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.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

When to Pray, a Reflection on James 5:13-20

James reminds us that Christians know both the bad and good of life. "When you are suffering," he says, "then pray." We are not alone. We are not with help. And he tells us, "When you are cheerful, sing songs of praise." Again, we are not alone, and we need to remember with gratitude the help we've received that led to our cheerfulness.

Also, James reminds us that being a Christian is more than that me-and-Jesus thing. He says to confess our sins to each other. To each other?

And not just pray for my healing, my gratitude, my sins, but also I'm to pray for yours.

James uses the Scripture to bolster his teaching: Remember Elijah.

Tangent: Shelly Cochran in the Guide to the Revised Common Lectionary makes this comment about one of the passages skipped by the lectionary, a diatribe against rich people:
"The words here are strong, but they also reflect an important truth, that the Christian faith is not really at home in places of wealth."

Daily Prayer, Sunday, September 30, 2012

Let the words of my mouth
and the meditations of my heart

be pleasing to you,
LORD , my rock and my redeemer.

Invitatory Psalm 24
The earth is the LORD ’s and everything in it,
the world and its inhabitants too.
Because God is the one who established it on the seas;
God set it firmly on the waters.
Who can ascend the LORD ’s mountain?
Who can stand in his holy sanctuary?
Only the one with clean hands and a pure heart;
the one who hasn’t made false promises,
the one who hasn’t sworn dishonestly.
That kind of person receives blessings from the LORD
and righteousness from the God who saves.
And that’s how things are
with the generation that seeks him—
that seeks the face of Jacob’s God. Selah
Mighty gates: lift up your heads!
Ancient doors: rise up high!
So the glorious king can enter!
Who is this glorious king?
The LORD —strong and powerful!
The LORD —powerful in battle!
Mighty gates: lift up your heads!
Ancient doors: rise up high!
So the glorious king can enter!
Who is this glorious king?
The LORD of heavenly forces—
he is the glorious king! Selah
[Common English Bible]

Psalm 90
A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.
Lord, you have been our dwelling-place
  in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
  or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
  from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn us back to dust,
  and say, ‘Turn back, you mortals.’
For a thousand years in your sight
  are like yesterday when it is past,
  or like a watch in the night.

You sweep them away; they are like a dream,
  like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
  in the evening it fades and withers.

For we are consumed by your anger;
  by your wrath we are overwhelmed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
  our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

For all our days pass away under your wrath;
  our years come to an end like a sigh.
The days of our life are seventy years,
  or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
even then their span is only toil and trouble;
  they are soon gone, and we fly away.

Who considers the power of your anger?
  Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due to you.
So teach us to count our days
  that we may gain a wise heart.

Turn, O Lord! How long?
  Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
  so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
  and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be manifest to your servants,
  and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us,
  and prosper for us the work of our hands—
  O prosper the work of our hands!

Psalm 92
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
  to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
  and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
  to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
  at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

How great are your works, O Lord!
  Your thoughts are very deep!
The dullard cannot know,
  the stupid cannot understand this:
though the wicked sprout like grass
  and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction for ever,
  but you, O Lord, are on high for ever.
For your enemies, O Lord,
  for your enemies shall perish;
  all evildoers shall be scattered.

But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox;
  you have poured over me fresh oil.
My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
  my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.

The righteous flourish like the palm tree,
  and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord;
  they flourish in the courts of our God.
In old age they still produce fruit;
  they are always green and full of sap,
showing that the Lord is upright;
  he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Psalm 93
The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty;
  the Lord is robed, he is girded with strength.
He has established the world; it shall never be moved;
  your throne is established from of old;
  you are from everlasting.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
  the floods have lifted up their voice;
  the floods lift up their roaring.
More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters,
  more majestic than the waves of the sea,
  majestic on high is the Lord!

Your decrees are very sure;
  holiness befits your house,
  O Lord, for evermore.

Daily Lectionary Reading, James 5:13-20

13 If any of you are suffering, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing. 14 If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve. 17 Elijah was a person just like us. When he earnestly prayed that it wouldn’t rain, no rain fell for three and a half years. 18 He prayed again, God sent rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

19 My brothers and sisters, if any of you wander from the truth and someone turns back the wanderer, 20 recognize that whoever brings a sinner back from the wrong path will save them from death and will bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

Prayer for Today: O God, we turn to you in those times that we are suffering, and we turn to you in those times that we are happy. We give you thanks that long before we were suffering from our particular ailment, physicians had answered the call to study and to learn and to be ready to address our needs. Help us at all times to be ready to help others. Forgive us for those times that we do not heed your call, and help us to forgive others. Amen.
Psalm 108
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make melody. Awake, my soul!
Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn.
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples,
   and I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens,
   and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
   and let your glory be over all the earth.
Give victory with your right hand, and answer me,
   so that those whom you love may be rescued.
God has promised in his sanctuary:
   “With exultation I will divide up Shechem,
    and portion out the Vale of Succoth.
Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine;
   Ephraim is my helmet; Judah is my scepter.
   Moab is my washbasin; on Edom I hurl my shoe;
   over Philistia I shout in triumph.”
Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
Have you not rejected us, O God?
You do not go out, O God, with our armies.
O grant us help against the foe,
   for human help is worthless.
With God we shall do valiantly;
it is he who will tread down our foes.

Psalm 109
Do not be silent, O God of my praise.
For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
   speaking against me with lying tongues.
They beset me with words of hate,
   and attack me without cause.
In return for my love they accuse me,
   even while I make prayer for them.
So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
They say, “Appoint a wicked man against him;
   let an accuser stand on his right.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin.
May his days be few;
may another seize his position.
May his children be orphans, and his wife a widow.
May his children wander about and beg;
may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit.
May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil.
May there be no one to do him a kindness,
   nor anyone to pity his orphaned children.
May his posterity be cut off;
may his name be blotted out in the second generation.
May the iniquity of his father be remembered before the Lord,
   and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out.
Let them be before the Lord continually,
   and may his memory be cut off from the earth.
For he did not remember to show kindness,
   but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted to their death.
He loved to curse; let curses come on him.
He did not like blessing; may it be far from him.
He clothed himself with cursing as his coat,
   may it soak into his body like water, like oil into his bones.
May it be like a garment that he wraps around himself,
   like a belt that he wears every day.”
May that be the reward of my accusers from the Lord,
   of those who speak evil against my life.
But you, O Lord my Lord, act on my behalf for your name’s sake;
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me.
For I am poor and needy,
   and my heart is pierced within me.
I am gone like a shadow at evening;
I am shaken off like a locust.
My knees are weak through fasting;
my body has become gaunt.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they shake their heads.

Help me, O Lord my God!
Save me according to your steadfast love.
Let them know that this is your hand;
you, O Lord, have done it.
Let them curse, but you will bless.
Let my assailants be put to shame;
may your servant be glad.
May my accusers be clothed with dishonor;
may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle.
With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord;
I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
 to save them from those who would condemn them to death.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Snare is Broken, a Reflection on Psalm 124

I'm trying to imagine the original setting for this psalm. Everybody is grateful. Everybody is traveling to a great festival. Which is harder for me to imagine happening in my time--that they are on a pilgrimage, or that they are on it together?

This psalm gives us words to express gratitude and reminds us to whom we owe our rescue.

If God had not been on our side, we would have been swallowed up by enemies--human ones and ones of nature.
We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped.
Although this psalm is written for a community, individuals can also find solace and suggestion in it. When you have escaped from whatever snare had trapped you, you can pray these words. When you are still entrapped, you can use them as a reminder that help does come.

Daily Prayer, Saturday, September 29, 2012

Let the words of my mouth
and the meditations of my heart

be pleasing to you,
LORD , my rock and my redeemer.

Invitatory Psalm 67

Let God grant us grace and bless us;
let God make his face shine on us, Selah
so that your way becomes known on earth,
so that your salvation becomes known
   among all the nations.
Let the people thank you, God!
Let all the people thank you!
Let the people celebrate
and shout with joy
because you judge the nations fairly
and guide all nations on the earth. Selah
Let the people thank you, God!
Let all the people thank you!
The earth has yielded its harvest.
God blesses us—our God blesses us!
Let God continue to bless us;
let the far ends of the earth honor him.
[Common English Bible]

Psalm 81
Sing aloud to God our strength;
shout for joy to the God of Jacob.
Raise a song, sound the tambourine,
   the sweet lyre with the harp.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
   at the full moon, on our festal day.
For it is a statute for Israel,
   an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
He made it a decree in Joseph,
   when he went out over the land of Egypt.
I hear a voice I had not known:
“I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I rescued you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah

Hear, O my people, while I admonish you;
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
I am the Lord your God,
   who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
“But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
   to follow their own counsels.
O that my people would listen to me,
   that Israel would walk in my ways!
Then I would quickly subdue their enemies,
   and turn my hand against their foes.
Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
   and their doom would last forever.
I would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
   and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Psalm 82
God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
   and show partiality to the wicked? Selah

Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk around in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,
   and fall like any prince.”
Rise up, O God, judge the earth;
   for all the nations belong to you!

Psalm 85
Lord, you were favorable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you pardoned all their sin. Selah
You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.

Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
   and put away your indignation toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
   so that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
   and grant us your salvation.
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
   for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful,
   to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
   that his glory may dwell in our land.

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
   and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
   and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
   and will make a path for his steps.

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 124

If the LORD hadn’t been for us—
let Israel now repeat!—
2 if the LORD hadn’t been for us,
when those people attacked us
3 then they would have swallowed us up whole
with their rage burning against us!
4 Then the waters would have drowned us;
the torrent would have come over our necks; (p)
5 then the raging waters would have come over our necks!
6 Bless the LORD
because he didn’t hand us over
like food for our enemies’ teeth!
7 We escaped like a bird from the hunters’ trap;
the trap was broken so we escaped!
8 Our help is in the name of the LORD ,
the maker of heaven and earth.
p  Or soul ; also in 124:5, 7

Prayer for Today: Choose a prayer from Joan Stott's Timeless Psalms

Psalm 107
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
   those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
   from the east and from the west,
   from the north and from the south.
Some wandered in desert wastes,
   finding no way to an inhabited town;
hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
   and he delivered them from their distress;
he led them by a straight way,
   until they reached an inhabited town.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
   for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he satisfies the thirsty,
   and the hungry he fills with good things.
Some sat in darkness and in gloom,
   prisoners in misery and in irons,
for they had rebelled against the words of God,
   and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor;
they fell down, with no one to help.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
   and he saved them from their distress;
he brought them out of darkness and gloom,
   and broke their bonds asunder.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
   for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he shatters the doors of bronze,
   and cuts in two the bars of iron.
Some were sick through their sinful ways,
   and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
they loathed any kind of food,
   and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
   and he saved them from their distress;
he sent out his word and healed them,
   and delivered them from destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
   for his wonderful works to humankind.
And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
   and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.
Some went down to the sea in ships,
   doing business on the mighty waters;
they saw the deeds of the Lord,
   his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
   which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven,
they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
   and were at their wits’ end.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;
he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
   and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

He turns rivers into a desert,
   springs of water into thirsty ground,
a fruitful land into a salty waste,
   because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
He turns a desert into pools of water,
   a parched land into springs of water.
And there he lets the hungry live,
   and they establish a town to live in;
they sow fields, and plant vineyards,
   and get a fruitful yield.
By his blessing they multiply greatly,
   and he does not let their cattle decrease.

When they are diminished and brought low
   through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,
he pours contempt on princes
   and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
but he raises up the needy out of distress,
   and makes their families like flocks.
The upright see it and are glad;
and all wickedness stops its mouth.
Let those who are wise give heed to these things,
   and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.