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.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Reflection on readings for August 1

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord,
    and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
(Psalm 25:1, 6)

2 Chronicles 30:1-31:21
King Hezekiah of Judah re-instituted celebration of the Passover. He invited the remnant left in Israel to come to Jerusalem to join with them. I do wonder about the wording of his invitation, "....Do not be like your ancestors and your kindred, who were faithless to the Lord God of their ancestors, so that he made them a desolation...."

Many of the northern tribes reacted with derision; only a few responded affirmatively to his invitation. Many of them had not prepared themselves according to the standards of the priests in Jerusalem. It may be hard to overcome disaster. It may be hard to recognize what is essential to someone else. It may be hard to accept that someone else doesn't know and do what you think is obvious.

Even so, the Passover went well. All the participants rejoiced. Afterwards, they destroyed the pagan shrines. We moderns may have in our minds that the ancient Jews knew and worshipped the one God. Yet, scriptures indicate that they had wavering allegiance. (Not so surprising when we consider how we now may base our daily decisions on something other than what God intends for us to do--say our own comfort, for example).

Romans 15:1-22
Do you ever say, "Well, somebody should have told me"? If you said it out loud, I'm guessing someone responded by saying, "We tried, but you weren't listening." Paul is reminding his readers that they have had lots of opportunities to know what to do.

"Scripture was written to teach you," and then he added, "Paying attention to scripture can give you what you need now--hope."

With attention to what had been taught, with hope for what was to come, they were instructed also in a necessity--to live in harmony with one another.

Their forming and maintaining a community was essential.

Look back at Romans 14 to see what the church was like. Then look around at your own congregation. How much harmony is there? How do you welcome visitors? How do you welcome those long-time members who hold opinions upsetting to you? How often do you even hear an upsetting opinion? Is it reassuring or disappointing to consider that we are to welcome each other just as Christ has welcomed each of us?

The Romans that Paul was writing to were Gentiles. Christ had come to confirm promises made to Jews. But, the benefits did not accrue solely to them. Paul says that Christ has come "and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy." Gentiles had not kept the Torah, did not even know what the Torah required; yet, Christ has come to show God's mercy.

Although Paul was writing to a largely Gentile audience, he still quotes Jewish scriptures [with thanks to the editors of the Wesley Study Bible for locating the sources for me]:
Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name (see Psalm 49:1).
Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him (see Psalm 117:1).
The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope (see Isaiah 11:10).
One way we can read this passage is with satisfaction that we can be Christian without first having to be Jews. But, another way to read it is to consider who might be included in Christ's care other than whatever particular tight circle we inhabit.

That is, do we in the church consider that Christ's mercy to us is intended to be instructive to onlookers? How welcoming are to those outsiders anyway? How can we expect them to know what Christ has done if we are keeping it a secret in house anyway?

Paul's understanding was that God had always intended to include Gentiles. Who are today's Gentiles? How intentionally inclusive are we?

Psalm 25:1-15
This psalm begins with a prayer by someone facing enemies: I trust you, God, protect me. Teach me your ways. You are my salvation.

In his Old Testament Theology, Volume Three, Israel's Life, John Goldingay writes:
....that is, let me see you acting in a way that reflect who you are, so that I come to make that the basis of the way I act.

In praying this psalm, we admit that we have not always done what God would have preferred us to do, and we admit that we have more to learn. We ask for instruction as to what we should be doing, how we can now follow God's ways. We can do this because God is merciful.

We ask the Lord, "Forget what we have done and remember what you are like."

Think about your own life. If you had known then what you know now, what would you have done differently? How can you live so that God want have to keep being so merciful to you?

Proverbs 20:13-15
Do not love sleep, 
    or else you will come to poverty;
open your eyes, 
    and you will have plenty of bread.
"Bad, bad," says the buyer,
    then goes away and boasts.
There is gold, and abundance
     of costly stones;
but the lips informed by knowledge 
    are a precious jewel.

Prayer for Today: Pray Psalm 25.

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