Year of Scripture – Hebrews

Readings for:
Day 352 – Wednesday, December 18: Hebrews 1 – 6
Day 353 – Thursday, December 19: Hebrews 7 – 10
Day 354 – Friday, December 20: Hebrews 11 – 13

I can hear Harriet say, “Now Pastor, you know the Bible is very clear on who is supposed to make the morning coffee!” “It is?” I would reply and she would start laughing. “Of course, it does . . . He – Brews!”

Harriet was a beloved church lady at my last call in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and she was always full of whit and humor. Yet always filled with a deep and sincere passion for our Lord. Unfortunate for me, but a blessing for her, God called her home while I was serving there and we had a wonderful celebration of life, filled in with her whit and humor.

As I think of Harriet and her passion, Hebrews comes to mind as it is full of passion and love for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. From its opening words:

“Long ago, God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he as spoke to us bay a Son!”
(Hebrews 1:1-2a)

Much like the eloquent words to the beginning of the Gospel of John, the unknown author writes beautiful words that connect Jesus Christ, to the ancient of days through the Order of Melchizedek. Now you may be asking, “who is that?” Over and over again, the Letter to the Hebrews refers back to this peculiar named priest, but know this isn’t the first time we’ve heard his name. Look back with me to Genesis 14:

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,

And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine;
he was priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
(Genesis 14-18-20)

Long ago . . . Hebrews starts out, and we are connected to the first priest of God. Little mentioned. Little reflected upon. Still important to the story as Abram is blessed by God through Melchizedek. A blessing that is then poured out to us through Christ who is the completion of the line of priest. Christ is the perfection of everything God created, and through the cross we are forever united into the priesthood of all believers.

I know it’s complicated. Still it’s beautiful!

Peace,
Pastor Bailey

Year of Scripture – Philemon

Reading for:
Day 351 – Tuesday, December 17: Philemon

There is no way to skirt around this. There is no hiding the obvious. There is no easy way to hide the fact that in order to read and understand Philemon we are going to have to deal with slavery.

Now that that is out of the way, let me add, I am not a proponent of slavery. It is an unfortunate dark stain in the history of our country, and a horrible reflection of the world especially in our ability to mutually care and respect one another. It saddens me that in some circles and black markets of the world slavery and indentured servant-hood still exists. As a basic God given gift, we were all created equal in God’s image, and we all should be working hard to end what should have ended years ago.

That being said, in order to understand Paul’s urgency in writing Philemon, we have to ask the question, “If you were a slave owner, and one of your slaves ran away, who may have physically stolen or harmed you in some way shape or form in their flight, what would you do upon their return?” Not an easy question to ask. Not an easy question an answer, and chances are if we were going to answer truthfully, we probably wouldn’t be overly kind to them upon their return.

With that mindset, we now insert Paul’s letter. Treat him as a “beloved brother” (v. 16) for I have become like a “father” (v. 10) to him, and he is one with us “in the flesh and in the Lord.” (v. 16) Ahh . . . great words. You can only wonder if they worked. I pray that Onesimus was welcomed as warmly as Paul encourages Philemon to act. Paul then goes on to promise to repay Philemon for any “wrongs” that Onesimus has done, and to ready a guest room for Paul is soon to visit.

For me, this is one of those letters that makes you want more. What happened next? What is the story beyond the story? We do know that Onesimus plays a roll throughout Paul’s travels and is referred to several different times. So he’s a key part of the growth of the early church. More importantly, this letter reminds us, that we are all created one in the eyes of God. We are all called to treat one another as sisters and brothers in faith. As Paul writes in Galatians, no longer are we defined as slave or free, male or female, young or old. Or as the children’s song would have us sing, “red, yellow, black, white, we are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Even as we begin a new year, may you remember to love all God’s children, as God loves us!

Peace,
Pastor Bailey

Happy New Year!

We made it to 2020! Honestly, I’m still waiting for the day when we are living like the Jetson’s. In my youth, watching the morning cartoons, I thought maybe by 2020 we’d be there. Great stuff of dreams, and my son said, “Dad that’s for 2100.” I’ll never see it, but maybe his dreams will come true!

So as we start a new year together, what is the biggest news? We made it through a Year of Scripture! I know Christmas got me bogged down and I didn’t finish posting but I will, I promise. Even though I didn’t blog every day, I made time to open my app and share my own personal time of reflection with God. I even took a screen shot to show a perfect streak! And the verse for the day, seemed fitting. “Everything beautiful.”

So the question is now what? We’ll I’m hoping to do a few different things.

One . . . to keep up with my daily reading. The You Version App has plenty of different reading plans, which Wendy and I are going to pick and share together. Right now we are working on a six day plan on “Making a better us.” Hopefully, together we can continue to read and grow in love and relationship with one another and with God.
Two – I’m hoping to keep up with my Blog, and to use is as a sermon summary, or sermon starter. I Know many of you faithful readers aren’t here on Sunday and may appreciate so of my “other thoughts” that go in to Sunday’s Message. Perhaps it will be a good Sunday – Monday connection that we all need.

In the mean time, I’m going to finish sharing my thoughts on the last few books of the New Testament and close out the Year of Scripture. Then we’ll see how the Sunday Connection thing shakes out.

Peace,
Pastor Bailey

Blessed Christmas

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 
(Luke 2:8-18)

From our family to yours,
a Blessed and Merry Christmas!

God’s Blessings!
The Bailey’s

Pastor, Wendy, John, Andrew and Grover

Year of Scripture – Pastoral Epistles

Readings for:
Day 349 – Sunday, December 15: I Timothy
Day 350 – Monday, December 16: II Timothy
Day 351 – Tuesday, December 17: Titus

In order to become ordained and serve as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) I had to undergo a lot of education and faith formation. Even with nearly 18 years in the ministry I can recall:

  • 4 years of undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati, where I received a BA in Sociology.
  • 2 years of MIC (Ministry in Context) which I did at the Campus Ministry at Ohio State University, under the guidance of Pastor David Hill.
  • 1 year of internship at St. Mark’s Lutheran in Yorktown VA, under the guidance of Pastor Gary Erdos.
  • 3 years of education at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, (now a part of Capital University) where I received an M.Div.
  • Social and Psychological evaluations
  • 3 months as a Hospital Chaplin which I did at Grant Medical Center in downtown Columbus,
  • I’ve learned Greek, Hebrew, Latin. Studied intensively many books of the Bible, and had to write my own Systematic Theology Papers.
  • Along with a variety of interviews, essays, papers, and exams as part of the synod Candidacy Process.

Needless to say, I’ve got the years of education and training equivalent to many of the doctors you may be making appointments with as the winter crud continues to plague many this time of year. Needless to say, it’s a long and tedious process, and a process that Paul, Timothy and Titus didn’t have.

As the early church was filled with the Holy Spirit and quickly began to grow, move, and challenge the world, pastor’s were need. Leaders were needed, and they were needed quickly. Who is fit? Who is God calling? How are they to be used and serve the church? To answer that question, Paul writes these three letters to Timothy and Titus, which are often linked together as the “Pastoral Epistles.” Why, because throughout them, Paul gives guidance on who may be called to serve and the type of life they should life. These three letters would have been a crash course in theological training 2000 years ago.

Now some 2000 years later, it’s a bit more complex than reading and agreeing with Paul. Which in some way is unfortunate because many of the hurtles I had to jump through may very well be steering people away from faithful ministry. That being the case, ministry is still a calling worth considering! Most days it is a wonderful blessing, and those few challenging days, God gives constant guidance and wisdom. So ask yourselves, how is God calling you to minister out into the world?

Peace,
Pastor Bailey

Upcoming Readings:
Day 352 – Wednesday, December 18: Hebrews 1 – 6
Day 353 – Thursday, December 19: Hebrews 7 – 10
Day 354 – Friday, December 20: Hebrews 11 – 13
Day 355 – Saturday, December 21: James
Day 356 – Sunday, December 22: 1 Peter
Day 357 – Monday, December 23: 2 Peter

Year of Scripture – Thessalonians

Today’s Readings:
Day 347 – Friday December 13: I Thessalonians
Day 348 – Saturday, December 14: II Thessalonians

There was one thing that caught my attention as I read through I & II Thessalonians, which came at the close of the second letter:

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.
This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.”

Think of you signature on the bottom of a page. Scrawled out in your own hand. Unique in your own way. Paul did much the same. He signed his letters, which were probably written by someone else, transcribing his thoughts and putting words to ink and paper. While not theologically significant, Paul wanted his readers to know these were his words. This is mine, so I sign it in my own hand.

Peace,
Pastor Bailey

Upcoming Readings:
Day 349 – Sunday, December 15: I Timothy
Day 350 – Monday, December 16: II Timothy
Day 351 – Tuesday, December 17: Titus & Philemon
Day 352 – Wednesday, December 18: Hebrews 1 – 6
Day 353 – Thursday, December 19: Hebrews 7 – 10
Day 354 – Friday, December 20: Hebrews 11 – 13
Day 355 – Saturday, December 21: James
Day 356 – Sunday, December 22: 1 Peter
Day 357 – Monday, December 23: 2 Peter

Year of Scripture – Colossians

Today’s Reading:
Day 346 – Thursday, December 12: Colossians

Who wrote Colossians? It bears Paul’s name, but did Paul really write it? Good question, and one we may never know the answer to. Scholars will point out some theological differences between Colossians and some of Paul’s other letters. Others will point out a difference in Greek vocabulary and usage that hadn’t been used by Paul before. So did Paul write it, maybe/maybe not. Perhaps if he didn’t one of his “disciples” did, either way, there is still a great message to be told, especially in the words of 3: 12-14:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with
compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another,
forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you,
so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love,
which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Can’t get any better than that!

Peace,
Pastor Bailey

Upcoming Readings:
Day 347 – Friday December 13: I Thessalonians
Day 348 – Saturday, December 14: II Thessalonians
Day 349 – Sunday, December 15: I Timothy
Day 350 – Monday, December 16: II Timothy
Day 351 – Tuesday, December 17: Titus & Philemon
Day 352 – Wednesday, December 18: Hebrews 1 – 6
Day 353 – Thursday, December 19: Hebrews 7 – 10
Day 354 – Friday, December 20: Hebrews 11 – 13

Year of Scripture – Philippians

Readings for:
Day 345 – Wednesday, December 11: Philippians

A happy quick read to the people of Philipi, which can be summed up with one verse:

In the chaos of this busy time of year, I pray that you can always find a reason to “Rejoice!”

Peace,
Pastor Bailey

Upcoming Readings:
Day 346 – Thursday, December 12: Colossians
Day 347 – Friday December 13: I Thessalonians
Day 348 – Saturday, December 14: II Thessalonians
Day 349 – Sunday, December 15: I Timothy
Day 350 – Monday, December 16: II Timothy
Day 351 – Tuesday, December 17: Titus & Philemon
Day 352 – Wednesday, December 18: Hebrews 1 – 6
Day 353 – Thursday, December 19: Hebrews 7 – 10
Day 354 – Friday, December 20: Hebrews 11 – 13

Year of Scripture – Ephesians

Reading for:
Day 343 – Monday, December 9: Ephesians 1 – 3
Day 344 – Tuesday, December 10: Ephesians 4 – 6

To the Saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus . . .

Paul begins the letter to the Ephesians with a traditional greeting, but what it this letter was never sent to the Ephesians? You might be scratching your head and saying what? It’s addressed right to the, it says so right in the opening verse. True . . . it does. However the word “Ephesus” is believed to be a later addition. So perhaps this letter was meant for those who are faithful in Christ Jesus. I like that!

Here’s the simple truth, many of Paul’s letters were likely circulated from one “church” to the other. Which meant that the letter to the Romans, may have made a pit stop in Ephesus, Corinth, and a few other places along the way. Same could be said for the letters to Corinth, Ephesus, etc. The Gospel was meant to be heard, taught, and spread, and Paul’s letters were great teaching and preaching tools for the early church. So like chain mail, these letters went on and on.

This proves to be an important factor as we read Ephesians and those beloved words from Paul:

For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not your own doing;
it is the gift of God!
Not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 
For we are what he has made us,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

(Ephesians 2:8-10)

God’s grace through faith. How beautiful. How simple. How wonderful. For we did nothing to deserve the good graces of God, but through our faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we have been saved! And saved for what? Good works in the kingdom of God. Works that do not, and cannot earn salvation, for only Christ can do that. But good works that promote God’s kingdom here in this place. Good works that are done as a joyous free will offering back to God.

Grace through faith! What a concept that is meant not just for the people of Ephesus but for all who call on the name of Christ!

Peace,
Pastor Bailey

Upcoming Readings:
Day 345 – Wednesday, December 11: Philippians
Day 346 – Thursday, December 12: Colossians
Day 347 – Friday December 13: I Thessalonians
Day 348 – Saturday, December 14: II Thessalonians
Day 349 – Sunday, December 15: I Timothy
Day 350 – Monday, December 16: II Timothy
Day 351 – Tuesday, December 17: Titus & Philemon
Day 352 – Wednesday, December 18: Hebrews 1 – 6
Day 353 – Thursday, December 19: Hebrews 7 – 10
Day 354 – Friday, December 20: Hebrews 11 – 13

Year of Scripture – Galatians

Today’s Readings:
Day 341 – Saturday, December 7: Galatians 1 – 3
Day 342 – Sunday, December 8: Galatians 4 – 6

When you think of St. Paul and the letters he sent out into the world, we are usually quick to remember his letters Corinth, the letter to the Ephesians, or his writings to the Thessalonians. For what ever reason, Galatians, Colossians, and the Pastoral Letters (I’ll explain that in a few weeks) don’t seem to stick in our minds. Regardless of why, each still has something unique to offer to us as people of God.

For Galatians . . . the gift that Paul gives us comes in Chapter 5. You’ve probably heard these words before:

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
(Galatians 5:22-23)

The “by contrast” is important, for just a few verses before Paul reflects on the “works of the flesh.” Let’s be honest here, there isn’t a lot of kindness in the images he presents. Let’s be even more honest here, the works of the flesh continue to work their ways into our wold today. Always have, always will.

Yet with Christ, there is a better way! For God’s way that reminds us that we are all called to share the gift of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. I am reminded of Tina Turner’s 1993 hit song, “what’s love got to do with it.” Well absolutely everything. We could turn back to I Corinthians and see how love shapes us to be a people of God. Here, in Paul’s words to the Galatians, we are reminded that love us just one of the Fruits of the Spirit. However it is love first, which brings to life the ability to share joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. What a gift! What a challenge to give and receive these gifts.

Take a look around as you are out shopping (assuming you still go out to shop and aren’t just pointing to click). Take a look around and see if the “Works of the Flesh” are at hand, or if the “Gifts of the Spirit” are physically present. Chances are you might see a bit of both! Then filled with the Holy Spirit, work for the greater good in how you interact with those around you.

Peace,
Pastor Bailey

Upcoming Readings:
Day 343 – Monday, December 9: Ephesians 1 – 3
Day 344 – Tuesday, December 10: Ephesians 4 – 6
Day 345 – Wednesday, December 11: Philippians
Day 346 – Thursday, December 12: Colossians
Day 347 – Friday December 13: I Thessalonians
Day 348 – Saturday, December 14: II Thessalonians
Day 349 – Sunday, December 15: I Timothy
Day 350 – Monday, December 16: II Timothy
Day 351 – Tuesday, December 17: Titus & Philemon
Day 352 – Wednesday, December 18: Hebrews 1 – 6