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, April 30, 2018

Y'all, a Reflection on Philippians 1:3-8

For whatever reason, English speakers dropped the singular second-person pronoun. So, we can't tell when "you" means "thee"; i.e., singular, and when it means "you"; i.,e., plural.

So, I looked up this passage in my Greek New Testament to make sure which you that Paul was writing to. And, of course, the you is plural. In the American South, we would say y'all but probably wouldn't write it.

In any case, read this passage as if it is written to your congregation, not just to you personally. Paul is concerned about how all of you are, and how all of you are treating each other, and how all of you are working to do the work that Jesus Christ intended for all of you to do.

We need to keep in mind that salvation is not merely a personal matter, a case of my being plucked out of a bad situation, but rather a much bigger matter, a case of the world in which I live being transformed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Time to Repent, a Reflection on Acts 17:29-31

Paul had been raised as a Jew and had lived among Jews. So, a god not made by human hands would have been a basic, long-accepted truth for him--but not so for the Athenians. As would the existence of God not lots of gods.

Paul is talking to people who would not have been brought up on the Scriptures that had formed and nurtured his understanding.

They may not have known about God, but God knows about them. "We are God's offspring," he tells them. It's hard for some of us to go this far. Although like Paul, we may believe that God created them since God created everything, we still aren't quite ready to accept that non-Christians are also God's children.

Paul then talks about the future, what is necessary for them and for all of us to do--Repent. We might be able to plead ignorance if we really had not been told something, but once we have been told, ignorance is no longer a valid excuse or even explanation. Paul tells them, "The day is coming when God will appoint a man to judge the world in righteousness."

What we do does matter. We will be judged. And since we will be judged righteously, that's the way we should be behaving.

"You can be assured of this," Paul tells them, "because he has raised this judge from the dead."

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sermon to Seekers, a Reflection on Acts 17:22-28

Paul stood in front of the Areopagus in Athens. I looked it up. The word means "Temple of Ares (god of war)" or "Mars' (another name for Ares) Hill." This building in Paul's time was the meeting place for the highest judicial and legislative council.

He begins by complimenting the Athenians on how religious they are. Or is he being a little snarky when he says that they worship even an unknown god?

He continues "Although you may not know the god you worship, I can tell you about the God who made the world, everything in it, a God not confined to any building, a God who does not need anything but instead provides everything."

Paul then tells them that God is the source and director of all people, and that while we may be looking for God, God is not far from us.

The one-God part may have been difficult for the Athenians to grasp. We moderns on the other hand may not be able to admit how many temples of unknown gods we spend time in and money on. We think our jobs are important, as are our leisure activities. Like the ancients, we also search for meaning or affirmation or security, physical or psychological, and, of course, amusement.

And like them, God is not far from us--even when we are looking in the wrong direction. God has created us--all of us--and continues to provide us life.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Ananias goes to Saul who listens, a Reflection on Acts 9:7-20

Jesus spoke to Ananias in a vision: Go tell Saul to tell about me to both Gentiles and Jews.

Ananias was surprised at the choice of Saul because of his efforts at ridding Judaism of Christ followers. But, he expressed no surprise at the message only the messenger. After all, Jesus himself had reached out to many persons who were not faithful Jews--or any kind of Jew--for example, sinners, collaborators, and foreigners.

Jesus is still reaching out. It is ironic that he would choose Saul for the mission. Saul, who had been trying to rid the Jews of those who were adherents to Christ, is now going to be asked to go to people who aren't even Jews.

Ananias was afraid and had reason to be; yet, he does what the Lord tells him to do--approach this man who has been persecuting people like him.

He did what Jesus had told him to do. Immediately Saul's sight was restored. He got up, was baptized, ate some food, got stronger, and begin to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying "He is the Son of God."

Monday, April 9, 2018

On the Way, a Reflection on Acts 9:1-6

"Meanwhile," the passage begins; so, I looked back to see what has been happening. Saul had witnessed the execution of Stephen in Jerusalem. Persecution of Christians in Jerusalem became so fearsome that many fled the city. Saul was part of the effort to remove what they considered to be a dangerous threat to their religion. Scaring the Christians out of Jerusalem did not silence them. They preached wherever they were. Evangelism in Samaria was so successful that Peter and John made a trip there then returned to Jerusalem. Philip obeyed a call from the Lord to go south. There he baptized and preached.

Saul, aware of the increase in adherents to Christ, set out to find them and bring them back to Jerusalem.

His journey was interrupted. He saw a light and heard a voice, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

He asked "Who are you, Lord?" and was answered, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what to do."

Saul had thought he was persecuting heretics; now, he is struck with the realization that the Jesus that they were claiming had been resurrected was now speaking even to him. And engaging him.

Although we are accustomed to thinking of this event as the conversion of Paul, many commentators prefer to term it as the call. After all, Saul/Paul does not quit being a faithful Jew. The split between Jews who are Christians and who are not will come later.