Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, September 11, 2016, the Twenty-Fourth 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.

PREFACE: Fifteen years ago this day the United States and the world was traumatized by terrorists flying commercial airliners into the World Trade Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Will you and your community be marking this event in any way and how? Do today’s Lectionary Readings in any way speak to this occasion? The Jeremiah Reading and the Psalm seem to offer some possibilities if you dare go there.

4:11 Who is speaking? At what time?  What is the difference between “this people” and “Jerusalem”?  Is there any connection between “a hot wind” and the wind that blew across the waters at creation or the Holy Spirit?
4:12 What speed of wind is needed for winnowing and cleansing? If this wind is not for winnowing or cleansing, then what is it for?
4:22 The LORD sounds like a typical parent of adolescents. When will we grow up into adulthood?
4:23 How could there be no light in the heavens?
4:24 What might quaking mountains symbolize or represent?
4:25 What does the emptiness represent or symbolize?
4:26 I am sure someone will ask the question about how a loving, merciful, grace filled LORD can be filled with such fierce anger.
4:23-26 Note the repetitive “I looked”.
4:27 Why am I thinking of Smaug? What is the difference between a partial end and a full end? 4:28 How does the earth mourn?  How shall we read this verse in light of the fact that in other passages God changes the divine mind?  Does process theology help us find a way out of this potential dilemma?

14:1 What if a person says in their heart “I don’t know if there is a God or not?”  Was Pascal a fool? Juxtapose this verse with Jeremiah 4:22.
14:2 Where are the heavens (and where is God) in a Copernican universe? Why do humans have to seek after God?
14:3 Are “seeking after God” and “going astray” opposites?
14:4 Does knowledge always lead to doing the good?
14:4 What sort of knowledge is being asked about?
14:5 Are “the righteous” the opposite of “fools”?
14:6 Whom is being addressed? Who is confounding the plans of the poor?
14:7 What is the difference between Israel and Zion? If God is in the heavens, as suggested by the Psalmist in 14:2, then why look to Zion for deliverance?

1:12 Is Paul not being a bit presumptuous in stating that Christ Jesus has judged him faithful? Paul seems a little egotistical.
1:13 The old is over and gone.  Everything is fresh and new.  Is ignorance of the law really an excuse? What sort of ignorance might Paul have had in mind? What is the relationship between ignorance and unbelief?
1:14 What does Paul mean by “the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus”? Whose faith and love?
1:15 I hear liturgy here. It seems Paul has to be the first or greatest in everything!
1:16 Paul received mercy because he was the foremost of sinners? I cannot help but post this Luther quote: “God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” ( https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Martin_Luther)
1:17 I hear more liturgy.

15:1 Is “all” hyperbole? What is the relation between tac collectors and sinners? What is the difference between listening and hearing?
15:2 Who are today’s equivalent of the Pharisees and the scribes and what do they grumble about?
15:3 Are parables always told in response to criticism?
15:4 Does this passage give any comfort to the ninety-nine? Why am I thinking of Kirk saying to Spock “…the needs of the one... outweigh the needs of the many.” If I were one of the ninety-nine I would be upset. Would a sensible shepherd really act this way? Maybe God is not a sensible shepherd.
15:5 This reminds me of the iconic image of Jesus carrying a sheep on his shoulders.
15:6 Why am I hearing echoes of the Parable of the Prodigal Son?
15:7 Ergo Luther’s “Sin Boldly”? On the other hand, is anyone righteous?
15:3-7 Who is the lost sheep and who are the ninety-nine? God will search for the lost but the lost but not play hide and seek.
15:8 Why do I like this parable more than the one before it? Does the number ten symbolize anything? Is there any symbolism to the lamp? The shepherd lost 1/100 of the sheep and went looking for it. The woman lost 1/10 of her wealth and went looking for it. Many people today, upon dropping a penny, will leave it rather than picking it up. How valuable are we to God?
15:9 I wonder if the woman spent the found coin to celebrate its finding.
15:10 Why mention the angels here? Do our worship services express such joy?

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.

Spinning Wheels (From DC to PGH - Day 2)


            Light rain continued to fall overnight but at least it wasn’t raining when we woke up, and we woke up late. After heating water for instant oatmeal and coffee we sat at the only picnic table in the campground and enjoyed our breakfast.  By the time we finished eating, packed up our gear, and took down our tents and the tarp, and were ready to start riding again it was already 10:00 AM

A small downed tree blocking the Towpath on our second day
            We had not been riding very long when we encountered a downed tree across the towpath (photo). It was not a large tree but big enough that we could not move it. We climbed off our bikes, walked them through some brush until we reached a spot where we could help each other lift them over the trunk, and then pushed them through more brush back to the towpath. As we were getting ready to ride away another group of riders approached from the direction we had just come from. We offered to help them lift their bikes over the tree but they no thank you, that they could do it themselves, so we rode off.

            After another mile or so we encountered a pickup truck slowly driving down the towpath toward us. It pulled over to the side as we approached so that we could pass by but the driver waved us down to talk with us, asking of us if we had encountered a down tree across the trail. We told him there was indeed a downed blocking the towpath but that we had managed to carry our bikes over it. He said he was on his way to saw it up and move it.

            Eventually we again encountered Joel who told us that a stick or small branch had become entangled in his rear derailleur making it totally inoperable. He was now riding in only one gear, unable to shift. We would offered to help but he said he had have things in hand and I am not sure what we could have done to help him anyway.

Me Cycling the Appalachian Trail
            Not far Harpers Ferry, WV  we encountered the Appalachian Trail because for a short distance the C and O Canal Towpath and the Appalachian Trail are one and the same. The AT is the towpath and the towpath is the AT. We stopped to take photos as I wanted to send a picture of me next to the AT Trail sign to my Shepherdstown host Bob. The trail’s white blazes reminded me of when I had backpacked sections of the AT in NJ, PA, VA, and NC. They also served to rekindle my desire to someday attempt a through hike of the entire trail.

            Once back on our bikes we started riding past backpackers and day hikers moving in both directions along the trail/towpath.  From the size of a couple backpacks I reasoned those backpackers were either attempting their own through hiker or section hikers backpacking some significant distances.

            Even though I had once lived near Harper’s Ferry I had never biked or hiked this section of the AT/Towpath but I had hiked out of Harpers Ferry to Maryland Heights where I was able to see battlements from the Civil War. I had also attended a few National Park Service programs in the Harpers Ferry Park so as I rode by and saw the quaint village across the Potomac I felt like I was somewhat back home.

            Our revised itinerary called for us to break for lunch at the Huckleberry Hill Hiker Bike Campsite at mile 62.9, not far from Harpers Ferry and about half way into our planned day’s ride.  As we approached closer to Huckleberry Hill the sky darkened and we started hearing thunder. The clouds eventually opened up and the rain started falling. I raced ahead to the campsite and started putting the tarp up over the picnic table. Vince pulled in not long after and helped finish setting up the tarp.

            If we had arrived fifteen minutes earlier we probably could have had the tarp up before the rain started but now the picnic table was already wet. As it was, we were at least able to enjoy lunch, more tuna warps with avocado and parmesan cheese, out of the rain. By the time we finished eating, the rain had stooped, the clouds moved away, and a bright orange thing appeared in a field of blue above our heads.

            It has taken longer than planned for us to ride the 28.5 miles from last night’s campsite to our lunch stop and the day was already well spent. We had estimated that we could ride at a 10 mph pace and arrive at Huckleberry Hill for lunch by 1:00 PM. In fact,  we did not arrive thee  until 3:00 PM, having cycled at a mere 5.7 mile pace, a pace that included getting off our bikes to carry them over the downed tree, slogging through mud puddles, and resting about every five miles. Vince was so tired from cycling through the mud that we even considered camping at Huckleberry Hill for the night until we realized that there was no handle on the water pump. We would have to go on.

            As we took down the tarp we knew we did not have the energy or the daylight to make it all the way to the Opequon Junction Hiker Biker Campsite at mile 90.9 so we decided to take advantage of the next camping opportunity at the Antietam Creek recreation Area, a drive in campground at mile 69.4 and right along the towpath.

            Leaving Huckleberry Hill, we rode on to Antietam. As we crossed over the stone causeway over picturesque Antietam Creek I could not forget that the battle of Antietam was the bloodiest day in the Civil War. Over 23,000 soldiers lost their lives, were wounded or went missing. When I lived in the area I used to attend an annual memorial for the fallen. One luminaria was lit for each of the fallen and it would take dozens if not hundreds of volunteers to alight all the candles. Seeing all those burning candles under the darkening sky of dusk would bring home the loss our nation suffered that day.

            We rolled into Antietam just as the wind was whipping up and it looked like another storm might hit.  We set the tarp up over our very own private picnic table. Since this was a drive in site every campsite had its own table and fire ring but we were not planning to use the fire ring. We then set up our respective tents , this time a little closer to the tarp covered table than we had the night before,. We then then changed out of our riding clothes.  Eventually the wind died down and we lucked out. We never heard thunder and it didn’t rain.

Our campsite the second night
           The Hiker Biker Campsites along the C and O Towpath are free but campers have to pay to camp in the automobile accessible sites. Vince and split the $20 fee, put our money in an envelope, and deposited the envelope in the receptacle. We then hung the receipt on a post board at the front of our site, #4.  There was only one other group in the entire campground and they were all the way at the other end.
           
            I assembled and lit my whisperlite to heat water for our dinner and would use it again the next morning to heat water for breakfast. I enjoyed a rehydrated Mountain House entrée along with some rehydrated Mountain House vegetables.  I don’t remember what Vince had for dinner but I do remember we enjoyed some Hershey’s dark chocolate for desert.

            After eating we tried to clean our bikes.  I used one of my water bottles to try to squirt some of the mud away from the derailleur and from the clip in pedal mechanisms. I then used the two buckle lash straps I had been use to strap my sleeping pad, tent and tarp with poles to the rear rack to hang my bike from a tree branch so I could better wipe down and lube the chain, and to pick out chunks of mud and small pieces of gravel that I had not been able to squirt away from various mechanisms.
                     
            We had biked a mere 35 miles this day, only half a mile farther than yesterday, and far short of our 58 mile goal.  The wet and muddy condition of the towpath had once again slowed us down and drained our energy even though we experienced only one short thunderstorm. We had barely been able to break 10 mph at any time, often riding 6-7 mph. Sometimes we dropped to 5 mph when we hit particularly muddy spot and we tended to ride only about five mile stretches before taking a break.

            Our original itinerary called for us to be camping at the Jordan Jct HBC tonight but we only made it only as far as Antietam. After just two days we are now thirty miles behind! It began to look like we would not be able to make up the difference and still arrive in Frostburg, where we had reservation and to meet Vince’s Aunt and Uncle near the continental divide. We began thinking about skipping over the Hancock to Frostburg leg of the ride and arranging for a van shuttle to get us back on schedule.


            We eventually retired to our respective tents. I could hear an occasional car on the nearby road and louder trains rolling along across the Potomac. The cars were not so bothersome but I put in a couple earplugs to dampen the sound of the trains  so I could get some sleep. As I drifted off I wondered if any ghosts from the Battle of Antietam might pay a visit overnight.

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

From DC to PGH - Day 1 (Seventeenth Installment)
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 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)