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, May 11, 2014

Reflection on the readings for May 11

O give thanks to the Lord,
for you are good;
your steadfast love endures forever.
(Psalm 107:1)

1 Samuel 10:1-11:15
When Samuel told him what the Lord had in mind for him, Saul did not immediately accept the role. Samuel then told the people that their desire for a king was in effect an indication that they did not appreciate or trust what the Lord had done for them. Saul hid, but was outed. Samuel announced to them that Saul was to be their king. Not everybody agreed.

With the aid of the spirit of the Lord, Saul was ready to lead. With some threats, they did follow Saul into battle and defeated the Ammonites.

John 6:43-71
Jesus reminds them of their ancestors' trek through the wilderness--between slavery and promise. They would have starved without the manna. Eating the freely provided manna made it possible for them to live and to continue their journey.

Jesus tells them that he is the manna for them, that their consumption of him will make it possible for them to live and to continue on their journey.

They didn't buy into the concept right away. Just hearing an assertion was not convincing enough for them.

And some were offended. Jesus recognized that his teachings were difficult to understand and to accept, and he responded to their complaints. John tells us that Jesus always knew that not everyone would believe his words.

Remember, those who believed him and those who didn't were all together that day at a place of worship. It still happens. People go to church, listen to the sermon. Some get really offended. They can't bring themselves to believe.

The most recent General Conference, not without precedence,  combined what is good about Methodism with what is not so good. Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton points out what was frustrating, sobering, and head scratching. Here's an excerpt:
...if we are going to ever reach a point of moving this denomination into God’s preferred future, if we are ever going to find a way to make our church relevant for the 21st century, we must find a way to respect one another more deeply and cooperate with one another more significantly. This conference should remind us that the church cannot change without all parties, or at least most of them, finding a way to compromise, cooperate, and respect one another. That applies to liberals and conservatives, central conferences and U.S. jurisidictions, young and old.
And I'm reading today's passage from the Gospel of John. Jesus is talking to his disciples, and even they have a hard time accepting his teaching. Many of them give up on him and walk away. Jesus asks the ones who remain, "Do you also want to go away?"

Peter, not unusually, speaks up, "To whom else can we go? We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

Even those closest to Jesus have the choice to walk away. Some take the choice. But, some have not only heard Jesus' message, they have come to believe it.

Why ever they were first attracted to him, they are now staying for the right reason: they know that he is the Sent One of God. (I've been reading Ronald Allen & Clark Williamson's Preaching the Gospels).

Modern-day application: How do we get people to come to church? How do we get them to stay? Why do we stay?

Psalm 107:1-43
Psalm 107 gives thanks for deliverance from many troubles: refugees (4-9); prisoners (10-16); people suffering from illness (17-22); sailors and travelers on ships (23-32).

And the thirsty and the hungry. How does the Lord accomplish all this? Do we expect the water in our rivers to become miraculously clean and for all the unemployed to be miraculously at work? How does God work miracles, anyway? God does have to work alone. God can lend inspiration to us to figure out how to solve problems and to carry out those solutions.

Sometimes, it is appropriate to look for fault and assess blame, but, it is always appropriate to seek the help of the Lord--directly and also through the work of scientists, economists, and politicians.

And, it is appropriate to give thanks. The words in this psalm continue to fit the situation of God's people through the ages. We can remind ourselves and witness to others that God's steadfast love does endure, that we have felt God's presence lead us through and out of troubles.

As I read verses 33-37, I am struck that although they can be read quite literally, they don't have to be. That is, God is the creator of our earth, the source of the rain necessary for life to continue. But, God is the source of what Jesus called living water. God works through us turning our parched lives into fruitful ones.

Proverbs 15:1-3
A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
keeping watch on the evil and the good.

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

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