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.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Prayer for Rescue, a Reflection on Psalm 71:1-6

When Jeremiah was very young, the Lord appointed him to be a prophet to the nations. "Don't be afraid," the Lord told him, "I am with you and I am with you to deliver you."

When Jesus reminded his listeners of prophets' practice of aiding foreigners, his listeners were incensed. He escaped from their wrath.

The lectionary choice for a psalm to reply to the Jeremiah reading is the first six verses of Psalm 71.

The psalmist is asking the Lord for refuge, deliverance, rescue.

He is asking for help because he needs help and he can remember who has been his help in the past.

A modern discussion centers on why does God allow evil to exist. The question does not arise for this psalmist. Evil does exist, people can be unjust and cruel. And God is the one who can protect him from the wicked.

Daily Prayer, Thursday, January 31, 2013

In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me.
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust.

Invitatory Psalm 100
Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his surpassing greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Psalm 19
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
   and their words to the end of the world.
In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
   which comes out like a bridegroom
       from his wedding canopy,
   and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hid from its heat.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
   reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
   making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
   rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
   enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever;

the ordinances of the Lord
   are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
   even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
   and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is your servant warned;
   in keeping them there is great reward.

But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
   and innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
   be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 20
The Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
The name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary,
   and give you support from Zion.
May he remember all your offerings,
   and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. Selah
May he grant you your heart’s desire,
   and fulfill all your plans.
May we shout for joy over your victory,
   and in the name of our God set up our banners.
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.

Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
   with mighty victories by his right hand.
Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
   but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.
They will collapse and fall,
   but we shall rise and stand upright.
Give victory to the king, O Lord;
answer us when we call.

Psalm 21
In your strength the king rejoices, O Lord,
   and in your help how greatly he exults!
You have given him his heart’s desire,
   and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
For you meet him with rich blessings;
you set a crown of fine gold on his head.
He asked you for life;
you gave it to him— length of days forever and ever.
His glory is great through your help;
splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
You bestow on him blessings forever;
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord,
   and through the steadfast love of the Most High
   he shall not be moved.
Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 71:1-6

I’ve taken refuge in you, LORD .
Don’t let me ever be put to shame!
2 Deliver me and rescue me by your righteousness!
Bend your ear toward me and save me!
3 Be my rock of refuge
where I can always escape.
You commanded that my life be saved
because you are my rock and my fortress.
4 My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked;
rescue me from the grip of the wrongdoer and the oppressor
5 because you are my hope, Lord.
You, LORD , are the one I’ve trusted since childhood.
6 I’ve depended on you from birth—
you cut the cord when I came from my mother’s womb.
My praise is always about you.
[Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: Choose a prayer from Joan Stott's website Timeless Psalms

Midday Psalm 119:25-32
My soul clings to the dust;
revive me according to your word.
When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
   and I will meditate on your wondrous works.

My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
Put false ways far from me;
   and graciously teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your ordinances before me.
I cling to your decrees, O Lord;
   let me not be put to shame.
I run the way of your commandments,
   for you enlarge my understanding.

Psalm 22
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, f
   rom the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
   and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted,
   and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm, and not human;
   scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me,
they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the Lord;
let him deliver—
    let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
   and since my mother bore me you have been my God.

Do not be far from me,
   for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
Many bulls encircle me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
   like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
   and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
   and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves,
   and for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
   my life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!

From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor
   the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
   but heard when I cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.

Psalm 28
To you, O Lord, I call;
my rock, do not refuse to hear me,
   for if you are silent to me,
   I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.
Hear the voice of my supplication,
   as I cry to you for help,
   as I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.
Do not drag me away with the wicked,
   with those who are workers of evil,
   who speak peace with their neighbors,
   while mischief is in their hearts.
Repay them according to their work,
   and according to the evil of their deeds;
repay them according to the work of their hands;
render them their due reward.
Because they do not regard the works of the Lord,
   or the work of his hands,
he will break them down and build them up no more.

Blessed be the Lord,
   for he has heard the sound of my pleadings.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
   in him my heart trusts;
so I am helped, and my heart exults,
   and with my song I give thanks to him.
The Lord is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
O save your people, and bless your heritage;
be their shepherd, and carry them forever.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
   and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
   shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord,
   and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
   and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
   and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
   saying that he has done it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Call of the Unready, a Reflection on Jeremiah 1:4-10

I remember hearing one time--although I don't remember where or from whom--that baptism is our call. I'm thinking about that as I ponder today's passage from the prophet Jeremiah.

First point, the word of the Lord came to him. We are given no indication that Jeremiah was seeking the role as prophet.

Second and related point, Jeremiah was not an adult when the Lord sought him out.

God came to the unprepared, unconfident Jeremiah and assured him that he would be capable of doing the work to which he had been called, "I'll tell who needs my words, and I'll provide those words for you."

And, I'm wondering how seriously we who have been baptized take the call made to us.

For instance, who are these "nations" in verse 5? Who is included in this "all" in verse 7? The link the lectionary makes to Luke 4 is helpful (sometimes, another word for disturbing?).

First point, repeated: God does the work. Read verses 9-10. The Lord says, "I have given you the words. I have appointed you to speak to people you may not approve of or who have customs you don't understand, or don't look like you."

The message includes destruction and restoration.

To uproot and pull down. To destroy and overthrow.

But not just that, also to build and to plant.

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, January 30, 2013

In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me.
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust.

Invitatory Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
  and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
  and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 12
Help, O Lord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly;
   the faithful have disappeared from humankind.
They utter lies to each other;
   with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
   the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongues we will prevail;
   our lips are our own—who is our master?”
“Because the poor are despoiled,
   because the needy groan, I will now rise up,” says the Lord;
   “I will place them in the safety for which they long.”
The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure,
   silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
       purified seven times.
You, O Lord, will protect us;
   you will guard us from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl,
   as vileness is exalted among humankind.

Psalm 13
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
   and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
and my enemy will say,
   “I have prevailed”;
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 17
Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry;
give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.
From you let my vindication come;
let your eyes see the right.
If you try my heart,
if you visit me by night,
if you test me,
   you will find no wickedness in me;
   my mouth does not transgress.

As for what others do,
   by the word of your lips
   I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths;
my feet have not slipped.

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me, hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love,
   O savior of those who seek refuge
       from their adversaries at your right hand.
Guard me as the apple of the eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,
from the wicked who despoil me,
   my deadly enemies who surround me.
They close their hearts to pity;
with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
They track me down;
now they surround me;
they set their eyes to cast me to the ground.
They are like a lion eager to tear,
   like a young lion lurking in ambush.

Rise up, O Lord, confront them, overthrow them!
By your sword deliver my life from the wicked,
   from mortals—by your hand, O Lord
   — from mortals whose portion in life is in this world.
May their bellies be filled with
   what you have stored up for them;
may their children have more than enough;
may they leave something over to their little ones.
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

Daily Lectionary Reading, Jeremiah 1:4-10

4 The LORD ’s word came to me:

5 “ Before I created you in the womb I knew you;

before you were born I set you apart;
I made you a prophet to the nations. ”
6 “ Ah, LORD God, ” I said, “ I don’t know how to speak
because I’m only a child. ”
7 The LORD responded,
“ Don’t say, ‘I’m only a child.’
Where I send you, you must go;
what I tell you, you must say.
8 Don’t be afraid of them,
because I’m with you to rescue you, ”
declares the LORD .
9 Then the LORD stretched out his hand,
touched my mouth, and said to me,
“ I’m putting my words in your mouth.
10 This very day I appoint you over nations and empires,
to dig up and pull down,
to destroy and demolish,
to build and plant. ”
[Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: Lord, you have entrusted us with many gifts. Remind us when necessary what you intend for us to do with these gifts. Kindle our memory of what you have already done for us, and kindle our courage to tell others of what you have done and what you can do. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:17-24
Deal bountifully with your servant,
   so that I may live and observe your word.
Open my eyes, so that I may behold
   wondrous things out of your law.
I live as an alien in the land;
   do not hide your commandments from me.
My soul is consumed with longing
   for your ordinances at all times.
You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones,
   who wander from your commandments;
take away from me their scorn and contempt,
    for I have kept your decrees.
Even though princes sit plotting against me,
    your servant will meditate on your statutes.
Your decrees are my delight, they are my counselors.

Psalm 18
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress,
   and my deliverer, my God,
   my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield,
   and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
   so I shall be saved from my enemies.
The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of perdition assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.

From his temple he heard my voice,
   and my cry to him reached his ears.

He reached down from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of mighty waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
   and from those who hated me;
   for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity;
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place;
he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

With the loyal you show yourself loyal;
with the blameless you show yourself blameless;
with the pure you show yourself pure;
   and with the crooked you show yourself perverse.
For you deliver a humble people,
   but the haughty eyes you bring down.

It is you who light my lamp;
the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
By you I can crush a troop,
   and by my God I can leap over a wall.

This God—his way is perfect;
the promise of the Lord proves true;
he is a shield for all who take refuge in him.
For who is God except the Lord?
And who is a rock besides our God?—
the God who girded me with strength,
   and made my way safe.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer,
   and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war,
   so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

You have given me the shield of your salvation,
   and your right hand has supported me;
your help has made me great.
You gave me a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
The Lord lives!
Blessed be my rock,
   and exalted be the God of my salvation,
   the God who gave me vengeance
        and subdued peoples under me;
        who delivered me from my enemies;
indeed, you exalted me above my adversaries;
you delivered me from the violent.
For this I will extol you, O Lord, among the nations,
   and sing praises to your name.