Monday, December 23, 2013

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, December 29, 2013, the First Sunday after Christmas (Year A)

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.


I have usually taken the Sunday after Christmas as a vacation Sunday and therefore have rarely had to preach on these troubling texts.  How will you deal with the juxtaposition or so many themes: God’s steadfast love, praise of God, the suffering of God’s chosen, atonement, sacrifice,  death of innocent children, and linguistic and storytelling gymnastics to show the fulfillment

63:7 Can you recount all the gracious deeds and praiseworthy acts of the LORD? What are they?  What is the difference between mercy and steadfast love?

63:8 In verse 7 Isaiah speaks in the first person plural of “us”, but in verse 8 shifts to the third person “they” and “their”.  Why the shift?  What difference does it make?

63:9 I like that “It was no messenger or angel” but the LORD’S presence that saved them.  Remember, this is before Christ!  How was the LORD present if not through an intermediary?

Here is a Psalm that can be adapted for use as a Call to Worship if I ever saw one!

148:1 Is it stating the obvious to identify this as a “praise” psalm.

148:2 This is the second time (and the second reading) that angels are mentioned.  What is “all his host”?

148:3 How do the sun, moon and shining stars praise?

148:4 What waters are above the heavens?  Must we buy into this pre-Copernican cosmology to interpret this Psalm?

148:5 How is the name of the LORD to be praised when it is not pronounced?

148:6 What are the bounds of the highest heavens and the waters above the heavens?

148:7 Even though, or perhaps because, I am a kayaker and a sailor, I can more easily accept that the actual sun, moon and stars praise the Lord than I can accept “sea monsters” praising the Lord.

148:7-10 How can creation continue to praise the LORD if humans pollute and destroy it?  Does Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” have anything to say regarding these verses?

148:8 These verses might work for the First Sunday of Christmas in the northern hemisphere, but what about the southern hemisphere?

148:9 he hills are figuratively alive with the sound of music, praise music

148:11 Now we transition from the natural world to the political realm.

148:12 I like the gender and age inclusiveness of this verse.

148:13 What is “the name of the Lord”?  Dare we write it?  Dare we speak it?  If not, how do we praise and exalt it?

148:14 What is “a horn” and what does it symbolize?

2:10 What a bummer! From the joy and celebration of Christmas a mere four days ago we now get sufferings.  The Christ child has just been born and already we are hearing about his sufferings.

2:11  What is the meaning of sanctification? Why would Jesus be ashamed? 

2:12-13 Where did these quotes come from?

2:14 Can we read/teach/preach this without personifying “the devil”?

2:15 Can we be freed from the fear of death without being freed from death?

2:16 In the context of this verse, who are the descendants of Abraham?

2:17 What was the function of the high priest? Is “sacrifice atonement” the only understanding of atonement?

2:14-18 A fairly theological exposition of the incarnation, which is probably why this passage was chosen for the First Sunday After Christmas, but we still end up with suffering.  The distance from the cradle to the cross, both in terms of geography and time, is not much at all.

2:13 In Matthew, how many times does an Angel appear to Joseph in a dream?  Has an angel of the Lord ever appeared to you in a dream?  Why Egypt? John Shelby Spong has an opinion about why Egypt?  Why would Herod want to destroy the child Jesus?

2:13-14 Could this story be an example of Midrash?  Spong thinks so.

2:15 Could there have been another theological reason for Jesus going to Egypt other than fulfilling of prophecy?  What verse is being quoted?

2:16 Death in the slaughter on the innocents intrudes into the otherwise bucolic narrative of Christmas.  Why did Herod kill all children as old as two years?

2:17-18 So all the infants were killed just so that prophecy could be fulfilled?  Could be another example of Midrash?

2:19  Another angel, another dream, same old Joseph!

2:20 Why the plural “those” when only Herod was seeking to kill Jesus.

2:22 How many Dreams has Joseph experienced now? With so many dreams mentioned in the Bible, why does the church say so little about dreams, dreaming, and dream interpretation (other than Jungians)?  Why would Joseph be told in one dream to go to Israel and in a subsequent be warned not to go to Israel?

2:23 Why is the author of Matthew so eager to note the fulfillment of prophecy?  It seems that so far that is the purpose of this Gospel—to show the fulfillment of prophecy.

2:13-23 It seems odd that Mary and Jesus are never mentioned by name but are referred to as “the child and his mother”.

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