Showing posts from 2017

Watch Out!

Luke 21:5-19
They asked him, “Rabbi, if this is so, when will these events take place? And what sign will show that they are about to happen?” He answered, “Watch out! Don’t be fooled! For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time has come!’ Don’t go after them.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think that Jesus ever obliged anyone who asked him for a “sign.” So, he answers the annoying request for details about what disasters might or might not happen down the road, by yelling “Watch Out!”
One more time, Jesus tells us that we’re paying attention to the wrong things!
In this case we started by admiring ourselves and our collective accomplishments, patting ourselves on the back and telling ourselves how amazing we are, and then, when Jesus tells us that all that pretty stuff will be totally ruined, we want him to tell us how we’ll be able to know when it’s about to happen. Now, why do you suppose we might want to know that ahead of time….? Could it be that we’re thinkin…

Grave Markers

Matthew 18:1-14
Woe to the world because of snares! For there must be snares, but woe to the person who sets the snare!
The Greek word translated as ‘stumbling block’ is “skandalon”. (Yes, it’s where the word “scandal” comes from.) The thing is, it’s very clear that Jesus was thinking of the prohibition in Leviticus against lifnei iver, which usually means giving bad advice to someone on purpose, but literally means to put a stumbling-block in front of a blind person. The only reason for somebody to do that would be in the expectation that the blind guy would trip and fall, and it would be funny to watch. Pretty reprehensible, yeah?
“Skandalon” literally means “trap-spring” or the mechanism holding a trap open, i.e. a trip-wire. In modern idiom, it could be translated as “booby-trap.” This is particularly apt, because boobys are docile birds and easy to catch, which is why “booby-trap” has the connotation of a trap for the unsuspecting, or innocent, victim.
Modern Jewish law has the phr…

You Cannot Come

Proverbs 8
22 Adonai made me as the beginning of his way,
the first of his ancient works.

I was appointed before the world,
before the start, before the earth’s beginnings.
24 When I was brought forth, there were no ocean depths,
no springs brimming with water.
25 I was brought forth before the hills,
before the mountains had settled in place;
26 he had not yet made the earth, the fields,
or even the earth’s first grains of dust.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there.
When he drew the horizon’s circle on the deep,
28 when he set the skies above in place,
when the fountains of the deep poured forth,
29 when he prescribed boundaries for the sea,
so that its water would not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 I was with him as someone he could trust.
For me, every day was pure delight,
as I played in his presence all the time,
31 playing everywhere on his earth,
and delighting to be with humankind.
John 13
33b You will look for me; …

Christmas Dinner

I don’t have much of my family left. The guardians of my family Christmas traditions have left their legacy to my niece, who now lives in the Scottish Highlands with her husband and two children, a boy and a girl. She has the collection of figures that my mother used to make her famous Christmas Tree Yard. I don’t know whether my niece puts them under the tree or not, or whether she crumples up newspaper under the cotton batting to make mountains for the skiing Santas (made of pipe-cleaners and yarn) to tumble down. That used to be my job, unpacking the little Victorian painted cardboard houses; the old mirror we used to make a skating pond; the weird little Bo Peep doll with her crook and her oddly shaped sheep; the cast metal log with the two men in raincoats sitting on it, although they always fell off—so we decided they were drunk, and left them lying on their faces if they fell off more than twice. I would begin by crumpling up newspaper into a framework to lay the “snow” on top …

A Piece of an Ear

Amos 3:12-4:5
13 “As a shepherd rescues from the mouth of a lion
a couple of leg bones or a piece of an ear;
so the people of Isra’el in Shomron (Samaria) will be rescued,
huddled under cushions in the corners of their beds.

2 Peter 3:1-10
First, understand this: during the Last Days, scoffers will come, following their own desires and asking, “Where is this promised ‘coming’ of his? For our fathers have died, and everything goes on just as it has since the beginning of creation.”
Matthew 21:23-32
27 So they answered Yeshua, “We don’t know.” And he replied, “Then I won’t tell you by what s’mikhah* I do these things.
*ordination or authority to teach

And there it is, the image of the poor bloody-handed shepherd panting and gulping down tears with his hands full of mangled body parts, along with the image of bewildered folks blinking from under the cushions they tried to hide behind.

And there it is, the image of these poor bleating lambs being driven back and forth by “sc…

A Dry Wind

Psalm 16
3 The holy people in the land are the ones who are worthy of honor; all my pleasure is in them.
Amos 5:1-17
13 At times like these a prudent person stays silent, for it is an evil time.
Jude 1-16
12 These men are filthy spots at your festive gatherings meant to foster love; they share your meals without a qualm, while caring only for themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; trees without fruit even in autumn, and doubly dead because they have been uprooted; 13 savage seawaves heaving forth their shameful deeds like foam; wandering stars for whom the blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
Matthew 22:1-14
12 ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him outside in the dark!’ In that place people will wail and grind their teeth, 14 for many are invited, but few are chosen.”

**Taking pleasure in the holy people. So wh…

Smashing Babies

Psalm 137
*****3 when those who had taken us captive
asked us to sing them a song;
our tormentors demanded joy from us —
“Sing us one of the songs from Tziyon!”

How can we sing a song about Adonai
here on foreign soil? ****

Remember, Adonai, against the people of Edom
the day of Yerushalayim’s fall,
how they cried, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
Raze it to the ground!”

Daughter of Bavel, you will be destroyed!
A blessing on anyone who pays you back
for the way you treated us!

A blessing on anyone who seizes your babies
and smashes them against a rock!

Micah 7:11-20
13 The earth will be desolate for those living in it,
as a result of their deeds.

18 Who is a God like you,
pardoning the sin and overlooking the crimes
of the remnant of his heritage?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in grace.

19 He will again have compassion on us,
he will subdue our iniquities.

You will throw all their sins
into the depths of the sea.

1 Peter 4:7-19
11if someone speaks, let him …

It's Not Enough

LECTIO (READ) Psalm 34 (0) By David, when he pretended to be insane before Avimelekh, who then drove him away; so he left:
15 (14) turn from evil, and do good; seek peace, go after it!
Isaiah 49:1-6
he has said, “It is not enough that you are merely my servant........
I will also make you a light to the nations, so my salvation can spread to the ends of the earth.”

1 Corinthians 4:1-16
Now the one thing that is asked of a trustee is that he be found trustworthy. And it matters very little to me how I am evaluated by you or by any human court; in fact, I don’t even evaluate myself. I am not aware of anything against me, but this does not make me innocent.

It is not enough for me to merely seek peace, I have to go after it.
It is not enough that I am merely a servant, I have to be a light.
It’s not enough to be respectable, and I’d be crazy to pretend to be innocent. In fact, it’s a waste of time to evaluate myself at all. Instead, I have to do my best to be trustworthy…

Bring Him Here To Me

Matthew 17:1-17
17 Yeshua answered, “Perverted people, without any trust! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me!” (CJB)
“O unbelieving (apistos) and perverse (diastrephō) generation, how long am I to be with you? How long must I put up with (anechōmai) you? Bring him here to me.” (MOUNCE Reverse Interlinear NT
“Pistos” is often translated as “trustworthy.”“Apistos” would then translate as “untrustworthy.”
“Diastrephō” translates as “to subvert, pervert, make turn away; (pass.) to be perverted, depraved, turned from the truth. Definition: to distort, turn away; met. to pervert, corrupt, (Mt. 17:17; Lk. 9:41) to turn out of the way, cause to make defection (Lk. 23:2; Acts 13:8) διεστραμμένος, perverse, corrupt, erroneous.” ( Greek dictionary)
So, the passage could accurately be translated as,
“You untrustworthy, corrupt generation! I’ve had it with you!”
Now comes the interesting part. I could not find anything in a Google search for…

It's Not About Bread

Matthew 16:1-12
11 “How can you possibly think I was talking to you about bread?”

Well today is a bit of ‘flapping wildly sideways.’ I started off by imagining being there and having Jesus ask me, “How can you possibly think I was talking to you about bread?” I would have been embarrassed for sure, and probably answered him the same way I would answer my Karate sensei—”Uh, because I wasn’t paying close enough attention, sir.” Perhaps followed by, “My bad.”
I did do some research on the word Jesus uses, “hametz,” which in the NRSV is translated “yeast,” but literally means “leavened bread.” Leavened bread was not allowed in the mishkan, the tabernacle that preceded the temple, but only unleavened bread. So, the implication was that leavened bread was not allowed in God’s presence. Even today, hametz is prohibited during Passover.
I don’t think that there was meant to be any deep symbolism though. I just deleted over half of what I had written because I was getting way down in the weeds.

Not A Word

Matthew 15:21-28 23 But Yeshua did not say a word to her. Then his talmidim came to him and urged him, “Send her away, because she is following us and keeps pestering us with her crying.” 24 He said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Isra’el.” 25 But she came, fell at his feet and said, “Sir, help me!” 26 He answered, “It is not right to take the children’s food and toss it to their pet dogs.” Last year I went to a different church one Sunday and the text of the sermon was the same as today’s lectionary text. I was so impressed by the preacher’s take on it that I wrote the following reflection. It was never posted on my blog, so I am going to post it today. The church was Granger Christian Church in Salt Lake City UT, and the preacher was Rev. Vinnetta Golphin-Wilkerson. —The reading Sunday was about the time that Jesus compared the Syrian woman to a dog, and told her it wasn’t right to take food from children to give it to dogs. He told her that he was only sent to the …

What Wasn't Stolen

Psalm 69
Am I expected to return things I didn’t steal?
For a while, now, since I began including the Psalms in my Lectio Divina reflections, I have been feeling a strong impulse to pick up and re-read C.S. Lewis’s Reflections on the Psalms.
So today I did. In a shiveringly apt coincidence, the first part I read was about God’s judgement. Lewis was surprised to note that God’s judgement is something hoped for and wished for by the ancient Jews, and considered to be an occasion of rejoicing, not one of trepidation. “Judgement is apparently an occasion of universal rejoicing. People ask for it: “Judge me O God, according to thy righteousness.”(35,24)” He makes a very telling point, particularly so for me since I spent 18 years as police officer doing my best to bring criminals to justice. Lewis says that both Christians and Jews see God’s judgement in terms of ‘an earthly court of justice’.However, “the Christian pictures the case to be tried as a criminal case with himself in the dock; th…