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Living the Lectionary

A starting point from week to week in my Journey from A-C

Month

January 2014

Great is Thy Faithfulness? A Reflection on Matthew 5:1-12

I am a little slow this week with my lectionary reflection because I am at a retreat for pastor’s in my denomination and every time I sit to write, or prepare my sermon for Sunday I realize I am exhausted and need to sleep.  But anyway here we go:

I’m the type who loves all kinds of music, contemporary Christian, rock, rap, hymns…whatever.  My congregation hears almost every Sunday….THIS is one of my very favourite hymns or songs.  But really; one of my very favourite hymns is Great is Thy Faithfulness.  It always has been.

One time when I was in College, one of my Biblical studies professors asked the class however, would you still be able to sing this song if you lived in a third world country, or if you found yourself in a situation like Job having everything you know stripped away from you?

I wonder if I would.

I don’t like it when people minimize other people’s stress, though I am sure I have done it from time to time.  I can remember just after my Grandma died someone said to me, Oh come on smile.  The truth was at the time I could not, I knew all of the platitudes that people offer during those times to be true, but I did not want to hear them.

Have you ever heard a phrase like this when you are going through a difficult time:

Well at least you have your health…

It’s not so bad, you could be like so and so…

At least you have a job…

or whatever the case may be, I’ve heard them and I’ve said them.  But I try not to any more, just because my situation or your situation might not be as bad as someone else doesn’t mean that we are not experiencing stress or pain.

So if Jesus had come to me at a point where I felt like I was poor in spirit, or mourning, or feeling persecuted, I am not sure that I would have appreciated his message that I am blessed.

And here is the thing, I think it is ok to mourn, and it is ok to experience those times when we feel lost because of our circumstances.  I believe it is ok to admit that there are times when I do not have it all together, to be honest with myself before the very God I know will bring me comfort and strength.

In fact it is for that very reason that I can admit it when I struggle, because I know that I am blessed and I know that I will be….whatever the promise is that I need at that time.

What about you?  Are you feeling blessed, or do you need to just hold on to that hope for the future with all your might?  We’ll all find ourselves along the spectrum at some point and it helps to know on whom we can lean.  That’s why I love the hymn so much, particularly the third verse.  Because when I am not feeling strong, when I am not feeling blessed I know that I can rely on his presence and his strength to carry me through until that blessing if fully realized.

Here is that third verse.  Great is Thy Faithfulness…amen?

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Source: http://www.hymnal.net/hymn.php/h/19#ixzz2roaIsGv4

Blue Monday and the Light that Dawns: A Reflection on Matthew 4:12-23

A friend posted on her wall on Facebook that today is indeed blue Monday, the saddest day of the year.  It’s always the first Monday of the last full week of January.  Some say the reason this time is the saddest is because of things like the bills have arrived from Christmas (though mine came much earlier), and it’s cold, winter and dark.  The reality is though that sadness at this time of year can have more to do with the lack of exposure to the sun, and for many people Seasonal Affective Disorder is a reality.  Depression sets in, and functioning every day can seem like an uphill battle.  For people suffering with depression, these days especially can seem like you’re walking in darkness.

There are other ways in which people will feel in these days that they are walking in darkness, whether it be illness, or loss of job, a spouse, a child or other things equally devastating.

Some will argue that I am going to far off here, that Matthew is not referring to these kinds of things, that he is referring to spiritual darkness and sin.  True, but cannot the things that I have listed also impact a person spiritually so that they experience darkness all around them?

There are many different ways, I believe that we walk in darkness and we need the power of a great light.  The text this week gives that promise of a new light.

Jesus begins to preach to the people “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Well I am not convinced you can, nor should you have to, repent from depression…but the message here can be that when we turn our perception around, even though we might still face the real darkness we also can celebrate the hope that we have in the kingdom of God, the hope of the light that he brings.

And for those of us, experiencing the fullness of the light of God, we can share it with others because we know what it is to have walked in darkness and there may come days in the future when we again will need his light shared with us in a time of need.

I don’t know, those are just some thoughts that I have upon reading this week’s text.

What about you, how do you read the text?

 

A Woman Should Be Silent Part Three: 1 Timothy 2

Often if you look on a church website you will find a section called leadership and in some cases the qualifications for leadership are told to be as outlined by 1 Timothy chapter 3.  This section of scripture obviously leaves out not only women, but if we were to go based on this passage alone single men, and men without children since it seems to assume in the passage that the leaders are husbands with children.

So what does this have to do with the section in 1 Timothy 2 about women learning in silence and submission?  Well when I put the two together it seems that the passages have more to do with the church respecting the household codes of the day, since the early church met in homes; rather than this being a case where Paul sets up a blueprint for worship for all people for all time.

 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.  A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (1 Timothy 2:9-15 NIV)

The arguments for the “egalitarian” and “complimentarian” views of this scripture have been going on for decades.  All based on what they believe the scripture to be saying, and if you read it in black and white plain English today, the passage does seem to say that women should be silent in the church.

Rather than add nothing new to the exegetical argument of this text, which I cannot it’s all already out there, I will highlight a few points that in my own searching have led me to become an egalitarian.

Firstly, the passage has been written for a specific people at a specific time, and nowhere in the text does the writer say that it is for all churches of that time, let alone for all churches of all time.  Yes of course we 2000 years later glean truth from these letters even though they are not written directly to us, but we have to remember context is everything and helps us to shape the heart of the letter.

Secondly, we are not today even literally following the entire directive in this passage.  Verse 9 seems to have fallen by the wayside, even in the most conservative male dominated churches where women compete to see who has the biggest hats.  We also don’t take verse 15 literally, when it says that women shall be saved by childbirth, in which case…I am doomed.

Thirdly, I believe that our English version doesn’t quite get it right.  I admit right of the hop here that I do not speak Greek, nor have I read the text in its original language, but I trust those on both sides of the coin who have and have done my research.  I have found myself agreeing obviously with the exegesis of egalitarians, specifically when it comes to the words silence and authority.

For us the word silence has a negative connotation, but in the ancient world it was a good thing, it meant that people had the opportunity to learn in a respectful environment without arguing and distracting questioning.  Some say the translation for the word silence should actually be something more along the lines of peaceably, thus promoting that atmosphere of respect.  In my opinion it also makes sense in the transition between the phrases let a woman learn…and I do not permit a woman to teach because women had not yet learned that they would be unable to teach.

The other word that gives us a bit of trouble in the text is the word authority.  In their book Women in the Church Stanley Grenz and Denise Muir Kjesbo, point out that the word Paul uses which is translated authority is not used in any other instance in the New Testament.  They also point out that there are several other words Paul could have used to mean authority, but Paul chose this one authenteo.  In other ancient use of the word it tends to mean to have full power over.  So some think that women were trying to assert they were created first and therefore should be in complete power over men.[1]  Which would make sense as Paul then moves in to the Genesis teaching of how the man was created first and woman was deceived.

There is much more to say on this passage alone and I could do so much more clearly, but those are some of the main things that I think of as I have wrestled with my own role and calling in the church.  These thoughts are not complete but they are a start.

It is enough for now to say that exegesis of this passage alone, has not convinced me that women should not be church leaders.

Next week I will take a look at how Jesus interacted with women, and how it shapes my view of women in leadership.


[1] Stanley Grenz, and Denise Kjesbo, Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry, (Downer’ Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1995).

Come and See: A Reflection on John 1:29-42

I’m having one of those weeks where I am having particular trouble deciding where to focus when it comes to this text.  It makes me a bit uncomfortable because before long, it will be Thursday and I will want a clear focus to sit down and write a homily for the congregation.

I could take the position that perhaps this text reminds the reader that faith is not about “me”, but rather it’s about pointing to Jesus.  John does this, again and again in the short time he is mentioned in the gospel.

I could go into great detail as I read wondering about the specific meaning of the words “lamb of God” in this particular text.

I could go back to the argument within my own tradition on water baptism and it’s use in the church; whether or not it is really necessary.  John reminds his reader that he baptizes with water, but Jesus will baptise with the Holy Spirit.

I could ask the question why are we who follow actually following in the first place?  Maybe I can ask of myself and you the same question that Jesus asked “what are you looking for?”

Based on the commentaries and what scholars have to say about the text and the wording, verb tenses, and the translation.

There are many things that I could choose to look at, but I’m just finding it hard to focus this Monday morning.

Maybe that’s OK though, because maybe that is part of what the text is trying to do.  If I look at Jesus interaction with his first two followers.  They heard that he is the son of God who takes away the sin of the world and they immediately begin to follow him.  Jesus notices and asks them what they are looking for, they respond by asking where he is staying  and at that point Jesus offers the invitation to come and see.

So this morning as I ask Jesus to tell me what he wants me to see in the text this week, his invitation is simple…come and see.  I’ll have to move with him, because if I really want to see what God is doing through the text, and in the world then I simply have to come and see.

The Return

I have not forgotten about my Women in Ministry series I just haven’t had the time to put into writing it.  I hope to be able to get some time in on Saturday and have another post on Sunday!

Undercover? A Reflection on Matthew 3:13-17

I am part of a denomination that does not practice the 2 main sacraments of the Church; baptism and the Lord’s supper.  That seems crazy to most Christians, and the debate rages on even within our own denomination.  So this week’s text seems very foreign to me, intellectually I can interpret, but I have no experience to associate with the story found in Matthew 3.

Reading the text I liken it to the show Undercover Boss.  In the show of course the boss goes undercover in his or her own organization to scope out any problems the company has.  Throughout the show the boss works with several individuals and at the end usually rewards them for their efforts in making the company better.

At the end of the show when the CEO reveals that it was indeed them that was working alongside the workers, the employee cannot believe it and the they wonder what is actually going on, because they have been working right alongside the boss in a position that you would never normally find the head honcho.  The boss then appreciates the work of the workers by providing some kind of extravagant gift.

Although I think the culture is changing, I know that in many organizations still the boss is rarely seen, they are this mysterious person that apparently runs the show.  And no one really knows what to do when they show up, some put on their best behaviour and some panic.

Similarly, John doesn’t seem to know what to do when Jesus shows up on the scene to get baptised.  He wants to refuse because why should he be baptizing The one?  Jesus assures him though that this is the right thing to do, and so John consents.  Jesus is no undercover boss, but he is God, who came and dwelt among us and got his hands dirty.  He is the one with whom God is pleased and because of who he is we have received the extravagant gift of his love and redemption.v

Hallelujah! What a Saviour!!

 

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