Monday, December 1, 2014
Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, December 7, 2014, the Second Sunday of Advent (Year B)
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 recently got around to reading Eugene L. Lowry’s Living with the Lectionary (1992, Abingdon Press) and found this passage warning about quick fix lectionary aids insightful. “The problem is that lectionary preachers often turn to these helpful aids prior to having internalized the texts. When I have inquired of lectionary preachers, how they prepare—the sequence of their work—I find a trend. Often they read the text and immediately turn to the published lectionary commentaries. They may receive good advice, but altogether prematurely. In short, at the point in sermon preparation when they ought to be internalizing the text and exploring the many questions which might emerge, they are already finding answers to the questions they have not yet raised. The result is a homiletical preparation short-circuit.” (p. 25)
I think Lowry’s warning is reflected in the way I prepare Lectionary Ruminations 2.o. I first read the text and then consider what questions I have or think it is important to ask of the text, perhaps make a few observations and opine about the text, but I DO NOT CONSULT ANY LECTIONARY AIDS as I write. Similarly, I think it would behoove readers of Lectionary Ruminations 2.o to first read the text and consider what questions they ought to be asking and what questions the text asks of them before reading Lectionary Ruminations 2.o.
40:1 Perhaps this all too familiar passage reminds us that Advent is a season for the preacher to comfort, while Lent is a season for the preacher to afflict.
40:2 This sounds somewhat like legal language but good news none the less. What does it mean to speak tenderly?
40:3 Whose voice is crying out?
40:3-4 Having grown up and spent most of my life in the mountains of West Virginia, I resonate with the imagery of straight highways. On the other hand, I fear someone might want to relate the “every mountain and hill shall be made low” and language following to the ecologically devastating practice of Mountain Top Removal Mining.
40:5 Who or what is the mouth of the Lord?
40:6-7 How do these verses fit in here? Has a new thought begun?
40:8 What does Isaiah mean by “the word of the LORD”?
40:9 How can the prophet get up to a high mountain if all the mountains will be made low? Where is God?
40:10 Is this militaristic imagery and language?
40:11 This language and imagery seems antithetical to the previous verse. Who is the mother sheep?
85:1 Does this verse assume a theology of the land?
85:2 How do you and your church deal with “Selah”?
85:1-2 Compare these verses with Isaiah 40:1-2.
85:8 Does God speak peace only to God’s people?
85:8-9 What about people who do not turn to God in their hearts and who do not fear God? What does it mean to fear God? What does it mean to turn to God in your heart?
85:10-11 I like this imagery! The structure appears to be poetic.
85:12 Once again, I wonder if this verse and the entire Psalm assumes a theology of the land? What is the connection between God and the land, the land and God? Does this feed into the Arthurian legend and the Fisher King?
85:13 Is this a personification of righteousness?
3:8 I do not know where it originated, but there is a joke that goes something like this. A person asks God if it is true that one day to God is like a thousand years. God answers “yes.” They then ask God if it is true that God will give them whatever they ask for. God again answers “yes.” The person finally asks God for a million dollars. God replies, “OK, I’ll do it tomorrow”. On the other hand I have often heard this verse used to reconcile the six day story of creation with evolution as if that solves all the apparent problems.
3:9 So God’s apparent slowness is really an manifestation of God’s patience?
3:10 Of all the images that one could employ, why employ the imagery of a thief? What does the author mean by “the heavens”, “elements”, and “the earth”? Will what is done on the earth not be disclosed until the day of the Lord?
3:11-12 Shall we refer to this as the “Big Dissolution Theory?” How do we reconcile this imagery with contemporary cosmology that posits an expanding universe expanding at an increasing rate and which may expand indefinitely? What is this verse asking?
3:13 Note that this is a “promise”, not a threat. Where else can we find “new heavens and a new earth” language? I am reminded of C. S. Lewis’ imager of a new heaven and a new earth in the final installment of The Chronicles of Narnia.
3:14 What might be a spot or blemish?
3:15a Once again, what appears to be the Lord’s tardiness is actually our salvation.
1:1 For a minute, there, I thought I was reading the incipit of Genesis. Exactly what is “the beginning of the good news”?
1:2-3 Déjà vu! Why does Mark quote Isaiah 40:3?
1:4 Never having been a Baptist, I much prefer the NRSV “John the baptizer” rather than the more familiar John the Baptist”. What about you? How did John’s baptism differ from the baptism of the early church?
1:5 I think there is some hyperbole here. Nevertheless, John is portrayed as a popular guy.
1:6 Has anyone else ever heard the explanation that “locusts” is not a reference to insects but to a nutty substance from a tree native to Palestine? What purpose might it serve to describe John this way?
1:7-8 What power did John have? How could John have known all of this?
1:8 What is the difference between baptism with water baptism with the Holy Spirit?