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.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reflection on readings for August 13

Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous.
Praise befits the upright.
(Psalm 33:3)

Nehemiah 5:14-7:73
Nehemiah asserts that, unlike the preceding members of the government, he and his family are not appropriating donations to the wall project for themselves. Jerusalem's neighbors felt threatened by the wall, that is indicated that Jerusalem was intending to be independent, to have its own king.

The wall was completed. Many exiles returned.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13
People who believed in idols also believed it was beneficial to offer gifts, including food, to those idols. The idols, of course, couldn't actually eat that food. Some enterprising entrepreneurs didn't see why that uneaten food should be left to spoil. They would gather the food and offer it for sale. So, if you were invited to eat with someone, you couldn't be sure whether you were being served some of that food.

It wouldn't make any difference whether that food has been sacrificed to idols if you know that idols aren't really real. Jews knew that there was only one God. They would not have considered it harmful to their religion to eat that meat. Christians who were Jews would be able to eat the meat served to them without worrying about whether it had been part of idol worship.

But, not all Christians in Corinth had a Jewish background or understanding. Paul was writing to believers who lived among nonbelievers. Think about the difference between preaching to the already converted and teaching those who really don't have a good idea about just what it is that sets us apart.

In his time, if you wanted to eat meat, you got it from the meat place, and the meat place didn't stamp it "not from idol sacrifice." If you accepted an invitation for supper, you would not know whether that meat fit your religious scruples.

 On the other hand, if your own religion is strong enough not to be hampered in any way by some practice that you consider a scruple, shouldn't you just go ahead and do what's easiest on everybody? Should you refuse to eat with people who have different standards?

What differences should we hide? When should we keep silent?  Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, A Lectionary  Commentary based on the NRSV--Year B:
The text never hints that conflict is to be avoided, that discussion of the issue of eating of food offered to idols should be skirted. Paul's letters, in fact, consistently argue for the church as the forum for moral discourse. The scenario from 1 Corinthians 8 simply asks that every member of the community be taken seriously (even those without "knowledge") as a person for whom Christ died, and that one's actions reflect a compassionate and even restraining consideration for fellow members of the body of Christ. On the other hand, if your own religion is strong enough not to be hampered in any way by some practice that you consider a scruple, shouldn't you just go ahead and do what's easiest on everybody?
 It's not just the unbelievers that see what you do; the believers are watching, too.

Paul says to them (to us?): It's not only your conscience; think about how what you do will affect someone else's conscience.

Psalm 33:1-11

Proverbs 21:8-10
The way of the guilty is crooked,
but the conduct of the pure is right.
It is better to live in the corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a contentious wife.
The souls of the wicked desire evil;
their neighbors find no mercy in their eyes.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, help us to remember that our words and our actions affect other people. Increase our willingness to be compassionate and not condescending. Amen.

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