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, October 17, 2016

A Kingdom with No End, Reflection on 2 Samuel 7:1-17

David had been victorious over his enemies--internal as well as external ones. He has been made king over all of Israel. He has brought back the ark of God from where it had been hidden during the battles. they put the ark in a tent and made offerings to the Lord.

David is living in a house and decides that the ark should have a house as well.

The Lord tells Nathan what to tell David about this idea.

The Lord is responsible for the beginning of David's story, his success against his enemies, and for David's future. David has it backwards if he thinks that it depends on him to provide a house for the Lord.

The Lord will build David's house.

The house and kingdom shall last forever.

A problem arises for us as we read these verses. David's son, Solomon, did build a temple--that was destroyed by the Babylonians. After the return of the exiles, a temple was built to replace it. Did the people think that God meant only for David not to build a temple? How did we discern that great houses of worship are appropriate and helpful?

We usually read the word "house" in this section to also mean "family." That is, we interpret God's promise to mean that David's descendants would rule Jerusalem forever. How long is forever? Foreign powers overtook their land. David's house was taken into captivity.

Another problem with the promise of forever. Would that mean that no matter what David or his children, grandchildren, and great (and so on) grandchildren did, that God would remain in relationship with them, provide for them? That is, does sin matter to God? Are we not being help responsible for our actions? See 1 Kings 9:4-7 for a statement of the conditional covenant).

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Don't Gloat Too Soon, a Reflection on 1 Samuel 2:1-10

What people today can sing Hannah's song with gratitude and sincerity? Who hopes to see God act in the way that Hannah describes?

How could the powerful be happy about the promise that their weapons will be destroyed? Or, how could people who now have full stomachs look forward to having to accept jobs that pay barely enough for food?

Do those rich, powerful, well-fed folks somehow think they deserve what they already have? Hannah thought differently. "Get over yourself," she said.

God cares about the poor, Hannah promises.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Lack of Perception, a Reflection on 1 Samuel 1:9-20

Hannah did not have what society valued in a woman and what she herself wanted desperately. The other wife had many children but lacked the love of their husband. She acted out her resentment and jealousy.

Elkanah did notice that Hannah was upset but didn't know or wouldn't admit knowing why.

We can generalize and modernize this situation. Some people have more things than others do. The haves sometimes lord it over the have-nots. Jealousy affects us badly. People in authority sometimes are clueless.

In Hannah's case, she was determined to make her life better. Her solution was prayer.

When he saw her praying, the religious authority assumed she was drunk. Was he also clueless? Or, was he that unaccustomed to seeing fervent prayer?

Hannah responded to his criticism by explaining who she was and what her situation was.

Eli may not have discerned her sincerity before, but after hearing, he could. He told Hannah that God was going to grant her petition.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sin and Intercession, a Reflection on Exodus 32:7-14

While Moses is on the mountain receiving instructions from the Lord, the people have remained below. They've been there a long time, and they think that Moses has deserted them. Without Moses, they think they have lost the Lord. They want a visible substitute; they demand that Aaron make new gods for them. Read Exodus 31:18-32:6.

When we think about what the modern day equivalent of the golden calf would be, we need to reflect on what helps us to feel confident enough to continue with our journeys and to what we are willing to make sacrifices. Note: journeys and sacrifices can be literal or metaphorical in this analysis.

The Lord looks down and sees them partying. The Lord says to Moses, "I ready to destroy them." But Moses intercedes with three arguments:

1. These are your people. You saved them from slavery.

2. You showed their captors how powerful you are. Do you want them to think you saved them just so you could be the one to kill them?

3. Remember your promise to their ancestor Abraham that you would provide descendants for him.

After hearing what Moses had to say, the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on the people.

We continue to offer intercessory prayers pleading with God to change what is happening to us--even, or especially, those outcomes that we may deserve.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Losing Sight of God, Reflection on Exodus 32:1-6

In Egypt before Pharaoh had released them, on the way out of Egypt when Pharaoh had changed his mind, and over and over in the wilderness, these people have personally witnessed saving acts of the Lord.

Moses is not around at the moment. Without him, they seem to think God is gone, as well. "Let's make some gods for ourselves," they say to Aaron. We are not told what Aaron thinks or what Aaron fears, but we are told that he complies with their wish. Or does he?

When he formed the golden calf and built an altar, he then proclaimed that the festival would be to the Lord. What was he thinking?

How easy or difficult is it for us to distinguish between what looks like Lord-worship and what is actually something-else-worship?

Who or what is Moses to us?
What substitutes are necessary?
Are we capable of remembering what God has already done for us?

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.