Saturday, December 17, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 1st Sunday After Christmas (Year A)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 is a further revision and refinement of my Lectionary Ruminations and Lectionary Ruminations 2.0.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 draws on over thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without over reliance on commentaries, I intend with sometimes pointed and sometimes snarky comments and Socratic like questions, to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to lead a Bible study, draft liturgy, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.

ISAIAH 63:7-9
63:7 Can you recount all the gracious deeds and praiseworthy acts of the LORD? How many are there? What are they?  What is the difference between mercy and steadfast love?
63:8 In  63:7 Isaiah speaks in the first person plural of “us”, but in verse 8 shifts to the third person “they” and “their”.  Why the shift?  What difference does it make? What is Isaiah quoting?
63:9 I like that “It was no messenger or angel” but the LORD’S presence that saved them.  Remember, Isaiah was writing before Christ!  How was the LORD present if not through an intermediary?

This Psalm can easily be adapted for use as a Call to Worship.
148:1 Is it stating the obvious to identify this as a “praise” psalm. How can we praise the Lord from the heavens?
148:2 This is the second time (and the second reading) that angels are mentioned.  Are angels part of the heavenly host? What other creatures or beings are in the heavenly host?
148:3 How do the sun, moon and shining stars praise the Lord? Maybe sometimes we should hold worship services in observatories or planetariums.
148:4 What waters are above the heavens?  Must we buy into this pre-Copernican three tiered cosmology to interpret this Psalm? What and where are the lowest heavens?
148:5 How is the name of the LORD to be praised when it is not to pronounced? Which creation account does this Psalm allude to?
148:6 What are the bounds of the highest heavens and the waters above the heavens? How do we read and interpret this in light of contemporary cosmology’s theory of an ever expanding universe?
148:7 Even though, or perhaps because, I am a kayaker and a sailor, I can more easily accept that the actual sun, moon and stars praise the Lord than I can accept “sea monsters” praising the Lord. What sea monsters are we talking about –Leviathan, Nessie, the Kraken?
148:8 How does hot fire relate to cold hail, snow and frost? These verses might work for the First Sunday of Christmas in the northern hemisphere, but what about the southern hemisphere?
148:9 What is the difference between a mountain and a hill? The hills are figuratively alive with the sound of music, praise music, and Julie Andrews is not even mentioned in the verse. Are fruit trees and cedars the only two kind of trees?
148:10 Have all living things now been included?
148:7-10 How can creation continue to praise the LORD if humans pollute and destroy it?  Does Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” have anything to say regarding these verses?
148:11 Now we transition from the natural world to the political realm.
148:12 I like the gender and age inclusiveness of this verse.
148:13 What is “the name of the Lord”?  Dare we write it?  Dare we speak it?  If not, how do we praise and exalt it?
148:14 What is “a horn” and what does it symbolize?

HEBREWS 2:10-18
2:10 How is it fitting that anything suffer?
2:11 What is the meaning of sanctification? Why would Jesus be ashamed? 
2:12-13 Where did these quotes come from?
2:14 Can we read/teach/preach this without personifying “the devil”?
2:15 Can we be freed from the fear of death without being freed from death? Why are so many people afraid of death?
2:16 In the context of this verse, who are the descendants of Abraham?
2:17 What was the function of the high priest? Is “sacrificial” atonement the only possible understanding of atonement?
2:18 Is there any difference between how Jesus was tested and how we are tested? Why must anyone be tested?
2:14-18 This seems like a fairly theological exposition of the incarnation, which is probably why this passage was chosen for the First Sunday After Christmas, but we still end up with suffering.  The distance from the cradle to the cross, both in terms of geography and time, is not much at all.

MATTHEW 2:13-23
2:13 In Matthew, how many times does an angel appear to Joseph in a dream?  Has an angel of the Lord ever appeared to you in a dream?  Why Egypt? John Shelby Spong has a theory to explain why Egypt!  Why would Herod want to destroy the child Jesus?
2:14 Is there any significance to their starting out at night? Why isn’t the child or the child’s mother named?
2:13-14 Could this story be an example of Midrash?  Spong thinks so.
2:15 Could there have been another theological reason for Jesus going to Egypt other than the fulfilling of prophecy?  What verse is being quoted?
2:16 The slaughter on the innocents intrudes into the otherwise bucolic narrative of Christmas.  Did Why did Herod kill all children as old as two years?
2:17 So all the innocents were slaughtered just to fulfill prophecy? Screw prophecy! Could be another example of Midrash?
2:18 In its original context what was this verse speaking about?
2:19  Another angel, another dream, same old Joseph!
2:20 Why the plural “those” when only Herod was seeking to kill Jesus.
2:21 It seems Joseph always does what an angel tell him to do.
2:22 How many Dreams has Joseph experienced now? With so many dreams mentioned in the Bible, why does the church say so little about dreams, dreaming, and dream interpretation (other than Jungians)?  What is the difference between Israel and Judea and where is Galilee?
2:23 Why is the author of Matthew so eager to note the fulfillment of prophecy?  It seems that so far that is the purpose of this Gospel—to show the fulfillment of prophecy. How prophecies have now been fulfilled?
2:13-23 It seems odd that Mary and Jesus are never mentioned by name but are referred to as “the child and his mother”.

I am a Minister Member of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and am serving as the Interim Pastor of the Richmond United Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Ohio. Sunday Worship at Richmond begins at 11:00 AM. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.

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