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 8, 2014

Reflections on the readings for January 8

O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens. (Psalm 8:1)

Reflection on Genesis 18:16-19:38
The Lord shares with Abraham what is going to be done to Sodom and Gomorrah. Instead of saying something like, "Well, that's the will of God," Abraham expressed dissent.

We are told "Abraham remained standing before the Lord." And he didn't stand there silently. He began arguing, bargaining. "Suppose there were fifty righteous men in the city; would you destroy them too?" Rather than engage in bargaining by offering a higher number, the Lord agree that fifty would be enough to save the city. Abraham countered by saying forty-five, then forty, thirty, twenty, ten.

Abraham keeps arguing justice; the Lord keeps demonstrating mercy (I've been reading the Wesley Study Bible).

Note: although we are accustomed to assuming the sin of Sodom was homosexuality, Bible scholars point out to us that the text actually presents inhospitality as what they were doing that deserved punishment.  
This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)
Reflection on Matthew 6:25-7:14
As I ponder verses 25-30 in Matthew 6, I wonder what I am thankful for and what Jesus wants me to be thankful for, and what am I anxious about. I really can't imagine not worrying about my life or my diet or, sadly, even my wardrobe. Was Jesus trying to comfort me or discomfort me? What is the size of my faith?

Thank you, Matthew, for including verses 31-32. Although I do worry about things that are really all that important, I do at least recognize that they aren't all that important. My prayer today is to keep remembering that God knows what I need, to keep remembering, and to live as if I am remembering, that the kingdom of God and God's righteousness are of first priority to me.

Reflection on Psalm 8    
The psalmist addresses God as the powerful king of the earth--and of the heavens, as well. The glory of God is visible. Contemplating what God has done, the psalmist asks, "Why do you pay any attention to us humans? Why do you care what happens to us?

I wasn't sure what verse 2 meant, "Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger," so I turned to several commentaries. Among them was The Book of Psalms, A Translation with Commentary, by Robert Alter.

He says that the phrase "mouths of babes and sucklings [his translation] does not have a clear meaning and has never been satisfactorily explained. He supplies what he terms a distant possibility:

God draws strength from consciously aware humankind, made in His image, even from its weakest and youngest members, against the inhuman forces of chaos. Perhaps the innocence of infants is imagined as a source of strength.
Psalm 8 begins with an assertion of the greatness of God, Master of the earth. This powerful, majestic God turns to the weakest among us to put an end to threats. Alter says:
Because this is a psalm celebrating creation, there is plausibility in the identification proposed by some scholars between this implacable foe and the primordial sea monster, who, in Canaanite myth, must be subdued by the god of order so that the world can come into stable being Imagery taken from that cosmogonic battle between gods is borrowed by a good many psalms.
"O God," the Psalmist sings, "When I consider your glory, when I consider your power, when I consider what you have created, I wonder why you bother with us."

God is greater, much greater than human beings. Yet, don't get too humble. God has a job for us.
Many of us can use this psalm to prod us or to assure us of the value of what we're trying to do--or, ought to be. We're responsible for maintaining, caring for, being responsible for, God's creations--human and earthly.

Proverbs 2:6-15

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. 

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