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, May 25, 2016

Keep on forgiving, a reflection on Matthew 18:21-22

Jesus had strong words for his disciples. Look back at 18:6-9 for the imprecation against the strong interfering with the humble. He commanded them to seek the ones who stray and to bring them back into the fold (10-15).

But, what happens when that sheep is back in the fold and you would really rather have him leave. Last week's gospel lesson outlined a procedure for helping the church member change behavior. "If he won't change," Jesus said, "Treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector."

[Look back at Matthew 9:9-10 and 14:21-15.]

Now Peter asks, "How many times do we have to go through this procedure before we can give up on somebody?" Jesus' response is a number too big to keep track of.

Don't read this message as a word to those who are being abused that they need to stay in relationship with someone who will continue to harm them.

Don't read these words of Jesus as saying that sin does not matter. This message is to Peter. If the church is going to make it, then church members have to work together.

On a tangent: Am I right to read a requirement for repentance to precede Peter's forgiveness? After all, in the parable, the debtor begs the king for forgiveness.

The Power of Forgiveness (http://www.thepowerofforgiveness.com/) explores recent research into the psychological and physical effects of forgiveness on individuals and within relationships under a wide variety of conditions and translates it into a popular, accessible documentary film for national public television.

The film also explores the role forgiveness holds in various faiths traditions. It provides an honest look at the intensity of anger and grief that human nature is heir to. We see in the film that there are transgressions people find themselves unwilling or unable to forgive. Through character-driven stories the film shows the role forgiveness can play in alleviating anger and grief and the physical, mental and spiritual benefits that come with it.

This includes feature stories on the Amish, the 9/11 tragedy and peace-building in Northern Ireland, along with interviews with renowned Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, best-selling authors Thomas Moore and Marianne Williamson and others.

And take a quiz to see how forgiving you are.

(Thanks to the heads-up from Alive Now, September/October 2008 that alerted me to this website.)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Forgiveness thwarts Satan, a reflection on 2 Corinthians 2:1--10

Paul explains that he has delayed returning to Corinth because of an earlier troubled visit. He asks them to forgive the trouble maker that had caused Paul the trouble there.

"He didn't hurt just me because his hurting me hurt you. But, you've punished him adequately. Try now to forgive him. Try now to offer him comfort. Try now to show him that you love him. If you forgive him, so do I. When we are able to forgive, Christ has kept us from Satan's schemes."

That's what Paul said. I'm still working on what I think.

Friday, May 20, 2016

question arising from my reading 2 Corinthians 1:1-11

In verse 4, we are told that God comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble. I'm wondering now how often I make this connection in my own life. Why do I think God offers me comfort?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Don't be afraid, a reflection on John 14:25-27

When they had asked him to show them the Father, Jesus told them they had already been able to see the Father. He added "Even if you don't believe my words, you've got my works to convince you."

Believe what you have heard me say. Or, believe what I have said. Or, let what you have seen me accomplish be proof.

Then he extends this pattern to include them: Those who believe in me will also be able to do the works that I do.

He's leaving them. But, the world will not lose what he has been able to do. The ability that Jesus has demonstrated to help them out will continue after the physical separation.

"In a little while, the world won't be able to see me any more, but you will."

"The Father will send an Advocate for you, the Holy Spirit."

Jesus outlines the work of the Advocate: to teach them and to remind them of everything that Jesus had said to them.

Jesus had spoken the words of the Father. The Holy Spirit will continue to speak to them--and to us.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Consolation, a reflection on 2 Corinthians 1:1-11

Paul tells the congregation at Corinth: God consoles us in our afflictions so that we may console others. God raised Jesus and will rescue us.

[Scholars tell us that 2 Corinthians as we have it in our Bible is a compilation of several letters written by Paul then combined but probably not in chronological order.]

In their Jewish Annotated New Testament, Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler point out that the relationship between affliction and consolation raised in 1:3-11 is the backbone of the arguments we will read in 4:7-10; 4:16-5:10; and 12:7-10.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

1 Corinthians 12:1-13



Different people have different talents, Paul told them. It's still true. For example, I cannot sing, but I like to stand in front of a room full of people and talk.

Paul lists several gifts that the Spirit has given to different church members. Moreover, every one of the gifts is important, even necessary.

Different talents but same source and for same reason.

Explore your Spiritual Gifts.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Varieties of Gifts, a Reflection on 1 Corinthians 12:1-13

Look back at the first chapter of Corinthians--Paul has heard that the congregation has divided into groups and the groups are not getting along. The more things change .... you know the rest.

Paul continues to lecture and warn and remind them of what they should be concerned about.

In Chapter 12, he talks about spiritual gifts. (We aren't sure whether the Greek term should be translated as "spiritual gifts" or "spiritual persons").

Paul tells them, and through them, tells us that a congregation is made up of people with different gifts. Both words are important: different and gifts.

Gifts denotes that we don't get these talents or abilities by ourselves. The Spirit of God has passed them out to us. Different is also important because difference is essential if the whole thing is going to work.

Note the pattern from unity through diversity in order to enable unity.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Reactions to the Pentecost Surprise, a Reflection on Acts 2:1-4 (5-13)

The Holy Spirit appeared suddenly, loudly, and effectively. The reaction was mixed. Some were bewildered, amazed, astonished.

Even when they found themselves able to understand in their own languages what the recipients were saying, the first witnesses either didn't know what was happening or made up a reason that seemed reasonable--they must be drunk.

Miracles or any exciting phenomena do not necessarily generate faith.

Peter responded to the lack of understanding and the rude remark by preaching a sermon.

Nonbelievers will not agree with our explanations. At least right away. After all, why should they? Allowing experience to explain phenomena is not unexpected.

Be careful with those sermons. They don't always help the unbeliever. At least right away.

I'm wondering what fraction of the people listening to a sermon on any Sunday are unbelievers. I'm wondering what they think about what they see happening that we explain has come through the Lord.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

1 Corinthians 15:1-26

Paul reminds the Corinthians the message he terms of first importance: Christ died, was buried, was raised, and appeared to witnesses including Paul himself.

Paul has received this gospel and is passing it on to the Corinthians. His knowledge is based on experience and scripture.

Now, back to us. We have had the opportunity of good, faithful teaching by hard-working teachers who were filled with grace and able to demonstrate that grace to us. And we have been faced with not-so-faithful, not-so-grace-filled teachings and examples. Let us hold firm to the good news proclaimed through Paul. Let us come to believe--and act as if we did. Let God's grace to us not be in vain.

The First Commandment, a Reflection on Mark 12:28-34

When a scribe asked Jesus which commandment is the most important of all. Jesus responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18. He has been quoting Scripture to his opponents over and over. And although some have not been very happy with him about this, in Mark's version, this scribe is convinced.

Are we?

Do we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Do we come even close to loving our neighbor as ourselves?

What is the most important thing for Christians to do or to argue about not doing?

What are the most important matters that should be discussed at the General Meeting this year?

(repeat from earlier in year)