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, August 31, 2017

The Home of God, a Reflection on Revelation 21:1-6

John envisions a new heaven and a new earth. Things are now different from the way they were; moreover, they are different because God has said so. Furthermore, in this new way of things, God will continue to be in our midst. God will continue to care for us.

Every day, several times a day, we face temptations to bow to the demands of the society around us. We, of course, care about assuring and protecting our own security. But, if we are Christians, since we are Christians, we have to take up residency in this new earth, one with tribes from every nation, everybody speaking different languages. We are all there together, all worshipping God.

Where once heaven and earth seemed so far apart, so separate, now, in Christ, we see heaven coming down to us. Where once we thought of God as far away, so separate, now, we experience God's presence right here, right now.

Reflection on Revelation 22:1-5

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life," chapter 22 begins.

The river flows from the throne of God and the Lamb--that's the source. And it flows right through the middle of the street of the city. What begins with God sustains the world.

On either side of the river is the tree of life.

This tree has leaves for the healing of the nations. The word "nations" means that the healing is not just for us insiders, but that is for them too.

Gail A. Ricciuti writes about Revelation 21:22-22:5 Interpretation April 1999

"Rome's power proves no match for the Power embodied in the River flowing from the throne of the God-Lamb, and the Tree rooted by those waters. The ultimate triumph of God is best imagined, paradoxically, in the organic, ecological realm, which proves at last enduring and indestructible in a way that all the the earthly powers were not. The final assurance we are given that God will preside over the end of history as over the beginning of creation, and really preside over it so much as dwell within it...."

The final denouement is not a threat but an invitation to us, as inheritors of a blessed future, to begin to build on earth the reality toward which our hope reaches out!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Anointment, Betrayal, Communion, Reflection on Mark 14:12-25

Jesus is living under threat. As he is sitting at supper, a woman approaches him with a jar filled with an expensive ointment. She breaks the jar and anoints his head with the ointment. When Israel had kings, they had been anointed by prophets (See 1 Samuel 16; 1 Kings 19:16). The word we translate as "Messiah" means anointed.

Later, in a Passover meal with his closest disciples, Jesus tells them that one of them is going to betray him.

Then he takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them, saying "This is my body." He takes a cup, gives thanks, and gives it to them, saying, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many."  We continue to remember this supper as disciples continue to gather. When we share in communion (every week or every month), our pastors follow those same procedures.

Then, as we disperse, what do we do next? How has our version of the Lord's Supper replicate the original one? Is there ever an echo of the presence of someone who is going to betray Jesus?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Reflection on Matthew 12:1-8

The religious experts knew what the scriptures say and they were very critical of those people who weren't following the rules. Jesus, on the other hand, knew what the scriptures meant and he was very critical of the critics. He summed up his interpretation of the scriptures by quoting God, "I want mercy and not sacrifice."


Monday, August 28, 2017

Reading 1 Samuel 21:1-9 while thinking about Communion

David is fleeing from the angry King Saul who has threatened to kill him (Read chapters 18-20 for background describing why Saul is so mad and about the relationship between David and Saul's son, Jonathan).

David goes to a priest for help, but lies to him for the reason why he wants to keep his presence secret. When David tells the priest he needs five loaves of bread to sustain him during his mission. The priest tells him that the only bread they have on hand is the holy bread that is needed for a ritual and there's no one available that day to make any more. David then asked if the priest had any weapons available. The priest told him that the only weapon they had was the Goliath's and that if David wanted it, he could have it. David wanted it.

Questions arose for me. 1) Why did the lectionary compilers put this passage in a discussion of communion? 2) What is the motive that we have for joining in the Lord's Supper? What sustenance are we seeking?

Narrative Lectionary, August 2017

The Narrative Lectionary in August has been focusing on the sacraments and on Revelation. The sacrament selection this week is another look at the Lord's Supper. Suggested scriptures for sacraments are 1 Samuel 21:1-9; Matthew 12:1-8 or Mark 14:12-25. For a continuation of the study of the book of Revelation, the lectionary suggests Revelation 21:1-6; 22:1-5; and John 16:20-22.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Gifts of God, a Reflection on Psalm 65

As we come together to eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord, we remember who is the source of our gifts and we give thanks.  Psalm  65 begins with an acknowledgment of the debt we owe God, "Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed."

Not just us, but everyone, "To you all flesh shall come," and "you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas."

This psalm notes specific gifts. One is forgiveness, "When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions."

And God sends rain, "You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it."

I'm struck by the combining of these two, examining parallels between them. What happens to a life without forgiveness, if we become sunk in despair over our past sins, what barrenness of purpose, of existence, would it be? But, God's forgiveness, as abundant as the roaring sea, can make it possible for us to live lives of abundance, providing us with overflowing bounty that we can share as the watered fields provide grain for us.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Questions that arise from reading Revelation 6-7

Revelation 7:1-17
John's vision is of a multitude too great to count, a multitude made up of every nation..


Yes, every. Salvation doesn't depend on which borders surround our place of birth. Rather, salvation belongs to God on the throne and to the Lamb. Therefore, everyone joins in praise and worship.

How is your congregation getting this message of every nation?

One of the elders In this great multitude of creatures addressed John asking him "Who are these, robed in white? Where did they come from?"

John turned the question back to the questioner, "You're the one who knows."

The elder responded, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation ordeal."

They didn't escape ordeal--which would be my first choice, but they did get through it.

Using 6:9-11, white robes are given to those who are slaughtered on earth for the word of God. Thus, we read this to be a description of martyrs who are victorious in heaven who, like Jesus, have given up their lives on earth.

John's words are intended to reassure people undergoing persecution on earth. How helpful are they to those of us who really don't suffer much because of our allegiance to the Lord? What is the message for us?

In the vision, one of the elders addresses John directly, promising him that God will shelter the worshippers (13-15).
They will hunger no more,
and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
The Lamb (5:1-8) will be the shepherd.
The shepherd like the one described in Psalm 23. Also, read Ezekiel 34:11-30 in which God appoints a shepherd to oversee his sheep.

How far off is this promise? Do we have to die to collect on it? Or, is this vision of something that will happen to us on this earth--is happening to us on this earth?

Revelation 6:1-17 The seven seals are opened one by one. A rescuer is coming. Death will take a fourth of the earth with sword, famine, and pestilence, and with wild animals. But, those who have been slaughtered for the word of God will cry out for vengeance. The rich and powerful will hide.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Questions that arose from reading 1 Corinthians 11:21-26

Paul describes the tradition handed down from the Lord: Taking the bread, he gave thanks, broke the bread and said "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remember me." Then he did the same thing with the cup. He added, "Every time you eat this bread an drink this cup, you broadcast the death of the Lord until he comes."

Does this describe the way we still take communion? By the way, is he talking about communion or a church supper?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Questions that arose from reading 1 Corinthians 11:27-34

How disturbed should we be when we read verse 27, that eating the bread or drinking the cup inappropriately makes us guilty of the Lord's body and blood, that those of us who eat and drink without correctly understanding the body are eating and drinking their own judgment?

Who is doing the judgments that Paul is deploring  and those that he is recommending?

What are they doing that Paul find unacceptable? Is it not waiting for everybody to get to the supper?

Question about communion when reading 1 Corinthians 11:17-20

Paul informs the congregation at Corinth that their meeting together does more harm than good. The first reason he gives is that he has heard that there are divisions among them and he partly believes this. What would he have heard about your congregation? Is it possible to overcome divisions to the extent that you can share the meal in a way that it is intended?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Home of God, a Reflection on Psalm 84:1-7

Here is a psalm that describes the joy of being able to worship in the temple, the longing to be there. I can't help but think about those Sunday mornings when we still had young children at home to get ready for church and wondering if the words of this psalm describe what I was thinking. Or, what am I thinking on a typical Sunday morning now? Does my soul long, indeed faint for the place? Do I sing for joy to the living God? Well, sometimes, I think so.

But this psalm is about more than looking forward to occasional attendance at a formal worship service. It is also about what happens to us because we have experienced the presence of God. The psalmist describes the path toward the house of God: "As they go through the valley of Baca (read this to mean a place of thirst), they make it a place of springs."

So, another question is raised by this psalm: Does the thought of attending church at the end of this week affect the way I go through the week? As I go through areas that lack something, do I work to fill the need? Or, do I even notice those needs?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

On the Road, a reflection on Psalm 84

A worshipper of God is on a pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem. My husband and I are within easy driving distance of the church we attend. I read in the psalm, "My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God." I'm pausing to consider whether my soul longs and faints for that building I am headed toward. I do want to be there, I feel deeply (some weeks, anyway) the need to be there, but I'm not sure about the fainting part. Further disturbing to me is that while I am really, really glad to have that church and to be going there, I have never sung out loud about it while on the way.

So, what does this psalm say to me?

I'm not willing to leave it totally for the original psalmist.

Part of the difference is that the building I am talking about is one that I go to on the average about three times a week. The psalmist, I repeat, is making a pilgrimage. Yet, why would familiarity and ease about the access cause me to be less joyful?

Perhaps I am being too narrow in the application of the psalm to my religious life. Try this: my whole life is a journey toward the presence of God. As I go through my ordinary life--grocery shopping, TV watching, grandchildren enjoying, I am in the presence of God. God's dwelling place, God's courts, God's house--none of those are completely defined by any one building constructed by human beings.

So, Sunday mornings and the rest of the week, let me sing with the psalmist, "A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you."

Monday, August 7, 2017

What Can We Do Now? a reflection on Acts 2:37-42

Peter was speaking to a crowd of people who had not understood or recognized who Jesus was. Now they do. They ask, "What can we do now?"

Who needs to read today's scripture--the Peters among us or the crowds who didn't get it before?

It's far easier than we would want it to be to imagine religious people whose lives are being lived largely without any acknowledgement or recognition of Christ.

Peter denied knowing Christ and did so explicitly. He was afraid. Many later Christians don't voice any explicit denial, but their allegiance to Christ's teachings might be pretty hard to discern.

Who needs to read today's scripture?

Some of Christ's teachings may be easier for us to fit into our daily lives than others. Most of us can go through the day without committing acts of violence or stealing anything, for example. Harder though is giving up selfishness or fear.

Who needs to be asking the question, "What can we do now?"

Peter said, "The promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away."

We need to tell this story so others can hear, and we need to listen to this story so we can live the lives that Christ intends for us. We may be far away in calendar years from Peter's questioners, but do we really need to be far away in recognizing the need for repentance?