Sunday, December 29, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for January 5th: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12 Theme: Epiphany – Discovering Christ Anew; Song: This Little Light of Mine Isaiah: The entire story of Isaiah is the story of the story of moving from exile to freedom, from oppression to well being, from darkness to lightness. This entire story covers 500 years of history. Chapter 60 is part of the ending. People are assured that the “thick Darkness” is about to dissipate. The people who have been thrown out of their land are returning home for the last time. They have dreamed of home, but when they get there, everything is in shambles, everything must be put back together, the future is present, but it looks bleak. Isaiah gives words of encouragement, because while in the midst of darkness the world changed, the world opened up, trade became more affluent. That meant things were getting better, the world would come and help the Israelites rebuild their land, they just had to be patient and see the light present in their lives. We too are a people who live in great darkness. We too are wondering where are hope comes from. The world is changing today, and it is changing for the better. When our light comes and frees us from the darkness, we have to be ready to rejoice in God. Matthew: Last week we heard to horrible side of the story – Herod heard that the wise men had fooled him and not told him when the baby Jesus arrived, so the babies family had to flee to Egypt to escape danger. This week we hear the good news of that story. The wise men visit the baby and bring him gifts fit for a king. This is the basis of the 12 days of Christmas – the difference between when Jesus was born into the world and when the three kings came to acknowledge his birth. This is the time between December 25th and January 6th. It helps us to realize that in our lives there is a period of time between when we are healed and when we realize that we are healed. When we eat, there is a time between when we have eaten enough and when our brains finally realize that we have eaten enough. It sometimes takes us awhile to truly get the significance of the events in our lives – and yet change does come, things get better. Questions: How do you feel about darkness? Are you comfortable, or do you have to wait for the light? What are the signs in your life that things are getting better? What things do you need to take notice of? What is God trying to show you in your life that you have not seen before? Who are the people who are reaching out to help you, how are you treating them?
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for December 8th: Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72: 1-7, 18-19; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12; Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming UMH 216; theme: Second Sunday of Advent Romans: We are studying the book of Romans for our bible study. And the first thing that we learned, is the Paul always considered himself to be a jew, who was given the task to include gentiles into the family of God. One of his major task for the urban Roman task was to make sure that these groups could put their differences aside and live as one, so diversity has been a major theme of the church for years. He was trying to teach the jews to learn to accept the gentiles, in spite of their upbringing. Today we still struggle with the same issues. The gentiles of today are the homeless, the needy, the unchurched. We say that we want to church to grow, but ideally, we want to attract people who are able to give their tithes, and who are well mannered. We don’t want people who step out of line, who are hard to control. The word gentile meant – barbarian. Someone who did not have manners, and did not fit in the genteel society. So Paul still has a message for us – the church is for the gentile and the jew, the church is for everyone who comes to our door. Matthew: Last week we talked about the second coming of Jesus, today we move on to the story of John the Baptist. Last week the theme was hope in the midst of darkness, this week the theme is about the righteousness of God (and the wrongness of man). This week, advent gets personal and reminds us that we are sinners. And that in order to live in God’s world we have to repent of our sins. We have to know what our sins are, and we have to be willing to do something about them. The world to come, is not a world where sinners are welcome. John is just an ordinary man with an extraordinary message. He is telling us that one who is extraordinary is coming to do the work of letting us into a new world, but before he can help us, we have to be able to help ourselves. We have to be able to ask for help. And we need to prepare ourselves to go to the rivers edge to be cleaned. For advent, you may clean the house, you may clean the church, but did you clean out your soul in preparation for something new that God will do in your life? Questions: What are you doing for advent in order to cleanse your soul? What justice issues does God need to address this year? Who are the gentiles that need to know that they are welcome and accepted in the church? How can we strive to be a more accepting church?
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for December 1st – Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44; Theme: First Sunday of Advent Song: O Come, O Come Emmanuel – UMH 211 Romans: We are always tempted to go back into the past. We are always tempted to try and change things, to go back to the point in our lives where things made sense. It is hard for us to accept that the past is gone and there is nothing that we can do about it. What we can change is the future, we can do something to change the future. This is a transitional time, it is time for Christmas, but it is not time for nostalgia. Paul tells us that it is time for us to wake up and to take charge of our life, but most importantly, we have to take charge of our service to God. The past is a part of the darkness, and the future is the light that we have a chance to walk into. But we have to prepare ourselves to live in the light and to avoid sin. We have to put on the clothing of salvation. If we are able to put on Christ, just as we put on our clothes, we will be fully prepared to fight temptation and obey God. Matthew: We always start at the end. I know that in order to truly have a good day, that I have to get a good night’s sleep. I have to start at the end, in order to control the beginning. The same is for our spiritual life. We don’t start the year off with the baby Jesus. We start with Jesus telling us that it is time to wake up and to be prepared for a change. We always start out advent with the second coming, not the first coming. A time when we will be held accountable for our actions. So we need to be prepared to clean up our act. We need to think about the way that we treat other people. We need to think about how we read the bible. We need to think about how we obey the call of God in our lives. It is a connection to Romans – to wake up and to look around at the life that you are living. If we get too comfortable with ourselves, with sin, with the world – then Christ will return at an unexpected time. Advent is a time to prepare ourselves, to wait for what is coming, and to please God. Questions: What spiritual darkness exists in the world today? What do we need to be more aware of in ourselves this year? What do we need to be aware of in others? What do we need to put aside this year? What does advent mean to you? What will you do to prepare for Christ coming in a brand new way? What light are we being called to bring into the world? What needs to happen in order to light that candle inside of you?
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for November 24th: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Luke 1:68-79; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43: Theme: Last Sunday of the Year – Christ the King; Song: We are Marching in the Light of God – FWS 2235 Colossians: These are believed to be the words of a hymn that people would sing when they came into worship. How is it that we learn about who Christ is. Today not a lot of people will read the bible. We should all be studying, but many people consider that to be work. But we all like to listen to the songs. It is the songs of our faith that tell us who Christ is. This song says that Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, he is the head of the church, the forgiver of sins, the fullness of heaven. Our faith is dependent upon him being our savior. If we are able to put Christ first, then we cannot go wrong. We are reminded that he is more than the Son of Man, he is the Son of God. He is worthy of our faith, because he is our savior. If it was not for him, we as gentiles would not be saved, and we would not know God. This man is certainly worthy to be praised. Luke: In America, we are not used to giving honor to a king. There have been a lot of kings, but we also have to remember that the Isrealites also did not have a king. Not since the dynasty of David died out. Today we acknowledge that Christ is our king. Christ is head of our lives, he is our benefactor, he is worthy of our life obedience. We also have to remember that he died as “King of the Jews”. The powers that be thought that he was very arrogant. And there was no one who could put themselves on the same level as God. As a matter of fact, it was not until he was resurrected that he truly proved that he was worthy of being worshipped as a king. This is the story of his last hours, how we was killed, and why he was killed. It is the story of the robbers who asked to be with him in paradise. It is our last impression of Christ as we complete the book of Luke. Jesus knew that he was a king, so on earth, he never needed to honor. When people tried to give it to him, he rejected it. It is in his humbleness that we have a chance to now exalt him. It is his lowest moment in his life, that he was lifted up as the highest. Questions: How would you describe the attributes of Christ? Why do you consider him to be your savior? What is your favorite song about Christ? What does it mean to truly have peace in life? how does such a violent act as crucifixion bring about eternal peace? What is our role in bringing about Peace? How is Christ the King of your life?
Saturday, November 9, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for November 17th: Isaiah 65:17-25; Isaiah 12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19; Theme: The end is near Song: Soon and very Soon UMH 706 Isaiah: They are still assessing the damage from the hurricane in the Phillipines. They are saying that as many as 10,000 people could be dead. And the damage is unspeakable. Here in Illinois we have never experienced having to recover from a disaster of that magnitude. But how do you even begin to put the pieces of your life together as such a catastrophe? One block at a time. Sometimes the damage may not be physical, it may be spiritual. It is next to impossible to rebuild, unless you have hope for the future. God realizes the in order for his people to go forward, he has to give them hope. He has to help them to realize that they are not rebuilding alone. God is has already seen what must be. If you knew that it was all going to be destroyed, would you work to rebuild? But if you knew that things would finally get better, that all that you have hoped for would come to fruition, you would move forward. God encourages us to move forward in our lives, and to know that what we are rebuilding is the first steps to heaven. 2 Thessalonians: Paul gets to the point in chapter 3, by telling others that if they do not work, then they should not eat. Common people felt that there was no need to work, because the end was near. Those who were rich, felt they would rely on others to work. Paul continues to help them understand that waiting for God does not mean giving up and working less. As a matter of fact, it means working more. Work is a part of our faith. We have to work in order to build the foundation of the kingdom of God. But what does work mean? What type of work must be done? Is God a taskmaster, like an earthly boss? Work for God should be fulfilling and should energize us, not wear us out. When we do not work, Paul says that we become busybodies. He also said that we should never get tired of doing what it right. God has a purpose for us, when he calls us- he calls us to a task – to a job. May we always have hope in God and his plan for us. Questions: What would you hope to see in a new world? What are you willing to give up in this world? Do you look forward to God promise of a new world, or is it scary? What is you attitude toward work? Do you see God in the work that you do? What do you think about tose who freeload off of others? How do we encourage everybody to give their equal part?
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for November 10th: Haggai 1:15b-2:9; Psalm 145:1-5,17-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5,13-17; Luke 20:27-38; song: Standing on the Promises – UMH 374: Theme: Living Faith of a Living God. 2 Thessalonians: There was a time in my life that I believed that life had gotten so bad, that the end of the world was near. I gave away all of my stuff because I felt that I would not need it anymore. I stood by the door, and waited for Christ to arrive. It took a friend to remind me that I probably needed to hold on to things, because life was going on. Going on without me. The world coming to an end was the easy way out. God is not the God of easy ways out. The God of our faith, encourages us to endure. Not to give up. And not to predict when the end will come. Paul is trying to help the church understand that in life, the easy answers are not the God answers. Paul reminds us that the end of the world is not about our life and our understanding of life. It is about the redemption of the whole world and making the devil pay for all of the evil he has done in the world. When we reach the end of the rope – we can know that Christ will be with us to make sure that our lives move on. Luke: The marriage vow that we take says till death do we part. Marriage is a part of our life on earth, but not a part of our eternal life. Jesus is challenged about what happens when we die? Do our relationships continue? When Jesus is challenged by the Sadducees, he does not directly answer that question. He does not talk about what life will be like. Just as our relationships shape an important part of life on earth, our character, our belief in God, our behavior has an important influence on where we spend eternity. We only get to heaven based on our own efforts, not on who we know. Jesus reminds us that life and death is not about heaven and earth, but about our relationship with God. There are some people who are on earth, but are dead in spirit. There are some who have passed on, whose spirits are very much alive. Being alive is in understanding the presence of God- seeking God in all things, all places and in all situations. We should seek life, eternal life with God. Questions: What do you believe about the end of days? Do you think that life can get any worse than it is right now? What do you believe about the end of days? How do you think God will come to us? How does that belief affect the way that you live? What does it mean for you to seek Christ? To seek life? what does it mean that God is the God of the living? Who are the dead? Have they left the presence of God? Or has the presence of God left them?
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for October 20th: Jeremiah 31:27-34; Psalm 119:97-104; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8; Theme: Today is laity Sunday – speaker may not use lectionary text for sermon; Song: UMH 593: Here I am Lord Jeremiah: I don’t envy Jeremiah’s job or his position at all. He sees that destruction is coming to his people and to his land. God has told him that it is their own fault for the sins that they have committed. As a prophet, he has the responsibility to pass on to the people what God has told him. So he must tell them the truth about their own behavior. But he also has to comfort them in their pain. He has to be understanding of how they got in the situation and he need to be prepared to get them out of it. This text says just that. It starts out by saying the days are coming when things will get better. God will stop punishing them, and they will see growth. The animals will multiply, the food supply will get better, God will forgive them of their sins, and life will be a joy. The change will not only be around us, it will be inside of us. We will value our relationship with God and not need to sin against him. 2 Timothy: Paul continues to give advice to Timothy. Paul continues to use his life as an example. Paul continues to stress how important it is for us to live our lives directed to Christ and not to ourselves. In Christ we are a new person. In Christ, the old things pass away and a new life begins. Just as in Jeremiah – God has a new covenant with us because of Christ. Paul recalls that in his old life he persecuted Christ and those who followed him. But when Christ touched his heart all of that changed. I like this verse, because Paul points out that people don’t want to change. They like their life just as it is. And so the days are coming when people will not read the bible. So those who preach and teach the gospel will have to work twice as hard to get people to listen to them. It will be hard, but Christ gives us the strength to endure and continue in the work of God that needs to be done. Questions: when have you seen widespread suffering in your life? When have you seen life get better? How has your faith helped you to overcome the suffering? How has living in Christ made a difference in your life? How do you deal with trying to teach people who are not listening to you? How does Christ help you to endure suffering?
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for October 13th : Jeremiah 29:1,4-7; Psalm 66:1-12; 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19; Theme: Remember that we are servants, not masters. Song: 2144 – Someone asked the Question 2 Timothy: Paul is talking to Timothy and giving him encouragement as a pastor. But his advice is for anyone who is a teacher, evangelist, or a faithful servant of Christ. We all have those times in our faith journey when we are discouraged. When we feel we are giving people are hearts for God, and the people we serve could care less. Not only do they not care, they ridicule us for our faith. Paul is telling Timothy that these are not the times to water down the gospel, but to tell it just as we know it. To give it to them straight. It is times of our faithlessness, that God shows that he is faithful. If we say that we don’t believe in God, God will still believe in us. If we are not a servant of God, then what else are we. Don’t give up, keep your strength. Be determined as ever to serve. Luke: It seems that the most common sense thing for us to do every day is to thank God for what he has done for us. We are grateful to receive a blessing, but how many of us remember to say thank you. As a child, my father would be very giving, and give me most things that I wanted. He said that the only thing that he wanted in return was for us to remember to say thank you. In this scripture, Jesus is telling us that God is the same way. God has given us a priceless gift. The lepers were separated from their lives because of their disease. After they were healed Jesus says to go and show yourself to the priest, once you are declared clean then go and reclaim your life. Well we are separated from our lives because of our sin. And once we are forgiven, we should go to church and show that we have a new life. It is our faith and our ability to say thank you that makes all of the difference in the world. Questions: how can we reclaim our faith once we have lost it? What prevents us from fully claiming Christ to all of the world? How can we overcome our reservations? What do we do to say thank you to God? How can we make sure that we are able to say thank you everyday? How can we tell the world about what God has done for us to cleanse and save us?
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for October 6th: Lamentations 1:1-16; Psalm 137; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10; theme: World Communion Sunday; song: Standing on the Promises – UMH 374 Psalm 137: This is the cry of a slave culture, who has been taken away from the meaning of their land, and forced to take a new life – a life which they have no control over. They can’t worship in their own space, they are confused. They are trying to put the pieces together, but life is just not the same. This is a psalm of lament, but it goes further than that. The Isrealites ask for vengeance. They want their enemies to pay for the pain that they have put upon them. There is a five part structure to these kinds of laments: cry to God, a description of the problem, profession that God is faithful; a request for God to intervene, and a promise to praise God for what he does. It is okay for us to be angry and to ask for God to intervene in our troubles, but what does Jesus tell us to do for our enemies? What place does forgiveness play in our cries for help? Luke: This is a story of faith. This is a story of what it means to have faith. It is a reminder that faith is not about our will, it is about God’s will. It is not about what we can do, it is about what Jesus can do. We don’t have to understand how Jesus does it, we just have to mildly believe that he can, and we will witness big results in our life. A little faith is just as much as a lot of faith. We cannot measure how much faith works. There are probably a lot of times in our lives when we feel that if we just had more faith things would turn out. We would do better and results would be better. Jesus has to remind the disciples and us that is not what faith is all about. We think that we have to study the bible all of the time, we have to be in church every Sunday, we have to participate in every outreach activity; we have to do all that we can to earn our faith. Jesus says that it does not take all of that. We do those things in response to what Jesus has done, not to make him do it. We can’t make Jesus do anything it is all a fee gift of grace. Questions: Are you able to bring all of your concerns and emotions to God? Can you truly tell God when you are angry? Does being honest help you to forgive those who wrong you? How much faith do you have in Jesus? When your prayers are answered who gets the credit – Jesus or your faith? What do you need to do to have more faith ?
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for September 29th: Jeremiah 32:1-3, 6-15; Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16; 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31; Theme: There is hope for God is about to do; Song: We are called - #2172 Jeremiah: Jeremiah has been all over the place in his emotions and in appealing to ours. He has scared us , he has accused us, he has warned us, he has cried for us, and now he is the one to bring us hope in the midst of a bad situation. All of these emotions have personally affected Jeremiah. He warned that Israel would be attacked because of its sinfulness. God would send a more powerful nation to imprisoned Jeremiah not for causing the invasion, but for rightfully prophesying it. It is in prison that his relatives come to him and ask him to buy some land that has been devastated by the enemy. Jeremiah buys the land as a symbol of hope. He wants his people to understand that this is not the end of God’s story. God’s story never ends on a bad note. Jeremiah actually dies in prison, he never gets to live on the land that he bought. But he has paved the way for his people. The invasion did end, life did get better, the Israelites were able to move back on their land, property was bought and sold. But the question is, did his people learn their lesson, or did they continue to live without God? Some did, and some did not. Just a few faithful people was enough to give God hope in humanity. Luke: The 4 emphasis of the Methodist urban strategy is the address education, safety, hunger, and advocacy. They acknowledge that this is important because these are the results of poverty. The Greater Chicago Food Depository also acknowledges that hunger is a direct result of poverty. They realize that you service the poor in a very different way then you service the middle class. They do a good job of soliciting resources from the rich in order to totally meet the needs of the poor. They are living out this gospel lesson. A rich man ignores the needs of the poor all of his life. when he dies and goes to heaven, he realizes that he could have done so much more to help. He tries to ask God if he can warn his family. God says no. We all can read the bible. We all can listen to God for how we can help one another. We can all live a life of service in thankfulness for what we already have. No matter how poor we are, we all have something that we can give to others. Jesus teaches us that again and gain. Questions: Who do you look for in order to have hope? What do you think needs to be said in the city of Chicago in order for people to have hope? What do we need to actually do in order to make a difference? What can we do to address poverty? Is it enough?
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for September 22nd: Jeremiah 8:18 – 9:1; Psalm 79:1-9; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13; Theme: be obedient to God’s Word; Song: 2172 – We are called 1 Timothy: Paul is talking to Timothy, who is studying to be a minister. Here is telling him what it means to live a life of faith. Today Paul is saying that one of the most important parts of a life of faith is prayer. He says that we need to pray for everything and for every one. We need to be thankful for everything that happens, we need to pray for those in need of help, we need to pray for what we need, and we need to pray for our leaders and the situations in the world. We may not want to pray for our leaders, but the decisions that they make affect us all, so they need our prayers. Paul reminds us that there is only one God, one mediator. Sometimes we may be on opposite sides of an issue, but there is only one God. That God provides for the needs of all people and both sides of an issue. We have to remember that there is only one Christ, who gave his life for us all. So no matter how we feel, no matter what side we are on, we pray to the same God. And we depend on the same God for all of our needs. Luke: This is a stewardship lesson. But it is also hard for many people, is Jesus really telling us that it is okay to cheat? Is Jesus telling us that it is okay to cheat the system? The important things to remember is that this is not a passage about money it is a passage about faith. Jesus is saying that no matter who we are, and no matter what God entrust us with, we should be faithful. Some people are faithful with a lot, some people are faithful with a little. All of it comes from God, and we have to be thankful for all that God gives us. Are you a sinner? Has God had to forgive you for something. Has God taken away your debt? Has God had to forgive a little? Has God had to forgive a lot? It does not matter. God forgives is worth the same for all of us. Is not God worthy of our honor and glory? Questions: How often do you pray to God? What do you pray about? Does your prayer make a difference? Do you pray for leaders of all countries, or just your own? Why would it be important to pray for all leaders? How has God has to forgive you recently? What difference does forgiveness make in your life? How do you serve God and not the world?
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for September 15th: Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28; Psalm 14:1-7; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10; Theme: God continues to reshape us; Song: 2151 – I am so Glad that Jesus lifted me Jeremiah: Jeremiah is giving a warning to his people that it is time to change their ways. Last week we talked about God reshaping us like a potter. But it is often the events of our lives that remold and reshape us. When disasters happen, we have to change in order to adjust to new conditions. But how many of us are willing to change when we get a natural warning, a disaster that hit close to home, a close call in our lives. When it is pointed out to us- we may take heed. But how many people still smoke, even though they know it is bad for them? How many people still text and drive, even though people continue to get killed? What does God have to do to give us a message to turn away from our sin? We have to have a relationship with God and with God’s word. We have to look for the prophets in our lives who remind us that the message is directly for us. When are determined to be faithful, we know that disaster came to pass, but God’s love will be with us forever. Luke: Have you ever lost something? What did you do when you found it? Have you ever felt lost? What did you do when you found your way? Have you ever been in a position where you realized that you were lost in the eyes of God. Many times when we are sinning and lost to God, we are the last to know. We are the last to realize what needs to happen in order to be found. We can be grateful that when we are lost in sins, God loves us enough to come and get us. And what does God do when he finds us? He rejoices. But he also makes sure that we are in a safe place, so that we don’t get lost again. We are with others that God just found and wants to keep track of in the church. Once we are found, what do we do to help God find others? Questions: What do the disasters that are happening in the world really mean? Is the message for us or for others? What will it take for the world to listen to God’s word? How do we get sinners into the church? What do we offer them to help them to turn their life around? How do we praise when God’s salvation is at work?
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for September 8th: Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33; Song: Change My Heart O God #2152; Theme: God prepares us for our call. Jeremiah: A prophet likes to give people solid examples in order to make sure that his message is understood. God tells Jeremiah to go to the Potter’s house and to watch how pots are made. The potter depends on the movement of the wheel in order to form a perfect pot. But that movement can also produce a bad pot. And then he has to start all over again. Life is the wheel, we are the pot and God is the master potter. God knows what we are supposed to look like, God knows our purpose, and God knows our capacity to fulfill that purpose. It is interesting that God says that he is shaping evil against us, and devising a plan against us? What does that mean? I thought God shaped us with love? It is not the bad things in life that force us to respond? What do we respond to but God’s judgment. In the hands of God, even the bad things in our life turn our good. God’s judgment is intended to make us repent and to become a well shaped pot, not a cracked pot. Psalm: I am wonderfully and fearfully made. God created all of us for a purpose. Our life did not begin at our birth, because God had a plan for us from the beginning of time. God knows all about us, we can’t hide from God. We can have an intimate and open relationship with God, we can share anything, even our deepest thoughts with fear. If we need to understand ourselves, we don’t need to ask ourselves, we can ask God. If we ask, he will tell us all that we need to know. God formed each of us to help with his plan for the salvation of creation. But before we can save the world, we have to save ourselves. We have to make sure that we are in touch with God. It is hard to believe that when we were born God knows the day we will die. But while we are here, we are expected to make the most of it. This is an important Psalm to remember. It tells us where to go for the answers. We can be proud of our purpose, and we know that we have to support to make it so. Questions: How has God shaped your life? When has God had to reform you and start all over again? How do you respond to God’s judgment? What does it mean for you to repent? Do you trust God with all parts of your life? Do you allow access to all parts of your heart? Do you have a complete understanding of God, or is there still more to learn? What does it mean for you to have a relationship with God?
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for September 1st: Jeremiah 2:4-13; Psalm 81:1,10-16; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1, 7-14; Song: We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise – 2031; theme: how to live as people of faith. Hebrews: Hebrews can be known as the kitchen sink epistle, because the author intentionally covers a lot of ground. This is his farewell and it is still in character. He is reminding us to love one another, but to make sure that our love spreads to other people. The author gives a list of people for us to love the prisoner, those who are abused, those who are married, money, leaders. We love them not because of them but because of us, and of our love for Christ. We are called to offer the sacrifice of praise. That reminds us of the importance of worship that we dealt with last week. When Christ is the center of our lives, we live a life of joy. God wants us to do Good as our worship, not a give a guilt offering. Loving Christ is an all consuming effort, we love God with all that we are, we love others with that same love. Luke: Jesus loved to go to dinner parties in order to be around other people and to have an opportunity to teach. But it seems that as he went to more and more parties that he got bored. Bored with the same people, practicing the same behavior. He witnessed people who were obsessed with their own importance and who needed to be seen. A lot of times the only reason they were at the party was do that they could be seen. Jesus does not see anything wrong with being seen. But more importantly, take a look at yourself. Who are you being in the face of others. Anytime we assume that we are important and that life revolves around us, we are wrong. We have all had times when we have been embarrassed because we were not as know as we thought. Jesus suggest that when we go to parties, we should take the lesser seat. If people really think of us, they will invite us to a better seat. But if we are followers of Jesus, we know that even though we are important, that we should be humble. Let God glorify us, so that we don’t have to glorify ourselves. Serve those who are poor, not those who are rich and God will bless us. Questions: How do you show love to those that you know? How do you show love to those who you don’t know? Is goodness something you have to remember to do, or is it a natural part of life? What do you need to do to love more? What does it mean to be humble? When you have a party – who would you rather invite, those who can give you something, or those who have their hands out to receive? How does God glorify you?
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for August 18th: Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19; Hebrews 11:29: 12:2; Luke 12:49-56; Examples of Faith in those before us; Song: Am I a soldier of the Cross UMH 511 Isaiah: This scripture is a song, a love song, of sorts from God. God talks about how lovingly he took care of us, how carefully he nurtured us. He watched us grow. And yet as we grew, he became disappointed in the results. He expected us to be loving, caring, even respectful. But as we grew, we had a mind and a will of our own. We did what we wanted to do. We were self serving. God is disappointed in us, and now he contemplates what to do. How do you continue to care for someone or something that does not return the care and love? You have the power to help and you have to power to neglect. And yet with each sin, God makes a conscious decision to love us and to care for us. In this song God calls us to repent, turn from our sin and to love him back. Hebrews: Paul has been giving us a lesson on the power of faith, the meaning of faith, and the difference it makes in the lives of those who have it. Paul also explains to us why the old testament is important to those who have faith in Jesus Christ. All throughout the stories of the bible, demonstrate what faith can do for us. Paul is helping us to see that our ancestors did not just have faith, they had extraordinary faith. They were able to call upon the Lord in times of trouble and he answered in a mighty long way. In modern times, we expect miracles and we get angry when they do not happen. And yet Paul is not talking about miracles, he is talking about faith. Being determined to believe in God against all odds, and knowing in your heart that there is a God, and that God has been with you all this time, and that he is with you now! When we have extraordinary faith, we are never alone. All those who have believed and trusted in God for all time are with us also. Questions: Why is God disappointed in you and your sin? What will you do to do better? What are some ways that you know that God has taken care of you? How have you returned God’s favor? Who are some people of faith that you look to as role models? What is your definition of Faith?
Saturday, August 3, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for August 11th: Isaiah 1:1, 10-20; Psalm 50:1-8,22-23; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40; Theme: The meaning of Faith; Song: Immortal, Invisible, God only wise UMH 103 Hebrews: We will looking at Hebrews for the next few weeks. This book spells out what the term faith really means. Faith in something that you can see, is not faith. Faith only happens in the midst of the wilderness. Hebrews is unique because it is the only book that takes us back to the Old testament as the foundation of our Christian faith. We are reminded of the faith of Abraham, we are reminded that we are brothers and sisters with those who follow faith. Abraham is the father of our faith. God called Abraham to step away from his comfortable life. And he was able to follow God to the fruition of that faith. He was told he would have a child, and that child would be the ancestor of many people. That happened. When we are able to follow God- we are spiritual children of Abraham and we carry the light of his faith into the world today. The wilderness may be gone, but God still calls us into the unknown so that more people will know God and will have faith in the God invisible, immortal, but all powerful. Luke: Jesus seems to be addressing small churches life ours – telling us not to be afraid, but to have faith. Faith is only true faith when it is actively lived out. Jesus tells us to actively live out our faith by doing the things we are supposed to do. The source of our faith is not visible, and it is unknown. We don’t know what the immediate future holds. We don’t know how we will make ends meet. We don’t know what God holds in store for us. But we know the promises of Christ. Once again Christ is reminding us, that if we understood everything that God was doing in the world, there would be no need for faithful churches. We are called to do the work of trusting in God and God’s plan. We do know the far off future, that Jesus will return and redeem all of our efforts. Questions: What does faith mean to you? Who are your models of faith? How can we follow Abraham in his faith? What would you do if God asked you to turn from all that you understand and to do something new in the name of faith? What stands in the way of us being a faithful congregation? How can we have enough peace to trust God in all things? What do you need to do in order to be ready for Christ to return?
Saturday, July 27, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for August 4th: Hosea 11:1-11; Psalm 107:1-9;43; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21; Theme: Be happy with what you have in Christ; Song: Great is Thy Faithfulness – UMH 140 Colossians: Paul wants us to remember that Christ is the center of our lives, and the center of our faith. Jesus intentionally made sure that we were able to escape our sinful life, and to live a life that is focused in the things of him. Last week we were told that baptism is the beginning of our new life. In baptism we die with Christ, but we also rise anew in Christ. But it is not enough to be given a new life, we have to be willing to live a new life. We have to strip ourselves of our old habits, and start all over again. It is like putting on new clothes, we put on a new Christ. In order to do that we have to take a good look at ourselves, and at our life. Are we really doing what Christ wants us to do? Luke: This story is a warning against material wealth. It does not help us when we are trying to get into heaven. In this story, a brother asked Jesus to correct his brother, who is not giving his fair share of the inheritance. Have you ever noticed that Jesus never gets in the middle of sibling disputes. He refuses to take sides. But he also reminds the person that the kingdom of heaven is not about how much we have physically. It is about where we are in the spiritual realm. And sometimes, the physical things that we are so concerned about can overshadow what God is trying to teach us. Jesus says that you cant get into heaven if you are storing up your treasure here on Earth. We in America, have more than we could ever hope for, we have so much more than the rest of the world. What is the message of riches and treasure for us today. Questions: What does it mean for you to clothes yourself in Christ? How are you different today than you were last year? Have you made an improvement for the sake of Christ? How to we make sure that Christ is the center of our lives? How is your spiritual relationship with God? What physical belongings are you attached to? How would getting rid of them help you have a better relationship with Christ? What does it mean to be rich in the things of God?
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for July 28th: Hosea 1:2-10; Psalm 85; Colossians 2:6-19; Luke 11:1-13; Theme: staying close to Jesus is staying close to prayer; song: Close to Thee – UMH 407 Colossians: The city of Colossae was a lot like the city of Chicago. There were a lot of choices. There were a lot of churches, and a lot of competing theologies. And someone who was not grounded in Christ, would have a hard time understanding who Christ really was. Paul directs us all and reminds us that our differences should disappear, in the spirit of Christ. And the spirit of Christ should be obvious in everything that we do. Christ is the head of the universal church. And we should remember that. If we know who Christ is, then we should also be clear who we are. We are the body of Christ. We are initiated into Christ when we are baptized. Our baptism gives us all power in Christ. And we have to have our own relationship with God. If we do, then we don’t need to depend on others to define us. Let Christ and our baptism tell us all that we need to know, and always continue to grow in your relationship. Luke: Christ taught us to pray years ago, and many people are still uncomfortable with prayer. We can be grateful because Christ gave us the Lord’s Prayer. We don’t always have to come up with the words ourselves, the spirit will interpret to God what needs to be said. But God wants us to pray and to let prayer be a part of our relationship. We have to be assured that God always hears us, and gives us what we need, not what we want. He gives it to us in his time, not ours. Sometimes we think that God has betrayed our prayers, Jesus says that God will never betray us, but sometimes he does have to redirect us. There is never a bad time to pray to Christ. Prayer is an exciting relationship with God – that every Christian, every person should have. Prayer is a good exercise of our spiritual faith. Questions: Who is Christ to us? Who are we to Christ? How does our life change when we are baptized? How do we make sure Christ is the head of our lives? How is your prayer life? Do you trust in Christ in all things and in all answers to your prayers? Do you know the Lord’s Prayer? Have you been able to teach someone else? What does prayer mean to you?
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for July 21st: Amos 8:1-12; Psalm 52; Colossians 1:15-28; Luke 38:42: Theme: Putting what we learn into action; song: It is well with my soul – UMH 377 Colossians: We are reminded that We can trust what Jesus tells us, he is more than a prophet, he is the Son of God. He was not only present at creation, if it was not for him, creation could not do his work. Christ is head of the church and Christ should be head of the church. There may be plenty of uncertainties in life, but there are no uncertainties in Christ. In life there is suffering, in serving Christ, there is more suffering. But in Christ we can know that our suffering is for a purpose. After the suffering is over, we will see the glory of God. We can rejoice in all that Christ has done for us. There is glory in becoming a mature Christian, who can see the joy of Christ in all things. Luke: This is a lesson that we learn a lot. Jesus has set upon the countryside and wants to teach as many people as possible as he goes along the way. Typically in his time, the men are the ones who drop everything to learn, and the women keep the world going with their work. Jesus stops at the house of Mary and Martha. Mary takes the time to learn, and Martha must fix dinner and clean the house. Martha scolds Mary for wasting her time, after all, as a woman, when will she ever get the chance to use her knowledge. And yet the bible is full of women who taught us lessons of faith. There were women who were able to be examples of faith. God can use the gifts of both men and women. How do we keep our lives in balance? So that we can do the work necessary, but also learn more about our faith? Questions: How do we work to see Christ in all things? Do we usually see Christ in our suffering? Do you represent Christ when you see others suffering? What does it mean to be a mature Christian? Are you more like Mary or Martha? What do you do to learn more about God? What things have to be done in order to keep the church going? Can you do the busy work and study at the same time?
Saturday, June 29, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures
Scriptures for July 7th: 2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; Galatians 6:1-16; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 theme: fully equipped to serve Song: We’ve a Story to tell the Nations – UMH 569
2 Kings: This is the last of the stories that we will focus on concerning the legacy of Elijah. Last week, we learned that Elijah had a protégé, Elisha. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. In many ways Elisha did indeed get a reputation of his own as a healer. In this final story, we learn of Naaman, a Syrian general who has discovered that he has leprosy. He is told to go to Elisha. Elisha tells him to bathe in the waters of the Jordan. He feels that the waters of his country are just as good and he refuses the treatment. Until he finds that a part of the treatment is learning to do what he is instructed to do. That is the problem of a lot of us, we want healing, but we want it under our terms. Elisha was just an agent of God, our healing is also a gift from God. We all have to learn to obey God on his terms not ours.
Luke: Even as he knows what is store for him, as Jesus journey’s throughout the countryside, he intends to continue to teach, preach and heal. Jesus sends 70 disciples ahead of him, they are to go two by two into the villages to tell people that Jesus us coming. Jesus gives specific instructions to the 70. Go into peoples homes, bringing humbleness and happiness, and see how you are received. He instructs them to take nothing with them and to take what is given to them. If you receive love, your mission is complete, if you do not, then shake the dust off of your feet and keep on going. As disciples, we both give and receive God’s love everyday. We just have to be careful about how we carry our faith with us, and know when those in our lives have been sent by God to give us a message.
Questions: How many times in your life have you lost a blessing because you had your preconceived notions of what the blessing should look like? How easy is it for you to listen to the voice of God? How do you recognize God in all people? How do you spread the word of God to others? How do you deal with rejection from others? How do you regain your ability to love others anyway?
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for June 30th – 2 Kings 2:1-2,6-14; Psalm 77:1-2,11-20; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62; Theme: Serving God and forsaking all else; Song: Freely, Freely – UMH 389 2 Kings: The bible does not record where Elijah comes from. And he leaves this earth just as mysteriously as he appeared. We can be grateful that God made sure that he had a successor, who had been training with him diligently. Elijah seems to know that he will not be around forever. And lately, he has been acting much stranger than ever. This is a story of transitions. This is the story where we literally get the term, “passing the mantle”. Elijah passes on his responsibility to Elisha. It is also an important story, because the bible does not say that Elijah is sick, it does not say that Elijah is close to death. But for some reason he seems to know that God is coming to get him, and God takes him to heaven in a carriage. The good news is that instead of shying away from responsibility, Elisha is more than willing to take on responsibility. As a matter of fact, Elisha asks for a double portion of what Elijah is able to do. As we pass the mantle on to our successors, it would be wonderful if they asked to do the same. Luke: This is another story about transitions and about change. Jesus completed his ministry to the people. Like Elijah, he was aware that his time on earth would not be long. He was concerned to make sure that his ministry continued beyond him. But Jesus did not stop at just one successor, he chose twelve. And unlike Elijah, he wanted to make sure that they were properly equipped. After talking with his disciples to tell them what to expect, scripture says that Jesus set his sight on Jerusalem. He knew that his time to leave this earth had come. Jesus gives us an important message though. In order to serve, we have to be willing to forsake all other things. Elisha got a chance to say goodbye to his family. He got a chance to kill his oxen. Yet Jesus says that anyone not willing to leave their life behind is not worthy to follow him. He tells us to go forward and work, and don’t look back. Trust the change, and don’t worry about the past, which can take care of itself. Questions: How do you deal with change? How are others willing to take on the mantle of new responsibility? What can we do to help them to take more responsibility? Do you feel empowered by Christ to carry on his ministry? What part of the past do you miss? What do you have to look forward to in the future? Do you fully understand what Christ has in store for you in the future? What do you need to do in order to trust Christ’s plans?
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for June 23rd: 1 Kings 19:1-15; Psalm 42; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39; theme: Listening to God; song: As the Deer 1 Kings: At one time or another, we have all asked the question – “Where is God in the midst of this?” Many people in the world would prefer to tell us that there is no God. We are reading about the encounters of Elijah and God to remind us that God is always present, but sometimes we just have to look for him. And most of the time he is in a place that we are not expecting him. This is one of my favorite chapters in the bible – Jezebel has told Elijah that she is going to kill him for killing her priest. Elijah runs, but does not know where he can go and escape the threat against him. God leads him out of the danger and to a quiet place. Elijah was expecting to find God in the chaos, but instead he found God in the solace. He had to quiet his fears and expectations before God could really speak. The message for us is if God did it for Elijah, he will do it for us. But we have to be paying attention. In the midst of our doubts, we have to have a heart for God. Galatians: Sometimes when new people join the church, we feel that in order for them to have any responsibility, that there is a whole lifelong ritual that they have to go through in order to be where we are in the church. Paul reminds us that is not true. He fought hard to make sure that we did not have to become Jewish in order to become Christian. He reminds us that we are saved by grace and not by our works. That does not mean that we don’t have any responsibility. Our job is to love God with all that we are. We are not bound by the laws, but we are obligated to grace. We serve and give, but we serve and give because we love. The wonderful thing about grace is that is belongs to every body. If we live in Christ, then there is never a reason to divide ourselves between us and them. Our salvation is in Christ, so whether we are new or old, we are equal in the eyes of God. Questions: What Chaos is going on in your life that you need to escape? Where can you go to seek enough silence to listen to God? How do you respond to people who say that there is no God? Have you experienced God personally? Who do we need to extend the grace of God to in our lives? What walls need to be torn down in the body of Christ? How do you understand grace as opposed to living under the law? Does grace help you to serve more or less for God?
Saturday, June 1, 2013
Scriptures for June 9th: 1 Kings 17: 8-24; Psalm 146; Galatians 1:11-24; Luke 7:11-17; Theme: restorations of the sons; Song: Hope of the World – UMH 178 1 Kings: the word neighbor comes from the German word nachbar – which means one who is close by. In days of old, people often lived their whole lives around the same people. You grew up with those people, our families intermingled and you often had the same destiny. We don’t live in that world anymore. In today’s modern world those close to you, could live on the other side of the world. We have to be intentional about defining our neighbors. But we also have to realize that God back then and even now, God is intentional about who he sends into our lives. God called Elijah to live with the widow in Zarepath. In other words, God called Elijah to go live among his enemies. To get to know someone who was vulnerable, and to see what he could do to make a life better. To live among those who are next to you. We are not asked to teach them, or to be better them, or to even lead them. We are called to live with them, and God will show us how we can help, and God will provide for both of us. It is all done for the glory of God. Luke: Elijah showed many signs of the presence of God. Many people had faith, because of his faith. So in a story about the miracles of Jesus, you would expect a story of Jesus bringing someone back to life. Jesus too is a traveling prophet. He see’s a funeral procession of a son. He was his mother’s only child, and now she must bury him. Scripture says that Jesus has compassion on her and bought the son back to life. The mother was a widow, her son was her only means of support of a society that was geared towards men. That meant that if her son died, then she would die soon too. Jesus had compassion on her. Elijah is also with a widow, who would have been vulnerable. Both is these stories tell us that we have to stop and to love those around us. We have to be engaged enough in life to realize that their lives are in danger. Jesus had a soft spot in his ministry for those whom society had just left behind. Jesus wants us to change the society so that they are a part of us. Today, we have welfare systems, we have food pantries, we have social service agencies, and yet people are still in need. There are still people in the street who are not reached by anybody. Lord help them, Lord help us to help them. Questions: Who were your neighbors as a child? Who are your neighbors today? How have things changed? How can the church continue to help those who are not helped by others? Who are the most vulnerable of our world today?
Friday, May 24, 2013
Scriptures for June 2nd: 1 Kings 18:20-39; Psalm 96; Galatians 1:1-12; Luke 7:1-10; Theme: God is the source of good in our lives; Song: how Great Thou Art – UMH 77 1 Kings: Elijah is one of my favorite characters in the bible, and this is one of my favorite stories of Elijah. Elijah challenges Ahab and Baal to a friendly game of “My God is bigger than Your God”. Both religions believe in sacrifice to God, both believe that God is present at the sacrifice. Those who sacrifice to Baal do this all of the time, so they mistakenly believe that this is a battle that they can win. Since we don’t practice sacrifice anymore, it is easy to say that this is a story about history. But we still have contest where the faithful have to demonstrate and defend the power of God. People ask us every day “Where is your God and why is he so powerless against the events of the day?” Recently, as people sent prayers for the people of Oklahoma, an atheist replied that it is better to just do something to help, as opposed to praying. Today, as then, people don’t understand the true power of God. Those who serve the Lord, don’t just sacrifice to God, they also serve and do the work of God. God shows up when we show up. Our power is God’s power. Galations: This is another of my favorite books of the bible. I think that the message of Galatians is a message of freedom. As long as we live in grace, we are free to do whatever we want to do. But we do what is right, not because we have to, but because we want to. We want to be near God. We want to have a relationship with God and with his goodness. Paul reminds us that we should live according to the laws of God, not the laws of man. And whatever we do, we must do to please God and not man. When we live in this world, it is easy to learn to value the things that we see in the world. But Paul says that we should be in the world, but not of it. The gospel always teaches a new way, it always challenges the status quo. We have to have to strength to believe in the change that God brings to any situation. And we have to always let grace be enough to sustain us, when others want to judge our faithfulness. Questions: Have you ever encountered someone who challenged to power of God? how did you deal with the situation? Did you have the strength to stand up for God? Do you, yourself believe in the power of God? Why? What is the difference between following the ways of God and the ways of man? Do you believe that the grace of God sufficient for all people? Is grace deserved or freely given? What do you do in your life to please God?
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Scriptures for May 19th (technically for May 26th) Proverbs 8:1-4,22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15 Theme: Pulling what we know about the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit all together; Song: Holy, Holy, Holy Romans: We live in a broken world, we are broken people. No matter how Christian we say we are, things go wrong in our world. No matter how hopeful we may be, things still happen that we were not expecting. Paul speaks of having faith in things we cannot see all throughout the book of Romans. In Romans 5 he explains that a Christian faith is not easily earned, it comes through suffering. We all suffer, but we don’t all have to accept suffering as the final word. Trajedy comes to all life, but when Christ is with us, we look beyond the darkness and know that the light always comes. We have a chance to use our Christian faith when we suffer. He says that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Christ came into this world to give us a sense of hope in the midst of all suffering. John: This is the last of our lessons from John, we go back to Luke next week. This is the very end of Jesus farewell speech. He explains that he has said all that he can say. This fits in well with the lesson from Romans. In this life, no one has eternal life, not even the Son of God. He has poured out his heart and soul so that we will understand. But there are some things that we will never understand, unless we go through them ourselves. If we preach the gospel, we will experience the persecution that Jesus experienced. But it is only in his absence that the Holy Spirit comes to bring us comfort and guidance. It is only in his absence that it all comes together for us and we understand the trinity – the Father, the son, the holy spirit. Now it is our turn to be Jesus for the world. Questions: When are those times when you faith is the strongest? When are those times when your faith is the weakest? What is it that gives you hope? What happens to you when you have to suffer? How have you experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? What does the trinity mean to you? How do you feel about Jesus leaving earth and returning to heaven?
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for May 12th: Acts 16:16-34; Psalm 97; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21; John 17:20-26; Theme: Mother’s Day; Song: Softly and Tenderly Jesus is calling. Acts: Paul and Silas are still in Phillipi. The beginning of the sermon says that they are on the way to the place of prayer. So they are joining Lyddia and her crew in worship. And once again they come in contact with a situation that needs their attention. In those days it was stylish to talk an oracle who could tell you about the future, or some other issue that you may have had. Everyone went to one. So when a citizen discovered that his slavegirl had special power- he exploited her “talent” for money. That was wrong on so may different levels. Paul and Silas had to do something about that. They had to deliver that poor girl from spiritual slavery. And they get I trouble for doing a good deed. In the eyes of the law, this girl was a property, not a person. Paul and Silas end up in jail. But they do not stop taking advantage of holy moments – opportunities to tell the world about Jesus. They sing the songs of Jesus and everyone listens. This time God wants to save the family of the jailer. This time Paul learns the lesson in hospitality, and how the holy spirit works when you help and accept others. John: The theme for today is unity. When we put our faith in Christ, no matter how different we may be, we can come together as one. Jesus, the father and the holy spirit are one in the actions of the disciples. When we love one another, we believe in the word and we spread the word – the presence of God is here in the world. Today- the only proof the world has that Jesus exists are your actions. Your actions of love, but also your actions of peace. Your actions of reaching out to the world to bring them into the church help the world know that there is a God. This is a part of Jesus farewell speech to us. The time for us sitting and listening is about to come to end. A time to get busy witness to what we have seen about Christ is about to come – really it is. Questions: Where is your place of prayer? Where do you go to be with God? What opportunities have you had in the last few days to witness for Christ? What opportunities have you had to welcome others in the name of Christ? What does unity mean to you? Why do you think the world is so skeptical about the existence of God? What do church members have to do with that skepticism?
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for May 5th: Acts 16:9-15; Psalm 67; Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5; John 14:23-29 theme: Love After Easter; song: For the Healing of the Nations UMH 428 Acts: The apostles seemed to take real stock in what happens in their dreams. Last week Peter had a dream, the book of revelation is John’s dream, and Paul also has a dream. The dream tells him to go to Macedonia, because there are people there who need him. On his way to Macedonia, he stops by the town of Phillippi. There is no synagogue there, but he meets with a group of women who gather weekly by the river for prayer. Lydia is the leader of the group. She is a successful entrepreneur. She sells purple cloth and makes a lot of money. But her biggest passion is serving God. She and her friends and family are baptized. This is the beginning of Paul’s mission in Europe. He will follow the ignation way to Macedonia, preaching, teaching and baptizing all of the way. There will also be many who reject him. But we hear Paul’s story in the book of acts, because all along, Paul is led by the Holy Spirit. The spirit tells him where to go and where to avoid. But it is the presence of the Holy Spirit throughout the world that makes the church grow. The apostles follows and God leads them to places where something is happening. John: This is a section from the farewell discourse of Jesus. He will continue to speak through the 16th chapter. It must be very difficult being with someone when you know that they are about to leave you. Every time that person reminds you that it won’t be much longer – you tell them to be quiet. Jesus is only 30, but he wants his disciples to understand that the time is coming very soon. He wants the disciples to understand that the work must continue. They must continue to show love for one another in order to be able to love other people. They must be an example and a guide for what the kingdom of heaven is like. Love is a commandment. Jesus says that when he is gone they will believe. In other words it will all make sense to them. They will be able to put the puzzling pieces together. But Jesus reminds us that when he is gone from the body, that we will not have to fend for ourselves, because that is when the spirit will show up. The Holy Spirit will take care of us in ways we never imagined. We will mourn our loss, but we have something to look forward to. Questions: How do you recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit? Have you ever been led by the Spirit to a new place of faith? Who are the people who are in need of your faith now? Do you feel that Jesus has left you sometimes? Are you able to be faithful anyway? Are you intentional about loving those around you?
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for April 28th: Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148; Revelation 21:1-6; John 13:31-35; Theme: Preparation to be in ministry; song: In Christ there is no East nor West UMH 548 Acts: Okay, we have heard about the Easter miracles, now we hear about the new ministry that it is pointing to. Peter is being challenged to think in a new way. To go beyond his tradition and to reach out in a new way. Now that he has learned what power in Christ that he has, he is being challenged to reach out to the gentiles. Jesus knows that in order for Peter to have the strength to do something that he has never done that he will have to know that God is with him. He has to know that God will lead the way for him to do something different. Peter has met Aeneas and Dorcas, now he must meet Cornelius. It is easy for him to encounter death and sickness then it is to meet people who are not like us. So the Spirit comes to him in a dream and gives him permission to eat whatever is offered to him, so that he can meet new people with new customs. But when he does encounter the gentiles and learn to accept them as family – he changes the world forever. The church of all people and all races is born and it continues to grow even today. John: This is called Maundy Sunday, because Jesus gives us a special commandment. He tells us to love one another. That is the greatest witness of the presence of Jesus in the world that anyone could have – for others to see how much we love one another. When people see a church that loves each other, then they want to be a part of that love. We can use that love that we have received in order to love those who we find hard to love. Jesus was literally walked us through the entire gospel. He even came back after death in order to clear up some misunderstandings. But Jesus has said all along, blessed are those who believe but who cannot see. Those who can follow what they cannot see and what they do not understand, yet they trust wholeheartedly. We are being prepared when it us up to us to maintain the Spirit and to remember that we are the body of Christ. Christ needs us, he also needs us to trust in him, in places that we are not used to going. Questions: It Is just as easy for us to get stuck in tradition as it was for Peter; what people do we exclude because we are so stuck on our tradition? What people do we not even think exist in our world? What do we need to do to reach out to those people? What tradition do we need to give up on in order to let more people in? How do we show the world that we love one another?
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for April 21st: Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30 Theme: all of creation has responsibility to worship God; Song: Marching to Zion – UMH 733 Acts: The whole purpose of the book of Acts is the demonstrate the workings of the Holy Spirit in the beginnings of the early church. Whenever the book mentions an important step of the Spirit, is also tells of a sign and wonder. The story of Tabitha precedes the disciple’s early interactions with the gentiles. known Jesus personally. But the scripture also says that she was a woman who was dedicated to the church and gave much. So of course when she dies, there is she is raised from the dead. The point of the story is that the holy Spirit was at work in Tabitha during her life. It was her faithfulness and her service that restored her life. She shows us what is in store for us, if we are faithful also. Revelation: Last week we looked at the host of heaven. We looked at all of the heavenly figures that were present around the throne. It shows that all of creation is responsible for the praise of God. This was a vision not of the future, but of each and every day. But as we enter into chapter 7, we see that the faithful people are also a part of the heavenly choir. A number no one can count from all over the world are present to praise God. Life has not been easy for these people, but they made it through all of the trouble, they are now dressed in white. Once again, we need to be reminded that this is not the future, but this is today. We have a chance to praise God with all that we are, we have a chance to wear white to represent the struggle, but most importantly, it was the sacrifice of the lamb which allows us to celebrate that we have been redeemed, so that we can stand before God and sing his praises. Questions: What service do we give to God? How will people react when they come to our funeral? Will they be sorrowful of relieved? How does the holy Spirit bless the work that we do on behalf of God? What miracles have happened in our lives to show us that God is about to do greater things? What does it mean to praise God with everything that we are? How have we been redeemed from the hard times in our lives? Do we hear the praise of God within creation? Do we hear the praise of the heavenly angels?
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for April 14th: Acts 9:1-20; Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19; Theme: Do you really love the Lord? Song: It is Well with my soul UMH 377 Revelation: The challenge for this week is for us to be stretched beyond our comfort zones in our service to God. We think of the book of revelation as a vision of the future. But it is a future that is deeply rooted in the present: in who we are and what we do for God. That is why God wants us to go beyond ourselves in order to reach heaven. Our scripture for today is about worship. We are worshipping with the heavenly angels. They are singing with all that they are. John Wesley instructs us to do the same. Every voice is a part of the heavenly choir. Every voice has reason to praise the goodness of God. What if everything that we did was our best on behalf of God. What if everything that we do was in praise of God? What if we gave our everything all of the time. That is what it means to make the present connected to the future. “And the four living creatures said Amen”. John: During the Easter season, we are seeking the presence of Christ in our lives. We are mindful, so that we can get a glimpse of Jesus in our lives. The way that we get a sense of the presence of Jesus, is through communion. When we gather for communion, we can know that God is with us. Some Christians use bread and fish for communion, instead of bread and wine. The disciples were fishermen. And in our text, Jesus tells them to cast their nets on the right. They were used to casting their nets on the left, because the nets were easier to carry. But Jesus was stretching them to go beyond their comfort zones. We are challenged to also go beyond our comfort zones. To cast our nets in a different way, and to reach new fish (people). It is Easter, and it is time for us to live Jesus life and not ours. Peter was able to bring in the catch for the day. They had much for fish than usual. They have breakfast, and then Jesus ask Peter to feed my sheep. Jesus is challenging us not just to make us uncomfortable, but to prepare us for taking care of those who follow Jesus. He says to follow me – following Jesus means helping others, but also it means giving God his will and not ours. It means letting Jesus order our steps – in order to feed those in need. Questions: Do you typically worship with all of your might? So your typically serve with all of your might? When you help people in the present, are you aware that your actions will carry you to the future of God’s plan? How have you seen the presence of Christ this week? Is it easy for you the change the way you do things? Does it help to accept change, when you see Christ in the situation?
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Scriptures for April 7th: Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 150; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31 Theme: Easter is a Choice Song: We Meet You O, Christ UMH 257 Acts: Jesus says that those who die with me, shall also live with me. When we are baptized, we become a part of Jesus’ death, and we become a part of Jesus’ life. During the Easter season, our task is to make sure that we understand what it means to be a Christian, and to live out the responsibility of our baptism. During this time we will read from the book of Acts, so that we can learn what it means to be a witness to the living Christ. Peter and the other disciples are on trial for preaching about the resurrection of Christ. In Luke, he only speaks of witness who live around Jerusalem. But in Acts, they are trying to prove that the cat is out of the bag. More and more people are witnesses to Christ. As a matter of fact, he is everywhere! The defense of the disciples is that the power of God is so strong that it can’t be stopped. The gift of the spirit is given to those who are witnesses to the power of God and obey the Word of God. Revelation: This is a section of the letter that is addressed to the 7 churches in Asia. It is a continuation of the proclamation that the Spirit of Jesus is every where. The movement has been so strong that it was organized into churches. The church is the place where those who follow God gather. It is the place where we get our strength to be able to serve. It is the place where we learn in order to prepare ourselves to live out our baptism. John wants us to be reminded that it is not the power of humans that makes the church relevant, it is the power of the throne of God. We have no power over what we do as Christians. We are just following God’s plan for our life and for the world. The church is a community of priest, consecrated by God – but we have to be obedient to God. Questions: How have you witnessed the presence of Christ in your life? how do you see the word of God spreading throughtout the world? Where does the word need to go next? What educational activities does the church need to provide to help you grow in service? What do you think of the book of Revelation? How do we live out our role as priest of God? Is the church a human institution or a God institution?
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Scriptures for March 24: Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 22-23; Theme: Passion of Christ; Song: #286 – O Sacred Head Now Wounded Luke: Not everybody attends the Good Friday service, not everybody observes anything of Holy Week. They only come to church on Sunday, which is why it is so important to tell the story of the passion of Christ on Palm Sunday. There will not be a commentary on the scripture – we will just hear the story as it is written. Every year, we need to be reminded of what really happen. Every year we need to put ourselves in the story, In Jesus story. We need to be reminded that Jesus died for our sins. Jesus lives in our lives everyday. Jesus walks with us everyday. This is our chance to be present with him. To show that he died for a reason. Each gospel tells this important story for our faith. This year we will focus on what Luke has to say. He deals with the passion story in Luke 22 and 23. In chapter 19 Jesus makes his long awaited journey into Jerusalem. He comes in like a king, and leaves like a savior. Luke says that the people welcomed him in, but the people also turned him in, saying that he was inciting them. They took him to Pilate, who did not want to deal with it, so he sent him to Herod. Now we have to remember that this was not the same Herod who tried to kill him as a child. This is the grandson, who appears to want to meet this powerful man. Jesus is put on trial and convicted to die on the cross. Simon carries his cross. He is crucified between two thieves. He says his last words (many of which come from the Luke story) and he gives up the ghost. That is when we start to live, to realize what he has done for us. We now can celebrate, because all of the darkness and hard work is done. But life is not all sunshine. The story of Good Friday is the story of many of our lives – of struggle and eventual redemption. Questions: What does the passion story mean to you? How do you relive the story? How is your life a part of this story? How is his life a part of your story? How does Jesus incite you to take action? Why is this story more important than even the Easter story? What do you do to say thank you for what Jesus has done for you?
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for March 10th: Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3,11-32; Theme: a life of forgiveness is the best way to be happy Song: What Wondrous Love is This – UMH 292 2 Corinthians : One of the major themes that has followed us since Ash Wednesday is the need for forgiveness. Lent is our time to be honest with God about who we are and about what we need to do better. Sin is the one things that separates us from God. We have to take the sin out of our life in order to be reunited with God. The theme for today is reconciliation. After we have confessed our sins, we can take the journey back to God. the pathway to reconciliation with God is Jesus. Paul says that when we live in Christ, we become a new creature. Christ makes all things new, including our relationship. We become a different person because Christ does not hold our past against us. But he wants us to remember that we should learn how to do the same for others. When we know the gifts of being forgiven, we forgive others. Luke: We have not only heard this story for many years, I think that many of us live as a part of it. This is the story of the prodigal son – the spoiled younger son who squandered his inheritance and realized that life was better at home. I don’t know about you, but I have spent my life as the prodigal older son. The son who felt unappreciated for faithfulness. The self righteous one who did not see what all of the fuss was about. The younger son deserved to be punished for his attitude and I needed to be acknowledged and loved for all that I have done. We have to remember however, that the focus of this story is really the father who was willing to love and accept his son in spite of all that he did wrong. We need to remember that God does the same for us. Remember, this is the season of reconciliation to God. Of realizing that no matter how faithful we think we have been we need to ask for forgiveness. No matter how familiar we are with this story, we need to read it with new eyes and new understandings. And to be grateful of the love that God has given us. And that we all have a role in bringing those younger sons through their time of trial, so that they too can know that God loves them through it all. Questions: How is God renewing your spirit right now? What parts of your soul still need to be renewed? How has God showed you mercy when you should have been judged? How can we through a party for those who are just coming to understand God’s love?
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Scriptures for March 3rd: Isaiah 55:1-9; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9; theme: finding faith song: Come, Ye Disconsulate UMH 510 Isaiah : Traditionally, lent is the time for new members to prepare themselves for baptism. The scriptures for the next three Sundays will ask you if you are ready to come before the Lord. They will challenge you to look at your sins, ask for forgiveness and to realize the role of God’s grace in your life. Lent is a time of self sacrifice, so why are we reading a scripture on the abundance of God. We are reminded that God always has room for us. God’s love can overcome the effects of any sin. If God can forgive David, God can forgive you. God invites anyone to come forward. Seek the Lord while he can be found. God’s presence is eternal and never ending. It is never too late for God, but in life the time can come when it is too late for us. The good news however, is that we don’t have to know all of the steps of forgiveness in order to take the first step. When we confess to God and say that we are ready – God will give us the steps to turning our life around. Baptism and remembering your baptism is the first step to a new life. God will do the rest. Luke: Jesus continues the conversation on the needs for forgiveness in your lives. He also offers more conversation concerning the question of if it is too late. We all know of people, who we have given chance, after chance. And no matter we try to love them, they do the same things. Even Jesus gets fed up. And even Jesus is asked to give the fig tree one more chance. Give it a chance to see if it will grow. Forgiveness is abound in our lives. Sometimes it is not about whether God will forgive us. If you know better, you should do better. And the more time you refuse to turn your life around, you are wasting your time. Time that could be spent in happiness and health. The longer it will take for us to realize the grace of God in our lives. Life is short, life is sacred. We cannot afford to take any of our life for granted. Repent, and be saved. Questions: What special things are you doing this lent to strengthen you relationship with God? What sins do you need to confess to God? What difference is there in your life when you are living in God’s rules, and when you are doing whatever you want to do? When have you been given a second chance in life? When have you had to ask God for forgiveness? What are you holding onto, when you know life would be better if you repent?
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for February 24th – Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35; Theme: 2nd Sunday of Lent – a time for understanding my purpose in serving God. Song: Be Thou My Vision UMH 451 Genesis : Last week in scripture, we were instructed to pray “My father was a wandering Aramean”. This week we learn more about Abraham, his relationship with God, and the promise that God made to him and to his descendants. Abraham had many sons, but the point for us today is that many people claim Abraham as their father. He is our spiritual father, we can claim this promise for ourselves. We get our faith from Abraham and the way in which he trusted God. We continue in the promise of Abraham when we also have faith in God. when we understand God as a part of our lives and our salvation. No matter how we feel about God, God always trust in us. God never breaks his promises to us. God asks us to trust him, but only after he has shown undoubtedly that he trust us. Scripture says that “the Lord made a covenant with Abraham”. The Lord did all of the work – all Abraham had to do was to believe. Luke: The shortest verse of the bible is “Jesus Wept” – he wept for Jerusalem. He wept because he loved the city, he wept because he knew that it was a city in need of saving on many levels, we wept because they did not want to listen to his message. Even the Pharisees warn him to leave Jerusalem. They know that his life is in danger. And strangely enough – Jesus cries that is the very reason that he cannot leave. Jerusalem is a place that kills its prophets. Jesus says that he is more than a mere prophet – he is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Jesus knows that Jerusalem will eventually pay for its sins. Yet Jesus weeps for the people – the faithful people who must be protected, who must be saved. Jesus stands his ground, accepts his fate, so that he can save his people. Questions: What is the difference between being faithful and being good? Which does God call us to be? What do you know about Abraham and his relationship with God? What can you imitate in Abraham? How is Chicago a lot like Jerusalem? What is Jesus doing today to save the soul of Chicago? Who are the people that Jesus is trying to save in Chicago? How does God feel when so many people reject his gift of salvation? What must we do for those people, who reject God’s love?
Saturday, February 9, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for February 17th: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13; Theme: Living in the shelter of the Lord’s Journey; Song: A Mighty Fortress is our God Deuteronomy : This scripture talks about the importance of tithing. It connects our spiritual life, our worship life, and our regular life together. We are reminded that tithing is not just a promise we make to the church, it is a way of life. The decision to give is not a momentary decision, it is ongoing. We examine our lives every day, to see where we are and how much we can give. We make the decision about what we will give in the future, by looking at what God has done for us in the past. We look back and reflect on what God has done for us. In Corinthians, Paul says that God loves a cheerful giver. This scripture says that stewardship is an attitude of celebration. God has bought us to the promised land. We have been given plenty – we say thank you by giving back. When we are able to be grateful, we always have something to say thank you for, no matter what else is going on in life. Luke: It is fitting that on the first Sunday of our 40 days of preparation, that we would examine the 40 days of preparation of the Lord. After Jesus was baptized, he felt the need to go into the wilderness. As he was alone with himself, all of those inner temptations came to haunt him. He knew that he had to find the power to overcome them. The temptations spoke to him about who he was as a person, and who he was supposed to be as a leader. Jesus knew that God loved him, he knew that he had a special purpose. This taught him that he had the strength to carry it all through. Just because he fought back the devil, he would be learning all the way up to his last breath on the cross. But after this testing, he could always be sure that God was with him, he was no alone in this journey. We can know that if God is with Jesus through his tough times, then Jesus is always with us through our tough times. We have the strength to overcome it all! Questions: How do you feel about tithing? When you give sacrificially, how do you celebrate? What do you have to be grateful and to say thank you to God? What do the three temptations of Jesus represent? What temptations do you face in your life? What do they say about you? Who do you know that demonstrates for you how Jesus is present in the midst of suffering? What can you learn from how they are able to face life?
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for February 10th: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-43; Theme: Transfiguration Sunday: Song: Take Time to Be Holy - 2 Corinthians : All of the scriptures for today are related. Today is Transfiguration Sunday. That is the gospel story when Jesus goes on the mountain and prays. His disciples notice that he is transformed – he is glowing. Paul says that in the old testament days, when Moses glowed – the people felt that they needed to protect themselves from him. They wanted to hear the word afraid of Jesus – and his divine connection. As a matter of fact, it is a good things for us. The word of God gives us the strength to do our job and to teach others about God. The word makes us stronger Christians. Out of respect, whenever you read something about Moses, you wore a veil. The gospel lesson is transparent – there are no secrets, no hidden agenda’s, no invisible understandings. With Jesus, what you see if what you get – salvation. Luke: For Luke, the most important part of the gospel is the sayings of Jesus. Luke wants us to learn directly at the feet of Jesus. So Luke makes it very clear that the transfiguration occurred exactly 8 days after the sayings. This is also the story where God announces from a cloud that we should listen to the words of Jesus and take them as truth. When the disciples heard this voice, they wanted to make this a special time. A time to show honor to their ancestors, in the way that Paul speaks of in Corinthians. But Jesus wants them to know that this was a moment that their faith journey would be transformed forever. At the time, they did not understand what it all meant. They could look back at this event and realize that it was one more way that it was evident that their teacher had divine connections. Thus they did not have to wonder by what authority Jesus spoke. They could realize that even though it did not make sense at the time, everything that Jesus did had a greater purpose. When he comes from the mountain, he continues in his healing ministry, and in showing that what he does is for the glory of God. Questions: Do we sometimes get so caught up in tradition that we hide the glory of God that we should be showcasing? In what ways can we reveal to the world how God that we know through the life of Christ? How have mountaintop experiences changed your life and your faith? When you came down from the mountaintop – what challenges did you face?
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for February 3rd – Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30; theme : the power of love in our mission; Song: Here I am Lord UMH 593 1 Corinthians : If you go to 10 weddings this year, you will hear this verse read at 9 ½ of them – Chapter 13 – the chapter where Paul talks about the importance of true love. Paul’s original purpose, is not really the love between people, his purpose is the love that God has for his people, and the love that we use in our lives to express our love for God. In chapter 12 Paul has been talking about spiritual gifts and unity. He is trying to help us to understand what it means to be a church. In chapter 12 Paul invites us to find the more excellent way – that way is the love of God. It is not so much what we have- it is the spirit in which we use it. Spiritual gifts are just tools. It is true love for God that helps us to use those gifts. We only see the fruits of our gifts when we have love for God that is expressed in the way we treat others. Unity can only be achieved when you look beyond faults and differences and show true love. Where there is faith there is hope, where there is hope there is love. And when we have love, we have all that we need to build the kingdom of God. Luke: When Jesus has completed his time of preparing to fulfill his mission, the first thing that he does is go to synagogue in Nazareth. Any male is allowed to read from the scroll. He reads for them Isaiah 61 – he tells them that the spirit of the Lord is indeed upon him. These are the words that they have been waiting for all of this life – could this be the one that God has sent to rescue them? No, because Jesus explains that he is not talking about them – he is talking about the poor, the outcasts, the people who were not present. He is talking about what they must do for others, not what they must receive for themselves. They get so mad at him, they lead him to a cliff with the intention of throwing his off. But Jesus has already told that the Holy Spirit is with him, and he is unharmed and able to go out into the world to do what God has called him to do. As long as he have the spirit with us, no weapon that they make against us can prosper! Let us go and do what God as asked us to do! Questions: Does God’s love make a difference in your life? When have you experienced love from someone that truly made a difference in your life? Have you encountered someone who felt they were gifted, but who had a terrible attitude? How do you set the captives free? How is scripture fulfilled today in our lives?
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for January 27th: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Luke 4:14-21 Theme: Working together in unity Song: In Christ there is no East or West – UMH 548 1 Corinthians : This is a continuation of last week’s lesson on spiritual gifts. We are reminded that spiritual gifts are given to the whole congregation, not just to an individual. They are given to do the work of Kingdom Building. Paul want us to remember that functioning as a body means more than just worshipping together. We have to be in service together, and we have to do the business of the church together. But whatever we do is for the good of God and for the good of all people. Learning to use our gifts, is the beginning of unity. Unity does not mean that we think the same, it means that we respect our differences. In the church there are a lot of differences. John Wesley ways in nonessential things there is diversity, but Jesus us the essential, and there should be unity in our commitment to God. It is interesting that unity is not a natural ocurence, it is something that we have to pray about and practice. Luke: If Jesus baptism was the beginning of is public vow, this scene is the end of his public vow to serve God. Jesus has spent his time in the wilderness, the temptations came to him, and he realized that with the power of the Holy Spirit, he was able to overcome them. His service was for God’s needs and not his. He is feeling rejoiced over him calling. The first thing that he does when he is out of the wilderness is to go to temple. He reads the scriptures. But he announces his call to the rest of the world – I have been called to preach good news to the poor, recovering of sight to the blind, and to release the prisoner. People may not understand his job, they may not always support it. But Jesus knows that if he follows God, then his work will be accomplished. If we follow Jesus, we are following God. We have the same ministry today. We have the strength of Christ vow to help us to succeed. Questions: How do you see unity in our congregation? How do you see diversity? What tools do you all use to bring unity? What gifts are present in your congregation? What do you think about Jesus mission to help those in need? How well do you follow in Jesus footsteps? How do you accept those who stand up and say they have been called? What support do you give them? How are you using your gifts to build the kingdom?
Saturday, January 12, 2013
Breaking Open the Scriptures Scriptures for January 20th: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11; Theme: Getting ready to get ready 1 Corinthians : We started this year off by talking about service, about the holy Spirit, and about how baptism prepares us for service to Jesus Christ. As we go throughout the epiphany season, we will read scriptures that prepare us for a journey of service. We start with this very popular scripture about spiritual gifts. If the Holy Spirit is amongst our community, we need to be able to identify its presence. The holy spirit always comes bearing gifts. God gives different gifts to different people. Paul did not mean for this list to be complete, there are other spiritual gifts. Paul’s main point is that is that there are many nonchristians who will claim that they have the gifts from God. And yet they don’t know what these gifts are. Paul wants you to recognize these gifts when you see them, use them and know that they come from God. John: John is getting us ready to get ready for lent. Lent is a time of preparation for a new life in Christ. Usually, if you have new members they are getting ready for baptism and church membership. But the reality is that the entire church has a place in that process. Helping the younger people is a way to help us all grow in faith. It is no accident that the first miracle of the book of John is a wedding. A wedding is a time of rejoicing. Jesus wants us to realize that he (along with the Father and the Holy Spirit is the source of our rejoicing). And as we get ready for a new life in Christ, it is a party all along the journey. A marriage is a commitment service. We are committing ourselves to be in relationship with God. Life in relationship with God is a time to rejoice! Questions: What do you think are your spiritual gifts? How do you recognize spiritual gifts in others? What training and preparation do you need in order to be able to use your gifts to the fullest? Do you see how nonChristians tend to misuse these gifts? What will you do to prepare for lent this year? What do you have to rejoice about in your journey with God? What is the source of your joy? What is the source of your commitment to God? j