Sunday, August 27, 2017

Readings for Sunday, September 3, 2017

Hello Everyone,

Two announcements this week.

1. Central Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge will be singing and sharing their stories of addiction and recovery at Grey Eagle UMC next Sunday during our 9:00 AM worship. All are invited to hear their testimonies and stay for a fellowship dinner afterward. Friends and members of GEUMC are asked to bring a side dish (potato dish, veggie dish) or a salad or a dessert to share. Grey Eagle UMC will be providing the main dish.

2. Cheryl's car will be in the shop for transmission and other work for the next three days and she will be using my truck as she begins a new school year. I will be working from home mostly and may come to the office tomorrow evening and Wednesday evening (and why I am sending this on Sunday afternoon).

Our Lectionary readings for this coming Sunday are:

Exodus 3:1-15 – Moses sees a (the) light, then hears God call to go back to Egypt to be God’s instrument to set the Israelites free. Moses, who throughout Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers is willing to argue with God, says God must have picked the wrong person. “No, it’s you I want.” “Well then, who should I say sent me?” “I AM, that’s who!” Moses will go on to argue three more times: they won’t believe me, I am a stutterer, and, simply, send someone else. God will have none of it. Moses is the man God wants. What about you? Do you ever argue with God? Do you offer objections when God calls you to do something? Remember, God is patient. It took me 25 years to answer God’s call to go into ministry. God will wait for you.

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c – This psalm recounts the mighty deeds of God for Israel. The first stanza, 1-6, is praise for God and the psalmist calls us to remember. The skipped verses, 7-22, recount what God did through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Verses 23-26 recount the people’s growth in Egypt and their enslavement necessitating God’s choice of Moses and Aaron to lead them. The remaining verses recount Moses’ confrontation with Pharaoh, Israel’s exodus from Egypt, and God’s provisions for them as they traveled. Verse 45c: “Praise the Lord!”

Jeremiah 15:15-21 – Beginning in verse 10 of this chapter, Jeremiah complains to God about his troubles. Verses 15-18, Jeremiah recounts how he has been faithful but he also wonders why he is being persecuted. Verses 19-21 are God’s reply.

Psalm 26:1-8 – This is very similar to Jeremiah’s words in our reading above. The psalmist states that he has walked in the way of the Lord and not taken up company with the worthless, the hypocrites, the evildoers, and the wicked.

Romans 12:9-21 – What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? Read these verses to find out as I won’t repeat Paul’s wonderful list here. One note, however, about verse 19. The Greek does not have “of God” following the word “wrath”. In Romans, the only place Paul actually wrote “wrath of God” is at 1:18. At all other places Paul simply writes “wrath”. Here is a short study on the word “wrath” in Romans: “
A Re-Formation of Faith”. What are we saved from with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? I would contend that we are saved not from God’s wrath but from human wrath.

Matthew 16:21-28 – Last week, while on retreat near Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon replied “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” This week’s reading is a continuation of that discussion. It is very unfortunate that the Lectionary Committee chose to split up the readings. What does it mean for Jesus to be the Messiah? Going to Jerusalem, suffering at the hands of the leaders, be killed, and rising on the third day. Peter (née Simon) objects saying that that must never happen. Jesus call him Satan and a scandal or stumbling block. (Last week Simon was Peter/Petros = Rock and this week he is Satan/scandal = Stumbling Block.) What does it mean to follow Jesus? Death. Death to self. Death to the world’s ways. Maybe even physical death. Pay close attention to verses 27-28. How will, or does, Jesus “repay everyone for what has been done”? Does this refer to some future coming of Jesus or to his resurrection? If it is a reference to his resurrection, what does Jesus do? He forgives us and he send us into the world to spread the Good News/Gospel.

Have a great week serving God while serving your neighbors.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Readings for Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hello Everyone,

Much Thanks to all the men and women who made Church at Birch successful this Sunday. Thank you to the GEUMC Worship Committee who organized everything. Thank you to John and Janet Roe for hosting the event. Thank you to Ron Grove, Sue Roe, Bob Kutter, and the women and men of the Grey Eagle Community Chorus for their beautiful music. Finally, thank you everyone who brought enough food for the brunch for all of our guests. Thank you!

Generally, it is a quiet week at Lake Woe-Be-Gone, Minnesota.

With that, our readings for this week are:

Exodus 1:8-2:10 – With last week’s reading, all of Jacob’s (Israel’s) sons and families are now in Egypt. After that generation dies away and with the continued growth of Hebrew families the Egyptian king, or Pharaoh, becomes afraid and orders: harsher working conditions, midwives to kill newborn sons of Hebrew women, and finally all Egyptians to kill newborn Hebrew boys. As you read this passage, who are the heroes? Most are unnamed but two are remembered: Shiphrah and Puah. Praise God for brave women!

Psalm 124 – Praising God for delivering the people of Israel from adversity. Notice how the Psalmist equates enemies attacking with flooding. What might this say about Noah and the flood?

Isaiah 51:1-6 – The Lord, through the prophet, looks toward a time when all will be set right, the weary will have rest, the desert will bloom, and when joy and gladness will be found in the people. Even when the earth and the heavens pass away, God’s salvation and deliverance will be forever.

Psalm 138 – Praising God and God’s holy name for love, faithfulness, and strength. God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Romans 12:1-8 – At this point in his letter to the Church in Rome, Paul begins to lay out what it means to be a Christ follower in daily life. We are to be living sacrifices to God, our minds transformed by God so we can discern God’s will. We are to not be haughty but recognized the many gift of all believers so we can work together with God for the kingdom. Some of those gifts are ministry, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, and compassion. Does any one person have ALL the gifts? Or is it the many with their individual gifts working together as a church that brings God's gifts to all?

Matthew 16:13-20 – Who is Jesus and what does he mean to you, individually, and to us, the church, who follows Jesus? What does it mean to call Jesus the Christ or the Messiah (same word meaning "the anointed one", one Greek and one Hebrew)?

May the Lord bless you and keep you this week. May the Lord make light to shine upon you. May the Lord give you peace until we next meet to worship together.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Readings for Sunday, August 20, 2017

Hello Everyone,

For all the members, constituents, and friends of Grey Eagle UMC, this coming Sunday is our annual Church at Birch worship service. Members are encouraged to bring two things to worship: food to share for the potluck brunch that follows the service and a friend-family member-coworker-enemy to worship with you. This is the opportune time to invite someone who is not involved in a church to share in the love and fellowship of our church.

Worship begins at 9:00 AM at the home of John and Janet Roe. Since there is limited parking at their home, shuttle rides from the church will begin at 8:30 AM.
The Grey Eagle Community Chorus will be performing throughout the service. We will also be celebrating the Lord's Supper.

For the members, constituents, and friends of Peace United Church, we will be continuing our three part mini sermon series on "Three Steps in a Christian's Walk". Part 2 is titled "Step Toward . . . Our Siblings in Abraham".

Our readings assigned for this Sunday are:

Genesis 45:1-15 – The Lectionary skips a huge chunk of the Jacob (aka Israel) and Joseph saga. Last week’s reading (Genesis 37) was about Joseph being betrayed by his 10 older brother and sold into slavery. Genesis 38 is a wonderfully delightful tale of sexual intrigue by Tamar, the granddaughter-in-law of Jacob and the daughter-in-law of Judah. Genesis 39 returns to the story of Joseph who is now a slave to Potiphar (whom I will call "Pot"), an Egyptian captain of the guard. More sexual intrigue here as Pot’s wife, unnamed, wants Joe but he refuses her advances. She accuses him of rape and Pot has Joe imprisoned. The jailer likes Joe allows him to care for all the prisoners. In chapter 40, Joe accurately interprets some dreams of the official cupbearer and the chief baker. Unfortunately, Joe remains in jail. In chapter 41, the Pharaoh has dreams of seven fat cows and seven thin, ugly cows which nobody can figure out. Joe, who now has a reputation as a dream interpreter, is brought before him and makes the correct interpretation. Delighted, the Pharaoh releases Joe from prison and gives him authority to oversee the preparations during seven bountiful years for the seven years of famine which follow. In chapters 42 to 44, Jacob’s family suffers from the region-wide drought and the ten oldest brothers go to Egypt to beg for grain from our hero, Joe, whom they don’t recognize. Joe grants their request but tells them not to return without their youngest brother, Benjamin (Joe’s little brother). On their return with Ben, Joe frames Ben for theft. Knowing that going back to Jacob without Ben would kill Jacob, Judah offers to give himself over in place of Ben. That bring us to our reading for this week: the big reveal! At the end of the reading Joe tells his brothers to go get Jacob and that is how the Israelites (the clan of Jacob) got to be in Egypt for next week’s reading. Chapters 46-50 records the travels of the clan to Egypt, settling in Goshen for the famine, the death of Jacob at the ripe old age of 147, the brothers taking Jacob’s body to be buried with Rachel, Joe’s reassuring his brothers that all is well, and the death of Joe at the maybe not so ripe age of 110. Next up: Moses!

Psalm 133 – A psalm of how unity within a family (or church or denomination?) brings blessings from the Lord.

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 – The Lord promises to bless the foreigners who follow him and to gather together outcasts and others to his house, “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Psalm 67 – God’s graciousness and blessings are for all peoples and nations and they are called to give their praise and reverence to him.

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 – In chapters 9 through 11, Paul has been working through a difficult understanding that his Jewish brothers and sisters have, for the most part, rejected the Gospel of Jesus. He comes to the understanding that the promise given to Israel is also for Gentiles and that there is still hope for Israel, whom God has not rejected. If God’s gifts and calling are “irrevocable” and we are all imprisoned in disobedience so God may be merciful to all, then is everyone saved (universal salvation)? Paul’s statements in these short verses are very intriguing, to say the least.

Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28 – There are two parts to this reading. The optional part is about how what we say can “defile” us or others. The second part is Jesus’ encounter with a Canaanite woman, or in other words, a Gentile woman. She is desperate to have Jesus heal her dying daughter. Jesus seems to have no compassion for her and implies (somewhat rudely?) that she and her daughter are dogs. Yet, she is not dissuaded and argues that even dogs eat the crumbs of the master. Amazed at her faith, he heals the daughter at a distance. One blogger suggests that we shouldn’t be upset when Jesus is a bit rude (Is it okay to notice that Jesus can be a jerk sometimes?). Others have suggested that this episode can show us the human side of Jesus and that he can grow in his understanding of what God calls him to do. What is your take on this short vignette?

Have a blessed week in the service of the Lord!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Monday, August 7, 2017

Readings for Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hello Everyone,

Two sad notes to pass along. For the people of Grey Eagle UMC - a friend of many of you and a singer in the Grey Eagle Community Chorus, Linda Berens, died this weekend. Our prayers go out to her family and friends who are mourning this day.

For the people of Peace United Church - A man whose parents belonged to the Long Prairie United Methodist Church many years ago and who lived in group homes for his entire adult life, Loren Reinbold, died this weekend. His funeral will be at PUC on Wednesday at 11 am. Our prayers go out to his home mates and to all who befriended and cared for Loren.

Here are my reflections for this week's readings that I posted in 2014 (alway, it seems, with corrections!).

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 – Much happens between last week’s reading of Jacob wrestling with a man and this week’s reading. Briefly, Jacob and Esau meet and make-up (chapter 33); Dinah is raped and her brothers exact revenge (chapter 34); Jacob returns to Bethel (35:1-15); Rachel dies while giving birth to her second son, Jacob’s twelfth, Benjamin (35:16-26); and Jacob’s dad, Isaac, dies at the ripe old age of 180. Chapter 36 is a recounting of the descendants of Esau and the clans of Edom. Our passage this week begins the story of Rachel’s first son, Joseph. Joseph is a dreamer, literally. As we have seen over the last few weeks, family life is messy. It seems that Joseph was Jacob’s favorite and the other 10, older, boys were jealous because Jacob made and gave Joseph a long sleeved robed (also known as a “multi-colored robe”). We skip the verses about Joseph having dreams that depict the other brothers bowing before him. So the brothers plan to lure Joseph out into the countryside to kill him but, in the end, they sell him into slavery. Aren’t families fun? Is there a daytime or evening soap opera that compares to this?

Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b – The first part calls the people to give thanks to God for all God has done. The second part briefly recounts the life of Joseph. 

OR 1 Kings 19:9-18 – Elijah, the champion of YHWH (LORD), has defeated and killed the priests of Baal (a Canaanite god) and incurred the wrath of Jezebel, queen of Israel, so he flees to the mountains. He ends up in a cave on Mt. Horeb (Sinai?). The Lord asks him “Why are you here?”. Elijah tells him. Then God tells him to stand on the mountain for God will pass by. Elijah felt a strong wind but God was not there. Then came an earthquake but God was not there either. Then a fire but God wasn’t there. Then comes “the sound of silence” ("Hello darkness, my old friend."). The Lord asks him again, “What are you doing here?” Elijah repeats his response. The Lord then tells him to return and complete a few tasks. Have you ever heard “the sound of silence”? Is God found in our loud, proud, aggressive defenses of him or is God found in our simple service to him and others?

Psalms 85:8-13 – The psalmist understands that we need to listen to a God who speaks peace. In and with God, love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness will become intertwined with peace; and faithfulness and righteousness will join together.

Romans 10:5-15 – This is a fairly dense passage. Paul starts by asking, rhetorically, can anyone pull Christ down from heaven or lift him up from the abyss? The obvious answer is “No.” Salvation is evidenced by confessing Jesus is Lord and believing that God raised him from the dead. It does not matter what someone’s circumstances are for “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”. Now, how can they call on God if they haven’t heard about God? How can they hear if no one tells them? And how can someone tell them if no one sends them? So, right here and right now I am sending you into the world, your community, to your next door neighbor, or to your workplace to be the one to proclaim that God and Jesus is Lord of All. Go. Tell. Show. Invite.

Matthew 14:22-33 – In last week’s reading, Jesus was out trying to find a place to be alone but the crowds would not leave him alone so he healed them and, eventually fed some 15,000+ people with five loaves of bread and two fish. After everyone has dispersed, Jesus sends the disciples back across the lake in the boat without him (Jesus still needs some alone time.) A storm comes up and the waves on the lake become swells and the winds are against the disciples. Jesus calmly walks out to them and they think he is a ghost! Peter challenges Jesus to let him walk on water also. Jesus says, “Come”. Peter does and is pleasantly surprised to be able to, but as he looks around (as reality takes hold?) he falls into the lake. Jesus pulls him up and famously says “You of little faith, why did you doubt (unbelieve)?” John Ortberg has a fairly successful book titled “If You Want to Walk on Water You Have to Get Out of the Boat”. Do you want a safe and secure church that slowly gets buffeted by the winds or do you want a church that is doing the miraculous? If so, get out of the boat we call church and do the miracles Jesus tells us we can do.

Have a great week serving God by serving others.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Scripture Readings for Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hello Everyone,

This coming Sunday both Churches will be celebrating Holy Communion, also known as the Lord's Supper, Eucharist, or Mass. Is it appropriate that we are also reading the Matthew reading of Jesus feeding the 5,000 men or maybe 15,000 people in total? Come join us at 9:00 AM at Grey Eagle UMC and 10:30 AM at Peace United Church.

Our readings for this coming Sunday are:

Genesis 32:22-31 – [For the short version, skip to the next paragraph.] The Lectionary skips a huge chunk of Jacob’s story between last week’s reading and this week’s. Last week we read that Jacob marries his two cousins, Leah and Rachel. Jacob loves Rachel more than he loves Leah but it is Leah who gets pregnant. What is implied is that Jacob is keeping his husbandly duties to both wives. Leah first gives birth to Reuben, then Simeon, then Levi and finally Judah. (Add up the time: three and a half to four year without Rachel becoming pregnant.) Rachel gets upset and gives Jacob her handmaiden (slave?) Bilhah with whom they have two sons, Dan and Naphtali. Leah then gives Jacob her handmaiden Zilpah who bears the sons Gad and Asher. (We are up to eight boys by three women. Is your head spinning?) After a bargain with Rachel for some mandrakes (an aphrodisiac and fertility drug) Leah becomes pregnant a fifth and sixth time and bears Issachar and Zebulun. (She also becomes pregnant a seventh time and bears the one and only girl mentioned in this family, Dinah.) Finally, God remembers Rachel and she becomes pregnant with Joseph (of the amazing Technicolor coat). Much later, Rachel will bear the twelfth son Benjamin. In the mean time, Jacob becomes rich by stealing the weakest sheep and goats from Laban (his uncle and father-in-law) and breeding them into strong and healthy flocks. When Laban finds out, he gets angry and Jacob (with his two wives, two concubines, 11 sons, one daughter, many servants and, by now huge flocks) must flee. When Laban catches up to them, they come to a peaceful agreement but Jacob must still deal with his twin brother, Esau, because that is where he headed. 

Just prior to our reading, Jacob sends a message to Esau and Esau, along with 400 men, decides to meet Jacob in the wilderness. Jacob, being afraid of him, divides his extended family and flock into two units and sends them in different directions. He also sends a large number of flock to Esau to try to appease him. In our reading for Sunday, Jacob sends his wives and children ahead of him across the Jordan. While alone, a man wrestles with him through the night. When they wrestle to a draw, the man puts out Jacob’s hip joint. The man demands that Jacob let him go before daybreak but Jacob demands a blessing. The man blesses him by changing his name to “Israel” which means “strives with God”. Jacob wants to know the stranger’s name but does not learn it. When the man leaves, Jacob names the place “The face of God” or Peniel. Who or what was Jacob wrestling with? A man? An angel? God? His own fears? What have you wrestled with? [Note: with the birth of Benjamin the twelve sons will be the Twelve Tribes of Israel.]

Psalm 17:1-7, 15 – The psalmist asks God to listen to his pleas and to protect him from his enemies.

OR Isaiah 55:1-5 – God calls all people to come to the waters and drink. Come to the table and feast. Price of admission: Nothing, nada, zilch. Just come, listen and learn.

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 – Verses 8 and 9 are the standard description of God and you may want to memorize it. Verses 14-20 elaborates on this understanding.

Romans 9:1-5 – After stating that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ (8:39), Paul states that he is saddened by the thought that the Jewish people (for the most part) and authorities did not accept what God did for them in Jesus Christ. The adoption into God’s family (8:14) belonged to the Israelites and is now extended to all humanity.

Matthew 14:13-21 – Following Jesus’ teachings using parables he travels back to Nazareth. There, his own people reject him (13:54-58) and he learns of the death of John the Baptist (14:1-12). That news prompts Jesus to retreat to a quiet place but the crowd will not leave him alone. With compassion, Jesus heals the sick among them. Late in the evening, the disciples want Jesus to send everyone home for dinner. Jesus tells them, “You give them something to eat.” They object saying they only have five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus asks everyone to sit down on the grass, he takes the bread (and fish), blesses it, breaks it, and then gives it. (This is the essence of communion: take, bless, break, and give - although I generally break the bread while blessing it.) Matthew tells us that all ate and were full and there were 5,000 men along with women and children (15,000 people?). When have we been able to do so much with so little?

May the Lord fill you with love and kindness and may you serve the Lord by serving the people.

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary