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, February 23, 2014

Reflection on Readings for February 23

I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love 
    and your faithfulness from the great congregation.
(Psalm 40:10)

Leviticus 14:1-57
In case you haven't been told or have forgotten, I'm reminding you that the word most of our Bibles translate as leprosy probably wasn't. The skin disease may have been psoriasis or impetigo, but however it might have been diagnosed by modern physicians, it was at the time considered such a danger to the community that the sufferer had to be isolated.

But isolated only as long as the possibility of contagion continued. After healing the sufferer could be restored to the community.  Maurice Harris, in his Leviticus, You Have No Idea points out that the "process of re-purification and reentry is the Torah's main concern in Leviticus 14."

Harris discusses how this ancient strange system may be interpreted in light of our modern practices of isolation. For example, we have processes for isolation for people with contagious diseases and processes for deciding how and under what circumstances to end that quarantine. Another kind of quarantine we are faced with is the prison population. How do we decide when  or ensure that they are pure enough to reenter our community?

Mark 6:30-56
Mark juxtaposes the banquet at which John is condemned with the banquet that Jesus provides for the 5000 (6:30-44). Herod is concerned with himself; Jesus, with the crowds. Herod had invited important people--courtiers, officers, and leaders of Galilee. The people who surrounded Jesus this day were not important--and they weren't rich.

He has just heard about the death of John. He asks his closest companions to come away with him for a while so they can talk about how their missions have gone (1-13). Their solitude doesn't last. People recognize them and want to be near to them.

Jesus had compassion on them because he could see that they were like sheep without a shepherd.

And from his compassion, he begins to teach them many things.

What are we supposed to do with this example? When does teaching take precedence over feeding?

They just showed up? Do we run our churches as if we believe that's the best way to get followers--go off somewhere by ourselves and they'll just show up?

At the beginning of this chapter, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue in his home town. The response to him was mixed, but for the most part negative.

His response was to send out the twelve to preach, exorcise, and heal.

Herod executes John.

Jesus feeds 5,000, walks on water, and stills a storm.

Then, as now, the Jesus movement is met with differing reactions. Then, as now, great blessings accompany the movement, and some folks react with fear, with apathy, or with harm.

In today's lesson, Jesus and the apostles have changed geography but not mission. People recognize them and rush to them for help. Wherever he went, people begged for help and he gave it.

Psalm 40:1-10
Psalm 40 begins "I waited patiently for the Lord...." Believers by being believers are not immune from the pains in life. I'm also admitting that my own waits have not always been very patient. But, the psalmist was patient--and needed to be--note the "waited" part. But, also note what is being waited for--the Lord. Even in times of tribulation, pain, or disappointment, the psalmist recognizes the source of what is going to make things better.

This trust comes, in part, from what has already happened, "He drew me up from a desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure." Rescue plus a new start.

The psalmist doesn't keep this rescue, this improvement in his life a secret. Rather, he tells about it. And the ones he tells listen, and, because of what they hear, their lives are changed, their expectations are changed, even what they consider as powerful enough to help them through their difficulties will shift, "Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Happy are those who make the Lord their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false god."

This psalm begins with gratitude to the Lord, recognition of what the Lord has done. It continues with affirmation of the benefits of trusting the Lord rather than some other false gods, "You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts; none can compare with you."

How are we to worship? What is it that God expects us to do to show that we do worship? Where does worship happen? What is the necessary cost? Am I doing it right?

The psalm says, "Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required." Focus first on what is not necessary--offerings; then, pay attention to what we have been given--that open ear.

That ear is open to what has been written in the Torah. More than listening, the psalmist attests that what has been written in a scroll has become a law within his heart.

Proverbs 10:11-12

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

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