Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, December 6, 2015, the Second Sunday of Advent (Year C)

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.

3:1 I would have expect “Hear” rather than “See”.  Who is speaking?  Note that in the NRSV the first occurrence is “Lord” and the second occurrence is “LORD” –what is the difference?
3:2 Is this a rhetorical question?  What is a refiner’s fire like?  What is fuller’s soap?
3:3 Who are the descendants of Levi?  How are gold and silver refined?
3:4 Why would an offering not be pleasing to the LORD?  How has the offering changed compared to times past?

1:68 What is the first word in the Latin Vulgate? What has the Lord God of Israel redeemed the people from?
1:69 Is there any savior that is not mighty?
1:70 Is there a grammer problem with a single “mouth” but plural “prophets”? What holy prophets might Zechariah (or Luke) have had in mind?
1:71 At the time of Zechariah, who would the enemies and the haters have been?
1:72 Had the Lord God of Israel forgotten the covenant?
1:73 What oath?
1:74  Can one serve with fear or in fear?
1:75 What is the difference, if any, between holiness and righteousness?
1:76  What child? To who is Zechariah speaking?
1:77 Is there a difference between knowledge of salvation and salvation? How does one gain knowledge of salvation?
1:78 What is “the dawn from on high”?
1:79 Who sits in darkness? How does death cast a shadow?

1:3 When and how often does the author remember the Philippians?
1:4 How does one pray constantly?
1:5 How does one share in the gospel?
1:6 Who began the good work? What was the good work? What and when is the day of Christ?
1:7 What does it mean to hold a person in the heart?
1:8 What is meant by “the compassion of Jesus Christ”?
1:9 What knowledge?  What is full insight? How does prayer overflow?
1:10 What does it mean to be pure and blameless?
1:11 What is the harvest of righteousness and who has produced it?

3:1 What year would this have been?  Why are all these people and their positions named? Is all this historically accurate and does it matter if it is no isn’t?
3:2 Why was John in the wilderness?  Was this a prelude to desert spirituality?  What is so special about fierce landscapes like wilderness and the desert? Is the “wilderness” by definition a liminal place?
3:3 Would this be both banks of the Jordan?  Is this the Jordan before it flows into the Sea of Galilee or after it flows out from the Sea of Galilee toward the Dead Sea?
3:4 Where in Isaiah is this written?  Did the prophecy dictate that John had to be in the wilderness, or did John’s being in the wilderness lend itself to this prophecy? Why do the Lord’s paths need to be made straight?
3:5 Why fill a valley?  Why make a mountain low?  In light of mountaintop removal mining, this verse raises images of bad stewardship of the earth.
3:6 Does “all flesh” include non-human flesh?

ADDENDUM
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.  Please like The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz on facebook.

Friday, November 27, 2015

#OptOutside

Any avid and experienced hiker and backpacker will recognize the brand names and retailers I encountered today, the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday: Recreational Equipment Incorporated, Fox River, Smartwool, Merrell, Royal Robbins, Patagonia, Eastern Mountain Sports, Kelty, Marmet, Sea to Summit, Nalgene, and GSI, just to name a few.

I did not come across these brand names in a mall or driving around to various stores. I wore or used gear bearing these names as I hiked over 8.8 miles of trails in western Pennsylvania’s Raccoon Creek State Park the day after Thanksgiving as I supported the #OptOutside alternative to shopping. Rather than joining the mad rush of Black Friday I chose to enjoy a Green Friday as I opted to go outside.

I left the house this morning before 8:00 AM and drove the twenty-five miles to the trail head at Raccoon Creek State Park.  The 7,572 acre park boasts over 44 miles of hiking trails and the past several Fridays I have been exploring its trails using Mark H. Christy’s Walks, Hikes and Overnights in Raccoon Creek State Park as a guide. When I parked in the small lot across the park road from the trailhead there was only one other car in the lot, a car with three REI stickers on the back window.

Opting out on the Forest Trail
I was on the trail by 8:45 AM this morning under overcast skies and with the temperature around 40 degrees. I first hiked the 4.24 mile Heritage-Buckskin-Camp Loop and saw only three other hikers on the trail, first a single man and then a man and woman pair.  I next hiked the 4.59 mile Palomino-Buckskin-Camp Loop and saw a man on horseback, a group of two men and dog, and a group of five or six male hikers. By the time I finished the two loops the temperature had risen to 64 degrees, 20 degrees higher then what I experienced in the park a week earlier.

By the time I returned to the car there were at least four of five other cars in the lot. As I drove out of the park I saw two or more cars parked at each of two other trail heads. I met more people on the trails today than I have ever met before while hiking in the park. Apparently others, like me, opted to be outside in the wild outdoors this day rather than engaging in the wild retail rush of Black Friday.

I have been a member of Recreational Equipment Incorporated (a member co-op) for at least forty years. Over that span I have spent probably thousands of dollars at REI as I have purchased sleeping bags, hiking boots, clothing, climbing gear, tents, and more. I applaud my co-op for not only choosing to close on both Thanksgiving and the day after, paying its employees nevertheless, but to also encourage its employees and others to opt outside the day after Thanksgiving rather than going shopping. I hope REI will make this an annual emphasis and that other outdoor retailers, outfitters, and brands (like #royalrobbins) will join them in the future.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, November 29, 2015, the First Sunday of Advent (Year C)

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.

PREFACE: November 29th, 2015 is the First Sunday of Advent and the beginning of Liturgical Year C.

33:14 Did the author of Jeremiah have Advent in mind when writing about the days that are surely coming?  What promise did the LORD make with Israel and Judah?
33:15 Is there any difference between “in those days” and “at that time”?  Is this a mere literary device, or is something else going on here?  In the NRSV, why is “Branch” capitalized?  What is the difference between justice and righteousness?
33:16 Is salvation synonymous with safety?  What is the “it” that will be called “The LORD is our righteousness”? Does “The LORD is our righteousness” translate just one Hebrew word?

25:1 How do you lift up your soul to the LORD?
25:2 What is the difference, if any, between trust and faith?
25:3 Is the Psalmist appealing to the LORD’s sense of justice or the LORD’s vanity? Why the emphasis on shame?
25:4 Is this a prayer of supplication?
25:5 How does the LORD lead and teach?
25:6 Can the LORD ever forget? Does the LORD even occasionally need to be reminded?
25:7 Apparently the LORD can forget. The Psalmist wants the LORD to remember mercy but forget sins. Forget my sins, but remember me!
25:8 Was there ever any doubt that the LORD is good and upright?
25:9 Does the LORD lead the humble, or do the humble follow?
25:10 How many paths of the LORD are there?  What is the difference between covenant and decrees?

3:9 Who is the “we” and who is the “you”?
3:10 Is it possible to pray a prayer that is not earnest?  What is lacking in your faith?  How can it be restored?
3:11 What are the possible meanings of “our way”?
3:12 In other words—be like us?
3:13 What is the grammatical relationship between “the coming of our Lord Jesus” and “with all his saints”? Will Jesus not return alone when he returns?

21:25 This sounds like reason enough for an interest in astronomy, but how do we interpret this pre-modern and pre-Copernican text in a postmodern, post-Copernican world?  What does the roaring of the sea and waves represent?
21:26 How and why will the powers of heaven be shaken? There will be no fear and foreboding if people in general, and politicians in particular, ignore or even deny the signs of global climate change.
21:27 Who is the “Son of Man” and what kind of cloud will accompany his return?  Cirrus?  Cumulus? Mushroom?  How can we interpret this imagery when some want to take it literally, some want to take it metaphorically, and some discount it all together?
21:28 Once these things begin to take place, how long will they last? Why stand up and raise the head? What redemption is drawing near?
21:29 Why single out the fig tree?
21:30 So we are basically talking about natural seasonal signs.
21:31 What is the kingdom of God any why has it not been near before? It has been only in the past few years that I learned that the ripe fruit of fig trees, unlike the fruit of some other trees, will not last long before it falls off the branch and rots.
21:32 How did early Christians cope with disappointment when this prophecy was not (apparently) realized? What do you know about “realized eschatology”?
21:33 Heaven will pass away? Whose words?
21:34 Dissipation and drunkenness are one thing but worries are another.
21:35 What does the image of a trap suggest?
21:36 How can one escape these things?

ADDENDUM

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. Please like The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz on facebook.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, November 22, 2015, Christ the King (Reign of Christ) Sunday (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.

PREFACE:
This Sunday, Christ the King 2015, marks the end of “Year B” in the three year lectionary cycle..  Next Sunday, The First Sunday of Advent 2015, will be the First Sunday of the “Year C” in the lectionary cycle.

Are you familiar with “INRI” and what it means?

I cannot find the source of the quote to verify it but I think When John Adams was corresponding with King James, King James asked “Have you chosen a King yet? How can you have a country without a King?

Here are some other Kings: Nat King Cole, Martin Luther King, The Lion King, Michael Jackson – the King of Pop, Elvis Presley – the King of Rock and Roll. And remember “A man’s home is his castle and a man is king of his catle.”

http://www.presbyterianmission.org/devotion/revised-common-lectionary/2015/11/22/#first-reading
23:1 What is an oracle?  What is the significance of the fourfold designation, three of which relate to God? Read through this verse and the rest of the passage and see how many designations of God you find.
23:2 Prior to any Christian doctrine of the Trinity, how did David understand and mean to use “Spirit”?  Is David describing a continual state of affairs or the situation of this oracle only? How do you hear politicians and elected leaders today who claim to know God’s will?
23:2-3 The Spirit speaks “through” David but God speaks “to” David. Is this a description of David and his reign?
23:4 Is David touting his own horn, or laying the foundation for how future monarchs will be judge?
23:5 From a later perspective, how did David’s “house” measure up?
23:6 Ouch, those godless thorns
23:7 This sounds like last judgement language.

132:1 What hardships did David endure?
132:2 What did David swear? What did h vow?
132:3-5 Does this answer the previous two questions? Did David keep his word?
132:6 Is there anything particularly significant about Ephrathah or the fields of Jaar?
132:7 Whose dwelling place and whose footstool.
132:8 This makes it sound like the LORD is a localized, place-significant LORD. Does the LORD need to rest? What is the “ark of your might”?
132:10 Must David and the Lord’s anointed be one and the same?
132:11 How many sons did David have?
132:12 This sounds conditional with the “If”.
132:13 What is the meaning of the word “Zion” and where did the word originate?
132:14 Read this in light of verse 8.
132:15 What are its “provisions”?
132:16 Will only the priest be saved?
132:17 What is a “horn”?  Is the horn the lamp?
132:18 This is quite a contrast between the anointed and his enemies.
132:1-18 In light of the history of the Nation of Israel and God’s people, including the Babylonian exile and the Shoah, how shall we read this passage?

http://www.presbyterianmission.org/devotion/revised-common-lectionary/2015/11/22/#second-reading
1:4b a Classic Christianized Greco-Roman Salutation. Who, or what, are the seven spirits?
1:5 How is Jesus a witness? Is Jesus the ruler of the kings of the earth now or only in the age to come?
1:6 How are Christians a kingdom of priests?  What is the difference between glory and dominion? Maybe this kingdom is not so much about the King as it is the people, more of a “kindom” than a “kingdom”.
1:7 Is there any significance to the admonition being “look” rather than “listen”?  Why will all the tribes of the earth wail? Does this verse mean the Christ will return only on a cloudy day?
1:8 Is there any difference between Alpha and Omega in contrast to first and last?

18:33 What headquarters; headquarters of what? Why was Pilot asking this question?
18:34 What sort of question is this?
18:35 Is Pilate’s first question a rhetorical one?  What has Jesus done? Does this verse bolster antisemitism?
18:36 This must have sounded rather cryptic and enigmatic. Where is Jesus’ kingdom from?
18:37 Was Pilates deduction correct?  Did Pilate really say that Jesus is a king?  What is “the truth”?

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

Monday, November 9, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, November 15, 2015, the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (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.

1:4 Who was Elkanah? He would give portions of what? Were Peninnah’s sons and daughters not also Elkanah’s sons and daughters?
1:5 Who was Hannah and how was she related to Elkanah?
1:6 Who was Hannah’s rival?
1:7 How many years might this have gone on?
1:8 How many wives did Elkanah have?  So much for family values!  How would most wives answer the Question Elkanah asked Hannah? I wonder how couples trying to conceive but have been unable to conceive hear this passage. I wonder how couples who are childless by choice hear this passage.
1:9 Who is “they” and why are “they” at Shiloh? Eli was what sort of priest in what temple?
1:10 What might have been Hanna’s prayer?
1:11 What is Hannah’s misery? Is there a problem with Hanna’s prayer?
1:12 Why was Eli observing Hanna’s mouth? Was he lip reading?
1:13 When you pray silently, do your lips move? Why would Eli have thought Hannah was drunk?
1:14 Read this in light of the First Christian Pentecost. I assume Eli never had a pastoral care course or CPE.
1:15 What does it mean to pour out one’s soul before the LORD?
1:16 Vexation is probably not a word we often hear, especially in a sermon.
1:17 How could Ely say this when he did not know Hannah’s petition?  Who or what gave Ely the right—the power—to answer prayer? Or was Eli simply but politely asking or telling Hannah to move on?
1:18 Were Eli’s words that powerful?
1:19 What do you know about Ramah?  Ya gotta love these Biblical euphemisms for sexual intercourse!
1:20 Why do many people no longer give their children names with personal, existential meaning?

1:1 Did Hannah pray, or did Hannah sing?  Who said , paraphrasing, “the person who sings their prayer
prays twice”? When was the last time your heart exulted?
1:2 What, or who, do you think of when you hear the phrase “holy one”?
1:3-10 This sounds more like a sermon than a prayer. Are these words addressed to God?
1:6-7 So what?
1:8 What does the second half of this verse have to do with the first half?
1:9 This verse seems to echo 1:4-5.
1:10 How does this verse relate to the verses preceding it?

10:11 How are you like a priest? Why were sacrifices made daily?
10:12 What single sacrifice did Christ offer? See 1 Samuel 2:8.
10:12-13 What source or sources are being quoted? Does God have a footstole?
(10:15-18 Where did the Holy Spirit say this?)
10:19 What sanctuary?  Does the blood of Jesus give us confidence or is it a ticket of entry?
10:20 What curtain might this be alluding to?  How was Christ’s flesh like a curtain?  Think about that one long and hard! Is anyone else thinking about the final scene in The Wizard of Oz?
10:21 I find it interesting that we find “a great priest” rather than “a great high priest”!
10:22 How can hearts be sprinkled clean from an evil conscience?  Note that while hearts are sprinkled clean, our bodies are washed. What might “house of God” refer to? Are both sprinkling and washing an allusion to Baptism?
10:23 What is the confession of our hope?  What is our hope?  How do we confess it? Whwn have you ever wavered?
10:24 Is “provoke” the best translation of the Greek?
10:25  To what does this “meeting together” refer? I like to of encouraging one another rather than provoking one another. What “Day” is approaching?

13:1 Who came out of the temple and what had he been doing in there?  This sounds like something a tourist to New York or other world class city says on their first visit.  Was this a particular disciple’s first visit to Jerusalem and the temple? I wonder why we are not told which disciple said this.
13:2 Is this prescient on the part of Jesus or a post AD 70 author writing with hindsight about an earlier event?
13:3 It was usually Peter, James and John who were privy to special moments with Jesus.  What is Andrew doing here?  Why two sets of brothers? How would the author know what the four asked? Did they all ask this in unison or was one of the four a spokesperson for the group?
13:4 Think again about the question I raised in relation to 13:2.
13:5 Who might have led them astray?
13:6 To whom was Jesus, or the writer of the Gospel, referring? How many messianic pretenders were there?
13:7 I think the key message is not to be alarmed.
13:8 Whew!  At least there is no mention of hurricanes, nor’easters, or blizzards.  What do birth pangs signify?  Is this describing the end of things as they are or the birth of something new? Must the old pass away for a new thing to emerge?

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

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, November 8, 2015, the Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (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.

3:1 Why does Naomi refer to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, as her daughter? What type of security does Naomi have in mind? What is Ruth’s ethnicity?
3:2 Does it matter that Boaz would be a kinsman by marriage and not by blood? How is Boaz related to Naomi? Who were his young women and what sort of work were they doing?
3:3 What sort of anointing might Naomi had in mind?  What did Naomi mean when she told Ruth not to make herself known? Is there anything significant, or symbolic, about “the threshing floor”?
3:4 I think Ruth uncovered more than, or something else than, his feet.  Could this verse be employing a euphemism? Is this a PG-13 Scripture?
4:13 What is the meaning of “took”? The LORD “made” her conceive?
4:14 What women?
4:15 Whom is this verse about?
4:16 The grandmother nurses her grandson?
4:17 Why would the women say “a son has been born to Naomi” when it was really her grandson, born to Ruth?  What is significant about this lineage? Might this verse inform and influence our views on immigration?

127:1 Does the Psalmist have any particular house, or any particular city in mind? Juxtapose tis verse with Hebrews 9:24. I think Socrates and Aristotle had some things to say about foundations of houses. Our strength is not in the war horse or chariot but in our values.
127:2 This seems opposite of our workaholic culture. Benjamin Franklin reportedly said “Early to bed, early to rise, makes one healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
127:3 Does this verse justify pairing this Psalm with the reading from Ruth?
127:4-5 What do you make of this simile? Personally, I do not like the militaristic imagery but It probably made a lot of sense at the time. Why would someone speak with their enemies in the gate?

9:24 Is this a reference to the Jerusalem temple? Juxtapose this verse with Psalm 127:1. Did Jews think of the Jerusalem Temple as a copy of a heavenly temple?
9:25 The high priest did not offer himself but rather sacrificed animals. Does this verse have any bearing on our understanding of the Eucharist?
9:26 Since Priests do not sacrifice themselves; does this analogy break down in the final analysis?
9:26-27 Can you follow the argument in these two verses? I wish more had been said.

12:38 Whom is Jesus teaching?  What do you know about the scribes?
12:39 Where were the best seats in a synagogue? Where are the best suits in a Christian sanctuary?
12:40 How were scribes devouring widow’s houses? When does a prayer become long? Is there a difference between “saying” a prayer and “praying” a prayer?
12:41 Where in the temple was the treasury? Do you think there were seats opposite it or would Jesus have been sitting on the floor?
12:42 These are very common coins, still available from collectors.  With the rate of inflation, what would be their worth today? What is the significance of the woman being poor and being a widow?
12:43 Where were the disciples that Jesus had to call them?
12:44 The widow may have demonstrated faith, but was she practicing good stewardship? How that this verse been abused by religious charlatans and hucksters?

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