Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Readings for Wednesday, March 29, and Sunday, April 2, 2017

Hello Everyone,

While Minnesota March FoodShare month is coming to an end we will continue to use the offering given on Wednesday Nights for the food shelves we are supporting: Long Prairie Food Pantry and Melrose Food Shelf. You can also give to the churches throughout the year to support them. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus praises those who feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, etc. Jesus also condemns those who do not. Let's be a people who lives the Gospel by helping our neighbors. Please give generously to support the food shelves.

Please join us tomorrow night, Wednesday, at 6:00 PM at Grey Eagle UMC and 7:15 PM at Peace United Church for contemplative worship that I have entitled "Psalms, Songs, and Passion".

Our Scripture Lessons for the Wednesday Lenten Services tomorrow night are:

Psalm 42 – When life gets you down, and everyone seems to be against you, do you long for the presence of God? Does it seem as if God has removed God-self from you? Does it feel like God has forgotten you? This Psalm speaks of what we know of as depression. However, there are enough hints in the Psalm to believe that the psalmists has many enemies.

Isaiah 52:13-53:6 (part 1) – Of the four “Suffering Servant Songs” in Isaiah, this is the longest and most obvious in the amount of suffering the servant endures. The full reading is 52:13-53:12. Next week we will overlap a bit by starting at 53:4. Questions to ponder: How badly beaten is the servant (52:14-15)? What did the people think of him (53:2-3)? The last half of 53:6 reads, “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (NRSV) An alternate translation from the Hebrew might be, “But the Lord permitted us to throw all our sins upon him.” How would that sound in your mind?

John 18:28-19:16a – We continue reading the Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Last week we read about Jesus’s arrest and his appearance before Caiaphas, the high priest of the temple. We also heard Peter deny Jesus three times. This week we hear the story of Jesus and Pilate. What would you have done if you were in Pilate’s place? The local temple authorities want you to get rid of their problem but you know he has done nothing wrong. The crowds outside want blood and they are on the verge of rioting? Do you have enough soldiers in the city to put down a mob like this one? What will you do?

On Sunday we continue our Worship Series "Did Jesus Have to Die?" This week our frame of reference is "Moving from Death to Life." Our Lessons are:

Ezekiel 37:1-14 – The valley is full of dry bones. Can they live again? God wants Ezekiel to know the answer. (All the while, we are singing "Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones")

Psalm 130 – What if God kept track of every wrong we ever did? What is the primary character of God and how will that trait impact our lives?

Romans 8:6-11 – If we are dead in our sins, how will God give us new life? Can these dead dry bones be put back together again. Can Humpty-Dumpty be put back together again? "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you."

John 11:1-53 – Lazarus is dying, Jesus. Come quickly! Lazarus is dead, Jesus. Come whenever! Lazarus stinks, Jesus. Don’t roll back the rock! Look! Jesus must love Lazarus because he cries. What? Lazarus is alive? Jesus must be killed! Lazarus is the reason, in the Gospel of John, that Jesus must be crucified.

Have a wonderful week serving God and serving neighbors.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Scripture Lessons for Wednesday, March 22, and Sunday, March 26, 2017

Hello Everyone,

Take a midweek break to worship God and hear the story of Jesus' Passion. Wednesday Lent Worship is at 6:00 PM at Grey Eagle UMC and 7:15 PM at Peace United Church. I look forward to see you there. Our Scripture Lessons for Wednesday are:

Psalm 35:1-18, 27-28 – Questions from the bulletin: Who is speaking and what is happening to him/her? What does she/he want God to do? What had he/she done for their enemy? How did they reciprocate?

Isaiah 50:4-11 – More questions: What seems to be the servant’s work? What has happened to the servant? Who is the one who helps the servant? What does the servant want to happen to the people who torment her/him?

John 18:1-27 – And a few more: How often are we like Judas? Can we be forgiven? Can Judas? Why do you think the slave whose ear got cut off was named? Why do you think John does not tell about the healing of his ear as in Luke? Have you ever been like Peter and denied someone (or Jesus) because you didn’t want to take the risk? Have you ever been tempted to strike out at someone because you didn’t like what they said?

This Sunday we are continuing our Worship Series "Did Jesus Have to Die?" This week our frame is "Seeing the Truth" as we travel back to Jerusalem and meet a man who was born blind. Here is the synopsis for this week: "Jesus is the Light that drives out darkness and we can begin worshiping in Spirit and Truth. Yet, we are resistant to the revelation and the truth. Why is the Truth so hard to accept?"

Our Lessons are:

1 Samuel 16:1-13 – God sends Samuel to anoint a new king because Saul is not working out. Where does God send Samuel? Which family is chosen? Why don’t the first seven sons pass muster with God? Who is the one chosen? Have you ever felt chosen by God to do something outside your comfort zone?

Psalm 23 – What more can be said? A shepherd, a flock, and dinner at God’s home.

Ephesians 5:8-14 – Be very, very careful not to slip into racism, as some have done, when reading this passage. This is about moving out of the shadow and darkness of sin into the light of the world which is Jesus Christ. We who were asleep are now awake. We who were dead are now alive. All because of Jesus Christ.

John 9:1-41 – Nicodemus came to Jesus under the cover of darkness in John 3. Jesus met the woman at the well at high noon in John 4. Nicodemus didn’t get it while the woman did. The struggle of seeing and unseeing continues in John 9. Why was the man born with blindness, the disciples want to know? His sin or his parents’ sin? Why does the man not know who gave him his eyesight back? Why won’t the Pharisees not believe him? It seems the Pharisees in this story not only are the blind ones but they are unhearing also. Have you been unseeing and unhearing to the work of God? How do we regain our sight and hearing?

Have a blessed week serving God by serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Readings for Wednesday, March 15, and Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hello Everyone,

Lent Wednesday Worship is tonight: 6:00 PM at Grey Eagle UMC and 7:15 PM at Peace United. We are continuing with "Psalms, Songs, and Passion". [All of the questions and commentary on the scripture lessons were originally written in 2014, fyi.] Our lessons that we will hear tonight are:

Psalm 31:1-5, 9-13, 21-24 – Questions for contemplation: Who is speaking? What problems is the speaker having? What solutions has the speaker experienced from God?

Isaiah 49:1-7 – More Questions: Who is the servant? Who are the witnesses the servant calls upon? How has God made the servant? What purpose has God given the servant? What is the servant’s ultimate purpose?

John 17 – More Questions: Jesus prays for himself in verses 1-5. What does Jesus ask? Jesus prays for the disciples in verses 6-19. What does Jesus want for the disciples? (3 possible answers) Who is the final group Jesus prays for and what does he ask for?

This Sunday we continue with our worship series "Did Jesus Have to Die?" Our focus is on the Samaritan woman at the well, "Worshiping in Spirit and Truth". Here is my synopsis:

Do we know what and why we worship? How are we to live and worship if we worship what we do not know? What does it mean to worship in Spirit and Truth? Jesus says that “the water I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life!”

Readings for this coming Sunday are:

Exodus 17:1-7 – The Israelites are moving through the dessert but running out of potable water. They complain to Moses. Why does Moses equate the complaints against him as being complaints against the Lord? How exasperated does Moses get? Do the people have a right to complain? What does Moses say to the Lord? What is the Lord’s response? How does this solution transform the meaning of the Psalmist’s phrase “rock of salvation”? Have you ever been like the Israelites and not trusted in God’s future? I think we can honestly answer that “Yes, most of the time.”

Psalm 95 – Who is speaking in verses 1-7? Who is speaking in verses 8-11? Why is there a change in the emotions of this Psalm (joy in 1-7 and spite in 8-11)?

Romans 5:1-11 – What do we receive when we are justified by faith? What do we share with Christ? When was the right time for Christ to die? What are we saved from? Most English translations of verse 9 say that we are saved from the wrath of God. However, Paul only says we are saved from wrath in the Greek. So, why do translators add “of God?” In the letter to the Romans, Paul only once uses the phrase “wrath of God” at 1:18. All other times he simply uses the word “wrath”. Some commentators, not many, feel that Paul is trying to move us away from the idea that wrath comes from God to the idea that wrath is of our own making. That is what Christ saves us from: human wrath. Also note that Paul does not have any problem attaching God to other attributes. Verse 2 says that we share in “the glory of God”. Why do you think translators feel they need to add words to what Paul writes? A need to blame God for wrath? And thus ends my little rant of the day.

John 4:5-42 – Where is Jesus and the disciples? What does Jesus send the disciples to do? What is the time of day? Who is sitting at the well and what does Jesus ask? What is the life story of the person at the well? Is this person bad, as has been so often depicted or is he/she simply caught up in circumstances beyond control? (Look again, if need be.) How does this person at the well contrast with Nicodemus in chapter 3? What is the end result in the engagement Jesus had with this person at the well? How would you have reacted if you were that person?

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Reading for Wednesday, March 8, and Sunday, March 12, 2017

Hello Everyone,

I tried sending this from Kononia Retreat Center where I was at my final “Soul Leaders” retreat. This is the last of five retreats that started in January of 2016. I have gotten to better know 13 colleagues from the Minnesota Annual Conference.

Wednesday night Lenten Worship is at 6:00 PM at Grey Eagle UMC and 7:15 at Peace United. I invite you all to join us. There is a description of our services below.

Please keep Mike and Brad Meagher in your prayers following the death of their mother Erma. She was a lifelong member of the Grey Eagle UMC. Visitation is at the church on Sunday from 6 to 8 PM and at 10 AM on Monday. Service of Death and Resurrection will begin at 11:00 AM. Interment will be at Lakeview Cemetery. Lunch will follow the service.

What follow is slightly modified commentary that I wrote on March 11, 2014.

Our Lenten Worship Services are a modified TaizĂ© Worship experience. It will consist of three readings, one each from the Psalms, Isaiah, and the Gospel of John, TaizĂ© hymns, and silent prayer. I will not be preaching but will allow the texts to permeate our thoughts in silent prayer. Our texts this week are:Psalm 10 – Not all voices in the Bible are the voice of God or a prophet. Some are the voice of a victim of the crowd. Perhaps 1/3 of the Psalms are spoken by a victim seeking relief from God. This is one of them and I will read a different one each week. Most of these Psalms also reflect hope that God will act to save.

Isaiah 41:1-9 – This is the first of the four so called “Suffering Servant” songs in Isaiah. We will be reading all four on each of our Wednesday night services. Who is the Suffering Servant? More than likely it is the Nation of Israel (see Isaiah 49:3) but for centuries Christians have identified him as Jesus. What do you think?

John 13 – We will be reading the Passion of Jesus as presented in John without the chapters where Jesus is teaching the disciples about what will happen, that is chapters 14 to 16. This week we start with the dinner and the foot washing. What would your reaction be if Jesus wanted you to kick off your shoes and socks so he could wash your feet? Wouldn’t we all be a bit like Peter?

This Sunday our texts are:

Genesis 12:1-4a – God calls 90 year old Abram to pick up and move hundreds of miles away with the promise that he will be blessed and that his offspring will be a blessing to all people. Remember, at 90 Abram walked or rode on a donkey or camel those hundreds of miles. How far is God calling you to go?

Psalm 121 – A song of Assents – a song chanted or sung as the Israelites ascended the hills into Jerusalem and again as they walked up the hill to the Temple. I quote the first two verses when we have an interment following a funeral.

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 – Paul cites Abraham (Abram) as an example of being made righteous (right with God) through his faith in God’s promises and quotes Genesis 15:6. He also compares wages received through work with a gift given with no attachments. It all depends on faith in the promise of grace.

John 3:1-21 – Nicodemus is a man moving toward faith. He appears in John three times, here, in 7:45-52, and in 19:38-42. Taken together, I believe it shows Nicodemus as questioning, then defending, and then following. His story would have wonderful to know, but these short passages are all we know about him. What does it mean to be “born again”? The Greek words of John could also be translated “born from above”. Nicodemus hears it as “physically born again” but does Jesus mean “born from above”? You decide.
May the Spirit of the Lord and Jesus Christ bless you in your daily ministry (and everything you do should be a ministry).

Pastor Gary