Scripture Readings for January 2002
If you would like to receive these daily scripture readings by email, clickemail list service.
These short readings from the Christian Bible are read daily at community prayer in Taizé, an ecumenical and international Christian community in France. The Bible reference indicates a slightly longer passage from scripture. You are encouraged to read the longer passage in the morning before you begin your daily activities, and then to ponder the reading, in silence and prayer, as it comes to mind during the day. For a brief explanation of how I am reading the Christian Bible, you are invited to go to Exegesis or toWitness.
January 1, Read Luke 2:16-21
The shepherds hurried to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him and then returned glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.
The story of the shepherds gathering around the manger is found only in the gospel of Luke. The three kings from the East do not appear in this gospel account. The birth of Jesus is made known only to shepherds who are tending their flocks in the fields. Mary, who praised God for the gift of her son, now ponders what his life will mean for her and the world. In keeping with Jewish law the child is circumcised eight days after his birth and then he is named. The gospel records the name as Jesus, but this is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Joshua, or Yeshua, which is how Jesus must have been known in his family and among his own people.
In the darkness of the winter season, the light of the day begins to grow stronger. In the darkness of our hearts, there may also be a rekindling of the light of faith. The birth of Jesus reminds us that the birth of each child, no matter how humble, is a miracle. The one who is "God with us" begins life as a helpless child in his mother's arms. May we have the faith to rest in the arms of God . . .
You came near when I called you, LORD, and you said, "Do not be afraid."
Lamentations is a collection of poems mourning the desolation of Jerusalem and the sufferings of her people, following the siege and destruction of the city and the burning of the temple by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. The third chapter is a personal lament and prayer.
In our time the streets of Jerusalem are again filled with fear and bloodshed, and as we face the future we might well feel abandoned. We have good reason to be afraid. Can we, nonetheless, turn to God? The One who suffers with us will hear our cry.
In the gospel of John we read: "The light shines in the darkness, and darkness could not overpower it."
The gospel of John presents a struggle between the light of Christ and the darkness of the world that rejects him. The light does not dispel the darkness, but it is not overcome by it. Grace and truth are offered to all those with faith in the only Son of the Father, but those who reject the Son of God are themselves to be rejected. There is no gray in the gospel of John, only light and darkness.
Yet, the light of this gospel has cast a shadow over the world. Its hostility toward "the Jews," who respected the teachings of Jesus but resisted the claim that he is the Messiah (Christ), has been used by Christians for almost two millennia to justify the persecution of Jews. Our faith is that the Christ is the light that will overcome the darkness, but the light of Christ should not blind us to the darkness within our hearts and our churches. Our sin is thinking that OUR light will dispel the darkness. The hope to be found in this gospel is the light of Christ that will guide us, as we face the darkness within ourselves and our world.
You are merciful to all, LORD, because you are almighty. You overlook people's sins so that they can repent. Yes, you love everything that exists.
The Wisdom of Solomon is in what is called the Apocrypha, which is a collection of writings excluded from the Hebrew scriptures but included in the Greek translation of these scriptures, called the Septuagint, that was used by Greek-speaking Jews at the time of Jesus. In the Septuagint the Wisdom of Solomon and the other books of the Apocrypha were dispersed among the other contents of the Old Testament. Because the gospels and the letters of Paul in the New Testament refer to the Septuagint for quotations from scripture, many Christian Bibles included these writings. It was not until 1520 CE that the books of the Apocrypha were organized as a separate collection of writings. When leaders of the Reformation sought to purify the church, they took the Hebrew scriptures to be more original and thus excluded the Apocrypha from their translations of the Christian Bible. Today, Protestant Bibles do not include the Apocrypha, but Roman Catholic Bibles do (except for 1 and 2 Esdras and The Prayer of Manasseh).
The God of love is affirmed by the people of Israel. Their scriptures proclaim that God will forgive our sins, if we repent. Whatever Bible we read, our scriptures call us to this faith. The God who loves all creation also loves us. We may be unable to avoid sin, but we are also unable to avoid the love of God. May we give ourselves in faith to the one God who is almighty and merciful . . .
God is faithful, he will give you strength and protect you from the evil one.
Paul's second letter to the congregation at Thessalonica promises that God's justice will bring affliction to the enemies of the church and blessings for its faithful. The apostle envisions the Lord Jesus descending from heaven with his mighty angels in a blazing fire of judgment. Those without faith in God and the gospel will suffer the penalty of eternal destruction, but those with faith will be saved.
This vision of the coming end of time and the judgment of the God of justice rests on a sense of the presence and power of the evil. We suffer not only from ignorance and apathy but are drawn by the power of evil. Paul is wrong to identify his own anger with the wrath of God, but he is right to affirm that only God can protect us from evil. By ourselves, we lack the strength. We call Jesus Lord, because we give ourselves to the presence of God within him in order to guard against the power of evil that manifests itself not only as the devil, but also as religious certainty and self-righteousness.
When they saw the star, the wise men were filled with a great joy. As they entered, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they knelt down and worshipped him.
Today is Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany is a special festival in the church year that is celebrated on January 6. The word "epiphany" is from the Greek language, and it means "manifestation" or "showing." In the first two centuries after the time of Jesus, many Christians spoke Greek. Epiphany was established as a church festival about two hundred years after the death of Jesus by these Greek-speaking Christians, so a Greek word was used to name the festival. The Greek speaking Christians who established Epiphany were living in the area where today on the map we find the countries of Turkey, Syria and Iraq. In this area two hundred years after the time of Jesus, the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) occurred on January 6 in the Alexandrian calendar used by Greek-speaking people. So Epiphany was celebrated on that day, the day that marks the end of darker days and the beginning of brighter days.
A hundred years later in Rome Christmas was first celebrated on December 25, because in the Julian calendar of the Romans that was the day of the winter solstice. When the church in Rome began to celebrate both Christmas and Epiphany, it kept Christmas on December 25 and Epiphany on January 6, the traditional night of New Year festivities for the pagans. Thus January 6 becomes the 12th night of the Christmas season, so we have songs like "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
The story of the three wise men was traditionally read on January 6. These men came from the East following a bright star to bring gifts to the child born to be king of the Jews. The story tells us that they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold is a gift fit for a king, and it signifies that Jesus is a king. Frankincense is a kind of incense that was burned in the temple in Jerusalem by the priests. It signifies that Jesus helps us relate to God, which is what the priests were charged with doing in the temple. And myrrh is a spice used in those days in preparing for burial the bodies of those who had died. The gift of myrrh signifies that Jesus will bring us closer to God through his death.
The story of the wise men reminds us that not only the people of Bethlehem or Nazareth or even Jerusalem will be affected by the life of the child born to Mary and Joseph, but people from far away, too. We are among those people. We don't speak the language he spoke, nor do we live in a world like his world. Perhaps that's why we enjoy the story of the wise men, because it reminds us that Jesus was born, lived and died for us, too, as well as for those who knew and followed him in his own time.
Joyfully you will draw water from the springs of salvation, and you will say, "Praise God and call on his name. Proclaim God's deeds to the nations!"
Isaiah proclaimed his message in Jerusalem between 742 and 687 BCE, when Israel was divided and the northern kingdom had been annexed by the Assyrian Empire. Thus, Jerusalem was the capital only of the southern kingdom of Israel, which was known as Judah. To offset the power of Assyria, Judah was allied with Egypt, but its situation was precarious. The prophet Isaiah proclaims that God will protect those who are faithful. The people of Judah are exhorted to praise God and to proclaim the wondrous deeds of God to all the nations.
The prophet calls on the inhabitants of Zion to sing for joy, because the Holy One of Israel is among them. Zion may originally have been the name for the principal hill in Jerusalem, but it came to mean the whole city as the place where God was present. In the face of danger Isaiah calls on the people of Judah to trust in God. This is what it means to have faith - to trust in God with praise and thanksgiving.
You, LORD, are our Father and Redeemer. You act in favor of those who trust in you and welcome those who accomplish justice joyfully.
The different style of Isaiah 40-66 is evidence that it was written during the time of Cyrus of Persia and then added to the prophecies of the prophet Isaiah. In 539 BCE Persia conquered Babylon. The author of Isaiah 40-66 rejoices in the hope that the people, who had been exiled from Judah to Babylon after Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians in 587 BCE, will be allowed by the Persians to return to their home.
The prophet calls not only on God, as LORD, Father and Redeemer, but also on the people, who are urged to trust in God, to do justice, and to live joyfully. In the sixth century BCE what would the prophet's words have meant to the people of Judah? In the 20th century CE what might it mean to seek justice joyfully and to trust in God as our Redeemer?
As it is written in the book of Isaiah, "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." John the Baptist was in the desert announcing a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
The gospel of Mark begins with the story of John the Baptist, who is understood to be fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3. The story of John the Baptist is included in each of the four gospels in the New Testament and thus must have been deeply rooted in the earliest memories of the church. John the Baptist proclaims from the wilderness outside of Jerusalem that the judgment of God is near, and he baptizes those who embrace repentance for their sins and trust in God's forgiveness.
Jesus is baptized by John, and the gospels of the New Testament report that he proclaims the kingdom of God is offered to all those who repent in faith. But the New Testament affirms that Jesus is not, like John, a prophet but is the Messiah (Hebrew), the Christ (Greek), the Son of God (Mk: 1:1), the Lord (Mk. 1:3). This claim is presented in the beginning of the gospel of Mark, but it is the end of the gospel that makes the claim necessary. Jesus goes to his death for the sake of his people. Jesus would be merely an innocent victim, and God would be merely a vengeful deity, if Jesus were not one with God. As the Christ, however, God suffers the injustice and death of humanity, and transforms the crucifixion into an act of love.
When Jesus had been baptized, he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And the gospel of Matthew reports, a voice came from heaven: "This is my Son, the Beloved, my favor rests on him."
The gospels in the New Testament present the baptism of Jesus as his call. In the gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist protests that Jesus should baptize him, but Jesus answers that both he and John have their parts to play in carrying out the righteousness required by God. The baptism of Jesus is then confirmed by a vision of the Spirit of God descending on Jesus and a voice confirming that God is with him. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus is baptized after John the Baptist is imprisoned by Herod, but the baptism serves the same purpose as in the other gospels.
Baptism is the ritual that marks the beginning of membership in the church. It is a sacrament, an outward sign of an inward grace. It represents the entrance of the Spirit of God into each person and thus the beginning of the life of faith. In this sense, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. (Jn. 14:6) We are baptized into Christ, into life with the Father as members of the body of the Son, the church.
Sing a new song to the LORD! Praise his name! Proclaim God's salvation, day by day. Tell the nations of his glory!
Psalm 96 is part of a collection of songs of praise to the God who rules the nations. The psalm proclaims that the LORD is to be praised above "all the gods of the peoples" for these are, in comparison, idols, "but the LORD made the heavens. The psalm looks forward to judgment of the LORD over the peoples of the earth, and the psalm proclaims that the LORD "will judge the world with righteousness" and "the peoples with equity."
Can we sing "a new song" to each day to God? Can we proclaim God's salvation and tell others of the glory of the God's love? Christian faith sees each day as Easter. Life comes from death, love overcomes hate, the end is the beginning. God's judgment is not like our judgments, so in faith we can sing God's praises and proclaim the salvation of our God. But will we?
The LORD sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted and to proclaim freedom to those in captivity.
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus reads this passage in the synagogue in Nazareth after the Holy Spirit leads him into the wilderness and he resists the temptations of the devil. When Jesus announces in the synagogue that he is the fulfillment of this passage from scripture, the people are outraged and threaten to kill him. This incident and teaching is not mentioned in any of the other gospel accounts. In the gospel of Mark the first teaching of Jesus is: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and have faith in the gospel." (Mk. 1:14-15). The gospel of Matthew shortens this to: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mt. 4:17) The gospel of Luke substitutes for this proclamation the announcement about the prophecy from Isaiah.
Either the author of the gospel of Luke has knowledge of a tradition about the teaching of Jesus that is unknown or disregarded by the authors of the gospels of Mark and Matthew, or the author of the gospel of Luke has created this scene in the synagogue in Nazareth and has attributed these words to Jesus. Whether or not Jesus understood himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-3, it seems clear that the Greek-speaking Christian community for which the gospel of Luke was written affirmed this relationship.
Does Jesus also bring to us good news to the poor? Can we become part of that proclamation of freedom to those in captivity in our time? How might the church, as the body of Christ, live out this gospel?
Peter said: "God sent his word, and announced the good news of peace through Jesus Christ; he is the Lord of all."
The author of the Acts of the Apostles also wrote the gospel of Luke. In this reading from Acts, Peter affirms the gospel proclamation of the church for which the gospel of Luke and Acts were written. The goods news is for Gentiles as well as Jews, because God shows no partiality. The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible reports that Peter concludes his speech with the words, "All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." (Acts 10:43) The Revised English Bible translates this verse from the Greek as: "It is to him that all the prophets testify, declaring that everyone who trusts in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." The Greek verb translated as "believes in" or "trusts in" is the verb for faith.
The promise of the gospel is that those with faith in Jesus will be saved - those who trust in him, which is not the same as asserting certain beliefs about him. The good news is not that salvation comes to those who hold fast to the right beliefs. Jesus Christ is Lord of all, because he is God with us. Our belief that Jesus Christ is Lord is not what saves us. We are saved by the faith inspired in us by the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Christ, because he is the word sent by God. The peace proclaimed by the church is good news, because it transcends the conflicts within every church. To enter that peace we do not have to assent to certain beliefs about Jesus, but we do have to put our trust in the God who is revealed through him.
You are part of God's household. You are built upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets, and Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone.
Paul is writing this letter as a prisoner to encourage faith among Christians. The letter is not addressed to the church in Ephesus, but a copy was found there and this is the reason for the name. It appears, however, that the letter was written to be circulated to more than one church. The second chapter of the letter specifically refers to Gentiles, who were separated from the covenant with Israel by their lack of circumcision, but who are reconciled to God through the cross of Christ Jesus. Gentiles, therefore, are no longer "strangers and sojourners" but now are "fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God."
The great work of Paul was bringing Gentiles into a church that was, at first, made up only of Jews. Paul sees this as the work of God. Can we extend this work today to include those who seem to be "strangers and sojourners" to faith in Christ? Can we become part of God's plan to bring the good news of forgiveness to all people?
God says: "Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, my faithful love for you will not be shaken."
Chapters 40-66 of Isaiah are thought to have been written about the time that Babylon fell to the conquering armies of Cyrus of Persia. The fall of Babylon meant the end of captivity for the leaders taken from Jerusalem to Babylon after the destruction of the capital of Judah in 687 BCE. Isaiah 54 proclaims that the Holy One of Israel will redeem his people because his love for them is steadfast.
The God of love is proclaimed in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The God who is faithful is the Father of the faithful son, Jesus, who through his faith is the Christ, the presence of God's love among us. Faith in Christ is trusting in the faithful love of God. Faith is trust in God's love.
Paul writes: "The Spirit seeks life and peace."
Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome was written towards the end of his ministry. Romans is the longest of Paul's letters. It is, therefore, the first letter of Paul presented in the New Testament, because Paul's letters are sorted by length. In chapter 8 Paul explains that life in the Spirit is life and peace.
Despite our sin the Spirit of God dwells in us. If we set our minds on Christ and not on the desires of our flesh, the Spirit will help us. In Romans 8:15, Paul cries out, like the child of God he is: "Abba! Father!" This intimate word in Aramaic for God, which is like "Papa" or "Daddy" in contemporary English, appears two other times in the New Testament. Paul uses it once more in his letter to the Galatians (4:6), and Jesus refers to God as Abba in the gospel of Mark (14:36). Although Paul's teachings are directed to Gentile Christians, this word links his faith with the Aramaic prayers of Jesus. In this Spirit, the 8th chapter of Romans ends with Paul's stirring affirmation that nothing can separate us from the love of God we know in Christ Jesus.
The gospel of John reports that when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, he said: "There is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
All the New Testament gospels tell the story of John the Baptist, but only the gospel of John contains this statement. Exodus 12 relates that God told Moses and Aaron to have the Israelites sacrifice a lamb without blemish and mark their door posts with its blood, so that they would be protected from the plague that he was to visit upon the land of Egypt. The Jewish feast of Passover celebrates this act of God's love for his people, and the gospel of John affirms that Jesus is the Passover lamb to be sacrificed for the salvation of the world.
In the gospel of John, Jesus does not eat the Passover supper with his disciples, because he is arrested the night before Passover begins. (In the other three New Testament gospels Jesus eats the Passover meal with his disciples.) For the church of the author of the gospel of John, Jesus replaces the Passover. His flesh and his blood are given for the whole world, and the Eucharist in the life of the church becomes the celebration of God's love.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.
Paul is in prison when he writes this letter to the Christians at Philippi in Macedonia. Paul urges the Christians to put aside all anxiety about the future, because "the Lord is at hand." He tells them to pray and to be grateful, and he assures them that "the peace of God, which passes all understanding," will keep their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
If we were in prison, could we rejoice in the Lord? Whatever our troubles may be, can we put aside all anxiety and be grateful? Can we open our hearts and minds to the peace of God?
The LORD says to the people of Israel: "I have carried you since you were conceived. Until your old age I shall be the same, I shall sustain and save you."
The fall of Babylon reveals to the prophet that God has not forgotten his people, Israel. The prophet reminds his people that God is not like the idols of the Babylonians. "I am God, and there is none like me," the LORD declares through the words of the prophet.
God is faithful, so we are called to be faithful to God.
The Christian Bible extends the call to faith beyond the people of the covenant. Gentiles as well as Jews are invited to build up the church. The people of God now include all those who put their trust in the LORD. Today, we might ask ourselves how open our communities of faith are. Do we trust that God will sustain and save all those who are faithful, whether or not they embrace our beliefs?
Paul writes: "Through our faith in Christ Jesus, we can approach God with complete confidence."
This letter is not addressed to the church at Ephesus, but a copy was found there so the early church named the letter Ephesians. The church at Ephesus was located in what today is Turkey. Paul writes as a prisoner to urge Christians in cities of the Roman empire to remain faithful to the gospel. He explains that God's grace has empowered him to preach the gospel to Gentiles and to help others see the mysterious purpose of God in Christ. And he affirms that, in faith, Christians can discover the boldness and confidence that he has known in Christ Jesus.
Faith is trust in God. Christ Jesus manifests and inspires that faith. Paul's life was changed by faith through the grace of God, and Paul's life changed the church and the world. How might faith change our lives?
Isaiah said: "I thought my struggle had been futile, that I had worn myself out for nothing. Yet all the while my cause was with the LORD and my reward with my God."
The prophet relates the call of God to Israel to be his servant. But the prophet, too, is called to serve God, no matter how futile it may seem. The prophet's task, and Israel's too, is to be a light to the nations, so the salvation of God may reach the ends of the earth.
The author of the Gospel of Luke uses the images/image of "a light to the Gentiles" in the speech by Simeon, as the old man proclaims the destiny of Jesus (Luke 2:32), and in an address by Paul, as the apostle teaches the Jews and Gentiles in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:47). (The same author wrote the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.) This is why the church comes to see Jesus as the servant of God who fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah. Surely the task of the church, to be a light to the nations, must have seemed futile to some of the early Christians. Yet, they persevered. Can we learn from them?
The servant of God says: "The LORD is coming to my help. Who then can condemn me?"
The prophet has been given the words by God to speak the truth, but the people reject his testimony. Yet, he trusts in the LORD, and he is sure that he will be vindicated.
If we are the servants of God, if we heed the call of God, then we need not fear.
Jesus noticed a tax collector called Matthew sitting at the tax office and he said to him, "Follow me." And, leaving everything, Matthew got up and followed him.
The gospels of Mark and Matthew each relate this story. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus calls Levi, who is described as the son of Alphaeus. The gospels of Luke and Matthew omit the reference to Levi's father, but only the gospel of Matthew refers to the new disciple as Matthew, using his Greek name rather than his Hebrew name.
We tend to read the story as evidence of the power of Jesus to elicit an immediate response of faith, but undoubtedly the story was remarkable in the first century because Jesus called a tax collector be his disciple. The tax collectors worked for the government that oppressed the poor. In the simple act of calling a disciple, who was a tax collector, the story makes clear that the church does not accept the old divisions within Judaism. The church is open to all those with faith, Paul argues, whether they are Jew or Greek, and the gospels of the New Testament proclaim that faith through story.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand."
In Mark 1:14-15 Jesus says, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and have faith in the gospel." The gospel of Matthew shortens this to a call for repentance because the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The author of the gospel of Matthew almost always uses the phrase "kingdom of heaven" rather than the phrase "kingdom of God" used by the authors of the gospels of Mark and Luke. This suggests he is writing for a church that includes Jewish Christians who follow the orthodox Jewish practice of not saying the name of God.
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus begins his ministry by announcing good news to the poor. But the gospel makes clear that Jesus has come to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32), and this ministry is taken up by the early church (Acts 2:38). The call to repentance and the promise of God's forgiveness are the heart of the gospel.
The gospel of Mark reports that Jesus sent out his disciples, saying: "Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation."
In many versions of the Bible the gospel of Mark ends with the 8th verse. Verses 9-20 are included in some ancient manuscripts but not in others, thus it seems these verses were added at a later date. Without these verses, the gospel of Mark ends with a report that the women who found the tomb empty went away too fearful to speak to anyone. With verses 15-20 the gospel of Mark ends much like the gospel of Matthew with a commandment to the disciples of Jesus to preach the gospel throughout the world.
The original gospel of Mark, however, may have wanted to point away from the disciples of Jesus to the apostle Paul. The apostles of the church in Jerusalem, who were the former disciples of Jesus, were resisting Paul's teaching among the Gentiles that made faith sufficient for salvation and keeping Jewish law unnecessary. The gospel of Mark seems to have been written to support largely Gentile churches. By omitting a charge by the risen Lord to his former disciples (now apostles), the gospel of Mark effectively undermines the church in Jerusalem (which they led) and points instead to the ministry of the apostle Paul.
Thus says the LORD: "Does a woman forget her child at the breast, or fail to cherish her offspring? Even if she forgets, I will never forget you."
The prophet calls on the people of Israel to rejoice in the LORD, because God has compassion on his people. When the people doubt, because of their suffering, the prophet compares the love of God for his people to the love of a mother for her child. The love of God, the prophet affirms, is like this but is even greater. A mother may reject her child, but the prophet testifies that God will never reject his people.
When we suffer, however, we feel rejected. We may pray, but nonetheless feel that our prayers are not answered. The Christian witness is that the God who suffered on the cross in Jesus also suffers with us, even when we feel abandoned. We need to cling to this faith, like a child clings to her mother's breast.
In God we live and move and have our being.
The author of the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles reports that Paul preached in Athens in the middle of the Areopagus. The apostle points to the Athenian tradition of acknowledging an unknown god and proclaims that the God he knows in Jesus the Christ, who has been raised from the dead, is the Creator of heaven and earth and the one God. Then Paul quotes the words of a Greek poet to affirm that our very life is dependent upon the God who, though unknown to them, is the source of all life.
The images/image of living "in God" shapes Paul's language about life "in Christ" and "in faith." God is not apart from us, but we have our being in God. The church is the body of Christ. We are part of the mysterious presence of God in the world.
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus says to his disciples: "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom."
The gospels of Matthew and Luke report this teaching by Jesus, but we do not find it in the gospels of Mark and John. Jesus tells his disciples that as God cares for the birds and the flowers he will surely care for them. They need not, therefore, worry about food or clothing, but instead should seek only the kingdom of God. All the rest will follow.
To appreciate this teaching we need to recall that the disciples who followed Jesus were poor. They had to earn their living, and there were no government programs to provide them with minimal support if they were unable to take care of themselves. Faith in God, therefore, was a real act of courage. The disciples who followed the promise of Jesus did so at their peril.
You have become light in the Lord. Live as children of the light.
Paul urges Christians in the cities of the Roman Empire to love one another, as Christ has loved them by giving up his life on the cross. Paul reminds them that they once were darkness but now they are light, because in faith they share in the light of Christ.
Light, however, may cast a shadow. Is there a downside to Christian love? Are we tempted by our goodness to be proud and self-righteous? How might we manifest the light of Christ in the world?January 30, Mark 1:29-39
The gospel of Mark reports that very early, long before dawn, Jesus got up and went to a deserted place and there he prayed. When the disciples found him, he said to them, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also."
The author of the gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee by calling his disciples, casting out unclean spirits, healing, and teaching that the kingdom of God is at hand. What is his message? In the gospel of Mark, Jesus proclaims that faith is the way into the kingdom of God. Healing was a sign of God's blessing and a mark of forgiveness.
What is the message of the church? Is it that by joining the church one may receive God's blessing? Or is it that, in Christ, God's blessing is offered to everyone who has faith?
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus' disciples come to him and he teaches them saying: "Happy are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of heaven is theirs."
The gospel of Matthew reports that Jesus went up a mountain in order to deliver to his disciples what has become known as "The Sermon on the Mount." This sermon begins with a series of affirmations that have been called "The Beatitudes" because of their first word in the Latin Bible. Modern translations often used the word "Happy" rather than the traditional "Blessed," but the meaning of the text has to do more with a reversal of expectations than with a particular choice of words.
In the gospel of Luke this sermon by Jesus is presented on a level place, or plain, rather than on the top of a mountain. How are we to explain this difference in setting? The gospel of Matthew was written for a largely Jewish congregation, that would immediately associate the setting on a mountain with the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai. The gospel of Matthew thus effectively presents Jesus as the bearer of a new teaching is rooted in the covenant with Israel. The gospel of Luke, on the other hand, even includes Gentiles among the crowd that hears Jesus deliver his sermon on a plain. This clearly makes Gentiles equal with Jews in the church, which is an essential part of the good news that the gospel of Luke proclaims.
1 in Faith: A Christian Bible Study † Copyright © 2000 by Robert Traer