Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Readings for Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hello Everyone,

Thank you to everyone who celebrated Confirmation Sunday with us. Thank you to the four students (three from Grey Eagle UMC and one from Peace United) for being a wonderful class. I pray that God will bless the four of you in everything you do. 

The following comes from my reflections on these texts that I emailed on May 3, 2011.

Our Gospel reading switches to Luke this week but we will be back in John the following 5 Sundays. We also continue reading in Acts and 1 Peter.

Acts 2:14a, 36-41 (42) – This story records the reaction of the crowd who listened to Peter on Pentecost. “What should we do?” they asked. “Repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” said Peter. That day 3000 were baptized. The lectionary leaves off verse 42 but it is part of the crowd’s reaction to the preaching and the gift of the Holy Spirit. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (This is 4 things: study, fellowship, communion (or dinner), and prayers.)

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 – This reading, without verses 3 and 4, was part of the lectionary on Maundy Thursday. The psalmist who is encompassed by death is saved by God. Verses 12-19 is about giving back to God in gratitude.

1 Peter 1:17-23 (24-25) – This is an interesting if confusing passage. If we believe that God judges us by what we do then (the world’s way) we need to live in fear. However, Peter says, we have been saved from the world’s ways by the blood of Christ. Since we have been made clean (purified) we now obey the truth and have genuine love. We have been born anew by the word of God. That word is the gospel.


Luke 24:13-35 – This is the familiar story of two disciples, one named Cleopas and the other unnamed, walking to Emmaus on Resurrection Sunday and being joined by a stranger who interprets the events of the preceding days to them. When they reach their destination the two invite the stranger into stay with them. At the dinner table, the stranger took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the two disciples. In this action (compare to verse 22:19) the stranger was recognized as Jesus. Most commentators assume that both disciples were men but this is not clearly supported by the text. Jesus was invited to stay with them and shared a meal with them in their house. I think that the unnamed disciple was the wife of Cleopas and I believe that the text supports this.

Christ Is Risen! Christ is Risen, Indeed!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Readings for Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hello Everyone,

Christ Is Risen! Christ Is Risen, Indeed!

Thank you for the wonderful worship services that happened this past Sunday, Resurrection Sunday (aka Easter). We had great attendance, some new guests who were not connected as family to members of our churches, great music, and Blessed Celebration of the Risen Savior.

This Sunday is Confirmation Sunday. Grey Eagle UMC is confirming Mickey, Olivia, and Peyton. Peace United is confirming Hunter. I enjoyed working with these wonderful students and I am so glad that they will be confirming their baptismal vows.

In other news: the Long Prairie Chamber Orchestra will be in concert on Saturday, April 22, at 7:30 PM at the Long Prairie Grey Eagle High School Auditorium. The concert is called "Earth Tones" and will feature guest singers from Concordia College, Moorhead. Come join us. (Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for students/seniors, $15 for families, and Free for music students and children 12 and under.)

Finally, "Choosing the Faithful Path" at Peace United Church will resume this Sunday following worship. Please read chapter 8 and honestly answer the questions on page 88.

Our readings for this Sunday are:

Acts 2: 14a, 22-32 – This is part of Peter’s first sermon which he gave to the crowd in Jerusalem on Pentecost. After a long quote from Joel, Peter attests that death could not hold Jesus and he quotes other Old Testament passages in support. This reading is really too short. It should be the entire sermon which is verses 14-36.

Psalm 16 – Verses 8-11 are quoted by Peter in his sermon in Acts 2, above.

1 Peter 1:3-9 – Peter talks about a “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus and we are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation to be revealed in the last time.” A difficult and dense statement. The resurrection brings us a new way of living (a new birth) and this new living is hope filled. In this new life we are protected by the God’s power “through faith”. Whose faith is unclear. Ours? God’s? Both? The answer is probably both but I lean towards God’s faith. Our faith wavers but God’s faith is trustworthy, true, and steadfast. This faith protects us for a salvation. However, this statement in verse 5 seems to say that the salvation will come at the last time. This seems curious. Peter then goes on to talk about our sufferings to be a test of our faith and the “outcome of our faith is the salvation of our souls.” So, whose faith protects us?

John 20:19-31 – Jesus appears to the disciples two times 7 days apart. The first is on Easter Sunday evening and there are 10 disciples present in the room where they are staying/hiding/cowering. In this meeting Jesus greets the disciples with "Peace be with you" and he gives the Holy Spirit by blowing on them. One week later, Jesus reappears and this time there are 11 disciples. Thomas, who was not at the first appearance, must have not gotten the email notice about the first meeting. We often call Thomas “Doubting” but what he really wanted was what the other 10 experienced a week earlier. What would be a better nickname for Thomas? “Missouri” (The Show Me State)?

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor
Peace United Church, Long Prairie
Grey Eagle UMC, Grey Eagle

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Readings for Holy Week, 2017

Hello Everyone,

"Pesach Sameach" which is Hebrew for "Passover Happy" literally or "Happy Passover". (see https://goo.gl/KtQ509) Passover started last night, Monday, at sundown and will end on Tuesday, April 18, at sundown. I recently read that Passover coincides with Holy Week and Easter every 3 out of 4 years.

Here is a reminder of our Holy Week Schedule.

Maundy Thursday - Agape Supper at Grey Eagle UMC starts a 5:30 pm. This is a worship service with at light meal. I will give a short meditation on "Did Jesus Have to Die? - Death Will Be Redeemed." The synopsis for the meditation asks, "In the face of death, what does bread and wine mean? Where does love fit in? How does Jesus, body and blood, bread and wine, love us?"

Good Friday - Worship is at Peace United Church at 7:30 pm. We will be observing "The Bethel Way of the Cross"; a shortened and modified version of "The Stations of the Cross". I will speak about "Did Jesus Have to Die - The Empire Strikes." The synopsis says, "The Empire of Religion, Power and Privilege does not like to be challenged. When challenges come, someone will die. The One who is the Way, Truth, and Life, the one who is named Love, challenges the system. Love must be cast out. Love must die."

Resurrection (Easter) Sunday - Sunrise Worship at Grey Eagle UMC at 7:00 am and Regular Worship at Peace United Church at 10:30 am. My sermon which concludes our series "Did Jesus Have to Die?" is on "The Only Hope We Have". (I was sorely tempted to title Good Friday's sermon as "The Empire Strikes Back" and the Easter sermon "A New Hope", an homage to "Star Wars".) The synopsis states, "The Light drives out the darkness, The water springs forth in eternity. The Truth is revealed to those who will see. Life steps out of the grave. There is a New Hope for humanity if only we choose to follow. Go and tell others, for Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life."

There are many readings for every day of Holy Week, Monday through Sunday, so I will list them with little to no comments.

Holy Monday:
Isaiah 42:1-9 - The first Song of the Servant
Psalm 36:5-11 - The last portion of Psalm 36 is about God's steadfast love.
Hebrews 9:11-15 - Christ's sacrifice of himself bring us to worship the living God.
John 12:1-11 - The day before Jesus' entry into Jerusalem Jesus has dinner with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Mary anoints Jesus with pure nard.

Holy Tuesday:
Isaiah 49:1-7 - The second Song of the Servant.
Psalm 71:1-14 - The oppressed and afflicted psalmist, a victim, cries to the Lord for protection from his enemies.
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 - "God chose what is low and despised in the world [the victims] . . . to reduce to nothing the things that are."
John 12:20-36 - Jesus speaks about his impending death; a grain of wheat dying to bear much fruit; now is the judgement of the world and the ruler of the world; believe in the light.

Holy Wednesday:
Isaiah 50:4-9a - The third Song of the Servant.
Psalm 70 - A prayer by the victim psalmist for delivery from his enemies.
Hebrews 12:1-3 - Surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses we are to run the race with perseverance.
John 13:21-32 - Jesus tell the disciples that one of them will betray him and Judas accepts the bread and leaves.

Holy (Maundy) Thursday:
Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 – God’s instructions to Moses instituting Passover.
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 – Verse 13 makes a reference to the Cup of Salvation. Is this the Holy Chalice that Indiana Jones goes after in the third movie?
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 – Paul’s recounting of the Lord’s Supper.
John 13:1-17, 31b-35 – No supper here, but a foot washing instead.

Good Friday:
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 – The fourth Suffering Servant Song of Isaiah.
Psalm 22 – “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Read the whole psalm to get the full impact.
Hebrews 10:16-25 – Christ’s sacrifice of himself is all that is needed, therefore we should love and do good deeds.
OR Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9 – Christ is the perfect High Priest and is the source of eternal salvation for all who believe.
John 18:1-19:42 – The Passion of Jesus.

Holy Saturday:
Job 14:1-14 – A difficult reading: a tree when cut down will send up shoot from the stump and roots, but if a human dies will they live again? Job thinks not in verse 12.
OR Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24 – In the first part God has abandoned Jeremiah and in the second part Jeremiah has hope because God’s steadfast love never ends.
Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 - The Lord is a rock and fortress and the psalmist asks for deliverance.
1 Peter 4:1-8 – Since Christ has suffered for us we should put away human desires and desire only God which leads to loving each other.
Matthew 27:57-66 – The burial of Jesus on Friday evening and the posting of the guards on Saturday morning.
OR John 19:38-42 – The burial of Jesus.

Resurrection (Easter) Sunday:
Acts 10:34-43 – Peter’s proclamation of the Gospel to Cornelius.
OR Jeremiah 31:1-6 – God will restore all the families of Israel and they shall be God’s people.
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 – God’s steadfast love endures forever and God will save us. “This is the day the Lord has made!”
Colossians 3:1-4 – Set your minds on the things that come from God for we have been raised with Christ.
OR Acts 10:34-43 – Peter’s proclamation of the Gospel to Cornelius.
John 20:1-18 – Mary Magdalene finds the tomb rock moved. She gets Peter and the other disciple to enter the tomb and discover it empty. They went home and Mary meets Jesus.
OR Matthew 28:1-10 – Two Mary’s go to the tomb where they are met by an angel who gives them a message for the disciples. They then meet the risen Jesus.

Have a great week reading God’s Word.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Readings for Wednesday, April 5, and Sunday, April 9, 2017

Hello Everyone,

This weekend I wrote a new poem "Life and Death - questions". Check it out below or at https://goo.gl/4OrO9P

One announcement: Good Friday worship at Peace United Church on April 14 will be at 7:30 PM instead of the 7:00 PM time announced in Sunday's bulletin.

Our last Wednesday Lenten Worship "Psalm, Songs, and Passion" in this Wednesday. I hope and pray that you can join us at Grey Eagle UMC (6:00 pm) or Peace United Church (7:15).
Our Reading for Wednesday are:

Psalm 55
1. Why is the psalmist troubled and distraught?
2. How does the psalmist wish to escape his troubles?
3. What does the psalmist want God to do to his enemies?
4. Are there times when you want to express these same emotions to God? Can you? Have you?

Isaiah 53:4-12
1. 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?
2. How is the image of this suffering servant a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ?
3. How does the suffering servant bring righteousness to the many?
4. What does it mean that the suffering servant “bore the sins of many”?

John 19:16b-42
1. Who carries the cross and where are they going?
2. Why do you think Pilate had the inscription “King of the Jews” placed on the cross?
3. What do you think Jesus meant when he said, “It is finished”?
4. In this final scene, where are you, a disciple of Jesus? What do you feel? What will you do?
This Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday. In decades past, churches focused solely on Palm Sunday knowing that the congregation would be back on Good Friday to hear the Passion story. These days we need to hear the Passion before we celebrate Resurrection Sunday. Here are the reading with some minimal comments.

Palm Sunday
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 – Verse 22 is the most quoted OT verse in the NT and verse 26 is quoted as Jesus enters Jerusalem.

Matthew 21:1-11 – Humorous moment: verse 7 has Jesus sitting on both the colt and the donkey at the same time, perhaps a misunderstanding or a too literal reading of Zechariah 9:9.

Passion Sunday
Isaiah 50:4-9a – The third of four “Servant Songs” which probably ends with verse 11. Verse 6 is relevant to the Passion.

Psalm 31:9-16 – VERY relevant to the Passion as the Psalmist is in distress from his torment.

Philippians 2:5-11 – An ancient Christian song that Paul used? Notice the down and up movement in the verses. Christ gives up Godhood to become human and die on the cross. Then he is raised and exalted so we may all confess that Jesus is Lord. Amen.

Matthew 26:14-27:66 (the long Passion story) OR Matthew 27:11-54 (the short version). Jesus is betrayed, arrested, questioned, beaten, and crucified. All the disciples either betrayed, abandoned or denied Jesus. When have we done the same? Were the disciples any less guilty then the priests, scribes, Pharisees, and Romans? Are we?

Have a blessed week serving God by serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Life and Death - questions

Life and Death - questions
Yesterday funeral
88 year old woman, Violet
Years of deteriorating mental capacity
Alzheimer's or dementia but
Good life, good family
5 children, 16 grands, 11 greats
128 in attendance

Life and Death - questions
Today funeral
Premature stillbirth boy, Bane
No years of life
Mom Courtnay, Dad Steven
4 sisters, 3 grandparents, 1 cousin/friend of Courtnay
12 total at graveside
Includes me and Jason
       Plant a tree, Courtnay

Life and Death - questions
Last year, a grandson, Wellington
      too premature, two hours of life
      daughter, our family, her boyfriend, his family
      grief, sadness, and a tree planted
Five Years ago Dad died
Twenty years ago Father-in-law Meryl died
      both great men who did great things

Life and Death - questions
Twelve years ago Seth committed suicide
Twenty five years ago Jerry died
      when tractor rolled
Fifteen years ago Jerry's wife Ruby
      killed by a car that ran a stop sign

Life and Death - questions
Jesus raised Lazarus dead three days
     and the son of the widow in Nain
            and the daughter of Jarius
And God raises Jesus
     showing marks of the crucifixion

Life and Death - questions
Last week Preston was born
      brother to Leighana and Wellington
Last year Teagan was born
      miracle despite mother's diabetes
Three and a half years ago
      Leighana our first grandchild

Life in the midst of Death
Death as a part of Life
Do we fear death?
     doing all we can to avoid it
Reckless in our teens and twenties
     Death cannot touch us
Fight it with medicine, procedures, etc.
     when we get older
And in our anger we
     wish death on others

Life is the process of dying
Dying is the end result of life
Yet we do neither well

Life and Death - questions
Never answered but there
     never thought of but there
So let's just live life without fear
     of Death
Live life as if Death were not
Live life loving forgiving reconciling
Live life redeemed
Live life