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Past Fun, Fellowship, and Ministry at Troy First

By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         Luke 1:26-38

 

Thoughts:         Gabriel – God – Galilee – Nazareth – Joseph – David – Mary

 

An angel – a deity – a region – a town – a fiancé – a king – a virgin – who is quite important, even though she is named last.

 

Almost without exception, when an angel appears to a person, the person is frightened, and the angel hastens to reassure him or her.  Indeed, Gabriel has the highest praise for mary.  She is highly favored, blessed among women, chosen to bear the messiah.  And – on a chatty, newsy note – the angel tells Mary that her cousin Elizabeth is expecting a baby.  Can you believe it, at her age?

 

Mary responds with grace and dignity beyond her teen-age years.  “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

 

Discussion:      What parts of our lives are unto us according to God’s word?

 

Activity:            During this Advent season, what part of your life might you change, with God’s help?

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By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         John 1:6-8, 19-28

 

Thoughts:         Like a flash of lightning, John the Baptist streaks through the gospels.  His birth was miraculous.  His message was bold.  His lifestyle and his clothing were unorthodox.  His audiences were large.  His arrest was inevitable.  His death was tragic.

 

We can imagine his mother Elizabeth yearned for her only child to lead a more conventional life.  Probably, she wanted him to wear neat, traditional clothes, to eat well-balanced meals, to marry the nice Jewish girl next door.  Elizabeth must have trembled when John denounced King Herod for taking his brother’s wife.

 

Centuries later, we remember John as a man sent from God, sent to bear witness of the Light to come.

 

Discussion:      If you have no memory of your baptism, what have you been told?  Who baptized you?  When and where?  Who was there?

 

Activity:            Pay close attention to the next baptism you witness.  Remember what the congregation promises.

“With God’s help we will so order our lives, that this child, surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in the faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.”

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By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         Mark 1:1-8

 

Thoughts:         The first paper I submitted in graduate school came back with only two marks:  a big red C and one word – prolix.  I was crushed by the C, and I was embarrassed that I didn’t know what prolix meant. 

 

The author of the gospel of Mark could never be accused of being prolix.  His sixteen chapters are terse and unornamented, and his two favorite words are “immediately” and “straightway.”

 

The first chapter of Mark begins with Isaiah’s prophecy:  “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.”

 

This messenger, John the Baptist announces his mission; he baptizes many people; he preaches repentance.  Mark tells us how John dressed and what he ate.  John professes his unworthiness even to tie the shoelaces of the One who is coming, proclaiming, “I indeed have baptized you with water, but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.”  And all this in eight verses.

 

Discussion:      Did Jesus need a precursor like John?  Why or why not?

 

Activity:            Try to make the path straight for someone else.  Pay a compliment.  Welcome a visitor to our church.

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By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         Mark 13:24-37

 

Thoughts:         One of the Bible’s many gifts to us is poetry.  Sometimes it stands alone, as in Psalms, and sometimes it is interwoven in a lesson.  We are blessed with such a nugget in Mark 13:24-25.

                             “…the sun shall be darkened,

                             and the moon shall not give her light,

                             and the stars of heaven shall fall ….”

 

We remember the hauntingly beautiful spiritual

                             “My Lord, what a morning!

                             My Lord, what a morning!

                             My Lord, what a morning!

                             When the stars begin to fall.”

 

Jesus was talking to his disciples during his last week on earth before his crucifixion.  He loved his disciples – the impetuous Peter, the zealous Simon, the self-effacing James, even the traitorous Judas – and he yearned for them to understand that not even he, the Son, knew when the stars would fall.  Only the Father knew.  Jesus wanted his disciples to be ready.  He concluded his loving admonition with one word: Watch.”

 

Discussion:      What stars do we see that are in danger of falling.

 

Activity:            Watch for a star whose fall you may cradle.

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By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         Matthew 25:31-46

 

Thoughts:         Goats get rather a bad rap in this scripture.  Of course, they are used here as a metaphor, but goats in real life are valuable. 

 

Goats are rugged animals, which can find enough food to eat even in poor, dry land, where sheep might starve.  Goats’ milk is nourishing and easier to digest than cows’ milk.  Excellent cheeses are made from goats’ milk.  Goat skins make high-grade leather, including the famous morocco leather.  Both mohair and cashmere are made from goat hair.

 

Goats are noisier and more aggressive than sheep, less attractive and less biddable.  The people listening to Jesus would have been very familiar with both goats and sheep, so they were useful symbols in Jesus’ story.   A wise teacher builds on what his listeners already know.

 

Discussion:      What qualities of goats should Christians emulate?

 

Activity:            After Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, Mary looked at children and “saw a little Christ in every face.”  We must see a little Christ in the least of these.

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By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         Matthew 25:14-30

 

Thoughts:         In my dear but unlettered little home town, a favorite saying was “Them as has, gits.”  Matthew 25:29 expresses it more formally:  “For unto everyone that hath shall be given ….”

 

And so it often seems.  The bank president’s son drives a red convertible, captains the basketball team, marries the prom queen, inherits his father’s position, and lives in a big, pillared house.

 

But even those who have only one talent have God’s love.  And if we use that talent the best we can, God will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant ….”

 

Discussion:      Paul admonished Timothy to “stir up the gift that is within you.”  Why do we fail to stir up our gifts?      

 

Activity:            Write a note of appreciation to someone who contributed to our Sunday morning service.

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By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         Matthew 25:1-13

 

Thoughts:        

Carelessina:                    I’m so excited!

Fecklessette:                  I know!  I’ve dreamed about my wedding day ever since I was a little girl!

Wisdoma:                       And today we meet the bridegroom.

Foolisha:                         Do you think he’ll be young and handsome – and rich?

Sagacia:                          Could we be so lucky?

Smartina:                        He should be here by now.

Brightilla:                        It’s getting dark.

Lazinda (yawning):      And I’m so tired.

Dullims:                           But I don’t want to sleep.  I’ll ruin my hair.

Organizenda:                 Maybe if we use very soft pillows….

              (They all sleep.  Offstage there are hoofbeats and then shouted orders.  The

              noise awakens the girls.  The bridegroom enters.)

Dullima:                           He’s here!

Carelessina:                    Where’s my lamp?

Smartina:                        I have mine.

Wisdoma:                       So do I, all trimmed and ready.

Lazinda:                           But I don’t have any oil!

Fecklessette:                  Let me borrow some of yours.

Sagacia:                           No way.

Organizenda:                 You should have bought oil yesterday.

Brightilla:                        Go buy your own oil.

Foolisha:                         But it’s too late!

 

Discussion:                     What are the most important preparations before we meet Christ?

 

Activity:                          Prepare for Sunday morning church – e.g. your offering envelope, everyone’s clothes, an open heart, a welcoming smile.

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By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         Matthew 5:1-12

 

Thoughts:         The Beatitudes?  Oh sure, I remember those.  Had to memorize ‘em once.  One of ‘em was about the meek, and one was about the pure in heart, and one – wait, I know this – peacemakers, that’s it!  Peacemakers were good, weren’t they?  And somebody got the kingdom of heaven, I remember that.  Old Miss Vereen made us kids memorize a lot of stuff.

                            

Perhaps in his synagogue school, Jesus also had to memorize scripture.  When he said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” he must have remembered Psalm 37:11.

 

“… the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”

 

An abundance of peace.  Now that’s worth remembering.

 

Discussion:      Why did Jesus choose to begin his Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes?

 

Activity:            Memorize your favorite Beatitude.

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By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         Matthew 22:34-46

 

Thoughts:         “God’s in His heaven.

                             All’s right with the world.”

Familiar, right?  You know these lines by heart.  Robert Browning wrote them when he was 29.

 

When Browning was 43, he wrote some less familiar lines.  Less familiar, but powerful lines, directly inspired by Matthew 22:42, when Jesus asked the Pharisees, “What think ye of Christ?”

 

                             “What think ye of Christ, friend?

                             When all’s done and said,

                             Like you this Christianity or not?

                             It may be false, but will you wish it true?

                             Has it your vote to be so if it can?”

 

Discussion:      What think ye of Christ, friend?

 

Activity:            Cast one vote this week for Christianity.

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By: Sue Oleson

Scripture:         Matthew 22:15-22

 

Thoughts:         When our children were little, they delighted in asking me questions I couldn’t answer.  One school morning we were scrambling around, finding the lost mitten, smoothing the crumpled homework – you know the drill.

 

When we opened the back door, we could barely see the garage through the heavy fog.

“Mama, what is fog?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted, “but we’ll look it up in the encyclopedia* after school.”

 

And we did.  “Fog is a cloud come close to earth.”  Short.  Easily understood.  Beautiful.

 

One of Jesus’ uncountable gifts was his ability to answer questions so perfectly that his questioners were silenced.

 

Discussion:      Which was most important in Jesus’ earthly ministry?

     (a)  his teaching       (b)  his answers to his enemies    (c) his miracles

 

Activity:            Learn one useful and/or interesting fact.

 

*Encyclopedia – a comprehensive reference book, still invaluable.

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