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, June 30, 2016

when prayers aren't answered how and when you wanted, a reflection on Luke 17:5-6

Jesus had been instructing the apostles, and, at times, the crowds, in discourse and with parables what life with him would be like and what is expected of those who follow in his way.

They may have needed to have their confidence bolstered. They asked to have their faith increased. Jesus replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could get a mulberry tree to jump in the ocean just by telling it to."

When I was in the 5th grade, somebody gave me a necklace with a mustard seed encased in a plastic ball. I used to look at that tiny seed and wonder why the trees around me weren't listening to me. And I lived in a place where the trees weren't very big.

Other Bible readers, like me, have been troubled by this passage. Is Jesus promising us that we will be able to perform superhuman actions or great magic tricks? Or, is Luke using hyperbole or even metaphoric talk?

So, today, I turned, as I often do, to Fred Craddock in Preaching through the Christian Year C. He points out that the "if" in Jesus' statement can be translated in two ways, The word "if" could be describing a condition contrary to fact. Or, "if" could be describing a condition according to fact.

Try substituting "since" for "if" to see how this would sound in English. Craddock says Jesus is giving them "an indirect affirmation of the faith they have and an invitation to live and act out in that faith. They ask for an increase in their faith. He says that the faith you already have is effective and powerful beyond your present realization."

Do we deserve any special praise for following Christ? for accomplishing what he has required of us? Or, as Christ's servants, aren't we when we think of ourselves as doing good as dramatic as getting a tree to jump in the lake, aren't we even then just doing our job, just doing what Christ's servants are to do?

Monday, June 27, 2016

reflection on Job 1

Job 1
Reading the book of Job may raise some uncomfortable questions for us. For example, we're told that Job is a good man. He is honest, a person of absolute integrity, fears God, avoids evil. What else could God want?

One explanation (thank you, Harold Kushner) is that we shouldn't expect to get the answer of why bad things happen to good people but, rather, that we are hearing when bad things happen to good people. When not why.

The Elusive Presence, by Samuel Terrien agrees: “It is the theology of presence, not the problem of suffering which lies at the core of the poem.”

Friday, June 24, 2016

Need and abundance, a Reflection on 2 Corinthians 8:7-15

There's a lot of poor people in the world. And there's a lot of the rest of us that don't think of ourselves as being all that rich. Paul told the Corinthians that they were supposed to give gifts relative to what they had. "It's only fair that those of you that have anything should be willing to share it," he said.

The Book of Discipline ¶ 122. The Process for Carrying Out Our Mission-We make disciples as we:

Proclaim the gospel, seek, welcome and gather persons into the body of Christ; 
Lead persons to commit their lives to God through baptism by water and the spirit and profession of faith in Jesus Christ; 
Nurture persons in Christian living through worship, the sacraments, spiritual disciplines, and other means of grace, such as Wesley's Christian conferencing; 
Send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate, caring presence, and working to develop social structures that are consistent with the gospel; and 
Continue the mission of seeking, welcoming and gathering persons into the community of the body of Christ.

Ekklesia reports that Rich countries have snubbed poor . What would Paul say to us?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

No congregation is an island, a reflection on 2 Corinthians 8:1-6

Paul has been on a mission to raise funds for the impoverished church in Jerusalem. In this letter he asks the Corinthians to give. To answer the excuse of not having much money, he reminds them that the troubled Macedonians kicked in generously.

We Methodists of today also are asked--even the cash-strapped congregations--to add support to causes throughout the world. We no longer can depend on Paul to travel around the world; so, we have Apportionments

Monday, June 20, 2016

How to tell if someone is a Christian, a Reflection on John 13:31-35

They had gathered for a meal, one that we know was their last meal together. Jesus insisted on washing their feet. At the meal, Jesus told them that one of them would betray him. When he identified Judas as the betrayer, Judas immediately went out into the dark (13:1-30).

Jesus speaks to the ones who remain. "Now the Son of Man has been glorified and God has been glorified in him." Glorified, that is, made visible. It is now apparent that in Jesus, God is made visible to the world. Note the now.

"I am going to with you only a little longer. Where I am going you cannot come."

"I am giving you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you." Of course, this commandment was not new in the sense that they had never heard it before. See Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 6:4. What is new is that they will understand this commandment in terms of what Jesus does and what they will be willing to do.

He then told them the test by which Christians would be known--that they loved each other. Go back and read again: Now the Son of Man has been glorified and God has been glorified in him. By the love that Christians show each other, we can not only tell that they are Christians, we can see the glory of God.

Note: I am quoting generously from the commentary by Gail O'Day and Susan Hylen,

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Father Had and Has Two Sons, a Reflection on Luke 15:25-32

If Jesus had stopped at verse 24, we still would have a powerful example of unmerited grace--a father forgiving his son and celebrating his return. When we sin, we can find hope that we will be forgiven. When someone sins against us, we can find an example of how to show forgiveness.

But, Jesus did not stop with the celebration.

Rather, he introduced the elder brother. Like the Pharisees and scribes who had been complaining that Jesus was associating with sinners, the elder brother had always been obedient. And, like them, he wasn't happy at all about the inclusion of someone who had not exhibited much obedience.

He's particularly upset by the extravagant celebration. "I've done everything you could have expected, and now, you are giving a dinner for him!"

The father reminded the elder son that he still was going to get everything that he had been expecting to get. Celebrating the return of the younger brother did not change the status of the elder brother. "But," the father insists, "You need to be happy about his return. He was lost to us and now has been found."

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What We Might Become, a Reflection on 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

Paul wrote to those fractious Corinthians, "In Christ, there is a new creation." They can start over. And this time they can do it right. At the first creation, God pronounced each part good.

And while it started off good, our human ancestors did mess up quite a bit.

But, remember, "In Christ, there is a new creation."

Paul goes on to tell them--and through them, us--what our assigned task in this new creation is to be. We are ambassadors for Christ. Ambassadors--we travel, reach out, communicate. God appeal is made through us--in our travel, reaching out, and communicating, we are charged with transmission of what God wants them to know.

Paul had explained the meaning to the Corinthians, and now they were to live it out so others would also know it.

Since the first creations, humans had given in to sin. Now, it's time to defeat it.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Note: We are not being called to be self-righteous but rather to be part of and communicators of God's righteousness.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Reconciliation, a reflection on 2 Corinthians 5:16-19

Many days I use my Abingdon Press Lectionary Bible to read the scripture for that day. This Bible is arranged in lectionary order. Each week has the lections for that week. But, only the verses that are in that week's lectionary.

That's not enough some days. For example, today, I read the first verse in the lesson from 2 Corinthians, "From now on, therefore...." and stopped at the therefore. What was the fore that was different from the now on, I wondered. So, I got out a bible that is arranged in Bible order and looked back at the verses preceding this week's selection.

At the beginning of chapter 5, Paul contrasts the earthly tent we live in with the building we have from God, an eternal heavenly dwelling. He then shifts terminology from tent to body. While we are in living in this body, we are not in the home we will have with God. Paul asserts that we need to think ahead while we are still in this body because we will be judged by Christ and receive recompense.

Paul, as usual, moves from the each to the all. "Since everyone is to be judged, we need to persuade everybody," he argues. "Everything we do is for you. Everything we do is because of the love of Christ. Christ died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them."

Paul himself had once viewed the followers of Jesus as troublemakers. He had tried to stop them until he himself was stopped by the risen Christ. Paul now sees everyone not just in the flesh but as a new creation.

Everything is new. God took action, reconciling us to God and also giving us the ministry of reconciliation.

Reconciliation--getting things back to the way they should have been before we disrupted them.

Reconciliation implies that we weren't always right and that other people didn't always do right to us. You don't need forgiveness if you have never sinned. But we did. And they did. And God reconciled the world through Christ, that is God forgave our trespasses. And didn't stop with our forgiveness. God entrusted the message of reconciliation to us.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Reflecting on Mark 8:22-26

Okay, something really good, really life-changing even, occurs, and I don't even recognize the change--Ever happen to you?

Doesn't answer my main question about the miracle: Why did he think the people were trees? Possible answer: He had been blind from birth and didn't know what people or trees looked like. Okay, go back to first question: Has something really good happened to you, so good that your past experiences hadn't prepared you for the change?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

additional reflection on 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

I finally got around to reading what Allen & Williamson (Preaching the Letters without Dismissing the Law) had to say about the passage. An excerpt: Believers don't have to wait until after death to be in God's presence. The Spirit is with us now.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Interpreting 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10 with the help of Ted Loder

Holy Spirit,
   this mortal thus made
      turns now to you to be remade.
Shush me to a stillness
   in which I can abide,
      unthreatened, for a time,
and let the wave of your grace
   roll, break, spread
      on the shore of my soul. 

(taken from "During the embarrassments," Wrestling the Light, Ted Loder)

Monday, June 6, 2016

Reflecting on 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

My paraphrase: We're getting older and our bodies are deteriorating. Yet, we are confident that things will get better when we move from here to go to where God is. Luke Timothy Johnson says it much better, "The apostles hope for a future glory; they do not enjoy it now....(S)uffering is meaningful for the future...They feel the anguish of being pulled between the desire for God and the need to serve others."

Thursday, June 2, 2016

You are the salt of the earth, a reflection on Matthew 5:13

Jesus gives two metaphors to describe disciples--salt and light.

Why salt? What characteristics of salt are displayed in discipleship? Salt preserves, keeps, protects. And, salt improves the taste of something. Was Jesus saying that the church was to do these things?

"You are salt," he said. Then he went on to remind them that if salt didn't perform the functions it was intended for, then is was not of any use and would be thrown out.

Is the church--or substitute "your congregation"--preserving, keeping, and protecting, or, making things better (Note: go back and read verses 1-12 to aid in answering)?