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Past Fun, Fellowship, and Ministry at Troy First

By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         Mark 1:29-39

 

Thoughts:         Mothers-in-law are often the objects of unkind jokes.  The plant called mother-in-law’s tongue has long leaves with vicious points, and “they” say you can’t kill it.

 

The disciple Peter had a mother-in-law, and Peter and his wife lived with her in Capernaum.  Peter had invited Jesus and the disciples to come for dinner.

 

With his customary economy of words, mark does not say that Peter’s wife couldn’t cook, but he implies it.  Now a pretty hostess can be very delightful, but there were thirteen hungry men looking forward to a home-cooked meal, and Peter’s mother-in-law “lay sick of a fever.”

 

Miraculously, Jesus cured her, “and she ministered unto them.”  You can just picture the dear old soul scurrying out to the kitchen, tying on her apron and bringing the potatoes to a boil.

 

Discussion:      In what ways can we minister unto others?

 

Activity:            Choose a ministry – however small, however humble.  Send a thinking-of-you card.  Sweep snow off the church sidewalks.  Invite someone who lives alone to Sunday dinner.

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By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         Mark 1:14-20

 

Thoughts:        

Salome (dishing up potatoes):  You’re late.

Zebedee:  Well, you can thank your precious sons for that.

Salome:  Where are Jimmy and Johnny?  Didn’t they come home with you?

Zebedee:  No, they did not come home with me.  Your sister’s oldest boy – O what’s his name?

Salome:  Zebedee, you know his name is Jesus.  When the angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to our Messiah –

Zebedee:  Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that story way too often.  Anyway, this Jesus came by the boat this afternoon.

Salome:  Mary must be so glad he’s home.

Zebedee:  Not a word to me, mind you.  No “How are you, Uncle Zebedee?”  No “Fishing good today?  Oh, no.  Just called to the boyus to come with him.  And they were gone like a couple of jackrabbits.

Salome:  I’m sure they’ll be home soon.

Zebedee:  Left the hired men and me with all the fish to sort and pack, all the nets to fold, all the -

 

Discussion:      What did Zebedee think Jesus should have said?

 

Activity:            Is Jesus calling you to help at coffee hour?  To be a greeter?  To send a get well card?

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By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         John 1:43-51

 

Thoughts:         Can you reel off the names of the twelve disciples?  They are listed four times in the New Testament, in each of the synoptic gospels and again in Acts.

 

Although the gospel of John never lists the disciples, John tells us how Jesus came to Philip and to Nathaniel and asked them to follow him.

 

Philip lived in Bethsaida in Galilee.  When Jesus found Philip, he said simply, “Follow me.”  Philip’s answer was not recorded, but he found his friend Nathaniel and told him he had found the promised Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Nathaniel lived in Cana in Galilee, a large and centrally located town.  By contrast, Nazareth was considered a frontier town, isolated and provincial.

 

Nathaniel’s answer to Philip was so human – so timeless.  “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” he scoffed.

 

In his ensuing conversation with Jesus, Nathaniel was convinced that indeed, something very good could come out of Nazareth.  Philip and Nathaniel (sometimes called Bartholomew) became two of Jesus’ twelve disciples.  And the other ten?

 

Discussion:      What qualities did Jesus perceive in Philip and in Nathaniel that appealed to him?

 

Activity:            Commit the names of the twelve disciples to memory.  If Jesus chose them to be his closest companions, they deserve to be remembered.

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By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         Mark 1:4-11

 

Thoughts:         “Dove” rhymes with “love” and often does in bad poetry.  At some (expensive) weddings, doves are released to flutter over the wedding party.

 

Doves coo.  They do not squawk or chirp.  Doves are small and white, with little nembs and dainty feet.  They do not have hooked beaks and fierce talons.

 

Doves symbolize peace.  When Noah released a dove from the ark, it returned to him with a green leaf in its beak – a welcome sign that the flood waters were receding.

 

Doves also symbolize sacrifice.  When Joseph and mary took Jesus to the temple for his ritual circumcision, Mary presented two doves for the required sacrifice after the birth of a child.

 

All four gospels tell the story of Jesus’ baptism.  All four tell us that after his baptism, the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove.

                            

Discussion:      What characteristics of doves should we emulate?

 

Activity:            Endeavor to bring green leaves to those who wait.

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By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         Matthew 1:1-12

 

Thoughts:         Only Matthew tells the story of the wisemen.  Through the years we have added to his narrative.

 

We have determined that there were three wisemen, one for each gift:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

 

We have decided these men were kings, because (1) they had the means and the leisure to undertake a long journey, and (2) they could afford to bring lavish gifts.

 

We have named the wisemen Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar.

 

And although Bible scholars believe the wisemen found Jesus and his family in Nazareth when Jesus was two years old, we cling to the traditional scene of the poor shepherds and the rich wisemen clustered about the manger in the stable in Bethlehem.  There the wisemen laid their “intricate gold upon that simple straw.”

                            

Discussion:      What would Matthew think of his embellished story?

 

Activity:            Read Psalm 72 and Micah 5.

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By: Sue Oleson

 

Scripture:         Luke 2:22-40

 

Thoughts:         Have you seen Anna?”

                             “She never leaves the temple.”

                             “Always fasting and praying.”

                             “Poor old soul, she doesn’t’ have any family.”

                             “They say she can predict the future.”

                             “Did you hear how excited she was when that country couple came in with a baby?

                             “She said the baby was the Messiah!”

                             “Yeah, she was going on about this baby’s bringing redemption to Jerusalem.”

                             “Well, you know she never had any children of her own.”

                             “No, she didn’t.  She’s probably lonely.”

                             “And as old as the hills.”

                             “Let’s check out the sale at Micha’s!”

                             ”And then we can have lunch at Zelophehad’s new place.”:

                             “And then we ------“

 

Discussion:      And then we can - go to the after-Christmas sales?

 

  • Return that dreadful scarf from Aunt Atossa?

     

  • Hold close the wonder of Christmas in our hearts?

Activity:            Invite someone who lives alone to come over for tea and Christmas cookies.

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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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