Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 4th 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 7:10-16
7:10 Who was Ahaz and why was the LORD speaking to him?  Does the LORD ever speak to you?
7:11 What is the meaning of “sign”?  Do you ever ask God for a sign?  How deep is Sheol?  How high is heaven?
7:12 Do you recall Massah and Meribah? How do we put the LORD to the test today? 
7:13 How was the house of David wearing God?  How do we weary God?
7:14 Why does the Lord give this or any sign?  Isaiah says the sign shall be a “young woman” with child, bearing a son, and naming him Immanuel. Why do we now think and speak of a virgin being with child, bearing a son, and naming him Immanuel? In what sense is any pregnancy and birth a sign, and what might it me a sign of?
7:15 What are curds and what might a diet of curds and wild honey symbolize?  At what age might this child know how to refuse the evil and choose the good?
7:16 What land?  What two kings?

PSALM 80:1-7, 17-19
80:1 Who is the Shepherd of Israel? What are cherubim, where are they, and who sits enthroned upon them?
80:2 Why the mention of, and only of, Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh?
80:3 What is the connection between God’s shining face and salvation?
80:4 Do you ever feel that God is angry with your prayers?
80:5 Perhaps we can juxtapose this imager with the bread of life and the cup of salvation.
80:6 Do your neighbors ever scorn you or laugh at you?  Is the Psalmist perhaps playing on God’s sense of self honor?
80:7 I am beginning to hear a refrain.  See 80:3.
80:17 What does the right hand of God symbolize and who is sitting next to it?  How do we deal with such anthropomorphic language when we know God has no physical body?
80:18 This is beginning to sound like a little “you scratch our back, we will scratch yours” proposition.
80:19 The third refrain (see 80:3, 7).  What other passages of Scripture speak of God’s shining face? 

ROMANS 1:1-17
1:1 What does it mean to be called?  What does it mean to be set apart?
1:2 Where, specifically, did God promise the gospel? What were Paul’s holy scriptures?
1:3 How do we deal with this “descended from David according to the flesh” when, especially at this time of year, people tend to focus on a miraculous birth by a virgin? (See comments for Isaiah 7:14).
1:4 It seems that Paul is saying Jesus was declared “Son of God” by his resurrection, not his birth or baptism. How do we deal with this so close to Christmas?
1:5 Who are the “we”?
1:6 Again, what does it mean to be called and what does it mean to belong to Jesus Christ?
1:7 What is a saint?  How do we deal with a non-Trinitarian ascription in light of the Doctrine of the Trinity?

MattheW 1:18-25
1:18 In what way?  What does it mean to be with child “from the Holy Spirit”?
1:19 What is a righteous man?  How could Joseph have exposed Mary to public disgrace? What does it mean to “dismiss her quietly”?  What would have happened to Mary and her child if Joseph had in fact dismissed her quietly?
1:20 It seems that angels appear to people in dreams more than in any other way.  Are you familiar with what John Sanford and Morton Kelsey have written about dreams from a Christian perspective?  What might Carl Jung say about this passage?  Has an angel ever spoken to you in your dreams?
1:21 What is the meaning of the name “Jesus” and why name him that because he will save his people from their sins?
1:22 So the point of this narrative is not necessarily to establish Jesus’ divinity but rather to establish his birth as fulfillment of prophecy. What prophet?
1:23 See Isaiah 7:14.  Why, in 1:21 was Joseph instructed to name the child “Jesus” rather than “Immanuel”?
1:24 What does it mean to “take her as his wife”?
1:25 Does the mention of Joseph not having marital relations with Mary serve to establish Jesus’ divinity, Mary’s Virginity, or the fulfillment of prophecy?  What if the author of Matthew had been familiar and/or worked with the Isaiah in the Hebrew rather than the Latin?

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.

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