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, August 31, 2013

God appeals to a stubborn people, a Reflection on Psalm 81:1, 10-16

The psalm begins with a command to sing joyously to God then lists some reasons why we should.

Verses 10-16 are in the voice of God, saying what I, God, did, and what you, the not-always-grateful people did next. God had rescued the people from slavery in Egypt and provided them with the necessary food to keep them going on their journey. And God provided them with something else necessary for their journey--instruction in a way of life.

What response what we expect from people who had received such gifts? What God got was a people who refused to listen, who refused to obey. God's response to that recalcitrance was to just let them do what they wanted to do.

But God is not abandoning these abandoning people. "If only they would listen," God says.

Off on a tangent part: The psalm ends with this verse: I would feed you with the finest of the wheat and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. I immediately was reminded of the singing group Sweet Honey in the Rock. Take some time today to listen to them.

Daily Prayer, Saturday, August 31, 2013

I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it (Psalm 81:10)

Invitatory Psalm 67
Let God grant us grace and bless us;
let God make his face shine on us, Selah
so that your way becomes known on earth,
so that your salvation becomes known
   among all the nations.
Let the people thank you, God!
Let all the people thank you!
Let the people celebrate
and shout with joy
because you judge the nations fairly
and guide all nations on the earth. Selah
Let the people thank you, God!
Let all the people thank you!
The earth has yielded its harvest.
God blesses us—our God blesses us!
Let God continue to bless us;
let the far ends of the earth honor him.
[Common English Bible]

Psalm 141, 146

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Rejoice out loud to God, our strength! Shout for joy to Jacob’s God! 10 I am the LORD your God, who brought you up from Egypt’s land. Open your mouth wide—I will fill it up! 11 But my people wouldn’t listen to my voice. Israel simply wasn’t agreeable toward me. 12 So I sent them off to follow their willful hearts; they followed their own advice. 13 How I wish my people would listen to me! How I wish Israel would walk in my ways! 14 Then I would subdue their enemies in a second; I would turn my hand against their foes. 15 Those who hate the LORD would grovel before me, and their doom would last forever! 16 But I would feed you with the finest wheat. I would satisfy you with honey from the rock.”
[Common English Bible]

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

Psalms 140, 142 143

Friday, August 30, 2013

Accusations, a Reflection on Jeremiah 2:4-13

Jeremiah is speaking to a particular people at a particular time. The New Interpreter's Study Bible describes the setting:
The book tries to come to terms with and move beyond destruction wrought by Babylon's three invasions of Judah and its chief city...The exilic period was a time of immense theological disruption for Judah. Not only was the fabric of daily life in the community destroyed, but the symbolic world that supported life collapsed as well. Serious questions emerged from this turmoil. Did the nation's political and military collapse mean that God had forgotten the chosen people?....
And Jeremiah is speaking to us, too. We may not have the Babylon army at our borders, but we do have our fears about our security in the future and our regrets about our failures in the past.

We can hear the questions posed by the Lord to those people and hear them asked of us, as well. The Lord asks, "What did your ancestors think that I did so wrong that they turned away from me? How could they have forgotten what I had done for them? I brought them out of slavery, led them through the wilderness, and delivered them into a land of plenty. In return, you have forgotten me."

Through the voice of Jeremiah, the Lord accuses them of a shocking substitute--they willingly gave up allegiance to the real God for a false substitute.

"How smart is this? It would be like giving up a spring that of flowing fresh water in exchange for a cracked cistern that would leak stale water.

Daily Prayer, Friday, August 30, 2013

Sing aloud to God our strength;
shout for joy to the God of Jacob (Psalm 81:1)


Invitatory Psalm 118
Give thanks to the LORD because he is good,
because his faithful love lasts forever.
2 Let Israel say it:
“ God’s faithful love lasts forever! ”

5 In tight circumstances, I cried out to the LORD .
The LORD answered me with wide-open spaces.
6 The LORD is for me —I won’t be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?

19 Open the gates of righteousness for me
so I can come in and give thanks to the LORD!
20 This is the LORD’s gate;
those who are righteous enter through it.
21 I thank you because you answered me,
because you were my saving help.
22 The stone rejected by the builders
is now the main foundation stone!
23 This has happened because of the LORD;
it is astounding in our sight!
24 This is the day the LORD acted;
we will rejoice and celebrate in it!

28 You are my God—I will give thanks to you!
You are my God—I will lift you up high!
29 Give thanks to the LORD because he is good,
because his faithful love lasts forever.
[Common English Bible]

Psalm 131, 132, 133

Daily Lectionary Reading, Jeremiah 2:4-13
4 Listen to the LORD ’s word, people of Judah, all you families of the Israelite household. 5 This is what the LORD says: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that made them wander so far? They pursued what was worthless and became worthless. 6 They didn’t ask, “ Where’s the LORD who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us through the wilderness, in a land of deserts and ravines, in a land of drought and darkness, in a land of no return, where no one survives? ” 7 I brought you into a land of plenty, to enjoy its gifts and goodness, but you ruined my land; you disgraced my heritage. 8 The priests didn’t ask, “ Where’s the LORD ? ” Those responsible for the Instruction didn’t know me; the leaders rebelled against me; the prophets spoke in the name of Baal, going after what has no value. 9 That is why I will take you to court and charge even your descendants, declares the LORD . 10 Look to the west as far as the shores of Cyprus and to the east as far as the land of Kedar. Ask anyone there: Has anything this odd ever taken place? 11 Has a nation switched gods, though they aren’t really gods at all? Yet my people have exchanged their glory for what has no value. 12 Be stunned at such a thing, you heavens; shudder and quake, declares the LORD . 13 My people have committed two crimes: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water. And they have dug wells, broken wells that can’t hold water.
[Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: Turn to the prayer for Confession offered by Daniel Benedict and Taylor Burton-Edwards on the GBOD website

Midday Psalm 119:169-176

Psalms 137, 138, 139

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Blessings of the Righteous, a Reflection on Psalm 112

This week's gospel lesson from Luke encourages us to be humble, not to presume that we are of high status. The lesson from Proverbs also cautions us not to assume status. In Sirach, we read about the Lord overthrowing unthroning the powerful and enthroning the humble in their place, how those who cling to pride are plucked up, laid waste to, and removed.

Psalm 112 is the lectionary response to the readings from Sirach or Proverbs. Rather than warn against presumption, it describes the blessings that accrue to the righteous.

Following the Lord's commandments will make you happy, your descendants rich. I read the first three verses and wondered if I had entered into Prosperity Gospel land. Wondering how this psalm was related to the pride v. humility message, I kept reading.

Verses 4 through 9 describe the lives and actions of the righteous: they are merciful and generous.

People secure in the Lord don't have to be afraid.

When righteous people favor distribution to the poor, the wicked get angry. But, those angry people--or as I would rather interpret it, the anger of those people--melts away.

Daily Prayer, Thursday, August 29, 2013

Praise the Lord!
Happy are those who fear the Lord,
who greatly delight in his commandments.... (Psalm 112:1)

Invitatory Psalm 150
Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary!
Praise God in his fortress, the sky!
2 Praise God in his mighty acts!
Praise God as suits his incredible greatness!
3 Praise God with the blast of the ram’s horn!
Praise God with lute and lyre!
4 Praise God with drum and dance!
Praise God with strings and pipe!
5 Praise God with loud cymbals!
Praise God with clashing cymbals!
6 Let every living thing praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
[Common English Bible]

Psalm 125, 126, 127, 128, 129

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 112
Praise the LORD ! Those who honor the LORD , who adore God’s commandments, are truly happy! 2 Their descendants will be strong throughout the land. The offspring of those who do right will be blessed; 3 wealth and riches will be in their houses. Their righteousness stands forever. 4 They shine in the dark for others who do right. They are merciful, compassionate, and righteous. 5 Those who lend generously are good people— as are those who conduct their affairs with justice. 6 Yes, these sorts of people will never be shaken; the righteous will be remembered forever! 7 They won’t be frightened at bad news. Their hearts are steady, trusting in the LORD . 8 Their hearts are firm; they aren’t afraid. In the end, they will witness their enemies’ defeat. 9 They give freely to those in need. Their righteousness stands forever. Their strength increases gloriously. 10 The wicked see all this and fume; they grind their teeth,but disappear to nothing. What the wicked want to see happen comes to nothing!
[Common English Bible]

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

Midday Psalm 119:161-168
Psalm 135, 136

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Seating Choice, a Reflection on Proverbs 25:6-7

Each week during what we call Ordinary Time, the lectionary offers two alternate Old Testament (I just don't find that designation insulting) readings. The one this week that is paired with the Gospel lesson is from Proverbs,
Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great; for it is better to be told, "Come up here," than to be put lower in the presence of a noble."
This advice dealt with more than etiquette. It, like other proverbs, was intended to help young people learn how to advance at court, and how to avoid embarrassing oneself on the way up.

When Jesus was speaking to the guests at the wedding banquet, the advice he gave was very similar, but he also spelled out the negative consequences, "When you're invited to a wedding banquet, don't seat yourself at the place of honor because somebody more distinguished may show up later and you'll be asked to move."

In his allusion to the proverbs, an allusion that his first hearers would have recognized, Jesus is reminding them that we do not have control over our perceived status, that we do not have the ability in ourselves to make ourselves exalted. But, we do have the ability to debase ourselves from time to time.

In the Proverbs, the actual king, and in Luke, the metaphorical host decide who gets what place at the table.

In his commentary of the Luke passage in the August 24, 2010, issue of the Christian Century, Patrick Wilson writes:
Who is this host who speaks so graciously to us and calls us friend? Who can it be other than Christ himself? We do not have to scramble for a place at his table. Our names are on the invitation list. A place is prepared, and when we hold back, uncertain that we really belong, too timid to believe we are truly welcome, he says, "Friend, come up higher."
Everyone is welcome here. You don't have to puff yourself up or pretend. Your value is not determined by calculations. You don't have to get and grab and grasp and grapple for a place. You are welcome here.

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Happy are those who fear the Lord,
who greatly delight in his commandments.... (Psalm 112:1)

Invitatory Psalm 100
Shout triumphantly to the LORD , all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with celebration!
Come before him with shouts of joy!
3 Know that the LORD is God—
he made us; we belong to him.
We are his people,
the sheep of his own pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanks;
enter his courtyards with praise!
Thank him! Bless his name!
5 Because the LORD is good,
his loyal love lasts forever;
his faithfulness lasts generation after generation.
[Common English Bible]

Psalms 120, 121, 122, 123, 124

Daily Lectionary Reading, Proverbs 25:6-7
6 Don’t exalt yourself in the presence of the king, or stand in the place of important people, 7 because it is better that he say to you, “Come up here,” than to be demoted before a ruler.... [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: Lord, we confess that we have too often looked to the approval of people who could offer us some benefit.. We confess that we have too often forgotten to offer benefits to people who really need some help. Direct our attention and our actions to those who need our care. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:153-160

Psalm 130

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Sin of Pride, a reflection on Sirach 10:12-18

Since not everyone has a Bible that includes the Apocrypha, here is today's lectionary passage (NRSV):
The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord;
the heart has withdrawn from its Maker.
For the beginning of pride is sin,
and the one who clings to it pours out abominations.
Therefore the Lord brings upon them unheard-of calamities,
and destroys them completely.
The Lord overthrows the thrones of rulers,
and enthrones the lowly in their place.
The Lord plucks up the roots of the nations,
and plants the humble in their place.
The Lord lays waste the lands of the nations,
and destroys them to the foundations of the earth.
He removes some of them and destroys them,
and erases the memory of them from the earth.
Pride was not created for human beings,
or violent anger for those born of women.
About the time we begin to think that we deserve some praise or reward because of our many valuable accomplishments, we are at the point of losing sight of who really does the accomplishments. The pride we have in ourselves will crowd out our recognition of what the Lord has done for us. And, we will be faced with the consequences of our neglect and forgetfulness.

To help with your own recognition of the Lord's place and yours, please look at Prayers for a Privileged People written by Walter Brueggemann.

The publisher Abingdon Press describes this collection of prayers:
In Prayers for a Privileged People, this much-published author sculpts—as carefully as if with chisel—prayers on behalf of those who are people of privilege and entitlement—the haves—at an urgent moment in our society. The privileged face, on the one hand, the seduction of denial or, on the other, the temptation of despair. These prayers of wisdom and prophetic power remind us that when things go wrong , when we are afraid , and when we feel prodded by those who lack voice, there is a conversation we can have—a conversation situated amid the promises and commands of God.

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Praise the Lord!
Happy are those who fear the Lord,
who greatly delight in his commandments.... (Psalm 112:1)

Invitatory Psalm 84
How lovely is your dwelling place,
LORD of heavenly forces!
2 My very being longs, even yearns,
for the LORD ’s courtyards.
My heart and my body
will rejoice out loud to the living God!
3 Yes, the sparrow too has found a home there;
the swallow has found herself a nest
where she can lay her young beside your altars,
LORD of heavenly forces, my king, my God!
4 Those who live in your house are truly happy;
they praise you constantly. Selah
9 Look at our shield, God;
pay close attention to the face of your anointed one!
10 Better is a single day in your courtyards
than a thousand days anywhere else!
I would prefer to stand outside the entrance of my God’s house
than live comfortably in the tents of the wicked!
11 The LORD is a sun and shield;
God is favor and glory.
The LORD gives—doesn’t withhold!—good things
to those who walk with integrity.
12 LORD of heavenly forces,
those who trust in you are truly happy!
[Common English Bible]

Psalm 97

Psalm 98
Psalm 99

Psalm 101
Daily Lectionary Reading, Sirach 10:12-18
12 Human arrogance begins when people rebel against the Lord, and their hearts rebel against the one who made them. 13 The beginning of arrogance is sin, and those who cling to it will pour out blasphemy. For this reason the Lord brings calamities upon them, and he ruins them completely. 14 The Lord destroyed the thrones of rulers, and he raised up the gentle in their place. 15 The Lord plucked up the roots of nations, and he planted the humble in their place. 16 The Lord ruined the lands of the nations, and he leveled them to their very foundations. 17 He removed some people and destroyed them, and he erased their memory from the earth. 18 Humans were not created to be arrogant, nor were those born of women made to indulge in anger. [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: Lord, strip out the arrogance and pride and greed from our lives. Help us to live the way you have intended for us. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:137-152

Psalm 115

Psalm 116

Psalm 117