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, August 4, 2014

Reflection on readings for August 4

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
(Psalm 27:1)

2 Chronicles 35:1-36:23
They kept the Passover. For the first time since the days of King David. Their peace does not last.

King Josiah is killed during a battle opposing Egyptian aggression. His successor Jehoahaz, only three months into his reign, is deposed by the Egyptians, who then set up his brother as king, changing his name to Jehoiakim. He didn't do what the Lord wanted either. Babylon invaded Jerusalem taking treasures and the king to Babylon. Two more kings follow before Babylon takes over completely.

The Chronicler stresses that the people had been told plenty of times by messengers of the Lord what they were supposed to do, and that over and over the Lord had forgiven them for scoffing at those prophets. They deserved the devastation they were experiencing.

Then seventy years later, the Lord forgives them again. The restoration comes through a foreign king, Cyrus of Persia.

In summary: 1) bad things happen to bad people and good things can happen to bad people, too; 2) we may get saved by strangers.

1 Corinthians 1:1-17
The Corinthians are waiting, and had been waiting for a longer time than they had expected, for the apocalypse (that word means revealing). Paul reminds them that they have already received gifts--speech and knowledge. And he promises them that God will continue to strengthen them as they continue to wait.

Paul is not talking about some individual lifting-up and lifting-out. What we are waiting for and what we are experiencing as we wait, is being part of a fellowship. Paul is writing to a congregation. Through them, Paul is telling us that God is calling us into what we call the church. The pronoun "you" in verses 4, 6, 7, and 9 is plural.

Psalm 27:1-6
The psalmist speaks words of confidence: The Lord is my light and my salvation. I will be confident. Light to show me the way to go. The Lord is the stronghold of my life. Stronghold, protection while I am on that way.

But, think about why the psalmist is making these assertions. They aren't empty assurances. Rather, they are tied to specific fears; for example, "When evildoers assail me" or "Though an army encamp against me."

The psalmist is not trying to get us to believe that being a faithful follower of God means that we will never see trouble, never suffer from illness, never be besieged by enemies. No, what the psalmist says is that during these times of travail, the Lord was a comforter and rescuer.

In response to the actions that the Lord has taken, the psalmist expresses the wish to continue to be near the Lord by visiting the temple--to live there, to be able to see the Lord there, and there to be protected.

The psalmist has recognized and shares the recognition. Not silently, either, but with shouts of joy. I'm pausing here to wonder how a typical church congregation would react to someone actually shouting at church. Then, I'm beginning to wonder how we do show our appreciation to God and how we tell others that we do have this appreciation.

John H. Hayes, (Preaching through the Christian Year C and Year A), cautions us not to confuse this temple talk as alluding to heaven some day. The psalmist is talking about a rescue here on earth. Hayes explains the images. Being hidden in his shelter is a reference to the booths lived in at the festival of tabernacles. The booth and the tent both evoke images of sanctuary. Being set on a high rock evokes the image of celebration after a victory. reminds us that we can read these verses and consider the comfort we find in the church. 

Yes, I'm talking about the building here. But, I'm talking about more than a building. The presence of God accompanies us as we travel through our travails. We can seek shelter in days of trouble. We can expect protection--I'm struck right now by the image of being put up high on a rock, far above all the troubles below. (Yes, I know I can't stay up there, but some days, I do need that image.)

Proverbs 20:20-21
If you curse father or mother,
your lamp will go out in utter darkness.
An estate quickly acquired in the beginning 
will not be blessed in the end.

Prayer for Today: O Lord our God, make us aware of your presence, comfort and support us in times of difficulty. Give us shelter, but prompt us not to stay hidden in that shelter. Amen.

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