Sue Whitt

Author's details

Name: Sue Whitt
Date registered: March 3, 2012

Latest posts

  1. Sunday's Child: Reflections on the readings for October 22 — October 22, 2014
  2. Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for October 21 — October 21, 2014
  3. Sunday's Child: Reflection on the readings for October 20 — October 20, 2014
  4. Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for October 19 — October 19, 2014
  5. Sunday's Child: Reflection on the readings for October 18 — October 18, 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

Oct 22 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflections on the readings for October 22

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Turn, O Lord! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy in the morning with
your steadfast love,
ao that we my rejoice
and be glad all our days.
(Psalm 90:13-14)

Jeremiah 39:1-41:18
Babylon invades Jerusalem, takes the king and much of the population into exile. The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah while he was being held under guard, "I am going to destroy this city, but I will save you." After the fall of Jerusalem, Babylon took much of the population into exile, leaving only the poorest people. The captain of the Babylonian guard released Jeremiah and told him he could go to Babylon or to anywhere else he thought it good and right to go.

2 Timothy 1:1-18
Paul addresses Timothy as his beloved child. He writes that he is grateful to God when he remembers Timothy in his prayers night and day. Remembering Timothy's sincere faith (as a sideline, please note that Paul gives a lot of credit to Timothy's grandmother and mother so perhaps we shouldn't be too adamant in asserting misogyny in Paul), anyway, remembering his faith, Paul reminds him to use that faith.

Paul reminds Timothy that God has provided us with a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline--and that all those are needed because discipleship may entail suffering.

Paul also gives credit to his ancestors by saying that he worships as they did. Paul did not believe that Christians worship a different God from the One worshiped by Jews. Further, Paul asserts that the grace given to them was given long before it was revealed through the appearance of Christ, Allen & Williamson, in Preaching the Letters, explain it this way:
What Paul exactly meant, we do not know, but the gracious disposition of God to God's creatures seem always to have been the case; our good fortune is that because of God's self-disclosure we know this.
Although Paul is undergoing suffering because of work, he is confident of God's protection. He tells Timothy to hold on to what he has been taught, "Guard the good treasure entrusted to you," and that he will also be aided, "with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us."

Jouette Bassler, in her commentary on 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus in the Abington New Testament Series, writes about Paul's view of suffering:
He presents suffering as inevitable for any Christian and essential for any church leader. Through suffering, a church leader identifies himself with Paul and manifests his confidence in the fundamental Christian promise of life. Failure to endure sufering suggest shame--not shame in the cross of Christ of Christ, but a lack of confidence in God's power to save."
Psalm 90:1-91:16
Psalm 90 is a prayer that confesses human frailty, our iniquities and our secret sins. "We deserve your wrath," the psalmist admits.

But, enclosing this admission is a greater recognition: God cares for us, and has cared for us, and will care for us. God was here before we knew we needed God. We realize that our lives here will come to an end, and we need God's help.

The prayer continues, "Satisfy us at daybreak with Your steadfast love that we may sing for joy all our days. I'm reading "daybreak" both literally and metaphorically. Literally, because for me, early morning is when I usually have my daily devotional--partly because then I have the rest of the day to reflect on what I've read or prayed. Metaphorically, because it's not only at literal sunup that the light can come on for us. Other events can illuminate things for us--wise words from wise people as well as sudden realizations that hit us.

I love the last prayer of this psalm "O prosper the work of our hands!" because it serves as a reminder to me that I am part of God's work on earth.

In Psalm 91, I am troubled by verses 9 through 13 because I have seen good people suffer, have evil befall them, dash their feet against a stone (actual as well as metaphorically.) So what do I do with these assurances?. The promise in the last verses, "I will deliver those who love me, protect those who know me," should not be read to mean that "Those who aren't delivered and protected deserve not to be." Yet, I can pray quite honestly the opening verses. I do experience God as a refuge and a fortress. I do trust God.

Here's my compromise (I don't like that word, but I can't come up with the term that better expresses my thoughts): Verse 15 is an assertion that I can agree with. I can depend on God to be present with me whenever I am in trouble. That presence is in itself rescue--I am not suffering alone, and I am not suffering without possibility of salvation.

Proverbs 26:1-2
Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
so honor is not fitting for a fool.
Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying,
an undeserved curse goes nowhere.

Prayer for Today: Pray the last five verses of Psalm 90.

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Oct 21 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for October 21

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Blessed be the Lord forever.
Amen and Amen.
(Psalm 89:52)

Jeremiah 37:1-38:28
When it looks like Egypt is going to stop the Babylonian advance, King Zedekiah doesn't listen to Jeremiah's warning that the Lord has cautioned him that the delay is only temporary. When Jeremiah attempts to leave the city, he is arrested, beaten, and imprisoned.

Then the king brings him secretly to his house to ask him if he has heard any word from the Lord. Jeremiah says, "Yes I have. You are going to be taken captive by the Babylonians. Your prophets have just been telling you what you want to hear. Why have you arrested me?"

As the word spread that Jeremiah had been saying that Babylon was going to take over Jerusalem, the people in power were so upset with him, that they threw him into a cistern. He sank in the mud. Although the most powerful had tried to shut him up, one of the king's servants, a foreigner, talked the king into releasing Jeremiah.

The king asks Jeremiah to speak the truth to him. Jeremiah did. The king did not like what he heard. He ordered Jeremiah not to tell anybody what he had said.

1 Timothy 6:1-21
Slavery was still okay with Christians. How does our acceptance of the change in this attitude affect our  attitude about other matters of injustice that were okay with them in their time, in their place?

This letter to Timothy then describes the characteristics that false teachers portray: envy, dissension, slander, suspicions, and wrangling. They think that being godliness is the means for gain. Do we still suffer from this assumption?

He adds that of course there is a great gain in godliness combined with contentment. If only I could somehow be content with food and clothing..... That's not even realistic for me because I can so easily imagine better tasting or more appealing looking food and even more easily imagine newer clothes. I'm trying to understand Paul's comment in context of my life and I'm afraid that I do understand it quite well.

Loving money, striving for riches, takes my focus away from what should be attracting my attention and effort. And it can be even worse than that, Paul reminds us. We may be willing to do many unkind or wrong things to ensure that we can accumulate some financial security.

Paul lists for Timothy what goals a Christian should be striving for: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

Striving for these goals is done publicly not privately. The evidence of righteousness, godliness, and love will be noticeable -- as would be their absence. We have promised to pursue these qualities always but gently. And we have promised publicly to do so by joining the church.

This advice to Timothy is not only to him as an individual Christian but also to him as a leader of a Christian community.  "Live it and teach it. In your congregation are those that are rich. Tell them not to be so proud of their achievements. After all, none of us have any guarantee that our wealth will last. What we can be sure of is that God is eternal and that God will continue to provide us with what we really need. Rather than spending your effort building up your personal wealth, instead be generous with your time and money."

Timothy is reminded that we bring nothing into the world and take nothing out of it, and that what we do between that coming in and that going out of the world matters: Doing good, being rich in good works, will provide us with a treasure surpassing what money could have bought for us. This treasure will be "a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life."

Psalm 89:38-52

Proverbs 25:28
Like a city breached, without walls,
is one who lacks self-control.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, guide us away from our temptations to focus on striving for more money. Focus us on what we should be trying to achieve-- righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Amen.

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Oct 20 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on the readings for October 20

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Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
Happy are the people who know the festal shout,
who walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance
(Psalm 89:14-15)

Jeremiah 35:1-36:32
Some people listen to God's commands and obey. Some don't. People in power sometimes resist hearing advice from prophets. Some prophets keep trying.

1 Timothy 5:1-25
I can see the wisdom in many of the directives is this chapter; e.g., Be respectful to old people; Contribute to the support of people who need it; Drink some wine.

However, I'm not sure that the condemnation of gossip and idleness should have been restricted to women who are unmarried and under 60.

Psalm 89:14-37
Psalm 89 is an assertion of the covenant God has made with David, and a reminder that this covenant is unconditional, "Forever I will keep my steadfast love for him, and my covenant with him will stand firm" (23).

Reading this psalm after the exile, the Jews could adopt God's promise to David as king to themselves as descendants of the people in David's kingdom. Christians have also appropriated this promise since we recognize Jesus as a direct descendant of David.

We might discuss who is included and if anyone is not.

And we need to think about what this unconditional covenant means.

Verses 30-33 remind us that sin has consequences. We may suffer because of wrong choices we have made. We may suffer because of wrong choices someone else has made.

Sin has consequences.

Yet, God doesn't give up on us so easily.

We need to remember both of those things.

Proverbs 25:25-27
Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country.
Like a muddied stream or a polluted fountain
are the righteous who give way before the wicked.
It is not good to eat much honey
or to seek honor on top of honor.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, direct us to exhibit righteousness and justice to everyone. Remind us of your steadfast love and your faithfulness. You are our strength. Amen.

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Oct 19 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for October 19

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I will sing of your steadfast love,
O Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will proclaim 
your faithfulness to all generations.
(Psalm 89:1-2)

Jeremiah 33:1-34:22
Jeremiah is writing to a people in exile. Jeremiah promised them that God would sustain them and provide them with a new life. Remember, Jeremiah knows and they know that they have not always been loyal to God's wishes.

Many congregations and communities today feel as if they are in a kind of exile.

Can you think of a time when you faced lost dreams?

How do Jeremiah's promises speak to you where you are now? What justice and righteousness is needed in your life? in the life of your congregation? of your community?

Where do you see significant signs of the promises? What are you still waiting to see?

1 Timothy 4:1-16
According to this letter, some hypocrites are going to have rules forbidding marriage and abstaining from some food. We are then reminded that everything created by God is to be received with thanksgiving. We moderns may still debate whether something is created by God or not. And, we may or may not have difficulty with the assertion that we should be listening to younger people.

Psalm 89:1-13
Psalm 89 begins with a promise to the Lord, "I'll sing of your steadfast love forever. I'll tell everybody. I'll tell them, old and young, that what you've been doing for us, you'll keep doing for them."

When do we need to hear this reminder? What prompts us to remember to give it?

Do we have to be living in bad times to be able to appreciate good ones?

Whom do we trust enough to receive comfort from what they tell us?

Proverbs 25:23-24
The north wind produces rain,
and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, our God, direct us to making the correct distinctions between the allowed and the forbidden. Remind us that you love us all. Remind us to love others. Amen.

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Oct 18 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on the readings for October 18

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Let my cry come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.
(Psalm 88:2)

Jeremiah 31:27-32:44
They knew from their own experiences what life is like under disruption, loss, and exile. Now,  Jeremiah is giving them words of restoration. The Lord who had overseen their destruction will watch over their renewal.

Jeremiah then tells how people are going to react, "They will no longer say, 'The parents have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge.'"

According to the commentary by John M Bracke, Jeremiah means that they are going to stop complaining about the perceived unfairness of the exile but rather will recognize that they had deserved to be punished (also see Jeremiah 18:1-32).

In his commentary on Jeremiah, R.E. Clements interprets this not as an expression of a doctrine or a defense of the principle of shared family responsibility but rather to give voice to despair:
It is equivalent to "What is the use of trying--our ancestors have done wrong and we are paying the price!"

The Lord tells Jeremiah "I'm sending you a rescuer. Things will change. No longer will people have to suffer because of the sins of their ancestors (They'll still have to pay for their own sins). I will make a new covenant with these people, and all of them will know me."

Their punishment had been real and they and their descendants had recognized it as deserved. But, new life is possible.

The Lord says to a troubled people who had over and over neglected to what they had promised, "I will forgive their iniquities and remember their sins no more" and "They broke the covenant I made with their ancestors. I'm going to make a new covenant." Try to look past our supercessionist interpretation of the phrase "new covenant" all the way back to how Jeremiah's listeners would have understood it. "This covenant will be written on your hearts."

Jeremiah is writing to people who were really in need of repentance. People whose lives were in ashes. "You have been unfaithful to me," the Lord told them, "and I'm taking you back." God made covenant with them. God had given them a home and they moved to Egypt. God brought them back home. They neglected God. They disobeyed God. They misused their gifts. They neglected neighbors in need. They were overrun by powerful enemies and taken into exile in Babylon. God renews the covenant and brings them back.

The Lord is promising not new content but new contact--or, renewed contact.

John H. Hayes In Preaching through the Christian Year B:
The newness is a special gift, the capacity to be faithful and obedient. In the Old Testament, the heart is the seat of the will (see Jeremiah 29:13; 32:39; Ezekiel 1:19; 36:26); consequently, the special gift here is a will with the capacity to be faithful. God thus promises to change the people from the inside out, to give them a center. This covenant will overcome the conflict between knowing or wanting one thing and doing another...

1 Timothy 3:1-16
The qualifications that church administrators were to have were very much like the usual catalogue of virtues common in Greco-Roman ethical teaching (Jouette Bassler in her commentary on 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus). I suppose that we moderns still evaluate the talents and abilities of the leadership and organization of our churches and denominations on the basis of what we see and expect from other organizations.

Bassler points out the requirement that church leaders had to be the head of their household excluded slaves and women was a significant departure from Paul's own churches, where women played various leadership roles. She further refers to the scriptural references "where 'slave' was an honorable epithet both for Christ (Phil 2:7) and for church leaders (Rom 1:1; Gal 1:10; Phil 1:1)." [The NRSV sometimes translates the Greek word as slave and sometimes as servant.]

Psalm 88:1-18
A psalm for when we can hear no comfort.

Proverbs 25:20-22
Like vinegar on a wound 
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.
Like a moth in clothing or a worm in wood,
sorrow gnaws at the human heart.
If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;
and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;
for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,
and the Lord will reward you.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, open us to know your presence. Amen.

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Oct 17 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on the readings for October 17

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On the holy mount stands the city.
Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God.
(from Psalm 87:1,3)

Jeremiah 30:1-31:26
The Lord tells Jeremiah to give this message to the exiles, "I will send a rescuer. I have heard your pleas of help. I will turn your mourning to joy."

1 Timothy 2:1-15
Pray. Pray for everyone. Yes, everyone. Even political leaders.Yesterday in Jeremiah, we read "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (29:7).

Pray for everyone so that everyone will have a peaceful, dignified life.

Then the instructions modify this everyone concept. Women were supposed to dress and behave in worship the same way that the society of the time thought they were to dress and behave outside of worship. This wasn't and isn't the last time that societal norms are allowed to modify the demands of the  gospel.

Psalm 87:1-7

Proverbs 25:18-19
Like a war club, a sword, or a sharp arrow
is one who bears false witness against a neighbor.
Like a bad tooth or a lame foot
is trust in a faithless person in time of trouble.

Prayer for Today: O God, we thank you for the many times that you have heard our prayers and rescued us from our difficulties. We pray now that our lives will be peaceful and that we will somehow learn to extend that peace to others. Help us to discern your will in all matters. Amen.

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