Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 4th Sunday of Advent (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.

ISAIAH 7:10-16
7:10 Who was Ahaz and why was the LORD speaking to him?  Does the LORD ever speak to you?
7:11 What is the meaning of “sign”?  Do you ever ask God for a sign?  How deep is Sheol?  How high is heaven?
7:12 Do you recall Massah and Meribah? How do we put the LORD to the test today? 
7:13 How was the house of David wearing God?  How do we weary God?
7:14 Why does the Lord give this or any sign?  Isaiah says the sign shall be a “young woman” with child, bearing a son, and naming him Immanuel. Why do we now think and speak of a virgin being with child, bearing a son, and naming him Immanuel? In what sense is any pregnancy and birth a sign, and what might it me a sign of?
7:15 What are curds and what might a diet of curds and wild honey symbolize?  At what age might this child know how to refuse the evil and choose the good?
7:16 What land?  What two kings?

PSALM 80:1-7, 17-19
80:1 Who is the Shepherd of Israel? What are cherubim, where are they, and who sits enthroned upon them?
80:2 Why the mention of, and only of, Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh?
80:3 What is the connection between God’s shining face and salvation?
80:4 Do you ever feel that God is angry with your prayers?
80:5 Perhaps we can juxtapose this imager with the bread of life and the cup of salvation.
80:6 Do your neighbors ever scorn you or laugh at you?  Is the Psalmist perhaps playing on God’s sense of self honor?
80:7 I am beginning to hear a refrain.  See 80:3.
80:17 What does the right hand of God symbolize and who is sitting next to it?  How do we deal with such anthropomorphic language when we know God has no physical body?
80:18 This is beginning to sound like a little “you scratch our back, we will scratch yours” proposition.
80:19 The third refrain (see 80:3, 7).  What other passages of Scripture speak of God’s shining face? 

ROMANS 1:1-17
1:1 What does it mean to be called?  What does it mean to be set apart?
1:2 Where, specifically, did God promise the gospel? What were Paul’s holy scriptures?
1:3 How do we deal with this “descended from David according to the flesh” when, especially at this time of year, people tend to focus on a miraculous birth by a virgin? (See comments for Isaiah 7:14).
1:4 It seems that Paul is saying Jesus was declared “Son of God” by his resurrection, not his birth or baptism..
1:5 Who are the “we”?
1:6 Again, what does it mean to be called and what does it mean to belong to Jesus Christ?
1:7 What is a saint?  How do we deal with a non-Trinitarian ascription in light of the Doctrine of the Trinity?

MattheW 1:18-25
1:18 In what way?  What does it mean to be with child “from the Holy Spirit”?
1:19 What is a righteous man?  How could Joseph have exposed Mary to public disgrace? What does it mean to “dismiss her quietly”?  What would have happened to Mary and her child if Joseph had in fact dismissed her quietly?
1:20 It seems that angels appear to people in dreams more than in any other way.  Are you familiar with what John Sanford and Morton Kelsey have written about dreams from a Christian perspective?  What might Carl Jung say about this passage?  Has an angel ever spoken to you in your dreams?
1:21 What is the meaning of the name “Jesus” and why name him that because he will save his people from their sins?
1:22 So the point of this narrative is not necessarily to establish Jesus’ divinity but rather to establish his birth as fulfillment of prophecy. What prophet?
1:23 See Isaiah 7:14.  Why, in 1:21 was Joseph instructed to name the child “Jesus” rather than “Immanuel”?
1:24 What does it mean to “take her as his wife”?
1:25 Does the mention of Joseph not having marital relations with Mary serve to establish Jesus’ divinity, Mary’s Virginity, or the fulfillment of prophecy?  What if the author of Matthew had been familiar and/or worked with the Isaiah in the Hebrew rather than the Latin?

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

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 3rd Sunday of Advent (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.

ISAIAH 35:1-10
We see more of Isaiah this week, the third week in a row the First Reading has come to us from this prophet.  What is the connection between the health and productivity of the land and the well-being of the people of Israel?
35:1 Are wilderness and dry land to be taken literarily or are they metaphors?  What is so special about the crocus?  How can plants rejoice and sing? Blossoms would be a sight to behold as well as an aroma to appreciate.
35:2 How can the non-sentient wilderness and dry land rejoice? What glory belonged to Lebanon?  What was the majesty of Carmel and Sharon? What are Carmel and Sharon?
35:3 This verse signals a shift from the land to people. Why do I appreciate this verse more the older I get?
35:4 In Isaiah’s context, who were those with a fearful heart?  Who has a fearful heart in our context? The Scriptures usually admonish readers to fear God but here they are called to not fear even though God will come with vengeance and terrible recompense – to save.
35:5 Is this blindness and deafness meant to be taken literally or metaphorically?
35:6 In the case of humans, physical challenges are overcome. Here is another shift, this time from people back to the land, where we started. In the case of the land, situations are reversed.
35:7 I like pools, springs, reeds and rushes, but not swamps.  What is this imagery communicating?
35:8 I find it amazing that Isaiah envisions a “highway”.  Where does this highway lead?  What does it connect? Apparently even some of God’s people can be fools.
35:9 This is not quite a vision of the peaceable kingdom but it is close.  It almost seems like a vision of paradise, or heaven.
35:10 Must we interpret this Hebrew Scripture mention of “the ransomed of the Lord” with regard to the Christian doctrine of the Atonement?  How can joy “be upon” anyone’s head?

PSALM 146:5-10
146:5 In the context of this psalm and the Psalter, what does it mean to be “Happy”. I wonder if they are as happy as a room without a roof.  Is this the same “happiness” enumerated in the Declaration of Independence?   How are “help” and “hope” related?
146:6 How can we interpret and apply this imager without falling into the creationism-evolution debate? I think that in the context of the Psalmist “heaven and earth and sea” encompassed the whole known universe or cosmos. What does it mean to “keep faith”?
146:7-9 Is this an expression of the Bible’s preferential option for the poor and oppressed?  How shall we Americans read and interpret this in light of our current national political debates?
146:10 What would happen to God’s reign if humanity becomes extinct?  This verse could be used or adapted for use as a Call to Worship.

LUKE 1:46b-55
Given the choice, how will you decide between using Psalm 146:5-10 or Luke 1:47-55?  Some people might associate Luke 1:4-55 more with Advent and Christmas more than they do Psalm 1:46b-55. In favor of Luke 1:47-55, it is one of the few feminine voices in the Scriptures.  Mary’s psalm of praise, apparently following the template of Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, seems to move from the particular in 1:47-49 to the universal in 1:50-55.  What shall we learn from the theological and doxological trajectory of Mary’s song?  
1:46b Why does this verse lead to this passage being called “The Magnificat”?
1:47 What makes your spirit rejoice?
1:48 Mary’s sentiment seems to reflect the same outlook as expressed in Psalm, 146:5-10
1:49 Is there any significance to the use of “the Mighty One”?  What great things has the Mighty One dome for Mary?
1:50 What does it mean to “fear” God, especially during Advent when we tend to emphasize feelings such as joy, hope, and love?
1:51 What does the arm of God symbolize?  What does “scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts” mean? Is the heart or the head (brain) the center of thoughts?
1:52-53 Note the reversal of fortunes and misfortunes.
1:54 How has God helped Israel?
1:55 What promise did God make to Abraham and his descendants?

JAMES 5:7-10
5:7 This reads like an admonition to patiently wait even in the midst of apparently dashed expectations.  How near is near?  At least a farmer witnesses yearly reward for patience, not waiting nearly two-thousand years for a crop. 
5:8 How do we strengthen our hearts?
5:9  Would anyone like to speculate what people were grumbling about?  I can’t imagine the author addressing a problem if it did not exist.
5: 10 Do suffering and patience necessarily go together?  When might we be called NOT to be patient in the midst of suffering? Were all Hebrew prophets exemplars of patient suffering?

MATTHEW 11:2-11
11:2 Note that even though he was in prison, John was hearing “what the Messiah was doing.”  We know that John had his own disciples. Which disciples did he send word by, his disciples or Jesus’ disciples?
11:3 This verse seems out of place in light of last week’s Gospel reading which suggested to me that John knew Jesus was the Messiah.  Am I reading more into last week’s reading than was there?  Why is John now questioning Jesus identity?
11:4 What had been  heard and seen?
11:5 I am hearing echoes of Isaiah 35:5.
11:6 Who was taking offense at Jesus?
11:7 What is the meaning of “a reed shaken by the wind”? Why might Jesus have felt compelled to speak about John?
11:8 What is the point, that John was not royalty?
11:9 From a Christian perspective, was John the last of the Hebrew Prophets? How was John more than a prophet?
11:10 What is Jesus quoting?  Does this quote say more about John or Jesus?
11:11 Was Jesus born of a woman?  Did Jesus think John was greater than he was?
11:7-11 I have become convinced that there was (and is) a theological, spiritual, and political connection between Jesus and John that is not fully expressed or explored in the Gospels, but is certainly hinted at.  Other than Jesus and John, is there anyone in the New Testament portrayed as the fulfillment of prophecy?

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 2nd Sunday of Advent (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.

ISAIAH 11:1-10
11:1 Note that in the NRSV this text is formatted as poetry, not prose.  Does this affect how we interpret it?  This verse is a good example of parallelism as a feature of Hebrew Poetry. Who was Jesse?
11:2 Does this verse imply that the spirit of the LORD is the spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, and knowledge and fear of the LORD?  Is this spirit the same as The Holy Spirit?
11:3 What is “the fear of the LORD”?  Is justice both blind and deaf?
11:4 Does this verse express a prejudice toward/for the poor and meek? Note the power of voice/word.
11:5 Does “righteousness” equal “faithfulness”?  Are “loins” the same as the “waist”?
11:6-7 Here are images of the “peaceable kingdom”. What do you know about Edward Hicks?  What is a fatling?
11:8 Is there any significance to “asps” and “adders”?  Is this an allusion to any particular serpent or serpents?
11:9 Who will not hurt? What is “knowledge of the LORD”? Does “earth” refer to people or the planet and all its inhabitants, human and otherwise?
11:10 What does it mean for anyone to “stand as a signal”? Do “people” and “nations” suggest a universalism?

PSALM 72:1-7, 18-19
Why do you think this Psalm, out of all of them, was chosen to pair with the Isaiah Reading?
72:1 Which king?  Which son?
72:2 Echoes of Isaiah 11:4?
72:3 Does this passage have any implication regarding mountain top removal mining?
72:4 More preference for the poor, needy and oppressed.  Who is the “He”?  Does this passage have any implication regarding the systemic weakening of our social safety net?
72:5 How can a king live so long?  Is this mere poetic hyperbole?
72:6 What is being asked for here?
72:7 When would the moon be no more?  What are we missing in 72:8-17?
72:18 What are the “wondrous things” the LORD does?
72:19 How can the LORD’s name be blessed when the LORD’s name is not spoken? Why the double Amen?

ROMANS 15:4-13
15:4 When were “the former days”?  What writings are included in and meant by “the Scriptures”?
15:5 What does living in harmony look like?  Is this another lectionary echo of Isaiah 11:6-9?
15:6 I hear echoes of Psalm 72:19.
15:7 How did Christ welcome us?
15:8 Was Christ “a servant” of only the circumcised or also uncircumcised as well? What promise was given to the patriarchs?  What about the matriarchs?
15:9-12 What is being quoted in this verse and in the following verses?
15:12 Is this a quote of Isaiah 11:1?
15:13 A verse often used liturgically as a blessing/benediction.  Is it Trinitarian?

MATTHEW 2:1-12
3:1 When were “those days”?  I prefer to refer to “John the Baptizer” rather than “John the Baptist”.  What does it mean that John “appeared”?  What is the symbolic meaning of “wilderness”?
3:2 Note that John proclaims “the kingdom of heaven has come near”, not will or is coming near.  What is “the kingdom of heaven” and what does it mean that it “has come near”?
3:3 Where in Isaiah would you find this quote?  Did John’s appearing in the wilderness lend itself to referring to this passage from Isaiah, or did this passage from Isaiah suggest, after the fact, that the wilderness is where John had to appear?  Must “locusts” refer to insects?
3:4 What is the significance of John’s wardrobe?
3:5 It sounds like John’s preaching station was a popular destination.  
3:6 How do we reconcile John’s act of baptizing with later Christian understandings of the sacrament?
3:7 Are you surprised that “many Pharisees and Sadducees” were coming to John for baptism? Could John’s invective perhaps be more a reflection of Matthew’s perspective than John’s?
3:8 Good advice, regardless of who is being addressed.  What fruit is worthy of repentance?
3:9 How do we reconcile this verse with Romans 15:8?  I recall that both John and Jesus had some interesting things to say about stones.
3:10 Note that “ax” is singular while “trees” is plural.  What is the metaphorical fire? When the tree is cut down at the root, will a shoot come out from the remaining stump? (See Isaiah 11:1-10)
3:8-10 Is John still talking to only the Pharisees and Sadducees, or also to the people of Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region along the Jordan?
3:11 What is the difference between water on the one hand and the Holy Spirit and fire on the other hand?  In light of this verse, what reasons can you think of to explain why Christians still baptize with water?
3:12 What is a winnowing fork and what is it used for?  What is a threshing floor?  What is chaff? Does the imagery of this verse in any way follow the imagery of 3:8 and 3:10?  Does the imagery of 3:8 and 3:10 foreshadow this verse?
3:11-12 while in 3:2 we learn that “the kingdom of heaven has come near,” in this verse we shift to the present and future tense:  one is coming, he will baptize, he will clear, he will gather, he will burn. Why the shift in tense? 

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 blog posts have also appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and Appalachian Trials.

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 1st Sunday of Advent (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:
Today’s Readings are for the First Sunday of Advent, which means this is the first Sunday of a new Liturgical year and the beginning of a new lectionary cycle, “Year A” or the year of Matthew. Each cycle in the three-year Lectionary cycle focuses on a different Synoptic Gospel. Year A is the year of Matthew. Year B is the year of Mark. Year C is the year of Luke. Passages from John appear in all three cycles, especially during Lent and Easter. Thus, preachers and teachers, for their own edification, preparation, and as a spiritual discipline, might read the entire Gospel of Matthew as soon as practical. You might also read a brief and broad theological commentary on Matthew, all in preparation for a year of preaching, teaching and liturgy.

I used to think of Advent as a bi-focal season. On the one hand, we look back and prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, or his first coming. On the other hand we, we look forward and preparing to welcome Christ at his return, or his second coming. I have recently come to think of Advent as a tri-focal season. With the Hebrews we see a longing for the first coming of the Messiah. With Christians throughout the centuries we also rejoice and celebrate the fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, but we also prepare to welcome him when he returns.

How do these three foci influence our interpretations of Advent Readings? Can we focus on each reading using all three lenses or do some readings lend themselves to one lens more than the others? Are we perhaps missing anything by consciously or unconsciously limiting ourselves to only one or two viewpoints? What other viewpoints might there be that we have not considered?

Speaking of celebrations, this blog post marks the third time for me to ruminate on the first readings in the three years cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary, thus the name change from Lectionary Ruminations and Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 to Lectionary Ruminations 2.5!  About the day and hour when I will no longer write and post my ruminations, no one knows. Until that unexpected hour, I am glad to begin Year A with this First Sunday of Advent post and to initiate the new Liturgical Year with Lectionary Ruminations 2.5.

ISAIAH 2:1-5
2:1 I find it interesting that biblical prophecies are introduced in a variety of ways. Some prophets receive a word, some hear a word, and others see a vision. How does Amos “see” “the word”? Does it make any difference that Isaiah was the son of Amoz?
2:2 Does “in the days to come” set this Reading in the Apocalyptic genre? From our perspective, have these days yet arrived and passed? The mountain of the Lord being established as the highest of the mountains is probably a comment about the mountain’s political and religious stature, not its geographical height, which is around 2,500 feet above sea level. What does it mean that “all the nations” shall stream to the mountain of the Lord?
2:3 In that Jerusalem is sacred to three faiths and people make pilgrimages there, this prophecy seems to have been fulfilled. How does this vision inform the teaching ministry of the church and the church’s involvement in higher education?
2:4 What is a plowshare? What is a pruning hook? How can Christians in an urbanized setting far removed from any agriculture find meaning in implements of war being transformed into agricultural tools? Perhaps a modern image might be “They shall transform their nuclear weapons programs into building nuclear reactors for producing electricity.” or “They shall transform their handguns and semi-automatic weapons into gardening tools.”
2:5 What does it mean to “walk in the light of the LORD”? How does the image of “walking in the light” add to our observance and celebration of Advent?

PSALM 122:1-9
122:1 This verse seems to echo Isaiah 2:3. Does this first verse establish this Psalm as a Psalm of Ascents? As worship attendance declines it seems that more and more people are not glad to be invited to go to the house of the LORD.
122:2 Is this an allusion to standing on holy ground or within a protected environment?
122:3 What is the meaning of “firmly bound together”?
122:4 Note that here “the tribes go up” whereas in Isaiah 2:2 “all the nations shall stream” to the mountain of the Lord. The Psalmist may have envisioned only Jews going up to Jerusalem, yet today adherents of three faiths, and non-adherents as well, go up to Jerusalem. How does one give thanks to the name of the LORD when the name of the LORD is not to be pronounced?
122:5 Why is “thrones” plural? Who sits on these thrones?
122:6-7 Jerusalem certainly needs our prayers today. Do you ever pray for the Peace of Jerusalem? What is the meaning of “Jerusalem”? Think “salem” and “shalom”.
122:8 Are the Psalmist’s relatives and friends living in Jerusalem? Do you know anyone presently living in Jerusalem?
122:9 How does one seek good for Jerusalem? As we pray for Jerusalem and seek its good, does it matter that the Temple still lies in ruins?

ROMANS 13:11-14
13:11 The phrase “Besides this” suggests we are missing the previous point. Can we properly interpret this passage without reading what came before? The salvation alarm clock is ringing. While the final clause is true, how much closer is a mere two thousand years compared to an unknown timeline?
13:12 “The day is near” points me back to Psalm 112:9. What are “works of darkness”? What is the “armor of light”? Why am I thinking of the Dead Sea “War Scroll”?
13:13 While “drunkenness” stands alone, note the pairing of “debauchery and licentiousness” and “quarreling and jealousy”. What is debauchery? What is licentiousness?
13:14 Is the admonition to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” a reference to baptism, or something else? How can we realistically “make no provision for the flesh”? Is this a call to asceticism? Is there a difference between maintaining health of the flesh and gratifying its desires? Why am I hungry for a Graham Cracker and a bowl of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes?

MATTHEW 24:36-44
24:36 “that day and hour” certainly places us in the apocalyptic genre. There is an interesting juxtaposition between not knowing “that day and hour” and its context within a liturgical and secular calendar. While no one knows “that day and hour,” we all know that Christmas is now only less than a month away, and still most of us will not be fully prepared when that day finally arrives. Is “the Son” that does not know the day and hour the “Son of Man”?
24:37 How will the “days of Noah” be like “the coming of the Son of Man”? Those with a theological education will undoubtedly understand the “Son of Man” reference but I wonder how most people in the pews and in the Church School Class will hear and understand it. How much do teachers and preachers need to translate theological terms and phrases and theological baggage such as “Son of Man” when we encounter them in Scripture or can we simply gloss over them? See Daniel 7:13.
24:38-39 These verses partially answer the question about the “days of Noah” and “the coming of the Son of Man” comparison, but what do they teach us?
24:40-41 More agrarian imagery that we may need to translate into a postindustrial and more urban context. At one time these verses seemed to be some of the favorite among apocalyptically minded evangelicals employing “the rapture” as an evangelism tool. Since I have lost touch with that segment of the church, I wonder if they are still popular passages. It seems that in both verses people are still going about their daily routines in spite of Christ’s assumed imminent return.
24:42 This is good advice regardless of one’s position on the theological spectrum. On the other hand, I am also familiar with Aesop’s fable about the boy who cried wolf.
24:43 How does this follow from what proceeds it? The Lord might come like a thief but he is not a thief. The emphasis is on being spiritually awake. We want the Lord to break into our homes and lives.
24:44 The phrase “be ready” seems synonymous with “keep awake.” Consider again the question I raised regarding Luke 22:37. There seems to be a tension between being told that the “Son of Man is coming” but not knowing when he will come. It sounds a little like making an appointment for repair service in the home on a certain day but not knowing what time the repair person will arrive, or knowing that UPS or Fed-Ex will deliver a package on a certain day but not knowing what time. What is a healthy balance between certainty and ambiguity?

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 blog posts have also appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and Appalachian Trials.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Chronological Links to "Cycling from DC to PGH" Series of Blog Posts

Vince and I at the beginning of the C and O Canal Towpath
These are the links, in chronological order, to my "Spinning Wheels (From DC to PGH)" series of blog posts about cycling the C and O Canal Towpath, Western Maryland Rail Trail, and Great Allegheny Passage from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with my friend Vince during May and August, 2016.

From DC to PGH - Prologue
From DC to PGH - Day 0
From DC to PGH - Day 1
From DC to PGH - Day 2
From DC to PGH - Day 3
From DC to PGH - Day 4
From DC to PGH - Day 5
From DC to PGH - Day 6
From DC to PGH - Day 7
From DC to PGH - Day 8
From DC to PGH – Day 9
From DC to PGH – Day 10
From DC to PGH – My Gear

Friday, November 11, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, November 20, 2016, Christ the King (Reign of Christ) Sunday (Year C)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 is a revised continuation of Lectionary Ruminations.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 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 comments and questions to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.  All lectionary links are to the via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website.

23:1 Who are these shepherds?  Why would any shepherd destroy and scatter sheep they are responsible for?
23:2 How have the shepherds scattered the flock?  How have the shepherds driven sheep away?  How do we read this passage after nearly a half century of membership decline in the mainline church?
23:3 It sounds like the LORD will become the shepherd even though it was the LORD who had scattered the flock.
23:4 It sounds that in the midst of the failure of the old order shepherds that God will raise up new shepherds in their place.  What might this mean in a mainline church where many Teaching Elders (Ministers) are younger than the governing body of Ruling Elders?
23:5 Will this righteous branch be like a new shepherd, replacing the old shepherds?  From a Christian perspective, have these coming days already been fulfilled? 
23:6 How else might we translate “The LORD is our righteousness”?

I wonder why the Presbyterian Mission Agency categorizes this as a Gospel rather than the Psalm or Canticle. Does it make a difference how we label or identify it?
1:68 Who is speaking? Why does this sound so familiar?
1:69 Does it make a difference that this mighty savior has been raised up “in” the house of David rather than “from” the house of David?
1:70 All the prophets or just some of the prophets?
1:71 So this savior saves from enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.  Note that sin is not mentioned.
1:72 Which covenant is being remembered?
1:73 What oath did God swear?  Why would God swear an oath?  What would be our recourse if God did not keep this oath?
1:74 Does this mean that we are saved for service?
1:75 How do we serve in holiness and righteousness?
1:76 What child?  Is the child prophet going to prepare the way for the LORD God, or for the mighty savior?
1:77 What is salvation if we are not aware of it?  How does forgiveness of sins save from enemies and from the hand of all that hate us? (See 1:71)
1:78 Is there a difference between mercy and tender mercy?  Is tender mercy different from stern mercy?  I love the poetic and metaphorical “dawn from on high” because it leaves so much to the creative imagination.
1:79 Who have been sitting in darkness? What is the shadow of death?

1:11 This verse reminds me of a modern Celtic caim by David Adam which includes the petition “Keep strength within, keep weakness out.”
1:12 is this the same light as in Luke 1:79?  Who are the saints in light and what is their inheritance?
1:13 What power does darkness possess? Why do I keep being drawn back to Luke 1:79.  I am also being drawn to the John’s Prologue.
1:14 Is redemption synonymous with salvation? Is redemption synonymous with forgiveness of sin?
1:15 How can anything serve as an image of something, or someone that is invisible?  What Greek word does “image” translate? What is the difference between being the firstborn and pre-existence?
1:16 Does this verse justify equating Christ with the Sophia of Proverbs?  What does it mean that “in him” all things were created, and created “through him and for him”? How do we reconcile this verse with the creation accounts of Genesis?
1:17 I would love for a theoretical astrophysicist to reflect and expound on this image, especially as it relates to cosmology and cosmogony.  Perhaps this could be worked into a future episode of The Big Bang Theory.
1:18 Where else have we encountered this body metaphor? Does being the firstborn of the dead have anything to do with being the firstborn of all creation? (See 1:15)
1:19 What is the meaning of “dwell”?  How does this relate to essence?
1:20 Why do all things need to be reconciled to God?  How can peace be made through the blood of Christ’s cross?

23:33 When who came?  What place is called “The Skull”?  Who crucified Jesus? 
23:34 For whom was Jesus praying?  What does it mean to cast lots?
23:35 How had Jesus saved others?  Why did Jesus not save himself?
23:36 Is “mocking” the same as the “scoffed” of the previous verse? How is offering sour wine a type of mocking?
23:37 Is this a mere re-phrasing of 23:35?
23:38 How does this inscription negate the questions raised in verses 23:35 and 23:37?
23:39 Once again, this sounds like an echo of verses 35 as well as verse 37.
23:40 What are we to make of the juxtaposition of these two criminals and their statements and attitudes?
23:41 How did this criminal now that Jesus had done nothing wrong? Is this an example of irony, that a criminal is the one to pronounce the truth?
23:42 Why am I once again thinking of The Jesus Prayer and The Philokalia? I am also thinking of the TaizĂ© chant “Jesus, remember me”
23:43 What are we to make of the “today”?  What is paradise?

ADDENDUM
I am a 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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Spinning Wheels (From DC to PGH – My Gear)

My bike and gear
at the Eastern Continental Divide
            If you have been following my series of posts about cycling the C and O Canal Towpath, Western Maryland Rail Trail, and Great Allegheny Passage from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this past summer, you might be wondering what gear I used and carried on the trip. My purpose in writing this post is to show that you do not need a super expensive bike or a lot of expensive gear to experience the ride of your life for yourself.

            Even though it was a year out of date, I found the tenth edition of the TrailBook, published by the Allegheny Trail Alliance, well worth the $10 cost. It was essential for helping me plan for the trip. I also carried it along with me as I rode. This invaluable resource has since been renamed the TrailGuide and is now in its twelfth edition.

            I also found several entries on The Great Allegheny Passage (unofficial) Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/gapcando/) very helpful, especially those that linked to blog posts written by cyclists who had experienced the trip that had insights and suggestions to offer. This is a closed group so you will need to request to join.

            In addition to using the map that came with my copy of the tenth edition of the TrailBook I also carried and used a Chesapeake and Ohio Canal brochure and map from the National Park Service and a  Free waterproof 2016 GAPmap. The 2017 GAPmap is available from getGAPmap.com.  Each of the three maps provided some information the other maps did not.

My very muddy bike with Vince in the background
            My riding Partner, Vince, and I planned to camp all but one night while we were cycling, and to cook most of our breakfasts and dinners while we were camping. That meant we needed to carry not only food but stoves to heat water and cook with. We also carried sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and tents. If we had decided to stay in Motels or B &;B’s every night, we could have carried a lot less gear, but it would have changed the character of our trip.

            I undertook this adventure riding a more or less off the floor Trek 8.3 DS hybrid that was purchased new two years earlier.  At the time of purchase the store upgraded the saddle and added a Bontrager water bottle cage and a Bontrager backrack. Prior to the trip I added a second water bottle cage, replaced the stock pedals with Shimano SPD Pedals, and swapped out the standard grips for Ergon GP2-L grips

            I installed a set of Axiom low rider front racks to which I attached Axiom Seymour DLX 30L panniers. I used Axiom Seymour DLX 45L panniers on the back rack. I lined both rear panniers with XL Ziploc Bags for extra protection from rain. This arrangement served me well but a smaller size Ziploc Big Bag might have been a better fit.

All our gear spread out at Husky Haven Campground
            All four panniers were filled with gear at the start of the trip. In addition to the Panniers, I also used buckle lash straps to attach my sleeping pad, tent, tarp and poles to the rear rack between the panniers. By the end of the trip, as food stocks were depleted, I was able to fit my tent, tarp and poles inside the panniers and had to attach only my sleeping pad to the back rack. I also had an inexpensive Bell handlebar bag on front but after the trip replaced it with a 5L Topeak Handlebar Bag for the ride from Hancock to Frostburg.

            I used an old Sierra Designs Ultra Flash three season tent for shelter from rain and bugs which I supplemented with a 9’6” x 9’3” nylon tarp with nesting poles to put up over picnic tables. It rained so much our first couple days and nights that I was really glad I had the tarp with us as it allowed us to cook, eat, sit, and stand out of the rain.

            I slept in fairly new Marmot Cloudbreak 30 synthetic bag supplemented by Sea to Summit Thermolite REACTOP sleeping bag liner. The liner helped me keep my bag clean. On warmer nights I used just the liner on top of the bag until the temperature cooled down enough to slip into the bag. A Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOlite served as my sleeping pad.

Vince using our cooking gear
            Vince and I both carried MSR Whisperlite Internationals to boil water and cook over. We also both carried 20oz bottles of MSR liquid fuel and burned about a total of 20oz between us. We could have gotten by with one stove but each of us wanted to be self-sufficient in case the other  had to bail out early.
           I carried two water bottles on my bike plus a collapsible Nalgene three liter canteen in a pannier to use while camping. I did not carry a water filter because I trusted the water sources, but Vince carried a Katydyn Hiker Microfilter water filter that we used to filter any iodine taste of the pump water along the Towpath. Be aware, however, that beginning January 1st, 2017, the National Park Service will no longer consider pump water along the Towpath potable and will recommend that all pump water along the Towpath be either filtered or chemically treated before use. If I were to repeat this trip in the future I would carry my own water filter.
            In addition to my riding shoes I also carried a pair of Teva sandals which I wore in camp. I carried two pair of synthetic riding socks and two pair of Smart Wool riding socks. I was really glad I had the wool socks the first couple of days when it was cool, raining, and my feet were getting wet.
            I took two pair of Novara Forza Road Bike Shorts and alternated their use, rinsing one pair out and letting them dry while wearing the other pair. I also took a pair of mesh lined trail shorts which I wore while in camp.

            Two of my riding Jerseys were short sleeved and one was long sleeved. I wore the long sleeved jersey the first day when it was raining and chilly but did not wear it again. I also took a long sleeved and a short sleeved Smart wool top for wearing around camp.

Tents and tarp at Antietam
            My Novara Stratos Bike Pants kept me dry and warm during those first couple of wet and chilly  days but after the rain stopped and the temperatures rose I did not need them. They worked so well that I wish I had left my Marmot PreCip pants at home. My Marmot PreCip jacket also kept me dry and warm the first couple pf days and I may have used it again after that for chilly evenings and mornings and would not have wanted to be without it. I also wore a Marmot PreCip brimmed cap under my helmet the first day to keep both my head and my face dry and was glad I had it.

            I had taken one shop cloth for cleaning up my bike but wish I had taken a small plastic bottle each of dry and wet chain lube as well as a small plastic bottle of chain degreaser and a brush to clean dirt and mud out of the gears and derailleurs. The mud was so thick those first couple of days that it was affecting my shifting but I did not have anything to clean it out with other than squeezing water from my water bottle with as much pressure as I could to clean out the derailleurs and gears.

            While Vince was more creative with his breakfasts and dinners, he also used more fuel. I enjoyed packets of Quaker Instant Oatmeal and Starbucks Vanilla Latte VIA every morning.  For dinner I relied on just add boiling water Freezer Bag Meals I prepared at home. Both Vince and I depended on no cook tuna and tortilla wraps for lunch. Crackers and homemade GORP supplemented or meals.

Here are the link to previous installments in the "Spinning Wheels" series:

From DC to PGH - Day 10 (27th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 9 (26th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 8 (25th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 7 (24th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 6 (23rd Installment)
My First Tour the Montour (22nd Installment)

From DC to PGH - Day 5 (21st Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 4 (20th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 3 (19th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 2 (18th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 1 (17th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 0 (16th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Prologue (15th Installment)
Transitioning (14th Installment)
Flats (13 Installment)
Beware Dehydration (12 Installment)
Creams & Powders for your Butt (11th Installment)
Group vs. Solo Rides (10th Installment)
Competitiveness (9th Installment)
Stats (8th Installment)
Accidents Happen (7th Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (6th Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (5th Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (4th Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (3rd Installment)
Reading and Riding (2nd Installment)
Group vs. Solo Rides (10th Installment)
Competitiveness (9th Installment)
Stats (8th Installment)
Accidents Happen (7th Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (6th Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (5th Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (4th Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness 
Reading and Riding (2nd Installment)
Starting Over (1st Installment)