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.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Reflection on readings for June 16

May the Lord,
maker of heaven and earth,
bless you from Zion.
(Psalm 134:3)

1 Kings 15:25-17:24
Elijah was a prophet of God at a time when the king of Israel, Ahab, married Jezebel, a worshipper of Baal. God was angry with Ahab. Elijah said so. The Lord told him "Go hide by the Wadi Cherith. It has plenty of water, and I'll see you get food." Elijah did what he was told, and things worked out for a while. Then the wadi ran dry (16:29-17:7).

The Lord told Elijah where to go for food.

I'm thinking about how unlikely the choice might have seemed to Elijah. The place was at the center of Baal worship. The person he was supposed to get help from was a woman. He, a stranger, was supposed to approach a woman. Moreover, she was a widow; that is, she wouldn't be expected to have much in the way of financial resources.

But, the Lord had included the assurance, "I have commanded her to feed you."

Elijah trusted the Lord enough to comply with the instruction.

When he got to the widow's place and asked her for some food, she told him, "As sure as the Lord your God lives, I have only enough for me and my son to have one small meal and then we'll die."

Apparently although she lives in Sidon, she knows about the God that Elijah worships--and obeys.

Elijah responds to her, "Do not be afraid. Go ahead and fix the meal for you and your son, but, first, make me a little cake. The Lord God of Israel will provide you with all the food you need for as long as you need."

She did. And the Lord did.

She trusted God's word that came to her through a prophet, a foreigner.

From whom can we expect help when we are in trouble?

In this story Elijah is fleeing for his life from the threats of the powerful king and queen of his nation. He turns to a widow who is trying to support herself and her son in a time of drought.

He is able to reassure her that God will provide for her needs if she will take care of his.

Her son died.

In her grief, she turned on Elijah, blaming him.

Elijah took her son and prayed to the Lord to let the child live.

The Lord heard Elijah's plea; the boy revived.

When Elijah brought her son back to her, the mother responded, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord is truly in your mouth."

Lessons in this lesson:
People who know God turn to God in time of need.
God cares for people who aren't necessarily very important to the world.
Recipients of God's care can react with gratitude.
In 2012, NPR did a story about the geography of charitable giving.

Ever wonder how charitable the people are who live in your state or community? It turns out that lower-income people tend to donate a much bigger share of their discretionary incomes than wealthier people do. And rich people are more generous when they live among those who aren't so rich.
They compared the states according to whose typical households give the biggest--and--smallest percentage of discretionary income to charity:

1  Utah                           10.6%
2  District of Columbia     7.7%
3  Mississippi                    7.2%
48 Maine                          2.8%
48 Vermont                      2.8%
51 New Hampshire          2.5%

Acts 10:24-48
In Acts 8, Philip learned that Gentiles could be Christians.  In Acts 9, Paul learned that Jews could be Christians.  In Acts 10, Peter, too, learned that Gentiles could be Christians. A messenger from God came to Cornelius, a Roman centurion. A Gentile, an enforcer of the occupation of Israel. Prompted by the Spirit, Peter was willing to break the law and eat with him. From menu to men.

In today's passage, Peter's sermon to Gentiles is interrupted. We are told that the Holy Spirit fell on all who were listening to him.

All. The ones who had already belonged. And the ones who had not. The old-timers were astounded that the newbies would be included.

How does your congregation react to the notion that the Holy Spirit may be reaching out to people who were raised with different beliefs from yours? Or, how would they react to the notion that the Holy Spirit speaks?

In Acts 2, The Holy Spirit fell on Jews from all lands. In Acts 8, the Holy Spirit fell on Samaritans (not-quite insiders but not completely different, either).

In Acts 10, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The insiders were astounded that outsiders were recipients.

Questions: Wouldn't the Holy Spirit fallen on them whether they had heard the word or not? Or, is hearing the word necessary for someone to be able to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit? How did the believers know that the Holy Spirit had been poured out on them--that is, was proof necessary?

In this passage from Acts, baptism is preceded by the receiving of the Holy Spirit. But, in Acts 8:14-24, the Samaritans were baptized before receiving the Holy Spirit.

I don't think that which came first is as important to Luke as that they both do, and, even more important, that they both come to people that the rest of us might not have thought likely or even worthy.

Psalm 134:1-3

Proverbs 17:9-11
One who forgives an affront
    fosters friendship,
but one who dwells on dispute
    will alienate a friend.
A rebuke strikes deeper into
    a discerning person
than a hundred blows
    into a fool.
Evil people seek only rebellion,
but a cruel messenger will be sent against them.

Prayer for Today: O Lord our God, open us to recognize the presence of your Holy Spirit. Stir us to follow your will. Increase our willingness to be generous. Amen.

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