Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Readings for February 27, 2011

We didn’t get the snow as early as we thought but we finally got the snow. If you are sick and tired of snow like me, just wait until March which is, on average, the snowiest month.

This week we finish (almost) our readings in 1 Corinthians and the Sermon on the Mount (there is one more reading on Ash Wednesday). The themes this week are God’s salvation, God’s judgment, God’s provision.

Isaiah 49:8-16a – The Lord proclaims to the people of Israel that he has saved his people and cared for them and called them to return to the land he gave them. Note the celebratory nature of verse 13 and the feminine nature of God in verse 15. Often we think and speak of God as Father but in this verse God is the perfect mother who never forgets or cares for her children. This fits with the theme in our Matthew reading.

Psalm 131 – Another reading which pictures the feminine side of God as the psalmist speaks of his quiet dependence on God’s provision.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 – Paul has defended the ministries of all who have worked with the church in Corinth: himself, Apollos and Peter. In verse 1 Paul says that they should simply be thought of as servants of Christ and stewards of God. As such, they should all be judged in their trustworthiness (v. 2). However, he is not worried (v. 3) because the only true judge is God (v. 4). The kicker verse then comes: “Don’t judge because God will shine light into the darkness and reveal the motives of our hearts.” OK, so far so good. But then comes the last phrase of verse 5. Here are several different versions of it:

NRSV – Then each one will receive commendation from God.
NET – Then each will receive recognition from God.
NIV – At that time each will receive their praise from God.
NLT – Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.
NASB – Then each man’s praise will come to him from God.
KJV – and then shall every man have praise of God.

How do you take this one phrase? The NET, NIV, NASB and KJV are all very conservative translations (in many experts’ opinions) and they seem to say that all people will be judged by God and then God will give them praise/commendation/recognition. Is this, dare I say, universal praise? Does this lead to, dare I say again, universal salvation? Hmmmmm........

Matthew 6:24-34 – First, to get into the mood of the passage, listen to Bobby McFerrin sing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.

We skipped the portion of the Sermon on the Mount dealing with almsgiving, prayer, fasting, treasures, and the eye. The section on prayer includes the Lord’s Prayer. We will read these for Ash Wednesday. Verse 24 seems to be a “one-off” on serving two masters: God and wealth. It seems to be out of place with this week’s reading and would better be paired with the section on treasures, verses 19-21. The bulk of the reading is about worrying. While it is medically proven (I think) that excessive worrying leads to all kinds of physical and mental health problems that is not what Jesus is talking about. For Jesus, it is all about trusting in the providence of God. Jesus acknowledges that there are plenty of things to worry about (v. 34) but our hearts never the less need to be given to God in utmost trust. One more thing, reread verse 33. Is this a “works” verse? In other words, if we do the “striving” God will do the “giving”. Or is our “striving” better thought of as giving our hearts and trust over to the power of God’s Spirit working in and through us?

I pray that these words will inspire you to read God’s Word and grow in God’s Spirit!

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