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, June 1, 2014

Reflection on readings for June 1

Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
give me understanding according to your word.
(Psalm 119:169)

2 Samuel 18:1-19:10
As David had once been close to Saul then in revolt against him while still being emotionally attached, now he is in a parallel situation with his son and heir. His heir, because Absalom has murdered his older brother Amnon out of revenge (2 Samuel 13).

Absalom after years in exile has mustered a large rebel army to overthrow David as king. Even though David had ordered mercy for his son, Absalom is killed.

As we read this terrible, tragic story of a suffering country and suffering family, we should remember how Samuel had responded initially to Israel's desire for a king (1 Samuel 8).

The compilers of our Bible wanted us to reflect on the truth of Samuel's prophecy.

And, we can read in this terrible tragic tale a reminder of the pain in families as well as in nations.

John 20:1-31
Mary Magdalene, one of the women who had stood near the cross (John 20:25) has come before daybreak to the tomb. When she sees that the stone has been rolled away, she runs to tell the disciples. Peter and the other disciple (we assume John) race each other to get there.

John gets there first, looks in, and see the burial wrappings left behind. Peter then goes in and also sees the wrappings and realizes that the cloth that has been on Jesus' head has been rolled up. Then John goes in, and we are told that he saw and believed.

What does he believe? What does belief do for him?

After the disciples left, Mary stayed. As she is weeping, angels come to her--to comfort? She sees Jesus but does not recognize him immediately.

She has a short conversation with him but is able to recognize him only when he speaks her name.

Jesus tells her to go tell. She obeys. She is the first witness to the resurrection.

Yet, as we read in the next verse, the disciples are so afraid that they lock themselves in. What do we believe? What does belief do for us?

Mary finally did recognize Jesus and did do what he told her. Yet, she was not immediately able to convince the disciples.

I remember a story that someone told me years ago. Although I can't remember the source, I want to repeat it anyway:

When the National Zoo in Washington D.D. moved to a spacious new area, the rhinoceros was confused. It now had a wide-open living space, but it had lived in a cage too long. Even though it now had more room, it quickly made a boundary the exact dimensions of its old cage. it wore an oval path in the grass that corresponded to the old iron bars.

The resurrected Christ can appear in our ordinary lives. We may be able to recognize his presence. Or, like the rhinoceros, we may restrict ourselves to our old path. I ask again, what does belief do for us?

Mary had told them that she has seen the risen Jesus, but they are afraid anyway.

A sermon was not enough to liberate them from their fears.

Jesus came to them, anyway.

We may still not be willing to start our lives anew. Jesus may come to us, anyway.

As God had breathed into nostrils of the man formed from the dust of the ground,  making him a living creature (Genesis 2:7) Jesus breathed on the those frightened disciples who had locked themselves in.

He said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." We remember he had promised to send them an Advocate (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7), the Spirit of truth to abide with them and in them.

He assigned to them the authority to forgive or not to forgive. To have a church that continues to do the work of Christ, they must be at peace with each other. Yet, I am deeply troubled by the way some of our modern congregations are using this verse to expel people they find disagreeable. Yet, I can agree with the expulsion of some persons who have caused damage and would have continued to be harmful if the congregation or the denomination had not cut them out of positions of responsibility.

The disciples who had seen Jesus believed, but Thomas hadn't been there the day Jesus had shown up. "I need to see for myself. I've got to put my finger on the spot where the nails were," he told them.

A week later, Jesus appeared to Thomas. "Touch me. Do not doubt but believe."

Thomas believed. Read the passage carefully. We are not told that Thomas, despite what he had thought earlier, had to touch Jesus in order to believe.

Keep reading. Look at verse 31. John's gospel is written so that we can believe. Thomas and the other first generation Christians saw Jesus and believed. They knew the presence of God through the seeing of Jesus. We later Christians are able to know the presence of God through their witness.

Psalm 119:153-176

Proverbs 16:14-15
A king's wrath is a messenger of death,
and whoever is wise will appease it.
In the light of a king's face there is life,
and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, strengthen our belief. Guide us into your way. Amen.

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