Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Readings for Sunday, October 30, 2016

Hello Everyone,

Readings for this Sunday are:

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4 - In the first four verses of our reading, Habakkuk wonders why he is seeing all the violence, troubles, wrongdoings, destruction, strife and contention. Sound pretty bleak, perhaps much like our times. In the second four verses Habakkuk say he will stand still and watch. Then God says to him that there will come a time when all will be set right and Habakkuk should write it all down so that everyone will know. 

Psalm 119:137-144 - See my comments on Psalm 119 from two weeks ago. In this stanza of eight verses every line begins with "tzadei" or "tz" sound. In this stanza the psalmists praises God for just rulings and righteous decrees which are eternal and true.

OR Isaiah 1:10-18 - The prophet says that the Lord demands a meeting with the rulers of Israel and Judah. They cannot come with sacrifices, offerings, or incense because the Lord will have none of it. The leaders need to wash themselves clean, cease doing evil, learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphans, and plead for the widows. Sounds like something all of our leaders should be doing.

Psalm 32:1-7 - The psalmists states that people whose sins and inequities are forgive are happy people. They have no reason to deceive. When people hide from God's love it seems like a heavy weight. When they confess the guilt of their sin is lifted and they are surrounded with the sound of deliverance.

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12 - Paul and his traveling companions Silvanus and Timothy write to the church in Thessaloniki. The open the letter by giving thanks for the people of the church, probably a house church, and boast to others of them. In the last two verses, they pray to God that the people will be worthy of God's call so they may glorify Jesus Christ.

Luke 19:1-10 - OK, everyone sing: "Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he! . . . " You know the children's Bible song but do you know the story? This past Sunday we heard Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and tax collector praying in the temple. In between, there is a story of a rich rule who asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. When Jesus ends up saying "give all you own to the poor and follow me", the man walks away because he cannot do it. Might this be like the Pharisee in the parable? In our story, Zacchaeus is a tax collector who ends up vowing to make things right. Might this be the tax collector in the parable? How do we respond to Jesus' call? Pharisee or tax collector? Rich man or Zaccheaus?

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Readings for Sunday, October 23, 2016

Hello Everyone,

I don't have much to start this email so I will just get to it. Our readings for this coming Sunday are:

Joel 2:23-32 - After the years of hardship and destroyed crops there will be years of bountiful harvests and the people will know that God is their God. God will pour the Spirit into everyone's being so that sons and daughters will prophesy, old and young will dream, and slaves will also experience the Spirit. And when days become terrible again, the Lord will save those who call on God's name. Have you been filled with God's Spirit?

Psalm 65 - The psalmist gives thanks and praise for all the God has created. All of creation will sing and shout together for joy.

Sirach 35:12-17 - Read It Here. This book is one of the Apocrypha in the Protestant collection. Not accepted as canon but worthy of reading. These six verses extol generous giving to God as God has given to us. Don't try to bribe God for God only show partiality to the poor, the orphans and the widows.

OR Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22 - Jeremiah acknowledges his and Israel's sin and calls on the Lord for redemption.

Psalm 84:1-7 - The psalmist give praise to God for being able to worship in the Temple. Those who worship God are the happiest people.

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 - In these two short sections Paul says that his time is short and he gives thanks that he has kept the faith. And while no one came to his defense (his trial in Rome?) he prays that it won't be held against them (by God?). This is basically, in my opinion, his final goodbye before he was crucified in Rome. You probably should just read from verse 6 to the end of the letter.

Luke 18:9-14 - Last week we read that Jesus told a parable about the need to pray always and not lose heart. This is a second parable about prayer and the folly of trusting only in ourselves. Two men go to the Temple to pray: a Pharisee and a Tax Collector. After both prayed, who did Jesus say went home justified and why? I will leave it up to you to check it out.

Have a blessed week serving God by serving people wherever life takes you.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Readings for Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hello Everyone,

My "Something to Think About" on Sunday was "Where have you encountered God this week?" 

Have you encountered God yet? 
You have. Everyday! 
In the people you meet
in your friends and family. 
Open eyes, open ears,
and open heart. 
You will see God. 
Now, tell someone.

Our lessons this week are:
Jeremiah 31:27-34 - Two lessons that each begin with, "The days are surely coming . . . " are included in this reading. In the first, the Lord says that each person will responsible for the choices they make. In the second, the Lord says that there will be a new covenant and that it will not be like the old but will be written upon everyone's hearts. No longer will we have to teach the covenant because everyone will know the Lord.

Psalm 119:97-104 - Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It consists of 22 stanzas, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, of 8 verses each. Each verse in a stanza begins with the same letter of that alphabet. These eight verses begin with the Hebrew letter "mem" corresponding to the English letter "M". Here the Psalmist reminds us that God's laws are good.

Genesis 32:22-31 - Jacob and his family of two wives, two concubines, and eleven sons and maybe some daughters are returning to Jacob's home and his uncertain reunion with his brother Esau, whom he cheated out of his inheritance decades before. Jacob has split the family up along with all his cattle and sheep and sent them on ahead. Our story is about his fitful night where he dreams of wrestling a man-angel-God. The encounter has a profound effect on his life, even to the point of throwing his hip out of joint. How does your encounter with God change you?

Psalm 121 - The psalmist sees the hills and wonders where help will come from? Our help, he says, comes from God who will keep us from all evil. "The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore."

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 - Paul is encouraging his young protege Timothy to continue doing what he knows best. Timothy is to rely on Scripture (inspired by God) which is good for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. Paul reminds him that Jesus Christ will judge the living and the dead so Timothy should be persistent, yet patient in teaching. By doing these things the people of Timothy's church will not turn to false teachers who appeal to the desires of their hearts.

Luke 18:1-8 - Luke tells us that Jesus told this parable to teach the disciples about their need to pray always. In the parable a widow who has been wronged goes to a judge looking for justice but he will not grant it. She keeps going back to the judge and eventually she wears him down and he gives in to her demand. So, if I want a million dollars I should pester God in prayer and God will eventually give it to me? No, because I didn't read the whole context. Jesus says that God will grant justice for those who are crying out in an unjust system. The last question of this passage is perhaps most perplexing: "And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" Something to think about.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Readings for Sunday, October 9, 2016

Hello Everyone,

Thank you to all who made a donation to World Communion Sunday during worship. In the United Methodist Church 50% of your donation goes to scholarships for women and men around the world administered by General Board of Global Ministries and the other half goes to Ethnic Scholarship and Ethnic In-Service Training Programs administered by General Board of Higher Education and ministry. You can still give to WCS by going here: World Communion Sunday.

In the United Church of Christ donations on World Communion Sunday go to fund Neighbors in Need. 33% of your donation goes to the Council for American Indian Ministry and the balance goes to Justice and Witness Ministries. You can still give to Neighbors in Need by going here: Neighbors in Need Offering.

Our Readings for this Sunday are:

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 - We read this passage back on July 17 when we began the Sermon Series "A Future with Hope". We hear in this passage that while God has a plan for us that plan may take a long time. In the mean time we are to make the best of what we have where we are.

Psalm 66:1-12 - The psalmist sings praises to God for all that God has done. In verses 10-12a, the psalmist ascribes all the hardships the people have gone through as being the work of God but affirms, in verse 12b, that God has seen them through to a "spacious place". Does God give us hardships and burdens? Always an interesting theological debate.

OR 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c - Elisha, the prophet who succeeded Elijah, heals a foreign general named Naaman from leprosy. In those days anyone who has any kind of skin disease was thought to have leprosy, technically Hanson's Disease. The full story of the healing of Naaman, including a sub story of one of Elisha helpers, is whole chapter, 2 Kings 5. Note the cluelessness of this general, two kings, and the prophet's helper. Also note that important role of a Jewish slave girl and the general's servants.

Psalm 111 - Once again, the psalmist praises God for all that God has done. God's attributes are many in this psalm: honor, majesty, righteousness, renown, wonderful deeds, gracious, merciful, providing food, remembering the covenant, powerful, faithful, just, uprightness, sending redemption, Holy, awesome, enduring forever.

2 Timothy 2:8-15 -  Paul continues to encourage the young church leader Timothy. Paul says his gospel is Jesus Christ, raised from the dead. And because of that Gospel he suffers hardship. He reminds Tim that the Word of God is not "chained" or stopped. Paul tells Tim to remind the members of his church to "avoid wrangling over words" for this will destroy the church. Do we often "wrangle over words"? 

Luke 17:11-19 - What do you do when you are approached by 10 lepers? Well, if you are Jesus, you heal them and then instruct them to go to the Temple Priests to get certified clean. Actually, what happens is the opposite: Jesus sends them and on the way they discover that they are healed. One of the ten returns to Jesus while praising God. It is then that we learn he is a Samaritan. Jesus asks where the other nine are? Where do you think they went? Note that Jesus says that the man's faith healed him (some versions) or made him well (other versions). Where is the man's faith demonstrated in this story? Was it the act of praising God? 

May your week be filled with faith, praise, and action for God.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor