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.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

1 Corinthians 15:1-26

Paul reminds the Corinthians the message he terms of first importance: Christ died, was buried, was raised, and appeared to witnesses including Paul himself.

Paul has received this gospel and is passing it on to the Corinthians. His knowledge is based on experience and scripture.

Now, back to us. We have had the opportunity of good, faithful teaching by hard-working teachers who were filled with grace and able to demonstrate that grace to us. And we have been faced with not-so-faithful, not-so-grace-filled teachings and examples. Let us hold firm to the good news proclaimed through Paul. Let us come to believe--and act as if we did. Let God's grace to us not be in vain.

The First Commandment, a Reflection on Mark 12:28-34

When a scribe asked Jesus which commandment is the most important of all. Jesus responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18. He has been quoting Scripture to his opponents over and over. And although some have not been very happy with him about this, in Mark's version, this scribe is convinced.

Are we?

Do we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Do we come even close to loving our neighbor as ourselves?

What is the most important thing for Christians to do or to argue about not doing?

What are the most important matters that should be discussed at the General Meeting this year?

(repeat from earlier in year)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Knowing Fully, a Reflection on 1 Corinthians 13:12-13

How do we know that God loves us?

Is it because of something we have read? Or, is it because of something we have witnessed? Or, is it because of something that has happened to us? Or, something that we have witnessed ourselves doing?

How do we know that God loves us?

"Someday," Paul says, "we will know fully that which we can only know in part now."

But, we can start living into that day already. The love that we will know then is begun already in us where we are now.

We can see God's love in the community that surrounds us. We can be part of God's love now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Get over yourself and get over them, too, a Reflection on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

If we were compiling a manual on congregational development, We could file this passage under the heading Building & Maintenance. 

If your group wants to stay together and stay healthy while together, then some attributes are necessary. 

Love and tolerance.

Paul's description of love (notice we aren't talking about romantic feelings) includes patience and kindness. Moreover, it excludes envy and causes of envy like boasting, arrogance, and rudeness.

Implicit in this description is that the Corinthians were not all alike. Some had assets are qualities that the others lacked--otherwise, why would they have been envying or boasting?

A model congregation would include people with different talents (remember chapter 12) and different resources. But, differences can arouse ill feelings. Paul tells them that patient, kind love must be present for them to be an effective church.

And when those with whom we are associated fail to be patient and kind; when they continue to boast and be arrogant and rude, what are we supposed to do then?

Paul says love is the answer to this, too. Love means that we put up with their shortcomings, that we live as if we believe what Christ has told us, and that we look past what's happening right here right now to what is to happen.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Necessity of Love, a Reflection on 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

"If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal....," Paul wrote to the fractious Corinthian congregation.

Sounding good, even great, doesn't mean much in Paul's assessment. Love is requisite.

"If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith...."

Being able to be prophetic, that is, to be able to transmit the words of God, means nothing without love.

Being able to perform miracles, being willing to be generous, even sacrificing one's own safety are all nothing without love.

For the church to continue to do God's work in the world, its members must have love.

And that includes love for each other. Not just feeling, but also acting.

Sideline--something else I learned from reading Preaching the Letters without Dismissing the Law by Ronald Allen and Clark Williamson:

The term "love' agape is seldom found in the Greek language until it appears in the Septuagint, where it is standard speech for God's love for Israel (e.g., Dt 10:14) and for how people should live in covenantal community (e.g., Lev 19:18).

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Distinctions but Not Disputes, a Reflection on 1 Corinthians 10:10-18

Way back at the beginning of the Christian church in Corinth, Paul wrote to them, appealed to them, to stop their quarreling with each other. He doesn't like what he has been told--that they have divided into factions.

What are we supposed to do with Paul's advice today? When he reminds them that they were baptized in the name of Christ not in the name of one of the faction-leaders, what do we need to be reminded of? Inside the congregation or our denomination, where does our loyalty lie?

Yet, mindless agreement doesn't help much, either. And, I'm not ready to call for the end of denomination distinctions on the basis of this passage. How I'm reading Paul is that although I am not giving up distinctions, I must consider giving up disputes.

Here's how Carl Halladay puts it in Preaching through the Christian Year A:
We should not confuse unity with uniformity. To agree and to be of the same mind and judgment does not require us to formulate our theology in identical terms. Indeed, the true test of Christian unity is the ability to disagree in our formulation of the truth, even in our convictions about the truth, without compromising our ultimate loyalty to Christ--and to each other.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

a reflection Acts 3:1-10

Even seeing the healing first hand, they all were astonished that the beggar was now able to walk. Even after hearing Peter invoke the name of Jesus, they couldn't understand what had just happened.

But, keep reading through verse 26.

In response to their lack of understanding, Peter preaches to them. "Did you think that we did this? Have you forgotten the God of Israel? You may have rejected Jesus, the one that God chose, but God has not rejected him."

We today are living among people who also have heard about God, about God's gifts, and God's faithfulness. Yet, they don't expect God to do anything good for them, and they don't recognize when God does. They may have neglected God or they may have corroborated in acts that were in opposition to what God wished.

Peter preaches, "Repent. Even your sins can be forgiven.

Tangent: Verse 16 says that Peter was able to heal the man through faith, but is not explicit whether Peter is talking about his own faith. Nothing is said about the beggar's faith before the healing.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Healing the sick, a Reflection on Mark 6:53-56

At the beginning of this chapter, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue in his home town. The response to him was mixed, but for the most part negative.

His response was to send out the twelve to preach, exorcise, and heal.

Herod executes John.

Jesus feeds 5,000, walks on water, and stills a storm.

Then, as now, the Jesus movement is met with differing reactions. Then, as now, great blessings accompany the movement, and some folks react with fear, with apathy, or with harm.

Jesus and the apostles have changed geography but not mission. People recognize them and rush to them for help. Wherever he went, people begged for help and he gave it.