Monday, April 30, 2018

Readings for Sunday, May 6, 2018

Hello Everyone,

I am now back from my two week "stay-cation". I spent some of my days watching my grandkids, Leighana and Preston. I spend three days in the office throwing out too many papers that had accumulated, sorting through books and things to determine what needs to stay in the office, and boxing all the rest. Each of those three days were followed by a trip to Alexandria to get a cup of Dunn Brothers Coffee and drop the boxes off at Alexandria UMC.

Many thanks go to Bob Kutter who filled in for me the last two Sundays. I know he puts a lot of work into worship preparation the weeks before I went on vacation and into sermon preparation for the Sundays he led worship. Bob is God's blessing for our churches. Thank you, Bob.

National Day of Prayer for our country is this Thursday. There are prayer gatherings in Grey Eagle at the Fire Hall beginning at Noon and at the Memorial Park in Long Prairie also at noon. If you can make the time, please join with other in praying for our country, state, county, and city.

This coming Sunday is the Sixth Sunday of Easter, so, "yes", we are still celebrating Easter. Our appointed readings are:

Acts 10:44-48 - This is the conclusion to the story of Peter visiting Cornelius and family in Caesarea. To appreciate this ending, please read ALL of Acts 10. I think the most important verses in Chapter 10 is 34-35, "Then Peter began to speak to them: 'I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.'" What does that mean to us today? Is there any reason that any church may show partiality to anyone? Sometimes we quibble about "who fear him" and "does what is right". To quote a famous Pope, "Who am I to judge?"

Psalm 98 - Sing a new song to the Lord who has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness. Make a joyful noise to the Lord (all of you non-singers - I see you). For God will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity.

1 John 5:1-6 - I missed my favorite Bible verses this past week but I plan on making up for that this week. The two verses are in 1 John 4 and if you carefully read that chapter I am sure you will figure out what they are. The Gospel comes down to this: Love God who first loved us; in loving God you will love neighbor; in loving neighbor you will love God; and in this way love, whose name is Jesus Christ, will conquer the world.

John 15:9-17 - "This is my commandment that you love one another just as I have loved you". Enough said (but, if you must, reread the comments in the paragraph above.)

Have a wonderful week serving God by serving your neighbors.
Pastor Gary

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Readings for Sunday, April 15, 2018

Hello Everyone,

Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen, Indeed!

There are two happenings on Thursday, April 12, that you may be interested.

1. "Developing Stewardship and Generosity Leaders". This workshop (9 am to 3 pm) is being held at Advent UMC in Eagan, MN, and is simultaneously being streamed to Alexandria UMC. Dr. Clayton Smith, Executive Pastor of Generosity at the Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kansas will teach us "about how it is essential for church leaders to use faith-based programs to enable their churches to grow in love of God and neighbor and to reach new people." If you would like to attend, let me know ASAP (today, Tuesday) so I can let Alexandria UMC know. I will be attending.

2. "Second Harvest Conversation". This short gathering, maybe 1 1/2 hours, is about providing the people of Todd County who need food with fresh produce. Here is their description: "We are exploring a partnership with Second Harvest Heartland to facilitate a Produce Distribution that would occur in our community once a month. One time a month Second Harvest would deliver around 5,000+ pounds of fresh produce to be distributed to residents in need of food. There is no cost and no prerequisites to “qualify” to receive the food. We ask for no personal information or identification. We welcome any and all to participate to come and take what they need to feed themselves and their families.  It is with community involvement and collaboration that makes this initiative successful and sustainable, and faith based communities are very important partners to have as we embark on this endeavor!" The meeting is Thursday at 9 am in the boardroom at the old hospital and clinic in Long Prairie. It would be especially good if several people from Peace United Church could attend. Let me know if you can go and I will let the coordinator know.

Our readings this week, the Third Sunday of Easter, are:

Acts 3:12-19 – Peter and John go to the temple and heal a man who was lame from birth (3:1-10). The people are amazed so Peter takes the opportunity to tell them who actually did the healing – Jesus Christ. A point to consider: Peter places the blame for the killing of Jesus on his audience but he was as complicit as they were when he denied Jesus. Would his testimony be more effective if he said “We killed Jesus, but God raised him from death”?

Psalm 4 – The psalmist addresses God in verses 1, 7, and 8 and he addresses his enemies in verses 2-6. He pleads for God to help him and chastises the people for not being faithful to God. At the end of the psalm and in the knowledge that God will keep him safe, he has peace.

1 John 3:1-7 – I am not so sure that the Lectionary Committee who chose this passage gave us enough of it. I may expand it to 2:29-3:11. To abide in Jesus is to be a child of God. If we are children of God then we have no sin. (Except see 1:8.) The Elder goes so far as to say that everyone who does right is righteous like Jesus is righteous (verse 7). The true message to the followers of Jesus is that we should love each other (verse 11).

Luke 24:36b-48 – The “Walk to Emmaus” occurs on Easter Day and you can find it at 24:13-35. Our reading picks up immediately after the two disciples run back to Jerusalem and tell the other disciples what they have experienced. Verse 36a says, “While they were talking about this . . .” and that is where we pick it up. Jesus appears and says . . . wait for it . . . “Peace be with you.” Jesus invites the startled disciples to look and him and touch his wounds. He then eats a piece of fish. Jesus then proceeds to teach them about how his death and resurrection was a fulfillment of their scriptures (our Old Testament). If you keep reading to the end of Luke you will encounter a conundrum. All of chapter 24 reads like it all happened on the same day. In Acts 1:3 Luke says that Jesus appeared for 40 days. Did Luke forget what he said in the Gospel when he wrote Acts? Or did he leave out a seemingly important detail at the end of Luke?

Have a blessed week telling and showing others the Good News of the Resurrected Christ,

Pastor Gary

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Readings for Sunday, April 8, 2018

Hello Everyone,

Christ Is Risen! Christ Is Risen, Indeed!

Grace and Peace in our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus who is the Christ.

Thank you, everyone, for the wonderful celebration of Easter we had on Sunday. If you missed Easter Worship, you have a second chance for this coming Sunday, April 8, is Orthodox Easter. I have fond memories of visiting the family of a friend, who was Greek, of my grandfather's on Orthodox Easter and eating lamb, stuffed grape leaves, and baklava. I may have to go to a restaurant that serves lamb next Sunday.

We are in the "season" of Easter, the time from Easter Sunday to, but not including, Pentecost Sunday. Our readings will be from "The Acts of the Apostles", "The First Letter of John", and "The Gospel According to John". (The one exception will be Sunday, April 15, when the Gospel reading is from Luke.)

I am thinking about a series of sermons based on the "First Letter of John" and the Gospel readings titled "Light, Life, and Love: Our Response to Resurrection". What does it mean to live as a Follower of Jesus Christ? What does it mean to be called "Christian"?

Our scripture lessons for this week are:

Acts 4:32-35 – The community of believers sharing everything so that none are in need. Is this possible in the 21st century? Why Not?

Psalm 133 – Three verses! “How good it is when kindred live together in unity!” Community united in the love of God which is life everlasting.

1 John 1:1-2:2 – We know Jesus therefore we know God. In Jesus we see that God is light and that there is no darkness in God at all. One of the passages in the New Testament that seems to advance the idea of universal redemption is verse 2:2. “[Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Wow! What do you think?

John 20:19-31 – Jesus appears to 10 of the 11 remaining disciples on the day of his resurrection and gives them the Spirit. The missing disciple, Thomas, will not believe without proof (oh how I am so like Thomas). Jesus appears again on the following Sunday and shows Thomas his wounds. Notice that Jesus bears the marks of a victim yet twice declares, “Peace be with you.” It seems to me that too many 21st century American Christians want to claim the marks of victimhood (“We are being persecuted by society/government/advocacy groups!”) yet seem to not want to make or bring peace.

Have a great week serving God by serving others. See you in church!

Peace in Christ, our Risen Lord and Savior,
Pastor Gary