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, May 20, 2014

Reflection on readings for May 20

Praise the Lord, all you nations!
Extol the Lord, all you peoples!
For great is God's steadfast love toward us,
    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!
(adapted from Psalm 117:1-2)

1 Samuel 26:1-28:25
David spares Saul again saying, "Let God decide when it's time to end his life."  When Saul realized that David had been able to get close enough to him to kill him, he tried to induce David to come back to him. David did not trust him so he took his wives and moved to Gath (Philistine territory) where he enlisted as a foreign mercenary.

Some decisions of revenge are left to the Lord. We don't always feel as we personally need to damage particular individuals. And, sometimes, what we choose to do next is questionable.

John 11:1-54
When their brother got ill, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus. He waited two days before he went to see them.

By the time that John's gospel was first being distributed to the churches, Christians had been concerned about the delay in the return of Christ and the new life that they were looking forward to.

In this passage, Jesus chooses to delay; he is the one who decides when to make his appearance.

But, although he delayed his visit to them, he nevertheless was aware of what was happening to them and was concerned about them.

His delay is helpful in teaching them something. He puts it this way, "I'm doing it in the way that will enable you to believe."

To see this connection between witness to what Jesus can accomplish and the result of that witness, read John 20:30-31, Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God, and through believing you may have life in his name.

Her brother Lazarus had died four days before Jesus arrived. Martha said, "If you had been here, he wouldn't have died." But, as she gives him the responsibility for not having already saved her brother, she adds, "But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him."

Jesus tells her that Lazarus will rise again. Martha responds that she already knows about future resurrections. Jesus says to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die."

Then he asks her the question, "Do you believe this?" She responds, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world."

Martha believes based on what Jesus has told her. She already believes although she is speaking at a time when Lazarus is still in the tomb. She is speaking when Jesus' death and resurrection have not yet ocurred.

Martha goes back to the house to tell Mary that Jesus wants to speak to her. When Mary rushes out of the house, the mourners there follow her because they think she is going to the tomb.

When Mary sees Jesus, she also says to him, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the mourners who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved. He asked, "Where have you laid him?"

Charles Cousar, in Texts for Preaching, A Lectionary Commentary based on the NRSV-Year A, says:
He "was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved (11:33, 38). The Greek terms carry the notion of anger and distress. It is more than a statement of Jesus' empathy with grieving friends. He is troubled. He perceives the evidences of death all about and knows that its power is still very much in place. He sees the sharp opposition that cannot tolerate the giving of life, the religious authorities who are threatened by his transforming deeds....

Excerpts from Written That You May Believe, by Sandra Schneiders:

....death is examined in its origin or cause, its nature as human experiences and spiritual reality, and its finality or purpose. ... The will of his Father, not human volition, controls life and death. Therefore, whatever death means, nature and human intention cannot be regarded as its ultimate causes because what they bring about, that is, physical death, is in some sense not death; and they cannot bring about death at all except according to God's will and design (page 175-76).

... Martha's confession of faith is in no way a response to the sign of the raising of Lazarus. It is a response to the word of Jesus revealing himself as the resurrection and the life. The sign comes after Martha's confession and does not function as a guarantee of her faith but as a crisis for the Jews who have gathered. Martha does not expect the sign (cf.11:38-39) any more than the disciples of any time or place can expect physical death to be overcome by miracle. Her faith like ours, responds not to the signs of the public ministry but to the revealing word of the present Jesus.... (page 106).

And then I read Jan Richardson's post about Lazarus on her blog, The Painted Prayerbook. I have copied an excerpt but hope you will read the rest.

Nobody goes into the tomb to pull Lazarus out; no one crosses into his realm to haul him to this side of living. Lazarus has to choose whether he will loose himself from the hold of the grave: its hold on him, his hold on it.

Only when Lazarus takes a deep and deciding breath, rises, returns back across the boundary between the living and the dead: only then does Jesus say to the crowd, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Not until Lazarus makes his choice does the unwinding of the shroud begin, and the grave clothes fall away.

Psalm 117:1-2

Proverbs 15:22-23
Without counsel, plans go wrong,
    but with many advisors they succeed.
To make an apt answer is a joy to anyone,
    and a word in season, how good it is.

Prayer for Today: O Lord our God, awaken us to your call. Strengthen our willingness to follow you. Amen.

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