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 1, 2014

Reflections on the readings for January 1

Watch over our way (after Psalm 1:6).

Genesis 1:1-2:25

Into chaos comes the word of God.
God speaks, and light overcomes darkness.
God enters the world and brings order to it.

God said to them, "Be faithful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over every thing that moves upon the earth."

Well, we've done very well with the multiplying and filling the earth part. If that's what God meant about being faithful, then we have been. But, if God was more concerned with the dominion part, we may not have been.

If dominion means something like dominate, then we humans have been working on that. But, if dominion really means something more like having responsibility for the care of, then we need to improve our efforts.

[Note: Bible scholars tell us that the first part of Genesis was edited by theologians during the time of the Babylonian exile. A time when they were wrestling with issues such as how could God have let their nation and temple be destroyed and how they were to live in a foreign land. 

In part, it is an assertion that the God of Israel is superior to the deities worshipped by the Babylonians. And it is an assurance that this God we worship is God who cares for the earth and all the creatures on it. Although God had allowed the exile, God could be trusted to restore the community on its return]

Sources include: Wes Howard-Brook's Come Out, My People! and
Allen & Williamson's Preaching the Old Testament]

Psalm 1:1-6

Imagine living in an arid land. Little rain. Little vegetation. Imagine what a tree would signify.

This first psalm, the opening of this wisdom book, has at its center the image of trees. Fruitful--their leaves do not wither, in all they do they prosper.

A tree in an arid land can prosper only if it is planted near a water source.
The teaching of the Lord provides what is necessary for us to grow, to prosper, to bear fruit. Ignoring that teaching is what the wicked do, the ones who become like chaff, driven by the wind.

Matthew 1:1-2:12

When Joseph found out that his betrothed, Mary, was pregnant, he knew quite well that he would not be the father of that child. Yet, he wanted to protect her to the extent possible. Rather than subject her to public disgrace, he decided to handle the situation as privately as possible.

The Lord sends him a message that changes his mind.

Eugene Boring & Fred Craddock, in their People's New Testament Commentary say:
Matthew's main point is that Joseph the righteous man had already decided not to carry out the letter of the biblical and traditional law, but to act in mercy and preserve Mary's dignity with a quiet divorce. 

How it could be that a righteous person would not go by the written traditional law of God is a theme of Matthew's whole gospel, for the church to which he writes respects and affirms God's law, but no longer lives by it literally.

The angel of the Lord told Joseph to name the child Jesus, a name that means "God saves" and added the quotation from Isaiah 7 that cites the announcement of a birth of a child centuries before called Emmanuel to demonstrate the rescue of God's people.

The wise men in Matthew's gospel, whom we have become accustomed to calling the magi and thinking that there were three of them, got that the king of the Jews had just been born in Jerusalem. Remember, they were foreigners. The sitting king, Herod, had not himself been aware that there was a  competitor for kingship. The news scared him. He told these travelers that as soon as they located the child to let him know. However, they didn't do what Herod had told them.

When did you catch on to who Jesus was? the place he had in your life and decisions? the place he ought to have? Are you comforted by the acceptance of Christ as king or, like Herod, discomfited?

Proverbs 1:1-6

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
For learning about wisdom and instruction,
for understanding words of insight,
for gaining instruction in wise dealing,
righteousness, justice, and equity;
to teach shrewdness to the simple,
knowledge and prudence to the young—
let the wise also hear and gain in learning,
and the discerning acquire skill,
to understand a proverb and a figure,
the words of the wise and their riddles. [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: O God, as we begin this new year, we think once more of other beginnings. We are grateful for your creation of this earth and for enabling us to share in its blessings. We are grateful for the example of the faithful Joseph who lived according to the grace you give and desire. We ask now that you increase our wisdom and understanding. Amen.

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