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, June 30, 2013

Works of the flesh, a reflection on Galatians 5:19-25

Paul contrasted the Spirit with the flesh, "Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh" (16). He then lists works of the flesh (and points out that they are obvious): fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, and things like these.

Compare each of these with the command to love your neighbor as yourself.

Acting on these what Paul calls works of the flesh will harm community because they do not demonstrate or require love of anybody other than oneself.

Remember the intent of the law, to build a community that would exhibit and allow God's love to prevail. Indulging in these works of the flesh would hinder the goals of God's intention. As Paul says, "If you do things like this, you won't inherit the kingdom of God."

Don't think of this kingdom as something that we have to die to get. It's a situation that could be possible for us right here and now if only we truly were to consider God our king, if only we truly were to live the way God intended--to sum it up, to love our neighbor as ourself.

If you want to read more, look at Fruit Smoothie  by Dan Dick

Daily Prayer, Sunday, June 30, 2013

I will meditate on all your work,
and muse on your mighty deeds.

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.

Psalm 90, 92, 93

Daily Lectionary Reading, Galatians 5:19-25
19 The actions that are produced by selfish motives are obvious, since they include sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good, 20 idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, 21 jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that. I warn you as I have already warned you, that those who do these kinds of things won’t inherit God’s kingdom. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with its passions and its desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. 26 Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other. [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: God, cleanse us from improper desires and improper acts. Encourage us to live in the way that you intend. Keep us aware always of your gifts that your Spirit provides for us, for love, for joy, for peace, for patience, for kindness, for goodness, for faithfulness, for gentleness, for self-control. And, our God, remind us to use those gifts. Amen

Lectio Divina, Galatians 5:19-25

Psalms 108, 109

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Summary of the Law, a Reflection on Galatians 5:1, 13-18

Don't give up your freedom, Paul tells them--then adds, don't misuse it either.

Earlier in this letter, he had reminded them that freedom is not free, that Christ had paid a price for their freedom (1:3-5). And since, they had received this gift, they should not reject it (1:6-12).

These Galatians don't have to become Jews in order to be Christians. But, in no way, does Paul ever indicate that anything goes.

If we interpret the word "law" to be mean "male Christians have to be circumcised," then Paul is saying they aren't bound by the law. But, Paul doesn't always use the term "law" that narrowly.

In the sense that they--we, too--are supposed to consider that the law was intended as a way to show the people how to live in a way that would be best for all of them, a way that would promote peace and continuity, then we are to follow the law.

And, in that case, Christians are still bound by the law. "Do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge yourself," Paul tells them. He quotes Leviticus 19:18 to demonstrate that the law can be summed up in a single commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Love not as some sweet emotion but love taken seriously. "Through love become slaves to one another."

Daily Prayer, Saturday, June 29, 2013

I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord;
I will remember your wonders of old.

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.

Daily Lectionary Reading, Galatians 5:1, 13-18
Christ has set us free for freedom. Therefore, stand firm and don’t submit to the bondage of slavery again.....

13 You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. 14 All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. [i]15 But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other!

16 I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires. 17 A person’s selfish desires are set against the Spirit, and the Spirit is set against one’s selfish desires. They are opposed to each other, so you shouldn’t do whatever you want to do. 18 But if you are being led by the Spirit, you aren’t under the Law.
_________________________________________________ i Lev 19:18 [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: You have set us free, free to hear your Word, to do your work. Keep us mindful always of your love for us so that we can love others. Amen.

Psalm 107

Friday, June 28, 2013

Trembling Waters, a Reflection on Psalm 77:1-2, 6-14

We may never have faced the particular despair that Elijah did, but we have surely faced our own despair, despairs.

This psalm gives us words to express those times when we are in need--times when we cried aloud to God, but didn't get the help we needed when we wanted or expected it, those times when God didn't act or we didn't recognize God's act as something that was needed for our plight: soul refused to be comforted....
Verses 9-10, that are omitted in this week's reading, reminds us what God has already done. Yet, this reminder carries a tone of resentment--God has done so much for so many, what reason does God have for not helping me right now?

The tone changes in verse 11. The psalmist turns from talking about God to talking to God,
I will remember your wonders of old when the waters saw you, the very deep trembled.
I'm suggesting that we take the reference to waters as literal--the memory of the rescue of the people led by Moses as they escaping through the river from slavery in Egypt--or as a metaphor for any time that the situation seems as hopeless as facing a river with an army coming right at us.

Elijah was threatened by the powerful of his community and his time. The psalmist was facing a threat in his own time. We don't know exactly what it was or if we even have to read it as a situation in David's life--but it could be. And God's people continue to suffer threats in their time--in our own time.

This psalm allows us to say in words that when we face a troubling, scary situation, one in which we feel controlled by forces that no human being could possibly handle alone, then we turn for help to the One who has protected them and us before.

The Jewish Study Bible commentary suggests that we also look at Isaiah 51:9-11; Psalms 18:8-16; 114:3-6

Daily Prayer, Friday, June 28, 2013

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.

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.

Psalm 76, 80

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 77:1-2,11-20
 I cry out loud to God—
out loud to God so that he can hear me!
2 During the day when I’m in trouble I look for my Lord.
At night my hands are still outstretched and don’t grow numb;
my whole being [h] refuses to be comforted.
11 But I will remember the LORD’s deeds; yes, I will remember your wondrous acts from times long past. 12 I will meditate on all your works; I will ponder your deeds. 13 God, your way is holiness! Who is as great a god as you, God? 14 You are the God who works wonders; you have demonstrated your strength among all peoples. 15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people; redeemed the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah 16 The waters saw you, God— the waters saw you and reeled! Even the deep depths shook! 17 The clouds poured water, the skies cracked thunder; your arrows were flying all around! 18 The crash of your thunder was in the swirling storm; lightning lit up the whole world; the earth shook and quaked. 19 Your way went straight through the sea; your pathways went right through the mighty waters. But your footprints left no trace! 20 You led your people like sheep under the care of Moses and Aaron. _________________________________________________ h Or soul [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: Choose a prayer from Jean Stott's website Timeless Psalms.

Lectio Divina, Psalm 77:13-20

Midday Psalm 119:121-128

Psalm 106

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Letting Go, a Reflection on 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

Elisha said, "I'm not ready to let you go. Stay here with me."

How hard is it for a disciple to move on and to let go?
The other prophets tried to help Elisha. Elijah tried to help him. Yet, Elisha is still not ready to let Elijah go.

The way he puts it is to repeat, "I won't abandon you."

What really is his objection?

Even when he is told that the Lord has ordained this move, Elisha objects. He continues to delay the departure. They travel from Bethel to Jericho to the Jordan. Breuggemann points out that they are moving into the wilderness.
Think about an earlier crossing of the Jordan--Moses couldn't go, but Joshua led the people across.

Elisha is bereaved.
Elisha asked for a double share of Elijah's spirit. Elijah reminded him that the Spirit is God's to share. Let us continue to pray for God's spirit to light on us as we face loss and challenge.

Daily Prayer, Thursday, June 27, 2013

I cry aloud to God, 
aloud to God, 
that he may hear me.

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!

Daily Lectionary Reading, 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Now the LORD was going to take Elijah up to heaven in a windstorm, and Elijah and Elisha were leaving Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “ Stay here, because the LORD has sent me to Bethel. ” But Elisha said, “ As the LORD lives and as you live, I won’t leave you. ” So they went down to Bethel.... 6 Elijah said to Elisha, “ Stay here, because the LORD has sent me to the Jordan. ” But Elisha said, “ As the LORD lives and as you live, I won’t leave you. ” So both of them went on together. 7 Fifty members from the group of prophets also went along, but they stood at a distance. Both Elijah and Elisha stood beside the Jordan River. 8 Elijah then took his coat, rolled it up, and hit the water. Then the water was divided in two! Both of them crossed over on dry ground. 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “ What do you want me to do for you before I’m taken away from you? ” Elisha said, “ Let me have twice your spirit. ” 10 Elijah said, “ You’ve made a difficult request. If you can see me when I’m taken from you, then it will be yours. If you don’t see me, it won’t happen. ” [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: Lord, we give you thanks for all those wise and caring people that you have sent to lead us. Inspire us now to be able to continue their work in this world. Amen.

Lectio Divina, 2 Kings 2:11-14

Midday Psalm 119:113-120

Psalm 105

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Mobile Home, a Reflection on Psalm 16

The Wesley Study Bible describes Psalm 16 as a refugee's song. And certainly the Scriptures contain many stories of refugees--some voluntary but most involuntary. Think about what would be important to you if you lost your home or even your nation, if you had to leave behind so much of what had been familiar, what had seemed to be necessary. Then imagine praying this psalm.

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you." (1-2)
I've lost what I was used to, what I thought I had to have, but I still have what is really important.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. (7-8)
I can still rely on God for guidance.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure. (9)

I can give up reliance on the familiar or the false. I can rejoice that I can rely on the Lord.

You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fulness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (11)

Commentators suggest several settings for this psalm as well as nomads like Abraham and Moses or fugitives like Jacob or exiles like those transported by the Assyrians or Babylonians, or the to-be-King David after one of his escapes. For example, the psalm could express the relief of someone surviving a near-death experience. This week, since the lectionary has paired the psalm with the story of Elisha's accepting the call to be Elijah's successor, we can think of him--leaving his family and occupation behind to start a mission fraught with danger. Elisha can be joyful as he follows the path that the Lord shows him. Note: use path as a literal and metaphorical term.

Daily Prayer, Wednesday, June 26, 2013

You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.


Invitatory Psalm 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 priase.
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.

Psalms 71, 72

Daily Lectionary Reading, Psalm 16
Protect me, God, because I take refuge in you. 2 I say to the LORD,“ You are my Lord. Apart from you, I have nothing good. ” 3 Now as for the “ holy ones ” in the land, the “ magnificent ones ” that I was so happy about; 4 let their suffering increase because they hurried after a different god. [b] I won’t participate in their blood offerings; I won’t let their names cross my lips. 5 You, LORD, are my portion, my cup; you control my destiny. 6 The property lines have fallen beautifully for me; yes, I have a lovely home. 7 I will bless the LORD who advises me; even at night I am instructed in the depths of my mind. 8 I always put the LORD in front of me; I will not stumble because he is on my right side. 9 That’s why my heart celebrates and my mood is joyous; yes, my whole body will rest in safety 10 because you won’t abandon my lifec to the grave;d you won’t let your faithful follower see the pit. 11 You teach me the way of life. In your presence is total celebration. Beautiful things are always in your right hand. _________________________________________________ b Heb uncertain in 16:3-4; Heb lacks because and god in 16:4.
[Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: Choose a prayer from Joan Stott's website Timeless Psalms.
Lectio Divina, Psalm 16:5-9

Midday Psalm 119:105-112

Psalm 104

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Follower, a Reflection on 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-24

In the verses leading up to this week's lesson from 1 Kings, Elijah is fleeing for his life. In frustrating despair, he compares his efforts with the poor results he has achieved. Looking back, Elijah sees his zealousness for the Lord and no zealousness on the part of the Israelites. He says to the Lord, "They have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets."

Elijah feels that he is alone without any support.

The Lord gives him more work to do: Anoint a king to replace Ahab. Anoint a prophet to continue your work.

Elijah continues his journey. He finds Elisha, the one the Lord has designated to be his successor.

Elisha is at work plowing when Elijah approaches him. He's ready to go but wants to say goodbye to his parents first. Commentators disagree on whether the text tells us that Elijah let him do this or not. In either case, Elisha slaughtered the oxen providing a meal to feed the people. Then he set out with Elijah.

Daily Prayer, Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup
   you hold my lot.
I bless the Lord who gives my counsel.

Invitatory Psalm 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, 66, 70

Daily Lectionary Reading, 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21
15 The LORD said to him, “Go back through the desert to Damascus and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. 16 Also anoint Jehu, Nimshi’s son, as king of Israel; and anoint Elisha from Abel-meholah, Shaphat’s son, to succeed you as prophet." 
.... 19 So Elijah departed from there and found Elisha, Shaphat’s son. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him. Elisha was with the twelfth yoke. Elijah met up with him and threw his coat on him. 20 Elisha immediately left the oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and my mother,” Elisha said, “then I will follow you.”
Elijah replied, “Go! I’m not holding you back!” 21 Elisha turned back from following Elijah, took the pair of oxen, and slaughtered them. Then with equipment from the oxen, Elisha boiled the meat, gave it to the people, and they ate it. Then he got up, followed Elijah, and served him. [Common English Bible]

Prayer for Today: Lord, help us to sort through our allegiances, our responsibilities, our loves. Help us to determine how to follow you. Amen.

Lectio Divina, 1 Kings 19:19-20

Midday Psalm 119:97-104

Psalms 102, 103

Monday, June 24, 2013

Priorities, a Reflection on Luke 9:51-62

Jesus has told his closest followers what is going to happen to him--suffering, rejection, and resurrection. He has also told him that those who follow him will have to make sacrifices. They don't get all that he tells them. They even argue over which of them is greatest. And they complain about who gets to use Jesus' name in doing Jesus' work (9:21-50).

He's already told the disciples closest to him what is awaiting him in Jerusalem. 

To get there, they leave places with people like them and travel through a place, Samaria, with people who are considered different. Different because of something that had happened centuries earlier.

There has been a long dispute between Jews and Samaritans since the exile. Samaritans are descendants of people who stayed behind and so were not considered to be the real people of God by others. We can think of our own contemporary ethnic distinctions to understand how somebody could feel superior to somebody else based on what somebody else did or didn't do a few hundred years ago.

The Samaritans don't want him there. Luke tells us that they won't receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 

Or, it could be interpreted that the Samaritans refused to harbor Jesus because they knew what was likely to happen to him in Jerusalem--the suffering part, not the resurrection part. We can think of current examples of reasonable people not wanting to associate themselves with certain failures. Rome was problem enough for them anyway without adding to it.

In any case, the disciples wanted to destroy the village that refused them hospitality. Jesus said no and led them to another village instead.

Other people do want to follow him. To the enthusiastic volunteer, Jesus offers caution; to the cautious volunteer, he reminds him of the necessity for urgency.

One said, "I'll follow you anywhere." Jesus responds by warning him of the dangers. Another said, "I'll follow you as soon as I take care of some necessary matters." Jesus responds to him by telling him what matter is most necessary.

What are we supposed to do with this reminder? What priority do we put on our comfort and safety as compared to being witnesses for Christ? What priority do we put on family responsibilities? How much does Christ expect of us, anyway?

Here's the lessons I'm drawing today--1. Past problems can still cause difficulties. 2. Discipleship has risks. 3. Discipleship requires sacrifices.