Saturday, August 09, 2014

Highlighting the Bible, Part XX, Reflections on highlighting the revised common lectionary

A. Hanson, Minneapolis 2014
Over the last two and a half months I have been "highlighting the Bible".  I have been looking through the revised common lectionary readings and physically highlighting the passages that appear as assigned readings.  Then I have been making posts with what does not appear in these assigned readings, or if there is very little assigned, just making notes of what actually appears.

The Gospels attempt to tell the story of Jesus' life in a more or less consistent way each year.  The readings selected from the epistles (Letters) tend to support these re-tellings based on the year.  The Hebrew Bible readings are more sporadic.  Readings selected from these books tend to foretell the coming of Jesus or point to God's faithfulness in the midst of suffering.

One thing that has long bothered me is the use of Hebrew scriptures only to prove Christian belief.  In the course of this summer project (and several classes in my theological formation), I have come to believe that this part of the canon is rich and full and has stories to tell on its own.  As Christians, we profess that Jesus is Lord and the salvation of the whole world, and God's son.  So the God of the Hebrew scriptures is also our God, not some outdated figure that belongs to another people of another time and place. The Hebrew scriptures are tough to read at times, but they are definitely worth wrestling with.

As I prepare for my next adventure, a Chaplain residency at a Level I Trauma Center, I will be spending lots of time wondering about the presence and activity of God in the midst of suffering, pain, grief, and death.  So my next blog series will likely explore this, and I believe that the Hebrew scriptures are the place to begin.

Highlighting the Bible, Part XIX, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi

A.Hanson, Montana 2008
This final group of the Hebrew Bible Prophets tells the story of the Israelites.  The prophet Micah warns both kingdoms of God's coming judgment and offers words of hope for those without power who remained faithful to the covenant. The prophet Nahum writes of the destruction of Ninevah, the Assyrian capital, and how this fall of a powerful city was God's judgment against the oppressive Assyrian superpower. The prophet Habakkuk lived in Judah, stuck between Babylon and Egypt. He cries out for God to rescue God's faithful people.  Habakkuk questions God for allowing so much suffering to last for so long. The prophet Zephaniah writes during the rule of a King, and makes the case for the people to trust in God instead of in earthly powers. The prophet Haggai writes of the return of the Israelites from Exile and the slow rebuilding of the temple.  Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai, and also writes of the restoration of the temple.

A. The following passages from the book of Micah appear in the lectionary:

Micah 3:5-13 (judgment against wicked rulers and prophets)

Micah 5:2-5 (the ruler from Bethlehem)

Micah 6:1-8 (God challenges Israel; What God requires)

B. No passages from the book of Nahum appear in the lectionary

C. The following passages from the book of Habakkuk appear in the lectionary:

Hab 1:1-4 (The prophet's complaint)

Hab 2:1-4 (God's reply to the prophet's complaint)

D. The following passages from the book of Zephaniah appear in the lectionary:

Zeph 1:7, 12-18 (the coming judgment on Judah; the great day of the Lord)

Zeph 3:14-20 (A song of Joy)

E. No passages from the book of Haggai appear in the lectionary

F. The following passages of the book of Zechariah appear in the lectionary:

Zech 9:9-12 (the coming ruler of God's people)

G. The following passages from the book of Malachi appear in the lectionary:

Mal 3:1-4 (The coming messenger)

Mal 4:1-2b (The great day of the LORD)

Highlighting the Bible, part XVIII, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah and Jonah

A.Hanson, Minneapolis, 2010
Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah and Jonah are other prophetic books that are read at times in the revised common lectionary.

Daniel focuses specifically on three people, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their interactions with kings.  The book is a commentary on the rule of kings and how they interact with God's people. Hosea also is writing during the time of the ruling of the kings and includes harsh accusations of the people of God.  The prophet Joel writes of God using power in the natural world and God acting in the world on behalf of God's people.  The prophet Amos urged the divided kingdoms of the north and the south to return to union with one another and also writes of God's concern for justice.  The prophet Obadiah is concerned with hope and justice, and he writes to the country of Edom.  Finally, the book of Jonah is one that is fairly well-known.  It is not quite a prophecy, but rather a short story.  The message of this book is that the love and mercy of God are available not only to the Israelites, but to others as well.

A. The following passages from the book of Daniel appear in the lectionary:

Dan 7:1-4 (Visions of the four beasts)

Dan 7:9-10, 13-14 (Judgment before the ancient one)

Dan 7:15-18 (Daniel's visions interpreted)

Dan 10:10-14 (An angel speaks to Daniel)

Dan 12:1-3 (The resurrection of the dead)

B. No passages from the book of Hosea appear in the lectionary

C. The following passages from the book of Joel appear in the lectionary:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 ("blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on my holy mountain!…Return to me with all your heart") This is a text read on Ash Wednesday

Joel 2:21-27 ("do not fear, O Soil…be glad and rejoice for the Lord has done great things!)

D. The following passages from the book of Amos appear in the lectionary:

Amos 5:6-7, 10-25 (Seek the Lord and live…Seek good and not evil, that you may live.")

Amos 5:18-24 (The day of the LORD a Dark Day)

Amos 6:1, 4-7 (Complacent self-indulgence will be punished)

Amos 7:7-15 (the plumb line; Amaziah complains to the King)

Amos 8:4-7 ("hear this, you that trample on the needy and bring to ruin the poor of the land…Surely I will never forget any of their deeds")

E. No passages from the book of Obadiah appear in the lectionary

F. The following passages from the book of Jonah appear in the lectionary:

Jonah 3:1-5 (the conversion of Ninevah)

Jonah 3:10-4:1-11 (Jonah's anger; Jonah is reproved)

Highlighting the Bible, Part XVII, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel

A.Hanson, Taize 2009
The book of Jeremiah is set in a time of disaster and uncertainty.  This prophet spoke of God's destruction on the world because of the unfaithfulness of the people of Judah.  This makes it hard to read at times, particularly given the metaphors the that the prophet chooses to use.  But Jeremiah points continually again and again to the activity of God.

The Book of Lamentations is a series of five poems mourning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.

The Book of Ezekiel is also a prophetic telling of the events leading up to the exile, promises of restoration and a vision for healing and hope in the future.  Ezekiel is a wild and rich book full of fantastic imagery and is quite fun to read.

Because these three books are not used frequently in the lectionary, it suits the purposes of this series to cite what actually appears in the lectionary.

A. The following texts from the book of Jeremiah appear in the lectionary:

Jer 1:4-10 (Jeremiah's call and commission)

Jer 11:18-20 (Jeremiah's life threatened)

Jer 14:7-10 (The Great Drought)

Jer 14:19-22 (The people plead for mercy)

Jer 15:15-21 (Jeremiah complains again and is reassured)

Jer 20:7-13 (Jeremiah denounces his persecutors)

Jer 23:1-6 (restoration after Exile; the righteous branch of David)

Jer 23:23-29 ("Am I a God nearby?…Who can hide in secret places that I cannot see them?")

Jer 29:5-9 (Jeremiah's letter of hope to the exiles in Babylon)

Jer 31:1-14 (The joyful return of the exiles)

Jer 31:31-34 (A new covenant)

Jer 33:14-16 (The righteous branch and the covenant with David)

B. The following passages from the book of Lamentations appear in the lectionary:

Lam 3:22-33 ("The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases")

C. The following passages from the book of Ezekiel appear in the lectionary:

Eze 2:1-5 (The vision of the scroll)

Eze 17:22-24 (Israel exalted at last)

Eze 18:1-4 (Individual retribution)

Eze 18:25-32 ("Hear now, O House of Israel: Is my way unfair?")

Eze 33:7-11 (God's justice and mercy)

Eze 34:11-16, 20-24 (God, the True Shepherd)

Eze 37:1-14 (The Valley of the Dry Bones)

Highlighting the Bible, Part XVI, Isaiah

A.Hanson, Paris, 2009
The book of Isaiah is the Hebrew bible book most often quoted by Christians and used by the Gospel writers.  It is divided into three parts, the first part of Isaiah (chap 1-33) is attributed to Isaiah, son of Ahoz, who preached in Judah.  Chapters 34-39 likely date from a later time and their authorship is unknown. The second part of Isaiah (chap 40-55) was written while the Israelites were in exile in Babylonia.  The third part of Isaiah (chap 56-66) was written in the post-exilic period. This book is beloved by Christians because of its use of Messianic imagery.  It is often read during the time of Advent and during Epiphany to celebrate the coming of Jesus.

Isaiah is a fascinating book and in taking it piecemeal at only certain times of the year misses the overarching story.  The first part of the story traces the turbulent history of God's people, which would lead to their exile to Babylon.  The second part of Isaiah speaks more words of comfort than of condemnation.  Finally, the third portion of Isaiah describes the return to Jerusalem.

The following are passages from the book of Isaiah that do not appear in the revised common lectionary:

Isaiah 1:1-9 (The wickedness of Judah)

Isaiah 1:19-31 (The Degenerate City)

Isaiah 2:6-22 (Judgment pronounced on arrogance)

Isaiah 3-4 (more judgment pronounced; Future glory of the survivors in Zion)

Isaiah 5:8-30 (Social injustice announced; Foreign invasion predicted)

Isaiah 6:9-13 (a portion of a vision of God in the temple)

Isaiah 7:1-9 (Isaiah reassures King Ahaz)

Isaiah 7:17-8:22 (Isaiah gives Ahaz the sign of Immanuel; Isaiah's son a sign of the Assyrian invasion; disciples of Isaiah)

Isaiah 9:8-21 (Judgment on arrogance and oppression)

Isaiah 10 (Arrogant Assyria also judged; the repentant remnant of Israel)

Isaiah 11:10-16 (Return of the remnant of Israel and Judah)

Isaiah 12-24 (Thanksgiving and Praise; Oracles against the nations)

Isaiah 25:10-12 (comments about the Moabites)

Isaiah 26-34 (Judah's song of victory; Israel's redemption; Judgment on corrupt rulers; the Siege of Jerusalem; Hope for the future; futility of reliance on Egypt; God's promise to Zion; Judgment on Assyria; Government with justice predicted; peace of God's reign; A prophecy of deliverance from Foes; Judgment on the nations)

Isaiah 36-39 (Sennacherib threatens Jerusalem; Hezekiah consults Isaiah; Hezekiah's prayer; Sennacherib's defeat; Hezekiah's illness; envoys from Babylon warned)

Isaiah 40:12-20 (a poem about the activity of God)

Isaiah 41 (Israel assured of God's help; the futility of idols)

Isaiah 42:10-25 (a hymn of praise; Israel's disobedience)

Isaiah 43:8-15 (God speaks, "bring forth the people who are blind…let all nations gather together")

Isaiah 43:22-28 (God speaks "yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; I am He who blots out your transgressions)

Isaiah 44:1-5 (God's blessing on Israel)

Isaiah 44:9-28 (the absurdity of idol worship; Israel is not forgotten)

Isaiah 45:8-25 (God speaks, "Who to you who strive with your maker"; idols cannot save Babylon)

Isaiah 46-48 (Idols cannot save; the humiliation of Babylon; God the creator and redeemer)

Isaiah 49:8-50:3 (Zion's children to be brought home)

Isaiah 50:9b-11 ("who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant")

Isaiah 51:7-23 (blessings in store for God's people)

Isaiah 52:1-6 ("awake, awake, put on your strength O Zion!)

Isaiah 52:11-12 ("depart, depart…touch no unclean thing!)

Isaiah 54 (The eternal covenant of peace)

Isaiah 56:2-5 (The covenant extended to all who obey)

Isaiah 56:9-12 (the corruption of Israel's rulers)

Isaiah 57 (Israel's futile idolatry; a promise of help and healing)

Isaiah 59 (Injustice and Oppression to be punished)

Isaiah 60:7-22 (Ingathering of the dispersed; God the glory of Zion)

Isaiah 62:5-7 ("you shall be called priests of the Lord")

Isaiah 63:1-6 (Vengeance on Edom)

Isaiah 63:10-19 (God's mercy remembered; a prayer of penitence)

Isaiah 64:10-12 ("your holy cities have become a wilderness")

Isaiah 65:10-16 (a portion of the righteousness of God's judgment)

Isaiah 66:1-9 (the worship that God demands; The LORD vindicates Zion)

Isaiah 66:15-24 (The reign and indignation of God)