Monday, December 8, 2014

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, December 14, 2014, the Third 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.

61:1 What does it feel like to have the spirit of the LORD upon oneself?  What else can one be anointed with in addition to the spirit and oil?
61:2 What is “the year of the Lord’s favor” and “the day of vengeance of our God” and how can they be mentioned in the same sentence?
61:3 What is a garland? What is oil of gladness? What is so special about oaks?
61:4 What other ancient ruins come to your mind in addition to Jerusalem?  Iona?  Lindesfarne? Detroit?
61:8 Does justice involve more than just hating robbery and wrongdoing? Who are “them”?
61:9 What does it mean for a people to be blessed by the LORD?
61:10 What does it feel like for one’s whole being to exalt in God?  God has clothed us with a tux and gown?
61:11 Do righteousness and praise just appear or do they grow and blossom?

126:1 In other words, we thought it not possible?  Note that this is in the past tense.
126:2 Why laughter? Shall we read this verse as a commentary on Isaiah 61:9?
126:3 What great things has the Lord done for us?
126:4 What is so special about the watercourses in the Negeb?
126:5-6 These verses, like Advent, proclaim a reversal of the status quo.
126:6 Shall we read this verse as a commentary on Isaiah 61:11?

Luke 1:46b-55 Note that this canticle is an alternative to the Psalm, not an alternative to the Second Redding, as suggested by the presbyterianmission website.
1:46b Who is speaking? When, if ever, has your soul magnified the Lord?
1:47 When did your spirit last rejoice?
1:48 What does it mean to be called blessed?
1:49 Here is an alternative way to address and speak of God.
1:50 What does it mean to fear God? Why am I thinking of Edwin H. Friedman?
1:51 What does it mean for the proud to be scattered  in the thoughts of their hearts? Since when did hearts think?
1:52-53 Note that these verses are in the present tense and how they all address a reversal.
1:54 How has God helped Israel?
1:55 Once again Sarah is overlooked, yet without her Abraham would not have had any descendants.

5:16 This is good advice. Is this the second shortest verse in the Bible?
5:17 More good advice. What does it mean to” pray without ceasing”? What do you know about contemplative living?
5:18 I find giving thanks in all circumstances harder than praying without ceasing or always rejoicing. I have been in some circumstances where I would have had great difficulty giving thanks.
5:19 Oh, how many ways we quench the Spirit. Let me count the ways.
5:20 How do we despise the words of prophets? What prophets are being referred to?
5:21 How do we “test” anything, let alone everything? Does this verse support the mission of Consumer Reports or the Underwriters Laboratory and similar organizations and institutions? How do we hold fast to what is good? What is good?
5:22 How many forms of evil are there?
5:23 Note the tripartite “spirit and soul and body”.  What is the difference between spirit and soul?  I would feel more comfortable with “mind, body and spirit”.
5:24 Who is it that calls? What does it mean to be called?

1:6 Are some “sent” and others not? What is the difference between “sent” and “called”?
1:7 “Witness” and “testify” are not usually part of the mainline and Presbyterian vocabulary.  Do they make you feel uncomfortable? How much do we hear them as legal terms and how much do we hear them as religious terms?
1:8 Was someone saying John was the light?
1:19 In this context, who or what is a Levite? It seems that John’s testimony was given in the context of him being questioned or examined. Was John on trial?
1:20 “Confessed” is an interesting choice of words.  John says, “I am not” while Jesus will say, at least seven times, “I am”! Were some hoping, even saying, that John was the Messiah?
1:21 People thought John was Elijah or Kahlil Gibran?
1:22 Why is John’s identity so important?
1:23 Are these John the Baptizer’s words or John the Evangelist’s words?
1:24-25 In verse 19 it was Jews sent by priests and Levites. Now it is those sent by the Pharisees. What is the connection between the Pharisees and baptism?
1:25 Is the presumption that it would have been alright for the Messiah, Elijah, or the prophet to baptize?
1:26 What did John mean by “Among you stands”?
1:27 Is there anything significant or symbolic about untying sandals?
1:28 What difference does it make where this took place?


I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, worshiping at 154 West Market Street, Cadiz, Ohio, every Sunday at 11:00 AM.

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