Friday, April 21, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the Third Sunday of Easter (Year A)

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.

ACTS 2:14a, 36-41
2:14a You might recall that this verse was also part of last week’s Reading. Do you remember whom Peter is addressing? Last week’s First Reading gave us the first part of Peter’s Sermon. This week’s First Reading gives us the second part.
2:36 I hate it when a reading begin with a “therefore” because we do not hear the previous reasoning. Who is the entire house of Israel? Why does Peter refer to Jesus as “both” Lord and Messiah?  According to Peter, who crucified Jesus?
2:37 What does it mean and feel like to be “cut to the heart”?  When was the last time you were “cut to the heart” and what precipitated it?  Is there any significance to the fact that the crowd addresses Peter and the other apostles as “brothers”?
2:38 How do we reconcile the Trinitarian baptismal formula with Peter’s admonition to be “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ”?  How does this verse address those who argue that one must receive the Holy Spirit before being baptized?
2:39 What is the “promise” Peter refers to? In this context, we might know who “you” and “your children” are, but who are those “who are far away”? Does this verse offer a justification for infant baptism?
2:40 I would love to hear all those “many other arguments.” How do you understand “argument”?
2:41 Is there any significance to the number three thousand?

PSALM 116:1-4, 12-19
116:1 Must one have a reason to love the LORD? What does the Psalmist mean by voice? What is a supplication?
116:2 Would the Psalmist still have prayed if the Lord had not inclined an ear?
116:3 What are pangs? What is Sheol?
116:4 This is perhaps the shortest prayer in Scripture, sort of a fox hole prayer. How does one call on the name of the LORD when the name of the LORD is not to be pronounced?
116:12 This is a good question to ask when talking and thinking about stewardship. Nothing truly belongs to us, yet we cannot realistically return it all.
116:13 What is the cup of salvation? How might this verse influence our understanding of the Eucharist and vice versa? Again, how does one call on the name of the LORD when the LORD’s name is never pronounced? Should Christians observe the Jewish admonition against pronouncing the LORD’s name?
116:14 What does it mean to pay vows? What is a vow? Why pay them in the presence of the Lord’s people rather than privately?
116:15 In what sense is death ever precious?  What about the death of those not faithful?
116:16 Note that the Psalm transitions from narration to direct address.  Who or what is a serving girl? What bonds have been loosed?
116:17 What is a thanksgiving sacrifice?
116:18 See verse 116:13.  Might this Psalm be a liturgical form?
116:19 What and where are the courts of the house of the LORD?

1 PETER 1:17-23
1:17 This sounds a lot more polished than what we heard from Peter in the First Reading.  Is this an argument for works righteousness?  What is reverent fear? What exile is Peter referring to?
1:18 Is there any other way to read this verse other than through the lenses of a ransom theory of the atonement? What ancestors is Peter referring to?
1:19 Is there any other way to read this verse other than through the lenses of a theory of blood atonement?  Must a ransom theory and blood theory of the atonement go hand in hand?
1:20 This sounds like Peter is talking about a preexistent Christ. Might Presbyterians identify this as a passage that argues for predestination? Why is “ages” plural?
1:21 Is this Theocentric rather than Christocentric? Note that God raised Christ from the dead. Christ did not raise himself.
1:22 How does obedience purify?  Does this suggest a works righteousness?
1:23 This being “born anew” sounds like John’s being “born from above,” but what is this “not of perishable but of imperishable seed?”

LUKE 24:13-35
24:13 What day is it? Is there any significance to the fact that Emmaus was seven miles from Jerusalem?  What do you know about Emmaus? Who are “them” and why are they not named?
24:14 What things had happened?
24:15 I wonder from what direction Jesus approached them.
24:16 How can one’s eyes be kept from recognizing Jesus? Have you ever not recognized someone you knew intimately?
24:17 Was this a rhetorical question?  Why did Jesus ask it? Why did the two look sad?
24:18 Do we know anything else about Cleopas?  Is this question the height of irony, or what?
24:19 Is this another rhetorical question?  To refer to Jesus as a “prophet” is pretty low Christology and not much of a statement of faith.
24:20 Who crucified Jesus?
24:21 Notice the past tense. Do they no longer hope this?  Has all hope been lost?
24:22 Why are these “Some Women” not named?  What does it mean to be astounded?  When was the last time you were astounded and what astounded you?
24:23 Is there a difference between “seeing angels” and “seeing a vision of angels”?
24:24 Who are “those who were with us”?  Who are “us”?
24:25 How often have you wanted to preach something similar? What does it mean to be slow of heart?
24:26 Is this yet another rhetorical question?
24:27 We have the law and the prophets but no writings. Why no writings?  I wonder how long this interpretation took. What “scriptures” are being referred to?
24:28 It sounds as though the two were either stopping or that Jesus started walking faster than they were walking.  Sometimes it seems like the church is still trying to catch up with the resurrected Christ; that Jesus is out in front of the church.
24:29 What does the time of day have to do with anything? This “stay with us” reminds me, in some sense, of the Transfiguration account. Where were they staying? What were they staying in?
24:30 Déjà vu: Where have we heard this before?
24:30-31 I think these verses offers one of the best arguments for frequent—even every Sunday—celebration of the Eucharist.  Why did Jesus vanish from their sight as soon as they recognized him?
24:31 Read this in light of verse 24:16.
24:32 Is there any relation between the opening of the scriptures and the opening of the eyes? What does a burning heart feel like?  Has your heart ever burned and why?
24:33 Is “hour” perhaps more than a simple reference to the chronological time of day?  These two are not numbered among the eleven. Who are their companions? Since it was almost evening and the day was almost over back in 24:29, did they have to travel to Jerusalem in the dark of night?
24:34 Who was saying this? Where and when did the Lord appear to Simon? Is Simon the only one that matters?  Did the Lord appear to no one else?
24:35 Does this offer new or additional meaning to Eucharistic remembering?

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. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My go to GORP Recipe

Most hikers and backpackers probably have their favorite trail mix which is some variety of GORP, or Good Old Raisins and Peanuts. While there are many commercial varieties available, I prefer to make my own. Here is my go to recipe. It is simple, easy to mix, easy to store, and does not melt in the heat.

Combine the following ingredients in a large bowl or plastic bag:

½ 16 oz jar of Planters Unsalted Peanuts
1 11.4 oz bag of milk chocolate M&M’s
2 5 oz bags of Ocean Spray Reduced Sugar Craisins

Yields about six cups

A zip lock bag of  2 cups of  my GORP
Mix all the ingredients so they are as equally distributed as possible. Each cup will contain about 600 calories. I measure out two cups each into three pint size Zip Lock Freezer Bags, each bag containing about 1,200 calories of good looking, great tasting, long lasting energy. I usually carry a bag with me whenever I am hiking, cycling or kayaking. One bag will last for several day trips. Once a bag is almost empty, I will place another bag in my pack. If I am planning an extended trip, I will pack enough to provide a cup of GORP for each full day on the trail.

I use unsalted peanuts because I think I already receive enough salt in my diet, and salt in my trail mix would only make me thirstier than I might already be. I currently use plain milk chocolate M&M’s, but in the future, I plan to experiment with dark chocolate M&M’s as soon as I can readily find them. M&M’s add a nice color mixture to the GORP and unlike chocolate chips won’t melt in the heat unless they get crushed. I am not of big fan of raisins; therefore I prefer Craisins. I opt for the reduced sugar variety because this GORP already provides enough calories for my needs and sweetness for my taste.

Be sure to follow this cautionary advice if you are going to be sharing your trail mix with others. DO NOT ALLOW anyone, even yourself, to stick a hand in the bag to grab a handful of GORP. Doing so will contaminate the contents for everyone. ALWAYS pour from the bag into the hand so that no one’s hands come into contact with the trail mix.

If you try my GORP recipe, please let me know what you think about it. I also encourage you to reply with your own favorite and original homemade recipe for trail mix.

This post originally appeared on The Trek.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the Second Sunday of Easter (Year A)

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.

ACTS 2:14a, 22-32
2:14a Whom is Peter addressing?
2:22 Are “deeds of power”, “wonders” and “signs” synonyms?
2:23 This does not sound like the same Peter portrayed in the Gospels.  “Definite plan and foreknowledge” sounds a little like predestination.  Who were outside the law?
2:24 Death might not have been able to hold Jesus indefinitely but apparently it had him for a while, otherwise he could not have been freed. Note that according to Peter, God raised Jesus. Jesus did not raise himself.
2:25-28 Where does David say this?  Was David really talking about Jesus? How would you grade Peter’s interpretation of David’s words?
2:29 What argument is Peter making?
2:30 And God did this in the person of Solomon.
2:31 see my comments for 2:25-28.
2:32 Is Peter trying to show that the resurrection of Jesus fulfills prophecy or that the Scriptures foretold his resurrection?  What is the difference and does it matter?

PSALM 16
16:1 How might the contemporary United States National Wildlife Refuge system help us understand this passage?
16:2 As you read this passage, watch for the transitions between direct address and narrative. Why does the Psalmist seem to alternate between direct address to God and speaking of God in the third person?
16:3 Who are “the holy ones in the land?”
16:4 Whom is being referred to?
16:5 What is a chosen portion?
16:6 What boundary lines is the psalmist referring to? I find this an interesting verse in light of the recent political history of the Middle East, especially regarding borders.
16:7 How does the heart instruct during the night?  Might this be a reference to dreams?
16:8 Reference is usually made to the LORD’s right hand, not a human’s. This verse almost make the LORD sound like an talisman. How do, or can we, keep the LORD always before us?
16:9 With heart, soul, and body, is there more going on here than typical Hebrew poetry?
16:10 What is the “Pit” being referred to and why is it capitalized in the NRSV? Are Sheol and the Pit the same thing/place?
16:11 What is the path of life?  What pleasures might the psalmist have in mind?

1 PETER 1:3-9
1:3 New birth through resurrection from the dead!
1:4 Is this “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” inheritance being implicitly compared to any other inheritance?
1:5 What does this verse say about Peter’s eschatology?
1:6 What trials might Peter be referring to?
1:7 Is Peter suggesting that faith, like Gold, needs to be purified by fire?
1:8 Is this verse evidence that Peter is writing to perhaps second generation or even later Christians, or at least Christians who did not know Jesus before his ascension?
1:9 Should we make anything of the tense of “are receiving”?

JOHN 20:19-31
20:19 This reading might be for the First Sunday After Easter, but the narrative is from the events of Easter day. Why were the disciples afraid of the Jews? What is the significance of Jesus’ words “Peace be with you.”?
20:20 Did the disciples not recognize Jesus until after he showed them his wounds?
20:21 Why might Jesus have repeated what he said? Where was Jesus sending the disciples?
20:22 Did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit?  If so, was it Jesus words or his breathing on them, or both, that allowed them to receive it?
20:23 To whom was Jesus speaking? How shall we Protestants deal with this verse?
20:24 Why was Thomas called the Twin? Why might Thomas have not been there?  Where might he have been?
20:25 Would Thomas have said this if it were not for what is described in 20:20? In this Gospel’s scheme of things, whom might Thomas represent?
20:26 Now we are dealing with events on the same schedule as we are, a week after Easter.  Did the disciples make it a habit to gather in the same place on a weekly basis?  This time the doors are shut but not necessarily locked.  How many times have we now heard “Peace be with you.”? Had Jesus not appeared to anyone during the time between these two appearances?
20:27 Was Jesus inviting or commanding Thomas to touch his wounds?  Does Thomas do so?  Was Jesus inviting Thomas to believe or commanding him to believe? Was seeing Jesus’ wounds, and being invited to touch them enough to ignite Thomas’ belief?
20:28 Can we categorize Thomas’s reaction as a statement of faith?
20:29 Whom is this verse referring to when it speaks of “those who have not seen and yet come to believe”?
20:30 I wonder what “other signs” are being thought of.  I think there is a novel or two waiting to be inspired by this verse.  Perhaps Dan Brown will take up the challenge, writing “The Other Signs of Jesus”. I find it interesting that this Gospel refers to itself as a “book”.
20:31 Who is the “you” being addressed?

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. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the Resurrection of the Lord / Easter (Year A)

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.

PREFACE: There are several options regarding the Readings. If you use the Jeremiah 31:1-6 Reading then you would usually use the Acts 10:34 Reading rather than the Colossians 3:1-4 Reading. You may choose either John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10 as the Gospel Reading.

ACTS 10:34-43
10:34 What is the context of this passage? To whom is Peter speaking? What would it mean if God did show partiality?
10:35 What does “nation” refer to? Does it refer to political realities or ethnic groups? What does it mean to “fear” God? Is Peter referring to “God fearers?”
10:36-39 This reads like a brief synopsis of the life and ministry of Jesus.
10:36 What is this message?
10:37 This message began in Galilee. Where might it end?
10:38 What does it mean to be anointed with the Holy Spirit? What is the difference between being anointed with oil and being anointed with the Holy Spirit and power? Is not the Holy Spirit the same thing as power?
10:39 Why is Judea distinguished from Jerusalem? Why does Peter say Jesus was hung un a tree rather than a cross?
10:40 The Easter Proclamation!  Note that God raised Jesus. Jesus did not rise by his own power. How do you understand “allowed”?
10:41 What is the significance of eating and drinking with the resurrected Christ? How does this inform our practice and understanding of the Eucharist?
10:42 Who commanded “us”? What is the difference, if any, between preaching and testifying?
10:43 What “prophets” is Peter referring to?

JEREMIAH 31:1-6
31:1 At what time? How many families of Israel will there be “at that time”?
31:2 What sword and what wilderness?  Is this a reference to the Exodus or something else?
31:3 Who is “him”?  Who is “you”? It your Bible provides them, be sure to check the textural footnotes/apparatus.
31:4 How is Israel virgin? I would like to see this dance of the merrymakers.
31:4-5 Is something silently being contrasted here? Why all the “again”s? Samaria?
31:6 What do you know about the hill country of Ephraim?  Sentinels usually watch for invaders.  Why would sentinels call for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem?
31:1-6 I am struggling to determine why anyone would choose this reading over Acts 10:34-43.

PSALM 118:1-2, 19-29
118:1-2 We have a call and response here that could easily be used or adapted as a Call to Worship.
118:14 How shall Christians read “salvation” in the Hebrew Scriptures?
118:15 Is the Psalmist quoting a glad song of victory? Does our congregational singing sound like glad songs or more like funeral dirges?
118:15-16 Why do we never read about the left hand of the LORD?
118:17 What are the deeds of the LORD and how do we recount them?
118:18 What do you think was the nature of the Psalmist’s punishment? Can some punishments be worse than death?
118:19 What are, and where are, the gates of righteousness? Note that “gates” is plural, not singular!
118:20 I would love to know how you interpret this verse in light of verse 19. If there are many gates of the righteous, why is there only one gate of the LORD?
118:21 Note the shift from speaking of the LORD in the third person to speaking to the LORD in direct address.
118:22 Where and when will Christians hear this verse again?
118:23 What is the LORD’s doing? Why am I thinking of Billy Crystal?
118:24 What is the day the LORD has made?  How can we be glad in it? Like the first two verses, this verse could be used or adapted as a Call to Worship, perhaps combined with 118:1-2, such as:

           One: O Give thanks to the LORD, for the LORD is good;
           All:  the LORD’s steadfast love endures forever!
           One: Let Israel say,
           All:  God’s steadfast love endures forever.
           One: This is the day that the LORD has made;
           All:  let us rejoice and be glad in it.
           One: Let us worship the LORD our God!

COLOSSIANS 3:1-4
3:1 Why the “So”? Why an “if/then” statement even though the “then” is implicit? Is this raising a reference to baptism or the final resurrection?  What are the things that are above?  Regarding the right hand of God, see Psalm 118:15-16.
3:2 Does it make any difference that the admonition refers to the mind rather than the heart? What does it mean to “Set your mind”? What things are above and what things are on the earth? How do we read this in light of a round earth?
3:3 How have we died? What does it mean that your life is hidden?
3:4 I thought Christ has already been revealed in the life and ministry of Jesus.  Must this, by necessity, refer to the final resurrection at the end of the age?

JOHN 20:1-18
20:1 What is the first day of the week?  What does it mean that it was still dark?  How did Mary see that the stone had been removed from the tomb if was still dark?
20:2 Let’s speculate about the identity of the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.  From the context, I think we can rule out Peter.  Whom might Mary have meant by “they”?  Why does Mary say, “we do not know”? If she was not alone, who was with her?
20:3 Do we ever set out and head toward the tomb?
20:4 Poor Peter the slowpoke, slow to run, quick to speak. Maybe he was not a faster runner because he was always sticking his foot in his mouth.
20:5 Why did the other disciple not go in?
20:6 Peter might be slow but he is not hesitant.
20:7 What is the significance to the wrapping from the head being folded and not with the other wrappings?  Why mention it if it is not significant?
20:8 I find it interesting that in reference to Peter, there is no mention of him believing.  In this passage, it is this “other disciple” that is the first to “believe,” but what did he believe?
20:9 Did the other disciple believe that Jesus had been raised, that the tomb was indeed empty, or that someone (they of verse 2) had taken the Lord out of the tomb? What is the difference between knowing and understanding the scripture? What scripture is being referred to?
20:10 This is a pretty anticlimactic verse.  I am glad the story does not end here.
20:11 Why did the disciples abandon Mary, leaving her all alone? Were they simply being typical men?  Why did Mary remain rather than departing with the two disciples? Why did Mary apparently not look into the tomb until the disciples had left?  Note that both Mary and the other disciple (John 20:5) had to bend over to look into the tomb?
20:12 How shall we moderns, or post-moderns, deal with angels when we encounter them in Scripture? Why had Peter and the other disciple not seen any angels?
20:13 Did the angels speak in unison? Apparently Mary is still convinced that someone has taken and moved the body of Jesus to another location.
20:14 How could, and why would, Mary not recognize Jesus?
20:15 Both Jesus and the Angels (John 20:13) address Mary in the same way and ask the same question, but Jesus asks even more than the angels asked.  Where else, when else, and who else has Jesus addressed as “Woman”? How could Mary confuse the risen Christ for the gardener?
20:16 After having first addressed her as “Woman”, Jesus now address Mary by name and she calls him “Rabbouni” rather than “gardener”. Does the risen Christ ever address us by name?
20:17 Why would Jesus say this?  Was Mary attempting to grab hold of him or had she already done so? What do you make of Jesus talking about not yet having ascended?  What is the meaning of “brothers”?  Why “I am ascending” rather than “I will ascend”? Must this have been written from a post ascension perspective?
20:18 Does this make Mary the first post resurrection witness? Preacher? Evangelist? Perhaps, in recognition of the role played by Mary, the first words of any Easter liturgy ought to be spoken by a woman!

MATTHEW 28:1-10
28:1 What is different in this account compared to John’s account?  How do we account for the differences?  Do the differences matter? Who was “the other Mary”?
28:2 I will repeat the same question as above.  Does the rolling away of the stone “cause” the earthquake?  Might the earthquake be symbolic of something else? Did the two Mary actually see the stone being rolled away?
28:3 What do we usually associate lightning and snow with?
28:4 Are there any other occurrences in Scripture where an angel caused so much fear that people acted dead?
28:5 When and where else have we heard an angel say “Do not be afraid”? Did the angel want the guards to be afraid?
28:6 Does seeing an empty tomb prove that Jesus was raised? If your Bible provides it, not the textual variant.
28:7 Why were the women not permitted to see the resurrected Jesus at the tomb?  Why did the disciples have to go to Galilee to see the resurrected Jesus? Why did the angel send this message through the Mary’s rather than also appearing before the disciples?
28:8 How often in your experience has fear been accompanied by great joy? Why are the two Mary fearful when the angel told them not to be afraid?
28:9 Note that here, unlike in John 20:17, the women are allowed to take hold of Jesus.  What is so special about “feet”? Had anyone in the Gospel, prior to this point, worshiped Jesus? Had anyone in this Gospel, prior to this, taken hold of Jesus’ feet?
28:10 Note that this time it is Jesus, not an angel, who says “Do not be afraid”?  What are we afraid of when it comes to Easter, Jesus, and the resurrection?

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. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday) (Year A)

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.

PREFACE:
For those who use the lectionary, the dual focus of this Sunday offers more Scripture than almost any other Sunday in the Church Year.  Since I come from and am firmly rooted in the Reformed Tradition I tend to think a sermon is a pretty important thing, yet this is one Sunday when I might be willing to allow Scripture to speak for itself without interpretation.

Unlike other parts of the Gospels, the passion narrative, especially in its longer version, reads as a single unit and can very easily be adapted as dramatic reading or presentation.  If so, a sermon might actually detract rather than add to the service.  After all, who needs to interpret a well-produced movie or play?

Liturgy of the Palms Readings:

PSALM 118:1-2, 19-29
118:1 This verse is repeated in Psalm 118:29.
118:2 This sounds like a liturgical direction.
118:19 What, and where, are the gate of righteousness?
118:20 What, and where is the gate of the LORD?
118:22 Why does this sound so familiar?
118:23 What is the LORD’s doing?
118:24 What day has the LORD made?
118:25 What sort of success is the psalmist praying for?
118:26 Who comes in the name of the LORD? The choice of this “Liturgy of the Palms” Psalm (say that three times) is obviously dictated by Matthew, as the “Liturgy of the Palms” Gospel Reading quotes Psalm 118:9. I think it can be argued that whenever the new Testament quotes a verse or two from a Psalm that the entire Psalm is drawn into the interpretation, as in an oral Jewish culture when most of the audience would likely have known the Psalm and thought of it even if only one verse were quoted.  We experience the same when someone today quotes a line from a familiar poem, song or document. We instinctively recall the entire text.  Yet few Christians know the Psalms like Christians once did, or Jews once did.  Incorporating this reading not only serves to ground the passion in its Jewish context but adds an interpretive introduction to the Matthew 21:1-11 reading and suggests that we might read Matthew 21:1-11 as Christian Midrash on Psalm 118.
118:27 What, and where, are the horns of the altar?
118:27 Here is a refrain that echoes Psalm 118:1.

MATTHEW 21:1-11
21:1 I wonder which two disciples Jesus sent.
21:2 Must we have both a donkey and a colt?
21:5 What prophet is quoted and why does it appear that the author of Matthew does not understand Hebrew poetry?
21:7 How did Jesus sit on two animals at the same time?
21:8 Are we sure the large crowd cut palm branches? Will you be using eco-palms this Sunday?
21:9 Where have we (and those in the crowd) heard this before? Why shout this?
21:10 Is this not the question we seek to answer?
21:11 Is this a satisfactory answer to the above question?

Liturgy of the Passion Readings:

ISAIAH 50:4-9a
50:4 I usually think of the teacher’s role being to educate, not “sustaining the weary with a word.”  I think of that as more of a preacher’s or shepherd’s role. Are the best teachers also the best learners?
50:5 What does it mean for God to open our ear and why is ear singular?
50:6-9 Do these verses justify this passage being chosen for this Sunday? How might these verses have influenced the Gospel accounts of the Passion?


PSALM 31:9-16
31:9-13 I can imagine hearing these words from the lips of Jesus as he was being crucified, or at any time during his passion.  This Psalm reads like the thoughts and feelings of the dejected, rejected, and defeated.
31:14-16 The Psalm, in the end, expresses prayerful trust. 

PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11
2:5 What mind was in Christ Jesus?
2:6 How does this verse both confirm and challenge our understanding of the Trinity?
2:6-8 These verses recall the passion.
2:9-11 These verses recall the resurrection.
2:10 What do bended knees symbolize or represent?
2:11 “Jesus Christ is Lord” is one of the earliest if not the earliest Christian Confession.  From this basic affirmation, how did we get to the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, not to mention the Westminster Confession?  There is something to be said for simplicity, but simplicity, rather than precision, leaves room for multiple interpretations and levels of meaning.  I can live with that. Can you?

MATTHEW 26:14-27:66
The longer reading, Matthew 26:14-27:66, is powerful if presented as a dramatic reading and can perhaps move and inform worshipers more than even the best sermon on this text.  If you have not yet already read my comments in the Preface, please do so now.  Rather than commenting on this Gospel Reading I will comment below on the abbreviated alternate.

MATTHEW 27:11-54
27:11-14 Why would Jesus not answer these charges? What amazed Pilot?
27:15-23 It it mere coincidence that both prisoners were named Jesus?  What does the name “Barabbas” mean?
27:18 What do you make of this “jealousy”?
27:19 Here is yet one more example of a truth telling woman.
27:24 This hand washing is perhaps what Pilate is most remembered for.
27:25 How shall we deal with this verse without being anti-Semitic?  Who is “us” and “our children”?
27:27-31 How did Mel Gibson deal with this? What is the danger of focusing on these verses?
27:32 We all have our own particular cross to carry, and if a Roman soldier asks you to carry a cross one mile, offer to carry it two. What ever happened to Simon of Cyrene?
27:34 Why would Jesus not drink?
27:38-44 Was there anyone who did not deride, mock, or otherwise taunt Jesus? Note that in Matthew both bandits taunt Jesus.
27:45 What is the significance that the darkness began at noon and lasted three hours?
27:46 Was Jesus quoting something?  What does he quote?
27:51 What is the symbolism of the torn curtain? What rocks split?
27:52 What Saints?
27:54 Truth is here spoken not by the disciples, not by a woman, not by any of the Jews, but by Roman soldiers. What lesson might we learn from this? 

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. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.