Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 3rd Sunday of Advent (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 35:1-10
We see more of Isaiah this week, the third week in a row the First Reading has come to us from this prophet.  What is the connection between the health and productivity of the land and the well-being of the people of Israel?
35:1 Are wilderness and dry land to be taken literarily or are they metaphors?  What is so special about the crocus?  How can plants rejoice and sing? Blossoms would be a sight to behold as well as an aroma to appreciate.
35:2 How can the non-sentient wilderness and dry land rejoice? What glory belonged to Lebanon?  What was the majesty of Carmel and Sharon? What are Carmel and Sharon?
35:3 This verse signals a shift from the land to people. Why do I appreciate this verse more the older I get?
35:4 In Isaiah’s context, who were those with a fearful heart?  Who has a fearful heart in our context? The Scriptures usually admonish readers to fear God but here they are called to not fear even though God will come with vengeance and terrible recompense – to save.
35:5 Is this blindness and deafness meant to be taken literally or metaphorically?
35:6 In the case of humans, physical challenges are overcome. Here is another shift, this time from people back to the land, where we started. In the case of the land, situations are reversed.
35:7 I like pools, springs, reeds and rushes, but not swamps.  What is this imagery communicating?
35:8 I find it amazing that Isaiah envisions a “highway”.  Where does this highway lead?  What does it connect? Apparently even some of God’s people can be fools.
35:9 This is not quite a vision of the peaceable kingdom but it is close.  It almost seems like a vision of paradise, or heaven.
35:10 Must we interpret this Hebrew Scripture mention of “the ransomed of the Lord” with regard to the Christian doctrine of the Atonement?  How can joy “be upon” anyone’s head?

PSALM 146:5-10
146:5 In the context of this psalm and the Psalter, what does it mean to be “Happy”. I wonder if they are as happy as a room without a roof.  Is this the same “happiness” enumerated in the Declaration of Independence?   How are “help” and “hope” related?
146:6 How can we interpret and apply this imager without falling into the creationism-evolution debate? I think that in the context of the Psalmist “heaven and earth and sea” encompassed the whole known universe or cosmos. What does it mean to “keep faith”?
146:7-9 Is this an expression of the Bible’s preferential option for the poor and oppressed?  How shall we Americans read and interpret this in light of our current national political debates?
146:10 What would happen to God’s reign if humanity becomes extinct?  This verse could be used or adapted for use as a Call to Worship.

LUKE 1:46b-55
Given the choice, how will you decide between using Psalm 146:5-10 or Luke 1:47-55?  Some people might associate Luke 1:4-55 more with Advent and Christmas more than they do Psalm 1:46b-55. In favor of Luke 1:47-55, it is one of the few feminine voices in the Scriptures.  Mary’s psalm of praise, apparently following the template of Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, seems to move from the particular in 1:47-49 to the universal in 1:50-55.  What shall we learn from the theological and doxological trajectory of Mary’s song?  
1:46b Why does this verse lead to this passage being called “The Magnificat”?
1:47 What makes your spirit rejoice?
1:48 Mary’s sentiment seems to reflect the same outlook as expressed in Psalm, 146:5-10
1:49 Is there any significance to the use of “the Mighty One”?  What great things has the Mighty One dome for Mary?
1:50 What does it mean to “fear” God, especially during Advent when we tend to emphasize feelings such as joy, hope, and love?
1:51 What does the arm of God symbolize?  What does “scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts” mean? Is the heart or the head (brain) the center of thoughts?
1:52-53 Note the reversal of fortunes and misfortunes.
1:54 How has God helped Israel?
1:55 What promise did God make to Abraham and his descendants?

JAMES 5:7-10
5:7 This reads like an admonition to patiently wait even in the midst of apparently dashed expectations.  How near is near?  At least a farmer witnesses yearly reward for patience, not waiting nearly two-thousand years for a crop. 
5:8 How do we strengthen our hearts?
5:9  Would anyone like to speculate what people were grumbling about?  I can’t imagine the author addressing a problem if it did not exist.
5: 10 Do suffering and patience necessarily go together?  When might we be called NOT to be patient in the midst of suffering? Were all Hebrew prophets exemplars of patient suffering?

MATTHEW 11:2-11
11:2 Note that even though he was in prison, John was hearing “what the Messiah was doing.”  We know that John had his own disciples. Which disciples did he send word by, his disciples or Jesus’ disciples?
11:3 This verse seems out of place in light of last week’s Gospel reading which suggested to me that John knew Jesus was the Messiah.  Am I reading more into last week’s reading than was there?  Why is John now questioning Jesus identity?
11:4 What had been  heard and seen?
11:5 I am hearing echoes of Isaiah 35:5.
11:6 Who was taking offense at Jesus?
11:7 What is the meaning of “a reed shaken by the wind”? Why might Jesus have felt compelled to speak about John?
11:8 What is the point, that John was not royalty?
11:9 From a Christian perspective, was John the last of the Hebrew Prophets? How was John more than a prophet?
11:10 What is Jesus quoting?  Does this quote say more about John or Jesus?
11:11 Was Jesus born of a woman?  Did Jesus think John was greater than he was?
11:7-11 I have become convinced that there was (and is) a theological, spiritual, and political connection between Jesus and John that is not fully expressed or explored in the Gospels, but is certainly hinted at.  Other than Jesus and John, is there anyone in the New Testament portrayed as the fulfillment of prophecy?

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. My various blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and Appalachian Trials.

No comments: