Saturday, September 28, 2013

October 6, 2013 - 20th Sunday After Pentecost

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

September 29, 2013 - 19th Sunday after Pentecost

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

September 22, 2013 - 18th Sunday after Pentecost

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

September 15, 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?