Author: Dennis

Preparing for Sunday: May 1, 2022

Preparing for Sunday: May 1, 2022

Third Sunday of Easter

Preparing for Sunday is a weekly time to prepare for Sunday worship. Based on the Revised Common Lectionary, Preparing for Sunday is a time to step away from the busyness of the world and reflect on what God is saying to us.

This week’s text is from Acts 9:1-20.

Do you have questions or answers to the questions? Leave them in the comments.






Here are some questions to think about the text:

  1. Was Saul’s experience one of conversion or a call to ministry?
  2. Why do you think the other people with Saul never heard the voice Saul heard?
  3. Ananias had his concerns about healing Saul. Was Ananias right to ask these questions to God?
  4. In his discussion with Ananias God calls Saul an instrument to the Gentiles. God was using Saul to bring the good news to Gentiles.  What does it mean to be an instrument of God?
  5. Does it matter that Ananias said he was sent to heal Saul? How is this an example of discipleship?
  6. What does it mean after his healing that Saul went to proclaim in the synagogue?

 

What are your answers? What are your questions? Feel free to share them by responding to this post in the comments section or sending an email to info@fccsaintpaul.org.

Preparing for Sunday: March 27, 2022

Preparing for Sunday: March 27, 2022

Preparing for Sunday is a weekly time to prepare for Sunday worship. Based on the Revised Common Lectionary, Preparing for Sunday is a time to step away from the busyness of the world and reflect on what God is saying to us.

This week’s text is from Luke 15:1-3 and 11-32.

Do you have questions or answers to the questions? Leave them in the comments.






Here are some questions to think about the text:

1. Of the three characters in this story, which one do you identify with more, the younger son, the older son or the father?

2. Who is the “prodigal” in this story; the younger son or the father?

3. Are grace and forgiveness fair? Why or why not?

4. Was the older son mad at his brother or his father?

5. Did the father extend grace to both sons? If so, in what ways did he show that grace?

6. Has there been a time when you were forgiven for something? How did that feel?

What are your answers? What are your questions? Feel free to share them by responding to this post in the comments section or sending an email to info@fccsaintpaul.org.

Preparing for Sunday: March 6, 2022

Preparing for Sunday: March 6, 2022

Preparing for Sunday is a resource for clergy and the laity to get ready for the upcoming Sunday using a text from the Revised Common Lectionary. This week’s text is from Luke 4:1-13.

Do you have questions or answers to the questions? Leave them in the comments.






Here are some questions to think about the text:

  1. The temptation of Jesus is found in the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 4:1-11 and Mark 1:12-13). Read the other versions. What is similar in all three stories? What’s different?
  2. The passage tells us that it is the Spirit that leads Jesus into the desert. Theologian Justo Gonzalez says that “Even while the devil is tempting Jesus, it is God who is ultimately in control, and it is God who not only allows but causes Jesus to be tempted.” Do you agree that God is allowing Jesus to be tempted? Why or why not?
  3. What is the significance of Jesus being tempted? Does that make him any less the Son of God?
  4. Theologian Fred Craddock says that good can be found within temptation. He says the devil doesn’t say, “Do you wish to be as the devil?” but, “Do you wish to be as God?”  Do you agree or not?  How do you see temptation?
  5. Think of a time when you were tempted? How was it similar to Jesus in the desert? How was it different?  How did it change your faith? 

What are your answers? What are your questions? Feel free to share them by responding to this post in the comments section or sending an email to info@fccsaintpaul.org.

Preparing for Sunday: February 27, 2022

Preparing for Sunday: February 27, 2022

Preparing for Sunday is a resource for clergy and the laity to get ready for the upcoming Sunday using a text from the Revised Common Lectionary. This week’s text is from Luke 9:28-36.

Do you have questions or answers to the questions? Leave them in the comments.






Here are some questions to think about the text:

  1. After reading the passage for this week, read the following: Luke 9:23-27. In what ways do these two passages connect?
  2. Read Exodus 24:12-18. How are these two stories similar? How are they different? How do they ultimately connect?
  3. Jesus talks to Moses and Elijah about what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem. The word used to describe his death is the world “exodus.”  This is the same word that describes the Israelites leaving Egypt.  How is Jesus’ upcoming death like the Jews fleeing the Pharaoh?
  4. Luke is the only gospel that connects the story to prayer. Why is that important?
  5. What was the reason behind Peter’s talk about building three monuments for the occasion?
  6. What is the significance of the voice?

What are your answers? What are your questions? Feel free to share them by responding to this post in the comments section or sending an email to info@fccsaintpaul.org.

Preparing for Sunday: February 20, 2022

Preparing for Sunday: February 20, 2022

Preparing for Sunday is a resource for clergy and the laity to get ready for the upcoming Sunday using a text from the Revised Common Lectionary. This week’s text is from Luke 6:27-38.

Do you have questions or answers to the questions? Leave them in the comments.

Here are some questions to think about the text:
1.  Is love just a feeling, or is it also action? 
2. In verse 31 Jesus says the following: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  This is commonly known as the Golden Rule.  What do you think this means to you? 
3.  Who is an enemy as found in verse 29?  What does it mean to love an enemy? How did Christ love his enemies? Is it possible for us to love our enemies?
4.  What does it mean to show mercy to people?  Can you think of a time mercy was shown to you?
5.  What does loving our enemies or giving with no expectations have to do with God’s generosity? 

What are your answers? What are your questions? Feel free to share them by responding to this post in the comments section or sending an email to info@fccsaintpaul.org.

Preparing for Sunday: February 13, 2022

Preparing for Sunday is a resource for clergy and the laity to get ready for the upcoming Sunday using a text from the Revised Common Lectionary. This week’s text is from Luke 6:17-26.

Do you have questions or answers to the questions? Leave them in the comments.

Preparing for Sunday: February 6, 2022

Preparing for Sunday: February 6, 2022

The text for this upcoming Sunday comes from Luke 5:1-11. You can read the text by going here. Watch the video and listen to the questions.

What are your answers? What are your questions? Feel free to share them by responding to this post in the comments section or sending an email to info@fccsaintpaul.org.

Preparing for Sunday: January 30, 2022

Preparing for Sunday: January 30, 2022

The text for this upcoming Sunday comes from Luke 4:21-30. You can read the text by going here. Watch the video and listen to the questions.

What are your answers? What are your questions? Feel free to share them by responding to this post in the comments section or sending an email to info@fccsaintpaul.org.

Wondering Where the Lions Are: Advent 1(Narrative Lectionary)

Wondering Where the Lions Are: Advent 1(Narrative Lectionary)

Narrative Lectionary Reflection

November 29, 2020

Read: Daniel 6:1-27

Reflection

Between ages 7 and 10, I took swimming lessons at the YWCA and YMCA.  I had a good time in the water and loved to use the paddle boards and make big splashes in the pool.  

But there was one thing that scared me to death…the deep end of the swimming pool. You see, I could touch the end of the pool on the shallow end. However as you moved farther away from the shallow end, it became harder and harder to touch the floor.  You would get to that point where you couldn’t touch the bottom of the pool and you get a bit scared.  Of course, the reason I was in a swimming class is to learn how to swim, even in deep water, even in the places where I couldn’t just touch the bottom. Swimming was suppose to teach me how to handle the deep end, how to manuver in a place that seemed scary.  The swimming instructors were teaching me to trust the skills I’ve learned to tackle the deep end.  Not to get cocky in my skills, but to trust what I’ve learned to prevent me from drowning.

 This is the first day of the new church year, so I guess I should say Happy New Year.  This is the first Sunday of Advent, that season before Christmas where we await the coming of the Savior and also are reminded of why we need to Christ to come and save us and there is no one more deserving of salvation than the character in today’s text.

Daniel and the Lion’s Den is one of the first Bible stories children learn about. Daniel, an Israelite in exile, is a faithful worker in the court of King Darius of Persia.  Daniel does such a good job in his position as a chief administrator that the king is interested in promoting him to be the second in command in the Empire; only the king would be higher than Daniel.

His fellow administrators can’t stand that this foreigner is showing them up, so they devise a plan to trick the King into sending Daniel to the lions where he would meet his end.

When the days comes to send Daniel into the lion’s den. The administrators are joyous because they have this foreigner where they wanted him and soon, their troubles would be gone.  King Darius is nervous; he hates to lose such an able worker and he probably feels this charge is all trumped up. But he can’t do much other than hope Daniel’s God would save him.

The king didn’t sleep all night.  The king races to find Daniel is safe and sound, while Daniel’s rivials and their families face the lions and meeta cruel fate. 

What an odd text to start Advent with!  But maybe it isn’t so weird.  Daniel was facing an unjust punishment.  God comes to the rescue and save him from devastation.

Advent is a time of waiting for Christ, waiting for salvation.  Daniel waited for salvation as well and God did save him.  But the story here is not that God won’t let us face bad times.  The list is long of good people, faithful people who were killed by despots past and present.  The story here is that God will prevail even when it seems that evil will have the last word.  Even if Daniel were swallowed by the lions, this would still be a tale of God winning over evil, because God is bigger than corrupt administrators or a fumbling king.

The thing that scared me about the deep end of the pull is that I would be engulfed by water, that I would drown.  Daniel could have been scared about how the lions would pull him apart and then devour him.  But he has faith in God and is able to face down the lions because God is faithful.  The lions might kill him, but they have no power over him.

As I said before, trusting God doesn’t mean you won’t face trials.  We wait and hope for salvation, but that doesn’t always come in the way we want or expect.  Martin Luther King, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Oscar Romero and countless other disciples and followers of Jesus did not come to happy endings and yet they believed in a God that would save them, a God that never allowed evil to have the last word.

We wait in Advent for the coming of Jesus.  Jesus will not take away all the bad things in our lives.  We will still get cancer.  Our loved ones will still die.  We will get laid off.  The lions are always there waiting to have a midnight snack.  But we have hope.  Hope not that things will be okay, but that God is with us and will never ever let evil win. We wait knowing that Jesus is coming to be with us, to be with us in all of the dark times in our lives and to give us the faith to stand up to intolerance because the forces of darkness will never ever have the last word.

By the way, I’m still scared of the deep end of the pool.  But I also trust what I learned in swimming class.  May God give us the same courage in all the deep ends of our lives.

 

Photo by Laura Seaman on Unsplash

 

Don’t You Forget About Me: Christ the King Sunday(Narrative Lectionary)

Don’t You Forget About Me: Christ the King Sunday(Narrative Lectionary)

Narrative Lectionary Reflection

November 22, 2020

Read: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Reflection

Imagine with me that you wake up one morning and everything seems normal.  You listen to the news on the television and make breakfast and then head to work.  

When you get there, you expect to see your friend Bruce.  You’ve known him for nine years and his personality is such that everyone in the office knows who Bruce is.  You pass his desk and it’s empty.  In fact, it seems like no one had used his cubicle for months.  There is no nameplate or anything that shows he worked at your office. You ask around what happened to Bruce.  Everyone gives you a strange look.  To a person, no one remembers Bruce.  At first you think it’s a joke, but then you realize people are serious.  They act like Bruce never existed.  

You get to work, but you have this odd feeling.  Why can you remember Bruce, but no one else can?  

The day ends and you get back to your home to get ready to have dinner with your brother Nathan and Aunt Sophie.  You get ready and drive to the restaurant.  You see your brother you start catching up on things.  After a while, you ask where is Aunt Sophie.  Nathan gives you a blank look.  He asks who is Sophie.  You tell him that she’s your father’s sister and has two kids: Ben and Olivia.  But those names don’t register either.  Now you start to get nervous.  You finish dinner and get to bed hoping this is just a weird day.  

The next day, you give Nathan a call.  The phone rings and rings, when finally a woman picks up.  You know this is Carol, Nathan’s finance.  You ask to speak to your brother and for a moment, there is silence.  She doesn’t know a Nathan.  You are shocked.  Nathan and Carol had dated for six years.  

You hang up the phone.  You wonder what in the world is going on.

This keeps happening over a few days.  Friends, relatives and significant others just seem to vanish with the people around them having no memory of their existence.  One day, you realize everyone around you has vanished.  You sit in your room, in tears.  You pledge to remember these people, to believe they existed and mattered.  And you hope one day they will return. You hope you won’t be forgotten.

In our text this week, the people of Israel are not in a good place.  This text is being written to a people who have gone through the worst thing possible, at least to them.  Their homeland, Judah or the Southern Kingdom was one of the last places standing during the rise of the Babylonian Empire.  Finally, the Babylonians swept in and invaded.  Jerusalem is destroyed. The temple built by Solomon is brought down. The people were taken far away from their homes to live in Babylon.  They were in a new culture with new gods.  They remember the old days and they also remember how they didn’t follow God. They remember worshipping other gods. They remember treating the poor unjustly.  They know they hurt God. They probably think they deserved this punishment, which of course, they did. They might have wondered if God had forgotten them and moved on.

But then they hear this passage from Jeremiah.  They knew he was the old prophet.  Back in the day he preached that the people repent and no one listened to him.  These days, everyone wished they had.  

People gather around to hear what the old prophet has to say.  He tells the people that one day, they will go back home.  That made people feel good.  Their time in Babylon was more only for a time.  Their memories of a past land that doesn’t exist anymore will no longer be memories.  But there was still more Jeremiah had to say.

He tells them that soon he will make a new covenant with the people.  The old covenant was the one made during their journey from Egypt to the homeland.  After years of a broken relationship, God wants to get back together and start a new.  God will make a new covenant, not one that’s written in stone, but written in the hearts of the people.  God was going to transform the people from the inside out.  

Then Jeremiah says something that just blows everyone’s mind.  God will forget the sins of the people.  God had not forgotten God’s people, but the sins of the people would be liked they never existed.  Even when all has vanished in front of them, God is still there remaining faithful.

The people were smiling.  It would be years, decades before the people could come back, but they knew that God had not forgotten them.  God always wanted a relationship with the people of Israel and they were ready to renew the relationship and start over with God.  

When we look at the Bible, we tend to see two sides of God.  We think the Old Testament is filled with stories of an angry god ready to punish people.  We think the New Testament is about a God of love, a God that gives second chances.  But this passage puts a lie to that thinking.  It is in God’s nature to love passionately and to give second, third and fourth chances. Like an addict that falls off the wagon again and again, God is there to transform us into something wonderful.

This passage is about the covenant God establishes with the people of Israel, so it is not our covenant.  But it is a reminder that we live under a gracious covenant as well.  Because of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, God doesn’t remember our sins either.  God works at making us followers by working from the inside out.  We remember how good God is to us and God forgets our sin, making it possible to begin anew.

On this Christ the King Sunday, we are reminded that Jesus is a king, but he is not like other kings.  If we were following the Revised Common Lectionary, which we have done in recent years, today we would read the passages from the passion, those last few hours before Jesus’ death.  The crucifixion is a reminder of the lengths God will go to prove God’s love for us.  In the form a Jesus, a king is willing to lay aside a crown and die for the sake of others.  This is the God we find here in Jeremiah, the one that is willing to start anew to forgive and forget. To restore and to heal.

Next week, many of us won’t be traveling to see Mom and Dad or any other relative.  We have been urged to not travel to see our loved ones because it could cause the coronavirus to spread.  In a year where we feel cut off, it is easy to feel like we have been forgotten.  But what this passage reminds us is that God doesn’t forget us.  Even when we feel alone, we aren’t alone and in this dark time, it can give a sense of hope.

Decades later, the people make their way back to Judah.  After years of abandonment, the cities would be repopulated.  It is with happiness that they realize God didn’t forget them, but God also forgot their sins.  It was a new day.

Photo by Forest Simon on Unsplash