Sunday, December 28, 2008

First Sunday After Christmas - Year B

statue of Jesus being presented in the temple with Simeon
This week's lectionary readings are:

The verse that struck me the most in today's reading was Isaiah 61:11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.(NRSV) A couple things struck me about this verse. One is that good things (assuming righteousness and praise are good things) would come to ALL nations, not just some, not just believers, not just the sinless, but all nations. Also, is this praise for all nations or from all nations? Likewise with the righteousness, will we be given examples of righteousness to follow? Or will we suddenly become righteous?

I think with praise, it is more important to give praise than get it. Not that getting praise isn't important, but I think that you need to experience both sides for it to have value and in our society, receiving praise (deserved or not) is so common - especially as a child, that you need the experience of giving heartfelt praise to really understand and value it. 

As far as righteousness, it would be great to always know what is right.  But I think it would be horrible to just always do the right thing without thought or choice.
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Thursday, December 25, 2008


On to the next lectionary season.

painting of nativity scene

For Christmas (eve and/or day) there are 3 sets of readings.

Nativity Of The Lord - Proper I

Nativity Of The Lord - Proper II

Nativity Of The Lord - Proper III

I was particularly struck by Luke 2:14 - "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"(NRSV) I haven't seen the "with whom he is pleased in other translations" and I'm not sure if it is intended as "Peace amoung those people with whom God is pleased" or "God is pleased with mankind, peace among them."

I'd probably have more to say, but the migraine I've had for the last week is worse today and the meds aren't helping, so thought isn't exactly what my brain is doing best right now!

Most church services around here have been cancelled last night/today and the last 2 Sundays due to bad weather. My mom's husband commented that he's not sure how the churches can afford to do without the offering from the extra holiday visitors. The only denomination that reliably had services around here were the Catholic churches, although many of them cancelled midnight mass - that was both when any ice storm we were going to have was most likely to be at it's worst and when a local station was rebroadcasting the pope doing the service from St Peters.
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fourth Sunday in Advent - Year B

painting of the Annunciation

This week's lectionary readings are:

In the Samuel reading, I was struck by the idea that God lives and wants to live in a temporary and portable structure, yet is happy for us to live in more permanent and stable structures. For me, this actually reinforces the idea that God is everywhere - or where He is needed - not just in a temple or church. And that God is eternal. Because, even a "permanent" house only lasts for some hundreds of years (and stays in one place.) A temporary shelter can be rebuilt and repaired in place to place forever.

The second Luke reading was the most advent-like reading, in my mind, of any that we have read this advent. I read somewhere that Mary's last line in the reading - "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38 WEB) - is very similar to what the prophets have said when they accepted their duties. This is a much stronger role for Mary than usually proposed, and I think well deserved. Mary has always struck me as a very strong woman and well worthy of being a role mode. However you interpret her story, strictly secularly or purely religious or anywhere in between, she was a strong and amazing woman.

The art this week is from my new favorite artist, He Qi. His website is full of amazing religious paintings and embroideries that, to me, strike a strong balance between historical accuracy, expected symbolism, and modern accessibility.
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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Third Sunday in Advent - Year B

mosaic - John the Baptist Announcing the Messiah

This's week's lectionary reading is:

I am still enjoying the words of Isaiah, and I've been reading (but not blogging) some additional readings from Isaiah (well, technically the prophet Isaiah as quoted in the Book of Mormon.) So I was happy to see another reading from Isaiah. I really like 61:11
For as the earth brings forth its bud, and as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord Yahweh will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

It's such a genuinely positive image. I like the whole sense of hope of this reading from Isaiah, and the focus on pain becoming celebration and justice replacing injustice.

I particularly liked the last line of Psalm 126 - especially in the WEB - He who goes out weeping, carrying seed for sowing,
will certainly come again with joy, carrying his sheaves. I strongly believe that God helps those who help themselves, and this is a good example of that. To me it says, even when things are going badly, keep working and it will pay off.

The reading from I Thessalonians is one that I should read regularly. It has a lot of advice that I know I should take. I think 5:16 Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good. is particularly important. In religious discussions, so often I hear (and fall into) lots of black and white thinking as to what is good or bad, and particularly the assumption that we all do or should just take someone's word on these things. Testing (and determining the results) all things implies that we need to make an effort for ourself. Sure somethings we can learn from others, but we learn from observing others results, not just taking their conclusion at face value.
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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Second Sunday in Advent - Year B

Mid-12th Century Italian image of the baptism of Christ
This week's Lectionary readings are:
All these readings talk of better things to come. My life is pretty darn good, but of course, things could always be better. More importantly, a lot of people are really struggling right now, so it's nice to think about better things to come.

In the last month, the book of Isaiah has really spoken to me. This may be because I've been reading it in small doses - the last 2 lectionary readings and in the little daily devotional someone sends me. But it's making me want to make an effort to read more. I feel like I can really hear the poetry and feel the devotion of Isaiah.

I am particularly struck by 2 Peter 3:10, [T]he day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. There is so much in popular culture about knowing that the end time (or second coming) is near by the signs (including efforts to force those signs to occur!) Yet this statement directly contradicts that - we won't know when the Lord is coming, he will sneak in. I think this is more likely to be true than the opposite. I also think the information on how we should live now is worth noting and particularly useful in the World English translation:

[In] holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, ..., be diligent to be found in peace, without blemish and blameless in his sight. (2 Peter 11-14)

I particularly like the line "diligent to be found in peace", and back to my earlier theme, I find that this conflicts with the dispensationalist idea that peace in the Middle East works against the coming of the lord (Good overview of Christian Zionism and it's political implications.)

The Mark reading talks about John the Baptist's ministry of baptism. I particularly liked the image at the top of this post as a piece of art. But I think the image below - from the very interesting JESUS MAFA project - is probably more realistic.

Modern African/French image of John baptizing Jesus

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lectionary Year B - First Sunday In Advent

Iraqi image of Archangel Raphael Blowing the Trumpet to Signal the Last Judgment

This week's Lectionary readings are:
  • Isaiah 64:1-9

  • Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

  • 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

  • Mark 13:24-37

In the Isaiah reading, the author is asking God to make himself known. (Perhaps in a more angry form than I, or most Universalists, would normally think of.) How easy it would be to be a believer if God did appear to us and perform "awesome deeds"!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day - Year A

Happy Thanksgiving!
Covered Table by Faistauer

Today is the last reading for year A:

I was particularly struck by the reminder in the Deuteronomy section about remembering to be greatful in good times, and also by the reminder in Luke to be grateful in general. (Although it also is about being grateful when something good happens.) I think I'm a reasonably grateful person, but gratitude is something I really value in myself and others. I think gratitude just makes life better and I know I could be more grateful.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What and Why

A few years ago, David Plotz wrote a series for Slate where he attempts to answer the question "So, what will happen if I approach my Bible empty, unmediated by teachers or rabbis or parents?" (*) As a lifelong Unitarian-Universalist and Religious Studies major, I've always felt obligated to take scripture rationally (the responsible search for truth that is valued by UU's) and in historical context (the religious studies background), so this was a new idea to me. It made me realize that while my primary test for non-scriptural material (novels, quotes, life experiences, blogs, ...) influencing my faith, belief or practice is whether or not they help me better understand the big issues (my relationship with Deity, my purpose in life, ...), but when it comes to scripture I worry about context, translation, history and other factors. It's not that those things aren't important, but there is a value in letting the text speak to you that I've missed and want to explore.

I'm not going to attempt to structure myself as strictly as Plotz or be as disciplined (he got through his scripture, the TANAK, in a year.) For several reasons, including the fact that I see great value in reading other people's scriptures, I'll leave the definition of scripture for blogging purposes open. My goal is to blog on the Revised Common Lectionary readings (which I usually follow along with my church's Christian group, albeit poorly) with other scriptures as time and interest allow. I'm blogging mostly because I think it's a good way to organize the information for later use, but if someone feels compelled to read and comment, or has complimentary goals and would like to be a blog author, you are welcome!