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, October 31, 2011

Blessed Are, a Reflection on Matthew 5:1-12 and Reversals, a Reflection on Matthew 5:6-12

Matthew 5:1-12
"Blessed are" begins a list of sentences. "Blessed" may be translated as "joyful" or "deeply happy." Look at both words--blessed and are. Those who are poor in spirit, or who mourn, or who are meek--they are--not some day will be--they are blessed.

The reason for their joy does lie in the future--they will be comforted and inherit the earth, but still in the present tense is "theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

As I look back over these assertions of happiness made by Christ, I wonder at my own attitude. Do I see the possibility of blessedness for the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek? And, if I can do so, do I then wonder at what is being given up by those who are not poor in spirit or do not mourn or are not meek?

Sometimes I interpret this passage along the lines of "Since bad things do happen to good and bad people alike through their own doing and sometimes despite of their doing everything right, they can be comforted in knowing that God is with them and will support them through their difficulties. And, sometimes, I interpret it to mean that as long as I think that I am in total charge of my happiness and don't need God's help, then I am by that decision forsaking long-term happiness.

Thomas Long, in his commentary on Matthew, published by Westminster, says:
The church of Jesus Christ sees its life in two frames of reference. First, it sees what everyone else sees, too--the world of human history, a world of struggle in which the works and serves and lives out its mission. Based on the evidence from this world alone, there is little reason for hope or joy. War follows upon war, might makes right, and the innocent suffer every day.

But the church also possesses a second frame of reference. It sees what others do not see, that God is at work in this world even today and will surely bring all creation to a time of peace and rejoicing. This hoped-for time is the kingdom of heaven. For the world, the kingdom is a sure future; for the faithful, the kingdom is a present reality, giving strength and encouragement to its work.
As I look at the list of those who are blessed, I see some categories that we might strive for--hungering and thirsting for righteousness or peacemaker, for example--and some that would be thrust upon us. But, in all cases, we receive the blessing.

Children of God, Reflection on 1 John 3:1-3

John writes, "Even the world realizes that we are children of God." We are accustomed to recognizing that Christ is the Son. How do we think of ourselves as sons and daughters? How does the world know that we are? What does the world think that being children of God means? Who else do we think is eligible to be children of God?

"We will be like him." In what ways? Will we love? Will we suffer? Will we overcome suffering? Will we reach out to the unlovable? Other ways? Any or all of these?

John is both reassuring us and challenging us. Hope for what we may become helps us to make the effort now.

(with thanks to William Loader, First Thoughts.

Daily Prayer, Monday, October 31, 2011

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth (Psalm 34:1)

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.

Psalms 94, 96

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

Prayer for Today (written by Safiyah Fosua, from

We give you thanks, O God, for all the saints who ever worshiped you
Whether in brush arbors or cathedrals,
Weathered wooden churches or crumbling cement meeting houses
Where your name was lifted and adored.
We give you thanks, O God, for hands lifted in praise:
Manicured hands and hands stained with grease or soil,
Strong hands and those gnarled with age
Holy hands
Used as wave offerings across the land.
We thank you, God, for hardworking saints;
Whether hard-hatted or steel-booted,
Head ragged or aproned,
Blue-collared or three-piece-suited
They left their mark on the earth for you, for us, for our children to come.
Thank you, God, for the tremendous sacrifices made by those who have gone before us.
Bless the memories of your saints, God.
May we learn how to walk wisely from their examples of faith, dedication, worship, and love.

Midday Psalm 119:129-136

Psalms 110, 111, 112,113, 114

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Looking toward All Saints Day, a Reflection on Revelation 7:9-17

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.

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?

John's vision--a great multitude, one too great to count, a multitude made up of people from every tribe and nation. and they are all worshipping God (7:9-11).

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?

Read Psalm 34:1-10, 22

Daily Prayer, Sunday, October 30, 2011

O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling (Psalm 43:5).

Invitatory Psalm Sun 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 90, 92, 93

Daily Lectionary Reading, toward All Saints Day
Revelation 7:9-17, 22
9 After this I looked, and there was a great crowd that no one could number. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language. They were standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They wore white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out with a loud voice: “ Victory belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. ” 11 All the angels stood in a circle around the throne, and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell facedown before the throne and worshipped God, 12 saying, “ Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and always. Amen. ” 13 Then one of the elders said to me, “ Who are these people wearing white robes, and where did they come from? ” 14 I said to him, “ Sir, you know. ” Then he said to me, “ These people have come out of great hardship. They have washed their robes and made them white in the Lamb’s blood. 15 This is the reason they are before God’s throne. They worship him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They won’t hunger or thirst anymore. No sun or scorching heat will beat down on them, 17 because the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them. He will lead them to the springs of life-giving water,  and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. ” [Common English Bible]

Psalm 34:1-10, 22
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise will always be in my mouth. 2 I praise the LORD — let the suffering listen and rejoice. 3 Magnify the LORD with me! Together let us lift his name up high! 4 I sought the LORD and he answered me. He delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to God will shine; their faces are never ashamed. 6 This suffering person cried out: the LORD listened and saved him from every trouble. 7 On every side, the LORD ’s messenger protects those who honor God; and he delivers them. 8 Taste and see how good the LORD is! The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy! 9 You who are the LORD ’s holy ones, honor him because those who honor him don’t lack a thing. 10 Even strong young lions go without and get hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
22 The LORD saves his servants’ lives; all those who take refuge in him won’t be held responsible for anything.  [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: We  bless your holy name, O God, for all your servants who, having finished their course, now rest from their labors. Give us grace to follow the example of their steadfastness and faithfulness, to your honor and glory; through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. UMBOW 415

Psalms 108, 109

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Origins of Halloween

Where did the idea of Halloween come from? Here's what says:
Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating. In a number of countries around the world, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people continue to usher in the winter season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.

For more, go to

God's Kingdom--When and Where? Reflection on 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Paul wrote to this early congregation, "You are being called into God's own kingdom and glory." Paul then praised them for embodying God's word.

The Thessalonians had heard Paul preach and had been able to discern that the source of Paul's word was God. They more than felt good about this; they also did good. As Paul put it, "God's word is at work in you believers."

Paul is speaking of the Kingdom of God as something that is already here, not something that we will have to wait for until after we die.

He said, "You are witnesses." To test how we are doing, look at the news for today  Do you see much Kingdom of God there? If not, look at the work the church is doing (include your own self here). Could Paul see God's work in us believers?

Lectio Divina: Psalm 107:9-13

Daily Prayer, Saturday, October 29, 2011

O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling (Psalm 43:5).

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 81, 82, 85

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
9 You remember, brothers and sisters, our efforts and hard work. We preached God’s good news to you, while we worked night and day so we wouldn’t be a burden on any of you. 10 You and God are witnesses of how holy, just, and blameless we were toward you believers. 11 Likewise, you know how we treated each of you like a father treats his own children. 12 We appealed to you, encouraged you, and pleaded with you to live lives worthy of the God who is calling you into his own kingdom and glory. 13 We also thank God constantly for this: when you accepted God’s word that you heard from us, you welcomed it for what it truly is. Instead of accepting it as a human message, you accepted it as God’s message, and it continues to work in you who are believers. [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: Direct our actions, our words, and thoughts to be expressions of your compassion. Amen.

Psalm 107

Friday, October 28, 2011

Deserts and Fields, Reflection on Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37

Psalm 107 is a call to praise God who leads us, instructs us, redeems us, and gives to us generous gifts. Those people in this week's reading from Joshua knew this God. The words of this psalm would have fit their situation as they prepared to cross the Jordan and enter into Canaan, the land that would be known as Israel.

And the words continue to fit the situation of God's people through the ages. We can remind ourselves and witness to others that God's steadfast love does endure, that we have felt God's presence lead us through and out of troubles.

As I read verses 33-37, I am struck that although they can be read quite literally, they don't have to be. That is, God is the creator of our earth, the source of the rain necessary for life to continue. But, God is the source of what Jesus called living water. God works through us turning our parched lives into fruitful ones.

Lectio Divina: Psalm 107:33-37

Daily Prayer, Friday, October 28, 2011

O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling (Psalm 43:5).

Invitatory Psalm Fri 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 107:1-7,33-37

“ Give thanks to the LORD

because he is good,
because his faithful love
lasts forever! ”
2 That’s what those who are redeemed
by the LORD say,
the ones God redeemed
from the power of their enemies,
3 the ones God gathered
from various countries,
from east and west, north and south.
4 Some of the redeemed had wandered into the desert, into the wasteland.
They couldn’t find their way
to a city or town.
5 They were hungry and thirsty;
their lives were slipping away.
6 So they cried out to the LORD
in their distress,
and God delivered them
from their desperate circumstances.
7 God led them straight
to human habitation.

33 God turns rivers into desert, watery springs into thirsty ground, 34 fruitful land into unproductive dirt, when its inhabitants are wicked. 35 But God can also turn the desert into watery pools, thirsty ground into watery springs, 36 where he settles the hungry. They even build a city and live there! 37 They plant fields and vineyards and obtain a fruitful harvest. [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: Trustworthy God, we give thanks that our lives have become less stressful, and has even been transformed by your abiding presence with us. We give thanks for the calming presence of God in our lives; and for the way God’s peace reassures us, despite the events and struggles of life both as an individual and as a community. Whenever we call to God for help, it is so reassuring to know that our Compassionate God hears and understands our needs and dependency upon our God. 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, October 27, 2011

A River Crossing, Reflection on Joshua 3:7-17

They are poised to cross over the Jordan into the land promised by them. Compare this crossing with the one that took them from captivity in Egypt into their long testing in the wilderness (Exodus 14).

As Pharaoh's army had drawn near, the people had been afraid. The Lord instructed Moses what to do. The Lord sent a strong wind to make a path through the sea so the Israelites could cross over on dry ground.

Now, forty years later, Moses has died, and Joshua is their appointed leader. He also receives instructions from the Lord. Once again the waters are divided, and the people can cross.

What is different is that on this crossing, the priests and the ark of the covenant are part of the story. Also different is that this time is that they are not just one group; they are twelve tribes.

The priests go first with the ark. As their feet enter the river, the waters begin to separate.

Imagine being one of the priests and stepping into the rushing water. When the people saw the water piling up, they then stepped into the path. Imagine being able to trust that the danger would wait for you to make your way across.

In America, we are going through economic difficulties and are trying to choose the leader best able to lead us through.

They had the ark to hold. What are we holding to remind us of God's commands and help?

Lectio Divina: Psalm 107:1-2, 6

Daily Prayer, Thursday, October 27, 2011

O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling (Psalm 43:5).

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
Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For they have no pain; their bodies are sound and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are; they are not plagued like other people.
Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them like a garment.
Their eyes swell out with fatness; their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues range over the earth.
Therefore the people turn and praise them, and find no fault in them.
And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Such are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain I have kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
For all day long I have been plagued, and am punished every morning.
If I had said, “I will talk on in this way,” I would have been untrue to the circle of your children.
But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!
They are like a dream when one awakes; on awaking you despise their phantoms.
When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart,
I was stupid and ignorant; I was like a brute beast toward you.
Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me with honor.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Indeed, those who are far from you will perish; you put an end to those who are false to you.
But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, to tell of all your works.

Daily Lectionary Reading, Joshua 3:7-17

7 The LORD said to Joshua, “ Today I will begin to make you great in the opinion of all Israel. Then they will know that I will be with you in the same way that I was with Moses. 8 “ You are to command the priests who carry the covenant chest, ‘As soon as you come to the bank of the Jordan, stand still in the Jordan.’ ” 9 Joshua said to the Israelites, “ Come close. Listen to the words of the LORD your God. ” 10 Then Joshua said, “ This is how you will know that the living God is among you and will completely remove the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites before you. 11 Look! The covenant chest of the ruler of the entire earth is going to cross over in front of you in the Jordan. 12 Now pick twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one per tribe. 13 The soles of the priests’ feet, who are carrying the chest of the LORD , ruler of the whole earth, will come to rest in the water of the Jordan. At that moment, the water of the Jordan will be cut off. The water flowing downstream will stand still in a single heap. ” 14 The people marched out from their tents to cross over the Jordan. The priests carrying the covenant chest were in front of the people. 15 When the priests who were carrying the chest came to the Jordan, their feet touched the edge of the water. The Jordan had overflowed its banks completely, the way it does during the entire harvest season. 16 But at that moment the water of the Jordan coming downstream stood still. It rose up as a single heap very far off, just below Adam, which is the city next to Zarethan. The water going down to the desert sea (that is, the Dead Sea) was cut off completely. The people crossed opposite Jericho. 17 So the priests carrying the LORD ’s covenant chest stood firmly on dry land in the middle of the Jordan. Meanwhile, all Israel crossed over on dry land, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, we give you thanks for those you have sent to lead us through the challenges of our lives. Give us the courage to answer your call when we are needed to help the people around us. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:113-120

Psalm 105
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.
Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.
He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.
He is mindful of his covenant forever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac,
which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.”
When they were few in number, of little account, and strangers in it,
wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people,
he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account,
saying, “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”
When he summoned famine against the land, and broke every staff of bread,
he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron;
until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord kept testing him.
The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions,
to instruct his officials at his pleasure, and to teach his elders wisdom.
Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham.
And the Lord made his people very fruitful, and made them stronger than their foes,
whose hearts he then turned to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.
He sent his servant Moses, and Aaron whom he had chosen.
They performed his signs among them, and miracles in the land of Ham.
He sent darkness, and made the land dark; they rebelled against his words.
He turned their waters into blood, and caused their fish to die.
Their land swarmed with frogs, even in the chambers of their kings.
He spoke, and there came swarms of flies, and gnats throughout their country.
He gave them hail for rain, and lightning that flashed through their land.
He struck their vines and fig trees, and shattered the trees of their country.
He spoke, and the locusts came, and young locusts without number;
they devoured all the vegetation in their land, and ate up the fruit of their ground.
He struck down all the firstborn in their land, the first issue of all their strength.
Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold, and there was no one among their tribes who stumbled.
Egypt was glad when they departed, for dread of them had fallen upon it.
He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night.
They asked, and he brought quails, and gave them food from heaven in abundance.
He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river.
For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant.
So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing.
He gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the wealth of the peoples,
that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the Lord!