Have a Blessed Holy Week

Have a Blessed Holy Week

Our reading of The Story is taking a break until after Easter.  We wish you a very blessed Holy Week as you contemplate the passion of Jesus and the crucifixion of Jesus.  Chapter 26 will be assigned next week … at which point we will discuss the crucifixion of Jesus here and at Allentown Presbyterian Church.  In the meantime, make comments or ask questions here.  Or on our facebook group page, or on Twitter using the hashtag #apcthestory

Holy Week services at the Allentown Presbyterian Church are as follows:

 

 

Next Assignment in Two Weeks …

Next Assignment in Two Weeks …

Our reading of The Story is taking a break until after Easter.  We wish you a very blessed Holy Week as you contemplate the passion of Jesus and the crucifixion of Jesus.  Chapter 26 will be assigned in a couple of weeks … at which point we will discuss the crucifixion of Jesus here and at Allentown Presbyterian Church.  In the meantime, make comments or ask questions here.  Or on our facebook group page, or on Twitter using the hashtag #apcthestory

Stepping up in 2014

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It’s customary to do some reflection on our lives as we come to the end of one year and the beginning of another.  Some make resolutions … whether they’re kept for a week or a lifetime.  It’s also time to think about our spiritual well-being as we head into a new year.  If you’ve been with us for APC The Story since September, it’s time to get back into the groove of reading, reflecting and participating in discussion.  Perhaps a New Year’s resolution could be to comment and/or post on the blog more often.  If you haven’t been reading along … now is a good time to join in weekly reading of The Story.

We will be returning with Chapter 13: The King Who Had It All.  There are a number of ways to participate in the community both online and in real life :-).  Pick and choose which work best in your reading and study and interaction with others.  First, read chapter 13 before Sunday, January 5.  Then …

  • attend the Sunday School Class at Allentown Presbyterian Church at 9:30 am
  • attend worship at 8:30 or 11:00 am and hear a sermon related to the chapter (sermons will be also be posted on this blog as available)
  • attend an evening discussion group on Monday at 7:00 pm at the church
  • read the blog posts here beginning on Monday mornings
  • comment on the posts or pose your own questions about the chapter
  • join the discussion on Facebook’s group APC The Story here
  • tweet comments as you read, attend classes or worship, or just think about the reading each week. #apcthestory

Please consider asking your friends to join us, as well …

Advent and Christmas Break

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We are now in the midst of Advent, the season of preparation and waiting in the Christian Church.  We are waiting on the Lord, preparing for the coming of Jesus.

We’ll be taking a break from our reading of The Story in order to fully recognize the season.  Our readings and reflections will begin the first week of January with Chapter 13: The King Who Had It All and the story of Solomon.  As usual, the assignment will be posted on Friday, January 3, and our reflections will post on Monday morning, January 6 … which also happens to be the day of Epiphany.

Until then … have a peaceful and contemplative Advent and a joyous Christmas!

Rock Crushes Scissors

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We are all familiar with the David and Goliath story. I remember the story from my Sunday School lessons as a preschooler. It has all the makings of a great young adult movie franchise … the story follows the formula for a blockbuster: 1) a teenage hero or heroine, 2) faces a giant challenge, 3) a beautiful, handsome, and extremely “buff” star, and 4) as the hero comes of age, they find that the power they have is enough to overcome the giant or super-villain. This is the basic story arch for Harry Potter, Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Hunger Games.

David, the youngest of a large family of brothers, was ruggedly handsome and a shepherd boy who loved music and poetry. He was chosen by God, yet he was still just a kid. He had ambitions, ideals, and a strong faith. He lacked brawn, skill with a sword, military experience and rank. When the king’s army was faced with a warrior like Goliath — large, well-armored, and with a reputation for winning — little David, who was only there because he was bringing supplies to his brothers, steps forward out of teenage bravado (add a touch of foolishness), and, with no armor but the power of The Lord God, slays the giant.

Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, poses another explanation. It wasn’t a fluke that David won this battle; it was his advantage. David changed the rules of the game. There were three methods of warfare: hand to hand, horseback, and the “slingers”. They each have different advantages. The slingers throw things, often using the leather pouch on a rope. David wasn’t equipped for a sword fight, but he was a practiced slinger.  So when he tells Saul that he has fought and killed many animals as a shepherd, he is proposing that he fight using his strengths … by slingshot.  Then Saul places the armor on David, and he takes it off … the chain mail would be good for most of the soldiers there, but not for a slinger.  David knows he needs to be quick, agile, and accurate.  The advantage, of course, is that he never gets close enough for Saul to even raise his sword.  David takes him down from a distance, then moves in for the kill.  Rock crushes scissors.

The typical underdog interpretation underscores the need to trust and follow God’s commands, even if they are foolish.  Gladwell’s take says, sure it might look foolish by one set of assumptions, but David is working from the skills and talent he has been given and has developed as a shepherd.  David never assumes that he’s going to wrestle and sword fight.  David’s assumption is he’s going to win in whatever way he can … and his strength is in slinging stones.  He’s a sharp shooter with a slingshot.

Does this interpretation make God less powerful?  No, I don’t think so.  It does, however, show us a great example of one called by God to a specific task using his energy, intelligence, imagination and love in living into his call.  God calls each one of us … if not to be king, to be teacher or parent or co-worker or spouse or … and God equips us for the task.  Our expectations are often that God should give us the “armor” to do the job the way it’s always been done.  God calls us, however, as we are, with the gifts and skills and talents and perspective that is uniquely ours.  Using all our energy, and all of ourselves, we follow Christ … and when we do, God does miraculous work through us.

Assignment 11 … From Shepherd to King

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This week we’ll be reading the story of David.  That’s Chapter 11: From Shepherd to King.  For those reading along in your own Bible, the reference is: 1 Samuel 16-18; 24; 31; 2 Samuel 6; 22; 1 Chronicles 17; Psalm 59;

Look for this week’s reflection/s on Monday Morning.  In the meantime, make comments or ask questions here.  Or on the facebook group page, or on Twitter using the hashtag #apcthestory

When Life Gives You Lemons …

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We all have hard lives. There are so many clichés … but, bad things happen to good people. Tragedy or loss is not necessarily caused by bad choices or the sinfulness in our lives. Sometimes bad things just happen. If we live long enough, we are going to face challenges and situations that are filled with grief, sorrow, suffering and loss.

Two of the five “churchy phrases that are scaring off millennials” (as written in the Washington Post) are the kitschy phrases we church people tend to use to comfort each other during challenging times. Phrases like: “God never gives you more than you can handle.” And “God is in control” or “God must have a plan for this.”

Naomi’s life seemed especially difficult. She, her husband, Elimelek, and children were forced by a famine to migrate to a new land. They left the land of their people, Bethlehem in Judah, and moved to the land of Moab. They were aliens making the best of it in a foreign culture. Elimelek died. But their sons had grown (making them 1.5 generation immigrants) and married Moabite women. Within a decade her two sons Mahlon and Kilion also died. She was left with her two daughter-in-laws but no male children to take care of them or to provide heirs for Elimelek, Mahlon or Kilion. For women at this time, providing a male heir is the mark of success and wellbeing.

Having no future in Moab, Naomi decides to return to Judah. Being loyal daughter-in-laws, Ruth and Orpah, prepare to go with her. Naomi, though, knows what it’s like to leave home for a strange land, so she encourages her daughter-in-laws to stay in Moab and return to their families and their familiar ways with the hope they will find new husbands. Orpah decides to go back to Moab, but Ruth goes with Naomi to Judah.

This is another story of redemption. When things go “bitter” with Naomi, God works through the faithfulness of Ruth to set things right and bless her and her husband, Elimelech, with heirs. Some say that this was Gods plan all along, but I don’t think so. It was God, working through the faithfulness (obedience and compassion) of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz, who “makes lemonade” out of the “lemons” of their lives.

For me, that’s the hope of the Gospel, seen even here in this Old Testament story. Ruth is one of the named ancestors of Jesus … By naming her we are reminded of the redeeming work of God throughout history.

When we believe that God causes bad things to happen as part of some master plan, or due to some fault or sin in ourselves … we miss out on the full mystery of God. We, no doubt, get angry at God, and the bitterness of our life becomes a part of us. Naomi (which means sweet) says that she should be called “Mara” or bitter. She sounds bitter when she blames God for the tragedy she’s suffered. Yet, when she sees the hope and faithfulness of Ruth, she starts relying on God again … she gives Ruth advice … and the bitterness makes way for God’s sweetness to reign.