Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Readings for Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hello Everyone,
After a short vacation I am back in the office and getting ready for this coming Sunday. 

This Sunday is the Second Sunday of Advent. We will be continuing our Sermon Series “God Bless Us Everyone” at Grey Eagle and starting that series at Long Prairie. The series is based on Charles Dickens story “The Christmas Carol” and the study “The Redemption of Scrooge” by Matt Rawle. In conjunction with the sermon series, we will be showing “The Muppet Christmas Carol” at Grey Eagle UMC at 4 pm this Sunday. Everyone is invited to come (even though it is “Senior Youth Group”). There are a lot of good versions of “The Christmas Carol” including ones staring George C. Scott and Patrick Stewart. The author of the series recommended the Disney animated version that came out in 2014 but the Muppets are my favorite. This is a free showing for everyone and you are welcome to bring your friends. (For those who might be worried, I have secured the right for the public showing.)
Once again, Come to the Showing of “The Muppets Christmas Carol”!
We will not be reading the Lectionary Scriptures this Sunday but I want you to be aware of what they are and I hope you read them.
Isaiah 11:1-10 – The prophet looks forward to a time when a new King, a descendant of David son of Jesse, will rule with righteousness and equity. This new King will dispense with the wicked. It will be a time of peace when even natural enemies will be friends: wolf and lamb, leopard and kid (baby goat), calf and lion. Even poisonous snakes won’t strike at a baby. All will be set right and be at peace.
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 – The psalmist calls on God to provide a King who will rule with righteousness and justice, defending the cause of the poor, lifting up the needy, and crushing the oppressor. He asks that this King will rule for as long as the sun shines through all generations.
Romans 15:4-13 – The last few chapters of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome he encourages the believers to live in harmony. How shall we live in harmony? We need to serve one another, becoming a servant as Jesus did. In this manner the Word of God may be spread throughout the world (to the Gentiles). In verse 12, Paul quotes Isaiah (above) about the descendant of Jesse ruling and bringing hope to us. I will quote the last verse below.
Matthew 3:1-12 – The 2nd and 3rd Sundays of Advent are devoted to the story of John the Baptist. If you remember, John is the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah (Luke 1) and is distantly related to Jesus. We remember that John paved the way for the ministry of Jesus with his preaching and baptizing at the Jordan River. The Gospels give us a fair picture of John in addition to what I just mentioned: lived an austere life in the desert, arrested by King Herod, sent disciples to question Jesus about what Jesus was doing, was eventually beheaded by soldiers of Herod, and his disciples carried his message for about a generation after his death.
I finish with this final verse from Romans 15, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Peace in Christ,

Pastor Gary

Monday, November 21, 2016

Readings for Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hello Everyone,

This Sunday is New Year's Day! No, I am not crazy and thinking it is January 1, which, by the way, falls on a Sunday this year. It is the first Sunday in the New Church Year, a liturgical year. This Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent. BTW and FYI, there are six "seasons" in the Church Year: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and the season after Pentecost. Also, at the beginning of every Church Year we turn our attention to another Gospel. We just finished with Luke and this Sunday we will start the Gospel of Matthew.

Peace United Church will have their annual "Hanging of the Greens" Service. Many children will be participating in this service and everyone is invited to hear and sing the traditions of the ornamentation of our church. 

Grey Eagle will be starting a new Sermon Series (which PUC will join in on December 4) titled "God Bless Us Every One: The Redemption of Scrooge". As you might guess, this series focuses on Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and a book by Matt Rawle, "The Redemption of Scrooge".

In conjunction with the Sermon Series, I will be showing "A Muppet Christmas Carol" (I love this version with Michael Caine and Kermit "It's hard being green" Frog, and Miss Piggy) during Senior Youth on December 4 at 4 pm on the screens at Grey Eagle UMC. Everyone is invited to join the fun, not just Senior Youth.

Our assigned texts, though these may not be the ones you will hear in worship, for this Sunday are:

Isaiah 2:1-5 - Isaiah, son of Amoz, "sees" the word that comes to him. This word speaks of a time when the Lord will look upon all nations from the mountain and the people will learn God's ways and walk in God's ways. The Lord will judge and arbitrate between the nations and the nations will transform their weapons of war into instruments of peace and harvest. When will we put away war and never teach our children war?

Psalm 122 - The psalms from 120 to 134 are labeled "A Song of Ascents". Jerusalem was built on a large hill and the Temple was at the peak of that hill. People coming to Jerusalem and going to the Temple had to climb the hill. When doing so they would sing one or more of these psalms. This psalm is in praise of Jerusalem as they approach the House of the Lord (Temple). The psalmist also ask the people to pray for the city that it may prosper and be at peace.

Romans 13:11-14 - It might just be easier to quote the text than try to explain it in a few words. Basically, Paul says that the time of the Lord, the time of salvation, is near! So we better wake up and get busy with the job of being followers of Christ. Put aside the ways of darkness and put on the armor of light: Jesus Christ. 

Matthew 24:36-44 - As is usual for the beginning of Advent, which is a season of waiting, we begin by turning our expectations to the coming of Christ, not the coming of Christmas. Jesus points his disciples to a time when the Son of Man will come (Matthew 24:30). Unfortunately no one knows when that will be. Jesus says it will be like the days of Noah and the flood. He says that half of the people will be swept away. Jesus says we should be like the homeowner who hears that his house will be robbed. He will be ready. Jesus says that we also should be ready for that time for Son of Man will come unexpectedly. 

I pray you and your family have a blessed and joyous Thanksgiving. As you partake of your bounty and blessings pray for those without. Then, on Friday before you go out shopping or start your internet shopping, go to your favorite charity's website, a charity that helps others, and donate $20 or $50 to them. Or drop a check in the mail to that charity. For from the blessings we have received we give a blessing for others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Monday, November 14, 2016

Behold your King: Readings for Sunday, November 20, 2016

Hello Everyone,

Two Announcements: 1) Grey Eagle UMC will have their annual Church Conference this coming Thursday, November 17, at 7:00 PM. 2) Peace United Church will have their Annual Meeting with a Potluck Dinner on Sunday, November 20, following worship.

This Sunday is "Christ the King" or "Reign of Christ" Sunday and is the end of the Church Year. Our readings are:

Jeremiah 23:1-6 - Pastors of congregations are often considered, metaphorically, to be the Shepherd of the church. (Old joke I have repeated a time or two: If Jesus is the Great Shepherd and the people in the churches are the sheep, then what does that make me? The sheep dog running around nipping at heels trying to keep everyone together. Ha!) In the Old Testament, the Kings of Israel were the Shepherds of the people. They were to protected them, feed them, and keep them together. Jeremiah warns the kings of his day that the Lord is not pleased with them because they have scattered the people and not attended to them. God will regather the people and raise up new shepherds to lead the people.

Luke 1:68-79 - This is the "Psalm" of the day. Actually, it is the prophesy of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptizer. When the boy was born and Zechariah, who could not speak, wrote down the name "John", Zechariah's voice returned and he spoke these words (according to Luke who is the only Gospel to have this story and was written 80+ years after John's birth). This prophecy is also known as the "Benedictus" which is Latin for the word "Blessed". Zechariah says that God will raise up a savior from the House of David and his Son John will be the prophet of and for the Most High God by preparing his way and "giving knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins." This will be our first reading on Sunday.

Colossians 1:11-20 - Paul prays to God that the church in Colossae will be made strong, endure everything with patience, while giving thanks to God who has rescued us from the power of darkness. In God's Son we have redemption and forgiveness. Paul then states that Jesus is the image of the "invisible God". All things, all creatures, all humans were created by Jesus who was before all thing and is now in all things. In Jesus, says Paul, the fullness of God dwelt. Therefore, when we behold Jesus (in scripture, in fellowship, in worship, in others) we see not just a part of God but we see the entirety of God. Sometime I think we want God to be something different than Jesus. But there God is: Jesus, hanging on a . . . .

Luke 23:33-43 - . . . cross. Behold your king! Stripped naked, flogged, beaten, and nailed to the cross. The Reign of Christ begins on the cross. Bow down and worship the King for from the cross he forgives us.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Monday, November 7, 2016

Readings for Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hello Everyone,

This week's email on the scripture lessons will be a bit truncated. Our readings for this Sunday are:

Isaiah 65:17-25 - God gives Isaiah a vision of a better future. This is not a future of destruction and calamity but a new earth where all people will thrive. I am definitely not doing this passage justice because it is one of the most glorious visions of a New Heaven and a New Earth in our Bible. Please, if you only read one passage from this post, let this be the one.

Isaiah 12 - This is the "Psalm" for our Isaiah 65 passage. In that day we will give God our thanks and we will recognize that our only salvation is God. We will then sing praises to the Lord!

Malachi 4:1-2a - There will be a day when the Lord raises the sun that will burn away the evil of this world and yet bring healing to those who love the Lord.

Psalm 98 - Sing a NEW song to the Lord for God has done marvelous things and made known his vindication, steadfast love and faithfulness. Therefore, make a joyful noise!

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 - Near the end of this letter, Paul warns the church people to keep working and not be idle. They are to imitate Paul who worked while he was sharing the gospel so as to not be a burden. Verse 10b is oft quoted to put down those receiving unemployment assistance and/or "welfare". However, it may not mean what those who quote it mean.

Luke 21:5-19 - Some people were overheard to be admiring the size and beauty of the Temple and Jesus warns that the stones of the Temple will be toppled over. Of course, the disciples want to know when that will be. Jesus say to look for the signs and don't be led astray by false Messiahs (Christs). BTW, some 40 to 42 years later the Roman Army will destroy the Temple and slaughter thousands in Jerusalem.

May the Lord God bless you in your work and play this week.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

All Soul's Day

Hello Everyone,

On Monday we celebrated All Hallow's Eve, aka Halloween, the night before All Saints Day. Yesterday was All Saints Day, when we commemorate the faithful who have died in all times and all places. We particularly remember those who have died since last year's All Saints Day.

Today, particularly in the Catholic tradition, is All Soul's Day, aka Day of the Dead, when the faithful pray for those who have died and may be in purgatory. In the Methodist tradition the word "Saint" refers to all Christians and All Souls Day can be thought of as an extension of All Saints Day. 

I write this because of an email I received today. The writer is Rev. Claudia Aguilar Rubalcava, who was born and raised in Mexico City and is ordained in the Presbyterian Church. She writes:

Beyond the remembrance of our loved ones, though, the overarching theme of Day of the Dead is celebrating life. The names of the living are written on sugar skulls, reminding us that life is sweet, but death is coming. The "papel picado," or punched paper decorations, the flowers, and the treats all are ephemeral, just like life. They also are beautiful and delicious, just like life. In the back of your head, you can hear the word of the preacher in Ecclesiastes, the first of the books of the Bible to gain great popularity among Aztec converts, who says:
[I will include the longer passage of her citation.] Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 "Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife [or husband] whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in [death] to which you are going." (At
Today, remember the dead and what they meant to you: fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, sisters, brothers, and children. Then celebrate life because life is a gift from God.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Reading for Sunday, November 6, 2017

Hello Everyone,

Today is "All Saints Day". From the Wikipedia article we read, "In Methodist theology, All Saints Day revolves around 'giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints', including those who are 'famous or obscure'. As such, individuals throughout the Church Universal are honored, such as Paul the Apostle, Augustine of Hippo, and John Wesley, in addition to individuals who have personally led one to faith in Jesus, such as one's grandmother or friend."

Because "All Saints Day" falls during the week, on Sunday we will celebrate all of our saints who have died in the past year.

At Grey Eagle UMC we will remember James Hammarsten, Ardene Reimers, Joan Rahn, and John DeZeeuw.

At Peace United Church we will remember Sandra Lawin, Ardean Christensen, Carol Blake, Adeline Jones, Adeline Schwint, and Eloise Huyink.

This past year I have also conducted the funeral service of the following people who were not members of either church: Karen Perish, Carl Stark, Mary Hanson, Leona Nelson, Violet Zimmer, Sandra Warzecha, Alvin Fortmann, Ridley Kuelbs, Sheri Lemke. Please keep their families in your prayers. Two weeks ago the family of Frances Mollner, who died in 2015, and I interred her ashes. Please keep them in your prayers also.

Our Scripture Lessons for this Sunday are:

Haggai 1:15b-2:9 - The Word of the Lord comes to the people in and around Jerusalem through the prophet Haggai. This is the time shortly after Babylon began releasing the people of Judah and allowing them to return. The Lord asks them if they remember the former glory of the Temple. Then, they should look at the rubble of that Temple. "Why", the Lord asks, "is it still that way? Work now to rebuild and its new glory will be greater than its former glory, for my spirit is with you."

Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21 - The psalmist praises God for God's greatness and glory. One generation will proclaim God's glory to the next generation, for the Lord is just in all ways and kind in all things. The psalmist will speak praise for God and all humanity will bless God's holy name.

OR Psalm 98 - The psalmists call us to sing the praises of God for God is mighty and just. God has remembered the steadfast love and faithfulness that is God's way. All of creation will make a joyful noise for the Lord.

OR Job 19:23-27a - Job cries out that he wishes his words were inscribed in a book for he knows that his Redeemer (Vindicator) lives and that the Redeemer will stand on this earth. Job proclaims that even after his skin has been destroyed his flesh will behold God.

Psalm 17:1-9 - The psalmist cries out to the Lord for deliverance from his enemies. He claims that there is no deceit or wickedness in his heart. He asks God to protect him from his enemies who surround him.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17 - In the early days of Christianity, the disciples and apostles, like Paul, believed in the eminent return of Jesus Christ to set the world right. When Paul brought the Good News, Gospel, to the people at Thessaloniki that was one of the things he taught them. His first letter to them might be the first document to be written in the New Testament. That letter reaffirmed the belief that Jesus would return very soon. In our reading in this second letter, Paul asks the church to continue believing in spite of the passage of time or the claims of others to be God (the emperors in Rome). God's rule will come and the deceiver will be defeated. Then Paul reminds them that they have been chosen by God for salvation (through Jesus) and sanctification (by the Spirit) and should therefore remain steady in their faith and proclamation.

Luke 20:27-38 - Jesus has entered into Jerusalem, wept about the fate of Jerusalem, and cleared the Temple of the businessmen. (19:28-46) Luke reports that Jesus taught at temple the days following his entry. In our reading, the Sadducees, who don't believe in the general resurrection, challenge Jesus about the resurrection and centers around the levirate law. (If a man dies before his wife has a son she must marry his brother so the first brother can have a son through the second.) In their scenario, a woman marries a man who has six brothers. He dies before she has a son. She marries the second who dies before kids. So the third through seventh brothers. (If you were brother #4, 5, 6, or 7 would you really want to marry her? Haha!) They ask Jesus, "In the resurrection whose wife will she be?" Jesus side-steps their question by saying there will be no marriage for all will be children of God and children of the resurrection. Jesus then quotes Exodus 3:6 to state that God is not the God of the dead but of the living. God, speaking to Moses, says, I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" implying that they still live as opposed to "I WAS the God of those who are dead."

Who is God to you? A God of the living or a God of the dead? Who is Jesus to you? Will Jesus return soon or will the waiting continue? In the mean time, what do you do?

May the Lord God Creator, Jesus the Christ, God's Son, and the Holy Spirit, who are together One God, bless you in your work and in your play, in your coming and in your going, and in the people you meet along the way. Amen.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor