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, July 29, 2014

Reflection on readings for July 29

But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
(Psalm 22:19)

2 Chronicles 24:1-25:28
King Joash restored the temple  that had been looted by previous rulers. As long as the priest Jehoiada was around, the king did what was what in the sight of the Lord. But, after Jehoiada died, the king fell away. When his sins were pointed out by the successor priest,  Joash ordered his stoning. Joash was assassinated by his servants. His successor, Amaziah, is given a mixed review.

Romans 12:1-21
The center, physically and metaphorically, of the Torah is Leviticus. Think of it as a kind of confirmation manual (with thanks to John H. Hayes' essay in The New Interpreter's Study Bible).

This book begins with seven chapters giving instructions for sacrifices. The animal you offer should be without blemish. Bring it to the entrance of the tent; the priest will take over there. Bring offerings even for unintentional sins. Also offer sacrifices for thanksgiving

Paul said, "Offer your own body as the sacrifice. Offer not only your body; offer yourself, all of yourself. Not just once, giving an animal to the priest and thinking you have accomplished what you came to do. Offer your body, your time, your effort. And your body includes your mind. Use that mind to figure out what God wants, not what the world seems to think is more important."

In this definition of sacrifice, Paul is echoing Old Testament prophets:
"'What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?' says the Lord; 'I have had enough of burnt-offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats (Isaiah 1:11)'".

"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings" Hosea 6:6).

Boring & Craddock, in their People's NT Commentary remind us that the "you" Paul uses is plural. Paul is still talking to "y'all." Paul is talking to the organized community of folks called out from some other kind of life.

I'm struck by the "one body" part. I get the metaphor. But, I am even more impressed with the "members of one another." I am not sure what to do with this metaphor, but I am going to think about it some more.

Paul listed the kinds of gifts that were needed in the church of his day. Consider how timely his analysis still is: prophecy (he's not talking about fortune tellers); ministry; teaching; exhortation; giving; leading.

Rejoice in hope. Be patient in suffering. Persevere in prayer.

Paul's sermon here is not so much "How to become a Christian," as it is "What to do now that you're a Christian." He stresses, as he has done before, that Christians love each other, really love each other. Give money if they need money. Don't seek revenge against those who may have earned it. Live peaceably (I'm relieved to say that he adds, "as much as possible.)

OTOH: One of my all-time favorite Pauline quotes is verse 20. "Do nice things for your enemies; it's guaranteed to drive them nuts."

Psalm 22:19-31
Psalm 22 begins in despair, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It lifts up complaints of mistreatment and mockery and threats. And, intertwined with these laments, are words of remembrance of what God and done and a call to God to do more.

Verse 22 begins with "Save me" but then shifts to "You have rescued me."

How do rescued people respond?

Thank God and make those thanks public. Give thanks in the middle of the congregation.

Those people present there at that place will hear of God's work. And not only them. All of the families of the earth will know what God has done and what God can do. People living now and people to come.

Whose praise of the Lord have you heard? Who has heard your praise of the Lord?

Proverbs 20:4-6
The lazy person does not plow in season;
harvest comes, and there is nothing to be found.
The purposes in the human mine are like deep water,
but the intelligent will draw them out.
Many proclaim themselves loyal,
but who can find one worthy of trust?

Prayer for Today: Pray the parts of Psalm 22 that apply to your life today.

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