Sep 17 2014

Thoughts of a Naked Alien: Hate Is Poisonous.

Jonah hated them more than he had ever hated anything in his life. His hate burned with a righteous fire, a fire he though of as holy and purifying flame. It stabbed at his heart to have to give them an opportunity to repent – every fiber of his being wanted their entire race exterminated. At least he could be comforted by the certain knowledge that there was no way on Earth that this rich and powerful City would change its greedy ways!

God saw that they did in fact truly repent, and changed his mind. Jonah’s anger grew even hotter, and he started to scream at God: “THIS IS NOT RIGHT! THIS IS WHY I DID NOT WANT TO COME HERE AND PREACH! I KNEW YOU DIDN’T HAVE THE BALLS FOR THIS! YOU HEARD ME! GO AHEAD AND KILL ME! I DO NOT WANT TO LIVE IN A WORLD THAT HAS PEOPLE LIKE THEM IN IT!”

The Lord answered him with the calm voice of a peaceful stream: “We saved many today, you and I – why are you angry?”

Jonah stomped off into the hills. He made a shelter overlooking the City and waited. “Surely, God would soon see that he had screwed up. They would show their true colors, and I will be proven right!” he thought to himself.

It was a crappy little shelter, and God saw that Jonah was suffering in the sun. Secretly during the night, God raised up a shrub to shade Jonah. Jonah sat in comfort the next day and was not as angry. But the day after that, God took the shrub away. Jonah, refused to budge. He just sat there and continued to sulk, thinking: “I would be better off dead!”

God spoke again to Jonah: “Why are you angry? You were unable to build adequate shelter for yourself. So I gave it to you, but then changed my mind and took it back. You did not create the City either – I did. It is mine to take or give as I see fit. You say you are angry about the destruction of the little shrub? Shouldn’t you be angrier about the destruction of thousands and thousands of lives in the City?”

(From Jonah 3:10-4:11)!/pages/The-Naked-Alien/352389110349?ref=ts

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Sep 17 2014

The Heart Of The Matter: A Bible Verse That Scares Me . . .

Here’s how Luke tells the story of the Send Off Party for Barnabas and Saul (later Paul) on one of their missionary journeys:

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

It’s not really a scary passage, is it?

Except for the part I put in bold.  As part of their commissioning into ministry, the two apostles receive the gift of touch in addition to the blessing of prayer.

Yesterday, some people I love very much at Good Shepherd laid hands on me to pray before a ministry event.  Twelve people or so encircled me, laid hands on my shoulders, and prayed.

And my response was . . . painful?  Twisted?  Comedic?  Anal-rententive?  Protective of my personal space?  
All of the above.

Which is more than a little ironic.  Because one of the first ministries I brought to Good Shepherd was our healing services where we — hello! — anoint people with oil and pray by the laying on of hands.  I’ve been on both the giving and the receiving end of what God does in prayer through the agency of human touch.

So yesterday, I didn’t have good reason to feel such discomfort.  I just did.   

Until I took a few deep breaths, overcome my space issues, and recognized what a treasure I was in the middle of: a caring Christian community who carries on an ancient tradition that links Godly prayer with human touch.

May their tribe increase and may my unease vanish.

Here’s a song that brings it home:


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Sep 16 2014

UMR: Yale chaplain’s resignation reflects larger mainline tensions over Israel

When an Episcopal chaplain at Yale University seemed to suggest that Jews were culpable for Israel’s actions against Palestinians and a related rise in global anti-Semitism, his comments not only led to his resignation but rekindled a debate within mainline Protestant churches about how to respond to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Sep 16 2014

Jason C. Stanley: The Longer I Serve

  After visiting my grandparents (PaPa & NaNa) one day this summer, I left marveled at these two witnesses. PaPa is 92 and Nana is 87. They have lived long and fruitful lives. PaPa stationed in Europe during… Read More

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Sep 16 2014

Strange Christianity: religion from the least to the greatest

John Wesley had some pretty radical stuff to say. Joerg Rieger recently highlighted a specific example of this while in class at SMU. Wesley once wrote in his journal on May 21, 1764 that “religion must not go ‘from the greatest to the least,’ or the power ‘would appear to be of men.’” Wesley had this […]

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Sep 16 2014

Rural Minnesota Ministry: Readings for Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hello Everyone,

Before I get to the readings I have one quick announcement.

Anyone who has not already received a copy of “Making Sense of the Bible” by Adam Hamilton and who wishes to join in on the weekly study I have two or perhaps three books available. Let me know ASAP that you want a copy as the first study happens tonight, 7:00 PM, at Grey Eagle UMC. I will do my best to get the book there before you get there. There is also a daytime study which will start tomorrow, 2:30 PM, at Peace United Church.

Last Sunday, I started a sermon series based on that book. The text I used for that was 2 Timothy 3:14-17 and John 1:1-5, 14. I believe those will be the same texts this week (though I may change my mind).

This week’s lectionary texts have some interesting tales and lessons. I hope you will take some time to read them.

Exodus 16:2-15 – The Israelites are in the desert heading to Mt. Sinai. They are running out of food and complaining to Moses. Moses, in turn, complains to God. God then makes provision for the Israelites to eat quail and manna. This will be a recurring cycle of complaints and God’s provision. Do we follow in the Israelites’ pattern of complaint? Do we complain even when we have been blessed? How has God provided for you? Have you given thanks?

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 – I just learned something new! Psalm 105:1-15 can also be found, nearly word for word, at 1 Chronicles 16:8-22. This Psalm recounts the history of ancient Israel from Abraham to the entering into the land of promise.

OR Jonah 3:10-4:11 – Jonah is a prophetic book with only one prophecy: “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”. Yet, the prophecy is not fulfilled. I stated on Sunday that some people, not many, would categorize Jonah as a tale of fiction. Think about it. If this great little story were not in the Bible we might think of it as a fairy tale where doom is overcome with good. There is much exaggeration in Jonah also. The big fish (not whale). Living three days in the belly of that fish. Nineveh, as described in Jonah, is 10 times bigger, both in land area and population, than ancient Nineveh ever was. Every single person, from king to lowest slave, repents. All people and all animals sit in mourning with ashes covering them. So, what is the Biblical point of the story of Jonah? Some think that it was written during the time of Ezra-Nehemiah when there was a push to expel or kill all non-Jews in the land. In Jonah, God’s love and grace is available even to the hated and reviled Ninevites and the story becomes a counterbalance to parochialism and xenophobia. When have we looked down on outsiders and people we don’t know or understand? When, like Jonah, have we pouted when God doesn’t do what we thought God should do?

Psalm 145:1-8 – A psalm praising God’s goodness. Read verse 8. Compare it to Jonah 4:2. Verse 9 should have been included: “The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.” Verse 8 and 9 pretty much sums it up.

Philippians 1:21-30 – After being in Romans for the last 12 weeks we turn to Philippians. Paul opens the letter with a greeting and a prayer for the people of the church at Philippi. He then informs them of his circumstances which is in prison. In this passage, Paul states that, though he would rather die to be with Christ, he know that there is a reason for his continued life on earth: the people of Philippi. Paul then asks the Philippians to live their lives in a way that honors Jesus. How do we live our lives? Are we honoring God and Jesus? How is that reflected in our work, our play, and with our family and friends?

Matthew 20:1-16 – You want some work to be done and you need a lot of workers to get it completed. At the beginning of the day, 6 AM, you hire a bunch at $10/hour. You hire more at 9 AM, then at 12 noon, again at 3 PM, and finally a few more at 5 PM. The work is finally completed at 6 PM. How much do you pay the workers? $120, $90, $60, $30, and $10, right? Not according to Jesus. Everyone gets $120. “So the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Scratch your head and go figure! “God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.” (OK, where did you read that?)

May God bless you and your work wherever you may go!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor

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