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 18, 2014

Reflection on the readings for October 18

Let my cry come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.
(Psalm 88:2)

Jeremiah 31:27-32:44
They knew from their own experiences what life is like under disruption, loss, and exile. Now,  Jeremiah is giving them words of restoration. The Lord who had overseen their destruction will watch over their renewal.

Jeremiah then tells how people are going to react, "They will no longer say, 'The parents have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge.'"

According to the commentary by John M Bracke, Jeremiah means that they are going to stop complaining about the perceived unfairness of the exile but rather will recognize that they had deserved to be punished (also see Jeremiah 18:1-32).

In his commentary on Jeremiah, R.E. Clements interprets this not as an expression of a doctrine or a defense of the principle of shared family responsibility but rather to give voice to despair:
It is equivalent to "What is the use of trying--our ancestors have done wrong and we are paying the price!"

The Lord tells Jeremiah "I'm sending you a rescuer. Things will change. No longer will people have to suffer because of the sins of their ancestors (They'll still have to pay for their own sins). I will make a new covenant with these people, and all of them will know me."

Their punishment had been real and they and their descendants had recognized it as deserved. But, new life is possible.

The Lord says to a troubled people who had over and over neglected to what they had promised, "I will forgive their iniquities and remember their sins no more" and "They broke the covenant I made with their ancestors. I'm going to make a new covenant." Try to look past our supercessionist interpretation of the phrase "new covenant" all the way back to how Jeremiah's listeners would have understood it. "This covenant will be written on your hearts."

Jeremiah is writing to people who were really in need of repentance. People whose lives were in ashes. "You have been unfaithful to me," the Lord told them, "and I'm taking you back." God made covenant with them. God had given them a home and they moved to Egypt. God brought them back home. They neglected God. They disobeyed God. They misused their gifts. They neglected neighbors in need. They were overrun by powerful enemies and taken into exile in Babylon. God renews the covenant and brings them back.

The Lord is promising not new content but new contact--or, renewed contact.

John H. Hayes In Preaching through the Christian Year B:
The newness is a special gift, the capacity to be faithful and obedient. In the Old Testament, the heart is the seat of the will (see Jeremiah 29:13; 32:39; Ezekiel 1:19; 36:26); consequently, the special gift here is a will with the capacity to be faithful. God thus promises to change the people from the inside out, to give them a center. This covenant will overcome the conflict between knowing or wanting one thing and doing another...

1 Timothy 3:1-16
The qualifications that church administrators were to have were very much like the usual catalogue of virtues common in Greco-Roman ethical teaching (Jouette Bassler in her commentary on 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus). I suppose that we moderns still evaluate the talents and abilities of the leadership and organization of our churches and denominations on the basis of what we see and expect from other organizations.

Bassler points out the requirement that church leaders had to be the head of their household excluded slaves and women was a significant departure from Paul's own churches, where women played various leadership roles. She further refers to the scriptural references "where 'slave' was an honorable epithet both for Christ (Phil 2:7) and for church leaders (Rom 1:1; Gal 1:10; Phil 1:1)." [The NRSV sometimes translates the Greek word as slave and sometimes as servant.]

Psalm 88:1-18
A psalm for when we can hear no comfort.

Proverbs 25:20-22
Like vinegar on a wound 
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.
Like a moth in clothing or a worm in wood,
sorrow gnaws at the human heart.
If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;
and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;
for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,
and the Lord will reward you.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, open us to know your presence. Amen.

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