Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, January 21st, 2018

This week, I could use your feedback.  I typically spend part of my Tuesday studying these passages with my local colleagues, asking our questions, testing each others' responses, and sharing our perspectives on the passages.  Unfortunately, this week's gathering was cancelled due to the snow and ice that fell on the region during Sunday and Monday.  Therefore, I will share my initial thoughts from reading these passages, and I hope to interact with your questions, responses, and perspectives as I prepare to preach on Sunday morning.

If this is your first time reading this series of posts on my blog, welcome!  Below here, you will find the Revised Common Lectionary readings for Sunday, January 21st (all readings are from the New Revised Standard Version).  After each reading, I include my thoughts in italics.  If you have any questions or comments regarding the readings themselves or my thoughts stemming from the readings, I invite you to leave them in the comments below, where I can respond to you.  Thanks for reading!

Jonah 3:1 - 5, 10

1The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2“Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” 3So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.
  10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

How did the people of Nineveh know that Jonah’s message was from God?  The only message that the Bible quotes is “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”  The initial call to Jonah was “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it…” (Jonah 1:2), so we do not get a good picture of Jonah’s message.  Yet the people (and the king in the missing verses) hear the Lord in Jonah’s message and repent.  It’s like the narrator was in such a rush to get to the repentance and Jonah’s tantrum that the narrator did not include what the Lord asked Jonah to say!  Or was that message enough?  Would it be enough for us, who are already a part of the Body of Christ?

Psalm 62:5 - 12

 5 For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.
 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
 7 On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah
 9 Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.
 10 Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
 11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God,

 12 and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord. For you repay to all according to their work.

Psalm 62 makes the case that the Lord is the only thing that can fully uphold our trust and our faith.  Anything else will fail and will disappoint us.

1 Corinthians 7:29 - 31

29Brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, 30and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, 31and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

1 Corinthians 7 reads like we are in an emergency situation.  Forget all emotional attachments and focus on this one thing that is happening right now.  What does the larger context tell us (without getting into 8:1 – 13, the reading for the following week)?  It’s a discussion of marriage and divorce within the current time, which Paul treats like an emergency situation.  If you are married, stay married.  If you are single, stay single.  If you are engaged…well, Paul advises you to stay single, but get married if you must.  In any case, do not let these things distract you from the Lord and what the Lord is doing/about to do.  The discussion continues to the end of the chapter (verse 40).  I could extend the reading, even to include the verses before it…but that would probably commit me to preaching on this passage.

Mark 1:14 - 20

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

  16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Mark’s account of Jesus calling these first few disciples is pretty straightforward.  Jesus calls them to come with him, and they go, leaving their fishing business behind.  Yet we also know that they do fish from time to time during Jesus’ ministry.  What do we make of this?  We can speak on obedience to the call or Jesus’ charisma to get these four to follow without question.  But does it point to the cross and the empty tomb?

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