Dear Lord, as we enter into the end of the year and the beginning of the Christmas season, it is easy to get distracted by the busyness, expectations, and all the rest. This week, remind me of your presence. Help me to see you in the midst of all the ups and downs. Help me to be a light that shines, to help others see you, to encourage those who are broken. Be with those who are dealing with loss or pain during this season, that they experience your peace and hope in real ways. Share your life with my community God. We need you. Amen.
1. Psalm 69
2. Reading through 1 Kings
As we continue in the narrative part of the Old Testament, we encounter familiar names and some familiar stories, even to those who may not have read the Bible before. Solomon is, after all, famous for his wisdom. But what is he actually like? We begin with the death of David, the end of an era. Notice his last decisions and especially his charge to Solomon. It’s a prophetic message in part (at least in the first four verses). Now think of this in light of what follows. How did Solomon express wisdom?
We also see the first great Temple, the majestic expression of worship and devotion, where the ark of the covenant could reside. David wasn’t allowed to build a Temple. Do you remember why? But Solomon was allowed. And for a long while, his wisdom and devotion guide him. But there was a slow shift, a turning aside. What were the nudges in Solomon’s life that caused him to veer from the course God set for him?
This is a fairly straightforward telling, so it’s not as much about interpretation as noticing key elements along the way.
3. Reading Through 1 Corinthians
It’s easy to idealize the early church, especially if we read Acts 2 or some other passages where everything is going great. But the reality is that the church is made up of people. And you know how people can be. The church in Corinth was a great success in many ways, but it was far from perfect. Paul knew the people there–he had lived in Corinth for a while, after all, and helped get it all started–and he had a pastoral heart for the followers of Christ in this city. This meant encouraging, but it also meant being attentive to when dysfunctional behaviors were undermining the mission. Yes, there’s grace in Christ, but throughout the New Testament we find that people aren’t simply allowed to take advantage of grace, to do whatever they want in the name of Jesus. Why? Not because God is a busybody, but because such dysfunction can cause great problems among those who can afford it the least. That’s the issue throughout, to be attentive to how we’re influencing others. Of course, people stumble and make mistakes–that’s not the problem. The problem is when wrong behavior is somehow said to be right behavior.
Paul steps in to first remind those in Corinth who they serve (Jesus) and the patterns of God’s mission. He uses his own story and his own participation in this mission as a way into the discussion. He provides what really is a wonderful testimony of how God works in unexpected ways that don’t fit the patterns of this world, and so the church shouldn’t simply be a reflection of the patterns (social structure, behavior, etc.) of this world. Christ is calling the people into being a new people in and for this world.
What does that look like? What does Paul pay attention to? Why are these issues so vital to address?
What is Paul’s method of response to all these various issues?
4. Psalm 70
If you’ve fallen behind in the readings or having started year, 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.
Also, I highly encourage you to share your thoughts with others in your family, or immediate community. Talk about this stuff!
And, 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 also is very helpful to share as we learn from each other. Even 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.