Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)


Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 is a further revision and refinement of my Lectionary Ruminations and Lectionary Ruminations 2.0.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 draws on over thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without over reliance on commentaries, I intend with sometimes pointed and sometimes snarky comments and Socratic like questions, to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to lead a Bible study, draft liturgy, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.

2 SAMUEL 1:1, 17-27
1:1 Why Ziklag and why two days?
1:17 What does “intoned” mean?
1:18 I envision an Indiana Jones sequel entitled “Searching for the Book of Jashar.”
1:19 Note that in the NRSV verses 19-27 are formatted as poetry, not prose. What does “high places” refer to?
1:20 Why not in Gath and Ashkelon?
1:21 Where is Gilboa?
1:22 Why did Jonathan have a bow when Saul had a sword?
1:23 Where else do we find eagle and lion imagery?
1:24 Who are the daughters of Zion?
1:25 Note the refrain of 1:19. Is David lamenting and praising Jonathan more than Saul?
1:26 What does David me when he says “passing the love of women/”
1:27 How many times have we now heard the refrain “How the mighty have fallen”?  Why is it repeated?

PSALM 130
130:1 Where are the depths and how deep are they?
130:2 How do we deal with Psalms that anthropomorphize God? Does God have physical ears?
130:3 Does God mark, or not mark, iniquities?
130:4 Keep in mind that this “forgiveness” proceeds the ministry of Jesus.
130:5-6 What does it mean to “wait for the LORD”?  I am inclined to think of contemplative prayer.
130:7 This psalm already introduced forgiveness in 130:4.  Now it introduces love and redemption.  This sounds like New Testament Christian theology to me.
130:8 What were Israel’s iniquities?

2 CORINTHIANS 8:7-15
8:7 What generous undertaking would that be?
8:8 In other words, I do not have the power to command you, but I can embarrass you. This sounds a little like a televangelist.
8:9 Let’s pour on the guilt.  Is this Paul’s idea of a Stewardship sermon? How was Jesus rich?
8:10-11 Is Paul reminding the Corinthians of a previous but unfulfilled financial pledge?
8:13-14 This is beginning to sound like a sermon to the 1% about helping the 99%.
8:15 Some inequality is ok, but not extreme wealth in the midst of extreme poverty? Where is this written? How much to too much?

Mark 5:21-43
5:21 When had Jesus crossed before? The other side of what?
5:22 Why would Jairus fall at the feet of Jesus? I wonder which synagogue Jairus was a ruler of?
5:23 What is so special about the laying on of hands?  Why do Presbyterians not usually associate prayer for healing with the laying on of hands when it is so biblical?
5:24 When does a crowd become large? Note that it was great crowd in 5:21 but now it is a large crowd.
5:25-34 Why does this account interrupt the story?
5:25 Is there anything special about “twelve years”?
5:26 It seems medical care for the poor has not progressed much. When portrayed as a healer, is Jesus also portrayed as a physician?
5:27 What had she heard?  Why did she touch his cloak? IS there anything special about cloaks?
5:28 What would lead the women to think and believe this?
5:29 What do you make of “immediately?”
5:30 What might power going forth from oneself feel like?
5:31 There is touching and there is “touching.”
5:32 Why did Jesus want to know who touched him?
5:33 Why fear and trembling?
5:34 Is this not an after the fact proclamation? Who or what was the agent of healing? Was it Jesus? Whas it Jesus’ clothes? Was it the woman’s faith?
5:35 As I was saying … back to the main story.
5:36 Are the words “Do not fear, only believe” meant for Jairus or for someone else? Had the woman of 5:25-34 conquered fear and embraced belief?
5:37 An example of the inner three being given an inside track. Why are we told who John’s brother was?
5:38 The people are in mourning. Why do westerners, especially we Presbyterians, not mourn like this?
5:39 What is the difference between death and sleep?  I hate the euphemism putting pets “to sleep” and prefer the verb “euthanize.”
5:40 Weeping and wailing turn to laughter but for all the wrong reasons. Why does Jesus send away all but a few?
5:41 Why take her by the hand?  Why might the gospel preserve the original Aramaic?
5:42 When was the last time you, or anyone you know, were overcome with amazement?
5:43 Why would Jesus order that “no one should know this?”  Know what?

ADDENDUM
I am a Minister Member of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and am serving as the Interim Pastor of the Richmond United Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Ohio. Sunday Worship at Richmond begins at 11:00 AM. My various blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and Appalachian Trials.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)


Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 is a further revision and refinement of my Lectionary Ruminations and Lectionary Ruminations 2.0.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 draws on over thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without over reliance on commentaries, I intend with sometimes pointed and sometimes snarky comments and Socratic like questions, to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to lead a Bible study, draft liturgy, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.

1 SAMUEL 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23) 32-49
(17:1a, 4-11, 19-23) These optional verses provide good background, but do they add anything theologically? Including them makes for a very long reading.
(17:1a) How many armies did the Philistines have?
(17:4) How tall is six cubits and a span?
(17:5) How much does five thousand shekels of bronze way? Was this during the Bronz Age?
(17:6) What were the dates of The Bronze Age?
(17:7) Did the shield bearer carry more than the shield? Where was the ring bearer? (Sorry, wrong story.)
(17:8) Was Goliath just taunting, or did armies actually settle things by just two people engaging in combat?
(17:9) Does this sound reasonable?
(17:10) Is this any more than trash talk and boasting?
(17:11) Was Saul a wimp a coward, or what?
(17:19) Who are “they”? Where is the valley of Elah?
(17:20) Why was David taking provisions to the army? Why was David not serving in the army? What might “the war cry” have sounded like?
(17:21) To quote the Admiral Josh Painter character played by former Senator Fred Thompson in the movie The Hunt For Red October, “This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it.
(17:22) He did this just as the battle was about to start? What does this say about David’s sense of timing?
(17:23) Apparently Goliath issued his taunts more than once. Maybe this went on day after day.
17:32 What is the relationship between David and Saul at this point?  Why does David refer to himself in the second person?
17:33 Might this be typical advice the older Pastor, perhaps even the “Head of Staff” or “Senior Pastor” would give to a young Pastor or Associate Pastor going up against entrenched interests of an older generation?
17:34-35 Lions, (but no tigers), and bears, Oh my!
17:36 Is the reference to “this uncircumcised Philistine” a racial slur or just trash talk before the big battle?
17:37 While David makes it sound in verses 34-36 that he deserved all the credit for defeating lions and bears, he now gives credit to God.  In this regard, you may want to take another look at last week’s Psalm, Psalm 20. Did David just call Goliath an animal?
17:38 What is the irony that Saul clothes David with his (Saul’s) armor?
17:39 Is this really a comment about armor or a veiled comment about political reality?
17:40 Is there any symbolism in David choosing “five” smooth stones?  You may want to take a look at Eugene Peterson’s book Five Smooth Stones.
17:41 David had no shield-bearer, nor did he need one since he had no shield. Is this an example of a swift, agile, lightly armed guerrilla taking on a slow infantryman burdened by his gear?
17:42 Déjà vu. Where have we heard this before?
17:43 Goliath wasn’t a dog. He was a lion or bear. Whose gods?
17:44 Is this a real threat or just more trash talking?
17:45 Look again at last week’s Psalm, Psalm 20.
17:46 David expands upon the Philistine’s threat. This is pre-battle trash talking extrapolated to the divine degree.
17:47 What might this verse say about the military doctrine of “Shock and Awe?” not to mention about the militaryindustrial complex?
17:48 Do you think the Philistine was running to meet David?
17:49 Since David ends up felling this Philistine with one smooth stone, why did David pick put five smooth stones to put in his bag?

PSALM 9:9-20
9:9 How does this verse fit or not fit the circumstances of the First Reading?
9:10 In 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23) 32-49, who put their trust in the LORD?
9:11 What are the LORD’s deeds? Who are the peoples?
9:12 Who avenges blood and what does that mean? Who are the afflicted?
9:13 What does it mean for the LORD to be gracious?
9:14 What does it mean to recount praises? What, and where, are the gates of daughter Zion?
9:15 What “nations” might the Psalmist have in mind? Can you think of any nation caught in the very trap it set for others?
9:16 Is the LORD known only in the execution of judgement?
9:17 What, and where, is Shoel?
9:18 Will the needy sometimes be forgotten? Will the hope of the poor perish for a time being?
9:19 Is this a request or a demand?
9:20 Good advice, even, or especially, for Americans.

(1 SAMUEL 17:57-18:5)
(17:57) Who was Abner? Who held the head of the Philistine, Abner, David, or Saul?
(17:58) Why does Saul want to know?
(18:1) Why was Jonathan even present?
(18:2) Why might Saul not have let David return to Jesse?
(18:3) What were the details of the covenant?
(18:4) What does this symbolize?
(18:5) What risk was Saul taking in doing this?
(18:10) What is the meaning of “an evil spirit from God?”
(18:11) What other explanation for Saul’s behavior might there be other than appealing to an evil spirit from God?
(18:12) Is this the answer to my question above?
(18:13) Why might Saul have made David a commander?
(18:14) Do you feel like the Lord is with you? Who is the Lord with today?
(18:15) Who do you stand in awe of?
(18:16) Note that both Israel and Judah are mentioned.

(PSALM 133)
(133:1) Does this “alternative” offer the antithesis to the war imagery of both the First Reading and the Alternate First Reading?
(133:2) I love this sensual imagery but cannot imagine Presbyterians ever using so much oil to anoint that it run down a man’s face and unto his beard.
(133:3) What is the dew of Hermon? What and where is Hermon? Did the LORD ordain a blessing on Herman, or Zion, or both?

2 CORINTHIANS 6:1-13
6:1 Who are “we?” Who is “him?”
6:2 Is this a quote from Scripture? If so, where from?
6:3 What accusations is Paul defending his ministry against?
6:4-5 Poor Paul! Is Paul pleading the martyr?
6:6-10 Did anyone ever argue that Paul was humble?
6:11 What does it mean to have a heart wide open?
6:12 Ouch! I think the Corinthians were just insulted.
6:13 Perhaps they were just insulted again. Or was Paul simply expressing his affection?

MARK 4:35-41
4:35 What day? Who are “them?” Let us go across what?
4:36 What does the comment “just as he was” mean?  What does it add to the text and its meaning? I wonder who were in the other boats.
4:37 I understand this can really happen to small boats on the Sea of Galilee.
4:38 How could Jesus know they were perishing if he was sleeping through the storm?  How could Jesus sleep through a storm? Even though this is Mark and not John, is there more than one level of meaning here?
4:39 What point is being made?
4:40 Again, is there more than one level of meaning here? What did Jesus mean by faith? Faith in what or whom?
4:41 When was the last time you were filled with great awe?  Is their question rhetorical?

ADDENDUM
I am a Minister Member of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and am serving as the Interim Pastor of the Richmond United Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Ohio. Sunday Worship at Richmond begins at 11:00 AM. My various blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and Appalachian Trials.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 is a further revision and refinement of my Lectionary Ruminations and Lectionary Ruminations 2.0.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 draws on over thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without over reliance on commentaries, I intend with sometimes pointed and sometimes snarky comments and Socratic like questions, to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to lead a Bible study, draft liturgy, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.

1 SAMUEL 15:34-16:13
15:34 Is the anything significant about Ramah or Gibeah?
15:35 Who is “he,” the LORD or Samuel?  Was the sorrow caused by having made Saul, rather than someone else king, or simply making anyone a king over Israel?
16:1 What is a horn and why would God want Samuel to fill one with oil?
16:2 Why would Saul kill Samuel? So the LORD instructs and helps Samuel construct a ruse?
16:3 What do we know about Jesse?
16:4 Why did the elders of Bethlehem tremble when they saw Samuel?
16:5 Was Jesse one of the elders?  Were his sons? In this context, what does it mean to be sanctified? Why sacrifice in Bethlehem? Why not Bethel or Shechem?
16:6 Why did Eliab look the part? What does a future king look like?
16:7 Things are not always as they seem.  In both ecclesiastical and secular settings, the person who most looks the part is not always the person God has chosen.  Nevertheless, they are still the person chosen, hired, elected or called because they look the part.  In this case, however, not so! Lesson learned? Pastor Nominating Committees could reflect on this reading.
16:8 After he screwed up with Eliab, how did Samuel know God had not picked Abinidab?
16:10 Should we associate any symbolic significance to the number seven?
16:11 What if there had not been an eighth son?
16:12 What are the various alternate translations of this verse?
16:13 Would the spirit of the LORD not have come upon David if Samuel had not anointed him? Note that David is not named until after he is anointed? I wondered how David’s brothers felt about all this.

PSALM 20
20:1 To whom is the Psalmist writing?  Does the reference to God’s name serving as protection suggest that God’s name was understood by some as having magical properties? Why the God of Jacob and not the God of Abraham, or Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
20:2 What sort help and support might be imagined? What is the sanctuary? Where is Zion?
20:3 What is the difference between a burnt offering and a sacrifice? Was God’s favor bought?
20:4 What if the heart’s desire and plans are not according to God’s will? See 1 Samuel 16:7.
20:5 Who are “we?” I wonder what these banners looked like.  I doubt if they looked like the liturgical banners some churches display. Who won the victory?
20:6 Who is the LORD’s anointed? See 1 Samuel 16:12-13. What does God ever do with the left hand, if anything?
20:7 Let this verse be a warning to those advocating for increased spending on defense and who claim that a nation’s security is directly related to the size of its armed forces.
20:8 Who will collapse and fall?
20:9 Who is “us”?

2 CORINTHIANS 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17
5:6 Why must we be away from the Lord while at home in the body?  Can modern Christians read this without help from Descartes?  How can we hear it as first Century Christians would have heard it?
5:7 Must faith be set against sight? What about the phrase “I will believe it when I see it.?”
5:8 Does this sentiment fly in the face of incarnational theology?
5:9 How do we please Lord?
5:10 Does this suggest a work’s righteousness?
(5:11) What is the fear of the Lord and how does one know it? Are you familiar with Rudolf Otto’s “Idea of the Holy” and the mysterium tremendum et fascinans?
(5:12) “Again?” What is this verse about? Is Paul suggestion, or asking, that the Corinthians brag about him or knowing him?
(5:13) What is Paul’s logic? Did some think Paul was crazy?
5:14 Does “die for all” lead to a universalism? What does Paul mean “all died?”
5:15 How do we not live for ourselves?
5:16 What is a human point of view?
5:17 Even though I agree with it, this is a pretty bold statement.  Does it logically flow from what precedes it? Might this be Paul’s equivalent of the “born from above” or “born anew” of John’s Gospel? This verse is often used as part of a Declaration of Forgiveness after a Prayer of Confession.

Mark 4:26-34
4:26-27 I love the kingdom sayings (parables), even though I do not fully understand them—sort of like the person who does not know how seeds that were scattered take root and grow. Does the type of seed matter or make any difference? What does “sleep and rise night and day” add to the passage?
4:28 Does the earth really do this by itself?
4:29 This sounds as though reaping is a good, not a grim undertaking.
4:30 Is this a rhetorical question?
4:31 Not just any seed (see Mark 4:26), but a mustard seed.
4:30-32 So, don’t judge a book by its cover, or a seed by its size, or a son of Jesse by his age (see 1 Samuel 16:7 and 16:11), or …? What do the “birds of the air” nesting “in its shade” add to the parable?
4:33 I wonder what ever happened to those other parables, how many were remembered and preserved and how many went in one ear and out the other and were forgotten? What does Mark mean by “the word”?  How able are we to hear the word?
4:34 If Jesus did not speak to the disciples in parable but explained everything, why did the disciples often appear not to get it? How do those to whom we preach or teach affect the way we teach or preach?

ADDENDUM
I am a Minister Member of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and am serving as the Interim Pastor of the Richmond United Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Ohio. Sunday Worship at Richmond begins at 11:00 AM. My various blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and Appalachian Trials.