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 23, 2017

Building the Temple, a Reflection on 1 Kings 5:1-5; 8:1-13

When David had become king, he looked at his palace and was aware that God's chest was resting in a tent. However, God spoke to the prophet Nathan that not David, but one of David's sons was to build a temple for the Lord (2 Samuel 7:1-17).

When his son Solomon became king, he began plans for building that temple. Enemies had been defeated. Israel was at peace. The project took seven years, contribution from an ally, and over 100,000 workers.

When the temple was complete, Solomon has the ark brought into Jerusalem to be set in place. The priests carried the ark into the holiest part of this holy place. As they came out, a cloud filled the temple--a cloud, the visible sign of the glory of the Lord.

(His ancestors had been led by the cloud through the wilderness on their journey from slavery to promised land.)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Need for a Change, a reflection on 1 Samuel 16:1-13

The Lord has regretted the choice of Saul as king and has informs Samuel it's time to anoint a new king. Samuel is afraid but does what God wants anyway.  Samuel misunderstands at first what is important in a leader. He thinks the one with he best appearance will do the best job. But, God tells him not to judge by outward appearance. The Spirit of the Lord comes upon David at the point of being anointed by Samuel.

Questions that arose in my mind as I thought about Samuel and David:
Who takes the role of prophet in our contemporary congregations?

Considering how many evil acts have taken place by someone using the name of the Lord, do we want to retire permanently the role of prophet?

Are our modern-day ordinations in any way similar to the anointing of a human being by a prophet?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Hearing a Hard Message, Reflection on 1 Samuel 3:11-20

How are we to read verse 19? Do we lean entirely on the easy interpretation, "What God wants, God gets"? Is that what "the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground" means?

Or, should we be influenced by the context of this memory? Eli heard the hard word from God transmitted through the young Samuel. And Eli accepted the word. "Don't hide anything from me," he commanded Samuel. So Samuel did what Eli was willing to have done.

What would have happened to God's word if Eli had told Samuel to be quiet, quit running into his room, and go back to sleep?

Can you imagine being Eli?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

When the Word of the Lord Calls, Reflection on 1 Samuel 3:6-10

Samuel heard God's voice but did recognize that whose voice it was.

Eli knew God, but it didn't occur to him that God would want to talk to Samuel.

It took three tries, but Eli finally caught on.

Would Samuel have ever known that God was intruding on his life if Eli hadn't told him?

When we are Samuel, we need Eli.

When we are Eli, we need to help Samuel.

Monday, October 9, 2017

One of These Days, a Reflection on 1 Samuel 3:1-5

"The word of the Lord was rare in those days...."

Had God really withdrawn from Israel? Historians can stack up the reasons why God might well have decided to ignore those people at that time. They certainly were not behaving in a way that indicated that they had been listening anyway.

Or, had God continued to be reaching out, and they just were too busy listening to their own voices and desires to pay attention?

When we feel lonely, abandoned, stuck in a situation without solution, can we hear God's voice? Or, when we feel complete, secure, satisfied, do we bother to listen?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The food that gives life, a Reflection on John 6:51

The feeding of the five thousand in John 6 may read to us an echo of the manna provided for a hungry people (Exodus 16). After all, Jesus reminded them to look back--to remember all that God has done in the past--and to look forward--to be assured that God will continue to find ways to provide all that is needed.

And we can remember both passages as we celebrate the Eucharist. As we step toward the altar and accept the gift of bread and wine (or juice, of course, in the UMC), we enter a changed life. Christ is in us. We are in Christ.

And as good as the rolls will be at Sunday dinner, this bread is even better.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Journey and the Complaining about It Continue, Reflection on Exodus 16:1-18

Have you ever known anyone like the people in Exodus 16? God has brought them out of slavery, protected them from an attacking army, and provided them with water. Their response is to complain. "Oh, why did you bring us here? Things were so much better in Egypt."

What is the usual human response? How different have we human beings become over the millenia? Often, even when we can remember our deliverance, we still complain.

What is the usual divine response? When we cry out in despair, what does God do? What can we expect if we cry out in disgust with our situation?

God talks to Moses. Moses talks to Aaron. Moses and Aaron talk to the people. Moses tells Aaron to talk to them. Aaron does. Then, as Aaron is speaking, the Lord appears to the people. Or, was the Lord there all along, and the people finally woke up to the presence?

As a typical American, I think I'm hungry if it's supper time and I haven't eaten since lunch. What if I were a Puerto Rican this week? Or, someone from Houston suffering from flooding after Hurricane Harvey or somebody from Florida after Irma?

How does God send help to people in need? In Exodus, the food came down from the sky. Sometimes, God sends it through the hands of other humans. Sometimes, we are slow to help; sometimes, not.  For example,  read about UMCOR 's response to Irma and Harvey and to Maria UMCOR.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Digital Versions of Book of Resolutions and Book of Disciplines

God finds Jacob, Reflection on Genesis 28:10-19a

Esau had sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of stew. Then later, Esau loses the blessing due to an elder son. We weren't told that Esau resented his brother for taking his birthright, but we are told how angry he is over the loss of the blessing. When their mother, Rebekah found out that Esau had threatened to kill Jacob, she sent him to Haran to escape that fate and to find a wife while at her brother's house.

In this week's lesson, Jacob has begun the journey. He's on the way to the home of his father's father, Abraham, and his mother, Rebekah's. When it gets too dark to travel, he beds down. In a dream, he sees a ladder beginning on earth but reaching to heaven. Angels of God were climbing up and down the ladder.

The Lord God appears to Jacob and extends the blessing to him that had before him been received by Abraham and Isaac, promises a continuing presence with Jacob, and an assurance that Jacob will be able to return home.

Note that God came to Jacob where Jacob was. Jacob wasn't looking for God. Nothing is special about the place where he found God.

Questions that I ponder--
Why was Esau more upset about the loss of his blessing than of his birthright?
Why did Isaac never go to Haran?
Why does Genesis say the ladder (my NISB says that the Hebrew word could be translated as staircase) was set up on earth? Why didn't it drop down from heaven?

One of my favorite biblical theologians is John Goldingay. Here's an excerpt from his Old Testament Theology, Volume One, Israel's Gospel:

"At Bethel God promises to be with Jacob wherever he goes, yet Jacob infers that this particular place is one where God is present. It is God's house, heaven's door. Indeed, God later thus directs him back to Bethel and appears there, although also God speaks to him at Shechem (Gen 34:1-15). There is a rhythm about God's relationship with the ancestors, a rhythm of place and journey. It involves both fixed places where God appears and they worship, and journeys where they decide to go and God accompanies them...." (246).