Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Scripture Lessons for Sunday, July 30, 2017

Hello Everyone,

I don't have too much to announce this week so I will proceed with the various scripture lessons assigned to this coming Sunday. Note: these notes were originally sent out in July 2014. I have made some corrections (I seem to find a lot of my own errors. Ha-ha!) and updates.

Genesis 29:15-28 – Jacob arrives at his destination and meets (and falls in love with) Rachel. He then begins to work for Laban who is Rachel’s father and Jacob’s uncle, his mother Rebekah’s brother, which makes Rachel his first cousin. Our reading is about the agreement of Jacob to work for Laban for seven years after which he will get to marry Rachel. After seven years the wedding takes place. Jacob never actually sees the bride for she is covered. They consummate the wedding that night in their tent but in the morning Jacob discovers that the woman is Leah, Rachel’s older and still unmarried sister. Jacob, who cheated his brother and father, has been cheated and he is mad! Laban says that he can also have Rachel if he agrees to work another seven years. Ahhhhh.... Biblical Marriage: where one man can marry two cousins and, as we shall hear later, mate with their two personal handmaids as well. From these four women Jacob has twelve sons and at least one daughter (only one is ever mentioned, Dinah, in chapter 34). Oh, and back in chapter 28 we read that Jacob’s brother, Esau, marries his first (half) cousin who was the daughter of Ishmael, half brother to Isaac. Gotta love the Bible.

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b – We are called to give thanks to the Lord for all the wonderful things God has done. The psalmist, in our passage, remembers God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

OR Psalm 128 – For those who fear (respect) the Lord, the Lord will be with them. The man’s wife will be fruitful and will bear many children and he will see the prosperity of Jerusalem and his many grandchildren.

OR 1 Kings 3:5-12 – God appears to Solomon in a dream and asks “What do you want me to give you?” Solomon’s reply: “Wisdom”. God is pleased.

Psalm 119:129-136 – Remember that Psalm 119 is 22 stanzas of 8 verses each. Each verse within a stanza starts with the same Hebrew letter and each stanza is the Hebrew alphabet in order. In this stanza, all the verses begin with Pe פ. Here the psalmist remembers God’s promises of redemption and protection.

Romans 8:26-39 – The Spirit of God knows all of our prayers and that all things work together for good for those who love God. God was even willing to send his Son for us. Who then will be able to stand in the way of God’s plan? Who or what will keep us away from God? No one, that’s who!

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 – Five more very short parables: mustard seed, yeast, hidden treasure, merchant, and a net thrown into the sea. On Sunday I read verses 34 and 35, and will read them again this week. I will try to cover those verses again this Sunday in conjunction with our Romans reading. What do you think Jesus was talking about when he says, “I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world?”

Have a great week serving the Lord and serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Scripture Reading for Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I hope everyone came through last night's storms without too much damage.

Thank you to all the people at Grey Eagle UMC for making the garage sale a huge success. Your help was vital to its success.

Here are our readings for this coming week. (Full disclosure - most of what you read below was written in 2014. I have added some and corrected errors)

Genesis 28:10-19a – In last week’s reading, Jacob cheats Esau, his older twin brother, out of his birthright. In Chapter 27 Jacob cheats his father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing that was intended for Esau. At the beginning of chapter 28, Rebekah, Jacob’s mom and Isaac’s wife, convinces Isaac to send Jacob back to the family homeland to get a wife. This will also keep Jacob safe from Esau’s murderous hatred. (Jacob ends up with two wives, two concubines, and twelve sons.) In our reading this week, Jacob is on the way back Palestine and his brother Esau. He stops for the night to get some sleep using a stone for a pillow (ouch!!). There he has a dream of a ladder to heaven and angels ascending and descending. The LORD (Yahweh) appears in the dream and repeats the promise of offspring and a nation that the LORD promised to Abraham.

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 – A psalm about God from whom we cannot escape, who is with us wherever we go, and who knows us entirely. In the NRSV, the version of the Bible I use, the second half of verse 8 says, “. . . if I make my bed in Sheol, you (God) are there.” So, in your understanding, what is “Sheol”?

OR Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 – Pastor Gary, where is this in my Bible as I can’t find it? If you have any Protestant Bible then you will not find it. What you will need is a Bible with the Apocrypha or will need a Catholic Bible. Or you could just follow this link: 

or Isaiah 44:4-6 – God declares that there is really no other god and we are God’s witnesses.

Psalm 86:11-17 – The psalmist asks God to teach him God’s ways for God’s steadfast love has sustained and protected her. Verse 15 is a prominent theme of the Old Testament: “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness."

Romans 8:12-25 – Here are a few of the key points of this passage. If we are led by the Spirit (which Paul affirms in verse 9) then we are the children of God. When we cry out to God, it is the Spirit witnessing to us that we are God’s children, adopted into the family, and heirs to God’s kingdom with our now brother Jesus Christ. Whatever we suffer in this present world will be made up by the glory of God’s revelation. All of creation awaits that revelation so it will be free of decay and rot. We currently have the first fruits of the Spirit and as we wait for the revelation we wait with hope with patience.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 – The parable of the weeds. The first section is the telling of the parable and the second section is the explanation. A person sows wheat in a field. At night someone else sows weeds in the same field. In Jesus’s world there was a plant, thought to be 
darnel (link here), which looked like wheat in the early stages of growth so that you couldn’t tell the difference. To try to weed out the darnel risked pulling out the wheat. It is not until the darnel and wheat mature can the farmer tell the difference (wheat becomes brown and darnel becomes black). Darnel can also be infected with a poisonous fungus, hence the need to separate the darnel from the wheat at harvest time. Now remember, parables are designed to make us think. Setting aside the explanation given in 36-43, what other ideas can this parable generate?

Have a great week serving God by serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Scripture readings for Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hello Everyone,

Quick! What does the word "prodigal" mean to you? What parable of Jesus do you associate with "prodigal"?

Trivia: the word "prodigal" does not appear in any English translation of the Bible. None. But we associate the word with Jesus' parable found at Luke 15:11-32.

According to Dictionary.com (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/prodigal) prodigal as an adjective is defined as 1.) wastefully or recklessly extravagant; 2.) giving or yielding profusely; lavish; and 3.) lavishly abundant; profuse. Prodigal as a noun is defined as 4.) a person who spends, or has spent his/her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift.

Have you experienced someone who had prodigal spending and giving? Have you ever spent or given away prodigally? The readings from Isaiah, Romans and Matthew are about the one who gives love, grace and forgiveness prodigally.

Genesis 25:19-34 – At the beginning of chapter 25, Abraham has been a busy man following the death of Sarah. He married again and his new and probably young wife bore him six sons. Then Abraham died at the ripe old age of 175. Isaac and Ishmael come together to bury their father with his wife Sarah. There is no note about what happened to Ishmael’s mother, Hagar. In our verses this week, Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, gets pregnant with twins who fight within the womb. She inquires of the Lord and is told that the older boy will serve the younger boy (a recurring theme in the Old Testament). The first to be born was red and hairy. He was named Esau, which I believe means “hairy”. A few verses later we learn that he is also named Edom, which means “red”. The next to be born followed immediately by holding on to the foot of Esau. He was named Jacob, which may mean “grabby”. In verse 28 we learn that Mom loved Jacob because he was a bit of a homeboy and Dad loved Esau because he was an outdoorsman. In verses 29-34 we also find out that Esau was none too bright because he traded away his birthright for a bowl of stew.

Psalm 119:105-112 – The longest chapter of the Bible (176 verses and 4 1/2 pages in my Bible). It consists of 22 stanzas of 8 verses each. The 8 verses in each stanza all begin with the same letter of the Hebrew Alphabet (or should I say Aleph-Taw). Our verses consist of the 14th stanza and the letter “nun”. Verse 105 is the opening line of a famous Amy Grant song.

OR Isaiah 55:10-13 – You really should read the entire chapter which my Bible labels “An Invitation to Abundant Life”. Come to God’s market and receive food, wine, and milk with no price attached, freely given away. Look for the Lord while he is near. In verse 8, God says that his thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways. Why then do we, and I am as guilty as anyone, try to define God’s judgment and mercy in the ways humanity defines judgment and mercy? In our verses for this week God brings the rains and snows to water the earth that it may flourish. So too, God’s word goes out (prodigally?) and accomplishes God’s work in the world before it returns to God. All of this brings joy to God’s creation such that the mountains and hills sing and the trees clap their hands. Here is another hymn to listen to (Isaiah 55:12):

Psalm 65: (1-8) 9-13 – A Psalm of praise for God’s creation and God’s role in taming creation and bringing forth the earth’s bounty for God’s people.

Romans 8:1-11 – I read from Romans 8 at a lot of the funerals I lead. We will be reading from this chapter for the next three Sundays. In this chapter Paul turns to the Spirit of Life that sets us free from the Law of sin and death. Paul’s argument may seem a little dense as he keeps returning to the law of death which continues to live in us. I think what trips us up with Paul is his use of "spirit" and "flesh". Perhaps "Spirit of Life" and "Law of Sin and Death" are a little better. Paul is a good Jewish thinker and he does not think that we have two parts: spirit (good) and flesh (bad). We are created one: body, mind, and spirit. Perhaps "Way of Jesus" and the "Ways of the World" are better ways of understanding what Paul is getting at. We are all enslaved to the Ways of the World, but, he says that we have been set free by Jesus Christ and that God has condemned sin (the Ways of the World) in the flesh through the death of Jesus on the Cross. (Please note that God did not kill Jesus but that Jesus confronted the sin of this world, took on that sin, and died because of it. This sets us free.) Paul then says that we who have believed in Jesus have been given the Spirit of God which leads us to all righteousness. With Christ in us, even though our body would be dead because of sin, our bodies have been given new life. Like I said, it’s complicated. God is the prodigal sower of grace, love, and forgiveness. We will spend two more weeks on Chapter 8 and all of Paul’s argument for Life.

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 – We skip all of chapter 12 which includes the disciples working on Sabbath (plucking grain); Jesus healing a withered hand on the Sabbath and the Pharisees conspiring to kill Jesus; he heals a blind, mute, demon possessed man and the Pharisees claim Jesus has a demon; Jesus teaches about good and bad fruit, the sign of Jonah, the return of unclean spirits, and who belongs to his true family (and it is not his mother, brothers, and sisters). Our reading this week is the parable of the sower, the seeds, and the soils. The first section is the parable and the second section is the explanation of the parable. The skipped section is Jesus’ explanation of what parables are used for, which is to confuse those who think they know and make his words understandable to the innocent. I suggest that you read verses 1-9 and ponder them, trying to forget what you have known about the parable from verses 18-23. What do you think the parable may mean? Could there be more meaning in the parable than is presented in the explanation? What other ways could we understand what Jesus is trying to tell you? 

I won’t answer these questions now because I have a novel understanding of this parable that I have presented in the past. I have also left plenty of hints in this post. If you want to know come to worship at Grey Eagle UMC at 9:00 AM or Peace United Church at 10:30 AM. See you then.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Lectionary Readings for Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hello Everyone,

I hope that you had a wonderful 4th of July.

Just a reminder, Kali Kunerth, Administrative Assistant, is taking some vacation this week. I will be printing the bulletins (she has most of it done) and working on the video projection for Grey Eagle. Please send any and all announcements to me by tomorrow, Thursday, July 6. Thank you.

The assigned readings for this coming Sunday are:

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 - This is week 5 of 19 in Genesis and Exodus. This week’s story is about Abraham sending his trusted servant back to the land of Ur to get a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. The story actually starts at verse 1 of chapter 24 so I encourage you to read the entire chapter. Now you would think Isaac would have a greater role in the story than he does but, truth be told, after last week’s story of the near sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, he seems to be a generational place holder between Abraham and Jacob, Isaac’s son, whose birth we will read next week. The story moves from the older to the younger and then to the younger once again. How can we pass the church down to the younger generation? Do we sacrifice them on the alter of “that’s the way we have always done it” or do we graciously allow the younger generation to take control even if it means everything will change?

Psalm 45:10-17 – A Psalm for a Royal Wedding. Verses 2-9 focus on the groom. Verses 10-15 focus on the bride.

OR Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) 2:8-13 – One of the few times the lectionary has a reading from this very sensual book. In our reading it is springtime and love is in the air. These verses are spoken by the woman but she quotes the man in verses 10-13. One of the difficulties of translating this book from Hebrew is figuring out who is speaking, the man, the woman, or a handmaiden.

OR Zechariah 9:9-12 – The prophet predicts that God will put an end to all war, prisoners will be set free, and what has been taken will be restored double.

Psalm 145:8-14 – This might be a THE Old Testament creed on who God is: gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, good to all, compassion over all, faithful to his words, gracious in deeds, upholding the fallen, and raising up the bowed. Amen!

Romans 7:15-25a – This is the 4th of 14 readings in Romans. The first three chapters of Romans sets up the problem: humanity has gone astray from God worshiping the created and not the Creator. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (3:23). Beginning in chapter four, Paul begins to explain how God remedies the situation through history and through Jesus Christ. In our reading, Paul says that despite knowing what is right he continues to do what is wrong. Who can fix that situation? Jesus Christ, that’s who. How about each of us? Are we powerless over sin and continue to do what we know is wrong? We are a wretched lot but, thanks be to God, Jesus Christ saves us.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 – These verses were spoken by Jesus in response to a visit by John the Baptizer’s disciples which starts in verse 2 and includes the skipped verses. In our verses, Jesus complains that two opposite people, Jesus and John, are rejected. When people are made uncomfortable by the messenger then they will find anything to discredit them. It happened then and it happens now. What are the things that are hidden from the “wise and intelligent”? Why are they revealed to infants? Could it be our violence soaked culture? Infants (probably an euphemism for the weak and innocent) have not been sucked into that which enslaves us and can perceive it. Jesus offers a different way. Yoke ourselves to Jesus’ Way and we will find rest.

Have a great week everyone!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor