Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Readings for Ash Wednesday and Sunday, March 5, 2017

Hello Everyone,

The church season of Lent begins on Wednesday, March 1, which is commonly called Ash Wednesday. Beginning tomorrow and going until April 5, both churches will have Wednesday Lent Worship. Grey Eagle UMC will worship at 6:00 PM and Peace United Church will worship at 7:15. Starting on March 8th, our worship will focus on "Psalms, Songs, and Passion". We will be following a format we used in 2014 in which we will sing a quiet, contemplative hymn, read scriptures, and pray silently. Our readings will come from the Psalms of Lament, the Servant Songs of Isaiah, and the Passion of the Gospel of John.

On Sunday we will begin a new Worship Series titles "Did Jesus Have to Die?" Here is the synopsis for the series:

 As we prepare for Easter by journeying through Lent, from the temptations of Jesus to his death on a cross, did you ever wonder why Jesus had to die? What was the point? Some claim that Jesus’ death somehow appeased God’s wrath against humanity. Really? Does this make sense? This Lent, let us walk with Jesus from the wilderness to various cities and towns as he visits Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the blind man, and Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. What will Jesus tell us about death, life, and God? What does Jesus’ death and resurrection reveal about God and Humanity?

Check out our promotional video here: Did Jesus Have to Die?

Our readings for Ash Wednesday are:

Psalm 51:1-17
6 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

For the First Sunday in Lent, March 5, 2017, our focus will be "Temptation and Humanity's Sin". Synopsis: "What temptations do you face each day, each week? We are often aware of these and we feel guilty about giving in. What temptation does society/humanity succumb to without realizing what is happening? Is this the 'Sin the Lamb of God takes away'?" Our readings are:

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7 - God makes the man and places him in the Garden of Eden telling him that he may eat the fruit of all the trees but one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (The skipped scriptures are about the making of the animals and of the woman.) The seven verses in chapter three are about the snake tempting the woman (and the man, he is with her!) to eat the fruit from that forbidden tree. What is the sin here? Eating the fruit? Disobeying God? Knowing good and evil? All of the above? None of the above? Or is it something more insidious?

Psalm 32 - There is joy in confessing our sins and knowing that God has forgiven. When we turn to God, God will instruct us on the way we should go.

Romans 5:12-19 - There is an interesting proposition in verses 18 and 19. If one man's (Adam's) trespass (18) and disobedience (19) leads to everyone's (ALL) condemnation (18) and the MANY being made sinners (19) then one man's (Jesus') act of righteousness (18) and obedience (19) leads to justification and life for ALL (18) and the MANY being made righteous (19). What do you make of this? Does this sound like "Universal Salvation"? Does Jesus's act (death and resurrection) bring salvation to everyone?

Matthew 4:1-11 - After he is baptized, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness "to be tempted/tested by the devil." (Interesting choice of words!). After 40 days of fasting. In the first two temptations, the devil tells Jesus "If you are the Son of God." Then, feed your hunger; turn stones into bread. Feed your need for religious power by showing the world you command the angels. Feed your need for political power by worshiping me. How are we tempted to feed our personal desires, our "religious" aspirations, and our need for political power even if it only means electing people who will give us what we believe we deserve? Where has humanity gone wrong? What is the alternative? "Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!" is the answer.

Worship on Sunday is at 9:00 AM at Grey Eagle UMC and 10:30 AM at Peace United Church. We will celebrate Communion at both churches. I hope to see you there!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Readings for Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hello Everyone,

This coming week is "Transfiguration Sunday" and along with "Baptism of Jesus Sunday" (January 8) are the bookends of the Season of Epiphany. It is also on these two Sundays we read what God has to say about Jesus. Then, on Wednesday, March 1st, the Season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday.

We are finishing up our Worship Series "The Great Invitation" and we will soon begin another series "Did Jesus Have to Die?".  Notes on the new series will be in the March newsletter. 

Our readings for Transfiguration Sunday are:

Exodus 24:12-18 – When the Israelites leave Egypt they head to Mt. Sinai (Chapter 19) and Moses goes up the mountain to receive the Law of the Lord beginning with the 10 Commandments (chapters 20-23). At the beginning of Chapter 24 Moses comes down the mountain to tell the people all that God had told him (there are no tablets yet). In our passage this week, God tells Moses to come back up and he will be given the tablets with all the commandments and Law. When Moses got there the “Glory of the Lord” descended on the mountain in the form of a fog but to the people below it appeared like a “devouring fire.” Moses enters the cloud and is there for 40 days while God gives him more instructions (chapters 25-31). Moses’ long delay on the mountain is what prompts the Israelites to worship the golden calf (chapter 32).

Psalm 99 – The Psalmist extols the might and holiness of God who is just, equitable, and forgives. This is the God who spoke to Moses, Aaron, and Samuel in the pillars of clouds.

2 Peter 1:16-21 – Peter states in this passage that the message he brought to his churches was not one of myths or fiction, but a message of the glory of Christ that he and others personally witnessed while they were on the mountain with Jesus. Therefore, their witness (prophetic message) is confirmed by God. He calls his churches to pay attention to this light shining in the darkness.

Matthew 17:1-9 – Six days after Peter declares Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain. Matthew flatly says the Jesus changed (was transfigured) before them. Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus prompting Peter, always brash, to declare that they would build three booths or tents for them. Suddenly they are enveloped by a cloud and the voice of God declares Jesus to be his Son, his beloved. These are the same words that God spoke about Jesus at his baptism. The last three words of God comprise what I call the 11th Commandment of God and the only commandment of God given in the New Testament: “Listen to him”. With that, the disciples literally fall to the ground where they are roused by Jesus who is alone. As they descend the mountain Jesus tells the three disciples to tell no one.

May the words of Jesus speak in your life and may you listen to those words in your work and in your play, in your waking and in your sleeping, and in all that you do.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Readings for Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hello Everyone,

One announcement before the Scriptures. Lent will begin with Ash Wednesday, two weeks from today, March 1. Beginning with Ash Wednesday, we will have Wednesday Night Worship through April 5th. Grey Eagle UMC will worship at 6:00 PM and Peace United will worship at 7:15 PM.

This Sunday we continue with our worship series, "The Great Invitation". Our subject is "And Now Your Reward". Our Lessons are:

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 – My Bible, the New Revised Standard Version, has the title “Ritual and Moral Holiness” on this chapter of Leviticus. This reading is an expansion of the 10 commandments. However, it opens with the admonition that we should be holy because the Lord is holy. Verses 3-4 summarize commandments 5, 4, and 2. (The Big 10 are at Exodus 20:1-17.) Verses 5-8 are about ritual sacrifice. Then, in two verse increments, we are commanded to leave some harvest in the field for the hungry, to not steal or swear falsely, to not defraud neighbor or cheat the workers, to be fair in judgment, and to not hate our kindred or take vengeance against our people. It ends with a command to love our neighbor as ourselves. Notice the fairly narrow definition of what it means to be a neighbor.

Psalm 119:33-40 – This is the fifth stanza of Psalm 119 which I discussed last week. The letter of the week is “He”, the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Every verse in this stanza starts with that letter. This section asks the Lord to teach us the ways of his commandments.

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 – Paul here is dealing with the divisions that exist in the First Church of Corinth. The church has many problems but the first Paul tackles is that different groups within the church claim to follow different evangelists. Paul says that new Temple of God, the church, is built not on the foundations of evangelist but only on Jesus Christ. He, Apollos, and Peter (Cephas) can only build upon that foundation. If anyone were to destroy that Temple they would be destroyed. Over the last 15 years I have taught and proclaimed that God, as known by and revealed in Jesus, was without violence. If that is true, and it is what I believe, how do we explain that Paul says God will destroy that person? I checked 5 different translations and they all say the same thing. I have an idea but you should consider the question. Paul ends by saying that all things belong to the people of Corinth, they belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. Therefore, all things belong to God and all of us belong to God. Who knew?

Matthew 5:38-48 – Jesus, after proclaiming that he came to fulfill the Law, calls us to live to a righteousness above the righteousness of the Law. Verses 38-42 says we are not to resist the evildoer; in other words turn the other cheek, give the cloak, walk the second mile, and give to beggars. Verses 43-47 are a call to love the unlovable. Verse 48 is Jesus’ quote from our Leviticus passage. You know the one: be holy as God is holy. Tough stuff, no?

Coming to church this Sunday? Please invite a friend, family member, or coworker who does not go to church to join you. Have a blessed week!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Readings for Sunday, February 12, 2017

Hello Everyone,
Grace and Peace be with you this day.

We will be continuing with out worship series "The Great Invitation" with the theme "This, Not That". We will be exploring the section of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says "You have heard it said . . . but I say to you . . .!" Some have said that the entire Sermon on the Mount is Jesus' call to a "higher righteousness." In other words, going beyond the letter of the law or rules. Tough stuff here but something our growth in God's Love can help us with.

This Sunday, Donald Moore, representing the Long Prairie chapter of Gideons International, will be with us to make a short presentation about Gideons.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 – Moses, speaking to the Israelites, asks them to make a choice: choose the way (commandments) of God and life or choose other gods and idols and death. This passage is not a “prosperity gospel” saying if you choose God then God will give you everything you ever wanted. It is about choosing real life; life with meaning and value because you choose God. So, whom will you choose this day (see Joshua 24:14-17)?

OR Sirach 15:15-20 – This is one of the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books. Catholics and Orthodox Christianity accept these books of the Bible but Protestants and Jews do not. This passage is similar to the Deuteronomy passage and can be found here: 
Sirach 15:15-20.

Psalm 119:1-8 – Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible containing 176 verses. This is an alphabetic acrostic psalm meaning that letters of the alphabet are used at the beginning of each line or stanza in order. There are 22 stanzas containing 8 verses. Each verse in a stanza starts with the same letter and each stanza uses the next letter. Our reading is the first stanza and each verse begins with the first letter of the Hebrew language, alef. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come across in the English translations. Also notice the first word and phrase: "Happy" and "Happy are those whose way is blameless." Living in the love of God (in God's Reign or God's family) brings happiness. Are we practicing the way of Christ that brings happiness?

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 – The controversies that are dividing the First Church of Corinth are beginning to emerge in Paul’s letter. In verse 3 we read that there is jealousy and quarreling in the church about whose teaching they will follow, Paul's or Apollos'. It is not about Paul or Apollos, Paul says, but it is only about God and what God is doing in the church. Paul uses an agricultural metaphor: he planted the seeds, Apollos watered the seeds, but only God can give the growth (implying here that the people need to quit fighting and let God’s growth happen). Are we, in our own church settings, allowing God's growth to happen or do we stunt that growth?

Matthew 5:21-37 – This is part of the “Sermon on the Mount” which covers chapters 5-7. Also, this is the third week of four covering chapter 5. The four topics Jesus covers with his “You have heard it said . . . but I say to you . . .” are anger, adultery, divorce, and oaths. Of these four, the topic of divorce is the most sensitive in our modern setting, yet we are very likely to encounter anger and lust in our daily lives, within our own lives and in others. How can Jesus' teaching here help?

May your week be bless with opportunities to love your neighbors as God loves you.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Parish Newsletter for February 2017

The Peace United Church and Grey Eagle United Methodist Church newsletter for February is now available at:

February 2017 Messenger.


Pastor Gary

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Readings for Sunday, February 5, 2017

Hello Everyone,

This Sunday is the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany and the fifth Sunday in our Worship Series, "The Great Invitation". Our subject this week in the series is "Salt and Light and Righteousness Abounding".

Who have you invited to church this week? Remember, our charge from Jesus Christ as his disciples is to take the Word, the Gospel, to all the world, or at least our little section of the world. Who needs to hear the Good News? Who do you know that would benefit from being in a relationship with Jesus and with other followers? Invite them to join you at church this week. You may make a difference in their life with a simple invitation.

Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12) – God tells the prophet to announce the sins of the people. The people ask why God won’t pay attention to them despite all the things they do: fasting and prayer. Yet, that is not what God wants. The fast God wants is the sharing of bread with the hungry, homes with the homeless, cloths with the naked. Do these things and you will find God.

Psalm 112:1-9 (10) – The righteous are defined by what they do for others. This Psalm, without verse 10, is a nice pairing with the Isaiah reading above.

1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16) – In the final passage of his setup to dealing with the troubles in the First Church of Corinth Paul declares that he doesn’t speak with the wisdom of the world or with the wisdom of philosophers but with the power of God’s Spirit. It is a power that lives in human weakness and those who don’t follow God’s Spirit just don’t get it. How do we hear and understand the Spirit of God? Paul answers, “We have the mind of Christ.”

Matthew 5:13-20 – In verses 13-16, Jesus says we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. What do you think Jesus meant? How can you and I be the salt of the earth and the light of the world? In verses 17-20, 
Jesus says that he hasn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. What do you think he meant by that? He didn’t say he came to enforce the law but to fulfill it. So, what does it mean to "fulfill the law"?

May your week be blessed with God's love! May you be the light that shines God's love out into the world!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor