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, December 5, 2016

Promises, a reflection on Isaiah 61:1-11

The prophet is proclaiming God's welcome to the returning exiles, "You are released from your captivity." He is echoing the words from Leviticus 25 that describe the jubilee, the point at which a debtor is freed from burden and allowed to return home.

We are reading this scripture during Advent;  so, we usually interpret these words during this season as predicting how much better off we'll be when Christ returns. This year, I'm struck by how they fit not only the Advent season but also the specific economic condition in which so many are finding themselves this day.

Isaiah has just said that he has been sent to preach and care for oppressed, broken-hearted, captive people. His message to these who had been mourners is renewal and restoration. John Goldingay comments on this promise, "Disgrace will give way to splendor and recognition as a people YHWH has made commitment to" (Old Testament Theology, Vol 2).

Moreover, this relationship with God will never end, "I will make an everlasting covenant with them."

Questions to consider:
What are the obligation inherent in being a blessed people? How frightened should we be to read the Lord's words, "I love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense." If the covenant is everlasting, can it be broken?

I saw a lot of ads for Christmas gifts in the newspaper this morning. We're in a season of thinking about (obsessing about?) what to buy for others and what we hope others are buying for us. And then I read this passage from Isaiah.

We're going to get new clothes but these garments are metaphorical. We're going to be clothed in salvation and righteousness. In addition to not requiring more closet space, these gifts are ones that we should have asked for, ones that will change our lives.

And not just our lives. These gifts are not just for us insiders. Read verse 11. These gifts are for all the nations.

Questions:
On which list do you put salvation and righteousness higher than, say, a new big screen TV or one of those retro gamer crates? Do you think it is good news that God has promised salvation and righteousness to foreigners? Does it depend on how foreign they are?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Everyone, a reflection on Joel 2:12-13, 28-29

In verse 28, the Lord is quoted as saying, "I will pour out my spirit on everyone, so everyone can share what I can do" then in verse 29 lists categories that describe opposite kinds of people--old and you, rich and poor, employed or unemployed, male and female.

Who in your congregations now share their knowledge of God?

Whose visions are you likely to trust?

Monday, November 28, 2016

All means all, a Reflection on Joel 2:12-13, 28-29

As we move through Advent, we read this message (warning?) from Joel: Sound the alarm. The day of the Lord is coming, a day of darkness and gloom. (Read Joel 2:1-11).

Yet, even in the face of our deserved judgment, the Lord continues to beckon, "Return to me."

Let us heed Joel's reminder: Rend your hearts and not your clothing (13).

What do we need to give up (or to take up) that is our way of fasting, weeping, and mourning?

Keep reading.

In verse 13, we see the familiar doxology of God's mercy (Exodus 34:5-7). Then, in verses 28-29 comes God's promise to us, all of us--old, young, male, female, free, slaves. God's spirit will be poured out on all of us so that we can prophesy, that we can dream, that we can see visions.



Monday, November 21, 2016

Reflection on Daniel 6:6-27

Daniel's outstanding achievements were so outstanding that his competitors became jealous. They plotted a way to have Daniel thrown into a pit of lions. The Lord protected him. King Darius was so impressed that he had Daniel's accusers along with their whole families thrown to the lions.

Darius published a proclamation throughout his kingdom that the God of Daniel was the living, eternal, all-powerful God.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Reflection on Jeremiah 36:27-28

After the king had destroyed the scroll that told of God's words telling that repentance was necessary and would be beneficial to them, God told Jeremiah to get another scroll and rewrite the message.

Question arising from reading this passage: How many times do we have to hear before we're ready to listen?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Reflection on Jeremiah 36:21-23

The people of Jerusalem (and out of Jerusalem) had gathered at the temple. At the gate of the temple, Baruch read from the scroll that recorded the words that the Lord had spoken to Jeremiah. (Jeremiah was not allowed to speak there.) Although the king himself had not been in attendance, he got a report. When he heard the words that Baruch had read, the officials directed him to bring the scroll and read it to them.

When they related the words to the king, he began cutting off pieces of the scroll and threw them in the fire.

Back to us: When we are told what God wants us to do, and it's not something we want to do, do we react the way the king did?

Monday, November 14, 2016

reflection on Jeremiah 36:1-8

The Lord had told them over and over what they were supposed to do. Over and over they had ignored those commands.

Trying yet again, the Lord told Jeremiah: Here are your choices. Doing bad things results in disaster. But, if they repent, I'll forgive them.

Since Jeremiah himself was not allowed to enter the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, he commissioned Baruch to carry the message. "Write down all I have been told and read it in the hearing of all the people of Judah who have come to the house of the Lord."

Baruch did as he was told.

Questions that arise from reading this passage: How is God's word being communicated to us? Do we bother to repeat to anybody what we have learned?

Monday, November 7, 2016

An unclean prophet, a Reflection on Isaiah 6:1-8

Verses 1-4 describe an overwhelming sense of God's glory and the appropriate response to it. On a throne. A high and lofty throne. So large that just the hem of his robe fills the temple. Heavenly beings attend him. They sing, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts."

Verses 5, in contrast, describes the great contrast with this glory with the human condition. Isaiah realizes that he is unworthy.

Verses 6-7 give us reassurance. Since we are not worthy, God has a way of redeeming us, of overcoming our sin. Isaiah's guilt was removed.

Verse 8 reminds us why we need this redemption. We have a task. Isaiah accepted his call.
(much of this from or inspired by Isaiah 1-39, by Walter Brueggeman)

How much of this is repeated in a typical church service?
Do we recognize an overwhelming divine presence?
Do we recognize our own sinfulness?
Can we receive redemption? If so, what are we prepared to do with it?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Justice or Mercy? a reflection on Jonah 4:1-11

Jonah had warned Nineveh that God was going to destroy the city. Much to Jonah's disappointment, they had repented. So God's mind was changed. Jonah was not happy. He demanded of God, "Why did you forgive the Ninevites? The reason I had fled from the assignment to come to Nineveh was that I had thought of you as a merciful and compassionate God. Then when you forced me to come here anyway,  I expected you to demonstrate justice not mercy.  I give up."

Jonah waited to see what would happen next. God provided him with a shrub to give him shade to make him more comfortable while he waited. Then God sent a worm to destroy the shrub and followed that by sending a dry hot wind. Jonah was so angry that God had killed the shrub that he said he was ready to die.

God asked him, "Why are you so sympathetic to the shrub when you were so unforgiving of the people of Nineveh? Can't you see why I would pity those people?

Can we? Which is more important--justice or mercy? Can justice include mercy?

(influenced by Kelly J. Murphy in Women's Bible Commentary)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Amnesty for Immigrants

Compare Clinton//Trump stands on amnesty: http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/10/helping_you_decide_where_trump.html

A proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill that was debated in the United States Senate creating a guest-worker program to help employers fill low-paying jobs:   https://www.usimmigrationsupport.org/amnesty.html

Resistance to amnesty
http://www.theamericanresistance.com/issues/amnesty.html