Invitation to the Offering
The offering you made 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 that reach people who are in desperate need to feel the touch of love and reconciliation. Through the World Service Fund, a talented group of global communicators, lead by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee, directs messaging that reaches people who have never set foot in one of our churches. Through billboards, digital advertising, video spots, radio and more, they give people outside the church a glimpse of who we are and what matters to us as Christians. This ministry happens thanks to the generous support of United Methodists like you. I invite you once again to give generously as we worship God through the sharing of our gifts, tithes and offerings.
Learn more about the work United Methodist Communications atwww.umcom.org and www.rethinkchurch.org.
God of our deepest joys and Alleluias! We sing our Resurrection songs this morning, not because of a miraculous historical event, but because you continue to bring life out of death and hope out of despair! When you rolled away the stone and let light enter Christ's tomb, you entrusted each of us who follow him to be bearers of light into the dark places of our world – carriers of the inexhaustible hope into lives filled with despair. May the joy of this morning, of the triumph of the Resurrection, empower us in our living out of these tasks, and in our generosity to support others who serve in our name. In the name of the risen Christ, we pray. Amen. (John 20:1-18)
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Repeat from an earlier post:
"O God," the Psalmist sings, "When I consider your glory, when I consider your power, when I consider what you have created, I wonder why you bother with us."
God is greater, much greater than human beings. Yet, don't get too humble. God has a job for us.
Many of us can use this psalm to prod us or to assure us of the value of what we're trying to do--or, ought to be. We're responsible for maintaining, caring for, being responsible for, God's creations--human and earthly.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
So God created humankind inhis image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).
In the chapter 2 version of creation (2:4b-25), the order of what gets created when is different from chapter 1's version. For example, God puts a man on earth then plants a garden.
Another difference is the one that is the focus of this week's Old Testament lection that has been chosen to respond to the Gospel lesson--that is, that the woman is not created at the same time as man, as in Genesis 1, but rather is created to serve a need, a need of the man.
Unlike Chapter 1, God sees that something is not good: "It's not good for a man to be alone. He needs a partner," God says.
And, as soon as Adam saw the woman that God had carved out for him, he was grateful, "Finally, someone for me."
Living alone is tough. There's something in us humans that needs and benefits from a relationship.
Monday, September 28, 2009
They were asking a hard question hoping to catch Jesus in an embarassing answer. Would he stick to Scripture?
In that particular confrontation, he did, and even quoted some additional verses.
And, we're left with a disconcerting lesson. Matthew modified it some. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians did, too.
We continue to struggle with the need to obey God's will in troubling situations.
And we continue to see instances of modern-day Pharisees trying to embarass other Christians.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Also, James reminds us that being a Christian is more than that me-and-Jesus thing. He says to confess our sins to each other. To each other?
And not just pray for my healing, my gratitude, my sins, but also I'm to pray for yours.
James uses the Scripture to bolster his teaching: Remember Elijah.
Tangent: Shelly Cochran in the Guide to the Revised Common Lectionary makes this comment about one of the passages skipped by the lectionary, a diatribe against rich people:
"The words here are strong, but they also reflect an important truth, that the Christian faith is not really at home in places of wealth."
Saturday, September 26, 2009
This psalm gives us words to express gratitude and reminds us to whom we owe our rescue.
If God had not been on our side, we would have been swallowed up by enemies--human ones and ones of nature.
We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped.
Although this psalm is written for a community, individuals can also find solace and suggestion in it. When you have escaped from whatever snare had trapped you, you can pray these words. When you are still entrapped, you can use them as a reminder that help does come.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Assimilation seemed to be the safest option. But, it was not the option that Mordecai and Esther chose.
They risked and won.
Sometimes that's the way it turns out.
This story can be reassuring to people who feel oppressed by the laws of the country in which they are living. It's not so reassuring for people who are in power.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Their need to be restrictive (in control?) was not the first time. The elders in Moses time had warned him that a non-elder was prophesying. Moses said they were limited if they thought God's power was so limited.
We still have difficulty in discerning who is speaking for the Lord.
Or, we still have difficulty in accepting that someone who isn't part of our own congregation can be connected with the Lord.
As a help, we could remember the words of Psalm 19--the judgments of the Lord are true, righteous, desirable. We should pay heed to them.
If we do pay attention to God's words and wisdom, then we can evaluate human words and wisdom. We can even pray the psalmist's prayer to be cleared of any movement away from those words and wisdom in our own ways.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Then Moses began to complain. "Why have you landed me with all this responsibility? I'm really tired of their griping. Where am I supposed to find the kind of food that they say they want now? This job is too big for me."
The Lord told Moses to accept some help. So, he did.
Moses chose some helpers. God provided the spirit.
In this week's gospel lesson, the disciple John had expressed concern about the legitimacy of an exorcist who had been claiming that his efforts were in the name of Jesus. Jesus told him that there was enough work to go around.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Was Mark speaking to the early church in terms that they would recognize from their own lives; i.e., were mutilation and drowning punishments used by Romans? Was he warning them that disobedience to Christ would have an even more severe punishment?(I've been reading Morna Hooker).
The punishments listed are dire. Consider the crime--impeding someone's progress. And let us remember verses 38-40--Jesus has a pretty loose definition of following.
Monday, September 21, 2009
We can consider several modern-day applications:
sectarianism--should your denomination be allowed to claim to be part of the Body of Christ?
Another problem today is how restrictive should each denomination be in detailing membership requirements? Who gets to decide who is a Christian?
Who gets to decide who gets to join my particular congregation?
Are only Christians allowed to do the work of God in God's name?
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Well, why can't we?
James seems to be telling me that I'm not going to be able to get along with anybody as long as I'm worried about my own self too much.
Give thought to what God wants.
Is there any hope for me?
James says "Of course. Just give up what the devil wants and start wanting what God wants."
I'm wondering how the town hall meetings we saw in August would have been different if the protestors had first read this epistle from James before showing up. How about the teabaggers? OK, how about the people that are appalled by them?
Can it be as simple as James makes it out to be: Resist the devil and he's beaten. Draw near to God and God's with you.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
And, according to James, it's pretty obvious if somebody is wise. If you're envious or selfishly ambitious, you're not.
Moreover, your envy and selfishness harms everybody. (I'm wondering if envious and selfish people worry about this.)
How God wants us to be, according to James, is peaceful, merciful, impartial, and not hypocritical. Perhaps, if I would try to attain and act out those characteristics, then I wouldn't be envious or selfish. Or, if I weren't so envious and selfish, then I would find it easier to practice peace, mercy, and impartiality, rather than hypocricy.
Friday, September 18, 2009
"Don't listen to the wicked," we are cautioned. "Don't take the path that sinners tread."
Rather, the wise are supposed to pay attention to what God wants.
In the US, we are spending a lot of effort trying to reform our healthcare system. As we judge what our Congress is offering, can we use, as part of our evaluation system, what God would want for us, even all of us?
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Then someone pointed out to be the underlying danger in these verses. Must a woman be a wife to be worthy? Must a wife work from dawn until past dark to be worthy? Can her husband be proud of her if she isn't busy all the time.
She is praised for her house work and also for her work outside of the house. Yet, none of these worthy attributes she has shown has deemed her fit to take a seat among the elders in the gate.
These prayers were written by David S. Bell, former Director of Stewardship with GBOD. He currently serves as Vice-President of Stewardship with the United Methodist Foundation of Michigan. You may contact him by visiting www.DavidSBell.org.
Copyright 2009 David S. Bell. Any local church, regardless of denominational affiliation, or any United Methodist organization may reprint any or all of these prayers provided that the author is cited.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The Bible gives us permission to complain--moreover, to complain to God. After all, 1/3 of the psalms can be classified as laments (a politer word than complaints).
This lament from Jeremiah is an example. Jeremiah expresses his realization that he is under threat, that he is like a lamb being led to slaughter, that he has been plotted againt.
He is complaining to God, and he is asking God to make things right.
Jeremiah felt abandoned. Jeremiah turned to God for help.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
But the ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away and made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his company. For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves, "Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end, and no one has been known to return from Hades.
"Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord.
He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father.
Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God's child, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected."
Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hoped for the wages of holiness, nor discerned the prize for blameless souls;
Several questions arose for me when I read this passage; e.g., How disturbing are the righteous among the rest of us? Is a righteous person an inconvenience? Do we agree that the unrighteous can even see God's help?
Gene Tucker in Preaching through the Christian YearB offers a good analysis of this passage:
The text contrasts immorality with death, setting both into a moral context. Righteousness is life. Those who are righteous live. Because God's righteousness is eternal, those who live out of that image of God will live eternally.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Mark tells us that Jesus restricted this knowledge to the disciples because he didn't want anyone else to know it. I'm wondering if he really needed to be so restrictive about the information. After all, the disciples not only did not understand what he meant; they were afraid to ask him to explain it all to them.
Something apparently they did understand was priority. They argued about who was the greatest. Jesus answered this concern by giving a lesson and an example. An example that told them what greatest meant to him.
He said "Whoever wants to be first must be last and servant of all." He then showed them a little child and said, "When you welcome the weak and defenseless, you are welcoming me."
Not only are we great when we help the weak, we also see him in the weak.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
When you are aware of bad things happening in the congregation, what is your responsibility? Please note that I'm not talking about the many times that we don't agree with someone or the times when we don't get our way.
Dan Dick has written about disturbing conversations among pastors about lying in the church: Caught on the Horns of an Ethical Dilemma.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Methodists generally do not recognize this day. Scrolling through the web I find that Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans do. Here's an article by John Pridmore in Church Times that I found helpful in thinking about this occasion:
Holy Cross Day.
For she is a reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.
Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets; (26-27)
We are reminded of a similar description of Wisdom in the book of Proverbs. Here, wisdom serves as a reflection of eternal light, a mirror for the working of God. We can look at wisdom and discern God's presence and action. And, when we accept wisdom, we become God's friends and we become prophets able to show God to others.
for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom. She is more beautiful than the sun,and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior, for it is succeeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail. She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,and she orders all things well. (7:28-8:1)
God wants us to be wise. Evil can't win against wisdom.
Look again at Proverbs 1:20-33 and Psalm 19. Learning what God wants us to know is important--important to God and important to us. Let us study, let us reflect, let us share.
Friday, September 11, 2009
God is not a cosmic bellhop, Michael Shevack & Jack Bemporad tell us in their Stupid ways, Smart ways to think about God.
Just ring the bell, and God becomes your own personal Pavlovian puppy. eagerly He goes to work, gratifying your every desire, indulging your every whim....
And, by making God an extension of your own desires, you have made your own desires God-like. In essence, you have made yourself God. You are the center of the universe and God is at the periphery.
That hardly resembles a healthy faith. Indeed, it is more akin to cult behavior. it turns man into God. It has a very ancient name, idolatry. because the first step in any meaningful religion is to recognize our proper place in the scheme of things....
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The book of Proverbs reminds us that wisdom is not found in some secret place: Wisdom cries aloud in the streets and raises her voice in the squares.
Our task is to distinguish the voice of Wisdom from the many other, much less unwise voices that are also crying in the streets and squares. If you ignore good advice, you will live to regret it (27-31).
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The lectionary has chosen the first part of Psalm 116 as a response to this reading from Isaiah.
In it, the psalmist in verses 1-6, like Isaiah, is addressing a human audience rather than praying to the Lord. Although his situation sounds like illness rather than personal attack, he,also like Isaiah, has suffered greatly. And, like Isaiah, he had depended on the Lord to save him; and the Lord did.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
I walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Included on this site are worship resources including these prayers:
Prayer of Thanksgiving for Grandparents/Elders
God of Abraham and Sarah,
grandfather and grandmother in the faith
God of all generations:
We thank you today for those who are grandparents/elders.
We especially thank you for those who are grandparents to us —
those who are grandparents by blood relationships, and
those unrelated but older than we
who generously share
their love and wisdom,
their time and traditions
so that we have roots, stories, and hope.
We bless you for the gift of grandparents,
and we ask your blessing on them,
that their days may be filled
with delight in their grandchildren.
May their giving and grace toward younger generations
bring fulfillment to them
and may they be a blessing
to all they love and call grandchildren,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
A Congregational Act of Blessing
The pastor or lay leader may ask grandparents to stand and ask their grandchildren, if present, to hold their hands. The leader may pray the prayer with all saying "Amen," or it may be printed so all pray it aloud.
faithful, merciful, tender, and stern,
you are the God of all generations:
Bless our grandparents/elders [if appropriate, list each by first name].
May they know your call to share their wisdom
and faith with us.
May they have courage and confidence
to hand on your gifts
of experience and knowledge
of stories, songs, and memories.
May they continue to learn and grow with us as good stewards of your world.
May they delight in the wonder of each day.
Bless them with length of days and joy at the last,
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
A Prayer of Grandparents
This prayer might be prayed by grandparents/elders in public worship or in family settings.
God of wonder and life,
we bless you that from one generation to another
you hold us in a web of relationships.
We rejoice in our children's children.
We rejoice in all children you prompt us to call "grand."
We thank you for the delight of touch and love expressed.
We thank you for the uniqueness of all the fun and little of the responsibility.*
We thank you
for songs to sing and Play Dough to shape,
for laughter at silly stories,
for moments of recognition,
for hugs to give,
for wisdom to share,
and for knowing when we must simply pray silently.
Lead us in forming faith with our grandchildren
so that with them and all your people
we may be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Long before their conversation, the prophet Isaiah told what it is like to be God's servant and what God's servant is to be like.
"Every day I listen to God. I pay attention to God not to those who oppose me. My call is to help the weary and to ignore those who oppose me."
Isaiah reminds us that when we accept God's help and prompting, we can together overcome our adversaries.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Who can do these things?
Jesus asks his followers, "Who do people think I am?" The disciples give a list of forerunners to the Messiah. Then Jesus asks "Who do you think I am?"
Peter answers for them, "You are the Messiah." Jesus instructs them not to tell anyone.
The crowds are ready to know that the Messiah is coming, but not ready to realize that he is here, among them.
They are not aware of what being the Messiah means. Not just victory. Not just winning over oppressors. And it's time for those closest to Jesus to begin to learn this.
Jesus begins to teach them what is going to happen--not just the healings and feedings and water-walking, but also suffering, rejection, and even death.
Peter doesn't like this kind of talk and tries to persuade Jesus to back off some. Jesus is adamant.
Jesus speaks not only to the disciples but to the crowds, "If you want to follow with me, deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me."
He's talking to us.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Saturday, September 5, 2009
To help prepare for Labor Day, read Amos 5:12-15 (Seek good and hate evil; work for justice); Psalm 2 (Serve the Lord); 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (Don't be idle); and John 6:5-14, 26-27 (Know the difference between bread that perishes and bread that sustains forever).
O God, you have bound us together in this life.
Give us grace to understand how our lives depend on the courage, the industry, the honesty, and the integrity of all who labor. May we be mindful of their needs, grateful for their faithfulness, and faithful in our responsibilities to them; through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen. [UMBOW 443]
As I thought about these verses, I was struck first by the psalmist's use of place. That is, he looked around him where he was and saw God right there right them, and further knew that God had always been there and always would be. We are like that big mountain over there. We cannot no more be moved than it can. God is like the mountains that surround this city. I can step out into the street and see them all around us. God is like that, all around us.
Perhaps I will remember to look around today and to let familiar objects remind me of God and God's qualities and the qualities of people who recognize God's presence.
This psalm continues with a prayer to the Lord to do good to those who are good. We need to remember to be good if we are sincere in this prayer.
Friday, September 4, 2009
This week's passage focuses on the need to help the poor--a common admonition in the Old Testament. Note: the gate is the place where disputes between litigants were decided.
Do not rob the poor because they are poor,.
or crush the afflicted at the gate;
for the Lord pleads their cause
and despoils of life those who despoil them(22-23)
This is pretty threatening.
As we arrange our lives, do we consider the statements presented as facts in verses 8-9?
Whoever serves injustice will reap calamity,.
and the rod of anger will fail.
Those who are generous are blessed,
for they share their bread with the poor
An example of how we might respond to this lesson is demonstrated in a letter that UM clergy received this week:
INFORMATION FROM SOCIETY OF ST. ANDREW
The Society of St. Andrew still needs help picking watermelons in Port Gibson, MS. There are thousands of pounds of melons available, that left unpicked will just be tilled back into the ground. I am planning a watermelon gleaning on Saturday, September 12th and could use as many volunteers as possible. We normally start gleaning at 8:00 and pick until around 11:00.
Our growing season will be ending soon, so please take this opportunity to pitch in and help feed the hungry in Mississippi. I hope with this advance notice we will have lots of pickers and will be able to fill a truck from the Mississippi Food Network.
Anyone interested should contact me by phone or email and I will give you the details.
Society of St. Andrew
Thursday, September 3, 2009
This psalm begins by acclaiming praise for God and disdaining trust in powerful men. They won't last. God will.
According to this psalm, God cares about the oppressed, the hungry, prisoners, the blind, immigrants, orphans, and widows.
Jesus lived out this psalm. How is the church doing?
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Isaiah is prophesying healing and transformation, and calling for us to be part of proclaiming that message.
The lectionary has made an interesting choice in pairing this passage with the gospel lesson. In Mark, Jesus ordered everyone not to tell about the healing, but they told it anyway. Isaiah says to tell it.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
He couldn't hear a word that they said. How can a person like that be converted? How could he respond to the center of Israel's life, the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:1-9) that begins "Hear, O Israel"?
He couldn't speak well. How could he keep the instruction to "Keep these words...Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away..."?
This gentile living in a gentile world, not asking for help himself, not professing any faith in the ability of Jesus to help is suddenly able to hear--and to respond.
Mark is telling this story to people who would have known Isaiah's prophecy for the exiles of his time, "The ears of the deaf shall be unstopped....and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy." (excerpted from Isaiah 35:5-6).
We can read Mark's gospel as affirming that the exile is over, that Jews can return to a place that has been promised, and that Gentiles can join them.
(I was helped in this by reading Allen & Williamson's commentary on this passage in their Preaching the Gospels.)