Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blogging Toward Sunday

The Lectionary readings for worship this Sunday include Psalm 130 and Mark 5:21-43. In preparation for our time together, read the gospel text at least twice. With each reading, note what strikes you about the text. About what would you like to know more?
James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Although there are two healing stories told in this Scripture passage, the one on which the sermon will focus is the healing of the woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 long years. The above image portrays Jesus surrounded by crowds of people and the woman, reaching out to touch his garment, reaching out in desperation and hope. 

Spend a few moments simply gazing at the painting. What new thoughts cross your mind as you consider this story of healing? Finally, once more read Mark 5:21-43.

As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

Peace Be Still, by He, Qi from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=46102

Our readings for Sunday include 1 Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49 which is the story of young David bringing down the the giant. The New Testament reading comes from Mark 4:35-41 which is the story of Jesus calming the storm. Read through both texts at least once and consider how fear is a factor in each of the stories.

Once again, read Mark 4:35-41. Now, take a few moments to prayerfully meditate upon the image provided above. What thoughts and feelings do you experience?

Finally, reflect on the following statistic:
Stress management experts say that only two percent of our "worrying time" is spent on things that might actually be helped by worrying. The figures below illustrate how the other 98 percent of this time is spent:
-40% on things that never happen
-35% on things that can't be changed
-15% on things that turn out better than expected
-8% on useless, petty worries

What is your response to this analysis? Is worry and fear an ongoing challenge in your life? If so, how might the power of God working in the life of David and in the life of Jesus help you to see things differently.

I pray you have a worry-free week as you journey toward worship on Sunday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

The Lectionary readings we will be using this Sunday include 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 and Mark 4:26-34. As you prepare for worship, read through both texts in a favorite Bible translation.

Regarding the Old Testament reading, consider the following:
  1. Why is Samuel grieving? 
  2. What task does God give to Samuel?
  3. At first, whom does Samuel think will be chosen as the next king of Israel? Why?
  4. What does verse 7 tell us about God's way of "seeing"?
Now, let us turn our attention to the Gospel of Mark and consider the following:
  1. What method does Jesus use most often to teach? 
  2. In your opinion, why does he choose this method?
  3. In light of the two parables, what is God's kingdom like?
  4. After reading this passage carefully, what questions come to mind?
The following is Mark 4:26-34 in Eugene Peterson's The Message:
Then Jesus said, "God's kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time! 
 "How can we picture God's kingdom? What kind of story can we use? It's like a pine nut. When it lands on the ground it is quite small as seeds go, yet once it is planted it grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches. Eagles nest in it."
With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.
Once you have read through the above, choose a phrase or a sentence that really speaks to you. As an offering of prayer, sit down with a paper and pencils, markers, crayons, etc. What you are about to do is a spiritual exercise called "Illuminate the Text." Somewhere on the sheet of paper, write out the phrase or words you have chosen. Using borders, symbols, pictures, and even squiggly lines, illustrate the words.

In an example provided by Mary Mohlke in the Presbyterian resource, "Lord, Teach Us to Pray," the chosen words were "Behold, I create a new world..." and the drawing is of the earth. When I participated in this exercise today, from our reading I chose the phrase "Picture God's Kingdom" and I drew a person sleeping on her bed, plants growing while she slept and a wagon full to overflowing of the harvest.

Now it's your turn. Try the exercise and be sure to share your results with your pastor. She is eager to hear about your experience of illuminating the text!

As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

The Lectionary texts for Sunday include 1 Samuel 8:4-20 and Mark 3:20-35. 

As you prepare for worship on Sunday, take a moment to read through the Old Testament passage. Although the sermon will come primarily from the New Testament reading, being reminded of Israel's history, specifically why they wanted a king to rule over them, will be an important aspect of the sermon coming up on June 17th. Once you have read through 1 Samuel 8:4-20, answer the following:
  1. What do the people ask of Samuel?
  2. What is their reasoning?
  3. Whom have the people rejected?
  4. What warning does God send?
Let us now turn our attention to the Gospel of Mark. With pencil and paper handy, use the practice of lectio divina (sacred reading) to ponder the text carefully.  Slowly read verses 20-35 and silently meditate upon what you have just read. You may wish to simply sit quietly with your eyes closed for a moment. Now, write down what words, phrases or thoughts came to mind. Read through the text a second time and, again, jot down your thoughts. Finally, put yourself in the story, perhaps as one of the newly named disciples or one of Jesus' family members. Choose anyone you wish. Then, try to read the text seeing your surroundings and hearing what is happening through his or her eyes. Following this reading, what strikes you as new or interesting? Jot that down.

As you likely know, each week I meet with a group of pastors to consider the upcoming Scripture readings. We always end our time together with a spiritual practice of some sort. This week, one pastor in our group led us through an exercise that was so much fun, I want you to have a chance to experience it as well.

Looking back over your notes from your time of meditating on Mark 3:20-35, choose one word that really speaks to you. Now, write that word vertically on a piece of paper. Then, create an acrostic of the word, using the first letter to make another word of phrase--preferably something that comes to mind as you consider what is happening here with Jesus, his disciples and his family. Just for fun, I am including the acrostic that came from my experience of this exercise. I chose the word "house." It is a word that occurs a couple of times in the reading.

H--house divided
O--outside is where Jesus' family stands
U--unholy spirit vs. Holy Spirit
E--everyone who does God's will is now part of the house

Now it is your turn. Choose a word and develop your own acrostic. I look forward to hearing about your experience AND seeing you in worship on Sunday.