Wednesday, March 30, 2011

From the men's bible study, March 30

1 Samuel 16:1-13

After his anointing by Samuel, David is mentioned as a lyre-player at the court of King Saul, ruler of an area north and east of Jerusalem. David left his court to become a warlord to the south, in the Bethlehem area. Saul has enjoyed God’s favor, but has lost it by disobeying the prophet Samuel’s instructions. God now orders Samuel, his agent, to anoint a new king, a son of “Jesse”. Samuel’s route to Bethlehem is through Saul’s territory, so he asks God how he is to make the trip (v. 2). God tells him to say that he comes to “sacrifice to the Lord”: this is part of his purpose. “Eliab” (v. 6) is Jesse’s eldest son. Surely a tall first-born is God’s choice for king (vv. 6-7). But God’s choice is not humankind’s choice. (Jesse’s second and third sons are “Abinadab”, v. 8, and “Shammah”, v. 9). David’s complexion is “ruddy” (v. 12); he is God’s choice. When Samuel anoints him, the “spirit of the Lord” (v. 13) comes upon him. His brothers are witnesses. Samuel returns to “Ramah”, his seat of judgment.

Ephesians 5:8-14

The author has exhorted his readers to conduct themselves ethically as befits those who have adopted the way of Christ. Having “put away your former way of life” (4:22) and being clothed with the new self (4:24) when they were “marked with a seal” (4:30) in baptism, they are now to lead moral lives for, being members of a body in which the Holy Spirit dwells, an offence against a member is an offence against God. They are to “share with the needy” (4:28), emphasize the good in others (4:29) and imitate “God” (5:1) and Christ. They must obey God (5:6). Now, in terminology also found at Qumran and in Matthew, the author contrasts unbelievers (who live in “darkness”, 5:8, and disobey God) with those who are in “light” (5:8), “in the Lord”. Christians should “expose” (5:11) deviations from God’s ways. Evil deeds are known to God (5:13). 5:14b may be a quote from an early baptismal hymn. Seek the “light”, what God would have you do (5:10).

John 9:1-41

Perhaps Jesus encounters the blind man in the precincts of the Temple, where beggars habitually gathered. Illness and physical disability were attributed to sin: in this case, either of the man or of “his parents” (v. 2). Jesus dismisses the link between sin and illness, at least in this case; rather he says that this man’s impairment provides him with opportunities to do the works of God. Jesus and his followers (“we”, v. 4) must do his mission while they can. A time is coming when he, “the light of the world” (v. 5) will not be in the world, so he will be unable to “work” (v. 4,). Jesus takes earth (the substance from which human, Adam, was made), makes “mud” (v. 6), and applies it to the man’s eyes. If he has trust enough to go to the “pool” (v. 7) and wash it off, he will have sight. He does; thus Jesus completes one of “God’s works” (v. 3). John draws attention to “Siloam” (v. 7) as meaning “Sent”, thereby alluding to Jesus as sent for the salvation of humankind – so washing symbolizes baptism.

Despite the man’s claim to be the one who was a beggar, those who know him are divided: some say “it is he” (v. 9) but others doubt: he only looks like the beggar. In vv. 10-22, the man confirms his cure as genuine. The Pharisees consider making mud on the sabbath as breaking the Law (v. 14) so they examine the man. They too are divided (v. 16): between those who say Jesus can’t be from God (for he breaks the Law) and those who wonder how a sabbath-breaker can perform miracles. So they question the man further, hoping that the dilemma can be resolved by discrediting the cure (v. 17). They ask: What do you say about his opening of your eyes? He insists that Jesus’ power is from God (“a prophet”). The man’s parents swear that their son was blind from birth but say no more, for fear of being cast out of the community (vv. 18-23). The Pharisees invite the man to confess that he has deceived them in claiming to be cured (v. 24). (“Give glory to God” is an Old Testament formula inviting confession.) The man boldly asserts the fact of the cure and adds, ironically: if you listen to my story you may admit that Jesus is right! (v. 27) They question Jesus’ authority: “we know” (v. 29) that the Law is from God, but Jesus is an upstart! The man ridicules their expert opinion (v. 30). God only listens to sinners who are penitent (v. 31). Jesus must be “from God” (v. 33) for no one has ever before performed such a cure (v. 32). For trying to teach the Pharisees a lesson, the man is evicted from the synagogue (“drove him out”, v. 34). Jesus invites him to express his faith shown by his conduct (vv. 35-38). He says he took on human form for two purposes: to give understanding, sight, of ultimate reality, and to punish those who think they “see” (v. 39) but don’t. The Pharisees are incredulous (v. 40). Jesus says: if you were ignorant of God’s ways (“blind”, v. 41) you would be considered sin-less, but you make the unfounded assumption that you do “see”, so you are liable to be punished.

Submitted by Dick Nelson

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Women of the Word, March 24

Genesis 45

After hearing Judah’s plea to release Benjamin and his offer of himself as Joseph’s slave in Benjamin’s place (Gen. 44:18-34), Joseph can no longer keep up his pretense in front of his brothers and tearfully reveals that he is the sibling that they had sold into slavery seventeen years before. They, in turn, are so terrified that they are speechless. Joseph, however, reassures them saying that God sent him into slavery in Egypt “to preserve life” while the famine ravaged their lands. “God sent me ahead of you . . . to preserve you all, a great band of survivors” (v. 8). [We need to keep in mind that this is being written during the Babylonian exile, after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the loss of the Ark of the Covenant. God will keep His promise that a remnant of the faithful will always survive.]

When Pharaoh hears of the reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers, he offers the “best there is in Egypt” to Jacob and all his household if they will relocate from Canaan. Jacob, stunned at the news that the son he long thought was dead is alive and prosperous, agrees to make the journey “before I die.”

Genesis 46:1-4

Israel (these first 4 verses are an insertion from the J writer, who uses the name God gives Jacob after wrestling with Him [Gen. 32:28]) pauses at Beersheba on his way to Egypt to offer sacrifices to God (it was from Beersheba that Jacob started his long-ago flight from the wrath of Esau after he had stolen his older brother’s blessing). God calls to him in the night, and he gives the traditional answer, “I am here.” God reassures Jacob that He will be with him in Egypt and “there I will make you a great nation.” He also promises to bring Jacob back again [to the land of the patriarchs], and “Joseph shall close your eyes” [the son he had lost will be with him at the end of his days]. Once again, the writer is emphasizing the theological concept of a moveable God, not one who is attached to a particular place or a specific altar.

Submitted by Karilyn Jaap

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Men's Bible Study, Third Sunday in Lent: H2O and More

EXODUS 17: 1-7 - Do you Thirst?- Not all about water

Moses is dealing with his wandering and very disappointed Israelite band. They are at Rephidam (Wadi Feran), an oases, 20 miles north of Mount Sinai. This is normally a well watered, fertile valley; however, Moses and the tribes found it dry. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our children and live stock with thirst?” The band is weary of all the wanderings; they are losing faith in Moses’ leadership which was not that great to begin with. In desperation, Moses calls on God for deliverance. What to do? God gives Moses explicit orders:

Go to Horeb (the lower slopes of Mount Sinai)

Bring the elders with you ahead of the masses

Strike the rock with your walking staff when you see me at Horeb and water will appear.

There are parallel writings about this trial and bringing water in Numbers 20: 2-13, the major differences are that Moses disobeyed the orders, striking the rock two times. Because of the lack of faith and trust in the Lord, God tells Moses, because you did not trust in me you will not bring this bunch of quarreling people into the Promised Land. Religious scholars debate the nuances of Exodus and Numbers, noting they are compilations of oral traditions, written at different times and removed from the actual events. Although they focus on Moses, he is not the author of either book.

A Rabbinical legend (also see Paul’s First letter to the Corinthians, 10:4) has this water-rock following the tribes of Israel showing God’s providence, in spite of their obstinacies. Paul looks at it as a form of grace flowing from the rock. It is in modern Christian tune: “God is flowing like a river, flowing out through you and me.” In the end of the passage, Moses names this site: Massah –Meribeth to distinguish the event of the Israelites bickering and testing God. The theme of thirst, water, and dependence will flow from this reading into the Gospel. Water is important, thirst can mean different things.

Romans 5: 1-11- Being Kept Safe from God’s Anger

Here is Paul speaking about faith, endurance, hardship, and pouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts. All of these components relate to the Trials & Tribulation at Massah –Meribeth, as well as the forth coming interaction of Jesus with a lady at a well near Sychar.

John 4: 5-42- Living Water

Jesus is on his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, to do so; he had to pass through Samaria. Along the way, tired and thirsty he took a break at Jacob’s well near the village of Sychar (known today as Askar), it is two miles ENE of Nablus and half a mile north of Jacob’s well. They arrived at mid-day and the disciples headed into Sychar to get some food. Jesus hung out at the well. A woman from Sychar with the intention to get some water comes upon Jesus. The conventional stereotyping has it that this woman is from the wrong side of the tracks in Sychar and was not allowed to use the well in town. This passage is one if not the longest dialog between Jesus and a very interesting person. Remember in last week’s Gospel Jesus had a lengthy discussion about being born again in the spirit with Nicodemus, a learned Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin. In a social context, this was not a big deal, but we note that Nicodemus came to Jesus under the cover of darkness. The Samaritan lady was out and about at noon in the bright sunlight. Also of note, the mores of the day were that a Rabbi would not speak or be seen with a woman, and especially not a woman of Samaria (Jews despised Samaritans). If that were not bad enough, the lady had gone through five husbands. Jesus takes a great risk in the eyes of the time in having conversation with the woman. This is an occasion where we see that this Messiah is not limiting his message to a select group. Even the disciples were astonished that Jesus had gotten involved with the Samaritan woman and tried to get him to disengage.

“You don’t know what God wants to give you, and you don’t know who is asking you for a drink. If you did, you would ask me for water that gives life.” We are back to thirst, water being a metaphor for quenching a different thirst, a thirsty soul. The discourse continues with a pattern of misunderstanding about living water. The woman is taking in the information in as literal facts and Jesus is explaining spiritually what he is offering. At the time, living water would mean, a bubbly brook. Jacob’s well was about 100 ft deep and water slowly seeped out of the rocks and collected in a pool at the bottom of the well. A person had to dispatch leather vessel on a cord to the pool to collect water. This would not be living water. Finally, Jesus says to the woman, No one who drinks of this water will get thirsty again, a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” And in a second, the woman responds, Give me some.

The passage goes on and on, in the end, many of the lady’s neighbors in Sychar come to know Jesus as their Lord and savior.

Posted by Walt Jaap

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Banner Day

March 23 was a banner day for the Schuller family. Bettina Schuller became an American citizen at the naturalization ceremony held in the Tampa Convention Center. What a blessing for America and for St. Thomas! Bill Futch had a little surprise waiting for her when she returned home.

Submitted by Barbara Suhar

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Choral Festival

Accolades and Thanks to the Saint Thomas Choir and Music Director for the wonderful performance of Nunc Dimittis at the Choral Festival, American Guild of Organists, at First Presbyterian on Sunday. They did it well. The group also participated with the combined choirs from many local churches in Requiem in D minor by Gabriel Fauré. Bob Green sang a very nice solo in the Requiem. A free will offering was given to the families of Sergeant Thomas Baitinger, Officer Jeffrey Yaslowwitz, and Officer David Crawford. All of the musicians performed very well; the Requiem and several other pieces were sung in Latin (complex and challenging). Many thanks to Louise and the choir for the hours of practice and the stunning performance!
Submitted by Walt Jaap

Monday, March 21, 2011

Women of the Word, March 17

Genesis 42-45:4
Main Theme: Joseph meets his brothers as they travel to Egypt where he has been living for quite awhile. (They fail to recognize him when they see him!)

This part of Genesis is about sibling rivalry which all of us have or will experience in our own lives. In Ch. 42, vs. 6, Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to buy grain and they bowed down to Joseph not knowing he is their long lost brother that they had put into a pit. Pharaoh found him and took him in as a slave in his home and made him very important.
Joseph must have been feeling the scars of how he had been treated by his brothers. We are reminded that when Christ arose from the dead after three days, he still had holes in his hands. Pain is still out there and scars do not go away easily.
Later in the passage, we learn that Jacob is still playing favorites with his sons.  Benjamin is one of his most favored sons along with Joseph and Simeon.
In chapter 43, we learn Judah will become the leader to the other brothers. During a later second trip to Egypt, we will see the theme, “I am my brother’s keeper.” This is a 180 degree shift in brotherly relationships. The term, keeping Kosher, also refers to the Jews’ maintaining their identity.
As we read on we see in Chapter 45, that the emphasis is going to be on “keeping in community” with one’s own people.
Submitted by Vicky Steinwender

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lenten study "Nooma", Sunday, March 20 at 9am in the Guild room

NOOMA is a series of short films (10-14 min) that explore our world from a perspective of Jesus. Jesus lived with the awareness that God is doing something, right here, right now, and anybody can be a part of it. Wherever he went, whatever he did, Jesus started discussions about what matters most, because for Jesus, God is always inviting us to open our eyes and join in.

During lent we will meet Sundays from 9:00-9:45am in the Guild room at St. Thomas to watch videos from the series "Nooma" and have small group discussions. We will form groups that will stay together for the six weeks so that we can get to know each other and bond in our spiritual journeys. We will also have an open group for people who won’t be able to come but once or twice.

About the video "Rain":
Things don’t always work out the way we want them to, or the way we think they will. Sometimes we don’t even see it coming. We get hit with some form of pain out of nowhere leaving us feeling desperate and helpless. That’s the way life is. Still, it makes us wonder how God can let these things happen to us. How God can just stand by and watch us suffer. Where is God when it really hurts? Maybe God is actually closer to us than we think. Maybe it’s when we’re in these situations, where everything seems to be falling apart, that God gets an opportunity to remind us of how much he really loves us.
For email subscribers click on
to see the two minute preview of "Rain".

Thursday, March 17, 2011

From the men's bible study, March 16

Genesis 12: 1-4a

Last week we were in the Garden of Eden with Adam, Eve, and a serpent. The themes were disobedience, temptation, and a fall from the relationship with God. We have jumped to chapter 12 in Genesis, and passed over a lot of interesting biblical events. In this lesson we are struck with the faithful obedience of another OT giant, Abram (Abraham), the name is translated as “Exalted Father, or father of the multitude” (Father of many Nations). Abram lived a long life; he was born in Ur, Mesopotamia. His life and heritage is in four distinct journeys: (1) the calling, (2) promise of a lineal heir & concluding a covenant, (3) establishing a covenant, changing his name to Abraham, and (4) the great trial. In today’s brief passage from the calling, God tells Abram to leave your father (a tribe or clan of nomadic herders) in Haran and go to a land that God will lead Abram, Sarai (Abram’s wife), and Lot (nephew) to. Considering the time, a family-tribe was the social-political unit, the success and well-being of the person was tied to the clan. To leave the clan, head off into the unknown, based on a calling from God, surely was a challenge. Today, the Jews, Muslims, and the Christians look at Abraham as a great spiritual ancestor of these three monotheistic religions. What does God communicate to Abram to motivate him to take this Journey?

Blessings and Curses; "To be blessed" means 'to be favored by God'. Blessings are directly associated with God and come from God. Therefore to express a blessing, is like bestowing a wish on someone that they will experience the favor of God. A curse is the opposite of a blessing. The blessings that God bestows on Abram are considered to be a covenant. God tells Abram that he will bless those that bless Abram; in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Abram will be made a great man, he will found a great nation, and Abram will be a blessing. These words and very big concepts are sufficient to motivate Abram to leave his clan and follow God. Obviously, it was a good decision. To be a blessing is a worthy goal.

Romans 4: 1-5, 13-17
Paul, in this passage presents an argument that deals with Abraham and his worthiness. Paul reports that Abraham did nothing to earn his relationship. God provided for Abraham, there were no laws, edicts, or works in the covenant that Abraham and God entered into. It was a covenant, based on faithfulness of Abraham to follow where God led him. Paul was railing agnist people who said that the route to a relationship with God was based on multiple laws, Paul told them, ditch the laws, it is all about grace.

John: 3: 1-17
It appears in the Lenten season, our Gospel readings are much longer and filled with tons of information. This lesson is a good example. It contains the material about rebirth and 3:16- “For God so Loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him may not parish, but may have eternal life.” One of the most quoted NT verses.

The passage starts with dialog between Jesus and a very scholarly Pharisee and temple leader of the archon- Sanhedrin (the high court of the Jews); his name was Nicodemus. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus was bound by oath to follow each and every law found in Talmud- the complexity of this includes 150 pages governing righteous behavior during the Sabbath. Mr. Nicodemus was well versed in Jewish law; perhaps it was all this law and ritual that drove him to interview Jesus. He visited Jesus at night- was he afraid his peers would see him and he would be condemned? A lot of people are somewhat reluctant to be seen openly with Jesus.

Nicodemus says he knows that Jesus is a teacher from God because of the multiple miracles Jesus has been credited with. Jesus perceives that Nicodemus truly is after the way to enter the Kingdom of God. He tells him several times that it has to do with Anothen- a Greek word of special meaning, difficult to translate into English. It can mean three different things in Greek (the language of John’s Gospel): 1: Completely radically, 2: Again 3: From above. Born anew is a fairly good translation. A more comprehensive thought is to undergo such a radical change that it is to have something happen to the soul which is like being born anew. Nicodemus is very befuddled about this. He thinks about going back to the womb. Rebirth was a component of Jewish traditions, it was part of the ritual of a man that came from a different religion (proselyte) and became a Jew (new birth out of heathenism). Another point about being born anew, the fascination of a Pharisee with keeping the Law as the way to the Kingdom is thrown away. The way into the Kingdom is not complicated by hundreds of laws and definitions, the keys to the Kingdom are Love of God and obedience to the will of God. This takes us back to Abraham and his response to God’s will.

We have a serpent here, Jesus talks about the lifting up of a metal serpent? What is this about? See Numbers 21:9- “So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” During the Exodus, God was protecting the tribes in the wilderness from snake bites by a bronze serpent on a pole. John links Jesus to this OT miracle. But more than survival of snake poison, the person that looks to Jesus lifted up can find eternal life.
Nicodemus goes away, but he will be back with us later.

Much credit to:
John Suhar explanations,
J.R. Dummelow’s and William Barkley’s commentaries.
Submitted by Walt Jaab

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Women of the Word, March 10

Genesis: 39, 40, 41

Despite the opening of the heavens and the resulting parking lot pond, most of us were in our places for this morning's microscopic look at the continuing chapters of Genesis where ancient memories were originally written in continual text on the scrolls, no chapters nor verses. The story scribes were sometimes one voice, other times many voices intermingled. The scriveners just kept on going, babblers on paper.

Barbara taught us that the Age of Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) was biblically no longer the ultimate power and what became important during these ancient times was community and plurality; society was no longer a party of only men. (Unfortunately, there have been more patriarchal societies since then.) These chapters were written to illustrate the beginnings of Joseph's rise to power.

Last week we left Joseph as a slave who had arrived in Egypt and today we learned that he was immediately hired by a Pharaoh, who feeling the grace of the Lord in Joseph, made him the man in charge of the household. A wicked temptress, who also happened to be the Pharaoh's wife, decided that she was going to lure favored (as in~one handsome hunk) Joseph into her bedchamber while her husband and the other house servants were away. (Unfortunately it is the plot of every soap opera plot in today's television line-up.) She was one determined floozy and constantly attempted to lure Joseph. She (who was not given a name, probably the ultimate insult by the scribes) grabbed Joseph's coat one day (he had obviously found a replacement from his time in the sink hole) but wisely, Joseph fled again. (Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned William Congreve 1670-1729. But I digress. Apologies, it is just an English-major thing.)
The wicked woman was so furious that Joseph rebuked her sultry advances (and this is about as titillating as it gets in these chapters) that she made up a story and told her husband about Joseph being the perpetrator, using his coat as proof. (If Google existed back then, she would have benefited from a site that teaches women about Nine dangerous mistakes women make that men find totally unattractive). Her deceitful scenario, and the false accusation of the no-name female of wickedly loose morals, landed Joseph in prison (probably just a creepy dungeon in the basement). The Lord was with Joseph and he was so favored by the head guard that he was given guard duty of other inmates. Joseph prospered in his new role.

The Pharaoh became angry with both his chief butler and chief baker, so down into the dungeon they went, joining Joseph. The butler and the baker claimed strange dreams and Joseph offered to interpret them. In the butler's dream there were vines with three branches that bore ripe grapes, which the butler pressed into the Pharaoh's cup. Joseph told the butler that in three days the Pharaoh would restore the butler to his former office. The baker told Joseph that he dreamt that he had three white baskets upon his head that the top basket was full of bakemeats”upon which birds were feasting. Joseph told the baker that in three days, on the Pharaoh's birthday, his head would be severed by hanging and placed on a tree branch to feed birds (what a lovely celebration). Both of Joseph's interpretations came true.

Two years later, the Pharaoh had a dream about lean cattle devouring fat cattle and ugly heads of corn devouring healthy heads of corn and Joseph was recommended to be the interpreter of these dreams by the butler who remembered Joseph's ability to translate dreams. According to Joseph the Pharaoh's dream meant seven years of agricultural bounty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph instructed the Pharaoh to store the extra bounty of the first seven years so that his people would have something to eat when the famine occurred which was established by Godand shall be very grievous.
Joseph's interpretation became true and the Pharaoh rewarded him, saying, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art only in the throne will I be greater than thou.  Joseph, no longer his father's on-site favorite, nor a slave, begins to make it on his own God-given merits.  Joseph married and had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim about whom Joseph rejoiced that the births of the boys allowed him to forget about history in his father's house and caused him to be fruitful in the land of affliction.  Just as Joseph prophesized, famine arrived over all the earth, except in Egypt, where the bounty had been stored. The famine finally impacted Egypt and the Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the stores. The people from all countries came to Joseph for corn. And guess who shows up for corn?
To be continued in Genesis: 42
Submitted by Jill McGrath

Monday, March 14, 2011

Getting to know ... Louise Yardumian

Interview with Louise Yardumian, St. Thomas' music director

by: Mary Hochadel


I sat down with Louise to talk about her spiritual journey and how she started on this journey.
For all of us who know Louise, we have seen the joy she radiates and I wanted to know how that joy became instilled in her.
She told me she had wanted to play the piano since she was in the first grade. Her parents bought her first piano when she was six. Her mother’s dream was that she would get to be good enough to play in church. She recalls vividly her first time playing in church and even what she wore that day.

One Sunday when she was just fifteen and the church soloist failed to show up, she volunteered to sing the solo. When her father heard her singing he asked, “Who is singing?” They told him it was Louise and he said, “No it isn’t. Louise doesn’t sing.” It was Louise and we all know that she does sing. She says her singing voice and her music is a God given gift that she is so thankful for. She feels a need to give back because she has been so blessed by God’s gift to her.

I asked her who had been the most spiritually influential person in her life. Without question she said, it was her maternal grand mother who was devoutly religious and was the spiritual leader in her family. Louise and her family attended an Armenian Church. Their services were in Armenian and the Prayers moved her deeply as did the Hymns.
She said she always felt nearest to God through her music. To quote Louise, “He who sings prays twice”.
She feels that her music is a gift from God and she glorifies Him through the gift He has given her.

She is also grateful to her parents who not only nurtured her spiritual life, but made special sacrifice to purchase her first piano, and gave her so much love and support, that she always felt that if they asked her to play for them she could never refuse. She has been blessed by a great family.
She said, “if I can inspire one person, cause one goose bump or one tear, this is my reward and I feel blessed by God to share this gift”.
Submitted by Mary Hochadel

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Boxes for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan

                                                              Photo by Louise Yardumian

On 3/10, 10 organized ladies gathered in the Guild Room to pack boxes to be sent to the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who are associated with St. Thomas' .  The generosity of the congregation allowed us to gather all sorts of needed goodies from shampoo to Oreos. Eight boxes, two for each soldier, packed with love and appreciation, will be shipped immediately. Two additional boxes will be shipped to an about-to-be deployed soldier when we learn his address.
Carolyn Nelson's guest room is now free for guests.

Submitted by Jill McGrath

Thursday, March 10, 2011

From the men's bible study, March 9

Every Wednesday morning at 7:00 a.m. St. Thomas has a Men’s Bible Study which has as its foundation the lectionary readings for the upcoming Sunday. Join the men for coffee, Danish and Scripture.

Genesis 2:15-17;3:1-7

Our reading is excerpts from an epic tale about the creation of humanity, beginning from after the creation of “the heavens and the earth” (2:4), a time when the earth was semi-arid. Ancient peoples thought that there were waters under the earth. Seepage of this water was insufficient for cultivation; as yet there was no rain and “no one to till the ground” (2:5). At that time, God formed human (Hebrew: adam) “from the dust of the ground” (2:7) and gave him his spirit of life. God put human in Eden (2:8), his earthly domain, to cultivate and care for it. God tells him he may eat the fruit of the trees there, except for the tree of “the knowledge of good and evil” (2:17).
If he does, he will “die”, i.e. be separated from God.
At this point, the couple do not see shame in nudity, for their relationship to God is guiltless. Now the snake, a mischievous creature, appears. He sows doubt in the woman’s mind about what God has commanded, and she responds inaccurately (3:2): she adds “nor shall you touch it” (3:3). The snake suggests that God is trying to fool her: rather than dying, she will attain mastery of knowledge, and become divine (“like God”, 3:5). She finds this irresistible; she eats of its fruit and gives some to the man. Nudity is now embarrassing, for the couple has lost its innocent trusting relationship with God (3:8).

Romans 5:12-19
Paul has said that Christians, reconciled to God, will be saved, sharing in the risen life of Christ. Two notions are important here:
the punishment for Adam’s sin was to die both physically and spiritually (“death came through sin”); and we both sin ourselves and share in his sin (“spread to all”).
Paul contrasts Adam and Christ, both inaugurators of eras. Adam foreshadowed Christ as head of humanity (“type”, v. 14, precursor). Adam disobeyed God’s direct command (“the transgression”, v. 14, “the trespass”, v. 15). The “free gift”, i.e. Christ, is unlike Adam’s sin:
“many died” before Christ’s coming but even more so are “many” saved through Christ; Adam was condemned to separation from God but Christ brings union with God (vv. 16, 18); Adam’s sin allowed “death” (v. 17) to rule through the Devil (“that one”) but we let good rule our hearts (“dominion in life”); and Adam’s action led to the sin of many but Christ’s will lead many to godliness (v. 19).

Matthew 4:1-11
The disciples probably knew none of the details of Jesus’ trials, for temptation is essentially a personal inner battle with one’s conscience. “Forty days” (v. 2) reminds us of Moses and Elijah, both of whom also fasted for forty days as they prepared for their roles as God’s agents to Israel – as does Jesus. All three of the temptations the Devil (“the tempter”, v. 3, “Satan”, v. 10) presents to Jesus are ways of sinning against the great commandment in Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, ... soul, and ... might.”. The “heart” was the seat of will, of moral choice; “soul” means life; “might” means possessions. (All Jesus’ answers are from Deuteronomy 6-8.) To change “stones” (v. 3) into bread would be to use his power for his personal benefit. Jesus says that the “word” (v. 4) of God is the chief nourishment. The “holy city” (v. 5) is Jerusalem; a “pinnacle” probably overlooked the temple courts and the deep Kidron Valley. Jesus answers: testing God’s protection by unnecessarily risking life is a mockery of real martyrdom – and of his sacrifice to come (v. 7). The Devil, evil forces personified, invites Jesus to prefer personal wealth and power over love of God (vv. 8-9). Jesus answers: God is the only god to be worshipped and served (v. 10). The details make the point that Jesus is the perfect lover of God, the ideal Israelite, the founder of a new way of being human.
Submitted by Dick Nelson

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lenten study "Nooma" begins Sunday, March 13 at 9 am in the Guild room

NOOMA is a series of short films (10-14 min) that explore our world from a perspective of Jesus. Jesus lived with the awareness that God is doing something, right here, right now, and anybody can be a part of it. Wherever he went, whatever he did, Jesus started discussions about what matters most, because for Jesus, God is always inviting us to open our eyes and join in.

During lent we will meet Sundays from 9:00-9:45am in the Guild room at St. Thomas to watch videos from the series "Nooma" and have small group discussions.  We will form groups that will stay together for the six weeks so that we can get to know each other and bond in our spiritual journeys.  We will also have an open group for people who won’t be able to come but once or twice.
To view a 2 min short preview of "Breathe", the video we will be watching on Sunday, please click on     

Submitted by Bettina Schuller

Monday, March 7, 2011

Altar flowers February 2011

February 27

The Altar Flowers are given to the Glory of God and in thanksgiving for their 35th anniversary by Patti and Dan Cook and by Jane Anne Knowlton in thanksgiving for the marriage of Jane Anne and David Knowlton.

Flower Designers: Elizabeth Walters-Alison, Joanne Turrell and Joanne Fleece.

February 20

The Altar Flowers are given to the Glory of God and in thanksgiving for the birthdays of Joanne and Peter Turrell.

Flower designer: Betty Jean Miller

February 13

The Altar Flowers are given to the Glory of God and in thanksgiving for Rolf Sordan's birthday by Linda Sordan.

Flower Designer: Keith Tulloch

  February 6

The Altar Flowers are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Golda Farmer by Marty Hallas.

Flower Designers: Anne Long and Pam Holley

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Women of the Word, March 3

Barbara deftly led us through Genesis: 36, the genealogical accounting of the generations of Esau/Edom. Another lively discussion ensued as we read and discussed Genesis: 37 and 38, where begins the saga of Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachael, and prepares us for the readings in Exodus, which follows Genesis:50.

Joseph is introduced as a less-than-stellar character, vain, lazy, (sloth) boastful, deceitful and an informer. His fancy outfit, a coat of many colors was made by his father because Joseph, though not the oldest son, was the most favored by his father, Jacob/Israel. This coat and the fact that Joseph refused any agricultural exertion (obviously the long sleeves would get in the way of any labors and ¾ length sleeves had not yet come into fashion) made his brothers furious (anger and envy). And it did not help his lack of popularity that Joseph was a snitch reporting to his father the omissions in the fields of his brothers. Add to that list of personal faults, he shared his dreams of grandiosity with his brothers (pride). As politicians learned last November, you don't win votes by bragging about your visions. The final straw came when Joseph told his father and jealous brothers that the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.
The brothers devised a plan to snuff the snitch from the face of their earth. They wanted to kill Joseph and throw him into an earth hole, a Floridian-type sink hole. Judah that it was a better idea to pull Joseph out and use him for chattel. For 20 pieces of silver he was quickly sold as a slave to migrant merchants. The merchants, after arriving in Egypt, sold him to a Pharaoh’s Captain. The price the merchants asked for Joseph is not mentioned but we can easily guess that he became a profitable investment (greed).

The brothers devised a plan to cover their dirty deed by killing a baby goat and soaking Joseph's Technicolor dream coat in the resulting blood. When Reuben came upon the empty hole and the bloody coat's shreds he was told by the other brothers that Joseph had been devoured by an evil beast. The evidence was brought to father Jacob who mourned into the grave despite the efforts of his sons and daughters to comfort him. Finally, daughters were mentioned! 500 years BCE we females were making progress as viable entities!

In Genesis: 38, females were given historical importance as child-bearers (it hadn't yet been discovered that we are good at all sorts of things) in the telling of Judah's propagations. God saw wickedness in Judah's firstborn, Er and the Lord slew him. Judah ordered another of his sons, Onan, to impregnate Er's widow, Tamar. Onan was not willing to do this so each time he spilled his seed”on the floor. These repeated acts angered the Lord so Onan was also sent to the great below. So much for obeying one's earth father.

Now this story becomes a shadier tale because the widow Tamar, unable to be impregnated was sent to live with her father and chose to enact a disastrous deception. Fertility was used to assure family population growth and ladies of the night were held in higher esteem than those of today. Eventually Judah, in a quest (lust), came upon Tamar who was disguised by the clothing of a willing woman. Tamar bartered for sex and Judah ended up giving the woman his signet, his bracelets and staff. A baby goat was also part of the deal but when the goat was ready to be delivered, the ancient day UPS man could not find the willing woman. Even the citizens claimed ignorance about her existence. Three months later Judah found out about Tamar's disguise and her pregnancy and ordered that she be burnt until she exposed his belongings. She was not a willing woman but his devious daughter-in-law. Of this union twins were born, Pharez and Zarah. Zarah attempted to arrive first but Pharez pushed past his brother and delivered first.  These two chapters of Genesis set the stage for Joseph's eventual rise in power from slave to the ruler of Egypt.  If there had been a decadent feast somewhere within these two chapters, we could claim gluttony and have all seven deadly sins reflected in these accounts.

Submitted by Jill McGrath

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Day of Spiritual Renewal

Celebrating Spiritual Discipline during Lent—a Path to Spiritual Growth.

Saturday, March 5, 2011 9am-12pm; Led by Barbara Suhar and Bettina Schuller

"Self-respect is the fruit of discipline: the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.” Abraham J. Heschel

Quiet days/Sabbath days have a long tradition in Judeo-Christian history. Jesus reminds us throughout the gospel that we need “to go to a quiet place and pray”. If we want to live a life that is rooted in Christian faith and community, we have to set time apart from our daily activities and listen to the “still, small voice” that can only be heard in silence.

“A Day of Spiritual Renewal” will be a time to rebuild our personal relationship with God, ourselves and others. We will learn about the history of Lent, discuss spiritual practices during Lent and the gift of spiritual discipline in our lives.
Spiritual discipline has often been misunderstood as hardship and dull drudgery that has to be performed to please God. Come and experience how spiritual discipline will move you beyond surface living into God’s depths, joy and peace.

The day will provide periods of guided reflection and meditation and the space for individual and communal silence and prayer. We warmly invite you to come and learn how to integrate spiritual disciplines and rituals into your daily lives. Come and listen to God’s “still, small voice” whispering about the beauty of creation and the beauty of your life.

Submitted by Bettina Schuller

Thursday, March 3, 2011

From the men's bible study, March 2

We experienced a long and good season of Epiphany- The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles and A special revelation or experience that leads to new understanding.

Lessons: Exodus 24: 12-18; Second Epistle of Peter 1: 16-21; Matthew 17: 1-9

These lessons offer Old Testament and Gospel Mountain Top Epiphanies!


In this lesson from Exodus (Mishpatim section), in verses 1 to 11, Moses and 70 from the tribes of Israel are invited by God to worship and become obedient to God. In Verses 12 to 18 we get the story of Moses along with Joshua being invited to go up on Mount Sinai to be with God. Before he departs, Moses has a bit of business with the wandering tribes. He tells the Elders to wait upon him and instructs Aron & Hur to take care of disputes while he is away. In our discussion, we noted that Moses knew this band of people very well. He knew that they would not sit calmly until he returned. The purpose of the mountain visit was to receive the Ten Commandments on stone tablets. We gather that Joshua would be a companion on the trip and help Moses bring the tablets down the mountain (stone is not portable like an I Pad). The various numbers give a sense of time and a sense of meaning. Moses and Joshua had to cool their heals in a cloud bank for six days before God spoke. In our busy lives, would we sit for six days to have a chat with the boss? In the time of Moses, deliberation and patience had a slower pace and respect. Recall that it took six days for God the creator to make the earth and stock it with plants, animals, and man. So six is good; Seven is better, a Sabbath day to be with God. So it was on the seventh day that the fiery cloud opens and God calls out to Moses and Moses and God have 40 days to hammer out the commandment work. Forty is used frequently in scripture to describe time; it implies a long time, or a special number.
For Noah and the Arc, it rained for forty days and forty nights.
Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel.
Jonah chatting about Nineveh, “What if only forty are found there?” He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.” Genesis 18:28-30
Jesus once went out to the desert to fast and pray for forty days.

Recalling a mountain top experience is special and offers a glimpse of the Kingdom. The beauty and immense power of a mountain is inspiring in itself. The first big mountain I every saw was the Zugspitze the highest mountain in Germany, at 9,718 ft, district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria. I rode to the top in a cable car; about 7, 000 ft up, we hit the cloud bank and could not see until we got very close to the top. On the top, it was amazing; we could look out on several countries, and at the top of the peak, a bronze cross (Pilgrims were hiking to the cross). Mountains are thrilling, but the experience of being close or in touch with God is much more important. The mountain top experience is not limited to high altitudes, it may occur on an island, at sea, or anywhere.

Second Peter

This is a late New Testament epistle, attributed to the Apostle Peter, but most scholars give credit to others, the author incorporated virtually the whole of the epistle of Jude. It was compiled between 60 and 130 AD, but was not well accepted until around 300 AD. Much of the focus is addressed to false teaching and doctrine. The theme of 2nd Peter can be gleaned from its last two verses (3:17-18), and stated as: “BEWARE, BUT GROW”

The verses 1: 16 to 21 exhort the believers to avoid false myths. We also have a repetition of the Gospel, “This is my Son, My Beloved, with whom, I am well pleased.” Peter was up on the mountain and heard this news.


We have jumped from the 6th Chapter of Matthew last week to the 17th; perhaps as a set up for Lent that starts next Wednesday. We are back to the mountains, this time it was most likely Mount Hermon, 9,400 ft high, not far from Caesarea Philippi in the Jordan Valley. In the previous chapter, Jesus is issuing challenges, pick up your cross and follow me; he also gives warning and a promise, the warning is about judgment; the promise is about the coming of the kingdom.

We get into the numbers again; six days after Peter identified Jesus as the Christ, son of the Living God, Peter, James, John, and Jesus take a hike up Mount Hermon. While on the slopes, the Transfiguration occurs (recall Moses was also illuminated when he was on Mont Sinai). What was the overall purpose of this expedition? Jesus had his eyes and mind on Jerusalem and the cross; the purpose was to confirm with God the Father this was the course to take. Tough decisions are often best made with good counsel. Jesus was confirming that God’s will be done.

Adding to our climber’s number we gain Moses (Giver of the Law) and Elijah (a major Prophet), two great servants of God and fellow mountain climbers. Also of note is that in the Hebrew tradition, Elijah is the herald of the Messiah. In Luke’s account of the Transfiguration, Jesus speaks with Elijah and Moses about his Exodus in Jerusalem. Noteworthy is Matthew fascination of tying the Torah to Jesus’ messiah status. The illumination of the cloud is respected as the presence of God. In Jewish tradition the righteous face shall shine like the sun- Shechinah, the glory of God hovering over his people.

At this juncture the apostles are much bewildered; the cross was a terrible and humiliating prospect. Plus, what about the future, what about the apostles after Jesus’ Exodus? We see Peter trying to build some structures and stay on the mountain. It is good and wonderful to be on the mountain and be transfigured, but it is a way and means to walk the daily walk and do the daily chores. Enjoy your mountain, but use it as a support, not as a crutch!

Submitted by Walt Jaap