Sunday, December 25, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for January 1, 2016: Isaiah 63:7-9, Psalm 148, Hebrews 2:10-18; Matthew 2:13-23; theme for today: Epiphany light; Song: Hark the Herald angels Sing Isaiah: It is amazing how God always sends the right word for the right time. This verse tells us that God sent a messenger in times of distress to tell the people that they would be okay. He also told them what they needed to do and reminded them of God’s promises. Christmas is the right time for us to celebrate. For us to know that we are saved, and to go through the darkness without knowing that it was intended for us. So on New Year’s let us testify how good God has been and how we intend to allow God’s blessing in the new year. Let us know that God is still speaking to us to his people and to the world. That is what worship is all about sing, praise pray. Matthew: This is also epiphany – the time when that star made a difference and the wise men finally got it. There is a lot going on in our world this holiday season. This reminds us to pray for the children, to protect them and to guide them. May we be the stars that they are seeking, may we make a difference in thir lives. May we comfort the mothers who are crying. But more importantly may the star rise in your heart, and others see the light of Christ. Questions: What message do you need to hear this Christmas? What message do you need to pass on? How do you praise God in your ordinary life? What great light are you looking for, where do you see light in today’s darkness?
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for December 18th: Isaiah 7:10-16;Psalm 80: 1-7,17-19; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew1:18-25; Theme: Dare to Dream; Song: 240 Hark the Herald Angles Sing Isaiah: This is the time of year that we start to look at messages from God. We want to know how things are going to change. The bible says that we should not get stuck on signs, but that is all that we can think of. We want some sign, that things are about to get better. The signs are all around us. God is always present in our lives, God is always working to bring about the world that he intended. God himself gave Ahaz a sign that things were getting better-a baby would be born, and the baby would be named Emmanuel - meaning God is present. The child will grow and learn as any other baby, but he will do special things as he grows. And eventually, you will see that it was God who bought you through all along. Matthew: Matthew is the only gospel where the birth of Jesus is portrayed. This story starts with a dream. Joseph could have stopped all of this. He could have put Mary on the street when he found out she was pregnant. But he had a dream where an angel told him to be understanding. Perhaps he had studied Isaiah in bible study that night,where he learned that salvation comes through a child. This was some story that Mary told. She did not mess with another man, she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. What would have happened if Joseph did not get his own message? How would the world be different. Where would our hope be, how could have think of anything ever changing? We can be grateful that God has a way of leading us and telling us what his will is. We just have to learn to listen to your dreams. Questions: How do you know that God is present in your life? What messages has God given you in your dreams? How do you live the Christmas story today? What hope do you have as you see all of the new babies coming into the world? What promise will they bring? Do you believe in miracles? What miracles have been present in your life?
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for December 11th: Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 1:46b-55; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11; Theme: What do you see?; Song: 196 Come Thou Long Expected Jesus Isaiah: Isaiah gives us an idea of what the world will look like when God is present. We are all hoping for things to change. For life to be better. But we are reminded that the only way for God to be present is for us to live as if he is already here. For us to make sure that the scripture is written in our hearts and we are actually living according to the principles set out in the bible. When that happens, not only will our community change, but everyone around the world will flock to the city to see how it is done. God’s plan can happen in Englewood, just as well as in Jerusalem. We can vow to live in peace. But we have to convince others the live in our dream. That is what Christmas is all about – spreading God’s vision to the rest of the world who does not go to church. It all starts with Imagine if….. Matthew: How many times in your life have you asked Jesus if he is the one, or should I expect another? The truth is we test Jesus each and every day. We try to make sense of our lives and circumstances everyday. Who is Jesus to you? Do you even recognize your savior when you see him? Do you see Jesus as that baby crying while you are trying to concentrate, or the little child running around needing discipline, or the friend in the hospital needing a visit, or the homeless man asking for food right now. Jesus comes to us in all shapes and sizes. We have to be prepared and ready. People started to see salvation in a man in the wilderness, crying out to repent. He got so popular that he was put in jail. People knew that a change was necessary. And they pursued it. When you look at other people what do you see? You should see Jesus giving you a message, to love, to understand to help, to participate. Questions: What would Englewood look like if God were present in the way we treated one another? How can you give God’s vision to others this Christmas? What has to change before God can get through to the world? How can you recognize Jesus in this modern age? When you see the people in front of you, what do you see? What do you need to repent of?
Sunday, November 6, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for November 13th: 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: For the last few weeks we have been dealing with scriptures that tell us how to survive after a crisis. They are words of hope that tell us to hold on. This is not the time to give up. These words of Isaiah tell us that the bad part is over, now it is time to start over. Things have changed, and we have the golden opportunity to start anew. Our spirits are new. We can forget about the things behind us and look forward to the things ahead. God needs us to be in action and to work at rebuilding the world the way it is supposed to be. God always hears our prayers and bad times always end. But we cant be so wounded that we are not able to pick up and go forward when the daylight comes. Luke: Jesus continues that theme of the end of the world as we know it coming. No matter how bad the end is, when it is over, you are going to have to pick of he pieces and move on. Jesus reminds us to stay focused, to trust in him. To know that all of this is just temporary. We have been told the end of the story, so that we can have hope. Jesus gives a list of things that will happen, and in life all of those things seem to be coming true. When we look at violence and hatred, it is easy for us to be afraid. But Jesus last words to us – By holding fast your will gain your lives. This is not the end of the story. Questions: What are your hopes and dreams for a new world? What needs to be change? What needs to stay the same? What work has God given to you to make a difference? Do you believe the end is near? Has all of the things that Jesus predicted happened? What helps you to hold on in tough times?
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for November 6th: Daniel 7:1-3,15-18; Psalm 149, Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31; Theme: Remembering our Saints; Song: Holy, Holy Holy UMH 64 Daniel: Many people are afraid of this book. It is the precursor for the Book of Revelation. And Daniel forsee’s a very definite future for both his captors and his own people. But this is more a book of visions. Daniel receives a vision of the future from God and he is just passing it on. As we think of our ancestors on this day, let us remember their visions. We are the people who are intended to make those visions come true. Our forefathers and mothers may have a better incite on the world and its events then we do, they have seen it all before. They more disturbed by what they see, but we in the living world have the power to change it. Luke: Luke is talking about the promise of heaven. Those who are qualified to go to heaven are those who follow in Jesus footsteps in any circumstance. Heaven is for those who earn it. The life that we live on earth is not meant to be ideal and perfect. It is full of challenges that prepare us for heaven. Heaven is for those who dare to be different. We can be grateful for the rules and discipline that our parents taught us. Many children are not learning those same values. But those values come straight for this verse, to do the right thing in all circumstances, you will be blessed in the end. Questions: Who is your family always had visions of the future? How did you live out those visions? How do those visions inform our actions? What important values were present in your family? Why were those values important? Do you believe in heaven? How does your belief affect the way in which you treat people?
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for October 30th: Habukkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4, Psalm 119:137-144; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4,11-12; Luke 19:1-10; Theme: God loves the sinner; Song: UMH 451 Habakkuk: The prophet is living in a world that is wrought with violence and destruction. Not only does he see the destruction of everything that he and his family care about, but he also sees the destruction of everything that God cares about. He can’t help but ask God how long will He allow all of this to go on. Perhaps God is not really paying attention to what is going on, or perhaps God does not care about what it going on. God does speak, and God says to wait, be patient. God does see and God will give you a vision to make a change, and if God gives a vision, it is important to make the vision plain to everyone around you. They are waiting also. Luke: Election Day is coming up, and it is important for us to pray for our politicians and to remember that God loves them too. Like Zaccheus, it is common for us to use crooked and politician in the same sentence. Some deserve that reputation, and some don’t. but perhaps Jesus chose to visit Zaccheus’s house to help us to understand that God wants all people to be saved. God didn’t just come for our friends, he came for everyone. And if Jesus can turn around the crooked politicians, then God can save anyone and everyone. Sometimes they want to do right, they just need some encouragement from the Lord. Questions: What destruction of your neighborhood do you see now? What do you wish God would do to make it different? What vision has God given you to make a difference? What and who do we need to pray for this election season? How can you encourage your politicians to do the right thing?
Friday, October 7, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for October 16th: Jeremiah 31:27-34; Psalm 119: 97-104; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8; theme: Laity Sunday ; Song: This is a Day of New Beginnings Jeremiah: This is the last week that we will deal with Jeremiah this year. Jeremiah has a way of turning our understanding of life upside down. He encourages us to see the good in the bad things of life and to realize the bad we bring on ourselves by trying to feel good. He encourages us to come out of our skin and to think of others. And to find hope in the darkest of situations. Our text for today starts out by saying that the day is coming. It is not hear yet, but it is coming. We will realize all that we have been striving for. Not only will things get better, but God will make a new covenant with a new people. People will live right, because they think right and praise God right. We can look forward to that day. Jeremiah ends his message with the most popular verse in the bible – This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Luke: This is another word of hope and trust in the Lord. The widow prays and prays, and the judge gives her justice. I heard a story of a mother who walked into a dealership and prayed over a car every day. The dealer gave it to her. If a dealer who does not go to church can do that, imagine what God can do if you pray to him every day? There is a lot going on in our world that we need to pray about. God wants us to pray, God wants to answer our prayers. But the world has gotten so far away from prayer. When Jesus comes will he find us on our knees or standing on our own two feet. Luke encouraged us to stay faithful and to pray. Questions: If you could pray for a perfect world, what would it look like? How do you rejoice in the present? What gives you hope? What signs of hope do you see in the world? What are you praying for now? What discourages you from praying?
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for October 2nd: Lamentations 1:1-6; Psalms 137; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10 2 Timothy: For the last 3 weeks we have been looking at 1 Timothy. For the next 4 weeks we will look at 2 Timothy. October is a very good time to think about what it means to be a Christian leader, since this is the time that we also celebrate lay leadership in the church. In first Timothy, we looked at what it means to be ordained. 2nd Timothy is about leaders in general. Paul has sent his protégé Timothy home to be a minister. Now he is worried that Timothy has gotten bored and has started to slip in his faithfulness. So Paul tells him that he needs to rekindle his faithfulness. He needs to return to the faith that he learned from his mother and grandmother. He needs to be reminded of the power of Jesus Christ to light any fire. The fire of faith is most important in all parts of life. He reminds Timothy of all that Christ has done for our lives. When we are feeling defeated, we can recount what Christ has done for us and be revived. Luke: This week, the gospel demonstrates the words of the epistle. The disciples also seem to be in a low point in their faith. The first thing that they ask Jesus is to increase their faith. Jesus says that if you have the faith the size of a musdtard seed, you can work miracles and do powerful things. God is not be dependent upon our energy to make a difference. God can make all of the difference in the world all by himself. He also reminds us that we should not do good for a reward, but because we are faithful to what we are told to do. We do what we are told by the master. This is not just a lesson for leaders, but for all Christians. We all have a job to do, no matter how insignificant we think we are. God has need of us all. There is nothing that can take God’s faith away from us. There should be nothing that can take our faith in God away. We never give up. We never have an excuse not to obey the rules of God. Questions: What leadership positions do you have in the church? What leadership positions do you have in the world? What rules do you follow when you are in charge? Who has the ultimate authority in your life? What are some things that happen in life that make you feel discouraged? What do you need to do in order to get your faith back in order? What is going on in your life that requires a little more faith from you?
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for September 18th: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1; Psalm 79:1-9; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13; Theme: pray for everyone: Song: This is my song UMH 437 Jeremiah: Last week was a warning. Today is the real thing. The destruction has happened. People are at a lost and disillusioned with their leaders. But this is not just about the leaders. When things were going well they went along with it, not that things are bad they are devastated. All Along Jeremiah feels their pain, their pain is his pain. When we are in pain, we look for relief, but sometimes there is no relief. The only way out of the crisis is through the crisis. We have to remember that God loves us. We have to remember that God does not take away the suffering, but he will suffer with us. God’s presence is our balm in Gilead. 1 Timothy: Timothy spells out what it means to be a Christian. A Christian will pray for everyone, including our leaders. We lift all people and all situations in prayer. We all need some kind of prayer. Prayer comes in many forms. We pray individually, but it is important for us to pray as a congregation. God hers the cries of the faithful. When we come together in community, it is prayer that should unite us. Even in the midst of many voices, there is only one God, so there should only be one faith. Sometimes our common prayer is all that holds us together. Questions: What trials are you going through? How do you feel God’s presence with you in this difficult situation? Who do you pray for? Who do you not pray for? When was the last time when God answered a prayer for you? What difference did that make in your life?
Sunday, March 27, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for April 3rd: Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 150; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31 Theme: Jesus appears Song: Soon and Very Soon UMH 706 Acts: It is important for us to read the book of Acts during the Easter season. It shows the transformation of the disciples. This is what happens when they come out of the upper room mentioned in John. They are confident to challenge what they see going on and they pay the price for it. But they also change the world, and bring in lots of new disciples. The very people who brought Jesus to trial are now questioning the disciples. They killed him, so why are they continuing on his crime. The disciples explain that overall they have to obey God. And God has called them to reach out to others. They are examples to us that when we obey God, the Holy Spirit will forgive our sins, prepare us, and even work ahead of us to make a difference in the world. John: This is the first encounter with Jesus after the resurrection. He appears to the disciples at their biggest time of need. They are locked up in the upper room. They are convinced that all is lost and they fear for their lives. Thomas is honest about his doubts. This is still all a bunch of nonsense. Jesus realizes how important it is to guide them and to bring them forward. He also realizes how important it is to bring us forward. He tells us that we are not as lucky as Thomas. We will not be able to feel the nails in his hands. We will have to read the words and to go forward anyway. We still have a chance to see the spirit move and do its work in our world and in our time. Questions: How do you see Jesus’ presence in the world today? Who would challenge Jesus ministry today? How do you depend on the spirit in your life and work? What can you learn from the disciples about spreading the gospel? Who needs to hear the message the most?
Sunday, March 6, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for March 13th: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:4-14; John 12:1-8; Theme: Keep going forward; Song: What Wondrous Love is this UMH 292 Isaiah: During the season of lent, we have talked about what it means to be reconciled with God. We have talked about coming to God’s table to get fed, we have talked about putting old things aside and making everything new. Now it is time to talk about putting it all together. We don’t have to wait until we go to heaven in order to celebrate with God. The messiah came to this world to make it possible for us to celebrate in our lives. We don’t have to wait until everything is perfect to live our lives in Christ, we can start right here and now. In the midst of our pain, our suffering, our sin, our yearning we can start to have hope. Hope is the doorway for the spirit to come in and to make a difference. God is telling us to just keep going forward and to not look back. When we are renewed, we do not need to be nostalgic. Life is not about going back, it is about creating a new future and stepping into it. John: March is the month of celebrating women. It is a time of acknowledging that God uses women, just as much as he uses men. Women were disciples of Jesus also. This is the story of the woman who mourned over Jesus and gave him some expensive perfume to anoint his feet. She showed her deep devotion to her savior. Of course the men felt that all that she was doing was a waste of time. But Jesus saw it as preparing him for the next steps in his journey. There are always people who do not understand devotion and who will think that it is a waste of time. There are always people who do not think it is necessary to sit at the feet of Jesus. There is too much mission work in the world to be done. But we have to do both, first we have to sit with Jesus in order to have the resources to go out in mission. What do you have in your alabaster jar? And how do you give it to Jesus? Questions: What old habits do you need to put aside for Christ? What are the new things that you are willing to replace it with? What new things is Christ doing for you? What about the world? How do you spend your treasure on Christ?
Saturday, February 27, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for March 6th: Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15: 1-3,11-32; theme: the stewardship practices of lent; Song: What Wondrous Love is this? UMH 292 2 Corinthians: The whole point of this Lenten journey is to be reconciled with Christ. It is for us to get out life together. No matter who far we think we come, we still have so far to go. It is time for us to become a new creature in Christ. It all starts with us, no really, it starts with God. God calls out to us, and waits for us to answer. For is to realize that we need to be forgiven. But when God forgives us, it is because he expects us to forgive others. Paul says that we are to be ambassadors of Christ. Don’t hold the trespasses of others against them. It is your forgiveness that helps them to realize that God is calling for them also. Show mercy to others. Instead of just arguing with others, why not try to solve the conflict. Come up with a solution that serves both parties, instead of trying to win. We are in unity and reconciled, then everybody wins. Luke: This is a very old story with a lesson that we need to learn time and time again. The power of unconditional love and the reminder that we are all in need of it. We are all the prodigal son with a prodigal father. We don’t realize how good we have it, until we lose it. We are spoiled children trying to make our way in this world. We have to realize that even though we may call our belongings ours, they are all a gift from God. We did nothing to deserve this love, we can do nothing to lose it. And those hard times in life are intended to bring us closer to home, not farther way. When we stop complaining, when we stop worrying, when we stop wishing for other things. Then we can settle down and do our work and make a difference in this world. And understand our place in God’s family. Questions: Where in your life do you need to receive mercy? Who do you need to show mercy? How is God working to reconcile you right now? How do you listen to God’s call for your life? What in your life are you taking for granted? How can you thank God without having to lose that thing? How can you say think you to God for giving you grace?
Saturday, February 20, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for February 28th: Isaiah 55:1-9; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9; Theme: service , Song: There is a Balm in Gilead UMH 375 Isaiah: Fasting is a major part of the Lenten experience. Some of us are hesitant to deprive ourselves of something. Fasting is more than doing without. It is anticipation of what is to come. It is preparing yourself for a feast. These words are preparing for a feast, not doing without. There are lot of people who really don’t have what they need. There are people who are really thirsty. Isaiah is assuring people that when God comes, everyone will have all that they need. This verse is a song that would have been sung. The last words say that our ways are not God’s ways. We cannot speak for God. We can work for God, but God is still in control! But we can celebrate that God’s plans are for us to have the best life possible in this world and the next! Let’s get ready to party! Luke: This verse continues our themes for lent, fasting, repentance, service. Jesus is told about those who Pilate killed while they were offering sacrifices. Jesus sympathizes, but also reminds us that the same fate is in store for us as long as we are sinners. We have to not only repent, but we have to change our lives in order to be prepared for the great feast. We don’t have to look at this text as a threat. Jesus continues to talk about a fig tree that did not produce fruit. Jesus destroyed it in favor of the fig tree that was able to produce. If we are faithful in our hearts and souls then we will always produce fruit. If we are faithful with just our mouths, then things will not turn out so well. Fasting is to help us to get in touch with what is going on in our souls, so that our hearts can produce fruit. Questions: Why is it so hard for you to fast? What can you do to get better at it? What is it that you thirst for in your life? How can you prepare for God to quench that thirst? How are you producing fruit in your life? What do you need to repent of in our service to God?
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Breaking Open the Scripture Scriptures for February 21st: Genesis 15:1-12,17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35; Theme: second Sunday of Lent: Song: Great is Thy Faithfulness UMH 140 Philippians: What does it mean to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God? Paul uses terms that any Roman citizen would be familiar with, but he redefines them for the Kingdom of God. That is what the ministry of Jesus was all about – transforming us from citizens of this world, to citizens of God’s world. Jesus could have very well taken claim to this earthly kingdom. That is what a lot of people wanted him to do. But he refused. He wanted us to expect something more than this. Paul’s biggest advice to us is a reminder that we are to stand firm and persevere. We are to endure the troubles of this world and wait for something better. Jesus came into this world, so that we could realize for ourselves that there is something else, if we just hold on and trust God. Luke: Jesus mourns and weeps for the city of Jerusalem, much like we mourn for the city of Chicago today. They are killing in Chicago, and Jesus says that Jerusalem is the only place that will kill its prophets. Jesus is warned that if he hangs around too long that he will be killed. They tell him to get out of Jerusalem before it is too late. Instead of running away, Jesus weeps and mourns for a city that thinks nothing of killing its prophets. He has no plans to stop his ministry, he cannot afford to hide, not now. We cannot afford to stop ministering for the city of Chicago. Like Jesus we have to cast out demons and heal the sick. Jesus sees all that we are doing. Jesus sees all that we are going through to do it. Jesus will fulfill all of the work that we do and bless us for doing it in his name. Questions: Who do you imitate as a role model? How is Jesus your role model in living your life? What are the things that you have to endure to serve Christ? What is your prayer for the city of Chicago? Who or what kills the prophets of this town? What blessings do you receive for remaining faithful to Christ?