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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

God's wishes for us, a Reflection on Psalm 19

"Where did you see God?" our small group asks us at the beginning of each meeting. I don't think I have ever answered by quoting the first verses of Psalm 19, but I may remember to next time.

"Look at the sky," the psalmist says. "Notice that it's day. Notice that it's night. Where do you think the sun came from? Why do you think it moves?"

God has so ordered the universe that the sun rises and sets, the sun provides light and warmth for us.

If only we humans could respond affirmatively to God's intentions.

The commands of God are intended to help us live good lives, orderly lives, joyful lives.

And they are intended to help us avoid behavior that would harm us and others. God's law provides rewards and boundaries (are these always opposites?)

Although we may want to behave wisely, we may fail at times. And we live among people who don't seem to care about doing right at all. Protect us from them, and protect us from failing to live up to God's wishes for us.

God is not a cosmic bellhop, Michael Shevack & Jack Bemporad tell us in their Stupid ways, Smart ways to think about God.

Just ring the bell, and God becomes your own personal Pavlovian puppy. eagerly He goes to work, gratifying your every desire, indulging your every whim....
And, by making God an extension of your own desires, you have made your own desires God-like. In essence, you have made yourself God. You are the center of the universe and God is at the periphery.

That hardly resembles a healthy faith. Indeed, it is more akin to cult behavior. it turns man into God. It has a very ancient name, idolatry. because the first step in any meaningful religion is to recognize our proper place in the scheme of things....

Daily Prayer, Friday, September 30, 2011

Restore us, O God;
 let your face shine, that we may be saved.

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 76, 80

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 19
Heaven is declaring God’s glory; the sky is proclaiming his handiwork. 2 One day gushes the news to the next, and one night informs another what needs to be known. 3 Of course, there’s no speech, no words— their voices can’t be heard— 4 but their soundk extends throughout the world; their words reach the ends of the earth. God has made a tent in heaven for the sun. 5 The sun is like a groom coming out of his honeymoon suite; like a warrior, it thrills at running its course. 6 It rises in one end of the sky; its circuit is complete at the other. Nothing escapes its heat. 7 The LORD ’s Instruction is perfect, reviving one’s very being. The LORD ’s laws are faithful, making naive people wise. 8 The LORD ’s regulations are right, gladdening the heart. The LORD ’s commands are pure, giving light to the eyes. 9 Honoring the LORD is correct, lasting forever. The LORD ’s judgments are true. All of these are righteous! 10 They are more desirable than gold— than tons of pure gold!— and they are sweeter than honey— even dripping off the honeycomb! 11 No doubt about it: your servant is enlightened by them; there is great reward in keeping them. 12 But can anyone know what they’ve accidentally done wrong? Clear me of any unknown sin 13 and save your servant from willful sins. Don’t let them rule me. Then I’ll be completely blameless; I’ll be innocent of great wrongdoing. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, LORD , my rock and my redeemer
[Common English Bible]

Today's Prayer: Holy God, when we combine the complex simplicity of your law, and the glories of your creative and sustaining powers, we are even more overwhelmed by the thoughts of God that flood into our minds and hearts. We seek your blessings as we try to live these thoughts out each day within this world you have created as our home and haven— even as we fail to abide by these laws, and we damage some part of your creation. O God, keep us from deliberate sins and don’t let them have control us! Each day, may the words of our mouths and the thoughts of our hearts be pleasing to you, our Rock and Redeemer. Amen. If used in shared worship, please provide an acknowledgement as follows: © 2011 Joan Stott – "The Timeless Psalms" RCL Psalm Year A, used with permission.

Midday Psalm 119:121-128

Psalm 106

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Before and After, a Reflection on Exodus 20:7-9, 12-20

"Then God spoke, 'I am the Lord your God....You shall have no other gods before me.'" begins the passage we call the Ten Commandments. In his book of prayers, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, Walter Brueggememann helps us to articulate our recognition of who God is and who we are.

Look particularly at We are second and you are first that begins:
Before our well-being, there was your graciousness,
before our delight, there was your generosity,
before our joy, there was your good will.

Quote from Allen & Williamson's Preaching from the Old Testament:
Eight of the ten words begin: "you shall not." People often speak of negative commandments as off-putting "do nots" that constrict life....But that misconstrues the negative instructions in the Torah. First, we can keep all of them while taking a nap. ...Second, negative mitzvoth deal with the parameters of behavior. They do not specify what we should do, simply what we should not do. They name the actions that cancel all possibility of living with others a life of well-being (which can only be lived with others.)

Daily Prayer, Thursday, September 29, 2011

Restore us, O God;
 let your face shine, that we may be saved.


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 73

Daily Lectionary Reading, Exodus 20:7-9, 12-20

2 I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 You must have no other gods before me.
4 Do not make an idol for yourself—no form whatsoever—of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 5 Do not bow down to them or worship them, because I, the LORD your God, am a passionate God. I punish children for their parents’ sins even to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me. 6 But I am loyal and gracious to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 Do not use the LORD your God’s name as if it were of no significance; the LORD won’t forgive anyone who uses his name that way.
12 Honor your father and your mother so that your life will be long on the fertile land that the LORD your God is giving you. 13 Do not kill. 14 Do not commit adultery. 15 Do not steal. 16 Do not testify falsely against your neighbor. 17 Do not desire your neighbor’s house. Do not desire and try to take your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox, donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor. 18 When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the horn, and the mountain smoking, the people shook with fear and stood at a distance. 19 They said to Moses, “ You speak to us, and we’ll listen. But don’t let God speak to us, or we’ll die. ” 20 Moses said to the people, “ Don’t be afraid, because God has come only to test you and to make sure you are always in awe of God so that you don’t sin. ” 21 The people stood at a distance while Moses approached the thick darkness in which God was present.
Prayer for Today ([27]a_2011.htm):

God of light and God of darkness, God of many words, and God who does not need words, we are surrounded day and night by messages from God. All creation sings the praise of our Creating God; the skies tell the same message day after day, night after night; with God’s glory and majestic power the theme of their wordless messages and tuneless songs of praise. Our human limitations prevent us from adequately describing the wonders of our God, and we can only make do with words such as ‘speechless awe’ and in ‘breathless wonder’ of our God. God of wisdom and understanding, with hearts and minds filled with praise and thankfulness, we gather to meditate on God’s creative powers, and the way that God has given us laws by which to live in community; with the potential for each of us to respect and honour our ‘neighbour’; and to live together in harmony within God’s reign of peace and justice. We seek God’s blessing as we strive to obey these laws, which also calls us to praise and worship God with each part of our humanity.
If used in shared worship, please provide an acknowledgement as follows:
© 2011 Joan Stott – "The Timeless Psalms" RCL Psalm Year A, used with permission.

Midday Psalm 119:113-120

Psalm 105

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Restore Us, a Reflection on Psalm 80

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Store up your might, and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine that we may be saved.

We can read this ancient prayer and deduce the circumstances under which it was first voiced. We can think of times that the people of Israel depended on the guidance of the Lord as a flock of sheep depended on their shepherd. We recognize the names of Rachel's sons. We can recall the various times in their history that they were far from their homes or the times when they were at home but that home was under attack by enemies. And, recognizing and remembering their difficulties, we can recognize and remember that in those difficulties, they turned to the Lord for rescue.

We, their descendants, can also read this ancient prayer in the midst of our own contemporary disruptions and troubles. And, we, like them, can voice our recognition of the power and concern of God. And, we, like them, can gather to ask for God's help.

"O Lord God, how long will you be angry?" this psalm asks. This lament is rather frank--the people are unhappy, their neighbors have scorn for them, their enemies are laughing at them.

They admit their despair, not pretending that things are all right. But they don't accept it as permanent. They continue to pray:

Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

The original hearers of this song were the people of Israel facing being overcome by the Assyrian army. They turn to the Lord, "You brought a vine out of Egypt, you planted it in a place you had prepared for it. The vine flourished. O Lord, why have you turned against your vine. Why have you broken down the walls that protected us so that just anybody could reach in and take our grapes? O God, we pray to you. Come back to us. Restore us and this time, we'll be faithful to you."

The psalmist is attributing all good and bad to the Lord. Everything that happens through human actions begins with God. We are being punished because we deserve to be. Even after our sins, we can expect God to care for us and to restore us to well-being.

The Dallas Morning News has a section, Texas Faith, that  discusses matters of religion, politics, and culture. About three years ago, they took  a break from politics because that week had had so many examples of human suffering large and small: Hurricane Ike affects millions. And a 17-month-old boy whose family escaped the storm in Dallas is killed in an accident. Trains collide in California, killing dozens. Suicide bombers in Yemen, Pakistan and Iraq murder innocent bystanders. The genocide in Darfur continues unabated. Etc etc etc.

Here's the panel's discussion: How faith explains suffering

Lectio Divina: Psalm 80:14-15

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Restore us, O God;
  let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Invitatory Psalm Wed 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into the Lord’s presence with singing.

We know that you are God.
It is you that made us, and we are yours.
we are your people and the sheep of your pasture.

We enter your gates with thanksgiving,
and your courts with praise.
We give thanks to you, bless your name.
For you, O Lord, are good;
your steadfast love endures forever,
and your faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 71
In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.

My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all day long.
Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent.
For my enemies speak concerning me, and those who watch for my life consult together.
They say, “Pursue and seize that person whom God has forsaken, for there is no one to deliver.”

O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come.

Your power and your righteousness, O God, reach the high heavens.
You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again;
    from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.
You will increase my honor, and comfort me once again.

I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have rescued.
All day long my tongue will talk of your righteous help,

Psalm 72
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.
May he live while the sun endures,
    and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
    like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound,
     until the moon is no more.
May he have dominion from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.

For he delivers the needy when they call,
    the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
    and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
    and precious is their blood in his sight.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be your glorious name forever; may your glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 80

 Shepherd of Israel, listen!
You, the one who leads Joseph
as if he were a sheep.
You, who are enthroned
upon the winged heavenly creatures.
Show yourself 2 before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh!
Wake up your power!
Come to save us!
3 Restore us, God!
Make your face shine
so that we can be saved!
4 LORD God of heavenly forces,
how long will you fume
against your people’s prayer?
5 You’ve fed them bread made of tears;
you’ve given them tears
to drink three times over!
6 You’ve put us at odds with our neighbors;
our enemies make fun of us.
7 Restore us, God of heavenly forces!
Make your face shine
so that we can be saved!
8 You brought a vine out of Egypt.
You drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it;
then it planted its roots deep,
filling the land.
10 The mountains were covered by its shade;
the mighty cedars were covered
by its branches.
11 It sent its branches
all the way to the sea;
its shoots went
all the way to the Euphrates River.
12 So why have you now torn down its walls
so that all who come along
can pluck its fruit,
13 so that any boar from the forest
can tear it up,
so that the bugs can feed on it?
14 Please come back, God of heavenly forces!
Look down from heaven and perceive it!
Attend to this vine,
15 this root that you planted
with your strong hand,
this son whom you secured
as your very own.
16 It is burned with fire.
It is chopped down.
They die at the rebuke coming from you.
17 Let your hand be
with the one on your right side—
with the one whom you secured
as your own—
18 then we will not turn away from you!
Revive us
so that we can call on your name.
19 Restore us,
LORD God of heavenly forces!
Make your face shine
so that we can be saved! [Common English Bible]

Today's Prayer: O Lord, the Great Shepherd of your people—
we come to worship you, seeking your tender care.
Lead us, Good Shepherd, into your path of your
fullness of life, through your justice, peace and joy.

O God the Father of us all, we are aware that we
have failed to worship and serve you as we should.
Come to us, Restoring Lord, with your forgiveness;
and bind us to yourself as your belov├Ęd children.

May the radiant light of God’s face shine upon us
as we come to worship the God of light and mercy.
As we receive the light of your presence, O God,
may our prayers and our worship be acceptable to you. Amen.
If used in shared worship, please provide an acknowledgement as follows:
© 2010 Joan Stott – "The Timeless Psalms" RCL Psalm Year A, used with permission.

Midday Psalm 119:105-112

Psalm 104

Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty, wrapped in light as with a garment. 
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, 
you make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind,
you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers.

You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken.
You cover it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.
At your rebuke they flee; at the sound of your thunder they take to flight.
They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys to the place that you appointed for them.
You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth.

You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills,
giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst.
By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches.
From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, 
to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart.

The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
In them the birds build their nests; the stork has its home in the fir trees.
The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the coneys.

You have made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.
You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.
The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.
When the sun rises, they withdraw and lie down in their dens.

People go out to their work and to their labor until the evening.
O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there,
living things both small and great.
There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.
These all look to you to give them their food in due season;
when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

When you hide your face, they are dismayed; 
when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works—
who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.


Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An Unfruitful Vineyard, Reflection on Isaiah 5:1-7

Isaiah tells the people of Israel this parable: The owner of the land, with great effort, plants vines on a very fertile hill. He got grapes, but not the kind of grapes he had worked for. He vows to make a new start, to tear down the wall that protects the vines, to quit tending them, not to prune or hoe, and he will quit watering them. 

Isaiah is trying to get them to think about how much sense the landowner's reaction makes. "Apply this parable to your own lives. God gave you this land and cared for your needs. God expected great things from you. God expected to you to yield justice and righteousness. That's not what you did."

Lectio Divina: Isaiah 5:1-2

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Restore us, O God;
  let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Invitatory Psalm Tuesday 84
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow for herself
where she may lay her you, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my Ruler and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.

Psalm 65
1Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed, 2 O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come. 3 When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.

4Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.

5By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. 6By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might. 7 You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.

8Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy. 9You 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. 10You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.

11You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness. 12The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, 13the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

Psalm 66
1Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
2 we sing the glory of your name; we give you glorious praise.

3Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you. 4All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.”

5 Come and see what God has done: God is awesome in deeds among mortals.
6 God turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in the One 7 who rules forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations— let the rebellious not exalt themselves.

8Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of  praise be heard, 9 who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.
18If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. 19But truly God has listened and has given heed to the words of my prayer. 20Blessed be God, you have not rejected my prayer or removed your steadfast love from me.

Psalm 70
1Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O Lord, make haste to help me!….4Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”

5 I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!

Daily Lectionary Reading, Isaiah 5:1-7

Let me sing for my loved one
a love song for his vineyard.
My loved one had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.
2 He dug it,
cleared away its stones,
planted it with excellent vines,
built a tower inside it,
and dug out a wine vat in it.
He expected it to grow good grapes—
but it grew rotten grapes.
3 So now, you who live in Jerusalem,
you people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard:
4 What more was there to do
for my vineyard
that I haven’t done for it?
When I expected it
to grow good grapes,
why did it grow rotten grapes?
5 Now let me tell you
what I’m doing to my vineyard.
I’m removing its hedge,
so it will be destroyed.
I’m breaking down its walls,
so it will be trampled.
6 I’ll turn it into a ruin;
it won’t be pruned or hoed,
and thorns and thistles will grow up.
I will command the clouds
not to rain on it.
7 The vineyard of
the LORD of heavenly forces
is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are the plantings
in which God delighted.
God expected justice,
but there was bloodshed;
but there was a cry of distress!

Today's Prayer: O God, what do you think about how we have used the gifts you have shared with us? What do we think about the various ways that you protect us from dangers? Or, do we think about them at all? Forgive us for the ways we have misused your gifts, the times that we have neglected your concerns. Forgive us. Remind us of your expectations and lead us into being the kind of people that we should be. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:97-104


Psalm 102
1Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you. 2 Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call.
7 I lie awake; I am like a lonely bird on the housetop. 8 All day long my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse.
11 My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass. 12 But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; your name endures to all generations.

17 You will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their prayer.
25 Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you endure; they will all wear out like a garment. You change them like clothing, and they pass away; 27 but you are the same, and your years have no end. 28 The children of your servants shall live secure; their offspring shall be established in your presence.

Psalm 103
1Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless your holy name.
2Bless the Lord, O my soul, we do not forget all your benefits—3who forgives all our iniquity, who heals all our diseases, 4 who redeems our life from the Pit, who crowns us with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies us with good as long as we live so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

9 You will not always accuse, nor will you keep your anger forever. 10 You do not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is your steadfast love toward those who fear you; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far you removes our transgressions from us.

13 As a parent has compassion for his children, so you have compassion for those who fear you. 14For you know how we were made; you remember that we are dust. 15 As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; 16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

17But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear you, and you righteousness to children’s children, 18to those who keep your covenant and remember to do your commandments.

19 You have established your throne in the heavens, and your kingdom rules over all.….

Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Unfaithful Tenants, Reflection on Matthew 21:33-46

Isaiah had told what would happen when God was disappointed in Israel's behavior. Jesus is asking his listeners to reflect on their own stewardship of God's gifts. "What should the owner of a vineyard do when the tenants have abused their responsibilities?"

The tenants were put in charge. They failed their duties. The owner will eliminate them.

The chief priests and Pharisees, hearing this condemnation of those in charge, knew that Jesus was talking about them.

What do we Christians know when we hear this parable? What do we think when we reflect on our own stewardship of the gifts that God has entrusted to our care?

Lectio Divina: Matthew 21:42

Daily Prayer, Monday, September 26, 2011

Restore us, O God;
  let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Invitatory Psalm  95
O come, let us sing to the Lord:
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
We come into your presence with thanksgiving;
we make a joyful noise to you with songs of praise.
You, Lord, are a great God,

In your hands are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are yours also.
The sea is yours, for you have made it,
and the dry land, which your hands have formed.

O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us we kneel before our Maker!
For you are our God,
and we are the people of your pasture,
and the sheep of your hand.

Psalm 57
1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by.
2 I cry to God Most High, you who fulfill your purpose for me. 3 You will send from heaven and save me, you will put to shame those who trample on me. You will send forth your steadfast love and faithfulness.

4 I lie down among lions that greedily devour human prey; their teeth are spears and arrows, their tongues sharp swords.
8 Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn. 9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. 10 For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens; your faithfulness extends to the clouds.

11Be exalted, O God, above the heavens. Let your glory be over all the earth.

Psalm 61
1Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

2From the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; 3for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

4Let me abide in your tent forever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings. 5For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name….8 So I will always sing praises to your name, as I pay my vows day after day.

Psalm 64
1 Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from the dread enemy. 2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the scheming of evildoers, 3 who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, 4 shooting from ambush at the blameless; they shoot suddenly and without fear.

5 They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, “Who can see us? 6 Who can search out our crimes? We have thought out a cunningly conceived plot.” For the human heart and mind are deep. 7 But you will overcome them....
9Then everyone ... will tell what God has brought about. They will ponder what you have done. 10Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord who is their refuge. Let all the upright in heart glory.

Daily Lectionary Reading, Matthew 21:33-46

33 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower. Then he rented it to tenant farmers and took a trip. 34 When it was time for harvest, he sent his servants to the tenant farmers to collect his fruit. 35 But the tenant farmers grabbed his servants. They beat some of them, and some of them they killed. Some of them they stoned to death.

36 “Again he sent other servants, more than the first group. They treated them in the same way. 37 “Finally he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

38 “But when the tenant farmers saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come on, let’s kill him and we’ll have his inheritance.’ 39 They grabbed him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

40 “ When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenant farmers? ”

41 They said, “ He will totally destroy those wicked farmers and rent the vineyard to other tenant farmers who will give him the fruit when it’s ready. ”

42 Jesus said to them, “ Haven’t you ever read in the scriptures, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord has done this, and it’s amazing in our eyes? (o) 43 Therefore, I tell you that God’s kingdom will be taken away from you and will be given to a people who produce its fruit. 44 Whoever falls on this stone will be crushed. And the stone will crush the person it falls on. ”

45 Now when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard the parable, they knew Jesus was talking about them. 46 They were trying to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, who thought he was a prophet.
[Common English Bible]
o  Ps 118:22–23

Prayer for Today: You have provided for us a cornerstone on which we can build your church. Form us into a people who can hear your words and respond to them according to your will.  Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:89-96


Psalm 88

1O Lord, God of my salvation, when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
2let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry.
3For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.
4I am counted among those who go down to the Pit; I am like those who have no help,
5like those forsaken among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand.
6You have put me in the depths of the Pit, in the regions dark and deep.
7Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
8You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a thing of horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call on you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.
10Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise up to praise you? Selah
11Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?
13But I, O Lord, cry out to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14O Lord, why do you cast me off? Why do you hide your face from me?
15Wretched and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am desperate

Psalm 91
1You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, 2will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust. 3 You will deliver me from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence;4 you will cover me with your pinions, and under your wings I will find refuge; your faithfulness is a shield and buckler.”

5You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, 6or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday.….

9Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place,
10no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. 11For God will command the angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. 13You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.

God says, 14 “Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. 15When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. 16With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.”

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Jesus Christ is Lord, a Reflection on Philippians 2:5-13

In their The First Paul (, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan offer us three understandings of this passage by contemporary scholars:

    1) Christ is being contrasted with Adam, who with Eve wanted to be like God. Rather, he emptied himself.

    2) The text is referring to the preexistent Christ, the prebirth Jesus, who emptied himself to become human; that is, vulnerable, even to the point of being executed.

    3) Paul's first hearers would have been aware that the Roman emperor claimed to be "in the form of God" and regarded "equality with God as something to be exploited." They would have heard the claims that the emperor was divine, Lord, Son of God, Savior of the World, bringer of peace on earth. Paul is making the radical claim that Jesus Christ is the one who deserves the titles instead of Caesar.

Borg and Crossan say we don't have to choose between these three interpretations:
All make the same claim. What we see in Jesus--Christ crucified and raised as "Jesus Christ the Lord"--is the way, the path. This, Paul says in this text, is the mind that the followers of Jesus are to have. What we see in Jesus is the way, the path, of personal transformation. And it is the way, the path, of advocacy of a way of life very different from and in opposition to the normalcy of "this world." And it would cost Paul his life.

Daily Prayer, Sunday, September 25, 2011

O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.

Invitatory Psalm 24

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.

You have founded it on the seas and established it on the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in your holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord, and vindication from the God of heir salvation.
Such is the company of those who seek you, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.

Who is this King of glory?
the Lord of hosts,
You are the King of glory.

Psalms 52, 53, 54

Daily Lectionary Reading, Philippians 2:5-13
5 Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:

6 Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
7 But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God highly honored him
and gave him a name above all names,
10 so that at the name of Jesus everyone
in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11 and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my loved ones, just as you always obey me, not just when I am present but now even more while I am away, carry out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes.

Today's Prayer: O Christ our Lord, when we consider what you gave up for us, our concerns and selfishness seem pretty petty in contrast. Help us to remember that you are the Lord, that our position and possession should not be substituted for you. Keep us obedient to your will. Amen.
Psalms 78, 79, 83, 86

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Consolation from love, Reflection on Philippians 2:1-4

Paul encouraged Christians to live in community and to care for one another. How might such a community look now? 

Generations of Hope is a nonprofit adoption agency that has designed a community to resemble a nurturing small town, complete with surrogate grandparents. Created out of a shuttered Air Force base, Generations of Hope seeks to rescue children from foster care and place them with adoptive parents who have moved here. About 30 children currently live with parents in 10 homes. The community is also home to 42 older people who have subsidized rent.

Read more about this amazing experiment 

Daily Prayer, Saturday, September 24, 2011

O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.

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 50, 51

Daily Lectionary Reading, Philippians 2:1-4
 Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, 2 complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. 3 Don’t do anything for selfish purposes but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. 4 Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: O Lord, we pause today to consider how you have loved us. Kindle within us the will and the ability to show that love to others. Cleanse us from selfishness and self-centeredness. Open us to our ability to make our world a better place. Amen.

Psalm 75
We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks; your name is near.
People tell of your wondrous deeds.

At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity.
When the earth totters, with all its inhabitants, it is I who keep its pillars steady. Selah
I say to the boastful, “Do not boast,” and to the wicked, “Do not lift up your horn;
do not lift up your horn on high, or speak with insolent neck.”

For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up;
but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.

For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed; he will pour a draught from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.

But I will rejoice forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.

Psalm 77
I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
I think of God, and I moan; I meditate, and my spirit faints. Selah

You keep my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old, and remember the years of long ago.
I commune with my heart in the night; I meditate and search my spirit:
“Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love ceased forever? Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah

And I say, “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds.

Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples.
With your strong arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; the very deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
    your lightnings lit up the world;
    the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.