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 9, 2018

Reaction to or even recognition of a miracle, a Reflection on John 2:6-11

"Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him."

Points to consider:

John calls this miracle a sign. The sign, according to John, revealed his glory. According to O'Day and Hylen, the term glory is an Old Testament term for the manifestation of God's presence and power (e.g., Exodus 24:15-18; 34:29-35; 40:34-38).

The stewards knew there was some very good wine but they didn't know that it was there because of a miracle. The bridegroom knew less. Yet, the disciples knew that a miracle had occurred. And because of the miracle, they believed. Or, was it because they believed, that they recognized that the miracle had happened?

What about the stewards, the bridegroom, the guests? Were they ever able to see God's presence and power in their lives? How about me? How often do I recognize God's presence and power in my life?

Other signs in John include 2:12; 2:1; 6:26; 10:20.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The first miracle, a Reflection on John 2:1-5

A need exists.

His mother thinks that he can take care of the problem.
Although he tells her that it isn't his hour, she assumes that he is going to take charge.

Some commentators think that his initial response to her by addressing her as "woman" is negative; others assert that this address is not rude but more like saying "ma'am" or "madam."

In either case, Mary, the one who has known him all his life, just assumes that he is not only able to solve a problem but is going to.

Sideline: note the event is on the third day, an important day in the Bible.

Another sideline: significance of term "hour": In their commentary on John, Gail R. O'Day and Susan E. Hylen discuss the importance of the term "hour" in this gospel. Although sometimes it does mean hour, that is, what time it is, the noun, hour, is also used as a theological term to denote the eschatological time--last times.

He may have demurred initially, but with this first miracle, his hour has begun

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Telling, a reflection on John 1:40-42

John the Baptist saw for himself but didn't keep it to himself. When he saw Jesus the next day, he told two of his followers who were with him. Jesus spoke to them directly inviting them to come. They did.

One of them, Andrew, then sought out his brother Simon Peter and told them they had found the Messiah.

The pattern of discipleship continues through the Gospel of John as each new disciple will go and finds someone else (I've been reading O'Day and Hylen's commentary on John.)

Excursus: Jesus is given several titles in this section, John 1:29-42--John calls him "the Lamb of God" in verse 29 and 36 and "Son of God" in verse 34; John's disciples call him "Rabbi" in verse 38; Andrew, "Messiah" in verse 41.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Getting New Disciples, a Reflection on John 1:35-39

John again recognizes and announces his recognition that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

Excursus: The Lamb of God is a term used in Revelation 17:14 describing the post-biblical apocalypse. Scriptural references include the servant songs like Isaiah 53:6-7 with vicarious suffering; Passover lamb, Exodus 12-13, not as a sacrifice for sin but reinterpreted in light of the eucharist (see 1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

John's disciples respond to his announcement by following Jesus. John knew who Jesus was because he had been told directly--and had bothered to listen (1:29-33). John does not keep this information to himself (34-36). His words and example are convincing to others (37).

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Being a Witness, a Reflection on John 1:19-34

During Advent, we read the introductory verses of the Gospel of John. Those verses provide a framework for the entire gospel. Like an overture to an opera, it strikes the major themes of the narrative to come; e.g., the beginning, the word, the light. Most commentators divide the narrative into The Book of Signs (Jesus' revelation to the world) and The Book of Glory (Jesus revelation through his death and resurrection).

Between the prologue and the narrative is a section of introductory testimony (1:19-51).

An official delegation has been sent into the wilderness to question John. (Remember to keep straight the gospel writer and the wilderness-dweller, not called the Baptist in this particular gospel). John uses the words of Isaiah to claim that he is a witness to the Messiah.

Gail O'Day and Susan Hylen, in their commentary on John emphasize the importance of this concept to our understanding of this gospel:
To be a witness is to see something and to speak about what one has seen.... To be an effective witness in a trial, one must have seen something about which one then can give testimony. John has seen the truth about Jesus and tells about what he has seen.
Few of us have ever or will ever be put on trial because of our association with Christ. Yet, we have opportunities to be witnesses. What are we doing with these opportunities?

(If you're familiar with Boring & Craddock's New Testament Commentary, you will recognize their ideas in this posting.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Ascribe to the Lord, a Reflection on Psalm 96

About 6 years ago, I posted this comment on Psalm 96:
Verses 7 and 8 in the Common English Bible say "Give to the Lord....". The New Revised Standard Version says "Ascribe to the Lord." When I read this passage in the NRSV, I wondered when was the last time that I heard the word "ascribe" in conversation. I don't think I use it often--or, ever. So, of course, I googled it. That's how I learned that ascribe is used as a company name. For example:
Our Ascribe™ Consumer Content Platform provides the ability to extract insight from unstructured data anywhere and transform it into actionable insights. ... www.languagelogic.info/products.html [for an update, go to http://www.ascribesurveys.com]

Although I'm not sure what a content platform is, I do see a powerful metaphor in their description of what it does--provide the ability to extract insight from unstructured data. I'm asking myself, "Where did I see God today?" That is, as I go through my normal day, as I meet people and events, how do I see God working through them, being present to me?

But not just noticing.

As I continue to read the description of the content platform, it promises not only to extract insight but also to transform it into actionable insights. That is, to do something with the awareness.

Psalm 96 promises that the Lord is coming to judge the world, to judge it with righteousness and with truth. May we live lives that make this news good.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Basis for Hope, a Reflection on Psalm 130

I'm not good at memorizing, but as I read Psalm 130, I think I really ought to try to be.

This psalm begins with a plea to be heard. This plea is immediately followed by the acknowledgment that the one doing the prayer doesn't deserve to be heard.

When I am in pain, and the situation is due to my own fault, how can I expect God to help? Why would God want to step in to that situation? The answer in the psalm is that God forgives.

The psalmist remembers what God is done, and that knowledge enables hope that this trouble also will be overcome, that sins will be forgiven.

Outline of Psalm 130
Despair.
Pleading.
Memory of what God has already done.
Waiting. Hoping.
Preaching.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Who gets the news first, a Reflection on Luke 2:1-14

Augustus is emperor; Quirinius is governor. The emperor decrees that all persons be registered; that is, the emperor is going to make sure that he gets taxes from everybody under his control.

Then there are some folks who can't issue decrees. The only things they control are somebody else's sheep. And it is to this kind of person that the angels go with their news. Not the emperor, not the governor, but the shepherds.

The shepherds.

Although shepherds had a positive image in the Old Testament--think of the 23rd Psalm for example--shepherds living and working at the time of Jesus' birth were not viewed positively. Rather, they were regarded as lower class, untrustworthy, migrant workers who used other people's grass to feed their sheep.

The shepherds were not expecting the news. They were at work, and, to their society at the time, not very well-thought-of work. Yet, the Lord sent a messenger to them with the good news.

The response of the shepherds was immediate. They went to Bethlehem at once to see for themselves. And when they had seen, they told what they had seen.

Think about who God trusted to receive and carry messages. Try to imagine a modern-day counterpart to first-century shepherds. Would you be interested in anything such people had to say to you? Is it hard for you to imagine God's telling them something before letting you know?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Seek the Lord, a Reflection on Isaiah 55:6-11

The invitation continues, "Seek the Lord, call upon him." But not just simple imperatives. Seek while he may be found. Call while he is near. Yes, God has made an everlasting covenant. Yes, all nations are invited. But, we aren't being reined in against our will. We are to seek, we are to do some calling. Moreover, we're supposed to do that seeking and calling now.

I don't know what to do with the phrases "while he may be found" and "while he is near." What's with the "whiles"? Are we under a time limit?

Or, can I let verse 7 help me here? Our return to the Lord enables us to realize the mercy and pardon. They are there waiting for us but we have to notice.

Or, should I give in to verse 8? How am I supposed to know everything; after all, the Lord is capable of thoughts and ways that are not available to us humans.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Abundance, a Reflection on Isaiah 55:1-5

A country church on a state highway was trying to raise enough money to pay off the mortgage on its new Family Life Center. One of the favorites was selling tickets for catfish suppers, grilled hamburgers, even chitlins, once.

On their sign out front, the preacher would post:
Catfish Supper
June 27, 5-7 p.m
Cost $8
Isaiah 55:2
No one ever told her they thought the sign was funny or appropriate.

and

Isaiah is writing to exiles in Babylon describing for them what their new life in an old place will be. Water for the thirsty. Food for the hungry. God promises to make with them an everlasting covenant. And because God has done so much for them, they are to reach out to strangers, to foreign strangers....

Sometimes when I read this passage from Isaiah, I focus on the everlasting covenant part, but, this week, I'm looking harder at the repentance part. "Let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them...."

Remembering the parable of the fig tree that despite its three-year span of unfruitfulness has been given one more chance, I'm reading Isaiah's plea, "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near."

Is there a time limit for us? Well, even if there isn't, shouldn't we start seeking? If we haven't been calling, wouldn't this be a good time to?

Abundant pardon is available. Advent, that season of expectation, in a good time to ask for it, to live for it.