Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The Second Sunday After Epiphany (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 49:1-7
49:1 Who is speaking?  Why are the coastlands but not the mountains addressed?  Is this a statement about call, about when life begins, or both? What is significant about being named?
49:2 How shall we deal with the militaristic imagery?
49:3 Is Israel a person, a people, or a nation?
49:4 How has the one speaking labored in vain?
49:5 Why am I hearing echoes of 49:1?  What is the relation between Jacob and Israel?
49:6 How could an entire nation/people be a light to the nations?  It only works in English (NRSV?), but the two occurrences of “light” in this verse might lend itself to a play on words.
49:7 How many ways is God identified here? Is this a reference to pre-Christian anti-Semitism? Whaat does it mean to be chosen?

PSALM 40:1-11
40:1 Is this Job’s psalm?  Is the speaker an individual, a community, or both?  What does it mean for the LORD to incline an ear?
40:2 How shall we interpret “rock” when we encounter it in pre-Christian Hebrew Scriptures?
40:3 What does the new song symbolize?  Why do so many worshipers seem to complain about learning and singing new and unfamiliar hymns? What is the relationship, if any, between fear and trust?
40:4 What does it mean to make the LORD one’s trust?  What is the difference between trust and faith?
40:5 What are some of the LORD’s wondrous deeds?
40:6 Does this verse condemn or outlaw sacrifice and offering outright?  In light of this verse, why do we still collect or take up an offering during worship? What is the difference between a burnt offering and a sin offering?
40:7 Where have I heard “Here I am” before? Why am I thinking of singer/songwriter/musician Dan Schutte? What is the scroll/book? 
40:8 This imagery/languge reminds me of Jeremiah 31:33.
40:9 What is “the great congregation”?
40:10 Why would the speaker even be tempted to conceal the LORD’s steadfast love and faithfulness?
40:11 What is the relation between the LORD’s mercy and the LORD’s steadfast love and faithfulness?

i Corinthians 1:1-9
1:1 Who was Sosthenes and what do we know about him?
1:2 Paul might be “called to be an apostle” but the church in Corinth is “called to be saints.”  What are you and your church called to be?  What do we know about Corinth and the church there?
1:3 A nice liturgical greeting that combines elements of both Greek and Hebrew letter writing, but how do we deal with the fact that it is not Trinitarian?
1:4 Why “my God” rather than “our God”?
1:5 What “speech and knowledge of every kind” does Paul have in mind?
1:6 What is the testimony of Christ and how is it strengthened?
1:7 What spiritual gifts might Paul be thinking of? What does Paul mean, or what is he referring to, when he writes about “the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ?”
1:8 What is “the day of our Lord”?
1:9 Here is another call (see Isaiah 49:1), this time “into the fellowship of his Son.”

John 1:29-42
1:29 What happened the day before the “next day”?  Who saw Jesus coming? What is the theological significance of the proclamation “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!?”  Try unpacking that!
1:30 When did John say this?
1:31 I think John the Evangelist seems to put John the Baptizer’s ministry into a broader theological context than the Synoptic Gospels seem to do.
1:32 What is significant about John’s testimony?  See 1:33. In at least one other Gospel it seems that only Jesus saw the Spirit descending.
1:33 Why does John the Baptizer go out of his way to deny that he knew Jesus (see 1:31)? Who sent John to baptize?
1:34 Is it enough to see but not testify?  Can one testify if one does not see?  How many titles/identities does John bestow upon Jesus? Does it matter that John says “this is” rather than “here is” or “he is?”
1:35 Sometimes this Gospel can be redundant (see 1:29).  So what day is it now?  What do you make of the fact that John the Baptizer had his own disciples? Were these two disciples with him the day before?
1:36 Speaking of redundancy, see 1:29.
1:37 What is the meaning (or what are the meanings) of “follow”?  Does this mean that some of Jesus’ first disciples had earlier been disciples of John the Baptizer?
1:38 Jesus asks a direct question. Why don’t the two give him a direct answer?  What is the meaning (or what are the meanings) of “looking”?  Why does this Gospel translate “Rabbi”?  What are you looking for?  What are people in the pews looking for?
1:39 “Come and see!”  Is not this the invitation all Christians and churches ought to be extending?  On the other hand, how can we invite people to “Come and see” if we ourselves have not “seen?”  Is there any significance to the time?
1:40 Is this not the first mention in John of the name of one of the disciples of Jesus?  Who was the other person?
1:41 Following up from the previous verse, who are the “we”, Andrew and who?  I think we can assume from the context that the other person with Andrew was not his brother Simon Peter.  Why is Messiah translated?  See 1:38.
1:42 Does this make Andrew the first successful evangelist, the first person to “bring” someone to Jesus?  Is it not a little rude to meet someone for the first time and immediately insist on calling them by another name?  As in 1:38 and 1:41, why is “Cephas” translated?  What language does the name “Peter” come from?  What language does the name “Cephas” come from?  Does it matter?  

ADDENDUM
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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