Saturday, December 26, 2009

January 3, 2009

Scriptures for January 3 – Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12. Songs: Gather us in – TFWS 2236, Star-Child – TFWS 2095; I want to walk as a Child of the Light – UMH 206

Ephesians: Paul suffered a lot in the name of the gospel. He was beaten, run out of town and put into prison. But for Paul these were all good things. These things made him not only a stronger person, but a better Christian. Paul started his career as a Jew, as someone who persecuted Christians. But he became the apostle to the gentiles. Anyone who was not a Jew, was considered a gentile. Paul believed that it was a “mystery” that gentiles were a part of the family of God. Today, we have managed to separate ourselves in so many different ways – and Paul reminds us that it really doesn’t matter – we are united in Christ. We too can look beyond our differences to see who Christ calls us to be.

Matthew: This is Epiphany Sunday – the day when it all comes together and it seems to make sense or does it? We have no way of knowing who these guys were who came to visit Jesus, or even why they came. The important thing is that they came – and that they are a part of the gospel message. They were “gentiles” who wanted the savior to know that they too were indeed in need of salvation, that they too could say thank you. And they too would carry the gospel message on so that others could see it.

Questions: Why are there so many Christian denominations? Will there ever be one true church? How do we begin the task of uniting? What if the wise men had never come to visit Jesus? Would the story be any different for us? How do we identify with people of other religions to bring them into the family of God?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

December 20, 2009

Breaking Open The Scriptures

Scriptures for December 20th – Micah 5: 2-5a; Luke 1:46b-55; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45
Songs: O Come, O Come Emmanuel – UMH 211; O Little Town of Bethlehem –
UMH 230; Tell out My Soul – UMH 200

Hebrews The writer of Hebrews explains that worshippers have been doing it all wrong. They have been thinking that worship is a sacrifice, that it is supposed to hurt and be a hardship. But Jesus says that God does not want your sacrifice, God wants your heart. God does not want you to give because you have to, God wants you to give because you are blessed. The gift of the baby Jesus to the world is not a sacrifice – it is an offering of love. God’s way of showing us that we are cared for, and that help for all of our problems are on the way. This is a whole new way of thinking, how can we change our thinking to act in love and not obligation?

Luke: We hear the advent story backwards. For two weeks we heard the message of repentance from John the Baptist. Today we hear of the encounter that his mother has with the mother of Jesus. This is before both were born, while they were still in the womb. The older Elizabeth wonders why she is important to be a part of the transformational time in history. She blesses Mary for what she is about to do for the world. Mary also sings a song of celebration of how the world is about to change. What songs do we sing for being a part of this transformational moment? How do we celebrate the change?

How do we deal with change? Are we open to doing things in a new way? What is God asking us to do differently? How is Mary’s dream a lived reality today? Do you see evidence of Mary’s dream in your own life?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

December 13, 2009

Breaking Open The Scriptures

Scriptures for December 13th – Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18
Songs: Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming – UMH 216; Wild and Lone the Prophet’s Voice TFWS 2089; Hark the Herald Angels Sing – UMH 240

Zephaniah: Zephaniah is not the last book of the bible, but he is one of the minor prophets. The book contains nine prophecies. In the first 8 the prophet talks of judgment for Judah for all that the people have done wrong. But God will not destroy them for their mistakes. The section for today- the song of Zephaniah is a song of celebration. Life always goes on, no matter how tough the trial. God has a deep investment in our lives, God wants us to win, but God wants us to be disciplined in our winning. This is the official Sunday of joy in advent – our joy always begins with our repentance and God’s forgiveness.

Luke: The messenger is a big part of the Advent message. In this case John is the messenger for us. He preaches to same message of the Hebrew Bible, but to a different generation. For John the bad times are not behind us, but in front of us – tough times are coming. But if we are prepared, then that is not bad news for us. Because the one who will make everything right is also coming. First we must repent, and next we must have faith, and the second coming of Christ will transform us and our situations.
Questions: Next week we focus on peace, how does repentance bring about peace in our hearts? How does that peace within become peace out in the world? Who is the messenger for us to day? And what is the message of repentance that we need to hear today? What is it that we have to celebrate in praise and worship today?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

December 6, 2009

Scriptures for: Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 1:68-79, Phillippians 1:3-11, Luke 3:1-6
Songs: Angels from the Realm of Glory – UMH 220; Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates – UMH 213; He Who Began a Good Work in You – TFWS 2163

Malachi The temple has been rebuilt, society is at peace, and people have began to get too comfortable with their worship. The priest have gotten too comfortable with their job. Something or someone has to come along and shake things up and put them back into order. But exactly who is the messenger that Malachi refers to? Who will come back and purify the worship experience? Many believe that this announces the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus did indeed correct what he saw wrong in the temple? What refines us today? A failing economy? A mission to tell others about Jesus which seems almost impossible? What about a desire to know and love God?

Philippians : Paul is bringing blessings and love to one of his favorite congregations. He is also giving them instructions on how to behave in the endtimes. He tells them that the work of God has already begun in them. They are the beginning of salvation. But not as individuals, as a community. There are many who heard Gods word for the first time and choose to respond. And now there are making a difference in the world. God is using their church and ours to transform the world and our community.
What does the fullness of time really look like? Can this world really be saved or are we destined for disaster? How do you see God at work in your life? How is God using you to make a difference? How would you like to be used?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

November 29, 2009 - First Sunday of Advent - Year C

Scriptures for November 29th: Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1- 10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36
Songs: People Look East – UMH 202; Come thou long expected Jesus UMH 196; Lord I want to be a Christian UMH 402

Jeremiah: This is the first Sunday of a brand year, but before we are free to think about a new beginning, we must realize the full effects of the end. In the last weeks, we have gone through the little apocalypse, the medium apocalypse, and today is the big one. All of the scriptures of advent are designed to fit together in a common theme. The theme for this Sunday is unity, and the importance of a tree. Jeremiah is a prophet in a time of destruction for the Hebrew people. And yet he tells them that a branch, a righteous branch will survive and will carry on God’s love to the rest of the world. The other themes of the day are justice and righteousness. God will be fair to those who have remained loyal to what is right?

Luke: It is easy for us to become distracted by Christmas. We can get caught up in what the rest of the world is doing to celebrate. Jesus pulls us aside and reminds us that is not what we are about as God’s people. The events of the day don’t mean what everyone thinks they mean. They mean the Christ is coming back. Christmas is Christ coming back to us to remind us of why we are faithful people. The signs of the times are not an ending, but a beginning. The beginning of Christ’s reign not only in our lives, but in the world.

Questions: What justice is needed in the world today? What does it mean really for us to be righteousness? What role does God have in the process of doing the right thing? What does advent mean to you? What does it mean to have a new beginning of faith? What things in your life do you need to address in order to be right with God? How can you stay alert to God’s presence this advent?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

November 22, 2009

Breaking Open The Scriptures
Scriptures for November 22: 2 Samuel 23:1-7; Psalm 132:1-12; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37
Songs: Soon and Very Soon – UMH 706; We Will Glorify the King of Kings – TFWS 2087; He is Exalted- 2070

Revelation This is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Christian year. This holiday was first instituted in 1925. This was a time of great turmoil- when it became okay to question the power and authority of the church. Christians needed to be reminded that indeed Christ is our king. One of the foretold signs of the endtimes is that the culture of Christ will be in direct conflict with the culture of the world. Have things gotten any better today? Revelations reminds us that Christ is not only in charge of today, but that we are waiting for the second coming, when Christ will indeed be in charge for all people.

John: All of the gospels record this conversation between Jesus and Pilate. Jesus goes on trial for his prediction of last week that the temple would be destroyed. Pilate must now ask Jesus – Are you the King of the Jews? Why has Jesus become so arrogant to pass judgement on a whole nation? But is this a question for Pilate or for Jesus? What is being asked here? What answers does Jesus give? Is Jesus our King?
Questions: What do Methodist believe about the second coming? Jesus wept – what is it about our lives, about the world that makes us cry? What reason did you come into the world? What purpose to you have to fulfill? How can Jesus help you?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

November 15, 2009

Scriptures for November 15: 1 Samuel 1:4-20, 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18), 19-25; Mark 13:1-8
Songs: O God, Our Help in Ages Past – UMH 117; Come Thou Font of every Blessing – UMH 400; The Family Prayer Song – TFWS 2188

The Bible is full of stories of women who are at first barren, and then have a child: A special child who is a blessing to the world. In this story we learn about Hannah, the second wife of Elkanah. She prays for a son every time that she comes to the temple. The Priest notices her prayer and prays with her. On the next visit, she dedicates her baby to the Lord, to be raised in the temple. In chapter 1 we read Hannah’s story, in chapter 2 we hear her song. A song that not only celebrates her fortune, but the fortune of the world. This song is the precursor to Mary’s song celebrating the birth of Jesus. Is it that time of the year again?

It is indeed almost time for advent – a new year, a new beginning, a new life. So it makes sense that Jesus would start to talk about the end times. But is the end that Jesus speaks of the same one the so many in the world are predicting? Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple . An event which indeed happened before, and indeed will happen again. That was the end of life as the Hebrews knew it. And each time they had to recreate themselves and redefine their identity, and go on with life. That is the same with us, advent is a time to understand what has been destroyed and what we must begin anew.

Questions: There is a point in every life where we are indeed trying to make it and even though progress is being made, it appears that it is not happening. We can only see darkness- when has there been a time like that in your life? What was it that got you through the tough time? What was it life to finally see light at the end of the tunnel. The disciples ask Jesus when will they know when the end has come – Jesus does not answer – yet gives them signs that the end is near? Have you seen any of those signs? What do they really mean?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November 8, 2009

Scriptures for November 8th – Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17; Psalm 127, Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

Lineage was very important for a Jewish family. If you could trace your lineage back to the twelve tribes, that was important. In Jesus lineage, there are 4 women names along with the fathers. Ruth is one of those women. And Ruth is not Jewish, she is a foreigner. But her story is about the definition of dedication. She refused to give up her connection to her mother in law, even though her husband was dead. At that time women were nothing, they had no definition in society at all. In order to survive, she had to remarry into the family. A distant cousin, Boaz is willing to take on that responsibility. They marry and live happily ever after. Their son, is the grandfather of David – the greatest lineage of all – the lineage of Kig Jesus.

Jesus has lots of problems with the politics of the temple. He feels that the religion of the people has tended to favor the rich and pass over the needs of the poor. The Pharisees get credit for being important and the people are belittled. The rich are rewarded for what they have donated, the poor are marginalized. Yet one woman comes and turns the tables for Jesus – a widow with very little to give, but she gives what she has and she gives it faithfully. And she makes all of the difference in the world. In God’s eyes, the people do matter. God rewards our faithfulness, not our pocketbooks.

What does it mean to be a part of the family? What are the duties? What are the responsibilities? What does it mean to be a part of God’s family? Do you really have to do anything special? Who are the poor who give all that they have today? When has what you have been just enough?

Friday, October 23, 2009

November 1, 2009 - All Saints Day

Scriptures for the week of November 1: Isaiah 25:6-9, Psalm 24, Revelation 21:1-6a, John 11:32-44

Hospitality is the twin sister of reconciliation. In order for there to be reconciliation there has to be acceptance of the other person. God’s people have had a rough time, and they are asking questions of where God is. When are things going to get better? The words of scripture say that God is offering a place of hospitality for us. A place to come and be healed. A place to come and to know that God loves us and cares for us. Jerusalem is actually that place to come to know the presence of God.

How many times in our lives do we come face to face with death? There are times when we are depressed, or involved in a very bad habit, or not on the right track about life, when we are spiritually dead. And we like Mary complain that if Jesus had been present our spirit would not have died. The story of Lazarus has a distinct purpose for John. This is the last of the miracle stories, and the ultimate demonstration of healing. John wants us to understand that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. That we can depend on Jesus for anything – even new life in the face of death.

Questions Where are the places that you go to find hospitality and love? Is Cornerstone church a place where others can come to find the love of God? How or How not? Is there a time in your life when you felt that you were dying? What was it that brought you back to life? How do we know Jesus is bringing healing to our lives?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October 25, 2009

Scriptures for October 25th: Job 42:1-6,10-17; Psalm 34:1-8 (19-22); Hebrews 7:23-28;
Mark 10:46-52

Job: We reach the end of our story of Job and the answerable question of evil in the world. In this story everything that Job had was restored and Job was able to go on with the rest of his life with his faith intact. Job invites the community to celebrate his faith with him. How good are we as faithful people as celebrating the restoration of faith of others? Do w wish them well, or are we jealous and upset? God has not given Job any concrete answers of why he needed to go through all of this. But Job realizes that it is not his place to understand God’s plan. It is his place to accept the mysteries of God as a part of life and just move on.

The healing of Bartimaeus is the last healing story in the book of Mark. Jesus will soon complete his journey to Jerusalem. The blind man was considered an outsider, because it was thought that in order to really understand a person’s soul you had to be able to look them in the eye. If Bartimaeus was not able to see- how did he know he was talking to the Son of David? How did he know this was the man who could help him. When Jesus passes by, he stops to ask Bartimaeus what it is that he wants. He asks to be able to see, and his request is granted. Many times we come to God and we want God to just “fix” it. But we have no idea of what we need to get better. Perhaps we should think of our own blindness, before we ostracize others for their blindness.

Questions: Is there a time in your life when you have discovered riches amongst the things you thought you lost? Wisdom and faith come from meeting God in struggle – is that a helpful statement for you? After hearing the story of Job, what questions of faith remain for you? When Jesus ask you what you need – do you have any idea of what to say? What are your blind spots – places you cant see- in your faith life?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October 11, 2009

Scriptures for October 18th: Job 38:1-7(34-41), Psalm 104:1-9, 24,35; Hebrews 5:1-10, Mark 10:35-45

Job: How many times have you been struggling with a problem, or asking God a question and you sit down to marvel at a sunset or you stare at creation. When you come face to face with the awesomeness of God, your realize that your issues pale in comparison. Job has reached that point in his struggles. First he talks with his friends, then he talks with himself. He hopes, wishes that perhaps something will happen to assure him that God cares about him in the midst of his struggles. And at least God speaks. God reminds Job of all that he has done for the world, all that is involved in nature and running the world. And finally Job gets it. He gets that God loves him and is capable of answering his prayers. Now Job can pull himself out of self pity and move on with the rest of his life.

Hebrews: A priest’s job is to stand between heaven and earth on our behalf. They plead to God for us, they bring our prayers and needs to heaven. And yet priest are mere human beings. They are capable of making mistakes. They are capable of sinning. Sometimes they even forget about us. Jesus is also a high priest, Jesus is human. But he never forgets, he never sins, he never makes a mistake. It was thousands of years ago, that the world had a priest that perfect. And yet today and throughout eternity – Jesus us our high priest.

Questions: What is your response when God speaks of a wisdom which far surpasses your own? Where do you go to experience the brilliance of God? How has you weakness fostered the compassion to work on behalf of others?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

October 11, 2009

Scriptures for October 11th: Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-5, Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31

Job has been listening to the helpful advice of his friends, but he is not finding what they have to say so helpful. So now he feels that he must clarify his own concerns. If he could talk to God, this is what he would have to say. His friends have told him that surely he must have deserved everything that happened to him. But Job searches his soul and says that he has done nothing. Why do bad things happen to good people? How much pain can we possibly bear? Next week, we hear God’s response to Job’s pain. Can we wait in our own lives for God’s response to our pain?

What must we do to inherit eternal life? Jesus spends a lifetime answering that question for us. And just life the rich young ruler, we don’t always want to hear the answer that we receive. We have to learn to live in a way that does not hurt others. We have to rethink that things that we treasure, and sometimes be prepared to lose them. What do we do to ignore what Jesus us calling us to do? How do we explain those things away. In Jesus times, many thought there was actually a gate in Jerusalem called the eye of the needle, that animals could only pass through if they put down whatever they were carrying. That was not the case. The gate is inside of the heart of the faithful. In order to inherit eternal life, we must listen fully to what Jesus us asking of us.

In your dark times, how do you experience God? What finally brings light on your situation and God’s love for you? How does your perception of God’s absence affect your life? When Jesus asks you to let go of anything that stands in between you and him, what will you release? Or will you walk away shocked and grieving?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

October 4, 2009

Scriptures for October 4th : Job 1:1; 2:1-10; Psalm 26, Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16

Job: Was Job a real person, or was he a character. Who knows, but what we do know is that he gives a lesson of faith. He gives us a lesson of learning to have faith in God in the midst of all circumstances. Actually we learn from all of the characters in the story. His wife, his friends, even the voice of God. For the next 4 weeks we will hear parts of this story. Perhaps for your study, you can read the entire story. Job loses everything that we deem to be important to life, his livelihood, his health, his family. I takes him a minute and some deep conversation, but he comes through it. Would we be so lucky?

Hebrews: We don’t know who wrote this book, or even who it was written for. But I would say that it is one of the best books of the new testament. It is some very powerful writing. It is a reminder of why Jesus is so great. Why should we worship his as the Christ. Because he loves us enough to reveal the nature of God in ways that we can understand. Jesus is the best thing that ever happen to the world. And there will never be anyone equal. So we need to get the most that we can out of the experience of knowing Jesus, and what and who he taught us to be.

Questions: Pay close attention to the words of Job’s wife – why don’t you curse God and die? Does that sound like something that we all feel in our heart about faith? If we were going to write a modern story of the wisdom of faith, what character would we use? What situations? How do you give praise to Jesus for your life? Is the book of Hebrews still important? Why or why not?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

September 27, 2009

Scriptures for September 27th: Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22; Psalm 124; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50

James:. The theme for this week and next week seems to be healing. A reminder that healing comes from God. So it is important that we pray for God to bring healing. James implores the elders of the church to gather around someone to pray for them when they are sick. But you don’t have to have any special gifts to pray – just a trust that God hears and that God will answer. James believes that God will answer your prayers because you are righteous, not because you are gifted. What are our notions of healing today? What role does the doctor play? What role does faith play in healing?

Mark: In the midst of Jesus awareness that he is making “the trip”. That is the trip to his destiny at the cross. Jesus has continued his ministry of healing. He had healed individuals, and now he is healing situations. He asks us to think of ways that we are a hindrance to healing. Not for ourselves, but for others. How are we unintentionally a stumbling block for others to listen to the word of God for themselves. How does our opinion of the church prevent others from coming to church. Jesus warns that it is very dangerous to let our judgments prevent others from coming to God. But how to we get in touch with the way we stand in the way of others?
Questions: How we do help others see God for themselves? What do we believe about healing? What role does God play in our healing? How is Paul’s view of healing different from what we see in James? When are we compelled to pray for others?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September 20. 2009

Scriptures for September 20th: Proverbs 31:10-31; Psalm 1, James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a,
Mark 9:30-37

Unlike Paul who writes to a specific congregation about a specific issue, James writes to all Christians in general. This week we are reminded that there is always an internal battle within us between what is right and what it wrong. We are always having to ballet between doing what the Bible says and doing what the world says. When we listen to the bible, we get a message of peace, gentleness, willingness, and righteousness. When we listen to the world we get a message of envy and self ambition. How can we possibly choose between to the two sets of values?

Jesus continues to talk to the disciples about death, about his death. This is a hard conversation for anyone to talk about. But Jesus knows that when he dies, their work just begins. And he has a lot to teach them before that point in life comes. He disciples are fighting about who is the greatest among them. Once again Jesus helps them understand that greatness in the kingdom of God is not like greatness in the world. Children are the greatest in the kingdom of God, Are they the greatest in the church?

Questions: Who is not welcome in our churches? What barriers prevent them from coming? What barriers prevent us from realizing that they are excluded? How do we get in touch with our own jealousy and anger and self ambition? When we see it, what do we do about it?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

September 13, 2009

Breaking Open the Scriptures
Scriptures for September 13th: Proverbs 1:20-33, Psalm 19, James 3:1-12, Mark 8:27-38

Proverbs: There are some people who have a problem with wisdom being depicted as a woman. Wisdom says that she has been around since the beginning of time. She was a playmate of logos – Jesus as the word of God. Wisdom is those things that we learn from experience in life. Things that you can’t be told, you have to learn for yourselves. Wisdom is the foundation of faith. This verse reminds us that wisdom is present everywhere, even in the streets, we just have to be astute enough to recognize it when we see it. If we do recognize it, we also recognize the presence of God everywhere we go.
Mark: Jesus has gathered the disciples together, and now he has completed his public teaching and it is time for him to journey to Jerusalem. But not without one final lesson. Who is the Christ, and why has he been doing these things? There are many rumors about Jesus and what he does. But is takes a true disciple to see his identity closely. Up until now, Jesus had told everyone to tell no one who has healed them. Now it is time for his true identity to be revealed. When Jesus says that he must suffer, it is too much for the disciples. Why would their hero suffer? Why would the chose as a hero someone who must die? Because it says so in Isaiah about the suffering servant. And Jesus must fulfill the scriptures in order to transform their meaning.
Questions: If you had to give wisdom a face, what would it look like? Do you see the presence of God in your day? What makes you recognize God’s presence? What do you think of having a suffering messiah? Does that make him more or less human? Who is Jesus Christ to you?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Scriptures for September 6th: Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23, Psalm 125, James 2:1-10, 11-13, 14-17, Mark 7:24-37

James is my absolute favorite book of the Bible, because he cuts right through the chase. If you are reading the book correctly, you should feel very uncomfortable. This author is a very different author from Paul. Whereas Paul says that we can only live with the aid of the grace of God. James starts with the premise that everything that we have is from God, but he makes the point to that to believe that, but not to act upon it in your life, is useless. Faith without works is dead. James also seems to notice that we react much more favorably to those who can give in return, than to those who can’t. Yet Jesus tells us that to be a Christian is to give to those who don’t have it to return to us.

Proverbs: James can be thought of as a book of proverbs for his time. Both are books of advice on how to live right. So it is not a surprise that both James would pick up on the topic listed by proverbs: helping the poor. One commentary asks the question, how to you check the reputations of others – by a credit check or a character check? Do we care about their bank account, or their spiritual account? In our lives, do we make provisions for others to live in dignity, or do we hoard our resources for ourselves? What does the Bible command us to do when others are in need?

Questions: What kind of relationship do you have with God? With neighbor? Whose name do you carry in your actions? James asks the question, when we show favoritism, do we really demonstrate our belief in Jesus? What any of our actions say about our faith? What part of our character do we need to strengthen in order to do God’s will?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

August 30, 2009

Scriptures for August 30th: Song of Solomon 2:8-13, Psalm 45:1-2,6-9; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23.

It is not really clear who James is, or who he is writing this letter to. But what we do know is that this is a very practical letter about what it means to be a Christian. We are being called to remember God’s constancy and God’s generosity. And to model our lives by it, know that we are being judged by how we live out our faith. To not be faithful is like looking in the mirror and forgetting what you look like. You were created to be the object of God’s love.

Mark: We are done with our lesson from John. Now we continue to story of Mark. Jesus is discussing his understanding of God with the Pharisees. The religious leaders of the time are very conscious of appearances, they don’t want anyone to misinterpret who they are. They were obsessed with what it means to be clean. Jesus reminds then and us that faith is not about what we look like on the outside, but who we are on the inside. There are many bad people who live double lives. So our cleansing efforts should always start in our hearts.

Questions: What is your definition of being a religious person? How does your life reflect God? When you know that you have sinned (and we all do), what is your method for getting right with God and asking for forgiveness? When have you talked about faith, but forgot to walk in faith? We can spoil or redeem our lives by our values, is your value system in keeping with Jesus teachings?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

August 23, 2009

Scriptures for August 23rd: 1 Kings 8: (1,6,10-11), 22-30, 41-43; Psalm 84, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69

The gospel lesson stresses the importance of spiritual food, not just physical food. The epistle tells us that we need not only physical clothes, but spiritual clothing. The fashionable Christian is to wear truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, and salvation whenever they go out into the world. This dress will not only protect us from the unexpected, but it show honor to Jesus to all who see us. In his letter, Paul not only asks for prayer for himself, but for all who put on this “armor of God”.
This is the last week that we examine John 6. This chapter may be all about Jesus being the bread of life, but we can never be reminded of the source of our faith too many times. We are told that we are what we eat – so if we eat Jesus, then we will be Jesus. Our text for today demonstrates that not even the disciples were sure of what Jesus was trying to say. Maybe Jesus knew from the beginning that he could not change the world by himself, it would take a whole community working for 2000 years to make a difference. So 2000 years later he still gives of himself in our communion service.

Questions: Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt that you needed an armor of God to protect you? What happened when you depended on the lessons that you learned about faith? Were your prayers answered? Why is it so hard for us to believe that Jesus supplies all of our needs? How do you feel when you take communion? Do you feel the presence of Christ with you?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

August 9, 2009

Breaking Open The Scripture
Scriptures for the week of August 9th 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15,31-33 Psalm 130 Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2 , John 6:35, 41-51

2 Samuel
Nathan reported that the consequence of David’s sin was that the sword would always be a part of his family and the rule of his family would be troubled. David loved all of his son’s dearly, but he let them do what they wanted. One raped his own sister, another decided that he would become king while his dad was still alive. We hear Absalom’s story this week. How he rebels against his father, and how he is eventually killed. We can never escape the issues of our families.

Jesus has said “I am the bread of life, all throughout the chapter. But now he gets to the “I am” statements, telling us that the bread of life is not about food at all, but about feeding our souls. Even though we get our example of Eucharist from the last supper, this chapter explains what Eucharist means for us. Why is Jesus feeding us with all of his self, and what difference does it make that we take communion?
Questions: Even though we ask for forgiveness, do we ever overcome the effects of our sin? This story is not just about a family, but a community and a nation. How are we connected to our community? How do we overcome a pervasive sin which affects everyone involved? Where is the grace in David’s family situation? Where is the grace in our own situation? What does communion mean to you? Who is Jesus to you?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

August 2, 2009

Breaking Open The Scripture
Scriptures for the week of 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13, Psalm 51:1-12, Ephesians 4:1-16, John6:24-35

2 Samuel
This is the second half of the story of David’s Sin. David had a chance to confess and to make things right with God. He is the king, and in most circumstances he had the right to make the rules. But Nathan reminds him that he does not make the rules, God makes the rules – sin is sin. Sin is missing the mark of what is in your best interest. And we all have to deal with the consequences of what we do wrong. The rest of the story of David is the story of his decline as a king. The son of his sin, Solomon, becomes the next great king. Life goes on for David, but only because of God’s forgiveness.

Jesus makes his point of feeding the 5000, and intends to go on vacation to regroup. But the crowd continues to follow him and to ask for more. He has saved them, they want to make king. Jesus sees this as a teaching moment. He tells us why he feeds us and how this is a gift from God. Not something to be exploited. We are to be thankful for what we have, and be willing to serve God.
Questions: Who has confronted you with the consequences of your sin? How did you respond? As you look at your life, what are the key events that have shaped your life? What feeds your soul? How is Jesus at work in those activities? How do you say thank you to God? How often do you ask Jesus for food for your soul?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

July 26, 2009

Breaking Open The Scripture
Scriptures for the week of July 26th : 2 Samuel 11:1-15, Psalm 14, Ephesians 3:14-21, John 6:1-21

2 Samuel
Once David became king, it was decided that he would not go in battle. His followers did not want the dame fate that happened to Saul. And yet, even though he was not killed, he made the same mistakes. He began to think that he was beyond the law because he was king. Everything that he did and everything that he thought was correct. So when he saw Bathsheba, he could have her, even though she was already married. When she gets pregnant, David has his faithful husband killed to cover up his sin. God reminds David that no person is above God’s law, and no one gets away with wrong. We all have to deal with the consequences of our bad behavior. David’s request for forgiveness (psalm 51) becomes our example of realizing that we too are sinners, and in need of a relationship with God to ask for forgiveness.
We switch to John for a few weeks. The feeding of the 5000 is contained in all 4 gospels. We skipped Mark’s version, so that we could look at John’s version. By this time in Jesus’ ministry, he is very tired, and needs to get away. There are still messages that he need to make sure they understand. But no matter what he needs to do, there are people who need him. He uses prayer and faith to meet that need.
Questions: How have you learned the lesson that faith and integrity does not protect you from sin? How does power seem to still corrupt some otherwise good people? Jesus does not want people to see him, but to see the message. What is the message of the feeding of 5000 for today? How do we point to the present sign of the times?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 12, 2009

Scriptures for the week of July 12th: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19, Psalm 24, Ephesians 1:3-14, Mark 6:14-29

2 Samuel
In battle, the Israelites took the Ark of Covenant with them. They believed that it was the power of God inside which helped them to win the battle. Once while fighting the Philistines, it was taken from them. David was able to retrieve it, which was a time of great celebration. David loves God, and he is really excited about the moment. But did he take things too far? Why would his wife be upset about his dancing and celebrating this moment for this country?

The Christian church has been around long enough to where there were just as many gentiles as there were Jewish converts. But these two groups saw life so differently, that they often could not exist in the same congregation. Paul (or one of Paul’s students) is telling the Ephesians to focus on what the two groups have in common, not their differences. Our commonality is that we are chosen, redeemed, forgiven and sealed by the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Questions: What are the things that all Christians have in common? God has a purpose for all of humanity, how do you fit in? How does your church fit in? David was willing to go all out to worship God, even to the point of embarrassment – how willing are you to go out tot tell others what God has done for you?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

July 5, 2009

Scriptures for the week of July 5th: 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10, Psalm 48,
2 Corinthians 12:2-10, Mark 6:1-13

2 Corinthians
Paul seems to talk a lot about suffering lately. He never does really tell us what the “thorn in his side” is, but it causes him great pain. And he must overcome it each day. Suffering should not be a part of everyday life for us. But we can use Paul’s example of faith. He tells the story of someone being caught up into the third heaven – this is saying there are different consciousness of God available to us, but God is present to us wherever we may be in life – happy or sad.

Scholars believe that Jesus’ hometown was Nazareth. He had been around Israel doing amazing things, yet his hometown still had an image that there was nothing he could do. Is this not the son of Mary? Was Joseph dead by now? Jesus does make an impact on his disciples, telling them to go out and to give. And to live solely on the hospitality of others.
Questions How is Paul an example for you in your life? What are your struggles in life? Does faith help you go on with life in spite of them? Has your faith grown because of them? What do you think of your hometown? Is it supportive of you as an adult, or does it hold you down? As a Christian, how have you been lifted up by the support and love of others?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

June 28, 2009

Scriptures for the week of June 28th: 2 Samuel 1:1,17-27, Psalm 130,
2 Corinthians 8:7-15, Mark 5:21-43

2 Samuel
Saul and his son Jonathan have both been killed in battle. One is David’s enemy and the other is his best friend. Yet in death, he treats them both the same. He leads the nation through a period of mourning for their leaders. This scripture is called the song of the bow – it reminds everyone of the contributions of these two great leaders. It is important for us to acknowledge the gifts of our leaders, even when we don’t like them as persons. They have given a major portion of their lives to us.

2 Corinthians
Chapters 8 and 9 outline a stewardship campaign. The churches of Jerusalem needed money, so Paul encourages every church that he goes to, to learn how to give. Helping others is a major part of our faith, that we can’t do without. When we help others, we actually help ourselves. We are not to give out of obligation, but out of thankfulness for what we have been given.
Questions How do you feel about some of the leaders in your life? How do you honor and respect the service they have given to the community? How do you repay evil for good? Who have you tried to help today? How has they helped you? What gifts has God given to pass on to others?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

June 21, 2009

Scriptures for the week of June 21st: 1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49; Psalm 9:9-20, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41

2 Corinthians
It is the American dream to pursue the good life. We are always looking for things to be easy. And yet one of the lessons of our times, is that life is not always easy. Nor is it intended to be easy. Paul was one of the most ardent followers of Christ that ever lived. Yet his authority and faith were constantly challenged. Paul asserts that the life of a Christian is not easy. It is our endurance in tough times, that makes us more faithful persons. Paul gives an account of his struggles and asks for us to open our ears to listen to him.

This is the first of Mark’s sea stories, when the disciples are in the midst of a storm with Jesus and are afraid. They ask Jesus if he even cares about them. Why would he have bought them out in the middle of a storm, knowing that could be killed. Jesus commands the storm to calm down. What kind of man has that kind of power over the natural elements. Does Jesus have that same power over our lives? Can he command us to calm down and be still, and we are able to drop everything to listen?

Questions What are the weapons of righteousness that we need to get through tough times? What are the virtues that you have, what are the virtues you would most like to develop in your Christian faith? When are you most likely to be afraid in your Christian journey? How does Jesus help you through those times?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

June 7, 2009

Scriptures for the week of June 7th: Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 29, Romans 8:12-17, John 3:1-17

Romans 8 is one of the most important passages in our faith. Paul gives words of comfort. He also uses comparison to help us understand the difference between life in the spirit and life in the flesh, between life and death, and between slavery and adoption. He reminds us that we are children of spirit, life and adoption. This is a good text for Trinity Sunday, because it speaks of the work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
We encounter this passage many times in our study of the lectionary. It could be one of the most famous passages of scripture. Nicodemus, a learned scholar comes to Jesus, a lowly carpenter for spiritual advice. “For we know that you could do the things that you do, only if you are in touch with God”, says Nicodemus. He only knew what he had heard about this man, and he needed to see for himself, but he wanted no one to see what he was doing. What about you, do you seek Jesus in the light, or in secret. Jesus is always both places in or lives.
Questions What do Isaiah's theophany and Nicodemus's conversation with Jesus teach us about the Triune God? Where do we encounter God in three persons in this week's Trinity Sunday readings? Compare the function of Isaiah's live coal to Jesus' baptism by water and Spirit.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

May 31, 2009

Scriptures for the week of May 31st: Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:24-34, 35b, Romans 8:22-27, John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

The story of the first day of church is a well known story, but we don’t always know that meaning behind the story. This was the first time that believers got the chance to declare their faith in the salvation of Jesus Christ. Their were many languages that were spoken because devout Jews came from 16 different areas of the region. For many, this was the first time that they were allowed to return from exile and to worship in Jerusalem. No matter where they came from, as they worshipped, they spoke a common spiritual language. It continues to be a miracle that each person is able to hear the voice of God in the context of their lives and their situation.

The simple message of this scripture is that that power of God is contained in the scriptures. As we look at the suffering of life, we can also wait for the Glory of God to appear. It always does. Not only the faithful, but all of creation awaits that wonderful day. The presence of the Holy Spirit is our down payment on the full glory of God. It also brings clarity to our prayers.
Questions How would you explain the message of Pentecost in one sentence? What practical, accessible illustrations come to mind when you attempt to explain how the Spirit of God continues to move among us? Have you ever experienced the groaning of life, as a sign of rebirth?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

May 17, 2009

Psalm 98 This Psalm is designed to help us to remember that God reigns. The message is the fact that justice and righteousness is a part of God’s will for us. God’s love is a desire that all of us are taken care of, personally and as a community. In a troubled world, it is good for us to be reminded of what God has done for us. If we know that we are loved, then we are to sing God’s praises. The greatest version of this psalm is the song “Joy to the World”.

This scripture is a continuation of the message of last week. It continues the theme of God is love, that if we know love, then we know God. And we show that love to others by abiding in God’s love. Jesus has a very personal relationship with God, calling God – Abba or daddy. Often we are taught to have a formal relationship with God. Yet this verse reminds us that God is our friend, going through every step of our life with us. Only a friend who cares, would give life for us.
Questions Are we friends or servants to God? Is God friend or servant to us? How do you know? When John Wesley encourages us to go on to perfection, what does that mean? What does John mean when he says that God gives us perfect love? If salvation and justice are signs of God’s love; How does your knowledge of salvation lead you to do acts of justice for others?

Friday, May 1, 2009

May 3, 2009

Scriptures for the week of May 10th: Acts 8:26-40, Psalm 22:25-31, 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8

1 John We learn love from our parents, the way our mother treated us as a child. But true love comes from God. We on earth would never know anything about love, if God had not defined it first. Our journey on Earth is to learn what love is. We all have different experiences, but should all have one conclusion. We are children of God, because as Christians, we are called to recognize love. Jesus asks how can you say that you love God whom you have never seen, if you don’t love the people you see everyday.

A scripture about connectivity is perfect for Mother’s Day. If we are the fruit, then our mothers and loved ones are the vine. It is through her care and nurturing that our character is formed. Jesus is also the vine of our faith. God us the vinedresser the one who made it all possible. This is a metaphor which would have been very familiar with the listeners in Israel. They saw lots of vines around the countryside. It is also used to refer to Israel in the Hebrew scriptures. Branches which are severed from their source have no chance of survival. What happens to us, when we are severed from God and the love and care that guides our actions?
Questions How do we know love in our lives? How do we learn to love? How do know the difference between knowing and learning love? What is our relationship with Jesus? How does the vine help us understand what it means to have a savior?

Friday, April 24, 2009

May 3, 2009

For the week of May 3rd: Acts 4:5-12, Psalm 23, 1 John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18

Acts Peter and John heal a man and are arrested by the Sanhedrin – the authorities. Healing is a major part of the promise of salvation. Salvation comes from no one, but Jesus. We are in need of being healed in many levels in our life – which is why salvation is so far reaching – down to the level of the soul. The world is still in need of healing of the soul – so the world is in need of Jesus and Christianity.
John The concept of the shepherd as one who takes care of us has been a long time image in the bible. Isaiah says that the suffering servant is the messiah the one who cares for people to a fault. Jesus is telling us that he is indeed that person. He cares about and takes care of us, even in resurrection. Jesus says that there is a difference between the shepherd and the hired hand - this is a calling that will not be given up for the true shepherd.
Questions If Christianity is the only religion to offer salvation, how to we treat others? How does God define and redefine our world and what it needs? Are we an inclusive religion? How does the contrast between good shepherds and hired hands apply to today's leadership in the church? The point of the passage is not only what God does for us, but what we are willing to do for one another. Jesus, in this, becomes the prototype for leadership in both the church and the marketplace. Yet how many people in today's workforce are willing to lay down their lives for those they serve?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

April 19, 2009

Breaking Open The Scriptures
We will not be using the lectionary text for the next few Sundays. On April 19th the sermon will be based on Hebrews 12:14-25 Lectionary : Acts:4:32-35, Psalm 133, I John 1:1-2:2, John 20:19-31

For the seven weeks of Easter we will concentrate on the meaning of Resurrection. Why is this an important concept, and why is it unique to the Christian Faith. This concept is the core of our faith, and explains why Jesus the Christ is our Lord and Savior. How do apply these concepts to living in a secular world, where these things no longer make any sense.

Hebrews: We are not only unsure of who wrote this book, we are unsure of who the book was written to. But the author reminds us of the old tenants of faith, and demonstrates how those fundamental beliefs are still valid in the life of Jesus Christ. Our theme for this week is mountain tops.

Acts: Instead of reading a Hebrew Testament reading for the season of Easter, we always read from the book of Acts. This is the story of the formation of the first church. It gives wonderful tips on how to reach out to the world and grow the church. We don’t need a visioning session, we need to read and believe the book of Acts. Our reading for today demonstrates how the first church shared their possessions so that everyone was taken care of
What does Resurrection mean in your life?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April 26, 2009

Scriptures for April 26th : Sermon based on Revelation 7:9-17. Lectionary text: Acts 3:12-19, Psalm 4, 1 John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36b-48

Revelation: Many people are afraid of the book of Revelation, because they don’t understand the significance of the symbolism. Much of the message of the book is intended for the people at the time that it is written. But it does help us to think about the meaning of heaven. Chapter 7 speaks of those who will be with God in heaven in the end times. Literally ,144,000 chosen by God. Many people from all nations who have endured tribulations until the end. Those who are willing to take sin in their lives head on. They are those who believe in the resurrection of the dead. In times of trouble, it is knowing that we are in that number that gives us strength – or resurrects our soul.

Luke: This passage occurs after two disciples have talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. It is proof that this is the same Jesus whom they knew before he died, - he shows them his hands and feet, he eats with them. Yet there is something different about him, the did not recognize who they were talking to. Once the remaining disciples are gathered, Jesus gives them peace and the great commission – go make disciples of all nations. He knew that this was a scary time for his disciples, but he wanted them to have the courage to not be afraid.

Questions: This is a scary time for many of us – what are you afraid of? What difference will the peace of Christ make in your situation? What are you doing to make disciples of others? Do you believe in bodily resurrection? Or is resurrection just a spiritual quest for you? What would you do, if you have a chance to see God face to face? How do you praise God in your every day life? What tribulations do you need strength to overcome?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

April 12, 2009 - Easter Sunday

Breaking Open The Scriptures
Scriptures for April 12th – Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Mark 16:1-20

1 Corinthians
Paul tells us that the most important things for us to remember about our faith are that Jesus died for our sins, He was raise on the third day. And that he appeared to those who were faithful to him and his teachings. The Risen Christ makes daily appearances, but only those who are faithful can witness his presence. Paul makes it clear that he is indeed a witness, but not because of anything that he did, but because of the grace of God. In this skeptical age, many are convinced that Jesus is not real. What does the resurrection mean to you?

There are two resurrection stories in the gospel: One in John, and this one in Mark. John focuses on the body, Mark focuses on the empty tomb. In the Mark story, there are a group of women who come to the tomb, expecting the burden of having to roll away the stone. Only to discover that the hard part is over. That is what resurrection means for us, that the hard part is over. Our sadness and suffering have not been in vain. Resurrection is not something that will happen in the distant future – it has come upon us now! Celebrate!

Questions: What does it take for any of us to realize that God is present and that Christ is risen indeed? What do you make of the difference between focal points in the two gospel accounts (John focused upon the body, Mark upon the empty tomb)? Where is your focus when you retell the story? What are the present-day implications of the Resurrection for Christians? How important is it to believe in a literal Resurrection? This is a controversial issue in some places.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

March 29, 2009

Scriptures for the week of March 29th :Jeremiah 31:31-34, Psalm 51:1-12, Hebrews 5:5-10, John 12:20-33

Hebrews This book is also written to second generation Christians going through a crisis. The message is that Jesus is a merciful and faithful high priest. He is both a representative of the people and the divine. We don’t have to think about our salvation, Jesus has done all of the hard work on our behalf. In that act, Jesus has done more for us than any priest in the past. He should be honored for that,

John Throughout the time of lent, all of our gospel lessons have a very distinct message. Every lesson has a prediction of what will happen to the Son of Man. Different people have different reactions to that “promise” of what is to come. In this story – a voice foretells the future – not Jesus. Those who hear it thought it was thunder, or an angel. Jesus responds that he will not fight the voice – but accept it as his destiny and of the world’s destiny. This is the first time that Jesus speaks to Greek speaking believers. Philip and Andrew not only hear his message, they become disciples.
Questions How important is repentance for forgiveness? What does it mean to lose our life in order to gain it: what are we losing? How does suffering bring about a greater good? What is the significance of Greeks seeking out a Jewish rabbi? What is the hope of multicultural talks today? Why would it e significant today if a Muslim visited the church to learn more about Jesus? What would you teach them about Jesus?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

March 22, 2009

Scriptures for the week of March 22nd – Numbers 21:4-9, Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21

Ephesians First generation Christians lived with the belief that Jesus was going to return at any moment. When that did not happen, second generation Christians had to change their thinking a bit. Even though Ephesians was written in the name of Paul, it was most likely written by a student of Paul to address this new audience and these new expectations. They had to take the direction of their lives more seriously. The writer says that we are saved by God’s gift of grace, but the gift is not complete yet. There is still work for and for God. Experiencing life as suffering, can be interpreted as life away from God.

This Gospel is written at the same time that Ephesians was written. John felt the need to write about the messiah of faith, not the messiah of tradition. In John, Jesus encounters conflict with the Jewish authorities very early in his ministry. And they remain very hostile to him until the day of his death. Jesus not only predicts his death, he also predicts the importance of the cross – saying that the Son of Man must be lifted up. The cross forces all people to ask a question – how to I focus my life on the things of above? How to I realize God’s intention for me? Why is God so intent on saving us, when we are so intent on sinning?
Questions In Ephesians, The writer says we are saved from something for something – what are you saved from? What are you saved for? What dark parts of your life need the light and love for of God’s love and presence? What does God’s grace mean for you? How do we gain spiritual vision on order to see the things of God? What does it mean to be born from above?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

March 15, 2009

Scriptures for March 15th Exodus 20:1-7, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, John 2:13-22
All of our lessons for lent, are simple lessons that we learned as children. Lessons that we already know, but we are being asked to take a closer look at. The Exodus passage includes the ten commandments. The deeper message is learning to live with one another. Commandments 1 through 3 teach fundamental things about being faithful people of God. The fourth commandment teaches the principle of rest. Commandments 5 through 10 teach us mutual respect. We are commanded to respect human life, to respect marriage relationships, personal property, and even our neighbor's reputation! Exodus 20:17 offers a more challenging principle: not only are we to respect everything belonging to our neighbor, but we are also warned against intense desire for (coveting) anything that belongs to him or to her. How might we apply these principles to life with our neighbors, both local and global?
Jesus has been planning this journey to Jerusalem, the center of his religion for some time now. Once he arrives, his focus in on the temple – where all Hebrews travel to sacrifice and worship God. Once he gets there, he gets upset with what he sees going on. He throws out the money changers and those selling animals. It is not that they are doing anything wrong. This is a needed service for those who come far distances. But neither are they doing anything right. God’s house should be a place of prayer, not commercialism.

Questions: Do you know the ten commandments by heart? What do they really mean to you? What covenants do we have in place of how we treat one another? Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple twice in his ministry – who would he attack in our modern society? Do we as the modern church get too caught up on making money and forget to be a house of prayer?

March 8, 2009

Scriptures for March 8th – Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Psalm 22:23-31, Romans 4:13-25, Mark 8:31-38
Our theme for this Lenten seasons are the promises of God and the requirements of discipleship. Genesis talks about the second promise that God made to mankind that the entire world would be blessed through the blessings of Abraham. Paul picks up that promise and points out that Abraham is the faith father of all believers. But that this promise was fulfilled through Abraham’s faithfulness, not just because God loved him. When we are faithful disciples then we enter into family of Abraham, thus the family of God. Paul wants us to understand that we all have a right be to included in the family.
Jesus is painting a very scary picture of what it means to be a disciple. It is way too much for Peter to understand. God wants us to be happy, not suffer. Being the messiah is about victory, not about a painful death. Jesus is taking the messianic secret a step further to include what will happen to him in Jerusalem. Jesus starts to call himself the Son of Man. He has being praying to God for a long time to understand the fulfillment of his life. God has made it clear what he must do, and he is ready to accept the challenge. The crowds still gather to hear from Jesus, who is teaching the distinction between human and divine understanding. We as humans will preserve our lives in any way – God says that in order to gain true life, you have to be willing to give up the one you have.
In old times, in order to accept a covenant, you changed your name. In older baptism practice that was the point of naming a child at this time. How do we acknowledge and accept God’s promise for our lives today? What does it really mean to take up your cross and follow Jesus? How do we become sons and daughters of Abraham today?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

March 1, 2009 - Year B

Scriptures for the week of March 1st – Genesis 9: 8-17, Psalm 25:1- 10, 1 Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1: 9-15
We begin lent with God’s promise to mankind. This is one of the first stories that we learn as a child – the story of Noah’s family witnessing the rainbow. A promise that God would never destroy the entire earth because of the sins of humans. This is not a promise that God will tolerate anything that we do, it is not a promise that is in enforcement forever. If humans get so out of control, God will do what can be done to get us back on track. In our present times, we forget that the world always seeks balance, and when things get out of control, nature corrects itself. In that process, our sins become obvious, and many of us don’t want to change. What is the present time trying to teach us about our sinful nature?
1 Peter
These verses are written are for a gentile Christian community. People who are enduring hardship, because they are trying to be different from the culture around them. This is a hard message for hard times. What does it mean when it says that Jesus is dead in the flesh, but alive in the spirit. This is the beginning of our understanding of the concept of Christ. Jesus was a man, Christ is the everlasting spirit still at work in the world. The verse also says that Christ talks with the spirits in prison – this group of people believed that in death, the spirit was still present. So Jesus not only instructs us in life, but in death – we do not give up our faithfulness to the teachings of Jesus. In life, we know that the lessons we learn about life will be with us forever. There is never a time when we will not be a Christian.
Questions for the day Considering our Lenten journey, when we are in touch with our sinfulness and mortality, if Christ is in control of life and death, what parts of ourselves are alive, what parts of ourselves represent death? How do we relate to Christ in those two natures? What promises does God need to make to the world today?