OTOH: One of my all-time favorite Pauline quotes is verse 20. "Do nice things for your enemies; it's guaranteed to drive them nuts."
Generous God, as we remember Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, we acknowledge the temptation that pursues so many of us: to measure our worth, our power and our security by what we have. As we offer these gifts to you this morning, we pray that you might deliver us from the temptation of building our lives around what belongs to us. Continually lead us to the conviction that what matters is that we belong to you. We pray in the name of our Savior and Redeemer. Amen. (Matthew 4:1-11)
Sunday, August 31, 2008
OTOH: One of my all-time favorite Pauline quotes is verse 20. "Do nice things for your enemies; it's guaranteed to drive them nuts."
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Jeremiah complains again, "I've said what you've told me to say, and I have suffered for it. Why won't you stop this pain?"
God offers reassurance to Jeremiah. "Keep saying what I want you to say. Your enemies will not win, for I am with you. I'm the one who can and who will save you."
Does Jeremiah fear that God has deserted him, or does he fear that God won't leave him alone?
Friday, August 29, 2008
O God, you have bound us together in this life. Give us grace to understand how our lives depend
on the courage, the industry, the honesty, and the integrity of all who labor. May we be mindful
of their need, grateful for their faithfulness, though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Reinhold Niebuhr, UMBOW, 443).
Thursday, August 28, 2008
I wondered, as I thought about this passage, what modern-day evangelists were saying to potential converts. Then I remembered who he was talking to--his disciples, insiders, not the crowds, the uninitiated.
He was telling those who were already following him what the Christian way will be like for them. I then wondered about what our current Methodist evangelism material is like. I found this resource: Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith
Here's a quote from the review by Kwasi Kena:
The book looks at John Wesley, in particular, as a great evangelistic practitioner. Wesley's central motive for evangelism was not to recruit new members. Instead, profound gratitude to God and deep compassion for others motivated him. Love for God and neighbor were central. Wesley abhorred cheap love. He challenged people to broaden their thinking of who their neighbors were and to discern what responsibility they had toward their neighbors.
Jesus knew as much about cost as a CPA. "What you decide to do today will affect what happens to you tomorrow and the day after that and for time to come. Take care of the matters that God cares about, and God will take care of what should matter to you."
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
When the devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and promised them to him in exchange for being worshiped, Jesus told him to go away.
When Peter pleaded with Jesus to skip the suffering, Jesus called him Satan and said, "Get behind me." Boring and Craddock suggest that Jesus was not telling him to go away. Rather, Jesus was telling Paul, "Get in line behind me. You're next." The People's New Testament Commentary
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The Mail Online reports that a 270-year-old diary, written in code, has been cracked for the first time to reveal a secret history of the Methodist church, it emerged today.
After nine years of painstaking work, more than 1,000 handwritten pages from 1736 - 1756 have been deciphered from the personal diary of co-founder Charles Wesley.Wesley's Diary
I've always read this as modesty on Moses' part. But, now I'm thinking that it may be more than modesty. It may be a sincere question, "Why me? Why not someone who has spent years devoted to freedom fighting?" Or, "Why not somebody who doesn't have a steady job and a family to take care of? Don't you know some single, underemployed people who have time for charity work?" [I admit I'm going a little over the top now, but I'm thinking of common current reasons for not doing God's work.]
God responds, "What difference does it make who you are or what you think you are good at? Think about it. I Am the one who is sending you."
(As before, much thanks to William Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, Volume One, Israel's Gospel)
Monday, August 25, 2008
But, when God impinges on Moses' life, Moses does notice. When God sees that Moses is willing to let the everyday stuff be laid aside, God calls to him.
"I have seen the misery of my people who are still in Egypt. I have heard their cry. I have come down to rescue them, to bring them to a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey."
Rescue, though not immediate, is imminent.
Then God tells Moses how this rescue is going to be effected: "I'm sending you."
Several questions arise for me as I think about this passage. How many times does God make a dramatic appearance in our not-so-dramatic lives, and we don't even notice? How many times are we compelled to come closer to God, to recognize a holy time and place, and we don't respond? Should we expect God to know our suffering? Do we recognize God's behind-the-scenes work in our rescue from that suffering? Does everyone, or anyone, respond positively to the call of God if it is to do something as dangerous as face a Pharaoh?
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I'm struck by the "one body" part. I get the metaphor. But, I am even more impressed with the "members of one another." I am not sure what to do with this metaphor, but I am going to think about it some more.
Paul listed the kinds of gifts that were needed in the church of his day. Consider how timely his analysis still is: prophecy (he's not talking about fortune tellers); ministry; teaching; exhortation; giving; leading.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Scenes from the Beach
I thought about his perceptive, reflective comments as I walked through my neighborhood this morning. I went past a building that has housed several different businesses in the last couple of decades, most recently a technical college. It is empty now but will soon re-open as a Halloween Store. In the big glass windows were models dressed in the Halloween costumes. If I knew how to get photos on my blog, I wouldn't have put any of these on it. When did Halloween morph from being a children's day to get too much candy to a grownup's day of not being too grown up?
This book begins with seven chapters giving instructions for sacrifices. The animal you offer should be without blemish. Bring it to the entrance of the tent; the priest will take over there. Bring offerings even for unintentional sins. Also offer sacrifices for thanksgiving
Paul said, "Offer your own body as the sacrifice. Offer not only your body; offer yourself, all of yourself. Not just once, giving an animal to the priest and thinking you have accomplished what you came to do. Offer your body, your time, your effort. And your body includes your mind. Use that mind to figure out what God wants, not what the world seems to think is more important."
In this definition of sacrifice, Paul is echoing Old Testament prophets:
"'What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?' says the Lord; 'I have had enough of burnt-offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats (Isaiah 1:11)'".
"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings" Hosea 6:6).
Friday, August 22, 2008
Isaiah is speaking to the exiles, "Listen to my words. Look to the rock from which you were hewn."
To see what can happen, we look back at what has happened.
Isaiah continues, "Remember your ancestors, Abraham and Sarah; remember how, under God's call, they thrived." Abraham and Sarah traveled from home to a strange land. The promise of progeny was long delayed but realized. The God who called them, nurtured them, accompanied them, is the God who is now offering comfort to the exiles.
Even earlier ancestors, Adam and Eve, lost Eden because of their disobedience. Isaiah is now promising that their descendants will migrate in the opposite direction. The wilderness will become Eden (51:3).
For more background on this passage, look back at Isaiah 49-50.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Peter has the keys; that is, Peter understand and can convey what kingdom life is like, what kingdom residents are like.
Jesus built this church and entrusted Peter with it.
(with thanks once again to Boring & Craddock's The People's New Testament Commentary)
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
The term, father, is used for God 65 times in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). 44 of those are in Matthew. God the father is identified as "heavenly" or "in heaven" 20 times in Matthew.
Sheffield instructs us that this interpretation of God as heavenly father comes from the context of Rabbinic prayer language. This language emphasizes who is in charge--God, not Caesar.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
To help visualize children who need help now, visit the website Vision Project
The goal of Vision Project is to produce documentary material and educational programs that encourage understanding and awareness about a broad range of social issues. This information and programming is for the general public with a particular focus on members of the younger generation.
Another point that interests me today is comparing the story of Moses with that of Jesus. They have several factors in common: an imperial ruler that threatens the life of this infant among other infants, the rescue of this child who will later rescue his people.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Immigrants, Social Principles ¶ 164A
Today I read this quote from Augustine:
Let your prayer be against the malice of your enemies, that it may die and they may live. For if your enemy were dead, it might seen you have lost an enemy, yet have you not found a friend. But if your enemy's malice died, you have at once lost an enemy and found a friend....
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
We modern readers may or may not have been separated from a physical place. Few of us have known forcible exile. Yet, separation from God and separation from God's commands may be more familiar to us.
I have read and reread Isaiah 56:1, "Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed." Is he saying that our actions will precipitation our salvation? Is he saying that we need to prepare for salvation by living like saved people? In either case, I get the message that we are supposed to maintain justice and do what is right.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Had this Canaanite woman read Isaiah 56:1-8, "God says, "Outsiders are included in my promises"? Have we?
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Long before, Hosea had called Israel to repentance by voicing this word of God, "For I desire love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" (6:6).
Thanks to Boring and Craddock's The People's New Testament Commentary.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
"Of course, God has not rejected the Jews. Look at me, for example," he says.
God's mercy depends on God.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Centuries later, Joseph's ancestors will form a nation, split it in two, then succumb to defeat by Assyria and then Babylon. Those ancestors can remember Joseph's story when they themselves are in exile. God can turn this terrible thing into something good just as the terrible thing that happened to Joseph turned out to be a saving event for his family.
Even more centuries later, we can also remember Joseph's story of exile and delivery. And we can look in it for hope for our situations.
Monday, August 11, 2008
"Don't worry, don't be mad at yourself for what you've done. God has sent me here to preserve life."
Do we agree with Joseph? Forgiveness is one thing, but attributing to God all actions, including such hurtful ones as done by Joseph's brothers, may be hard to accept.
William Goldingay, in his Old Testament Theology, Israel's Gospel offers an explanation that is helpful to me:
God does not inspire the brothers to their immoral deed, but makes creative use of desires and acts that were self-serving or destructive.... The acts of God include human actions whose results can be made to further God's intentions in the world rather than working against them, p. 258.
Like other characters in Israel's story, Joseph is a human being with strengths and weaknesses, and God works through both of these--and not merely despite them, p. 281.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Centuries later, Paul quotes this prophet, Romans 10:13.
Many have read this promise stated by Paul as an exclusionary statement. They assert that Paul is saying "Only those who believe that Jesus is Christ and Lord are included in God's promises." Others, influenced by verse 12, read Paul's remarks as inclusionary rather than exclusionary. "You, even you, are included. You don't have to be a Jew to be part of God's promises."
"God is generous to all who call on him," Paul says. Then, he lets us know what the consequences of this is. "How are they supposed to know this if someone doesn't bother to tell them?"
And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?
Seek the Lord, and his strength;
seek his presence continually.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
The Fast of the Ninth of Av, is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, many of which coincidentally have occurred on the ninth of Av, including the destruction of both Temples, the first by the Babylonians, the second, by the Romans.
Righteousness from the law: see Leviticus 18:5, You shall keep my statues and my ordinances; by doing so one shall live: I am the Lord.
Righteousness is not something human beings are capable of achieving on their own. God's help is necessary: see Deuteronomy 30:11-14, Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it? No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Elijah searches for God--in the wind, in the earthquake, in the fire, then finds God in the silence (or, as in some translations, in the sound of a soft whisper).
Elijah confesses, "I have done everything for God, but I give up. I'm the only one left. God's enemies are after me. They want to kill me."
God says, "Get on with the work I have assigned you."
The particular task that God has in mind for Elijah is to anoint a new king and a new prophet, Elisha. "They will finish the work that needs to be done."
When we are depressed that we haven't been able to do the job that needs to be done, we can remember that God has not left all the work to us--that there will be successors.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Peter tests Jesus, demands a miracle from him, "If you are who you say you are, command me to come to you on the water." Apparently Jesus' words have been enough to give Peter confidence because he can walk on the water. For a few steps. Then Peter notices once more what had been so frightening before--the wind. He falters, he can no longer do what he had just been able to do. He begins to sink.
Peter calls for help. Jesus gives it.
Sometimes, we can see God's presence; sometimes, not so much. Sometimes, we make a good beginning, but we fail to connect to it a good ending.
Sometimes we call for help.
24they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
27they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits’ end.
28Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;
29he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Yes, His rescue is near for those who fear Him,
that His glory dwell in our land.
Matthew tells us about the disciples, stuck in a boat during a storm. When Jesus came to rescue him, they didn't recognize him.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Scan down to Psalm 104 to read about this week's psalm (Note: the numbering system he is using differs from that used by the NRSV).
Or, go ahead and read the whole article and learn about other psalms as well.
Knowing what Joseph is thinking and saying, the brothers decide to get rid of him. The first-born, Reuben, and the fourth-born, Judah, step in to stop the murder. Instead, they sell Joseph as a slave to some traveling Ishmaelites (hear the echo of the rivalry between Isaac and Ishmael?).
Coincidentally, or providentially, Joseph's dream will come true. Read Psalm 105:16-22.
When he summoned famine against the land, and broke every staff of bread,
17he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron;
19until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord kept testing him.
20The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free.
21He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions,
22to instruct his officials at his pleasure, and to teach his elders wisdom.
Monday, August 4, 2008
The story changes as it repeats. In this generation, the father's favorite goes into exile.
Although Jacob is certainly aware of the consequences of intra-family jealousy, he seems to encourage it. After he has received a bad report about the brothers from Joseph, Jacob sends him out to see how they're doing and to report back to him.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Krister Stendhal, and others, assert that the climax of the letter is in chapters 9 through 11 in its discussion of the redemption of the Gentiles and the salvation of Israel (from Reinventing Paul, John G. Gager).
Paul preaches that Christians do not have to become Jews to be included in God's family. Nor do Jews have to become Christians in order to stay:
to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever (Romans 9:4-5).
Saturday, August 2, 2008
I would take
and drink of you,
Vessel of mystery,
bearing within you
containing within you
to my sorrow
you offer soothing;
to my despair
you offer desire;
to my complacence,
to my resistance,
Be well assured
I am not lulled by you.
There is a bite to your brew
that sets me forever on edge,
a taste that leaves me never slaked;
but with mouth trembling
I would take
and drink of you.
On their sign out front, the preacher would post:
Catfish SupperNo one ever told her they thought the sign was funny or appropriate.
June 27, 5-7 p.m
Friday, August 1, 2008
Last week's Gospel reading described the Kingdom of Heaven. This Sunday, the lectionary pairs Isaiah 55:1-8 with the story of the amazing, abundant feeding of the hungry crowd. We could read this passage from Isaiah to help us understand what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of Heaven.