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.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Reflection on the readings for October 11

Sing aloud to God our strength; 
shout for joy to the God of Jacob,
Raise a song,
sound the tambourine,
the sweet lyre with the harp.
(Psalm 81:1-2)

Jeremiah 16:16-18:23
God promises to bring them back home even though they have sinned, really sinned. "This time I am going to teach them my power and might."

The Lord takes Jeremiah to the potter's house where a potter working at his wheel crafting a vessel of clay. If that vessel doesn't turn out right, then the potter reworks the clay into another vessel.

The Lord says to Jeremiah, "Can't I do the same to you, O house of Israel?"

We can read this as history or prophecy. Sin has consequences.

And we can read this as a reminder that although God is our creator, we are judged on our response. And, we need to remember that we can rectify our wrong responses.

Even in our sinning, we can repent. We can change. And, also, the Lord can change. The Lord said to Jeremiah that day, "You've got some time. I can change my mind. Turn now from your evil ways. Start doing what you are supposed to be doing."

Jeremiah may have been remembering appeals that the people had made during times of oppression before. For example, at a time when the nation was being oppressed by the Ammonites, they asked God to save them. They asked this even though they had abandoned God and turned toward foreign gods. God did help them because, we are told, "he could no longer bear to see Israel suffer" (Judges 10:6-18). And not just Israel. God had coerced Jonah into preaching to the sinful Nineveh, "Tell them I am going to destroy them unless they turn away from their violent acts." Then, when they did repent, "God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon the and he did not do it" (Jonah 3:1-10).

1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3
Paul is reassuring those who had been expecting the imminent return of Jesus and had become disappointed as Christians died before that return. "Of course, you are grieving," Paul writes to them. "You miss them, and you fear what is waiting for them and for you."

Paul then affirms that what God has done for Jesus, God will do for them. "Jesus will return to earth as sovereign. All Christian believers will lead him back in a triumphal parade. All of us, all of them, will be with the Lord forever."

Boring and Craddock, in their The People's New Testament Commentary, point out that the language Paul is using derives from the apocalyptic language of his time.

Lauren Winner, in her blog, The Hardest Question, reminds us that we believe eternal life is good,  and that we want to console mourners. She then asks "Is there comfort to be found in this text (or is there something implicit here that is decidedly anti-comforting) when the dead person I’m worried about had no interest in Jesus at all?"

Psalm 81:1-16
The psalm begins with a command to sing joyously to God then lists some reasons why we should.

Verses 10-16 are in the voice of God, saying what I, God, did, and what you, the not-always-grateful people did next. God had rescued the people from slavery in Egypt and provided them with the necessary food to keep them going on their journey. And God provided them with something else necessary for their journey--instruction in a way of life.

What response what we expect from people who had received such gifts? What God got was a people who refused to listen, who refused to obey. God's response to that recalcitrance was to just let them do what they wanted to do.

But God is not abandoning these abandoning people. "If only they would listen," God says.

Off on a tangent part: The psalm ends with this verse: I would feed you with the finest of the wheat and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. I immediately was reminded of the singing group Sweet Honey in the Rock. Take some time today to listen to them.

Proverbs 25:6-8
Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence
or stand in the place of the great;
for it is better to be told, "Come up here."
than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.
What your eyes have seen
do not hastily bring into court;
for what will you do in the end,
when your neighbor puts you to shame?

Prayer for Today: God, remind us of all that you have done for us. Forgive us for that we have done wrong. Help us now to follow your instructions. Amen.

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