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.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Reflection on readings for January 22

The Lord lives!
Blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation
(Psalm 18:46).

Genesis 44:1-45:28
Years before, they had thrown their brother into a pit from which he could not escape, then sold him into slavery. Now, they are facing that brother, their lives dependent on what he decides to do with them. 

"Don't worry, don't be mad at yourself for what you've done. God has sent me here to preserve life."   

Do we agree with Joseph? Forgiveness is one thing, but attributing to God all actions, including such hurtful ones as done by Joseph's brothers, may be hard to accept. 

William Goldingay, in his Old Testament Theology, Israel's Gospel offers an explanation that is helpful to me:
God does not inspire the brothers to their immoral deed, but makes creative use of desires and acts that were self-serving or destructive.... The acts of God include human actions whose results can be made to further God's intentions in the world rather than working against them, p. 258.
Like other characters in Israel's story, Joseph is a human being with strengths and weaknesses, and God works through both of these--and not merely despite them, p. 281.
We read this story of the reconciliation of Joseph to the brothers who had, in their jealousy, tried to harm him. "God has brought this about. Bring everyone here where I can provide for them."

Centuries later, Joseph's ancestors will form a nation, split it in two, then succumb to defeat by Assyria and then Babylon. Those ancestors can remember Joseph's story when they themselves are in exile. God can turn this terrible thing into something good just as the terrible thing that happened to Joseph turned out to be a saving event for his family.

Even more centuries later, we can also remember Joseph's story of exile and delivery. And we can look in it for hope for our situations.

Matthew 14:13-36
Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the crowds.

At the last supper with his disciples, "While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.'" (Matthew 26:26).

The metaphorical interpretation of verse 19 as foreshadowing eucharist is not the only possible interpretation. We might read it as literally descriptive of what Jesus did that day, and, so, literally descriptive of what his disciples are called to do. Think about this verse at the next church supper you attend. Who's eating with you--only other church people or some hungry crowds?

The sea in the Scriptures is often a scary place, a place with sudden storms and hidden monsters. It often marks a border, a place of separation between us and them. Yet, it is a place under the control of the Lord.

Matthew tells us about the disciples, stuck in a boat during a storm. When Jesus came to rescue him, they didn't recognize him.

The disciples were alone in the boat during a storm--as the church of Matthew's time must have thought itself on occasion. They didn't recognize Jesus until he called out to them, "It is I." Many commentators consider this reassuring statement to be an allusion to the Scriptural name of the Lord, "I Am."

Peter tests Jesus, demands a miracle from him, "If you are who you say you are, command me to come to you on the water." Apparently Jesus' words have been enough to give Peter confidence because he can walk on the water. For a few steps. Then Peter notices once more what had been so frightening before--the wind. He falters, he can no longer do what he had just been able to do. He begins to sink.

Peter calls for help. Jesus gives it.

Sometimes, we can see God's presence; sometimes, not so much. Sometimes, we make a good beginning, but we fail to connect to it a good ending.

Sometimes we call for help.

Prayer for Today: Lord, instill within us the compassion that Jesus showed toward the sick and toward the hungry. Strengthen our confidence that we are able to trust you, that we are able to act out that trust in a faithful manner. Amen.

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