Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Readings for Sunday, January 29, 2017 - #Blessed

Hello Everyone,

May the Grace and Peace of the abiding Spirit be with you today.

A couple of announcements: This Sunday we will be baptizing John Kelly, son of Becky and Brandon Kelly, during worship at Grey Eagle UMC.

Also, Senior Youth Group will be meeting on Sunday at 4:00 PM at Grey Eagle UMC. This is open to all youth of both churches who are in grades 7 to 12. Adults, if you would like to prepare and bring an afternoon snack or meal for the Youth, please let me know.

This Sunday, we continue with our Worship Series "The Great Invitation". Our focus is "#Blessed". For those not familiar with Twitter and Facebook, it is pronounced "hashtag blessed". Hashtags are used to draw attention to a theme or subject matter and to join together many diverse people who don't know each other around that theme. So this week #Blessed. If you are on Twitter (#Blessed) or Facebook (#Blessed) you can go to those sites and search for #Blessed (or click on the links) and you will get amazing results.

We move from the river and lake to the mountains this week as we begin reading "The Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew. Over the next four Sunday we will be in Matthew 5. However, the full Sermon is Matthew 5, 6, and 7. Please read those three chapters to get a feel for what Jesus is asking us to do and be as his followers. As you read through the Sermon think about how the things Jesus is talking about is so very counter-cultural, then and now.

Our Lessons this week are:

Micah 6:1-8 – This section of Micah is set in a courtroom with God as the prosecutor, the hills and mountains as the jury, and Israel (and us?) as the defendants. God wants an answer to why the people no longer love and follow God. What did God do to drive them away? The answer is “nothing”. What God has done is save his people. The people ask, in turn, “What can we do? Slaughter more calves, or rams, or offer rivers of oil, or even sacrifice our children?” This is a classic indictment of the sacrificial system because God wants none of it. What God wants from us is for us to do justice, to have mercy (kindness), and to live with a steadfast and everlasting (humble) walk with God.

Psalm 15 – What does it mean to be faithful to God (dwell on the holy hill)? The psalmist offers a short but powerful list. Every Christian should review this Psalm often. It is a slightly longer way of stating Micah 6:8.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 – Paul is still setting up his response to the divisive issues that are tearing the First Church of Corinth apart. He wants the church to know the true nature of God’s power and wisdom and it has nothing to do with force, threats, coercion, deceit, or condemnation. God’s power and wisdom was witnessed in the death of Jesus on the cross. God dying on the cross is a scandal (stumbling block) and downright foolish according to the wisdom of the world.

Matthew 5:1-12 – The upside down world of God’s power and wisdom is on full display in the opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount. In the world’s way of seeing things those with wealth, power, control, and the things that flaunt them are the blessed. If they were not blessed by God why would they have all those things? No, says Jesus, it is the poor in spirit (just "the poor" in Luke 6:20-23), the mourners, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted who are truly blessed. These are the people who suffer at the hands of the powerful. They are the true victims of society. They are #Blessed.

You have been invited to Life in God's Reign. Invite someone to church this week so they may experience God's grace.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Readings for Sunday, January 22, 2017

Hello Everyone,

The last two Sundays I have asked you to think and pray about someone who would benefit from being part of our worship and fellowship. Have you asked them yet? If not, why not? If not, how about asking them tomorrow? From the last two weeks we have learned that the heavens have been opened for all and we need to invite those who don't know Jesus to come and see for themselves.

This, of course, reminds us of the Worship Series we are currently in; "The Great Invitation". We are all invited to participate in God's Kingdom, God's Reign, here on earth. We, in turn, need to extend that invitation to others so they may experience and know the joy of following Jesus. This week's theme is "Follow Me". As we follow we invite others to follow.

Isaiah 9:1-4 – Isaiah has a vision of a new king who will lead the people in a new, more glorious light. On that day the chains (yoke, bar, rod) that enslave us will be broken. Matthew quotes this passage in the reading below.

Psalm 27:1, 4-9 – The Psalmist is assured that the Lord will protect him and not abandon him in all his trials. In the verses that are not included in this reading, the psalmists states that he has enemies who are after him and he pleads with God to not be abandoned. In the last verse the psalmist restates his conviction that he will see the Lord's goodness in the midst of the living.

1 Corinthians 1:10-18 – After his introduction Paul sets out what he hopes to accomplish with his letter – unity. There are factions in the church each claiming the authority of one person or another. Paul wants to reestablish Christ, the message of the cross, as the only authority. 

Matthew 4:12-23 – Jesus begins his ministry after three events: his baptism, his temptation in the wilderness, and when he hears that John the Baptizer has been arrested and thrown into prison. Matthew connects this with the Prophet Isaiah's words in our reading above. Jesus goes to the shore of the lake and calls four fishermen to follow him. Matthew reports that they “immediately left their fathers and their boats to go with Jesus." If Jesus calls us to follow him, can we, in turn, invite others to follow Jesus? Also, why did you follow? What is your story?

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Scripture Readings for Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hello Everyone,
Grace and Peace for you and your family,

Do you remember a time in your childhood or teenage years when you were out and about and you discovered something interesting? Perhaps it was a fox den. Perhaps it was an unexplored stream in the woods. Perhaps it was an interesting non-poisonous snake. What did you discover?

When you made your exciting discovery did you keep it to yourself or did you run to your friends to tell them the exciting news? I imagine that when you told them they were quite skeptical. What did you say and do? I'll bet you urged them to "come and see". Seeing is believing, right?

This Sunday will be the second installment of our worship series "The Great Invitation". This week's theme is "Come and See". When one person discovers and/or encounters Jesus they invite their family and friends to "come and see". Is this the new-old evangelism? I invite you to "Come and See" this Sunday. 9:00 AM at Grey Eagle UMC or 10:30 AM at Peace United. Please take time to invite a friend or family member to "Come and See" with you.

Our readings are (using and expanding on notes from January 15, 2014):
Isaiah 49:1-7 – The second of four “Servant Songs”. Here, the servant is identified as the nation of Israel, who is despised and abhorred. Israel, the servant, has been designated by God to be a light to the nations so that God's salvation will reach everyone everywhere.

Psalm 40 1-11 – In these verses the psalmist is faithful to God in everything. He seems to only desire what God has and gives. At verse 11 he asks that God's "steadfast love and faithfulness" will keep him safe. Then, in verses 12-15, we hear the psalmist as the victim of enemies, perhaps a victim of society. In the final two verses, 16-17, the psalmist places his trust total in the Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 – The first of six readings in chapters 1-3. These are Paul’s opening remarks to the believers in Corinth. This church would be called a “conflicted church” these days and an interim pastor who specializes in healing conflicted churches would be called or appointed. Paul writes a letter.

John 1:29-42 – John the Baptizer declares Jesus to be “the Lamb of God”. Specifically, he calls Jesus "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world". Note that the word "sin" is singular which begs the question, "What sin does Jesus take away?" A couple of John’s disciples decide to follow Jesus instead. The invitation by Jesus was “Come and See”.

How do you invite other into a relationship with Jesus and our church? “Come and See” in a relational/invitational context might be the best form of evangelism if only we are aware of the opportunities and use them.

Take the opportunity this week to invite someone to "Come and See".

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Great Invitation: Readings for January 8, 2017

Hello Everyone,

2017? Really? All ready? Well, we are here and we can all work together in our homes, our work places, our church communities, and our communities to share the Good News of God's love and salvation with a world (and our local communities) that desperately needs to hear and believe. So, how do we share the Good News?

The Confrontational Model: The stereotype is that we go to people to confront them with their sins and the errors of their ways. We try to convince them that they are wrong; they are going to hell because of their sins; that they need to confess and seek God's forgiveness; and finally change their ways (be converted) to become a believer. I don't think that is a very effective way of bringing people to Christ, but the idea continues in Christian movies like "God Is Not Dead".

The Relational-Invitational Model: We, you and I, know what God in Jesus Christ has done for us. We have experienced God's love, forgiveness, and salvation and we have seen the changes that God's Spirit works in us. We are also changed people that have been given the True Life that is Jesus Christ. To share the Good News all we need to do is invite people into this relationship that changes everything. We invite them into the life of the community that gathers to worship the One Who Forgives, Saves, and Welcomes. Isn't this the way we relate to people in our everyday lives? When you've seen a great movie, don't you tell others? When you find a great new restaurant, don't you invite friends and family to join you for a meal?

With that in mind, we are starting an new Sermon/Worship series called "The Great Invitation." Each week on the Sundays after Epiphany we will develop this theme using the Lectionary Texts that are assigned for the week. The series topics are:

January 8, Baptism of Christ Sunday: Heavens Are Opened
January 15: Come and See
January 22: Follow Me
January 29: #Blessed
February 5: Salt and Light and Righteousness Abounding
February 12: This, not That
February 19: And Now Your Reward
February 26, Transfiguration Sunday: Shine!

This Sunday, which is "Baptism of Christ Sunday", our texts are:

Isaiah 42:1-9 – The first part, verses 1-4, are considered to be the first of four “Servant Songs” in Isaiah. Christians often interpret these songs as pointing to Jesus Christ. The purpose of the servant, as identified here, is to bring justice to all people. The second section, verses 5-9 are about God’s work in past (creation, redemption, saving the people) and the new things that God declares.

Psalm 29 – The Voice of God, the One who is to be worshiped!

Acts 10:34-43 – Peter’s sermon (extremely short) to the family and friends of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion. Synopsis: God shows no partiality, the message began with John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus, Jesus performed good works with healing, Jesus died on the cross, God raise Jesus from the dead, and we are commanded to preach the Good News.

Matthew 3:13-17 – Jesus comes from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. John says “No.” Jesus says, “We must.” When Jesus comes up out of the water the Heavens Are Opened, the Holy Spirit comes upon him, and a voice from heaven says “My Son, I am pleased.” Did you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit at your baptism? Have you ever felt the presence of the Spirit?

One thing to think about before Sunday. Who are one or two people you know who you think should be invited to worship? This person or persons could be family members, co-workers, next door neighbors, or a friend. Think about it, please.

Have a great week.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary