Week 45: Walking through the Stories of God’s Work

Readings for the week: Psalm 131, 1 Chronicles 1-12Mark 1-4Psalm 132, Listen to these passages

Opening Prayer:

Dear Lord, when storms come and waters rise, we begin to think we’re on our own. We’re not. Give us patience this week to help us navigate the challenges we can’t fix right away and give us wisdom to know what steps to take to help others and to draw closer to you.  Be with those around us who are struggling and help us to see you ever more clearly each day. Renew our heart, give us strength, share your wisdom with us so that we can press on in courage. Amen.

1. Psalm 131

2. Reading through 1 Chronicles 1-12

Having gone through the much of the prophets, and the histories, we’re going to now do a little review. We saw how things got started for Israel, we saw them find success and bounty. Then we saw how things turned out.  We know the end of the story and how things didn’t have to be this way.  The lack of faith and the lack of commitment led to some bad roads. God didn’t give up, but God certainly stepped in to make sure the People did not forget who was God.  Now, in a curious shift in our reading for the year, we’re going back to the beginning of the kingdom of Israel. The Bible likes to repeat the big narratives, for the same reason teachers like to repeat lessons. It’s easy to miss or forget what we’re supposed to learn, so repetition is very helpful, especially if the repetition builds on or offers a different approach than the earlier versions. So, for the rest of our year of reading, we’re going to do a quick sweep back through the story of Israel, talking about the kingdom and then the downfall and God’s call through the prophets.  This won’t be new, so keep note of different perspectives, and keep reading so as to consider what this means for us as we wrestle with God’s calling in our era.

Truth is, these chapters for the week aren’t very exciting. It’s a lot of lists.  Lists of this group and that group, offering a lot of details that might be very interesting if you have a connection to these groups, but not as interesting for us. It’s a bit like reading the end credits of a movie. I wonder if you read close enough if you’ll see a gaffer or key grip highlighted?  Few things to watch for though. One, see how everything is organized. There’s a lot of details about the armies, the Temple, and other important elements that make it very human. That makes it less like a boring list, and a lot more like a yearbook.  Stay cool, Ahiman!  So while it is easy to skim all of this (and understandable to skim the names) don’t get through this too quick. Notice where there are little details about duties or events. These are actually important because what this is doing for us is saying that all these stories, all the narratives, aren’t myths, they’re not made up tales that have a bigger lesson or were meant to entertain. This is history, actual people who lived  and actual events that happened.  Each of the names had a real story, a real life, connections and dreams and loves and frustrations.

Then, near the end of our readings for the week, we get a very dramatic story indeed: the death of Saul and the installation of David as King and the establishment of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

What was Saul’s error that led to his downfall? What was David’s strength?

We’re still talking about Jerusalem in current news and we’re still wrestling with what it means to be faithful to God in all our lives.

This is not ancient history but living history, still affecting us today in providing lessons and also showing how old much of the news really is.

3. Reading Through Mark 1-4

We began the year by reading through Matthew.  The first book of the New Testament makes a great place to start engaging the story of Jesus.  As we come to the end of our year of reading through the Bible, we’re now beginning the book of Mark. Though this is the fourth Gospel we’ll read this year, it’s the second book of the New Testament. Indeed, it’s the shortest of the four Gospels, yet tends to have more details in each part.

This, among other clues, suggests to many it was the first of the Gospels to be written, and that at least Matthew and Luke made use of it when they were writing their Gospels.  Each Gospel tells the story of the life of Jesus and his teaching, but each does so with its own perspective. We have four “witnesses” that give us a particular view, or emphasis. Mark seems to be written for those who are Gentiles, those who aren’t part of the Jewish story and so need some different explanations as to why Jesus did what he did. In this way, Mark is a missionary book, sharing and inviting outsiders to the big Story of God, and helping them understand the mission of Jesus and the mission of those who are saved by Jesus.

When I teach, I often have review days near the end of the term, so students remember what was discussed and so they review it in light of all the other things we’ve talked about. We’re coming to Mark with much the same task. Now that we’ve read most of the rest of the Bible, how do the stories of Jesus and his teachings fit into the broader message of Scripture? Sometimes it’s not the big changes, but the subtle ones that have the most meaning. How does the mission of Jesus connect, for instance, to the message of the prophets? How does Jesus make use of the Law?

All throughout these chapters, Jesus is calling the people to focus, to not let go of the calling they have been given but not to get caught up in distractions or to misinterpret what that calling is about. Jesus is also calling people to faith, to not only believe with their words, or to use religion as a way of power, but to live out faith in active and courageous ways. That was a message the early church desperately needed as they encountered persecution.

They had social storms that were causing them to be afraid. What is causing us fear in our day and age? How to the parable and lessons Jesus taught in these chapters teach you in the circumstances you’re dealing with. It might be helpful to take each separate story/parable, and pray that the Spirit would help you apply this and give you a renewed sense of focus in your life this week.

4. Psalm 132


5. Respond

If you’ve fallen behind in the readings or haven’t started yet, don’t worry.  Reading the Bible isn’t a limited time offer. Jump in this week, and catch up with what you’ve missed in future years.

I highly encourage you to share your thoughts with others in your family, or immediate community. Talk about this stuff! 

Since I sometimes feel lonely, share your thoughts in the comment section.

Talking about your thoughts and questions is a very important part of the reading goal. Writing out our thoughts can help us remember what we read and keep our minds on the passage.

It helps to share as we learn from each other.

Our questions or confusion can bring us together, as we highlight what others may have missed or address what a lot of us are also wondering.   Don’t feel like you have to say or write a lot, or feel pressure to be profound. Respond with honesty and openness.

Just jump right in where you’re at, knowing that Christ invites you to respond without pressure or anxiety. It’s a journey not a performance.