Sunday, December 26, 2010

January 2, 2011

Scriptures for January 2nd: Isaiah 60: 1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12 Theme: Epiphany Song: This Little Light of Mine – UMH 585

Isaiah: The Israelites had been away from their homes for 39 years. They had no idea of what to expect, or what to do when they got back. When they returned after their life having been abandoned, they found total devastation, a thick darkness. There was nothing. Isaiah had to say something to them that would get them motivated to rebuild and not to lose total hope. He uses the powerful words of Isaiah – arise and shine, your light has come. Those words are so powerful, they still inspire us today. We can be grateful that our nation has never totally been destroyed, but there are times when our lives are. When we look at the world we see hopeless situations that no amount of work can help. With God’s help and intervention, anything is possible. We have to believe that.

Matthew : This is the first Sunday of Epiphany – the first Sunday of the star. In Matthew, the wise men come to visit Mary at her house, and they give her baby gifts. In our minds, this happens soon after the baby was born, and in our minds, Herod finds out quickly. In reality, this is over a spa n of a few years. But the eternal point for us is that salvation is not just for the Jews. It is for anyone who is wise enough to accept it. Epiphany is the point when we realize that our actions are not our own, but they are God’s. God is working in our lives, to make a difference not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. What is God revealing anew to you this year?

Questions: When in your life have you experienced total darkness? What darkness is present in the world today? How does God come as the light? What is your greatest source of joy in difficult times? Was Jesus really King of the Jews? Was he a threat to Herod? What convinces us to make Jesus our King? How do we pay homage to Jesus in our lives?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 26, 2010

Scriptures for December 26th: Isaiah 63:7-9; Psalm 148; Hebrews 2:10-18; Matthew 2:13-23 Theme: the story and the implications of the first Christmas

Hebrews: This book spells out what it means for us to have a savior who is incarnate (in the flesh). It gives all of the gory details of why we need a savior and why Jesus is that savior for us. But is also reminds us that even though we are grateful for the little baby in the manger; it is not just the fact that Jesus was born that saves us. We are saved through his suffering for us. In his suffering he atoned for all that we have done wrong, and he showed that he loved us unconditionally. In his suffering, he acknowledged that there would be some sort of suffering in all of our lives. If Jesus can endure the ultimate pain, we have an example to endure whatever life brings us. And we can still sing and celebrate that through Christ we are victorious through whatever it is.

Matthew : This is the painful story of the slaughter of the innocents. Joseph had another dream that in order to save the messiah, that he needed to get out of the country and protect his family. In the absence of the Holy Family, King Herod kills every boy under the age of 2. The world was still a dangerous place for the righteous. We can be happy that the Lord survived, but we must also mourn the loss of all of the other babies. But in God’s wisdom he made sure that the baby who would change everything lived and grew to be a grown man. The Lord works in mysterious ways in all of our lives – blessed be the name of the Lord!

Questions: Jesus is our priest, our brother, our partner, our savior – which image of Christ is most helpful to you right now? How does Jesus share in your suffering at this moment? How does Jesus help you overcome that suffering? Does the story of the innocent children killed make you happy or sad? Is there ever a real purpose in a baby dying? How does our faith help us understand the pain? What do we pray for to prevent this from happening again in our time?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 19, 2010

Scriptures for December 19th: Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; Romans 1:1- 7; Matthew 1:18-25; Theme: The prophecy of hope fulfilled

Isaiah: The leaders of Israel felt that they were under attack. There were hiding, and felt that the only way they could be rescued was if God were to intervene. Isaiah answers their fear by telling them that God’s presence is already with them and is working to set them free. The threat that looms so large today, will disappear. A maiden will have a child, by the time that child is old enough to go to school, everything will work itself out. So many times are waiting for God to do a magic intervention, when all it takes is for to be patient and realize that God is not just a part of the future, but also a part of the present.

Matthew : The waiting is almost over, Advent is almost over, and the baby will arrive. Every year at this time we have a scripture on Mary’s journey to becoming the mother of God. Matthew also mentions the struggles of Joseph at this time. How can he accept that the woman who he is supposed to marry is already pregnant. God speaks to him in a dream and tells him that it is okay. He does the right things, and is committed to be a dedicated wife and father, and to raise this special child. Where would we be if Joseph had not listened to his dream? Where would we be, if we did not dream and follow them to God’s plan?

Questions: What oppressive forces are present in your life right now, which is appears will never go away? If you think about it, what ways is God present with you now? What does God need to work out in order for you to have a better future? How does your faith help you stand tall in difficult situations? What do you do, and who do you listen to when you are facing a difficult situation? Who are the Josephs in your life, who helped you even though they didn’t have to? How do your dreams speak to you?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

November 28, 2010

Scriptures for November 28th: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44 Theme: Advent as a time of preparation, awareness and awakening.

Romans: Romans is a book that we all depend upon for faith. It gives us much advice on what it means to keep the faith in tough times. In this paragraph, we are told to put on the armor of light. In those days, you were known for what type of clothes you put on in the morning. If you put on a crown, then you were an athlete, running for the prize. If you were a soldier, then you put on your armor in order to protect yourself. We as Christians are too known for what we put on in the morning. Sometimes we dress lightly, but other times we have to put on the full armor of God. As Christmas comes, we will see the world at its worst – every sin imaginable will be done in the spirit of Christmas – stealing, lying, indulgence, jealousy – you name it. What better time to put on the armor of light – to protect us from temptation, but to show the world what it means to love Christ and to do what is right. Let this be a spiritual time, not a time of physical pleasure.

Matthew : Advent always starts with the end in mind. It could be easy to think that this scripture is talking about rapture. But in this case, you don’t want to be the one taken up. It is like being taken by surprise and being robbed. You want to be the one grounded in the word of God. When you are awake and aware you know what it happening. You want to be ready to see God at any time and in any person, and any situation. Being in the presence of God is the source of our happiness. When things are at the worst; that is just a sign that the joy of the Lord is on its way. This season, let us welcome the joy of the Lord in our lives. Let us be aware, and wait in anticipation of what God will bring. The end,means that there is a new beginning coming soon.

Questions: If our faith is a journey, where are you now? Are you,in the valley, or on the hill? What are some ways to be prepared for Christmas? What are some ways to separate yourself from the world’s celebration? How can we make Christmastime a more spiritual time? What are you doing to ready yourself for the coming of Christ’s kingdom? What are some ways to be aware of God’s presence in your life?

Monday, November 15, 2010

November 21, 2010

Scriptures for November 21st: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Luke 1:68-79; Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43 Preparing ourselves for the Second Coming of Christ.

Colossians: Today is Christ the King Sunday; the day that we acknowledge that with all that is going on in our lives, with all of our responsibilities. Christ is still the head of our lives. Colossians speaks of what it means for Christ to be the center of our lives, and tells us why Christ is the center of our lives. This verse is a hymn that would have been sung in the early church, comparing Christ’s rule to the rulers of the time. It is a common image in other religions for the leader to be thought of as the Son of God. Christ being the Son of God means so much more, for us and for him.

Luke: This is the last week that we will deal with Luke as our gospel lesson. What lessons have we learned from Luke? We have learned that God cares about the oppressed, that prayer is important in our spiritual life, and that we have to go the extra mile in how we treat one another to be called Christian. Today we go to the cross with Christ, and relive his crucifixion. He is having a conversation with the criminals next to him to tell them that they will be with him in heaven. The question for us is what does it mean for Jesus to be the King of the Jews? It means that he died in order to save not just the Jews, but those of who have been adopted into the family? His Kingship applies to all people.

Questions: If we were to write a modern day Hymn of Christ, and compare what Christ does to what our politicians do for us, what would it say? Is Christ the center of your life, or are you? How much do you really rely on God in your life? Why do we have to experience the violence of the cross in order to understand real peace? Once that peace comes, how to do keep it present in our lives?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

November 7, 2010

Scriptures for November 7th – All Saints Day – Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149, Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31 Theme: Looking behind, Moving forward

Ephesians: This book reminds us that everything that we have comes from God: Our identity, our mission, our inheritance, our future. Where would we be now if it was not for the Lord? It is important for us to keep Christ first in all of our thoughts and decisions. The way you feel about Christ, determines the way that you feel about others. It also determines how you live out your life. Put Christ first, and everything else will fall into place. To be a saint, is not to be perfect, not to be dead, but to be willing to put Christ first.

Luke: This is the sermon on the mount, the most famous verses in the New Testament. It tells us the even though we suffer through life now, we will be comforted. Even though we mourn the loss of loved ones today, in time it will all make sense. We don’t have to rely on ourselves to do anything, God will take care of it in time. As we continue to think about what it means to be a saint, we can reflect on whether we have these qualities in our life: love, meekness, peace loving, willing to give in all circumstances. Only if we do, do we inherit the kingdom of God.

Questions: What inheritance has Christ promised us? What opportunities have you had to put aside what you wanted to do, to do what Christ asked you to do? If Christ is the head, what is our role as the body of Christ? What are the things in your life that you are waiting for Christ to change? What are your challenges in being able to love everyone?

Friday, October 22, 2010

October 31, 2010

Scriptures for October 31st: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4; Psalm 119:137-144; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4; 11-12; Luke 19:1-10 Theme: the time has come to see God’s vision clearly.

Habakkuk: It is a prophet’s job to pass on God’s word to the people. But a prophet’s job is also to pass on to God the concerns of the people. We don’t know much about who Habakkuk was, and we actually will only deal with his message this one time. What we do know is that he lived during the same time that Jeremiah was a prophet. He too understood the hopelessness and the violence of his age. He told the people that he would stand watch until God spoke the vision to him. And then he would make the vision plain for even the simplest person to see. Where is our vision present today?

Luke: Last week we all recognized the importance of humbling ourselves before God and being able to admit that we are sinners. How do we stand before God in the midst of our sin? We confess who we are, and accept God’s forgiveness. The story of the tax collector, Zaccheus, standing in a tree to see Jesus is a story of a sinner standing before God. Jesus enters into his life, even in the midst of all that he has done wrong and comes to Zaccheus’ house for dinner.

Questions: Do you see God’s vision for your life in the midst of the chaos? Who are the prophets who can voice the concerns of today clearly? What are the questions about the situation in the world that you would like to have answered by God? What would you do differently in your life if you knew that Jesus was coming to dinner? How do you stand before God and confess your sins? Do we stand in the way of those who are seeking a glimpse of Jesus?

Friday, October 15, 2010

October 24, 2010

Scriptures for October 24th: Joel 2:23-32; Psalm 65; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14; Theme: We have to stand before God with all of our actions someday.

2 Timothy: We reach the last words of Paul’s advice to Timothy and all of the other elders of the church. In some ways it seems like he is giving up, saying that there is no hope, people will never change. He says I have “fought the good fight”. He has done all that he can do. But what he is really doing is passing on his duties. He wants those behind him to carry on his work. He says that he has poured out his life as a libation- he has giving all that he is to the cause. He will never give up on God and God’s mission

Luke: When we do our best for God, we can easily get mislead that that means something. We are good people, and we want our reward from God. We can lose track that is not how we get rewarded from heaven, and that is really not what God is looking for. Being Good is not being faithful. It is when we realize that we are sinners, and we have all done something wrong that we can come to God in humble prayer. Two men come to the temple to pray, one is looking for praise, one is looking for forgiveness – which one are you?

Questions: What does it mean to pour yourself out as a libation? How do you give your whole self to God? Who is there for you to pass your work onto? How do you pass it on, and still keep serving God yourself? What type of prayer life do you have? Do you pray daily or when you need something? Does God owe you, or do you owe God? Do you remember to ask God for forgiveness? Once again how often?

Friday, October 8, 2010

October 17, 2010

Scriptures for October 17th: Jeremiah 31:27-34; Psalm 119:97-104; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8; Theme: Getting to know God for myself, not through someone else.

2 Timothy: We have one more week of advice from Timothy. This week Paul tells us to keep the faith that we have learned as a child. When we go out in the world, they will try to convince us that it has gone out of style. People will make up their own gospels and feel quite proud for doing so. They will create their own truth. There is only one truth, and that is God’s truth. Hold on to it. It may bring you suffering, but it will also bring you ultimate peace.

Luke: Life is unfair for so many people. Sometimes even the government is unfair, those who are responsible for helping us are unfair. What is our defense against those who don’t treat us as they should? Prayer; truth; being a witness for justice. A judge gave an unfair judgment against a poor defenseless widow, and then he disregarded her. She was able to stand up for herself in the name of God – and she got the justice she ask for. When we are right, God is always on our side.

Questions: God has no grand children, how do we keep the faith in our own lives? What are you doing in your life to have a closer relationship with God? How do you take the faith of your parents and not only apply it to your life, but to also pass it on to the next generation? When have you felt unjustly treated? How did you handle that situation? What role did prayer take in your actions? Did you feel that God was on your side?

Friday, September 17, 2010

September 26, 2010

Scriptures for September 26th: Jeremiah 32:1-3, 6-15; Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16; 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31 Theme: What does it mean to live righteously?

Jeremiah: How can you tell if an idea is just a crazy thing that your mind came up with, or is it truly a vision from God? Does it pull you apart, or help you pull things together? Does it help you or does it hinder you? No matter how crazy the idea, if it helps you make it through a tough time – it is a thought from God. God told Jeremiah to go rebuy his families land at full price, even though he knew that the land would lose value. But it was a hope in the future that God had promised, that his people would come home and inhabit the land. And they did, Jeremiah was not always popular for his decisions, but he never gave up on his relationship with God.

1 Timothy: We are ending our lessons from Timothy in his first letter, and will be going into the second letter. First Timothy reminds us of our moral character as Christians. As the rest of the world is clamoring for success, we should be clamoring for good moral character. Paul says that we are not to pursue riches at all, but learn to be satisfied with what we have. If we have the basic necessities of life, then God is taking care of us. We just need to be clear about what we need and what we want.

Questions: When things are going bad in your life, what is it that gives you hope? What signs do you see in your life that God is finally turning things around and is about to make a difference in your life? What is it about the love of money that seems to make us want more? What are the evils that are produced by greed? How do you control greed?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

September 19, 2010

Scriptures for September 19th: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1; Psalm 79:1-9; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13 Theme: Prayer should be the center of our lives.

1 Timothy: We know that Timothy was a young disciple of Paul, who was empowered to carry on Paul’s message to his own community. He reminds us that prayer is not just something to do, it is a way of life. It essential to our faith and something we should do all of the time. Ironically, we are all quick to say that we do not know how to pray. Timothy says to pray for all people, pray for leaders, then pray for the faithful.

Luke: Sometimes Jesus gives a straight forward message that makes “common Sense”. But most of the time, Jesus wants us to take a second to process and think about what he says and not search for the easy answers. Why would Jesus praise an employee who forgives the debts of others in order to protect himself? Money are other resources are not our life, but they can be used to further the message of God. We should not shy away from those resources, but make sure that they are used for good. But we must always remember that resources are not our end, God is our ultimate resource.

Questions: When we pray, do we just pray for those who are on our side or do we pray for everyone? Do we pray for the Cubs, or do we pray for a game fairly won? How often do you pray? How important is your prayer life? Do you set aside time to pray? What does it mean for prayer to be a way of life? How do you spend your money? Do you spend time praying before you spend? Is your spending connected to your prayer life? What role does Jesus have in what you spend money on?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September 12, 2010

Scriptures for September 12th: Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28; Psalm 14:1-7; I Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10 Theme: God wants us to repent, not from fear of punishment, but in celebration of grace.

Jeremiah: The weather is about to change, fall is on it’s way. One of the sure ways to know that fall is here, is to listening to the wind. As the weather gets harsher, the winds get stronger. The air gets a little colder. If you listen closely to the impending winds, they can say a lot. Jeremiah is saying that as the fall winds come, they are a warning from God, that judgment is coming. This is not an ordinary wind, it is a little stronger because it needs to get your attention. That it is time for something to change inside of you.

Luke: The gospel lesson is a perfect compliment to the Hebrew bible text. Jesus too talks about judgment. But he adds one important ingredient – that is grace. We are all sinners, when we sin we are lost to God. Just as we celebrate when we find something, the angels of God celebrate when we realize the errors of our ways. Notice that in each case of something being lost the owner throws a party when it is found. We come together every Sunday to celebrate that we are sinners, but never truly lost to God.

Questions: As fall approaches, what changes need to be made in your life? What habits and beliefs have we become so used to, that we have forgotten? Does realizing our sin stop the consequences of what it about to happen? Who do you know in your life who is lost? What do you need to do to make sure that they are found? How are you planning to celebrate?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

September 5, 2010

scriptures: Hebrews 13:1-8;15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

sermon: The Angels Present in your Life
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it."
Hebrews 13:2

Scriptures for next week:
Jeremiah 18:1-11 and Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

song for Englewood: In Christ there is no East or West UMH 548

for Rust

Call to Worship

Leader: The One who speaks harsh words calls us this day
People: Too often we take kinds words as weakness and soft words as permission to do our own thing.
Leader: The God who challenges our turning away summons us this day.
People: the way of life is do difficult. We have sinned, but we have some excellent excuses!
Leader: God has heard all of our excuses and will not accept any of them.
People: We have come to worship and to be made right with our God.

Breaking Open the Scriptures:
Scriptures for September 5th: Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139:1-6,13-18; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33 Theme: God’s intention for your life

Jeremiah: We tend to be very fearful of judgment. As Christians we don’t want to come out and do it to others, and we don’t appreciate it when others do it to us. We attribute this fear to Jesus, and say that Jesus tells us not to judge. When that is not what Jesus said. He said, judge others with the same measure that you expect to be judged. If you expect to be judged fairly and respectfully , then do the same to others. There is nothing wrong with judgment. God uses it to bring healing and reconciliation to the world. He shapes our lives with judgment and encouragement. How willing are you to be shaped by the potter’s hand?

Psalm 139: Is it a comfort that God knows all about you? Or is that threatening? Is it a comfort that God plans and directs your life, or is that a confining thought? Well like it or not, God has known us since before our birth. God has had plans for us and that is why we are here. To discover those plans as we discover our relationship with the holy.

Questions: In the hands of God we are like clay, how has God reformed you? How do you respond when others judge you? How do you respond when God judges you? What is the difference? What proof do you have in life that God is always present with you? How do you know when you are following God’s lead in your life?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August 22, 2010

Scriptures for August 22nd: Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalms 71:1-6; Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17 Theme: Listening to God’s call in your life

Jeremiah: We will be looking at the words of the prophet Jeremiah for the next six weeks. Chapter one starts with the story of his call. The other prophets that we look at were called as adults. They became God’s spokesperson as a result of something they say going on in their lives. Jeremiah realizes that he was called from birth, from before birth to be a prophet of God. He calls himself a prophet to the nations – which means that he is called to speak to the Hebrews and gentiles. Everyone else (in some ways even Jesus) believes they are to speak just to the Hebrews. Jeremiah is alive in a time when his people are forced to live and deal with others, and Jeremiah must speak to the times – the time of exile.

Hebrews: This entire book helps us to remember the value of faith. It gives us advice on what we should remember. Today, we should remember that the gospel is good news. In a difficult atmosphere, we look for a tame faith, a dependable faith, a faith that makes sense to us. That is why we call Jesus our brother, and God our Father – we are looking for support. The author reminds us here that faith is anything but tame and predictable. The God we worship is an unquenchable fire, and he puts fire in our faith – to et up and do something.

Questions: When you look back at your life, what evidence do you have that God has been with you all along? What does it mean to be called by God? How is God calling you right now? How you try to make God dependable? How can you break out of your routine and see God in all of God’s glory?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

August 15, 2010

Scriptures for August 15th: Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19; Hebrews 11:29-12:2; Luke 12:49-56 Theme: The value of having faith in the unseen

Isaiah: These verses are a love song – to remind us of how much we are loved by God: A God who created us and will do anything for us. Who has been with us through all of the ups and downs of our lives. God is always there for us, but realizes that we are not always there for God. He expected that we would be grateful for return the favor. But we live in a world where hatred is present, where violence is present, where self centeredness is present. What happened? More importantly, what can be done about it?

Hebrews: Hebrews has a very powerful message for us to remind us how important our faith is. Last week Paul defined what faith us. This week he traces the role of faith in the history of the faithful. He gives examples of people who became heroes because they followed their faith into new lives. And when we look back at our lives, we can be grateful for these acts of faith. But we can also follow their example and pave new paths for those coming after us.

Questions: What actions have we taken, which contributes to God’s despair? What has happened in the world? What have we done personally? How can we make amends to God? What obstacles do you face that require you to have faith? What things can you do in your life to follow your faith and to pave the way for others?

Friday, July 30, 2010

August 8, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures

Scriptures for August 8th: Isaiah1:1,10-20; Psalm 50:1-8,22-23; Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16 Luke 12:32-40. Theme: What does it mean to have faith in Christ?

Hebrews: We begin the first week of a four week study of the book of Hebrews. The author (which may be Paul) is teaching us the meaning of faith. Even though we can’t see, hear, or touch faith, faith is a living force in the world. It is not just a chance to use our creative imagination. It is a real and living force in our lives, which is working to guide us through difficult times. Just ask those who have been in difficult situations, did they make it up, or did they really know God’s presence in their lives.

Luke: This is a continuation of last week’s lesson on defining our treasure. Where we put our treasure is where we put our hearts. We have to be reminded that even though we have houses, cars, jewels, loved one here; our real treasure is in Jesus Christ. The world economy is dependent upon us as Americans wanting more and more stuff. Our need to buy keeps the world going. Jesus asks us, when is it ever enough – the attitude of scarcity keeps us enslaved into the world and its economy. Preparing ourselves spiritually brings us freedom.

Questions: What are the things that we as a church treasure? Where is Jesus Christ on that list? Where is doing what Christ tells us to do in that list? What does it really mean to be rich toward God? How can you turn scarcity into abundance? How can you turn your spiritual weaknesses into strengths?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

August 1, 2010

Scriptures for August 1st: Hosea 11:1-11; Psalm 107:1-9,43;
Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21 Theme: Living on Earth with our mind’s set on Earth

Colossians: Paul reminds us that we are to live in the world, but not of the world. Christians are different because their responses are different. Paul tells us that we are not concerned with what happens on earth, but in heaven. We are not concerned with what others think, but what God thinks. We were raised in the world, and have the same culture as those around us, but in baptism, we are given a new set of clothes, a new mindset, a new expectation of who we are to be in the world.

Luke: Jesus gives us an example of what it means to live in the world and to forget about God. This rich man has everything that he needs, as a matter of fact, he has more than he needs. Yet Jesus makes a point that in the ultimate realm of things – none of that matters. When we die, we leave it all behind. It is more important to be rich in the things of God.

Questions: What are the things that we as a church treasure? Where is Jesus Christ on that list? Where is doing what Christ tells us to do in that list? What behaviors do we need to set aside in order to be clothed in Christ? What does it really mean to be rich toward God?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

June 27, 2010

Scriptures for June 27th - 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14; Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62
Songs: Precious Lord – UMH 474; Make Me a Channel of your Peace – TFWS 2171; His Eye is on the Sparrow – TFWS 2146; O God our Help in Ages Past – UMH 117

2 Kings: This is one of my favorite verses, and it is very appropriate for today. It is the story of the changing of the guard between one prophet, Elijah to another – sort of like the changing of pastors. It is a story of transition. Elijah is not only leaving his ministry, he is leaving his earthly life. His ministry has been a story of zeal for the Lord, a story of lonely working and traveling, a story of following in God’s steps. Once he is gone, who is going to take over that work. The answer to that question is Elisha – his student. Elisha is not only excited to carry on that work – he has one parting request of Elijah – give me a double portion of whatever God gave you. Elijah does not know if he can pass on his relationship with God, Elisha will have to establish that for himself, but he does know that God has provided for the commission to continue to work to save others has been fulfilled in his absence.

Galatians: We continue our conversation of what it means to be free in the spirit of Christ. When we realize that we are not bound by the law – then also realize that being in Christ changes us. We don’t have to be so in tune to what the world expects of us – we become in aware of the what the Spirit of Christ expects of us. The world is focused on the needs of the flesh- we listen to our emotions, our needs, our desires which lead to bad behavior. But the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. No one has ever been hurt by too much of these things, we can give them freely.

Questions: Who are the people who have mentored you in your life? In your faith? Who are the people who you intentionally mentor and are willing to help through life? When you are gone, what plans do you want to make sure carry on after you? How do you avoid becoming enslaved to sin? How do you ensure the growth of perfect love in your life? What things still hold you back from letting perfect love in your life? How can the fruits of the spirit help you to overcome that burden?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

June 6, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures

Scriptures for June 6th: I Kings 17:8-24; Psalm 146, Galatians 1:11-24; Luke 7:11-17 Songs: O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing – UMH 57, My Life is in You Lord – TFWS 2032 (sing twice); I’m Gonna Live so God Can Use Me – TFWS 2153

I Kings: We have entered into ordinary time of the church calendar. The presence of the Holy Spirit is old news, it has been with us for awhile. As a matter of fact it is with us all of the time. Now we have to think about what to do with this gift. We now focus on the ministry of the prophets. In this story, Elijah is instructed by God to go to Zarephath – a city truly in need of God. He is not told to teach, or the preach, or to even to tell the people that they are wrong. Just to be present. To live with a widow, to get the know the people, and to meet the needs of this widow’s family, as she takes care of him. The widow’s son dies – and Elijah brings her most precious gift back to life. What does the presence of God do to bring us back to life in the dead spots of our life?

Luke: On the surface this is a similar story to the one in Kings. a widow’s son dies and the prophet comes and brings him back to life. Jesus uses this story for a very different reason. This son is a young adult, who is responsible for taking care of his mother. A widow has no other way of being cared for but the man in her life. She too will follow her son in death. But Jesus has sympathy for her. Jesus teaches all of his disciples (including us) to respond to injustice, the help those who are not able to care for themselves. Jesus makes sure that she will live, by bringing her son back to life. We are reminded that it is time to get in mission, to see the widows in our community who are in need.

Questions: In the ministry of presence what role do you play? Are you the prophet listening to the needs of the people or are you the one instructed by God to help the prophet in order to get your own needs met? How many signs of God do you miss because you are not listening? How do we show support for those who lose their means of support? How do we help those who lose a family member or a job? What does compassion mean for this community?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May 30, 2010

Scriptures for May 30th – Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8, Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15
Songs: Spirit of the Living God UMH 393; Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise – UMH 103; Standing on the Promises – UMH 374

Proverbs: This is our first Sunday back into the Hebrew scriptures. This is one of three proverbs which celebrates wisdom. Wisdom cries out in the streets and asks for us to listen. Sometimes we wish that God would just speak to us, not realizing that God finds all kinds of ways to speak. And we find all kinds of ways not to listen. In this passage the wisdom that has been with the world since the beginning of time, is personified as a women – Sophia. She helped in the creative process of creating the world. The wisdom of the Word also comes to us in the life of Jesus Christ, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. Today wisdom comes to us in the form of the Holy Spirit.

John: We are still focusing on the last teachings of Christ. And he is still telling us that the Holy Spirit is coming to make all things clear. The Spirit of Truth is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the wisdom out in the world, speaking to us in the streets. John’s passage says that the Holy Spirit guides us, declares what is to come, glorifies God and speaks what is so. What is the Holy Spirit saying to us now, and how do we take the time to listen?

Questions: How is wisdom different from knowledge? What things is Jesus saying to you that you are not able to hear? How does the Spirit of Truth help you deal with difficult situations? What forms does wisdom take in your life? How do you respond when you recognize wisdom?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

May 23, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures

Scriptures for May 25th: Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:24-34, 35b, Romans 8:14-17, John 14:8-27 Songs: As a Fire is Meant for Burning – TFWS 2237; O Spirit of the Living God – UMH 539; Because He Lives UMH 364

Acts: We have been waiting on God’s promise of the Holy Spirit all Easter season. When Jesus was resurrected, he promised that the Holy Spirit has come. We have seen evidence of those appearances all throughout the scriptures. Now it is time for us to look for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our live and in the world. This is Pentecost Sunday – the birthday of the church. This is the day when all of those appearances come together and is manifest in all nations. The Jews who were present on the day of Pentecost represent 16 different nations. They were probably people who were exiled and were returning. They represent the unity of the body of God. This day shows us that we can do much more as a group then we can as individuals. The gifts of the Spirit are for the community, not for us to keep for ourselves. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the community to reach out to others, not for us to enjoy in our own circle. Now that that Spirit is here, we have work to do.

Psalm: God is the source of all life. God’s spirit allows us to move, and love and be. God’s Spirit is life. We say this psalm on Pentecost to remind us of what we are waiting for the breath of God to renew us and give us new life. With God we can do nothing, and yet God is willing to give us everything - his Son, his breath. In verse 26 Leviathan who is the devil of chaos is portrayed as a playful whale; Reminding us that our deepest fears can become a source of joy, if we are in touch with God’s spirit. Even death can become an opportunity for life if God’s spirit is present. That is the message of Easter.

Questions: When has God crashed into your life with power to get your attention? How often do you take time to witness the wisdom in God’s creation? Where do you see the face of the ground renewed through God’s Spirit? What does it mean to be the body of Christ? What are ways that we can reenact the Pentecost experience and move in unity with one another and the spirit of Christ?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

May 16, 1020

Scriptures for May 13th – Ascension Sunday – Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47,
Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53
Songs: All Hail the Power of Jesus Name UMH 155; You Alone are Holy – TFWS 2077; Lord I Lift your Name on High – TFWS 2088

Acts: In many ways, the scriptures is a continuation of the Easter readings, we still hear the story of the Holy Spirit and the work that it does. But in other ways this Sunday marks a new period. Jesus has been appearing to the disciples all throughout the Easter season. This is Jesus’ final appearance. But the disciples still don’t understand why – is he coming to bring about the Kingdom of Israel? Jesus tells them that the kingdom of God is much bigger than that. God’s kingdom is for everyone – everyone in the whole world. And the work of the spirit is to empower us to reach out to everyone, no matter who they are, and where they are.

Luke Acts is a retelling of the events of Luke. Jesus has been on the earth for 40 days after the death event. He has been teaching his disciples. This is the final teaching, it is time for him to ascend into heaven. He tells his disciples the good news that must be spread out throughout the whole world - teach the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus Christ. This is the key to our salvation. All we have to do to help others understand what it means to repent is to tell our stories – stories of how we have seen Jesus in our lives, stories of how we have been forgiven, stories of how the Holy Spirit is still in the world 2000 years later, still making a difference.

Questions: How do we focus on what is going on right in our lives, and not look up to heaven expecting a miracle? Why is the message of forgiveness so hard for us to hear? How does our church witness to the risen Christ? Where have you personally seen proof of the risen Christ? How does Jesus bless us to spread the gospel? Why is the Ascension important to our faith?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May 9, 2010

Scriptures for May 9th: Acts 16:9-15, Psalm 67, Revelation 21:1-10, 22-22:5; John 14:23-29
Songs: Happy the Home when God is There – UMH 445; Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise – UMH 103; We’ve a Story to tell the Nations – UMH 569

Acts: Paul gets a vision to go to Macedonia to serve. The verses today teach us a lot about visions, and a lot about ministry that is guided by the leading of the Holy Spirit. Paul has been traveling all throughout the gentile land, telling people about Jesus. Sometimes he is accepted, and other times he is chased out of town. But yet and still Paul has a message from God. It is a two fold mission of giving and receiving. He is collecting money for the widows in Jerusalem, and he is saving souls for Christ. In Macedonia, Paul meets Lydia, and is able to baptize her entire family. In return the Macedonian church eventually gives more than any church to help. They are grateful for what God has given them, how we do show God gratitude for the good news?

John: Last week, Jesus gave the commandment for us to love one another as we have been loved. In his farewell speech he continues to speak of exactly what that means. It is hard to be reminded to love the one that are closest to you. We are reminded that the Spirit is coming to give us guidance on what that means. The Holy Spirit guides us in all aspects of living as a Christian. Iit is so important for us to pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is telling us. The Spirit can speak to us through dreams, visions, and even our church family. We just have to be able to expect it. Jesus says that he is telling us what will happen, so that when it happens we can understand what is going on.

Questions: Do you believe that the Spirit speaks to us through visions? What visions has God given to you to serve? Did you take your vision seriously and act upon it? Have you ever experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit? How did it feel? What practices can you put in place that will allow you to know when the Spirit is speaking to you?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

May 2, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures
Scriptures for May 2nd – Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148, Revelation 21:1-6; John 13:31-35
Songs: All Creatures of our God and King – UMH 62; In Christ there is no East or West – UMH 548; We will Glorify – TFWS 2087

Recently someone asked me if I had any dietary restrictions. My response was that as a pastor I make a point to eat anything. Eating, especially within the church is not just about nourishment, it is also about fellowship and sharing our lives with one another. Peter learned this lesson as he had this vision from God. As a Jew, he had lots of dietary restrictions, but he came to realize that his ministry was to reach all people, not just Jews, which meant that he had to expand his taste for food. At first the apostles were upset with Peter, but came to realize that we are all called to welcome all people, not just the ones that make sense to us. Fellowship is an important part of welcoming.

You have heard of Maundy Thursday – well this is Maundy Sunday. Jesus has washed to feet of his disciples and told them that they must do the same to one another. He commands us to love one another as he has loved us. That is what Maundy means – love one another. Not as we love, but as God loves. That is a huge commandment! In verses 31 and 32 Jesus says that his ministry glorifies God. His death glorifies God, his resurrection glorifies God, his life Glorifies God, his love for us glorifies God. Does our character and the way we treat one another glorify God also?

Questions: What things do we consider to be so sacred that they cannot be changed? When we declare things in our lives sacred, who are we excluding from fellowship? How do we make others who are not like us feel welcome in our midst? How do we intentionally love one another as God loves us? Would we see people differently if we were able to see them through the eyes of God and not our own eyes?

Friday, April 16, 2010

April 25, 2010

Scriptures for April 25th: Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30 Songs:
Easter People, Raise Your Voices- UMH 304; Would I have Answered When You Called – TFWS 2137; Lamb of God – TFWS 2113

Today we focus on the good works of Tabitha. She was able to use what she had to help others. She had the ability to make clothes, which in turned helped those in need. As a saint in the early church, she was loved by many. Many were devastated when she passed away and they thought they had lost her and her gifts. But the acts of the faithful are always supported by the acts of the Holy Spirit. Peter is able to revive her and bring her back to life, just as Jesus would have done. The Holy Spirit was there, and remains wherever there is the story of the faithful.

This is known as Good Shepherd Sunday, because we focus on Jesus as shepherd of our lives. A shepherd spends so much time with his sheep, that when he speaks they listen for further direction. Jesus is being questioned by those who don’t believe. And yet he explains that if they were a part of God’s pasture – they would know who they were questioning. They asks if he is the messiah – and yet Jesus says that if you understood God’s plan you wouldn’t have to ask. Do we take the time to hear the voice of our shepherd? Do we know what Jesus is saying to us?

Questions: Who do you know in your life who has devoted their lives to charity and helping others? What do they do? How can we as a church honor them and use them as a example of who God calls us to be? Is Jesus really you shepherd? What is your response, when you hear the Holy Spirit speaking to you?

Note: Pastor Harriette’s sermons can be found online at She also has a personal blog: Reflections on life at Breaking open the scriptures can be found at Newsletter articles can be found at You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Saturday, April 10, 2010

April 11, 2010

Scriptures for April 18th: Acts 9:1-20; Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19; Songs: Spirit Song – UMH 347; It is Well with my Soul – UMH 377; Father I Adore You – TFWS 2038

Today we will deal with the call stories of the two most important disciples. Acts is the story of Saul persecuting the Christians, and Jesus comes to him on the road to Damascus and asks why he is persecuting Christians. This is not the moment that Saul is converted to Paul, this is the moment that he goes blind. Jesus tells him to spend time with Ananias – this is when he is converted from the kindness and forgiveness that he receives from those who believe. He finds community in the very place that he is trying to destroy community. In the world today – we don’t have to fight Christ’ battles, we have to believe that he is fighting on our behalf.
This is the commissioning of Peter. The Risen Christ tells Peter to go and “feed my sheep”. Christ has given the gift of the Holy Spirit to all of his disciples. This is the power to follow Christ in a world that could care less. But in that blessing, we are also given a job – to be Jesus for the world. Jesus knows where each of us is in our lives and in our faith. Jesus knows how much we love him and what we are capable of doing for him. All he asks of us is to show others how much we love him.

Questions: What is your conversion experience? Has there ever been a time in your life when you were asked to do something different in the midst of your sin? When have you experienced the love of other Christians? How did you change after that encounter? How are you being called to love others?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

April 11, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures

Scriptures for April 11th – Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 150, Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31
Songs: Up from the Grave He Arose – UMH 322; In the Singing – TFWS 2255; Lord of the Dance – UMH 261

Instead of reading from the Old Testament, we will read from the book of Acts for the five weeks of Easter. Easter day is only the beginning of the journey – We still have five weeks to realize what Easter means for us. Acts teaches us what it means to be a witness of Christ. To live the life of Christ , no matter what. Peter and Paul are on trial for witnessing to their faith. For them this is not a tragedy, but a perfect opportunity demonstrate their faith. Their defense to the court – we have to obey God rather than man. And through the events of the resurrection God tells us all to go out in the world and make disciples through the power of the Holy Spirit. So what is stopping you from obeying?

The rest of our scriptures for today seem to focus on what it means to be a witness. They are for people who know that Jesus us real, but don’t know what that means. John is for those who are not sure. They would witness, but have not reason to. And yet, Jesus is prepared in either scenario to give us what we need to go forward – the support of the Holy Spirit to live in Christ.

Questions: Is it wrong to doubt? Were we wrong to vilify Thomas?
Compare and contrast the disciples in John's account, doors locked for fear (John 20:19), with the disciples in Acts who refused to be silenced (Acts 5:28-29). Why are the disciples in John different from the disciples in Acts? [Digging deeper, are there similarities between either the disciples in Acts or those in John and members of your congregation?

Friday, March 26, 2010

April 4, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures
Scriptures for April 4: Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, Luke 24:1-12 Songs: Christ the Lord is Risen Today – UMH 302; Christ the Lord is Risen – TFWS 2116; Lord I Lift your Name on High – TFWS 2088 – sing twice

Psalm 118
The First word of this psalm is….hallelujah! it is an opportunity to praise God. This is a victory poem of the King, who is celebrating winning a battle and giving thanks to God who helped and guided the way. This is called a Hallel Psalm – A psalm that Jesus and other pilgrims would have sung on their way to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. This is an important psalm for Cornerstone today. Because there are a lot of people who are telling us that it is futile to believe in God. But this is Easter, the pinnacle of our faith- the day that we are reminded that we have everything to celebrate, and that God prevails in the midst of doubt. What God is doing for us is marvelous!

This is the less popular version of the resurrection story. And yet it has a message for us today. Several women are on their way to the tomb, they want to make sure that the body is bathed with herbs. But when they get there, the tomb is empty. Instead they see two angels who have told them of the resurrection. It is difficult for them to accept this strange truth, even though it is in front of them. What we do if we were there? We should realize that we are indeed there – do we believe in the resurrection? Or are we still looking for the bodies, because we need proof of the miracle of resurrection.

Questions: How does this psalm include Jesus? Why is the resurrection a reason to celebrate the goodness of God? The writer of this psalm is able to find beauty in the midst of pain, where do we look for brokenness in the midst of our pain? Why should we be happy for the resurrection when nothing has changed in our lives? What would it take for us to believe that Jesus has raised from the dead? What does resurrection mean for us? How can we convince others?

April 4, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures
Scriptures for April 4: Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, Luke 24:1-12 Songs: Christ the Lord is Risen Today – UMH 302; Christ the Lord is Risen – TFWS 2116; Lord I Lift your Name on High – TFWS 2088 – sing twice

Psalm 118
The First word of this psalm is….hallelujah! it is an opportunity to praise God. This is a victory poem of the King, who is celebrating winning a battle and giving thanks to God who helped and guided the way. This is called a Hallel Psalm – A psalm that Jesus and other pilgrims would have sung on their way to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. This is an important psalm for Cornerstone today. Because there are a lot of people who are telling us that it is futile to believe in God. But this is Easter, the pinnacle of our faith- the day that we are reminded that we have everything to celebrate, and that God prevails in the midst of doubt. What God is doing for us is marvelous!

This is the less popular version of the resurrection story. And yet it has a message for us today. Several women are on their way to the tomb, they want to make sure that the body is bathed with herbs. But when they get there, the tomb is empty. Instead they see two angels who have told them of the resurrection. It is difficult for them to accept this strange truth, even though it is in front of them. What we do if we were there? We should realize that we are indeed there – do we believe in the resurrection? Or are we still looking for the bodies, because we need proof of the miracle of resurrection.

Questions: How does this psalm include Jesus? Why is the resurrection a reason to celebrate the goodness of God? The writer of this psalm is able to find beauty in the midst of pain, where do we look for brokenness in the midst of our pain? Why should we be happy for the resurrection when nothing has changed in our lives? What would it take for us to believe that Jesus has raised from the dead? What does resurrection mean for us? How can we convince others?

Monday, March 22, 2010

March 28, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures

Scriptures for March 28: Luke 19:28-40; Psalm 31:9-16; Luke 22:14-23:56 Songs: Hosanna! Hosanna! TFWS 2109; We Sang Our Glad Hosannas TFWS 2111; What Wondrous Love is This UMH 292; Do, Lord, Remember Me UMH 527
Psalm 31
This is the psalm of someone in the midst of suffering. Someone who is in pain, but is still able to call out to God not only for help, but to also be able to say that they trust in God in spite of all that has happened to him. As long as there is belief in God, there is hope that things will get better. It is said that as Jesus sat on the cross and asked God why – that he was not asking the reason of his suffering. He knew why he was suffering, but he was quoting the psalms as a way of using his trust in God to get through the most difficult time in his life. He was not remembering his own suffering, but ours.

Today, we focus on the palm Sunday passage and the passion passage. These are events that should be seared in our minds, as we hear this story every year. And yet the context of our lives when we hear these stories are different every year. Every year we have something different to celebrate, every year we have something different to mourn. Where do we focus this year? On the betrayal of Judas? On the questions of pilate? On the temptations of Satan? On those who went to the cross with him? On his suffering? On why did this all have to happen anyway? And what does it have to do with me?

Friday, March 12, 2010

March 21, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures

Scriptures for March 21: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126, Philippians 3:4b-14, John 12:1-8
Songs: Jesus the very Thought of Thee – UMH 172; When I Survey the Wondrous Cross – UMH 298; To Know You More – TFWS 2161

Psalm 126
This is a psalm of celebration of what God has done in the past and what God will do in the future. God’s grace for our lives comes from the Character of God. We can have hope in life because God fulfills his promises. Life has a rhythm – there is ebb and flow, there is sowing and harvest. There are good times, there is redemption. We just have to look at where we are in the cycle of hope and have faith in God.

Usually when we are expecting a change in life, we sit and wait for things to be different. Paul is trying to remind us that the change we are waiting for begins today. The present, begins with the presence. In order to fully embrace the future, we have to be willing to accept the fact that things will be different. We find our stability in who we are in Christ, not in who we understand ourselves to be. All of our accomplishments in the past are “dung”. Not worthless, but not useful for us in the future. We do not succeed because of our efforts, we succeed from our grace.

Questions: Where are you in your faith? Where are you in the cycle of faith- are your waiting for God, or are your celebrating God’s redemption? What helps you to trust in God’s presence? How do you deal with change? Do you accept it, or does it throw you off balance? Where is God’s grace in your life? What are you waiting for Christ to change in your life?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

March 14, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures

Scriptures for March 14th – Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32 – UMH 766; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32. Songs: Softly and Tenderly Jesus is calling – UMH 348; Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed – UMH 294; My Life is in You, Lord – TFWS 2032

Psalm 32
As Methodist, we are reminded that the important part of our life is holiness. Making a decision to become disciples of Christ and to not only hear the word – but to live the word. The writer of psalm 32 reminds us that the blessings of God come to this in which there is not deceit. Those who decide to live a righteous life. None of us are perfect, we are all sinners. We are all striving for perfection. We all need to ask God forgiveness. One evangelist says that your sin will always find you out – your job is to make sure that it finds you in the bosom of God; trusting and asking forgiveness.

2 Corinthians
The Epistle lesson continues on the theme of reconciliation with God. Christ came into the world so that the everyone would have a chance to get right with God. Christ spelled out how we should live, and if we are willing to accept and follow those teaching, then we are on the right pathway to improving our relationship with God. That is what it means to become a disciple of Christ. As a United Methodist disciple, we understand that changing our ways, changes the world. We not only transform ourselves, we transform ourselves. Why would God sacrifice his son for such a purpose – because we are all sons and daughters.

What does reconciliation mean to you? When you know you have strayed from the beaten path, what do you do to get right with God? Has someone else ever had to correct you to remind you that you are straying? How did you respond? Where you grateful or spiteful to them? What role does Christ’s teachings play in your faith? How are you transforming the world?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

March 7, 2010

Scriptures for March 7th: Isaiah 55:1-9; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9 Songs: O Jesus I Have Promised – UMH 396, As the Deer (sing twice) TFWS 2025, A Charge to Keep I Have UMH 413

This verse comes from third Isaiah – the last version of Isaiah. The people have returned to their homeland from captivity. But they are still a little leary. This passage invites them to the feast. They don’t have to dress up, they can come as they are. They can bring tears, concerns, sadness and all – God will take it and invite us to trust God. If they are hungry for God, they will be fed. Then they are reminded of the promises of God that we will be taken care of. Then we are given access to the promises. That access is our faith and our righteousness. We will see God’s love for the world clearly with those two things.

Psalm 63
Water is an important luxury and experiences of abundance in a very dry land. Not only do the faithful long and pant for God – but when it comes we are so excited. Water is not a luxury, water is a necessity. In this season, we are looking at the promises of God, but how we are able to praise God when we witness those promises. Worship is the fulfillment of our thirst for God. It is believed that David wrote this for the people when they are in a wilderness to remind them that they would be with God again in their lives.

Questions: When was the last time you experienced the lavishness and abundance of God in your life? When was the last time that you invited someone to the feast of worship, how can they experience the love of God by coming to worship? The psalmist thinks of God in the darkness of the night, when do you think of God?

Friday, February 12, 2010

February 21, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures

Scriptures for February 28: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17 – 4:1 Luke 13:31-35 Songs: Saranam, Saranam – UMH 523; O Sacred Head Now Wounded – UMH 286; Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley – TFWS 2112

This is a continuation of the story of the Covenant between God and Abraham. He has promised his descendents, now God promises that they will always have a land a home. A covenant requires something of both parties – both need to provide proof that they can be trusted. The sacrifice represents what we give to God. Today we fulfill our covenant through our baptism. Abraham wants to believe that God will be faithful – but he does not see how at this time. Not only does he not have land, he has no kids, but no prospects of having kids. His wife is getting older and older. Time reveals to Abraham that God does indeed fulfill his promises.

Lent is about us being willing to confess that Jesus Christ is indeed our Lord and Savior. It is about confessing our identity in Christ. It is in realizing that there are times in or lives when we are going to have to make a decision: A hard decision to claim Christ. A decision to do what we have to in order to serve as we are called. This is one of those moments for Jesus. As he confesses his identity, he knows that he has a job to do. The job can only be done in Jerusalem, that job means only death. And yet he starts out on that journey. Are we willing to go with Jesus to Jerusalem this lent. If we go, what happens to us? The same thing that happens to Christ?

Questions: How do you keep your faith when your prayers are not answered? What are the promises that Jesus has made to you? How do you keep hope as things are being worked out for you? What evidence do you have that things are indeed being worked out? Jesus wept over Jerusalem, if he were to visit Chicago, what would he weep over? What would he change? What things would be a threat to his safety?

February 14, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures
Scriptures for February 21: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13; Songs: Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days – UMH 269, It is Well with my Soul – UMH 377, On Eagle’s Wing - Insert

Romans: This is Paul’s reminder that Jesus Christ set out to make sure that salvation is available to all people. However, confession is a prerequisite response. We have to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives, above all things. We have to not only believe that in our hearts, we have to be willing to proclaim that to the whole world. Confession can take many forms – we say a confession on worship, we confess the things that we know we have done wrong to those we trust. But confession is also a way of life. It is being willing to show that we love Jesus in times when we may suffer because of it. But it doesn’t matter- because there is nothing more important to us then showing our love of Christ in all situations. We have to be prepared to confess our identity in Christ to anyone.

Luke: The first Sunday of lent means that we hear the story of Jesus’ temptation. The repetition reminds us that no matter how much we practice, we can never step away from temptation in our lives. The determination to rise above temptation is a lifetime job. The Luke story does not happen in the wilderness, but in the everyday life of Jesus. He is tempted with food, authority and power. But he is able to rise above these desires of his own heart, by confession his identity in Christ. He is the son of God. That means that he has power and authority over all things. But it also means that he does now need depend on that power and authority to live.

Questions: What are the temptations that haunt you every year? What do you need to do to overcome them? What are the things that we use to take the place of Christ as our Lord? When have you had a chance to claim your identity on Christ? Did you do it well or avoid the situation?

Friday, February 5, 2010

February 14, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures
Scriptures for February 14th: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-43 Songs: Come Away With Me – TFWS 2202; Be Thou My Vision UMH 451; Shine Jesus Shine – TFWS 2173

2 Corinthians
It is easy to wonder who Paul is talking to as we read the words of Corinthians? Is he talking to Cornerstone Church or Corinthian Church. If Paul lived so long ago, why is it that human nature has not changed? Why are these words so important to us? When Paul talks about reading scripture under a veil, he is talking about an even older tradition. Today is transfiguration Sunday – the say when Jesus appeared different to those who witnessed him praying that day. Moses also looked different after he spent time on the mountain with Jesus. He used a veil to talk with the people, because they could not bear to see him for what he was. Traditionally, people starting wearing a veil when they read scripture. Paul wanted us to realize that is not necessarily. We can open our eyes and see God for who God is. We don’t need to use nice words to tell the truth – we can speak what we feel. God loves us for who we are, where we are- even in the midst of our imperfection.

All scriptures for this week lead us to the transfiguration event. Jesus takes his disciples to what is believed to be Mount Hermon. After a night of prayer, Jesus’ form is transformed. He appears to be glowing. Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus, which means that what Jesus must do in the future, is deeply grounded in what has already happened in the past. Moses and Elijah represent the law and the prophets. After the meeting he goes down and continues his ministry. It is all down hill from here. He is on his way to Jerusalem to meet his destiny – and to save us from our sins. So that we don’t have to be ashamed to make the changes in our lives – and have others see that since our encounter with Jesus, we have all been changed.

Questions: Should Christians expect to appear different to others? How do we answer the question that you have changed? Where do we experience Jesus? Do we have to go to the mountaintop? Or do we see Jesus in our everyday lives? What role does the veil play in our faith? Do we need to hide from Jesus and Jesus word for us?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

February 7, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures
Scriptures for February 7th: Isaiah 6:1-8(9-13); Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11 Songs: Lord You Have Come to the Lakeshore UMH 344; You Alone are Holy TFWS 2077; O Jesus I have Promised UMH 396

1 Corinthians
This is the end of our continuous reading of 1 Corinthians. Paul is trying to give the Corinthians a foundation on what it means to live in community. He reminds us not to put our gifts above one another, to love one another unconditionally; and this week we are reminded that we are here because we are all sinners, and because Jesus Christ bought salvation for us all. Christ died, Christ Rose, Christ will come again – that is not just what we say every Sunday – it is the reason we come to church. Because we depend on that fact to save our lives. Paul was a witness to the fact, even though he was not there when Jesus was crucified. Christ came to Paul and Christ comes to each of us. If we only believe.

Jesus encourages his disciples to go fishing. Or not to really go fishing, but to just let down their nets and to take in the bounty. They don’t have to do anything or have any skill – just listen to Jesus. The Greek word for obedience means a willingness to listen. Obediance is not an act, but a way of life. The disciples were discouraged and seemed to get no results. But Peter listens to Christ and things start to turn around. How well do we listen to Christ? Are we obedient? What results do we get from our fishing? What results are we really looking for?

Questions What does it really mean for Cornerstone to be the body of Christ? How do we say thank you to Christ for forgiving our sins? What does it mean to be obedient to Christ? How do we listen to what Christ is saying to us? What results do we see in our lives of our faithfulness?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

January 24, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures
Scriptures for January 31st – Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30 Songs: Lord I Lift Your Name on High TFWS 2088; Holy, Holy, Holy – TFWS 2007; Here I am Lord – UMH 593
Jeremiah says that he felt that he was called by God to serve the people, even as a child. He notices that everything in his life, even in the womb was directed at this moment and this call. Many prophets felt that it was their job to serve the leaders of the nation. Jeremiah felt that his call was to work directly with the people. Jeremiah felt that he could not do what God was asking, because he did not know what to say. He did not know how to speak well. God took his fear and turned it into an asset. He had no idea how to live out this call, but he trusted that God would lead him. He led his people through the worst crisis they had ever saw – and them helped them to rebuild their lives in the midst of hopelessness. What insurmountable task has God given to us, for such a time as this?

1 Corinthians
If you have attended a wedding, you have heard this text. This is the love chapter of Paul’s letter. In reality, Paul is not talking about romantic love (even though the same principles do indeed apply). He is talking about the love of a congregation. It is important for us to keep in mind that it is the love of our baptism is what keeps us together and allows us to work together. We have all heard this scripture before, but how many of us actually take this to heart? What intentional practices do we have that show the love of God to one another? Paul too continues his conversation about what it means to live out our call to God – to not only love one another, but most importantly to respect one another.
Questions What is God calling you to do in your life? How are you fighting what God is telling you to do? What do you need to get beyond that block? If Jeremiah was called as a child, do we nurture our children and listen to them in a way that allows them to listen to what God is calling them to do with their lives? How do we show the one’s closest to us the love of God? What do you hope to understand better when you are face to face with God?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

January 24, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures
Scriptures for January 24th – Nehemiah 8:1-3,5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a; Luke 4:14-21 Songs: My Life is in You, Lord (sing twice), TFWS 2032; Open My Eyes, That I May See – UMH 454; We are Called – TFWS 2172

Nehemiah The people of Israel have gone through a lot by this time. They were kicked out of their country. They held onto their faith, so that they could return to their homeland. And now that they are back, they want to be reminded of the ways of God, so that they can live with God at the center of their lives. The way to learn the ways of God, is to read the scripture. So they have the scribe read to them. He reads all day and all night. As they listen, they realize that what they thought was faith, is not in the scripture. Ezra explains to them how they should be living. This book is named for Nehemiah – the governor of the region. He makes a commitment to help them to rebuild their city, their temple and their lives in God.

1 Corinthians Paul is sending this message to the Corinthians to correct that wrong understanding bought out in the Hebrew Bible reading. The importance of reading the right scripture- it to do right living. Last week, Paul explained that a community has many different gifts. But he also wants us to know that no one gift is ever more important than the community. When we recognize the gifts that God has given our community, it is important for us all to be willing to work together. We need to understand that we are all a part of a universal body. And we have to learn to be together. That is the challenge of Christianity – you can’t do it alone. You have to do it with people who encourage you, and those who don’t. They are both a part of your development.

Questions What is the importance of reading the scripture in your life? Why is it important to read scripture aloud in worship? How is that different from reading alone? What gifts has God given you? How has the community supported you? What gifts has God given to Cornerstone? Who do we use them? How to we bury them?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

January 17, 2010

Breaking Open The Scriptures
Scriptures for January 17th – Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:1-5; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11 Songs: I am Gonna Sing when the Spirit says sing – UMH 333, Great is Thy Faithfulness – UMH 140, Many Gifts, One Spirit – UMH 114

I Corinthians
Paul had a very interesting relationship with this very interesting church. The Corinthians were faithful Christians who wanted to be who they were supposed to, but Corinth was an urban city with many belief systems competing for their attention. Yet Paul had faith that this church was very special. Paul tells them that each church is unique, each church has a personality, and God has given each church a set of unique gifts. He encouraged them to start looking for those gifts and to put them to use. A church doesn’t just have a budget, they also have gifts to be used as a resource in their ministry.

As Jesus has been able to articulate his call, he tells his followers that there is more to come – to just pay attention. Obviously his mother was paying attention to this. Because this is Jesus first miracle. The family is at a wedding, and his mother tells him that they need more wine. Jesus tells her that his time has not come – and that he is not the person to ask for such a thing. We all want to wait until we are ready, and God tells us all that the time is now, the place is wherever we are, and the thing is to do what God tells us and to be who God calls us to be. Jesus was called to be a savior for the people. He does that by pointing to the power of God in our lives. This is the first of many signs on that journey to get our attention.

Questions What gifts has God given to Cornerstone? What Ministry has God given to Cornerstone? How can we put our gifts to use? Have you ever experienced a miracle in your life? What signs is God giving to you now that point to what God wants you to do? Are your listening?

Friday, January 1, 2010

January 10, 2009

Breaking Open The Scriptures
Scriptures for January 10th – Isaiah 43:1-7, Psalm 29, Acts 8:14-17, Luke 3:15-17,21-22
Songs: I Was There to Hear you Borning Cry – TFWS 2051; Wade in the Water TFWS 2107; Spirit Song UMH 347

Isaiah This scripture is a word of comfort for the exiles. They have been taken from their land, but are about to return. They are frightened because there is not a lot of them – they as a people feel that they have no power. The prophet reminds them that no matter how small they may be, they are still God’s people and God has a plan for them. They will succeed in returning as the remnant of God’s people to carry on the work of God. We read this on baptism Sunday, because in order to return home the people have to go through the desert, over a river with no bridge, and through the wilderness. In the midst of their trials, they are reminded that God is there. God will carry them through the time of trial to a better time.

Luke By this time we should be very familiar with John the Baptist. We have heard about the response to his ministry of repentance. It would be easy for people to feel that John is the messiah and that he is the one who is transforming the world. John reminds us and them that there is one much greater than he who is to come along. Jesus the Christ. Jesus even though he is aware of his divine purpose, still comes to John to prepare him, He takes the repenter’s baptism and makes it so much more – he makes it a baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God is present and speaks to us all. We are to listen to Jesus – because he is well loved by his father. What does that mean for those of us who have been baptized?

Questions What does it mean to say that we are 'claimed' by God? What trials have we endured on our journey to our destiny? What proof do we have that God is with us on the journey? What happens at baptism? Is baptism an ending point or a beginning point in our relationship with God? What difference does baptism make in our lives?