Who you gonna' call...

10-30-17 Week 9, Day 1 I Kings 19. 1-18 I hate to be a broken record but— This week’s passage is again plucked out of a very stirring larger story that should be read in its entirety if the smaller passage is going to hold. So unless you are already very familiar with the story of Elijah, you would do well to begin at I Kings 16:29 and read through chapter 19. This won’t get you to the famous flaming chariot swinging low to take Elijah home (that’s not until II Kings. 2), but it will round out the character of Elijah for you and show how complex a man he was, and how complicated was his political and religious climate. “Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LO

Wisdom, Please!

My plate holds a little more than usual this week, so this will be the only Reflections Post for the current week. I hope to be back on schedule next week. Week 8, Day 3 (and only) 1 Kings 5:1-5; 8:1-13 The full text for this week is below. I don’t know who is on the committee to choose and compile the texts for each week of the lectionary. No doubt they are very knowledgable people. But sometimes their choices baffle me. This week is one of those times. It seems as if today’s stories were plucked out of Biblical thin air and dropped in front of us. If you aren’t already familiar with the opening chapters of 1 Kings it will be very difficult to figure out what is going on or what these

"After God's heart"--again

Week 7, Day 5 The entire text for this week is below. Some Bible stories can cause spiritual heartburn. We noted in the Day 1 post this week that David is described as “a man after God’s own heart” (1st Samuel 13:14). But we also noted that David’s later story unveils him as an often less that admirable person. We hoped this meant that God was able to use flawed people like David, or like us, to accomplish God’s will in the world. This is true, but it is also incomplete. The rest of the story is darker and more complicated. But an honest reading of the Scriptures means we must wrestle with even their dark side. In fact, this may be what it means to be a person “after God’s own heart”; to

The Preferential Option

Week 7, Day 1 The entire text for this week is below. Samuel is sent to Bethlehem to anoint a new king who will eventually take Saul’s place on the throne. He goes to the house of Jessie, a prolific sire of 8 sons, and who knows how many daughters. Jessie first presents Samuel with his oldest son Eliab, who must have been a strapping figure of a man. Samuel takes one look at him and exclaims, to God if not out loud, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” “Not so fast”, God replies. “You want good looks. I want a good heart!” Jessie’s 7 oldest sons cycle through in turn. Each time God says to Samuel, “Not this one”. When they get to the end of the line Samuel is confused

"...God's own heart"

Week 7, Day 1 The entire text for this week is below. The Bible passage for this week is part of a much larger story. I am a stickler for paying attention to the context a story—and I think everyone else should be, too. If we are to have a chance at understanding any particular story, we need to know what was going on all around it. So this week I am especially encouraging you to read what comes before this week’s account. Knowing who Saul was, why he was chosen to be king and then why his kingship was rejected by God, sheds light on the selection of David as king. You’ll find the story in I Samuel 8-15. One of the delights of reading the Bible is the way the stories so often leave us w

Mercy within mercy within mercy

Week 6, Day 1 (The full text for this week is below) 1st Samuel 1.1-2 There was a certain man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. The book of 1st Samuel is set in a time of great uncertainty for Israel. The Sea Peoples—known in the Bible as the Philistines, had landed on the southeast coast of the Mediterranean and taken over 5 towns in that region. They were moving inland and threatening the land Israel occupied. They were stronger than the I

Listen Up!

Week 6, Day 1 I Samuel 3.1 (The full text for this week is below) Ist Samuel 3.1—“Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” This first line in chapter 3 is a hint to the reader that something is about to change. God hadn’t been seen or heard from in quite a while—or perhaps people were just not listening. In any event, the writer is preparing us for an important shift. Ist Samuel marks the turnover of leadership and power among the tribes of Israel from the period of the judges (as remembered in the Bible books of Joshua and Judges) to the formation of the kingdom of Israel with Saul as the first kin

I'm Listening...

Week 6, Day 1 I Samuel 3.1-21 (The full text is below) We are looking at a tiny snapshot of Samuel’s life this week—which, of course, is entirely inadequate to gain an understanding of this interesting Bible character and his even more interesting times. So my advice is that you read the first 7 chapters of 1st Samuel. These will take you through his early years and into the beginning of his adult service as prophet and judge for Israel. This advice comes with a warning, however. Be prepared to be baffled and mystified by what you read. Three thousand years is a long time. Imagine someone from the year 5017—three thousand years into our future, time travels back for a visit in Mt Vernon

Give us this day...

Week 5, Day 3 Exodus 16. 1-18 The entire passage for this week is below. Let’s consider the Exodus/wilderness/manna story from what might be a new perspective. The Book of Exodus was written during (or maybe just after) the period of Israel’s exile in Babylon (597—538 BC); a time of intense crisis for Israel. The nation had been conquered, the temple in Jerusalem destroyed, their God defeated in battle. Most nations receiving this Babylonian treatment simply disappeared. It was Babylon’s intention that Israel’s would do the same; that their culture, history, religion and faith would be forgotten. The fact that Israel didn’t disappear into the dustbin of history was due, in no small part

First a word from our sponsor...

Week 5, Day 1 When we began our reading of the Old Testament a few weeks ago, several people expressed concern over what we might discover. We are generally unfamiliar with the story line and the characters found there. We’ve heard stories about this strange and ancient book that worry us—sometimes with good cause. The God of the Old Testament, we fear, is somehow very different from the God we find in the New Testament; and some people wondered what we would do if that turned out to be true. So far, nothing we have read or discussed has done much to ease these concerns, for some of us at least. The bad news for today is that this is not likely to get a lot better. This ancient, foreign

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