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.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Ascribe to the Lord, a Reflection on Psalm 96:5-13

Verses 7 and 8 in the Common English Bible say "Give to the Lord....". The New Revised Standard Version says "Ascribe to the Lord." When I read this passage in the NRSV, I wondered when was the last time that I heard the word "ascribe" in conversation. I don't think I use it often--or, ever. So, of course, I googled it. That's how I learned that ascribe is used as a company name. For example: 
Our Ascribe™ Consumer Content Platform provides the ability to extract insight from unstructured data anywhere and transform it into actionable insights. ...
Although I'm not sure what a content platform is, I do see a powerful metaphor in their description of what it does--provide the ability to extract insight from unstructured data. I'm asking myself, "Where did I see God today?" That is, as I go through my normal day, as I meet people and events, how do I see God working through them, being present to me?

But not just noticing.

As I continue to read the description of the content platform, it promises not only to extract insight but also to transform it into actionable insights. That is, to do something with the awareness.

Psalm 96 promises that the Lord is coming to judge the world, to judge it with righteousness and with truth. May we live lives that make this news good.

Daily Prayer, Friday, May 31, 2013

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts.

Invitatory Psalm

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!
Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.

With the Lord on my side I do not fear.
What can mortals do to me?
The Lord is on my side to help me;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
  than to put confidence in mortals.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
  than to put confidence in princes.

The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.


Open to me the gates of righteousness,
  that I may enter through them
  and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.

I thank you that you have answered me
  and have become my salvation.

The stone that the builders rejected
  has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 76, 80

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 96:6-13
6 Greatness and grandeur are in front of him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7 Give to the LORD , all families of the nations—
give to the LORD glory and power!
8 Give to the LORD the glory due his name!
Bring gifts!
Enter his courtyards!
9 Bow down to the LORD in his holy splendor!
Tremble before him, all the earth!
10 Tell the nations, “ The LORD rules!
Yes, he set the world firmly in place; [h]
it won’t be shaken.
He will judge all people fairly. ”
11 Let heaven celebrate! Let the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it roar!
12 Let the countryside and everything in it celebrate!
Then all the trees of the forest too
will shout out joyfully
13 before the LORD because he is coming!
He is coming to establish justice on the earth!
He will establish justice in the world rightly.
He will establish justice among all people fairly.
h  LXX, Vulg; MT the world is firmly established ; cf Ps 93:1
[Common English Bible]

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

Midday Psalm 119:121-128

Psalm 106

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Call to All People, a Reflection on Psalm 96:1-4

In the reading from 1 Kings, Elijah demonstrated the power of the Lord to those prophets of Baal. Demonstrated to people who already believed and people who didn't.

Psalm 96 also has a universal note. In verse 3, we are directed to tell of the Lord's glory among the nations, the Lord's wonderful deeds among all peoples. In verse 7, all families are directed to acclaim the glory and strength of the Lord.

Are we able to recognize the work of God in our own lives? Do we see God's will working through the hands of other people?

Are we able to recognize the work of God in other people's lives?

Daily Prayer, Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Invitatory Psalm 150 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 73

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 96:1-5
Sing to the LORD a new song! Sing to the LORD , all the earth! 2 Sing to the LORD ! Bless his name! Share the news of his saving work every single day! 3 Declare God’s glory among the nations; declare his wondrous works among all people 4 because the LORD is great and so worthy of praise. He is awesome beyond all other gods 
5 because all the gods of the nations are just idols,
but it is the LORD who created heaven![Common English Bible]

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

Midday Psalm 119:113-120

Psalm 105

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Getting an Answer, a Reflection on 1 Kings 18:30-39

The followers of Baal had been unable to evoke a miracle. Yet, when Elijah prayed to the Lord to do something to impress the people, the Lord responded with a fire that "consumed the offering, the wood, the stones, the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench."

Israel has been convinced.

Allen and Williamson in their Preaching the Old Testament point out that far more than a miracle story, our text raises questions of how we think and speak of God. Baal provides no voice and no answer. God is companion, vulnerable, affected by prayer, interacts with God's people and God's world.

But what do we think when our droughts continue? When someone else gets all the rain they need?

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.


Invitatory Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into the Lord’s presence with singing.

We know that you are God.
It is you that made us, and we are yours.
we are your people and the sheep of your pasture.

We enter your gates with thanksgiving,
and your courts with priase.
We give thanks to you, bless your name.
For you, O Lord, are good;
your steadfast love endures forever,
and your faithfulness to all generations.

Psalms 71, 72

Daily Lectionary, 1 Kings 18:30-39
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “ Come here! ” All the people closed in, and he repaired the LORD ’s altar that had been damaged. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob—to whom the LORD ’s word came: “ Your name will be Israel. ” 32 He built the stones into an altar in the LORD ’s name, and he dug a trench around the altar big enough to hold two seahs [f] of dry grain. 33 He put the wood in order, butchered the bull, and placed the bull on the wood. “ Fill four jars with water and pour it on the sacrifice and on the wood, ” he commanded. 34 “ Do it a second time! ” he said. So they did it a second time. “ Do it a third time! ” And so they did it a third time. 35 The water flowed around the altar, and even the trench filled with water. 36 At the time of the evening offering, the prophet Elijah drew near and prayed: "LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. I have done all these things at your instructions. 37 Answer me, LORD ! Answer me so that this people will know that you, LORD, are the real God and that you can change their hearts.” [g] 38 Then the LORD’s fire fell; it consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up the water in the trench! 39 All the people saw this and fell on their faces. “ The LORD is the real God! The LORD is the real God! ” they exclaimed. [Common English Bible]
_________________________________________________ f One seah is approximately seven and a half quarts. g Heb uncertain

Prayer for Today: O Lord, let it be known today that you are God and that I am your servant. Answer me. Direct my actions in such a way that others will know that you are God. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:105-112

Psalm 104

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What God do we follow, Reflection on 1 Kings 18:20-29

Ahab is king.  After marrying Jezebel, he worshipped Baal (the rain god), built an altar in the house of Baal he built and also a sacred pole. "Ahab did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than had all the kings of Israel who were before him" (1 Kings 16:29-34).

The prophet Elijah, whose name means Yahweh is God, tells Ahab what he has been told by the Lord, that a drought is coming (17:1-7).

Where does power lie? King Ahab lives in royal court, and has control over an army.

Elijah, a prophet, was first fed by raven than stayed in the home of a widow who was so poor that she had only a handful of meal and a little oil in a jug. The Lord saw to it that she wouldn't run out of food. When her son became very ill, Elijah prayed to the Lord who listened, and the son revived (1 Kings 17:8-24).

After three years of drought, the Lord tells Elijah to go to Ahab. Risky because Jezebel has been killing the prophets of the Lord (18:1-15).

Elijah sets up a test to prove that the Lord is God, not Baal. 850 prophets will call on the storm god to provide lightning to set fire to their sacrifice. They call on their god all morning and all afternoon. They hear no voice, no answer.

Who are we more likely to trust in times of danger, deprivation? Where do we turn for help? When we don't get an immediate positive solution, what do we do next?

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.


Invitatory Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow for herself
where she may lay her you, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my Ruler and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.

Psalm 65, 66, 70

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Kings 18:20-29
20 Ahab sent the message to all the Israelites. He gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah approached all the people and said, “ How long will you hobble back and forth between two opinions? If the LORD [d] is God, follow God. If Baal is God, follow Baal. ” The people gave no answer. 22 Elijah said to the people, “ I am the last of the LORD ’s prophets, but Baal’s prophets number four hundred fifty. 23 Give us two bulls. Let Baal’s prophets choose one. Let them cut it apart and set it on the wood, but don’t add fire. I’ll prepare the other bull, put it on the wood, but won’t add fire. 24 Then all of you will call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers with fire—that’s the real God! ” All the people answered, “ That’s an excellent idea. ” 25 So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “ Choose one of these bulls. Prepare it first since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but don’t add fire. ” 26 So they took one of the bulls that had been brought to them. They prepared it and called on Baal’s name from morning to midday. They said, “ Great Baal, answer us! ” But there was no sound or answer. They performed a hopping dance around the altar that had been set up. 27 Around noon, Elijah started making fun of them: “Shout louder! Certainly he’s a god! Perhaps he is lost in thought or wandering or traveling somewhere. [e] Or maybe he is asleep and must wake up!” 28 So the prophets of Baal cried with a louder voice and cut themselves with swords and knives as was their custom. Their blood flowed all over them. 29 As noon passed they went crazy with their ritual until it was time for the evening offering. Still there was no sound or answer, no response whatsoever. [Common English Bible]
_________________________________________________ d The contrast between the LORD ’s divine name ( YHWH ) and Baal’s name is crucial throughout this passage. e Heb uncertain

Prayer for Today: God, keep us from relying on false gods. Keep us directed to you. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:97-104

Psalms 102, 103

Monday, May 27, 2013

Healing the Centurion's Slave, a Reflection on Luke 7:1-10

Background (4:14-40): In Luke, after leaving the wilderness, then being rejected in his hometown Nazareth, Jesus went to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. There he taught in the synagogue where he also healed a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon. Jesus then went to Simon's house and healed his mother-in-law. By the end of that day, many persons with various kinds of diseases were brought to Jesus. He healed them. When the expelled demons shouted, "You are the Son of God!" Jesus rebuked them and told than to to say anything else. Yet, he continued to heal and preach publicly.

A Roman official, a centurion, in Capernaum has a highly valued slave who is dying. Having heard of the healings already done by Jesus, the centurion asks some of the synagogue authorities to ask Jesus to come to heal his slave.

The elders go to Jesus with an earnest appeal, "You should help the centurion because he has been a help to us."

Questions that arise for me: Why would a centurion want to build a synagogue? Why did the elders think that particular argument would win Jesus' acceptance? In our own time, who are the non-Christians that desire Christ's help and who would they think to ask for intercession?

When he heard that Jesus was coming, the centurion sent a message through friends (I don't know whether they were also Jews), "You don't have to come all the way to my house. I don't deserve that much effort. Besides, you have the power to heal my servant from a distance. You just have to say the word. I know about authority because I have it. If I tell a slave to go, he goes, if I say to come, he comes, and if I say to do this, he does."

Although I wonder if there something subtle in his reminder that he has a lot of power, Jesus offers the interpretation to his remarks as evidence of great faith.

When the Jewish elders returned to the centurion's house, they found the slave in good health.

Question: How is Christ working through the church to heal?

Daily Prayer, Monday, May 27, 2013

O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.

O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.


Invitatory Psalm 95

O come, let us sing to the Lord:

let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
We come into your presence with thanksgiving;
we make a joyful noise to you with songs of praise.
You, Lord, are a great God.

Psalms 57, 61, 64

Daily Lectionary Reading, Luke 7:1-10
After Jesus finished presenting all his words among the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion had a servant who was very important to him, but the servant was ill and about to die. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to Jesus to ask him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they earnestly pleaded with Jesus. “ He deserves to have you do this for him, ” they said. 5 “ He loves our people and he built our synagogue for us. ” 6 Jesus went with them. He had almost reached the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Jesus, “ Lord, don’t be bothered. I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof. 7 In fact, I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to you. Just say the word and my servant will be healed. 8 I’m also a man appointed under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and the servant does it. ” 9 When Jesus heard these words, he was impressed with the centurion. He turned to the crowd following him and said, “ I tell you, even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this. ” 10 When the centurion’s friends returned to his house, they found the servant restored to health. [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: O Lord, when we don't feel worthy of your presence, you continue to care for us. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:89-96

Psalms 87, 88, 91

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Through the Holy Spirit, a Reflection on Romans 5:1-5

Trinity Sunday is a good time to look at the people around you and consider what it means for you that God's Spirit is within each of them. And it's a good time to consider what it means for your congregation that God's Spirit is dwelling within your church body. What kind of witness are you viewing? What kind of witness are you showing? (again, I'm thankful to Allen & Williamson's Preaching the Letters.)

Although we can doubt that Paul was giving the doctrine of the Trinity much thought as he wrote this passage to the Romans, we can still use it to help us understand that doctrine.

Looking for them, we can read about God, about Christ, and about the Holy Spirit in these verses. We usually are focusing on the "justified by faith" part--as opposed to being justified in any other less satisfactory way. This week we focus on how that happens--that our justification by (or our faith in?) God comes through Christ. Christ models for us suffering and the product of suffering. Further, the means of that process occurs because the Holy Spirit pours God's love into our hearts.

Daily Prayer, Sunday, May 26, 2013

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

Invitatory Psalm 24
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
   the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
   and established it on the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
   and do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
   and vindication from the God of their salvation.
Such is the company of those who seek him,
   who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

Lift up your heads, O gates!
   and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
   that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
 the Lord, mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, O gates!
   and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
   that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah

Psalms 52
Why do you boast, O mighty one,
   of mischief done against the godly?
All day long you are plotting destruction.
Your tongue is like a sharp razor,
   you worker of treachery.
You love evil more than good,
   and lying more than speaking the truth. Selah
You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue.
But God will break you down forever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
The righteous will see, and fear,
   and will laugh at the evildoer, saying,
   “See the one who would not take refuge in God,
   but trusted in abundant riches,
   and sought refuge in wealth!”
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.
I will thank you forever, because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful
   I will proclaim your name, for it is good.

Psalm 53
Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they commit abominable acts;
there is no one who does good.
God looks down from heaven on humankind
   to see if there are any who are wise,
   who seek after God.
They have all fallen away,
they are all alike perverse;
there is no one who does good, no, not one.

Psalm 54
Save me, O God, by your name,
   and vindicate me by your might.
Hear my prayer, O God;
give ear to the words of my mouth.
For the insolent have risen against me,
   the ruthless seek my life;
they do not set God before them. Selah
But surely, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.
He will repay my enemies for their evil.
In your faithfulness, put an end to them.
With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.
For he has delivered me from every trouble,
   and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

Daily Lectionary Reading, Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith, [q] we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. 3 But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, 4 endurance produces character, and character produces hope. 5 This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. _________________________________________________ q Or faith [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: God, you have made our righteousness possible. And, through your grace, you have enabled us to endure trouble. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are able to experience your love. Amen.

Psalm 78
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
   things that we have heard and known,
   that our ancestors have told us.

We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell to the coming generation
   the glorious deeds of the Lord,
   and his might,
   and the wonders that he has done.
He established a decree in Jacob,
   and appointed a law in Israel,
   which he commanded our ancestors
   to teach to their children;
   that the next generation might know them,
   the children yet unborn,
   and rise up and tell them to their children,
   so that they should set their hope in God,
   and not forget the works of God,
   but keep his commandments;
   and that they should not be like their ancestors,
   a stubborn and rebellious generation,
   a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
   whose spirit was not faithful to God.

He divided the sea and let them pass through it,
   and made the waters stand like a heap.
In the daytime he led them with a cloud,
   and all night long with a fiery light.
He split rocks open in the wilderness,
   and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
He made streams come out of the rock,
   and caused waters to flow down like rivers.

Yet they sinned still more against him,
   rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
They tested God in their heart
   by demanding the food they craved.
They spoke against God, saying,
   “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
Even though he struck the rock
   so that water gushed out
   and torrents overflowed,
can he also give bread,
   or provide meat for his people?”
Yet he commanded the skies above,
   and opened the doors of heaven;
he rained down on them manna to eat,
   and gave them the grain of heaven.
Mortals ate of the bread of angels;
he sent them food in abundance.
He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens,
    and by his power he led out the south wind;
he rained flesh upon them like dust,
   winged birds like the sand of the seas;
   he let them fall within their camp,
   all around their dwellings.
And they ate and were well filled,
   for he gave them what they craved.
They remembered that God was their rock,
   the Most High God their redeemer.
But they flattered him with their mouths;
they lied to him with their tongues.
Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
they were not true to his covenant.

Yet he, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity,
   and did not destroy them;
   often he restrained his anger,
   and did not stir up all his wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,
   a wind that passes and does not come again.

How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
   and grieved him in the desert!

He chose his servant David,
   and took him from the sheepfolds;
   from tending the nursing ewes
       he brought him to be the shepherd
          of his people Jacob, of Israel, his inheritance.
With upright heart he tended them,
   and guided them with skillful hand.

Psalm 79
Do not remember against us the iniquities of our ancestors;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
   for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name;
   deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name’s sake.

Psalm 83
O God, do not keep silence;
do not hold your peace or be still, O God!
Even now your enemies are in tumult;
those who hate you have raised their heads.
They lay crafty plans against your people;
they consult together against those you protect.

Psalm 86
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
   for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God;
be gracious to me, O Lord,
   for to you do I cry all day long.

Gladden the soul of your servant,
   for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
   abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my cry of supplication.
In the day of my trouble I call on you,
   for you will answer me.
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
   nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
   and bow down before you, O Lord,
   and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God,
   with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

O God, the insolent rise up against me;
a band of ruffians seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.

But you, O Lord,
   are a God merciful and gracious,
   slow to anger and abounding
   in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant;
save the child of your serving girl.