Year B

Our Bible Lessons for November 22 to November 28

What's ahead in the Bible readings

November 22 to November 28, 2018
The Twenty-sixth Week After Pentecost
The Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time*

Bible Review: The Complete Jewish Bible

Messianic Jews believe that Jesus (Yeshua) is the Messiah promised by the prophets. They chose to maintain their Jewish identity, which means they worship beginning at sundown on Friday, and they use Hebrew names (Yeshua rather than Jesus) in their worship. Although there are differences within he Messianic Jewish movement, in general they chose to follow the commandments in the Torah. You can read more here.

The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) is published by Messianic Jewish Publishers, www.messianicjewish.net. The translation is by Rabbi David Stern. Naturally, it contains both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. I initially bought it because Rabbi Stern has complied a table showing where Hebrew Scripture is used in Christian Scripture. (I am using these terms just to be clear; they are not the ones used in Messianic Judaism.) His table is the source of most of the footnotes in Hebrew Scripture showing where it is used in Christian Scripture. We provide this because it is important to appreciate that the Bible is not two loosely connected testaments, but in fact is an organic whole, each testament illuminating the other and bringing us closer to God. We ignore either one at our peril.

The books in the CJB are grouped differently than in typical Christian Bibles. It starts with the books of the law (The Torah), followed by the prophets (former, later, and The Twelve), and ending with the writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Daniel and others). Even within traditional Judaism, there is not universal agreement about the order in which the books should be printed.

Other features include an extensive glossary of Hebrew words, with pronunciations and English equivalents and an extended introduction.

Here is the Wednesday Gospel Lesson from the CJB:

“I have said these things to you with the help of illustrations; however, a time is coming when I will no longer speak indirectly but will talk about the Father in plain language. When that day comes, you will ask in my name. I am not telling you that i will pray to the Father on your behalf, for the Father loves you, because you have loved me and believed that I came from God.

“I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and returning to the Father.”

The talmidim said to him, “Look, you're talking plainly right now; you're not speaking indirectly at all. Now we know that you know everything, and that you don't need to have people put their questions into words. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

Yeshua answered, “Now you do believe. But a time is coming—indeed it has come already—when you will be scattered, each looking out for himself; and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.

“I have said these things to you so that, united with me, you may have shalom. In the world, you have tsuris. But be brave! I have conquered the world.” (CJB)

Here are definitions:
Shalom means peace, tranquility, contentment, integrity.
Talmidim means disciple or student. The relationship between a talmid and his rabbi was very close.
Tsuris means trouble, woe, or aggravation.

If you are looking for a Bible with Jewish perspectives on Christianity, this may be the one for you. If you decide to purchase it, please consider using this link, where you purchase will benefit The Lectionary Company: Complete Jewish Bible (Updated) (CJB) by David H. Stern.

This week's illustration

The painting is of John, the person who received and wrote the Revelation. We have a number of readings from Revelation. By the way, the title of the book is Revelation, not Revelations.

St. John on Patmos

Gospel Readings

Our Gospel readings are all from John. The>Sunday reading relates Pilate's first interrogation of Jesus. I am always bothered by what seems to be a slur on Jews in John's Gospel. Here is a bit of reading that puts some perspective on it: Gospel of John and Jews. The last two points in the reference are important for us:

  • it is highly unlikely that John meant the Jews as an ethnic slur, and unlikely that his first readers took it as a sweeping denunciation of all descendants of Jacob. More likely the term was loose designation for Jesus' opponents—those who rejected him and his message, part of the world—especially but not exclusively the nation's (priestly and lay) leaders

  • it is very difficult to read John today without importing later developments, enmity, and Christian oppression of Jews back into the narrative, but it must be attempted. Jewish Christians saw themselves as insiders who were being forced out; now the church (and Jews as well) sees Christianity as thoroughly distinct--a separate religion Jewish Christians saw themselves as a persecuted minority; in subsequent years, the church was often the persecuting majority John could used Jew and Judaism without implying anti-Semitism, and without commending hostility; today any theological critique of the Jewish religion is likely to be heard as an ethnic critique of the Jewish race.

(This analysis is from Bruce Fisk, a professor of New Testament at Westmont.)

Our last Gospel reading, and the last one for the week, has an element of hope. Jesus says to the disciples “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” May it be so for us.

New Testament Readings

Here are two quotes from our readings from Revelation:

Make vows to the Lord your God, and perform them;
let all who are around him bring gifts to the one who is awesome,
who cuts off the spirit of princes,
who inspires fear in the kings of the earth.

Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Complementary Hebrew Scriptures

Our readings from Daniel, which come on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday differ from last week's readings because they tell of visions Daniel receives, rather than about visions he interprets for others. Here is some of what The New Interpreter's Bible has to say:

Chapter 7 certainly turns the theological/ideological direction of the book as a whole in a new, dramatic, and darker direction. The images here are those of struggle and warfare between the forces of evil and chaos against the heavens, the “holy ones,” and by implication the Jewish tellers and hearers of the story.…The hope for a change in the foreign rulers has been abandoned; the empires are revealed for what they have always been: beasts who rose out of chaos and evil.

The vision has four beasts. The lion represents Babylon, the bear the Medes, the leopard the Persians, and the dragon the Greeks. The ten horns on the dragon represent the successors to Alexander the Great.

Our readings from Ezekiel, which come on Thursday, Friday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The first two readings are oracles against Tyre and Sidon, two coastal cities in Phoenicia. Their kings, with others, traveled to Jerusalem to plot an overthrow of Babylon. Ezekiel regards Babylon as an agent of God punishing Israel and Judah for their sins, so trying to overthrow Babylon, in Ezekiel's eyes, is trying to overthrow God. In addition, the king of Tyre has likened himself to a god, a severe violation of God's dignity. In the second two readings, Judah's alliance with Egypt is condemned. In the end, Babylon conquered Jerusalem and Egypt was of no help.

Semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures

Our semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures focus on King Josiah, who instituted many religious reforms, including ending worship of various idols. We also read about David becoming king of Judah.

Thank you for being part of the lectionary readings community, and for all you do to bring God's reign into being.
Mike Gilbertson

If you know someone who could deepen his or her commitment to being a Christian through these readings, why not forward this to that person? It is important that we foster Christians in growing more Christ-like whenever possible. Here is a link that leads to the sign up form: Sign up link

Summaries and Links for the week ahead

The links don't become active until 3:05 am on the designated day.

Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 93
Your throne has been established.
Semi-continuous Psalm 132 The faithful sing with joy.

Thursday: Preparation for the Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Ezekiel 28:1-10 An oracle against the king of Tyre
Semi-continuous 2 Kings 22:1-10 Hilkiah finds the Book of the Law in the temple.
Both Acts 7:54-8:1a The stoning of St. Stephen

Friday: Preparation for the Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Ezekiel 28:20-26 Ezekiel sent to Sidon. God promises to gather the exiles.
Semi-continuous 2 Kings 22:11-20 The king's courtiers inquire of the prophetess Hulda on his behalf. God says the king will go to his grave in peace, but there will be punishment for those who have abandoned God.
Both 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 Christ, the first fruits of the resurrection.

Saturday: Preparation for the Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 7:1-8, 15-18 Daniel's vision of the four beasts
Semi-continuous 2 Kings 23:1-14 Josiah renews the covenant.
Both John 3:31-36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.

The Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 The Ancient One sits on a throne
Semi-continuous 2 Samuel 23:1-7 A just ruler is like the morning light.
Both Revelation 1:4b-8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Both John 18:33-37 Pilate's first interrogation of Jesus

Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 76
God is victorious.
Semi-continuous Psalm 63 The king shall rejoice in God.

Monday: Reflection on the Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 7:19-27 The fourth beast will be defeated.
Semi-continuous 2 Kings 23:15-25 The abominations are destroyed or defiled.
Both Revelation 11:1-14 And I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy for one thousand two hundred sixty days, wearing sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Ezekiel 29:1-12 A prophesy against Egypt
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 17:55-18:5 Saul meets David, and David's and Jonathan's souls are bound.
Both Revelation 11:15-19 The seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever." Then the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God.

Wednesday: Reflection on the Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Ezekiel 30:20-26 I am the Lord.
Semi-continuous 2 Samuel 2:1-7 David becomes king of Judah.
Both John 16:25-33 Peace for the disciples

*Denominations have different ways of designating the weeks during the year, so your church may refer to this week by a different name or number or both. Regardless of the name or number, the readings are the same. Here is an explanation: Calendar Explanation

Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.

Footnotes in the Hebrew Scriptures that show where the passage is used in the Christian Scriptures are based on information from the Complete Jewish Bible (Updated) (CJB) by David H. Stern, Copyright © 1998 and 2006 by David H. Stern, used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, www.messianicjewish.net. All rights reserved worldwide. When text is taken from the CJB, the passage ends with (CJB) and the foregoing copyright notice applies.

Image credit: St. John on Patmos by the Master of Rotterdam, via Wikimedia.org. This is a public domain image.

Our Bible Lessons for November 15 to 21

What's ahead in the Bible readings

November 15 to November 21, 2018
The Twenty-fifth Week After Pentecost
The Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time*

Bible Reviews

Bible reviews will return in the near future. Next up is The Complete Jewish Bible. It is published by the Messianic Jewish organization, whose members believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah. So it includes both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures. Time got away from me this week,which prevented me from doing a review.

This Week's Image

Death on a Pale Horse

This week's image is Death on a Pale Horse and pictures an apocalyptic event foretold in Revelation. You will probably recognize the four horsemen. I chose this image to remind us that there is more about the end times in the Bible than we usually think about.

Gospel Lessons

Most of our reading this week relate, one way or another, to apocalypse, especially the complementary Hebrew Scriptures. The Oxford Dictionary of the Bible says this:

Though applied especially to the last book of the Bible, the Revelation to John, and called ‘The Apocalypse’, the word means more generally an ‘an unveiling’ of divine secrets and in the OT books such as Daniel and parts of Isaiah and Zachariah there are apocalypses.…The apocalypses traverse the whole range of human experience and beyond, from references to the social setting of the author (Dan.), to revelations of the events to occurs at the end of time and disclosures under the guidance of an angel….

Our Sunday and Wednesday Gospel readings are from Mark 13, which is often called The Little Apocalypse. These texts serve to remind us that we do not know when the end times will come, despite the ravings of some modern preachers. Our task is not to worry about the future, but to bring the commonwealth of God into being now, here, on earth.

Epistle Lessons

Our Epistle lessons come from Timothy, Colossians, and Hebrews. Here are a few passages to give you a flavor of the readings:

God made you alive together with him [Christ], when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.  Colossians 2:13b-14

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet
     “in a very little while,
     the one who is coming will come and will not delay;
     but my righteous one will live by faith.” Hebrews 10:35-38a

Complementary Hebrew Scriptures

All but one of our Hebrew Scripture readings are from Daniel. Our readings in the time of preparation are from the fourth chapter, which tells the story of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Daniel's interpretation, and its coming to pass. In the time of reflection we read from Daniel 8. Without a scorecard, it's pretty tough to keep it all the images in chapter 8 straight. The little horn is Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who set up a statute of Zeus in the temple, thus desecrating it. The rams two horns represent the kings of Media and Persia, and the great horn of the male goat Alexander the Great.

Why should we care about any of this? Here are some thoughts from the reflections on Daniel in The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume VII which I found helpful.

  1. “When we are introduced to Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 4, we recognize the proud and domineering emperor of the Babylonian empire—a regime built on the extortion and pillage of both people and resources throughout the ancient Near East. But this man undergoes a transformation by being forced to endure what he has inflicted on others. Furthermore, restitution is demanded from him for his sins, especially his treatment of the dispossessed. In Daniel, it is a humbled and transformed emperor who finally confesses that God's ‘works are truth’ and God's ‘ways are justice’ (Dan 4:37 NRSV).” So, first, have we avoided dispossessing others? And if not, are we capable of true repentance without going through what we have put on those whom we have mistreated?

  2. “The book of Daniel suggests that the mere fact that Christians may find themselves under the rule of an oppressive state (whether overt or more subtle), does not mean that they need bow to its authority. Note the interesting paradox in the words of 1 Pet 2:16 ‘As servants of God, live as free people’! The modern state is a reality in which Christians must work for more just and peaceful structures in our lives—not to preserve the sanctity of the state, but to uphold justice and peace as the way of the Christian in the world. Because God reigns, the state is merely a tool—sometimes to be used, sometimes to be prophetically condemned, but never to be baptized. In their involvement in the government of the state, whether it be political office or civil service or some other role, Christians should maintain a sense of the tentativeness of the state's role as a tool of God.”

  3. “[I]t is surely a mistake to try to pretend—as moderns constantly try to do—that we live in a world in which mistakes do not have consequences, whether errors in personal choice, misguided national policies, or worldwide environmental negligence. Forgiveness, after all, does not always involve avoiding the consequences.”

  4. How Long? Finally, there is the agonized question in chapter 8: ‘How long?’The second major theme of this chapter is that the time of wrath is limited and thus the people's suffering is limited as well. This is surely one of the most powerful appeals of apocalyptic literature and apocalyptic movements. Theologically, it is one of the most important messages of the book of Daniel for a modern world, It is the promise of the gospel that darkness will not last forever, that innocence will not be crushed forever, that justice will be had.” It has been crucial to me in my experience of recurrent major depression to know that this, too, will pass. In some ways, it makes the experience more bearable, even if it is still debilitating.

Semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures

Most of our semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures are about Samuel, his mother Hannah, and the priest Eli. Samuel is a crucial character in the Hebrew Scriptures. He is the last of the judges who ruled Israel after Moses, and he anoints Saul as the first king, and later David as the second king.

One of my favorite Bible scenes is the calling of Samuel. God speaks to him, but Samuel thinks it is Eli calling him. Eli finally realizes what is happening and tells Samuel to say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” This story makes me ask myself how many times I have heard God's voice and thought it was a human.

Thank you for being part of the lectionary community. May these readings bring a blessing into your life.
Mike Gilbertson

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Ask someone this week to become a regular Bible reader by signing up to get our daily readings. Here is a link that leads to the sign up form: Sign up link

Summaries and Links for the week ahead

Remember that the links don't become active until the lessons are posted on our web site, at approximately 3:05 a.m. Eastern Time.

Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 16
A song of trust and security in God.
Semi-continuous Canticle 1 Samuel 2:1-10 Hannah's prayer

Thursday: Preparation for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 4:4-18 Nebuchadnezzar's dream
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 1:12-28 Hannah gives Samuel to God.
Both 1 Timothy 6:11-21 The good fight of faith

Friday: Preparation for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 4:19-27 Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream.
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 2:18-21 The child Samuel at Shiloh
Both Colossians 2:6-15 Christ is the head of every ruler and authority. Just as you received Jesus Christ, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him.

Saturday: Preparation for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 4:28-37 Nebuchadnezzar praises God.
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 3:1-18 God calls Samuel.
Both Mark 12:1-12 The parable of the wicked tenants.

The Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 12:1-3 God will deliver the people.
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 1:4-20 God answers Hannah's prayer.
Both Hebrews 10:11-25 The way to God through Christ
Both Mark 13:1-8 The destruction of the temple and signs of the end times

Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 13
A prayer for deliverance from enemies
Semi-continuous Psalm 3 Trust in God under adversity

Monday: Reflection on the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 8:1-14 A vision of destructive power
Semi-continuous 1 Samuel 3:19-4:2 God was with Samuel and the people knew it.
Both Hebrews 10:32-39 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Daniel 8:15-27 The Angel Gabriel interprets the vision.
Semi-continuous Deuteronomy 26:5-10 A declaration to be made to the priest when the first fruits are offered.
Both Hebrews 10:32-39 A call to persevere in faith

Wednesday: Reflection on the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Zechariah 12:1-13:1 The future of Jerusalem
Semi-continuous 1 Kings 8:22-30 Solomon's prayer
Both Mark 13:9-23 The coming suffering.

*Denominations have different ways of designating the weeks during the year, so your church may refer to this week by a different name or number or both. Regardless of the name or number, the readings are the same. Here is an explanation: Calendar Explanation

Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.

Image credit: Death on a Pale Horse by Benjamin West, via Wikimedia Commons. This is a public domain image.

Our Bible Readings for November 8 to 14

What's ahead in the Bible readings

November 9 to November 14, 2018
The Twenty-fourth Week After Pentecost
The Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time*

Bible Review: New International Version

The most important thing to know about the New International Version (NIV) is that it is written in contemporary English. The second most important thing to know is that it attempts to find a middle way between literal word-for-word translation and thought-for-thought translation. Here is what they say on their website:

Some Bible translations focus on the way Scripture was written—the form, grammar, even the word order of the original. The difficulty is that no two languages follow the same set of rules. That’s why translating Scripture is more than a matter of replacing Greek or Hebrew words with English equivalents.

Other Bible translations focus on the meaning of Scripture, helping you grasp the message of the Bible in your own words. The challenge with this approach is that if you stray too far from the form of the text, you might miss some of the subtle nuances—literary devices, wordplays, etc.—found in the original.

Even the best literal translation can’t follow the original form all the time. And even the best meaning-based translation can’t capture every detail of meaning found in the original.

In 1978, the NIV pioneered a different approach: balancing transparency to the original with clarity of meaning. Our view is that if the first people to receive the Bible could understand God’s Word the way it was written, you should be able to as well.

There are hundreds of editions designed for everything from journaling to confirmation classes.

The translation was developed by Evangelicals. I have not found any biases in the text related to this.

The feature that I find most useful is the footnotes.

  • Hebrew Scripture used in the Christian Scriptures is always footnoted.

  • As the preface says, sometimes the Christian Scripture writers were using the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. When the Septuagint was used and the text does not match the Hebrew Scripture translation, the footnote says “(see Septuagint)”

  • Alternative translations begin with “Or”

  • Selah is not included since its meaning is unknown and it interrupts the text. However, there is a footnote where it appears in the original text.

The text is very readable and is certainly a credible alternative if one is looking for a second Bible (or a first!). It includes section headings, which are not part of the actual text.

Here is the Wednesday Gospel lesson from the NIV. (The Saturday and Sunday lessons are very short, which is why I chose Wednesday.)

New Testament Gospel Lesson: Luke 4:16-30

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went to the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled it and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
 because he has anointed me
 to bring good news to the poor
He has sent me to proclaim release to the prisoners
 and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”¹

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn"t this Joseph's son?”they asked.

Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me, ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will say to me, ‘Do here also in your hometown what we have heard you did in Capernaum.’”

“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in the his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in the Elijah's time, when the heaven was shut up three and a half years, and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy² in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked through the crowd and went on his way.

¹Isaiah 61:1-2 (see Septuagint) and Isaiah 58:6   ²The Greek word traditionally translated as ‘leprosy’ was used for various diseases affecting the skin. (NIV)

If you decide to buy the New International Version, please consider using this link, so that your purchase will enable us to reach more people with God's Word: New International Version

Previous Bible reviews covering the NET Bible, the Message, and The Inclusive Bible, the Amplified Bible, and the Modern English Version are here.

This week's image

Ruth and Naomi are off to Judah, where Naomi will be an alien but will find a husband and become an ancester of King David. Orpah, her sister-in-law remains with the Maobites, among whom all three and their deceased husbands had been living.

We have no way of knowing the potential of the people being turned away at our borders. Perhaps another King David will be born in Central America because we would not let his ancesters enter the United States.

Justification

In Thursday's Epistle lesson, Paul write that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, so we have been justified by his blood.” I hoped to find an easy way to explain justification; no such luck. It has divided Catholic, Protestants, and the Orthodox for many centuries. The first sentence in the definition in The Oxford Dictionary Of the Bible is, “The establishment by God of a new relationship with mankind.” How exactly faith, atonement, and blood are involved in this is where the disputes arise.

Gospel Lessons

Many of our readings this week concern the most vulnerable among us, most especially widows. In our Sunday Sunday Gospel lesson, Jesus observes a poor widow putting her last two copper coins into the temple treasury, and he commends her generosity. When read in the context of our other lessons, we can see that she has made a statement about her faith that God will provide for her. provide. Our Saturday Gospel lesson is the miracle of the withered fig tree. It's what Jesus says after the miracle that fits with the other lessons:

[I]f you do not doubt in your heart, but believe what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Matthew 11:23b-24

It is important that we not believe that if God does not provide what we have asked for it is because we lacked sufficient faith. I believe that God's ways are mysterious, but that somehow God is working for my good, even if I can't see it. And I do know that if I do not believe that I will receive, it is less likely that I will. Even the followers of New Age gurus know this.

Epistle Lessons

Our Epistle lessons during the time of reflection, on Monday and Tuesday, are from Paul's letter to his younger colleague, Timothy. When I first read them, I was taken aback at Paul's concern about caring for “real widows,” by which he means a woman at least sixty years old whose good works are well attested, rather than for younger widows. On reflection, I think Paul may have been concerned that the burden on the church be those whom he thought to have the least chance of remarriage and future children. Ageism is apparently not an invention of the twenty-first century.

Our Epistle lessons for the time of preparation and on Sunday come from a different place. Here is some context for the Thursday Epistle lesson. The high priest, and only the high priest, entered the holy of holies (the inner sanctuary) once a year to make a sacrifice of blood for the sins of the people which hadn't been atoned for. Paul compares Christ's sacrifice of his life to the priest's sacrifice of the blood of animals. You probably recall that we had a number of lessons recently concerning Christ as a member of the priestly order of Melchizedek. Christ's being a priest would allow for his sacrifice to atone for our sins. Someone pointed out to me that these words from Romans are the whole Gospel in four words: Christ died for us. In the Friday Epistle lesson, the writer of Hebrews reminds us that there is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood. It's a reminder that our sins are costly. We don't sacrifice animals or humans (at least not in the way the Israelites did) these days, but we do pay a price for our sin, whether it is psychological, relational, or financial. In the Sunday Epistle lesson, we are reminded of two things: Christ appeared once for all, and Christ is coming again. Thanks be to God.

Ruth

This week, both the complementary and semi-continuous series have readings from Ruth. For the complementary series, during our time of reflection, all three readings are from Ruth. You will recall that Ruth is the daughter-in-law of Naomi, the widow of Elimelech. Naomi and her husband had moved to Moab because of a famine in Israel. Their sons married Maobite women. Elimelech and his sons all died. Ruth and Naomi return to Israel. So Ruth is both an alien and a widow, and yet she is provided for. In the semi-continuous series, we read the end of the book, in which Ruth marries a relative of Naomi's, and thus provides for both herself and her mother-in-law.

Complementary Hebrew Scripture

Our Sunday reading from the Hebrew Scriptures tells the story of a poor widow to whom Elijah is sent. Her supply of oil and meal is provided miraculously. One point to note is that she shares what little she has with the prophet. From this sharing flows the miracle she receives. Like the poor widow at the temple, she too is showing her faith that God will provide.

During our time of preparation, the two readings from Deuteronomy, on Friday and Saturday concern economic justice for aliens, widows, the poor, and orphans. Cancelling debts every seven years was probably an ideal not completely implemented. There's a hint of that in the appeal to conscience in the Friday reading.

Thank you for all that you do to bring God's reign into being.
Mike Gilbertson

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Summaries and Links for the Next Seven Days

Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 146
God sets the prisoners free and opens the eyes of the blind.
Semi-continuous Psalm 127 Unless God builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

Thursday: Preparation for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Numbers 36 So that each tribe's heritage is preserved, women heirs must marry within their tribe.
Semi-continuous Ruth 4:1-10 Boaz makes plans to marry Ruth.
Both Romans 5:6-11 While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, so we have been justified by his blood.

Friday: Preparation for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 15:1-11 Give liberally and ungrudgingly; on this account God will bless all your work.
Semi-continuous Ruth 4:11-17 Boaz marries Ruth.
Both Hebrews 9:15-24 Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.

Saturday: Preparation for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 24:17-22 You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice.
Semi-continuous Ruth 4:11-17 The lineage of David includes Boaz.
Both Mark 11:12-14, 20-24 Jesus uses the withered fig tree to teach that faith can move mountains.

The Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary 1 Kings 17:8-16 God feeds Elijah and the widow.
Semi-continuous Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 Ruth and Boaz at the threshing floor. Ruth and Boaz marry and become ancestors of David.
Both Hebrews 9:24-28 Christ will appear a second time to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Both Mark 12:38-44 A widow's generosity

Monday to Wednesday Psalms Complementary Psalm 94 Can wicked rulers, who contrive mischief by statute, be allied with you? God has become my stronghold, my rock and my refuge.
Semi-continuous Psalm 113 God is the helper of the needy.

Monday: Reflection on the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Ruth 1 Naomi of Judah, and her Moabite daughters-in-law Ruth and Orpah, become widows.
Semi-continuous Genesis 24:1-10 Abraham sends his trusted servant to find a wife for Isaac from among Abraham's kindred.
Both 1 Timothy 5:1-8 Whoever does not help a relative in need is worse than an unbeliever.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Ruth 3:14-4:6 Ruth leaves the threshing floor with grain from Boaz. Boaz redeems Elimelech's land.
Semi-continuous Genesis 24:11-27 The servant realizes the God intends that Rebekah and Isaac marry.
Both 1 Timothy 5:9-16 The church assists widows.

Wednesday: Reflection on the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Ruth 4:7-22 Those at the city gate approve of Boaz' marriage to Ruth. They become the ancestors to David.
Semi-continuous Genesis 24:28-42 Abraham's servant tells Rebekah's family of his mission.
Both Luke 4:16-3 The rejection of Jesus at Nazareth.

*Denominations have different ways of designating the weeks during the year, so your church may refer to this week by a different name or number or both. Regardless of the name or number, the readings are the same. Here is an explanation: Calendar Explanation

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Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.

Footnotes in the Christian Scriptures that show where a passage from the Hebrew Scripture is used are from The The Holy Bible: New International Version ® (NIV®), copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. When text is taken from the NIV, the passage ends with (NIV) and the foregoing copyright notice applies.

Our Bible Lessons for November 1 to 7

What's ahead in the Bible readings

November 1 to November 7, 2018
The Twenty-third Week After Pentecost
The Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time*

Bible Review: The Modern English Version

The most important thing you need to know about the Modern English Version (MEV) is that it is a revision of the Authorized Version, usually called the King James Version (KJV). It incorporates modern English vernacular. This translation started as an effort by military chaplains to provide an update to the KJV, so that troops could better understand it. Military chaplains got others who were not chaplains involved in the work; eventually, the target audience changed to the entire English-speaking world. It follows the principle of formal equivalence, which means being as literal as possible using proper grammar and syntax.

One feature that I find helpful is naming the parallel passage just below the title of a section. A slight disadvantage of this approach is that it requires a title whenever there is a parallel passage, even if one isn't necessary for us to understand what follows. As always, remember that the title is not part of the text, and was added by editors to help us. This translation is usually the source of the parallel passages included in our daily readings. A relatively unusual feature is that pronouns referring to God or Jesus are always capitalized. This can be helpful at times when it isn't clear to whom the pronoun refers. References to books of the Bible in footnotes and when parallel passages are named use abbreviations for book names. For example, Mt for Matthew and Lk for Luke.

The books are in the usual order. It does not include the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books.

There is an interesting but incomplete history of English language Bibles included in the introduction, starting with William Tyndale's translation. It is incomplete because it does not mention the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), or any of the many translations by Catholic scholars. It does have a very complete description of the development of the KJV.

Here is our Sunday Gospel Lesson from the MEV:
The Great Commandment
Mt 22:34-40; Lk 10:25-28

One of the scribes came near and heard them reasoning together. Perceiving that Jesus had answered them well, he asked Him, “Which of the is the first commandment of all?”

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, is one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’¹ This is the first commandment. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’² There is no commandment greater than these.”

The scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, that there is God, and there is no other but Him. To love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength and to love one's neighbor as oneself is much more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask Him any question.

¹30 Dt 6:4-5   ²31 Lev 19:18 (MEV)

Previous Bible reviews covering the NET Bible, the Message, and The Inclusive Bible, and the Amplified Bible are here.

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This week's illustration

The Good Samaritan

The image this week is of the Good Samaritan with the man who was beaten on the road. He is at the inn, and the inn keeper is helping him to bring the injured man inside. It is a reminder to me first, that actions are greater than words, and second that help can come from unexpected quarters.

Theme of this week's lessons

Our readings this week nearly all have a theme of love. The key reading from the complementary Hebrew Scriptures comes on Sunday when we read the beginning of the Shema prayer from Deuteronomy:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

You can find the rest of the Shema here.

Shema-1.gif

The begining of the Shema in Hebrew.

Gospel Lessons

Our Gospel lesson for Sunday a scribe asks Jesus which commandment is the greatest, and Jesus quotes from the passage above and adds "and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." The scribe replies

“Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, that there is God, and there is no other but Him. To love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength and to love one's neighbor as oneself is much more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (MEV)

Of course, there is always the question of who is my neighbor. Jesus answers this in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is our Saturday Gospel reading. We are so used to the idea of the Samaritan as a good and righteous person that most of us don't understand the ways in which Jesus' hearers would have thought of the Samaritan. The Samaritans rejected a view of salvation history centered on Jerusalem, and their religious life centered on a temple on Mt. Gerizim, rather than on the Jerusalem temple. An analogy might be Christians and Muslems. We worship the same God, but in quite different ways, and there is unfortunately enmity between us. So it was between Jews and Samaritans.

In our third Gospel reading, on Wednesday, Jesus tells us to love one another. So our three Gospel readings tell us to love God, our neighbors in the broadest sense, and one another. Think this week about who is your neighbor in the sense of the Good Samaritan parable.

Psalms

I want to share some perspective on verse five of the complementary Psalm 51, which we read during the time of reflection. “Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me,” reads the verse. Here is what the New Interpreter's Bible commentary has to say:

It is not intended to suggest that sin is transmitted biologically or that sexuality is sinful by definition. Rather, it conveys the inevitability of human fallibility. In each human life, in each human situation, sin is pervasive. We are born into it, and we cannot escape it. While sin is a matter of individual decision, it also has a corporate dimension that affects us, despite our best intentions and decisions.

Here is the good news:

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

God forgives us. Thanks be to God.

Our semi-continuous psalm during the time of preparation reminds us that God graciously lifts up those who are bowed down.

Epistle Lessons

In our Friday Epistle, Paul reminds us that our God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles, of course, means everyone who is not Jewish. Paul also reminds us that Jesus has paid for our sins by his blood. In our Sunday Epistle from Hebrews, we are reminded of this: if the blood of goats and bulls sanctifies those who have been defiled, much more Christ's blood brings us redemption. In our Monday Epistle lesson, Paul urges the Romans (and us) to live peaceably with all, and reminds us that love is the fulfilling of the law.

Complementary Hebrew Scripture

Our Wednesday Hebrew Scripture reading has the prophet Micah reminding us what God requires of us: to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. See the discussion above for our Sunday Hebrew Scripture.

There one lesson where some context might be helpful. The Saturday Hebrew Scripture is about what happens when an Israelite is unable to celebrate Passover. The answer is that you do it later, at a time specified in the reading. This actually fits with the rest of our readings, because it is about the importance of returning the love that God has shown us by freeing the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage.

Semi-continuous Hebrew Scripture

This week we are reading about Ruth and Naomi, a pair of women bonded as mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Ruth, a Maobite, sticks with Naomi, a woman from Judah, as they return to Naomi's homeland. There Ruth takes some pretty forward actions, which are ultimately rewarded with marriage to a relative of Naomi's. I especially note how Ruth shares what she gets by gleaning in the fields with Naomi, sustaining them both until Ruth's marriage. We will finish up our lessons about Ruth next week in our Thursday through Sunday lessons.

Thank you for all that you do but to bring about justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.
Mike Gilbertson

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Summary and a link for each day

Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 119:1-8
Seeking God with all our hearts
Semi-continuous Psalm 146 God lifts those who are bowed down.

Thursday: Preparation for the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Exodus 22:1-15 Laws about restitution
Semi-continuous Ruth 1:18-22 Ruth the Maobite and Naomi the Judean return to Judah after both are widowed.
Both Hebrews 9:1-12 The ritual of the sanctuary: Christ has entered into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

Friday: Preparation for the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Leviticus 19:32-37 You shall fear God. You shall treat aliens as part of your community, for you were aliens in Egypt.
Semi-continuous Ruth 2:1-9 Ruth meets Boaz.
Both Romans 3:21-31 God is God of both Jews and Gentiles. Christ, through his blood, has atoned for our sins.

Saturday: Preparation for the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Numbers 9:9-14 All should keep the Passover. You have one law for the resident alien and the native.
Semi-continuous Ruth 2:10-14 Boaz protects Ruth.
Both Luke 10:25-37 Jesus, through the parable of the Good Samaritan, defines who a neighbor is.

The Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 6:1-9 The Great Commandment; The Shema
Semi-continuous Ruth 1:1-18 Ruth remains with Naomi.
Both Hebrews 9:11-14 If the blood of goats and bulls sanctifies those who have been defiled, how much more will Christ's blood bring us redemption.
Both Mark 12:28-34 Jesus, asked which commandment is the greatest, answers, "The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."

Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 51
I have sinned against you. Create in me a clean heart.
Semi-continuous Psalm 18:20-30 It is you who light my lamp. God lights my darkness.

Monday: Reflection on the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 6:10-25 When you enter the land that God has promised you, do not put God to the test.
Semi-continuous Ruth 2:15-23 Ruth gleans in Boaz' fields during the wheat and barley harvests. Naomi says that Boaz is a close relative.
Both Romans 12:17-21; 13:8-10 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. The law is summed up in this word: love your neighbor as yourself.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 28:58-29:1 The cost of disobedience
Semi-continuous Ruth 3:1-7 Ruth and Boaz are at the threshing floor at night.
Both Acts 7:17-29 Stephen, speaking before the Sanhedrin, recounts Moses' early years.

Wednesday: Reflection on the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Micah 6:1-8 Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
Semi-continuous Ruth 3:3-8 Boaz is startled by Ruth's presence on the threshing floor.
Both John 13:31-35 Jesus says, "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another."

The links become active on the designated day at 3:05 a.m. eastern time.

*Denominations have different ways of designating the weeks during the year, so your church may refer to this week by a different name or number or both. Regardless of the name or number, the readings are the same. Here is an explanation: Calendar Explanation

Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from The New Revised Standard Version, (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.

The Sunday Gospel is taken from The Holy Bible Modern English Version (MEV), copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Image credit: The Good Samaritan by Rembrandt, via cs.m.wikipedia. This is a public domain image.

Our Lessons for October 25 to 31

What's ahead in our Bible readings

October 25 to 31, 2018
The Twenty-second Week After Pentecost
The Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time*

Bible Review: Amplified Holy Bible

The most important thing you need to know about The Amplified Bible is that it has amplifications (no surprise, I'm sure). The Amplified Bible started as a project of Frances Siewert and is now stewarded by the Lockman Foundation. It is a literal equivalent (often called formal equivalent) translation. This means it is not a thought for thought translation, but rather an attempt at a word for word translation. Here are the types of amplifications and how they are designated:

  • Definition in context: (regular type parentheses)

  • Words or phrases not fully expressed in the preceding English text,but validated by the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. [Regular type brackets]

  • Text not found in early manuscripts or only in some early manuscripts [bold brackets]

  • Italicized conjunctions are not in the original text, but are used to connect additional English words indicated by the original language and, or nor

  • Italicized words are not in the original language but are implied by it word

In addition to these conventions a (bold parenthesis) indicates text that is in the original text and is parenthetical.

The Amplified Bible includes section headings, which as we always write are not part of the text but there to help us anticipate what follows. The books are in the standard biblical order. (It does not include the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books.) Each verse is starts on a new line. Paragraphs are indicated by bold verse numbers or bold words. The preface says this is to make individual verses are easier to find. I find this arrangement annoying, but many will find it helpful. Parallel passages are shown with the Bible text, which I find helpful; they are given in brackets after the first verse of a passage or, if only a single verse is involved, are the end of the passage. In a future review of the Modern English Version I will illustrate another approach to parallel passages.

Our Sunday Gospel is Mark 10:46-52. Here it is in the Amplified Bible translation:

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight
46 Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting beside the road [as was his custom]. [Matt 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-43]
47 When Bartimaeus heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and say "Jesus, *Son of David (Messiah), have mercy on me!"
48 Many sternly rebuked him, telling him to keep still and be quiet; but he kept shouting all the more, "Son of David (Messiah) have mercy on me!"
49 Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called the blind man, telling him, "Take courage, get up! He is calling for you."
50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped up and came to Jesus.
51 And Jesus said “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said to Him, “Rabbi (my Master), let me regain my sight.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith [and confident trust in my power] has made you well. Immediately he regained his sight and began following Jesus on the road. [Is 42:6,7]

10:47 A common Messianic title recognized the Messiah as a descendant of David.(AMP)

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Previous Bible reviews covering the NET Bible, the Message, and The Inclusive Bible, are here.

This week's image

This image evokes a real sense of the power of healing touch, at least for me. Even now, Jesus touches us with his words and the remembrance of his actions. I pray that Jesus touches you this week.

Healing Touch

Gospel Lessons and a healing from Acts

Our Gospel lessons this week all concern healing of the physically blind. In the Sunday lesson, Jesus heals Bartimaeus. On Saturday, we have the curious story of the blind man from Bethsaida who, after Jesus first puts saliva on his eyes, perceives people looking like trees. Jesus touches his eyes again and his sight is completely restored. On Wednesday, Jesus heals two blind men as he is leaving Jericho. In a reading from Acts Peter heals Aeneas, who has been crippled for many years. The Bethsaida and Jericho healings involve touch and the cured aren't named for us. Bartimaeus is healed by faith and Aeneas is simply told that Jesus Christ heals him. Neither is touched. It may be that the touch strengthened the faith of those who received it.

Epistle Lessons

Our Epistle lessons in the time of preparation and on Sunday come from Hebrews, and our friend King Melchizedek makes another, important, appearance. To be a priest in first century Israel or Judah, you had to be a descendent of Aaron. Melchizedek first appears in Genesis 14 where he blesses Abram. He lived sometime between the eighteenth and sixteenth centuries BCE. Aaron and Moses lived about the thirteenth century BCE, so Melchizedek couldn't have been a descendent of Aaron. As you know from our readings last week, Melchizedek was also acknowledged as a priest in Psalm 110:4. He represented a separate order of priests, and an exception to the requirement of descent from Aaron. Assigning Christ's priesthood to the order of Melchizedek nicely avoids his needing to be descended from Aaron. Also of note, there is no Scriptural reference to the death of Melchizedek, which explains some of the language about his order being eternal. To modern people, all this fuss about orders of Israelite priests may appear pretty silly, but to first century Jewish Christians, it was very serious.

Complementary Hebrew Scripture

Yet another story about vision is in our Tuesday Hebrew Scripture. The King of Aram finds out that it is Elisha who keeps warning the King of Israel about the Aramean plans, so he sends his army to find Elisha. They surround Dothan, where Elisha is, and Elisha's servant is greatly afraid. Elisha prays that his servant be allowed to see that the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. Elisha prayed that the Aramean army be struck blind, and it was.

Consider this week the ways in which you might be blind, and ask God to give you a vision of the army that surrounds you to support you in doing God's will.

Four of our other Hebrew Scripture readings come from Jeremiah. On Thursday, Jeremiah warns the prophets of Samaria (the capital of Israel, the northern kingdom) and Jerusalem (the capital of Judah, the southern kingdom) that they will eat wormwood and drink poisoned water because of their infidelity and adultery toward God. On Friday, Jeremiah says that it is God who sent him to prophesy, and tells them to amend their ways and perhaps God's mind will be changed. In a shining moment of faith he says “But as for me, here I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.” On Sunday, this prophet of doom and gloom proclaims that God will save a remnant of Israel, and the remnant will return from their exile with songs of gladness and praise.

Semi-continuous Hebrew Scripture

We finish up our reading of Job on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday God effectively scolds Job's friends for not speaking rightly of God. On Sunday, Job answers God that he is humbled and satisfied. Job's fortunes are restored and he gains a new family. It is somewhat irksome that the narrative assumes that Job's first children could be replaced by another set. However, this may be a convention in this kind of story in the Middle East, or there may be some other explanation for it.

Our other lessons except Tuesday have to do with the exile. On Thursday, Isaiah tells King Hezekiah that the Babylonians will take all that he has and his sons will be eunuchs in the King of Babylon's palace. On Monday, Isaiah says that injustice and oppression will be punished, and on Wednesday Ezekiel says that the land has sinned against God and that not even Noah, Daniel, or Job (all exemplars of righteousness) could save sinners, yet there will be a remnant left.

Tuesday's lesson, the eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel, says that the sinner will be punished for his or her sins, but neither the parents nor the children (provided they are righteous) will be punished. The way I interpret that is the remnant who were left behind at the time of the exile were those who had not sinned.

Of course, there is more, including Moses arguing with God and Peter declaring that once we were not a people, but now we are God's people. May it be so for you.

I hope these readings bring a special blessing into your life. Thank you for all that you do to bring God's reign into being.
Mike Gilbertson

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Summary and links for the week ahead

Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 126
Restore our fortunes. Let those who weep as they go out to sow return joyfully with their sheaves.
Semi-continuous Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22 Taste and see that God is good.

Thursday: Preparation for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Jeremiah 23:9-15 God says "Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their wickedness.
Semi-continuous 2 Kings 20:12-19 Isaiah tells King Hezekiah that the Babylonians will take all that he has and that his sons will be eunuchs in the Babylonian king's palace.
Both Hebrews 7:1-10 Melchizedek remains a priest forever.

Friday: Preparation for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Jeremiah 26:12-24 Jeremiah, prophesying in the temple, is threatened with death.
Semi-continuous Nehemiah 1:1-11 Nehemiah prays for the return of the exiles.
Both Hebrews 7:11-22 Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Saturday: Preparation for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Jeremiah 29:24-32 Jeremiah speaks God's words condemning Shemaiah.
Semi-continuous Job 42:7-9 Eliphaz has not spoken rightly about God. God tells him to make a sacrifice to Job and God will answer Job's prayer on behalf of Eliphaz and his friends.
Both Mark 8:22-26 Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida.

The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Jeremiah 31:7-9 God will gather the people from the furthest parts of the earth and bring them back, consoling them.
Semi-continuous Job 42:1-6, 10-17 Job answers God that he is humbled and satisfied and his fortune is restored.
Both Hebrews 7:23-28 Christ, who lives forever, is our merciful high priest.
Both Mark 10:46-52 At Jericho, Jesus heals Bartimaeus of his blindness.

Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 119:17-24
Open my eyes so I can see the wonderous things out of your law.
Semi-continuous Psalm 28 God, save your people and bless your heritage; be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Monday: Reflection on the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Exodus 4:1-17 God shows Moses the signs he is to use to convince the people that God has appeared to him.
Semi-continuous Isaiah 59:9-19 Injustice and oppression will be punished.
Both 1 Peter 2:1-10 Peter, quoting from Hebrew Scripture, urges his readers to be a holy priesthood and offer spiritual sacrifices.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary 2 Kings 6:8-23 God answers Elisha's prayer first to make the Arameans blind, then to restore their sight.
Semi-continuous Ezekiel 18 The sin belongs to the sinner, not to his or her parents or children. God urges the house of Israel to repent and get themselves a new heart and a new spirit. God says, "Turn, then, and live."
Both Acts 9:32-35 Peter, through Jesus Christ, heals Aeneas, who has been paralyzed for eight years.

Wednesday: Reflection on the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Jeremiah 33:1-11 God will bring recovery and healing.
Semi-continuous Ezekiel 14:12-23 The land has sinned against God. Not even Noah, Daniel, and Job could save sinners from the land. Yet there will be a faithful remnant.
Both Matthew 20:29-34 As Jesus is leaving Jericho, he heals two blind men.

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*Denominations have different ways of designating the weeks during the year, so your church may refer to this week by a different name or number or both. Regardless of the name or number, the readings are the same. Here is an explanation: Calendar Explanation

Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from The New Revised Standard Version, (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.

Scripture passages ending in (AMP) are from Amplified Holy Bible, Paperback, Copyright 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987, 2015 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Image credit: Healing Touch by an unidentified painter, downloaded from markcommentary.blogspot.com

Our Bible Readings for October 18 to 24

What's ahead in the Bible readings for this week?

October 18 to 24, 2018
The Twenty-first Week After Pentecost
The Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Bible Review: The Inclusive Bible

There are two important things for you to know about The Inclusive Bible. First, it is a serious, and mostly successful, attempt to render the scriptures in ways that are more gender-balanced without losing the meaning of the text. Second, it is designed to be read aloud.

The authors didn't simply replace male pronouns, but created a new translation into modern English. Most importantly, they crafted it to let the power and poetry of the language shine forth (from the introduction to the first edition of The Inclusive New Testament).

Both male and female sexist language was examined. An example given in the introduction is the way in which the render the Whore of Babylon in Revelation 17:1-18 (which is our Friday New Testament lesson). The Greek word in the original text was more closely related to idolatrous defilement (for example worship of the emperor) than with sex for money, as the words whore and prostitute in our culture imply. Instead of whore or prostitute, the Inclusive Bible uses "Great Idolater."

The authors obviously gave careful consideration to the words used. For example, when Lord is a form of address, they use Adonai in the Hebrew Scriptures and Rabbi or Teacher in the Christian Scriptures. Abba and Loving God are substitutes for Father. Substitutes for Son of God include Only Begotten, God's Own and Eternally Begotten. These, to me, maintain the sense without the sexism.

One of the things I appreciate is that the Hebrew Scriptures are divided into The Torah, The Prophets, and The Writings. In the typical Christian Bible, the early prophets—which we refer to as the former prophets (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings) are separated from the latter prophets by Ezra, Nehemiah, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and five other books, all of which the Hebrew Bible considers part of The Writings. The Inclusive Bible keeps all the writings together, which is very sensible.

The Inclusive Bible also explicitly refers to The Twelve, the so-called minor prophets whose writings were less extensive than Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Of course, they are called The Twelve because there are twelve of them. (If you can't find a book in your Bible, it's probably one of the twelve.) This way of referring to them (as is also done in some Hebrew Bibles) seems more respectful.

It also does not include section headings. An example of a section heading in the NRSV is "The Request of James and John" for Mark 10:35-45. Although some people find the section headings helpful in getting a sense of what's ahead, others find them intrusive. We often use them in the summary that appears in What's Ahead each week, but we don't include them in the daily readings.

Here is the Sunday Gospel lesson, as rendered in The Inclusive Bible:

New Testament Gospel Lesson: Mark 10:35-45

Zebedee's children James and John approached Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, ”we want you to grant our request.”

“What is it?” Jesus asked.

They replied, “See to it that we are next to you, one at your right hand and one at your left, when you come into your glory.”

Jesus told them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised in the same baptism as I?”

“We can,” they replied. Jesus said in response, “From the cup I drink of, you will drink; the baptism I am immersed in you will share. But as for sitting at my right or my left, that is not mine to give; it is for those to whom it has been reserved.”

The other ten, on hearing this, became indignant at James and John.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know how among the Gentiles those who exercise authority are domineering and arrogant; those ‘great ones’ know how to make their own importance felt. But it can't be like that with you. Anyone among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest; whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all. The Promised One has not come to be serve, but to serve—to give one life in ransom for the many.”(The Inclusive Bible)

If you decide to buy this Bible, please use this link, so that your purchase will help us in our work of spreading God's word to all God's people: The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation The prices on Thursday, October 11 were $20.99 for the Kindle Edition and $24.61 for paperback.

This week's image

 A metal silhouette of a pilgrim with his head bowed. Two others are in the background, facing in the opposite direction. Rust Hike Sculpture Humility Metal Pilgrim Figure

As the text above shows us, God expects us to be servants, which requires our humility. There have been times in my life when humility was difficult, but it is less so now. The image shows humility even in its form: it is an object that represents a person, and it is rusted. May we all go about God's work with the humility to know that it is not we, but God, who lets us see where we can be of service.

Gospel Lessons

Our Gospels this week are all lessons in humility. On Saturday, the disciples are arguing among themselves about who is to be the greatest. Jesus says to them “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” On Sunday it is James and John, the children of Zebedee, who are asking to sit at Jesus' left and right hands. When the rest of the Apostles become indignant, Jesus says to them “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.” And on Wednesday Jesus washes the disciple's feet and tells them “I have set you an example, that you should also do as I have done to you.” This is an example of Jesus acting out the first being last, the greatest being the least of all. May we all find ways to do as Jesus did this week.

Epistles

In our time of preparation, we read a series of Hebrew Scripture quotations about Gentiles in Paul's letter to the Romans. During the time of reflection, we read from the letter to the Hebrews. On Monday, the author uses an image of us as ground that soaks up the word of God and either produces a useful crop or thorns and thistles. On Tuesday we are reminded that Jesus has entered the holy of holies, the inner shrine behind the curtain in the Jerusalem temple, to give us hope and a steadfast anchor for our souls. It is probably the symbol of an ideal priest-king (discussed in the Complementary Series Hebrew Scripture below) that the author of Hebrews is referring to in our Sunday Epistle lesson, and again on Tuesday.

Complementary Series Hebrew Scripture

In our first reading this week, Abram meets Melchizedek. Abram was Abraham's name before God changed it in Genesis 17. Melchizedek appears several times in this week's readings. Here's what Who's Who in the Bible has to say about him:

King of Salem. When Abraham returned from rescuing his nephew Lot from the four kings who carried him off, Melchizedek welcomed them with bread and wine. Abraham gave him a tenth of the spoil.

Scholars think that Salem might well have been Jerusalem, which is called Salem in Psalm 76:2 and in the 14th century BC Tel el-Amarna tablets called it Uru-salim.

In Psalm 110:4 Melchizedek is a symbol of an ideal priest-king.

Our other Hebrew Scripture readings are from Isaiah and Samuel. Isaiah declares God's word that Israel deserved the punishment that Babylon (also referred to as Chaldea) meted out, but that Babylon overstepped her bounds. Babylon will be punished for her misdeeds. The Babylonians had highly developed divination rituals and relied on astrologers, but they will do her no good.

Our readings from Samuel concern the appointment of the first king, Saul. Samuel declares that the Israelites were unwise to seek a king, and that in fact God was their king.

In the complementary series, our Psalm of preparation is from the ninety-first. It contains these lines

For [the Most High] will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.

You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.

During Jesus' temptation the first few lines come out of the devil's mouth, but Jesus replies, quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16, Do not put the Lord your God to the test. The last few lines quoted here have led some people to put their faith to the test by handling snakes. I think we are better advised to take Jesus' advice and not put God to the test.

Semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures

We continue our reading in Job this week. Next week we will finish up. Here is a portion of the introduction to The Book of Job in the The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha:

The poet boldly challenges the Deuteronomistic theology that goodness is rewarded with material prosperity and wickedness is punished with temporal suffering. While the merit of this position is acknowledged, the poet creates a dialogue in which Job maintains that integrity in the face of disaster must not be sacrificed to social convention, nor even to established concepts of the deity as upheld by his friends. In the end, Job discovers that his own God as well as that of his friends is too small. Nevertheless, because of his integrity, Job is exonerated and stands before God as intercessor for his friends. And perhaps the key to the book is the view that the suffering of the righteous individual stands in the presence of God. (p.510)

In the Monday reading from Job, God mentions the Behemoth. According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Bible, it is usually thought to be either a hippopotamus or some creature from primordial times.

I hope this week's readings bring a blessing into your life. Thank you for all that you do to bring God's reign into being.
Mike Gilbertson

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Summary and links for the week ahead

Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 91:9-16
Assurance of God's protection
Semi-continuous Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35b Bless God and God's majesty.

Thursday: Preparation for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Genesis 14:17-24 Abram meets Melchizedek.
Semi-continuous Job 36:1-16 Elihu exalts God's goodness.
Both Romans 15:7-13 Paul quotes Hebrew Scripture about Gentiles.

Friday: Preparation for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Isaiah 47:1-9 Isaiah taunts Babylon.
Semi-continuous Job 37 Elihu's exaltation of God continues.
Both Revelation 17:1-18 The Great Idolater of Babylon

Saturday: Preparation for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Isaiah 47:10-15 Isaiah condemns enchantment.
Semi-continuous Job 39 The second part of God's answer to Job.
Both Luke 22:24-30 Jesus asks, "Who is greater, the one at the table or the one who serves? But I am among you as one who serves."

The Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Isaiah 53:4-12 A Servant Song
Semi-continuous Job 38:1-7, 34-41 God's answer to Job
Both Hebrews 5:1-10 Christ, a priest in the order of Melchizedek
Both Mark 10:35-45 James and John asked to be seated at Jesus' right and left hands. Jesus says, "Whoever wishes to be first among you must be a slave of all."

Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 37:23-40
God rescues the righteous, who take refuge in him.
Semi-continuous Psalm 75 Thanksgiving for God's wonderous deeds.

Monday: Reflection on the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary 1 Samuel 8:1-18 Samuel becomes old.
Semi-continuous Job 40 Job and God speak to one another.
Both Hebrews 6:1-12 We are either useful crops or thorns.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary 1 Samuel 10:17-25 Samuel anoints Saul as king.
Semi-continuous Job 41:1-11 God's answer to Job continues.
Both Hebrews 6:13-20 We have this hope in Jesus, a sure and steadfast anchor.

Wednesday: Reflection on the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary 1 Samuel 12:1-25 Samuel is angry with the people.
Semi-continuous Job 41:12-34 God answer to Job is completed.
Both John 13:1-17 Jesus washes the disciples' feet.

The links become active at 3:05 a.m. eastern time on the designated day.

*Denominations have different ways of designating the weeks during the year, so your church may refer to this week by a different name or number or both. Regardless of the name or number, the readings are the same. Here is an explanation: Calendar Explanation

Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version with the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.


Passages ending in (The Inclusive Bible) are from The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation by Priests for Equality, Published by Sheed and Ward. Copyright ©2007 by Priests for Equality.

Note: The links in the titles above take you to Amazon, where you can purchase them and benefit The Lectionary Company.

Image credit: Humility by an unidentified photographer via Max Pixel. This is a public domain image.

Lessons for October 11 to 17

What's ahead in the Bible readings for this week

October 11 to 19, 2018
The Twentieth Week After Pentecost
The Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time*

Bible Review: The Message

The most important thing you need to know about The Message is that it is in contemporary American English. You won't find any stilted language in this translation! The Message translation is by Eugene Peterson, a pastor, Bible scholar, and translator. Peterson's aim is to get the Bible into our heads and hearts, and get the message lived. (That is exactly what we are trying to do by providing you with these Bible lessons every day.) The transaltion grew out of his work as a pastor, from conversations in living rooms and hospital rooms and coffee shops. He has solid grounding for making this translation from his years as a teacher of Hebrew and Greek in a seminary.

In his introduction he says

I lived in two language worlds, the world of the Bible and the world of Today.…So out of necessity I became a “translator” (although I wouldn't have called it that then), daily standing on the border between two worlds, getting the language of the Bible that God uses to create and save us, heal and bless us, judge and rule over us, into the language of Today that we use to gossip and tell stories, give directions and do business, sing songs and talk to our children.

And all the time those old biblical languages, kept working their way underground in my speech, giving energy and sharpness to words and phrases, expanding the imaginations of the people with whom I was working to hear the language of the Bible in the language of Today and the language of Today in the language of the Bible.

This week's Wednesday Gospel (Luke 16:19-31) is from The Message. Here it is:

“There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption. A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, had been dumped on his doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from the scraps off the rich man's table. His friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.

“Then he died, this poor man, and was taken by the angels to the lap of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell and in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham in the distance with Lazarus in his lap. He called out, “Father Abraham, mercy! Have mercy! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue. I'm in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that in your lifetime you got the good things and Lazarus got the bad things. It's not like that here. Here he's consoled and you're tormented. Besides, in all these matters there is a huge chasm set between us so that no one can go from us to you even if he wanted to, nor can anyone cross over from you to us.’

“The rich man said, ‘Then let me ask you, Father: Send him to the house of my father where I have five brothers, so that he can tell them the score and warn them so that won't end up here in this place to torment.’

“Abraham answered, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets to tell them the score. Let them listen to them.’

“‘I know, Father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but they're not listening. If someone came back to them from the dead, they would change their ways.’

“Abraham replied, ‘If they won't listen to Moses and the Prophets, they're not going to be convinced by someone who rises from the dead.’”(The Message)

If you decide to buy this translation, please consider using one of these links, where your purchase will benefit our work:
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(The prices above are as of Saturday, October 6, 2018).

This week's illustration

The Rich Man in Hell and the Poor Lazarus in Abraham’s Lap

Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, while the rich man is in torment. It's a reminder to me (and I hope to you) that our actions in this life have consequences, sooner or later.

Gospel Lessons

The pivotal reading for this week is Sunday's Gospel, the parable of the rich young man. This man has observed the Torah. Jesus challenges him to sell all he has and give it to the poor and become Jesus' follower. He goes away sad because he has many possessions. The Wednesday Gospel (see above) is the parable of Lazarus, the rich man who ignores Lazarus, a beggar at his doorstep, with dire consequences. There are a couple of things to notice in this parable. Lazarus is the only character in any of Jesus' parables given a name. His name in Hebrew means "helped by God." And the rich man remains anonymous. In ancient times, as now, wealth is sometimes considered a sign of God's favor. The Sunday reading is a reminder that our wealth isn't really ours, and the Wednesday reading is a reminder that wealth is not always a sign of God's favor.

Epistle Lessons

Our Epistle readings during the time of preparation are from the letter to the Hebrews. It is sometimes attributed to Paul, but most scholars doubt that Paul is the author. Nevertheless, it has much that is powerful for us to understand. I particularly like these lines from the Sunday reading:

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Complementary Series Hebrew Scripture

Our Sunday reading from the Hebrew Scriptures is from Amos. It condemns those who “trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain.” Again we are called to consider how our wealth is gained. Today is close to the annivesray of the death of John Woolman, an American Quaker, who would not eat anything made with sugar or molasses, since these were the products of slave labor in the West Indies. He was determined not just to avoid any direct oppression of others, but to root out any indirect enjoyment of exploited labor. This week we are reading the entire book of Obadiah. It is the shortest book in the Hebrew Scriptures. In my study Bible it takes up two pages. The background is that the Edomites returned escaping Israelites to the Babylonians, who had conquered Israel. Edom was settled by Esau, Jacob's brother, so the Edomites were betraying their blood relatives. As the New Interpreter's Study Bible says, “The Book of Obadiah is a vividly harsh reminder of the intense hatred that can develop between closely related individual or groups. It is also a reminder that we reap what we sow.”

Both Amos and Obidiah are called minor prophets. It is important to remember that these minor prophets are ones that left shorter books behind. They are not minor in the sense that their message is unimportant, only in the sense that their written legacy is smaller. Sometimes the minor prophets are called “The Twelve” because all twelve of them were written on a single scroll in ancient times.

In the Friday reading, the people remember their fear when being present when God's self was revealed on Mount Sinai. I am sure I would have been trembling in fear and awe.

Semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures

We continue to read in Job this week. Here are brief sketches of Job's three friends and of Elihu, who appears late in the story (this week on Wednesday).

  1. Eliphaz: He is the oldest of the three friends. He is often described as having great dignity and urbanity. As Job continues to complain about God (despite his friends' insistence that only evil people have bad things happen to them), Eliphaz angrily answers Job, attributing to Job a number of uncharitable acts that Job did not do.

  2. Bildad: He insisted that if only Job would admit his faults, God would forgive him. He is often dogmatic and mean-spirited.

  3. Zophar: He tells Job that God extracts from Job less than he deserves. Like Bildad, he is often dogmatic and mean-spirited.

  4. Elihu: Elihu suggests that Job say to God, “teach me what I do not see, and I will do it no more.” Some scholars think that the Elihu chapters were inserted by a later editor, as he is not mentioned other than in the six chapters in which he speaks.

The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume IV, suggests that Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu function as a collective character, and the thing to consider is the contrast between them and Job, rather than differences among them.

I hope these readings bring a blessing into your life. Thank you for all that you do to help God's children.
Mike Gilbertson

Links and summaries for the week ahead

Thursday to Sunday Psalms.
Complementary Psalm 90:12-17
Teach us to number our days.
Semi-continuous Psalm 22:1-15 Why have you forsaken me?

Thursday: Preparation for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 5:1-21 The Ten Commandments.
Semi-continuous Job 17 Job prays for relief. .
Both Hebrews 3:7-19 Warning against unbelief, as at Meribah

Friday: Preparation for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 5:22-33 Moses is mediator of God's will. .
Semi-continuous Job 18 Bildad tells Job God punishes the wicked. .
Both Hebrews 4:1-11 A Sabbath-rest for the people of God

Saturday: Preparation for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Amos 3:13-4:5 Israel's guilt and punishment.
Semi-continuous Job 20 Zophar tells Job wickedness receives retribution. .
Both Matthew 15:1-9 Jesus berates the Pharisees.

The Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Amos 5:6-7, 10-15 Lament for Israel's sins and a call to seek God.
Semi-continuous Job 23:1-9, 16-17 The Almighty is hidden from Job. .
Both Hebrews 4:12-16 The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. .
Both Mark 10:17-31 How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Monday to Wednesday Psalms.
Complementary Psalm 26
Prayer for justice.
Semi-continuous Psalm 39 Prayer for wisdom and forgiveness

Monday: Reflection on the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Obadiah 1-9 Edom will be brought low, their cruelty repaid by pillage and slaughter. .
Semi-continuous Job 26 Job replies God's majesty is beyond our understanding. .
Both Revelation 7:9-17 The nations stand before God's throne.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Obadiah 10-16 Edom mistreated his brother. .
Semi-continuous Job 28:12-29:10 Where is wisdom found? .
Both Revelation 8:1-5 The Lamb opens the seventh seal.

Wednesday: Reflection on the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Obadiah 17-21 Israel's final triumph.
Semi-continuous Job 32:1-22 Elihu rebukes Job's friends.
Both Luke 16:19-31 The parable of Lazarus and the rich man

The links to the readings become active at 3:05 a.m. eastern time.

Do you have a friend who could us these readings?

If you know someone who could deepen his or her commitment to being a Christian through these readings, why not forward this newsletter to that person? Here is a link that leads to the sign up form: Sign up link

*Denominations have different ways of designating the weeks during the year, so your church may refer to this week by a different name or number or both. Regardless of the name or number, the readings are the same. Here is an explanation: Calendar Explanation

Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version with the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.

Passages ending with (The Message) are from The Message Ministry Edition: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright ©1993, 1994, 1995,, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Note: The links in the titles above take you to Amazon, where you can purchase them and benefit The Lectionary Company.

Image credit: The Rich Man in Hell and the Poor Lazarus in Abraham's Lap from Das Plenarium via picryl.com. This is a public domain image.

Bible Readings for October 4 to 10, 2018

Bible Review: The NET Bible

The most important thing you need to know about the NET Bible is that you can read it free, online, at any time. The online version provides very extensive notes, which will help you get closer to the text. As they say, interpretation is your responsibility, and you should not let a commentator decide for you what a passage means. Here is a link to The Twenty-third Psalm to give you a sense of what the notes look like. They also have extensive study materials. In fact, the translation was undertaken for the specific purpose of having a Bible text that could be freely used in Bible studies. (It is expensive to license other translations; our use of the NRSV falls under one of the limited exemptiopns they provide.) Here is a list of pages on their site which relate to Psalm 23 Psalm 23 pages. Not all of them are for study, but a number of them are. The translators all come from the Evangelical wing of the church, but this has not affected the translation in any way. As they say in the introduction,

The NET Bible was not funded by any particular denomination or church. The translators and editors were free to follow the text and translate as faithfully and accurately as possible without any pressure to make the text read a certain way or conform to a particular doctrinal sgatement.

There are also printed versions of the NET Bible, including ones with all the notes. I personally use the NET Bible Compact Version. It has fewer and shorter notes that still illuminate passages and provide alternative translations. It has a lot of features that I like, including a system of bold italics for Hebrew Scripture passages quoted in the Christian Scriptures, and italics for allusions to Hebrew Scriptures.

The Wikipedia article on the NET Bible says this about the translation approach: Mid-range functional or dynamic equivalence prevalent in the text, with formal equivalent renderings very often given in the footnotes. For an explanation of functional and dynamic equivalce, see the Wikipedia artice Dynamic and formal equivalence. Functional equivalance is a thought for thought rather than a word for word approach. Here is an article with arguments for the functional approach arguments for functional equivalnce.

This week's Psalm of Preparation in the complementary series is the NET translation.

If you decide to buy the NET Bible Compact Version, please consider doing so through this link, which will benefit our work: NET Bible Compact Edition (New English Translation)

Letter-and-spirit.png

Context of Our Readings

Our readings this week concern sexual ethics and divorce. Much of it may be difficult for modern readers, but if we look at what was written in the context of their times, it is less difficult. Like most Middle Eastern societies, the early Hebrews effectively treated women as property. The groom's family negotiated with the bride's over how much would be paid them for allowing her to leave their family and join her husband's. These talks might have taken place at the city gates, where much important business was done. For example, in Saturday's Hebrew Scripture in the complementary series, Abraham negotiates with the Hittites for a burial place for Sarah in “the presence of all who went in at the gate of his city.” From the time of the patriarchs through and beyond Jesus' time, assuring that a man's children were his own was of paramount importance. No family wanted its wealth passed down to the child of an outsider.

Gospels

The pivotal reading is our Sunday Gospel from Mark. The Pharisees asks Jesus if a man can divorce his wife, pointing out that Moses allows for it. Jesus responds with “[T]hey are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together let no one separate.” When the disciples ask him about his teaching, he softens it by saying that it is adultery if either of them remarries, which seems to allow divorce if there is no remarriage. In the dialog with the Pharisees, Jesus is quoting from the second creation story, part of which is our Sunday Hebrew Scripture reading in the complementary series. This is immediately followed by Jesus telling the disciples not to hinder children from coming to him. The Saturday Gospel, Luke 16:14-18, includes Jesus saying something similar to what he told the disciples in his teaching on divorce. It also includes a forceful denunciation of the Pharisees. The Saturday Gospel, Matthew 5:27-36, has Jesus' teaching on lust, adultry, and oathtaking.

Epistles

The Thursday and Friday Epistle readings are about the law as our guardian before faith and the law of the Spirit of life versus the law of sin and death. Friday's reading points up Paul's dualist view of the body versus the spirit, which I (for one) find difficult. The commentary I found most helpful was a definition of Paul's reference to the law's just requirement as obedience to the divine intent rather than simple compliance with the outward form. The Monday and Tuesday Epistle readings include some of Paul's commentary on marriage. The Sunday Epistle reading quotes from the complementary series Psalm of preparation with these compelling words:

When I look up at the heavens, which your fingers made,
and see the moon and the stars, which you set in place.
Of what importance are human beings that you should notice them?
Of what importance is mankind that you should pay attention to them,
And make them a little less than the heavenly beings?
You grant mankind honor and majesty. (NET)

Complementary Series Hebrew Scriptures

The Hebrew Scriptures on Thursday and Friday concern King Abimelech, Sarah, and Abraham. Abimelech took Sarah, but God prevented him from having sexual relations with her, telling him that Abraham was a prophet. When Abimelech confronted Abraham, he had this to say:

“I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God caused me to wander from my father's house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother.’”

You might know that Leviticus 18 forbids marriage to a half-sister, as Abraham did with Sarah. But Leviticus is traditionally ascribed to Moses, who lived in the thirteenth century Before the Common Era (BCE). Abraham lived sometime between the eighteenth and sixteenth centuries BCE, so at least three hundred years before Moses. Thus at the time of Abraham and Sarah there was no prohibition on the marriage of half-siblings. Fear of God means profound reverence and awe. In the Friday reading, Beer means well and sheba means both oath and seven.

The second creation story, our Sunday Hebrew Scripture reading, has often been misread to suggest that women are subordinate to men. Some scholars now suggest that God's first creature, adamah, might have been without gender, or perhaps androgynous. In this view, adamah is translated as groundling or as humanity. When God puts adamah to sleep and creates a second human, both genders exist. In other words, the feminine aspect of adaham is separated into another being.

Semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures

Our semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures are all from Job. Here is an excerpt from an excursus in The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary:

There is an ambivalance in the relation between Yahweh and the accusing angel [satan] that is important for understanding the development of this figure. The accusing angel is a subordinate of God, a member of the divine court who defends God's honor by exposing those who pose a threat to it. In that sense he is not God's adversary but the adversary of sinful or corrupt human beings. Yet in Zechariah 3:2, Yahweh rejects the accuser's indictment of the high priest and rebukes the accuser instead. In Job 1–2, Yahweh and the accuser take opposing views of the character of Job. As one who embodies and perfects the function of opposition, the satan is depicted in these texts as the one who accuses precisely those whom God is inclined to favor. In this way the ostensible defender of God subtly becomes God's adversary. (New Interpreter's Bible, Volume IV, p. 348)

The introduction to Job in the same commentary makes the point that the characters and events are described in hyperbolic terms, and the characters exemplify traits rather than undergoing development.

May these readings bring a blessing into your life. Thank you for all that you do to bring God's reign into being. Mike Gilbertson

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Summaries and Links for the week ahead

Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 8
Divine majesty and human dignity
Semi-continuous Psalm 26 Vindicate and redeem me, Lord. Your steadfast love is before my eyes.

Thursday: Preparation for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Genesis 20:1-18 Abraham and Sarah pretend to be brother and sister. King Abimelech takes Sarah as a wife, but God warns him that she is married.
Semi-continuous Job 2:11-3:26 Job curses the day he was born.
Both Galatians 3:23-29 There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus, Abraham's offspring according to the promise.

Friday: Preparation for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Genesis 21:22-34 Abraham makes a covenant with Abimelech.
Semi-continuous Job 4 Eliphaz says Job must have sinned.
Both Romans 8:1-11 To set the mind on flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Saturday: Preparation for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Genesis 23:1-20 Sarah dies. Abraham buys a cave at Machpelah for her burial place.
Semi-continuous Job 7 Job claims his suffering is endless.
Both Luke 16:14-18 Since John came, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed.

The Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Genesis 2:18-24 The second account of creation, in which Woman is created from Adam's rib
Semi-continuous Job 1:1; 2:1-10 God allows Satan to test Job. Job asks, "Shall we receive the good from God and not the bad?"
Both Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 God has spoken by a Son.
Both Mark 10:2-16 Jesus' teaching on marriage. Jesus says "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."

Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 112
Blessings of the righteous
Semi-continuous Psalm 55:1-15 It is not my enemies who taunt me, but my friend.

Monday: Reflection on the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 22:13-30 Laws about sexual relations, including punishments.
Semi-continuous Job 8 Bildad tells Job to repent.
Both 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 Guidance for the married. If those who are unmarried cannot maintain self -control, they should marry.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 24:1-5 A newly married man shall not go out with the army for one year.
Semi-continuous Job 11 Zophar tells Job, "You deserve worse."
Both 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 Paul's advice on divorce.

Wednesday: Reflection on the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Jeremiah 3:6-14 Faithless Israel called to repentance
Semi-continuous Job 15 Eliphaz accuses Job of not hearing God.
Both Matthew 5:27-36 Jesus' teaching on lust, adultery, and oath-taking.

Please remember that the links don't become active until the content is posted on our website, which is scheduled at 3:05 a.m. Eastern Time.

Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version with the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.


Scriptures designated (NET) are from the Net Bible-New English Translation ® copyright © 2005 by Biblical Studies Press, LLC (www.bible.org) used by permission. All rights reserved.

Note: The links in the titles above take you to Amazon, where you can purchase them and benefit The Lectionary Company.

Lessons for September 27 to October 3

What's ahead in the Bible readings this week

September 27 to October 3
The Eighteenth Week After Pentecost
The Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time*

This week's image

The Holy Spirit seems to be at work in most of our lessons this week. In particular, the Holy Spirit falls on the believers in our Thursday reading from Acts, giving them the power to speak boldly. May we all have this power.

Gospel Lessons

There are several things to notice in our Gospel readings this week. We are warned, both on Sunday and Wednesday against creating stumbling blocks for others, particularly for little ones. In both readings, Jesus says we should cut off whatever body part causes us to stumble. On Sunday, he even says that we can enter the kingdom of God with one eye. The ancient Hebrews believed that any animal sacrificed to God had to be without blemish, perfect in every way. The idea that God would accept us in God's kingdom even if we aren't physically perfect was probably surprising to Jesus' hearers. There are a number of echoes from Sunday in our other readings. I especially notice that Jesus tells his disciples not to stop others who are casting out demons in his name. You might also notice that Jesus says in hell “their worm never dies.” In our Friday New Testament reading, Herod, after failing to correct the people when they said his voice was of a god and not of a mortal, is eaten by a worm. In the Sunday Gospel, Jesus says that we should have salt in ourselves, and be at peace with one another. Our Saturday Gospel reading reminds us that we are the salt of the earth, but if we lose our taste (that is, our conviction to live according to the Gospels), we are not good for anything.

Lessons from Acts of the Apostles and Epistles

In our Thursday reading from Acts, Peter—who days before denied the Lord—and John are speaking the Gospel with boldness, even after being questioned in the Sanhedrin. The power of the Holy Spirit again fell on them. Sunday, James tells us that “the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective,” and on Monday, Peter reminds us that our trials prove the genuineness of our faith, which is more precious than gold. On Tuesday, the first letter of John tells us that we have been anointed by the Holy One. Let us use that anointing in the service of others.

Complementary Hebrew Scriptures and Psalms

Our Hebrew Scriptures this week are about choosing leaders. On Sunday, Moses complains to the Lord of the burden, and the Lord commands the appointment of the elders. Notice at the end of this reading Joshua (who is to become the leader of the Israelites) urges Moses to stop two prophets, and Moses replies, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” This is the same thing Jesus said to his disciples when they wanted to stop someone who was casting out demons in his name. On Thursday, Moses is overwhelmed with settling disputes, and it is Jethro, his father-in-law, advises him to pick leaders over “thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.” The leaders should be people who “fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain.” On Friday, Moses repeats an explanation (evidently given earlier) of the role of the leaders. He charged them, “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien. You must not be partial in judging: hear out the small and the great alike; you shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's. Any case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.” On Saturday, the people are charged to obey the law.

Our Psalm during the time of preparation begins with “The law of Lord is perfect, reviving the soul,” and ends with the prayer traditionally used before a sermon or homily, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” The Psalm during the period of reflection tells us that God listens to our prayers in the morning.

Semi-continuous Hebrew Scripture and Psalms

This week we are reading the story of Esther, a woman who stood up for her people when a holocaust was planned. Her uncle Mordecai, who raised her, got word to her of the plans of one of the king's courtiers to kill the Jews, basically because Modedcai did not show him obesience. Of course we know that doing so would violate an essential tenent of our faith: glory goes only to God. Naturally, the most dramatic part of the story is saved for Sunday, which means we are reading it out of order. If we read it in order, the sequence would be

  • Thursday: Esther 1:1-21 Queen Vashti disobeys King Xeres.

  • Friday:Esther 2:1-23 Xeres chooses Esther as his new queen.

  • Saturday: Esther 3:1-15 Haman, a powerful member of Xerex's court, plans the destruction of the Jews.

  • Monday: Esther 4:1-17 Mordecai seeks Esther's help to save their people. "Who knows, perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this."

  • Tuesday: Esther 5:1-14 Haman, feeling disrespected, plots to kill Mordecai. (This passage seems out of place, but this is the order in the Bible)

  • Sunday: Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 Esther, after urging from Mordecai, intercedes for her people.

  • Wednesday: Esther 8:1-17 A happy ending for the Esther's and Mordecai's people.

Both of the Psalms are about God's protection, for which I am grateful.

Thank you for all that you do toward bringing God's justice and mercy into being. May this week's readings bring a blessing into your life.
Mike Gilbertson

Links and Summaries for the week ahead

Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 19:7-14
God's law of is perfect, more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey.
Semi-continuous Psalm 124 If God had not been on our side, the flood would have swept us away.

Thursday: Preparation for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Exodus 18:13-27 Moses, at Jethro's suggestion, appoints judges over the people.
Semi-continuous Esther 1:1-21 Queen Vashti disobeys King Xeres.
Both Acts 4:13-31 The believers pray to speak God's word with great boldness.

Friday: Preparation for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 1:1-18 Moses recalls for the people the events at Mount Horeb, and the appointment of judges.
Semi-continuous Esther 2:1-23 Xeres chooses Esther as his new queen.
Both Acts 12:20-25 Herod does not give glory to God and is struck down.

Saturday: Preparation for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 27:1-10 Moses charges the people to build an altar on Mount Ebal after they have crossed the Jordan.
Semi-continuous Esther 3:1-15 Haman, a powerful member of Xerex's court, plans the destruction of the Jews.
Both Matthew 5:13-20 You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.

The Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 Moses complains to God about the people's complaints to him. At God's command, Moses gathers the elders of the people, and God comes and speaks to them.
Semi-continuous Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 Esther, after urging from Mordecai, intercedes for her people.
Both James 5:13-20 The prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective.
Both Mark 9:38-50 Jesus says, "Do not cause anyone who believe in me to stumble."

Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 5
Lead me in your righteousness, and make straight the way before me.
Semi-continuous Psalm 140 I know that God maintains the cause of the needy, and executes justice for the poor.

Monday: Reflection on the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Zechariah 6:9-15 The people will come from near and far to build the temple.
Semi-continuous Esther 4:1-17 Mordecai seeks Esther's help to save their people. "Who knows, perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this."
Both 1 Peter 1:3-9 The outcome of your faith is the salvation of your soul.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Zechariah 8:18-23 Many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek and entreat God.
Semi-continuous Esther 5:1-14 Haman, feeling disrespected, plots to kill Mordecai.
Both 1 John 2:18-25 You have been anointed by the Holy One and know the truth.

Wednesday: Reflection on the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Zechariah 10 God will restore Israel and Judah.
Semi-continuous Esther 8:1-17 A happy ending for the Esther's and Mordecai's people.
Both Matthew 18:6-9 Do not cause any of these little ones to stumble.

*Denominations have different ways of designating the weeks during the year, so your church may refer to this week by a different name or number or both. Regardless of the name or number, the readings are the same. Here is an explanation: Calendar Explanation

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Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from The New Revised Standard Version, (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.

Image credit: Spirit Fire downloaded via Max Pixel. This is a public domain image.

Lessons for September 20 to 26

What's ahead in the Bible readings for this Week

September 20 to 27
The Eighteenth Week After Pentecost
The Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

This Week's Image

Wisdom-Titan-WS.jpg

This week's image is Titian's Wisdom. This seems appropriate to the epistles for the week and the semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures, which focus on wisdom.

Gospel Lessons

In our Sunday Gospel, Jesus continues his teaching about the passion to come. In the Saturday Gospel, Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees that they are hypocrites for claiming that if the prophets were alive in their time, the religious leaders would not have stoned them. He specifically mentioned Abel and Zechariah. The Zechariah who was stoned in the temple courtyard was the son of the priest Jehoiada. The story is told in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22. Jehoiada plays a part in Tuesday's Comlementary Hebrew Scripture reading, discussed below. (Matthew, or a later editor, incorrectly identifies the martyred Zechariah as the son of Berachiah. That Zechariah is the prophet for whom a Bible book is named.)

Epistles

Three of our Epistle readings this week carry a theme of wisdom. Sunday's reading from James has this to say:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish.

Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, has some advice for us about relying on human wisdom. He wrote “My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

The Friday reading from Romans also has a warning about claiming to be wiser than we are.

Compementary Hebrew Scriptures

In the Sunday Hebrew Scripture, the prophet Jeremiah complains of the schemes against him, and asks God for retribution against the plotters, another confirmation of the difficulties the prophets faced.

The Hebrew Scriptures during our days of preparation concern Israel's turning away from God to worship other gods. In the Thursday Hebrew Scripture, another unnamed prophet (likely different than the one we had in two of last week's readings) told the Israelites that they had failed to heed God's voice. In the Friday Hebrew Scripture, King Ahab, ruler of Israel and a worshiper of Baal, is killed. Ahab's wife was Jezebel, whose daughter plays a part in the Tuesday Hebrew Scripture. In the Friday reading, Zedekiah, one of the four hundred prophets of Baal, strikes the prophet Micaiah, who predicted the death of Ahab. As Micaiah prophesied, Ahab—even though he disguised himself as an ordinary warrior—is killed in a battle, while the king of Judah survived. In the Saturday reading, it is the Assyrians who conquered Israel, because “they had worshiped other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had introduced.”

The backstory for Tuesday's Hebrew Scripture is interesting. Athaliah, who was Jezebel's daughter, was married to Jehoram, the king of Judah, in order to strengthen the ties between the two kingdoms. Jehoram was succeeded by Ahaziah, his only surviving son. Ahaziah was killed in a military coup. Athaliah then had all her grandchildren killed and seized the throne. She did not know that Jehoash, one of Ahaziah's sons, wasn't killed. Athaliah's sister took him to Jehoiada, who kept him safe, then had him crowned under the protection of the palace guard when he was seven.

Semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures

We continue to read from the wisdom literature, this week with sayings attributed to Agur in Provebs and from Ecclesiastes. Agur in Hebrew means gatherer. The author of Ecclesiastes, often referred to as The Preacher, also has a name derived from gatherer, in this case the Hebrew Qohelet. “All is vanity” is a phrase that repeats in the book. The introduction to Ecclesiastes in The New Interpreter's Study Bible, says that the Hebrew word translated as vanity literally means breath or vapor, which reflects the idea that life is ephemeral, short, and sometimes incomprehensible. The introduction also says that many consider The Preacher a pessimist, while others find a consistent countering of pessimism with joy. As always, you can decide for yourself. There is other interesting reading this week, including the story of Naaman on Monday and Jeremiah's call on Wednesday.

May these readings bring a blessing into your life. Thank you for all that you do to bring God's reign into being.
Mike Gilbertson

Do you have a friend who could us these readings?

If you know someone who could deepen his or her commitment to being a Christian through these readings, why not forward this newsletter to that person? Here is a link that leads to the sign up form: Sign up link

Links for the week ahead

Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 54
God is my helper.
Semi-continuous Psalm 1 God watches over the way of the righteous, but the wicked will perish.

Thursday: Preparation for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Judges 6:1-10 The Israelites are oppressed by the Midianites because they did not heed God's voice.
Semi-continuous Proverbs 30:1-10 Every word of God proves true; they shield those who take refuge in God.
Both 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Let your faith rest not on human wisdom, but the power of God.

Friday: Preparation for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary 1 Kings 22:24-40 The prophet Micaiah is imprisoned.
Semi-continuous Proverbs 30:18-33 If you stir up anger, you get strife.
Both Romans 11:25-32 The elect include Gentile believers in Christ and the Jews.

Saturday: Preparation for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary 2 Kings 17:5-18 Israel ignores the warnings of every prophet and seer and so is carried captive into Assyria.
Semi-continuous Ecclesiastes 1:1-18 In much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.
Both Matthew 23:29-39 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and those who are sent to it.

The Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Jeremiah 11:18-20 Jeremiah commits his cause to God.
Semi-continuous Proverbs 31:10-31 Ode to a capable wife
Both James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.
Both Mark 9:30-37 Jesus says, "Whoever welcomes on of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but the One who sent me."

Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 139:1-18
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Semi-continuous Psalm 128 The happy home of the faithful

Monday: Reflection on the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary 2 Kings 5:1-14 A captive Israelite girl tells Naaman's wife to send him to Elisha, who tells him how to cure his leprosy.
Semi-continuous Proverbs 27:1-27 Don't boast about tomorrow, because you do not know what it will bring.
Both James 4:8-17 You are a mist that appears for a little while then vanishes.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary 2 Kings 11:21-12:16 Jehoash, the boy king, has the temple rebuilt.
Semi-continuous Ecclesiastes 4:9-16 A friend is valuable.
Both James 5:1-6 You rich people, weep for the miseries that are coming to you.

Wednesday: Reflection on the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Jeremiah 1:4-10 God calls Jeremiah
Semi-continuous Ecclesiastes 5:1-20 A fool's voice comes with many words.
Both John 8:21-38 Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.

*Denominations have different ways of designating the weeks during the year, so your church may refer to this week by a different name. Regardless of the name, the readings are the same. Here is an explanation: Calendar Explanation

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Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from The New Revised Standard Version, (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.

Image credit: Wisdom by Titian, via Wikimedia Commons. Black corners replaced by white by Michael Gilbertson using Photoshop 13 May 2016. This is a public domain image.