Sunday, December 29, 2013

January 5, 2013 - Epiphany

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

December 8, 2013 - Second Sunday of Advent

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?