Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 12 (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: I am returning to the more ecumenical enumeration of the Liturgical Day, using “Ordinary Time” and “Proper” designations rather than “After Pentecost” because the date of Pentecost changes from year to year and I think the change will help users more easily find what they are looking for.

Genesis 29:15-28
29:15 It must be nice to be able to set one’s own wages.
29:16 I find it interesting that we have a story involving two daughters (not twins) in the midst of a story about two brothers (twins)!
29:17 I think “lovely” is the preferable translation.  Could the description of Leah and Rachel be seen at all as sexist or demeaning of women?
29:18 I wonder if it was love or lust.  Is there any significance to the number seven?
29:19 Is this the meaning of the question “Who gives this women to be married?”
29:20 Tempus fugit?
29:21 Biblical euphemisms for sexual intercourse can sound so . . . . biologically crude.
29:22 A wedding feast?
29:23 It is ironic that the trickster has been tricked. How could Jacob not have known? Is this a Biblical example of the principle that what goes around comes around?
29:24 Was Zilpah a dowry?
29:25 Is anyone else feeling like “serves him right?”
29:26 T-R-A-D-I-T-I-O-N!
29:27 What is “the week?”  Why does Laban say “we” will give? Who is the we?
29:28 In the end, Jacob got what he wanted, and more so.

PSALM 105:1-11, 45b
105:1 How does one call on the name of the LORD when the LORD’s name is not pronounced?
105:2 What are the LORD’s wonderful works?
105:3 What about the hearts of those who do not seek the LORD?
105:4 Who do we seek the LORD’s presence?
105:5 See 105:2. What judgments has the LORD uttered?
105:6 Why is Isaac not mentioned? Why are Sarah, Leah and Rachel not mentioned?
105:7 What does it mean that the LORD’s judgements are in all the earth?
105:8 The pairing of Jacob and Rachel can be seen as partial fulfillment of God’s Covenant. Is a thousand generations meant as figurative language or an actual number?
105:9 See 105:6. Isaac is finally mentioned but the women/mothers are not?  Can the reader supply their names and still be faithful to the text?
105:10 What is a statute and how is it related to a covenant?
105:11 And the world is still dealing with the repercussions of this.
105:45b Why do so many Psalms end with this phrase?

PSALM 128
128:1 What is the meaning of “fear”?  What does it mean to “walk in God’s ways”? Why would you choose this optional Psalm rather than Psalm 105:1-11, 45b?
128:2 In light of today’s First Reading, are Leah and Rachel the fruit of the labor of Jacob’s hands? Does that mean Leah and Rachel are property?
128:3 Is this why this Alternate Psalm was chosen to be paired with the First Reading?
128:4 Is the woman not also blessed?
128:5 A nice blessing/benediction for a citizen or inhabitant of Jerusalem, but what about Christians in an American church?
128:6 As someone might say: “let me show you pictures of my grandchildren!”? Let us pray and work for peace in the Middle East.

ROMANS 8:26-39
8:26 We do not know how to pray as we ought.  That is why the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray.  That is why Ministers of the Word and Sacrament and Christian Educators ought to be educated in the school of prayer and prepared to teach others how to pray.  Yes, that was me standing on my soap box.  My D. Min. project at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (2004) was GUIDANCE IN AND EXPERIENCE OF LITURGICAL PRAYER AS AN ELEMENT OF PERSONAL AND COMMUNAL WORSHIP IN THE REFORMED TRADITION. I also have quite a bit of experience with Contemplative/Centering Prayer.  Feel free to contact me if you would like to schedule me to lead a workshop or retreat on prayer for your church or spiritual community.
8:27 How does the Spirit intercede for us?
8:28 Do we really know this?
8:29 There is that Presbyterian word “Predestined!”  What do you make of it? Can we tie this “large family” to Psalm 128:3?
8:30 And there is that other good Presbyterian word “called”!  What do you make of this progression: Predestined → called → justified → glorified?
8:31 This is one of my favorite verses.  Does the second question answer the first?  Is the second question rhetorical or does it assume the answer “No one?”
8:32 Is this another rhetorical question?
8:33 Are charges and justification antithetical?
8:34 Would who condemns us also intercede on our behalf? In verse 26, Paul writes that the Spirit intercedes for us.  Now he writes that Christ Jesus intercedes for us.  Can Paul not make up his mind, or was he just not being careful?  Why would he intentionally say both?
8:33-34 Interesting verses to someday juxtapose with the Rules of Discipline in the Book of Order.
8:35 Paul asks “Who” but answers with a list of “things.”  This reads like a “Vince Lombardy before the big game in the locker room” sort of speech.
8:36 Oh well, there goes the momentum of 8:35. What sheep are slaughtered?  Where is this written?
8:37 Hold on. Maybe Paul will pull out a great one liner.
8:38-39 Paul, can I quote you on that?  Is there any thing missing from this list?  I wish Paul had said “. . . nor things past, nor things present, nor things to come”.
8:39 Is there anything not in creation?

MATTHEW 13:31-33, 44-52
13:31 How many parable did Jesus but before them in Matthew?  Are all parables in Matthew about the kingdom of heaven?  What do you know about mustard seeds?
13:32 Is the mustard plant really the greatest of shrubs and does it eventually become a tree?
13:33 What do you know about yeast? What is yeast? Is there any significance to the 1:3 ratio?
13:44 Mustard seeds and yeast are natural and organic.  A treasure is not.
13:45-46 Here we have another item of value, but at least it is organic. Would this be a shrewd investment?
13:47 Something smells fishy. What do you make of “every kind?”
13:48 Do you thin the bad might have been thrown back into the water (rather than into the unquenchable fire)?
13:49 We have moved from “kingdom parables” to apocalyptic prognostications. What and when is the end of the age? How does it feel to be compared to fish?
13:50 Where have we heard this imagery before? How shall moderns and post-moderns deal with such imagery?
13:51 This is a good question. I would love to ask this question after every sermon.  Unfortunately this is a bad answer because it was not true.  These people need to learn a lesson in wisdom from Socrates.
13:52 An entire sermon could probably be preached – and an entire hour of education could probably be developed – around this single verse.  Who are the scribes? What is our treasure?  What among our treasure is new?  What among our treasure is old?  What among our treasure is valuable and what is junk? Can treasure also be junk?  Is anyone else thinking of Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence?

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.

Review of the BV450 Bear Vault

 I backpacked in Shenandoah National Park with a Garcia Machines Model 812 Backpackers Cache – Bear Canister in my pack and backpacked on Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail with a BV450 Solo Bear Vault in my pack. In addition, I have also camped in West Virginia’s Monongahela National forest two or three times and used the BV450. While both products probably perform as advertised, neither has been disturbed by a bear while I was using them; therefore I cannot vouch for their effectiveness against ursine activity. Nevertheless, I prefer the BV450.

The BV450 in the outdoor kitchen
I often backpack alone for short trips of just a few days and nights so I prefer the smaller BV450 Solo Bear Vault over the Backpackers Cache – Bear Canister.  The BV40 weighs in at two pounds and one ounce while the Backpackers Cache is a little heaver at two pounds and twelve ounces. Yes, the Cache offers 615 cubic inches of storage space, but the BV450’s 440 cubic inches of storage space is all I need for three or four days on the trail. The larger BV500 offers 700 cubic inches and at two pounds nine ounces still weighs less than the Cache, but I have never carried one.

The BV450 and BV500 as well as the Cache can all do double duty as a camp stool, and I have used the BV450 that way. The reason I really like the BV450 is because it is translucent, and I can see what is inside; making it easier to find what I am looking for. I cannot see what is inside the dark interior of the Cache except through the opening which is smaller than the opening of the BV450.

On a recent longer trip, I carried more food than would fit in the BV450, so I also hung a bear bag the first couple of nights. After a couple of days, however, all my food and trash fit inside the container. Eventually I also started adding not only personal hygiene items that might attract bears but also smaller personal items that might otherwise drop to the bottom of my pack.  By the end of my trip, almost all my smaller items were stored in the BV450.

The BV450 as a catch basin
More than once I have emptied the BV450 of all contents and used it as a water container. When camping at campsites with a water pump where the water was not potable, I used the BV450 to collect the water I pumped and then used my filter to pump and filter water from the vault into my bladder and Nalgene bottle. I also used the BV450 to wash and rinse soiled clothes in.

I modified my BV450 by attaching light reflecting tape all along the edge of the lid and around the top of the canister so that I can check on it at night and hopefully more easily find it if a bear were ever to punch it about or knock it down a slope.

I pack the BV450 near the top of my pack so that I can easily get things out of it while I am on the trail. When I have stopped for lunch, I have used the lid to hold small items I am using and to keep food off the ground.


If I could use the BV450 only as a bear canister, I might find it hard to justify the weight, but I have used in so many other ways that I think the weight justifies carrying it.

This post originally appeared on The Trek.

        

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 11 (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.

GENESIS 28:10-19a
28:10 Is there anything special or significant about these travel plans, about Beer-sheba, or about Haran?
28:11 Why is the “certain place” not named? Stones, sometimes carved, were used as pillows in many ancient cultures. What do you know about “The Stone of Destiny” or “Stone of Scone?”  Could this be an example of “dream incubation?"
28:12 Is there any symbolic relationship between the Tower of Babel and Jacob’s ladder?  Do Angels really need a ladder to travel between earth and heaven? How might a Freudian or Jungian be inclined to interpret this dream? Why am I thinking of Led Zeppelin?
28:13 If Angels were ascending and descending via the ladder, how did the LORD end up standing beside Jacob?  Why are Sarah and Rebekah not mentioned along with Abraham and Isaac?
28:14 Why does this sound familiar? Is “dust of the earth” a play on words or perhaps an allusion to another biblical narrative? Note the four cardinal directions.
28:15 Where have we heard this before?  What if the Lord does not keep this promise? Does this verse suggest that the LORD might leave Jacob after the promise is fulfilled?
28:16 How could Jacob not have known the LORD was in that place? What do you know about Celtic thin places like Iona and Lidesfarne?  Is it not true that God is in every place? Where might God be in our world—and in our lives—yet we do not know it?
28:17 When was the last time you or anyone else walked into the sanctuary or any other part of a church building and exclaimed “How awesome is this place?”  Why do some places and not others suggest transcendence?  How is fear related to awesomeness?
28:18 What is the meaning and significance of this action?  Is this an example of raising an Ebenezer?  What might this story suggest about ancient obelisks, Celtic Crosses, or modern day Peace Poles?
28:19a What is the literal meaning of “Bethel”?

PSALM 139:1-12, 23-24
139:1 It sounds like God is carrying out the function of the TSA.
139:2 I can understand God wanting to know our thoughts, but our sitting and rising?
139:3 How many ways do we have?
139:4 What might this verse teach us about prayer?
139:5 What is the meaning of this verse?  Is it a good thing or a bad thing to be hemmed in?
139:6 From a Socratic perspective, this Psalmist was very wise.
139:1-6 It appears as though God knows us better than we know ourselves.
139:7 Are these rhetorical questions?  What is the expected answer?
139:8 How might one “ascend” to heaven or “descend” to Sheol? What and where is “Sheol”?
139:9 What are the wings of the morning?
139:10 Proof positive that God is right handed and therefore all right handed people are created in the image of God and all left-handed people are evil – or maybe not.
139:11-12 So whether it is day or night makes no difference to God? How might these verses inform our understanding of Psalm 23?
139:23 Are you ready and willing to invite God to search you and know you in this way?
139:24 If God has searched us and already knows our sin better than we do, then why do we still confess our sin? 

ROMANS 8:12-25
8:12 If we are debtors, but not debtors to the flesh, what are we debtors to?
8:13 What does it mean to put to death the deeds of the body? What are the deeds of the body?
8:14 How does the Spirit of God lead us? Is being led by the Spirit of God the meaning of adoption?
8:15 What fear is Paul taking about?
8:16 What is the relation of the Spirit of God and our spirits?
8:17 Are we joint heirs only if we suffer with Christ? How might we suffer with Christ?
8:14-17 What is Paul contrasting when he contrasts “a spirit of slavery” with “a spirit of adoption”?  Do Americans read and hear this differently due of our own nation’s sordid history of involuntary servitude?  When do we cry “Abba! Father!?”  Considering Paul’s previous use of “debts” and his use here of “inheritance” he seems to be focused on financial terminology, images, and metaphors.
8:18 But the sufferings of the present time are still sufferings. What sufferings was Paul referring to?  What is the meaning of “this present time”? What would Marx say about this passage?
8:19 What does Paul mean by creation?
8:20 The creation has a will?
8:21 Without decay, ecological cycles will cease.
8:19-21 The creation, not just humans, BUT THE CREATION, waits. From a theological and ecological perspective, can Global Climate Change be viewed not only as a result of sin, but a symptom of sin?  If so, would there be a temptation to throw up our hands and say “There is nothing we can do about Global Climate Change?  It is up to God to redeem the situation?”
8:22 How might this passage inform our understanding of “mother earth” and Gaia?
8:23 What are the first fruits of the Spirit? If we are waiting for adoption then we are not yet adopted.
8:24 I hope for many things I can see.  I can see them, but they are realistically out of my reach.
8:25 I also hope for things I do not see. What “seen” and “unseen” things might Paul have had in mind?

MATTHEW 13:24-30, 36-43
13:24 It seems we have another kingdom parable involving seeds, this time good seeds.
13:25 Weeds, salt, or Agent Orange—what does it matter?  What does Just War theory say about such a practice?
13:26 Now you know how all those weeds ended up in your garden!  It is no coincidence that species of plants that are not native to an area are referred to as “invasive species?”
13:27 Not more slavery language—gag me! Do weeds not occur naturally?
13:28 How did the householder know that the weeds had been sown by an enemy?
13:29 The workers are presented with an agricultural, or rather an ethical, dilemma.
13:30 I am hearing overtones of the hymn “Harvest Home” and we are still months away from Thanksgiving. Why would it be easier to separate the weeds from the wheat at the harvest rather than doing so earlier?
13:36 Who left the crowds and went into a house? What house?  Whose house? Once parables are explained, are they still parables? Must parable have an explanation or only one explanation?
13:37 Who is the Son of Man?
13:38 The field is the world, not the church.  Does that mean there are no weeds growing in any churches?  Are you reading this in light of Romans 8:12-25? Who is the evil one? With all this talk about weeds, is anyone getting the munchies? How did marijuana become known as “weed?”
13:39 Is the Devil the same as the evil one? Shall we make any connection to the angels of this parable with the angels of Jacob’s dream?  Why do Presbyterians not talk much about angels?
13:40 Why are weeds burned?
13:41 Are evildoers the same as weeds?
13:42 Why throw them into the furnace of fire?
13:37-42 How do these apocalyptic verses inform the popular image of hell?
13:43 This is a truly Semitic rather than a classical Greek metaphor.  Would it make a difference if Jesus said “Let everyone with eyes see”?

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.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 10 (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.

GENESIS 25:19-34
25:19-20 Last Sunday, Isaac and Rebekah got hitched.  This week, we learn about their offspring.  First, however, we are reminded of Isaac and Rebekah’s ancestry.  Why such an emphasis on lineage?
25:21 Where have we read about something like this before? I wonder how long the couple was not able to conceive.
25:22 Children (plural)? Is this an example of pre-natal care or pre-natal prayer?
25:23 Is this an example of prophecy or foreshadowing? How many “nations” can we now trace to Abraham?
25:24 Did we not see this coming based on 25:22?
25:25 What does “Esau” mean?
25:26 What does “Jacob” mean? Based on this verse and 25:20, it seems that Isaac and Rebekah were married for twenty years before they became parents.
25:27 What two ways of life do these two brothers represent?
25:28 There are some interesting family dynamics at work here. How might Edwin Friedman and Bowen theory help interpret this passage? What greater conflict might be represented by the personal conflict between Esau and Jacob?
25:29 Jcob must have been quite domestic.
25:30 The red boy wants some red stuff!
25:31 What is a “birthright” and what does it mean to sell it?  How can such a thing be sold?
25:32 Was Esau prone to hyperbole and impulsiveness?
25:33 What about the commandment that prohibits swearing?
25:34 If Esau despised his birthright, did Jacob despise his bother?
25:29-34 Is Jacob’s behavior an example of unbridled capitalism or exploitation?

PSALM 119:105-112
How does this Psalm serve as a commentary on or contrast to the Genesis 25:19-34 Reading?  Does it make any difference that these verses are only part of a larger acrostic work?
119:105 This is a rather well known verse, thanks to its use in the liturgy.  Does such familiarity make it more difficult to read and hear it in new ways?  What “word” is being referred to? Note that it is “my” path!
119:106 What does it mean to “confirm” an oath? What are God’s righteous ordinances?
119:107 I wonder how the psalmist was afflicted.
119:108 Do most people in the pews have any sense or awareness that their praise of God is an offering?
119:109 What is being contrasted with “but?” Does law refer to the Decalogue, the Torah, or the Levitical code?
119:110 What might be the nature of this “snare?” Who are the wicked attempting to snare you?
110:111 What is a heritage?
110:112 What does it mean to incline one’s heart?
110:105-112 Are “word”, “ordinances”, “law”, “precepts”, “decrees”, and “statutes” mere synonyms used for poetic reasons, or are there nuanced differences being suggested?

ROMANS 8:1-11
8:1 Once again I must say that I detest it when readings begin with a “therefore” because I always wonder what came before. Who would condemn those who are in Christ Jesus?
8:2 What is the “law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus”?  Note how law/Spirit/life is contrasted with law/sin/death.
8:3 How was the law weakened by the flesh? What is the meaning of “likeness”?  Does “likeness” suggest anything less than full humanity?
8:3-11 In our day and age, how do we deal with all this “flesh” and “spirit” language?
8:4 What is the “just requirement of the Law”?
8:5 What are the things of the flesh? What are the things of the spirit?
8:6 Note the construction flesh/death vs. Spirit/life/peace. Must it be either – or?
8:7 Why can’t it?
8:8 Why not?
8:9 How does the Spirit dell in us? Is the Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ the one in the same Spirit?
8:10 Now we have dead bodies and living spirits.
8:11 This sounds like life now, not everlasting life later.  Is it also true that those whom the Spirit does not dwell in are already dead?

MATTHEW 13:1-9, 18-23
13:1 What day? Same day as what? Whose house did Jesus leave? What sea did he sit beside?
13:2 Why did Jesus get into a boat?
13:3 If Jesus told the crowds many things, why is this parable and not some other parable or parables included in the Gospel? Did Jesus tell parables that were not included in the Gospels?  Is this parable about a sower, about the seeds, or about something else altogether?
13:4 What might the seed represent? What might the path represent?
13:5 What might the rocky ground represent?
13:6 How are your roots?
13:7 What might thorns represent?
13:8  What might good soil represent? Must the seed, path, rocky ground, thorns, and good soil represent anything?
13:9 Maybe the sower was sowing seed corn! Really, who does not have ears?
13:18 Does the fact that we have this verse mean that Jesus or the Gospel writer knew or assumed we do not have ears? Must parables be explained?
13:19 What is understanding? What is the relationship between understanding and heart?
13:20-21 What do roots look like and how does one establish them? Is this talking about about new fair weather Christians?
13:22 Are “cares of the world” the same as Paul’s “flesh” in the Romans 8:1-11 Reading?
13:23 So not all seed, even if it falls on good soil, bears the same quantity?  What about quality?
In retrospect, was this parable about a sower, about the seed that was sown, or about the soil where the seed was sown, or about something else altogether?  Why did Jesus tell this particular parable?  What was Jesus trying to tell the crowd that he could tell them only through this parable? What is a parable? Is there any relation, other than etymology, between “parable” and “parabola?”

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.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 9 (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.

GENESIS 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Even after skipping over some verses of chapter twenty-four, this is still the longest of the day’s Readings.
24:24 Who is speaking?
24:35-40 This sounds like things have turned out pretty well for Abraham and Sarah.  Almost sacrificed, Isaac is now of marrying age.  What to do? He cannot marry one of the locals, can he?  Do we find in these verses the roots of a prosperity Gospel?
24:35 How do we deal with the slavery issue?
24:36 Note that Abraham, not Sarah, is the master.
24:37 Abraham and Sarah consider the land they are living in to be a foreign land. Are Abraham and Sarah refugees, illegal aliens, settlers, invaders, or what? Why is it important that Isaac not marry a foreigner?
24:42-44 Do these verses remind you of any verses in the NT, John 4:1-42 perhaps?
24:42 What is it about springs? Is the LORD not also the God of the person speaking? Where slaves usually compelled to worship and serve the god of their master?
24:43 Must the woman be young?
24:44 What do you think if this almost divining, soothsaying, match-making method?
24:45 What does it mean to “speak in one’s heart”? How did the servant know Rebekah’s name?
24:46 Why was Rebekah so willing to serve a stranger?
24:47 Who are these people and why are they being named?  What is the significance of the ring and bracelets?
24:48 I wonder if there were any women in this village who were not Abraham’s kin.
24:49 Is the servant speaking to Rebekah, the LORD, or someone else? What is this turning to the right hand or the left language all about?
24:58 Who called? Can we consider this “The call of Rebekah?”
24:59 Why does Rebekah have a nurse?
24:60 Can we read this as the blessing of Rebekah? Is it mere coincidence that this apparent blessing almost perfectly dovetails with the LORD’s blessing of Abraham and Sarah?
24:61 Rebecca had maids as well as a nurse? I wonder how many maids accompanied Rebekah.  How does a nurse differ from a maid?
24:62 What do we know about these places?
24:63 Was Isaac expecting or watching for camels to appear?
24:64 Why did Rebekah slip from the camel when she saw Isaac?
24:65 Why was Rebekah not veiled until she was about to meet Isaac? How does this verse shed light on current debates about the hajib? I thought Abraham, not Isaac, was the slave’s master.
24:66 Have we just been told everything Isaac was told?
24:67 Why did Isaac take Rebekah into his mother’s tent rather than his own? Freud might have something to say about this verse. How did we get from the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah to the death of Sarah in just one verse?

PSALM 45:10-17
45:10-15 While these words were not originally addressed to Rebekah, they do seem to fit.  This reads like a liturgy from a royal wedding.  Have you ever used them or heard them used in a wedding liturgy?
45:10 What does it mean to incline one’s ear?
45:11 Is beauty all that matters? Is the Lord and bowing language just an example of the sexism of patriarchy?
45:12 Who are the people of Tyre?
45:13 Is every bride a princess? Was Rebekah a princess?
45:14 How have we gone from many colored, gold-woven robes to white wedding dresses?
45:15 Who is joyful and glad?
45:16-17 The psalm seemed to have been speaking to and of the Bride.  Now it seems to speaking to the Bridegroom/King.
45:16 What and where is the place of ancestors? Why are sons but not daughters mentioned?
45:17 Is male progeny the only way to be remembered?

SONG OF SOLOMON 2:8-13
Perhaps this alternate reading is suggested by the love mentioned in Genesis 24:67.
2:8-13 Can you hear these words perhaps coming from Rebekah’s mouth?  These are some of the most sensual passages in Scripture.  I think we do them disservice to spiritualize them and see them as anything less than biblical erotica.
2:8 Is there some poetic hyperbole here?
2:9 Why the plural “our”? It sounds like the beloved is a bit of a peeping Tom.
2:10 “Come away” to where and what for?
2:11 Why do we have this reference to the seasons and weather?
2:12-13 Do these verses suggest more than just natural fertility and human love?
2:12 Whose time of singing has come?
2:13 The ending lines sound like a refrain., See 2:10.


ROMANS 7:15-25a
7:15 Here are some Pauline verses I can finally fully identify with!
7:16 Why?
7:17 Does the devil make us do it?
7:18 I too, know this. What is the relation between flesh and will?
7:19 Sometimes even the good we think we are doing is corrupted and ends up being sinful.
7:20 I doubt if the “sin” defense would stand up in a court of law.
7:21 Is this just a play on words or 180° theological move?
7:22-23 What is the contrast being made between “inmost self” and “members”? How many “laws” are there?
7:22 Does “law of God” refer to the Ten Commandments or something else?
7:23 What members is Paul referring to? What is the relationship between members and mind?
7:24 Could we ever use this liturgically as part of a Confession of Sin or does it sound to antiquated? Does anyone even use the word “wretched” in common, every day speech anymore?
7:25 What does this phrase add to Paul’s argument? Why does Paul make this exclamation?

MATTHEW 13:1-9, 18-23
11:16 Why might I read this differently in my late 50’s than I would have in my early 30’s? What generation was Jesus speaking about?
11:17 Is this a quote? From what or where is Jesus quoting?
11:18 Why does John get dragged into this? Who said John had a demon?
11:19 How do those in the pews hear and understand “Son of Man”?  Who was saying such things about Jesus? What point is Jesus making by referring to Lady Wisdom and “Her” deeds?
11:18-19 It seems that prophets are damned if they don’t and damned if they do? 
11:25 What “things” have been hidden from some and revealed to others?  Who are the “wise and intelligent” and who are the “infants”?  Does the mention that the Lord of heaven and earth has “hidden” these things place this in the genre of apocalyptic literature or a mystery religion?
11:26 What was God’s gracious will?
11:27 It seems as though Jesus has gone from praying to proclaiming.
11:28-30 These verses seem to stand on their own.  Are they out of context?  Do they naturally and logically follow from what precedes them?  How might they add to our understanding of the previous verses? I think a whole sermon could be preached – a whole lesson developed – around these three verses.
11:28 What heavy burdens might Jesus have had in mind?
11:29 What is Christ’s yoke?
11:30 What is Christ’s burden? 

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.