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, February 26, 2014

Reflection on readings for February 26

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
(Psalm 42:1)

Leviticus 19:1-20:21
For some Bible verses, we might be reading for history, but these prompt us to think about what we're doing now. The Lord reminded Moses that when they got to their home, they were to be holy. Let's not restrict the meaning of holy. God was talking about more than we may usually consider to fall under that description.

For example, the Lord told them that when they reaped the harvest from their land, that they were not supposed to keep all the crop for their own use. "Leave some for the poor and the alien."

As we Americans consider such difficult topics as health care and immigration, we might look back at these verses and ponder just what God meant for us to do.

The Lord told Moses what to tell the people: You shall not steal nor deal falsely or lie.

Not only are you not to steal, you shouldn't delay paying your workers what they have earned.

It's not just money that we aren't to steal or hold back for a while, it's their dignity and ability to earn that wage as well. The Lord said, "You shall not revile the deaf nor put a stumbling block before the blind.

As a personal aside: Several years ago I injured my knee and had to use a wheelchair for a few weeks. Every restaurant, every store was completely, easily accessible. Almost no churches were.

After the instructions not to defraud or judge unjustly your neighbor, the Lord through Moses tells them more about appropriate neighborliness. Do not slander. Do not profit by the blood of your neighbor. Even reproving a neighbor will bring guilt on you. No vengeance. Not even bearing a grudge. What would our world be like if we even began to follow these instructions?

And, how did we get so confused about holiness that we have forgotten that generosity and fairness and kindness are all demonstrations of it. As Leviticus sums it up for us, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord."

Mark 8:11-38
Mark has reported a series of miracles--walking on the water, several healings, two feedings of large crowds.

Who can do these things?

Jesus asks his followers, "Who do people think I am?" The disciples give a list of forerunners to the Messiah. Then Jesus asks "Who do you think I am?"

Peter answers for them, "You are the Messiah." Jesus instructs them not to tell anyone.

The crowds are ready to know that the Messiah is coming, but not ready to realize that he is here, among them.

They are not aware of what being the Messiah means. Not just victory. Not just winning over oppressors. And it's time for those closest to Jesus to begin to learn this.

Jesus begins to teach them what is going to happen--not just the healings and feedings and water-walking, but also suffering, rejection, and even death.

Peter doesn't like this kind of talk and tries to persuade Jesus to back off some. Jesus is adamant.

Jesus speaks not only to the disciples but to the crowds, "If you want to follow with me, deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me."

He's talking to us.

Psalm 42:1-11
No, we don't have to pretend that everything that happens is really for the best. We are allowed to recognize the difference between things working out well and not working out at all.

Much of the Bible is written about God and about the relationship between God and God's people--Genesis through 2 Chronicles, say.

The books of the prophets are filled with words that God intends for us to listen to.

The wisdom books, including but not limited to Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, are largely people speaking to people, that is, wise people speaking to people that need and want to be wise.

Psalms, though, has a large component of people speaking to God.

And often, what we say is a complaint, an expression of sadness, a lament that things are the way we wanted--or expected--them to be.

Psalm 42 begins with an expression of longing for God, a longing prompted by a sense of separation from God. A long separation, and one that has been noticed by onlookers.

The psalmist is in despair. He thinks that God has forgotten about him.

Is being too unimportant to be remembered worse than being so bad that you deserve being punished?

Although he thinks that God has forgotten him, he knows very well that his enemies haven't. They mock him, "Where is your God?"

But, even in despair, the psalmist turns to God,
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.
Proverbs 10:17

Prayer for Today: Lord, our God, enhance our realization and our acceptance that you are already here among us. Strengthen our will and ability to follow the example set for us. And, O Lord, when things turn bad in our lives, remind us that you are with us. Amen.

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