September 6, 2020 – Genesis 37:2-11, 23-24a, 28 – Post 2 – ISSL Reflections

Let’s review this week’s passage regarding Joseph and his family.,NABRE

What do we notice?

Joseph’s father (Jacob/Israel) loves Joseph more than his other sons. (37:3)

Joseph’s brothers take notice of Jacob’s love for Joseph and “hate” him. Apparently they don’t even try to hide their feelings and cannot talk civilly with him. (37:4)

Joseph doesn’t mind “telling on” his brothers to their father when they fail to be the kind of shepherds Joseph thinks they should be. (37:2)

Joseph the dreamer decides to share his dreams with his family. (37:6-7, 9)

Now they find more cause to hate Joseph. (37:8)

When he shares his second dream with the family, his father ”rebukes” him for claiming the entire family will “bow down” to him. (37:10)

This does not do anything but increase the hostility the brothers feel for Joseph. (37:11)

Now the brothers hatch a plot to deal with this annoying younger brother. They plot to kill him. (37:18-32)

Reuben intervenes and prevents the murder of Joseph, further ploting to rescue Joseph and taking him back home. (37:21-24)

Then Judah proposes a plot to rid them of Joseph and make a profit by selling Joseph into slavery. (37:25-28)

Our attention returns to Reuben when he sees he has been outsmarted by his brothers. (37:29-30)

They return home with Joseph’s blood soaked robe and plunge their father into mourning, while Joseph is being resold. (37:31-36)

A lot of conflicting emotions can exist in a family. Understatement?

I recall a remark Jesus made to his disciples about love – “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

Allow me to propose a thought experiment.

Think of a scale. It goes from +10 to 0 then on to -10.

Let us imagine this is a “love” scale and on the scale +10 is the “greatest” kind of love Jesus mentioned – the willingness to die for others.

On the scale “0” is apathy, indifference. It is “I don’t care about you. I don’t even notice your existence.”

And that takes us on to -10, hatred. The kind of hatred that is as far from the willingness to die for others as a person can get to.

On our imaginary scale of -10 to 0 to +10, where do you see Joseph, his father, and his brothers falling. What of Reuben and Judah?

Give that some thought.

We’ll talk later.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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September 6, 2020, Genesis 37:2–11, 23–24a, 28, ISSL Reflections

With today’s reading we begin a new series of lessons This month and for the next two months our theme will be “Love for One Another.” In the first four lessons we will focus on Joseph.

With that theme in mind, let’s begin our journey with Joseph.

Genesis 37:2-11

This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words.

He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Genesis 37:23-24

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Genesis 37:28

When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

While the verses included above give the highlights for this week’s reflections, some things are missing. You probably want to read the entirety of Genesis 37 and notice Reuben and Jacob in what transpires in the family.


Where is love in this passage?

What kind of love?

What do you see as the “family dynamics” in Joseph’s family. What could you take away as a model for how a family relates to one another?

Is there anything in this description of how a family relates to one another that you can identify with or have seen in your family or families you know first hand?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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August 30, 2020, James 3:13-18, 5:7-11, Post3, ISSL Reflections

This week we end for now our time with James.

This might be a good time to review what James had to say –

Scripture for August 2 –,ESV,MSG

Scripture for August 9 –,ESV,MSG

Scripture for August 16 –,CEB,MSG

Scripture for August 23 –,NASB,PHILLIPS

Scripture for August 30 –,MSG,LEB

In one form or another, each week James spoke to us about wisdom or the absence of wisdom.

As you think about this week’s Scripture passage and the passages from previous weeks, does any theme or idea stand you to you as the core of his instruction to us?

Might it be our interaction with others? Might it be how we translate our faith/beliefs/commitments into action? Might it be how we live a life of faithfulness with gentleness and humility?

What did you so clearly here James say to you, that you are ready to act on it?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi e

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August 30, 2020, James 3:13-18; 5:7-11, Post 2 – ISSL Reflections

Let’s go back to the Scriptures for a moment. Here are three translations to consider –,MSG,LEB

The other day I asked you to consider the two kinds of “wisdom” James speaks of and to note the words or phrases that stand out to you the most.

What captured and held your attention?

gentleness – peaceable — yielding
merciful — peace — patient
suffering — endurance — compassionate

bitterness — envy — selfish
ambition — boastful — disorder
partiality — hypocrisy — grumbling

Lots of choices. Many images to capture us.

Before you do anything else, reread the passage and stop at the word that draws you.

….. ….. ….. …..

What was it?

Why do you think that held your attention?

If you are not sure why, or even if you are, share the word with God and see what opens for you?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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August 30, 2020, James 3:13-18, 5:7-11, ISSL Reflections

With this week’s readings from James’ letter we come to a close of our time with James. Or maybe not. We’ve only taken time to reflect on selected passages, so perhaps you want to find time to review the entire letter.

For this week we will look at two passages, both of which have something to tell us about wisdom.

As you spend time with James’ words, consider the different kinds of “wisdom” he describes.

James 3:13-18 (NRSV)

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

James 5:7-11 (NRSV)

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

What word or phrase stands out to you the most in James’ description of wisdom “from above”?

And is there a word or phrase that captures for you most clearly James’ description of “unspiritual wisdom”?

What do you see as the primary (or a primary) aspect of the path James would have us take to “wisdom from above”?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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August 23, 2020, James 3:1-12 Post 3 ISSL Reflections

How do James’ words catch you today?,NASB,PHILLIPS

Did you notice how James mentions how we can “tame” so many different animals,

For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue … (James 3:7-8)

…. But when it comes to taming ourselves, our spirits, our speech, we fail.

I wonder why?

Maybe before trying to answer the why question, we should devote some time to the “what” question.

James has called out attention to our “tongue.” To our pattern of communication and interaction with others.

What in your interaction with others do you notice seems to control you rather than you controlling it?

What do you react to in others that “sets you off”? What starts you down a path of negative feelings, speech and actions?

Maybe James’ reminder about how hard it is to control a small thing like our tongues, can open the way for us to examine other behaviors that we let rule us.

Has James helped you notice any behaviors or attitudes that are in the way of your blessing others?

Just moments ago, I came across this quote attributed to St Francis DeSales,

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.”

Considering our own imperfections with patience. That seems a good way to “apply” James’ counsel.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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August 23, 2020 James 3:1-12 Post 2 ISSL Reflections

Take some time to slowly read this week’s Scripture passage. Don’t rush over it. Let the words find a resting place in you and soak them in.

Here is a link to three translations of the passage –,MSG,GNT

As you spend time with the words of James, what caught your attention the most?

Do you think James observed some of the behaviors he writes about in “his” congregation? Among his fellow disciples? Maybe in his own family? Or even in his own behaviors?

Did the passion with which he writes grow out of personal experience?

What about your and my personal experiences?

I can certainly recall times (too many) when my tongue, my speech, my attitude has burned people I care about.

And when I realized the harm I was doing, I often failed to correct it as I should have.

Let’s not think everything James writes about the power of speech is negative. He acknowledges a number of positive and uplifting things we can accomplish with our speech.

How have you used your speech and interactions with others this week to build others up? Who have you noticed this week building others up?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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Augutst 23 2020 James 3:1-12 ISSL Reflections

We have listened to James over the last few weeks talk with us about listening without hearing or doing, about speaking of our faith without demonstrating faith in our behaviors, and this week we hear James focus in on the power of speech, the inherent power we have in our “tongues.”

As we begin our reading of this week’s Scripture pay attention for a couple of things. First, what energy does James bring to these words. How would you describe the energy or passion with which James writes to us?

Second, what images does James use to describe our tongues and its impact? Notice images that are positive or negative.

With that in mind, take a moment to still yourself, quiet your mind, then listen as James speaks to you.

James 3:1-12 (NRSV)

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

Taking up my second question first, Can you make a list of the images James uses to describe the tongue and its power? Which images do you see as positive aspects of the tongue, the power of speech? Which images do you see as negative aspects of the tongue?

Do you think he comes down more on the side of the positive or negative impact of our speech? Do you have a thought on why he gives that emphasis?

And that brings us back to my first question – what energy or passion do you hear James bringing to his writing to us about the power of speech?

What does James touch in your spirit with his words?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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August 16 2020 James 2:14-26 Post 3 ISSL Reflections

You can read several translations of this week’s passage at –,CEB,MSG

Let’s look at The Message translation of a couple of sentences.

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? (James 2:14-17)

Did you notice, “… God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense”

As I look back over my journey of “faith” I find that for a long while I thought the most important thing was to get the words right. To do “God-talk” right. After all, wasn’t I supposed to have the right theology, to interpret Scripture rightly, and to have my “witness” ready with the right words to convince others of the right path to God?

Then, things swung the other way. I talked a lot about social ministries, social justice and was involved in a congregation’s weekday ministry in its neighborhood. Theology became very unimportant. It was about living the life Jesus modeled and called us to.

Have you seen that sort of thing?

There is no balance in one’s life. It is all one thing or the other and there is little matching of our thinking/talking to our actions?

It seems to me, James is calling us to not lose sight of the fact that a call to faith is a call to living the faith every day, every minute in every place.

It might be great if faith was a thing that we only wore on Sunday’s at church, but neither James nor Jesus seem to think that is the life God calls us to.

What have you heard James say to you this week?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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August 16, 2020, James 2:14-26 – Post 2 – ISSL Reflections

Here are three translations of this week’s passage –,ESV,NASB

We are thinking about James’ claims about faith and works. Last week we heard him stress the importance of moving beyond hearing about “the word” and failing to put into action what is heard.

How does that relate to what we hear this week?

Notice how this reads in the Common English Bible translation –

My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? (James 2:14)

“… say they have faith…”
“… Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone…”

Does that seem to you a good understanding of these words?

How often have you seen things advertised on television and wonder if the item can really do all the spokesperson claims for it?

Or, maybe you have gone out to buy an appliance for your home. Did the salesperson “oversale” it a bit?

I suspect most of us are not surprised by such things.

But, when it comes to our faith, our commitment to Jesus, do we sometimes talk a better game than we play?

It’s easy to do.

Have you ever noticed yourself doing that?

James offers some examples of “faithful action”
What have you done this week that is a “faithful action” growing out of your faithful commitment to Jesus?

Give it some time and see what comes to mind?

Maybe I shouldn’t ask this next question but let’s try it on too. Does anything come to mind where you could have offered “faithful action” but didn’t? Do you know what held you back?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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