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Archive for the ‘Lectio Thoughts’ Category

O sing to the Lord a new song,
For He has done wonderful things…

I usually read the Psalms from my present day viewpoint

… reading it from my own circumstances

… and viewing terms like “salvation” in light of Jesus sacrifice, death and resurrection

Or else I read the Psalms trying to grasp the viewpoint of the original writer

… trying to understand his circumstances

… and viewing terms like “salvation” in light of physical enemies and ailments, sin and the sacrificial system and the Exodus, pre-Jesus

 

I do this because I live in the twenty-first century and all my life has been framed by what Jesus already accomplished and hundreds of years of understanding that and how the Hebrew scriptures pointed to it and how it was fulfilled.

And I do this because I have been ingrained since sometime in my youth (plus years of Bible, ministry and seminary training) to look at scripture in context and to try and understand things like original audience and context and meaning.

But something new happened today.

Something unexpected.

I didn’t plan it.

I didn’t control it.

It was a gift.

And it was beautiful.

 

I was reading Psalm 98.

Verse 3 contains chesed (aka “lovingkindness” in the NASB) and since February I have been making my way through all the appearances of chesed in the Bible.

There are 248 occurrences.

So I was simply reading Psalm 98.

 

But as my eyes moved across the words on the page, I was suddenly seeing the Psalm as though through the eyes of the disciples shortly after Jesus’ resurrection.

Perhaps even just after Pentecost when people from all over the “ends of the earth” were in Jerusalem and witness to the outpouring of the Spirit and first hearing the good news of Jesus and salvation.

Because the Psalms were used in worship.

And for as long as they were able the disciples and new believers continued to go to the temple (or synagogue) for worship.

And can you imagine?

In Luke 24 Jesus begins to open their eyes to how the Hebrew scriptures and prophecies pointed to him and must be fulfilled.

But surely, just as we make new discoveries and connections, they continued to do so as well.

So one day in worship at the temple Psalm 98 is being read or recited or sung and they suddenly see it in a new view.

A view I take for granted here two thousand years later.

 

Oh the beauty and the joy and the grace!

Can you see it?!

This Psalm they probably knew well and heard a thousand times… and it now holds more meaning and beauty than ever.

Step with me back into the days just after Jesus’ resurrection.

Remember the wonder and excitement of Easter.

Walk with the disciples to worship at the temple.

And glimpse through their eyes the reading of this Psalm.

O sing to the Lord a new song,
For He has done wonderful things,
His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.
The Lord has made known His salvation;
He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
With the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar and all it contains,
The world and those who dwell in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy
Before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth;
He will judge the world with righteousness
And the peoples with equity.

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But now, O Lord,
You are our Father;
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all we are the work of Your hand.

This morning’s lectio verse had me reflecting on God as Father and God as potter and Israel (and us and me) as clay. And there is a sense of belonging to God in there and there is a sense of being in God’s hands. And not having to be in control. Release.

So as I turned from meditation to prayer, a specific prayer came to mind and it was my deep desire to pray it. So I pulled out my Celtic Daily Prayers book and looked up “The Methodist Covenant Prayer” (also known as Wesley’s Covenant Prayer) in the daily meditations section.

I am no longer my own, but Thine.
Put me to what Thou wilt,
rank me with whom Thou wilt;
Put me to doing, put me to suffering;
Let me be employed by Thee
or laid aside for Thee;
Let me be exalted for Thee,
or brought low for Thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty;
Let me have all things,
let me have nothing;
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am Thine.
So be it.
And the covenant
which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

And I realize this is a hard prayer. A dangerous prayer.

And it struck me that I don’t tremble as I say it.

Is it because I trust that much?

Or is it because I don’t really think God would actually take away “all things” that I’m saying I yield to His pleasure and disposal?

I looked around my room. Books. Tea things. Photos. Technology. Even that little retro purse that holds the umbrella.

Oh, surely He wouldn’t take all that away! I can say that He can have it because He’ll never take it.

After all, this stuff is used to bless others!

It is used to bring smiles and encouragement and to teach and edify and uplift others!

But then was brought to mind the bronze serpent.

It, too, was used to bless others. In fact, it was used for their healing. Their salvation, if you will. For when the children of Israel had complained in the desert and God sent snakes as a punishment and the people cried out and repented, He instructed Moses to have constructed this bronze serpent so that the people who were bit could look upon it and be healed.

It was a good thing!

But centuries later, Hezekiah destroyed it.

He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan. (2 Kings 18:4)

The bronze serpent had been a great blessing. But it had “outlived” its purpose (so to speak) and though it could have remained as a reminder of God’s great work, it had instead become an idol.

Things that are blessings, as everything else it seems, have their time.

Which makes me tremble a slight bit more as I pray Wesley’s prayer. And rightly so.

Yet I trust God. I must. I have every reason to do so. For He is the potter and my faithful Father.

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Master

(From my lectio journal)

Wednesday 24 July 2013
Luke 5:5

Master

Been awhile. In large part due to wrists, but also simply not taking the time to write…

So even just in recent weeks  we’ve covered King and Leader and Lord… and now Master. And I prayed that as I opened to the verse (and today throughout) I would better know Jesus as Master.

And the verse is at the calling of the disciples and it’s so simple and Peter calls him “Master.”

And maybe it sorta meant ‘sir’ back then but maybe it meant more and… allow me to paraphrase:

Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. It’s no use. What makes you think we’ll catch something now? I don’t think this will work. But I will do as you say.

See there? See how simple that is?

It doesn’t make logical sense. Peter may not have even believed it possible. But because Peter somehow saw fit to use the word “Master” he also saw fit to trust and obey.

Wow.

May I also trust and obey even when it doesn’t make sense or I don’t think it will work!

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Did they see?

To Moses you gave Your name.

He asked for it.

He wanted to know whom to tell his fellow Israelites had sent him to set them free. Apparently, “God” wasn’t good enough. Too broad? Too general, perhaps?

He wanted a name.

And so You gave it.

It translates so poorly it seems.

A word in an ancient language that has been forgotten and remembered and shifted (just as English has). A name revered and protected and we may not be spelling it right or transliterating it right or pronouncing it right or defining it fully and it seems we just can’t pin it down.

But neither can You be pinned down.

Yet still, it is the name You gave us by which to know You.

The Existing One.

I AM

Even as I type it, my breath catches.

There truly is something to a name, isn’t there?

Especially Yours.

Which is what got me thinking this morning as I read. Yesterday’s lectio passage was from Your conversation with Moses in Exodus. 

Today’s was from John 8.

You spoke Your name again there.

Almost subtly. 

It would be easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it or paying attention to the flow of what was happening.

And sometimes the way John writes discourse can be overwhelming and confusing…

But I saw it this time.

There in the midst of conversation and question and the Jews thinking You crazy or demon-possessed and all this talk about God as Father and truth and how they didn’t understand what You were saying.

But I know they understood when You said Your name.

At least the ones who picked up stones to throw at you.

And I couldn’t help but think on how C.S. Lewis described the Pevensey children upon first hearing the name of Aslan.

How each had a slightly different heart-response.

I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I AM. 

That’s what You said to them.

Of course, You would have been speaking in Aramaic.

Or did You use the Hebrew name?

Either way, Your intent was clear.

For some heard it and knew the connection You drew. The connection between You and God the Father, equating Yourself with God.

And they were immediately angry, defensive, derisive…

Of course, there may have been those who missed it altogether. Perhaps Gentiles or those on the outskirts of the crowd or simply folk who weren’t paying attention… or didn’t care to.

But I wonder…

Were there also those – though they are few, who see beyond what others do?

As You spoke the words, did they turn to look You fully in the face, their posture straightening and their breaths catching and their hearts skipping a beat?

As mine did this morning?

As they caught onto and began to realize the glorious truth.

Of who You were?

of Who You are?

Did You catch their eyes as the light of truth dawned upon them?

Did they see?

See You?

Oh, how I want to see You in the glorious truth of who You are!

May my head continue to turn, my breath continue to catch and my heart continue to skip a beat as I catch these glimpses of You as You reveal Yourself to us!

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Wednesday 17 April 2013
Jeremiah 16:19

Fortress

Today I am awed by beauty. Reciting the morning office ‘declaration of faith’ I can’t help but break into a huge smile before Jesus.

Then the passage is beautiful. I read past verse 19 to 21…

O Lord, my strength and my stronghold,
And my refuge in the day of distress,
To You the nations will come
From the ends of the earth and say,
“Our fathers have inherited nothing but falsehood,
Futility and things of no profit.”
Can man make gods for himself?
Yet they are not gods!

“Therefore behold, I am going to make them know—
This time I will make them know
My power and My might;
And they shall know that My name is the Lord.”

God as strength and fortress and refuge – and all nations will come, realizing their ‘gods’ are worthless – and God will teach, reveal, cause them to know Him!

Oh the beauty! But there is yet more!

The word for fortress is ma’owz – a “place or means of safety, protection, refuge, stronghold”

A place! And – at least in the King James Version – 28 out of 37 uses it is translated as “strength” or “strong”.

Strength.

As in Nehemiah’s “the joy of the Lord is your strength”.

This isn’t referring to ability (for even “a means of” resides outside the self) – it is a place of refuge, of safety, of protection.

The joy of the Lord is our fortress!

And my heart swells with this truth, this beauty! For regardless of my surroundings or my physical state, the Lord is my fortress!

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Sometimes a single verse – or even a phrase or word – during my lectio time can connect so quickly to the deepest parts of me and what I cam currently experiencing in my life. Other times, not so much…

…and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood… (Rev 1:5)

ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστός -> pistos martys -> faithful witness

It’s just a verse.

In the middle of a greeting.

Just a name – a title – among three.

So it’s rather nondescript.

Then how am I to understand Jesus as the Faithful Witness? Maybe I can’t. Maybe it doesn’t fully connect.

Yet.

Right now.

But I’ll bet it did to the people of the seven churches (to whom Revelation was addressed). I’ll bet John knew what he was doing when he specifically used those three titles to describe Jesus. I”ll bet those three titles brought comfort and hope.

For they lived in a time of persecution.

When being a witness (μάρτυς- martys) often meant what we mean when we use the word now: a martyr.

You know, there’s a reason we use that word…

And the people of that time were quickly learning what it fully meant, what it entailed, to be a witness, a martyr…

So though it doesn’t connect to me as deeply as other verses, as other names of God have since we began this lectio series, I have a feeling it truly resonated with them.

Jesus was an example of a faithful witness. A faithful martyr.

Hope.

And Jesus was the firstborn of the dead.

More hope.

And Jesus is ruler of the kings of the earth. Including the evil ones who persecute.

Even more hope!

But, alas, I am now getting ahead of myself.. for Firstborn and Ruler of Kings are yet to come in this lectio series…

And today, as my awareness of the significance of these titles to the original hearers deepens, I turn my prayers to my brothers and sisters in Christ who are in prison, in chains, being persecuted around the world today… becoming martyrs. And I pray that they be strengthened and encouraged as they come to know Jesus as the Faithful Witness.

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For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Everlasting Father.

This verse is about Jesus. We all pretty much agree on that, right?  So how is Jesus “Everlasting Father”?

I mean, there’s God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit (Trinity: distinct persons yet one God).

And Jesus calls God the Father, “Father.”

And we are called heirs (ie. children) of God and co-heirs (ie. siblings) with Christ.

And as the song says, “God our Father, Christ our brother…”

So how?

What does it mean? How does it work?

Do I really need to know?

Some mysteries are just too deep and too beautiful to attempt confining to words.

Because as I ponder, one word keeps coming to mind.

From the red-letter lines of the New Testament, an oft repeated word echoes through, loud and clear:

“Daughter”

So many of them. Jesus, in love, called each “Daughter.”

How is Jesus the “Everlasting Father”?

I don’t fully know.

But one thing I do know – He calls me daughter.

And that is enough.

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