Monday, March 17, 2014

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, March 23, 2014, the Third Sunday in Lent (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.


17:1 Let us not make no more of the name of the location than necessary.  This is a geographical location, not a theological condition (even though it seems otherwise).  What does it mean to journey by stages? Why would anyone camp at a place where there was no water to drink?  Perhaps we can put this verse in conversation with the Gospel Reading.

17:2 I empathize with both Moses and the people.  Why did the people look toward Moses for water rather than finding it themselves? What does it mean to “test the LORD” and why is quarreling with Moses apparently equated with testing the LORD?

17:3 This seems like a valid complaint.  Sometimes a known discomfort is preferable to the unknown.

17:4 Why does Moses ask for advice about what to do with the people rather than asking for water or help finding water?

17:5 Not all church leaders are blessed with such a staff, or any staff for that matter.  I am envious of Moses.

17:6 Will Moses see God standing on the rock?  What is so special about Horeb? Is it significant that Moses did this “in sight of the elders” rather than alone, with no one watching? I wonder what the elders thought and how they felt as they witnessed this.

17:7 I have yet to find a congregation named “The Massah and Meribah (put your denominational moniker here) Church” yet there are probably many which can rightly claim the name.  Does the name of your church suggest its character?

95:1 Is it too obvious to see a connection between this Psalm’s “the rock of our salvation” and the Frist Reading’s “rock at Horeb”?

95:1-2 This sounds like a call to worship.

95:3 Who, or what, are these other “gods”?

95:4-5 Depths, heights, sea and land: what else is there?

95:6-7 Here is another possible Call to Worship.  Why do most mainline Protestants hardly ever bow down and kneel? Are our knees too old and arthritic?  Do the last two lines mix metaphors? Note that 7b more properly belongs to verse 8 rather than verse 7.

95:7b-8 What does the voice of God sound like? This verse obviously points back to the First reading, which argues for an intentional linguistic and theological connection using the word “rock” in 95:1.  Also, note that verses 1-7 were in the third person.  With verse 8 the Psalm shifts to the first person and God becomes the speaker.

95:9-11 Based on these verse, why might so many churches be struggling with declining membership and declining financial resources?

95:11 What, or where, is God’s “rest”?

5:1 I hate it when Lectionary Readings from the Pauline corpus begin with “Therefore”.  It means we are missing the initial points of the argument.  On the other hand, justification by faith is a keystone of protestant theology.

5:2-3 Where is all this “boasting” coming from?  See also verse 11.

5:3-5 sufferings . . . endurance . . . character . . .  hope.  This argument reminds me of the concept of disciplined training in the sense of “no pain, no gain.”  Is the Holy Spirit to be equated with God’s love?

5:6 Who are the ungodly and what does it mean that Christ died for them (or us)?

5:7 I confess that I have never been able to wrap my head around this one. It seems that it should be the other way around.

5:8 Following Paul’s argument, how did Christ’s death prove God’s love for us? Does this statement assume we are the “ungodly” of verse 6?  What is the connection, if any, between the “still weak” of 5:6 and “still were sinners” of this verse?

5:9 It seems to follow from Paul’s argument that we are already justified but not yet saved from the wrath of God.

5:10 Smilarly, it seems that we are already reconciled but not yet saved.

5:11 What does Paul feel a need to boast?  What is the difference between boasting and bragging?

4:5-42 This Reading is longer than most Gospel readings and I am considering shortening it by ending it at with verse 15.  Will you read it all or truncate it??

4:5 Is there anything significant about the setting?  What do you know about Sychar?

4:6 What once happened at Jacob’s well? Is there anything significant about the time? Note that in last week’s Gospel reading, and just prior to this in the Gospel, Nicodemus came to Jesus by night.  Now it is noon, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky and when it barely casts any shadows.  Think about the temporal setting of this reading juxtaposed with the temporal setting of last week’s Gospel Reading.  What might John be trying to communicate by this juxtaposition?

4:7 Can we consider this John’s version of the Parable of the Good Samaritan?  What is more significant, that it was a Samaritan, or that it was a woman?

4:8 Is this a throw away verse?

4:9 I think this is an understandable question, but does not the Samaritan woman violate some norms by asking it?

4:10 What, or who, is the gift of God? What is living water?

4:11 What purpose does this verse serve?

4:12 Is this a rhetorical question?

4:13-14 Even though it appears that Jesus does not answer the questions posed of him, this might be the heart of the reading, a reading as deep and multivalent as Jacob’s well. Like last week’s Gospel Reading, I cannot help but interpret this reading, especially this verse, from a Jungian perspective.

4:15 Did the Samaritan woman really understand what was being offered to her?

4:16-26 What do these verses add to the story?  Could we not stop reading at the end of verse 15 and still get the point?

4:16 Why would Jesus want her to call her husband?

4:17 Is this any more than an example of semantics and word games?

4:18 How would Jesus know this and what does it matter how many husbands she has had of who she is now living with?

4:19 What does the woman mean by “prophet”?

4:20 What is the woman talking about?

4:21 What hour might that be?

4:22 I think this sounds a little judgemental.

4:23 What does Jesus mean when he says “the hour is coming”?  What does it mean to worship “in spirit and truth”?  If one does not worship in spirit and truth, then how is one worshiping?

4:24 God is indeed spirit.  Later we will lean that Jesus is the truth.

4:25 How would a Samaritan know and believe this?

4:26 Does this verse require us to read this passage in the context of and in conversation with all the other “I am” sayings in John, not to mention Exodus 3:14?

4:27 Why were the disciples astonished that Jesus was speaking with a woman.

4:28 Did the woman leave her water jar on purpose?  Why?

4:29 Can we categorize the woman’s speech as a witness?  Evangelism?  Preaching?

4:30 Did you know that early Christians were sometimes referred to as “followers of the way”? 

4:31-34 First, Jesus was thirsty. Now his disciples are worried about him being hungry. Why all this emphasis on Jesus’ thirst and hunger when, I assume the point of the passage, is our spiritual thirst and hunger?

4:32 What food did Jesus have that the disciples did not know?

4:33 So often it seems that the disciples simply do not get it.  They think too literally and concretely.

4:34 What does Jesus mean?

4:35-38 These verses sound a bit apocalyptic.  What does it mean to enter into another person’s labor? Who is the sower and who is the reaper?

4:39 So the woman was a witness and evangelist! They believev because of her testimony, not because of what they say Jesus do or heard him say.

4:40 Why do you suppose Jesus stayed, depending on your perspective, as long as two days, or as little as two days? Is there any significance to the number two?  Where do you think he stayed?  Do you think the disciples also stayed?

4:41 so some did believe because of his word and not just what the woman’s testimony.  What was Jesus word?

4:42 Is this not what all teachers and preachers long to hear?  What is the difference between secondary and primary faith, and a primary and secondary witness?

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