Home Study July 13, 2014

All readings for the Week
Genesis 25:19-34 with Psalm 119:105-112 or
Isaiah 55:10-13 with Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-13
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Focus Questions
1. How do you experience God at work in your life?

2. What is the role of prayer in your life?

3. Who are the exploited within your community who lose what they need in order to live?

4. What are the “divided houses” in which you live?

5. How can we bring unity into places where fault lines exist in relationship?

Sibling rivalry is nothing new. For some, sibling rivalry can be a source of healthy competition which motivates achievement and success while nurturing healthy relationship among siblings. In other cases, we have siblings like Esau and Jacob, destructive, disparate and creating despair and distrust throughout the course of their relationship–even from their mother’s womb. “How the occupants of Rebekah’s womb can know the importance of being delivered first involves prolepsis: a situation in which characters can know something before it is logically possible,” Frank Anthony Spina explains. “In any case, as we shall see, this same struggle continues till the day of birth.” These two begin to create division before they are even born.

The relationship between Esau and Jacob, from the womb, attempts to explain the birth of two nations and their continued discontent with each other. Addressing this conflict between the brothers that is reflected in the familial, cultural and even in the tradition which favors shepherds, Gene Tucker explains: “Finally, it is present on the political, national, and international level, for the two brothers are ancestors of the states of Israel and Edom. Immediate neighbors, their rivalry persisted from earliest times until the end of the Old Testament era, and frequently broke into violence.” While this womb-related conflict points us toward a greater conflict, Hearon provides her own words of caution: “These domestic events anticipate future events to be played out on the world stage. However, they should be viewed less as predictions than perhaps a playing out of human character in dialogue with the larger narrative of God.”

As the brothers grow together, their differences become even more evident. They are twins who are completely dissimilar. Their personalities are not the same. They choose different occupations, and to exacerbate the situation, their parents each favor one over the other, Rebekah loving Jacob while Isaac favors Esau. Their family dynamics fuel the dysfunctional rivalry that begins with their struggle in the womb, jockeying for position to exit the womb first, and continues through their birth, when Esau arrives with Jacob holding on to his heel (v.26). The division between them permeates every aspect of their lives created–a house divided–a family divided. What do we do with these familial dynamics? What, if any lesson(s) is there for us in this story?

This on-going struggle between Esau and Jacob made me think about the many relationships we encounter regularly. Besides familial relationships, there are relationships with colleagues and friends, and relationships in our places of worship and spiritual contexts. There are also our general encounters with people each day. In each of those is the potential for relationship, or not. In those places where we encounter others, we have a role in determining what that relationship will be. There is a place for healthy competition, yet there are some places where competition can be unhealthy, and relationships that are steeped in rivalry prove to be detrimental to community life. Is there room for us to examine our own relationships in the context of these two brothers? And what of our relationships within the church: are there ways in which rivalries are creating breeches in relationships? Is there room for healing the brokenness in those relationships to prevent division in our houses of worship?

Reflection by Karen Georgia Thompson Read more at: http://www.ucc.org/feed-your-spirit/weekly-seeds/a-house-dividedtension-and.html

Home Study June 15, 2014

All readings for the Week

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

Focus Questions

1. What are your thoughts about the story of creation and the views of science?

2. Do you think of yourself as a “consumer”? What difference does it make one way or the other?

3. What difference does it make that God pronounced creation “good”? Or do you believe creation is “neutral”?

4. Would God look upon our use of the earth today and pronounce it “very good”?

5. What story do we intend to tell our children, and what story will our great-grandchildren tell their descendants about us?

 

It’s only human to want to tell the stories of who we are and where we came from, of what came before us that shapes who we are today and who we are becoming. These stories, handed down from generation to generation in every culture, are voices in themselves, voices of protest and consolation, voices of clarity and courage. They are influenced, at least in part, by the situation in which the storytellers find themselves.
In The Luminous Web, Barbara Brown Taylor describes the shaping of the creation narrative of Genesis as a counter-cultural protest of the people of Israel against the creation story of their Babylonian captors. While their oppressors saw the origins of the universe as violent and bloody, the Israelites told their children a different story, a story rooted in goodness and blessing. Light came from the deepest night, they said, and order from chaos. The sun and the moon and the stars were set in the over-arching sky as signs of beauty and the changing of the seasons, providing light and direction and the keeping of time. God filled the earth with vegetation that was fruitful and nourishing, moved the waters back from the land and provided a home for the creatures that crawled across it, walked upon it, and flew over it. In the midst of this loveliness, humankind was tenderly placed and blessed and called to be caretakers and stewards. And God looked upon all this, and found it good.

In today’s psalm reading, the voice of the psalmist puts the praise and wonder of ancient Israel into the mouths of worshipers who are astounded by God’s amazing creative powers, God’s splendid works, even as they appreciate the place of humans, just “a little lower than the angels,” in the midst of God’s plan for all of these things. Creation is God’s love expressed and admired even by God Herself! If we had more of their same sense of wonder, perhaps our prayer-life would include more praise, along with the requests we so often make and the thanks we give when those prayers are answered.

Today our culture teems with a multitude of voices, coming at us from every side. Some voices tell very different stories of our origins, of who we are and who we are becoming. Voices of science and religion carry on a lively (and not always friendly) conversation about our origins, and the debate over evolution turns political for those whose anxiety misses the main point: we were created, by whatever process and whatever length it took, by a gracious Creator, in love and goodness, and we are called to care for this earth, this good creation, not to dominate or abuse it. (Perhaps, as long as we distract ourselves with arguing about HOW we were created, we can ignore HOW we are treating that creation!) (Reflection by Kate Huey) Read more at:  http://www.ucc.org/feed-your-spirit/weekly-seeds/this-is-goodexpressed-love.html

 

Home Study June 8, 2014 Pentecost

All readings for the Week
Acts 2:1-21 or Num 11:24-30
Ps 104:24-34, 35b
1 Cor 12:3b-13 or Acts 2:1-21
John 20:19-23 or John 7:34-39

Focus Questions

1. What are the different kinds of “languages” spoken in church today?

2. In what ways do you share Peter’s experience, of interpreting the present moment in your life through the lens of Scripture?

3. How do our differences enrich our experience of unity?

4. What is the greatest obstacle to good communication?

5. How much does the Pentecost story relate to the life of your church today?

 

Our psalm reading for this Pentecost Sunday speaks of God sending forth God’s Spirit in a creative burst that is both productive and renewing. In our story from the Acts of the Apostles, it must have felt like creation all over again, with wind and fire, and something new bursting forth. Then there was the amazing linguistic experience of speaking in other languages yet being understood by people of many different languages and lands, the names of which represented the known world at that time and have caused no small anxiety to worship leaders in every time. No matter: in that moment, all the people were one in their hearing, if not their understanding of the deeper meaning of what they heard. Despite their differences, they could all hear what the disciples were saying, each in their own language.

Fire, wind, and humble Galileans speaking persuasively in many tongues were dramatic signs that God was doing a new thing that would transform the lives of all those present, and far beyond, in time and place. Maybe it was a little frightening, something people would want to explain away, or to contain with cynical comments that blamed it all on drunkenness.

There have been manifestations, remarkable displays of God’s Spirit in the Bible before, of course, with sound and light and amazing “special effects,” as we call them today. But those events, like Moses on the mountaintop and Jesus transfigured, were reserved for only a few witnesses, the most inside of insiders. Here, at the dawn of a new era, on the birthday of a church called to spread to the ends of the earth, the display is for everyone. Not just the disciples, gathered in a room, getting themselves together after Jesus is once again departed. Not just the holiest or the most faithful or the most learned, not just the believers, not just those who were with Jesus on the road or witnesses to his Resurrection. No, in this case, at this moment, “all flesh,” male and female, old and young, slave and free, are invited and included–and not just invited but expected to prophesy and dream, too!

And just to make sure that they know they’re included, the formidable obstacle of a multitude of languages is overcome by a sweeping wind, an uplifting Spirit that drives those disciples out, out into the world beyond their walls, beyond the theoretical but fragile safety those walls provide. Out into the world, and compelled to spread the Good News of what God is doing in a new day. On Pentecost, a Jewish feast that celebrated new life and new crops by offering a gift of first fruits in gratitude and praise, Matthew L. Skinner tells us, these Jewish “ignorant, backwater folks” (a stereotype conveyed by the term “Galileans,” but lost to us today as we read the text) become impassioned, eloquent spokespersons for the gift of new life, the beginning of a brand new era in which God is fulfilling promises and salvation is drawing near.

(Reflection by Kate Huey:  http://www.ucc.org/feed-your-spirit/weekly-seeds/pentecost-sunday.html)

Home Study June 1, 2014

All readings for the Week
Acts 1:6-14
Ps 68:1-10, 32-35
1 Pet 4:12-14; 5:6-11
John 17:1-11

Focus Questions

1. Would it change the way you see yourself, and others, if you thought of us as belonging to God?

2. What do your prayers reveal about your beliefs?

3. How would you describe “the already but not-yet” of your own life?

4. How does Jesus’ prayer illustrate the need for a community of faith?

5. How would you describe “eternal life”?

There are subtle shifts here at the beginning of the 17th chapter of John’s Gospel: Jesus’ farewell speech, now more than four chapters long, becomes a closing prayer, a move that would have been familiar to the first-century Christian hearers of the story. That’s what farewell speeches did in those days: it was as familiar to them as, for example, the prayer before the sermon is to many in the church today. It would have sounded “right” to John’s audience, and they listened in on the prayer just as the disciples did that night, and just as we listen in today. It’s true that the gospel is good news that we “overhear.”

Another change is the very different picture Jesus’ words paint of his disciples, not as their usual clueless selves, as they had seemed, earlier in the evening. Charles Cousar writes that Jesus describes them instead “as God’s possession,” the ones who “understood that Jesus has come from God.” This hushed little group gathered at table are precious in Jesus’ eyes, and he entrusts them to God, Cousar says, asking God to take care of them, but not out of “condescension or pity. He describes them as they are seen by God.”

There is much to be said for seeing Christ in each other, but there is also something to be said for seeing ourselves as God sees us, with steadfast love and compassion, and with hope, too, for the future and what is yet to be. The disciples that night are a band with great promise, and Jesus sees that promise within them, but he also knows that they will carry the gospel, and embody its message, in a hostile and curiously unwelcoming world, a world that doesn’t seem to know what it needs most, then or now. In such a world full of challenges to people of faith, Gail O’Day wonders how the church’s “self-definition would be changed if it took as its beginning point, ‘We are a community for whom Jesus prays.’” How would such an understanding affect the way your church sees itself, its strength, its possibilities, and its mission in the world?

This reflection is by Kate Huey.  Read more at: http://www.ucc.org/feed-your-spirit/weekly-seeds/spirit-of-witnesscontinuing.html.

News Letter: July 2, 2014

 St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church

St. Paul’s Weekly E-Newsletter

July 2, 2014

 

Pastor Ann to Report on General Assembly

 “Abound in Hope”  (Romans 15:13) was the theme for our 221st General Assembly which was held June 14th to 21st in Detroit, MI.  Pastor Ann served as a Teaching Elder Commissioner from Pacific Presbytery to this GA and she will be giving her report on this experience this Sunday.  It is also Communion Sunday and those serving are Ruling Elders:  Yvonne Stewart, Minnie McGriff, Delores Henry, Vanita Brittain and Deacon: Diane Williams.

 

Fourth of July Prayer

We lift up our hearts, O God, on this day of celebration in gratitude for the gift of being Americans.

We rejoice with all those who share in the great dream of freedom and dignity for all.

With flags and feasting, with family and friends, we salute those who have sacrificed that we might have the opportunity to bring to fulfillment our many God-given gifts.

As we deny all prejudice a place in our hearts, may we also clearly declare our intention to work for the time when all people, regardless of race, religion or sex, will be granted equal dignity and worth.

Come, O gracious God, who led your children Israel from slavery, keep us free from all that might hold us in bondage.

Bless our country and join our simple celebration that we may praise you, our Source of freedom, the One in whom we place our trust. Amen.

From:  http://www.appleseeds.org/4_july.htm

 Howlett Smith and Leon Fanniel to be Honored

Both Howlett Smith and Leon Fanniel are being honored this month!  Uview Media Group is honoring Howlett on Saturday, July 19th at 7 PM at the Regency West.  Tickets are $15 now (see Pastor Ann for a ticket) or $20 at the door.  Leon Fanniel is being honored by the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. on Wednesday, July 23rd at 7:30 PM at their 95th Annual Convention at the Doubletree Hotel in Culver City.  Tickets for the dinner are $60 and can be purchased from Rev. Glenn L. Jones .697.4697 or revglj49@aol.com.

 

Town Hall Meeting

Please plan to stay after worship on Sunday, July 13th for our Town Hall meeting.  We will be taking a survey and begin discussing plans for the future of St. Paul’s.  A light lunch will be served.

 

 Part 114

Being Presbyterian

During this 4th of July holiday I am indebted to Rev. Vernon Broyles for his thoughts on religion and patriotism:      Inasmuch as those who carry civil authority are God’s servants, they are to be obeyed. One of the marks of a “good Christian” in the Reformed tradition is responsible participation in the life of the civil society and obedience to its proper edicts and laws. On the other hand, Calvin says Paul also makes clear that those in authority are charged by God to use their authority for the ordering of human life and to the end that “men (sic) breathe, eat, drink, and are kept warm.” This is critical for understanding our history as Presbyterians in dealing with those in authority, especially where civil authority is not used for the common good. . . John Calvin wrote his“Institutes of the Christian Religion”an exile, having fled for his life because of his earlier writings about people in authority. Ironically, he dedicated thethe French King from whose realm he had fled. John Knox came to Geneva as a fugitive, having escaped from a ship where he had been consigned as a galley slave for rebellion against the Crown. . . Presbyterians throughout the Colonies were so prominent in the American Revolution that the English king often referred to it as “that Presbyterian rebellion.” . . . How could these Reformed Christians call for obedience to the civil authorities on the one hand and engage in rebellion on the other? The key is the God-given role of the civil magistrate, as described in Romans 13. When civil magistrates do not use their authority for the good of the people or use their authority to oppress the people they have been ordained by God to serve, they are to be resisted. Our loyalty to God “trumps” our allegiance to every civil authority when their edicts and actions run counter to our understanding of what God requires in terms of justice, truth and ultimate loyalty.

(Read more at:  http:www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/today/faith-patriotism/)

Water damage repair work is set to begin on our sanctuary July 7th.  This project is scheduled to take three weeks, so we will be holding our worship services in Fellowship Hall for the month of July.  Stay tuned for updates. 

 

Do You Know the Bible?

The answers to last week’s questions:  (1) Bethany, (2) half his possessions, (3) water, (4) gopher wood, (5) pitch, (6) a sword and spear.

  1. What is the longest book of the New Testament?
  2. What is the longest book of the Old Testament (Hebrew Texts)?
  3. Name a book of the Bible named after a woman.
  4. What was the first bird to leave the ark?
  5. What was the name of Joseph’s younger brother?
  6. What was the name of the mountain where Moses received the 10 Commandments?

 

 

This Sunday is the last day to make a donation for flooring in honor of Pastor Ann’s 65th Birthday!!!!