Friday, September 30, 2011

Being Honest

I have to start by being honest.  Preachers are very honest people--unless it comes to talking about themselves.  We like to tell you that everything is ok, that we are superhumans--never sick, never doubting, never lacking faith.  But we do get sick and down in spirit.  We have days when we don't want to preach or write blog posts.  Days when we are too sick or tired to listen.

I know Christ had these days.  I know my mother does.  I know so many of us do.  I say all this to say this has been one of those weeks.  I've read this passage each day with an overflowing heart and a stuffy nose and a bad cough.  And through those lenses, I think God really was able to speak.  I love that--when God speaks even when my ears are too plugged up to listen!

First, I'm honestly split on whether this is a direct prophesy pointing to Christ or not.  I agree that the words in verses 14-18 have traditionally be seen that way.  I also believe that the ancient Hebrews were looking for the messiah to come through David because of the covenant in 1 Samuel we have already studied.  So, the discussion of the house of Ephraim points that way.  Still, the rest of it is a bit murky for me.  I'm not so sure that it all makes sense to me.

But these passages did speak to me.  I've learned through my life, never to ask God for signs--not becuase its not Biblical--but because I'm often scared of what the sign will be.  But, God starts this passage to Ahaz asking him to ask for a sign. A big sign--as deep has hell and as high as heaven (vs. 10)!

Sometimes I don't ask God for enough.  I think I can do it all myself. Instead of asking God for big things that he can do, I ask him for little things that I CAN DO!  That was Ahaz's problem, wasn't it?  He wanted to DO for himself, and he forgot God.  That's why he was so "evil" because he forgot God.  I do that--do you?

Ahaz replied, "I won’t ask; I won’t test the LORD.” (11)

I've said that!

God then grew weary of him!  UGH!  Does God grow weary of my little faith?  Sometimes, I'm sure!

Then come the words about the coming savior.  That even if Ahaz won't ask--God will send a sign.  That God will be with them!  That one will come to show us evil and good, and good times will be coming!

Then God talks about the evil that Assyria will do to its enemies.  It talks about the bad things that will be coming for Israel!  The pictures of the flies and bees particularlly got me--since after returning home from the better part of two weeks out of my apartment, I had a million fruit flies!  They were a mess.  (Thankfully an open glass of apple cider vinegar with some dawn in it solves that problem fast!).  But I thought of this verse.  How many times do I unintentionally leave other people my messes to clean up!  That's what was going to happen to Ahaz!  The goodness of their riches would become briers and thorns.  Bad things were coming.

This week, I was given hope that God will do bigger things than I ever can.  That its time to start trusting God and asking for big things.  Giant things.  Wonderful things.  God, I'm ready for the grace that is too big to swallow too enormous to contain.  I'm ready for big things--give me the faith to believe!


What parts of these passages really got to you this week?  How was your week?

Blessings and praying for you all!

Pastor Emily

Monday, September 26, 2011

Isaiah the Prophet

For the next several weeks we will be studing prophesies from the writer Isaiah.  Scholars believe that the book of Isaiah was probably composed from the words of several prophets.  Even with that, the writings clearly show a prophetic voice speaking to Israel as they are about to go into exile and as they are exiled.

Don't forget--"prophetic" in this case doesn't exactly mean predicting or pointing to the future.  It mostly means that they will speak to issues of justice in their own society.  Mostly prophets pointed out what was going on wrong in society and that there would be consequences to their actions.  Yes, in these cases we believe the writings may have pointed to Jesus, but they could also just be speaking to the time period.  Let us read the passages from Isaiah thinking with both minds!

This week's passage is the Word of God speaking to Ahaz.  Ahaz was king of Judah, and mentioned in Matthew's Geneology of Jesus.  At this point, what we think of as Israel was in fact two kingdoms.  Israel in the North and Judah in the South.  They had a bitter rivalry.  Ahaz was an evil king who was cruel and worshipped other Gods.  However, his son Hezikiah was widely revered and loved.  The final words of verse 9 are poignant, "If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all." 

This Week's Assignment:
1) Read Isaiah 7:10-25 twice.
2) Put it down and pray over it. 
3) Read it again and answer the questions below!


1) What verses seem to speak directly to the time--to King Ahaz?
2) What verses seem to point to Jesus?
3) What makes you believe that these verses point to a Messiah?  Or what makes you think they don't?
4) Do you believe its a good idea to ask the Lord for signs?  Why or why not?
5) What part of the passage was most interesting or insiteful to you?
6) Is this study working?  Has it been helpful?

God--Open our eyes so that we may see your truths!  Let us not forget your love and your Word to us!

Pastor Emily

Friday, September 23, 2011

Jesus on the Cross

Did you picture it?  Jesus--humiliated, judged, in mind-blowing pain--hanging on the cross.  His loved ones standing around, watching him suffer.  The onlookers wanting to see him die.  The guards.  The criminals beside him.  Did you picture it when you read Psalm 22?

I think this picture was even more poignant for me this week.  I was in seminary when I first heard of Troy Davis.  He was a man on death row.  At that point, I didn't know the strong stance our church takes against the death penalty.  But, as I read more statements from our church on the death penalty and as I learned more about Davis's case, I began to hurt more and more for the situation.  I attended prayer vigils and prayed a lot.  That time in 2008, we thought we'd won.  We thought we'd saved him from death.  As we saw this week, that wasn't so.  As I prayed for Davis, his family, and for the family of Officer MacPhail, I thought of this Psalm and read it with new eyes.

"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me".

This is the line Mark quotes.  I can hear Jesus singing this.  This is what we think of first--of the pain.  We wonder where God is in these situations.  We question how God is at work in this world of evil.  Where police officers are shot.  Where justice never seems to be served.  Where Jesus, innocent, hangs on a tree.

In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.

But, we know that God is faithful and will deliver.  Even from the injustice and pain and death.  This is foreshadowing of good things!

But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. 

I'm not good enough to deserve saving.

All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; "Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—let him rescue the one in whom he delights!’ 

Wait, didn't one of the criminals say that to Jesus.  Can you imagine Jesus, singing a familiar song, a holy song, and the other criminal realizing that he was part of the plan!  How do you think he felt?

On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God. 

Jesus, once again speaking to the prophesy of his birth.  Words from David, that apply to Jesus and to David and to you and to me!

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 

We believe Jesus died of a "broken" heart.  When he was pierced in the side, blood and water poured out of his body.  His bones were probably out of joint--although not broken.  His heart was melting like wax!  He is reciting the words of David, and speaking truth of what was about to come.  His heart was breaking!

my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

One of the Seven Last Words of Jesus.  "I thirst".  Again, David speaking truth, and Jesus singing truth.  By now, I see them all stopping and listening to him.  How do you think they felt?  Mad?  Scared?  Sad?  Frustrated?  Do you think they realized it?

a company of evildoers encircles me.

Do evildoers surround you?  They were surrounding Christ.

They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.  
But you, O Lord, do not be far away!  O my help, come quickly to my aid! 

Do you think those soldiers thought twice.  The ones who cast lots for his clothes.  Do you think they stopped as they mouthed the words with him?  God has no longer forsaken, God is coming to help!  God is coming!  There is hope!

From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him!

Wait!  There is hope!  Maybe Jesus will be saved!  Maybe there is still hope that we can have a world where cops won't die, and where our government makes all life sacred and gives chances for redemption--even when it seems doomed!  Maybe there will be a last minute pardon!  

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.

This is a far cry from "My God why have you forsaken me!"  For, remember God wins!  We will proclaim God's love and power to the world!  This is what Christ was singing.  More than just feeling forsaken--knowing that even in this place that God wins!

Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, 

Oh, Jesus!  Oh David!  You are so right!  We still sing your name!  Preach on!  Sing on!  God is mighty!!!

and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.

Some translate the words "he has done it" for it is finished.  He has finished it.  Just like John says Jesus's last words were.  It is finished.  Maybe not finished like we wanted.  We didn't want Jesus to die.  But Jesus didn't die in vain.  Jesus may have died to this world, but soon, this would would be saved in ways they didn't know. 

Jesus died on his terms.  Probably not doubting God's presence, but instead singing of God's love and mercy and power.

In your bad times--remember that God's power will reign.  If your world is caving in, return to Psalm 22, and remember that Jesus feels your pain, and in the end God wins.

God wins.  Love wins.  Jesus wins.  Let us go into the world and sing this song.  Don't let this world discourage you.  Let God love you.  Let God's power encircle you.  Remember, you are loved--by a God whose song should be sung to the ends of the earth.  


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Psalmist

We learned about King David last week a bit.  While last week we focused on covenants, this week we'll look at the poetry attributed to King David.  If you are looking for the Bible's Hymnal, look no further than the Psalms.  Although we may not know the tunes, these poems were to be SUNG!  They were an important part of worship, something people knew!  

In Friday's post, I asked a trivia question.  Several of you had heard it from me--but the answer is twice that I can find.  1) With the disciples at the last supper (See Mark 14:26).  They probably sang Psalm 114-118, the hymns for Passover.  2) On the cross.  If someone said, "Amazing Grace how sweet the sound", we would look at them like they were crazy.  We automatically SING those words.  In the same way, when Jesus quoted Psalm 22 in Mark 15:34, he probably sang it!  More, he probably sang the WHOLE THING.

So, lets look at Psalm 22.  

Here's this week's suggested Methodology:

1) Pray--God of Light--Open our eyes to your truths.  Show us your vision.  Let us see with your eyes.  Let us remove all distractions and focus instead on your word.  We know you are speaking, let us listen and hear.  Amen
2)  Read the Psalm Through twice.
3) Take notes on what jumps out at you, and then put it down!
4) Come back to it later, and answer these questions!

The Questions!

1) What in this Psalm jumps out at you?  
2) If you were a Jew at the cross when Jesus was singing this, what would you be thinking?
3) What clearly doesn't point to Jesus?
4) What points to Jesus?
5) What else needs to be said?

Looking forward to this!

Pastor Emily 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Finding Jesus

Have you done the first part of our study?  If not check out this to catch up!

In this study, we are looking for Jesus in scriptures that tradition tells us point to Jesus.  In order to do this thoughtfully and faithfully, we first should think about Biblical Interpretation.  On one hand there is the way scholars interpret scripture--looking at the context and the time setting to see what the words mean.  This is helpful to let us understand the culture and undoubtedly some of the meaning behind scripture.  I might call this the Historical-Critical Method.  This was how we learned to read the bible in seminary.

On another hand is how the passage speaks to us--what does it say that impacts our lives.  I often think of the line "Morning by Morning new mercies I see!"  John Wesley spoke of scripture being doubly inspired--inspired when it was written, then inspired again when we read it.  I would call this reading scripture through my personal experience lens.

On another hand, is the tradition that we arrive from.  Since throughout the centuries church scholars have told us certain passages mean certain things, we believe it.  I've heard the line, "Everything happens for a reason" all my life.  Even though it might not be something I technically believe, I'll catch myself repeating it.  Sometimes our interpretation of scripture falls back on what we've always been taught to believe.  I might call this interpreting scripture through the eyes of faith.

Does this sound famliar?  Anything like the Wesleyan Quadrilateral?  

I think its hard to ever say scripture has one meaning!  I think God finds meaning in each verse at each point of each of our lives!  I think God tells us something different every time.  I believe that all three of these factors of biblical intepretation matter and are good.

With all of that being said, I have a really tough time seeing Jesus in the Deuteronomy passage in any way other than because the church scholars said he was there.  The passage to me could logically have pointed to Isaiah or Daniel or Amos or Micah.  

On the other hand, the images that point Jesus to David are lovely to me.  I absolutely see Jesus as the fulfillment of God's promise to David.  God no longer lives in a tent or a temple in Jerusalem--but lives in each of us!  More, every birth story that gives us a location has Jesus born in Bethleham!  The place where David was watching sheep when he was chosen to be KING!  Jesus was also chosen to be king--both by the Magi, and by God through baptism!  

Now, the exact lineage/genealogy seems a big tougher for me.  Mathew makes it clear in his Genealogy (1:1-17) that Mary was a descendant of David.  Matthew was writing to Jewish audiences and this was important to them.  Luke traces the lineage back a little differently (3:23-38).  He traces it through Joseph.  That always caught me as a little off.  Then I realized that in fact Joseph was important to Jesus's upbringing, faith, and claim to the people.  Joseph may not be a "physical" part of Jesus' make up, but he was important to the whole picture!  So, there too is another fulfilled prophesy!

So, what do you think?  Which method of interpretation do you most often use when you study the bible?  Where has God spoken to you today?  More, what "new mercies" have you seen today and in our study?

You have made the blind see and the deaf hear.  You have soften the hardest hearts.  Work now in us, so that through studying your word, your story, and your way, we might be better followers.  Work now in us so that we can love you more and know you better.  Let us go change the world with your love and by your grace!
In your Precious name we pray!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Week One--

Don't forget to comment on the last blog!  I hope that you've all had a chance to read and reflect.

Just thought I'd stop in and give us a chance to pray together.  Feel free to add your prayers as well!

All-Knowing God--

You are bigger than we can know.  We are less than a grain of sand in your hand.  While we try to know you--seek you, search your scripture, look at your creation, love your people, we are still left with questions.  We are still left with insecurities.  When we think we know--you change us! You show us new things!

In this time together Lord, we ask you to show yourself anew.  Not like we are hoping for.  Not the way we know.  But in your fullness.  In your grandeur.  In your mysterious ways.  Teach us new things, and teach us the old lessons anew.  Let us be the students.

Let us find you new.  So that we can go into the world and share the depth and breadth of your amazing, never-ending love.  

In your name we pray--

Pastor Emily

Monday, September 12, 2011

A New Day

Study Background--

We are beginning to look at the recorded prophesies of Christ.  Most of these will be in the Old Testament, and then we will lead to reading the text of the Christmas Narratives in all three gospels.  We will look at our pre-conceptions, what was written and some historical background.  I love the Bible, and have taken many classes.  However, I am not a "Bible Scholar".  Feel free to disagree with me.  Feel free to disagree with each other--but in a healthy and loving way.  Being said, know that any comments that are disparaging or mean will be deleted.

This is the plan, on Mondays I will post a little background on the passage and some questions to answer.  Feel free to answer all or some of them them in the comments.  Then Friday I'll try to write a summary of the collected comments and add some more of my own.  The study schedule is posted on this post.  If you have questions or suggestions feel free to email me at emily AT kennesawumc DOT org.

Scripture Background--

Typically, we won't study passages from two books at once, but these two passages are closely connected!  Moses and David are closely connected, because they were both recipients of God's covenants with Israel.

Scripture Reading--Deuteronomy 18:15-22 and 2 Samuel 7

In ancient times, a covenant was a special promise--one cemented by God.  When two people made a covenant, they got their gods involved!  In scripture, covenants are promises between us and God.  God promises us something, and we promise something in return.  

Our first reading is from Deuteronomy, a book describing the laws God gave to Moses for Israel.  The covenant was that God would claim Israel IF Israel kept God's laws.  These laws were important, for they were Israel's link to God!  Remember, Moses was a prophet, but this passage prophesies a new prophet coming!  

Our second reading is from 2 Samuel 7 (Look most closely at 10-17 and 25-29).  This concerns a covenant God made through the Prophet Nathan with David.  David was King, but God promised that God would build God's own House from David.  

Your Mission!
  1. Pray--God open our eyes to your truths!  Let us see with your eyes!  Let us hear nothing but your words! Open our hearts to you!  Amen
  2. Read through the two chapters and put it down.
  3. Read through the questions below, and then the scriptures a second time!
  4. Try to answer the questions.
1) What makes you believe the "prophet" that is spoken of in Deuteronomy 18 Points to Jesus?

2) What makes you believe that the "house" in 2 Samuel 7 points to Jesus?

3) Talk about your notion of covenant.  How do these covenants with Moses and David helping point to the new covenant that will be Jesus?  What is the Covenant we have with Jesus?

4) What else stuck out to you?  What is new that you've never heard before or seen before or thought?  What did I not ask?

Can't wait to start this together!   We will reassess Friday and see how its going!

Pastor Emily

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

And We Begin Again!

Hello Everyone!

Its been forever since we've spoken!

Here's the New Plan.

We will study one or two chapters (or less!) a week!  On Monday I'll pop on with the text and questions.  Answer them at your leisure.  Then on Thursday I'll pop back on with a longer discussion piece.  That will give us more time to really dig in!

How does that sound?

We'll work on the Biblical Prophesies that we believe point to Jesus until Advent, then we'll look at the different Christmas stories.

The schedule will look like this:

  • 9/12 Deuteronomy 18:15 and 2 Samuel 7
  • 9/19 Psalm 22
  • 9/26 Isaiah 7:10-23
  • 10/3 Isaiah 9
  • 10/10 Isaiah 11
  • 10/17 Isaiah 53
  • 10/24 Isaiah 24
  • 10/31 Daniel 7
  • 11/7 Micah 5
  • 11/14 Zechariah 8:1-7 and 9:9-17
  • 11/21 Luke 1:1-25
  • 11/28 Luke 1:26-80
  • 12/5 Luke 2:1-20
  • 12/12 John 1
  • 12/19 Matthew 1
  • 12/26 Matthew 2:1-14
Looking forward to all this!  See you Sunday for Ice Cream!

Pastor Emily

Saturday, September 3, 2011

And it Ends

Scripture:  Revelation 20-22

Observation:  I have read and re-read this several times lately.  Partially because I have gotten distracted 100 times and partially because I can't believe its over!  What an amazing ending! 

Here is my favorite part: 
"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the life-giving spring. Those who emerge victorious will inherit these things. I will be their God, and they will be my sons and daughters."

Everything will be new! Death will be no more!  Our God is the Alpha and Omega--the Beginning and the end!

I needed to hear this today.  Because even as we are finishing this journey, a new one is coming.  Even as God puts and end to scripture--new chapters will be written in our lives.  Even as one door closes, something else begins anew.  It makes me think of the Hymn of Promise--how everything comes new.  Everything changes.  God who began things, can end things and then begin again.

What endings are happening in your life?  What new beginnings?  What challenges will God get you through?  Its been my pleasure to journey with you this Summer.  Its been my pleasure to guide us through the New Testament.  I know each of you have strengthened my faith and inspired me!  Thank you for your dilligence and your hope.  Thank you for your love.

Alpha and Omega--Thank you for this summer.  Continue to bless those who journeyed through this reading with me. Those who stopped by occasionally, and those we never knew were with us.  Thank you for your insights and your grace!  All glory be to you--the one who begins and ends all things.  In your precious name I pray!  Amen

Remember--Sunday 9/11 at 4 pm in the Parlor!  I'll bring the ice cream, you bring your favorite topping!

Pastor Emily

Friday, September 2, 2011

Do Justice, Love Mercy

Scripture: Revelation 16-18


16:7 stuck out to me for the whole reading today: "And I heard the altar say,
      “Yes, Lord God Almighty, your judgments are true and just.” "

What does justice mean?  What does it mean to be just?

Application:I took a class in seminary on peace building.  In that class they said that Justice, Mercy, Peace and Truth must be heard in equal measures in order to be understood and conflict to be resolved.  (see:  Scroll down the the section listed "The Meeting".  It might change the way you see things like it changed me!)

I guess that's whats so hard for me here.  There's a lot of Justice and probably a lot of Truth, but not much mercy or peace.  Maybe I just always side with Mercy and peace.  I just am not exactly sure that these passages reflect the whole of scripture.  Where's the Micah 6:8 "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?" 

My seminary professors always said that scripture must be interpreted not on its own, but with knowledge of the whole canon (the whole of scripture) in mind.  I'm not sure where this leaves me today.  I do know that today I want to hope that even with these passages, the God I worship is a God who still loves Justice, Mercy, Peace and Truth in equal measures. 

Prayer:  God of Mercy--Please remember me, a sinner unclean.  Please continue to illuminate my mind and enliven my spirit.  Help me to see clearly what I do not understand.  Help me to love like you.  In your name we pray--Amen.

Pastor Emily

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Battle

Scripture--Revelation 14-15

ObservationWhat a battle is raging.  And the crux of the battle is who are we worshipping.  Most of today's passage focuses on the Good Guys.  On us.  On what Good is coming.  But that doesn't mean Good isn't fighting.  Jesus fights for us.  The angels put themselves in danger for us.  Its a battle!

ApplicationI'm not sure I treat every day like my faith is a battle.  I'm not sure that I fight for what is right or good or important every day.  I don't always give it the importance it deserves.  Evil sure seems to treat life as a battle.  I see it all the time.  But I'm not so sure I do.

I hope today I can go out into the world and try to battle for the good guys.  Try to win people over with my love.  Try to smile more and hug more and love more.  I think I can do it!  I think we can win!
Prayer--O Lamb of God--thank you for fighting for me.  Give me the strength and courage to fight for you.  Remind me that I am yours--always.  In your name I pray.  Amen

Pastor Emily