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LectionAid 1st Quarter 2011-12

Extra Material


Sunday: December 4, 2011, 2nd Sunday of Advent
Readings: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13, Isaiah 40:1-11, 2Peter 3:8-15a, Mark 1:1-8
Writer:  Nikk Adams

My friend Cherise hates surprises. Last year after some girlfriends threw her a surprise birthday party, she admitted to me, “It was sweet of them, but my heart sank when I walked in the door and everyone yelled, ‘Surprise!’ I wish they’d have told me about it instead.”
Surprises are sometimes good and sometimes bad. But God assures us, as Christians that no matter what happens; he is “wonderfully good.” He encourages us to look for his mercies each day. So don’t let God’s surprises pass you by. Keep an eye out for them!

“Mom, are we going to Dayville for the Fourth of July?” my son, Tyler, asks, planning his summer. “Oh yes!” I assure him. “Dayville’s the only place I ever want to be on the Fourth.” Though I’ve never lived there, the tiny town of Dayville, Oregon, is my mother’s birthplace and where I spent most summers and holidays as a child. Although it has barely two hundred residents, it glitters like a colossal sparkler on the Fourth of July. The day kicks off with a cross-country horse race and ends with fireworks in the park. In between are barbeques, a mini rodeo, and everyone’s favorite—the parade down Main Street, complete with floats, crepe-paper streamers, balloons, and tons of candy tossed out to the bystanders.
Since a parade can’t very well be held amidst traffic, the townspeople simply block off the road—which also happens to be State Highway 26. When the parade ends, the roadblocks are removed, and traffic is finally allowed to drive through town. Every year we clap and cheer for each car, as if they, too, are part of the parade.
Most travelers enjoy participating in this unexpected slice of Americana. They’ll give us their best beauty-pageant wave as we cheer. Some, however, irritated over the delay, pointedly ignore us.
One year, when an unusually grumpy couple drove through, my brother tossed several pieces of his collected candy into their rolled-down window, startling the couple with an unexpected treat. A few moments later, they grinned sheepishly and returned our waves. From then on, tossing candy to travelers became a family tradition.
As I look forward to another Fourth of July in Dayville, I think of the travelers whose holiday plans will take them down Highway 26—and the annual roadblock. Will they relax and enjoy the unexpected experience—or will they be so concerned with their schedule they’ll miss the quaint pleasure of a small-town celebration?
God’s surprises remind us of who’s in control .He knows us better than we do, and he wantsus to give our relationships—the beginnings, middles, and endings—to him. (Elizabeth Cody Newenhuyse)

Mayo Mathers comments on the surprising and unexpected pleasure of being part of a parade in Dayville by pointing out that like those travelers, I often miss the surprises God tosses my way when I’m too focused on my own agenda. When my son asks me to ride bikes, will I cheat myself out of sharing his excitement over the new trail he’s found because I’m too concerned about my to-do list to take the time? Or when I turn down a friend’s lunch invitation because I’m too busy, will I miss being the first to hear her ecstatic announcement “I’m pregnant!”?
The Dayville parade is my annual reminder to “lighten up” and be more flexible in all areas of my life. And it’s taught me to be on the lookout for God’s surprises. Perhaps the woman spreading out her checkered cloth next to mine at the Fourth of July picnic will be a new friend—if I take time to introduce myself. And maybe I’m the surprise he has for her!

One of the surprises of early space flight was John Glenn’s fireflies. He was very surprised by their sudden appearance. What were the “fireflies” that John Glenn saw during the first orbital spaceflight for the US? Enjoy a new “you-were-there” look at the stories of early space exploration from the original NASA transcripts. John Glenn describes small, mysteriously illuminated particles surrounding his capsule. John Glenn starts off by saying: “This is Friendship Seven. I’ll try to describe what I’m in here. I am in a big mass of some very small particles that are brilliantly lit up like they’re luminescent. I never saw anything like it. They round a little; they’re coming by the capsule, and they look like little stars. A whole shower of them coming by...” CAPCOM replies “Roger, Friendship Seven. Can you hear any impact with the capsule? Over.” John Glenn replies “Negative, negative. They’re very slow; they’re not going away from me more than maybe 3 or 4 miles per hour. They’re going at the same speed I am approximately. They’re only very slightly under my speed. Over.” What were these fireflies? In the movie “The Right Stuff” the fireflies were given the illusion of being mystical or perhaps alien — or maybe part of Glenn’s imagination. The answer to the mystery wasn’t confirmed until the next Mercury mission, Aurora 7, with astronaut Scott Carpenter on board in May 1962. Carpenter also saw the fireflies, or snowflakes, as he called them, and quickly could identify the source. They were tiny white pieces of frost from the side of the spacecraft. (http://www.universetoday.com/82211/the-mystery-of-john-glenns-fireflies-returns/) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHPm1iWCZaw

The film The Game is pretty much the basic example of a masterful surprise movie ending. Wealthy financier Nicholas Van Orton gets a strange birthday present from wayward brother Conrad: a live-action game that consumes his life. The surprise at the end is that it was just a game and instead of dying he lived.
There are many surprise endings in films.  There is the classic surprise ending in the movie The Sting were the audience is set to believe that the girl is great and she turns out to be the assassin and the supposed assassin turns out to be his bodyguard.
The Sixth Sense is masterfully directed and amazingly well written and acted, The Sixth Sense will move, captivate, and scare you. The surprise end of the movie will leave your head spinning. This is one movie which will leave a lasting impression on your mind. Haley (Joel Osment) starts seeing dead people and his therapist, Bruce Willis, too many times. The true shocker comes with the twist at the end of M. Night Shyamalan’s best film. Spoiler Alert……It turns out that Bruce Willis is dead and that Haley is sent to help him.
In another movie The Others (2001) we find a mother (Nicole Kidman) who lives with her two young children in an English country manor house after World War II. Their father hasn’t returned from the war. The children share a condition which makes them extremely photosensitive, requiring them to be under constant supervision and to be moved from room to room in order to never experience direct exposure to daylight. They are tended to by a trio of mysterious caretakers, and are visited by ghostly apparitions. The twist: The mother and children are actually the ghosts. Their three caretakers are also ghosts. The ghostly apparitions, meanwhile, are actually a séance leader and the new inhabitants of the home.
You can pick your favorite surprise endings and show how surprises sometimes can be upsetting. Some more movies that you might want to think about using include The Prestige, Unbreakable, Psycho, Soylent Green, Chinatown, The Ring, Minority Report or 12 Monkeys.

Ways to welcome surprise can include Building “flex” time into your schedule. Then when surprises happen, they won’t throw you. You can also start a “Surprising Results” jar. When a surprise occurs, good or bad, write it down on a slip of paper. Put it in the jar, and then record what happens later. You’ll be amazed to see how God works everything for good (Rom. 8:28)! Another way to include surprise in your life is to Spring some loving surprises on others. Take a discouraged friend her favorite dessert, or accompany a child to a carnival. The more you do “spontaneous” things yourself, the less disturbed you’ll be when your own plans are interrupted. The final may be the most important you need to decide how you’ll respond before a surprise—good or bad—threatens to sidetrack you. Carrying a notecard in my wallet with writer Oswald Chamber’s words “We live by God’s surprises” reminds me to handle surprises with an eternal perspective.

How do you handle God’s surprises? Do you eagerly anticipate them, knowing they’ll help you grow? Or are you annoyed because they interrupt your carefully made plans? How can you accommodate your schedule to allow time for the unexpected? (http://www.christianitytoday.com/holidays/mother/features/surprises.html)

Sunday: December 11, 2011, 3rd Sunday of Advent
Readings: [Psalm 126 or Luke 1:47-55], Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, 1Thessalonians 5:16-24, John 1:6-8, 19-28
Writer:  Nikk Adams

So why do women's garments button from the left?. When buttons first appeared in the 17th century, they were seen only on garments of the wealthy. At that time it was the custom for rich men to dress themselves and for women to be dressed by servants. Having women's shirts button from the left thus made things easier for the mostly right-handed servants who dressed them. Having men's shirts button from the right made sense because most men dressed themselves,
The reason honey is so easy to digest is that it’s already been digested by a bee.
The lion that roars in the MGM logo is named Volney.
Colgate faced big obstacle marketing toothpaste in Spanish speaking countries. Colgate translates into the command, “Go hang yourself.”
The only 2 animals that can see behind without turning its head are the rabbit and the parrot.
If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle; if the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle; if the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural cause. (http://www.hemmy.net/2006/04/30/50-interesting-facts/)

When it comes to recipients, two thirds of women say that it's most important that their children are happy with their presents. But for men, their mother is still the most important woman in their life. Half of men surveyed say that it's more important that their mother loves her Christmas present, rather than their wives / girlfriends or children. And there are still some men who are as surprised as mother when she opens her gift. A fifth of men admit to having their wives / girlfriends choose their mother's present. (Research was carried out by TK Maxx amongst a representative sample of 2,060 adults aged 18+ 30th Oct - 2nd Nov 2009 (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2009/12/prweb3380194.htm)

Looking back at a Newspaper from 1961 we have a view of a world that no longer exists. The article’s theme is the spirit of Christmas over a world beset by anxiety. The article begins by pointing out that Berlin had its first white Christmas in twenty years. “Along the communist wall, 800 lighted Christmas trees glittered through the falling snowflakes, and muted the starkness of the brick and wire barrier.” But even with that the Communist restrictions remained in force. “For many Berliners, Christmas reunion promised only a walk to the wall to wave at relatives on the other side.” (http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1842&dat=19611223 &id=Pf0rAAA AIBAJ&sjid=ssYEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6004,6552168)

There are many surprises in our lives. There is much that we do not know. 1. If you are right handed, you will tend to chew your food on your right side. If you are left handed, you will tend to chew your food on your left side.
2. Chewing gum while peeling onions will keep you from crying.
3. The Titanic was the first ship to use the SOS signal.
4. Laughing lowers levels of stress hormones and strengthens the immune system. Six-year-olds laugh an average of 300 times a day. Adults only laugh 15 to 100 times a day.
5. Dalmatians are born without spots.
6. Around 90 per cent of the world’s population is right-handed, and it is easier for right-handers to button shirts from the right.

Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) was an American novelist. She is best known for the novel Little Women and its sequels Little Men. Many of her novels are about childhood poverty. Alcott was brought up in childhood poverty. Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was a close friend of the family. It was through his help that Alcott’s family survived hard times. (Stephen W Hines (ed) Louisa May Alcott’s Christmas Treasury [Colorado Springs, 2002] p196) His charity kept the family going. It is no surprise that charity as a virtue plays a large part in Alcott’s stories. In the children’s short story Tilly’s Christmas we have the adorable tale of a little girl who find a frozen robin in the snow and takes it home. Tilly saw the little bird as her Christmas gift. After taking the bird home and giving it warmth and food the little family of mother and daughter go to bed since as they themselves were running out of fire wood. The next morning Tilly finds outside her house warm blankets and scarves for herself and mother along with new shoes gifts from a kindly neighbor.  There was even a large stack of fire wood. For Alcott the surprise was not only the bird but also the charity of the neighbor. One interpretation of this story is that one surprise leads to another. Charity to someone or something in need makes us free to find accept God’s surprises in life.
Tilly’s Christmas is short and could be a great story to read to children at story time or during a Children’s sermon. It uses the red robin as a central character which is a Christmas character in many places in the world.

The red-breasted robin is a lovely symbol of Christmas. The story told is that Joseph built a fire in the manger to keep Mary and Jesus warm, but the flames kept dying. A robin fanned them with its wings so that the fire wouldn’t die, and his proximity to the fire seared his  breast turning it red. The story also shows the power of anonymous giving that is symbolized in the life of St Nicholas and the wonder of children on Christmas morning.

Sunday: December 18, 2011 4th Sunday of Advent
Readings: [Luke 1:47-55
or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26], 2Samuel 7:1-11, 16, Romans 16:25-27, Luke 1:26-38
Writer:  Nikk Adams

The Roanoke Colony was either the first permanent settlement in America, or an elaborate practical joke. Walter Raleigh sent the colonists there and then left them without supplies for three years, perhaps just to see what would happen.
What he probably didn’t expect was for the colony to just vanish. When new settlers finally arrived, none of the original colony remained at the settlement (except for the old skeleton of one guy) and the mysterious word “Croatan” was carved into a tree, right under, “Metallica Rules”.
So, was it a UFO abduction? Perhaps the colonists were held in some kind of suspended animation.
The Obvious Answer: That second group of settlers didn’t really get the chance to investigate what happened to the original group, because a few years later an even bigger mysterious phenomena occurred: Blue-eyed, pale-complexioned Indians began showing up on nearby Croatan Island.
So what to make of these mysterious children, who looked like they might have been the descendents of white/Indian mixed race parents? On CROATAN island?

You may be one of those people who dread the holidays. Painful memories tend to work their way out at Christmas more than at any other time of the year. You may remember a father’s drunken rage, a forced intimacy, a child’s hurtful words, a time of disappointment while all around you were celebrating. This is the time of the year that makes the pain of grief much sharper. It is when family tensions are more pronounced. It is the time of the year when you remember more sharply those people you have lost in your life or are not there with you. So for many people, Christmas is the time of year that they dread more than any other.
For them, the greatest surprise this Christmas may be the simple message that “You are loved by God.” Yes, you. God is aware of your failures but sent Christ anyway. God knows how you have been hurt and He wants to make you whole again.
Yes, it may be mysterious that the God of Creation would notice and love you. God’s love is a mystery to me too. I didn’t come to Him . . . He found me. And He is reaching out to you as well. His invitation is simple, “Dare to trust me. One more time dare to believe that someone . . . no, not just someone . . . the Lord of Creation, loves you.” Begin your Christmas celebration by welcoming God’s forgiveness and love.
I don’t know what surprises are in store for you this Christmas. Some will sting, some will make you jump for joy, some will take you down uncharted paths, others will stretch you in ways you never imagined. But each surprise comes from the hand of the Father who loves you. And I pray that you respond like the little child, “Whatever my daddy chooses for me is fine.” These words echo the words of Mary . . . “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” (http://www.unionchurch.com/archive/112899.html) Rev. Bruce Goettsche

According to a study done by the Guttmacher Institute, half of all pregnancies in America today are “unplanned.”  And if you think that’s just counting unmarried teenagers, think again.  Many women across the economical and educational spectrum find themselves with a surprise pregnancy at some point in their lives.  Being unplanned, however, does not always have to end negatively.  Here are some pros and cons of a planned vs. unplanned pregnancy.
 “Let’s have a baby,” say the planners.  You’re ready.  You have the finances lined up, a toy filled nursery and a savings account with the baby’s name on it.  You decide to start trying to conceive.
The pros to planning your pregnancy are great.  You are prepared financially, can start taking your prenatal vitamins early, ditch any bad habits that may harm the baby and generally be excited about the adventure ahead.  But the down side is, things do not always go as planned. 
If you have spent most of your life trying to prevent getting pregnant you may automatically assume that it’s a fairly easy task.  You expect to ditch the birth control, do what you have already been doing and, voila, you have a baby in your arms in nine months.  But it doesn’t always work like that.  Sometimes it takes months to get pregnant, which is perfectly normal; but sometimes it ends up taking years.  So the downside is, even if you plan your pregnancy- it may not turn out exactly like you planned.  Statistically, about 1 in 10 women of reproductive age will struggle with infertility or take longer than one year to conceive.  

Unplanned pregnancy can often be defined by one word, “oops.”  Perhaps you’re not married.  Perhaps you are in college or in the middle of a career change.  Maybe your husband just lost his job.  An unplanned pregnancy can be one the scariest feelings in the world.  The good news is, there is help.  Counselors, pregnancy centers and governmental agencies are all there to help if you are in a family or financial crisis.  The good news is that nine months from now you’ll be a holding a “bundle of joy.”  And at that point, you may not even remember the stress you felt when you first saw that positive pregnancy test.  (http://www.examiner.com/new-moms-in-new-orleans/planned-verses-unplanned-pregnancy) Mary and Elizabeth would have agreed with this very modern but ancient idea about waiting for the surprise of pregnancy.

Our God is a God of surprises, but He is also a God who loves to be thanked. He wants us to enjoy our blessings, but not so much that we forget to run back into His arms. He hears our requests. He knows what’s best—and it might be different than what you expected. And he shows us love in giving the best gift of all—himself (Luke 11:13).

As you face the challenge of paying for college, trust God as the ultimate giver of good gifts and turn all your desires over to him. He may surprise you! (http://www.christiancollegeguide.net/article/God%27s-Surprises)

Our God is a God of surprises, but He is also a God who loves to be thanked. He wants us to enjoy our blessings, but not so much that we forget to run back into His arms. He hears our requests. He knows what’s best—and it might be different than what you expected. And he shows us love in giving the best gift of all—himself (Luke 11:13).

As you face the challenge of paying for college, trust God as the ultimate giver of good gifts and turn all your desires over to him. He may surprise you! (http://www.christiancollegeguide.net/article/God%27s-Surprises)

Sunday: December 25, 2011, Christmas Day
Readings: [Psalm 96:1-3, 11-13 or Psalm 97:1-6, 11-12 or Psalm 98:1-6], [Isaiah 9:1-6 or Isaiah 62:11-12 or Isaiah 52:7-10], [Titus 2:11-14 or Titus 3:4-7 or Hebrews 1:1-6], [Luke 2:1-14 or Luke 2:15-20 or John 1:1-18]
Writer:  Nikk Adams

For more examples of Christmas Traditions and for some fun Christmas trivia, check out: http://www.thehistoryofchristmas.com

What we now days call Christmas tree ornaments started life as much larger spirit bulbs. They were thought in the late Middle Ages to keep off evil spirit. Glassblowers in Lauscha recognized the growing popularity of Christmas baubles and began producing them in a wide range of designs. Soon, the whole of Germany began buying Christmas glassware from Lauscha. On Christmas Eve 1832, a young Queen Victoria wrote about her delight at having a tree, hung with lights, ornaments, and presents placed round it. In the 1840s, after a picture of Victoria’s Christmas tree was shown in a London newspaper decorated with glass ornaments and baubles from her husband Prince Albert’s native Germany, Lauscha began exporting its products throughout Europe. In the 1880s, American F. W. Woolworth discovered Lauscha’s baubles during a visit to Germany. He made a fortune by importing the German glass ornaments to the U.S.A. Other stores began selling Christmas ornaments by the late 19th century and by 1910, Woolworth’s had gone national with over 1000 stores bringing Christmas ornaments across America. New suppliers popped up everywhere including Dresden die-cut fiberboard ornaments which were popular among families with small children.
The surprising thing about the death of this industry is that Lauscha was in Eastern Germany and the Communist shut down the planets that made these handmade ornaments. After the Berlin Wall came down, most of the firms were reestablished as private companies. As of 2009, there are still about 20 small glass-blowing firms active in Lauscha that produce ornaments. (various sources)

Unexpected and anonymous giving is celebrated in the figure of St Nicholas and even in the Santa Claus of modern society. Selfless giving is something that we celebrate in the birth and death of Jesus. There is a great story told by a person who worked as a volunteer at a hospital.She got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.
The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to save his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.”
As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”
Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her. (http://www.thestraitgate.org/inspirational/unselfish-giving/)

The accepted face of St Nicholas, i.e. Santa Claus came from the Coca Cola Company in the “twas the coke before Christmas” campaign. What coke gave us was a jolly and less frightening picture of St. Nicholas. This is a surprising outcome from a drink that started as a cure-all given out by pharmacies.(http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/heritage/cokelore_santa.html)


The distinctive "hook" shape associated with candy canes is traditionally credited to a choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral in Germany, who, legend has it, in 1670 bent straight candy sticks into canes to represent a shepherd's crook, and gave them to children at church services. The shepherd's staff is often used in Christianity as a metaphor for The Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. It is also possible that, as people decorated their Yule trees with food, the bent candy cane was invented as a functional solution. (www.wikipedia.org and www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/)

Wreaths have been used as a decorative sign of Christmas for hundreds and hundreds of years. The wreath is made of evergreens, most often pine branches or holly. They can be real or artificial. It is decorated with a variety of items including pine cones, holly berries, fruits, and just about anything you can imagine. The wreath has significant meaning for the season. Its circular shape represents eternity, for it has no beginning and no end. From a Christian religious perspective, it represents an unending circle of life. The evergreen, most frequently used in making wreathes, symbolizes growth and everlasting life. Holly branches have thorns. When used in a wreath it represents the thorn on Jesus’ crown when he was crucified. Bright red holly berries symbolize Jesus’ blood that was shed for us. Such symbolism helped remind the folks that had no books to remind them of the story of Jesus.


Sunday: January 1, 2012, 1st Sunday after Christmas
Readings: Psalm 148, Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:22-40
Writer:  Buddy Cooper


Oprah collects “aha” moments and post them on her web site.  There are a great many look at http://www.oprah.com/packages/aha-moments.html

Desperate times lead to desperate actions. “Americans need to appreciate European art and ideas. It was not a new idea. In the same spirit, Jefferson had purchased some sixty-three paintings while in Paris, mostly copies, in the belief that they, like hundreds of books he selected from bookstalls by the Seine, could help increase American appreciation of the fine arts and the world of ideas.”(David McCullough, The Greater Journey, [Simon Schuster: New York, 2011], p. 65)

Some months ago, a minister in Mississippi confessed to me that he had been dabbling at the ministry for forty years. At another Pastor’s School, a superintendent told me that his pastors are consumed with earning CEU credits and drinking coffee. Another leader shared with me in a tone tinged by sarcasm that the greatest need of our church is to overcome the ‘energy efficiency’ of our pastors. The problem of motivationally deprived persons has been screaming at the church for some kind of solution. Could it be we don’t know who we are and how free we have been made in Christ Jesus? (William Hinson, A Place to Dig In, [Abingdon: Nashville, 1987], p. 127)

Sunday: January 8, 2012, Baptism of the Lord, 1st Sunday after Epiphany
Readings: Psalm 29, Genesis 1:1-5, Acts 19:1-7, Mark 1:4-11
Writer:  Buddy Cooper

There are impediments to the Holy Spirit really leading us in our lives. In the 1830 one of the mantras used by successful people to guide their lives can from the schools of France. “It was then, too, in his student years in Paris that he reached certain conclusions about life that were to stand as his guiding principles that he would stress to students of his own. ‘Conceive an idea. Then stick to it. Those who hang on are the only ones who amount to anything. You can do anything you please. It’s the way it’s done that makes the difference. A good thing is no better for being done quickly.’”(David McCullough, The Greater Journey, [Simon Schuster: New York, 2011], p.256) This rugged individualism chaffs against the concept of surrendering one’s life to Jesus and His Holy Spirit’s leadership.


Sunday: January 15, 2012, 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, 2nd Sunday after Epiphany
Readings: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18, 1Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20), 1Corinthians 6:12-20, John 1:43-51
Writer:  Buddy Cooper

(No Extra Material)

Sunday: January 22, 2012, 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany
Readings: Psalm 62:5-12, Jonah 3:1-5, 10, 1Corinthians 7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20
Writer:  Ed McNulty

(No Extra Material)

Sunday: January 29, 2012, 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 4th Sunday after Epiphany
Readings: Psalm 111, Deuteronomy 18:15-20, 1Corinthians 8:1-13, Mark 1:21-28
Writer:  Ed McNulty

(No Extra Material)

Sunday: February 5, 2012, 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 5th Sunday after Epiphany
Readings: Psalm 147:1-11, 20, Isaiah 40:21-31, 1Corinthians 9:16-23, Mark 1:29-39
Writer:  Stan Adamson

Many years ago a Lay Pastoral Assistant and I were working on the problem of motivation. We wondered why some people loved volunteering and never had to be goaded or reminded, while others avoided and evaded. We discovered something which should be obvious, but isn’t necessarily; a very simple principle. People do what they like to do! If you give them something they like to do, or they discover it themselves, you won’t be able to stop them. If you coerce them into doing something that bores or over-challenges them, they’ll delay and avoid. Seems simple, yet how many times in the church do we just get a warm body to commit to something, out of duty, and then discover that it never gets done? It’s the same way with taking time for prayer: it was what Jesus wanted and yearned for at the beginning of every day, because he knew he’d never make it without that start. When we believe and yearn for time with God, we’ll make time. If it seems like a chore, we’ll avoid it.

That leads to a second concern: how we pray. If we look at Jesus’ model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), we look in vain for the ingredient that motivates so many of our prayers: yearning for things, or yearning for a problem to be solved. But Jesus’ prayer does none of that. Instead, it’s a prayer much more like Solomon’s (1 Kings 3:7-9), a prayer not that God will give us things, but instead that God will help us be wise and kind, just and merciful. If, in our morning meetings with God, we were to ask God to shape and transform us into compassionate, forgiving, joyful and unworried people, my guess is we’d be more motivated to pray!

Sunday: February 12, 2012, 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 6th Sunday after Epiphany
Readings: Psalm 30, 2Kings 5:1-14, 1Corinthians 9:24-27, Mark 1:40-45
Writer:  Stan Adamson

Evangelism is one the most important forms of service Christians can perform: to share the message of Jesus Christ with another is a sacred duty and a joy. Some have the gift for it. But we can all tell how God molds and affects our lives. However, this must be done sensitively, so that it is authentic and credible, and does not violate the privacy or integrity of the other. Listening is as important as speaking, so we can see where our faith experience is congruent with another’s needs or interests. Everyone yearns for some degree of transformation, so the leper was highly credible and relevant, especially to people who knew him in his former condition. Such good news cannot be contained: it bursts forth naturally and enthusiastically. Each of us must carefully consider how God’s love has transformed us, and bear our own personal witness. Borrowing another’s won’t do.

Sunday: February 19, 2012, Transfiguration Sunday, Last Sunday after Epiphany
Readings: Psalm 50:1-6, 2Kings 2:1-12, 2Corinthians 4:3-6,Mark 9:2-9
Writer:  Don Denton

Again, what is this text’s main lesson for a congregation of believers? Our main task is to embody the gospel of Jesus Christ through our ministry with one another and our mission to our particular community. The requirement of the Father is this: we must keep Christ’s word and not deny Christ’s name.( Revelation 3:8) The promise of the Father to the congregation is this: He will set before us an open door that no one can shut and we will become a pillar in the temple of God, bearing His name forever.( Revelation 3:12) This is the promise of God to faithful fellowships of believers in every age of trial and we are invited to remain steadfast in the storm that is about to break over the American church.

I always find it interesting to ask people this question, “Other than Jesus, who is your favorite Biblical character?” The exploration of their answer can provide a helpful insight in the practice of pastoral care. The exposition of this question can be an insightful way to approach this sermon.

As the story of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe comes to its dramatic conclusion, the children learn the secret of Aslan’s true strength and the deeper magic which sustains him. “He has opposed the witch's magic and he is aware that he must pay the price: his own death. The magical outcome in Aslan's case is not an isolated event. His dying and coming back to life has cosmic results. (http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Movies/The-Chronicles-Of-Narnia-Prince-Caspian/Exploring-The-Deeper-Magic.aspx#ixzz1WtJ6FMlz)

Sunday: February 26, 2012, 1st Sunday of Lent
Readings: Psalm 25:1-10, Genesis 9:8-17,1Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1:9-15
Writer:  Don Denton

Rick Rescorla is someone your congregation may find inspiring quite apart from this award by Secretary Napolitano. His entire life was one of dedicated service, often in the face of overwhelming odds that came primarily from people who blithely ignored his realistic warnings. You can find out more about this amazing man by visiting the website dedicated in his honor: www.rickrescorla.com

Writing in the Yuma Sun, Senator John Kyle makes this point quite well. He states, “Despite America's culture of generosity, there is a perception in some circles that Americans are selfish when it comes to the less fortunate…“The United States is constantly taking heat from the international community and foreign aid advocates for being stingy in its foreign assistance.” Sometimes even Presidents echo this faulty perception, which may be more a projection of their own stinginess than a true reflection of the American soul. For example, the private donations to the 2004 Sri Lankan tsunami was $1.6B, far outstripping what was given by any other nation or what was officially appropriated by the U. S. Congress  (Kyl, J. [2010, December 25]. Its really ‘America the generous.’ [Retrieved from www.yumasun.com/opinion/american-66392-americans-private on September 25, 2011])
“PDA and the Red Cross first offered a joint training in 2008 for about 30 clergy, and about a month later those chaplains were called up to a fire in the Texas Panhandle to provide coordination and orientation for various faith organizations on site to help,”  as a part of the denomination’s on-going mission. (Retrieved from http://www.pcusa.org/news/2011/9/22/working-others-christ/)

Most states now have a VOAD network that coordinates the response of Volunteer Organizations that become Active in Disasters. Most denominations belong to the national VOAD network and most likely your local judicatory is a member of the state VOAD. One of the ways for a local congregation or individual members to become involved in disaster response and relief is to become a trained volunteer. (http://www.vavoad.org/)

The second director of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, frequently made two points related to security that also applies to Christian discipleship. First, he championed the need for the creation of a “culture of preparedness” throughout the nation, from national structure down to local homeowners. He also coined the phrase “preparedness is a culture not a check-list” to emphasize the practical nature of such a culture. These same principles apply to effective Christian discipleship. There is the need for discipleship to be infused throughout our homes and personal lives, not being simply something we trot out at our convenience or remember once disaster or disease has struck at our heart. Having a daily devotional regime equips us for those dry times of the soul and those trying seasons of distress. (C-SPAN [www.c-spanvideo.org/program/201817-1])

This article documents a radical change in the American consciousness. Citing figures from a USAID official, he reports, “Twenty-five years ago, 70 percent of U.S. aid abroad flowed from the government. Today, 85 percent comes from the private sector. The United States is filled with civic-minded, globally conscious individuals who use their own money to fund charitable causes both at home and abroad.” This is a new covenant, indeed.  (Kyl, J. [2010, December 25]. Its really ‘America the generous.’ [Retrieved from www.yumasun.com/opinion/american-66392-americans-private on September 25, 2011])

In addition to providing physical relief for people in disaster’s aftermath, there is a desperate need for spiritual and emotional relief as well. You may wish to consult your own denomination’s mission structure to determine their specific procedures and policies. Within the Presbyterian Church (USA) there is a collaborative relationship with the American Red Cross, described here by the Rev. John Robinson, Presbyterian Disaster Association’s director. “Every faith-based disaster organization does spiritual care, but “what is different is that in PDA, rather than trying to set up our own separate spiritual care process apart from others, we see our role as working with other agencies and organizations including the Red Cross” (Presbyterian Disaster Association, http://www.pcusa.org/news/2011/9/22/working-others-christ/)