Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, February 9, 2014, the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (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.


Today’s Readings, totaled together, are rather lengthy.  For that reason alone you may decide not to include the optional verses in parenthesis.

58:1 Last week, Micah shouted out to the mountains. This week, Isaiah shouts out to people what sounds like an indictment. This is not the sort of shout out people want to hear.

58:2 I think the two most important words in this verse are “as if”.  I think I detect some sarcasm on God’s part.  What place might sarcasm have in teaching and preaching?  Is this verse distinguishing between religiosity and praxis?

58:3 Is God mocking the people?  How much do we serve our own interests rather than God’s interests on our Sabbath (Saturday or Sunday)?

58:4 I can think of a religious communities this verse might apply to.  What specific situation might Isaiah have had in mind?

58:5-7 I am hearing echoes of last week’s “what does the Lord require?”  Does a true fast mean giving up a portion of what the believer has to those who do not have it?

58:8 Who is the vindicator? What is a “rear guard” and what is their function?

58:9 Do the previous verses delineate preconditions for the LORD hearing our prayer?  It is usually the one whom the LORD calls who responds “Here I am” but in this verse it is the LORD  who responds “Here I am” when the people call on the LORD. What might “the pointing of the finger” refer to?

58:10-11 These verses read like a restatement of verses 5-8.

58:11 This verse offers images that suggest so many other passages, such as the vision of dry bones and the many biblical references to springs of living water.

58:12 How might this promise of restoration serve as a vision of church renewal, revitalization and transformation, or even urban renewal?

112:1 This verse reads like the antithesis of the Isaiah Reading.  What does it mean to “fear” the LORD?  When I read verses like this I am usually reminded of Aldous Huxley’s “mysterium tremendum” as described in his The Doors of Perception and of  Rudolph Otto’s “mystery” or “numinous” as explored in his The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational.  It is one thing to obey God’s commandments, and another thing to delight in them.

112:2. The reward (like the punishment) goes to the next generation.

112:3 Does this verse the health and wealth gospel?

112:4 You may want to juxtapose the light of this verse with the light of Isaiah 58:8 and 58:10

112:5 I assume the lending in this verse is a lending without interest.  How does this verse speak to Wall Street and investment bankers?

112:6-8 How many such righteous people do you know?  I think that righteous is like an anchor, not a weight.

112:9 Based on this verse, this Psalm, and the First Reading, how might we define “righteousness”?  What does this verse say about our social safety net?  What is a “horn”?

112:10 Is this why some people are so opposed to Social Security, public assistance, and a general redistribution of wealth in our current context of such economic inequality?

2:1 As an amateur philosopher who used to teach Introduction to Philosophy at the undergraduate level, I am getting tired of Paul bad mouthing “lofty words” and “wisdom”.  On the other hand, I like that he employs “the mystery of God” (see my comments on Psalm 112:1).  I think we need more mystery in our churches and in our lives.  What do you think?

2:2 Why does Paul seem to usually focus on Christ crucified rather than Christ resurrected?

2:3 What weakness, fear and trembling does Paul refer to? 

2:4 Can a person not teach or preach with plausible words of wisdom as well as a demonstration of Spirit and power? 

2:5 What about Anselm’s “faith seeking understanding”?  Thomas Aquinas opined “Philosophy As The Handmaid Of Theology”.  Can our faith not rest on both human wisdom AND on the power of God?

2:6-7 Now Paul changes his tune!  If I did not know better, I might think he is referring to esoteric and perhaps even Gnostic teachings.  I think I smell the beginnings of a conspiracy theory novel here: secret and hidden teachings of Paul recently discovered and revealed!  Dan Brown, are you reading this?  Were the Corinthians among the mature?  Are you?

2:8 Absolutely.  When was the last time any ruler of any age got it right?  They Crucified Jesus.  They condemned Socrates.  Rulers always seek to quiet the voices of those who speak truth to power.

2:9 And what is Paul quoting, Isaiah 64:4 perhaps?  Do you think Paul was quoting from memory or from a text before his eyes?

2:10 Does God reveal through the Spirit today or did all revelation cease with the end of the New Testament era?  In usually speaking of Christ as the revelation of God, have we short changed the Holy Spirit as revelatory?

2:11 Paul is starting to sound like a psychologist.  What is “the human spirit”?

2:12 Shall we compare and contrast the spirit of the world and the Spirit that is from God?  What gifts does God bestow?

2:13 This sounds like a little Orwellian doublespeak, sort of hard to defend against let alone interpret.  Or maybe Paul is just being “spiritual” but not religious.  Is Paul contrasting human wisdom with spiritual wisdom?  Are you spiritual?

2:14 Here is a topic for a Sunday School lesson, discussion, or sermon: “Spiritual Discernment”.

2:15 If I have spiritually discerned everything I write here, am I therefore not subject to your or anyone else’s scrutiny!

2:16  Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Christ, maybe?  If we have the mind of Christ, do we then know the mind of God?  From what is Paul quoting?

5:13-16 Have we heard these verse so many times, together and in tandem, that we cannot hear afresh?  What more can be said about salt and light?  Do these first century metaphors still speak to us today or do we to translate them into new metaphors?  How does salt loose its taste?   Why are cities built on hills if they cannot be hid?  Is Paul endorsing bringing attention to one’s good works?

5:17-20 The usual formula is “the Law, the Prophets and the Writings”.  Why are the Writings not mentioned here?  What does this and the following verses have to do with the verses that preceded it?  Do you sense there is no thematic unity?  What “law” or “commandments” might Jesus have had in mind, only the Torah, or all the Levitical laws? Not that even those who break laws and teaches others to break laws will still be in the kingdom of heaven.

5:20 Do you think Jesus (and/or the early church) thought the scribes and Pharisees were a little lacking when it came to righteousness?  Speaking of righteousness, you might want to revisit the First Reading and the Psalm and bring them into conversation with Matthew 5:17-20.

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