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, October 22, 2014

Reflections on the readings for October 22

Turn, O Lord! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy in the morning with
your steadfast love,
ao that we my rejoice
and be glad all our days.
(Psalm 90:13-14)

Jeremiah 39:1-41:18
Babylon invades Jerusalem, takes the king and much of the population into exile. The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah while he was being held under guard, "I am going to destroy this city, but I will save you." After the fall of Jerusalem, Babylon took much of the population into exile, leaving only the poorest people. The captain of the Babylonian guard released Jeremiah and told him he could go to Babylon or to anywhere else he thought it good and right to go.

2 Timothy 1:1-18
Paul addresses Timothy as his beloved child. He writes that he is grateful to God when he remembers Timothy in his prayers night and day. Remembering Timothy's sincere faith (as a sideline, please note that Paul gives a lot of credit to Timothy's grandmother and mother so perhaps we shouldn't be too adamant in asserting misogyny in Paul), anyway, remembering his faith, Paul reminds him to use that faith.

Paul reminds Timothy that God has provided us with a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline--and that all those are needed because discipleship may entail suffering.

Paul also gives credit to his ancestors by saying that he worships as they did. Paul did not believe that Christians worship a different God from the One worshiped by Jews. Further, Paul asserts that the grace given to them was given long before it was revealed through the appearance of Christ, Allen & Williamson, in Preaching the Letters, explain it this way:
What Paul exactly meant, we do not know, but the gracious disposition of God to God's creatures seem always to have been the case; our good fortune is that because of God's self-disclosure we know this.
Although Paul is undergoing suffering because of work, he is confident of God's protection. He tells Timothy to hold on to what he has been taught, "Guard the good treasure entrusted to you," and that he will also be aided, "with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us."

Jouette Bassler, in her commentary on 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus in the Abington New Testament Series, writes about Paul's view of suffering:
He presents suffering as inevitable for any Christian and essential for any church leader. Through suffering, a church leader identifies himself with Paul and manifests his confidence in the fundamental Christian promise of life. Failure to endure sufering suggest shame--not shame in the cross of Christ of Christ, but a lack of confidence in God's power to save."
Psalm 90:1-91:16
Psalm 90 is a prayer that confesses human frailty, our iniquities and our secret sins. "We deserve your wrath," the psalmist admits.

But, enclosing this admission is a greater recognition: God cares for us, and has cared for us, and will care for us. God was here before we knew we needed God. We realize that our lives here will come to an end, and we need God's help.

The prayer continues, "Satisfy us at daybreak with Your steadfast love that we may sing for joy all our days. I'm reading "daybreak" both literally and metaphorically. Literally, because for me, early morning is when I usually have my daily devotional--partly because then I have the rest of the day to reflect on what I've read or prayed. Metaphorically, because it's not only at literal sunup that the light can come on for us. Other events can illuminate things for us--wise words from wise people as well as sudden realizations that hit us.

I love the last prayer of this psalm "O prosper the work of our hands!" because it serves as a reminder to me that I am part of God's work on earth.

In Psalm 91, I am troubled by verses 9 through 13 because I have seen good people suffer, have evil befall them, dash their feet against a stone (actual as well as metaphorically.) So what do I do with these assurances?. The promise in the last verses, "I will deliver those who love me, protect those who know me," should not be read to mean that "Those who aren't delivered and protected deserve not to be." Yet, I can pray quite honestly the opening verses. I do experience God as a refuge and a fortress. I do trust God.

Here's my compromise (I don't like that word, but I can't come up with the term that better expresses my thoughts): Verse 15 is an assertion that I can agree with. I can depend on God to be present with me whenever I am in trouble. That presence is in itself rescue--I am not suffering alone, and I am not suffering without possibility of salvation.

Proverbs 26:1-2
Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
so honor is not fitting for a fool.
Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying,
an undeserved curse goes nowhere.

Prayer for Today: Pray the last five verses of Psalm 90.

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