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, April 2, 2014

Reflections on the readings for April 2

Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the earth.

Have regard for your covenant,
for the dark places of the land are full
    of the haunts of violence.
Do not let the downtrodden be put to shame;
let the poor and needy praise your name.

Rise up, O God, plead you cause.
(selected verses from Psalm 74)

Deuteronomy 21:1-22:30
Scholars differ on the interpretation of the verses about the captive bride. One view is that they provide a way for a marriage that would not normally be legal. Another view is that rather than prohibit rape, they codify and legalize it.

The rule against cross-dressing is also disputed. Some interpreters suggest that the background for the rule was that men were not to avoid military duty by masquerading as women; others, that some men were dressing as women to gain access to them for the purpose of seduction; others, that the rule means what it seems to; i.e., repugnance. (Carolyn Pressler, Women's Bible Commentary)

Luke 9:51-10:12
Jesus has told his closest followers what is going to happen to him--suffering, rejection, and resurrection. He has also told him that those who follow him will have to make sacrifices. They don't get all that he tells them. They even argue over which of them is greatest. And they complain about who gets to use Jesus' name in doing Jesus' work (9:21-50).

He's already told the disciples closest to him what is awaiting him in Jerusalem.

To get there, they leave places with people like them and travel through a place, Samaria, with people who are considered different. Different because of something that had happened centuries earlier.

There has been a long dispute between Jews and Samaritans since the exile. Samaritans are descendants of people who stayed behind and so were not considered to be the real people of God by others. We can think of our own contemporary ethnic distinctions to understand how somebody could feel superior to somebody else based on what somebody else did or didn't do a few hundred years ago.

The Samaritans don't want him there. Luke tells us that they won't receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem.

Or, it could be interpreted that the Samaritans refused to harbor Jesus because they knew what was likely to happen to him in Jerusalem--the suffering part, not the resurrection part. We can think of current examples of reasonable people not wanting to associate themselves with certain failures. Rome was problem enough for them anyway without adding to it.

In any case, the disciples wanted to destroy the village that refused them hospitality. Jesus said no and led them to another village instead.

Other people do want to follow him. To the enthusiastic volunteer, Jesus offers caution; to the cautious volunteer, he reminds him of the necessity for urgency.

One said, "I'll follow you anywhere." Jesus responds by warning him of the dangers. Another said, "I'll follow you as soon as I take care of some necessary matters." Jesus responds to him by telling him what matter is most necessary.

What are we supposed to do with this reminder? What priority do we put on our comfort and safety as compared to being witnesses for Christ? What priority do we put on family responsibilities? How much does Christ expect of us, anyway?

Here's the lessons I'm drawing today--1. Past problems can still cause difficulties. 2. Discipleship has risks. 3. Discipleship requires sacrifices.

The instructions to the seventy (or, in some sources, seventy-two) in 10:1-12 echo in several ways the instructions to the twelve in 9:1-6. People need help. You can help them even without a lot of resources. Not everybody will appreciate your effort.

That was then, and that is now, too. The harvest is still plentiful, and the laborers are still few. We still do not have what seems a sufficient amount of money or experience or talent or knowledge to make a dent in the massive amount of need confronting us.

Also still true is that we are called to cure the sick--that could mean supporting hospitals that actually provide care for indigents (some Protestant denominations do not). And, also still true is that we are called to announce the good news.

The first hearers of Luke's gospel would have already heard of another significant occasion of 70 disciples. When Moses needed help dealing with the needs of the people on that long wilderness trek, the Lord told him to appoint 70 elders to help. The Lord told Moses, "I will come down and talk with you there; and I will take some of the spirit that is on you and put it on them; and they shall bear the burden of the people along with you so hat you will not bear it all by yourself" (Numbers 11:1-25).

Psalm 74:1-23

Proverbs 12:11

Prayer for Today: Pray the verses from Psalm 74 at the beginning of today's reflections.

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