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.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Choosing a Foundation, Reflections on Mt 7:21-25 and Dt 11:18-28

Floods and wind failed to destroy the house because it was built on rock. Wise people know that. Foolish people don't seem to. "What did you think was going to happen?" Jesus asks, "You've seen what happens to sand castles; why did you think your house was going to survive any better than that?" Moses is saying pretty much the same thing to his people, "You've got a choice now. Take the right one."

We need to be careful what we do with the truth in these passages. We need to use them to help us remember to make good choices, ones that comply with the wishes of God. What we need to refrain from doing is to use them to chastise people in dire circumstances. Neither the words of Matthew nor the Deuteronomist give us permission to say to them, "You should have known better."

Lectio Divina, May 31, 2008

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today (Dt 11:26-27).

You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
for your name's sake lead me and guide me (Ps 31:3).

Friday, May 30, 2008

Lectio Divina, May 30, 2008

Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock (Matt 7:26).

Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me,
O Lord, faithful God (Ps 31:5).

Living with Our Choices, Reflections on Mt 7:21-29 and Dt 11:18-28

In the Matthew passage, Jesus says that some of us will not make it into heaven. Actually, he says into the kingdom of heaven. So, I pause and think about the distinction between these two destinations. When I say heaven, I mean somewhere else; that is, I mean after I'm dead. But, is that what I am supposed to get from Jesus' words? Does kingdom of heaven mean that "Heaven-rules rule"? I am remembering Jesus' prayer in the chapter right before this one, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

I am helped by reading the Deuteronomy text. Moses is preparing his people for life in the land given to them by God. "Remember what I have taught you. These teachings will enable you to enjoy life."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lectio Divina May 29, 2008

God will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law (Rom 3:30b-31).

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge (Ps 46:11).

Christians and the Law

When Paul says to the Gentiles in his congregation that "a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law," he's saying that they don't have to abide by the entire Torah in order to be acceptable to God. After all, he would have been familiar with this scriptural prophecy, "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nation, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth" (Isaiah 49:6)

But, he's not saying that "anything goes," is he? Do Christians have some bedrock requirements for salvation? That is, how do we demonstrate faith? And, thinking about the Isaiah passage, how far are the ends of the earth? Who else might be included in this salvation intention? What do they have to do to demonstrate faith?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lectio Divina May 28, 2008

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Rom 1:16).

Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth (Ps 46:11).

New Views of Paul

In the last 40 years or so, scholars have revised the commonly held view of Paul that Protestants have held since Reformation. The new view holds that Paul was called to preach to the Gentiles, that God intended to include these Gentiles in the family as part of healing the world. Further, the new view holds that God did not reject Jews nor should the Jews reject the law.

In other words, Jews could become Christians, but Christians did not have to become Jews.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bishop Ward's ePistle May 27, 2008

Bishop Ward of Mississippi reminds us that June 3 is National Hunger Awareness Day. She hopes that our congregations and all in our country will turn attention toward those who are food-insecure in our nation.

She specifically gives thanks for the ministry of the Society of St. Andrew. here in Mississippi.

Reflecting on the reading from Genesis

Do we read this as a story about punishment or about mercy?

Notice who does the judging. Notice who is asked to participate in the saving.

Hear the echoes of Genesis 2.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Visitation of Mary to Her Cousin Elizabeth, May 31

On the 4th Sunday of Advent last year, we read about how Gabriel had visited Mary and announced to her that she was to conceive a son who would be called the Son of the Most High. Mary had quibbled some, but like others before her (and after her) accepted her call. She had responded to the messenger, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word" (Luke 1:26-38).

Now, about five months later, we commemorate the visit of the pregnant Mary to her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant with the prophet we will know as John the Baptist.

Read their story in Luke 1:39-57. Note how Mary's song echoes Hannah's in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. Psalm 113 reminds us that God is the helper of those who need help.

Reading toward 3rd Sunday after Pentecost 2008

Monday, May 26, Genesis 6:9-22; Ps 46:1-3
Tuesday, Genesis 7:24; 8:14-19; Ps 46:4-7
Wednesday, Romans 1:16-27; Ps 46:8-11
Thursday, Rom 3:22b-31
Friday, Deuteronomy 11:18-21; Mt 7:21-25
Saturday, Dt: 11:26-28; Mt 7:26-29
Sunday, May 31, Psalm 31:1-5


In their lectionary commentary, Preaching the Old Testament" Ronald J. Allen and Clark M. Williamson point out that the Hebrew word for "ark" is the same one that is translated as "basket" in Exodus 3. A couple of points interest me: 1) God provides a way of saving our hero from a watery death, and 2) some human effort is necessary to participate in this salvation.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Lectio Divina, May 25, 2008

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today (Mt 6:34).

O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore (Ps 131).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Looking at the birds after reading Aldo Leopold

Matthew tells us that Jesus said, "Look at the birds of the air...."

I'm almost at the end of A Spiritual Field Guide, edited by Bernard Bray and mark Neuzil. This morning's reading included an excerpt from Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac. He cites these benefits from watching flocks of geese fly over: Perhaps one flock thrilled a score of schoolboys, awakening in them a sense of adventure. Another flock on a dark night may have awakened sleepers into memories and hopes. A third flock may have interrupted the drudgery of a plowman, bringing to him new thoughts of far lands and journeys.

I have always read Matthew's passage as warning us against obsessing about our futures. But, now I'm thinking that the command, "Do not worry about tomorrow," doesn't necessarily mean to be totally closed to thoughts of tomorrow.

Aldersgate Day

Methodists remember May 24 as the day that Wesley felt his heart strangely warmed. The UMBOW reminds us that he read or heard that day these scriptures: 2 Peter 1:4 and Mark 12:28-34a.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Looking at birds and considering lilies

One way to quit worrying is to do some art appreciation. Let me recommend the web site of Riverson Art, designed by and showing designs of a dear friend of mine.

Lectio Divina, May 23, 2008

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you--you of little faith? Mt. 6:30

On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
my mighty rock,
my refuge is in God (Ps 62:7).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Book Review from the New York Times

Janet Maslin reviews A Place Called Canterbury, by Dudley Clendinen, and Leisureville, by Andrew D. Blechman in the Mary 22, 2008 issue. Both books are about retirement communities in Florida. I am struck by her comment provoked by Blechman's work:

"They (retirement communities) separate people from art, culture, politics, and any sense of responsibility."

I read this on a day that I am reflecting on the passage from Matthew. What am I concerned about? What should I be concerned about? I'm looking at this from two levels. First, how much of a sense of responsibility do I have? Have I arranged my life so as to separate myself from community responsibility as much as possible? Second, more to the purpose of the books that were reviewed, in what way do I care about the people who can no longer live in their own homes? Have I forgotten them?

Lectio Divina, May 22, 2008

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Mt 6:25.

God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress;
I shall not be shaken (Ps 62:5)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lectio Divina, May 21, 2008

Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God ((1 Corinth 4:5).

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me (Ps 8:1b).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Try Kairos Comotion Lectionary Dialogue

Lectio Divina, May 20, 2008

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people,
and will show compassion on his sufferings ones (Isa 49:13).

I have calmed and quited my soul, like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me (Ps 131:3).

Monday, May 19, 2008

The GBOD of the UMC asked for prayers for Myanmar and China

If you want to know more about Sunday's texts

Reading toward May 25, 2008, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Psalm for the Week 131 or 62:5-12
Monday Isaiah 49:8-12
Tuesday Isaiah 49:13-16a
Wednesday 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Thursday Matthew 6:24-25
Friday Matthew 6:26-30
Saturday Matthew 6:31-33
Sunday Matthew 6:34

Lectio Divina, May 19, 2008

Thus says the Lord: In a time of favor I have answered you, on a day of salvation I have helped you; I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages; saying to the prisoners, "Come out," to those who are in darkness, "Show yourselves." They shall feed along the was, on all the bare heights shall e their pasture (Isa 49:8).

O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore (Ps 131:3).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lectio Divina May 18, 2008

Teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you (Mt 28:20a).

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands (Ps 8:6).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Lectio Divina May 17, 2008

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth (Ps 8:1a). You have created the earth and all that lives upon it. You have created us in your image and blessed us.

When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted (Mt 28:17).

What are human beings that you are so mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? (Ps 8)

Friday, May 16, 2008

More from A Spiritual Field Guide

On mountain climbing, Robert Pirsig reminds us to look around while we are on the way to the top: "It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here's where things grow," 132,

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Reading A Spiritual Field Guide

In the chapter, "Into the Wilderness," Bernard Brady and Mark Neuzil remind us how Psalm 23 captures the confidence we have in God's love for us and that "the words pastoral and pastor both come from the Latin pastus, past participle of pascere which means 'to feed',"125 .

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More thoughts about the earthquake in China

I read Beth Richardson's article on the Upper Room website, "Caring without Numbing," I recommend this article and anything else that she has written.

Here's the first paragraph, "The earth seems to in great chaos -- shootings, wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes. As we follow story after story of heartbreaking disaster, I wonder: "How can I continue to see, to hear, to read about these tragedies of human life? How can the aid workers continue to do their tasks as they hear the stories, see the losses, attempt to respond to the incredible needs? How can the survivors reach out to others when they have lost so much? How do they do it? And how did Jesus continue to care for people, day after day after day?""

She points out how Jesus dealt with disaster: 1) He took action. 2) He prayed. 3) He took time apart.

My concern is that we skip step 1 and spend too much time on step 3.

Prayers as I think about the earthquakes in China

O Lord, we wait for you. Incline to us. Hear our cry. Draw us out of the desolate pit, out of the miry bog. Set our feet upon a rock; make our steps secure. (from Ps 40:1-2).

O God, do not reject us. Repair the cracks in the earth. Rescue us. (from Ps 60:2).

Lectio Divina, May 24, 2008

Therefore do not worry, saying, "What will we eat?" or "What will we drink?" or "What will we wear?" Mt 6:31

Trust in God at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before God;
God is a refuge for us (Ps 62:8).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Preparing for Trinity Sunday: The Athanasian Creed

Traditionally, I am told, the Christian church recites the Athanasian Creed during Trinity Sunday worship. However, the UMBOW does not include this creed. So, here's a link from the ECLA:

The UM New Handbook of the Christian Year (copyright 1992, so not so new now) suggests leaving out the anathemas; that is, the "perish eternally" clause and the last sentence. I agree.

Psalms for when you have been treated poorly

When we have been mistreated by other people, we can turn to the psalms for help in expressing our pain. Here's a listing of some of the psalms of lament. I've included the opening verse of some of them, but don't stop with the first verse.

3, O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me.
4, Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
7, O Lord my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers, and deliver me.
31, In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.
35, Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me!
37, Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers.
43, Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; from those who are deceitful and unjust deliver me!
54, Save me, O God, by your name, and vindicate me by your might!
56, 69, 70, 71, 140, 142

Monday, May 12, 2008

Reading toward Trinity Sunday, May 18, 2008

Psalm for the Week 8
Monday Genesis 1:1-8
Tuesday Genesis 1:9-23
Wednesday Genesis 1:24-30
Thursday Genesis 2:1-4a
Friday 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Saturday Matthew 28:16-18
Sunday Matthew 28:29-20