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Saturday, August 08, 2009
Lectionary Scriptures: I Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14 or Proverbs 9:1-6, Psalm 111:1-10 or Psalm 34:9-14, Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:51-58 The Gospel lesson is more on the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus as the bread of life, living bread and eternal life. A basic point that has come to us over the weeks: There are ideas, thoughts, values, feelings, attitudes, belief systems, spiritual experiences, etc., that we feed upon. Some build us—and humanity—up; others are probably destructive. The most valuable are those that have lasting significance, such that we might speak of them as eternal. When we feed upon and express them it is almost like living on another plane, where the things that happen last forever. The primary theme I see in this week’s scriptures is that of “wisdom.” Solomon is remembered not as a warrior king but as one who sought and demonstrated wisdom. His prayer for wisdom might offer guidance for all of us in our prayers. Solomon prays in humility that he is only a little child who does “not know how to go out or come in.” (I Kings 3:7) The responsibilities of his office weigh on him—all those people “so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted.” (vs. 8) So the prayer is for “an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil . . .” Would that every person with responsibility seek that kind of understanding. Of course some go overboard and make themselves the final authority on what is good and what is evil, but Solomon seems to come at it with more humility, ending his prayer with the question, “ . . . for who can govern this your great people?” Indeed, who can govern without humbly seeking understanding—wisdom? I believe it is important that we seek wisdom and understanding in all the human relationships in which we are involved. We need wisdom in our families, our friendships, our work life, our recreation, our volunteer work, our environmental concerns, the mission activities of the church—and on and on. Some days I look out at all the things that need to be addressed, and I throw up my hands and say I don’t have enough understanding. I hardly know where to begin. Almost always, almost every day, specifics happen that require response. Solomon had to decide between two women who both claimed the same child—but that’s another story. We are required to decide almost every day, about little things, and sometimes big things. (Sometimes the little things are bigger than we think.) Part of the prayer of each day might be for the kind of understanding/wisdom that will prepare us for whatever might come. The passage from Ephesians suggests that wisdom is a good way to make “the most of the time.” (Ephesians 5:15-16) What I find most fascinating is that wisdom appears to be somehow connected with music. The passage starts with an instruction to be wise, concluding that part of being wise is singing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.” (vs. 19) Granted there have been some pretty dark compositions and popular songs, there is much music that is uplifting. It is difficult to think evil thoughts while singing or listening to such music. I find music to be healing, inspiring, even challenging on occasion. It is food for the soul that offers an eternal connection. Pastor Rick has reminded us that “wisdom” in parts of the biblical tradition, including the Proverbs, is female, a female expression of the divine, sometimes another way of talking about God’s Spirit. What if the third person of the Trinity were female? Tackling the Trinity right now, though, is too much. Nevertheless, note that being wise, in Ephesians 5:19, is to be filled with the Spirit. The verses from Proverbs talk about “Wisdom” as one who calls out to the simple and those without sense, to come to her and find the sustenance which will allow them to “lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” (Proverbs 9:4-6) Note also that Proverbs 9:5 connects with the bread and wine theme. Wisdom’s invitation is to “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.” Is Wisdom then one of those eternal foods offered to all who would partake? This will be my last submission to the Kairos Blog until another yet unseen occasion arises. Margie and I are off to Wisconsin, a wedding, some sightseeing, etc. I believe Rick will be offering his usual brilliant insights (full of wisdom?) starting in September. Thank you, Rick, and all readers, for allowing me to share some of what the lectionary—and being part of this congregation—has meant and means to me.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Lectionary Scriptures: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 or 1 Kings 19:4-8, Psalm 130:1-8 or Psalm 34:1-8, Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2, John 6:35, 41-51 Some of this week’s lectionary readings continue to give attention to miraculous feedings. I’m not sure I’m up to much more of that. In this week’s portion we have the notion of a prophet being without honor in his own country. “How could Jesus possibly have ‘come down from heaven.’? He’s the son of Joseph, after all.” (John 6:41-42) Between the lines, or maybe not so hidden, one can see Jesus trying to redirect their attention from a heaven in the skies to what is right in front of them. “Here I am right in the midst of you. That’s where you need to look for heaven. Eternal life is not just forever in another realm; it’s right now, here, all around you.” (John 6:45-51) In the story from 1 Kings, Elijah is out sitting alone under a tree feeling sorry for himself because Jezebel is after him—to kill him. Well, I guess that might be reason to complain a little. (1 Kings 19:1-4) An angel comes and gives him food and drink, which sustains him for forty days and forty nights, a popular number in the Bible when one is wandering around feeling like one is in the wilderness. Elijah’s basic complaint? “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts” and “I alone am left . . .” (1 Kings 19:10) “I’ve been so much more faithful than all the others. They all have run away, turned from you, or been killed. Oh, poor me. All alone.” God speaks to him in a quiet voice after a display of wind, earthquake, and fire, and says, “You are not alone, Elijah. There are seven thousand faithful still there, ready to work alongside you. You don’t have to do it all by yourself.” (vss. 11-18) We have a tendency to forget that there are those around us who are willing to offer support, to help, to be partners with us in the tasks and trials we face. There’s a lot of need for support in this week’s scriptures. What parent cannot identify with David when he loses his beloved son, Absalom? We have not all lost children, but we know how much we worry about them. Maybe we have no children, but we have lost other loved ones, or we worry about them. David’s experience is described in this way in 2 Samuel 18:33. “The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, ‘O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!’” To be ready to die so that another will not have to is the epitome of love. Have we ever felt like we wished it had been us instead of someone else? That’s the way life is finally lived and finally makes sense. We all live and die for one another. We can’t go it alone. We can’t escape our responsibilities and connections—both the benefits and the costs. We are part of a cast of thousands who walk through this life together, living and dying—and it is the being in it together that makes it all worthwhile. One can move from Elijah to Ephesians, which offers instruction for living together in mutually supportive ways, ways in which we will be helpful to one another and we will all get through, maybe even grow stronger. Don’t lie to one another. It’s okay to get angry for a bit, but don’t bear a grudge. Do your fair share, and work together so that you have something to give to the needy. Speak only in ways that build up. It’s all there; go read it. Perhaps it is summed up in Ephesians 4:31-32: “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” That’s the kind of community we are called to be, and when we are that kind of community we truly are not alone. We’re not perfect and we never will be, but sharing the load together beats any alternative I know. In Ephesians 5:1-2, we find the center of strength from which that togetherness is enabled. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” It is by looking to God and Jesus that we find what it is that draws us together. That love is described as something “fragrant.” How sweet it is when brothers and sisters come together in mutual support and encouragement!

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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