Sunday, December 25, 2011

January 1, 2012

Scriptures January 1st: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12. Theme: Epiphany; Isaiah: There is no illusion that those who return to Israel after the exile are coming back to tough times. They know that it will be hard. They know that they have a lot of work to do. And yet they are not prepared for just how hard it is. There is destruction everywhere that they look. It breaks their heart to see the community that they worked so hard to build, in ruins by others who could care less. There is nothing for them to do but to work and to rebuild their lives…one brick at a time. They get a message directly from God, that in the midst of darkness, their light has come. Take it and just move forward. They are to imagine what can be, and not what has happened. The day will come when people from all over will not only come, but will help to rebuild. Matthew: The events of the first Christmas did not happen all at once. It took years for the story as we know it to develop. The last part of our story is the arrival of the three wise men. For Matthew they come almost a year after the baby is born. They come to a house and find him asleep. The point is that they made it. They saw a sign in the sky, and they knew that someone important would be born. They were not Jews, they were not even aspiring Christians. They were wise men waiting for a change. And they wanted to acknowledge that that change had come. The gifts that they gave him, were things that a ruler who lived a long life and hard life would need. Perhaps they are gifts that should be given to Obama. Questions: Where is darkness and destruction today? Where are you frustrated, because you know of the care taken to build, and now you see new owners who don’t seem to care at all? What must we do in order to rebuild our world? The star was a sign of change, what signs of change are present in our world? Do we look forward to change, or are we afraid of it? Who are the three wise men today? What gifts do we give to a king? To our leader? Are they things that the ruler can use to lead us?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

December 25, 2011

Breaking Open the Scriptures Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-12; John 1:1-14; Theme: Christmas Day Hebrews: I heard on the news that there are a lot of people who don’t consider themselves to be religious, but who believe in angels. The concept of an angel as a person with wings to fly back and forth from heaven, is a little outdated. How would an angel get back and forth today? Would they use a time machine, like in Star Trek? One thing that is timeless about angels, is that they are messengers. They bring messages from God. God sends lots of people, with messages for us. He has sent not only angels, but also prophets. But is seemed that was not getting the right message across. So he sent his own flesh and blood, in order to give us a glimpse of the true nature of God. If we know the true nature of God, then we know the true nature of salvation and all that God has done for us, much of which we may never know or understand. John: In John’s gospel, there is no story of angels, no shepherds, no manger, no holy family, and no baby. There is the proclamation that Jesus was present, way before creation. In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, the word was God, and then the word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Greek word that John used, means that he pitched a tent. In other words, he intended to stay awhile and to live the same life that we all live. The message to us is that a Godly life is possible. We can live and always know that God is there no matter what we do. These words are meant for the final evening mass of Christmas night. They are important, because they inform us that we don’t have to worry about it getting dark, because Christ will be our light. If we are able to witness the glory of God in Christ, then certainly we can face tomorrow. If we see Christ, then we God in God’s full Glory. Questions: What would a modern day angel look like? How do we know that we are getting a message from God? What is the message that God is trying to get across to us as outlined in the book of Hebrews? How we do come to know Christ in today’s world? Why would John not mention the earthly story of Jesus’ birth? What does the glory of God look like? How do we as Christians reflect the glory of God?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

December 18, 2011

Scriptures for December 18th: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Luke 1:46-55; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-28; Fourth Sunday of Advent; song: It came upon the midnight clear – UMH 21 2 Samuel: At first read, this may seem like bad news for the family of David. He has spent his life working hard for the Lord. Every success that he has had as a soldier and as a politician has been in the name of the Lord. The first and second books of Samuel are the chronicles of David and Solomon. These books represent a change in the leadership of the Israelites from judge to king. This is a very important passage, because it answers the question of how that is working out. Is it a good thing of a bad thing? Like most things in life, it is not inherently good or bad, it just is. David’s last act of devotion is to build God a permanent house to dwell in. God thwarts David’s plan by telling him it is not his place to do that. He has too much blood on his hands in his work. And yet the good news for David’s family and for our family is that God promises that he will build David a permanent house. His family will always be the ruling household, and indeed in a twist of fate – Jesus comes from the house of David and he rules forever! Luke: It is almost as if this is the perfect continuation of the story of the house of David. God works in mysterious ways, and God’s promises come about in ways that make no sense to us. The house of David had long been out of control. As a matter of fact, there are many who do not even believe that David was ever a real person. By this time the royal family has become common folk – probably even poor folk. The announcement that God’s promise has been fulfilled comes not to a rich prince, but a poor farm girl. And the response is not yes I will fight for you and defend your honor – it is yes I will accept the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life and will bear the Christ child. She knows that the task ahead of her will not be easy, and that in many ways she will have to be a soldier for the Lord. But she knows that the presence of the Holy Spirit will make any challenge worthwhile. And that not only will her life get easy, not only will the suffering of her people be alleviated, but the world will be a better place to live in. It is all just because God made a promise long ago to David to establish a house in his name. Questions: Both of our characters had a life changing conversation with God – When was the last time your life changed dramatically? How was God present in that event? Who are the prophets of today? What events or people does God use to announce transformation today? Are we as willing as Mary to stand up to the challenges of God? How have we witness the change of fortunes in God’s promise? How are still surprised by God’s announcements of change?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

December 11, 2011

Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11; Psalm 126; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28; Advent – Fulfilling God’s Mission; Song: Holy, Holy, Holy – UMH 64 Isaiah: Isaiah is not a single person, Isaiah is a single idea written for a people over the important periods of their history. Our text comes from third Isaiah. The Israelites have come out of exile and returned home and discovered that life is still bad. They have come back into a mess, and are looking for the order that only God can provide. The words of this text are to remind them that God is still with them. God had bought them home safely, and God will give them the strength to rebuild their community stronger than before. They have paid for their sin, God loves them enough to redeem them and the pay for everything they need to live. We are free to live a righteous life in harmony. What better reason to rejoice. 1 Thessalonians: This is a perfect text for the second advent of Jesus Christ. Thessalonians is all about what it means to live in the meantime – waiting for God. Thessalonians would have been the first text written in the New Testament. People thought that Jesus was coming in their lifetime. And were wondering what was taking so long. Paul wants them to know that in the meantime, they need to take heart, stay strong and continue to life a good life. Abstain from all evil. Treat people as if Jesus were really here – because indeed he is. Questions: God delivers all who have been treated unfairly – who are those people today? What injustices are prevalent today? How are we called to give those people the good news? What is the good news for us? What are the acts of righteousness that Paul list in the text? Are there any modern acts of righteousness that need to be added? In advent are you honoring those acts yourself? How are you preparing for the second coming?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

December 4, 2011

Scriptures December 4th – Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2,8-13; 2 Peter 3:8-15; Mark 1:1-8; Theme: Second Sunday of Advent; song – There’s Something About that Name – UMH 171 Isaiah: We are preparing for a breakthrough from God. God is coming in our lives, and everything is going to change. This verse was written for the exiles. They were oppressed and felt that there was no way out for them. The prophet gave them words of comfort, that everything was going to be okay. They were going to achieve their goals, with the help of God – the intervention. Not only will God deliver us, God will take care of us in the process. There is nothing else for us to do, but to prepare for his coming. But we also have to be prepared for the fact that when we return, we return to chaos, not order. Everything we know has been destroyed. We have to be prepared to not despair, but roll up our sleeves and obey God. 2 Peter: The lesson that we learned from the Thessalonians, that when people learn that the end is coming, they can easily give up their lives and forget what they are fighting for. They can easily think that it doesn’t matter what they do, because everything is over. The biggest problem of a riot is not the rebelliousness of the people, it is the looting. They assume that there are no consequences for what they do, and they do anything. Peter talks about what it means to live in the endtimes. He talks about what will happen when Jesus returns. But the message is that righteousness must also prevail. As the faithful, we are not to look at this as a time to give up and not care. We are to continue to do what’s right, as a matter of fact righteousness is even more important. We are to show others, and most importantly Christ that we have been waiting for him. Questions: What are the conditions of oppression for you personally today? What are the conditions of oppression for us as a people? Who is it that is offering the voice of comfort along the way? Where is the highway that we must follow? How does God make our journey easier? How will advent be a new adventure for you this year? How can you teach others the righteous ways in the meantime before Christ comes?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November 27, 2011

Scriptures for November 27th: Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37 theme: the first Sunday of Advent; Song O Come Emmanuel Isaiah: In the first Sunday of advent, we start out with the way the world is. We start with why we need Jesus. We start with the plight of the people. We start with the understanding that God is going to come into the world somehow and turn things upside down. We don’t know how he is going to do it, but we know that it is going to be BIG. Everyone is going to see it. We are also reminded that at present we are a part of the problem and not a part of the solution. We are sinners, and it is our sin that has made the world what it is. But we are also people who want to change, and the big change will change us on the inside and the outside. At the end of Advent, this will all make sense and we will see God clearly. Mark: The gospel lesson continues to explain the way things are and why. In a lot of ways the end of the world did come for the Jews. Their temple was destroyed, their way of life was destroyed. And they are trying to understand why God would do such a thing and what are they supposed to do now. Jesus tells a parable of the landowner being gone from the land and preparing to come back. We cant get too comfortable while he is gone, because he is coming back. The whole point of advent is to remind us to keep awake, and clean up the house before the owner comes back and gets upset at the mess. Questions: Have you ever realized that God’s coming is your only hope? How bad has the world gotten? Are we capable of helping ourselves, or do we need a divine intervention? How does God answer your prayers and cries? What things do you do now, that you would stop if you knew the end was near? How can focusing on God’s return help your discipleship?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 20, 2011

Scriptures for November 20th: Ezekiel 34:11-16,20-24; Psalm 100; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46; Theme: What does it mean for Christ to be King?; Song: My Hope is Built – 368 Ephesians: Paul is writing to a church of both Jews and gentiles. The debate over whether you need to be circumcised in order to be a true Christian is still fresh in their minds. If Jews are special, then how are all of these heathen gentiles to be accepted into the family? Paul reminds us that if Christ is the head of our lives, that is not our problem. If Christ is the head of our faith, then we have an inheritance in his kingdom. We don’t have to learn to live in Jewdom, it is not the same place as the kingdom of God. We can hope for what is ahead, not worry about what is behind. God demonstrated what he did in the resurrection of Christ, we have that same power. God’s power is indeed the greatest thing in the world, that is what we have faith in. Matthew: Christ reign is about righteousness, not about power. That is why this text is appropriate to think about for Christ the King Sunday. We start out picturing heaven and Jesus role in heaven. This is judgment day for the faithful of the earth. Jesus is the judge, who lets some in and others are condemned to hell. What is the criteria for making it in? What did you do for the normal people in your life? When you passed someone who was hungry, or in need of clothes, or medicine – who did you respond? The needy are the chosen face of Christ on earth. Whatever we do for or to them, we also do it to Jesus. This is the last public teaching of Jesus. It is called the Great Assize – or the great judgment. The great question for all of us – how can I help the needy? Questions: What hope does being a Christian bring you? How have you seen God’s great power demonstrated in your life? What have we inherited as the children of God? Are the promises of God from a Christian, the same as the promises God gave to a Jew? What does it mean for Christ to be King of your life? Who are the “least of these” today? What do you do to help them? On judgement day, what will you say to Christ? Are you a sheep or a goat?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November 13, 2011

Scriptures for November 13th – Judges 4:1-7; Psalm 123; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30 – Theme: Using our talents for God; Song – I am going to live so God can use me – Faith We Sing – 2153 1 Thessalonians: Paul gave the message to the Christians of Thessalonica that there was not much time to waste. Christ was returning soon, so they needed to prepare themselves and their lives for eternity. There seemed to be an awful lot of people who were willing to hear that message, but there were also a lot more who were not. As a matter of fact, Paul also had a lot of enemies. He had to get comfortable in serving within that balance. Paul still had a message, not to get so caught up into the peace of the world, that you are not prepared the coming of Christ. Our dreams for the future are not for the night, it is for the day. We still have work to do. But our work is about who we are as a community. Therefore we have to encourage one another, particular those who are just becoming new Christians. Matthew: We hear about his parable a lot, it is the parable of the talents. But there is so much more to this story, then the commonly understood. As a matter of fact, Jesus intentional tells stories that leave a lot of room for interpretation. For instance, this is the third parable that Jesus tells about the distant landowner. He is preparing his disciples for the fact that he will not be with them, and they will need to be able to “keep the faith” in his absence. There are three servants who do what they can with what they have. When the master returns, he rewards his servants for their efforts. And yet he is also not afraid to pass judgment on the servant who is not doing enough. Many times we are that worthless servant – because we don’t give our own to God. In fairness we are afraid, and don’t want to lose what we have. God reminds us that what we have is never our own to keep. Questions: How does our faith help us to shape our priorities in life? When we judge others, who are we keeping out of the kingdom of heaven? In what ways are we too seeking the peace and security of the world? Where do we spend our energy- building our kingdom at home or God’s kingdom on earth? What has God entrusted us with? How do we give it to others?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October 30, 2011

Scriptures for October 30th – Joshua 3:7-17; Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37; 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:1-12; Theme: God is with you Song: Precious Lord – UMH 474

Joshua: The children of God have spied out the promise land. Moses was not able to go with him, God called him home. Now Joshua is the leader. This is the story of the children crossing the Jordan. They are entering into a new life. They have been worshipping in the tabernacle. God instructs them to take the ark of the covenant with them when they travel. In order to get where they are going they have to cross the Jordan. The river stops raging, so that they can cross safely. This is a little exodus. A blessing from God to allow to them move into the future. They have been able to overcome a lot of diversity and resistance with the help of God. God had a plan for them. God had a plan for us today.

Matthew: The Pharisees have left Jesus and they feel that they have heard all that they need to hear to convict him. Now Jesus is free to speak to those who want to hear his lessons. And he uses the Pharisees as an example. They know the lessons of Moses, but in reality they don’t live them. They have all of the trappings of being holy – but looks are deceiving. Jesus tells his disciples that in order to be a true spiritual leader, you have to be willing to be a servant. The true proof of faith is not your outward appearance, but the condition of your heart. We don’t need titles – we need to give Jesus titles in our life. People may not understand, but God always understands.

Questions: What time in your life has been like Crossing the Jordan? When has God led you to a better understanding of life? When have you been very clear that the old life has passed and that God has given you a new life? How are we like the Pharisees in our faith? How are we like the disciples of Christ? How do we acknowledge the teachers in our life? What lessons have we learned from the ultimate teacher? Who in your life is an example of what it means to be humble?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October 23, 2011

Scriptures for October 23rd: Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46 Theme: A Faith that overcomes Song: Swing Low Sweet Chariot – UMH 703

1 Thessalonians: Paul tells the congregation at “Salonica” about his trip to Philippians. Things did not go well for him there. It turns out that he was run out of town this time also. He seems to be offending a lot of people – by trying to get them to think in a new way. Paul is on the search to make disciples for Christ. He says that there are real evangelist and fake evangelist. There are people who are concerned about numbers – we should be concerned about a change of heart. It turns out that he was kicked out of Thessalonica also. People wanted a quick faith that would address their needs. Paul wanted them to learn to take faith seriously.

Matthew: The Pharisees are still questioning Jesus. They are trying to do whatever they can to trip him up. They hate him, but the people love him. The only way to get the people to feel like they do is to make sure that he says the wrong thing in public, so that that people can start asking questions also. They ask him two questions this week – what is the greatest commandment and what does it mean to be the messiah. Jesus reminds that that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord. He reminds us that the second commandment is to love our neighbor. Jesus was careful to stick to Hebrew scripture in all of his answers. The Pharisees realize that there is no point in arguing with him – he knows just as much (if not more) than they do. But we can learn to.

Questions: Who was instrumental in you becoming a Christian? What did it mean that Paul was kicked out of the places he preached? – was he a help to them or a hindrance? How do we treat people today who strike at the core of our faith when we are not ready to deal with them or it? Does loving God help us love people more? Why or why not? How can Jesus be the son of God and the son of man at the same time?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October 16, 2011

Scriptures for October 16th – Exodus 33:12-23; Psalm 99; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22 Theme: Laity Sunday, song: Rock of Ages – UMH 361
Exodus: This is a shift in the story of the chosen people. This is a shift in God’s role in the lives of the people. They have been in the wilderness enough, now it is time for them to think about reaching the promised land. Their dream is about to become a reality. Moses goes to God to get reassurance that God is with them, and that God will protect them through the unknown. God explains that no one can see the face of God and live. But God protects moses and helps him to witness the glory of God. God wants them to know that he will never leave them

1 Thessolonians: Paul and Silas have gone to the city to talk to people about what it means to be a Christian. But he also wants them to remain steadfast. By this time people are starting to get anxious. How long do we have to wait for this Jesus to come? Why do we have to separate ourselves from the people around us. Paul tells them their strengths are:Their faithfulness and steadfastness in Christ (verse 3) ,An awareness that God has called them and the Spirit has empowered them from the beginning (verses 4-5) ,Living out with joy the way of Jesus they had learned from Paul and others (vs. 6-7) Their willingness to share their conversion stories and their confidence in Jesus who "rescues us from the wrath to come" (verses 8-10).

Questions: What insures the presence of God with a people? Is God with our church? How do you know? What can we learn from the Isrealites about idolatry of faithful people? What impact does our faith have on others? How can others know about God through our lives?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October 9, 2011

Scriptures for October 9th: Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23;
Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14 Theme: the Truth of God; song: It’s Me, O Lord – UMH 352

Exodus: The children of God are still wandering in the wilderness, and they still have not learned to trust God. At first it they asked what they were going to eat, then it was where to get water. Now they are impatient for Moses to return from the mountain of God and to give them a word from the Lord. When he does not return in the expected time, it must be because he is not coming back. Instead of teaching the people patience, Aaron appeases them. He gives them an idol to worship in the meantime. It is God who tells Moses the he must return and fix this. This sense of distrust is something that God never fully recovers from. And yet because Moses asks God not to totally destroy them, God gives them another chance. We can be grateful for God’s willingness to understand our human ignorance.

Philippians: This is the ending of the book of Philippians. Paul finally addresses a conflict within the church. He urges two believers to think more of what they have in common, and not how they are different. His whole message is in our unity, our life, our church, our being is in Christ. We may not like each other, but we all have to love Christ. We can pray and know that Christ will work it out for us. He also addresses the issue of trust in God. Today we struggle with what it is that we should trust in. Paul assures us that God is a God of trust and of beauty. All truth comes from God – so we can freely trust anything that proves itself to be so. In the name of Jesus.

Questions What times in your life have you felt that you cannot trust in God? What times in your life has God given you another chance? What are your complaints to God? Listen to your life – what are the answers God gives today for those complaints? Who within the body of Christ are you at odds with? How can you reconcile with them? How does the unity of Christ call you to move forward? What truth of life do you question as a truth of God? Is God really in that situation?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

October 2, 2011

Scriptures for October 2nd: Exodus 20:1-4,7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4-14; Matthew 21:33-46; Theme: World Communion Sunday; Song: When we all get to heaven – UMH 701

Philippians: The principle lesson of Philippians is that Christ is the center of our lives and of all that we are. Paul gives an impressive list of accomplishments, yet says that they mean nothing in comparison to giving his life to Christ. We are flesh, we can’t help but to live in the flesh. And the reality is that we all work hard in the flesh. When we work for something, we want to be acknowledged for it. If I worked 12 hours on a project, I am not going to donate my pay to the church, I am going to put it in my pocket. I earned it. And yet Paul reminds us that if it had not been for Christ in our lives, we would not have the strength to work, so we need to acknowledge Christ in everything. We have to remember, that no matter how hard we work, we will never be perfect. As long as we are in the flesh, we need to strive for what it right, realizing that we will not be perfect until death.

Matthew: In his last days, Jesus has taken on the tasks of tasks. To challenge the thinking of the religious powers that be in hopes that they will respect his teachings. When he realizes that is probably not going to happen, Jesus hopes to at least get them to think about what they are doing. To at least add another perspective to their thinking. Not only are they not willing to listen, they want to kill him. That is why he tells the parable of the people who kill the son of the landowner. People get violent when you try to tear apart their raquet. When you tell them to give up their unfair advantage over others. Jesus knows that in the midst of the dialogue, there are some people who are listening and taking what he says to heart. Are you one of those people?

Questions: How has knowing Christ changed your priorities in life? What things used to be really important to you, which now are not as important? How did knowing Christ change Paul’s priorities? Is there something we can learn from him? When does being a righteous person become a burden? Is it possible to be so righteous that you start to destroy the faith of other people? How do we heal the people that we have heart in our zealousness?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sepember 24, 2011

Breaking Open the Scriptures
Scriptures for September 25th: Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32; Song: Trust and Obey – UMH 467 Theme: God has a plan for us, if we just follow it.

Philippians: Paul has one major theme in all of his writings – that theme is Christ. Specifically, it is life in Christ. Christ is life, and anything else is death. Today Paul talks about what it means to live in Christ. It means living in community with people that are not like us. Christ will give us what we need in order to overcome our differences. The theme for today’s reading is unity. As Christians if Christ is our center: then we can be of the same mind, same love, and on the same accord. Paul uses a familiar hymn to remind the congregation of what it means to be one body of Christ. What are the songs of unity that we sing today? We sing them, but do we really live them out. Do we love all Christians? What stands in the way?

Matthew: By what authority is Christ allowed to work in your life? Do you give Jesus permission, or do you trust the will of God? As Jesus begins his teaching ministry – those same questions are asked of him – who gives you authority to do what you do? Jesus knew that any answer that he gave would be the wrong answer for the crowd. So he gives a parable instead – a parable of obeying the word of God. He was pointing out that sometimes it is those who think the most of God, who do the least of what God tells them. They (we) get so caught up on our own understanding that we forget that God is not in our minds and our hearts. The word of God is in the bible, and we have to constantly check our actions and our thoughts against the word in order to truly obey God. And that we need to be more concerned about our own actions than the actions of others.

Questions: What situations in our congregation require us to be on one accord? What do we need to do in order to get there? Is Christ really the center of the church? Does Christ have authority to work in our lives? By what authority to we do our work in the world?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 18, 2011

Scriptures for September 18th : Exodus 16:2-15; Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45; Philippians 1:21-30; Matthew 20:1-16; Giving us what we deserve; song: UMH 130 – God will take care of you.

Exodus: Apparently, being set free and put into the promised land is not enough to free our souls. Now we have to survive from day to day, and we don’t know how to do that. Why would God free us, only to kill us by not taking care of us? we all have our moments when we are concerned and ask for God to take care of us. The Isrealites were able to exit Egypt. They saw the amazing salvation of God. But now they felt that they were in the middle of no where. They had no idea of what to do. God challenged them to open their minds and to think in a brand new way. To learn to trust in a brand new way. Eventually they were fed and taken care of even in the midst of their doubt.

Matthew: This scripture challenges our idea what it means to be fair. In a world that is fair, it is a world where we are unequal. If I work harder than you, then I should be given more than you. This is the story of workers who have been given a job. Some worked 8 hours, some worked an hour. All got paid exactly the same. That is what is fair in God’s world. That reminds us that God’s grace is not something that we can ever earn, it is something that is freely given. It is not in how hard we work, but in how much God cares for our needs. If God gives us grace, we are we to give to others?

Questions: When in your life have you followed God’s leading, yet questioned whether God would see you through? How long did you fear? When has God provided for your needs, when you could not care for yourself? If you had to use God’s measure of fairness and not your own, how would that change the way you treat people? Are we treated fairly in work? How do we address this injustice?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September 11, 2011

Scriptures for September 11th : Exodus 14:19-31; Exodus 15:1-11, 20-21; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35; Theme: How we treat one another as a church; UMH 560 – Help us Accept Each Other

Exodus: This text is about the departure in the Red Sea. This is an important text no matter what our faith. Because if God can do this for the Isrealites, then God can do it for us. God does it for us ever day. God sets us free from our burdens, God prepares a way in the midst of no way. This is the moment where the great I am proves to be more than the God of the ancestors. This is the God who is in charge of the wind, the sea, the heavens and everything in between. This is the God who will use all of that and more to give us freedom and salvation. This is a week for remembering that God is a God of the Christians, Jews and Muslims. If that is so, then as people of faith, we have to love and live with all kinds. In the name of Gods love.

Romans: We are still reading text that tell us how we should treat one another in the church. And Paul says that we should treat everyone with mutual respect. The church is not a group of like minded people, the church is a group of faith minded people. We don’t always think alike. We don’t always agree on the same things. And Paul is saying that is okay. We need to be careful in how we judge people to be wrong. Only God was that power. We have to leave everything up to God. Our task is to figure out how to put differences aside and live as one body of Christ. Carrying on the mission in spite of ourselves.

Questions: How does God continue to lead us out of bondage today? Who are the leaders that God sends to lead us out of bondage? How do we become a people of faith that honors all of those in the God family? How do you treat others who seem to live their faith differently than you? Where do you draw the line on who follows God in the right way? Who or what is the judge of the right way to be faithful?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 28, 2011

Scriptures for August 28th: Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 105:1-6; 23-26; 45c; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28 Theme: Treating others as holy
Exodus: We are continuing the story Moses. Moses was responsible for leading the Israelites into a new era of history. He led them out of slavery into the promised land. But he also led them to have a deeper relationship with God. From birth, he is special because he has connections with both the Israelites and the Egyptians. He must have known that God had a special purpose for him, but he did not know what it was. Until he has a direct encounter with God and the burning bush. In that conversation, God also reveals God’s name. I will be, who I will be. God is constantly creating the future, a future and a plan for us to step into. Moses is willing to step into the plan, not only for himself but for his people. I think it is beautiful that he sees God’s purpose as he steps on holy ground. How many times in our life have we stepped on holy ground and not realized it. Probably every day.

Romans: Paul’s words of advice to the church have deep meaning. He is telling us the importance of being united. We are all individuals, but when we come in contact with Christ – we are not ourselves, we are the body of Christ. We have to be mindful of the way that we treat one another, and how we are view by the rest of the world. He tells us to let love be genuine, hate what is evil, love one another, do not lag in zeal. In other words, the way in which we treat one another does really matter. In a relationship it is very easy to disrespect someone, but that we are the body of Christ have to rise above that. If you call someone a friend, there has to be a reason. You have to have something in common. In order to call yourself a Christian, you have to have something in common. That commonality is Christ.

Questions: What is it that makes something holy? Have you ever had an encounter with the holy? How do you know? All of us have a calling from God, all of us are special people – who in your life pointed out that God really needed you and that you were special? How do you treat other Christians? Do you ever get angry at them? How do you resolve that anger? How can Christ help you in having a better relationship? Why is unity in the body of Christ important?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 21, 2011

Scriptures for August 21st: Exodus 1:8-2:16; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20 Theme: Who do we define as the other?

Exodus: This scripture begins with the much used words – A new Pharoah took over the land of Egypt, who did not know Joseph. That scripture is used for the day when things change. The day when what used to work in the past, no longer applies. I think God has been warning us for some time that things are going to change. Are we really prepared for a change? Probably not. The first thing that we do when we are not ready to change, is to start to judge other people. We start to rank ourselves, who am I better off than? Who do I deserve to do better than? Who are the people that God loves less than me? If that is a strange question – that is the point of this text. We are all in different circumstances, but God loves us all just the same. In God’s eyes, there are no other people. And yet the story of the Egyptians making slaves of the Israelites, is a story that repeats itself over and over again. Jesus’ mission in the world is to undo the damage of degrading other people. He created a promised land for us all. How are we working to include all people in the church, so that they can all enter the promise land?

Matthew: Jesus talks about his mission of taking away the division of Jews and Gentiles. In previous chapters, Jesus has made it clear that his mission is to save the children of God. As he continues his mission, he comes to realizes that God’s mission is bigger than that. God has a lot of children, from a lot of different places. He asks his disciples ( and us) the important question, who do people say that I am? If we are able to recognize him as the messiah, then we have to power to be saved. If he is a prophet, or just a nice person, then we miss the point. If Jesus is the messiah – then there are no other people. We are all brothers and sisters. We are all a part of one family. We work for unity, not division if we are doing the messiah’s work.

Questions: Does slavery continue today? Does oppression happen today? Why does that seem to be a universal story, no matter what country we live in? How does Jesus help us to do something different? Who is Jesus for you? Have you heard others say that Jesus is just a prophet? What is your response to those people? What can you do to continue Jesus work of unity? When is there a time when unity is not a good thing?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

August 10, 2011

Breaking Open the Scriptures

Scriptures for August 10th: Genesis 45:1-15; Psalm 133, Romans 11:1-2, 29-32; Matthew 15:10-28. Theme: Are you a witness to the truth of What Christ can do? Song: UMH 140 – Great is Thy Faithfulness

Romans: Paul reminds us that as gentiles, we are just as much a part of the family as the Jewish people. God accepts us as we are, we don’t have to change our identity in order to be a Christian. Jesus died for the right for us to be just who we are. Jews do not believe in original sin. But the scripture reminds us that we are indeed sinful. God knows that we are sinful. God claims us, even in the midst of our fault. Jesus cleans us up, and forgives our sins and glorifies God for the right to do the work. If we are thankful for what God has done for us, then we will be witnesses. We will not only live a life as free from sin as possible, but we will also tell others what God has done for us, and what God is prepared to do for others.

Matthew: For the Jewish community, purity is everything. It is a part of their religion to keep clean. They are not willing to be around anything that will make them spiritual unclean. Being unclean has nothing to do with dirt, it is about a perception. Jesus tries to dispel the myth that something outside of your own spirit can make you unclean. It is what comes or of your spirit , out of your mouth that make you unclean. In the second half of the scripture, a woman tests Jesus determination to save all of God’s children. She was not a Jew, yet she asked to be healed. At first Jesus says that he can’t do anything, but he is soon reminded that God sent him to save all. It was her faith that saves her daughter, not her nationality. The same for us. We have to be careful not about what we put in our mouths, but what comes out of them.

Questions: How is your life a witness to what God has done in your life? How have you received the mercy of God even in your disobedience? What do Christians and Jews have in common in the way that we worship God? Have you ever seen a Christian disrespect their faith by the way they talk with other people? What does it mean to be spiritually clean? Who do you need to pray for God to bless, even though they may not deserve it?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

July 24, 2011

Breaking Open the Scriptures

Scriptures for July 24th – Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11;45b; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52;

Romans: We come to the end of chapter 8, the important chapter on our faith. Paul is talking a lot about what it means to have hope. Hope in something that you can see if not really hope. Needing to see something before you believe it, is not a bad thing, it is just not the definition of hope. We talked about waiting for a new creation and the groaning of birth pangs of a new day. Now it is time to celebrate the fruition of what God has done. Now it is time to sing a new song! Now it is time to sing of what God has done for us. Now it is time to sing of how our hope has been fulfilled. A large part of this final part of the chapter are the words to a hymn that Paul would have had the early church sing to celebrate where God has bought them. We have victory over life, because God has given that to us!

Matthew: Jesus likes to explain things in parables. He is trying to get us to understand what God is like. None of us has ever seen God for ourselves, so God must be like something that we can already relate to. Five times Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is like…. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. Mustard seed would have been a plant that grew everywhere. You did not have to take care of it, water it, or sometimes even plant it, it just grew and did what it wanted to do. When God is compared to a mustard seed, it is not important that it is wild, but that it spreads like wild fire. It is catching on and spreading. And it grows beyond belief. Wouldn’t it be nice if our faith in God spread with the same speed and intensity? The kingdom is like leaven, like rising bread, like the law of the household. Jesus did not come to the world to usher in the kingdom. The new kingdom does not do away with the old law, it just makes it easier to understand. For us to understand God’s world in out terms is all that Jesus is trying to do in this parable.

Questions: What do you hope that God will do for you in the future? What do you hope that God will do for the world? How do you pray for change? What are the signs in the world that change is coming? What are you doing to celebrate what God is doing in our midst? How would you explain the kingdom of God today? How does Jesus parables help you understand and explain God? What does the parable of the mustard seed mean to you?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

July 17, 2011

Scriptures for July 17th: Genesis 28:10-19; Psalm 139:1-12,23-24; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. Theme: The Presence of God; Song: We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder - UMH 418

Genesis: We continue our story about the first family. Abraham has died, Isaac’s twins have grown up. Now it is time for Jacob to find a wife. His mother Rebekah sends Jacob back to her homeland to find a wife. Jacob has never been a faithful man. He has never needed to pray, his father’s have always prayed on his behalf. This is probably the first time in his life that he is on his own. During his travels, he has a dream about God, that the place he sleeps is where God’s angels are traveling back and forth. He realizes that God’s presence is with him, whether he acknowledges God or not. This is the beginning of his own faith, his own family, his own story. A story in need of God.

Romans: Chapter 8 continues Paul’s conversation about the life in the flesh and life in the spirit. I don’t think that Paul is saying that we as Christians should live in the spirit. He is saying that in reality, we live in the middle of these two sides. There are a part of us that belongs to the world we live in, there is a part of us that belongs to God. As long as we are a part of this world, there will always be suffering. There will be problems, there will be struggles. But it is in our suffering that we realize that God is about to do a new thing in us, with us and for us. In the midst of fleshly suffering it is okay to groan and cry out. Our crying gives us hope and peace. Just be patient and things will change.

Questions: When in your life did you start to take on your own faith life and not your parents? What were the circumstances? How did you know that God was present in your life? How does living in the flesh affect you? How does living in the spirit affect you? What does suffering mean in your life? How has your suffering helped you to have hope? How often do you complain, or groan about the things in your life?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 10, 2011

Scriptures for July 10th: Genesis 25:19-34; Psalm 119:105-112; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23; Theme: How Deep is your faith? Song: Every Time I Feel the Spirit UMH 404

Genesis: We are reading the story of the first family of faith and how God’s promise plays out in the midst of their lives. We also find out that they are not very different from us. There is sibling rivalry, there are deep motions, there is unfairness. And yet the goodness of God becomes evident in it all. When Rebekah is pregnant with her twins, she is in such pain to God that she cries out. His answer is not much comfort. The older twin will live to serve the older twin. That is not right. But she makes sure that Jacob receives the birthright, not Esau. This switch affects the whole story of faith. Jacob continues the promise. Esau’s story may be just as important, but we never hear it. But we can guess that his family is not much different from ours. We don’t have to question why God chose to change the story, but we can be grateful that Jesus made sure that we were included in the family, thus included in the story. What does this story tell you about your faith heritage?

Romans: This is one of the most important chapter in the bible for many people. Romans chapter 8. In Romans, Paul is talking about sin, and how it affects our lives. In chapter 7 he even says that his life is affected by sin and that he needs to be different. We can all relate, because we are all sinners. We all wish that we could just be free of ourselves, but to no avail. What is one to do. We can celebrate because Jesus addressed the problem of sin. We can’t do it alone. But with the help of God through the resurrection of Jesus we can make a difference. The grace of Christ is available to us all, but is used by those of us who are able to focus. We have to set our mind to serve Christ, to be with Christ, and to use Christ as our savior. The gift is a peace of mind, as well as the knowledge that the Spirit of Christ dwells in our lives and all that we do.

Questions: What does it mean to be blessed by God? Are physical things really a testament to God’s blessing? What about others who don’t have as much as you do? Does God bless them? How can your blessings be a blessing to others? It was Jesus’ life that saves us, not his death. How does your life reflect what Jesus was done for you? How do you pass that on to others?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

June 26, 2011

Scriptures for June 26th: Genesis 22:1-14; Psalm 13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42. Theme: God will provide song: Amazing Grace UMH 378

Genesis: This is the powerful story of how Abraham believes that he must sacrifice the special gift that God has given him. He and his son, Isaac are hiking in the woods. Isaac thinks that this is a special time with his dad. His dad has a more sinister plan – to kill Isaac. Does he think that God will give him more sons? At 90 years old? But God saves the day and provides a ram to be sacrificed instead. He must have misunderstood God’s promise to make his children as numerous as the stars. Or perhaps Abraham did not believe that God fulfills his promises. Do you?

Matthew: The text from Matthew have been very short lately. But they are still very meaningful. This text tells us the most important part of being a Christian. To welcome others, and to make sure that you know that you are welcomed at God’s table. God provides for us, so that we are able to provide for others, not for us to hoard everything ourselves. It encourages us to think about what others think about us. And to think of how we think of others. Are they people that we don’t like and don’t understand- or are they important vessels of God? We are all children of God.

Questions: What do you do with the gifts that God gives you? Are you sometimes your own worst enemy by thinking that what God intended for good is a curse? In what instance has God provided what you needed out of nowhere? How do you welcome others? How do you see the good in everyone? What is the reward of the righteous?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

June 19, 2011

Breaking Open the Scriptures

Scriptures for June 19th: Genesis 1:1-2:4; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20 – Men’s Day

Genesis: This is a reading of the creation story. Isn’t amazing what God has done in seven days? But if that day was so long ago, why do we need to be reminded of it today? Because God is still creating. God needs us to create the world. Who we are and what we do is a part of creation. This texture also speaks of the work of the Father, the Son,and the Holy Spirit. God did the original creation, The Son perfected creation, and the Holy Spirit is still working today. The work of the church depends on the Holy Spirit. Throughout the year, we have looked at the work of the trinity, now it is our turn to roll up our sleeves and to work in whatever God calls us. But to also honor all of the gifts we have been given.

Matthew: This is known as the Great Commission. Jesus has appeared many times since the resurrection, but this is the last time. This is also the end of Matthew. The end of the Gospel. This is a day of beginnings and a day of endings. And it gives us the same message – Today is your turn to get to work. Jesus says to go and make disciples of all nations. That does not mean telling people what to do and teaching, it means being an disciple. People learn about Jesus from your example. People listen to who you are, not what you say. Further more, we don’t have to be afraid, because the Holy Spirit does all of the work – we just have to obey and listen. God is always there, we don’t always believe that. We need to spend more of our time becoming a vessel of God, willing to be used by God.

Questions: What is God creating today? What do you think needs to be created in the world today? What is your role in creation? Where do you plant the seeds? What nations do we need to work with to disciple? How do we reach them? What is your prayer to be used by God?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

June 5, 2011

Breaking Open the Scriptures
Scriptures June 5th : Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53; Theme: Christ Ascending to heaven; song: My Hope is Built UMH 368

Acts: Acts is a series of sermons. Very powerful sermons, which convinced the masses of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is also a testament to the power and majesty of the gospel. So it is fitting that we get our fullest account of the ascension in the book of Acts. Luke is telling the story of how this event affected the disciples. They still did not understand all that was happening, but were willing to pay attention and to witness. It was the angels who explained that they also needed to act – to tell others, to continue the work of Christ, to bring salvation to the world. They were asked why they were sitting and waiting for Jesus to come back down and finish- they realized that Jesus was waiting for them and to stop looking up and to get to work.

Luke: This is an account of the ascension, by the same author for a different reason. This story is Luke’s bridge for the two books. Jesus is giving his final advice to the disciples. What a gift to have a conversation with someone, after they have passed away. You don’t have to assume you know what they said, you can ask all of the right questions. You don’t have to go into the grieving process. Jesus wants to understand that the inevitable must happen, he must leave. But they will never be alone. The will still be able to get the answers to those questions, it will all make sense. The Holy Spirit will help them through. They have a reason not to grieve, but to be happy and celebrate. He was who he said he was, he did what he said he would do.

Questions: What does salvation mean to us? What are we expecting Christ to do in our lifetime? When you pray where to you look for Christ? Up above, or somewhere in your life? What does the fact that Christ ascended to heaven mean for us? What does it mean that he is coming back? What are we doing in the meantime?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 22, 2011

Breaking Open the Scriptures

Scriptures for May 22nd: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14 Theme: Our faith in Jesus Song: There is something about that Name – UMH 171

1 Peter: Peter is talking to those who have been newly baptized. But the message is for all who are a part of the body of Christ. We are living stones in many ways. Peter’s name means rock. Jesus said upon this rock I build my house. Jesus was telling Peter to go and to make disciples of other people. As living stones, we are told to do the same. We are to carry on the work of both Peter and Jesus. Jesus also talks of being the cornerstone of the building. As living stones we are a part of that building. We are God’s people, that God is proud of. But that is not just because of who we are, but because of what we do. How we live out our faith. Once we are baptized, the work just begins in our life.

John: This verse is a continuation of last week’s text. Last week Jesus says that he is to gate, the doorway to eternal life. He comes so that we can have life abundantly. This week he explains that he is preparing a place in eternity for us. He cares not only about us, but also about our lives. We can depend on Jesus for all that we need in life. All of the book of John explains that Jesus is a gift from God. He lived with God, he came onto this earth in response to God, and that he is still in heaven advocating on behalf of us to God. Calling on Jesus is not a magic formula, it is an invitation to live in the spirit of Christ.

Questions: What does it mean to be a royal priesthood of God? What are the advantages? What are the responsibilities? Is it okay to allow others into the family? How do we get them to come to the table? Jesus says that he is preparing a place for us – where is this place? It is in heaven, or can we find that presence here on earth? What do you think this place looks like? How can you tell when you actually get there?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

May 15, 2011

Breaking Open the Scriptures

Scriptures for May 15th – Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10 Theme: Good Shepherd Sunday; Precious Lord – UMH 474

Psalm 23: This psalm needs very little explanation, we all know the psalm. It is a very important part of our faith. It is a psalm that we learned as a child, and say all of the time. But is the Lord really the shepherd that we trust with all of our lives? Do we follow wherever we are led? Do we trust God to actually get us through all troubles? What are we doing to live in the house of the Lord throughout eternity? This psalm could be read on many levels, this is not just a song about shepherd, but it is also a song about leaders. It is also a song about disciples, we are called to take care of God’s sheep, to make sure they are safe well fed, and well taken care of. We can share what we have in order to help others – that is the Lord’s work.

John: All of our scriptures today talk about the qualities of a shepherd. We all know that Jesus is our good shepherd. But in this scripture, Jesus does not say that he is the shepherd, he actually says that he is the gate by which the sheep enter into a safe place. There is a shepherd who had the job of standing by the gate as the sheep are coming and going. The gatekeeper counts the sheep and vouches that all are traveling together. Jesus is the gate to heaven for us. He makes sure that we get where we have to go. But we are like sheep, we know the directions, but we don’t want to follow them. Jesus has to watch us to make sure the we do what we need in order to get into heaven. When we get caught up into the things of life, it is easy for us to go astray and forget to listen to the shepherd’s voice.

Questions: What does this important psalm mean to you? What are the times that you read it for yourself? How do you seek to be a shepherd for others? There are a lot of voices out there calling for our attention, how do you recognize the voice of Jesus? When Jesus calls you, how do you respond? In what ways is Jesus a shepherd for your life?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

May 8, 2011

Scriptures for May 8th – Acts 2:14, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35 Theme: Finding God along the way Song: Blessed Assurance UMH 369

1 Peter: Peter wants us to rejoice in our salvation. To know that we always have something to be grateful for. We can be grateful that the ways of the world that we have inherited no longer apply. God knew that the world and we who live in this world were headed for destruction. So Jesus was sent to give us a better way. In the old way of life everything, including ourselves will perish. In the new way we have eternal life. It is through Christ that we learn to trust God and to love one another. We must also remember that this gift comes with a price. God sacrificed his son. In order to have the power of love – we have to be baptized and follow the ways of Christ.

Luke: This story happens on the very day that Jesus has died. Some of his followers are in mourning and travelling to Emmaus, when a stranger stops them along the way. They assume this stranger must be the only person in the world who does not know that the master has been killed. But how would Jesus know, if he is the master, and he is the one who has also been resurrected. It is not until they eat with him that they realize who they are talking to. It is in communion that we come to know who Jesus is for our lives. It is only after the resurrection that we see Jesus in all of his glory clearly.

Questions: Today is Mother’s Day – how is God like a mother to us? How does God take care of us? What are the old ways of life that we don’t need any more once we become Christian? How is Christian love different from any other form of love? How do you trust in God? What does taking communion do for your faith? In what other ways can you share a meal with Jesus? What ways has Jesus been with you this week and you didn’t even recognize it?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

May 1, 2011

Scriptures for Acts 2:1:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
Theme: Witness to the miracle of resurrection; Song: He Lives UMH 310

Acts: Pentecost is a Jewish holiday, there were thousands of people in Jerusalem. Peter uses this opportunity to tell those people about Jesus. To tell that that Jesus has been resurrected and is alive. We will be reading Peter’s sermon for the 50 days of Easter. The church grew by leaps and bounds because of Peter’s testimony. The people wanted to hear the stories of this resurrected messiah. They say what faith did for Peter, and they wanted that faith for themselves. Peter reminds them that all of their other heroes, David, Moses, Elijah, did wonderful things in life, but they are dead now. Only Jesus does great things in resurrection! Jesus is still making miracles happen today.

John: Jesus makes several resurrection appearances to his disciples. They do not recognize his face, but there is something in his voice that makes the recognize him. When the disciples saw Jesus, they went home, they could not understand what it going on. Jesus appears to them in the upper room. Thomas needs proof that this is really Jesus, and he gets it. We may never see that proof for ourselves, but do we need it in order to know that Jesus Christ is Lord?

Questions: How do you recognize Jesus in your life today? What can we learn from the early church as far as telling our story and getting people to believe? What does resurrection mean for you? How do we help others to believe? What proof does the world need that Jesus is alive? Are we afraid to make the world see what we see? How do we inherit God’s power?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

April 17, 2011

Scriptures for April 17th: Matthew 21:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26-14-27:66 Theme: Palm Sunday Song: Were you There UMH 288

Matthew: This is palm Sunday – the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning, depending on how you look at it. Lent is over, but it is not finished. Now we enter into Holy Week. Now we start the walk with Jesus to the cross. Now we relive the story of Jesus passion, in going through the most painful part of his life in order to being us salvation. We start the story with Jesus gathering his disciples together to share a meal. He initiates our communion practice of sharing his body and blood. He also tells the disciples that one of them will betray him. The passion story is told in all of the gospels. But only Matthew takes to time to explain the relationship of Jesus and Judas. Only Matthew tells of the struggle that Judas had in making that decision. It tells of how that decision and the guilt of betrayal is what killed him.
Only Matthew records the conversation with the soldiers, with Pontius Pilate after Jesus is arrested. We contemplate Jesus response, we listen for the guilt of Pontius Pilate, why would he do this? Pontius Pilate is one of the few people who had an extended conversation with and is not converted. He goes on with his life, totally clueless as to whom he is speaking. He even asks Jesus, are you the king of the Jews? But doesn’t understand that Jesus is the king of us all! He will rise above this situation. Matthew is the only person to talk about what happens when Jesus dies. He records the earthquake, the tearing of the temple curtain. Surely this is the Son of God. Matthew knows the names of the women who came to bathe the body. And this is the only gospel which explains that the guards are at the tomb to keep the followers from stealing the body and just claim that he is resurrected. That is where the story for palm Sunday ends, in anticipation of what happens to the body, if the guards were trying to prevent this from happening. We can celebrate that all things are possible with God. All burdens are boundaries are transcended in order to bring transformation to the world!

Questions: What have you learned about Jesus this Lenten season? What have you learned about yourself? Your faith? What effect does the passion story have on you? How do you feel about Judas? What about the reactions of the other disciples to Jesus? Do you see yourself or your own actions in those of Judas? Have you ever betrayed Jesus in your actions? What would your life be like if there was no transcendence of death? How will your life change with the resurrection this year?

Friday, April 1, 2011

April 10, 2011

Breaking Open the Scriptures

Scriptures for April 10th – Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45: Theme: Jesus can do anything! Song: What Wondrous Love is This? UMH 292

Ezekiel: Death is the subject for this week. Our death; not the death of our bodies, but the death of our souls. Without Jesus we are all dead and in need of resurrection. God shows Ezekiel a field of bones; Bones of people who may have died in battle. God explains that He does not need us to praise God, because he can rise up these bones and make them praise God. This should be a message of hope for us. Whatever the suffering, whatever the pain, whatever the burden that we are carrying, God can heal our soul and restore us to full life. We just have to let the spirit into our lives.

John: This is another one of those long gospel lessons for the season of lent. Once again the theme is our death and resurrection. Jesus finally comes to visit the house of his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. But they think that he has come too late to save the life of Lazarus. Not only is he dead, he stinks as his body decomposing. What could Jesus possibly do now. Jesus is not worried about the preconceived notions of the people, Jesus is not worried that we have gotten to the point that all hope is lost. Jesus can do anything at anytime. We are never so far gone that Jesus cannot save us. Jesus calls Lazarus to come forth, Jesus calls us to come forth; To come out of our tomb of sorrows and distress and to live. How do you answer?

Questions: Name some places in your life or your community that remind you of the valley of dry bones? Have you witnessed a resurrection of a place that was once dead? What did it take to revive the situation or to give it new life? How was God at work? What will it take to revive our United Methodist churches? What areas of your life have you lost all hope that things will change? How can you give those areas over to God and trust the Holy Spirit? What type of life do you think that John lived after he was brought back to life?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 27, 2011

Scriptures for March 27th: Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42; Theme: Healing Water; 298: When I survey the Wondrous Cross

Exodus: The Israelites have left Egypt and are headed toward freedom, however, they are afraid that their needs will not be taken care of. Not only are they hungry, they are thirsty for something. Moses prays on their behalf, and God provides water for their thirsty bodies. But that does not erase the thirst in their souls. We all have those times in our lives when we are thirsty for something. Usually the things that we chose only make us thirstier in the end. We drink pop, and sugary drinks instead of fresh cold water. Our real thirst is for God to come and quench our neediness.

John: The thirst theme continues. The Samaritan woman has come to the well in order in order to get her daily share of water. Jesus tells her that he has water for her drink so that she will not thirst again. Jesus is that water which quenches our soulful neediness. Jesus knew all about the Samaritan and her neediness – for men. He knew that it is human for us to long for something. He taught her to long for the right thing: To long for holiness. And the attract people to what is right and good. This is a long text, because it is one of the longest single conversations that Jesus has in the bible – it must be pretty important for us all to listen.

Questions: What times in your life have you been thirsty and convinced that God is absolutely not there for you, and will not supply what you need? Where you pleasantly surprised in the end? What is the sign in your life that God is with you in the darkness? Jesus’ thirst was quenched by doing to Lord’s work. What is it that quenches your thirst for God? What is it that quenches your thirst for life? Is it healthy for you?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March 20, 2011

Genesis 12:1-4; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17 Theme: We are Saved by Grace; Song: Because He Lives – UMH 364

Romans: We are reminded to have the faith of Abraham. He followed God, just because God called him away. God made a promise to him that his family would be blessed. Was it because of something they did? Was it because God loved Abraham more than others? No – It was because of God’s favor – God’s grace. That grace is available to all those who have faith to follow God as Abraham did. No amount of money in the world can buy God’s grace. No amount of hard work can earn God’s grace. Faith that God’s loves me in spite of myself- will open the door to grace.

John: Chapter 3 is one of the most famous scriptures of all. 3:17 – God so loved the World that He gave his only begotten son…. God gave His son to those who are willing to be born again. But what does it mean to be born again? And why is it so hard for Nicodemus to understand the concept? Why is it so hard for us to give up what we have, and give our lives completely to God? Jesus came into the world to make what is impossible with man, possible with God. We are saved, and given the gift of eternal life through God.

Questions: What is the difference between a Christian and a good person? Does a good person automatically have grace in their life (trick question)? Can we refuse to have God’s grace in our lives? Is being born again a one-time thing? Or does it happen in many ways at many times? Why do you think this chapter is so well known? Does it tell us all we need to know about faith?

Note: Rev. Cross’s sermons

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

February 27, 2011

Isaiah 49:8-16; Psalm 131; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34; Song: God will take care of you - UMH 130; Theme: God will reemmber us in all circumstances

Isaiah: this scripture is from second Isaiah. These are the final days of the exile before the Isrealites venture to go back home. They are discouraged and think that nothing that they do will make a difference. God has served them a blow in their faith, obviously God does not care what happens to them. these words remind them that God has not forgotten about them. God has written the names of each faithful person on the palm of God's hand. God knows what we need. but we have to make a conscious choice to trust God with our lives, and things eventually get better. The Isrealites chose God, and the strength to go back home and start all over again. what will happen when you choose God in your life?

1 Corinthians: We have all heard Jesus words to judge not and be ye not judged. But let's all face it, we do it anyway. we are constantly judging others. We especially spend a lot of time judging our leaders. Abraham Lincoln said that if you ever want to challenge yout character, become a leader. Paul always encouraged us to pray for those in leadership even when we don't always agree with them. Once people are put into positions, we need to engage them, but we also have to trust that God is doing the same. God will judge them for what they are doing, we have to take care of ourselves.

Questions: Has there ever been a time in your ilfe when you felt abandoned by your friends? or by God? what did you say to God about it? What did you do for support? What happened tht finally turned things around to realize that God was with you all of the time? Have you ever criticized church leadership or the pastor? What criteria are you using to judge? the Bible, the Book of Discipline? your expereince? Do you really undersatnd any of those things well enough to judge anyone else but yourself?

March 6, 2011

Scriptures for March 6th – Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 99; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9; song: Majesty, Worship His Majesty – UMH 176; Theme: Stay awake to experience a miracle! Transfiguration Sunday

Exodus: As we journey with Jesus to the top of the mountain, it is important to go back to the beginning. Moses was invited to go to the mountain to sit with God. He has no idea of what God would say, he knew that he could not see God face to face, but he loved to be led by God. They say that Moses went to Mount Sinai. He was with God for 40 days. Aaron and Hur stayed in the camp to lead the people, Joshua travelled with Moses, but did not go up on the mountain. As Moses climbed higher and higher, he was able to feel the presence of God in a better way. God has a message for the people, the TenCommandments on how to live as a community.

Matthew : Peter comes to realize that Jesus is special and has a message for the world. He, James, and John faithfully follow Jesus up a mountain to pray. But they fall asleep, as Jesus talks with God. As they wake up they see that they are in the company of Moses and Elijah – the law and the prophets. This was a sign that God was indeed leading Jesus for a purpose. He had a foundation of history behind him, and now it was time to go forward. But what was he going to when he went down the mountain? It was a trip to Jerusalem, scorn, crucifixion, and resurrection and salvation for us. Sometimes we too have to go through the worst, to get through the best. What do we need to do to know that God is with us every step of the journey?

Questions: God is with us all of the time, but at what point in your life did you recognize God? What times in your life has God been present in a special way? What do you do in a regular basis to talk with God? How do you get back on track during the times when you get bored and fall away from your relationship? How do you prepare for a difficult time in your life?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

February 20, 2011

Scriptures for February 20th: Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18; Psalm 119:33-40;
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; Matthew 5:38-48. Theme: faith is a personal commitment to holiness; Song: Take Time to Be Holy – UMH 395

1 Corinthians: Paul continues on his theme that we are God’s building. He is saying that the church is God’s building. But he goes even further to say that each of us is the temple of God. We, the people, are God’s building also, but not by ourselves. We are sort of like rooms. Each room has to be built on a firm and common foundation. Once we are a part of the foundation, we can decorate the walls as we want. The walls can be changed, but the foundation must remain the same. We must take care of ourselves and our lives, they are both valuable to God. They also do not belong to us, but to God. Being spiritual means living according to Christ’s words.

Matthew : Jesus is continuing the sermon on the mount. He is continuing to remind us how to go from an ordinary faith, to an extraordinary faith. We are to go out of our way to love others, even those who don’t love us. We are to live love, to breathe love, to practice love at all times to all people. Jesus knows that is not easy, but we have to remember that if God didn’t love us, we wouldn’t be able to love others. When we commit our lives to God, God gives us the strength to not necessarily be perfect, but to always strive to be perfect. John Wesley asks us – are we going on the perfection? Do we commit to letting love in all areas of our lives? If so, we can be better than our enemies.

Questions: How was your church founded? Do you still live according to those promises? Where is Jesus in your beliefs? Is Jesus the foundation of your life, or your life the foundation of your faith in Jesus? Is it really possible to love all people? What skills do we need to learn in order to love our enemies? What does it mean to go onto a perfect faith?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 13, 2011

Breaking Open the Scriptures
Scriptures February 13th: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37 Theme: We all have a part in God’s plan. Song: Freely, Freely – UMH 389

1 Corinthians: Paul comes to realize that this community of Christians in Corinth has many gifts, and they really are working to get it all right. But he also realizes that they are still working to be a spiritual people. At the moment, they are relying on their own understanding, and not the spirit of God. They are still dealing with life as someone in the world would deal. It is next to impossible for any of us to think like God, and to not be human. We all get stuck in our feelings and understandings. Human divisions and human concerns will always be a part of the church. But we have to trust to that God works through us, in spite of ourselves. We have to invite the Holy Spirit to move and free us from those things we are still clinging to.

Matthew: This text is still a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is telling us how to be Christians. He is telling us how to go above and beyond the righteousness of the day to be extraordinary people of faith. He is reframing the ten commandments. Deuteronomy is the book of the law. It describes how we should treat one another. Jesus is asking what happens when you add love to the law? When you have an extraordinary love for people, that is the beginning of compassion. We shouldn’t just obey the laws of the land, we should show the love of God.

Questions: Is the church an earthly body, a spiritual body, or in some way a combination of the two? What do we need to be to become more spiritual? How do you build upon the people who have come before you in faith? What ministries are you continuing and nurturing, that someone else started? Is it really possible to have an extraordinary faith? Can you go beyond the law? What happens when you are persecuted for doing the right things? Does that cause you to lose your faith?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

February 6, 2011

Scriptures February 6th: Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 112:1-10; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16; Matthew 5:13-20 Theme: The Responsibility of the Righteous. Song: Here I am Lord UMH 593

1 Corinthians: Paul continues to bring the church a transformational message through what he is teaching them. It is about now however, that they start to push back. How do we really know that his man knows what he is talking about? It is at this point that Paul the preacher not only relies on his words, but he demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t know what act he performs, is it a healing, a miracle or some other gift of the spirit? The Holy Spirit is the power of God. It brings all sorts of power into our lives. The cross is a source of God’s power to turn the world upside down. But the Holy Spirit is the energy to do the hard work. We have that power available to us in our lives. We should never be afraid to use it. We have a responsibility to use it. We have a responsibility to transform our little corner of the world.

Matthew: This is a continuation of the sermon on the mount. Jesus is not just talking to his disciples, he is talking to all who are listening. You are the salt of the earth. You never lose your mission and purpose, because it is from God. Just as salt is of God and can never be separated from its mission and purpose, neither can the true Christian. Whether you are faithful or not, you are always a child of God. Your life should always reflect God no matter what the circumstance. We have a responsibility to be the light of the world. Everyone has some sort or righteousness, we should strive to be and do more.

Questions: Can you testify to the power of the Holy Spirit? How have you seen the Holy Spirit at work in your life? When we the Holy Spirit at work and you did not recognize it at first? What does God require of you in your life? How are you being righteous? Are you standing out and letting your light shine? How are you the salt of the earth? When have you had to stand up for what is right in the midst of opposition?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

January 30, 2011

Scriptures for January 30th: Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12 Theme: What does God expect of us? Song: I Will Trust in the Lord UMH 464

Micah: Many of the Israelites thought of their relationship with God, as one between a judge and the defendant. If God did something that they did not agree with, they would plead their case and ask God for mercy. Perhaps that is why they were asked to plead their case before the mountains. This time there is no mercy. They are dead wrong. They have not kept their promise to God. They have been living in sin, and they must be held accountable for their actions. God has been wronged, not them. What does the Lord require of them to make this right. God doesn’t want our money, God doesn’t want our pity, God doesn’t want our empty promises. God wants us to do the right thing: do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with God.

1 Corinthians : Last week, Paul addressed the central issue of the Corinthian church – divisions. A refusal to see eye to eye. Finding any excuse to separate themselves. We have to find our unity in Christ. But beyond that, we also need to stop boasting about what we know and understand. In every instance, all of our knowledge is foolishness in relations to the wisdom of Christ. No matter what we have accomplished in life, it will mean nothing on the day that we have to stand before God. If it won’t do us any good on judgment day, what good is it to us today? The only thing that we have to brag about in life at anytime is God!

Questions: When in your life has there been a time when you knew that you were wrong, and that you needed to get right with God? What did you have to do to change things? Did your guilt make you change, or further protect yourself? What are some of the popular wisdom of the day? Is it really in keeping with God’s teachings? What do we need to do in order to really know what God wants us to do?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 23, 2011

Scriptures for January 23rd: Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 4-9; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23. Theme: Fishers of men: song: Softly and Tenderly Jesus is calling UMH 348

1 Corinthians: Paul is writing the Corinthians to address their problems in hopes that they will be able to correct themselves, if they are told the right thing. The biggest problem among them is unity. No one is willing to look beyond themselves in order to see the big picture. We can only be the body of Christ if we are willing to work together. Paul first tells the church that they are blessed and that they have been given gifts- God’s grace in order to be in ministry. The issues that Paul addressed back them, are still prevalent today. Paul had the task of addressing an issue that was going on in the church for years, that was just the way things were. But he knew that Jesus could always change things. We still have to learn to get along with people that we don’t want to be bothered with. Yet we are not alone in our struggle, we always have the spirit of Christ in order to be the body of Christ.

Matthew : As Jesus goes out into the world to begin his ministry, the first thing he does is to recruit 12 disciples. All of these men were going on about their normal lives, not expecting tomorrow to be any different than today. And Jesus comes to them with an offer, to witness the messiah for themselves, but to have the same power to transform. His invitation is instead of fishing for fish, to fish for men. And see others come and accept that same invitation. As he recruits disciples, he also goes throughout Galilee teaching. There were many non jews in Galilee- this would have been a place of darkness, but Jesus knew through his words that he was spreading light to the world. His disciples would soon be doing the same thing.

Questions: What are the major issues that affects the overall Christian church? Will we ever go beyond the divisions of denominations to be a united church? What will it take for that to happen? What was it about Jesus that made the disciples drop their lives and follow him? What was it about Jesus that made others stop to listen to him? What it is that we can do to make others follow us today?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

January 16, 2011

Breaking Open the Scriptures

Scriptures for January 16th: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42. Theme: What does it mean to be called by God? song: Great is Thy Faithfulness

Isaiah: In the lesson two weeks ago, the Israelites were told to “arise and shine, your light has come.” In other words, they should not despair in the rebuilding of their old lives. The whole world is watching; and want they to be next to the light of God too. Now they have to think about what it means to be a light to the world. What are the Implications, how will they have to change? How will they have to tolerate others. Last week we learned about the servant – the one called by God to make everyone else’s life better. Today we need to think about what it means to be called and set apart by God? If God loves me does that mean that my life needs to change? Probably. If God loves me and makes me special does that mean that I am better than others? Probably not. We who are called (we are all called by virtue of our baptism) – have a responsibility to love others in spite of ourselves.

1 Corinthians : We will be studying Corinthians for the next eight weeks. Our focus will be on what it means to be called by God, as individuals and as a church. This week we start with the introduction and greeting of the letter of Paul. Paul blesses the congregation and gives them grace and thanks. But reminds them and us that God is always faithful to us no matter what, being called means being faithful to God. Paul is mentioning the spiritual strengths of the people he is writing to: they are faithful, not just with their mouths, but with their actions.

Questions: If we are known by the words that we speak, what can others say about us? It is possible to be a failure in the world and a success in God- How are you a servant of God? How to do reach out to help others? When things are going bad for you, where do you find your strength? If Paul was writing a letter to this church, what would he list as the strengths? What concerns would he need to address to encourage us?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

January 9, 2011

Scriptures for January 9th: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17 Theme: The Baptism of the Lord and our call to be the church. Song: I’m Goin’ a Sing When the Spirit Says Sing – UMH 333

Acts: The book of Acts is the story of the disciples as they went out into the world to be witnesses to what Christ has done for the world. It is amazing how they spoke and others listened, and the church grew by leaps and bounds. May the Lord give us the same power in the world today. Peter was sent to a soldier, Cornelius’ house to tell the gospel story and the whole household was baptized. This is Peter telling that story. This is Peter explaining where he got his power and how that power is to be used. It is to be used to complete Jesus mission of saving the world. But before people can be saved, they have to know the story. How do we tell the story?

Matthew : We have heard the story of the relationship of John the Baptist and Jesus before. This time we are listening to it, not to hear about them, but to hear about ourselves. Why did we follow Jesus into the baptism waters? What is the expectation of us now that we have been baptized. This was Jesus chance to enter into a life of service to God. the same is expected of us. Jesus has a mission that started at the beginning of his life to save his people. But not everyone agreed about what that meant, not even John the Baptist. We have a mission to save the world – but what does that mean, and how do we go about doing that? We need to pray and ask God and follow God’s leading in our lives.

Questions: What is God calling you to do in your community? What issues of justice are present that need to be addressed? Who is there to address those issues? Are they really called by God to do their work? How do we minister to people who make us nervous, or are different from us? How can we learn from Peter as he goes out among strangers? What power does the Gospel story give you in your life? Have you ever been used to bring someone to Christ? How does that feel?