A friend called and requested a letter of reference.
No, not for a job. My friend was asked to be a godparent for a niece’s baptism. And the clergyperson performing the baptism wanted “proof” that my out-of-town, unknown-to-the-minister friend was a Christian.
Here, of course, I might relish highlighting which Christian church this professional servant of God works for. Wouldn’t it be devilishly easy to make snarky comments about that denomination’s insecurity or lambaste the individual pastor’s arrogance? How tempting to ridicule a situation where my friend must find “references” to help demonstrate the sincerity of faith.
Elisha sent out a messenger who said, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored and become clean.” (2 King 5:10)
Elisha, inheritor of Elijah’s prophetic mantel, God’s miracle-worker and sage, lived in an odd era compared to our modern days.
It was a time of kings and the conquered.
Of wars and warriors.
Of famine and futility.
Of hatred and hubris.
Of borders and battles.
Of slaves taken and servants mistreated.
Of gods and God.
The powerful ruled the powerless; the rich became richer; generals forged decisions with the spilled blood of the young; orphans and widows increased in number; the poor became poorer; the 99% scraped by and the 1% schemed for more wealth.
Not like our time at all.
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In the time of Kings, in the tales of Elisha, there came a warrior named Naaman. He was a general for Aram, from the land to the east.
Diseased Naaman was.
Shamed Naaman was.
He would give away gold and slaves and probably some of his wives (and even his children) if only he could rid his body of the illness. Continue reading →
Psalm 146 – The third Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, June 9, 2013
“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!” (Psalm 146:1)
Did Jesus first read Psalm 146 in Hebrew?
Did he hear it in Aramaic, or even a mash-up of Hebrew and Aramaic like our modern day Spanglish?
I read Psalm 146 in English.
Because I choose a lectionary lesson each morning, I spent time with Psalm 146 on the day after Elijah had encountered the Zarephath widow (I Kings 17:8-12). I read it two days after Luke 7:11-17’s account of Jesus raising the son of the widow from Nain back to life.
Elijah’s adventures were exciting, faith provoking and elaborate. Jesus’ stunning gift to a widow reverberated with mystery, history and theology.
But I kept wondering about that brief psalm near the end of Psalms:
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God all my life long.
I nested in my office’s corner chair—my praying chair, my meditation space, my Bible-reading cushy recliner—and stared at the ancient psalm. It stared at me.
Jesus could have also referred to it as an ancient psalm, since it had been written centuries before his birth. Whenever he read it or heard these words for the first time, was it Joseph or Mary or a rabbi or a neighbor that shared it with him?
Since Psalm 146 (or the other 149 psalms) was scribed, how many languages have been used to declare: I will praise the Lord as long as I live? Over a hundred? Five hundred? More than a thousand unique tongues and accents?
How many times has it been sung or danced? How many times has all or part of Psalm 146 found its way into a script, poem, ode, memoir, battle cry, tattoo, novel and stage play? How many times has Psalm 146’s THE LORD WILL REIGN FOREVER been shouted in a worship service, echoing in cramped chapels or soaring cathedrals? How often has a rabbi or priest or layperson muttered the words with such a flat, lifeless tone that the persons in the pew nodded off, heads bobbing, their only response a snore? Continue reading →