

Our Gospel lesson is Luke 16:1-13 and is the fourth of four parables that started with the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. Our reading is often labeled "The Parable of the Dishonest Manager. The first three parables, Lost Sheep, Coin, and Son, were addressed to the scribes and Pharisees and crowds. This parable is addressed to the disciples. This is a strange tale, indeed. A rich man has a hired manager who is discovered to be embezzling from him. The rich man tells him to make an accounting of the money. Not wanting to be thrown out, the embezzler cuts deals with people who owe the rich man much money. The rich man praises the embezzler for being shrewd. Huh? Strange indeed and difficult to understand. Jesus goes on to say that those who are faithful in a little will be faithful in much, while those who are dishonest will be dishonest in all things. Finally, Jesus says we cannot serve two masters: God and wealth. As you read verses 1-8 ask yourself "Is Jesus talking about the human way of doing things or God's Kingdom?" The hardest statement of Jesus' may very well be verse 9, "And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes." Once again, "Huh?"

May the Lord bless you as you serve your neighbors this week. Pray for me as I wrestle with Psalm 55 and Luke 16.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Readings for Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hello Everyone,

This coming Sunday there are two special events happening, one at each church. Grey Eagle UMC is hosting Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Choir. This is a group of teenagers and young adults who are overcoming addictions through a "faith-based, residential, drug and alcohol rehabilitation program." The choir shares many contemporary gospel song along with testimonials about how God is dramatically changing their lives. They will take up about 45 to 50 minutes of the service. Because of this, I will not be preaching on our sermon series.

At Peace United I will have the privilege and honor of baptizing my second granddaughter, Teagan. My Mother, Virginia, who lives in Boise, and my sister Leslie, who lives in Seattle, will be flying in on Thursday to attend the service. I may choose to preach about the Sacrament of Baptism instead of the sermon series.

If I were to be preaching on the Sermon Series, "A Future with Hope", the topic would be "The Remembering". Marcia McFee suggested we read Philippians 1:3, which we read a few weeks ago, but I will read a similar passage 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10. After Paul introduces himself in verse 1, he gives thanks to the Lord for their faithfulness and work in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Early in this passage Paul says that he "remembers" their work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope.

Our Gospel lesson has two of four consecutive parables that, in many respects, work together: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin; The Lost Sons, and Dishonest Manager. Some have said that there are connections between the last two parables. We read the Lost Son (or Sons), aka the Prodigal Son, during Lent and we will read the Dishonest Manager (Prodigal Manager?) next week.

This week, the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, Luke 15:1-10. What does the shepherd do when one of one hundred sheep is no where to be found? Does he abandon the 99? No, it is better to lose one than it is to lose 99. Right? But not in Jesus' tale. And when the shepherd finds the sheep he throws a party for his friends. What does the woman do when she loses on of ten coins (each coin is about the value of a day's wage)? She lights a lamp and sweeps out the house until she finds it. Then she throws a party for her friends to celebrate. Did she spend more on the party than the value of the coin? Who knows? But Jesus says there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don't need repentance.

Have a blessed week. Share the Good News with someone! Who knows? You may find that sheep or coin.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor