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, April 29, 2014

Reflection on readings for April 29

Make a joyful noise the Lord,
    all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into God's presence with singing.
Know that the Lord isGod.
It is God that made us,
    we belong to God.
    we are God's people,
    and the sheep of God's pasture.

We enter your gates with thanksgiving,
   and your courts with praise.
We give thanks to you, bless your name.
For the Lord is good;
    God's steadfast love endures forever,
    and God's faithfulness to all generations.
(adapted from Psalm 100:1-5)

Judges 9:22-10:18
Abimelech, who had obtained the kingship by killing his rivals, was consequently attacked by those seeking revenge.  Battles ensued. His army stormed cities, killing all the residents. Then, at an encampment around a tower where all the residents of the city had shut themselves in, Abimelech approached the entrance of the tower to set it on fire. But a woman in the tower threw a millstone on his head and crushed his skull.

Other rulers followed. And the Israelites again did what was wrong in the sight of the Lord. When they were overtaken by their enemies, the Philistines and Ammonites, they cried to the Lord, admitting their sins asking yet again for deliverance. Once again the Lord could not bear to see them suffer.

Luke 24:13-53
Not everyone catches on right away. Jesus was right there with them. And they didn't recognize him. They knew about the resurrection. They were even surprised that their travel companion didn't seem to.

They may not have been able to recognize Jesus right away, but they are ready to talk about him to strangers who show interest.

They tell of what they had been expecting and what they had been told.

They tell this stranger about Jesus, how he was a prophet and the one who had been sent to redeem them; yet he had been handed over by the religious authorities to the Romans who had consequently condemned him to death and crucified him.

The story got stranger. Some of the women in their group had told them that when they had gone to visit his tomb, a vision of angels had said he was still alive. Hearing this, some in the group went to the tomb and confirmed that the body was missing, but they didn't see Jesus.

And, on the road to Damascus, they don't recognize him yet.

Although the one that they had hoped would rescue them had himself been executed, although they had not been able to see for themselves the angels that some of the women had said had told them that he was not alive, they still allow a stranger to walk along with them, to talk with them. They even listen to a sermon from him. Then, since the day is almost over, they invite him to stay with them.

Loss. Disappointment. Frustration. Yet, an offer of hospitality.

And at the table, when he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and shared it with them, they recognized him.

Loss, disappointment, and frustration did not end with those first Christians.

And, as we celebrate Holy Communion, we can recognize him.

As soon as they recognize him, they can understand something that has already happened, something that they hadn't noticed at the time but now makes sense to them--"Were not our hearts burning within while he was talking to us about the Bible?"

It's night, they've had a long walk, it's after supper, and they decide to go back to Jerusalem right then, not the next day.

The recognition of the Lord has to be shared, and shared immediately.

In Jerusalem, they learned that the Lord had also appeared to Simon.

Note the repeat about how he had been made know to them in the breaking of the bread. We usually interpret this to be related to Holy Communion, but we may also want to think about we recognize Christ in our midst when we share those ordinary meals as well.

The other gospels don't tell us about Ascension; so, every year we turn to Luke: And then to this group of disciples who have been huddled together in fear and, even in the joy of recognition, have been disbelieving, he now commissions them, "You are witnesses that the Scriptures have been fulfilled."
Commission--I am sending upon you what my Father promised. Stay here in this city until that power comes.

While they are waiting, they gather in the temple.

I'm thinking that many of us Christians have gotten stuck in that period between Ascension and Pentecost. We have known the presence of Christ. We have heard and believed the promised made to us. We're expecting something great to come among us. We are gathered together in great joy to continue our worship of the Lord. We love church and we love the Lord and we love each other. But....

He reminds them that the part of our Bible we call the Old Testament is valid--and necessary for their understanding. We aren't supposed to cut off a large part of the Bible and we aren't supposed to cut off a large part of our neighbors--The risen Christ said to them that they were to include in their witness all nations. Does "all nations" include the people who live on my block that I have never even spoke to? Does "all nations" include people who are of a different socio-economic level?

Psalm 100:1-5
Psalm 100 begins by commanding us to worship the Lord, appropriate to a day when we celebrate the reign of Christ.

"Enter his gates," that is, step away from the world that has been profaned, and step into a place of worship, a place in which we can experience the presence of the Lord.

We can continue to obey these commands. We can step away from the ills of the past and begin our new lives today recognizing the steadfast love and faithfulness of our Lord.

Proverbs 14:11-12
The house of the wicked is destroyed,
but the tent of the upright flourishes.
There is a way that seems right to a person,
but its end is the way to death.

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

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