Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, January 3, 2016, the Second Sunday after Christmas (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: The Lectionary Readings for the Second Sunday After Christmas are the same in all three years, A,B & C.

31:7 I wonder what effect it would have if you started your next sermon by proclaiming “For thus says the LORD.”  IMHO, most worshipers need to take the admonition to “Sing aloud with gladness” more seriously.  Who is “the chief of the nations”? Who are the remnant of Israel?
31:8 What might the “land of the north” symbolize? What promise do we find for ourselves in this promise of restoration? 
31:9 Why do the remnant weep? Who or what is Ephraim?
31:10 Why do the nations need to hear this? Who scattered Israel and why?  Why is Israel now being gathered?
31:11 How has the LORD ransomed Jacob? Whose hands were too strong? Could this be one of the roots of a ransom theory of the atonement?
31:12 What and where is the height of Zion? I like the image of a life likened to a “watered garden”.  How many people in our society are experiencing a life akin to a dried up, dead garden?
31:13 What sort of dance do you imagine this being? This verse would work well within the context of a Service of Witness to the Resurrection.
31:14 Here is an image I can relate to.

147:12 This is another of the “praise” Psalms that close the Psalter, thus a Psalm that could be adapted for use as a Call to Worship.  How is this Psalm related to the one before and after?
147:13 What does strengthening the bars of gates symbolize? Where are children blessed?
147:14 I find peace and finest wheat a powerful but an odd poetic pairing.
147:15 Why am I thinking of the Greek god Mercury? What is God’s command?
147:16 I understand how frost is like ashes, but how is snow like wool? How will this verse sound in the Eastern United States compared to the Western United States this day?
147:17 This and the preceding verse works this time of year in most of the northern hemisphere, but what about in the southern hemisphere?
147:18 This is the second reference in this Psalm to God’s “word”.  See 147:15 for the first time.  It appears again in 147:19. How can a word melt anything?
147:12-18 It should be clearly evident why this Psalm was paired with the Jeremiah Reading.  But the Psalm seems to emphasize the emotions of return and restoration while ignoring the lament aspect of the deportation that preceded it.  Where do we, as Americans, as Christians, and as Presbyterians find ourselves today—in exile or restoration?
147:19 How do statutes and ordinances relate to the LORD’s word? What is the relationship between Jacob and Israel?
147:20 What are the LORD’s ordinances? Why do other nations not know them?

1:3 What are spiritual blessings?  Where are the heavenly places? This verse starts out sounding like The Magnificat.
1:4 Presbyterians take note: here is a verse in support of predestination and election.  Have you ever thought of yourself as holy and blameless? When was the foundation of the world? You might want to juxtapose this verse and its “before the foundation of the world” with John 1:1 and its “In the beginning”.
1:5 Another verse in support of the doctrines of predestination and election unless this verse applies only to the Ephesians.  What is your destiny?
1:6 Who or what is “the Beloved”?
1:7 Now we have  a “blood” atonement after the ransom of Jeremiah 31:11.  How does blood redeem?
1:8 What is the difference between wisdom and insight?
1:9 What is the mystery of God’s will?  I think we do not talk enough about mystery.
1:10 Is this a verse in support of divine “fate”? What is this “plan”? What and/or when is “the fullness of time”?
1:11  What is our “inheritance”?  This is yet another verse in support of predestination and election.
1:12 Who are “we”?
1:13 Who are “you”?  How is the Holy Spirit a “seal”?
1:14 How is a seal a pledge?

John’s prologue is my favorite passage in the Bible.  This is also the first passage I translated from the Greek when learning Greek.  How is your preaching or teaching influenced when you encounter one of your favorite passages?  While 1:1-9 are optional, I really think they need to be read and I will be including them in the Gospel Reading.
1:1 Can we read this and hear this read without recalling the first creation account of Genesis 1? How, in a brief amount of time, can we unpack the significance the Greek “logos” since the English “Word” just does not seem to translate it?
1:2 When was the beginning?
1:3 What is the meaning of “all things came into being through him”?
1:4-5 Maybe these verses should have been read at the winter solstice, back on December 21st in the northern hemisphere, rather than today.
1:4 Can there be life without being? How does light serve as life? Does this verse lend itself to universalism?
1:5 Note that the light shining is in the present tense but the darkness did not overcome it is in the past tense. How could darkness ever overcome light unless we are talking about a black hole?
1:6-9 In a matter of weeks we have moved from the conception of John the Baptizer to his testimony.  Once again, I am wondering how much we are missing when we reflect about the relationship and connection between John the Baptizer and Jesus. I wonder what John would have thought if he had read this description of himself and his ministry.
1:6 What does it mean to be sent from God?
1:7 Believe what?
1:8 How does one testify about anything? Was this verse meant to knock John down a notch or two?
1:9 Is there a false light? I like the construction “was coming” as it suggests a process rather than a point. Like 1:4, does this verse suggest a universalism? This verse is the last of the optional verses.
1:10 What does it mean to be “in the world”? What does it mean to “know” and “not know”?
1:11 What was his own?
1:12 Who received him?  Who believed in his name? What is the meaning of “power”? What does it mean to be a child of God?
1:13 Is there any difference between “the will of the flesh” and “the will of man”? Is there any theological difference between being born “of God” and being born from above? How might William James enlighten us to the meaning of being born of God? Must this birth be a physical birth or are there other types of birth, like, perhaps, spiritual birth?
1:14 In his 1996 book Mystical Christianity: A Psychological Commentary on the Gospel of John, Episcopal Priest and internationally known Jungian analyst writes “John 1:14 is one of the most important verses in the New Testament, a cornerstone of the Christian religion.” (p. 14) Without this verse there would be no LECTIONARY RUMINATIONS 2.0?  Why?
1:15 Why the parenthesis in the NRSV?  So what?
1:16 What does his “fullness” refer to? What is grace upon grace?
1:17 “Law” versus “grace and truth” or “Law and grace and truth”?  Note that “grace and truth” was first mentioned in 1:14.
1:18 Are there not some passages in the Hebrew Scriptures to refute the claim that “No one has ever seen God”?  Once we have come to know God the Father through the only son, should we not focus on our relationship with the Father rather than the Son? What is the difference between a Theocentric faith and a Christocentric faith? Can one know God without seeing God? What does “the Father’s heart” symbolize or represent?

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

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, December 27, 2015, the First Sunday after Christmas (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.

2:18 What sort of “ministering” was Samuel engaged in. What is am ephod and what does it mean that Samuel was wearing one?
2:19 Who was Samuel’s mother. Did Samuel grow out of his robe every year or was it wearing out after a year’s use?
2:20 Why is Elkanah mentioned by name but Samuel’s mother is not?
2:26 What is meant by “stature” and what is meant by “favor?
2:18-20, 26 Why would this passage appear in the Lectionary today, the first Sunday after Christmas?

148:1 Note that this is one of the “Hallel” Psalms, perhaps especially appropriate this First Sunday after Christmas and the last Sunday before the New Year. Where are the heights?
148:2 What is the difference between angels and all his host?
148:3 How do sun, moon and stars praise?
148:4 Where are the highest heavens. What water is above the heavens? How can post-modern, round earth, heliocentric Christians continue to find meaning in pre-modern, flat earth, geocentric biblical imagery?
148:5 To which creation account does this verse refer?
148:6 What bounds cannot be passed?
148:7 What particular sea monster might the psalmist have had in mind? What might the “deeps” represent?
148:8 Does the weather praise the Lord?
148:9 What is the difference between an mountain and a hill. How might you hear and read this if you have lived in Iowa all your life?
148:10 Do creeping things that give us the creeps really praise the Lord?
148:11 Do Presidents, Premiers, and Prime Ministers fall under “all rulers of the earth”!
148:12 There is no ageism here?
148:13 How is the name of the Lord praised when the name of the Lord is not to be pronounced?
148:14 What is a horn?

3:12 Who are God’s chosen ones? Is this list meant to be definitive?
3:13  What does it mean to bear with one another? I am hearing echoes of The Lord’s Prayer here.
3:14 How does love bind? I like the imagery of perfect harmony, but for there to be harmony there must be more than one voice. Perhaps singing in a choir has helped me better understand and appreciate this imagery.
3:15 What is the peace of Christ and how does it rule? In the Hebrew tradition, what is the meaning of “hearts”?
3:16 What is the word of Christ and how is it different from the peace of Christ? What is the difference among psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs?
3:17 Doing is one thing. What about being, or thinking, or feeling?

2:41 Why am I hearing an echo of 1 Samuel 2:19?
2:42 Is there anything special about being a twelve year old Jewish boy?
2:43 Was Jesus misbehaving by staying behind? How could his parents not know he was not with them?
2:44 How far is a day’s journey?
2:45 I wonder if they returned that night or waited until the next day.
2:46 Is the “after three days” a premonition or forth telling allusion to the resurrection? Why would Jesus have been listening and asking questions rather than teaching?
2:47 What and whose questions was Jesus answering?
2:48 Why were Jesus’ parents astonished? Is there any significance to Jesus’ mother calling him “child” rather than “son”?
2:49 Was Jesus being a smart ass?
2:50 What did they not understand?
2:51 So Jesus’s staying behind was indeed seen as an act of disobedience? What things did Jesus’ mother ponder in her heart?
2:52 Why am I hearing echoes of 1 Samuel 2:26? Do you think the author of Luke was alluding to the story of Samuel in the Temple when writing this story?

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.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, December 20, 2015, the Fourth 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: There are a couple of options this week. You could use the Canticle (Luke 1:46b-55) rather than the Psalm (80:1-7) and the shorter Gospel Reading (Luke 1:39-45) or you could use the Psalm (80:1-7) rather than the Canticle (Luke 1:46b-55) and not use the Canticle at all or include it as part of the Gospel Reading (Luke 1:39-55)

5:2 What is the meaning of “Bethlehem”?  What is the significance, or insignificance, of Ehhpratah?  What sort of origin is from of old? When were ancient days?
5:3 Who is giving whom up?  Who is in labor?  Whose kindred shall return?
5:4 What does it mean to feed a flock in the strength of the LORD?
5:5a What does it mean to be “the one of peace”?

1:46b What is the first word in the Latin Vulgate translation of this verse?  How does one’s soul magnify the LORD?
1:47 When and why does your spirit rejoice?
1:48 What is the nature of this lowliness?  What does it mean to be called blessed?
1:49 What great things has the Mighty One done?
1:50 What is the nature of this fear? Is there no mercy for those who do not fear?
1:51 What does “in the thoughts of their hearts” mean? Do we think with our hearts or minds? Do we feel with our hearts or minds?
1:52 What powerful have been brought down from their thrones?
1:53 This reads like a 99% passage. What good things have been fed to the hungry? What does it mean to be rich but empty?
1:54 What is the meaning of “in remembrance of his mercy”?
1:55 What promise is being referred to?

80:1 What does it mean to “give ear”? How can one person be led like a flock? What are cherubim and where might one find them?
80:2 Why are only these three tribes mentioned?
80:3 What does it mean for God’s face to shine?
80:4 Have you ever felt like God was angry with your prayers?
80:5 Could Christians read this as “anti-Eucharistic” imagery?
80:6 How would the psalmist now if enemies were laughing among themselves?
80:7  This sounds like a refrain. See 80:3.

10:5 What came before this “consequently”?  Is it not essential to the argument?  Where did Christ say this?  What body has been prepared? 
10:6 What is the difference between a burnt offering and a sin offering?
10:7 What, or where is the scroll of the book?
10:8 I find the use of “above” interesting. It sounds so modern.
10:9 The “first” and the “second” refers to what?
10:10 Does this verse presume, or require, any specific theory of the atonement?

1:39 What days?  Why did Mary set out and go with haste? What Judean town? Why is it not named?
1:40 Why did Mary not greet Zechariah?
1:41 What is the meaning of the child’s leaping?  Was it the child’s leaping that filled Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit?  If not, when was she filled?
1:42 I wonder how loud her cry was.
1:43 And we too wonder?
1:44 How did Elizabeth know it was joy and not some other emotion?
1:45 Which of the two women is blessed?
1:(46-55)  See my ruminations on the Canticle.

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. https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Presbyterian-Church-of-Cadiz/731499276885960

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, December 13, 2015, the Third 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.

3:14 Who is daughter Zion and why is she singing? What is the difference between singing and shouting?
3:15 Who made judgments against Israel?  Who were Israel’s enemies? Has the King of Israel, the LORD, not always been in the midst of Israel?
3:16 What day?  Who will say this to Israel? What do weak hands symbolize?
3:17 I do not like militaristic imagery being applied to God, it is what gave us the Crusades. I like the imagery of the LORD Singing?
3:18 Is worship at your church like a day of festival?
3:19 Are these oppressors the same as the enemies of 3:15? This sounds a preferential option for the lame, outcast, and shamed. Could this be applied to Syrian refugees?
3:20 At what time? Is the “that time” of this verse the same as the “that day” of Isaiah 12:4? Where are we now if we are not home?

12:2 What is the relationship between trust and fear? How do Christians understand thanksgiving for salvation within the Hebrew Scriptures? This verse reminds me of the Taize chant “In God I Trust”.
12:3 What, and where, are the wells of salvation?  Can water from the wells of salvation be bottled and sold?
12:4 What day?  How does one call on the name of the LORD when the LORD’s name is not
to be pronounced?  What are the deeds of the LORD?
12:5 Are sung praises preferred over spoken praises?
12:6 Zephaniah 3:14 called for singing aloud. Here Isaiah calls for shouting aloud. What is
the difference between singing and shouting? Who is the Holy One of Israel?

4:4 On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being lethargic and 10 being manic, how would you rate your religious/spiritual community’s ability to rejoice?
4:5 How do you define “gentleness”?  Near is a relative term.  How near is the Lord?
4:6 This must be Bobby McFerrin’s favorite Bible verse.  What is the difference, if any, between prayer and supplication? Is prayer only about requests?
4:7 Are “hearts” and “minds” all inclusive?  What about body and soul?

3:7 John the Baptizer (I prefer “Baptizer” over “Baptist”) appears in all four Gospels. As someone once noted:” You cannot tell the Gospel Story without John.” What do you think was the size of the crowds?  How often do evangelists insult those they are preaching to?  What wrath is coming?
3:8 What fruits are worthy of repentance? What stones? 
3:9 Does this verse contribute to the imagery of Dante’s inferno?
3:10 This verse is a preachers dream!
3:11 This is not good news for the 1% Maybe someone at the next presidential debate ought to ask each candidates to comment on this verse.
3:12 Why “even”?  Other than John and Jesus, is anyone else in the New Testament ever referred to as a teacher?  I think it is significant that John is addressed the same way Jesus would be later addressed.  Or maybe it is significant that Jesus is later addressed the same way Jesus would later be addressed.
3:13 Why and how would a tax collector have collected more? What do you know the collection of taxes in Jesus day?
3:10-14 What do you make of the fact that tax collectors and soldiers are the only two groups or people mentioned?
3:15 What if John HAD been the Messiah?
3:16 How does water compare with fire and the Holy Spirit?  Might “untying the thong of a sandal” have been an idiomatic expression or colloquialism?
3:17 What is a winnowing fork?  What is a threshing floor? What is chaff? Oh no, more fire! 
3:18 I wonder what the other exhortations were?  Did the above really sound like good news to you?

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