Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Look Back through
Forward Day by Day May-July 2015

[Picture: Philip and the Ethiopian. see July2]
The periodical pamphlet Forward Day by Day ( has been a part of my morning routine for decades, more than ever these past few years, giving us a short reflection on Scripture from the daily readings assigned in the Book of Common Prayer. A different author handles each month.  From all the good reminders, a few readings strike me for aptness or unusual insight, and those I'll summarize below.

May 1, 2015, John 14:13 I will do whatever you ask in my name. The commentator for May, Richard H. Schmidt, points out that what's done "in a person's name" is done as that person's agent; so, this isn't a promise that we can use God's name as a magical incantation. Rather, we're promised whatever we ask when doing God's work.  Forget about praying for touchdowns.

May 12, Deut. 8:17 Do not say to yourself, "My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth."  "The self-made man is a spiritually dangerous myth, as is the myth of the self-made country... We are blessed ... to serve as divine agents of the world" who are called to do three things: give, give, give.

May 13. Luke 12:22ff Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? What we worry about is not so important; helping someone else takes our minds off worry; we can trust a God who "has a long history of bringing good out of evil, victory out of defeat...."

May 18-19. Luke 9:62 No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.  Churches that look backward to see if they have more people, more money, are looking at the wrong things, instead of asking, "How are you expressing your faith in your community?  Are you focused on others or on yourselves?... Do people experience joy when they worship with you?"  In personal life, the author gives me advice I need badly: "It does little good to go back and relive the times we've been attacked."  I like to do that, to imagine telling off so-and-so.  My heart rate goes up, and I get vindictive.  Bad idea!

May 21. Luke 10:29 And who is my neighbor? In the Good Samaritan story, both of the main characters are Jesus.

July 2. Acts 8:27 So he got up and went.  At the urging of an angel, Philip leaves town, evangelizes an Ethiopian eunuch -- high in worldly status, anathema to Jews -- and gets teleported.  The commentator for July, Penny Nash, concludes, "Obedience, it seems, leads to bravery...."  

July 3. Acts 9:5  I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  Having built his reputation on opposition to Jesus, Paul falls flat on his face before Him.  Nash writes, "Paul and I have had some serious fights...[but] Paul and I find solidarity in our most humiliating moments."  She writes, "I know what it's like to feel like everything I'd... been righteously indignant and zealous over is ultimately harmful...."  I can second that emotion.

July 10. Acts 10:48. He ordered them to be baptized.  Peter's baptism of gentiles "would have the liturgical wonks, formation directors, the altar guild, and the rector squirming...." Rules, writes Nash, "protect us, make us feel good, and keep our dividing lines nice and tidy."  But Peter "refuses to leave [the crowd] hungry and thirsty and broken.  And thanks be to God for that."

July 13. For Nash, reading Mark's gospel is like listening to seventh graders. "The stories are short on detail, but tall on drama.  Everyone, everywhere, all of the people -- Mark speaks to us with such ardent and terse language.  I can almost hear my students telling me about something amazing that can't wait one more minute."  So we should be telling our good news "to everyone everywhere ... like right now." 

July 20. 1 Samuel 24:13 My hand shall not be against you.  "Saul mistakes David's meekness, his mercy and kindness, for weakness.... A thousand years later, Jesus, understanding the profound and life-changing energy of the meek, proclaims they will inherit the earth."  But "meekness, like grace, is hard to define."  Nash says it's not running up the score, "and it's not sitting in the dirt crying when you've lost by over a hundred points."  It's doing your best and "not slinking off to pack up your entire desk every time someone gives you a bit of constructive criticism."  Good message for me and for my students.

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