Monday, April 15, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 3rd Sunday of Ester (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.

ACTS 9:1-6 (7-20)
9:1-6 Note that the first six verses are the Reading while verses 7-20 are an optional addition. I prefer to read all twenty verses for worship.
9:1 What does “meanwhile” tell us about how this passage functions in its literary context?  Was Saul only breathing threats and murder or had he already acted?
9:2 What are “letters to the synagogues” and why did Saul want them or need them?  How many synagogues might have been in Damascus at this time?  What do you know about Damascus? How would one “belong to the Way” and why is “Way” capitalized?
9:3 What does a light from heavenly usually symbolize?
9:4 Whose voice did Saul hear?
9:5 What is the meaning of Saul’s question “Who are you, Lord?”
9:6 Why tell him later and not at the present time?
(9:7) Who were travelling with Saul? How could they hear a voice but see no one? Did Saul see anyone?
(9:8) What might Saul’s blindness symbolize?  How might it have been caused?
(9:9) What might the “three days” allude to?  Why would Saul not eat or drink for three days?
(9:10) What else do we know about Ananias?  What is a “vision”?  Where before have we heard “Here I am, Lord?”  Can we read what Paul experienced as a “vison”?
(9:11) What do we know about Straight Street?  How popular of a name was Judas?  Where was Tarsus?  What do you think Saul was praying?
(9:12) Why is Saul’s vision not recounted from Saul’s perspective?  What is the symbolism and significance of laying on of hands as it related to healing?
(9:13) What had Saul done in Jerusalem?
(9:14) Did the chief priests really have the power to bind anyone?  Would Rome have permitted such an action? How would Ananias know what authority the chief priests had given to Saul?
(9:15) What does it mean to be an instrument whom the Lord has chosen?
(9:16) Why must Saul suffer?
(9:17) Since when did being filled with the Holy Spirit enter the equation?  Had Jesus told Ananias this or did Ananias come up with this on his own?
(9:18) What is the difference between “scales” and “something like scales?”  Does knowing that something physical seemed to fall from Saul’s eyes add or detract from the account?  Who baptized Saul? Was this for Paul Paul an  experience of the death and resurrection of Christ?
(9:19) What do you think was happening while Saul was with the disciples in Damascus? 
(9:20) How soon after his baptism and after regaining his strength is “immediately?”  Is “He is the Son of God” the core, the kernel of, the essence of the Gospel or just Saul’s early proclamation? Why does Saul refer to Jesus as the Son of God rather than the Messiah?
(9:1-20) This is not the only Biblical account of Paul’s conversion.  Where else can we read about it and how are all the accounts similar and different?

PSALM 30
30:1 Drawn up from what or where?
30:2 Why is “LORD” all uppercase in the NRSV? What does it mean to “cry to God for help?”
30:3 Where or what is Sheol and is it synonymous with the Pit? Why is “Pit” capitalized in the NRSV?
30:4 How can one give thanks to the LORD’s holy name when one is not supposed to pronounce the LORD’s holy name?
30:5 Why must the LORD be angry at all?
30:6 What prosperity?
30:7 How and why does the LORD hide the divine face and why was the Psalmist dismayed?
30:8 What is the meaning of “cried?”
30:9 Is the Psalmist bargaining with the LORD?  Is the Psalmist appealing to God’s logic or pride?
30:10 Must those who supplicate the LORD ask the LORD to hear them, or does the LORD listen to the prayers of all even when not asked to listen?
30:11 Why had the psalmist been mourning? Why do we not dance more (or at all) in worship?
30:12 Why does the Psalmist praise and give thanks? 

REVELATION 5:11-14
5:11 What do angel voices sound like?  What is the difference between living creatures and elders?  What is a myriad?  Is this hyperbole?
5:12 Note the sevenfold ascription of praise.  Why seven?  When was the last time you heard anyone singing a hymn “with a full” voice, especially in a Presbyterian church?
5:13 Are you surprised that every creature sings?  Apparently, all of God's critters do indeed have a place in the choir!  Why might these creatures offer only a fourfold ascription of praise when the angels and others around the throne offered sevenfold praise?
5:14 Who or what are these four living creatures?  Why am I thinking of the Book of Kells?  Who are the elders?  Why do they fall down when they worship?

JOHN 21:1-19
21:1 After what things?  Where is the Sea of Tiberias and what do you know about it? Hat were other names for this body of water?
21:2 How many people did Jesus appear before?  Why are the “two others” not named? Does their not being named invite you into the passage? Note that Thomas is present this time.
21:3 Why is it that Simon is usually the first one to always speak? Might his words have more than one meaning? Why would they fish at night?
21:4 Once again, the resurrected Jesus appears but those who knew him do not recognize him.  What gives? Is there any significance to this happening just after daybreak?
21:5 Why might Jesus have addressed those in the boat as “Children?”
21:6 What difference does it make what side of the boat you fish from?
21:7 What disciples didn’t Jesus love?  How did this disciple finally know that the person on the beach was Jesus? Why put on clothes to jump into the sea?
21:8 Were they dragging the net behind the boat because it was too heavy to lift into the boat?
21:9 Where did the fish and bread that was on the fire come from?
21:10 Why add more fish?
21:11 Is there any symbolic significance to the number 153?
21:12 We already had a “Last Supper.”  Is this the “First Breakfast?”
21:13 Why do we not serve little pieces of fish when we celebrate communion?
21:14 And the other two times were? Note that Jesus was raised. He did not rise.
21:15 More than what? More than fish? More than the other disciples? Is this the first time Simon is identified as “son of John?”
21:16 Where is this questioning heading?
21:17  Why did Peter feel Bad?  Is there any symbolic significance to Jesus asking Peter basically the same question three times?
21:18 What in the world, or in the otherworld, is Jesus talking about?
21:19 Why the parenthesis? How did the Gospel writer know how Peter would die?
21:1-19 Might we refer to this passage as “Grilling with Jesus” or “Barbecue on the beach?”
                                                                  
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, April 8, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 2nd Sunday of Easter (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.

ACTS 5:27-32
During the Easter Season the First Reading is from the Book of Acts rather than from the Hebrew Scriptures.
5:27 Who brought whom from where?  What council?  Who was the high priest and what is the high priest’s function?
5:28 What in the world is the high priest talking about?  Who is the “we” who gave strict orders?  By what authority could they give such orders?
5:29 Why is only Peter named?  Who might be among the other “apostles?”  “We must obey God rather than any human authority” reminds me of one of the one of the Historic Principles of Church Order (see F-3.0101). Did all the Apostles say this in unison?
5:30 Note that Peter references the God of “our” ancestors. Did Peter consider the members of the council Abraham’s ancestors? Also note that God raised up Jesus, Jesus did not rise.  Why is the cross sometimes referred to as a tree?
5:31 What is the significance of God’s metaphorical right hand? What is the Greek word translated as “Leader” in the NRSV?
5:32 What “things?” are the apostles witnesses to?  How is the Holy Spirit a witness?  Is there a sense that God gives the Holy Spirit as a reward for obedience?

PSALM 118:14-29
118:14-24 These verses were part of the Psalm last week, on Easter!
118:14 Is there any difference between strength and might? How shall we understand the meaning of salvation in a Psalm compared to salvation in a New Testament text? This verse reminds me of a Taizé chant.
118:15 When was the last time you heard a glad song in worship?
118:15b-16 Is this the glad song referenced in 118:15?
118:17 What are the deeds of the LORD and could you recount them?
118:18 Is death the ultimate punishment?  For what was the psalmist punished?  Does this verse presume an angry God of wrath and vengeance?
118:19 Where are what are the gates of righteousness?
118:20 Where is this gate?
118:21 Does the LORD ever not answer?
118:22 What is the difference between a cornerstone and a keystone?  Why would builders reject a stone?
118:23 What is the LORD’s doing?
118:24 I thought the LORD made all days.
118:25 Note the transition from the singular to the plural. What sort of “success” was the psalmist asking for?
118:26 What does it mean to come in the name of the LORD?  Where and when have we heard this before?  Where and when will we hear it again?
118:27 What festal procession?  What are the horns of the altar?
118:28 What is the meaning of “extol” and how does it differ from giving thanks?
118:29 Does not “steadfast” love mean it endures forever?
118:14-29 Why this Psalm this day?

OR (Use PSALM 118:14-29 or PSALM 150, but not both.)

PSALM 150
The 2nd Sunday of Easter (Year C) is the only Sunday this Psalm appears in the Lectionary.
150:1 Is God’s sanctuary the mighty firmament? What and where is the firmament?
150:2 What are God’s mighty deeds and ho many of them are there? How surpassing is God’s greatness? What does God’s greatness surpass?
150:3 I can not wait to recruit the accompanist to paly this and the following sounds! How do churches that do not use or allow accompaniment and musical instruments being used in worship interpret this verse?
150:4 When was the last time you experienced liturgical dance in worship? When was the last time you danced in worship?
150:5 Please note – LOUD!
150:6 What breathes and what does not breath? Can we praise God with our breath?

REVELATION1:4-8
1:4-8 Please note that this reading is from Revelation, NOT Revelations!  What difference does an “s” make?
1:4 Is there anything special about these seven churches besides the fact that John wrote to them?  What do you know about letter salutations in Greek and Hebrew cultures?  What are the seven spirits?
1:5 Does this verse presume a blood atonement theory?
1:6 How are we a kingdom?  Are we a kingdom of priests?
1:7 How can those who pierced him see him if they are dead when he comes?

1:8 Is it safe to assume that everyone in a church pew understands the meaning of “I am the Alpha and the Omega?” In the Classic Star Trek episode “All Our Yesterdays,” there is a librarian named “Mr. Atoz.”  www.imdb.com/title/tt0708415/ Compare this verse to verse 4.

 

JOHN 20:19-31
20:19 Is the setting our Saturday evening or our Sunday evening?  What or whose house were they in? Why did the disciples fear the Jews? What sort of greeting is “Peace be with you?”
20:20 Why did Jesus show the disciples his hands and side? Did the disciples not rejoice before they saw his hands and side? Did the disciples not recognize Jesus before they saw his hands and side?
20:21 Why is the “Peace be with you” greeting repeated? How did the Father send Jesus?
20:22 Why did Jesus breathe on the disciples?  What is the connection between breath and the Holy Spirit?
20:23 When interpreting this verse, does it make any difference that this is perhaps the latest Gospel? What is “The power of the keys?”
20:24 I wonder where Thomas was and why he was not there. Why was Thomas called “the Twin?” Who was his twin?
20:25 Do you know anyone who can honestly say “I have seen the Lord?”  Rather than referring to him as “doubting Thomas” I would rather refer to him as “I am not gullible Thomas” or “Skeptical Thomas.”
20:26 Were the doors also locked? Is it significant that it was a week later?
20:27 Do not doubt what?  Believe what?
20:28 Jesus invited Thomas to touch his wounds, but did Thomas do so?  Might “My Lord and My God” be an example of an early confession of faith?
20:29 For whom is this verse written? Who have not seen and yet have come to believe?
20:30 I wonder what other signs Jesus may have done that are not written in this book.  I think I feel an historical novel coming on: “The Other Signs of Jesus” I will title it.
20:31 This also reads like an early statement of faith. Is this verse talking about life in the here  and now or a future life everlasting in heaven?
                                                                  
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, April 1, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the Resurrection of the Lord/Easter (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.

ACTS or ISAIAH
I usually use the Acts passage rather than the Isaiah passage because Acts specifically refers to Jesus’ resurrection. Using the Acts Reading as the First Reading leaves room to also use the 1 Corinthians Reading. If you use the Isaiah reading rather than the Acts Reading as the First Reading, then you can choose between the Acts Reading or the 1 Corinthians Reading for the Second (or Epistle) Reading.

ACTS 10:34-43
10:34 Do we hear this verse any differently considering Pope Francis?  To whom is Peter speaking?  How shall we hear this considering some of the rhetoric emanating from the current US administration?
10:35 Is “nation” a geographic, ethnic, or religious designation? What does it mean to fear God?
10:36 What is the message, or more specifically the content of the message Peter is referring to? Is Jesus Christ the Lord of even those who do not follow him?
10:37 What is the size of Galilee compared to Judea? Why might it be important to reference John? Consider that even after Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead, John the Baptizer is still part of the story.
10:38 I think we might generally know how Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism but how and when was he anointed with power?  Is the Holy Spirit the same as power? Must we buy into a personified “devil” to find truth in this verse? I usually think that Rome, not the devil, was the oppressor, unless one considers Rome the devil.
10:39 Who are “we?” What does it mean to be a witness? Paul could not write or say this, but Peter can.  Why “tree” rather than “Cross?”
10:40 Please note Jesus did not rise from the dead.  God raised him from the dead. What is the nuanced meaning of “appear?” Could God not have allowed Jesus to appear?
10:41 Does Peter mean to suggest that only those who ate and drank with the risen Christ are witnesses? Does partaking of the Lord’s Supper make us witnesses?
10:42 Who commanded, God or Christ?  What is the difference between preaching and testifying?
10:43 Is “All” hyperbole? What prophets might Peter have had in mind?

ISAIAH 65:17-25
65:17 Do Christians consider this prophecy to have been fully fulfilled? Note that “heavens” is plural while earth is singular. How many heavens are there? What do we remember and what do we forget? Out of the death and destruction of the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile, their 9/11, arose a hope of resurrection and new life. Don’t forget the old but don’t be bound by it.
65:18 Why is the passing of the old and the coming of the new something to be glad about? Note the present participle “creating.”
65:19 God rejoices? But weeping and cries of distress are still heard in Jerusalem today. Sometimes the weeping and cries are those of Jews and sometimes they are those of Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Christians.
65:20 So everyone who dies a natural death before they turn a hundred will be  accursed?
65:21 Shall they build houses and plant vineyards on occupied territory?
65:22 What are the days of a tree like?
65:23 What shall we say when an Israeli child or a Palestinian child dies from violence?
65:24 So God is proactive?
65:25 Oh, if only this last phrase were true today.

PSALM 118:1-2, 14-24
118:1 The LORD is good, but the Lord’s followers often are not.
118:2 This is beginning to sound like a rubric for a responsive reading.
118:14 Are strength and might synonyms? What is their relation to salvation? What sort of salvation might the psalmist have in mind?
118:15 If we were to ever hear a glad song in worship, it ought to be on Easter!
118:15b-16 What is so special about the right hand of the LORD?  Do these verses display a bias against left handers? Is this a quote from glad song of victory?
118:17 Not dying is different from resurrection. What are the deeds of the LORD?
118:18 Is this a singular or a collective “me”?  I wonder about the nature of this punishment. Are some punishments worse than death?
118:19 Where are the gates of righteousness located and how many of them are there?
118:20 Is the gate of the LORD one of the gates of righteousness or a different gate?
118:21 What was the answer?  At least this psalmist apparently experienced prayer being answered. How often do you feel your prayers have been answered?
118:22 What is a cornerstone and what purpose does it serve.  Do not confuse a corner stone with a keystone. Is there a special cornerstone associated with your church building?
118:23 What is the LORD’s doing?  Who are “we?”
118:24 I thought the LORD made all days.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:19-26
15:19-26 This passage is proclamation, not explanation.
15:19 This sounds more like the end of an argument rather than the beginning. So, are we to be pitied or not? While hope in Christ certainly has something to do with the afterlife, does it not also have something to do with the present life?
15:20 Note again that Christ has been raised from the dead.  He did not rise from the dead. What does it mean that Christ was the first fruits?
15:21-22 Is this logical? Does this depend on Paul’s conception of Christ as the second Adam, or does Paul’s conception of Christ as the second Adam naturally and logically lead to this point?
15:23 Who belong to Christ?
15:24 Is it possible to celebrate Easter without a little eschatology? Is this an indictment of secular and political power?
15:25 Who are Christ’s enemies.  What does it mean to put an enemy under one’s feet?
15:26 Did Christ defeat death when he was raised, or is this something yet to happen?

JOHN or LUKE? John is my favorite gospel and since there is no liturgical year dedicated to John, I usually prefer to use the John Reading rather than the Luke Reading. Use one or the other but not both.

JOHN 20:1-18
20:1 Note that, contrasted with other Gospels, only Mary Magdalene is mentioned.  We are not given a reason for her coming to the tomb.
20:2 Did Jesus not love Peter and the other disciples, or just this one?  Considering verse 1, who is the “we” Mary is talking about? Who did she mean by “They?”
23:3 Why is the other disciple not named?
20:4 Is there any deeper meaning here? How could they be running together and not arrive at the same time?
20:5 Why do you think the disciple did not go into the tomb?
20:6 Peter may have been slower, but he was apparently the braver or more inquisitive? Had the stone been removed so that Jesus could come out of the tomb or so Peter and the other disciple could go into the tomb?
20:7 Does this detail matter?
20:8 Believed what?
20:9 Note that here it is “rise from the dead” and not “be raised from the dead.”  How could they not understand the scripture? What scripture did they not understand?
20:10 Well, this is ant-climactic! Where were the homes of the disciples?
20:11 Peter and the other disciple were typical men, abandoning the woman!  Why had Mary not left with the two disciples? I find it interesting that we are told the other disciple “bent down to look in” (20:5) and that Mary “bent over to look into the tomb”. What is it about “bending down?” Do we need to bend down in some way to see into the truth of the empty tomb?
20:12 Why had the two disciples not seen the two angels?  Have you ever seen an angel?  What is your angelology?  Do angels ever wear anything but white?
20:13 Did the angels really need to ask the question? Who else in this Gospel is addressed as “woman?”
20:14 Remember, this story is being told from the perspective of after the fact. Is there any significance to the fact that Mary did not see Jesus until after she turned? Do we need to somehow “turn” in order to see Jesus?
20:15 Why does Jesus ask the same question asked by the angels? Was Jesus’ question a rhetorical one?  How cold Mary mistake the risen Jesus for the gardener? Could she not see his feet?
20:16 What does it mean when someone calls you by name?
20:17 Would Mary be allowed to hold on to Jesus if he had ascended?  Why all this ascension talk? What is the meaning of “brothers?”
20:18 Thus Mary Magdalene is the first evangelist.  End of story!  Well, not quite.

LUKE 24:1-12
24:1 What is early dawn? Note that in the John, Mary was the only woman at the tomb. In Luke, there are several. Why the discrepancy and does it make a difference?
24:2 Similar to the question I asked regarding John 20:6, I wonder if the stone had been rolled away so that Jesus could come out of the tomb or so the women could go in?
24:3 No habeas corpus.
24:4 Who were then men in dazzling white? Could this be an allusion to Moses and Elijah? How many witnesses were required by Jewish law?
24:5 The women were awed that the tomb was empty but terrified when confronted by the two men in dazzling white. Does Easter still awe and terrify us? Note that here it is “he has risen” and not “he has been raised.”
24:6 Anamnesis! When was Jesus last in Galilee?
24:7 When and where did Jesus say this? Note the “Son of Man” language. Why “again?”
24:8 More Anamnesis! What words did they remember, the ones above?
24:9 Who were “the rest?”
24:10 Why are only three of the women named? How many other women were there? Why are the recipients of this news called apostles rather than disciples?
24:11 Do most people in our post-modern and post-Christian culture hear the Easter story as an idle tale? What might this verse say about male’s tendency to doubt the testimony of women?
24:12 Peter must not have had his foot in his mouth in order to run to the tomb. Did he have to see for himself because the women’s testimony was not powerful enough?  What happened, exactly, that amazed Peter? Where was Peter’s home?
                                                                  
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.