Monday, December 17, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 1st Sunday After Christmas (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.

1 SAMUEL 2:18-20, 26
2:18 What sort of “ministering” was Samuel engaged in? What is an ephod and what does it mean that Samuel was wearing one?
2:19 Who was Samuel’s mother? Did Samuel grow out of his robe every year or was it wearing out after a year’s use?
2:20 Why is Elkanah mentioned by name but Samuel’s mother is not? Who was Eli?
2:26 What is meant by “stature” and what is meant by “favor?”
2:18-20, 26 Why would this passage appear in the Lectionary today, the first Sunday after Christmas?

PSALM 148
148:1 Note that this is one of the “Hallel” Psalms, perhaps especially appropriate this First Sunday after Christmas and the last Sunday before the New Year. Where are the heights?
148:2 What is the difference between angels and all the host?
148:3 How do sun, moon and stars praise?
148:4 Where are the highest heavens? What water is above the heavens? How can post-modern, round earth, heliocentric Christians continue to find meaning in pre-modern, flat earth, geocentric biblical imagery?
148:5 To which creation account does this verse refer?
148:6 What bounds cannot be passed?
148:7 What sea monsters might the psalmist have had in mind? What might the “deeps” represent?
148:8 Does the weather praise the Lord? Have 21st Century Christians lost touch with storm imagery related to God?
148:9 What is the difference between a mountain and a hill? How might you hear and read this if you have lived in Iowa all your life?
148:10 Do creeping things that give us the creeps really praise the Lord?
148:11 Do Presidents, Premiers, and Prime Ministers fall under “all rulers of the earth?”
148:12 There is no ageism or sexism here?
148:13 How is the name of the Lord praised when the name of the Lord is not to be pronounced?
148:14 What is a horn?

COLOSSIANS 3:12-17
3:12 Who are God’s chosen ones? Is this list of virtues meant to be definitive?
3:13 What does it mean to bear with one another? I am hearing echoes of The Lord’s Prayer here.
3:14 How does love bind? I like the imagery of perfect harmony, but for there to be harmony there must be more than one voice. Perhaps singing in a choir has helped me better understand and appreciate this imagery.
3:15 What is the peace of Christ and how does it rule? In the Hebrew tradition, what is the meaning of “hearts?”
3:16 What is the word of Christ and how is it different from the peace of Christ? What is the difference among psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs?
3:17 Doing is one thing. What about being, or thinking, or feeling? How do we do anything, let alone everything, in the name of the Lord Jesus?

Luke 2:41-52
2:41 Why am I hearing an echo of 1 Samuel 2:19? Whose parents?
2:42 Is there anything special about being a twelve-year-old Jewish boy?
2:43 Was Jesus misbehaving by staying behind? How could his parents not know he was not with them when they left for home?
2:44 How far is a day’s journey?
2:45 I wonder if they returned that night or waited until the next day.
2:46 Is the “after three days” a premonition or forth telling allusion to the resurrection? Why would Jesus have been listening and asking questions rather than teaching?
2:47 What and whose questions was Jesus answering?
2:48 Why were Jesus’ parents astonished? Is there any significance to Jesus’ mother calling him “child” rather than “son?” This passage suggests that Jospej was still alive at the time.
2:49 Was Jesus being a smart ass?
2:50 What did they not understand? Would anybody ever understand Jesus during his ministry on earth?
2:51 So Jesus’s staying behind was indeed seen as an act of disobedience? What things did Jesus’ mother ponder in her heart?
2:52 Why am I hearing an echo of 1 Samuel 2:26? Do you think the author of Luke was alluding to the story of Samuel in the Temple when writing this story?
                                                                  
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, December 10, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 4th Sunday of Advent Time (Year C)


Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 is a further revision and refinement of my Lectionary Ruminations and Lectionary Ruminations 2.0.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 draws on over thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without over reliance on commentaries, I intend with sometimes pointed and sometimes snarky comments and Socratic like questions, to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to lead a Bible study, draft liturgy, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.

PREFACE: There are a couple of options this week. One could use the Canticle (Luke 1:46b-55) rather than the Psalm (80:1-7) and the shorter Gospel Reading (Luke 1:39-45), or one could use the Psalm (80:1-7) rather than the Canticle (Luke 1:46b-55) and not use the Canticle at all, or one could use the Psalm and include the Canticle as part of the Gospel Reading (Luke 1:39-55). I will use the Canticle rather than the Psalm and then use the shorter Gospel Reading.

MICAH 5:2-5a
5:2 What is the meaning of “Bethlehem?”  What is the significance, or insignificance, of Ehhpratah?  What sort of origin is from of old? When were ancient days?
5:3 Who is giving whom up?  Who is in labor?  Whose kindred shall return?
5:4 What does it mean to feed a flock in the strength of the LORD?
5:5a What does it mean to be “the one of peace”?

LUKE 1:46a-55
1:46b What is the first word in the Latin Vulgate translation of this verse?  How does one’s soul magnify the LORD?
1:47 When and why does your spirit rejoice?
1:48 What is the nature of this lowliness?  What does it mean to be called blessed?
1:49 What great things has the Mighty One done?
1:50 What is the nature of this fear? Is there no mercy for those who do not fear?
1:51 What does “in the thoughts of their hearts” mean? Do we think with our hearts or minds? Do we feel with our hearts or minds?
1:52 What powerful have been brought down from their thrones? What lowly have been lifted up?
1:53 This reads like a 99% passage. What good things have been fed to the hungry? What does it mean to be rich but empty?
1:54 What is the meaning of “in remembrance of his mercy?”
1:55 What promise is being referred to?

PSALM 80:1-7
80:1 What does it mean to “give ear?” How can Jospeh be led like a flock? What are cherubim and where might one find them?
80:2 Why are only these three tribes mentioned?
80:3 What does it mean for God’s face to shine?
80:4 Have you ever felt like God was angry with your prayers?
80:5 Could Christians read this as “anti-Eucharistic” imagery?
80:6 How would the psalmist now if enemies were laughing among themselves?
80:7 This sounds like a refrain. See 80:3.

HEBREWS 10:5-10
10:5 What came before this “consequently?”  Is it not essential to the argument?  Where did Christ say this?  What body has been prepared? 
10:6 What is the difference between a burnt offering and a sin offering?
10:7 What, or where is the scroll of the book?
10:8 What is being quoted?
10:9 The “first” and the “second” refers to what?
10:10 Does this verse presume, or require, any specific theory of the atonement?

LUKE 1:39-45
1:39 What days?  Why did Mary set out and go with haste? What Judean town? Why is it not named?
1:40 Why did Mary not greet Zechariah?
1:41 What is the meaning of the child’s leaping?  Was it the child’s leaping that filled Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit?  If not, when was she filled?
1:42 I wonder how loud her cry was.
1:43 And we too wonder?
1:44 How did Elizabeth know it was joy and not some other emotion?
1:45 Which of the two women is blessed?
1:(46-55) See my ruminations on the Canticle above.
                                                                  
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, December 3, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 3rd Sunday of Advent Time (Year C)


Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 is a further revision and refinement of my Lectionary Ruminations and Lectionary Ruminations 2.0.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 draws on over thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without over reliance on commentaries, I intend with sometimes pointed and sometimes snarky comments and Socratic like questions, to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to lead a Bible study, draft liturgy, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.

ZEPHANIAH 3:14-20
3:14 Who is daughter Zion and why is she singing? What is the difference between singing and shouting? What do singing and shouting have to do with rejoicing?
3:15 Who made judgments against Israel?  Who were Israel’s enemies? Has the King of Israel, the LORD, not always been in the midst of Israel?
3:16 What day?  Who will say this to Israel? What do weak hands symbolize?
3:17 I do not like militaristic imagery being applied to the LORD. It is what gave us the Crusades. I do, however, like the imagery of the LORD singing?
3:18 Is worship at your church like a day of festival?
3:19 Are these oppressors the same as the enemies of 3:15? This sounds like a preferential option for the lame, outcast, and shamed.
3:20 At what time? Is the “that time” of this verse the same as the “that day” of Isaiah 12:4? Where are we now if we are not home? What does it mean to be renowned? What does it feel like to be renowned?

ISAIAH 12:2-6
12:2-6 How does your worshiping community react when the Second Reading or Psalm is not a Psalm but a Canticle?
12:2 What is the relationship between trust and fear? How do Christians understand thanksgiving for salvation within the Hebrew Scriptures? This verse reminds me of the TaizĂ© chant “In God I Trust.”
12:3 What and where are the wells of salvation?  Can water from the wells of salvation be bottled and sold?
12:4 What day?  How does one call on the name of the LORD and exalt in his name if the LORD’s name is not to be pronounced? What are the deeds of the LORD?
12:5 Are sung praises preferred over spoken praises? See Zephaniah 3:14.
12:6 Zephaniah 3:14 called for singing aloud. Isaiah here calls for shouting aloud. What is the difference between singing and shouting? Who is the Holy One of Israel?

PHILIPPIANS 4:4-7
4:4 Note that “rejoice” also appeared in Zephaniah 3:13. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being lethargic and 10 being manic, how would you rate your religious/spiritual community’s ability to rejoice?
4:5 How do you define gentleness?” Near is a relative term.  How near is the Lord?
4:6 This must be Bobby McFerrin’s favorite Bible verse.  What is the difference, if any, between prayer and supplication? Is prayer only about requests?
4:7 Are “hearts” and “minds” all inclusive?  What about body and soul?

LUKE 3:7-18
3:7 John the Baptizer (I prefer “Baptizer” over “Baptist”) appears in all four Gospels. As someone once noted: “You cannot tell the Gospel Story without John.” What do you think was the size of the crowds?  How often do evangelists insult those they are preaching to?  What wrath is coming? Who warned them?
3:8 What fruits are worthy of repentance? What stones? 
3:9 Why are non-fruit bearing fruit trees cut down and burned? Does this verse contribute to the imagery of Dante’s inferno?
3:10 This verse is a preacher’s dream! No one ever asks me questions during my sermons.
3:11 This is not good news for the 1%. Maybe someone at the next presidential debate ought to ask each candidate to comment on this verse.
3:12 Why “even?”  Other than John and Jesus, is anyone else in the New Testament ever referred to as a teacher?  I think it is significant that John is addressed the same way Jesus would be later addressed.  Or maybe it is significant that Jesus is later addressed the same way John is here addressed.
3:13 Why and how would a tax collector have collected more? What do you know the collection of taxes in Jesus day?
3:14 Were these Roman solders? Why would Roman solders go out to hear John?
3:10-14 What do you make of the fact that tax collectors and soldiers are the only two groups of people mentioned?
3:15 What if John had been the Messiah?
3:16 How does water compare with fire and the Holy Spirit?  What is the relationship between the Holy Spirit and fire? Might “untying the thong of a sandal” have been an idiomatic expression or colloquialism?
3:17 What is a winnowing fork?  What is a threshing floor? What is chaff? Oh no, more fire! 
3:18 I wonder what the other exhortations were?  Did the above really sound like good news to you?
                                                                  
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.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Poetry from the West Virginia Writers Fall 2018 Conference


I attended four Poetry Workshops at the recent November 17th one day West Virginia Writers Fall 2018 Conference at the Day’s Inn in Flatwoods, WV.

Two of the workshops I joined were led by Kari Gunter-Seymour and the other two by Sarah Elkins.

All four workshops included prompts and time for writing. Thanks to Sara and Kari, and their prompts and leadership, I wrote more poetry at that one day conference than I have written in a long time. I  posted almost all my writing from that day on my blog. Here are the links to the various works.

About my favorite place in all the world, which just happens to be in West Virginia.

Written in response to guided imagery.

Written in response to a chanting prompt.

An ekphrastic poem.

A sample of "Found Poetry" using various lines from a single book.

A tongue and cheek twist of a common phrase.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Brain Power


Using your brain
To gain power
Is always a good option.

When your family can’t afford to pay the electric bill,
Sell your brain to science
And your family can use the compensation
To pay enough on the power bill
To heat the house
For maybe one, two, or more days and nights.

That would really be “using your brain” to gain power.

+ + +


I began working on this humorous piece in a Poetry Workshop presented by Sarah Elkins.  It was the third project I began in response to flipping through the pages  of  Jennifer L. Verdolin’s Wild Connection and following a tangent from the two previous poems, Winning at Love and Sorry Guys – Size Matters.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 2nd Sunday of Advent Time (Year C)


Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 is a further revision and refinement of my Lectionary Ruminations and Lectionary Ruminations 2.0.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 draws on over thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without over reliance on commentaries, I intend with sometimes pointed and sometimes snarky comments and Socratic like questions, to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to lead a Bible study, draft liturgy, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.

Malachi 3:1-4
3:1 I would have expected “Hear” rather than “See.”  Who is speaking?  Note that in the NRSV the first occurrence is “Lord” and the second occurrence is “LORD” – what is the difference?
3:2 Is this a rhetorical question?  What is a refiner’s fire like?  What is fuller’s soap?
3:3 Who are the descendants of Levi?  How are gold and silver refined?
3:4 Why would an offering not be pleasing to the LORD?  How has the offering changed compared to times past? What is the offering?

Luke 1:68-79
1:68 What is the first word in the Latin Vulgate? What has the Lord God of Israel redeemed the people from?
1:69 Is there any savior that is not mighty?
1:70 Is there a grammar problem with a single “mouth” but plural “prophets?” What holy prophets might Zechariah (or Luke) have had in mind?
1:71 At the time of Zechariah, who would the enemies and the haters have been? Note that the mighty savior saves from enemies and haters, not from sin.
1:72 Had the Lord God of Israel forgotten the covenant?
1:73 What oath?
1:74 Can one serve with fear or in fear?
1:75 What is the difference, if any, between holiness and righteousness?
1:76 What child? To who is Zechariah speaking?
1:77 Is there a difference between knowledge of salvation and salvation? How does one gain knowledge of salvation? Note that sin is not mentioned until well into this Canticle.
1:78 What is “the dawn from on high?”
1:79 Who sits in darkness? How does death cast a shadow?

Philippians 1:3-11
1:3 When and how often does the author remember the Philippians?
1:4 How does one pray constantly?
1:5 How does one share in the gospel?
1:6 Who began the good work? What was the good work? What and when is the day of Christ?
1:7 What does it mean to hold a person in the heart?
1:8 What is meant by “the compassion of Jesus Christ?”
1:9 What knowledge?  What is full insight? How does prayer overflow?
1:10 What does it mean to be pure and blameless?
1:11 What is the harvest of righteousness and who has produced it?
1:3-11 I have a sense that Paul might have had a stronger emotional attachment to the Philippian Church than to other churches to which he wrote.

Luke 3:1-6
3:1 What year would this have been?  Why are all these people and their positions named? Is all this historically accurate and does it matter if it is not? Why I am reminded of Isaiah 6:1?
3:2 Why was John in the wilderness?  Was this a prelude to desert spirituality?  What is so special about fierce landscapes like wilderness and the desert? Is the “wilderness” a liminal place? Is Advent a liminal season?
3:3 Would this be both banks of the Jordan?  Is this the Jordan before it flows into the Sea of Galilee or after it flows out from the Sea of Galilee toward the Dead Sea?
3:4 Where in Isaiah is this written?  Did the prophecy dictate that John had to be in the wilderness, or did John’s being in the wilderness lend itself to this prophecy? Why do the Lord’s paths need to be made straight?
3:5 Why fill a valley?  Why make a mountain low?  Considering mountaintop removal mining, this verse raises images of bad stewardship of the earth.
3:6 Does “all flesh” include non-human flesh?
                                                                  
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.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sorry Guys – Size Matters


What about …
            The size of a man’s brain and his intellect,
            Or the size of his heart and his ability to love?
For men
            It is enough simply to believe that
            They performed better than a male competitor?
            That they thought bigger, better, and longer?
            Or cared longer, deeper and more intensely?

+ + +


I began working on this example of “found poetry” at the West Virginia Writer’s Fall 208 Conference as I responded to a prompt in a Poetry Workshop presented by Sarah Elkins. The prompt involved flipping through the pages of Jennifer L. Verdolin’s Wild Connection and lifting out words, phrases and sentences to expand upon.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Aftermath


Frances was devastating
Leaving behind the eerie silence of death, debris, and destruction
Branches stripped bare of leaves
Few structures left standing
A child’s dirty, matted, gray, stuffed Duck
Lies upon a fallen tree trunk
Strewn over the remains of a wooden fence, deck, or boardwalk
A kaleidoscope of plastic, paper, and metal
Scattered on green grass and brown mud
That stinks of raw, rotten sewage
The only hint of former life
And human habitation
Visible in this scene reminiscent of a war zone
Floodwaters of tears swell over my heart
As I am drowned by feelings of distress and abandonment

+ + +


I began working on this Ekphrastic poem at the West Virginia Writer’s Fall 208 Conference as I responded to a visual prompt, the above photo from a magazine, in a Poetry Workshop presented by Kari Gunter-Symour.