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, 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.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Restoration, a Reflection on Job 42:1-6

The Lord has been speaking to Job (Ch 38-41) reminding him, "I am powerful, I have created the order by which all elements, animals, and people live. I am the giver of all, the One who knows all. Can any human do what I do."

Job replies, "I know you can do everything, that nothing is impossible for you. Hear me now."

What Job wishes for the Lord to hear is "I thought I knew you, but I lacked knowledge. Now that I see you clearly, I recant and repent."

Allen & Williamson in Preaching the Old Testament remind us that Job 42:6 is difficult to interpret:
Some scholars think that Job recognizes that both the Deuteronomic viewpoint on blessing and curse (represented in the book of Job by the friends) and Job's persistent demands to understand this notion in another framework of meaning comes up short. Having been addressed directly by the awesome God, Job recognizes that chaos is innately a part of creation and neither chaos nor prosperity can be neatly explained. While chaos is powerful, God's speeches in chapters 38 through 41 assure Job that it will not destroy the patterns of life through which God supports the world.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Remember who's in charge, a reflection on Job 38:25-27

Four of Job's friends have visited him and gave him not very helpful counsel. The last one to visit was Elihu who told him that nobody could find the Almighty, "He is powerful and just but won't provide answers" (Job 37:23-24).

Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind. The Lord reminded Job of who was in charge (38:1-34). And who was not (35-38).

Questions that may arise from reading this passage: Is the Lord accessible to us? If the Almighty is almighty, what is our responsibility? Do we expect God to speak to us, to guide us, punish us?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Post-prandrial boatride, a Reflection on John 6:15-21

The meal that Jesus provided, like that of the original Passover, was about more than food on one day. And it was about more than satisfying physical hunger.

When the Jews in Egypt needed rescue, the Lord had sent Moses. Hear the echoes of the Exodus story in this week's passage from John's gospel. A meal, shared. And rescue from the threatening waters.

Another echo--Jesus identifies himself to the disciples as "I am."

Another tangent: The disciples were at sea because it was dark and Jesus had not yet come to them. What responses have we made to darkness and loneliness? How has Jesus come to us even when we were in some boat in the dark? And, did he get in the boat then or not?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

God Replies, a Reflection on Job 38:1-11

Reposting of earlier entry:
In the Job text, the Lord does speak, and, to emphasize the importance of the words, is speaking for the first time in the book.

"Man up. Answer these questions. Where were you when I was creating? Who gave me any help or advice about anything?"

Tangent 1: Please note that later the Lord will say "I'm angry with those three guys who kept mounting pious arguments to Job when he was suffering. Job is the one who has spoken right of me," (42:7-10). Thus, I'm asserting that God is okay with our needing to express laments.

Tangent 2: Allen & Williamson in their excellent Preaching the Old Testament quote Charles R. Balisdell's suggestion to exercise what he calls "tone of voice exegesis,"
that is, noticing that the way one inflects the text--the tone of voice--makes a significant difference in the meaning that one assigns to the text. The reader can intone the divine speeches with feelings as different as anger, arrogance, impatience, disdain, humor, or compassion

Monday, July 18, 2016

a reflection on Job 31:35-37

Job insists that he is innocent of all the charges that his friends have given as reason for punishment--so insistent that he says that if anybody would write an indictment, he would wear it publicly, and take it to the Almighty and tell him that he was innocent.

Note that Job, like his friends/accusers, accepts that God makes the rules and decides who is following them.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

I'm reading Elaine Heath's "God Unbound, Wisdom from Galatians for the Anxious Church." Here's an excerpt:
It is time for us to ask a better set of questions about being a vital church. Rather than counting Sunday morning worship numbers and the amount of money in the offering plate, let's raise questions about how people are living through the week. How is the church contributing to the flourishing of its neighborhood? In what ways are people in the church being equipped to bear the gospel into their own neighborhoods and workplaces? In what ways is the church living up to its baptismal vows to resist evil and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves? Questions like this help us live as bread and wine, given to the world.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I Know My Redeemers Live, Reflection on Job 19:23-27

Job had replied to those who had been reproaching him, "How long will you torment me?" He recounted a list of people who had failed him, forgotten him, despised him. Attacks. Laments. 

Then this. Job speaks confidently that he will be rescued and that he will be in God's presence. Many commentators and other readers assume that Job is talking about God when he says redeemer. For example, hear an excerpt from Handel's oratorio, Messiah: 

I know that my redeemer lives