Sunday, December 25, 2011
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
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 The concept of an angel as a person with wings to fly back and forth from heaven, is a little outdated.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
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
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?