Sue Whitt

Author's details

Name: Sue Whitt
Date registered: March 3, 2012

Latest posts

  1. Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for April 18 — April 18, 2014
  2. Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for April 17 — April 17, 2014
  3. Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for April 16 — April 16, 2014
  4. Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for April 15 — April 15, 2014
  5. Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for April 14 — April 14, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. Sunday's Child: Daily Prayer, Wednesday, May 23, 2012 — 1 comment
  2. Sunday's Child: Health care, When they’re against you, a Reflection on Ephesians 6:10-20 — 1 comment
  3. Sunday's Child: Who Gets In, a Reflection on Psalm 15 — 1 comment
  4. Sunday's Child: Daily Prayer, Sunday, February 24, 2013 — 1 comment
  5. Sunday's Child: Daily Prayer, Sunday, August 4, 2013 — 1 comment

Author's posts listings

Apr 18 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for April 18

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Glorious things are spoken of you,
O city of God.
(Psalm 87:3)

Joshua 16:1-18:28

Luke 19:1-27
As a tax collector, Zacchaeus would have been viewed as a collaborator with the occupier. Yet, Jesus invites himself over to his house. How shocked should we be? After all, in last week's Gospel passage, Luke 18:9-14, Jesus declared a tax collector to be justified but not the religious person who was proud of being religious.

But, Zacchaeus is also rich, and as Sharon Ringe reminds us in her Commentary on Luke, rich people don't fare as well; e.g., 12:13-21; 16:19-31; 18:18-25.

The people who were there did not approve of Jesus' willing association with someone they perceived to be a sinner.

Zacchaseus' response was to vow to give up half his possessions and repay four-fold anyone he had cheated.

Then Jesus declares, "Today salvation has come to his house because he too is a son of Abraham." As a son of Abraham, he is not clutching his wealth to himself but sharing it with the poor who need it and returning what he did not deserve. Sharon Ringe asserts:
Because of his political and economic role as a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus has never been in a position to consider membership in the people of God something on which he can presume (note John the Baptist's warning in 3:8). In fact, some would say that his profession has made him the equivalent of a Gentile.
Suddenly his membership in the chosen people is reinstated. His earnest promise is not mentioned as a reason, but one is left with the sense that they are connected. His embrace of the opportunity to give alms ... does not earn his new identity.... But the lifestyle he has embraced makes his identity evident.
"Salvation has come to his house," Jesus said. The question of salvation is not how we get it but what we do with it.

Psalm 87:1-7

Proverbs 13:11

Prayer for Today: Christ, our Savior,  keep us mindful of what you have told us that saved people do. Amen.

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Apr 17 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for April 17

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Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Gladden the heart of your servant,
   for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
(Psalm 86:1, 4)

Joshua 15:1-63
Caleb offers his daughter Achsah as a wife to the man who can successfully oust the inhabitant of a piece of land that had been designated as his. Othniel took the land and Caleb gave him Achsah. She then asked her father for more land--a field with springs.

The rest of the tribe of Judah was also successful in taking over the land assigned to them by Caleb. An exception was the Jebusites, who could not be driven out of Jerusalem.

Luke 18:18-43
He tells his disciples what is going to happen in Jerusalem. Even though he is very specific, they don't understand what he's saying to them.

Psalm 86:1-17
Psalm 86 begins with a plea to the Lord for help, a plea not based on anything done to deserve help but rather on the nature of the Lord--good, forgiving, and abounding in steadfast love. The psalmist continues by  recording the unique greatness of the Lord, and how everybody--all nations--recognize this greatness.

In verse 11, we have two more requests: Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. The psalmist wants to know more about God so as to live the kind of life that God would want. Moreover, to live that kind of life, the psalmist is going to have to give up other distractions.

After the requests come expression of gratitude including a reassertion of God's love and care.

But, even with the knowledge that God is powerful and loving, the psalmist recognizes that life can be far from perfect, "O God, the insolent rise up against me; a band of ruffians seeks my life, and they don't care about you at all."

In this time of difficulty, the psalmist asks God, "Turn to me and be gracious to me; give me strength; save me."

When we are in our own times of difficulty, we can pray this psalm, we can ask for Lord's favor, because we also can remember the times that the Lord has helped us and comforted us.

Proverbs 13:9-10

Prayer for Today: Pray Psalm 86.

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Apr 16 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for April 16

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Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
    and grant us your salvation.
Let me hear what you will speak,
for you will speak peace 
    to your people,
    to your faithful, 
    to those who turn to you in their hearts.
(adapted from Psalm 85:7, 8)

Joshua 13:1-14:15

Luke 18:1-17
Today's passage from Luke begins, "Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart." Noting the "then," I looked back to see what had been happening just before he told them the parable.

Jesus had responded to the question by the Pharisees of when the kingdom of God was coming. He told them that it wouldn't be coming with things that could be observed because it was already among them. We read this as a statement that God's kingdom was already evident in the ministry of Christ.

Jesus had then turned to his disciples and told them that they shouldn't be misled as to the days of the Son of Man. He reminded them of what had happened to the unfaithful in the time of Noah and of Lot. Some enjoying themselves, tending to their own needs, then came destruction and only a few survived.

The widow in the parable has been waiting for justice, pleading for vindication, for a long time. The early church could have seen the parallel in her situation and theirs. By the time that the Gospel of Luke was written, the early church had been waiting for the reappearance of Christ for a long time. In many, many ways the church continues to wait for justice for the weak and their vindication against the powerful.

The widow persistently and publicly continued to ask for justice from a judge who had power but was not himself just. He finally gave in to her, saying "I'm tired of her bothering me."

Jesus told them to learn from what the judge said.

Commentators split at this point. Some say that Jesus is telling them to keep praying to God, to keep arguing, pleading, seeking justification. Others don't like the idea of all of God being represented by an unjust judge so they put the emphasis on the need for God's people to keep pleading with those who have power.

In either case, Jesus intends for us to keep praying.

Then, Jesus tells them the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. If we read this parable as a comfort to us because we are so much superior in our righteousness than the Pharisee, then we have missed the point. I remember someone saying as she began her path toward ordination, "If they want humble, I can be the most humble."

Jesus is speaking to those--that includes us--who think themselves so righteous that they are contemptuous of others who just cannot measure up to their standard. In describing the Pharisee, Jesus is not telling us that there's sometime wrong with fasting or tithing. Nor is he saying that there is anything wrong with going to a holy place to pray.

Further, Jesus is not saying that the sins of the tax collector are to be emulated. What's wrong is not righteousness but self-righteousness. As Fred Craddock puts it in Preaching through the Christian Year C,"The Pharisee trusts in himself; the tax collector trusts in God: that is the difference." He then cautions us that the point of the parable is not to think that the tax collector should be proud and thankful that he is not like the Pharisee, and that we shouldn't be either.

Psalm 85:1-13
I'm looking at this psalm today as a primer on a kind of prayer--a prayer when we want our lives to be different and we admit that we may have had some responsibility in their not being what we would have been, what we want them to be.

1. Remind the Lord, "You have been favorable to us." List some specifics. Of course, the Lord already is quite aware of this. The reminder is really for you.

2. State plainly what you want, "Restore us, Of God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us." Probably implicit is that God's indignation will no longer be needed because you intend in the future to act like a person worthy of that salvation you're asking for.

3. State just as plainly how bad things are when you are not right with God. "Will you be angry with us forever?"

4. Now, that you have listed your wants, be ready to hear what God wants, "Let me hear what the Lord will speak."
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
5. Affirm God's gifts and your own promise to be worthy of receiving them "Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps."

Proverbs 13:7-8

Prayer for Today: Pray Psalm 85, focusing on the verses that fit the kind of day you are having today.

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Apr 15 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for April 15

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My soul longs,
indeed it faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
    to the Living God.
(Psalm 84:2)

Joshua 11:1-12:24

Luke 17:11-37
Luke presents us with an account of people carrying out Biblical injunctions. That is, since they are lepers, they are keeping themselves separate from everyone else and also calling out a warning so no one will inadvertently come near them. Further, when they are cured, Jesus tells them to head for the temple so a priest can certify that they are no longer lepers. (That's also in the Bible. You can look it up in Leviticus 13:35-45; 14:2-32).

Nine of the ten who have been healed follow these instructions. However, one does something else. He returns to Jesus, thanks him, and gives praise to God for his healing.

Jesus asks why the nine others did not return to give thanks to God and points out that this one who did is a foreigner.

They all had been suffering. They all had turned to Jesus for help. They all had faith that Jesus could heal them--even the foreigner. And all were healed. Jesus then tells them all what to do next. Nine do it.

Yet, Jesus holds out for praise the one who returned to him for thanks. Sometimes, we have something to learn from outsiders.

Psalm 84:1-12
A worshipper of God is on a pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem. My husband and I are within easy driving distance of the church we attend. I read in the psalm, "My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God." I'm pausing to consider whether my soul longs and faints for that building I am headed toward. I do want to be there, I feel deeply (some weeks, anyway) the need to be there, but I'm not sure about the fainting part. Further disturbing to me is that while I am really, really glad to have that church and to be going there, I have never sung out loud about it while on the way.

So, what does this psalm say to me?

I'm not willing to leave it totally for the original psalmist.

Part of the difference is that the building I am talking about is one that I go to on the average about three times a week. The psalmist, I repeat, is making a pilgrimage. Yet, why would familiarity and ease about the access cause me to be less joyful?

Perhaps I am being too narrow in the application of the psalm to my religious life. Try this: my whole life is a journey toward the presence of God. As I go through my ordinary life--grocery shopping, TV watching, grandchildren enjoying, I am in the presence of God. God's dwelling place, God's courts, God's house--none of those are completely defined by any one building constructed by human beings.

So, Sunday mornings and the rest of the week, let me sing with the psalmist, "A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you."

Proverbs 13:5-6

Prayer for Today: Choose a prayer from Joan Stott's website The timeless psalms.

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Apr 14 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for April 14

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O God, 
do not keep silence;
do not hold your peace 
    or be still, 
O God!
(Psalm 83:1)

Joshua 9:3-10:43

Luke 16:19-17:10
When alive, the rich man enjoyed being rich. He dressed well and ate well. He used his money to satisfy himself well beyond need although he might have shared some of it with that poor, sore-covered man who was right there by his front door.

We know that the rich man was aware of the poor guy--he even knew his name. I'm pausing here to wonder why I think that ignoring the needs of people whose names we know is different from ignoring those of strangers.

He not only knows the name of Lazarus; he wants to be waited on by him. "I need something. Send Lazarus to help me."

Abraham informs him that the situation is now reversed: the one who had good things now doesn't, and the one who had suffered in his lifetime is now comforted. Moreover, the time to change that is past. The rich man has lost the opportunity to use anything that he once controlled.

The rich man reacts by wanting to ensure that his relatives don't end up the way he has. He begs Abraham, "Send Lazarus to warn my brothers so they won't have to end up the way I have." Abraham reminds the rich man that those brothers have already received sufficient warning because they have access to the Bible. Abraham says that he doesn't think the Bible works for everyone, but that a visitation from someone who has died would.

I would be willing to interpret this remark as a reference to the resurrected Christ, but Abraham's next remark limits that willingness. He says, "If they don't believe the Old Testament, they won't believe the New one either."

Believing in Christ does not mean that we are to cut up and throw away the front part of our Bibles. And if we were to do that, we would miss a whole lot about the necessity of helping the poor. Just saying.

Jesus had been instructing the apostles, and, at times, the crowds, in discourse and with parables what life with him would be like and what is expected of those who follow in his way.

They may have needed to have their confidence bolstered. They asked to have their faith increased. Jesus replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could get a mulberry tree to jump in the ocean just by telling it to."

When I was in the 5th grade, somebody gave me a necklace with a mustard seed encased in a plastic ball. I used to look at that tiny seed and wonder why the trees around me weren't listening to me. And I lived in a place where the trees weren't very big.

Other Bible readers, like me, have been troubled by this passage. Is Jesus promising us that we will be able to perform superhuman actions or great magic tricks? Or, is Luke using hyperbole or even metaphoric talk?

Fred Craddock in Preaching through the Christian Year C points out that the "if" in Jesus' statement can be translated in two ways, The word "if" could be describing a condition contrary to fact. Or, "if" could be describing a condition according to fact.

Try substituting "since" for "if" to see how this would sound in English. Craddock says Jesus is giving them "an indirect affirmation of the faith they have and an invitation to live and act out in that faith. They ask for an increase in their faith. He says that the faith you already have is effective and powerful beyond your present realization."

Do we deserve any special praise for following Christ? for accomplishing what he has required of us? Or, as Christ's servants, aren't we when we think of ourselves as doing good as dramatic as getting a tree to jump in the lake, aren't we even then just doing our job, just doing what Christ's servants are to do?

Psalm 83:1-18
At those times that we feel under attack and that God is not paying enough attention to us, we can pray this psalm. Remembering those times that God has gotten rid of enemies for other people, we can ask for God to get rid of those who are harming us. The psalm concludes with a reminder (to the psalmist or to God?) that the wrongdoers need to know God.

Proverbs 13:1

Prayer for Today: O Lord, remind us when we need it of our faith in you and remind us that we can and are supposed to use that faith. Amen.

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Apr 13 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for April 13

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O God, You have taken your place in the divine council;
In the midst of the gods, you hold judgment:
"How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?"
(adapted from Psalm 82:1-2)

Joshua 7:16-9:2

Luke 16:1-18
Jesus told his disciples a parable about a rich man about to fire his manager who had been accused of squandering his property. I don't know if that mean incompetence or dishonesty or if it matters.

When his boss demands an accounting, the manager knows that he has no defense. And, he doesn't think he's going to be able to get a job as good as the one he has. The only prospects he sees are manual labor or begging.

Since, he doesn't want to do either of those, he comes up with an alternative plan. He summons each of his master's creditors and reduces the amount they owe. Whatever his previous shortcomings had been, this act is certainly dishonest. He has been entrusted with the care of someone else's resources, and he is misusing them to satisfy his own needs.

How are we to interpret this parable? One alternative is to assume that the boss represents God and that the manager represents the church. We treat the world and the goods in it as if they are ours. We use them for our own benefit, or we waste them without considering whose they really are. How would we react if God called us to account? How would we try to justify our decisions and our behavior?

The manager in the parable took actions that would prevent the master from getting his due. In what ways, do we that make up the church act that would limit what the world understands about God?

An employee had abused the trust of his employer and had been caught. The boss told him he was going to be fired. So, the employee figured out a way to get more of his boss's money while he could.

That story is not particularly shocking to modern readers, and I doubt it would have been then, either.

The boss's reaction, though, is surprising. Rather than having the employee sent to prison, he commends him for his shrewd actions. And, even more difficult to understand is Jesus' comment, "And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes."

It doesn't help much that commentators disagree on whether that comment was made by the boss or Jesus talking about the boss. Either way, Jesus is offering it to his disciples. We would have been more comfortable with a parable in which the dishonest employees was caught and repented and tried to pay back his boss and so on.

So, I was relieved to read the interpretation offered by Ronald Allen & Clark Williamson in their Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews. They disagree with the standard assumption that the owner in the parable is a representation of God. Rather, they propose that Jesus is using the story to "cast a negative light on some Pharisees (and other Jewish leaders)". Thus, in their view, "The dishonest manager is not a model but a foil for the Pharisees. They are as misguided as the manager."

Allen & Williams tie this parable to the one in chapter 15 of the Prodigal Son. They interpret the story of the older son resenting the acceptance of his brother as a parallel to that of some Jewish leaders who resented the inclusion of Gentiles in the early church.

In any case, I know I would be more comfortable if Luke had just left this story out altogether. I am not helped much by the commentators who try to convince me that the employee was cutting his commission out of the debt and that's what the boss was commending.

But, whether I get the intended meaning of the parable right or not, I still am grateful for verses 10-13. They sound a lot more like what I am accustomed to hearing from Jesus.
"Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
We didn't create this world; God did. We didn't create the wealth on the earth, but God has entrusted it to our care.

Psalm 82:1-8
One troubling aspect in this psalm is that God will judge our actions.

Something else troubling is the actions that we are going to be accountable for. God is going to judge whether we
    give justice to the lowly and the orphan
    maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute
    rescue the weak and the needy
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

We need to review this checklist as we determine how our church congregation should be involved with our neighborhoods and we need to review it as we determine what each of us personally is called to do.

How far does this Bible stuff go? Should we also think about this list as we make decisions on who to vote for?

Proverbs 13:2-3

Prayer for Today: Choose a prayer from Joan Stott's website The Timeless Psalms.

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