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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Ideal Ruler, Reflection on Psalm 72:1-2, 10-14

The presence of God is revealed. God's light draws us to Christ, and radiates in us and through us.

As we think about Christ as the perfect leader, we can also think about how us humans are supposed to do our leading. Look at Psalm 72.

A leader is supposed to judge with righteousness, to judge the poor with justice. Keep reading.

A leader is supposed to care for the needy, the poor, and those without a helper. A leader is supposed to redeem the the weak and the needy from oppression and violence.

Consider working some more on your New Year's Resolutions.


I made the choice for daily readings this week by using ones for New Year's Day for Monday through Wednesday then shifted to readings for Epiphany. I omitted Holy Name and 1st Sunday after Christmas. Here's what the United Methodist Church offers to help us make liturgical choices during this complex week:

"Where to Begin?
December 31 and January 1 this year mark a "grand liturgical collision!" There are many possibilities for celebrating in the Christian calendar. December 31 in Methodist heritage has been a Watch Night, sometimes involving a rigorous service of covenant renewal and/or baptismal reaffirmation. For Lutherans, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics and some others in the broader Western tradition, January 1 is The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, commemorating his naming on the day of his circumcision (the eighth day).

For United Methodists, January 1 this year is celebrated as Epiphany Sunday, the Sunday nearest and prior to the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6). Next Sunday (the first Sunday after Epiphany), we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord.

Given all these choices, what should you plan to do?

First, keep in mind that major feasts and Sundays always take precedence over others. So for your principal services on Sunday morning, celebrate Epiphany. Readings and helps for Epiphany are included below.

That still leaves you multiple options for what you may do on Saturday night (December 31) or at other times on Sunday (January 1).

Dan Benedict's article on Watch Night and Covenant Services provides very helpful guidance. As Dan notes, unless you have in place a process for following up on covenant pledges (like a strong set of Covenant Discipleship groups), the Covenant Service may become more of an exercise in ≈heritage worshipç than actually accomplishing what it is designed to do. If you do have such systems in place, by all means, go for it!

This means that if your congregation is like most United Methodist congregations, you may wish to think about December 31 as a prayer vigil/watch night related either to New Year's Day or, if you have the opportunity to celebrate with local Lutheran or Anglican/Episcopal congregations, Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.

As for reaffirming the baptismal covenant on December 31 or January 1, keep in mind that Baptism of the Lord (the following Sunday!) is a more typical time to do that. Some may appreciate the ability to do this twice in two weeks. Others may find it problematic. Work with you worship planning team to discern which approach is best for your congregation."

Daily Prayer, Saturday, December 31, 2011

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.

Invitatory Psalm  67
God, be gracious to us and bless us
and make your face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere you.

Psalms 141, 146

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

  • 72 God, give your judgments to the king.
  • Give your righteousness to the king’s son.
  • 2 Let him judge your people
  • with righteousness
  • and your poor ones with justice.
  • 3 Let the mountains bring peace
  • to the people;
  • let the hills bring righteousness.
  • 4 Let the king bring justice
  • to people who are poor;
  • let him save the children
  • of those who are needy,
  • but let him crush oppressors!
  • 5 Let the king live as long as the sun,
  • as long as the moon,
  • generation to generation.
  • 6 Let him fall like rain upon fresh-cut grass,
  • like showers that water the earth.
  • 7 Let the righteous flourish
  • throughout their lives,
  • and let peace prosper
  • until the moon is no more.
  • ....
  • 10 Let the kings of Tarshish
  • and the islands bring tribute;
  • let the kings of Sheba and Seba
  • present gifts.
  • 11 Let all the kings bow down before him;
  • let all the nations serve him.
  • 12 Let it be so because he delivers the needy who cry out,
  • the poor, and those who have no helper.
  • 13 He has compassion on the weak
  • and the needy;
  • he saves the lives of those
  • who are in need.
  • 14 He redeems their lives from oppression and violence;
  • their blood is precious in his eyes.
Prayer for Today: 
Righteous God, today I seem to be surrounded by stories
in the media about disaster after disaster, and so often it is
caused by inadequate leadership; or because people have
grabbed for power because of the so-called “prestige” of
being a world leader. Other’s seek power because of the
perceived access to untold wealth - never caring for
the people who are so often the source of that wealth.
....When I look at the Bible, with all the range of stories there,
it seems that the present very definitely mirrors the past in
so many ways. In the Bible, there were also royal leaders
and leaders who grabbed for power and influence for their
own gain, but the message of the Bible has God as the
Supreme Ruler of all things, which is not echoed in the politics
of today’s world, with its various blocs of aligned nations,
or even in the denominational environment of “Church” politics!
....Holy God, I am so thankful that there are people at the various
levels of community life, local, regional, national and international
life who are committed to serving God as the Supreme Ruler,
and who dedicate their life, their worldly goods, their gifts, talents
and time for the enrichment of human life; for the better health
of humanity; for improved educational opportunities; and for
the lifting up of human-kind to a more generous and caring life.
For these people, I give my thanks, and pray that they may be
blessed in their selfless service to a Higher Power, their God,
and to the care of their fellow human beings wherever they are.
If used in shared worship, please provide an acknowledgement as follows: 
© 2012 Joan Stott – "The Timeless Psalms" RCL Psalm Year B, used with permission.

Psalms 140, 142, 143

Friday, December 30, 2011

Arise and Shine, Reflection on Isaiah 60:1-22

Isaiah is speaking to people who have known defeat and desolation: Arise and shine for your light has come.

We're reading these words as we are still reeling from the economic shocks that have hit our world. We read them as we contemplate the continuing violence among peoples and nations.

Arise and shine for your light has come.

How are we to believe in this great reversal? How do we recognize God's power that has come into our lives? And how do we transmit that great power?

Isaiah explained that when God shares wealth and power, there's a reason: Nations shall come to your light. They all gather together and come to you.

Daily Prayer, Friday, December 30, 2011

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.

Invitatory Psalm  118
O Lord, we give thanks to to you, for you are good;
 your steadfast love endures forever!
Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
With the Lord on my side I do not fear.
What can mortals do to me?
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.

This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.

Psalms 131
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore.

Psalm 132
O Lord, remember in David’s favor all the hardships he endured;
how he swore to the Lord and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,
“I will not enter my house or get into my bed;
I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids,
until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
We heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar.
“Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool.”
Rise up, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.
Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your faithful shout for joy.
For your servant David’s sake do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.
If your sons keep my covenant and my decrees that I shall teach them, their sons also, forevermore, shall sit on your throne.”
For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation:
“This is my resting place forever; here I will reside, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless its provisions; I will satisfy its poor with bread.
Its priests I will clothe with salvation, and its faithful will shout for joy.
There I will cause a horn to sprout up for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one.
His enemies I will clothe with disgrace, but on him, his crown will gleam.”

Psalm 133
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

Daily Lectionary Reading, Isaiah 60:1-6
Arise! Shine! Your light has come; the LORD ’s glory has shone upon you. 2 Though darkness covers the earth and gloom the nations, the LORD will shine upon you; God’s glory will appear over you. 3 Nations will come to your light and kings to your dawning radiance. 4 Lift up your eyes and look all around: they are all gathered; they have come to you. Your sons will come from far away, and your daughters on caregivers’ hips. 5 Then you will see and be radiant; your heart will tremble and open wide, because the sea’s abundance will be turned over to you; the nations’ wealth will come to you. 6 Countless camels will cover your land, young camels from Midian and Ephah. They will all come from Sheba, carrying gold and incense, proclaiming the LORD ’s praises. [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: Perfect Light of revelation, as you shone in the life of Jesus, whose epiphany we celebrate, so shine in us and through us, that we may become beacons of truth and compassion, enlightening all creation with deeds of justice and mercy. Amen. (from RCL Prayers, Fortress Press).

Midday Psalm 119:169-176


Psalms 137, 138, 139

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Epiphany, a Reflection on Matthew 2:1-12

Epiphany--catching on, getting it (finally or suddenly or both). The wise men in Matthew's gospel, whom we have become accustomed to calling the magi, got that the king of the Jews had just been born in Jerusalem. Remember, they were foreigners. The sitting king, Herod, had not himself been aware that there was a  competitor for kingship. The news scared him. He told these travelers that as soon as they located the child to let him know. However, they didn't do what Herod had told them.

Epiphany--the foreigners knew who the king was.
Epiphany--the sitting king knew his status was endangered.

In our own time, we set aside a Day of Epiphany on January 6. But, on years like this one in which that doesn't fall on a Sunday, we celebrate it on the Sunday before January 6. As we read Matthew's story about the wise men's epiphany, we are prompted to think about our own. When did you catch on to who Jesus was? the place he had in your life and decisions? the place he ought to have? Are you comforted by the acceptance of Christ as king or, like Herod, discomfited?

T. S. Eliot wrote the poem  The Journey of the Magi about his own journey toward faith.

Lectio Divina: Matthew 2:11-12

Daily Prayer, Thursday, December 29, 2011

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.

Invitatory Psalm  150
Praise the Lord!

We praise you in your sanctuary;
we praise you in your mighty firmament!
We praise you for your mighty deeds;
We praise you according to your surpassing greatness!
We praise you with trumpet sound;
We praise you with tambourine and dance;
We praise you with strings and pipe!
We praise you with clanging cymbals;
We praise you with loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Psalm 125
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
  which cannot be moved, but abides for ever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
  so the Lord surrounds his people,
  from this time on and for evermore.

Psalm 126
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
  we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
  and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
  ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
  and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
  like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
  reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
  bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
  carrying their sheaves.

Psalm 127
Unless the Lord builds the house,
  those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
  the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
  and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
  for he gives sleep to his beloved.

Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
  the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
  are the sons of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has
  his quiver full of them.
He shall not be put to shame
  when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Psalm 128
Happy is everyone who fears the Lord,
  who walks in his ways.
You shall eat the fruit of the labour of your hands;
  you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.

Psalm 129

‘Often have they attacked me from my youth’
  —let Israel now say—
‘often have they attacked me from my youth,
  yet they have not prevailed against me.
Those who plough ploughed on my back;
  they made their furrows long.’
The Lord is righteous;
  he has cut the cords of the wicked.
May all who hate Zion
  be put to shame and turned back.
Let them be like the grass on the housetops
  that withers before it grows up,
with which reapers do not fill their hands
  or binders of sheaves their arms,
while those who pass by do not say,
  ‘The blessing of the Lord be upon you!
  We bless you in the name of the Lord!’

Daily Lectionary Reading, Matthew 2:1-12
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. 4 He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote: 6 You, Bethlehem, land of Judah, by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah, because from you will come one who governs, who will shepherd my people Israel.” (b) 7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” 9 When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route. 
 _______________________________________ b Mic 5:2; 2 Sam 5:2 [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: O God, help us to be guides to those who seek you. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:161-168


Psalm 135
Praise the Lord!
  Praise the name of the Lord;
  give praise, O servants of the Lord,
you that stand in the house of the Lord,
  in the courts of the house of our God.
Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
  sing to his name, for he is gracious.
Whatever the Lord pleases he does,
  in heaven and on earth,
  in the seas and all deeps.
He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth;
  he makes lightnings for the rain
  and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
Your name, O Lord, endures for ever,
  your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages.
For the Lord will vindicate his people,
  and have compassion on his servants.

The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
  the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but they do not speak;
  they have eyes, but they do not see;
they have ears, but they do not hear,
  and there is no breath in their mouths.
Those who make them
  and all who trust them
  shall become like them.
Praise the Lord!

Psalm 136
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever.
O give thanks to the God of gods,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
who alone does great wonders,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
who by understanding made the heavens,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
who spread out the earth on the waters,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
who made the great lights,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
the sun to rule over the day,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
who struck Egypt through their firstborn,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
and brought Israel out from among them,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
who divided the Red Sea in two,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
who led his people through the wilderness,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
who struck down great kings,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
and killed famous kings,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
Sihon, king of the Amorites,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
and Og, king of Bashan,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
and gave their land as a heritage,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
a heritage to his servant Israel,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever.

It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
and rescued us from our foes,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever;
who gives food to all flesh,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever.

O give thanks to the God of heaven,
  for his steadfast love endures for ever.