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!!!!

 

 

News Letter: June 25, 2014

St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church                                       St. Paul’s Weekly E-Newsletter

            A unique Christian community bound by God’s love, sharing our love with others

June 25, 2014

All-church Picnic this Sunday

This Sunday is our annual all-church picnic following  worship. This event is sponsored by AMPT and all are  invited. AMPT is furnishing the BBQ and everyone else  is asked to bring a side-dish. There will be games, music, dancing and food for all!

Worship this week is being lead by Rev. Matthew  George. Pastor Ann will be attending the closing worship service for St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Van  Nuys on Sunday morning.

 Summer Stewardship is Important

Invariably giving and the paying of pledges drops off considerably during the summer months, so this can serve as a reminder to keep your pledge current during June, July  and August. It is through stewardship that we return to God the first portion of all that God has given to us. It is a way to thank God for blessing us with special gifts. Most  of us have made life-long commitments to follow Jesus no matter what the cost and we know that cannot be expressed in just one single action. Most of us would agree that it is a very rewarding way of life in which our personal relationship with Jesus is enriched and deepened every day. It is through the sharing of our time, our resources  and our talents that we make the world a better place, a  safer place and a more peaceful place for all to live. In the  true spirit of stewardship we are asked to give from substance and not just from our abundance. We graciously  give back to God the first portion of all the gifts God has given us. Make sharing a top priority. There is nothing  more rewarding than giving Jesus our best.

Psalm 92: 12-14

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree; they shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who  are planted in the house of God shall flourish in the courts of God. They shall still bear fruit in  old age: they shall be fresh and flourishing.

 

The Birthday Carpet Campaign

Sunday, July 6th will be the last chance to contribute to Pastor Ann’s Birthday Carpet and Flooring Campaign.  So far we have over $2000 to replace the carpet in the offices. Thanks so much!  Pastor Ann is very HAPPY!

Graduation Sunday to Honor Graduates

During worship this Sunday we will honor our college, elementary and preschool graduates. Plan to be here to offer them your support.

There will be a very important Town Hall meeting on Sunday, July 13th following worship and we want as many people to     participate as is possible. We will offer a light lunch and then we will be     taking a survey as we begin to look to the future of St. Paul’s.

 

Prt 114 Being Presbyterian

We have been focusing more of our attention toward evangelism and membership lately. We have had conversations in our session meetings about the differences between members and participants, bap-tized members and confirmed members. Some of us have been members since we were small children and others of us have come to an understanding of faith as adults. Some of us have made the decision to actually join St. Paul’s; others of us belong to churches that for whatever reason we cannot attend but we feel an allegiance to so we keep our membership there and worship at St. Paul’s. Other’s of us are from a generation of young folks that find organized religion or membership in any organized entity to be unnecessary or not a part of our experience.

The church has so much to offer people  and it is natural for us to want to share it  with others. The sharing of the love we have received from God with others is a pivotal part of our Christian commit-ment.

Many of us know a formerly or un-churched person (someone who used to go to church but doesn’t anymore). I would like you to engage/talk with them and just find out why. Are they mad? Are they rebelling? Are they feeling awkward about coming back? Is being Presbyterian cool? Being Christian? Is Bible Study important? Is there a new or different way we could engage with them on their spiritual journey? Offer to pray with them. Invite them to join us for  worship this summer.

Do You Know the Bible?

Answers to last week’s questions: (1) Nazareth, (2) day six, (3) Mary Magdalene, (4) “And a time to pluck up what is planted.” (5) fisherman, (6) tax collection.

1. In what town did Mary and Martha live?

2. What did Zacchaeus give to the poor?

3. What did Jesus turn into wine?

4. What type of wood did Noah use to build the ark?

5. What did Noah use to keep the ark from leaking?

6. What weapons did David have to fight Goliath?