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, July 24, 2017

Unity though Diversity, a Reflection on Ephesians 4:1-16

Insights from Ralph P. Martin in his commentary on Ephesians (part of the Interpretation series).

The first three chapters is a rather idealistic picture of the church--one that can help us see what we should be working towards.

The last three chapters are in Martin's terms "ecclesiology brought to earth"; that is, some harsh realities--harsh, yet not insurmountable.

My heavily reworded summary of his summary of 4:1-16:
1. Be true to your destiny while remembering that unity is essential.
2. Unity does not mean that we are all alike.
3. Church members have different gifts.
4. Christ intends for grownups to be grownups.
5. Christ intends for the church to be grownup.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Surely you don't mean them, a Reflection on Ephesians 2:11-22

Here Paul is stressing that you can be a Christian even if you don't become a Jew first. We got over this hurdle so long ago that we have a hard time getting back into the mindset of the earliest congregations.

But, we need to.

We need to think about what groups we are excluding, and what basis we are using to exclude them.

Paul said to the people of his time struggling with the disputes of his time that Jesus had abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of two.

We are confident (pretty much so) that Paul didn't mean that anything goes. Should we be so confident that what we think is absolutely essential in belief or action is on Jesus' must-do list?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Further reflection on Ephesians 1:1-14

In the Interpretation series, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Ralph P. Martin reminds us that the "you also" reference in verse 13 means the appeal is to include Gentiles. Christians then needed to be reminded that somebody didn't have to be a Jew before being eligible to be a Christian. What entry-level requirements do Christians have to meet today?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Reflection on Ephesians 1:1-14

God's plan is to bring all things together in Christ. Although the first Christians were Jews, God's intention is to widen that circle.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Directions for Hallelujah Reflection on Psalm 150

The Book of Psalms ends with six psalms of praise. Psalm 150 is the last of these, the last in the book, and so helps us reflect on the entire book, all of the songs the ancient people sang and that we still--well, not sing so much--use to guide the words we use to address God.

This psalm begins and ends with the word Hallelujah--The NRSV translates if for us, praise God.
Psalm 150 gives directions for us in praising God. It tells us where, why, how, and who.

Where: in church and everywhere else, as well.

Why: in recognition of what God has done and can do.

How: with trumpet, lute, harp, tambourine, dance, strings, pipe, cymbals (I'm assuming the organ in the church can substitute for all these except for dance--what are we going to do about the dance part? maybe the organist would agree to help out with this as well?)

Who: everybody who breathes

[Under the heading "Quibbles with Commentaries" I read verse 1 as directing us to praise the Lord wherever we are, both in the sanctuary and out of it. The New Interpreter's Study Bible, on the other hand, reads this verse to mean that God's sanctuary is not in the earthly temple but in the heavens.]

Friday, June 30, 2017

Sing praises to the Lord, a Reflection on Psalm 30

In one of my Bibles, Psalm 30 has two superscriptions (what I would have called headings if I didn't also read commentaries). It is either a thanksgiving for recovery from grave illness or it is a song at the dedication of the temple. Or, it is both.

It begins with the recognition that the Lord has performed the rescue.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.

It then directs the congregation to also give thanks.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.

It ends with the recognition that expression of gratitude is to be made openly and publicly:
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

As a person can be grateful for being healed from some personal sickness, a nation can be grateful for its restoration after a great disaster.

The notes in the Jewish Study Bible suggest that the psalm could have been used when the temple was rebuilt after exile, 515 BCE, or at its rededication after the victory of Judas Maccabaeus, 164 BCE. This psalm continues to be read on Hanukkah as well as part of the introductory liturgy for the daily, Sabbath, and festival morning services.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Gratitude for Healing, Reflection on Psalm 30

"O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the pit."

We can pray this psalm of gratitude for the healing that God has provided us.

And not just healing from physical diseases. Sheol is that lowest of places, a separation from all friends, a separation even from God. We are in Sheol at those moments of greatest distress and isolation.

But, even in Sheol, we remember our Lord.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Voice of the Shepherd, a Reflection on John 10:1-4

We are in the period of Jesus' ministry before the last supper but during a time when he is performing many miracles--displeasing his opponents, the religious authorities. Jesus said that he had come into the world to exercise judgment so that those who don't see can and those who see will become blind." His opponents responded, "Surely we aren't blind, are we?"

So, are Jesus' words in chapter 10 an answer to that question? Is Jesus talking to his followers or his enemies when he describes himself as the shepherd?

Whether he is talking to them or not, isn't he talking about them when he contrasts his own role as the shepherd with that of the thief and bandit?

He has healed a blind man; they have criticized him because he did it on the sabbath. Wouldn't a shepherd have been concerned enough about the sheep in his care not to look on the calendar before helping it?

The sheep can tell the difference between the true shepherd and the false one. They know which one to follow.

John was writing about Pharisees, but they weren't the last false shepherds. Christians must continue to distinguish between the voices speaking to them. Jesus says that the sheep can tell the difference. Is that still true of today's sheep? Do we recognize the voice of the shepherd or are we likely to follow some other attraction?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Shepherd and Host, a reflection on Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is surely the most familiar psalm to many of us. Some of us can even recite it; even more of us recognize it as soon as we hear it being recited.

I suggest a reason that it is so ubiquitous is that we need to hear its message, one of the love and protection that God offers to all of us. A love that protects, comforts, and just is always to be counted on.

John H. Hayes, in Preaching through the Christian Year B, points out that two different images of God are used in this psalm--shepherd and host.

First, the psalm begins, "The Lord is my shepherd." When we are in danger, or in need of direction, we can be comforted with that image of a shepherd taking care of the sheep who really need being taken care of, including being protected from predators, and being told when we are on the wrong path and being shown the right way to go.

Also, the psalm includes, "You prepare a table for me....." The Lord welcomes us, is generous with us, and will continue to do so; "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long."

Hayes summarizes the diverse expressions of human experience found in this psalm:
One set emphasizes the troubles that threaten to overwhelm human life.... Another set stresses the positive instruments and acts of God's care.... Human life, of course, experiences both the negative and the positive.... This psalm presents the human predicament without any illusion about persons/ being superhumans and above pain, loneliness, and lostness; yet the symbol of God as protector and even corrector affirms the potential of a tranquil life lived amid adversaries and the harsh realities that are the ingredients of every life.