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.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reflection on readings for May 17

Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.
(Psalm 113:1)

1 Samuel 20:1-21:15
His father King Saul is threatening to David, but Jonathan acts to protect him. Saul becomes very angry with Jonathan, maligns his mother, warns him that David will try to usurp his kingship, and throws a spear at him. Jonathan goes to the place where David is hiding. They embrace and weep. Jonathan promises unending friendship. One of Saul's servants, Doeg, witnessed this.

John 9:1-41
Theological reflection (that I find troubling so I'm going to skip over) followed by action. Jesus sees a problem that needs to be solved, so he gets to work immediately.

Notice that the blind man did not ask Jesus for help.

Onlookers don't accept that a miracle has occurred. Their responses include questioning whether it happened at all to asking how it did happen. When the no-longer-blind man tells them that and how Jesus cured his blindness, they wanted to know where Jesus was now.

Did they want to thank him? Did they want him to do something for them now? Did they want to learn how to help other people who needed it?

Do we recognize miracles?

What is our reaction to someone's being healed? What do we want to know? Why?

Can we remember (or imagine) being brought out of something as difficult as blindness?

John gives us a look at how religious people can behave. When confronted with a miracle, they asked some questions then pronounced their opinion that this Jesus could not have accomplished what was purported for him to have done. Their rationale--some of them asserted that he was not scrupulous enough in following the rules of their religion. Others categorized Jesus as a sinner and remarked that sinners weren't able to do the kinds of things that had been credited to him.

Since they weren't able to agree among themselves, they interviewed the once-blind man himself. He said "He is a prophet." Not yet satisfied, they then interviewed his parents. Because of their fear of what would be thought of them, they refused to say what they thought. Instead, they merely repeated what their son had told them. "If you want to know what he says that happened, ask him, not us."

As we consider the evangelism efforts of our particular local churches or our denomination, we might consider who represents us in this story. Are we the official religious types that can judge whether someone has been able to do the work that God wants to be done or even who is eligible to try? Are we the parents who are so afraid of others' opinions that we are incapable of admitting the good that God has done in our lives, how people close to us have been helped? Or, are we like the man who had been healed--able to recognize what has been done for us and willing to say so?

How much blindness is self-inflicted? How much blindness is protective when we really don't want to see something anyway?

It's wasn't just back then that people who are used to being in charge didn't like anybody doing something that disturbs their authority. They weren't willing to accept that this new guy, this Jesus, was able to accomplish something that they themselves hadn't even thought to try to do.

"In the first place," they insisted, "you shouldn't give the credit to anyone that we don't approve of. Credit belongs to God." The man who had been healed refused to enter the controversy. Theology wasn't the topic that concerned him at the moment. He, with some irony, asked why were they so concerned with the procedure that Jesus had used for healing, "Why do you want to know more about him? Are you considering becoming one of his followers?"

They responded negatively and huffily, "We know what true religion is like, and we don't know anything about this new guy."

"What else do you need to know?" he replied to their criticism. "He healed me. Only if he were from God, could that have happened." The religious authorities had had enough of arguing. They expelled the man.

In discussing this episode in her commentary on John, Written that You May Believe, Sharon Schneiders says:
The reader is, of course, supposed to identify with the man born blind. But do we, perhaps, but become sophisticated evaders when that confession has consequences for our reputation or job or safety? Even worse, are we religious authority figures whose first allegiance is to the institution and who are willing to suppress the prophets among us when their testimony to their experience calls that institution or our position within it into question?
The respectable religious insiders, perceiving a threat, had been investigating the claims that someone not authorized by them was able to perform miracles. They interviewed the man whose life had been changed by Jesus. When he responded to their queries by asking them, "If this man were not from God, he could do nothing," they accused him of heresy and expelled him.

Jesus returns. We don't know where he has been in the meantime. In verses 6 and 7, he had given the man instructions which the man followed in verse 8. But then, the narrative shifts to the reaction of the people to the man whose blindness has been healed. The reaction had not been positive.

Jesus had been walking along when he first saw the man. Now he comes in response to the news that this healed man has been driven out of his community. Jesus asks him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" The man asks to know who this is so he can believe in him. When Jesus says, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he," he responds, "Lord, I believe."

This man who has been excluded from regular life because of one kind of difference--blindness--and then ousted because of another--refusal to give in to the religious hierarchy now admits what he seems to have already figured out (see verses 30-33).

This man can see that Jesus is from God; the religious authorities are blind to this. But, they do seem to have some uncertainty, at least. They ask Jesus, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" Jesus judges that they are. We Christians still have a similar difficulty in accepting that God can send help and love to people who aren't part of our select group, who don't follow the rules that we think are essential.

All of us religious types need to contemplate what Jesus is trying to get across to us when he says, "But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains." Let us ask what it is that we can see so clearly that our sight has become an occasion of our sin.

Psalm 113:1-114:8
God had been with them and God goes with them.

God's people can remember how God was with them at a frightening time.

And they see God's impact on the entire earth.

God cares about this small group of people who had been mistreated by a powerful government. They are grateful.

But not just this small group.

The sea recognizes God. As does the Jordan River.  So do the mountains, the hills, the whole earth.

Proverbs 15:15-17
All the days of the poor are hard,
    but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.
Better is a little with the fear of the Lord
    than great treasure and trouble with it.

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

No comments: