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.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Home of God, a Reflection on Psalm 84:1-7

Here is a psalm that describes the joy of being able to worship in the temple, the longing to be there. I can't help but think about those Sunday mornings when we still had young children at home to get ready for church and wondering if the words of this psalm describe what I was thinking. Or, what am I thinking on a typical Sunday morning now? Does my soul long, indeed faint for the place? Do I sing for joy to the living God? Well, sometimes, I think so.

But this psalm is about more than looking forward to occasional attendance at a formal worship service. It is also about what happens to us because we have experienced the presence of God. The psalmist describes the path toward the house of God: "As they go through the valley of Baca (read this to mean a place of thirst), they make it a place of springs."

So, another question is raised by this psalm: Does the thought of attending church at the end of this week affect the way I go through the week? As I go through areas that lack something, do I work to fill the need? Or, do I even notice those needs?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

On the Road, a reflection on Psalm 84

A worshipper of God is on a pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem. My husband and I are within easy driving distance of the church we attend. I read in the psalm, "My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God." I'm pausing to consider whether my soul longs and faints for that building I am headed toward. I do want to be there, I feel deeply (some weeks, anyway) the need to be there, but I'm not sure about the fainting part. Further disturbing to me is that while I am really, really glad to have that church and to be going there, I have never sung out loud about it while on the way.

So, what does this psalm say to me?

I'm not willing to leave it totally for the original psalmist.

Part of the difference is that the building I am talking about is one that I go to on the average about three times a week. The psalmist, I repeat, is making a pilgrimage. Yet, why would familiarity and ease about the access cause me to be less joyful?

Perhaps I am being too narrow in the application of the psalm to my religious life. Try this: my whole life is a journey toward the presence of God. As I go through my ordinary life--grocery shopping, TV watching, grandchildren enjoying, I am in the presence of God. God's dwelling place, God's courts, God's house--none of those are completely defined by any one building constructed by human beings.

So, Sunday mornings and the rest of the week, let me sing with the psalmist, "A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you."

Monday, August 7, 2017

What Can We Do Now? a reflection on Acts 2:37-42

Peter was speaking to a crowd of people who had not understood or recognized who Jesus was. Now they do. They ask, "What can we do now?"

Who needs to read today's scripture--the Peters among us or the crowds who didn't get it before?

It's far easier than we would want it to be to imagine religious people whose lives are being lived largely without any acknowledgement or recognition of Christ.

Peter denied knowing Christ and did so explicitly. He was afraid. Many later Christians don't voice any explicit denial, but their allegiance to Christ's teachings might be pretty hard to discern.

Who needs to read today's scripture?

Some of Christ's teachings may be easier for us to fit into our daily lives than others. Most of us can go through the day without committing acts of violence or stealing anything, for example. Harder though is giving up selfishness or fear.

Who needs to be asking the question, "What can we do now?"

Peter said, "The promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away."

We need to tell this story so others can hear, and we need to listen to this story so we can live the lives that Christ intends for us. We may be far away in calendar years from Peter's questioners, but do we really need to be far away in recognizing the need for repentance?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Health care, When they're against you, a Reflection on Ephesians 6:10-20

This letter is written to the church--a church that apparently has some scared people in it. The advice, "When you think demons are after you, depend on God for your protection."


The modern-day application that came to me today was the debate we Americans are having over our government's role in health care.

As the faith community considers how best all can receive whatever help they need, can we not use the metaphors in this passage?
belt of truth 
breastplate of righteousness (note, not self-righteousness) 
shoes (so you'll be ready to step out and spread the good news) 
shield and helmet (there's a lot of folks that will be shooting arrows at you)
And not metaphorical at all, prayer.

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.