Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, December 15, 2013, the Third Sunday of Advent (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.


We see more of Isaiah this week, the third week in a row the First Reading has come to us from this prophet.  What is the connection between the health and productivity of the land and the well-being of the people of Israel?

35:1-2 Are wilderness and dry land to be taken literarily or are they metaphors?  What is so special about the crocus?  How can plants rejoice and sing? What glory belonged to Lebanon?  What was the majesty of Carmel and Sharon? 

35:3 This verse signals a shift from the land to people. Why do I appreciate this verse the older I get?

35:4 In Isaiah’s context, who were those with a fearful heart?  Who has a fearful heart in our context? The Scriptures usually admonish readers to fear God, but here they are called to not fear even though God will come with vengeance and terrible recompense – to save.

35:5 Is this blindness and deafness meant to be taken literally or metaphorically?

35:6 Here is another shift, this time from people back to the land, where we started.  In the case of humans, physical challnges are overcome.  In the case of the land, situations are reversed.

35:7 I like pools, springs, reeds and rushes, but not swamps.  What is this imagery communicating?

35:8 I find it amazing that Isaiah envisions a “highway”.  Where does this highway lead?  What does it connect? Apparently even some of God’s people can be fools.

35:9 This is not quite a vision of the peaceable kingdom but it is close.  It almost seems like a vision of paradise, or heaven.

35:10 Must we interpret this Hebrew Scripture mention of “the ransomed of the Lord” with regard to the Christian doctrine of the Atonement?  How can joy “be upon” anyone’s head?

146:5 In the context of this psalm and the Psalter, what does it mean to be “Happy”.  Is this the same “happiness” enumerated in the Declaration of Independence?   How are “help” and “hope” related?

146:6 How can we interpret and apply this imager without falling into the creationism-evolution debate? What does it mean to “keep faith”?

146:7-9 Is this an expression of the Bible’s preferential option for the poor and oppressed?  How shall we Americans read and interpret this in light of our current national political debates?

146:10 What would happen to God’s reign if humanity becomes extinct?  This verse could be used or adapted for use as a Call to Worship.

How will you decide between Psalm 146:5-10 and Luke 1:47-55? I usually alternate between cycles, though people might associate Luke 1:4-55 with Advent and Christmas more than they do Psalm 146:5-10.  In favor of the alternate reading is that it is one of the few feminine voices in the Scriptures.  Mary’s psalm of praise, apparently following the template of Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, seems to move from the particular in verses 47-49 to the universal in verses 50-55.  What shall we learn from the theological and doxological trajectory of Mary’s song?  

1:47 Why is this passage often referred to as “The Magnificat”

1:48 Mary’s sentiment seems to reflect the same outlook as expressed in Psalm, 146:5-10

1:49 Is there any significance to the use of “the Mighty One”?  What great things has the Mighty One dome for Mary?

1:50 What does it mean to “fear” God, especially during Advent when we tend to emphasize feelings such as joy?

1:51 What does the arm of God symbolize?  What does “scattered the proud in the thouhts of their hearts” mean?

1:52-53 Note the reversal of fortunes and misfortunes.

1:54 How has God helped Israel?

1:55 What promise did God make to Abraham and his descendants?

5:7-8 This reads like an admonition to patiently wait even in the midst of apparently dashed expectations.  How near is near?  At least a farmer witnesses yearly reward for patience, not waiting nearly two-thousand years for a crop.  How do we strengthen our hearts?

5:9  Would anyone like to speculate what people were grumbling about?  I can’t imagine the author addressing a problem if it did not exist.

5: 10 Do suffering and patience necessarily go together?  When might we be called NOT to be patient in the midst of suffering?

11:2 Note that even though he was in prison, John was hearing “what the Messiah was doing.”  Also note that John had his own disciples and was apparently able to communicate with them.

11:3 I know that this Sunday our Reading comes from Matthew rather than Luke, nevertheless, this verse seems out of place in light of last week’s Gospel reading which suggested that John knew Jesus was the Messiah.  Am I reading more into last week’s reading than was there?  Why is John questioning Jesus identity?

11:4 What ad John’s disciples heard and seen?

11:5 This the verse that seems to connect this Reading with the First Reading.

11:6 How does this verse relate to verse 5?  Who was taking offense at Jesus?

11:7 What is the meaning of “a reed shaken by the wind”?

11:8 What is the point?

11:9 From a Christian perspective, was John the last of the Hebrew Prophets?

11:10 What is Jesus quoting?  Does this quote say more about John or Jesus?

11:11 Was Jesus born of a woman?  Did Jesus think John was greater than he was?
11:7-11 I have become convinced that there was (and is) a theological, spiritual, and political connection between Jesus and John that is not fully expressed or explored in the Gospels, but is certainly hinted at.  Other than Jesus and John, is there anyone in the New Testament portrayed as the fulfillment of prophecy?

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