Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Bible in a Year:Day 7

I am so sorry!

I did not get the Daily Readings up on the 5th or 6th. My family was hit by the stomach bug and I am only now recovered enough to type.
I will recap all of the readings here, briefly.

Genesis 13

Abram and Lot separate in order to keep piece in the family. Abram is a wise man, more than one family has been torn apart over arguments about wealth and possessions.
God has been with Abram as he has moved from place to place and been faithful even when Abram has doubted and acted in fear. God's faithfulness is something beyond what any of us can really imagine. God blesses Abram and will continue to do so.
God still loves the world and continues to work in it and through it. Sometimes through human agency. I pray that the world would become more receptive to those bringing the message of God and that the world might hear the love of God especially in the midst of such hate and violence done and spoken in the Holy One's name.

Genesis 14

I will admit that I struggle with the first part of this chapter. I'm really not sure what this says about God. I think that Abram made the choice to get his kinsmen and with a number of fighters did just that. We have a tendency to think that God is always on the winners side, because the winner usually writes the story. I do feel that God has blessed Abram and has continued to be faithful to Abram, but I'm not really sure how God fits into all of this war action. I suppose it is that Abram believes that this land is his and his descendants and so he goes after it, not waiting for God to hand it to him, but believing it is already his and defends it chasing them for over 100 miles.
I guess God wants us to go to battle for things and people that are important to us, but again this whole war/concur stuff is hard for me to reconcile with the God who gave up himself to save us. Perhaps if I am to claim something for God, then I need to remove other influences that might poorly affect that area of my life?
I think it means that sometimes we battle and God lets us. I don't know that it is really God endorsed, but perhaps permitted? Jesus spoke so much of love and peace and giving that battling with earthly forces seems contrary to all of that. Again, just my honest struggles today.
I love the second half of this chapter however! I think it is amazingly cool that Melchizedek is called a priest of the Most High God, even though he has no known ties to the chosen people or to Abram. God is active outside of what we know and understand. God's love is being shown and received even when we are not made privy to it. Thanks be to God. Too often I think we see that God is with us therefore God must not be with "them." God is bigger than I could imagine. God's faithfulness to us does not preclude God's faithfulness to others. God sees so much more than we do and is active in so many more places. How rich and deep and wide is the love of God!
With this view of God, one supported by the Gospels, we can see God's activity is worldwide. It means that the world and all that is in it is God's and that God will act when we cannot find a way for God to act. Pulling a priest out of thin air is not a magic trick, it is an act of extreme grace and mercy for Abram and the people!

Genesis 15

This is God proclaiming the covenant with Abram. I am amazed by this passage because it really shows the covenant of grace as being of God's action. Abram makes the sacrifice, acknowledging God as God, but it is God's presence that walks between the halves, it is God's action that shows God's commitment. God will be and is faithful, this covenant is not one that Abram upholds, but rather the burden is on God to give a barren man so many offspring that they are not able to be counted.
This passage gives me hope in the midst of trials and tribulations. God continues to seek relationship with the world, even with those parts of the world that seem to be openly hostile towards God. I have little doubt of God's frustration with humanity from time to time, but I also do not doubt God's commitment to uphold the covenant of grace established with humanity and sealed in Christ.

Genesis 16

This reading is all about what happens when humans decide to step in for God. Sarai and Abram choose to grab at God's promise in their own way, instead of waiting on God's timing. God does not send Hagar away nor does God abandon Hagar. God offers relationship, sees her suffering and asks her to trust that God has a plan and promise for her and her child as well. This situation, not of God's making, but of Abram and Sarai's plan, yet God will seek to redeem it and cause good to come from it.
Today when I was reading, I put myself in Hagar's shoes. I wonder how willing I am to see God even in my wilderness situations. Hagar names God "The God who sees" and if I really believe that then what is it God is seeing in me? I am grateful for God who sees and takes notice and it gives me comfort to know that God is aware of me and my needs even when the world's needs seem so much greater than my own.
"His eye is on the sparrow" God watches over us all and that is amazing! It's also humbling. How much does God see that I chose not to see? How can the world see things as God does with God's eyes and God's heart? This seeing idea is so important especially in the story of Abram and it is super important in a world that likes to pretend no one sees what we don't want them to see.
(I wrote a Bible study on this topic for Intersections: Where Faith and Life meet, a resource for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, in case anyone is interested)

Genesis 17

God does not leave us as we are. God joined into a relationship with Abram and through that relationship Abram is changed. To signify that change God gives him a new name and a sign to show the permanent change in his life and the lives of his family members. Once again God says that Abraham will be a nation and that God will bless his descendants with the land.  God does not need to be reminded, but at this point Abraham sure does. He's taken matters into his own hand and with the blessing of his wife, taken a slave woman as a bride and she is expecting. Abraham thinks this will be his heir, but God has promised a child by Sarai. Sarai's name is changed to Sarah and thereby is included in the blessing.
God does not forget God's promises to the world. God is faithful. God gave the sign of circumcision as a way to remind the people whose they were. This covenant sign was not original to Abraham. I have read that there were other groups who did this. But God re-purposed this sign and gave it new meaning to Abraham and those who would come after.
So here we have a sign that is to remind humanity of God's covenant and what happens? Humans argue about weather or not is necessary in order to be saved. Today some have the same argument over the mode and method of baptism, is one more binding or genuine than another. Wow, we people of God know how to turn a good grace filled thing into a problem, don't we!
Baptism is the outward sign of the inward action of the Holy Spirit in our denomination. It is a sign that you are a child of the covenant. That is why we baptize infants, to show that it is the work of God, not anything we can earn or deserve. I was baptized at 6 weeks old and while I obviously don't have any memories of the actual events, my mom was great at showing me the pictures and talking with me about it and how important it was to my family and church community. My church really lived into its baptismal vows and I hope that the church I am serving does as well

Matthew 5:1-26

This section on Matthew has been, and will continue to be the focus of the lectionary readings for the next several weeks. A sermon on Matthew 5:1-12 can be found here. Sunday's sermon on Matthew 5:13-16 can be found here.
This reading is part of the beloved sermon on the mount. These are Jesus' teachings to the disciples and they are so different from the common interpretations of God's word in that day, that they cause confusion and fear straight out of the gate. Honestly, they are still fairly counter cultural.
We don't see the poor as blessed, the grieving as blessed, the marginalized as blessed.
We still tend to hold those religious leaders among us to higher standards,even though Jesus says our righteousness must surpass theirs. We kill each other daily with our words or comments on Facebook and twitter, but we would not consider ourselves murders for such words.

Matthew 5:27-48

This reading continues to give us ideas contrary to those held by then vast majority of people in Jesus' time. There is a wonderful video by Walter Wink on Matthew 5:38-42 and an interpretation of these readings. You can watch that video here.
Christ calls us to love our enemies. It's not expected, its not easy, and yet he asks this of us. Jesus' way was a not and is not the way of the world. The way of Christ is narrow and steep, so much so that sometimes we are afraid to climb. But, the good news is that we do not climb alone, we walk the path with Christ who cut the path in the beginning.

Matthew 6:1-18

In this section of Matthew we get lessons on alms giving and prayer. The giving of alms, a practice of giving to those in need, is a good and blessed discipline. However, here, Jesus says that this giving is not something to do publicly, but rather privately. If you boldly proclaim what you do, then you will be admired by humans, but that admiration becomes your reward. If you give and that gift is between you and God, then your reward will be from God as well.
It is important to note that giving was done at a box in the temple with people watching. Often times people made big pronouncements before dropping their coins into the box. It would be like bringing a giant check to the front of the sanctuary to tell others what you are giving in your tithe.
"Your Father who sees in secret" is a phrase that is hopeful and scary. God sees the secret, even when the world does not know what you are doing for God's glory, God will know and that knowledge is enough. You don't need acclaim from humanity, for God sees and knows. That is good news for those who seek to do good without praise.
But it also means that God sees our secret deeds, our actions that are not so benevolent. The times when we choose to cheat or take because no one is watching or no one will get hurt. However, God who sees in secret will see there as well.
The same lesson is true of prayer. Jesus says that prayer is not for the public listening, it is between you and God. If you pray for the purpose of others hearing and thinking you pious, than that will be your reward. Prayer is communication between you and God, an honest open communication. Jesus gives us a guide for prayer here; we often call it The Lord's Prayer.

**** many of these thoughts come from previous blog posts on Genesis from this blog****

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