Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Mark 1:1-15
I have no idea why the FDBD writer chose to write about Jesus' house when this passage is about Jesus' baptism and doesn't even mention his house. But I do think that one point fits: Christianity is different because it accepts everyone. All sorts of people were going out to be baptized in the wilderness. All sorts of people felt the intolerable burden of sin. And all were accepted by God.
I do think it's interesting that Mark says almost nothing about the time before Jesus starts his ministry. It's as if the gospel writer said, "I have a lot to write about, so let's skip to the most important part." So he started with Jesus' baptism, followed by his temptation in the desert, and then immediately goes into the choosing of the disciples. It's almost as if there was a sense of urgency to get it written down before too much is forgotten.
posted by Susanna King 8:11 AM

Sunday, April 22, 2001

Psalm 111
This is a good psalm for Earth Day. "Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them." (vs.2) There are two basic themes in this psalm: God's works and his faithfulness through time. He intended his works, both the physical creation and his commandments, to endure forever. It is our job to be caretakers of both here on earth. I think they're definitely connected. If I keep God's commandments but misuse his creation, that's not good. Likewise, if I take care of his creation but ignore his commandments, that sounds like the sort of inanimate-object-worship that the first commandment warns against. I need to do both, to tend faithfully all that God has given us. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding." (vs.10)
posted by Susanna King 10:17 AM

Saturday, April 21, 2001

Isaiah 25:1-9
Again, there is so much to think about in this passage! I was particularly struck by verses 6-9 which foreshadow God's salvation through Christ. "And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples... he will swallow up death forever." (vs.7) But for now I'll focus on the same thing that the FDBD writer does, "the ruthless", mentioned throughout the passage. Isaiah says that God will protect his people from the ruthless and that "cities of ruthless nations will fear [God]." The people I have encountered whom I would describe as "ruthless" often have no time for God. They believe in nothing but themselves. Why is the idea of God anathema to them? Perhaps they know that if there truly is someone stronger, more powerful, more knowledgeable than they are, and that that someone respects compassion, not ruthlessness, they will not be able to continue their ruthless behaviour. Their way of life will have to change. No wonder the ruthless fear the Lord!
posted by Susanna King 11:24 AM

Thursday, April 19, 2001

Psalm 146
There is a lot to think about here. FDBD focuses on verse 7, "The Lord sets the prisoners free." I had never thought about it much, but what did Jesus do during his time in hell, after the crucifixion? The writer says he preached to the spirits there and saved them, and points out that nothing, not even hell, can keep us from the love of God in Christ. However, the only passage I found to back this idea up was at the end of Revelation, the final judgment, so I don't want to make any conclusions without further research and questioning.
Anyway, what I was originally going to write about today was verses 7-8, where it says that God "executes justice for the oppressed" and "gives food to the hungry" and so on. That article in last week's Newsweek where the writer says that this century Christianity has become a religion mainly of the poor and non-powerful "for the first time in its history" continues to bug me. This Psalm alone proves that we Christians have always known that God looks after the truly needy (even before we were Christians, in this case) and looks on them with favor. Why, verse 3 even says "Do not put your trust in princes." What more evidence do you need that God is does not discriminate in favor of the powerful?
posted by Susanna King 10:19 PM

Wednesday, April 18, 2001

John 15:1-10
I didn't know that grapes only grow on new branches which sprout from the main vine in spring. Knowing that, this passage from John makes more sense. Like the writer says, only those branches which abide in the vine can bear fruit, and only those parts of my life which abide in Jesus and grow out of relationship with him will bear fruit. All the extra "shoots and suckers" don't really serve a purpose, except to disperse the growing energy and diminish the fruit crop. I need to think, what can I prune from my life in order to bear more fruit?
posted by Susanna King 7:59 AM

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Psalm 103
The FDBD writer focuses on verse 19, but it was verse 6 that especially spoke to me today. "The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed." Looking around the world, I see plenty of people who are oppressed who seemingly have no hope of justice. I think of people living in towns with polluted water, those men who worked in chemical vats because it was the only job they could get and died as a result. These people are not wealthy or well-connected, and the wicked prosper at their expense. Sometimes, Erin Brockovich comes along and the oppressed see justice in their lifetimes. But not always. We should never stop seeking justice, since I believe that this is doing the Lord's work. However, it's important to remember that vindication and justice come from God. We should not seek revenge, we should only seek to do God's will, and trust that "as a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him." (vs.13)
posted by Susanna King 8:06 AM

Monday, April 16, 2001

Psalm 93
A simple song about God's majesty. I especially like verse 4. I can hear the music in the words: "More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters, more majestic than the waves of the sea, majestic on high is the Lord!" I find this psalm comforting, with its image of the Creator watching over the world.
posted by Susanna King 10:09 PM

Sunday, April 15, 2001

Luke 24:1-12
I like the way Luke tells this, and the way Fletcher described the scene in detail in his sermon this morning really made it come to life. He said that one of the women at the tomb may have been Susanna. I imagined myself there. How confused and frantic would I be when I found the tomb disturbed? How awed by the dazzling angels? How filled with wonder and hope at hearing Jesus was alive? I can imagine the women running down the road with their spices; they can hardly wait to tell the apostles the good news! This is an image I must remember, what it's like to be filled with joy and a sense of urgency to tell others about the Resurrection.
posted by Susanna King 5:32 PM

Saturday, April 14, 2001

Job 14:1-14
This is the perfect passage for Holy Saturday. It is hard to read, though, because it concerns not Christ's death but our own. I think it's important to read all the way through verse 17 to get a complete picture of what Job is thinking. Job feels the eyes of God upon him and is conscious of his sin and mortality. He wishes that God could just ignore humans for a while, so that we wouldn't think about such things and could be happy in our ingorance (vs.6). Then Job prays that, "my transgression would be sealed up in a bag, and you would cover over my iniquity" (vs17). With the perspective of history, I can see that God had a different plan in mind. He did remove from us the burden of our sin and mortality, but not by ignoring us. Instead, he sent Jesus to seal up our transgressions, and cover over our iniquities. It makes me glad to be living in a post-Easter world.
posted by Susanna King 10:39 AM

Friday, April 13, 2001

John 19:1-37
I can definitely relate to the FDBD writer today. It is hard for the solemnity of Holy Week to sink in when I know that a joyful Easter celebration is only days away. The writer mentions how a mideval crucifixion painting helps her to better visualize the event. A lot of that art gets criticized by the Protestant Church as too negative, but I think it serves an important purpose. If we aren't reminded of the tragedy of Christ's crucifixion, then the joy of resurrection on Easter is lessened. As the passage from John shows (the same one we read in church today), it was a horrific event. There's nothing wrong with art that helps us see this.
posted by Susanna King 6:22 PM

Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Psalm 71:1-12
It sounds like the Psalmist is getting old, and enemies are conspiring to take his power when he's gone. Since he's old, they no longer have any use for his life. But God does, and he knows this. When he's feeling useless in the eyes of the world, he knows that he still has a "rock of refuge" (vs.3) in God. Verses 1-3 make a good prayer.
posted by Susanna King 7:51 AM

Sunday, April 08, 2001

Philippians 2:5-11
I like what the writer says today, about how kneeling is praying with our whole bodies. It makes me think of this morning's ecumenical blessing of the palms, the two flag-bearers from the AME church swaying back and forth to the music. I agree, it's important to kneel, to bow, to raise your arms in praise. Not that kneeling makes prayers any more devout than standing or sitting, but if you're kneeling, it's harder to let your mind wander and forget what you're doing. And more than that, it's a physical way of acknowledging God's sovreignity.
posted by Susanna King 2:49 PM

Saturday, April 07, 2001

Psalm 137
Despite its pastoral imagery, this is really a song of despair. Their city destroyed, these people have been taken prisoner and taken away to a foreign land. No wonder they become bitter when commanded by their captors, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" (vs.3). What surprises me is that there is no happy ending to this Psalm, no reminder that the Lord will look after the faithful, not a word of praise. Instead, it ends with vivid descriptions of revenge. I guess sometimes anger can take quite a long time to dissipate. Looking at this Psalm as an objective outsider, I can see how ugly that emotion is. It's a reminder to me not to stay angry, not to dwell on ugly thoughts. Those moments are going to happen, but it's so important to move on to words of praise and thanksgiving. I notice that if I keep reading, on to Psalm 138, there's thanksgiving for deliverance from trouble.
posted by Susanna King 9:40 AM

Friday, April 06, 2001

Psalm 95
FDBD focuses on verse 7, "...we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand." But it's verses 4 and 5 that really speak to me: "In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed." With all the current quibbling about how to use the earth's resources, I think it's important to remember that they don't belong to us, we are only borrowing them from their creator. Like sheep in a pasture, we get nourishment from the grass and sustenance from the water. But unlike sheep, we are able to choose how much we use, to share with others in less green pastures, or to simply rip the grass from the ground and throw it away. I need to pray that I use the earth's resources wisely, and share the abundance God has given me rather than wasting it. After all, I'm just leasing this property from the owner.
posted by Susanna King 2:32 PM