Sunday, September 17, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 21 (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.

EXODUS 17:1-7
17:1 Where was the wilderness of Sin?  I wonder how worshipers hear the name of the location. What does it mean to journey by stages?  Did the LORD command them to journey, or did the LORD command them to journey by stages? Why would anyone camp at a place where there was no water?
17:2 How many times have the people quarreled with Moses?  How is quarrelling with Moses the same as testing the LORD?
17:3 Were the people questioning Moses’ motivation or leadership and judgment?
17:4 How many pastors, how many times, have similarly cried out? Was Moses more concerned about the welfare of the people or his own hide?
17:5 Apparently Moses served in a multi staff congregation!  I want to know more about this staff.  Where might it be now? Why am I thinking of Gandalf and his staff?
17:6 How would Moses recognize the LORD standing on the rock? Was this a well-known rock or a rock with a known well?  What do you know about Horeb? Were the elders there to serve as witnesses?
17:7 “Is the LORD among us or not” seems to be the question of the day.  Why do we never see churches with names like “The Massah …” or “The Meribah (put your denomination here) Church”? Why is quarreling and the grumbling, rather than the water from the rock, remembered by the naming?

PSALM 78:1-4, 12-16
78:1 Who speaking here?
78:2 Apparently someone was teaching in parables centuries before Jesus.  I love the phrase “dark sayings from of old.”  It reminds me of literature such as Beowulf and the Legend of King Arthur as well as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  I imagine the whole congregation of Israel gathered around a blazing fire while camped for the night, telling stories from the past as well as re-hashing the day’s events.
78:3 I sometimes wonder what dark sayings from of old have been lost from the oral tradition. How does preaching contribute to the oral tradition?
78:4 Why would anyone want to hide such things from their children? Were they ashamed of their past? What are the glorious deeds of the LORD? What wonders has the LORD done?
78:12 In the sight of whose ancestors? Where is Zoan?
78:13-16 Are these the only glorious deeds of the LORD and the only wonders God has done. What is not mentioned?
78:15-16 Do these two verses talk about the same thing?

PHILIPPIANS 3:4b-14
2:1 Why “if?”
2:2 Are we to assume Paul’s joy was not complete?
2:3 Can’t selfish ambition sometimes be a great motivator?
2:4 This seems to run against most current practices. The first question people often seem to ask is “what is in it for me?”
2:5 Based on this verse, are we then to think and act in accordance with Philippians 2:6-8?
2:6 How would one exploit equality with God?
2:7 Are “likeness” and “form” synonyms?
2:8 Obedient to who or what?
2:9 Was “Jesus” above every name before it was given to Christ, or was it elevated above every name because of Christ’s obedience?
2:10 Whose knees are under the earth?
2:11 Is “Jesus Christ is Lord” not the most basic confession of the Christian faith?
2:12 How have the Philippians “obeyed” Paul? How do we work out our own salvation? What is meant by fear and trembling?
2:13 Or? What is the meaning and function of this verse?

MATTHEW 21:23-32
21:23 Is this a legitimate question?  What is the answer?
21:24 Is Jesus engaging in a tit for tat?
21:25-27 It seems the chief priests and elders choose to not speak the truth but rather the most politically advantageous answer. Does this behavior remind you of any person or persons in our day?
21:27 Did the chief priests and elders really know but were not willing to answer, or did they really not know? What is the difference between not knowing the truth and not speaking the truth?
21:28 What is the symbolism of the vineyard? Whom might the two sons represent?
21:28-32 Whom is Jesus addressing? How does this parable logically follow from what precedes it? Is this a parable or an analogy?
21:31 Touché!  Maybe the tax collectors and prostitutes will go into the kingdom ahead of the chief priests and elders, but perhaps the elders and chief priests will still go in. Is this another reversal parable, similar to the Gospel Reading from last week?
21:32 And the lesson is? Where do you find yourself in the parable?

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 5, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 20 (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.

EXODUS 16:2-15
16:2 Why might Pastor’s sometimes feel like Moses and Aaron?  How do we complain and what do we complain about?
16:3 What is a “fleshpot?” Why would the Israelites have preferred to die in slavery in Egypt rather than in freedom in the wilderness?
16:4 How is God sending bread to a hungry people a test?  What exactly and specifically are God’s instructions?
16:5 Why is twice as much provided and gathered on the sixth day?
16:6 In 16:4 the Lord spoke to Moses, but here both Moses and Aaron speak to the Israelites. What is so special about the evening?
16:7 How will the people see the glory of the Lord in the morning? What is “the glory of the Lord”? Were the people complaining against the Lord or against Moses and Aaron?
16:8 The Lord has promised bread but not said anything about meat. Is this verse an expanded reiteration of the verse preceding it?
16:9 Was Aaron only Moses’ spokesperson? What does it mean to draw near to the Lord?
16:10 If the people were already in the wilderness, how could they look “toward” the wilderness?  What and where is your wilderness?
16:11 This has to be one of the shortest verses in the Hebrew Scriptures.
16:12 How shall eating meat and bread convince people that the Lord is their God? Where is the meat coming from?
16:13 Here comes the aforementioned meat. Have you ever eaten a quail?  I have. Quail is delicious but not very satisfying if you are particularly hungry.
16:14 What is this fine flakey substance called?
16:15 How can a fine flaky substance be considered bread?

PSALM 105:1-6, 37-45, 45b
105:1 What is the LORD’s name?  How can one call on the LORD’s name when one is not permitted to pronounce the LORD’s name? What are the LORD’s deeds? Who are the “peoples?”
105:2 What are the LORD’s wonderful works? Are the wonderful works the same as the deeds?
105:3 How do we glory in God’s name?
105:4 Is the LORD’s strength the same as the Lord’s presence?  Does presence bring strength?
105:5 This is the second time wonderful works are mentioned.  Are the wonderful works the same as miracles and judgments?  Is this just a feature of Hebrew poetry or is something else going here.
105:6 Why are offspring always the offspring of only men? The Hebrew Scriptures often mentioned the descendants of Abraham and Jacob, skipping over Isaac. Why?
105:37 What does the silver and gold refer to?
105:38 If Egypt was glad, why did the Egyptian army pursue the fleeing Israelites?
105:39 So the cloud was not only a sign of God’s presence but also camouflage for the Israelites?
105:40 Did the people ask or complain?
105:41 What does this verse reference?
105:42 What was the holy promise? Could the LORD possibly forget that promise?
105:43 Can we had complaining and grumbling to joy and singing?
105:44 So the LORD’s people were given what was not theirs?
105:45 Had the LORD bribed the Israelites?

PHILIPPIANS 1:21-30
1:21 How can dying be gain?
1:22 What does Paul mean by flesh?
1:23 What preferences is Paul internally debating?
1:24 Whose remaining in the flesh, Paul’s or the Philippians’?
1:25 What is Paul convinced of?
1:26 Were the Philippians boasting?
1:27 What is a life worthy of the gospel? How does one stand firm? What does Paul mean by one spirit?
1:28 Who were the opponents? What evidence is Paul referring to?
1:29 Does believing always go hand in hand with suffering?
1:30 What struggle did the Philippians and Paul share?

MATTHEW 20:1-16
20:1 This is a kingdom parable.
20:2 What is the usual daily wage?
20:3 Why were these others standing idle in the marketplace?
20:4 What wage would be right?
20:5-7 It seems the landowner goes out about every two or three hours. Why were these people not around earlier in the day? Why did the landowner night hire more workers the first time?
20:8 Who is the landowner and who is the manager? The last shall be first and the first last – this is the only way this parable works. Where else in the Gospels can we find this sort of reversal?
20:9 Why did those who worked only a few hours receive the usual daily wage?
20:10 Why did those hired earlier and who worked longer expect to be paid more than the usual daily wage?
20:11 Where else in today’s Readings have we heard about grumbling?
20:12 I can sympathize with the sentiment.
20:13 This is true but it still seems unfair.
20:14 Why did the landowner choose to do this?
20:15 Are these more than rhetorical questions?
20:16 What is the meaning of this?

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, August 29, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 19 (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.

EXODUS 14:19-31
14:19 Are the “angel of God” and the “pillar of cloud” one and the same or are they different manifestations of the same reality?
14:20 What is the meaning of “army”?  How could fleeing slaves have an army in the military sense of the word?  How could the cloud light up the night?  What did not come near the other?
14:21 How might we variously understand the action of Moses stretching his hand over the sea?  What, if any, is the significance of the wind? If God was acting here, why did Moses need to do anything? Might the causeway at Lindisfarne, off the eastern coast of England, in any way help us envision how God might have been working here?
14:22 How might we variously understand “wall?”
14:23 Why do chariot drivers driving chariots not like mud?
14:24 When is the morning watch? Why did the Egyptian army panic? Are the pillar of fire and pillar of cloud one and the same?
14:25 Why did Captain Kirk, in a damaged Enterprise, enter a nebula when Kahn, in a perfectly functioning starship, sought to engage him in battle?
14:26 What is it about the hand off Moses? Why does God need to work through the hand of Moses?
14:27 When did the water’s part and when did the water’s return?  How might we variously understand “tossed?”
14:28 Does this verse conflict with the one before it?
14:29 Is this merely a restatement of 14:22?
14:30 How did the Egyptians end up on the seashore?
14:31 If it was the LORD that saved Israel, why did Israel “fear” the LORD and believe in Moses as well as in the LORD?

PSALM 114
114:1 When did Israel go out from Egypt? Why do we have a comment about strange language?
114:2 Are the references to “Judah” and “Israel” a reference to places, a people, or both? God needed a sanctuary?
114:3 Does this verse conflate two events? What does “Jordan turned back” mean or refer to?
114:4 How do mountains and hills “skip?”
114:5-6 Why are bodies of waters being compared, or poetically paired, to mountains and hills?
114:7 Is this a reference to the God of the earthquake?
114:8 When did God turn rock into a pool of water and flint into a spring of water?

EXODUS 15:1b-11, 20-21
15:1b Yes, there are other psalms or songs in the Bible other than in the Book of Psalms.  Who first sang this one?  This is an alternative to Psalm 114.  Which of the two, if either, will you use, and why?  How are they different and how are they similar?
15:2 This sounds like a statement of faith.
15:3 Must we maintain this militaristic image of God?
15:4 Why, in the NRSV, does this begin with quotation marks?
15:5 See Psalm 114:8.
15:6 What is the significance of the LORD’s “right hand?”
15:7 Note that the text states these were the LORD’s adversaries, not the Israelites’ adversaries.
15:8 God has nostrils?  The parting of the waters was the result of God sneezing?
15:9 So much for the boasts of the enemy!
15:10 Did the LORD blow wind from the nose or mouth?
15:11 And the answer to the questions asked in this verse is? Who or what are the “gods?”
15:20 Note that Miriam is called a prophet!  Why is she identified as Aaron’s sister rather than as the sister of both Aaron and Moses?  When was the last time you heard a tambourine played in a service of worship? When was the last time you saw dancing or you yourself danced in a service of worship?
15:21 This last line sounds like a refrain; a restatement of 15:1b.

ROMANS 14:1-12
14:1 What does it mean to be “weak in faith?” Who were/are the weak in faith and how can they be welcomed?
14:2 Are vegetarians weak?
14:3 Is Paul writing about only diets?
14:4 Who are “servants of another” and who is the “another”? How does this passage inform Church discipline?
14:5 Is Paul talking about the Sabbath and/or the Lord’s Day (Saturday and Sunday), or what?
14:6 Is Paul writing about fasting? Do you know the meaning of the word “adiaphora,” especially as Calvin used it?
14:7-9 These verses are often used as part of the liturgy for the Service of Witness to the Resurrection and I myself have spoken these words numerous times graveside.  What do they have to do, however, with what precedes or follows?
14:10 I think this is more than a rhetorical question.
14:11 Where is this written? What does quote have to do with the topic at hand?
14:12 Each of us will be accountable, but accountable based on what?

MATTHEW 18:21-35
18:21 Why might the word “church” seem out of place here?  How might we account for it being used here?  Is there anything special about the number “seven” in this context? Do you think Peter was really looking for an answer or just seeking justification of his own views and practice?
18:22 Is there anything special about “seventy-seven”?  Are there parallels to this passage in the other Gospels, and if so, how do they agree and disagree?
18:23-35 Is this a “Kingdom Parable?” If this passage is not about wealth, then what is it about?
18:24 What is the current value of ten thousand talents?
18:25 I guess there were no bankruptcy provisions back then, only debtor’s prison.
18:26 Was does falling on knees signify?
18:27 Must forgiveness proceed from pity?
18:28 What is the current value of a hundred denarii? How does the value of a hundred denarii compare to the value of ten thousand talents?
18:29 Note that this is nearly verbatim of Matthew 18:26.
18:30 So much for paying it forward!
18:31 Communities have their standards and expectations.
18:32 That is indeed the case.
18:33 And what is the answer to this rhetorical question?
18:34 How can the master hold his slave accountable for a debt he has already forgiven? Is torture worse than imprisonment?
18:35 Is this a threat?  Does this verse suggest that forgiveness, even salvation, is revocable? Will God hand the unforgiving over to be tortured?

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, August 28, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 18 (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.

EXODUS 12:1-14
12:1 God now speaks to both Moses and Aaron.  What about Mariam?
12:2 What month?  I think Israel recognized at least two calendars, one civil/religious and the other agricultural. How many ways do contemporary Christians tell and mark time?
12:3 Why a lamb?
12:4 How many people does it take to eat a lamb?
12:5 Why without blemish? From the sheep or the goats?
12:6 Why keep it four days? Or was it kept only three days if it was slaughtered at twilight?
12:7 I wonder what was done with the blood that was not put on the doorposts and lintel. What about the doorposts and lintel of a family partaking in another house?
12:8 Why unleavened bread and bitter herbs?
12:9 I can understand the prohibition about not eating any raw lamb but why not boiled? Why roasted whole? Is it sanitary to roast it whole?
12:10 Do not let anything remain until the morning!  But if anything does remain until the morning, burn it. Why?
12:11 This sounds like the original fast food. But it takes a while to roast a lamb and then burn the remains.
12:12 What is the irony here?  Why is judgment executed on the gods of Egypt rather than upon Pharaoh? Why are creatures other than humans affected?
12:13 Is the blood a sign for the whole congregation of Israel or a sign for God? Are creatures other than humans also saved by the LORD passing over?
12:14 Do “day of remembrance,” “a festival,” and, “a perpetual ordinance” all mean the same thing?

PSALM 149
149:1 What is a “new song” and what is the difference between a “new song” and any other sort of song? How shall PC(USA) Presbyterians, introducing the new hymnal Glory To God, read this passage? When is a song no longer new?
149:2 Is there any difference between “Israel” and “the children of Zion” or is this just an expression of Hebrew poetry? How easily do Christians refer to the same thing(s) with different words? Does “King” refer to God or the earthly king?
149:3 When was the last time people worshiping in your congregation praised God’s name with dancing?  When was the last time you heard a tambourine (or a lyre) in worship?
149:4 I like the image of God taking pleasure in me.
149:5 Did people really sing for joy on their couches? What about couch potato worshipers watching Sunday morning preachers on TV?
149:6 I like the image of singing but not swashbuckling.
149:7 I do not like the way this Psalm has progressed from singing a new song of praise to using swords to execute vengeance and punishment.
149:8-9 I do not like the militaristic imagery as this is beginning to sound like the call a holy war. How shall we deal with this in light of the history of the Crusades and current so-called  radical Islamic terrorism?

ROMANS 13:8-14
13:8 Here is a solution to our personal and national debt!
13:9 Of all the commandments, even all the ten commandments, why are these four mentioned?
13:10 Can we forget the commandments as long as we love our neighbor?
13:8-10 See Matthew 19:18-19
13:11 What time is it? “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers” is logically a true statement unless there is no salvation. The future is always growing closer to the present no matter how far away the future may be. What does it mean to wake from sleep? Seep is often a metaphor referring to death. Is that how it is being used here?
13:12 What are the works of darkness?  What is the armor of light? Can the Dead Sea Scrolls help us as we interpret this passage?
13:12-13 Is the assumption that some types of behavior are more typically engaged in at night and refrained from during the day?
13:13 May we logically assume that “reveling and drunkenness, debauchery and licentiousness, quarreling and jealousy” are among (or all of) the works of darkness?
13:14 Is putting “on the Lord Jesus Christ” the antithesis of “gratifying desires of the flesh?” Is Paul alluding to baptism?

MATTHEW 18:15-20
18:15 How does someone “sin” against you? How might Family Systems Theory inform our interpretation and application of this verse?
18:16 What “word” are these “witnesses” confirming? Are the witnesses to be neutral?
18:17 What does it mean for church member to be “as a Gentile and a tax collector”? This is beginning to sound like a church disciplinary process.
18:18 Have we heard these words before, in another context? What is the meaning of binding and loosing?
18:19 Just two? Anything? Is this an example of hyperbole? What if two different groups of Christians agree in the group but each group takes the opposite position of the other group? What if three Christians agree on earth about something that two other Christians have agreed to oppose?
18:20 What does it mean to “gather in my name?” Two or three is a lot less than a minyan.

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.