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.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Reflections on Readings for January 7

I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High (Psalm 7:17b).

Reflection on Genesis 16:1-18:5

Until this point in the Abraham and Sarah saga, we have only two recorded speeches by him to her. On their way to Egypt, Abraham had said, "You are so beautiful that the Egyptians will kill me in order to obtain you. Let's spare them the effort. Say you are my sister; that should protect me." Sarah did as her husband told her. The Pharaoh took her, but the Lord rescued her and returned her to Abraham (Gen 12:10-20).

The next conversation between them in when the childless Sarai tries to solve her problem by having Abram impregnate her servant Hagar. We aren't told what he said--only that he listened to his wife. When Hagar conceived, Sarai concluded that she was contemptuous of her and complained to Abram. He responded by telling her, "She's your slave; do what you want with her," (Gen 16:1-6).

In the meantime, God has spoken to Abram several times. For example, "Go. You're going to have a lot of descendants. I'm going to give land to your offspring," (Gen 12:1-7; 13:14-17; and 15:1-6). When Abram was ninety-nine God told him once again that he was to be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. He changed his name to Abraham and his wife's to Sarah, and promised that a child was to be born to Sarah (Gen 17:1-22).

The Lord reminds Abram (soon to be Abraham) that those descendants include a multitude of nations.

God further says to (now) Abraham, "These descendants are coming to come through your wife Sarah."

Remember these are very old people.

We may not be sure why Abraham and Sarah were chosen, but they were.

How difficult is it for Christians to accept and understand that Jews and Muslims are fellow descendants from Abraham?

How easy is it for us to give up on promises because they have been long deferred?

How are we responding to God's gift of covenant; are we blameless?

One day while Abraham is sitting at the entrance of his tent, he looks up and sees three visitors. He immediately offers them hospitality. He tells his wife Sarah to make some cakes with choice flour and he slaughters a tender calf so that they might have a good meal.

Abraham serves them the food prepared for them. They ask him where his wife Sarah is. He doesn't seem surprised that strangers know the name of his wife and responds that she is in the tent.

We have a picture of an obedient servant to the Lord. When he knows that it is the Lord speaking, he obeys. Moreover, when he doesn't recognize the Lord, he still is as hospitable as if he knew who his guests were.

Then one of the visitors tells him that Sarah will give birth to a son within a year.

Sarah is listening and her response is laughter.

How do we react when God lays out opportunities for us? Do we let our past failures determine our future efforts?

Reflection on Matthew 6:1-24

Jesus did say, "Beware of practicing your piety before others," but he didn't end it there. He has a because clause: Don't do it just so they will notice. That is, he is not advocating secrecy but rather warning them against hypocrisy.

Give to charity because someone needs help not to show off.  Remember that your prayers are directed to God, not to impress somebody. Fast in secret rather than in public.
Jesus assumes that they will give liberally and ungrudgingly (see Deuteronomy 15:10-11), that they will pray often (perhaps three times a day, see Daniel 6:10, and that they would fast (see Joel 1:14;  also see Isaiah 58 to see that fasting was not restricted to food).

What Jesus is cautioning them about is confusion of goals. You're doing the things that you ought to be doing, and remember why you are doing them. You will be rewarded, but not necessarily in an immediate, public way.

Psalm 17:1-17

Proverbs 2:1-5

My child, if you accept my words
and treasure up my commandments within you,
2making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3if you indeed cry out for insight,
and raise your voice for understanding;
4if you seek it like silver,
and search for it as for hidden treasures—
5then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God. [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: O Lord, keep us mindful of your presence. You have provided many gifts for us, have sustained us through our troubles, have promised to be with us always. Keep our attention directed toward you not on what others may think of us. Deepen our sincerity. Keep us more concerned about our gratitude to you than our desire to have more and more and more. Open our hearts to share your gifts with others. Amen.
Prayer for Today: 

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