Monday, October 8, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 30th 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.

JOB 42:1-6, 10-17
42:1 What question was Job answering?
42:2 What would you answer The LORD? Is this a variation of the classic question “Can God make a rock so heavy that God cannot lift it?”
42:3 Is Job eating humble pie?
42:4 Is Job planning to cross examine God?
42:5 What is the difference between hearing with the ear and seeing with the eye?  Hearing is a classic Semitic posture.  Seeing is a classic Greek posture. Do we need both?
42:6 Despicable me?
42:10 What is the moral of this story?  What lesson has been learned and is being taught?
42:11 The LORD had brought evil upon Job?
42:12-13 Are these numbers symbolically significant?
42:14 What do these names mean? Why are only the daughters named?
42:15 Did daughters usually receive an inheritance?
42:16 is 140 symbolically significant?  Should it be taken literally?
42:17 We have a happy ending, but Job still dies.

PSALM 34:1-8 (19-22)
34:1 Is this a promise, a vow, or an expressed intention and desire?
34:2 How does one’s soul make its boast in the LORD?
34:3 How does one magnify the LORD?  Is this a mini Magnificat?  How does one exalt the LORD’s name when the LORD’s name is unpronounceable?
34:4 Do we seek the LORD or does the LORD seek us? How does the LORD answer us today?
34:5 What does it mean to look to God?
34:6 Could Job have prayed this? Could you?
34:7 Who is the angel of the LORD?
34:8 How does one taste that the LORD is good?
(34:19) If the LORD rescues the righteous, why are the righteous afflicted?
(34:21-22) This Psalm seems to suggest that evil is still a force to be reckoned with and the wicked will succumb to it while God will redeem the righteous from it.
34:1-8 (19-22) It seems obvious why the lectionary pairs this Psalm with the Reading from Job, but does the pairing invite us to read this Psalm with blinders on?

HEBREWS 7:23-28
7:23 What came before the “furthermore?” Who were the former priests?
7:24 Who holds the priesthood permanently?
7:25 Is there a change in emphasis from Christ as sacrifice to Christ as intercessor?
7:26 How is it fitting?
7:27 In light of 7:25, it seems we are back to understanding Christ as sacrifice rather than intercessor?
7:28 What is “the word of the oath?”

MARK 10:46-52
10:46 Who came to Jericho?  Is there anything about Jericho that makes it more than just a setting for this story? “Bartimaeus son of Timaeus” seems redundant. Is there any significance to their being a large crowd? Is there any significance to Bartimaeus being blind?
10:47 What do you know about the The Philokalia, Hesychasm, The Way of the Pilgrim, and “The Jesus Prayer?”
10:48 Who were the many and why did they order Bartimaeus to be quiet?
10:49 Why did Jesus have Bartimaeus brought to him rather than going to Bartimaeus? Why did Jesus not call him directly but had others call him?
10:50 Is there any symbolism to his throwing off his cloak? Was blind Bartimaeus following the sound of Jesus’ voice?
10:51 Did Jesus really need to ask this question?  What is the significance of Bartimaeus calling Jesus “My teacher?” Apparently Bartimaeus had not been blind from birth and therefore knew what it was like to see.
10:52 What faith?  How did it make him well? What does “followed him on the way” mean?
                                                                  
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.

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 29th 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.

JOB 38:1-7 (34-41)
38:1 What is a whirlwind and what was the was the LORD doing in one?
38:2 This almost sounds like a riddle Bilbo would ask Gollum. What examples are there today of words without knowledge?  What is the difference between a word with and without knowledge?
38:3 Whose masculinity was in question?  Is this going to be a trial or an interrogation?
38:4 And the answer is? What are the foundations of the earth?
38:5-7 How would you classify these questions? How would you answer them?
(38:34-41) Who asks these kind of questions anymore? I see a lot of “storm god” imagery in these verses.

PSALM 104:1-9, 24, 35c
104:1-4 Can you find all four classical elements—earth, air, water, and fire—in this reading?
104:1-9 How can urbanized, industrialized, postmodern Christianity, far from understanding the world in terms of the three tiered depths/earth/heaven, still find any meaning in this psalm?
104:24 There are fewer species on the earth today than there once were.
104: 35c I think the lectionary includes only “Praise the LORD!” and not what comes before it. What is the difference between “Bless the LORD” in 104:1 and “Praise the LORD!” in 104: 35c?
104:1-9, 35c: Does this Reading call us to be more environmentally aware, or does environmental awareness influence how we might interpret this Reading?

HEBREWS 5:1-10
5:1 Who are our high priests today? In what ways are you like a high priest? Does this language and imagery even make any sense in a postmodern world?
5:2 Who are the ignorant and wayward of our day?
5:3 The sins of some high priests or religious leaders seem more pronounced than others, yet all are sinners. How do we deal with the ancient concept of sacrifice?
5:4 I think anyone who desires to be a high priest or religious leader of any faith tradition, without a little fear and trepidation about serving as one, is headed for trouble. Was Aaron a priest according to the order of Melchizedeck?
5:5 Who said this to Christ, and when and where?
5:6 Where might this other place be?  Who was Melchizedek?  This has got to be one of the most bizarre, mysterious verses of Scripture and it is one of my favorites.
5:7 what is the difference between a prayer and a supplication?
5:8 Note that “Son” is capitalized.
5:9 How was Jesus made perfect?  Was he not perfect before being made perfect?  What is the meaning of perfection?
5:10 In addition to Melchizedek and Jesus, who else might have been or is a high priest according to the order of Melchizedeck?

MARK 10:35-45
10:35 Could anyone else other than these two have asked this question?
10:36 Did the Teacher not know their hearts and minds?
10:37 Had their Teacher granted their request, would the brothers have been content with where Jesus sat them? Were the brothers perhaps asking Jesus to settle a sibling rivalry? How would the other disciples have felt about this?
10:38 What cup?  John’s baptism?
10:39 Were James and John being arrogant or were they being realistic? Does Jesus’ statement make sense considering his previous question?
10:40 For whom do you think it has been prepared?
10:41 Is there more than math going on here?
10:42 To whom was Jesus referring?
10:43-44 The classic reversal. Of whom might Jesus be thinking?
10:45 Assuming Jesus is talking about himself, why did he always refer to himself as the Son of Man?  Does this verse rule out any but a ransom theory of the Atonement?
                                                                  
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, September 25, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 28th 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.

JOB 23:1-9, 16-17
23:1 Whom is Job answering?
23:2 What is Job’s complaint?  What is a “bitter” complaint?  Whose hand is heavy?
23:3 Whom does Job not know where to find?
23:4 Job is sounding like a trial attorney.
23:5 Is Job seeking understanding?
23:6 Why does Job think he would not be contended with?
23:7 Could any person who is not upright contend with such greatness and power?
23:8-9 Has Job really gone in all directions?  Like the Khan character in The Wrath of Khan, Job seems to be a two-dimensional thinker.  In a Copernican universe, three dimensions might be enough, but in a post-Einstein universe, we must posit at least four dimensions.  Where do we look for God in a four or more-dimensional universe?
23:16 Is Job’s terror anything like Rudolph Otto’s Mysterium Tremendum?
23:17 Does Job’s “if only” indicate the futility of trying to hide from God?

PSALM 22:1-15
22:1 Where have we heard this before? It seems like we hear this at least every three years if not more often. I think it was John Shelby Spong that taught me to read the Passion narratives as Midrash on Psalm 22.
22:2 How many times have you felt this way?
22:3 I think this “yet” is a one-word statement of faith.
22:4 Is this only an appeal to salvation history?
22:5 Is the psalmist perhaps trying to play on God’s emotions?
22:6 But I am not like my ancestors?
22:7 I have a hunch the psalmist is talking about more than just popularity.
22:8 Who or what is being quoted? Does the Psalmist assume, or do the people assume that God delights in the Psalmist?
22:9 God takes us from the womb?
22:10 This reads as if life, if not faith, begins at birth, not conception.
22:11 How far is too far?
22:12 What is a bull of Bashan?
22:13 Why talk about bulls as if they were lions?
22:14 Are these mixed metaphors/images? What does it mean to be poured out like water? What does it mean for a heart to be melted?
22:15 Give this Psalmist a drink of cool, refreshing water of life, please!

HEBREWS 4:12-16
4:12 How can a word, any word, be living and active?  What does it mean to separate soul from spirit? Is this word a written word, a spoken word, or both? Or more than both?
4:13 Were Adam and Eve still naked even after they attempted to cover themselves?
4:14 What is a high priest?  What is a great high priest? Why the plural “heavens?”  How many heavens are there? What confession?
4:15 Are there high priests who are unable to sympathize with our weaknesses?  Is there a difference between being tested and being tempted? Must a high priest, or any priest for that matter, be without sin?
4:16 In the context of this verse, how do you define “boldness?” Who sits on the throne of grace and where is it?

MARK 10:17-31
10:17 Who was setting out, where was he setting out from, and where was he heading to? What sort of journey? Is there any significance to the man using the word “inherit?”  What words, other than “inherit” do we usually hear associated with “eternal life?”
10:18 What has the Church and Christian community not learned from this verse?
10:19 Why does Jesus refer only to the second tablet of the law rather than both tablets?
10:20 This man is a saint!
10:21 The conundrum: give away your riches and you will have what you lack.
10:22 Was he grieving because he gave up eternal life for riches, or because he gave up riches for eternal life?
10:23 Do you hear this, 1%? Is the kingdom of God the same as eternal life?
10:24 Why were the disciples perplexed? The kingdom of heaven must be like flying with all one’s possessions in a carry on. Are we, as well, perplexed by this verse?
10:25 A few years ago I learned that is easier to drive a car through the Queens Blvd. overpass on the Jackie Robinson Pkwy in Queens than it is for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.
10:26 Is the answer not obvious?  The poor can be saved.
10:27 So even God can enable a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God?
10:28 Peter, also known as the “open mouth, insert foot” disciple, offers his two cents worth.
10:29 What relative is not mentioned?
10:30 When is “this age?” I can do without the persecution part. What and when is the age to come?
10:31 The classical Christian inversion.
                                                                  
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, September 24, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 27th 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.

JOB 1:1, 2:1-10
1:1 This is a very long verse and sounds like “once upon a time?”  What do you know about the land of Uz?  What does it mean that Job “feared God?”
2:1 How many heavenly beings are there?  What is the meaning of the name “Satan?” Why was Satan among the heavenly beings? What are heavenly beings?
2:2 Would not an omniscient God not have to ask this question?  Do I hear an echo of Genesis 3:9?  Did Satan prefer the earth to heaven?
2:3 Why did the LORD bring up the topic of Job?  Since Satan had just been on the earth, is this a put down of Satan, God saying to Satan “Job is better than you?”
2:4 What is the meaning of “skin for skin?”
2:5 What does it mean to touch bone and flesh?
2:6 Is this going to be a test of Job’s integrity or Satan’s power?  Is God testing, even tempting, Satan?
2:7 Is there a double meaning to the phrase “Satan went out from the presence of the LORD?”
2:8 Some days, anyone of us may feel like Job. Why was Job sitting among the ashes?
2:9 Was Job’s wife also tempting him?
2:10 Job is, above all, a man of clear logic.  Job may not have sinned with his lips, but what about with his heart or mind? Could Job curse God and live?

PSALM 26
26:1 This indeed sounds like something Job might have said. What does it mean to be vindicated by the LORD?
26:2 What about “lead me not into temptation?” Did the Psalmist have a martyr complex?
26:3 Is claiming to walk in faithfulness an example of religious/spiritual arrogance?
26:4 Could Jesus have said this?
26:5 Would Jesus have so boasted?
26:6 This Psalmist is beginning to sound not only arrogant but self-righteous. I think this might be my least favorite Psalm!
26:7 What are God’s wondrous deeds?
26:8 Can we truly say this when God is omnipresent?  This seems to reflect worship of a domesticated God confined to the Temple rather than a wild and primitive wandering God sometimes abiding in a tent, sometimes a cloud, and sometimes a column of fire.
26:9 How might “the day of the Lord” inform our understanding of this verse?
26:10 What are evil devices?
26:11 Is the Psalmist pleading his case before God’s bench?
26:12 What does “level ground” suggest or represent? What is “the great congregation?”

HEBREWS 1:1-4; 2:5-12
1:1A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...."   So sorry, wrong story.  What ways did God speak by the prophets? Where and how does God speak today? Where do we see and hear God?
1:2 What does the author mean by “last days?” Why the plural “worlds?”
1:3 What is the difference between a reflection and an imprint?  What is his powerful word?  Does “purification for sins” presume any particular understanding of the Atonement?
1:4 What name did he inherit and from whom did he inherit it?
2:5 What is the coming world? Read this in light 1:2.
2:6-8 What is the source of this saying?
2:7 How are humans crowned with glory and honor?
2:8 Are all things really subjected to humans? Will all things someday be subjected to humans?
2:9 Where do we see Jesus today? Is death always a form of suffering, or in his death did Jesus suffer in a way that no human has suffered?
2:10 Who are God’s many children?  What is perfection? Note the plural “sufferings.” Why was it fitting?
2:11 We are all one family.
2:12 Where in the Gospels does Jesus say this? What congregation?

MARK 10:2-16
10:2 How many Pharisees, two, twenty, two hundred?  Were the Pharisees seeking to “test” Jesus as God tested Job and the Psalmist?  What could Jesus know about a man having a wife?
10:3 What did Moses, or what did God command you?
10:4 So much for family values.
10:5 Is this the only commandment due to our hardness of heart?
10:6 Which creation account does this presuppose?
10:7 Does a woman not also leave her parents?
10:8 What if the couple do not enjoy or engage in sexual intercourse?
10:9 What about conjoined twins?
10:10 In whose house?  Where the disciples also seeking to test Jesus?
10:11 What about a wife who divorces her husband?
10:12 The question is answered. Did Moses say anything about a wife divorcing her husband?
10:11-13 Have Biblical literalists arguing against same sex marriage ignored the fact that Jesus said nothing about same sex marriage but rather said this about heterosexual marriage and divorce?
10:13 Ouch.  This sounds ugly considering reported sexual abuse of young boys by clergy and football coaches.  I would prefer “laying on of hands” rather than “touch.” What is appropriate touch and what is not? Personally, I do not want to live in a touchless world.
10:14 How can the kingdom of God belong to little children?  Can we grow too big or too old for God’s kingdom? What does this say about removing or excusing children from worship for “children’s church?”
10:15 I think a whole sermon could be preached based on this single verse.
10:16 Who do we bless and how do we bless them?
                                                                  
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.