Thursday, August 25, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, September 4, 2016, the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (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 nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without overreliance 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.

18:1 How did the word come to Jeremiah?
18:2 Why does the location matter?
18:3 Is it any coincidence that the potter was working at his wheel?
18:4 In light of the second creation account, why is this imagery significant? No two pieces of handmade pottery are exactly alike! Once pottery is fired it is no longer malleable.
18:5 Note that in verse 1 the word came to “Jeremiah”.  Here, it comes to “me”. Does this change signal a shift in perspective?
18:6 What is the underlying threat and promise?
18:7 Note that the LORD is talking in generalities, not yet specifically about Israel.
18:8 How can a perfect, all knowing deity change its mind? Does anything other than Process Theology give an acceptable answer?
18:9 Building and planting are very different images and metaphors.
18:10 What is the difference between the LORD’s intentions and actions?
18:11 This is not the interpretation I would have offered. I prefer to think that the LORD is shaping Israel, not evil against Israel, that like the potter in 18:4 the LORD might pound down Israel into a lump in order to reshape Israel. The LORD might reshape us but but never ignore us.

139:1 Note that this is past, not present tense. What tense does the Hebrew suggest?
139:2 I don’t care who knows when I sit down or rise up but care greatly about anyone knowing my thoughts from far away.
139:3 What is the meaning of path? Does the lying down in this verse pair with the rising up in the previous verse?
139:4 What about words that don’t make it to my tongue? What about Freudian slips?
139:5 How does the LORD hem us in? Does the LORD entrap us?
139:1-5 I find it both troubling and humbling to think that the LORD knows me better than I know myself.
139:6 What knowledge is too wonderful, the LORD’s knowledge of us, or our knowing that God knows us better than we know ourselves?
139:13 How does this verse impact discussion and debate about freedom of choice?  Should it even inform the discussion and debate?
139:14 What does it mean to be fearfully made?  If the LORD’s works are wonderful, and I am one of the LORD’s works, then I am wonderful! The LORD doesn’t make junk!
139:15 Was I knit together in my mother’s womb or intricately woven in the depths of the earth? Why the change of metaphor? Or is the Psalmist referring to "mother earth"?
139:16 What book is being referred to?  Is this a proof text for predestination?
139:17 How much do thoughts weigh? What is the sum of God’s thoughts?
139:18 Is this a poetic reference to infinity? What does the Psalmist mean “I am still with you.”?

1 How is Paul a prisoner of Christ Jesus? What was Timothy’s status?
2 Why does Paul refer to Apphia as a sister and to Archippus as a fellow soldier? Whose house was the church meeting in?
3 How do Trinitarians deal with a non-Trinitarian ascription?
4 What is the meaning of “remember”?
5 Are you surprised by the “faith toward” construction rather than “faith in” or “faith of”?
6 Whom does Paul mean by “we”?
7 Whom de we receive and encouragement from?
8 What gives Paul the right or power to command anything of anybody?
9 How old might Paul have been?
10 Does the child/father relationship depend on chronological age as well as faith? What does Christian tradition tell us about Onesimus?
11 How and why was Onesimus useless? How is he useful?
12 How did Onesimus end up being with Paul in the first place?
13 What does Paul mean by “service”?
14 What good deed is Paul referring to?
15 How could Philemon have Onesimus back forever?
16 What is the meaning of “both flesh and in the Lord.”?
17 Does Philemon consider Paul a partner? Does Paul consider Philemon a partner?
18 To what account does Paul refer?
19 Did Paul not write the preceding with his own hand? I think Paul just said something about what he said he would not say anything about.
20 What benefit is Paul referring to?
21 Considering verse 17, since when is a partner called upon to be obedient to another partner?
1-21 I consider this letter very personal but also very manipulative. Why do you think the early Christian Community chose to preserve and disseminate it?

14:25 What is the difference between a small crowd and a large crowd? What does it mean that they were “traveling” with Jesus?
14:26 It sounds like it is time to throw conservative family values out the window. How does James Dobson exegete this verse?
14:27 How does one carry the cross?  How can Jesus say this before the crucifixion? Note that this verse talks about “the cross” and not their own cross as in some translations.
14:28 Is it at all significant that Jesus chose a “tower” over any other kind of structure?
14:29 Where else in the Gospels do we hear about foundations?
14:30 Do any particular examples from your experience come to mind?
14:31 The point being? I wish Jesus had not used militaristic imagery.
14:32 Is Peace itself not a worthy goal and not just a way to avoid defeat?
14:33 What does giving up one’s possessions have to do with counting the cost of building a tower or calculating the cost of going to war? To whom was Jesus talking, the large crowds following him or us?
14:25-33 Is the cost of discipleship something that can really be calculated and considered. How might Bonhoeffer help us here?

ADDENDUM
I am currently a Member at Large of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I am a trained and experienced Interim Pastor currently available to supply as a fill-in occasional guest preacher and worship leader or serve in a half-time to full-time position.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Spinning Wheels (From DC to PGH - Day 1)


            I woke up early Sunday morning as Bob expected it to take ninety minutes to two hours to drive from Shepherdstown to Georgetown and I was supposed to meet Vince at the beginning of the C and O Canal by 8:30. It had rained overnight and a fine mist was in the air as I climbed out of bed. It was also chilly for late May.

            The first thing I did was check the forecast on my cell phone. It was not a good one. The chance of rain had increased to above 50% and the day’s high was not expected to exceed the low 60’s. With the forecast being what it was I decided to wear my wool cycling socks instead of the synthetic ones,  waterproof riding pants over cycling shorts, a long sleeved cycling jersey instead of a short sleeved one, and my Marmot Pre-Cip jacket over my jersey.

            We left Shepherdstown around 6:45 AM and stopped after a while at a red and yellow Sheetz, ubiquitous in the area, to fill up on gas, and at a McDonalds for coffee and breakfast. Bob used his windshield wipers all the way into DC as a light rain was falling the whole time.

            After a while Bob pulled out his I-pad and cradled it between his hands over the steering wheel, using it as a GPS to navigate us to our destination. After I noticed what he was doing I pulled my hand held Garmin GPS out of my pocket, turned it on, entered the address for the C and O Visitors Center in Georgetown, and started giving Bob directions so that he could keep his eyes on the wet road rather than looking between the roadway and his I-pad.

            Bob eventually pulled over to the side of the street near the C and O Canal and Visitors’ Center and parked. I crawled out of the front passenger seat and started unloading my gear from behind the seats. Then I climbed into the bed of the truck, unlocked my bike, and handed it down to Bob. He steadied it for me as I attached two 45 liter panniers to the back rack, two 30 liter panniers to the front rack, and strapped my sleeping pad, tent with poles, and tarp with poles to the top of the back rack and between the tops of the panniers. It was lightly raining the whole time but I was now ready to roll.

            As I walked a few feet uphill to cross over canal, Bob slipped back into his truck, said “good bye” and “good luck”, and drove away, honking as he passed me. I was now alone, in a light rain, needing to find my way along the C and O to its beginning at milepost zero where I was to meet Vince.

            As soon as I mounted my bike and headed down the wet, sloping brick sidewalk next to the canal, the weighted bicycle seemed so unsteady that I thought “Oh My God, How am I going to survive the next eight days?” I persevered, however, and made my way to the Rock Creek Parkway; turned right on the asphalt sidewalk, crossed a couple ramps under K Street, and found my way to the Thompson Boat Center and a throng of people in its parking lot, most of them wearing PFDs.

            I later learned that there was a boat race event going on, explaining the parking lot filled with people with police directing traffic. I slowly stopped my bike, climbed off, and walked it through the plethora of people. As I rounded the boat house I heard someone say “There is no outlet that way” to which another person responded “He is probably looking for the beginning of the trail”, and I was.

            After I rounded the boat center I saw a small wooden pedestrian bridge leading to Milepost Zero. I walked my bike to the cement pillar and leaned my ride against it. The famed Watergate Hotel was behind me and the Thompson Boat Center and C and O Canal was before me.  The time was about 8:30 AM and I expected Vince to show up with his bike at any moment.

            Not long after I arrived I saw a cyclist walking his bike toward me. A plastic milk crate filled with gear was strapped to the back rack. It was not Vince but a rider from Baltimore named Joel. He told me he was planning to ride from DC to Cumberland. We talked a bit and then he rode off on the start of his journey. Soon after Joel left I received a call from Vince. He had just checked out of the Hostel and was on his way. He would be arriving a little late,  but at least he was on his way.

            Knowing it would be at least thirty minutes before Vince arrived and tired of standing in the light rain waiting for him, I left my bike propped against milepost zero and walked over to the boat center where I stood under an awning to stay dry. After a while I noticed a man on a bike with no gear heading past the boat house toward the milepost zero and my bike, I walked that way to keep a watch and we struck up a conversation. I learned that the man’s name was Tom. He was from Boston and was scheduled to meet his son Charlie, from Austin, later that evening. They were planning to begin their DC to Pittsburg ride the following morning and Tom had ridden down this morning just to scout out the area as he and his son had never been there before.

Vince and I at Milepost Zero on the C and O Canal
            As Tom left I walked with him and his bike back to the boathouse and continued to wait for Vince.  I watched teams of eight rowers get into and out of boats and row away as I waited. Eventually, around 9:30 AM, I spotted my former student walking his gear loaded bike through the throng of boaters and approaching me. I greeted him and accompanied him to my bike and the official beginning of our ride. We took a few obligatory photos, walked our bikes back across the narrow bridge and through the mass of people around the boat center until we felt safe riding.

            Since I knew the way back to the Tow Path and Vince did not I led the way back from whence I had come earlier that wet morning. After we passed where Bob had let me off, the next time we stopped to cross a street I invited Vince to take the lead. After all, this was his trip. I was just riding along.

            Not long after Vince took the lead we transitioned from brick sidewalk to a graveled, muddy trail. One section under an overpass was so narrow and muddy that I thought for sure one or both of us would end up in the canal just inches away to our left. Thank heavens no one was coming from the other direction and we managed to emerge from the other side of the overpass unscathed.

            Not long afterward we stopped and climbed off our bikes to walk them across a pedestrian overpass from the city side of the canal to the Potomac side, which would more or less be our orientation all the way to Cumberland, MD – the C and O Canal to our right and the Potomac River to our left.

            After we crossed over the canal we eventually started encountering muddy marathoners running the opposite direction we were peddling. At least the towpath was wide enough for us to miss each other, but still, we had to exercise a little extra caution every time we neared a group of runners. Single runners were not as much a concern.

            With Vince riding in front, we rode at about an 8-9 mph pace, a bit slower than my usual 12-15 mph pace, but my usual pace was on dry paved rail trail without a week’s worth of clothes, food, and camping gear attached to my bike.  Muddy spots really slowed us down, sometimes to 6-7 mph, and occasionally one of our wheels would slip sideways in the mud but we always managed to recover and not wipe out. We could feel the constant light rain and 60° temperatures zapping out strength even early on, but we persevered.


Great Falls of the Potomac
           After about 14 ½ miles we finally reached the Great Falls of the Potomac. We rode in under the roof of the Visitors Center where we stopped to rest and eat some lunch. Even though Vince and I were individually responsible for our meals, we had nearly the same provisions, tortilla wraps and a pouch of tuna. The only difference was that I also had a couple avocados and some grated parmesan cheese. I gladly shared half my avocado and some cheese with Vince.

            The roof of the visitor’s center afforded us the opportunity to enjoy lunch and a break out of the light rain. We might even have dried off a bit but my shoes and socks were still soaked and mud was sticking to my pedals, derailleur, and other parts of my bike. My waterproof riding pants and Pre-Cip jacket were at least keeping my upper body dry and warm.
           
            Fueled with food and a rest I felt some energy returning as we rode up to the viewing platform overlooking the falls for a better look at the falls. I had heard and read about this sight but never seen them for myself. Brownish water was booming over the falls in white waves, creating almost a deafening sound. Only several weeks later when I saw a photo of the falls someone posted on line would I realize how high the Potomac was and how much more water than usual was flowing over the falls that day.

            During our ride we saw at least three white tail deer and a couple of blue heron.  We also saw Joel as we seemed to be leapfrogging with him.  WE passed him as he was taking a break. He then catch up and passed Vince and I as we were taking a break.  Occasionally we would stop to compare notes and make sure each other was doing okay in such crappy conditions.

            Our  hour late start combined with the muddy tow path, constant light rain, and 60° temperature finally took its toll on us, especially Vince, and we decided to camp at the Turtle Run Hiker Biker Campsite at mile 34.4. Our itinerary had called for us to ride 50.3 miles to the Bald Eagle Island HBC and camp there, so by the end of our first day’s ride we were about sixteen miles behind schedule. We hoped to make up that mileage over the next two or three days and get back on track.

Camping at Turtle Run Hiker Biker Campsite
            As soon as we rolled into the campsite we set my tarp up over the only picnic table. Fortunately the table was far enough away from a huge mud puddle that we could ignore it, but the flat, grassy site was otherwise wet, even close to waterlogged.  There was another tent in the campsite but we had not seen or heard its occupant and were willing to share the table with anyone else who might already be there or show up later.

            After the tarp was erected we set up our individual tents. I was carrying an old Sierra Designs Ultra Flash two person three season tent. It weighed only four pounds and four ounces but was not free standing. Vince was packing the slightly heavier but freestanding Kelty Gunnison 2.3.

            Soon after the trap and our tents were up I changed out of my rain soaked riding shoes and socks into Tevas and out of my sweat damp riding shorts and jersey into dry cotton shorts and a SmartWool long sleeved top. It was actually cold enough for me to also wear a nylon riding jacket as well, not for the rain but for warmth.

            We cooked at the picnic table under the tarp using Vince’s MSR Wisperlite. I also was carrying a Wisperlight but rather than firing up both stoves we decided to take turns. We would use Vince’s stove and fuel for the night’s dinner and the next morning’s breakfast. We would then use my stove and fuel for the next night’s dinner and following breakfast and keep alternating.

            As we were fixing dinner we heard noises from the unknown camper. He emerged, engaged us in a brief conversation, and then started walking to a nearby establishment to get some dinner. I think we were both in our tents and asleep by the time he returned.

            As Vince and I ate we also talked about the day’s ride and our need to revise plans for the next three days. We calculated that if we added about five to six miles a day to our planned ride, covering closer to sixty miles a day rather than fifty, that we could still make it to Frostburg on the day we had reservations at the Trail Inn and meet up the next day with Vince’s aunt and uncle. So we planned to ride 56.5 miles the next day and camp at the Opequon Junction HBC at mile 90.0, stopping for lunch at the Huckleberry Hill HBC at mile 62.9.

            By the time we cleaned up after dinner and stowed our gear, Vince and I were both ready to turn in for the night. We said good night to each other retired to our respective tents. My sleeping pad and sleeping bag never felt so good. As I drifted off to sleep I hoped that the next day would be warmer and dryer and that we could cover more distance as we continued to set our sights on Pittsburgh about three hundred miles away.

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

From DC to PGH - Day 0 (Sixteenth Installment)

From DC to PGH - Prologue (Fifteenth Installment)
Transitioning (Fourteenth Installment)
Flats (Thirteenth Installment)
Beware Dehydration (Twelfth Installment)
Creams & Powders for your Butt (Eleventh Installment)

Group vs. Solo Rides (Tenth Installment)
Competitiveness (Ninth Installment)
Stats (Eighth Installment)
Accidents Happen (Seventh Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (Sixth Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (Fifth Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (Fourth Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (Third Installment) 
Reading and Riding (Second Installment)
Starting Over (First Installment) 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, August 28, 2016, the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (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 nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without overreliance 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.

2:4 What is the meaning of “hear”?  Am I hearing echoes of The Shema? What is the difference, if any, between house of Jacob and house of Israel? Perhaps this is just a Hebraic poetic device?
2:5 One becomes what one desires?  Is the LORD asking a rhetorical question?
2:6 They did not say this, but they should have. What is the LORD getting at?
2:7 What is the relationship between the land and the LORD’s heritage? Is the LORD espousing an environmental ethic?
2:8 None of these things would ever happen today, would they?
2:9 This language sounds like it is from a court of law. I can understand the people being accused, but their grandchildren.  Why must later generations suffer for the action or inaction of people generations before them?
2:10 Why Cyprus and Kedar? Such a thing as what?
2:11 Have the people sold their birthright for a bowl of porridge?
2:12 Why are the heavens brought into this?
2:13 A double whammy!  You do know what a cistern is, don’t you?  Why would one need a cistern when one has a fountain?z Why am I thinking of John 4:5-26?

81:1 Sing aloud.  Sing ALOUD!  Sing with gusto and spirit.  Shout.  SHOUT! Don’t mumble or whisper.  Let the people passing by the outside of the church hear what is happening inside.
81:10 See Jeremiah 2:6. If we open our mouths wide, what will the LORD fill them with?
81:11 Must listening involve submission?
81:12 So it is God’s fault?
81:13 What does it mean to walk in God’s ways?
81:11-13 This reads like a restatement of the Jeremiah Reading, nothing less than God’s indictment of the people.
81:14 But until then . . . ?
81:15 What is the difference between hating the LORD and not listening to the LORD’s voice?
81:16 What do the finest wheat and honey from the rock symbolize? Since when did honey come from a rock? This finest wheat and honey from the rock sounds tastier than bland communion wafers.
81:14-16 God does not speak of pending punishment but rather promised rewards.  It is easier to attract flies with honey (from the rock) than vinegar.

13:1 What mutual love is being referred to?
13:2 Does this allude to anything in the Hebrew Scriptures?  Have you ever entertained angels without be aware of it until later?
13:3 What does it mean to “remember”?  Why am I feeling guilty for not having renewed my membership in Amnesty International?
13:4 How might this verse inform debates about same sex marriage, if at all?
13:5 How can a capitalist read this with a straight face? Where has God said this?
13:6 Who or what is being quoted?
13:7 Does this refer only to leaders of religious communities or all leaders?
13:8 Are you the same yesterday, today and forever?  What is the meaning and purpose of this verse in this context?
13:15 Verbal praise is a sacrifice pleasing to God, but is any other sacrifice needed?
13:16 Is “sharing” the only good work or just one among many?

14:1 This sounds like a memory but the author cannot place the time or location.  I have such momentary lapses of recall, why shouldn’t Luke?  Or could this be a fictional account? Who were watching Jesus, the Pharaisses? The other guests?
14:7 Where are the places of honor?
14:8 Thus sit down at the place where you find your name card and don’t go exchanging name cards.
14:9 Who would want to experience such ignominious disgrace?
14:10 Why is it that when people go to concerts and plays they want to sit near the front, but when they go to worship they want to sit in the back? Are down and up only location physical location descriptions or do they mean something more?
14:11 This sounds like one of the Gospel’s formulaic reversal of fortunes sayings.
14:12 Is “luncheon” really the best translation? Who do you invite into your home for meals or entertaining and why?
14:13 Why would anyone give a banquet and invite total strangers?
14:14 So payment is deferred, but there is still a payment?
14:12-14 Is this a mere parable or a metaphorical interpretation and application of a later Eucharistic theology and the placement of that theology back into the text?

ADDENDUM
I am currently a Member at Large of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I am a trained and experienced Interim Pastor currently available to supply as a fill-in occasional guest preacher and worship leader or serve in a half-time to full-time position.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Spinning Wheels (From DC to PGH - Day 0)

            The Saturday morning before I was to meet Vince at Milepost -0- on the C and O Canal was cool, cloudy, and damp, even for late May in West Virginia’s northern panhandle. As I put four fully loaded panniers, tent with polls, sleeping pad, and tarp with polls in the back of my friend Suzann’s car and strapped my bike onto the car’s rear bike rack, I wondered what the weather was like in DC. I had checked the National Weather Service forecast for our nation’s capital earlier in the morning and it called for less than a 50% chance of rain, but one never knows for sure.

            Suzann climbed into the passenger’s seat, I slid behind the steering wheel into the driver’s seat, and we were soon bound for West Virginia’s other panhandle, the eastern one. By a quirk of geography influenced by both physical geology and political history, most of our four hour drive from the northern panhandle near Pittsburgh to the eastern panhandle near DC would take us through Pennsylvania and Maryland rather than West Virginia. It would also take us across the Mason Dixon Line from north to south, and across the Eastern Continental Divide from west to east. Within the week ahead I would be reversing those transitions on my bike, riding from DC, past West Virginia’s eastern panhandle, across the Mason Dixon Line south to north, across the eastern continental divide from east to west, to Pittsburgh and near West Virginia’s northern panhandle.

            Although we did not drive through any rain as we traveled to Shepherdstown we did pass through areas where it had recently rained and I occasionally had to use the windshield wipers to clear the glass of water thrown up by other cars. The sky was overcast the whole way and we could see rain clouds and fog off to the east. The temperature barely went above sixty and even dropped into the high fifty’s as we passed through the higher mountains of West Virginia and Maryland. I hoped the weather would clear by Sunday morning.

            As we neared Hancock, MD we began seeing signs for access points, parking lots, and historical sites along the C and O Canal and I started wondering what the weather would be like and how I would be feeling by the time Vince and I reached these points, if we reached them at all. I had once lived in this area for ten years but I was not cycling back then and had never visited the C and O Canal, yet I was familiar with some of the names I saw, names like Williamsport, Cushwa Basin, Shepherdstown, and Harpers Ferry. I felt like I was back in somewhat familiar territory.

            Following my unmet host Bob’s emailed directions I pulled up in the driveway behind his home in Shepherdstown. As I approached the back porch to knock on the door I noticed a box of old climbing pitons and some other outdoor gear sitting on the floor as I remembered  his Pastor telling  me that Bob had been a climber in in his younger days. Bob answered the door, welcomed me, and directed me to put my gear inside the cab of his pickup and my bike in the truck’s bed.

            By the time I arrived back at the car Suzann had already transitioned to the driver’s seat and was ready to head back to from whence we came. It took at least three trips to move the panniers, other gear, and bike from the car to the truck and as I did I felt a few sprinkles of rain fall.  After I locked the bike to an eye bolt protruding from the bed of the truck I climbed down, walked back to the car to say thank you and goodbye to Suzann, and walked back to Bob’s home as Suzann drove off.

            I took one pannier, the one with my riding kit for the next morning, some extra clothes, and a bag of toiletries, with me into Bob’s home. He showed me to my room for the night, an upper bedroom with a single bed and overlooking the back yard and his pickup truck with my bike locked in its bed. After getting situated I went back downstairs and engaged Bob in conversation as I wanted to better know my host for the night and chauffer for the next morning.

The B&W Photo of Mt. Washington on Bob's wall
            I learned that Bob used to work for the Appalachian Mountain Club in Pinkham Notch, NH and had recently retired from working for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in nearby Harpers Ferry, WV.  His living room was decorated with mementos from his pre-retirement days. A framed large black and white photo of Mt. Washington featuring Tuckerman’s Ravine hung near a similar sized framed black and white photo of Colorado’s Long’s Peak. Various outdoor gear such as a waterproof and windproof shells, pack, stove, sleeping pad, and such were strewn about the house.

            Bob Talked about climbing and mountaineering adventures while he sipped red wine. He told me about a rescue he was involved in years ago near the base of Long’s Peak. He reminisced about meeting some early climbing and mountaineering legends, including Paul Petzoldt, the founder of the National Outdoor Leadership School, of which I was an alum.  We compared notes on Pinkham Notch and Mt. Washington, especially Tuckerman’s Ravine and Lion’s Head in winter, as I had had done some winter mountaineering there decades ago.  He talked about his work with the ATC and how people in the US Park Service refer to the AT and a few other parks as LSTs or “long skinny things”. He explained how the AT, like the C and O Canal, because of their unique shape, had more miles of boundaries to mark and protect than most parks, even large parks like Yellowstone.

            When it came time for dinner I put on a windproof rain shell as we left the house because the temperature was barely sixty degrees and it looked like it could rain any minute. As we walked the few blocks to the main street of Shepherdstown where most of the local restaurants are located the pavement and sidewalks were wet and we occasionally dodged puddles as the two of us continued to converse about our mutual interests and experiences such as climbing, mountaineering, cycling, kayaking, the AT, the Presbyterian Church, and divorce. If I didn't know better I would have thought I was in a quaint New England village in late spring or early fall.

            Without a specific dinner destination in mind we glanced through windows of restaurants and perused menus posted outside before settling on grabbing some dinner at Maria’s Taqueria.
Bob had heard that Maria’s was a nice place but had not eaten there before. We walked inside, ordered, and sat down. After our food arrived I enjoyed my first ever huevos rancheros accompanied by a Miner’s Daughter Oatmeal Stout from  the Mountain State Brewing Co. in Thomas, WV.         Bob had a low carb entrée and more red wine. The food, the atmosphere, and the company were superb.

 
Your's truly, Jessica, and my host Bob at Maria's Taaqueria
           By a twist of fate I learned from Bob that one of the wait staff was the daughter of another Presbyterian colleague who used to live in Shepherdstown and is now one of my Facebook friends, even though we have never met. Bob introduced me to  Jessica and I took a selfie of the three of us to send to Jessica’s mom with an “hello” from the three of us.

            After dinner we walked through a chilly, damp, dark Shepherdstown back to Bob’s home. After a few pleasantries I said good night, went up to my room, climbed into bed, and wondered what the next day and week would hold, knowing that in less than twelve hours I was to meet up with Vince to begin our ride from DC to Pittsburgh.

           The next installment will be about being chauffeured from Shepherdstown, WV to the C and O Canal in Georgetown and the first day riding from DC to PGH.

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

From DC to PGH - Prologue (Fifteenth Installment)

Transitioning (Fourteenth Installment)
Flats (Thirteenth Installment)
Beware Dehydration (Twelfth Installment)
Creams & Powders for your Butt (Eleventh Installment)

Group vs. Solo Rides (Tenth Installment)
Competitiveness (Ninth Installment)
Stats (Eighth Installment)
Accidents Happen (Seventh Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (Sixth Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (Fifth Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (Fourth Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (Third Installment) 
Reading and Riding (Second Installment)
Starting Over (First Installment) 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, August 21, 2016, the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (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 nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without overreliance 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.

1:4 How did the word of the LORD come to Jeremiah?  How does the word of the LORD come to you or anyone? Note that this narrative is is told from the perspective of the first person.
1:5 How might this verse impact our thinking about predestination and issues related to ending a pregnancy?
1:6 In classic call narrative style, Jeremiah finds reasons and excuses for not answering God’s call. What are your excuses?
1:7 In classic call narrative style, God overcomes Jeremiah’s objections.
1:8 What do you fear? What are you afraid of?
1:9 This seems like an overly anthropomorphic metaphor for talking about God’s call.
1:0 This quite a prophetic task, don’t you think? Who, today, are our Jeremiahs?

71:1 What comes to your mind when you hear or read the word “refuge”? Being an outdoor sort of person, I naturally think of National Wildlife Refuges.
71:2 What does it mean for God to incline the divine ear?
71:3 What, if any, is the difference between a refuge and a fortress?  How do we deal with such militaristic images in our overly militarized world?
71:4 How does God rescue?  Has God ever rescued you?
71:5 Why am I thinking of Princess Leah saying “Help me Obi Wan Kanobi you’re my only hope”?
71:6 does this single verse justify the lectionary pairing this Psalm with the First reading? You may want to juxtapose this verse with Jeremiah 1:5.

12:18-19 Who is the “you”? Do these  verse negate some people’s need for sensual and tactile aspects of religion and spirituality?
12:19 Why would the hearers beg that not another word would be spoken?
12:20 Why the parenthesis? Why would God want an animal that touched the mountain to be stoned to death?
12:21 Before what do you tremble with fear. Are you familiar with Rudolph Otto’s concept of the “mysterium tremendum”?
12:22 Note that it is the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly Jerusalem, that is being spoken of. What do angels in festal gathering look and sound like?
12:23 Who are the firstborn?  How do we reconcile this with William James’ concept of the twice born?
12:24 What word did the blood of Abel speak?
12:25 Who IS speaking?
12:26 What does this shaking represent or symbolize? Why am I thinking of Paul Tillich’s “The Shaking of the Foundations”? 
11:27 What cannot be shaken?
11:28 What is an acceptable worship?  We might approach worship with reverence, but when was the last time the majority of worshippers approached worship with awe? Why am I thinking of Annie Dillard writing in Teaching a Stone to Talk  “On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”
12:29 When was the last time you hard to call the fire department to a worship service?

13:10 Why does the specific location not matter?
13:11 How do we interpret this passage in light of modern science and medicine?  Maybe some illnesses still cripple us spiritually even after we are physically healed.
13:12 Apparently no statement of faith or good works were required.  Why would Jesus heal THIS women and not others, or all, similarly oppressed?  Why her? Note that Jesus sets her free from her ailment, not her sins?
13:13 What does it mean that the pronouncement of healing proceeded the laying on of hands?  Why am I thinking of Reiki? Why do we generally no longer lay on hands when we pray for a person to be healed?
13:14 Ya gotta love institutional religion and its orthodox, legalistic practitioners, NOT! Who was being chastised, the people for coming to be healed or Jesus for healing?
13:15 Touché!  Jesus 1 – Hypocritical Religious Leaders – 0! Why might Jesus mention water?
13:16 What is the significance of Jesus referring to the woman as “a daughter of Abraham”?  Is her age of any significance?  How do we deal with questions about Satan? Why am I thinking about the Exodus?
13:17 I wonder what other “wonderful things” Jesus was doing.

ADDENDUM
I am currently a Member at Large of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I am a trained and experienced Interim Pastor currently available to supply as a fill-in occasional guest preacher and worship leader or serve in a half-time to full-time position.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Spinning Wheels (From DC to PGH - Prologue)


Milepost Zero at the beginning of
the C and O Canal
          I first rode my Trek 8.3 DS on the Great Allegheny Passage (affectionately referred to as the GAP) in late June 2014. My nephew Chris and two of his friends, more experienced cyclists than I, were cycling from Pittsburgh to DC. I met up with them one evening as they were camped along the banks of the Youghiogheny River in the campground at Youghiogheny Canoe Outfitters in West Newton, PA. The next day I accompanied them on a forty-four mile ride from West Newton to Ohiopyle, PA where I met my ride home. They, however, continued riding on to Confluence, PA and eventually DC.

            Not only were my cycling companions that day more experienced riders than I was, they were also all at least twenty years younger. I was happy to just keep up with them and to not make a fool of myself. After all, I had gotten back into cycling, after a more than thirty year hiatus, less than two months earlier. The day I joined then them to ride from West Newton to Ohiopyle I had only about 220 miles under my tires.  It was not only my first time on the GAP, it was also the first time I had cycled with panniers filled with camping gear strapped to my bike in something like thirty-nine years. Furthermore, it was my longest ride to date.

            Even though I did not ride as far as Chris and his companions did that day, by the time the four of us rolled into Ohiopyle I no longer felt like a casual beginner with less than two months riding experience. I thought of myself as a semi-serious intermediate cyclist, and  I had caught the bug. I too wanted to ride all the way from Pittsburgh to DC, but I knew I was not yet ready.

            During the rest of that summer and the following summer I began venturing farther from home and cycling the GAP and other trails. Through several day trips I eventually cycled the Gap from Point State Park in Pittsburgh, where the Monongahela and Alleghany Rivers flow together to form the Ohio River, all the way to West Newton, where I had first met up with my Chris and his friends. I also explored most of the Montour Trail around Pittsburgh and in one day rode the entire 29 mile Panhandle Trail from near Carnegie, PA to Weirton WV. In addition, I continued cycling on my home town Brooke Pioneer Trail and the Wheeling Heritage Trail to which it connects. With each ride I gained experience and grew more confident.

            To prepare for someday riding from Pittsburgh to DC I joined “The Great Allegheny Passage (unofficial)” group on facebook and began reading what people posted there. I aso purchased and read the tenth edition of the TrailBook, “the Official Guide to the C&O Canal and the Great Allegheny Passage.”  I was also thinking about how and when I might accomplish what some consider “the ride of my life”

            Because I have been backpacking and car-camping for decades I knew that I already had all the camping gear I would ever need for riding from Pittsburgh to DC and camping along the way. But I also knew that if I was going to undertake such a trip that I would need to purchase front and rear panniers to put all that camping gear as well as my cycling gear into. I already had a Trek dealer installed rear rack that I expected to be able to attach rear panniers to but I knew I would also need a rack to attach  pannier’s to my front fork.

            When I camped an evening and rode the next day with Chris and his friends I used old REI Panniers I had purchased nearly four decades ago. Packed full, they held just a little over 2,000 cubic inches of gear and supplies, large enough for maybe a three day and two night bike camping trip, but not large enough for all the gear and supplies I would need  to ride from Pittsburgh to DC and to camp along the way.

            Before purchasing new rear and front panniers I wanted to first determine what rack would work on my hybrid fork. After a little research I decided to try the Axiom Journey Suspension and Disk Lowrider. After installing it with its included slightly longer quick release hub, I rode my bike several times to make sure it would work. I liked the simplicity of  this rack but wished the quick release hub was just a little longer. In hindsight, it has functioned well as I have not taken the rack off the front fork since I installed it and I have not experienced any problems with the hub.

            Once I determined that the Axiom Journey Suspension and Disk Lowrider was satisfactory I started researching panniers. I did not limit myself to Axiom panniers but eventually it seemed that Axiom Seymour DLX panniers cost less than many other brands and designs and were well within my budget. I first purchased a pair of Axiom Seymour DLX 30’s to see if I liked them on the front rack and if they would work on the back rack. They fit well and I liked the design and features so I eventually bought a pair of Axiom Seymour DLX 45’s for the rear rack. I was now outfitted for the ride of my life.

            Even though I often rode alone, sometimes riding for miles on somewhat isolated parts of the Panhandle Trail, I preferred not to undertake such an adventure solo. I wanted to ride with a small group or at least another person.

            In the spring of 2016, a former Philosophy student of mine from back in the day when I was an Adjunct teaching Introduction to Philosophy and who is also one of my Facebook friends, posted on facebook that he was planning a late May ride from DC to Pittsburgh and invited others to join him. I remembered Vince as a kind, considerate, conscientious student with some Boy Scout camping experience and thought he might have obtained his Eagle. Now married with a young daughter, he had cycled parts of the Gap and the C and O Canal several times before, once coming within fourteen miles of finishing his trip before a broken spoke and bent rim forced him off the C and O Canal early before he could ride all the way to DC.  I knew he also had some backpacking and camping experience as the previous year he had backpacked the seventy mile long Laurel Highlands Trail in Pennsylvania. I had backpacked the same trail nearly forty years earlier so we also had that in common.

             I took Vince up on his offer and replied that I would like to join him. He had already picked the dates to coincide with his vacation and had also planned out an itinerary. I would simply be joining him on a trip from DC to Pittsburgh that he had already prearranged. I wouldn’t be riding from Pittsburgh to DC, but rather from DC to Pittsburgh.

            As Vince and I texted back and forth about our trip we decided that while we might eventually share some gear and food, we would each be self-sufficient. We would each carry and sleep in our own tent. We would also be responsible for our own food and each of us would carry our own stove. That way, if either one of us had to bail before finishing the ride, the other person could continue on uninterrupted.

            I did not want to drive the whole five hours from my home in West Virginia’s northern panhandle to DC and then leave a car in DC to pick up later.  Nor did I want to impose on anyone to drive me all the way there just to drive back.  I considered Amtrak but thought it was too expensive. I finally contacted friends and colleagues in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle to see if anyone might put me up the night before my ride and drive me, my bike, and gear into Georgetown the next morning. If I found anyone, I could ask a friend to drive me the four hours to the Eastern Panhandle and then drive back the same day, a much more doable drive than a ten hour drive into DC.

Terminus of the Great Allegheny Passage
            A Presbyterian Minister colleague and Pastor of The Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church put me in touch with Bob, a member of the congregation who volunteered to help me out. Through an exchange of emails Bob and I coordinated my arrival and his taking me into DC the next morning. Thanks to him the pieces of the puzzle were starting to fit together. The ride of my life seemed more and more like it was really going to happen. I was going to ride from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania along the C and O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage.

           The next installment will be about my drive from home to West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, meeting Bob, and spending the night at Bob's home in Shepherdstown, WV the night before starting my ride on the C and O Canal.

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

Transitioning (Fourteenth Installment)

Flats (Thirteenth Installment)
Beware Dehydration (Twelfth Installment)
Creams & Powders for your Butt (Eleventh Installment)

Group vs. Solo Rides (Tenth Installment)
Competitiveness (Ninth Installment) 
Stats (Eighth Installment)
Accidents Happen (Seventh Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (Sixth Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (Fifth Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (Fourth Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (Third Installment) 
Reading and Riding (Second Installment)
Starting Over (First Installment)