Thursday, November 29, 2001

1 Peter 2:11-25
This passage is all about living as a Christian in a pagan world. Reading through it, I found that some time ago I highlighted verse 15: "For it is God's will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish." That is a good verse to think about right now, as is the last part of the passage advocating acceptance and patience over vengeance. These last few days I have been very angry, exploding at people for no good reason. That's not the way a Christian ought to live in the world; it is not the way Jesus lived. So I will try to remember verse 15 tomorrow, especially in any tense situations I may encounter. With an unfinished conflict at work and a looming cocktail party with disinterested people I barely know tomorrow, I'm sure I'll have plenty of chances to put those words into action.
posted by Susanna King 11:17 PM

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Matthew 19:23-30
More about wealth, and about how it keeps us from God. This year is an especially good time to count my non-material blessings. Today George's grandma asked us what we wanted for Christmas. It's really hard to say, because we just don't need more "stuff." I know it's frustrating for her not to have a list, but I'm glad that we know we have enough, more than enough, really.
posted by Susanna King 11:10 PM

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Matthew 19:13-22
I can sympathize with the writer about today's reading. I, too, have many possessions and it makes me nervous to think of getting rid of everything. But the study text in my Bible helps me see this story from a new angle. It says, "Eternal life will be found through utter dependence on God, not through a ritual that wealth makes possible." So for tonight I will lay aside the guilt over my material wealth in exchange for some new guilt ('cause you can never have enough, you know). The young man in the story keeps pressuring Jesus to give him a checklist of things he must do to secure God's favor. Have you ever met someone who thinks they can buy their way out of anything? Present them with a problem and they'll say, "Tell me what needs to be done to set things right." What they mean is, "Tell me what I have to buy or whom I have to pay to make the problem go away." This young man wants Jesus to tell him that God's favor is within reach for someone with enough money. Instead, Jesus tells him the opposite: he can only gain God's favor by getting rid of his money. So it's not buying a new window for the church (with your name on a brass plaque underneath, of course) that makes God happy. It's not being in love with your possessions, and caring little enough about them that you're willing and happy to give them up should you see someone who needs them more than you do. Because that is what God desires.
posted by Susanna King 10:59 PM

Saturday, November 24, 2001

Matthew 18:21-35
It's good to be reminded of God's generosity toward us. He's forgiven me more than I'll have an opportunity to forgive in a lifetime. So who am I to hold a grudge against another? And as the writer points out, it's not just forgiveness, but help, grace, mercy, and love that God expects us to share with those around us as he has shared with us. I hope I remember this the next time I think I don't have time to share.
posted by Susanna King 10:04 PM

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Revelation 21:1-8
I agree with the writer: things do have to get worse before they can get better. But what really reached out and grabbed me were the last two verses. God will give his heritage to "he who conquers", but "the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted," etc. will experience a "second death" in the lake of fire. I've heard a lot of talk about evangelism lately, doing my Prayer of Jabez Bible Study and hearing about the church's Great Commission Committee. Although I understand that evangelism is important, I tend to think of it as something I'll do someday, somehow. But this passage makes it clear that it's not a maybe thing. At the end of it all, you either conquered or didn't.
posted by Susanna King 11:38 PM

Friday, November 16, 2001

Matthew 16:13-20
In this passage, Peter gets it. Everything clicks, all the words make sense, and he knows that Jesus is the Messiah. Inspired moments like this are few and far between for me, but I get a small taste of what Peter must have felt when I've unsnarled a particularly knotty piece of JavaScript or when I finally see the point my husband is trying to get across to me or when the sermon explains a scripture passage that I never understood before. It makes sense, then, that Jesus tells his disciples not to tell anyone else that he is the Christ. He wants others to have a chance to experience that moment of inspiration from his "Father who is in heaven" (vs.17) as well.
posted by Susanna King 11:57 PM

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Nehemiah 9:26-38
I think the writer picked the most poignant verse from this passage. In the "land" God has given me, am I a slave to others? CEO's, politicians, media magnates and others would like for me to fall in line with their idea of how the world should be. After all, that's more territory for them. But I cannot wear their yoke if I choose to follow God. Then my land is His land, and I am not a slave, but free.
posted by Susanna King 10:27 PM

Monday, November 12, 2001

Matthew 15:1-20
"And why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?" Jesus asks the Pharisees in verse 3. Tradition is highly valued in the Episcopal Church. So much so, it's considered one of the "legs" that hold up the church (the other two being God's word and, um, I forget what the third one is; faith? I think that's right...). Tradition is important. Without tradition, we wouldn't have the concept of the Trinity or books full of prayers and hymns. But this passage reminds us that tradition is not more important than God's commandments. Where the two clash, it's clear that what God wants wins over our traditions. After all, many traditions of men have been forgotten over the centuries, but God's commandments remain the same.
posted by Susanna King 9:59 PM

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Matthew 13:53-58
It's interesting to see how the people in Jesus' hometown dismissed him because they didn't believe that anyone so ordinary could be blessed by God with extraordinary powers. As the writer points out, their disbelief became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Jesus "did not do many deeds of power there." (vs.58) There are times when I do not doubt, and in those moments I feel God's power. But there are also times when I do doubt, when I falter, when I disbelieve that He can work miracles through what seems ordinary.
posted by Susanna King 9:58 PM

Monday, November 05, 2001

Nehemiah 6:1-19
There are some good stories here in Nehemiah. I'd never read this book before, so I'm glad that I'm doing it now. In today's passage, N's enemies try once again to stop him from completing the wall around Jerusalem. This time, they try to distract him with other business, and when that doesn't work they try to paralyze him with fear. Neither tactic works. All the work I can do for God, however, does sometimes fall prey to distraction and fear. Other business clamors for attention. I worry about failing. I like what N. prayed in verse 9: "But now, O God, strengthen thou my hands."
posted by Susanna King 8:24 AM

Sunday, November 04, 2001

Luke 19:1-10
Not sure what to say about this passage. I think everything I heard in church this morning and everything we talked about in Bible study tonight is swirling around in my head, pushing out any coherent thoughts I might have about the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector. The one thing that stood out to me in this story was Zacchaeus' generosity. Not only did he give half of everything he had to the poor, he offered to pay back all the money he'd cheated people out of in the past fourfold! Now that's making amends! Tonight as I go to sleep, I will think about anyone I've wronged in the past. How can I pay them back what I took from them fourfold?
posted by Susanna King 10:37 PM

Saturday, November 03, 2001

Nehemiah 4:1-23
The writer's interpretation of the passage is valid, but not at all what I got out of the reading. What really struck me were verses 11-15, where the Jews overhear their enemies plotting to attack them while they're working on the wall, then Nehemiah thwarts those plans by turning half the builders into guards with spears, so the attack never comes and the work of rebuilding the wall is able to continue. It reminds me of Governor Davis' announcement that terrorists were planning to attack bridges on the West Coast. Now that our enemies know that we know their plans, and the bridges are covered with state troopers, it's unlikely that they'll still attack. In verse 14, Nehemiah tells the workers-turned-guards, "Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes." May we also remember the Lord, and by his grace be able to fight our enemies with the weapons of knowledge and wisdom, that we can continue rebuilding undisturbed.
posted by Susanna King 9:43 AM

Thursday, November 01, 2001

Ecclesiasticus 44:1-10, 13-14
Happy All Saints Day! The reading reminds me that even if everything I do during my lifetime disappears, the deeds of mercy I perform will live on in their effect on the next generation. The writing reminds me that all Christians are saints of God, and that it is the indwelling of his Holy Spirit that makes us so. So I go forth today with these two things in mind: be merciful, the Holy Spirit is in you.
posted by Susanna King 8:31 AM