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, August 31, 2012

Praise for the King, a Reflection on Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9

If we read this week's passage from Song of Solomon as praise for a bridegroom, we can also think of Psalm 45 as describing one who is loved and is honored.

But, the praise is not restricted to one woman's new husband. We can read Psalm 45 as extending to the king--who, might be thought of in ancient times as assuming the responsibility of care and protection to his people, like a husband, say.

Somewhat troubling is the NRSV translation of verse 6 that addresses the king aselohim. According to John H. Hayes in Preaching through the Christian Year B, most English translations had put this reading in a footnote or margin.

I suppose Christians can overcome any problem with this verse by thinking that the ancient psalmist was anticipating the birth of Christ the King.

In any case, the king is this psalm has important characteristics that all persons in power should attempt to emulate: love of righteousness and hatred of wickedness.

Daily Prayer, Friday, August 31, 2012

O Lord, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell on your holy hill?
Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,
and speak the truth from their heart

Invitatory Psalm 118
Give thanks to the LORD because he is good,
because his faithful love lasts forever.
2 Let Israel say it:
“ God’s faithful love lasts forever! ”
3 Let the house of Aaron say it:
“ God’s faithful love lasts forever! ”
4 Let those who honor the LORD say it:
“ God’s faithful love lasts forever! ”

5 In tight circumstances, I cried out to the LORD .
The LORD answered me with wide-open spaces.
6 The LORD is for me —I won’t be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?
7 The LORD is for me—as my helper.
I look in victory on those who hate me.
8 It’s far better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust any human.
9 It’s far better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust any human leader.
10 All the nations surrounded me,
but I cut them down in the LORD ’s name.
11 Yes, they surrounded me on every single side,
but I cut them down in the LORD ’s name.
12 They surrounded me like bees,
but they were extinguished like burning thorns.
I cut them down in the LORD ’s name!
13 I was pushed so hard I nearly died,
but the LORD helped me.
14 The LORD was my strength and protection;
he was my saving help!

15 The sounds of joyful songs and deliverance
are heard in the tents of the righteous:
“ The LORD ’s strong hand is victorious!
16 The LORD ’s strong hand is ready to strike!
The LORD ’s strong hand is victorious! ”
17 I won’t die—no, I will live
and declare what the LORD has done.
18 Yes, the LORD definitely disciplined me,
but he didn’t hand me over to death.

19 Open the gates of righteousness for me
so I can come in and give thanks to the LORD !
20 This is the LORD ’s gate;
those who are righteous enter through it.
21 I thank you because you answered me,
because you were my saving help.
22 The stone rejected by the builders
is now the main foundation stone!
23 This has happened because of the LORD ;
it is astounding in our sight!
24 This is the day the LORD acted;
we will rejoice and celebrate in it!

25 LORD, please save us!
LORD, please let us succeed!
26 The one who enters in the LORD ’s name is blessed;
we bless all of you from the LORD ’s house.
27 The LORD is God!
He has shined a light on us!
So lead the festival offering with ropes
all the way to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God—I will give thanks to you!
You are my God—I will lift you up high!
29 Give thanks to the LORD because he is good,
because his faithful love lasts forever.
[Common English Bible]

Psalm 76
In Judah God is known, his name is great in Israel.
His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.
There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war. Selah

Glorious are you, more majestic than the everlasting mountains.
The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil;
they sank into sleep; none of the troops was able to lift a hand.
At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned.
But you indeed are awesome!
Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?

From the heavens you uttered judgment;
the earth feared and was still when God rose up
   to establish judgment, to save all the oppressed of the earth. Selah
Human wrath serves only to praise you,
   when you bind the last bit of your wrath around you.

Make vows to the Lord your God, and perform them;
let all who are around him bring gifts to the one who is awesome,
who cuts off the spirit of princes, who inspires fear in the kings of the earth.

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.
Stir up your might, and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
O Lord God of hosts,
   how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
   and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches;
it sent out its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the River.
Why then have you broken down its walls,
   so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
The boar from the forest ravages it,
   and all that move in the field feed on it.
Turn again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted.
They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down;
may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance.
But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
   the one whom you made strong for yourself.
Then we will never turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call on your name.
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 45

A marvelous word has stirred my heart
as I mention my works to the king.
My tongue is the pen of a skillful scribe.
2 You are the most handsome of men;
grace has been poured out on your lips.
No wonder God has blessed you forever!
3 Strap on your sword, great warrior,
with your glory and grandeur.
4 Go and succeed in your grandeur!
Ride out on behalf of truth, humility, and righteousness!
Let your strong hand perform awesome deeds. (g)
5 Let the peoples fall beneath you.
May your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies.
6 Your divine throne is eternal and everlasting.
Your royal scepter is a scepter of justice.
7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness.
No wonder God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of joy more than all your companions!
8 All your clothes have the pleasing scent of myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
The music of stringed instruments coming from ivory palaces entertains you.
9 The royal princess is standing in your precious jewels; (h)
the queen stands at your right, dressed in the gold of Ophir.
10 Listen, daughter; pay attention, and listen closely!
Forget your people and your father’s house.
11 Let the king desire your beauty.
Because he is your master, bow down to him now.
12 The city of Tyre, the wealthiest of all,
will seek your favor with gifts, 13 with riches of every sort
for the royal princess, dressed in pearls, (i)
her robe embroidered with gold.
14 In robes of many colors, she is led to the king.
Her attendants, the young women servants following her,
are presented to you as well.
15 As they enter the king’s palace,
they are led in with celebration and joy.
16 Your sons, great king, will succeed your fathers; (j)
you will appoint them as princes throughout the land.
17 I will perpetuate your name from one generation to the next
so the peoples will praise you forever and always.
f  Perhaps instruction
g  Heb uncertain
h  Syr; MT royal princess is among your precious ones
i  Correction; Heb lacks for ; Heb uncertain in 45:12-13
j  Heb lacks great king .
[Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: choose prayers from Timeless Psalms by Joan Stott

Midday Psalm 119:121-128
I have done what is just and right;
   do not leave me to my oppressors.
Guarantee your servant’s well-being;
   do not let the godless oppress me.
My eyes fail from watching for your salvation,
   and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.
Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love,
   and teach me your statutes.
I am your servant; give me understanding,
   so that I may know your decrees.
It is time for the Lord to act,
   for your law has been broken.
Truly I love your commandments more than gold,
   more than fine gold.
Truly I direct my steps by all your precepts;
I hate every false way.

Psalm 106
Praise the Lord!
  O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
  for his steadfast love endures for ever.
Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord,
  or declare all his praise?
Happy are those who observe justice,
  who do righteousness at all times.

Remember me, O Lord, when you show favour to your people;
  help me when you deliver them;
that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones,
  that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
  that I may glory in your heritage.

Both we and our ancestors have sinned;
  we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly.
Our ancestors, when they were in Egypt,
  did not consider your wonderful works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
  but rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
  so that he might make known his mighty power.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry;
  he led them through the deep as through a desert.
So he saved them from the hand of the foe,
  and delivered them from the hand of the enemy.
The waters covered their adversaries;
  not one of them was left.
Then they believed his words;
  they sang his praise.

But they soon forgot his works;
  they did not wait for his counsel.
But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
  and put God to the test in the desert;
he gave them what they asked,
  but sent a wasting disease among them.

They were jealous of Moses in the camp,
  and of Aaron, the holy one of the Lord.
The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
  and covered the faction of Abiram.
Fire also broke out in their company;
  the flame burned up the wicked.

They made a calf at Horeb
  and worshipped a cast image.
They exchanged the glory of God
  for the image of an ox that eats grass.
They forgot God, their Saviour,
  who had done great things in Egypt,
wondrous works in the land of Ham,
  and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
Therefore he said he would destroy them—
  had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
  to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

Then they despised the pleasant land,
  having no faith in his promise.
They grumbled in their tents,
  and did not obey the voice of the Lord.
Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
  that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
and would disperse their descendants among the nations,
  scattering them over the lands.

Then they attached themselves to the Baal of Peor,
  and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds,
  and a plague broke out among them.
Then Phinehas stood up and interceded,
  and the plague was stopped.
And that has been reckoned to him as righteousness
  from generation to generation for ever.

They angered the Lord at the waters of Meribah,
  and it went ill with Moses on their account;
for they made his spirit bitter,
  and he spoke words that were rash.

They did not destroy the peoples
  as the Lord commanded them,
but they mingled with the nations
  and learned to do as they did.
They served their idols,
  which became a snare to them.
They sacrificed their sons
  and their daughters to the demons;
they poured out innocent blood,
  the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
  and the land was polluted with blood.
Thus they became unclean by their acts,
  and prostituted themselves in their doings.

Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
  and he abhorred his heritage;
he gave them into the hand of the nations,
  so that those who hated them ruled over them.
Their enemies oppressed them,
  and they were brought into subjection under their power.
Many times he delivered them,
  but they were rebellious in their purposes,
  and were brought low through their iniquity.
Nevertheless, he regarded their distress
  when he heard their cry.
For their sake he remembered his covenant,
  and showed compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
He caused them to be pitied
  by all who held them captive.

Save us, O Lord our God,
  and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
  and glory in your praise.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
  from everlasting to everlasting.
And let all the people say, ‘Amen.’
  Praise the Lord!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

She's glad to see him, a Reflection on Song of Solomon 2:8-13

According to the Jewish Study Bible, introduction to what is called there the Song of Songs:

"While the book's origin remains obscure, the history of interpretation of the Song in Jewish tradition is well documented. From as early as the 2nd century CE, it has been understood in both human and divine terms. In rabbinic tradition, the Song narrates the words which God and Israel spoke to each other at the REd Sea, at Sinai, or in the Tent of Meeting. The descriptions of the male lover are understood as allegorical descriptions of God while the descriptions of the female lover are understood as divine praise of Israel...."
According to the Wesley Study Bible, Wesley asserted that this particular passage describes how the church triumphs in Christ's love and gracious call.

And, not surprisingly, many commentators read this book to be about human sexual love. In this passage, for example, it's spring, the couple enjoy each other, and they want to be together.

Daily Prayer, Thursday, August 30, 2012

O Lord, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell on your holy hill?

Invitatory Psalm 150
Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary!
Praise God in his fortress, the sky!
2 Praise God in his mighty acts!
Praise God as suits his incredible greatness!
3 Praise God with the blast of the ram’s horn!
Praise God with lute and lyre!
4 Praise God with drum and dance!
Praise God with strings and pipe!
5 Praise God with loud cymbals!
Praise God with clashing cymbals!
6 Let every living thing praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
[Common English Bible]

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, Song of Solomon 2:8-13

8 Listen! It’s my lover: here he comes now,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
9 My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands now,
outside our wall,
peering through the windows,
peeking through the lattices.
10 My lover spoke and said to me,
“Rise up, my dearest,
my fairest, and go.
11 Here, the winter is past;
the rains have come and gone.
12 Blossoms have appeared in the land;
the season of singing (b) has arrived,
and the sound of the turtledove is heard in our land.
13 The green fruit is on the fig tree,
and the grapevines in bloom are fragrant.
Rise up, (c) my dearest,
my fairest, and go."
_________________________________________________ b Or pruning c LXX and Kethib add go; but Qere, DSS, Vulg, Syr, and Tg lack the verb; cf 2:10.
[Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: O Lord, help us to hear your voice when you call us. Help us to recognize your presence in all that is around us. Amen.

Midday Psalm 119:113-120
I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.
You are my hiding place and my shield;
I hope in your word.
Go away from me, you evildoers,
   that I may keep the commandments of my God.
Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live,
   and let me not be put to shame in my hope.
Hold me up, that I may be safe
   and have regard for your statutes continually.
You spurn all who go astray from your statutes;
  for their cunning is in vain.
All the wicked of the earth you count as dross;
  therefore I love your decrees.
My flesh trembles for fear of you,
  and I am afraid of your judgments.    

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!