Offertory Prayer

Each month's Offertory Prayers includes an "Invitation to the Offering" (see below) along with a digital image for those who might want to use it. We hope you will find this a helpful way to remind the people in your pews that their offering travels to many places to make a powerful difference in the lives of people they may never meet. You can find great stories of the difference our giving makes at http://umcgiving.org.

Invitation to the Offering

Your offering last week empowered ministry within our congregation and in response to the needs of our community. It also helped support the work of ministries beyond the local church, such as the support we give to maintaining a connection with 100 United Methodist-related Colleges and 13 United Methodist Seminaries. Some of these colleges are large, well know institutions such as Duke, Boston University, Southern Methodist University (SMU), Syracuse University, American University in Washington DC and Emory University in Atlanta. Others, while not as large, are highly respected and have long lists of distinguished alumnae. Whether large or small, they all bear the Methodist DNA to this day, living out United Methodist compassion. We saw this last year when it was Emory University that became the center for Ebola treatment in the U.S. working to save those infected and finding new ways to stop the spread of this devastating disease. These kind of cooperative efforts across our connection, thanks to the way the people of The United Methodist Church live and give connectionally. I invite you to give generously as we worship God through sharing our gifts, tithes and offerings.

Learn more about the colleges, universities and theological schools of the UMC: http://www.umc.org/directory/schools-seminaries

July 5, 2015 – Sixth Sunday after Pentecost / in Kingdomtide
O Lord our God, our talents and gifts are so insufficient to our challenges. We rejoice that your grace is sufficient for us and for the body of Christ, the church. You reveal that power is made perfect in weakness. Help us to receive this truth. When we face hardships, persecution and difficulties for your sake, may we trust that you are at work to help us and the world. Use these offerings to strengthen our witness as disciples of Jesus Christ, for we pray in his name. Amen. (2 Cor 12:2-10)

July Offertory Prayers were written by the Rev.Rosanna Anderson, Associate Director of Stewardship at Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Eulogy, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 14:1-24

In a continuing attempt to defeat Trypho, King Demetrius led an army into Media. When the Persian king heard about this, he had Demetrius arrrested.

This war chronicle is interrupted by an eulogy of Simon. He is to be remembered for his effectiveness in war and in peace. 

Not only his people but also the Spartans recognized his achievements.

The Oxford Bible Commentary on the Apocrypha lists the accomplishments cited in the eulogy: broadening of the borders; caring for peace; security and material prosperity; caring for the law and the temple. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The beginning of independence, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 13:31-53

Simon chooses to affiliate with King Demetrius rather than the treacherous Trypho. After receiving a request for relief, Demetrius promises Simon to make peace and reduce the taxes that had been imposed. Israel was finally free from Gentile rule.

Simon, who was high priest and the commander of the army, and the leader of the people, besieged Gaza. When they were able to break into the city, the residents rushed out to ask Simon for peace and mercy. Simon agreed but first cleansed the houses in which idols were located, He then built a house there for himself. His next accomplishment was to take over the citadel.

What idols do we need to get out of our houses?

Great celebration that a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel. Simon decreed that they should celebrate this every year.

Simon made his son John commander of all the forces.

No leader can stay in power forever, but not every leader makes preparation for his inevitable succession.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Death of Jonathan, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 13:1-30

Simon, the last of the brothers, gathered his fearful people, reminding them of how his brothers had led them through wars and promised vengeance. The people responded, "You are our leader; what you say to us we will do."

In an attempt to get Jonathan back, Simon paid the ransom demanded by Trypho. Instead of returning Jonathan, Trypho killed him.

Is there any way to deal with a treacherous enemy?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Capture of Jonathan, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 12:24-50

Hearing that King Demetrius was returning with an even larger force, Jonathan led his army to meet them in Hamath (Syria?). He sent spies into the camp who reported back that Demetrius' army was going to attack that night. Jonathan's army stayed up all night ready for battle. When the enemy heard that Jonathan's army was prepared to attack them, they fled, leaving fires kindled in the camp so as to make it look like they were still there.

Simon traveled to Joppa, taking it over because he had heard rumors was to be a stronghold protecting Demetrius' army.

Returning to Jerusalem, Jonathan convened with the elders on ways to protect themselves from Demetrius. They increased the height of the walls around Jerusalem, erected a high barrier between the citadel and the city, repaired broken walls. Simon fortified an outpost in the foothills.

The Greek general Typho wanted to become king. Thinking that Jonathan might oppose this effort, he looked for ways to kill him. Jonathan amassed a large army in defense. Typho pretended to be his friend.  Jonathan fell for the ruse, sent much of his army home, then was captured.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Letters to Rome and Sparta, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 12:1-23

After success in battle even after the desertions, Jonathan decided it was time to reforge the agreements with Rome and Sparta. Or, with the confidence instilled in him because of his recent victory, he decided it was a good time to reforge the agreements with those two more powerful nations. Or, Rome as a nation is steady, but it does change leaders so it would be appropriate to ensure that the current leader agreed with the agreement made by a previous one (I don't know much about Sparta but assume their situation might be similar).

Interesting (a word for "I don't know what to do with this information) is the assertion by the Oxford Bible Commentary, on the Apocrypha, that the letter or the previous one to Sparta may not be authentic.

What do we do with the idea that part of Scripture may have been written to make a point about what to do now rather than to report literally what happened then?

But, the commentary goes on to point out that it is interesting that the Jews want to remind Sparta of their common ancestry.

I'm considering how it can still make a difference in choosing allies if we have a prior connection with them, or if we think they are somehow like us.

Jonathan attempted to confirm alliances with the powerful nations, Rome and Sparta.

In a letter to Sparta, he asserted that the Jews had family ties with them, "We therefore remember you constantly at festivals and on other appropriate days, at our sacrifices we offer and in our prayers."

The letter asserted that the Jews when faced by attack from their enemies had not wanted to bother the Spartans and that their victories had come from help from Heaven.

He appended a letter sent to Onias he reminded the Spartans of their common ancestry from Abraham and concluded that they would share ownership of land and livestock.





Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ask God's help and do something yourself, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 11:54-74

Support  of the aspirant, Antiochus VI, includes soldiers that had been discharged by Demetrius. After routing Demetrius, Antiochus makes Jonathan one of the king's Friends and the courtesies accompanying. He further appointed Jonathan's brother Simon a governorship.

The army of Syria gathered to Jonathan as allies. OTOH, when the people of Gaza resisted, he besieged the city, burned its suburbs and plundered them. The people of Gaza then agreed to make peace. He accepted the offer but also took the sons of their rulers as hostages sending them to Jerusalem.

Another battle does not go well. Almost all of his army deserts. Only two remain. Jonathan prayed. Turning back to the battle, he routs the enemy. When his fleeing soldiers see this, they return and join in the pursuit. As many as 3,000 foreigners fell that day, and Jonathan returned to Jerusalem.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Trying to benefit from someone else's problem, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 11:38-53

King Demetrius didn't have peace for very long. Insurrection among his troops aided the attempt to replace him with Antiochus, the young son of Alexander. Adding to the bad situation was that Jonathan was not satisfied with the agreement that Demetrius had offered Judea. Jonathan wanted the troops out of the citadel and strongholds because they were not peaceful. Bargaining with Jonathan, Demetrius asked for and got troops to aid his defense. When the king was attacked, the Jews did rally to his defense, accomplishing a major victory.

Although he was very grateful for a while, Demetrius eventually turned against Jonathan and the promises he had made to him.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Favorable changes, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 11:20-37

Jonathan publicly made a threat against the king's authority over Jerusalem by laying siege against the citadel. When some dissidents reported to King Demetrius, Jonathan agreed to meet with him but would not give up the siege.

Although some of his own people kept making complaints against him Jonathan won the favor of the king who issued a proclamation that Judea, with the addition of three other districts would be released from paying some taxes.

Note that Judea was given property from Samaria and the distinction between who pays royal taxes and where they worship.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Giving up to get, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 11:1-19

The conflict between Egypt and the eastern provinces (Seleucids) continues. The king of Egypt, Ptolemy, set out for Syria feigning peacefulness but as he entered the towns but stationed forces as a garrison in each town. In Azotos, he was shown the destruction caused by Jonathan's forces. Ptolemy continued on his travels being met by Jonathan at Joppa who then accompanied him for a while.

Ptolemy gained control of several coastal cities. To aid in his conflict with Alexander, he elicited the support of King Demetrius. Ptolemy told him that he was sorry that he had given his daughter to Alexander.. He said, "I'll take back my daughter who I gave to Alexander and give her to you instead." And he did.

Ptolemy entered Antioch and put on two crowns--that of Egypt and that of Asia. When Alexander heard about this, he left the battle he was engaged in at Cilicia (Turkey, I think) and headed toward Ptolemy. When he saw how formidable Ptolemy's forces were, Alexander fled into Arabia. He was killed there and so was Ptolemy three days later. Demetrius became king.

Powerful kingdoms are battling over territory within which the Jews resides. What options are there for the Jews? How disturbing to think of using a family member as a hostage in bargaining

Friday, June 26, 2015

Success in battle, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 10:67-89

About five years later, Demetrius, son of the defeated Demetrius, assembled an army to avenge his father's losses. He challenged Jonathan to meet him in battle. Jonathan was successful.

After routing the enemy, Jonathan burned the city and the surrounding towns and the temple of their god, Dagon. The number of those killed by sword or by fire was 8,000. He returned with his army to Jerusalem with a large amount of booty. King Alexander sent him a golden buckle, a visible acknowledgement of being one of the King's Kinsmen.

In order to resist the aggressors, Jonathan had to leave the hill country, suitable to the tactics of his army, and instead, in response to taunts from the enemy general, to go down to the plain. What motivates us to try something different that is also something difficult?