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 26, 2016

Starting Over, Reflection on Exodus 12:1-11

The Hebrew people are still in Egypt. Pharaoh has not yet admitted defeat. He is still refusing to listen. Things don't seem to be getting better. Things don't seem to be changed.


Yet, the Lord says to Moses, "This is the beginning. This is the first month of a new year." Then, the Lord gives what seems to me to be a surprising instruction, "Have a feast. Have a big feast. And put on your traveling clothes."


We may be living in the midst of trouble, of sadness, of disappointment. We may feel stuck in a situation that is painful and seems impossible to escape. We may wonder if God has forgotten us.


What is the purpose of the feast? Is it to help them forget how bad things are? I don't think so.


Can we learn anything from this passage to help us face our troubled times? Can we hold onto hope through difficult times?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thinking about our time, questions raised by Genesis 37:3-8, 17b-22, 26-34

Questions that arose for me when I read this story of Joseph and his brothers and thought about the over rivalries described in the Bible:
    Why are these stories included? What are we supposed to learn from them? 1) Do they remind us in some ways of what is going on in some churches, in some denominations? 2) and scarier for me since I am an old person: Do the mature always resist new ways? perhaps even scarier: Are the young ones sometimes right?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Having Been Wronged, a Reflection on Genesis 50:15-21

Joseph's brothers had so resented him when, as a youth, he had lorded it over them that they had, after considering murdering him, instead, sold him into slavery. Later, he was able actually to lord it over them. He had risen to a high position in Egypt and had used it to bring his whole family there where they could escape the famine back home.

Now, their father is dead, and the brothers fear that Joseph will finally exact revenge on them. He doesn't. "God intended this for good," he says to them.

Joseph chooses not to do revenge. God gets to handle the revenge. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Genesis 37:17b-22, 26-34

Although Jacob is certainly aware of the consequences of intra-family jealousy, he seems to encourage it. After he has received a bad report about the brothers from Joseph, Jacob sends him out to see how they're doing and to report back to him.

Knowing what Joseph is thinking and saying, the brothers decide to get rid of him. The first-born, Reuben, and the fourth-born, Judah, step in to stop the murder. Instead, they sell Joseph as a slave to some traveling Ishmaelites (hear the echo of the rivalry between Isaac and Ishmael?).

Spoiler Alert: Coincidentally, or providentially, Joseph's dream will come true. Read Psalm 105:16-22.
When he summoned famine against the land, and broke every staff of bread,he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron;
until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord kept testing him.
The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions,
to instruct his officials at his pleasure, and to teach his elders wisdom.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Genesis 37:3-8

Jacob has returned home, is living where his father lived. In one way, he's living as his father lived: He has a favorite son. Isaac's favorite stayed home; the other son, Jacob, went into exile for decades.


The story changes as it repeats. In this generation, the father's favorite goes into exile.


This favorite son, Joseph, a 17-year-old tells his older brothers about his dream in which the stalks of wheat in the field that they have gathered bow down to his stalk. They didn't like him before and now hate him.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Faith, a Reflection on Genesis 15:1-6

During Lent one year, I posted this reflection:

When in doubt, he says so, a reflection on Genesis 15:1-6The passage begins, "After these things..." I looked back to see what these things had been. They include the rescue by Abraham (He's still called Abram at this point) of his nephew Lot who had been captured by an army in their sack of Sodom. The kings in the area, including Melchizedek who was also a priest, had blessed Abraham in recognition of his defeat of their shared enemies. The king of Sodom had tried to reward Abraham but he refused taking anything that would make him seem a beneficiary of those powers (14). 

Abraham is there because the Lord had told him to move to this place (12:1-3). When they had arrived in Canaan, the Lord had informed Abraham that although the land currently belonged to the Canaanites, in the future it would belong to Abraham's descendants (12:4-7). Before there were any descendants, though, Abraham allowed his wife, Sarah (whose name has not yet been changed from Sarai), to be taken into the Pharaoh's harem. The Lord intervened, and Abraham got his wife back (12:10-20). 
But still no children by Sarah. 
In a vision, the word of the Lord came to Abraham. First, the Lord reassures Abraham then tells him he will be rewarded very well. Protection right now and, later, rewards to come. 
Abraham does not respond immediately with awe and gratitude. Rather, he reminds the Lord that the previous promise of descendants had not even begun to be fulfilled.
Can Abraham believe the shield part if he doesn't believe the rest of the promise? Remember, he has moved his family a large distance because he had believed what the Lord had told him.  
When Abraham doubts, he expresses those doubts openly and directly. 
The word of the Lord comes to Abraham. "Look at the sky and count the stars. There are too many to count. That's how many descendants you are going to have." 
We are told that Abraham believed the Lord.
Side points: The commentary to verse 6 in the New Interpreter's Study Bible points out that the word translated as "believe" also means "trust" and that the New Testament authors interpreted this verse in contrasting ways:
     The apostle Paul, in his explanation of God's inclusion of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God, later interpreted this verse to mean that faith apart from the works of the Law, is the ultimate basis for salvation. By contrast, the Letter of James interprets this verse to mean that works must accompany faith.

Percy C. Ainsworth wrote about "The Habit of Faith" in Weavings. Here's an excerpt:

Faith does more than hold our hand in darkness; it leads us into the light. It is the secret of coherence and harmony. It does not make experience merely bearable; it makes it luminous and instructive. It takes the separate or the tangled strands of human experience and weaves them into one strong cable of help and hope.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8

I've been reading Carolyn Sharp's Irony and Meaning in the Hebrew Bible. In discussing the different versions of creation in Genesis, she posits that while Genesis 1 with its interest in power and the controlling of chaos is a countering of the muddiness and unpredictable relationships we see in Genesis 2-3. She then asks,
Is Genesis 1 being ironized by Genesis 2-3, or does the ironic commenting work in the reverse?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bless the Lord, a Reflection on Psalm 103:1-7

This psalm is a psalm of praise. It calls for praise and gives reasons why this praise is due.


But, who is the psalmist addressing?

The psalm begins "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me." When I pray this psalm, I am calling on myself to pray with my total being--not just part of me but all of me. And I repeat--I am telling me to do that.

John Goldingay in his Old Testament Theology, Volume 3, points out that this psalm assumes we can argue with ourselves and that we may need to stir ourselves up to that praise that is due the Lord.

These verses provide us with a reminder of what God does that makes us so thankful: forgives, heals, rescues, loves,  satisfies, vindicates.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Ask, Knock, a Reflection on Luke 11:1-13

One of his disciples asked him to teach them how to pray.

The first request in the prayer is "Your kingdom come." I'm wondering now how much that request centers in my own prayers. Or, am I more likely to skip over to the what I need right now part?

Now I'm wondering what the rest of my prayers would be like if I and all those around me lived in a world run according to what God wanted. Would I need to ask for bread? Would I need to remember to ask for only the bread I really needed? If I in every way and in every day acknowledged God as the one in charge, would I still need forgiveness for sins or would I have been able finally to quit sinning?

After giving them the model prayer, Jesus then describes for them what lives ruled by God's rules could be like. We would want to satisfy friends needs rather than be more concerned with our own comfort. And, our friends would be more concerned with answering our needs.

We may have already begun to learn to live in the way God intends. Jesus reminds them of the care they have for their own children. He then says "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Then, as the community that is the church, the gifts we have already received and continue to receive from the heavenly Father are the means by which we can assure that our neighbors receive whatever they need.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Aftermath, a reflection on Job 42:7-17

After Job says "I relent and find comfort on dust and ashes," the Lord turns to Eliphaz "I'm angry with you and your friends who have not spoken the truth about me as did Job."

The test is over. Job is returned to his life as it had been.

When Job emerges from his tragedy, he able to pray for his friends--I presume this means the ones who had been badgering him and trying to correct him throughout the book.

He died old--at 140, twice the length of what was expected in Psalm 90:10.

Many commentators think that this section was added by a different source from most of the book of Job. These verses seem to be a reaffirmation of the Deuteronomic theory of blessings as rewards for right behavior in contrast to verses 1-6 in this chapter.

Modern commentators try to reconcile both understandings by saying that whichever we hold, that God is present in our bad times and our good. We may make bad choices or bad things may happen despite our good ones, but God is still with us. And, our recognition of God's presence can help us through our difficult times.

And some commentators interpret the book of Job as an allegory on the exile.