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Daily Lectionary – March 27, 2020

Morning Psalms 22; 148

First Reading Exodus 2:1-22

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3

Gospel Reading Mark 9:2-13

Evening Psalms 105; 130

 

2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

 

9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. 11Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12He said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? 13But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.”

 

Mark, in typical fashion, cuts right to the point. We read the story of the Transfiguration in worship a little over a month ago (it seems longer ago than that). And so we know that this story is one of the things that confirms Jesus as special—the beloved Son of God. We know, too, how the disciples, as they are wont to do, botch the interpretation. They argue among themselves what the resurrection means. But Mark doesn’t linger with the disciples for long. They go down the mountain and Jesus makes the point explicit: that although he has been glorified, Jesus is preparing for his suffering and death. The glorification and the exaltation go hand in hand. That’s a hard thing for us to learn; because so often it’s when things are at their best that we tend to forget God. It’s the job or the relationship or even just the weather that, without gratitude, allows us to forget our fallibility or our potential for suffering. The irony of real struggle, then, is that’s when we are closest to God: because that’s where we recognize the truth about ourselves in our inability to control the world around us. Only the Creator can do that. And the Creator chose suffering as the way to redeem the world. Sometimes the hardship becomes a prelude to something better. That’s our hope, anyway.

 

Holy God, we pray for your appearing in places of pain and suffering and fear. We trust in you that, in your hands, what is broken becomes mended, and what is purchased by death is redeemed in your love. Come to us in just these places, that your hope would heal, and that your cross would mend suffering with the new life you bring, in your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – March 27, 20202020-09-08T16:05:06-05:00

Daily Lectionary – March 26, 2020

Morning Psalms 27; 147:12-20

First Reading Exodus 1:6-22

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 12:12-26

Gospel Reading Mark 8:27-9:1

Evening Psalms 126; 102

 

                        12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

                        14Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

 

Everything sounds different in light of the events of the past several weeks, including Paul’s call to unity in the Corinthian church. The problem in Corinth is division. People are following different teachers, creating status hierarchies in the church based on who baptized who. Social divisions are creeping into worship, with richer members taking communion as a part of their fellowship meal and excluding the poor. Cosmopolitan public figures are continuing some pagan practices, confusing newer and often less connected members. In short, things are a mess. Corinth has always been a good stand-in for mainline churches. We too worry about our relationship to the culture—are we too emmeshed in its successes, or characterized by things separate from our baptismal identity? Churches in America often short-circuit problems of social differentiation and belonging because our churches are already segmented on these lines. Often (and too our shame) being Presbyterian in this country has to do with things like education and access to social capital and ethnic and racial identity as it does a deep, Gospel-led resonance. But something like, say, coronavirus, can shake us out of our complacency. All of a sudden our privilege shrinks before something that threatens life, regardless of sociological factors. Rich and poor can suffer together. The quarantine, too, reflects some of Paul’s thinking; we know that we have among us some members who need protecting—who, whether for reasons of age or illness have greater levels of threat. These are the ones we show care for as we isolate. Our isolation is a sign of our solidarity—“if one member suffers, all suffer together with it.” It recalls something of C.S. Lewis, “a friend halves our sorrow and doubles our joy.” This is what we’re doing as a church, cutting our sorrow into a hundred and fifty pieces so that we can bear it together. Just think of the joy when we’re together again.

 

Gracious God, we pray that you will be with us, even as we are separate from one another. Unite us by your Spirit, that we would have the strength to carry what we must on behalf of others, and prepare to receive the joy of your promise, whenever it appears, in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – March 26, 20202020-09-08T16:05:07-05:00

Daily Lectionary – March 25, 2020

 

Morning Psalms 5; 147:1-11

First Reading Genesis 50:15-26

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Gospel Reading Mark 8:11-26

Evening Psalms 27; 51

 

                        11The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. 12And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.

                        14Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out – beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” 16They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” 17And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20“And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

                        22They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” 24And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”

 

We want signs too—signs that things are improving or returning to normal. We want signs that will tell us something so that we can make sense of a world in quarantine, where the innocent suffer and where the inequalities of our day, rather than leveling, become starker as people lose jobs and the ability to pay for necessities. Where is God in this? Is God at work to make things better? Did we miss a sign that this was coming? Ultimately this kind of thinking reveals what we’re really looking for. We, like the Pharisees, want signs because information is our way of controlling what’s happening. If we know enough or read enough maybe, we think, we’ll find that one thing that will put things back in their place. This is what the Pharisees do. It’s not that they’re bad—they’re not. But they’re misguided in that they think their learning and success have given them special access into the knowledge of God. And so, by challenging Jesus, they’re attempting to put his teaching into their already comfortable categories that reduce God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, into a theological proposition. This is the sort of thinking that causes Jesus to get into his boat and float away. Not that the disciples are doing much better. Jesus tells them to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their ideas that might spoil Jesus’ teaching. But the disciples are still thinking literally, wondering about their next meal. Maybe Jesus doesn’t give signs because he knows we will appropriate them for whatever we want, even when we say we want God. Only the blind man, ironically, sees clearly. Jesus heals him with a touch. He admits that, even then, he can’t see very well. Then he sees clearly. It’s not that we can ever see in ourselves. We need the touch of God to open our eyes, and that is always beyond our control. Maybe the evening Psalm for today gives the answer: “I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Have courage and wait.”

 

Holy God, we wait on you. Nothing else will satisfy our curiosity and fear and longing. We don’t want signs or even the suggestion that we are in control; but we put all that we have into your hands, trusting that the grace of your Son and the comfort of your Spirit will meet us, even in distress. We wait on you, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – March 25, 20202020-09-08T16:05:07-05:00

Daily Lectionary – March 24, 2020

Morning Psalms 34; 146

First Reading Genesis 49:29-50:14

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 11:2-34

Gospel Reading Mark 8:1-10

Evening Psalms 25; 91

 

1   You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
2   will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
3   For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence;
4   he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5   You will not fear the terror of the night,
or the arrow that flies by day,
6   or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
or the destruction that wastes at noonday.

7   A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8   You will only look with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

 

9   Because you have made the LORD your refuge,
the Most High your dwelling place,
10  no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.

 

11  For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12  On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
13  You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.

 

14  Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
15  When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honor them.

 

16  With long life I will satisfy them,
and show them my salvation.

 

Psalm 91 has historically been a great comfort to the people of God—and you can see why. The Psalm lists enemies, lions, snakes, terror, arrows, snares, and pestilence as things that threaten. As now, the world of the Psalmist was a dangerous place. But the help of God is repeated, too. God is described as shelter, shadow, refuge, fortress, shield, buckler, dwelling place, and as the sheltering pinons of a mother bird. This means that, even as we see and experience trouble and challenge, we have the assurance that God’s shelter, protection, and provision are always near. Some scholars think that the last couple of lines of the Psalm were a liturgy repeated in the temple. They would have been familiar to all who worshipped there:When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.” This is the conclusion of the Psalm. No matter how many things threaten, God has the last word.

 

Gracious God, we pray that you will provide for us, as you have provided for your people through countless generations. Cover us with your protection, rescue us from danger, shield us from all threats, be a refuge of peace from storms of worry. Show us your salvation again, that we may be encouraged by your Spirit, and renewed in the hope of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Daily Lectionary – March 24, 20202020-09-08T16:05:07-05:00

Daily Lectionary – March 23, 2020

Morning Psalms 119:73-80; 145

First Reading Genesis 49:1-28

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1

Gospel Reading Mark 7:24-37

Evening Psalms 121; 6

 

                        24From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go – the demon has left your daughter.” 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

                        31Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

 

When it feels like God is far away, this is encouragement not to give up. A woman is desperate. Her daughter has a demon—a supernatural force that is beyond anyone’s ability to heal. What’s more, she’s a Syrophoenician—an outsider from Israel. And now her only hope is this wandering Jewish prophet who she has heard has miraculous powers. All she can do is beg; but Jesus turns to her with one of his harshest rebukes: “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she does not give up: “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” It’s enough, and Jesus heals her daughter. That is our hope: that even the crumbs of God’s grace will be enough to satisfy us. We may not have more than crumbs now; but sometimes that’s enough.

 

Gracious God, feed us with all we need to be sustained in the wilderness way. Fill us with all that is good, just as you have fed us with your own life, that we might have bread to share with a hungry world. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Daily Lectionary – March 23, 20202020-09-08T16:05:07-05:00
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