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?