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 6, 2014

Reflection on readings for August 6

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in God my heart trusts.
(adapted from Psalm 28:7)

Ezra 3:1-4:23
They have returned but not to a perfect world. They can worship at the site of the destroyed temple but they are still in fear of the neighboring people. Rebuilding the temple meets with some resistance. After reading some of the history of Judah, King Artaxerxes concludes that they can be be dangerous so he forbids them to rebuild the temple.

In our own times, people in a community have felt threatened by the prospect of people of some other religion building a house of worship.

1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4
If we had created God--rather than the other way around, what kind of God would we have wanted? Paul is teaching the Corinthians what we may need to be reminded.

Paul is basing the success of his mission not on his own rhetorical skills but rather on the power of God. And what he is preaching is preaching Christ crucified.

Yet, it must be noted that Paul immediately does launch into rhetorical excellence.

He argues that if the leaders of their day had wisdom, they would not have crucified Christ. But, Christians have a knowledge that comes to them from God through the Spirit. We can learn from other people only what they have already known.

But, we, because we have received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, can understand the gift bestowed on us by God.

Paul continues the contrast between what can be taught by human wisdom and what can be taught by the Spirit. What the Spirit teaches is intelligible to the spiritual, but not to those who are unspiritual.

Here's how Eugene Peterson expresses it in The Message:
[To the unspiritual,] they seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit--God's Spirit and our spirits in open communion.
I'm thinking of all the things we tend to be afraid of--people who don't look like us, or behave in ways that we just wouldn't, or somebody else getting to make a decision about something that affect us, and much, much more. We do spend a lot of our effort on focusing on our fears. I'm not sure that it's human wisdom that's led us astray so much as no wisdom at all. But, I'm sure that being open to what the Spirit of God had to say about such changes in our lives would help us to face them without so much fear and angst.

Also, let us not read Paul to be saying that human wisdom has no benefit at all. Rather. we are always to use and to interpret what we've learned in a way that serves God's purpose.

"You weren't ready to hear it yet," Paul told the Corinthians, "and you aren't ready yet."

"I've told you some, but there's more to this Christianity stuff than you are able to grasp."

It may be disconcerting to us moderns to consider the basis for his diagnosis of immaturity--jealousy and quarreling among the church members.

Background information: The word "flesh" in Greek is "sarx." According to Carl R. Halladay in Preaching through the Christian Year A, sarx in the New Testament almost always has a negative connotation, "signifying an outlook that is essentially centered on the self and pursues one's own interests."

How many of the quarrels that we have in our congregations are based on our needs and interests and how many of the needs and interests of what Christ would have us think more important? Are we ready to hear more of what Paul had felt the Corinthians were not yet ready to hear? Are we ready to get ready?

Psalm 28:1-9

Proverbs 20:24-25
All our steps are ordered by the Lord;
how then can we understand our own ways?
It is a snare for one to say  rashly, "It is holy,"
and begin to reflect only after making a vow.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, help us to get along with the people that we care about--and those that we don't. Amen.

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