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, September 30, 2014

Reflections on readings for September 30

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed by the glorious name of the Lord forever;
may the Lord's glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.
(adapted from Psalm 72:18-19)

Isaiah 60:1-62:5
"I will greatly rejoice," Isaiah says. He talks about the gifts of salvation and righteousness. "Gratitude will spring up in you as inevitably as a garden grows from seeds."

But, keep reading.

Isaiah switches from the past tense to the future, "I'll not rest until Jerusalem is vindicated."

Jerusalem needs saving, and not only for its own sake. The salvation of Jerusalem will be a lesson for all who see it.

When Israel was in a situation so bad that its continued existence seemed unlikely, God, through the prophet Isaiah, promised to rescue them. "I will not keep silent, and I won't rest until Israel is vindicated."

Then Isaiah expands on the promise. Not only will they be rescued, but also everybody will know about it-- "her salvation like a burning torch."

OTOH, some commentators believe that the promise not to keep silent and not to rest are Isaiah's, rather than his proclaiming God's words.

Under the heading, troubling or reassuring?, no mention is made of their need to repent, or even to ask for, deliverance.

God is going to marry Jerusalem and be as joyful as a bridegroom.

How easy--or how hard--is it to imagine that God is joyful?

Quote from Walter Brueggemann's commentary on Isaiah 40-66:
It is worth noting that the term rendered "married" is from the same root as Baal, the god of fertility, and the land that is "married" is a land "baaled," or literally in the Hebrew, Be'ulah, that is, "Buelah land." The imagery of divorce or widowhood (see 54:4-6) is transposed into an agricultural term for a land barren and unproductive. Now this people is revived and the city is restored; the land is recovered for fruitfulness and productivity.....The language is especially freighted, because marriage metaphors in that ancient world include fruifulness and generativity.
Philippians 1:27-2:18
Paul, in prison, is writing to a church that he had founded. "Stay unified," he tells them, "Stick together." The example he gives them is of Christ. "He was willing to give up anything and everything."

Paul reminds them that God can work through them to accomplish God's intentions. "Any sacrifice I make for you is worth it," Paul says. "I rejoice over you, and you must rejoice with me."

Paul encouraged Christians to live in community and to care for one another. How might such a community look now?

Generations of Hope is a nonprofit adoption agency that has designed a community to resemble a nurturing small town, complete with surrogate grandparents. Created out of a shuttered Air Force base, Generations of Hope seeks to rescue children from foster care and place them with adoptive parents who have moved here. About 30 children currently live with parents in 10 homes. The community is also home to 42 older people who have subsidized rent.

Read more about this amazing experiment

In their The First Paul, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan offer us three understandings of this passage by contemporary scholars:

    1) Christ is being contrasted with Adam, who with Eve wanted to be like God. Rather, he emptied himself.

    2) The text is referring to the preexistent Christ, the prebirth Jesus, who emptied himself to become human; that is, vulnerable, even to the point of being executed.

    3) Paul's first hearers would have been aware that the Roman emperor claimed to be "in the form of God" and regarded "equality with God as something to be exploited." They would have heard the claims that the emperor was divine, Lord, Son of God, Savior of the World, bringer of peace on earth. Paul is making the radical claim that Jesus Christ is the one who deserves the titles instead of Caesar.

Borg and Crossan say we don't have to choose between these three interpretations:
All make the same claim. What we see in Jesus--Christ crucified and raised as "Jesus Christ the Lord"--is the way, the path. This, Paul says in this text, is the mind that the followers of Jesus are to have. What we see in Jesus is the way, the path, of personal transformation. And it is the way, the path, of advocacy of a way of life very different from and in opposition to the normalcy of "this world." And it would cost Paul his life.
Psalm 72:1-20
Although this psalm is a prayer for a king, we can also pray that an elected leader would exhibit many of these attributes.

Proverbs 24:11-12
If you hold back from rescuing those taken away to death,
those who go staggering to the slaughter;
if you say, "look, we did not know this"--
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it/
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it?
And will he not repay all according to their deeds?

Prayer for Today: O Lord, focus our attention today on your will for us. Transform us into your disciples. Amen.

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