Saturday, June 29, 2013

July 2, 2013 - 7th Sunday of Pentecost

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

June 30, 2013 - 6th Sunday After Pentecost

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

June 23, 2013 - 5th Sunday after Pentecost

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

June 9, 2013 - 3rd Sunday after Pentecost

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?