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.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Reflection on readings for October 2

Have regard for your covenant,
for the dark places of the land
    are full of the haunts of violence.
Do not let the downtrodden be put to shame;
let the poor and needy praise your name.
Rise up, O God, plead your cause;
(Psalm 74:20-22a)

Isaiah 66:1-24
Isaiah points out that just showing up at the worship place is not sufficient. God also expects us to live the way God intends for us to live.

Patricia K. Tull, in the Women's Bible Commentary discusses the maternal imagery as Isaiah closes.
First, Jerusalem is described as giving birth to her children without suffering labour (66:7-8)....then described as providing comforting breast milk for all who rejoice in her (66:11). The the maternal metaphor drifts from the city of God, the mother of its residents: 'As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you [pl.]; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem" (66:13). This is a far cry from God's first speech in Isaiah, "I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me" (1:2). Like the changes in the vinedresser's role from chapter 5 to chapter 27, the role of God as parent is imagined differently, not as disciplinarian but as nurturer.
Philippians 3:4-21
Paul in verses 4b-9 tells of what has already happened, how he got to where he is--what he has already achieved and what he now thinks about those past achievements.

In verses 10-14, he turns to the future. He looks forward toward his goal. Paul is not where he wants to be, not yet. Moreover, he is not planning to sit around idly waiting for a reward. Rather, Paul is determined to work, to press on.

The past will not hold him back. Paul is looking toward the future--straining forward to what lies ahead. I'm reminded of this week's reading from Isaiah "Do not remember the former things....I am about to do a new thing."

I am grateful to Carl R. Holladay for writing in Preaching Through the Christian Year C:
As we read these words closely, we see the nature of Paul's exchange: it was an exchange of something he actually possessed for something he might finally possess, the past for the future, past certainty for future hope. And this is what is especially instructive. As we experience loss, it is usually loss of the known, of what we own and have, whether it is our past or our possessions. As we lay all this aside for the superlative worth of Christ, we engage in a cardinal act of faith, for what we gain is a vision that is not ever fully ours until Christ makes us fully his won in the resurrection.
Paul contrasts the way things are now with the way they could be. He preaches against self-asorbed, short-term thinking and acting.
    Imitate me.
    Some people don't.
    They don't turn out well. They think about what they want right now--not about the consequences.
    We are looking forward to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    Imitate me, he says.

Paul teaches by doing. Whether we realize it or not, so do we. Paul was conscious of the impact his choices in life had on those around him. Well, we should be too.

Psalm 74:1-23

Proverbs 24:15-16
Do not lie in wait like an outlaw
    against the home of the righteous;
do no violence to the place
    where the righteous live;
for though they fall seven times,
    they will rise again;
but the wicked are overthrown by calamity.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, at times of our despair, remind us of your presence. In times of comfort, remind us of your presence and your expectations of us. Amen.

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