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.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Reflection on readings for January 26

(For the invocation, today, I have chosen Psalm 22:1-2, a prayer that we may find ourselves praying during our hard times)

My God, my God, 
why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me,
from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day,
but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.

Exodus 2:11-3:22
Moses is at work. The text gives us no indication that he is seeking God or that he has spent much time thinking about what had happened to him in Egypt and what is still happening there. But, God has been thinking about these things.

But, when God impinges on Moses' life, Moses does notice. When God sees that Moses is willing to let the everyday stuff be laid aside, God calls to him.

"I have seen the misery of my people who are still in Egypt. I have heard their cry. I have come down to rescue them, to bring them to a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey."

Rescue, though not immediate, is imminent.

Then God tells Moses how this rescue is going to be effected: "I'm sending you." 

Several questions arise for me as I think about this passage. 

How many times does God make a dramatic appearance in our not-so-dramatic lives, and we don't even notice? How many times are we compelled to come closer to God, to recognize a holy time and place, and we don't respond? Should we expect God to know our suffering? Do we recognize God's behind-the-scenes work in our rescue from that suffering? Does everyone, or anyone, respond positively to the call of God if it is to do something as dangerous as face a Pharaoh?

God has heard the cry of the Israelites and has come to send Moses to rescue them. Has Moses been paying much attention to their cry? We are told nothing of his yearnings to save his people. "Who am I?" he asks. "Why have you picked me?"

I've always read this as modesty on Moses' part. But, now I'm thinking that it may be more than modesty. It may be a sincere question, "Why me? Why not someone who has spent years devoted to freedom fighting?" Or, "Why not somebody who doesn't have a steady job and a family to take care of? Don't you know some single, underemployed people who have time for charity work?" [I admit I'm going a little over the top now, but I'm thinking of common current reasons for not doing God's work.]

God responds, "What difference does it make who you are or what you think you are good at? Think about it. I Am the one who is sending you."

(As before, much thanks to William Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, Volume One, Israel's Gospel)

Matthew 17:10-27
On the way down the mountains, Jesus talks to his disciples about the role of John the Baptist. When they are again in the crowd, someone asks Jesus for help for his son, saying that he had already asked the disciples and they hadn't cured him. Jesus could and did. The disciples wanted to know why they hadn't been able to effect the cure. Jesus told them they didn't have enough faith.

To be effective, faith doesn't have to be big, but it has to be persistent.

Peter was asked if Jesus paid the temple tax, that is, if he was supporting financially an organization that he was also critical of. Many Methodists today are considering whether they should remain members of a denomination that they are critical of. Some, because it is not liberal enough; some, because it is too liberal.

John Wesley said we were going on to perfection. Apparently, we aren't there quite yet.

Psalm 22:1-18
One of the discussions I remember from some theology class was the classic problem of how God could be all good and all powerful and at the same time we humans were suffering. Trying to solve this, we came up with quesions like "Did we deserve every bad thing that happened?" or "Was the bad thing we were experiencing going to turn out to be a good thing after all?"

However we frame our answers to our inquiry into the nature of God, we who are faithful hold on the knowledge (hope? faith?) that yes, God is all-powerful and all-good.

But, sometimes, we feel abandoned. We can pray "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Even Jesus felt abandoned--see Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34.

Yet, even in that sense of forsakenness, we can turn only to God. O my God, "I cry by day ... and by night...."

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

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