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, August 5, 2014

Reflection on readings for August 5

Hear, O  Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
(Psalm 27:7)

Ezra 1:1-2:70
Persia defeats Babylon. King Cyrus, stirred by the Lord (assisted by Jeremiah), sends the exiles home, directing them to rebuild the temple. Their neighbors donated valuable items to assist in the project.

1 Corinthians 1:18-18-2:5
In his letter to the fractious Corinthian congregation, Paul wrote, "It's not about what faction you belong to; it's about Jesus on his cross." He goes on, "Not everybody is going to understand, but to us, the cross shows how resourceful God is." [BTW, I used some of the language from Good as New, a Radical Retelling by John Henson.]

Early Christians, living in Corinth, might have understood this message more readily than the typical American living today--even in our economic tough times, we're doing pretty well. How well would a message about the cross do today to gather more adherents? As I look through church webpages, how many focus on sacrifice or loss?

And, how many focus on doing something different from what the important people in power would approve of? Boring and Craddock in their People's New Testament Commentary remind me of what I should have been thinking of anyway that the Romans didn't crucify just anybody. Crucifixion was reserved for those who disturbed the peace--for revolutionists, terrorists, the worst criminals, and slaves:
"Cross" had the connontations of ugliness, contempt, weakness, loser, criminal, slave, unpatriotic lowlife.

Paul asks the Corinthians, and through them, us: Whose standards (or what standards) are important to you? Do you measure yourself by what society thinks is important?

Paul reminds them and us: Chasing after what the world thinks is important is different from seeking what God thinks is important.

God has shown us an amazing contradiction--a crucified savior. Any sensible, analytical person would see that as an oxymoron. Yet, this is the message we are preaching, a message that rather than confirm would seems wise and sensible, is a message that replaces our notions of what is wise and sensible.

God does not work according to our expectations or logic.

Further, what miracles and philosophy can fail to do, God can achieve.

Note: I am helped by Boring and Craddock's The People's New Testament Commentary.

Here's how the Common English Bible translates 1 Corinthians 1:27-28
But God chose what the world considers foolish to shame the wise. God chose what the world considers low-class and low-life--what is considered to be nothing--to reduce what is considered to be something to nothing.
We shouldn't go around bragging about our accomplishments. In the first place, God is not looking for accomplishment-exclusive kind of people. And, secondly, God chooses people because God can use them for God's purposes.

Again, from the CEB:
It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus. He became wisdom from God for us, and he met all religious requirements for us; he dedicated us to God, and he delivered us.
Then, in verse 31, "This is consistent with what was written: The one who brags should brag in the Lord!" which alludes to Jeremiah 9:24, "But let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord."

Paul, like Jeremiah before him, is cautioning us to get over ourselves and instead to exhibit some care and concern for others. We've heard about it from the prophets. We've heard about it from Christ. Let's get on with it now.

Psalm 27:7-14
In the psalm, after the gratitude for what has happened in the past, the psalmist then prays for continued help. Because we have suffered in the past, we recognize that hard times can come again. Because we have been helped in the past, we have confidence of where to turn for help in the future. And, we say all this joyfully and publicly.

Proverbs 20:22-23
Do not say, "I will repay evil";wait for the Lord,
     and he will help you.
Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord,
    and false scales are not good.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, direct our focus to what you consider important. Amen.

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