Beginning Again

Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 1.1-4
1 Adam, Seth, Enosh, 2 Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, 3 Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah. 
4 The sons of Noah: 
Shem, Ham and Japheth… 

Psalm 79.1
1 O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; 
they have defiled your holy temple, 
they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.
2 They have left the dead bodies of your servants 
as food for the birds of the sky, 
the flesh of your own people for the animals of the wild. 
3 They have poured out blood like water 
all around Jerusalem, 
and there is no one to bury the dead.

Reflection: Beginning Again
By John Tillman

No act of judgment is the end of the story. God is always ready to begin again.

The banishment from Eden, the flood of Noah, and the destruction of Jerusalem are all referenced in our readings today. Each event is a horrific loss followed by God starting over with the faithful.

Chronicles comes from the pain of the Babylonian exile and looks to the past to see the future. The chronicler recognizes the need to return to the beginning to remember who God is and who humans are. Beginning with creation, the chronicler writes the longest genealogical record in the Bible. The chronicler tells the story of a God willing to start over, no matter how often we fail.

Adam lost Eden. Then he lost two sons. He lost Cain to the beast of sin that made him a murderer. He lost Abel to Cain’s rage. In Seth, God started over.

Noah lost his entire world. Then, he lost a son to an act of rebellion and shame. In Shem, God started over.

Psalm 79 cries out in pain and anger. The psalmist has lost home, the Temple, and many who died. Most likely written from Babylon immediately following the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the writer mourns the loss of both places and people, both destroyed buildings and bodies.

The psalmist’s hot tears and stinging loss are not without hope. The writer foresees a time when mercy will come for the oppressed, freedom for prisoners, salvation for the dying, and judgment for the wicked. God, in the exile, is starting over. 

Most of us will never be physically exiled from our homeland or see our families slaughtered or enslaved. We endure other forms of exile and suffering. Losses of friendships, communities, and broken institutions feel like a death. On top of these losses, we have seen abuse and death within our communities of faith, our cities, and our nation. We can all join the psalmist’s lament, “How long, Lord?”

The psalmist assures us that God hears our groans, complaints, cries, and distress. The chronicler assures us that, no matter what has been lost, God is already at work to restore, repair, rebuild, and rescue.

There is nothing humans can ruin that God cannot restore. Are we ready to begin again?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed be the Lord! For he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city. — Psalm 31.21

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 1-2  (Listen 11:18)
Psalms 79 (Listen 1:50)

Read more about From Your Nothing…Something Beautiful
Give your scarcity, your vacuum, your past to Jesus. Sense him hovering over it with you. From your nothing Jesus can make something beautiful.

Read more about Lasting Revivals and Normal Idols
Josiah cleansed Israel and Judah from top to bottom, but the next generation went bottom up. The changes didn’t stick. Why?

For What to Pray

From John: 
Read the Bible. Reflect and pray. 

That is the two-pronged, ultra-simplified vision that we have for our readers. This week and part of next we take some time to curate and comment on some classic readings about prayer that may strengthen and encourage us in the practice of prayer.

Reflection: For What to Pray
By John Tillman

C.S. Lewis, in some of his final published writings, addressed the question of “How important must a need or a desire be before we can properly make it the subject of a petition?”

As always, the professor is insightful and honest.

“‘Even an intimate human friend is ill-used if we talk to him about one thing while our mind is really on another, and even a human friend will soon become aware when we are doing so.

It may well be that the desire can be laid before God only as a sin to be repented, but one of the best ways of learning this is to lay it before God. Your problem, however, was not about sinful desires in that sense; rather, about desires intrinsically innocent and sinning, if at all, only by being stronger than the triviality of their object warrants. 

I have no doubt at all that if they are the subject of our thoughts they must be the subject of our prayers—whether in penitence or in petition or in a little of both. Penitence for the excess, yet petition for the thing we desire. If one forcibly excludes them, don’t they wreck all the rest of our prayers? If we lay all the cards on the table, God will help us to moderate the excesses. But the pressure of things we are trying to keep our of our mind is a hopeless distraction. As someone said, ‘no noise is so emphatic as the one you are trying not to listen to.’

The ordinate frame of mind is one of the blessings we must pray for, not a fancy-dress we must put on when we pray.

And perhaps, as those who do not turn to God in petty trials will have no habit or such resort to help them when the great trials come, so those who have not learned to ask him for childish things will have less readiness to ask him for great ones. We must not be too high-minded. I fancy we may sometimes be deterred from small prayers by a sense of our own dignity rather than of God’s.”

May we take every thought, every care to Christ. He will lovingly meet with us regardless of the trivialities of our concerns. In this, we may grow more mature and bring more mature petitions. We must be faithful with a little before we may be faithful with much.

*Quotations from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
My lips will sing with joy when I play to you, and so will my soul, which you have redeemed.— Psalm 71:23

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chr 1-2 (Listen -11:18)
Hebrews 8  (Listen -2:22)

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Read more from Lewis on Prayer Without Words
Words are in any case secondary. They are only as an anchor. Or, shall I say, they are the movements of a conductor’s baton: not the music

Read more about Inattentiveness in Worship
Lewis chides his readers for casting judgment on the worship practices of others, making an appeal to variety within the community of the church.