It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Blessed to be a Blessing, a Reflection on Genesis 12:1-5

The first eleven chapters of Genesis tell of God's gifts to us humans and what we do with them and how God responds.

In the beginning, God gave us a garden, companionship, and food. God said not to do this one thing, but that's what we did. God sent them out of the garden but out there they were going to be able to obtain food and to have families. Moreover, God replaced their fig leaf loincloths with fur coats.

Next, as we learned to grow crops and tend sheep, jealousy and violence erupted. God responded by protecting the malefactor from the retribution that we might assert that he had deserved.

Families grew and spread out, but so did the wickedness--to the extent that the Lord regretted even having populated the earth anyway.

But, instead of wiping out the human race entirely, God chose the moral man to begin the project anew. This worked for a while. Noah's son's families expanded and spread out into many lands. They began to be prideful of their accomplishments. They erected a tower with its top in the sky to make a name for themselves. God scattered them over the earth.

Then, in Chapter 12, God once again reached out, choosing Abraham to start things over, once more, "I will bless you, and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Abraham's predecessors had done it wrong, but he was to do it right.

Abraham had some work to do, "Go to the place that I will show you."

We can remember and celebrate Abraham's call and his response. And we can metaphorize it: What changes in our lives need our response? Where is the Lord showing us to go? What is the Lord commanding us to do?

Monday, July 30, 2018

Reversal of Fortune, a Reflection on Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17

Ruth is a foreigner, a widow with no money who is living with her mother-in-law, Naomi, who is also a widow without financial resources.

A kinsman, Boaz, marries Ruth. They have a child, Obed. Ruth who had refused to stay behind when Naomi had returned home now has a new home, a new husband, and a child. Naomi who had lost a husband and two sons now because of the loyalty of her daughter-in-law now is a grandmother.

Obed is the grandfather of King David. And David is the ancestor of Jesus.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

How we know that we abide in God, Reflection on 1 John 4:7-21

If the author of this epistle were writing to your congregation today, would he need to include this section? Does your congregation need to be reminded to love? to love each other? to love our brothers and sisters? to love people we don't even know? And which is harder for us, anyway, to love people we have to be around all the time or people that we don't?

Consider for a while today what verse 7 means to you. How does loving someone help you to know God? Or, how does knowing God help you to love someone?

The Father has sent his Son to save the world, verse 14. The world. God hasn't sent the Son to take us away from the world, to live separately from it, but to save it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Sin, not sins, a Reflection on John 1:29-34

Religious authorities, aware of the impact that John had been making, traveled to the wilderness to question him. "Who are you?" they wanted to know. He denied being the Messiah or Elijah or the prophet, but put them on alert (19-33).

The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

In their commentary on John, Gail R. O'Day and Susan E. Hylen point out what I should have been able to notice on my own but didn't, that John says "sin" not "sins" of the world. They say:
As a singular noun, "sin" points to the world's collective alienation from God. "Sins" in the plural evokes a catalog of individual misdeeds and "sinful" behaviors, which is not what John is saying here. "Sin" in the singular refers to a broken relationship with God in which we all share equally, whereas "sins" in the plural can be used to point to some relationships and behaviors as more broken than others. As the Passover Lamb, Jesus liberates the world from slavery to "sin" by bringing the world into new and fresh contact with the presence of God, so that human alienation from God can end.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Light is Still Turned On, a reflection on John 1:1-14

I am pondering on verse 10, "He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him." Why did the world not know him? Has the world caught on yet?

I keep reading. Verse 11 says "He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him." Okay, many of the Jews of his day did not convert to Christianity. But, how many Christians of my own day really accept Christ? Do we show evidence of this acceptance by the way we live our lives?

"And the Word became flesh and lived among us," (v14). In their commentary, John, Gail R. O'Day and Susan E. Hylen point out something that I had totally missed--The use of first person pronouns--John intended for his readers--intends for his readers--to understand and accept that the Word is here--As O'Day and Hylen put it, "The eternal Word of verses 1-2 now completely enters the human and time-bound sphere by becoming flesh...The story of God and the Word is no longer a cosmic story, but is an intimately human story.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Great Commandment, Reflection on Matthew 22:34-40

The Pharisees and Herodians disagreed on a lot of things, but they did agree with one thing--they both saw Jesus as a disruption. They tried to trap him by asking the question about paying taxes, but he didn't fall into the trap.

The Saducees, another group opposing Jesus, also failed in their tactic of asking a trick question.

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Saducees, they decided to make yet another attempt. They addressed him as "Teacher," (were they being sarcastic? surely, they didn't think Jesus could teach them anything?) They asked him "Which commandment of the law is most important?"

Were they trying to get him to say that some of the law was less important than the others? Do we believe that? What distinctions do we make? What the difference between naming what's most important and summarizing the law? When prophets summarized the law (see Micah 6:8; Isaiah 33:15-16; 56:1; Amos 5:14-15), were they saying that the rest of the instruction is unimportant?

Jesus responds to them by quoting scripture (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18). Is he saying the rest of the instruction is unimportant? Or, is he saying all the instructions that the Scripture gives us is intended to help us do these things: Love God and love neighbor?

Monday, June 4, 2018

Reflection on Exodus 20:17-20

Quote from Allen & Williamson's Preaching from the Old Testament:
Eight of the ten words begin: "you shall not." People often speak of negative commandments as off-putting "do nots" that constrict life....But that misconstrues the negative instructions in the Torah. First, we can keep all of them while taking a nap. ...Second, negative mitzvoth deal with the parameters of behavior. They do not specify what we should do, simply what we should not do. They name the actions that cancel all possibility of living with others a life of well-being (which can only be lived with others.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Toward Freedom, a Reflection on Exodus 20:1-6

God had said to those people released from slavery but still living in the wilderness, "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol."

Was is easier for them to focus than it is for any of us? How free are we? Do we consider our surroundings more like a promised land or more like the wilderness?

"No other gods. Don't make an idol." That's the first commandment, the starting place, the first step in preparing to live the new life--or to live life in the new way.

What a god is--the most important factor that we base a decision on. Our god can be our physical safety (or merely comfort), or our financial security, or our need to feel superior, or so on. What influences what we do every day? What is important to us? Whatever that is, that is the idol we have made for ourselves.

More than Piety is Required, a Reflection on Exodus 20:7-11

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God. It seems to me that I was taught not to use certain curse words because they would have been a violation of this command. Later, I was taught that this command deals with more than cussing. We are making a wrongful use of the name of the Lord our God whenever we invoke that name to get our own way. Allen & Williamson, in Preaching the Old Testament, interpret this commandment, "Empty talk, cheap grace, easy religion, self-interest parading as piety: the church should speak against all wrongful use of the name of God."

Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.  I remember the blue laws, the prohibitions against stores being open on Sunday or, in Mississippi at least, not being able to buy beer or liquor, even in a restaurant. Walter Brueggemann, in Texts for Preaching B, takes a wider view of this command. He reminds us that the original audience for these commands was a group of escaped slaves who had been made quite familiar with forced work. What the emperor wanted was what was important to their overseers. We may not be in slave gangs with an emperor's employee telling us what to do and to keep doing it. But, we still need to consider whose will is directing our actions. As Brueggemann puts it:
In a consumer economy with the vicious cycles of consumption as well as of production. In this "rest," which is ordained into the very fabric of creation, we recover our sense of creatureliness and resist the pressure to be frantic consumers who find our joy and destiny in commodities.