Monday, July 15, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)


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.

HOSEA 11:1-11
11:1 When was Israel a child and when did it move out of childhood?
11:2 As I read this, the problem as I see it is not offering incense but rather offering incense to idols.
11:3 Who is Ephraim? When did God heal Ephraim?
11:4 Is there any special meaning or symbolism associated with “cords” and “bands?”  Are they technical religious terms?
11:1-4 Last Sunday we heard about Hosea’s Children.  This week we hear about God’s children.  How many parents have you heard wax and wane like God about their errant, wayward children?
11:5 How can they return to Egypt if Assyria is their king?
11:6 Who and what are oracle-priests?
11:7 Why does the Most High not raise them up?
11:5-7 Is this an example of God exercising some “tough love?”
11:8 Who were Admah and Zeboiim and how did God give them up?
11:9 How do proponents of a wrathful God deal with this one? “The Holy One in your midst” is one of my favorite monikers for God.
11:8-9 Is this an example of God having second thoughts?  Is it an example of God repenting?
11:10 I am seeing images of C.S. Lewis’s Aslan. I wonder if the God sounds anything at all like Liam Neeson?
11:11 What is the meaning of birds from Egypt and doves from the land of Assyria?

PSALM 107:1-9, 43
107:1 Apparently this Psalm is intended to reflect Hosea 11:8-11 rather than Hosea 11:1-7. I think this first verse sounds like a call and response.
            One: O give thanks to the LORD,
            All:  for the LORD is God.
                    The LORD’s steadfast love endures forever.
107:2 This sounds like a liturgical instruction, a rubric.
107:3 Note the four cardinal directions and similar language in the Invitation to the Lord’s Table found in the 2018 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Common Worship page 26 top of the page.
107:4 Is this an allusion to the Exodus?
107:5 Why am I thinking of Jesus?
107:6 What does it mean to cry to the LORD?
107:7 Is a straight way always the better way, or does this have nothing to do with physical attributes?
107:8 Perhaps this is an invitation to return to 107:1. Note that the LORD’s works to humankind rather than to the redeemed is mentioned.
107:9 Like 107:3, this is language that could be used in a Eucharistic setting. It also harkens back to an answer to the cry in 107: 6
107:43 This last verse echoes, and in a sense, sends us back to 107:1

COLOSSIANS 3:1-11
3:1 Is this a hypothetical “if?” When might we have ben raised with Christ?
3:1-2 How do we, in a post Copernican world, handle “above” language when it points to the spiritual dwelling place of the “ascended” Christ and of God (and of the Holy Spirit), when our “above” is “down” on the other side of the globe?
3:3 When did we die? What is the meaning of “hidden?”
3:4 What does it mean for Christ to be revealed and for us to be revealed with him? What is the relationship between things hidden and revealed?
3:5 Is it safe to assume that this list is not exhaustive? How is greed the same as idolatry? Why the parenthesis?
3:6 Here comes Paul’s wrathful God! Can we please have a just and merciful God without also having an angry and wrathful God? Who are the disobedient?
3:7 In answer to my question, the list in 3:5 apparently was not exhaustive because the “ways” of this verse lead to the mention of more vices.
3:8 And the list grows …
3:9 … and grows. What do you make of the old vs. the new self? Why am I thinking of Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, and other contemplatives?
3:9-10 What do you make of the old vs. the new self? Is Paul writing about what Merton and Rohr would consider the “false self” and the “true self?”
3:10 What is this “knowledge?”
3:11 A nice theological move, but were we prepared for it?  Is Paul suggesting that divisions based on such criteria are also expressions of disobedience? Did Paul mean for this list to be exhaustive? How does this verse speak to contemporary expressions of American racism and xenophobia?

LUKE 12:13-21
12:13 Was the person in the crowd being sincere, cynical, or simply showing respect by addressing Jesus as “Teacher?”  Shall we hear this as a prefiguration of Luke 15:11-32?
12:14 Why does Jesus refer to his interlocutor as “friend?”  Does the question Jesus ask assume the answer “no one?”
12:15 A nice one liner, especially within the context of American capitalism and consumerism.
12:16-20 Is there a risk that we might read too much into this parable?
12:16 Why is the man not named? What is a parable?
12:17 Is this antithetical to last week’s “give us each day our daily bread (Luke 11:3)”?
12:18 How do we do this in everyday life?  
12:19 In the present economy, with its growing economic inequality and the disappearance of the middle class, many in America would never feel like they could say this. They are living paycheck to paycheck.
12:20 Isn’t this what wills and estate plans are for?
12:21 Is it ok to store up treasurers on earth if one is also rich toward God?  Where does one draw the line between prudent investing for retirement and health care emergencies versus an obsessive/compulsive saving/hoarding of wealth?
                                                                  
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 8, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)


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.

HOSEA 1:2-10
1:2 Two weeks ago, Amos gave us the image of a plumb line. Last week Amos gave us the image of a basket of summer fruit.  This week, Hosea gives us the image of a whore and children with names worthy of a lifetime in therapy. How is forsaking the LORD equivalent to committing great whoredom?  Is this a charge of idolatry?
1:3 Is there any significance to the names Gomer or Diblaim?
1:4 What does “Jezreel” mean?  In our culture where people name their children after relatives, movie stars, and sports stars, how can people in the pews comprehend the symbolic meaning of Hebrew names in general and “Jezreel” and his siblings in particular? Who was Jehu?
1:5 What, if any, is the relation between Jezreel, son of Hosea and Gomer, and the valley of Jezreel? 
1:6 What does the name Lo-ruhamah mean?
1:7 This sounds as though while God is forsaking Israel, God will save Judah.  Hawkish politicians who place their faith in a strong military ought to take note of this verse.
1:8 I wonder how close in time the three children were conceived and born.
1:9 What does the name Lo-ammi mean?
1:10 Is this a verse of hope in the midst of judgement? It reads like a complete reversal of all that has come before. Relatively speaking, is there more sand in the sea or stars in the sky?

PSALM 85
Shall we read this psalm as Judah’s response to the prophecy of Hosea?  Or shall we read it as Israel’s expected response after a hoped-for restoration?
85:1 What is the relationship between land and Jacob?
85:2 Was this forgiveness earned or freely given?
85:3 How do deal with a wrathful, angry God? Shall we turn to Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)  for direction?
85:4 How many times has God restored the people? How many times will God restore us?
85:6 Does this sound like a quid pro quo?
85:7 How is God’s steadfast love related to God’s anger and wrath?
85:8 What does God speak to people who do not turn to God in their hearts?
85:9 What is the nature of this fear? When I read verses like this, I think of Rudolph Otto’s concepts of the “numinous” and the  mysterium Tremendum.”
85:10 I like the paired imagery of this verse. Whose steadfast love and whose faithfulness?
85:11 I like this imagery as well, contrasting ground with sky. But also consider that the ground here may point back to the land in 85:1 and 85:9. What is the relationship between faithfulness and righteousness?
85:12 Once again we encounter land imagery. Is anyone else thinking of the legend of the Fisher King?
85:13 How can righteousness make a path?

COLOSSAINS 2:6-15 (16-19)
2:6 Is there a difference between “living lives in” Christ Jesus and Jesus living in Christians?
2:7 What does it mean to be rooted in Christ? What does it mean to be established in the faith?
2:8 As an amateur philosopher, I object!  What are the “elemental Spirits of the universe?”
2:9 Incarnation! Just how full is deity?
2:10 What does it mean to “come to fullness” in Christ Jesus?
2:11 What is “spiritual circumcision?” Are females also spiritually circumcised? My Greek is a little rusty, but I think Paul might be employing a pun or some other grammatical humor here.
2:12 How are Christians buried in baptism? Not that Christ did not rise. Christ was raised!
2:13 Is Paul presuming a Gentile audience?
2:14 Does this verse presume or demand a penal substitution theory of the atonement?  Is there another way to read it?
2:15 How were rulers and authorities triumphed over?
(2:16-19) What is the author warning about?
(2:16) I wonder what festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths Paul had in mind.
(2:17) In spite of 2:8, this sounds very Platonic.
(2:18) I wonder what self-abasement Paul was referring to. Who was worshiping angels? Who was dwelling on visions? What is Paul thinking here?
(2:19) This is some pretty graphic bodily imagery.

LUKE 11:1-13
11:1  I wonder what place Jesus was praying at. Are there certain places you prefer to be when praying? This is the only reference in the Gospels that I am aware of that talks about John teaching his disciples to pray.  Was teaching disciples to pray a pedagogy peculiar to John and Jesus or did other religious leaders of that the day engage in such teaching?  If John thought it necessary to teach his disciples to pray, and one of Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus to teach his disciples to pray, how much more do we need to be taught, and once taught, to teach others to pray?  While the desire to pray might be innate, praying well does not come naturally but is an art that can be modeled, taught and nurtured.  Presbyterians in particular ought to refer to Growing in the Life of Christian Faith, especially the preface.  http://www.pcusa.org/resource/growing-life-christian-faith/
11:2-4 The prayer easily divides into two.  Is there a correlation with the two tables of the law?
11:2 This verse focuses on God and praising God.
11:3 This and the following verse focuses on our needs, not wants. What is the meaning of “daily?”
11:4 Is forgiveness conditional on our forgiving others? What is the time of trail?
11:5 Is there any significance to the number three? Does Jesus mean “bread” or does he mean “BREAD?”
11:6 Always be prepared.
11:7 How could the friend answer without getting out of bed, opening the door, or disturbing the children?
11:8 Is there something missing here, like maybe a verse or two? What persistence is he referring to?
11:9 We heard about asking and knocking but this is the first mention of searching.
11:10 What do we say to people who have earnestly prayed but it appears that their prayers have not been answered? Does this and the preceding verse open the door to a health and wealth Gospel?
11:11 Is there any significance to the imagery of a fish and a snake?
11:12 Where did the egg and the scorpion come from? Is there any imagery at work here?
11:13 We are evil?  So, we can ask, search, and knock, but regardless of what we ask for, search after, or knock on, all prayer is answered with the gift of the Holy Spirit? What if I pray for a fish or an egg? Do I receive the Holy Spirit instead?
                                                                  
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 1, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)


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.

AMOS 8:1-12
8:1 What does the basket of summer fruit symbolize?
8:2 Is God bringing the end, or allowing the end? Summer fruit looks good but will soon start to rot if not eaten. Once the fruit is picked the fruitfulness of the summer is gone. Everything might look right but it is far from right. When had the Lord GOD previously passed the people by?
8:3 Is anybody else thinking of the Wailing Wall?
8:4 Who has been trampling on the needy?  Who has been bringing ruin to the land? How might this sound in the United States in 2019?
8:5 What is the connection between the new moon and selling grain?
8:6 There was no Consumer Protection in Biblical times.
8:7 What deeds? Who did these dastardly deeds?
8:8 Why the references to the Nile?
8:9 On what day?  Does any of this imagery find its way into accounts of the crucifixion? Look again at 8:3.
8:10 Baldness on every head?
8:11 What time?  I love this metaphor. People, countries and cultures may be financially rich but spiritually poor. It sounds to me, based on the way people were acting, that there was already a spiritual famine in the land. Is there a spiritual famine in the United States today?
8:12 What does the word of the LORD represent? Where do we find the word of the LORD today?

PSALM 52
52:1 Who is speaking?  Who is the mighty one? Who are the godly?  What are the contemporary applications and implications? I can see why this Psalm is paired with the Amos reading.
52:2 Whom is the Psalmist writing about?
52:3 Does this remind you of any contemporary person? I have asked this question before and I will ask it again. How do you handle “Selah” in the public reading of scripture?
52:4 What words devour?
52:5 Is this a warning or a threat?
52:6 Are the righteous the same as the godly in verse 1?
52:7 What are the implications for American capitalism, consumerism, and the one percent?
52:8 Where there green olive trees in the temple? What are the characteristics of a green olive tree?
52:9 What has been done? How can God’s name be proclaimed when God’s name is not to be pronounced?

COLOSSAINS 1:15-28
1:15 What Greek word is translated into English as “image?” How can anything invisible have an image? What is the theological implication of being “firstborn?”
1:16 What does it mean that all things were created in him?
1:17 What does it mean to be before all things? Is this purely a temporal statement? According to physics, what holds things together?
1:18 What good is a head without a body, or a body without a head?
1:19 Does the idea of “dwell” mean the same as “incarnate?” What is God’s fullness?
1:20 Are any other PCUSA Presbyterians thinking of the Confession of 67? How can blood make peace?
1:21 Is Paul thinking only of the Colossians?
1:22 Before whom?
1:23 Does “provided” suggest a conditionality? Has the gospel been preached to living creatures other than humans?
1:24 What is Paul suffering?  How is Paul suffering for the sake of the Colossians? Something in Christ’s afflictions were lacking?
1:25 How and when was God’s commission given to Paul?
1:26 To what mystery does Paul refer?
1:27 Does Paul mean that to the Gentiles Christ was a mystery?  How shall we read this against the backdrop of Mystery Religions contemporary in Paul’s context? What does it mean to be mature in Christ?
1:28 Everyone?  Is this universalism?
1:26-28 Do these verses have any relevance to Christian mysticism?

LUKE 10:38-42
10:38-42 Is this, perhaps, one of the shortest Gospel Readings in the three-year lectionary? Apparently, some have interpreted this passage in ways like passages about Leah and Rachel in the Jewish Scriptures.
10:38 Who are among the “they”? Why is the village not named? Does Martha own the home? Did Mary not welcome Jesus?
10:39 Is this at all a symbolic posture? I wonder what Jesus was saying.
10:40 Why did Martha speak to Jesus and not Mary?  How are we distracted by our many tasks?  Might this passage have anything to say about mindfulness meditation, contemplative prayer, and Christian mysticism?
10:41 I think there is a little Martha in all of us. What are some of the many things that distract you?
10:42 What is the one thing? What did Mary choose?
                                                                  
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, June 24, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)


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.

AMOS 7:7-17
7:7 How many people in the pews may not know what a plumb line is, what it does, and what it is for?
7:8 When had the Lord passed the people of Israel by?
7:9 What and where were the high places of Isaac? How many sanctuaries did Israel have? Who was Jeroboam?
7:10 What do we know about Amaziah? Why is Bethel significant? Does the conflict between Amaziah and Amos reflect the conflict between the exoteric and esoteric forms of the Jewish faith?
7:11 Amos has apparently spoken truth to power.  Who are the prophets in our day speaking truth to power?
7:12 What is a “seer” and where do we find such people today? What was the relationship between Amaziah and Amos?
7:13 As a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I read this passage as a biblical warrant for maintaining the Washington Office of the church.
7:14 Is this an example of feigned humility?
7:15 What does this verse say about the nature of God’s call?
7:16 Note the formulaic introduction. Who says “Do not prophesy …?”
7:17 This is not good news, nor the sort of news any political figure would want to hear. Whose wife “shall become a prostitute?”

PSALM 82
82:1 How do we as monotheists handle passages like this, a passage that speaks of “the divine council” and God holding judgment “in the midst of the gods?”
82:2 Shall we read this verse as a prayer having been answered by the prophecy of Amos? Does God ever judge unjustly or show partiality to the wicked? How do you handle “Selah” in the public reading of scripture?
82:3 Might this be a lower- and middle-class cry?
82:4 Who is or are the wicked?
82:5 Who has neither knowledge nor understanding?
82:6 Who is speaking?  Who are “gods?”
82:7 Who is this verse talking about?
82:8 When we pray this prayer, are we not asking for God to judge us as harshly as other countries?

COLOSSAINS 1:15-28
1:1 Who is the real author of this letter, Paul or Timothy? Was Timothy not also an apostle?
1:2 Is there a distinction between “the saints” and “faithful brothers and sisters in Christ” or is this an example of multiple references to the same group?
1:3 Is the author speaking of intercessory prayer?
1:4 I wonder who Paul and Timothy heard this from.
1:5 What hope is laid up for us in heaven?
1:6 What if the grace of God is not comprehended?
1:7 What, if anything, do we know about Epaphras? Is Epaphras the answer to my question about Colossians 1:4?
1:8 What is love in the Spirit? Why is Spirit capitalized?
1:9 Have Christians in Colossians not already been so filled?
1:10 How do we grow in the knowledge of God?
1:11 This blessing could be used as a benediction. What could Paul have thought Christians in Colossae might have to endure?
1:12 What is the inheritance of the saints in light?
1:13 Note the juxtaposition of darkness in this verse with light in the previous verse.
1:14 Is redemption the same as forgiveness of sins?

LUKE 10:387-42
10:25 What is the meaning of “test?” Why might the lawyer have called Jesus “teacher?” Perhaps this verse ought to be read in conversation with Colossians 1:12.
10:26 Is Jesus turning the question back on the lawyer? What law was Jesus referring to?
10:27 Where did this answer come from?
10:28 This “right” answer seems to point toward praxis, that is right belief leading to right actions rather than focusing on mere orthodox belief as the test of faith.  Note the language: “Do” this and you shall live,” not “Believe” this. Is “living” the same as inheriting eternal life?
10:29 How often, and in what ways, do we seek to “justify” ourselves rather than relying on God to justify us? Think about what spiritual and religious insight would have been lost if the lawyer had not asked this question.
10:30 What would a normal journey from Jerusalem to Jericho be like?
10:31 What sort of priest?
10:32 What is a Levite?
10:33 What is a Samaritan and how would a Samaritan contrast with a Levite and a priest?
10:34 The Levite did something! He did not just pray.
10:35 While the Samaritan paid for the man’s lodging, he did not give the two denarii directly to the man. I have known many churches that would pay for a night’s lodging but not give directly to the person who needed the lodging.
10:36 What is the meaning of “neighbor?”
10:37 The lawyer again answers correctly. How is God like a neighbor?
10:30-37 Have we heard this parable too many times to hear it as if we are hearing it for the first time and to hear it in new, fresh, and enlightening ways?  How can we hear it anew every time we hear it?