Sue Whitt

Author's details

Name: Sue Whitt
Date registered: March 3, 2012

Latest posts

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

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Sep 22 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for September 22

Original post at

Blessed be God,
for you have not rejected my prayer
or removed your steadfast love from me.
(adapted from Psalm 66:20)

Isaiah 39:1-41:16
God has instructed the prophet Isaiah to speak tenderly to the people, to tell them that they have suffered long enough.

You may be living in the wilderness. Prepare for God to come to you there. You may be living in a desert. Prepare for God to come to you there. There are low places in your lives. Fill them in. There are obstacles. Knock them down. When something gets in your way or trips you up, move it out of your way.

God is coming into your life.

God is coming, mighty as an army, but not to destroy. God is coming to be our shepherd, to feed us, to carry us, to lead us.

And this is good news.

Chapter 40 begins the portion of this book that Bible scholars call 2nd Isaiah. The original audience for this material was living in the time of the Babylonian exile.

We can imagine their plight. Many of us can remember our own plights--times of feeling lost or uncared for. The prophet reminds us that we are not solely at the mercy of whatever, whoever, stands for Babylon in our lives: Have you not known? Have you not heard? Come on, haven't you always known who always was in charge?

In their time, they were to be rescued from exile by the Persia army led by Cyrus. God saved them from unbelievers through the efforts of unbelievers. Nothing that unusual here. After all, Pharaoh let them leave their unpleasant jobs at pyramid building.

Babylon that seems so powerful to everyone who was alive did not seem like that big a deal to God. "Scarcely are they planted, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them like stubble."

Ephesians 1:1-23
This passage reminds us of the blessing we have received through Christ--adoption, forgiveness, and redemption. God has chosen to include us. (When this letter was first read, Gentiles would have understood that they were included along with the Jews could now look at God as Father. We who are used to the idea of Gentile being a sort of synonym for Christian may not get the impact of this thought or we may not be willing to extend the adoption to groups that just don't seem to be God's type of family.)

Our inclusion comes through grace. But, having been included, we can respond.

This letter to the Ephesians (and through them to us) tells what the Spirit does for the church: enlightens the eyes of your heart--that is, helps you to catch on to what God intends for you to be doing and what God has already done for you.

To these Christians adjusting to their life after the crucifixion of Jesus, they are reminded by this letter of the power available to them through God. God put this power to work in Christ and has made him the head of the church. The church is the body of Christ, "the fullness of him who fills all in all."

In verse 11, they are told that, in Christ, they have received an inheritance. In their case, and in ours, inheritance is not just money that they can use to buy a lot of expensive stuff for themselves. Rather, the power is working among us to continue the work that Christ began and the work that continues by the church, his body, which fills all in all.

This letter to the Ephesians is also to us, "You have been called. God has immeasurable power, and has put this power to work in Christ by raising him from the dead... The church is the body of Christ."

Here's what the Spirit does for the church: enlightens the eyes of your heart
--that is, helps you to catch on to what God intends for you to be doing and what God has already done for you.

To these early Christians as they began to form congregations and missions, he is emphasizing power and what power is to be used for.

To these Christians adjusting to their life after the crucifixion of Jesus, he writes of the power available to them through God. God put this power to work in Christ and has made him the head of the church. The church is the body of Christ, "the fullness of him who fills all in all."

As I regularly do, I have been reading Boring & Craddock's People's New Testament Commentary. And, as I regularly am, I am glad that I do. For example,here's their discussion of the phrase, "glorious inheritance":

The phrase refers to God's inheritance, not the believers'. In Old Testament theology, Israel as God's chosen people is often called God's inheritance (Deut 4:20; 9:26, 29; 2 Sam 21:3; 1 Kings 8:51, 53; Ps 28:9; 33:12; 68:9; 78:62, 71; 94:14; 106:5, 4-; Isa 19:25; 47:6; 63:17; Jer 10:16; 51:19). For the author of Ephesians, to be in the church is to be incorporated into the continuing people of God, Israel (2:11-12).

Psalm 66:1-20
Psalm 66 calls on all the earth to give God praise. I don't read Hebrew but I do read people who do, and they tell me that the command is in the plural. We Southerners might read "Y'all make a joyful noise to God, all y'all" (1) and "Y'all come see what awesome things God has done" (5) "Say it, say it loud. Say it where everybody can hear it" (9)

Off on an tangent: The psalm begins with the command for all the earth to make a joyful noise, to sing. All? joyful? I'm thinking even the portion of us in a sanctuary on Sunday morning aren't all singing, and that all of them don't sound particularly joyful.

What this psalm models for us: 1) Life may have difficulties; we don't have to pretend that it doesn't. 2) We are allowed to complain to God about these difficulties. We don't have to pretend that they're good for us or that we deserve them--at least, all of them, anyway.

Then, it models for us what happens after we have come through whatever the difficulty was that we were complaining about. The psalmist gives credit to God, "You have brought us out." This gratitude is further demonstrated, "I will come to your house with burnt offerings. I will do what I promised to do if you helped me."

After these promises to God, the psalmist again addresses other persons: "Come listen to what God has done for me. I prayed. God heard."

How do we tell what God has done? Do we usually notice? Where and when is our praise heard? (9)

I left out verse 18, "If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened" because I'm not ready to deal with it today.

Proverbs 23:25-28
Let your father and mother be glad;
let her who bore you rejoice;
My child, give me your heart,
and let your eyes observe my ways.

Prayer for Today: Read again the passages from Isaiah about rescue and from Ephesians about blessings, think about your own life, your own needs, your own gifts, then pray Psalm 66.

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Sep 21 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for September 21

Original post at

Praise is due to you,
O God, in Zion;
and to you shall vows be performed,
O you who answer prayer!
To you all flesh shall come.
When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us,
you forgive our transgressions.
(Psalm 65:1-3)

Isaiah 37:1-38:22

Galatians 6:1-18
Tom Wright in his Paul for Everyone/Galatians and Thessalonians is a useful resource for our daily Bible reading in Galatians. (When N.T. Wright uses the name Tom, I assume he is intending to be more accessible. So, do paid Christians read N.T. and real people read Tom?)

Anyway, in his interpretation of the references to the harvest if you sow in flesh or in spirit (8), he says if you sow barley in your field, you will expect barley to grow there, and if you sow nettles, you won't be surprised to see nettles at harvest:
God has likewise descreed that those who "sow" behaviour [he's British] which relates to the flesh will reap the appropriate result which is ultimately death; and that those who sow to the spirit will reap eternal life, the life of the new age that has already broken in, in Christ, and will one day by complete.
Psalm 65:1-13
The psalm begins with an acknowledgment of the debt we owe God, "Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed."

Not just us, but everyone, "To you all flesh shall come," and "you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas."

This psalm notes specific gifts. One is forgiveness, "When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions."

And God sends rain, "You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it."

I'm struck by the combining of these two, examining parallels between them. What happens to a life without forgiveness, if we become sunk in despair over our past sins, what barrenness of purpose, of existence, would it be? But, God's forgiveness, as abundant as the roaring sea, can make it possible for us to live lives of abundance, providing us with overflowing bounty that we can share as the watered fields provide grain for us.

Proverbs 23:24 (adapted)
Parents of the righteous will greatly rejoice;
the ones who beget a wise child will be glad.

Prayer for Today: O Lord, forgive us the times of unfaithfulness. Keep us mindful of your fidelity. Amen.

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Sep 20 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for September 20

Original post at

Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord,
and take refuge.
Let all the upright in heart glory.
(Psalm 64:10)

Isaiah 33:10-36:22
Isaiah was speaking to a people who had known disastrous defeat. They had deserved punishment. But, even now, the Lord will provide a home for them.

The promises of restoration begin with nature itself--blossoming of the desert. I grew up in a place without much rain so I can easily imagine the joy described, but I can also appropriate the image of the desert covered with crocus blossoms metaphorically. E.g., what would opportunities for jobs, better educational facilities, enhanced health care, and so on, do for the impoverished sections of the city in which I live and that I love?

In despair because of military oppression or natural disaster, they can look forward to repair. "God will come to save you," Isaiah tells them. Peace restored. The land restored to bounty. And more. The blind will be able to see; the deaf, to hear; the lame, to leap like a deer; the speechless, to sing for joy.

What might have seemed ordinary has come to seem extraordinary. And it will be ordinary again. 

With the promise of restoration comes the imperative: "Strengthen make firm," "Tell them to be strong and not to fear." Weak hands and feeble knees also can be interpreted metaphorically. To accept those promises includes a willingness to be able to accept them--to be willing to accept them--to prepare oneself (or, as in my example, prepare the whole city).

And we are capable of this because we can believe the words of Isaiah as words coming to us in our time and in our troubles, that God is coming to save us.

They knew despair, but they will know gladness. They have known drought, but they will know healing rain.

God's compassion is extensive.

But, what do we do while we are waiting for this transformation? In her Blessings of the Manger, Jeanne Torrence Finley recommends:
[W]e reflect on these images from Isaiah and imagine ourselves waiting with Israel for an end to sorrow and sighing. When have we wandered in the wilderness and desert? What would it mean to find streams in the desert and blossoms in the dry land of our lives? How can we join God in the work of redemption? How can we be part of restoring sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and voice to the speechless? How can we be part of God's saving purposes? This vision in Isaiah tells us what God loves and intends for all of creation, and the vision itself is a blessing that inspires us to participate in making that vision a reality.
Galatians 5:13-26
Don't give up your freedom, Paul tells them--then adds, don't misuse it either.

Earlier in this letter, he had reminded them that freedom is not free, that Christ had paid a price for their freedom (1:3-5). And since, they had received this gift, they should not reject it (1:6-12).

These Galatians don't have to become Jews in order to be Christians. But, in no way, does Paul ever indicate that anything goes.

If we interpret the word "law" to be mean "male Christians have to be circumcised," then Paul is saying they aren't bound by the law. But, Paul doesn't always use the term "law" that narrowly.

In the sense that they--we, too--are supposed to consider that the law was intended as a way to show the people how to live in a way that would be best for all of them, a way that would promote peace and continuity, then we are to follow the law.

And, in that case, Christians are still bound by the law. "Do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge yourself," Paul tells them. He quotes Leviticus 19:18 to demonstrate that the law can be summed up in a single commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Love not as some sweet emotion but love taken seriously. "Through love become slaves to one another."

Paul contrasted the Spirit with the flesh, "Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh" (16). He then lists works of the flesh (and points out that they are obvious): fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, and things like these.

Compare each of these with the command to love your neighbor as yourself.

Acting on these what Paul calls works of the flesh will harm community because they do not demonstrate or require love of anybody other than oneself.

Remember the intent of the law, to build a community that would exhibit and allow God's love to prevail. Indulging in these works of the flesh would hinder the goals of God's intention. As Paul says, "If you do things like this, you won't inherit the kingdom of God."

Don't think of this kingdom as something that we have to die to get. It's a situation that could be possible for us right here and now if only we truly were to consider God our king, if only we truly were to live the way God intended--to sum it up, to love our neighbor as ourself.

If you want to read more, look at Dan Dick's sermon Fruit Smoothie.

Psalm 64:1-10

Proverbs 23:23
Buy truth, and do not sell it;
buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.

Prayer for Today: O Lord our God, when we are wandering in the deserts of our lives, open us to recognize the streams you provide. Open us to the blossoms in the dry lands of our lives. Encourage us to join you in your work. Through your gifts, help us to join your work,  to be part of restoring sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and voice to the speechless. Amen.

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Sep 19 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for September 19

Original post at

O God, you are my God,
I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
(Psalm 63:1)

Isaiah 30:12-33:9
Isaiah cautions them that relying on the powerful Egypt will have disastrous results. Yet, the Lord is waiting for them to return and will show mercy despite their rebellious behavior.

Isaiah warns the comfortable and the complacent  that their peace will be disrupted. Yet, justice will dwell and righteousness abide.

Galatians 5:1-12
Instead of commentary, I am offering two quotations:
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another (13-14).
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control....(22) 
Psalm 63:1-11
The psalmist says "my flesh faints for you." Someone who likes to eat when hungry or not and drink when thirsty or not can surely understand how important seeking God when put into these terms.

According to this psalm, we can receive  great joy from feasting on the presence of the Lord in the sanctuary. Or, at least, recognize what it would be like, and recognize what follows from receiving something really good--saying thank you to the provider.

Proverbs 23:22
Listen to your father who begot you,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.

Prayer for Today: Spend some time today remembering the blessings you have already received. Use the words from Psalm 63 to thank the Lord who has provided these blessings:
You have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

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Sep 18 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for September 18

Original post at

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from God comes my salvation.
God alone is my rock and salvation, my fortress;
I shall never be shaken.
(Psalm 62:1-2)

Isaiah 28:14-30:11
Their corruption, their misdeeds, their showy but insincere worship make them deserving of punishment. In their devastation, the Lord will redeem them. Advice to a rebellious people: Do it right this time.

Galatians 3:23-4:31
Paul is writing to Gentile Christians who have been told that they must become Jews in order to qualify for being part of God's family. He tells them, and through them, us, that they who are not Jews are still children of God.

Faith is the criterion--not citizenship, status, gender.

Jews are in God's family. Those with faith in Christ are, as well.

The first Christians had to learn to accept non-Jews. Modern day Christians may still be having some difficulties in including people who are different. What are the modern day equivalents in 3:28?

Psalm 62:1-12
"For God alone my soul waits," the psalmist says. [Off on tangent--the word translated as "my soul" carries the meaning of the first person pronoun.] The psalmist expands on the reason for waiting only for God: God protects me. God delivers me.

And we need this refuge, the psalmist reminds us, because nothing else is an adequate substitute. We can't count on important or unimportant people. Moreover (I'm thinking about coining a new word, lessover), extortion and robbery won't save us nor will being rich keep us secure.

For those of us who do not ascribe to the doctrine of works-righteousness, we may be discomfited by verse 12, The Lord repays everybody according to their work.

Proverbs 23:19-21
Hear, my child, and be wise,
and direct your mind in the way.
Do not be among winebibbers,
or among gluttonous eaters of meat;
for the drunkard and the glutton
    will come to poverty,
and drowsiness will clothe them with rags.

Prayer for Today: Pray Psalm 62 today.

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Sep 17 2014

Sunday's Child: Reflection on readings for September 17

Original post at

Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
(Psalm 61:1)

Isaiah 25:1-28:13
They have heard Isaiah's prayer of gratitude for their deliverance. He now tells them that the Lord will make for all peoples a banquet. Two things are important about this banquet. First, it really is a banquet. The menu includes rich food and fine wines. Second, it's not just for them; it's a feast for all peoples. This banquet takes the place of the negative force that death has held over them, swallows it up forever. Walter Brueggemann reminds us of New Testaments allusions to this promise in 1 Corinthians 15:54 and Revelation 21:4 (Isaiah 1-39, WestminsterJohnKnoxPress).

With victory comes a call for judgment against foes. Why is it sometimes hard for us to accept blessings from God without our expecting God to punish people that we consider sinners? Thinking about the metaphor "Leviathan," I am considering that perhaps I would find it easier to think of this punishment as against sin rather than as against specific wrongdoers.

Galatians 3:10-22
Again, Paul is stressing that Gentiles to not have to first become Jews before being accepted as Christians. God accepts Gentiles into the family. For example, God granted acceptance to Abraham generations before giving the law to Moses.

Psalm 61:1-8

Proverbs 23:17-18
Do not let your hearts envy sinners,
but always continue in the fear of the Lord.
Surely there is a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.

Prayer for Today: O Lord our God, remind us that you are God of other people, too. Amen.

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