July 31, 2018: Enjoy Life (Luke 15: 11-32)

July 31, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes


Bible Study Session Topic

This week’s text comes from Luke 15:11-32, the parable of the prodigal child. In the story, one son takes his family’s inheritance and squanders it in “wild living.” The other son remains at home and helps his family. When a famine strikes, the son who wasted his money returns home, humble and repentant. The family throws a great celebration for him, much to the disappointment of the “good son,” who doesn’t understand why the family is celebrating the return of the child who wasted his time and money.

Our topic next week is “Be the Church: Enjoy life.” The parable seems to suggest, at least on the surface, that fun is wasteful. But didn’t Jesus have “fun”? What about all of that wine and food Jesus enjoyed with the Disciples? Was that wasteful? Or appropriate? Would Jesus encourage us to indulge every now and then? Or does the Bible teach us we should feel guilt about enjoying anything pleasurable? Is there anything in the Bible that encourages playfulness or joy? What exactly is the difference between self-destructive fun and fun that gels with our Christian values? What type of “enjoyment” is of God at all? How can we tell the difference?


Bible Study Scripture

Luke 15:11-32

New Revised Standard Version

 

The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother

11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

June 26, 2018: Share Earthly and Spiritual Resources

June 26, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes


Bible Study 

This week’s topic is “Be the Church: Share earthly and spiritual resources,” and we’re reading a text that captures the heart of what made the early church work: hospitality. The text comes from Acts 16:11-15, a story of conversion and compassion.

The text describes Paul, Timothy, and Silas sitting outside the city gates on the Sabbath, talking with a group of women about God. One of them is a wealthy woman named Lydia, a trader of purple cloth. Paul shares the Good News with her, and she, in turn, insists that he and his companions join her at her home for dinner. Paul shares the Word, Lydia shares her home, and together, they share faith. It is a short text, but there is a lot written between the lines! How will this text inspire us to “be the church”? I look forward to exploring that question with you next week!


Bible Study Scripture

Acts 16: 11- 15

New Revised Standard Version

11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. God opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.


 

June 19, 2018: Sirach and James

June 19, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes


Bible Study Session #20: Sirach and James

This week’s texts come from James 2:1-5 and Sirach 4:1-10. Both talk about having an attitude of compassion, especially for the poor. The letter from James is often attributed to “James the Just,” a brother of Jesus, and it speaks strongly about not favoring the rich over the poor. The idea that we should treat everyone equally is common in the Bible, but James takes God’s compassion for the poor a step further saying, “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom God promised those who love God?”

His letter begs the question – does God have a “preferential option for the poor”? The idea of a preferential “option for the poor” was codified by Catholic social teaching, but it shows up over and over again in the Bible. The text from Sirach (which appears in Catholic, Lutheran, and Orthodox Bibles, but not most Protestant translations), alludes to this idea as well. The author writes, “Do not avert your eye from the needy…even if in bitterness of soul the poor should curse you, their Creator will hear their prayer and defend them.” Is there something about poverty that brings us closer to God in some way? Does God connect with people more deeply when they are poor in health, resources or spirit?

The UCC encourages us to be generous to the poor and care for them, just as God cares for us. But what does that look like? Does that mean feeding the hungry? Giving change to people who ask? Fighting for affordable housing at the state house? And what about people who are rich in money but poor in mental health or poor in love or poor in spirit? How are we to care for them? And those of us who are poor ourselves – how do we reach out? How does God reach out to us? Where can we find the relief we need? And for those of us rich in material or spiritual wealth, what is our responsibility, if any, to those who have less than we do?

Poverty is a complex social issue that raises fundamental questions for us as people of faith. I look forward to listening to the Holy Spirit as we dive deeper into our questions next Sunday!


 Bible Study Scripture

James 2:1-5

New Revised Standard Version

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?

 

Sirach 4:1-10

New Revised Standard Version

My child, do not cheat the poor of their living,
    and do not keep needy eyes waiting.
Do not grieve the hungry,
    or anger one in need.
Do not add to the troubles of the desperate,
    or delay giving to the needy.
Do not reject a suppliant in distress,
    or turn your face away from the poor.
Do not avert your eye from the needy,
    and give no one reason to curse you;
for if in bitterness of soul some should curse you,
    their Creator will hear their prayer.

Endear yourself to the congregation;
    bow your head low to the great.
Give a hearing to the poor,
    and return their greeting politely.
Rescue the oppressed from the oppressor;
    and do not be hesitant in giving a verdict.
10 Be a father to orphans,
    and be like a husband to their mother;
    you will then be like a son of the Most High,
    and he will love you more than does your mother.


 

June 12, 2018: Father Abraham

June 12, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes


Bible Study Scripture

Genesis 11:31—12: 9 

New Revised Standard Version

 

31 Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 The days of Terah were two hundred five years; and Terah died in Haran.

12 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.

 

May 22, 2018: Be The Church, Love God

May 22, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes


Bible Study Session # 19

This week begins our new series, “Be the Church,” which includes directives like “Care for the poor,” “Reject racism,” and “Forgive often.” The first in our series will be “Love God,” and the text will come from Acts 14:8-20. The text tells the story of a comical misunderstanding, in which Paul and Barnabas are confused for gods. Paul and Barnabas do exactly what they’re told to do at Pentecost – they go out and live out the message of God’s love with Spirit and generosity! Unfortunately, when they heal a man in Lystra, instead of getting across how powerful God is, Paul and Barnabas get confused for gods themselves! Locals start a parade and prepare sacrifices to lay at Paul and Barnabas’ feet, all to the horror of Paul and Barnabas, who are in Lystra, in part, to preach against sacrificing food to idols. Paul and Barnabas end the festivities, but just barely. Later, the ruckus leads control-minded leaders to turn the crowds on Paul and Barnabas, who then stone their former heroes and throw them out of the city.

How did things go so wrong so quickly? Twice!? Do we suffer from the same misunderstandings in our modern era? Do we put the credit (or blame) on individuals for extraordinary (or awful) results? Do mob mentalities, social media, or peer pressure really turn opinions that quickly? How can we be more discerning about what “bandwagons” we jump onto? How can we do good work and point people to God, instead of to ourselves (or even to the church itself)?


Bible Study Scripture

Acts 14: 8-20

New Revised Standard Version

 

In Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet and had never walked, for he had been crippled from birth. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. And Paul, looking at him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And the man sprang up and began to walk. 11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifice. 14 When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations, God allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; 17 yet God has not left without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

19 But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. Then they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city. The next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.


 

May 15, 2018: Pentecost

May 15, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes


Bible Study Session #18

Pentecost

This week is Pentecost! Our reading will come from Acts 2:1-21. This is one of my favorite holidays in the church year! We will be celebrating the Holy Spirit and all the ways that God brings us together. It is the only time in the liturgical year when we use red paraments and stoles, remembering the tongues of spiritual flame that rested on each person and enabled them to understand each other.

Be sure to wear red to celebrate the occasion! We will also be honoring our teachers and choir for their extraordinary work throughout the year. I look forward to experiencing the Spirit of God with us next Sunday!


Bible Study Scripture

Acts 2: 1-21

New Revised Standard Version

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “People of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young shall see visions,
and your old shall dream dreams.

18 Even upon my slaves, men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.

19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the great and glorious day.

21 Then everyone who calls on the name of God shall be saved.’

 

 

May 8, 2018:

May 08, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes


Bible Study Session # 17

This  week, we will continue our Season of Impact with a conversation about 2 Corinthians 9:6-13, in which Jesus encourages his Disciples to give generously. He uses the example of planting and harvesting – “those who plant sparingly will also harvest sparingly,” he says. At the same time, it also says that those who reap a bountiful harvest should share it with the poor. In other words, we do not do all the hard work of planning just to enjoy the results for ourselves. We do it to share the bounty and point others to God’s love.

What does it mean to invest so much time and energy into a project where we may or may not see a benefit? Is it our responsibility or duty to share? How do we decide what to keep for ourselves? Where are we currently investing our time? Our money? What benefits have we already seen from our investments? Which of those benefits have we shared? Do our investments (financial or otherwise) reflect our actual priorities and values?


Bible Study Scripture

2 Corinthians 9: 6 – 15

New Living Translation

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. Do not give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,

“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, God will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God; 12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 12 The needs of our brothers and sisters will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.

13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all others will prove that you are living out the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15 Thank be to God for God’s indescribable gifts!

May 1, 2018: God is Still Speaking

May 1, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes


Bible Study Session #16

This week’s text is Psalm 115, a text celebrating God and warning against the worship of idols. It also asks the question, “Where is God?” As we consider the impact of our words and actions, we often think about concrete and visible results. What long-term impact might we have? Are our actions pointing people to God or to ourselves? What is the role of ego in doing “good deeds” and is ego all bad? Where is God in all of this?  What modern day “idols” influence our choices and contaminate (or benefit?) the impact we make in the world?


Bible Study Scripture:

Psalm 115

Amplified Bible Edited Translation

1 Not to us, O God, not to us,
But to Your name give glory
Because of Your loving kindness,

because of Your truth and faithfulness.

Why should the nations say,
“Where, now, is their God?”

Our God is in heaven;
God does whatever God pleases.

The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
The work of human hands.

They have mouths, but they cannot speak;
They have eyes, but they cannot see;

They have ears, but they cannot hear;
They have noses, but they cannot smell;

They have hands, but they cannot feel;
They have feet, but they cannot walk;
Nor can they make a sound with their throats.

Those who make them will become like them,
Everyone who trusts in them.

 

O Israel, trust and take refuge in God!

God is their help and their shield.

10 O house of Aaron, trust in God;

God is their help and their shield.

11 You who reverently fear God, trust in God;

God is their help and their shield.

12 God has been mindful of us; God will bless,
God will bless the house of Israel;
God will bless the house of Aaron.

13 God will bless those who fear and worship God

with awe-inspired reverence and wonder,
Both the small and the great.

14 May God give you great increase,
You and your children.

15 May you be blessed of God,

Who made heaven and earth.

 

16 The heavens are the heavens of God,

But the earth God has given to the children of humanity.

 

17 The dead do not praise God,

Nor do any who go down into silence;

18 But as for us, we will bless and praise God

From this time forth and forever.
Praise God! Hallelujah!

 

April 24, 2018: Jesus The True Vine

April 24, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Guest Pastor (Sermon Sunday): Ryan Roberts


Bible Study Session # 15:

This week’s Gospel reading is John 15.1–8. While Jesus is sitting at his Last Supper with his disciples, after having washed their feet and while offering the many admonitions, pleadings, and comforts of this last time together, he paints this image of the vine and the branches. One of the great I AM statements in John, this periscope helps his disciples (those at the table and us reading from the page) to grasp the ineffable nature of who Christ is and how we are in relationship with him and our neighbor.

Some questions to ponder: What do you know about growing grapes and how to get abundant fruit? How do you feel when Jesus talks about cutting and burning branches? What kind of fruit have you seen coming into the world through you? Through COGS? What kinds of strength can we draw from our vine, and in what ways is that metaphor less than helpful?


Bible Study Scripture

John 15: 1-8

New Revised Standard Version

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.


 

April 17, 2018: “They Will Listen to My Voice”

April 17, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes 

Guest Pastor (Sunday Sermon): Bre Roberts


Bible Study Session #14: They Will Listen to My Voice

What does “Good Shepherd Sunday” mean to the Church of the Good Shepherd? This reading from the Gospel of John is typically read the third Sunday of the Easter season, perhaps as well a way of reinforcing how and what it looks like to live out resurrection in our daily lives now.

But what does it mean? Why is it a good name for a community? How does this Church of the so-named Good Shepherd live out that summons to be that good in the world in this present day? There are lots of questions! And more important than the answers, if there are any, is the process of asking these questions, listening to one another, and discerning together. The Good Shepherd text is a valuable touchstone for all who gather here to listen, to learn, and to live together.


Bible Study Scripture

John 10: 11-18

New Revised Standard Version

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as God knows me and I know God. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason God loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from God.”


 

April 10, 2018: Witness

April 10, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes


Bible Study Session 13: “Witness”

This week’s text comes from Luke 24:36-48. While the Disciples are still talking about all that transpired on Easter Sunday, including Jesus’ appearance to Mary at the tomb and to the other Disciples along the road to Emmaus, Jesus appears to them again and says, “Peace be with you.” He then proceeds to give them signs, like eating fish, to prove he is back in physical form. The Disciples then witness him ascending into heaven. What actually happened following the resurrection may not ever be possible to ascertain; however, from the text, it is clear that the old story about the Messiah coming in glory to overthrow Rome and liberate Jerusalem is changing. Now, the Messiah is someone who is not meant to do all the work himself; rather, it is up to his followers to continue building God’s reign on earth.

 

Some questions to ponder: What is the value of doubt in this story (and today)? With whom do we identify in the text? When in our lives have we redefined the “story” of who we are, what we’ve done, and what has happened to us? Are there aspects of our narrative that remain the same no matter what? Where does God fit into our story?


Bible Study Scripture

Luke 24: 36-48

New Revised Standard Version

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

 

While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

 

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.


 

April 04, 2018: Living Into the Resurrection

April 04, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Season of Impact: “Living Into the Resurrection”


Bible Study Session #12

This week’s scripture comes from John 20: 19-31 and Acts 4:32-35. Jesus appears to the Disciples again, and they respond to God’s message in new ways. What does it mean to live in to the resurrection? Join us and continue the story as we begin our “Season of Impact!”


Bible Study Scripture #1

Acts 4:32-35

New Revised Standard Version

32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.


Bible Study Scripture #2

John 20:19-31

New Revised Standard Version

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the authorities, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw their teacher. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As God has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Master.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Master and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

 

March 27, 2018: Christ is Risen

March 27, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes


Bible Study Session #11: Easter Sunday

This week, there are several services, including Maundy Thursday at 6PM on Thursday night, Good Friday at 6PM on Friday night, and Easter at 9AM and 11AM on Sunday morning.

The Maundy Thursday service will be a pot-luck soup and bread dinner that will begin with communion in the sanctuary. You can sign up to bring soup on the Connection Card. Maundy Thursday will commemorate the last supper and include an opportunity to explore the meaning of Holy Week in small groups. Good Friday will be a candlelight service where we will read scripture and reflect on the stories of both Jesus’ life and death. The bells are playing a haunting melody to set the tone for the service—it should be a moving experience!

The Easter sermon will be based on John 20:1-18, the story of the empty tomb, the resurrection, and Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene. There will be worship services at both 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. We will also have an Easter egg hunt for children between services and a brunch for everyone following the 11 a.m. service. Both services will include Easter music, although the 9 a.m.service will be “unplugged”—quieter, more informal, acoustic, and microphone-free. Think of it as a sunrise service you can sleep in to enjoy! Both services may be crowded—if a “good” seat is important to you, please prepare to be here earlier than usual. If you are comfortable walking a bit farther and are okay on uneven ground, we also encourage you to park on the dirt part of our lot next to the road to allow ample parking for people with mobility challenges. I look forward to taking this journey through Holy Week with you!


Bible Study Scripture # 1 : John 20: 1-15

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been rolled away.  She ran to the home of Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, sharing the news of what she had seen.

“They have taken the Master,” she said. “And I do not know where they have taken him.”

Peter and the other disciple ran with her back to the tomb.  One at a time, they bent down to look in, and they saw the linen wrappings lying there.  They saw for themselves and therefore believed what Mary had told them, although they did not yet understand that Jesus was risen.

The two men returned to their homes, but Mary stayed, weeping. As she cried, she bent over into the tomb. Inside, she saw two angels, sitting where the body of Jesus had been.

They said to her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

She said, “They have taken away my beloved teacher, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw a man standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

He said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Whom are you looking for?”

Through the veil of her tears, she supposed him to be the gardener. She said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away and care for his body.”


Bible Study Scripture #2: 

Luke 24:13-24, 28-31

On the same day that Jesus appeared to Mary, two other followers of Jesus were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, While they were talking and discussing the events of the last three days, Jesus himself came near and went with them,  but they did not recognize him.

He said to them, “What are you discussing? Why are you so sad?”  One of them answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”

Jesus asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified.  We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.  Moreover, a woman of our group astounded us. She was at the tomb early this morning, and when she did not find his body there, she came back and told us that she had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the woman had said; but they did not see him.”

 As they came near the village to which they were going, they urged Jesus to stay with them. “Stay the night,” they said. “It is almost evening.” So Jesus went in to stay with them.  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”


 

March 13, 2018: Atonement

March 13, 2018


Bible Study Session #10: Atonement

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

This Sunday’s texts come from Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Psalm 51:1-12. Both texts come from the Hebrew scriptures (aka the “Old” Testament). They include prophetic words and music about sin, mercy and forgiveness that have been with us for over 2000 years.

 

The prophet Jeremiah and the psalmist remind us that for centuries, human beings have been, despite our best efforts, imperfect. Unfortunately, even after all this time, even after the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we have yet to figure out how to do everything “just right.” People continue to hurt us, and we continue to make choices that hurt others. In addition to the harm of those actions themselves, many of us carry another significant weight in our lives: regret, guilt and shame from past mistakes. We ask “What if…” and wonder “Why didn’t I…” We second guess ourselves and cry out to God to be merciful as we criticize ourselves for our failures.

 

Included in next Sunday’s service will be a ritual of confession, forgiveness and assurance. We will have a chance to confess to God those places in our lives where we feel like we’ve fallen short. In addition, we will have an opportunity to release our guilt, shame, and regret to God, freeing ourselves to move forward as we approach Palm Sunday and Holy Week.


Bible Study Scripture

Jeremiah 31:31-34

New Revised Standard Version

 

31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.


Psalm 51:1-12

New Revised Standard Version

 

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit.

March 6, 2018: Made You Look

March 06, 2018


Bible Study Session #9: Made You Look

This week’s texts come from Number 21:4-9 and John 3:14-21. These are two of the stranger texts in the Bible… The first text describes a scene in which people complain to Moses about their painful trek through the wilderness. In response, God sends poisonous snakes to punish them. After the people repent, God tells Moses to put a snake on a staff, and anyone who looks at that snake will be healed.

The text from John then references the Numbers text: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

The comparison between Jesus and the snake is unexpected. In the Bible, snakes are regularly associated with greed, poison and evil. If Jesus is like Moses’ snake in the wilderness, does that mean that Jesus is somehow poisonous? And who plays the role of Moses in the second text? Who is putting Christ on a staff (perhaps represented by the cross…?)—the Roman authorities? If so, does that make the Roman authorities the ones leading believers through the wilderness, eventually healing us by killing the poisonous Christ and telling us to look to him for healing?

There must be more to the story… The author of the Gospel of John was an incredibly learned person whose metaphors tend to bring out deeper, hidden truths about God. So stay tuned for what promises to be a fascinating Bible study and sermon next week! I look forward to investigating this biblical mystery with you!


Bible Study Scripture

Numbers 21:4-9

Translation from the Amplified Bible

 

They set out from Mount Hor by the way of a branch of the Red Sea called the Gulf of Aqabah, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient, because of the challenges of the journey. So the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread or water, and we loathe this miserable food.”

Then Yahweh sent fiery, poisonous serpents among the people; and they bit the people, and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against God and against you. Pray to Yahweh, that the serpents might be removed from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent of bronze and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten will live when he looks at it.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze and put it on the pole, and it happened that if people were bitten by serpents, when they looked at the bronze serpent, they lived.

 

John 3:14-21

Translation from New Revised Standard Version

14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”