Psalm 20; Genesis 36:9-43; Matthew 13:10-23

I don’t usually begin these reflections with a weather report, but here in Bloomington, MN at 7:30 it’s clear and currently -11 degrees.  Supposed to be 0 by noon.   As they say, it’s a “dry cold.”  And we’re heading north where it’s still colder…

I am here without my Alter translations, so it’s all NRSV all the time this week.

Psalm 20 begins as a benediction, “The Lord answer you in the day of trouble!/ The name of the God of Jacob protect you!”  It’s direct and to the point, no flowery language.  Even though it’s feels a bit strange for a benediction to be placed at the beginning and not the end, it’s perfectly logical, and frankly, an uplifting, optimistic way to begin worship.  We ought to try it some day.

I wonder how many times I’ve prayed the equivalent of verse 4: “May he grant you your heart’s desire,/ and fulfill all your plans”.  I guess there’s nothing wrong in praying this petition, but we sure need to be prepared to not have our desires granted  and our plans fulfilled.

My son Geoff started a Facebook thread on petitionary prayer last week that as of a couple of days ago had attracted 116 comments, most by other philosophers.  Whatever their views on religion or God—and they ran the gamut– there’s no question that prayers such as David’s are front and center in people’s own lives today.

Genesis 36:9-4  Esau gets his genealogical due as his descendants are listed here in Genesis 36.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect is that “These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the Israelites.” (36:31) Perhaps the authors are stating simple historical fact, but I detect a slight editorial edge here since Edom and Israel certainly parted ways early, and perhaps that’s one reason why God was not so enthusiastic about Israel wanting a king.

But we certainly need to remember that Esau’s descendants were part of the promise made to Abraham as much as Jacob’s.  And in that sense, so are we all.

Matthew 13:10-23  Jesus has a radically new approach to preaching, and now that I think about it, if we go back to the OT, there are stories, psalms, and prophecies chockablock with metaphors, but they never became parables, which I think of as metaphors with flesh and bones on them.  Clearly, the religious leadership of Jesus’ time spoke didactically (in 3-part sermons perhaps?), as did John the Baptist.  But at least in Scripture anyway, Jesus’ approach is completely new and it’s no wonder the disciples were confused.

Jesus’ disquisition on the differences between looking and perceiving and hearing and understanding make the point, I think, that we humans are basically wired to understand better what Jesus has to say to us through stories, not just through philosophical/religious discourse.  But unlike the clear morals of Aesop’s fables, the parables force us to think deep, and it is only by reflection that we can even begin to understand and perceive.

The parable of the sower is the “Ur-parable,” in that it explains the point of the parables: that Jesus understood the reality that much of what he said would be mis-understood (as it certainly was by the religious leaders) or the initial enthusiasm of many would simply fade away with time or persecution.  It is also a clear statement that Jesus’ real message about the Kingdom of God would be lost on just about everybody.  But when we really, truly get it, the rewards for the Kingdom—and for us—will be great indeed.

Speak Your Mind