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.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Faith and Faithfulness, a Reflection on Luke 17:5-10

Jesus had been instructing the apostles, and, at times, the crowds, in discourse and with parables what life with him would be like and what is expected of those who follow in his way.

They may have needed to have their confidence bolstered. They asked to have their faith increased. Jesus replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could get a mulberry tree to jump in the ocean just by telling it to."

When I was in the 5th grade, somebody gave me a necklace with a mustard seed encased in a plastic ball. I used to look at that tiny seed and wonder why the trees around me weren't listening to me. And I lived in a place where the trees weren't very big.

Other Bible readers, like me, have been troubled by this passage. Is Jesus promising us that we will be able to perform superhuman actions or great magic tricks? Or, is Luke using hyperbole or even metaphoric talk?

So, today, I turned, as I often do, to Fred Craddock in Preaching through the Christian Year C. He points out that the "if" in Jesus' statement can be translated in two ways, The word "if" could be describing a condition contrary to fact. Or, "if" could be describing a condition according to fact.

Try substituting "since" for "if" to see how this would sound in English. Craddock says Jesus is giving them "an indirect affirmation of the faith they have and an invitation to live and act out in that faith. They ask for an increase in their faith. He says that the faith you already have is effective and powerful beyond your present realization."

Do we deserve any special praise for following Christ? for accomplishing what he has required of us? Or, as Christ's servants, aren't we when we think of ourselves as doing good as dramatic as getting a tree to jump in the lake, aren't we even then just doing our job, just doing what Christ's servants are to do?

Daily Prayer, Monday, September, 30, 2013

Commit your way to God;
trust in God,
and God will act.
Be still before God,
and wait patiently for God;
Do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
   over those who carry out evil devices  (Psalm 37:5, 7).

Invitatory Psalm 95
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Psalm 1
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
   or take the path that sinners tread,
   or sit in the seat of scoffers;
       but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
       and on it,  they meditate day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
   which yield their fruit in its season,
   and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so,
   but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Psalm 2
Why do the nations conspire,
   and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
   against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
       “Let us burst their bonds asunder,
         and cast their cords from us.”

The One who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord has them in derision.
Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.

Psalm 3
O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying to me,
   “There is no help for you in God.”
But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,
   my glory,
   and the one who lifts up my head.
I cry aloud to the Lord,
   and he answers me from his holy hill.
Rise up, O Lord!
Deliver me, O my God! ...
Deliverance belongs to the Lord;
may your blessing be on your people!

Psalm 5
Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.
Listen to the sound of my cry,
   my King and my God, for to you I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
   in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
   evil will not sojourn with you.
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
   because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.
   For there is no truth in their mouths;
   their hearts are destruction;
   their throats are open graves;
   they flatter with their tongues.
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
   so that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover them with favor as with a shield.

Daily Lectionary Reading, Luke 17:5-10
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

6 The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

7 “Would any of you say to your servant, who had just come in from the field after plowing or tending sheep, ‘Come! Sit down for dinner’? 8  Wouldn’t you say instead, ‘Fix my dinner. Put on the clothes of a table servant and wait on me while I eat and drink. After that, you can eat and drink’? 9  You won’t thank the servant because the servant did what you asked, will you? 10  In the same way, when you have done everything required of you, you should say, ‘We servants deserve no special praise. We have only done our duty.’”

Prayer for Today: Lord, keep us faithful to our duties to you. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:1-8
Happy are those whose way is blameless,
   who walk in the law of the Lord.
Happy are those who keep his decrees,
   who seek him with their whole heart,
   who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.
You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
   having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart,
   when I learn your righteous ordinances.
I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.

Psalm 6
O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger,
   or discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
   for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me,
   for my bones are shaking with terror.
My soul also is struck with terror,
   while you, O Lord—how long?
Turn, O Lord, save my life;
deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.

Psalm 7
O Lord my God, in you I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers, and deliver me,
or like a lion they will tear me apart;
they will drag me away, with no one to rescue.
O let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
   but establish the righteous,
   you who test the minds and hearts,
        O righteous God.
God is my shield, who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,
   and a God who has indignation every day.
I will give you the thanks due to your righteousness,
   and sing praise to your name, O Lord, the Most High.

Psalm 8
O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
   you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
       to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
   the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
   mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
   and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion
   over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
   all sheep and oxen,
   and also the beasts of the field,
   the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
   whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Being Rich, a Reflection on 1 Timothy 6:13-19

This advice to Timothy is not only to him as an individual Christian but also to him as a leader of a Christian community.  "Live it and teach it. In your congregation are those that are rich. Tell them not to be so proud of their achievements. After all, none of us have any guarantee that our wealth will last. What we can be sure of is that God is eternal and that God will continue to provide us with what we really need. Rather than spending your effort building up your personal wealth, instead be generous with your time and money."

Timothy is reminded that we bring nothing into the world and take nothing out of it, and that what we do between that coming in and that going out of the world matters: Doing good, being rich in good works, will provide us with a treasure surpassing what money could have bought for us. This treasure will be "a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life."

Daily Prayer, Sunday, September 29, 2013

My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust (Psalm 91:2b)

Invitatory Psalm 24
The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it,
the world and its inhabitants too.
Because God is the one who established it on the seas;
God set it firmly on the waters.
Who can ascend the LORD ’s mountain?
Who can stand in his holy sanctuary?
Only the one with clean hands and a pure heart;
the one who hasn’t made false promises,
the one who hasn’t sworn dishonestly.
That kind of person receives blessings from the LORD
and righteousness from the God who saves.
And that’s how things are
with the generation that seeks him—
that seeks the face of Jacob’s God. Selah
Mighty gates: lift up your heads!
Ancient doors: rise up high!
So the glorious king can enter!
Who is this glorious king?
The LORD —strong and powerful!
The LORD —powerful in battle!
Mighty gates: lift up your heads!
Ancient doors: rise up high!
So the glorious king can enter!
Who is this glorious king?
The LORD of heavenly forces—
he is the glorious king! Selah
[Common English Bible]

Psalm 147 148 149

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Timothy 6:13-19
I command you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and Christ Jesus, who made the good confession when testifying before Pontius Pilate. 14 Obey this order without fault or failure until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 The timing of this appearance is revealed by God alone, who is the blessed and only master, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16 He alone has immortality and lives in light that no one can come near. No human being has ever seen or is able to see him. Honor and eternal power belong to him. Amen. 17 Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and not to place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain. Instead, they need to hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others. 19 When they do these things, they will save a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future. That way they can take hold of what is truly life. [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: God, help us to heed this advice given to Timothy. Keep our attention, our efforts, our hope on what is important to you. Remove from us satisfaction over amassing wealth. Rather, direct us to to do good and to be generous. Amen

Psalm 144 145

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Reminders for a Leader, a Reflection on 1 Timothy 6:6-12

If only I could somehow be content with food and clothing..... That's not even realistic for me because I can so easily imagine better tasting or more appealing looking food and even more easily imagine newer clothes. I'm trying to understand Paul's comment in context of my life and I'm afraid that I do understand it quite well. 

Loving money, striving for riches, takes my focus away from what should be attracting my attention and effort. And it can be even worse than that, Paul reminds us. We may be willing to do many unkind or wrong things to ensure that we can accumulate some financial security.

Paul lists for Timothy what goals a Christian should be striving for: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

Striving for these goals is done publicly not privately. The evidence of righteousness, godliness, and love will be noticeable -- as would be their absence. We have promised to pursue these qualities always but gently. And we have promised publicly to do so by joining the church.

Daily Prayer, Saturday, September 28, 2013

My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust (Psalm 91:2b)

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]

Psalms 141, 146

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Timothy 6:6-12
6 Actually, godliness is a great source of profit when it is combined with being happy with what you already have. 7 We didn’t bring anything into the world and so we can’t take anything out of it: 8 we’ll be happy with food and clothing. 9 But people who are trying to get rich fall into temptation. They are trapped by many stupid and harmful passions that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some have wandered away from the faith and have impaled themselves with a lot of pain because they made money their goal.

11 But as for you, man of God, run away from all these things. Instead, pursue righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness. 12 Compete in the good fight of faith. Grab hold of eternal life—you were called to it, and you made a good confession of it in the presence of many witnesses. 
[Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: God, deliver us from the temptation to do just about anything to add to our own wealth. Keep us mindful of all that brings true happiness and all that really doesn't have much to do with it. Direct us toward lives of righteousness, faithfulness, love, and gentleness.  Amen.

Psalm 140, 142 143