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.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday of Holy Week, Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 36:5-11; Hebrews 9:11-15; John 12:1-11

A Light to Nations, Reflection on Isaiah 42:1-9
As we move through this week that began with the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we remember Isaiah's words to a people who needed saving, as do all people who need saving.

He described their savior and reminded them what God is like.

God created heaven and earth
and gave life to the people who walked on it.

And Isaiah reminded them that this salvation was not restricted to a small group of persons; rather, these who were to be saved would be a message for the whole world.

We need to continue to remember that God is our source, our provider, and our rescuer. Use as a prayer today this excerpt from Psalms:

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!

Do not let the foot of the arrogant tread on me, or the hand of the wicked drive me away. (36:5-11)

Extensive Love, a Reflection on Psalm 36:5-10
The reading from Isaiah reminds of the Lord's love for Jerusalem--which we go on to translate as being love for all the rest of us, too. The love is even broader in Psalm 36--the Lord saves not only us humans but animals as well.

Now, I had read Psalm 36 many, many times and had not picked up on the inclusion of animals. Then I read John H. Hayes' contribution to Preaching Through the Christian Year C.

He says:
What may initially strike us as odd in such a comparison or classification might not appear so if we give it some thought. The beast receives its blessings, its food, its livelihood witout setting out to please God or anybody; it makes no effort to measure up to any standard; it simply drinks in the benefits that come its way from the created order controlled by God. The writer is suggesting something similar is the case with humans.

Reflection on Hebrews 9:11-14
An offering was made by a high priest as a means for the sinner to be redeemed. Christ is for us sinners both the high priest and the offering that is sacrificed.

We Christians can read this as reassuring.

We should be grateful but not triumphalistic.

Further, we should be careful not to misinterpret the phrase, "dead works."

According to Allen & Williamson's Preaching the Letters without Dismissing the Law

The "dead works" should not be confused with the mitzvoth of torah. "Dead works" are not "deeds of loving kindness"; they are sins that pollute the conscience.

Contrasts, a Reflection on John 12:1-11
Judas and Mary. He is male, a close associate who has been entrusted with the money, yet not loyal. She is a woman, as far as we know has not been traveling with then but has been staying there in Bethany, but does recognize the importance of Jesus.

She takes a large quantity of an expensive perfume and uses it to anoint his feet. She realizes that a great sacrifice on her part is appropriate because of his greatness. Later, Jesus will command his disciples to wash each other's feet.

Judas pronounces her actions as wasteful, "That money could be spent on the poor." But, he is not thinking of the poor. He's planning to use the money for himself. And Jesus knows this.

His rebuke to Judas should not in any way give us permission to ignore the needs of the poor. Rather, since they are always with us, we should always be thinking of ways to continue to show Christ's love through our own actions.

Now. let's bring the gifts to Jesus story up a couple of centuries:
How Methodists are spending their money
Thinking about the conflict between Mary and Lazarus on how funds entrusted to them should be spent, I checked the United Methodist Church website to see how we are making that decision in current times.

According to Mission, Ministry, and Money an article in New World Outlook written by Scott Brewer:
In looking at the ways congregations have spent their money over the last decade, a few patterns emerge. Churches spend most of their money in support of the local congregation and the clergy in the United Methodist connection. These categories of expense--pastoral and lay staff salaries and benefits, and operations--accounted for about 85 percent of all church spending in 2008, except for building projects and debt service. That figure was up about 0.5 percent compared to 1998, though it was up about 5 percentage points compared to 1978. While local church statistics can tell us only part of our story, the data do indicate that churches continue to show a consistent willingness to send money outside their walls.

What is changing, however, is where our churches are sending that money. This remaining 15 percent of church spending is used for mission and ministries outside the local congregation and for denominational administration (which helps to pay for things like holding annual conference and general conference) and for the supervision of clergy through support of bishops and district superintendents.

Note: These stats are several years old, but I couldn't find newer ones easily enough to update this entry.

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