Monday, September 16, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)


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

PREFACE:

This Sunday is generally recognized as World Communion Sunday, and in the PC(USA) the designated day to receive the Peace & Global Witness Offering.  How do any or all the day’s readings allow themselves to be a springboard for a sermon leading to or pointing to The Lord’s Table and highlighting the ministry of Peace, Peacemaking, and Global Witness?


LAMENTATIONS 1:1-6, 3:19-26
The Lectionary does not consider this a continuous reading. Lamentations 1:1-6 is the First Reading and Lamentations 3:19-26 may be used as the response rather than Psalm 137. I prefer, however, to combine them into the First Reading and then use the Psalm as a Response.
1:1 I think this verse addresses the reality of cities like Detroit and others in the industrial heartland of America. What other once great cities, other than Jerusalem, might this verse speak to?
1:2 Who were her lovers?
1:3 Might this speak to other exiled peoples?
1:4 Might this also describe back roads and side roads in America after the advent of the Interstate system.
1:5 Who is to blame, the LORD or the former inhabitants of the city?
1:6 Zion is the daughter of whom?
3:19 What is wormwood?  What is gall?
3:20 Might the Book of Job be of any help here?
3:21 Is this example of something from the past serving as a springboard into the future?
3:22 If this is true, then why 1:1-6?
3:23 Ergo every morning brings new hope.
3:24 What is a portion?
3:25 How log shall we wait upon the LORD?  How does the soul seek the LORD? How are waiting and seeking related?
3:26 I cannot but help hear this verse and consider contemplative prayer.

LAMENTATIONS 3:19-26
See LAMENTATIONS 1:1-6, 3:19-26 above.

PSALM 137
137:1 What are the rivers of Babylon? Is anyone else thinking of a song from the Broadway Musical Godspell?
137:2 What might willows symbolize?  Why were the harps hung up? What might harps symbolize?
137:3 Can mirth be feigned? What are the songs of Zion?
137:4 Why could one not sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
137:5 Does “forget” refer to memory only? Consider this verse juxtaposed with today’s First Reading.
137:6 What does the tongue clinging to the roof of the mouth symbolize or signify?
137:7 Who were the Edomites?
137:8 Why is Babylon referred to as a daughter?
137:9 Yes, this is one of the more problematic passages of Scripture, but note that is the exiles speaking, not God.  It expresses their profound anger born of grief and exile.

2 TIMOTHY 1:1-14
1:1 Why does Paul need to state his credentials in a personal letter to Timothy?
1:2 Why does Paul refer to Timothy as his “beloved child?”  Is there any significance to the tripartite “Grace, mercy, and peace” greeting? Note that there is no “Trinitarian” greeting/blessing here.
1:3 Why would Paul, or anyone, worship God without a clear conscience? What is Paul talking about?
1:4 What would account for Timothy’s tears?
1:5 Do we know anything else about Lois and Eunice? Was Timothy nurtured in the Christian faith by his mother and grandmother or was he old enough at the time to convert as an Adult with them?
1:6 How can the laying on of hands rekindle the gift of God within a person?  What is this “gift of God” Paul refers to? How do we rekindle our faith?
1:7 Is Paul speaking of the Holy Spirit?
1:8 Do you think Timothy was ashamed?  Have you ever been ashamed of testimony about our Lord?  Personally, I am sometimes ashamed of those who in my mind pervert the Gospel and inflict pain and persecution in the name of Christ.  For instance, I am ashamed of Medieval Crusades and the contemporary exploits of the Westboro Baptist Church, and some TV Evangelists.
1:9 Preexistent grace?
1:10 Preexistent grace only now revealed?
1:11 Is there any differences between herald, apostle, and teacher?  Do the titles refer to different functions and roles?
1:12 What shame is Paul referring to? What did Paul entrust?
1:13 What gives Paul, or any individual, the right to establish a standard of sound teaching? In the Reformed Tradition, only councils can establish such standards, and councils can sometimes ere.
1:14 What is the good treasurer to which Paul refers? Paul finally mentions the Holy Spirit!

LUKE 17:5-10
17:5 All the apostles or just some of the apostles?  How does one measure faith?  Are Fowler’s stages of faith in any way a measurement?
17:6 I think Jesus, or the Gospel writers, were sometimes prone to hyperbole. Why would anyone want a mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea?
17:7 Is this a serious or a rhetorical question? Why am I, a white American living 150+ years after the end of slavery in America, cringing when I read this verse?
17:8 An interesting verse considering America’s growing economic inequality.
17:9 And some bosses and managers treat hired workers just this way.
17:10 I do not like this verse. It sounds to puritan to my ears. Where the apostles not worthy of being thanked?
17:7-10 How do these verses relate to, inform, or follow from Luke 17:5-6?
                                                                  
ADDENDUM
I am a Minister Member of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and am serving as the Interim Pastor of the Richmond United Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Ohio. Sunday Worship at Richmond begins at 11:00 AM. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)


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

JEREMIAH 32:1-3a, 6-15
32:1 Why are the references to the reigns of two kings significant?  What year was this?
32:2 Who was the king of Babylon and why was his army besieging Jerusalem? 
32:3a What had Jeremiah done to provoke King Zedekiah to confine him?
32:6 How did Jeremiah know and how does anyone know when the word of the LORD comes to them?
32:7 What is the right of redemption? Where is Anathoth?
32:8 What and where is the land of Benjamin? What is the significance of this real estate transaction? How can we know we have truly and accurately heard the word of the LORD?
32:9 What is the contemporary value of seventeen shekels of silver? What is the symbolic significance of the purchase?
32:10 I think it is amazing what Jeremiah was able to do all this while confined. It sounds like this was not much different than real estate transactions today.
32:11 Why all this documentation?
32:12 Why are all these people and witnesses mentioned?
32:13 This must be one of the shortest verses in the Hebrew Scriptures.
32:14 What a significant archeological find this would be! I can imagine the sequel a movie “Indiana Jones and the Lost Deed of Jeremiah!”
32:15 How can contemporary real estate purchases be theological statements? Perhaps we need to be purchasing real estate in depressed and distressed neighborhoods. Oh, I guess that is gentrification! Shall we substitute “Marsh Harbour” for Anathoth?

PSALM 91:1-6, 14-16
91:1 How is a shadow a shelter?  If the Almighty does not have a physical body, how does it cast a shadow? Might this be metaphorical language? What is the deeper meaning of “Most High?”
91:2 How is a refuge and fortress like a shelter and a shadow? Note that both a refuge and a fortress are defensive, not offensive. When I read about refuges in the Bible, I think of National Wildlife Refuges.
91:3 Who is the fowler? What might the deadly pestilence refer to?
91:4 God has pinions?  God has wings? Raptors, like eagles, have pinions. Hens do not have pinions.  What is a buckler?
91:5 Why is terror associated with the night? Why am I thinking of Dylan Thomas?
91:6 Rather than a chiastic structure we have 91:6 parallel to 91:5, ABAB.
91:14 Who is speaking?  Has the voice changed? What does it mean to “know a name?” Do you know God’s name?
91:15 What do being rescued and being honored have in common?
91:16 What does “salvation” mean in the context of the Psalms?

1 TIMOTHY 6:6-19
6:6 What is godliness? Is great gain the only motivation to strive to be godly?
6:7 So the person with the most toys at the end of the day does not get to take their toys with them! I cannot help but think of Luke 12:13-21.
6:8 Would you, or most Americans, be content with only food and clothing? How much food and clothing do we need to be content?
6:9 Is there a difference between being rich and wanting to be rich? When it comes to being rich, how much food and clothing and wealth is enough?
6:10 It is not money but the love of money that is the root of all evil. How do we reconcile this and the preceding verse with capitalism?  Why must the desire to be rich lead one away from the faith?
6:11 I have a hunch this was not intended to be an all-inclusive, exhaustive list. Can a person be rich and still pursue all that is on this list?
6:12 I have problems with the “fight” metaphor.  Is there another metaphor that would suffice?  How about “Climb the good climb of faith?” Note that “witnesses” are again mentioned, as in Jeremiah 32:10.
6:13 Is it a problem that this is not Trinitarian? What good confession did Christ Jesus make before Pilot?
6:14 What commandment?  What does it mean for our Lord Jesus Christ to be manifested?
6:15 Who will bring this about?
6:16 What is “unapproachable light?” Who is it that no one has ever seen or can see?
6:17 Why do we not enjoy everything God provides us with? Are you surprised that the rich are not commanded to distribute their riches to the poor? What about Matthew 19:20-22 and Luke 18:21-23?
6:18 This sounds like the beginning of a stewardship sermon.
6:19 What life is not life?

LUKE 16:19-31
16:19 What is the significance of being dressed in purple?  There seems to be an almost seamless transition from the Second Reading to the Gospel. Note that the rich man is not identified by name.
16:20 Note that the poor man IS identified by name. Is this the same Lazarus that is mentioned in John 11?
16:21 Is this an example of trickle-down economics in the New Testament era? Why am I thinking of Matthew 15:26-27 and Mark 7:27-28?
16:22 Note that the poor man is carried away by angels while the rich man is simply buried.
16:23 What and where is Hades? Why was the rich man being tormented?
16:24 How does this verse feed into popular and contemporary notions of hell?
16:25 I am surprised Abraham referred to the dead rich man as “child.” I think this is just another example of the reversals we find in Scripture, reversals such as: the first shall be last and the last shall be first, the rich will become poor and the poor will become rich, and so on.
16:26 How could the rich man converse with Abraham if a great chasm exists between them?
16:27 Note that even in his torment the rich man refers to Abraham as “father.”
16:28 Is there any significance to the number five?
16:29 Moses and the Prophets represent two of the three divisions of the Hebrew canon. Should we not also listen to the Writings?
16:30 This sounds like prefiguration.
16:31 Do I detect some prejudice toward Judaism? Is there no hope or promise here? This sounds like an admonition only.
                                                                  
ADDENDUM
I am a Minister Member of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and am serving as the Interim Pastor of the Richmond United Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Ohio. Sunday Worship at Richmond begins at 11:00 AM. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)


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

JEREMIAH 8:18-9:1
8:18 Who is expressing this existential angst?
8:19 Is this anything less than a communal expression of doubt? Are the LORD and the King one in the same? Why ask this question? What images and what foreign idols are being referred to?
8:20 It is beginning to sound like a long, hard, cold winter.
8:21 How often has communal or societal grief manifested itself in you?
8:22 What is balm?  Where is Gilead?
9:1 Have you ever run out of tears? Who is crying and why?

PSALM 79:1-9
79:1 Does “nations” refer to political or ethnic entities?  This seems like a blanket indictment. What period of Jewish history does this Psalm reflect?
79:2 This is very graphic imagery.
79:3 This starting to sound like a horror story.
79:4 How does this appeal to God’s honor?
79:5 Is there any difference between anger and jealous wrath?
79:6 What nations know God?  What kingdoms call on God’s name? Is the request to “pour out your anger” a poetic parallel to the “poured out their blood” of 79:3?
79:7 The nations that devoured Jacob like the wild animals of the earth have eaten the flesh of the faithful. I detect some chiastic structure here:
A 79:2
B 79:3
B' 79:6
A' 79:7.
79:8 Blame it on previous generations.
79:9 Again, is this an appeal to God’s honor and reputation?

1 TIMOTHY 2:1-7
2:1 I usually think of supplications, intercessions, and thanksgiving as types of prayer. I wonder what Paul meant by “prayers.”
2:2 Did conservative Christians pray that President Obama may lead a quiet and peaceable life?  Do progressive Christians pray that President Trump would lead a quiet and peaceable life? I include a petition for the President, Governor, and all other elected and appointed officials in the Prayers of the People every Sunday I am leading worship.
2:3 Who gave Paul the authority and what gives him the right to make such a pronouncement?
2:4 Is there any difference between being saved and knowing the truth?
2:5 Why does Paul mention Christ’s humanity but not his divinity?
2:6 Does this verse preclude other theories of the atonement other than the ransom theory?
2:7 What is the difference between being a herald and being an apostle? Why the “I am telling the truth, I am not lying” parenthetical remark? Was someone accusing Paul of lying?

LUKE 16:1-13
16:1 Do we consider this a parable if the text does not identify it as a parable? Do you think this literally happened of that Jesus was just weaving a good moral tale?
16:2 This sounds like an audit, even a forensic audit.
16:3 What does this verse tell us about the character of the manager?
16:4 It sounds like the manager is looking for a parachute and hoping for a safe landing.
16:5 The manage must have been incompetent if he did not know how much the debtors owed.
16:6 What is the value of a jug of olive oil? I wonder how the manager determined to cut the debt in half.
16:7 I wonder why the manger forgave only 20% of this person’s debt when he forgave 50% of the previous persons debt.
16:8 How could the master commend such dishonest behavior that financially hurt him? The “children of this age” and “children of light” dichotomy sounds somewhat apocalyptic if not Gnostic.
16:9 Is all wealth dishonest?  Is this a stewardship sermon? Is Jesus suggesting that his followers lie, cheat, and steal?
16:10 This is very good advice, but I think it does not follow from the proceeding nine verses, especially 16:9. In fact, I think the entire parable, if it is indeed a parable, is poorly reasoned.
16:11 What does Jesus mean by “true riches?”
16:12 Are not most people more faithful with their own belongings than the belongings of others?
16:13 I imagine some slaves hated both masters if they had two.  What does it mean to “serve wealth?” How can wealth be a master?
                                                                  
ADDENDUM
I am a Minister Member of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and am serving as the Interim Pastor of the Richmond United Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Ohio. Sunday Worship at Richmond begins at 11:00 AM. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)


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

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
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 when in other passages God changes the divine mind?  Does process theology help us find a way out of this potential dilemma?

PSALM 14
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 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? It sounds as though evildoers are being contrasted with God’s people.
14:5 Are “the righteous” the opposite of “fools?” Are “the righteous” God’s people?
14:6 Whom is being addressed? Who is confounding the plans of the poor? I think some God-fearing politicians need to reflect on the verse.
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 TIMOTHY 1:12-17
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 must 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.

LUKE 15:1-10
15:1 Is “all” hyperbole? What is the relation between tax 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. Might we consider the Pharisees and the scribes righteous?
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 part of the found coin to celebrate its finding.
15:10 Why mention the angels here? Do our worship services express such joy?
                                                                  
ADDENDUM
I am a Minister Member of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and am serving as the Interim Pastor of the Richmond United Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Ohio. Sunday Worship at Richmond begins at 11:00 AM. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.