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, October 31, 2013

A Glorious Inheritance, a Reflection on Ephesians 1:11-23

Sections of Ephesians 1 are used in the lectionary five times: 2nd Sunday after Christmas and Ascension every year; Reign of Christ, Year B; July 10-16, Year B; and this year for All Saints.

Reading the passage and thinking about how its message applies to our celebration of All Saints Day, I am focusing today on the references to saints. The prayer is for those who have faith in the Lord Jesus and love toward all the saints, that they might know the riches of the glorious inheritance among those saints.

Let's pause a moment to think about what we mean when we hear the word "inheritance" and then reflect on what it means in this letter. He calls it glorious and refers to it as being immeasurable greatness of power. But not just money that the descendants can use to buy a lot of expensive stuff for themselves. Rather, the power is working among us to continue the work that Christ began and the work that continues by the church, his body, which fills all in all.

This letter to the Ephesians is also to us, "You have been called. God has immeasurable power, and has put this power to work in Christ by raising him from the dead... The church is the body of Christ."

Simon Barrow, of Ekklesia, has written about the continuing contemporary importance to Christians of the concept and fact of resurrection:
So let’s get straight to the heart of the matter. What does it mean to speak, as Christians should do, of the “bodily resurrection of Jesus”, the wounded and crucified healer, as the very basis of our life? 
Rather, to confess that “God raised Jesus” is to believe that everything of substance in the life of Jesus, the human person who is indissolubly God’s person, is dynamically taken up in, through and beyond death into the life of God – a quality of living and a form of life that affirms, but also transcends, anything we can currently mean by the term ‘life’. This is not any old life but “new life”, says the New Testament, in a variety of ways. It is, if you will, God’s unconditioned love recreating possibilities for emergent life that we thought had been lost, sinfully destroyed, denied, wasted, gambled away or blocked off. Not some vague post-mortem assimilation into the Godhead, but a new order of being. 
To believe that “Christ has been raised” is to live in a new way, sustained by God rather than our own efforts alone, as if the order of death had no final determination. Among other things, it is to refuse killing as an instrument of policy, as an untruth not just a moral outrage. This is why resurrection, the non-violent, non-vengeful and utterly gracious (‘given’, not made or claimed) form of eschatological living, is the ultimate threat to Caesar and his empire – which finally can only rule by death and its thrall, because it knows of no other possibility that would allow it go on being what it is.
"I pray that God will send you the Spirit," the author of this letter writes.

Here's what the Spirit does for the church: enlightens the eyes of your heart
--that is, helps you to catch on to what God intends for you to be doing and what God has already done for you.

To these early Christians as they began to form congregations and missions, he is emphasizing power and what power is to be used for.

To these Christians adjusting to their life after the crucifixion of Jesus, he writes of the power available to them through God. God put this power to work in Christ and has made him the head of the church. The church is the body of Christ, "the fullness of him who fills all in all."

As I regularly do, I have been reading Boring & Craddock's People's New Testament Commentary. And, as I regularly am, I am glad that I do. For example,here's their discussion of the phrase, "glorious inheritance":

The phrase refers to God's inheritance, not the believers'. In Old Testament theology, Israel as God's chosen people is often called God's inheritance (Deut 4:20; 9:26, 29; 2 Sam 21:3; 1 Kings 8:51, 53; Ps 28:9; 33:12; 68:9; 78:62, 71; 94:14; 106:5, 4-; Isa 19:25; 47:6; 63:17; Jer 10:16; 51:19). For the author of Ephesians, to be in the church is to be incorporated into the continuing people of God, Israel (2:11-12).

Daily Prayer, Thursday, October 31, 2013

Let the faithful exult in glory;
 let them sing for joy on their couches (Psalm 149:5)


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!

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, Ephesians 1:11-23
11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory. 15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: God, you have given to us an inheritance in Christ. Encourage us now through the Holy Spirit to use that inheritance to display with honor your glory. Amen.

Hymn: All the Saints

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.