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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Reminder to Religious Leaders, a reflection on Luke 16:14-16

Jesus than turns to the Pharisees. Religious leaders need to be religious not just act like it when someone is looking. God knows what you are doing. God knows what you are thinking.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Faithful (really?) Manager, a Reflection on Luke 6:1-13

Jesus has been talking to the Pharisees but now turns to his disciples. He tells them a parable about a man whose employment has been threatened. He has been managing the assets of an absentee landlord--and not managing them well in the opinion of the owner. Faced with losing his job, the manager devises a plan. He reduces the amount each tenant owes in hopes of assuring that they will help take care of him after he is fired.

The owner response when he hears about this tactic is surprising. He commends the manager for his cleverness.

What would the disciples have thought at this point? Who would they thought was the owner and the manager? Would they have pictured themselves as the manager responsible for taking care of the Lord's assets? Or did they take it more literally and suppose Jesus was describing how employees should behave or how owners should evaluate those employees' behavior? Surely, he wasn't telling them to be dishonest, was he?

Jesus then says to the disciples, "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in very much. If you have been unfaithful, who will trust you?" He goes on to warn them that anybody who isn't faithful with worldly wealth will not be trusted with true riches (which we usually consider to be heaven). "No one can serve two masters--it's impossible". Then, he sums it up, "You cannot serve God and wealth."

This lesson seems to fit Jesus' teachings a lot better than praising a dishonest employee. One way of interpreting the parable is to picture ourselves as managers of property that belongs to God. God cares about how we make decisions about our wealth. Do we use it to the benefit of people who are not at our economic level? Sharon Ringe in her commentary on Luke suggests that the parable is criticizing the economy that permits some people to have a lot and a lot of people not having much at all. She says, "As a good manager, then, he has used the very fruits of injustice in the forging of that new community of accountability based on justice that already participates in God's project or reign".

Sunday, January 22, 2017

We have had different reactions to the Presidential Inauguration and the Women's March the next day. Here are some Bible verses that are helping me face my own attitude and to live in contentment with anyone around me who may have a completely different opinion:
Psalm 119:28-32 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Put false ways far from me; and graciously teach me your law. I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your ordinances before me.I cling to your decrees, O Lord; let me not be put to shame. I run the way of your commandments, for you enlarge my understanding. 
Isaiah 9:2-3 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. You have made the nation great; you have increased its joy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What I'm Reading Today

Existentialists have often identified those two basic anxieties we have: first, of not becoming our true self and, second, of indeed becoming our true self. 
Jesus found faith where least expected (in foreigners, sinners and the unclean, for instance) and found it absent where it should have been flourishing (religious professionals and his disciples). 
All in all, I have now come to terms with the fact that my Christian faith will not so much answer all my questions as question all my answers.
(from The Splash of Words, Mark Oakley)

Response to success, a Reflection on Luke 5:6-11

Simon obeyed Jesus. He took Jesus out in his boat so he could preach. Despite his disbelief that it would do any good, he tried fishing.

They caught so many fish that their nets almost broke. They caught so many fish that their boats began to sink.

The great result when he had expected nothing frightens Simon. He begs Jesus to leave him alone, that he is not worthy to be with him.

Jesus disagrees.

He can provide fish where professional fishermen can't find them. He tells Simon and his partners, James and John, that now they will be fishing not for fish but for people.

They walk away from their boats--their livelihood, their regular lives, and follow Jesus.

Further note: the first hearers of Luke's gospel may have been familiar with Ezekiel 47:1-10. We should be, too.
A steam of water from the temple gushes like a river, like deep water. In this sea, the water will become wholesome. Every living creature will be able to live wherever this stream goes. The fish will be abundant.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Obedience of Simon, a Reflection on Luke 5:1-6

In Luke 4, we read about the negative reaction by the religious leadership to Jesus' sermon reminding them of God's care for outsiders. But, after his escape in Nazareth, he traveled, healing and, despite the earlier negative reaction, preaching in synagogues.

Response was positive. Many people came out to see him.

So many people that he needed help in order to continue to carry out his work.

He asked Simon, (whose mother-in-law had been one of the persons he had healed) to take him out in the boat a little way from shore so he could speak to that crowd that had gathered.

One lesson--Jesus needs us to help him do his work.

After he had finished speaking, and they were still in the boat out in the lake, Jesus told Simon, "Take the boat out to the deep water so you can go back to fishing"

Peter said that he could and would move the boat but that the fish weren't biting that day.

Another lesson--even people who have witnessed miracles up close don't always believe that Jesus can help them with their current need.

Related lesson--even people who don't believe at a particular moment can still follow the commands of Jesus.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Treatment of the Other

Openings by Larry Peacock is a daybook of saints, psalms, and prayers. 

The entry for December 17 asks us to remember Dom Bede Griffiths (1906-1994), an English monk who spent most of his life in India living in the style of an Indian holy man. He felt that Hindus had much to teach Christians about the inner life, and he wished to share with Hindus the Christian understanding of God who "executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry...sets the prisoners free...lifts up those who are bowed over the strangers...upholds the orphan and the widow"

Imagine living out your Christian faith as way to show non-Christians that you truly believe this about God.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Angry Reaction, a Reflection on Luke 4:28-30

Religious people were gathered in a religious place. When they heard that God directed help to be given to people of a different religion, they got furious, even violent.

In Luke's gospel Jesus will continue to face criticism from insiders when he helps outsiders. How much have attitudes changed? How do we react in similar circumstances?

Note that although Jesus escaped from the violence intended against him that day, his way did lead to the cross. Also note that the cross was not the final end of his work.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Leaving Home, a Reflection on Luke 4:21-27

He had read to them from the prophet Isaiah, "The Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free." Then said to them, "Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your presence."

Their first reaction is a mixed one. Although they like what he says, they aren't sure why he has said it to them. They seem to be reluctant to accept that someone that they know could accomplish great things.

Jesus responds by saying that no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.

He then reminds them that both Elijah and Elisha had gone far from home to accomplish miracles. "Many widows in Israel were hungry yet Elijah helped a foreigner. Many lepers were in Israel, but Elisha healed a foreigner." Note they weren't just foreigners, they were not of the same religion as Elijah and Elisha.

We're left to ponder whether the people in Nazareth were blocking Jesus' work among them by their own refusal to accept him as anointed by the Lord--or, whether, Luke is reminding us that God is not restricted to helping hometown folks, that God's power extends beyond the circle of believers.

Monday, January 9, 2017

This Scripture Has Been Fulfilled, a Reflection on Luke 4:14-21

The Holy Spirit had descended upon him when he was baptized (3:23). He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where he was tested by the devil. Having overcome each of the temptations set before him, Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit returned to Galilee (4:1-14).

When he was in his hometown, he went to the synagogue as he was accustomed to do. There, he read passages from the scroll.

Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor," an echo of Isaiah 61:1.

Luke tells us that Jesus said that the Lord had sent him to proclaim release to the captives and to let the oppressed go free. This call echoes Isaiah's reminder that the Lord is not that impressed with acts of piety but prefers that the nation would loose the bonds of injustice, undo the thongs of the yoke, let the oppressed go free...(58:6).

He returned the scroll to the attendant and sat down. Everybody stared at him.

The people in the synagogue that day had heard the prophecies of Isaiah many times. They would also have been aware of the times that they had failed to care for the poor and the oppressed. And, there in Nazareth, at the time they were living, they themselves would have thought of themselves as oppressed, captive to the powerful Rome.

And he said to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Think about the terms "today" and "fulfilled."