Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Thoughts on the Second Lesson of the Five Lenten Studies

Who Do You Say That I Am?
Who do people say Jesus was/is? At our study session, we went around the room with our personal answers. In the list were Almighty, Redeemer, Friend, Teacher.

During His time on earth some people label Jesus as “good”. “Why?,” He asked them .

And how did Jesus respond to their concerns about whether they would inherit eternal life?

These questions, found in three gospels, were explored with Pastor Jim's facilitation of our discussion last Wednesday night, March 15, part two of the Lenten Series on The Questions of Jesus: Challenging Ourselves to Discover Life’s Great Answers, based on the book by John Dear. We looked at Mark 8:27-38, Matthew 19:16-30, and Luke 18:18-30.

In each story, Jesus addressed the need to “give up “ or “deny yourself” things that seem obvious, natural, and wise to want to keep secure – i.e. comfort, money, lifestyle, even life itself. Jesus said letting this go was the way for those to “save their lives” and inherit “eternal life”. He said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Did He really mean that?!! Surely not! Were and are rich people still required to give up their possessions, comfort, and money before they could be accepted into the kingdom?! That seems impractically extreme and, therefore, to our minds, seems unnecessary and wrong! Maybe He really did not mean that. Maybe He was just using hyperbole – exaggerated statements, that were not intended to be taken quite so literally. Here is one reference that explains slightly less extreme interpretations about the sewing needle:

If Jesus did not actutally mean giving life and riches away to receive eternal life, then, what was He teaching? Maybe He was talking about something more nuanced than a straightforward prescription or formula on what had to be done to secure eternal life and be in the kingdom of God. And what about this talk of Him suffering and dying, and we having to lose our own lives in order to gain our lives (Matthew story)?

Maybe Jesus was talking about people (then and now) relaxing their grip on controlling comfort and ease as the ultimate measure of a good life. Are we willing to rearrange our priorities about what is important, even if that could mean encountering hardship and suffering? Can these undesired experiences be something that pleases God? In the Mark story, Peter started ‘rebuking’ (criticizing, disapproving) Jesus when He talked about Himself suffering and dying. In return, Jesus told Peter to ‘STOP IT’ because Peter’s arguments were causing Jesus, Himself, to become tempted to set His “mind not on divine things but on human things.’

Is, then, the answer to the ultimate abundant, good life – the inherited eternal life – one that does requires thirsting for the things of God rather than man? Regardless of the human cost, will our quench be satisfied when we steer our actions to the divine over and above the human things? I think Jesus struggled with His own priorities of divine vs. human during His 40 days in the Wilderness. Maybe we find our true security and good when we allow the spring of living water – the experiences with the Divine - to flow and slide through our fingers, relax in its comfort and cleansing, without trying to securely grasp it.

Third question in the series is Do You Want to Be Well?

Wednesday, March 22, 6pm, Fellowship

Written by Victoria Sherman

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cheerful Samaritans

Luke 10:27
…”You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all you mind. And you must love our neighbor just as much as you love yourself.”

My assignment was to conduct a Sunday service at Bethesda West Nursing Home. What thoughts would be meaningful to a group of very elderly people? I decided to use as my text a portion of the story of the good Samaritan, and tell them about my friend Bud, a victim of multiple sclerosis. I told of his tremendous spirit in his fight against a disease for which there is no cure and of this good cheer and good neighbor approach to all friends. I would occasionally see Bud struggling through the five o’clock Chicago Union Station crowd, navigating laboriously with crutches and braces and say “Hi Bud, how are you?” Invariably he would respond, “I feel great! How are you? Tell me about the kids. How is Jean?” The conversation would quickly swing to my family, our church, and the choir where we both sang.

As I talked about my admiration for Bud’s spirit, it was hard to gauge how many of my small congregation were hearing my words. Two elderly ladies in wheelchairs stared vacantly into space. Several people nodded when I suggested they could be good Samaritans. One lady, who was wheeled into the chapel on a bed, had her eyes closed during the service. As I walked down the aisle at the end of the service greeting people, I approached her bed. She opened her eyes and, with a twinkle in her eye and a smile, looked into my eyes and said cheerily, “I feel great!”

Matthew 5: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Help us to be Samaritans in word and in deed, even when we don’t feel the calling. Let us learn by the example of Your love, as shown thru others.

Printed with permission of the author from St. Mark Presbyterian's  1998 Lenten Devotional
Jus M.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Deacons' Doings

Mark 10:13-16New Century Version (NCV)Jesus Accepts Children13 Some people brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch them, but his followers told them to stop. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was upset and said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to people who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, you must accept the kingdom of God as if you were a little child, or you will never enter it.” 16 Then Jesus took the children in his arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them.

When asked to share a deacon endeavor near and dear to her heart, Jan Boehme instantly thought of Circle of Concern’s Birthday Club. Here is an excerpt from a letter to Jan:

…the Birthday Club is so very special because it’s a program that helps our clients who might have to choose between purchasing food for their family or a birthday gift for their child. Unfortunately food always wins. The Birthday Club gives parent/grandparents peace of mind in that their children will be able to celebrate his/her special day with gifts and a cake.  
The Birthday Club is designed for Circle client’s children age one through eleven. About two week before each child’s birthday, the parent is called to ask what new toys the child would like. Each toy is then wrapped in birthday paper, and books or puzzles are also included, and the gift is usually topped with a new stuffed animal. Our supply of toys consists primarily of the items left over from Circle’s Annual Toy Day Program held in December, and donations from the public throughout the year.
 In addition to the gifts, each parent is also given a Birthday Bag that includes cake mix, frosting, paper plates, cups, napkins, invitations, candles and occasionally party favors (many times there are themes such as Spiderman/Frozen/ Dory). We try to give each child an age appropriate bag. The Circle’s Birthday Club has been going strong since 1997 – to date we have given out and wrapped approximately 13,000 gifts. We are always looking for new toys for children (ages 1-11) and items for Birthday Bags. 

As you can see, this is an incredible program that truly makes a difference in the lives of Circle children. Please consider adding this program to your weekly/ monthly giving. Donations can be placed on the Circle of Concern table outside of Pastor Jim’s office (there is a box labeled Birthday Club).

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Worship Prayers for March 12

PRAYER IN PREPARTION:  O God, your signs and wonders call us out of darkness and into your marvelous light.  We come to your word again and again, seeking understanding and the new life it offers.  Illumine our hearts and minds so that we may believe this testimony and have abundant life.  Amen.

We come into worship seeking God's guidance, reassurance, and hope.
         Help us, O God, to be open to your revelation in scripture, word, and song.
We come into worship longing for spiritual renewal and strength.
         Help us, O God, to trust your voice to us and feel your spirit within us.
We come into worship searching for community and relationship.
         Help us, O God, to see you in acts of friendship, welcome and care we find here today.

Gracious God, we are timid followers, wanting all the answers before we take the first step.  We are cautious and hesitant, fearful even, of the new.  We cling to old worn out ways, and though we try over and over, we still cannot save ourselves.  Forgive us, O God, empty us of our fullness, pry us loose of our knowledge, our grasping for control.  Open us to the new life promised in your love.

SCRIPTURE READING                                                                                                      John 3:1-17, p. 94

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Daily Prayer for March 18


I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. I was dead and behold I am alive forever and ever. Because I live, you also will live.

Jeremiah 5:10-31; Romans 3:19-31; John 7:1-13

O God of grace, you have given us new and living hope in Jesus Christ. We thank you that by dying Christ destroyed the power of death, and by rising from the grave opened the way to eternal life. Help us to know that because he lives, we shall live also; and that neither death nor life, nor things present nor things to come shall be able to separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. By your power, great God, our Lord Jesus healed the sick and gave new hope to the hopeless. Though we cannot command or possess your power, we pray for those who want to be healed. Mend their wounds, soothe fevered brows, and make broken people whole again. Help us to welcome every healing as a sign that, though death is against us, you are for us, and have promised renewed and risen life in Jesus Christ the Lord. (Add your prayers.) Amen.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

(Opening sentences, prayers, and blessings are from the Book of Common Worship. Readings are from the daily lectionary in Daily Prayer. Both are published by Westminster/John Knox Press.)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Recipes from the Souper Cook-off

1 Corinthians 10:31New Century Version (NCV)

31 The answer is, if you eat or drink, or if you do anything, do it all for the glory of God.

Bob Lienemann's Swamp Soup
( from the Fish River Grill, Gulf Shores/Foley, Alabama)

2 - (10oz) fresh, chopped turnip greens, or 1-27 oz can "Margaret Holmes turnip greens
1 - small onion, chopped very fine
1  - pkg. DRY Knorr Vegetable Soup Mix
1 - 15 oz can Northern beans
1 - 15 oz can Navy beans
1 - 15 oz can Black beans (optional)
5 - cups low sodium chicken broth (boxed)
1  - 1 lb pkg smoked sausage, Polish Kielbasa, or one of your liking, sliced thin and cut into       quarters.  Browning first is optional.
1/2 lb bacon optional.  Cut into or break into small pieces
1 tsp Tabasco sauce, or a hot sauce of your liking
1 tsp garlic powder
Pepper to taste

Cook onions in a non-stick 5 qt. pot until transparent and tender.  Add the quartered sausage into the pot, stirring occasionally.  Add rest of the ingredients, stir and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until heated through and through and the green peas from the Dry Knorr is done.  You may substitute turkey or chicken sausage.

Jerry Dressel's Ham And Bean Soup

1 lb dry great Northern beans
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 ham hock
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 half stalk celery, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp mustard powder
2 bay leaves
2 cups chopped ham
1/2 tsp ground white pepper

Rinse the beans, sorting out any broken or discolored ones.  In a large pot over high heat, bring the water to boil.  Add salt and beans and remove from heat.  Let beans sit in hot water for at least 60 minutes.

After the 60 minutes of soaking, return the pot to high heat and place the ham bone, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mustard and bay leaves in the pot.  Stir well, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 60 more minutes.

Remove ham bone and discard.  Stir in the chopped ham and simmer for 30 more minutes.  Season with ground white pepper to taste.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Thank You, God

We thank You, God, for many things
Green grass, blue skies and birds that sing.
For winter’s gloom that yields to spring
With the promise of life that Easter brings.

We thank You, God, for blessings You share:
For our families, friends and all who care.
You sent Your son so pure and fair
To die for our sins on a cross so bare.

We thank You, God, for this Easter tide;
When death and life mingle side by side.
As through these Lenten days You guide,
Help us use the spiritual tools You provide.

We thank You, God, for easing our fear;
For helping us, Christ’s message to hear.
We need only believe and keep faith so dear
That when our time comes, we’ll not shed a tear.

Dear God,
Let our lives be filled with thanks for all of your many blessings and gifts and acceptance of Your will in our lives. May everything we do be an expression of our faith in Your guidance.

M. Lewis

Printed with permission of the author from St. Mark Presbyterian's 1998 Lenten Devotional

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Thoughts on the first of the five Lenten studies

Thoughts on the first of the five Lenten studies

I am not sure which was more satisfying to me this past Wednesday, March 8 at the Lenten study – the fact that 29 people showed up that evening OR that the topic was so intriguing.

Pastor Jim is leading a study series on “The Questions of Jesus” as recorded in the gospels. So often we think about what people of long ago asked Jesus or, maybe, what we want to ask Him. But this study series flips the table – what did Jesus, Himself, ASK the ancients and what might He be asking us? Jim is drawing from a book by John Dear, titled The Questions of Jesus: Challenging Ourselves to Discover Life’s Greatest Answers, c. 2004.

Jim began the evening by asking the 29 of us WHY WE decided to attend that night. I was drawn in by the sincerity of the responses. There was a sense among us of openness, a yearning to learn and grow. I felt comfortable in this group, as ‘The Servant Song’ says:
We are pilgrims on the journey
We are travellers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.
The first question of this study series was one that Jesus asked to those hanging around or tagging after Him near the beginning of His ministry. He asked: “WHY ARE YOU LOOKING FOR (or seeking) ME? This question, or slight variation, was at the heart of the three scriptures we read – John 1:35-42, Luke 2:41-52, Mark 10:35-52. We discovered that not everyone in ancient times answered Jesus’ question the same way. So today, why are we – why am I seeking Jesus? I think that I need to do some honest self-reflection. Hmm. That might require some prayer time!

Part two of the five week series is on Wednesday, March 15, 6:00-7:00pm, Fellowship Hall. Jesus’ question is: “Who do you say I am?” The scriptures to be explored are Mark 8:27-38, Matthew 19:16-30, and Luke 18:18-30.

This traveller plans to be there. Won’t you walk along?

Written by Victoria Sherman

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Lectio Divina: Contemplate

The last step of Lecto Divino is contemplate.  This is done after read, meditate, pray. Click here to read the other steps.

Contemplatio ("contemplate")[edit]

Stained glass of the Holy Spirit as a dove, c. 1660.
Contemplation takes place in terms of silent prayer that expresses love for God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines contemplative prayer as "the hearing the Word of God" in an attentive mode. It states:[33]
Contemplative prayer is silence, the "symbol of the world to come" or "silent love." Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the "outer" man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.
The role of the Holy Spirit in contemplative prayer has been emphasized by Christian spiritual writers for centuries. In the 12th century, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux compared the Holy Spirit to a kiss by the Eternal Father which allows the practitioner of contemplative prayer to experience union with God.[34] In the 14th century, Richard Rolle viewed contemplation as the path that leads the soul to union with God in love, and considered the Holy Spirit as the center of contemplation.[35]
From a theological perspective, God's grace is considered a principle, or cause, of contemplation, with its benefits delivered through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.[36]

For more on this method of reading the Bible, Click here and here is a book that Kim Skilling recommends on this practice of reading your Bible

Monday, March 13, 2017

One Great Hour of Sharing: Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

During Lent and especially on Easter, we have the opportunity to participate in the One Great Hour of Click here. And, your donations just went to work in Perryville after the tornado.
Sharing. This is one of our Denomination’s annual Special Offerings and it provides funding for the Presbyterian Hunger Program, the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and the Self Development of People. It’s amazing to go to a place of great natural disaster, years later, and have someone recall the PDA presence during the time of need. For more information on PDA,

From the Presbytery: The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is on the scene, touring Perryville and is assessing the damage for a formal report of need to PC(USA).
It is in times like these we remember that we respond in mission to our friends and family in Perryville, particularly the congregation of First Presbyterian Church, Perryville. Please pray for Rev. Nancy Gillard and their congregation as they respond to the immediate needs of the community.
It is of critical importance that we remember their financial needs at this time. It is with that in mind that the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy has created an account for this tragic event, in hopes of helping that congregation where it helps the most. No amount of giving is too small.
Please send donations of any amount to:
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
ATTN: Perryville
2236 Tower Grove Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63110-3596

Craig Howard, Transitional Leader
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy