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.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Reflection on the readings for May 1

Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let me cry come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call.
(Psalm 102:1-2)

Judges 13:1-14:20
Yet again the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and again suffered the consequences. And, again, the Lord decided to send help to these people.

An angel of the Lord appear to the wife of a man named Manoah (we aren't told her name). The messenger told her she was going to bear a son who would deliver Israel. She herself was not to drink wine or strong drink and not eat anything unclean. She was to raise her son as a nazirite--no haircuts allowed (see Numbers 6:1-5).

She told her husband and he then prayed to the Lord to send the messenger to him directly. Instead, God sent the angel once again to the wife, and she ran quickly to tell Manoah. He then asked the messenger, "If what you say is true, what is the boy to do?" The messenger told him that he had already given instructions to the wife but  also repeated them for Manoah.

He tried to get the messenger to stay, asked him what his name was, then offered a sacrifice to the Lord.      It took a while but Manoah finally realize that the visitor had been the angel of the Lord. He told his wife that now they were going to die because they had seen God. She assured him that they were going to be all right. The son was born and named Samson. The Lord blessed him. The spirit of the Lord began to stir him. As did other spirits.

He became attracted to a Philistine woman, much to the disapproval of his mother. But, both parents took him to Timmah, the place where the woman lived. On the way, when his parents weren't watching, he killed a lion, tore it apart with his bare hands. After meeting with the woman and marrying her, he went back to the lion and found a beehive in the carcass. He scooped out the homey and gave it to his parents not telling him the source.

At the celebration of his wedding, Samson used the incident of the honey to pose a riddle for the guests

John 1:29-51
Religious authorities, aware of the impact that John had been making, traveled to the wilderness to question him. "Who are you?" they wanted to know. He denied being the Messiah or Elijah or the prophet, but put them on alert (19-33).

The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

In their commentary on John, Gail R. O'Day and Susan E. Hylen point out what I should have been able to notice on my own but didn't, that John says "sin" not "sins" of the world. They say:
As a singular noun, "sin" points to the world's collective alienation from God. "Sins" in the plural evokes a catalog of individual misdeeds and "sinful" behaviors, which is not what John is saying here. "Sin" in the singular refers to a broken relationship with God in which we all share equally, whereas "sins" in the plural can be used to point to some relationships and behaviors as more broken than others. As the Passover Lamb, Jesus liberates the world from slavery to "sin" by bringing the world into new and fresh contact with the presence of God, so that human alienation from God can end.
John again recognizes and announces his recognition that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

Excursus: The Lamb of God is a term used in Revelation 17:14 describing the post-biblical apocalypse. Scriptural references include the servant songs like Isaiah 53:6-7 with vicarious suffering; Passover lamb, Exodus 12-13, not as a sacrifice for sin but reinterpreted in light of the eucharist (see 1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

John's disciples respond to his announcement by following Jesus. John knew who Jesus was because he had been told directly--and had bothered to listen (1:29-33). John does not keep this information to himself (34-36). His words and example are convincing to others (37).

John the Baptist saw for himself but didn't keep it to himself. When he saw Jesus the next day, he told two of his followers who were with him. Jesus spoke to them directly inviting them to come. They did.

One of them, Andrew, then sought out his brother Simon Peter and told them they had found the Messiah.

The pattern of discipleship continues through the Gospel of John as each new disciple will go and finds someone else (I've been reading O'Day and Hylen's commentary on John.)

Excursus: Jesus is given several titles in this section, John 1:29-42--John calls him "the Lamb of God" in verse 29 and 36 and "Son of God" in verse 34; John's disciples call him "Rabbi" in verse 38; Andrew, "Messiah" in verse 41.

Psalm 102:1-28

Proverbs 14:15-16
The simple believe everything;
but the clever consider their steps.
The wise are cautious and turn away from evil,
but the fool throws off restraint and is careless.

Prayer for Today: Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let me cry come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call.
(Psalm 102:1-2)

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