People who use sacred texts have often found ways of selecting passages appropriate to their needs. Disciples of Confucius used a complex system of hexagrams, chosen by lot, to find images and comments suitable to their time, place and situation. In classical and medieval times, the writings of Virgil and Homer were used in a similar way. Sometimes the Bible was accessed by lot or dice or random procedures. The Church responded to the need to select appropriate wisdom from the Bible, by the daily lectionary, a selection of readings for every day in the year, which was originally used in monasteries, but has for some time been used in daily mass in the Catholic Church, and for private devotion in others. Obviously the choice of passages reflects a theology and the Christian calendar, but it also has an arbitrary element. It asks the reader, “Can this wisdom be applied to your soul, your community, your place, today?” This blog follows the daily readings and hopes to uncover some wisdom.
Reading 1, 2 Samuel 7:18-19, 24-29
18 King David then went in, sat down in Yahweh’s presence and said: ‘Who am I, Lord God, and what is my lineage, for you to have led me as far as this?
19 Yet, to you, this seemed too little, and now you extend your promises for your servant’s family into the distant future. Such is human destiny, Lord God.
24 for you constituted your people Israel your own people for ever and you, Lord, became their God.
25 ‘Now, Lord God, may the promise which you have made for your servant and for his family stand firm forever as you have said, 26 so that your name will be exalted for ever and people will say, “Israel’s God is the Lord of Hosts.” Your servant David’s dynasty will be secure before you, 27 since you, the God of Israel, have disclosed to your servant, “I am going to build you a dynasty.” Hence, your servant has ventured to offer this prayer to you.
28 Yes, Lord, you are God indeed, your words are true and you have made this generous promise to your servant.
29 What is more, you have deigned to bless your servant’s dynasty, so that it may remain for ever before you; for you, Lord, have spoken; and may your servant’s dynasty be blessed with your blessing for ever.’
“You will not build a “house” (temple) for the Lord,” Nathan had told David, “but he will build a “house” (dynasty) for you.” David responds to this, by grovelling in gratitude to God. When we get what we want, tend to think like David. Of course the editors of the Jewish Bible, who brought the books of Samuel to their final form, knew that David’s dynasty had been an unmitigated disaster because of the arrogance and faithlessness of its kings. That’s why some believed that the Messiah would be of the house of David-finally God’s promises to David would make sense. David’s faith was clearer when he faced adversity, for example, when his own son rebelled against him. A teasing and helpful question is: was Nathan’s prophecy (about the Davidic dynasty) true or false?
Gospel, Mark 4:21-25
21 He also said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under a tub or under the bed? Surely to be put on the lamp-stand?
22 For there is nothing hidden, but it must be disclosed, nothing kept secret except to be brought to light.
23 Anyone who has ears for listening should listen!’
24 He also said to them, ‘Take notice of what you are hearing. The standard you use will be used for you — and you will receive more besides;
25 anyone who has, will be given more; anyone who has not, will be deprived even of what he has.’
Sometimes Mark strings together individual sayings of Jesus without any context. In verse 21 the lamp means God’s good news and wisdom which is not to be kept under the bed, or just for church. In 22, I am reminded that I cannot conceal things from God as I do from people. Verse 24 tells me that the measure I give will be the measure I get. (I hope this is not true!) Verse 25 says out the principle that if I am prepared to receive, I’ll get more, but if I think I’ve got it made, I’ll find that what I have runs out.
These are sharp pieces of Jesus’ practical wisdom, which are an immediate challenge to my life and faith.