Monday, March 10, 2014

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, March 16, 2014, the Second 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.

12:1-4a This is one of the shortest Readings we have seen in a while.

12:1 How do you think the LORD said this, in a dream, a vision, or what?  Note the spelling of the name “Abram”.  This reads like an archetypal call narrative.  Where was Abram’s country?  Who were Abram’s kindred?

12:2 In retrospect, it seems the LORD delivered on these promises.

12:3 This verse, alone, ought to be enough to combat anti-Semitism.

12:4a Why did Abram take Lot with him?

121:1 I recall that there are various interpretations of this Psalm, one being the “nature’ interpretation that sees in the hills evidence of the LORD’s presence, the other suggesting this verse is setting up a comparison between the local mountain deities, which do not provide help, and the LORD, which does.  When such diverse interpretations present themselves, how do we decide?  With the following Monday being Saint Patrick’s Day, you may want to consider this psalm in conversation with the Legend of Patrick lighting the Easter fire on the “hill” Slane.

121:2 Regardless of which interpretation you follow, this assertion still follows. Must one be a “creationist” to think of the LORD as making heaven and earth?

121:3 What does it mean that our foot will not be moved?  What difference does it make if the LORD slumbers or not?

121:4 Is there any difference between “slumber” and “sleep”, or this simply an example of Hebrew poetic construction?  Does “Israel” refer to a people, a nation, or both?

121:5 What does it mean for the LORD to be a “keeper” and  “Shade”? Why is the shade on the Right hand and not the left?

121:6 I love this verse, but while I can recall some hot summer days when it seemed like the sun was striking me, and I have been sunburned more than once, I cannot recall the moon ever striking me or burning me.

121:7 Now here is a verse I can treasure!

121:8 What is the “going out” and the “coming in” being referred to and does it make any difference that they appear in this order?

Second Reading - Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
4:1 I see an obvious connection to the First Reading, but it would seem that Christians of non-Jewish background cannot claim Abraham as our ancestor, according to the flesh, as Paul did.

4:2 Why does Paul use “if”?  Was Abraham justified by works or not?

4:3 Where does Scripture say this?

4:4 Except in the church!

4:5 I like that trust is connected with faith, a theme emphasized in the PC(USA) A Brief Statement of Faith.

4:13 Is Paul engaging in exegesis, Midrash, or eisegesis?  What law was there for Abraham since Moses had not received it?

4:14 Could one not argue for trust and faith in the law?

4:15 How does the law bring wrath?

4:16 What is “it”?  Faith is connected with grace, and with grace there is a guaranty.

4:17 Following Paul’s theological reasoning, perhaps we should be considered “Abrahamians” rather than “Christians”.

3:1-17 This passage is so nuanced and so multivalent, I am not sure where to begin. I prefer a Jungian interpretation, but does that preach? What do you know about Pharisees?  Is there any symbolism or significance associated with the name “Nicodemus”?

3:2 What is the significance that Nic comes at night?  I see a literary and theological connection with the woman at the well, at noon, and wonder if we can only interpret both passages in dialogue with each other.  I suspect this is not the Royal “we”, so who else is Nic speaking for? What ‘signs” was Nic referring to?

3:3 “Very truly, I tell you” seems to be a formulaic introduction to teachings in John.

Does being “born from above” give one a bird’s eye, or angel’s eye view?

3:4 Nic is confusing obstetrics and gynecology with theology, stuck in a literal rather than metaphorical understanding.  What do you know about “rebirth therapy” and “rebirthing”?

3:5 See my comments for 3:3. Jesus not connects water with spirit but both water and spirit with “birth from above”.

3:6 Is Jesus, or John, introducing a dualism from another source?

3:7 What does it mean to be astonished?

3:8 What is Jesus comparing everyone born of the spirit to: the wind, our the hearing of the wind, or our not knowing where it comes from and where it goes? Modern weather measurements and forecasting does indeed allow us to know where the wind comes from and where it goes.

3:9 Thanks, Nic, for asking the question we have all been wanting to ask.

3:10 Touch√©!  Must religious and spiritual leaders always have all the answers?

3:11 See 3:3. Who is the “we”.  What do “we” know and what have we “seen”?  What is the nature of religious and spiritual knowledge when we are post enlightenment interpreters of pre-enlightenment scripture?  Is this a singular or a plural “you”?

3:12 is the earthly/heavenly duality the same thing as the flesh/spirit duality?

3:13 Does this verse reflect a post ascension perspective?  How will people in the pew hear and understand “Son of Man”?

3:14-15 Here is a passage worth exploring from a Jungian perspective. Consider the rod of Asclepius.  Be sure to read the Hebrew scripture alluded to. One could preach a whole sermon just on these two verses.

3:16 What could I say that has not already been said?

3:17 I wish some hell, fire, and damnation preachers who often use Scripture to beat people down would remember this verse.


I have not been preaching very regularly, but this coming Sunday I will be preaching at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 508 Indiana Avenue, Chester, WV 26034, at the 11 AM Service.

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