Saturday, February 25, 2012

March 4, 2012

Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for March 4th: Genesis 17:1-7; 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38; Theme: Covenant – Our Promise to God; Where he Leads Me – UMH 338 Genesis: Abraham was 75 years old when he started his walk with God, and God promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations. When he is 99 years old, there is still no baby. He and his wife have given up hope. But God never gives up on his promises. The baby is born, and the story continues. We are a part of that story. We are a part of that covenant. The Isrealites, the Ishmaelites, the Edomites all consider themselves to be a part of the covenant, because they are descendants of Abraham. Through Jesus Christ, we become a part of the family. When we are faithful to Christ, we become a part of the promise. However, we live in a world, where we sometimes wonder if God maintains his promise. God’s promise is never a straight line that we understand, it includes the twists and turns of life. Mark: What good is a messiah that suffers? The messiah is supposed to have all of the answers, the messiah is supposed to be an example for those who are struggling. And yet Jesus is saying that he will suffer and die. The disciples can’t understand what is going on. But Mark gives hints of what must happen in order for Jesus to be the messiah all throughout the book. What good is a messiah who suffers? – He can relate to what we are going through, and we can relate to him. Lent is an invitation to follow to Christ to the cross, to be willing to suffer. When we accept suffering, we are prepared for victory. And we come to understand why the messiah must suffer. Questions: When God makes a promise, he elevates our status. What does God promise of faithfulness mean to you? How do you maintain your promise to God? How do you remind God of the promise? What does the messiah mean to you? How does suffering affect you? Do you feel Christ’s presence in your suffering? Can you think of a time when you were able to claim victory in Christ over your suffering?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

February 26, 2012

Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for February 26th – Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15; Theme: First Sunday of Lent – the effect of sin on the world; Song: We’ll Understand it better, by and by – UMH 525 1 Peter: The Epistle lesson is intended to give us a better understanding of the gospel. This week, Peter touches upon the old testament and the new testament. It reminds us that Christ died for our sins. We do not have a chance to die at the cross with Christ, but we do have a chance to enter in Christ salvation. We do that through baptism. The baptism waters contain the whole history of salvation, going back to God’s promise with Noah. The waters are not intended to be a cleansing of your body, but they are intended to cleanse your soul. The Lenten journey is about us looking at our souls, and seeing what needs to be cleansed, and opening that part up to God to let God do his job. Jesus went to free the souls already in prison. Jesus invites us to live a life of sanctification, in which we are constantly cleansed in order not to know that spiritual prison for ourselves. Mark: We are back at chapter 1 of Mark. We are being taken painfully slow through the book of Mark. If we don’t understand chapter one, the rest of the book is a waste of time. Before Jesus goes into the wilderness, he is baptized. He knows the power of the water, and the power of baptism. That is where he comes face to face with the sinners of all generations. This is where he hears the voice of God, saying that I want you to save my people from their sin. After he has spent time in the wilderness, facing the devil, facing the sins of man is easy, he is ready. When we face the world – how do we prepare ourselves? How do we take advantage of the 40 days of lent? Questions: What does sin mean to you? How do you think your sins affect everyone else? How has your baptism helped you to overcome sin? What does it mean to continue to live a holy life? How does community help you live that life? What will you do to prepare yourself this Lenten season? Jesus says the time is now – what is the message that must be gotten to the rest of the world about today?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

February 19, 2012

Scriptures for February 19th: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9 Theme: Preparing ourselves for lent – Transfiguration Sunday; Song: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot UMH 703 2 Kings: This is the most meaningful bible story for me, with my two favorite characters. Elijah and Elisha. The most important prophet of all time and his protégé. As a matter of fact, this story is about exchanging of power between the two. Elijah knows that he cannot live forever, and that he will not be the prophet of his people – he must turn that mantle over to Elisha. He asks his protégé what gift would he like. Elisha, says that I want to be twice as good as you. He realizes that Elijah is powerful, and he wants to be twice as powerful as Elijah. Elijah one of the few people in the Bible, who does not experience death. Instead, God comes to carry him away. Elijah wants to be alone at the moment, the Elisha will not let him. Elisha is rewarded in his efforts, because he sees his master taken away, and he inherits a double portion of his power. We never hear who Elisha’s protégé was, or how we continued the work of spreading the message of God. But we can celebrate that God is still spreading the message of salvation today. We who hear the story of Elijah and Elisha, also know the God of which they speak. Mark: Today is the story of the transfiguration. The divine nature of Jesus is revealed to those who faithfully follow him. His closest disciples listen to him every day, and yet they have no idea of who they are with. Jesus tries to give them clues, he tries to give them the strength to see the truth. But the disciples do not understand. Jesus tells them (and us many times) to stay awake pay attention, but they fall asleep anyway. And they miss the time that Moses and Elijah come to visit him, and it looks as if his body is transfigured. This story always marks the beginning of the Lenten season. It is a story of transition from the new to the old. It proves that the prophets of old are fully behind Jesus in his work of salvation. Now that he has their support, he can walk to the cross and not worry about what that means for him. The disciples understand the significance of this story once Jesus is resurrected, is risen from the dead. Questions: Who have been the important mentors in your life? What qualities did you inherit from them? How have you passed those qualities onto the next generation? Who have you mentored? What qualities are important to doing the work of salvation today? How is today a transitional time for our faith? What things are changing? What things are staying the same? What is it that we still don’t understand about the mission of Jesus to the world today? How is our understanding of Jesus different from what it was even last year? Does that mean that the transfiguration is still important and happening today?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

February 12, 2012

Scriptures for February 12th – 2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Mark 40-45. Theme: How does Jesus heal us? Song: Just As I am – UMH 357 2 Kings: Kings starts not with the family of the first kings of Israel, but with the first prophets. Elijah worked hard to unite the 12 tribes. His protégé did not do a bad job of continuing that work. Elisha’s name is just as well known as Elijah’s. The miracles that Elisha did for his nation are just as impressive. As we read through the gospel of Mark, we will be amazed at Jesus’ ability to heal. But Jesus was not the first healer that God sent to his people. Elisha was also a healer. This is the famous story of Namaan, an Aramean general, who needed healing, no one in his country could help him. When Elisha tells him to bath in the waters of the Jordan, he is reluctant. Yet, Elisha’s faith is enough to get the job done. Where to we go for healing today? Mark: So far, Jesus has healed a demon, a feverish mother in law, and others who have asked. The stakes are raised with this healing, because he touches a leper; someone who the society has ostracized. Those who have been deemed untouchable, Jesus touches and heals. Jesus survives and is okay and so is the leper. So why does Jesus tell him not the tell anyone. Once the secret is out, what is the consequence. Everyone comes to him, and Jesus cannot move freely. Why don’t people flock to Jesus like that today? We would love people to come to church for healing, but what do we offer them in terms of healing? Questions: Where do we go for healing today? What does it mean to be truly healed? How do we treat strangers who come to our country, our city for healing? If Lake Michigan were the only place to get water (and it is), how would we feel about sharing our water with people from other states? Other countries? Who are the outsiders today? How do we extend our trust in healing to others? How does Jesus call us to treat those whom we consider outsiders?