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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

When you're in a ditch, a Reflection on Luke 10:29-37

The lawyer asks for more clarification. He knows that he is supposed to love his neighbor but asks who is his neighbor.

When Jesus doesn't answer a question with a question, he often answers with a parable (in effect, a longer form of a question). Here, he responds with what we are accustomed to call the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

You remember it--a traveller is attacked by robbers, left half dead on the road. Two different respectable religious professionals saw him but crossed over to the other side of the road to avoid him. Yet, a foreigner stopped to help him and helped him with great generosity.

Jesus asked the lawyer, "Which of these three is the neighbor?" The lawyer knew the right answer. Jesus told him to "go and do likewise."

We might translate Jesus' instruction to mean that if he (or we) came across someone in great need, he was supposed to offer help. But, read Jesus' question again, "Which of these three is the neighbor?" That is, from whom are we willing to accept help?

Can we get our heads around the idea that a foreigner of what seems to be us dubious religious outlook would be willing to do something that people we have always respected think is too difficult to do?

Priortizing Responsibilities, a Reflection on Luke 9:57-62

As they travel along the road, people volunteer to go along.

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 matters most.

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?

Monday, February 27, 2017

Priorities, a Reflection on Luke 9:51-56

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).

Knowing his death was coming soon, Jesus turns toward Jerusalem. On their way, they enter a Samaritan village.

The Samaritans don't want him there. Luke tells us that they didn't want t receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem. Two possibilities here and both may be a factor.

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 the descendants of the exiles. 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.

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.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Questions that arose for me, a Reflection on Luke 9:37-45

Which disciples had been unable to heal the child? Were they ones who had not been to the mountaintop to witness the transfiguration and see the cloud and hear the voice? Or, even after all those experiences, were Peter and John and James unable to cast out spirits? Who is Jesus calling faithless and perverse? Does he mean the crowd or does he mean the disciples who were not able to perform the miracle?

If the crowd didn't know who Jesus was, or all of the disciples, how did the father know that Jesus could heal his son? How did the demon know that Jesus was the one it had to obey?

In verse 36, we are told that they kept silent and told no one what they had seen on the mountain. But, in verse 43, everybody who saw what happened recognized the power of God acting in this man Jesus. If everybody knew it, why did Peter and John and James have to maintain silence?

Then, in verse 45, we are told the meaning was hidden from them so they wouldn't be able to grasp it. What other meanings seem to be hidden from us yet?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Voice from the Cloud, a Reflection on Luke 9:34-36

Peter and the others witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus. They were there when Moses and Elijah suddenly appeared, these two figures so important in the history of their people, of the formation and molding of their faith.

Just as Moses and Elijah were leaving, Peter said to Jesus, "Let's make three dwellings--one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah. We suspect that Peter wanted to hold on to the moment so that they could revisit the experience. Or, we can suppose that he wanted to mark the place so that others coming after them could see where this event had happened.

While he was still speaking, a cloud came and overshadowed them, terrifying them. They had been able to see Jesus in a new way. They had been able to see Moses who had led the people to the Promised Land, and Elijah who had spoke the words of the Lord to the people facing exile. Now they could see no longer.

In their Preaching the Gospel, Allen & Williamson point out that a cloud is
a traditional Jewish way of representing the divine presence (see e.g., Exodus 13:21; 16:10; 19:9; 24:15-18; 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10-11; 18:44-45; Ezekiel 10:3-4; Psalm 18:11).

This loss of vision terrifies them. Then from the cloud comes a voice.

They could see things that no one had seen before. They could see nothing. Then they learn more.

A voice comes from the cloud announcing "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"

Luke tells us that they didn't immediately tell anyone what had happened.

Monday, February 20, 2017

On a Mountain, a Reflection on Luke 9:28-33

They are on a mountain. Jesus has come to pray. He has brought Peter and John and James with him.

[I had intended to, but didn't get around to, doing a search on mountain experiences in the Old Testament and Jesus' praying in the New, and which events in Jesus' life included the presence of those three particular disciples.]

While he is praying, his appearance changes and his clothes become dazzling white. Moses and Elijah become present.

The disciples although they were weighed down by sleep have stayed awake and witness this.

Allen & Williamson write in their Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews:
Jewish apocalyptic writers anticipated that in the final manifestation of the reign of God, persons would have transformed bodies in the luminescent white of the heavenly world (e.g., Daniel 10:6; 1 Enoch 62:15-16; 2 Enoch 22:8; Luke 24:4; Acts 1:10; 1 Corinthians 15:35-49; Revelation 4:4; 7:9).

Moses and Elijah are talking to Jesus about his departure. Allen & Williamson point out that the Greek word for departure is exodos emphasizing that what is going to happen at Jerusalem will also be a way of liberating God's people.

Note: The season of Epiphany begins with the visit of the Magi to pay homage to the newborn Jesus. The last Sunday in Epiphany for many churches is Transfiguration Day (although some recognize the Transfiguration on the second Sunday in Lent), marking the startling change in the appearance of Jesus.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Cry from the Depths, a Reflection on Psalm 130

Psalm 130 is classified as a lament psalm. David cried over the loss of his son. And each of us has our own losses and regrets. This psalm reminds us that in our loss, we can turn to the Lord. We can expect God to pay attention to us--although we can't claim that we deserve any care. And we can ask God to forgive us.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Guest Reception, a Reflection on Luke 7:40-47

The respectable man sees Jesus allowing the not respectable woman to approach him, even to touch him. From this, he concludes that Jesus can't be a prophet if he can't even tell who's deserves to be allowed to get close.

Think about your own congregation. If respectable people judged you negatively based on the number of unrespectable people in your pews, what would they say about you? Jesus pointed out that the woman had performed actions which really should have been done--but weren't--by the host. Think about your congregation again. What are some ministries that you are neglecting to do? Could you use some outsiders to point them out to you?

Jesus responded to the criticism by posing a question, a not unfamiliar trait of his. "Who would be most grateful to have a debt forgiven--somebody who owed a lot or somebody who owed a little?"

The host was worried about being tainted. The uninvited guest was grateful for the gift that Jesus provides.

Monday, February 13, 2017

An invited and an uninvited guest, a Reflection on Luke 7:36-39

He has accepted a dinner invitation from somebody respectable. Somebody not respectable shows up. I wish I could think of some appropriate sermon illustration to insert here. I must know a lot of them, but none are coming. But if I could it would be start like this:

(Fill in the name) Methodist (or some other denomination) Church was having its Sunday morning service when in walked (here's where I need the great example of an illustrative sinner) .....

She doesn't belong to the establishment, but she sure does know Jesus and his importance. She has brought a jar of something expensive and anoints him with it. She washes his feet--try to remember the last time you even thought about doing this even for someone you knew--and dries them with her hair.

The reaction of the host--How can he be a prophet? He doesn't even recognize what kind of woman he is letting touch him in public.

In his time--and in ours, Jesus sure could upset the respectable. And, in his time and in ours, he can attract the sinners.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Reflection on Psalm 146:5-19

Read Psalm 146:5-10. Imagine living out your Christian faith as way to show non-Christians that you truly believe this about God.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Criticism, a Reflection on Luke Luke 7:28-35

According to Luke (28:29-30), by not being  baptized by John, the Pharisees and the lawyers had rejected God's purpose for them. How has our understanding of baptism changed?

Two interpretations for v. 31-32. The first is that Jesus is quoted as comparing the people of his generation as being like children who refused to respond to adults and who refused to be empathetic to suffering. Would Jesus have a similar or dissimilar attitude to modern churchgoers? The second interpretation is that the reference is to a children's game of playing like they were at a wedding or a funeral but some children would just refuse to play along (Good as New, by John Henson, and by Sharon Ringe in her commentary of Luke.

v. 32 John was criticized for his pious behavior. Jesus was criticized for doing the opposite.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Are You the One, Reflection on Luke 7:18-27

As the stories about the amazing healing that Jesus had been doing, large crowds were following him. John sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one they had been expecting. Jesus responding by asking them what was it they were expecting.

After John's disciples left, Jesus spoke to the crowds. He contrasted having the means to dress well with doing good. Jesus then told them that he more than a prophet. Quoting Isaiah 35:5-6, he told them that John was the messenger sent to prepare the way.

The Christian Bible ends the Old Testament with the prophet Malachi, who prophesized:
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished.
Do we recognize Jesus as the Lord that Malachi was prophesizing? Do we recognize ourselves?

Jesus then talks about "the least,"  Is John uncertain about Jesus? Jesus is certain about John.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Word Spread, a Reflection on Luke 7:16-17

What is the expected response to the unexpected?

They have seen a miracle. A man's life has been restored. A woman's security has been restored.

The first reaction of the witnesses is fear.

But, it is not their only reaction. We are told that they glorified God.They spoke immediately, and they continued to speak. They spoke to each other and the word they spoke spread widely.

Take-away: pay attention, acknowledge, share.