Sunday, December 20, 2015

December 27, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for December 27th: I Samuel 2:18-20, 26; Psalm 148; Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:41-52: Theme: First Sunday after Christmas; Song: Joy to the World Colossians: What did you get for Christmas? Usually when we were children we go the toys that we wanted, but also under the tree were new outfits. New clothes for the upcoming year. Colossians is encouraging us to put on our new clothes and to model them for everyone else. It encourages us to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. All things that should be renewed with the coming of Christ. We should be better than we were last year. And we should be even more stylish than we were last year. All of these qualities take time to develop. All of these qualities are the mark of a true Christian. All of these qualities make all of the difference in the world to another person. Paul is saying that we all should have received these qualities, not just for one person. And that if the whole community can put on its Christmas clothes, people will truly know that this is a house of God. Luke: This is the time when we learn about things that happen after Jesus is born. There is a different story for each section of the lectionary. This year is the story of Jesus traveling with his family to the temple. When they are on their way home they discover that Jesus is not with them. Jesus is still at the temple, learning and also teaching. We don’t know much about Jesus life until he turns 30 years old. We don’t know how he is educated, we don’t know when he received his calling, we don’t know how God interacted with his only son in order to mold and teach him. We do know that God was well led, and that he had a strong calling to understand the ways of God. We do know that he did not enter the standard methods of being taught – he preferred to stay in the streets with the people. But we are grateful that the Lord kept Jesus through this time and guided him to spread his knowledge on to us generations later. Questions: Are you a different person this year than you were last year? Did you get anything new for Christmas? When have you had to use gentleness, kindness, and patience within the last week? What do you think happened to Jesus as he was growing up? What were the lessons that you learned about Jesus as a child?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

December 13, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for December 13th: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18; Theme: third Sunday of Advent; Song: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus UMH 196 Zephaniah: This is the Sunday where we get the assurance that things are going to get better. There is light at the end of the tunnel. We have to remember who to give the credit for bringing us through a very dark situation. God. All of our scriptures for this whole season are more like poetry and songs in honor of God. This is the song of Zephaniah the prophet. This is a song of celebration for the exiles. This is the time for them to go back home and to be reunited as a family again. But once we get to the promised land, we have to still remember God. Just because things are wonderful, that does not mean that we can forget God. We still have to praise and thank God for all that we are and all that we have. But today, the journey is not over, we are almost there, but we still have a long way to go. Luke: This is the second week that we hear the story of John the Baptist. John gives a deep message to us about repentance. It may have been partly our fault that we were exiled in the first place. There may have been no other way for God to teach a lesson. And now he sees that we are ready to go back home. John is surprised that so many sinners are ready to go back home, and are willing to get baptized and to repent. He is exited, but knows that some of these people have some deep ingrained sin. Some of these people don’t even recognize their own dark side. Even when the best of us confess, it is by God’s grace that we stay on the side of righteousness. It is by God’s grace that we are able to live into our baptism. We still have to wait for the coming of the Lord. Humans can baptize with water, but the Holy spirit uses fire, which is longer lasting. Questions: How do you feel like an exile? How does God bring you back home? At what time of the year do you take the time to say thank you to god for what he has done for you? What does living into your baptism mean for you? How are you helping the whole community by living into your baptism?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

December 6, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for December 6th: Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 1:68-79; Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6; theme: second Sunday of advent; song: 706 Soon and very Soon Malachi: I always get excited when we start to read the words of Handel’s Messiah in the bible. It tells us how we are to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus in the world and in our lives. These words remind us that we are about to have an encounter with the divine. And that is no ordinary task. We are sinners, our hands are dirty. We must do what we can to make then clean! Sometimes God takes it upon himself to clean us. We wont come out of the dirt ourselves, But God will create situations that will refine us and make us a better person. What comes out of the fire is stronger, more durable and longer lasting and many times for our own good. Be thankful for the challenges, you would not be who you are without them. Luke: Luke also talks about cleansing before the sacred. He also talks about baptism and straightening up. Before any spiritual change there is a prophecy. We have to be ready to go in a new direction, or the instruction will come and we will just keep walking. Once again this is a verse from Handel’s messiah. Advent is well on its way, your preparations should be to. Not for company coming, But for Jesus. Who are the modern day prophets? What are they telling us to get us ready for a new day, a day with Jesus? Questions: What things have happened in your life to purify you soul? Are you grateful for hard times or resentful? What do you need to get out of your life before Jesus comes? What do you want for Christmas this year? What spiritual gift do you want?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 22, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for November 22nd: 2 Samuel 23:1-7; Psalm 132:1-12; Revelation 1:4-8, John 18:33-37; theme: the last Sunday of the year; Holy Holy Holy - UMH 64 Revelation: This is the last Sunday of the Christian year. Everything starts anew next week. So it is fitting that we read a scripture about the end. The end of life as we know it. It talks about how Christ will return a second time to actually claim his kingdom on earth and turn it into something else. For every ending there is a beginning of something else. Christ has the power to make an earthly world a spiritual world. But we have to be prepared for the change. We have to be waiting and watching for a change. Jesus depends on his followers to prepare those who have not yet heard that Christ is King! The change comes in our hearts before it comes to the world, and then we are to work to bring God’s kingdom on earth. John: This is Christ the King Sunday. Jesus has come to Jerusalem, and he is in the chambers of Pilate. Pilate asks him the key question – Are you a King? Is what they say about you true? If he is a king, the jews want him to be killed. How can Christ be king, when our earthly king is in charge? What does Jesus have to do in order to be in charge? In the next verses, Jesus answers, and says that my kingdom is not of this world. He is not a threat to the earthly king. But he is a threat to our sin. If we are able to put Christ first in our lives. What do you need to do for Christ to be your king? Do you worship him? Do you change your actions because of him? Would you do anything to serve him? What does it mean that his kingdom is not of this earth? Where is it then? Questions: What are your doing to prepare for the second coming? What are you doing to prepare others? How will you recognize the reign of Christ when you see it with your own eyes? What are you doing to make Christ king? What would happen if Christ were our ruler instead of Obama? Would this be a better world? Or about the same?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

November 1, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for November 1st: Isaiah 25: 6-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6; John 11:32-44; Theme: All Saint’s Day; Song: Marching to Zion UMH 733 Revelation: This is an explanation of the fullness of time. When all that has happened to us will finally make sense. Our reward in the life to come. New Jerusalem is something to look forward to. When the light of God finally comes to earth there will be no darkness. Other parts of Revelation so speak of the Saints all marching in to honor and to see God. We are a part of the communion of Saints, the living and the dead. God’s promise to both is that he is making all things new. He will make a difference in our lives. Everything that we do in this life, everything that happens to us, prepares us for that moment. The beginning and the end are the same, because God is Alpha and to Omega. We don’t have to be sad as endings, because they are just new beginnings. John: What better story to highlight the power of All Saints day, than the story of Lazarus. Jesus visits Bethany, and his good friends Mary and Martha report that their brother Lazarus has died. When they see Jesus, they tell him that he could have kept his brother alive. But in order to demonstrate the power of God, Jesus brings Lazarus back to life. Jesus is the master of resurrection. That means that there will be times in life when things fall apart. Jesus doesn’t say that he will hold it all together, he says that he will put it back together again. Death is a part of life, and will happen to us all. As a matter of fact, even Lazarus, Mary and Martha eventually all died. But in life they can be grateful that they got a second chance. The good news is that the power of resurrection is always available as long as we have life. There is a chance for us to start again. To begin anew. To be grateful for the people and things that we do have in life. Questions: If you had a second chance, what would you do all over again? What do you imagine heaven to be like? What needs to be healed in your life? This all saints day – what legacy of your life do you hope to pass on to future generations? What does resurrection mean to you? Why do you think it is powerful? What is the use of coming back to life, if you are only going to die again?

Friday, October 2, 2015

October 11, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for October 11th: Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31; Theme: Children’s Sabbath; Hymn: Nobody Knows the Trouble I See UMH 520 Hebrews: Logos means a word that wiggles – a word that moves. We hear a lot of words from a lot of people. There are a lot of people who are able to make promises. Sometimes they come true, sometimes they don’t. But we can be sure that Jesus words for us are always backed with action. Jesus always means what he says. When we cannot depend on anyone else, we can depend on Jesus. Hebrews explains to us who Jesus is, and what we can expect from him. We receive mercy and grace when we need help. Logos is another word for Jesus. A word that is always backed with action. Mark: I am seriously thinking about going on a purchase fast. I need to save money. But being a consumer seriously clouds our vision and I think also our judgement. Jesus tells this young man that in order to inherit the kingdom of God he must sell everything that he has and give it to the poor. Jesus is not concerned about how much money we have, but he knows that money has a way of clouding our vision. He tells us that most of all, we must be able to see the kingdom of God. God favors the poor, because they don’t have anything standing in their way. God will take care of them in this life and the next. They will live a life that helps them to see God. Questions: how does Jesus put his words into action in your life? Where have you seen the work of Jesus within the last week? What is mercy? What is grace? How have you experienced those two gifts this week? What stands in the way of seeing God in your life? Can you give it up? What does it mean to be rich? Is being rich and having money the same thing?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

October 4, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for October 4th: Job 1:1,2:1-10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1:1-4,2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16; Theme: World Communion Sunday; Song: Through it All- UMH 507 Job: We continue with the lessons from wisdom. We begin to study the book of Job. Job deals with the biggest question of humanity: Why do bad things happen to good people? With all of the bad luck that Job is having, it seems that God is picking on Job unfairly. All those who he talks to for advice, tell him to just curse God and being mean and die. Others tell him that it must be something that he did – sin causes bad luck. Job struggles with all of his friends, Job struggles with what is happening to him. When he is able to put it all into perspective – and to worship God for what he has – that is when his life starts to change. He heals, and eventually all that he lost is restored. In the midst of it all he was able to thank God. would we do the same in the same situation? Hebrews: We will be looking at Hebrews for a while this fall. This book is not a letter to a church, it is an essay written for no one in particular. The theme is to honor Jesus as a high priest. He is the priest for all Christians. A priest in an intecessor for humans. He performs the necessary task in order to please God. He is not an angel. His mission is to bring salvation to mankind. Our task is to meet Jesus halfway in our life. As John Wesley would say – we are to go on to perfection. We will never be perfect, but we can give all that we can to God. We can give ourselves to God. We can be called children of God who live according to the precepts of Christ. As long as we put our faith in Jesus, everything else will be okay. Questions: What do you know about the story of Job? Can you bless God in all circumstances? Who are your advisors on matters of faith? Do you listen to them all of the time? If you could talk with God, what would you say? How are you a child of God? What has Jesus done in your life to make a difference? What does it mean to go on to perfect?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

September 27, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for September 27th: Esther 7:1-6,9-10, 9:20-22; Psalm 124; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50; Theme: our actions have consequences; Song: If it had not been for the Lord 2053 Esther: This is the one time that we will focus on this book. We are focusing on the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible – which we do not hear from very often. It is easy for us to dismiss these books of the bible, because they often do not focus on God, and there is no real lesson. They are in the form of short stories and poetry. They are often stories about women. But these stories are important. This is a story of a woman who stood up for herself, and her people. She did not ask for vengeance against the enemy of her people, she just told her husband, the king the truth about the matter. The king was able to make a just decision for himself. The wisdom in the story – do the right thing, always be who you are. Trust God to bring about justice and mercy in times of trouble. If you are on God’s side, God is on your side. Mark: This is an example of Jesus threats to us when he is angry. He can scare us into doing to right thing. But it is also an example of what it means to be a powerful Christian. You have to be worth your weight in salt. Jesus us telling us that there is no room for fooling around in the Christian life. We all sin, we all like to blame our sinful nature on the devil and keep on sinning. Jesus says that whatever it is that you are blaming your sin on, get rid of it. Make the right choice and once again do the right thing. There is a reason why God needs us to be wise people – it is our wisdom, it is God’s wisdom that encourages others to do right to. We cannot control other people, but we can control ourselves. We change others by changing ourselves. There is too much work in the kingdom to do for us to slack off now! Questions: When had there been a time in your life when you have had to stand up for your faith? What was it that gave you the strength to stand? What difference did it make to others? What are the things in your life that need to be improved for God’s sake? Who is watching your every move to see what it means to be a Christian? How are you an example to them?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

September 20, 2015

Scriptures for September 20th: Proverbs 31:10-31; Psalm 1; James 3:13-4:3,7-8; Mark 9:30-37; Theme: the wisdom of God; Song: Lord I Want to Be a Christian UMH 402 James: Last week we talked about what it means to be a teacher, today we talk about being a student. In order to be a teacher, you have to learn from someone. James reminds us that the master teacher is in heaven. We all have a choice to make. James makes a distinction between life guided by the spirit, and life guarded by flesh. There are a difference set of emotions that comes from each. The emotions of the flesh lead us to conflicts with other people. When we find that we are feeling empty in life, it is important to think about our desires. Do we desire the things of earth, or the things of heaven. Are we following the master in heaven, or the master of earth (which is the devil). It is a constant battle, a constant balance to follow God to the path of heaven. Mark: Jesus comes back from vacation and returns to his people. He is now traveling through Galilee, but he wants to take a retreat and spend some time with his disciples. It is time for them to learn the ultimate lesson – that the messiah must be tortured and die. The world is not ready for salvation. Our job is not to be in charge of the world, it is to serve the world. It is to be ready to help the least. Those who others ignore, we have to pay attention to. Specifically we have to remember the children. Help them and to be a voice for them and to always take care of them in everything that we do. Jesus is preparing us for the future. And our future task – take care of the children. Questions: What does wisdom mean? Where do you think wisdom comes from? Where does the bible say that wisdom comes from? When you are in conflict, what are your motives? How are you a servant of Christ and other people? What are you doing to help the children? When you are in conflict, do you need to win? Or do the right thing?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

September 13, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for September 13th: Proverbs 1:20-33; Psalm 19; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38; Theme: obeying the rules of goodness; song: Be thou my vision UMH 451 James: We are in our third week of lessons from James. This is a timely message because it about teachers. As school starts, we need to pray for our teachers. That they do not take their role in vain. When we take on the mantle of being a Christian, we are all teachers. Someone is watching us as an example of what it means to follow God, so we all need to take heed to James message. Mind what you say and know that it makes a difference. Small words can make all of the difference in the world. Small words can make a difference in our relationships. Small words can make a difference in the people we are around. As a teacher we have to be in tune with the small words that we say – and make sure that they are words of love. Mark: This is a continuation of the lesson from last week. Last week Jesus shows us what it means to love and heal others. Today Jesus gives another message to his disciples. A much harsher word – that yes he is the messiah, he does everything well, everyone loves what the messiah does. And yet these same people will kill and crucify the messiah. When we do good for others, we cannot always wait for the good to be returned. We cant expect that we will be appreciated. If they did not appreciate Jesus, they will not appreciate us. But if we are able to endure, we will receive Christ reward in heaven. He will call us his followers and his friends. When we don’t do the right thing he will be ashamed of us and leave us hanging. Questions: Who considers you to be a teacher in their life? Are you careful in your words to that person? Who had said words that really hurt you? How have you been able to heal from that experience? What does it mean that Jesus is the Christ? How are you following him? How are you taking up your cross today?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

August 16, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for August 16th: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58: Song: Great is thy Faithfulness UMH 140: Theme: The bread of life: 1 Kings: We have been following the life of David all summer. What a life it was. He started out as a young man, with the inner qualities that God is looking for. When the time comes, God decides if I have to choose a king it may as well be David. David shows his devotion to God. David sins and show his weakness to God. God forgives him, but says that the consequences of his sin lay in the generations to come. His sons turn against him. He dies. And now it is time to turn his life work over to his son Solomon. That is basically the life story of us all. No matter how much we accomplish in our lives, we are going to have to turn it over to someone else. And a new lesson begins. Solomon knows that his relationship with God is not about him, it is about his leadership and the needs of his people. His request from God is wisdom to do his job well. God’s reply is that if he does his job well and serves his people, then his leadership will be blessed. John: We have one more week of John 6. We are supposed to realize just how the life of Christ nourishes our soul. We are supposed to chew upon John 6 as the word of God. What does Jesus mean when he says I am the bread of life. He explains the importance of the communion ritual. And what it means to eat living bread. This is one of those verses that will only make sense to a Christian. Anyone else would be turned off by the image of actually eating your leader. But for us it means that we are supposed to take Christ inside of our bodies. Don’t just imitate Christ – be Christ. When you are faced with tough times, know that Christ is with you. And it is the Christ in you that makes a difference in our life and in the lives of others. It is the Christ in you that acts, that thinks, that does the right thing. We can be grateful for that. Questions: If you could ask God for anything what would it be? Do you think Solomon made the right choice at asking for wisdom? What would have happened had he asked for riches? What does communion mean to you? How is the word of Christ living bread that last forever? What are others ways to eat the bread of life?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

August 9, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for August 9th: 2 Samuel 18:5-9,15,31-33; Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51: theme: Christ is all that we need; song: Come Ye Disconsulate: UMH 510 Ephesians: The message of Ephesians is an ongoing message. There are things that build up community, there are things that tear down community. Truth builds community and lying tears it apart. In order to build the kingdom of God, we have to build community. We have to do things that make people feel welcome. We have to give those who need forgiveness a place at the table. After all, God was able to forgive us, so we need to be able to forgive others. As a matter of fact, we need to be imitators of Christ. In our actions, it is not what we want to do, it is what does the bible tell us to do. We are created to create community and to live peacefully in it. But that takes work our part. John: This is the third week that we focus on John 6. These are the I am statements of Jesus. Jesus is a glimpse of who God in heaven is. Jesus provides for all of our needs. The whole point of John is to show the divinity of Jesus and his life. He was not the son of David, but he was the Son of God – Thus God on Earth. So we need to give him honor. Bread is an important staple. A big part of our diet. Well, Jesus is the bread of life. When we feast on Jesus, we will not be spiritually hungry. Being spiritually fed is the first step to being physically fed. Jesus is the bread of life – the spiritual food that will open the doors of heaven and provide a pathway to eternity Questions: What does it mean to imitate Christ? How has community made a difference in your life? How do you build community in your life? What about your community needs to improve? What is spiritual food for you? Do you like bread? How is Jesus like bread for you? Do you like the heavenly qualities of Christ, or the earthly life of Jesus?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

June 28, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scripture for June 28th: 2 Samuel 1:1,17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43; Theme: The healing power of Jesus; UMH 474: Precious Lord 2 Corinthians: Paul continues his reconciliation with the Corinthian Church. Even though he was the one who started the church, they reject him. Paul writes a very strong letter the help them understand what is going on from a Christian perspective. When we are Christian family, there is always an opportunity for reconciliation. If we put Christ first, there is nothing that we cannot overcome. Paul tells us that it is time for us to reconcile and move on. That Christ is depending on us to make this a fair and just world for all. We should not let our differences with one another stop us from helping others. There is just too much work that needs to be done. Christ wants us to be able to work together. Mark: This is an example of Jesus healing ministry. Once again he shows that if we put our faith in him, if we move forward, then Christ healing power will do the rest. Jesus has been showing his power all throughout the land. Jesus meets the needs of all that he comes in contact with. The more people believe that Jesus cannot change the situation, he makes a difference. He heals all people regardless of their story. The power that Jesus has to heal, he gave it to his disciples, he gives it to us. We have the power to make a difference in all peoples lives, just by having faith. Questions: Who do you need to be reconciled with? What are the barriers that stand in the way of that reconciliation? How can you help others by getting through the reconciliation? Who do you know that needs to be healed in your life? What can you do to heal them? What can Christ do to heal them?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

June 14, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scripture for June 14th: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13; Psalm 20; 2 Corinthians 5:6-13, 14-17; Mark 4:26-34: Theme: Wait for the seeds of faith to grow: Song: Have Thine Own Way - UMH 382 2 Corinthians: This is Paul’s continuation to defend himself against criticism from the Corinthian church. He continues to remind us of what it means to have life in Christ. He continues to make the distinction between life in the flesh and life in the spirit. But he says that if we have given our life to Christ, then we should behave the same in spirit and in flesh. The spirit of Christ should take over the actions of the flesh. Imagine if we had the ability to see people as God sees them and not how we see them? In God’s eyes, we all have the same potential. We all have the responsibility to live up to that potential. In Christ we can change at any moment, and live according to the encouragement of the Spirit. We can always become a new person in Christ. Mark: We live in a world that is filled with potential. We live according to what is happening today, but also what will happen tomorrow. God starts with potential, then he waters it, nurtures it and watches it grow. Our destiny is never jut given to us, we just have to grow into it. Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like seeds that are sown everywhere. Some of them grow, and some of them do not. But each of us has potential to grow where we are planted. Sometimes, it is the most unexpected plants that grow the most. That is the parable of the mustard seed. To always have faith. To believe in God and to believe that God has a plan for you and for your life. To know that you are present in this moment, but most importantly, God is preparing you and us for eternity. Questions: Who are we ignoring in the church? Who do we need to be reminded that they are equal to us in the eyes of God? What fleshly behavior do to need to get rid of? What spiritual behaviors do you need to further develop? How is god spreading seeds in your life? What seeds are you spreading to other places and people? What mustard seeds have you witnessed growing in the world?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

May 31, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scripture for May 31st: Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3: 1-17; Theme: All led by God’s Spirit are God’s Children; Song: Every Time I Feel the Spirit UMH 404 Romans: This is a continuation of our lesson on the Holy Spirit last week. We are encouraged to live life in Christ. They way to do that is to be baptized and to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life. And to consent to be led by the spirit in all that we do. That will help us to rise our human need to think only of ourselves, but to think about the people and things that God cares about. When we are led by the spirit, then we are children of God. Not everyone earns the title of child of God, just because they are alive. They have to be led by the spirit. When we are able to trust the spirit, then we can’t go wrong – we will experience the wonders of God’s fruit directly in our lives, which will bring joy unspeakable. Baptism is dying and rising with Christ. John: Jesus also talks about baptism to Nicodemus. It is a way of being born again, and embracing a new spirit in our lives. When we are born again, then we can put aside past negativity. We don’t have to trust the world, (which has nothing for us), we can trust God fully and completely. God loved the world so much that he makes that available to all people. But he tries to help Nicodemus understand that only those who follow Christ have to power to overcome the understanding of this world. We can celebrate the fact that God is always on our side. He sent Jesus here to the world, because he wants us to be winners. A winner will never lose, because everything is in God’s favor. Questions: What does it mean to you to be born again? How are you like Nicodemus? How do you learn from his questions? What does it mean to be a child of God? What helps you to follow God’s will in all things? What hinders you?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

May 17, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scripture for May 17th: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53: theme: Ascension Sunday ; Song: Up From the Grave He Arose UMH 322 Acts: This book chronicles the early church and how it grew and survived. It tracks the steps of the risen Christ in the lives of his followers. An important point in the journey was the day that he returned to heaven. This is one of the few non Sunday observances that John Wesley thought important enough to keep in his church calendar. I love that at the end of today’s scripture, angels ask why are you looking up in the sky for Jesus? Jesus is inside of our hearts, most importantly, Jesus is out and about in the world. Jesus promises us the power of the Holy Spirit. So we can start to expect it in our lives. If Jesus is in heaven now, it is up to us to embody the presence of Christ in the world. Luke: This is the story of the Ascension, as Jesus brings his disciples out to the beach and he gives them instructions and then goes up to heaven. Once again he tells us to wait for the presence of the holy spirit, and then first repent yourself, and second preach the power of repentance and forgiveness to the world. You don’t need to worry about traveling, change the world right where you are! There is a reason that we are in the place that we are in. We have work to do, and we have a message to give to others. Jesus is not going to do that work, he went to heaven. He left it to us to do. The scripture says that the followers has a deep sense of joy for having Jesus with them. They continually rejoiced in the temple – spreading the word, and living it brings joy and appreciation. The spirit of Jesus is with us when we are spreading his message! Questions: do you think the ascension of Jesus really happened or is it just an informative story? Where is heaven? Is it up in the sky or in our hearts? What are you doing in preparation for the Holy Spirit? Do you get a sense of joy from telling the story of Jesus to others?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

May 10, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scripture for May 10th: Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17; Theme: Mother’s Day; Song: Blessed Assurance UMH 369 1 John: The essence of God is love. The essence of being a Christian is knowing how to love one another. This Easter season, we are being pounded with messages of love for one another. We are reminded that if we live our life in Jesus then it is easy to love others. We are reminded that it is not human nature to love. But Jesus gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that we can indeed learn to love like Jesus loves, which is in turn how God loves us. There are still a lot of people in the world who don’t know what love is – it is the job of the church to show them. John: In the book of John, we are examining the I am statements. Jesus tells us step by step who he is, and why we should care. He is telling us that our salvation comes through him, and through his efforts. And that if we want to have a relationship with God, then we need to have a relationship with Jesus. Today, Jesus tells us that he is the vine, and that we are the branches, and that God is the vine keeper. But he goes farther than that. If God can take care of us through Jesus, then we are to take care of one another and God’s creation. He commands us to love. To learn to love sacrificially. But whatever we do in the name of the Lord is not a sacrifice, because we will always get it back! God will pay us back for the love we give to others. The command to love is not to give to others, but to invest in ourselves! Questions: What stands in the way of you loving others? What do you get in return when you are able to show love? How have you experienced God’s love in your life? How do you get your nourishment from Jesus for your life?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

May 3, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scripture for May 3rd: Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:25-31; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8; Theme: The Love of Jesus in our lives; Song: Swing Low Sweet Chariot (UMH 703) 1 John: We will be focusing on 1 John for the rest of the Easter season. I think that it has an important message on love for us to keep in mind. And for us to be reminded that live in Christ, is a life of learning how to love. You can tell the fruits of our spirit based on our ability to love one another. Love is not a feeling, love is action. Jesus showed us true love by dying on a cross for us. He chose to die in that way, because he knew the consequences. Not only should we be baptized into his blood, but we should but we should live our lives inside of his love. People should see Christ in all of our actions. When people are able to see Christ, they are also able to see God. People come to Christ, or they step away from Christ based on what they see in us. John: As United Methodist, we live in Christ by participating in worship, studying the word, private and corporate prayer, communion, fasting, and listening to the word. Jesus says that he is the vine and that we are the branches. As branches we stay connected by practice of these five things. We are not responsible for our own salvation, neither are we responsible for growing fruit. We stay connected and God is able to work through us. When we are disconnected, then we become very ineffective. In John, Jesus uses a lot of I am statements in order for us to understand what our relationship needs to be like and how we should trust him in all things. Do you trust Jesus to work his magic through you, are you open so that Christ can come in and work with you? Questions: How do others see Christ in your actions? How do you show love to others? Can you show love to those who don’t show love to you? Are you grateful that Christ died for your sins? What does it mean for Christ to be the true vine? When Christ gives you fruit do you give it away for keep it for yourself? What ways do you depend on Christ in your life?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 26, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scripture for April 26th: Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18 Theme: Good Shepherd Sunday Song: 407 Close to thee Acts: When I was a little girl, my aunt told me that if I didn’t remember anything else about faith, to remember that salvation was in the name of Jesus, and Jesus alone. She told me to make sure that I was not baptized in the name of the father, son and holy spirit, but in Jesus name alone. She, like many people believed that there was power in the name of Jesus. She told me to always refer to this scripture about the power in one name alone. Jesus. There is power in one act alone – that is resurrection. Peter is being questioned by the authorities as he is preaching the gospel. Who gave you authority to speak to the people and to do these acts? By what authority do you speak? They were witnesses to God’s power in Jesus Christ, that is all that was needed to make a difference. Jesus gives us the power to witness to his goodness today. We have the authority to speak in Jesus name! John: This is the week when we remember what it means for Jesus to be the good shepherd. What does it mean that Jesus will take care of you? What does it mean for you to be a sheep in need of a shepherd? We are always in need of guidance. It can become so easy for us to become caught up in life and to see nothing else in front of our noses. And we need someone to guide us to the right places, sometimes in spite of ourselves. Jesus says that we don’t have to think in order to truly hear his voice in our lives. We automatically respond to his command. Even in the midst of other voices that call out and try to lead us astray- God’s sheep still follow their shepherd. It takes a special person to be God’s shepherd, and that special person has a special name – Jesus Christ. Questions: What power does Jesus have in your life? How do you tell others about the power of Jesus name? Is Jesus the ultimate authority in the world today? Why or why not? How do you recognize Jesus voice? What other voices compete for your attention in your life? Where is Jesus leading you right now? Is it peaceful? Is it to a better place than you are now?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 29, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scripture for March 29th : Mark 11:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 32:9-16; Mark 14:1-15:47; Theme: the passion of Christ; Song: Were you there? Mark : The reading for today is the passion story. The story of how Jesus was betrayed, how he was led to the cross, and we hear every gory detail of how he was nailed to the cross and died. It is important for us to hear this story every year. And in some sense feel pain that Christ felt, because it was felt on our behalf. The year that the passion of Christ came out, I had a youth ask me if we needed to remember every detail of the cross. I used the example of a gift, when you give a gift to someone do you leave the price tag on the gift or do you take it off. We hear the story, but we don’t have to live the pain. That pain was a gift given to each of us freely. The correct response of getting a gift is saying thank you. Let us hear and read this story and say thank you. Be present to our sin and develop a determination to repent and sin no more. During lent we have journeyed with Christ. We have journeyed with him to the Cross and now we are invited to journey with him to death. That is the only way to get to true resurrection. Questions: How has lent been for you this year? What have you learned about yourself? What have you learned about God? What does it do to for you to relive the story of Christ? How are you affected by hearing the Christ story? What sins need to be forgiven? How can you repent in time for Easter? What needs to be resurrected inside of you?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

March 22, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scripture for March 22nd: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-12; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33; theme: time for a new covenant; Song: Where he Leads me UMH 338 Jeremiah : All throughout lent, the Hebrew bible lesson has been about the promises of God. God made promises to the church fathers, and God does not break his promises, so they are still in effect today. And yet today’s passage is about a new covenant with God. the promises do not change, but the relationship that we have with God does. God says that the new covenant will not be written in stone, but will be written on our hearts. In order to make a covenant, something has to be cut. God says it will be our heart muscle. That hurts! Sometime being loyal to God hurts, but it is worth it. God makes this promise not just to individuals, but to all who are children of Abraham through faith. It is time to let go of the old and to embrace the new – our new hearts with a new master – God not our sins! John: The journey of lent is about following Jesus. We followed him to the cross, we followed him to be fishers of men, and now he invites us to follow him to death. In order to truly have new life, there has to be a death, there has to be pain. He knows that he is going to die, he asks us to die with him. He knows he will be resurrected, he asks us to be resurrected with him. Somehow things have got to change, and this is the process for change. When we hold on, things stay the same, when we let go and let God, it all falls into place. Jesus is asking su to trust him on a fantastic journey! Questions: What does it mean to have a covenant with God? How are God’s promises written on your heart? What instructions of God’s are written on your heart which you know automatically? Which ones do you still have to think about and read in order to do? How well do you follow Jesus? Are you willing to follow him to the death? Are you willing to follow him to resurrection?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

March 15, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scripture for March 15th: Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3,17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10;John 3:14-21; Theme: Our entire life is inside of Christ; Song: Because he Lives UMH 364 Ephesians : I think that this epistle is the best example of the good news that we have in the bible. I think that it’s message is so uplifting. It is a message total and complete grace. Paul explains to us that we are not bad people. But that there are forces inside of us that compel us to be selfish, to be unloving, and to do things that are not always in our best interest. God knows us, that is why he sent Jesus Christ. The work of saving us is in the cross, there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves. God cares for everyone, even those who will never understand what love is. It is that mercy that saves those who do have a relationship with God. When we live a life in thankfulness, we become an accomplishment of God and demonstrate God’s glory. John: The gospel lesson is a throwback to the old testament lesson. Moses knew what he needed to do in order to help his people. He needed to do things in order to save his people. Jesus did what he needed to do to save his people. It is just that there are more people who need to hear the message of Jesus. In this crazy world, we need to have something to believe in. Moses knew that he needed to create a symbol for the people to look up to. The cross is a symbol that we can look up to. The cross is more than a symbol of salvation, it is the basis of salvation. God knew what needed to be done to make a difference in the world. We have to lift up the cross, so that others can truly see the light. Questions: What does it mean to be dead, while you are still alive? How does Christ give life to us today? How are you God’s accomplishment? How do you lift up Christ to others? Are you a child of light or a child of darkness? What is the real difference?

Friday, February 6, 2015

February 15, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scripture for February 15th: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9; Theme: the brightness of Christ; Song: He is Exalted 2 Corinthians : In this book, Paul is prepping the congregation to be a giving congregation. What does it mean to give Christ our lives? What does it mean to give all that we have to Christ? If we give it all to God, what do we have left for ourselves? We have everything. When God gave us his son, he gave us all that he has. But listening to God, goes against listening to the world. Paul tells us that if we are followers of Christ it is critical that we give the good news to the people of this world. When we spread the gospel, we not being self serving, we are being God serving. We have witnessed the light, now it is to acknowledge what the light is and what the light is for. The light in our lives comes from a reflection of Christ. Mark: This is transfiguration Sunday. It is the Sunday before lent begins. We always read this story of when Jesus took his disciples up the mountain, God shown his light on Jesus, and everything changed. We have been looking at the light of Christ for the season of epiphany. Today it is time for us to listen, to the conversation of Christ, but we also need to think seriously about how God talks directly to our soul. What instructions is he giving us? Who is he speaking through? What changes do we need to make in our life? As the light of Christ shines, as God speaks, we have to respond in our lives. We can know that God holds our future, and that we must prepare ourselves through the lent of life. It is not time to speak what we know about God, it is time to just listen and be silent….. Questions: How do you preach about God to others? What are the differences between the message of Christ and the message of the world? What light is shining in your life that you know is Christ? What will you do for lent? How do you hope that your life will be changed for Easter?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

February 8, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scripture for February 8th: Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11,20; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39; Theme: The power of Christ to do ministry; song: I am Gonna sing when the spirit says sing – UMH 333 1 Corinthians : Of all of the things that Paul has in life, Jesus Christ is his greatest gift. Everything else pales in comparison: money, talent, friends, family, confidence. Life is intended to be wonderful, but life in Christ is intended to be so much better. Paul has a message that he wants to get to others, so that they can too see the glory of God in the life and service of Jesus Christ. That does not mean separating ourselves from the things in this life, it is involving ourselves in life. Paul intentionally worked as a tentmaker in the morning in order to develop relationships with others, and he taught and preached in the afternoon and evening when everyone else got off work. He was a partner with the gospel. Mark: Jesus is well into his ministry. Not only does he spend time with his disciples, he is also teaching the people, and healing them with the word. Jesus has a chance to help Peter’s mother return to her normal everyday life. And now he is preparing to go out to the world and to minister to the needs to others in other communities. The gospel is the same for all of us. You know all of us are filled with negative things (demons), and we all need to get the negative out and to replace it with the positive. That is why we go to church, that is why we pray, that is why we be seek Jesus into our lives. There are other communities who need to know that they have a savior. There are people in our community who need to know that they don’t have to live in darkness. Jesus Christ is a savior for all people, for all situations! Questions: How are you a partner with the gospel? How do you make it a part of your everyday life? How do you make sure that you share the gospel with others? Who in your community needs to know that light of Christ in their life? How can you spread the gospel to them? What demons are running rampant in our community today? What cam Christ do to bring out the devil for good?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

January 25, 2015

Breaking Open the Scripture Scripture for January 25th: Jonah 3:1-5,10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20; You can’t hide from destiny; Song: Rock of Ages UMH361 Jonah : This is a tale about the calling of a prophet, but also about the calling of a people. Jonah does not want to go to warn the people of Ninevah. We know that he runs away from his calling. How many of us think in our heads that there are certain people who are not worth saving? They don’t need to know the good news, and if I waste my time telling them they wont listen anyway. We forget that it is not our job to make them listen. That is God’s job. And God wants to save everybody. Thus God speaks to their hearts and prepares them to listen, when someone is able to speak. The people of ninevah realize that their only hope is to ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness. And that God’s grace was the only thing that saved them. Jonah needed to learn that lesson for himself, before he could pass that message on to others. God can do all things, God can melt all hearts. All are worthy of God’s salvation. Mark: This story is about a calling of a different kind. Jesus is building his disciple team by asking them to come and follow him. He is asking them to leave everything and to become fishers of men. Once again a calling is first to the person, and then to the people. We listen to and follow other people. In order to get others to trust God, we have to trust first. Jesus is still coming to people and saying come and follow me. God is doing a mighty things in the world. And he needs mighty people in order to do it. We all know that God can create without our help. The problem is the creation has gone awry, God does not need us, but we need God in order to get back into step with creation. Repentance is something that the people have to do. But in order to repent, someone has to show them the way. That is the point of being a disciple of Christ. Questions: What group of people are you convinced will never be saved? What can be said to get through to that group of people? How do you resist God’s call on your life? What is the consequences of that resistance? How does Christ convince you to come follow him? Where you be, if know one believed in you? Who needs your encouragement?