Friday, February 26, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, March 6, 2016, the Fourth Sunday in Lent (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.

5:9 Why is the phrase “I have rolled away” reminding me Christ’s resurrection? What  “disgrace of Egypt” was the LORD referring to?  Where is Gilgal?  What does “Gilgal” mean?
5:10 The Passover can apparently be celebrated anywhere, even while camping upon the plain of Jericho.
5:11 Were unleavened cakes and parched grain the produce of the land, or was that in addition to the produce of the land?
5:12 What was manna?
5:11-12 Now that the Israelites enjoy the produce of the land, the manna stops.  Either way, God is the ultimate provider.

32:1 What is your definition of happiness?
32:2 What is iniquity?
32:3 How can the Psalmist be silent while also groaning?
32:4 What does it mean for a hand to be heavy upon you?  What do you do with “Selah”?  How about a guitar riff?
32:5 As if we really could hide our sin from God? Are sin, iniquity, transgressions, and guilt synonyms?
32:6 What is the meaning of “the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them”?
32:7 Does God want us to hide from trouble?
32:8 Who is teaching and instructing?
32:9 In other words, don’t be an ass? What function do bits and bridles serve?
32:10 What is the nature of “trust” and how does it differ from faith?
32:11 Will somber, doer Christians, please take note.
32:1-11 Confession is good for the soul and one’s demeanor.  Are Christians happier than non-Christians?  I usually discern a thematic connection between the First Reading and the Psalm, but I am not discerning any this week.  Am I missing something? How do you see Joshua 5:9-12 and Psalm 32 in conversation?

5:16 Does Paul mean that his viewpoint has changed? What other point of views are there than human point of views?
5:17 What does it mean to be “in Christ”?  Note that in the NRSV, it is the creation that is new, not the person!  This verse is often use as a traditional liturgical Call to Confession.
5:18 What is the ministry of reconciliation?  PC(USA) Presbyterians might want to take a look at the Confession of 67.
5:19 Does “the world” refer to only people? Why did the world need reconciled to God?
5:20 What is the role of an ambassador?
5:21 What is “the righteousness of God” and how do we become it?
5:16-21 There are numerous theories of the atonement and the Reformed Tradition has room for many of them without endorsing any one over all the others.  Does this Reading, however, presuppose any particular understanding of the atonement?

15:1 Is this perhaps hyperbole? Why are tax collectors and sinners lumped together?
15:2 How do the Pharisees and scribes move from sinners listening to Jesus to Jesus eating with sinners?
15:3 And the lesson for Preachers and teachers is:  When people are grumbling about your ministry, tell a parable?
15:11b Who was this man?  What was his name?   What were the son’s names?  What is wrong with these sort of questions?
15:12 Why would this younger son think he could have his inheritance before his father died?
15:13 I think I prefer “dissolute” to other translations. What if the son had invested his invested his property and earned a sizeable profit?
15:14 Was fate conspiring against the younger son?
15:15 What is the irony in this?
15:16 Was the younger son not earning enough to feed himself?
15:17 Is it significant that his father’s hire hands had enough bread to spare rather than pods or other food?
15:18 Juxtapose this with the 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Reading.
15:19 What is the difference between a son and a hired hand?
15:20 Now THIS is an example of family values!
15:21 The son is true to his intentions!
15:22 What do the robe, ring, and sandals symbolize, signify, or represent? While bathing or baptism is not mentioned, baptism is often equated with “putting on Christ”.
15:23 Would there have been only one fatted calf?
15:24 Who are the “they” that celebrated?
15:23-24 I think we in the institutional church do not celebrate enough.  In too many of churches, the Lord’s Supper is less like a celebration and more like a mournful dirge. Maybe if we celebrated more and exuded more joy our younger brothers and sisters would come back home.  Read this again in light of Psalm 32:11. Just saying!
15:25 Why was the elder son not summoned when the celebration began?
15:26 How would the slave know what was going on?
15:27 Note the use of “your brother” and “your father”.
15:28 This single verse is both a reversal and an extension of the tale, making it a true parable! Do you know any elder brothers, or just elders, who too often act like this?
15:29 I sympathize with the elder brother.
15:30 Not that the elder son refers not to his “brother” but to his father’s “son”.
15:11b-32 I think this parable is more about the elder son than the younger son or father.
15:1-3, 11b-32 One problem with this Gospel Reading might be that we are too familiar with it and think we already know what it is about.  How can we hear it as if we were hearing it for the very first time?  Is it too obvious that the tax collectors and the sinners are the younger son; the Pharisees and scribes are the elder son; and God/Jesus is the father?  Fast forwarding to the present day, where do you find yourself in this parable?  The poignant teaching for us is that we might become or be like the elder son. I contend that parables are not based on fact. It does not matter if the facts of the facts of the parable are true or not. What matters is that the moral of the story, the lesson, is true. This parable seems to be about a younger son’s contrition, a father’s loving heart, and an elder’s son resentment. Where was the mother in this parable?

ADDENDUM

I am currently a Member at Large of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I am a trained and experienced Interim Pastor currently available to supply as a fill-in occasional guest preacher and worship leader or serve in a half-time to full-time position. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, February 28, 2016, the Third Sunday in Lent (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.

55:1 I love the “waters”, “wine and milk”, and “bread” imagery.  It is tactile and sensual.  It also lends itself to supporting the celebration of both sacraments.  What “waters” does the author have in mind, however? How will this preach in Flint, MI? How does one buy if one has no money?
55:2 Does this lead to an indictment of our consumer society? What truly satisfies you? Can money buy it? How do we listen to God?
55:3 Can simply listening lead to life?
55:4 Seeing is something we can all practice more of when it comes to our relationship with God. How was David a witness?
55:5 How do we call that which we do not know? “The LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel: reminds me of “A Brief Statement of Faith-Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
55:6 When might the LORD not be found?  Where can the LORD be found today?
55:7 This could be used as a Call to Confession.
55:8-9 This is one of my favorite Psalm passages. I think these verses undergird contemplative prayer and apophatic spirituality as well as the hubris of pretending to make definitive theological pronouncements.

63:1 I love this imagery. Does your soul thirst for God? Have you ever nearly fainted from thirst for God? I am not sure we can truly appreciate this verse and this imagery outside the desert environment of the Sinai and Palestine.
63:2 What did the Psalmist see? I wonder what God looks like?
63:3 How is steadfast love better than life? Juxtapose this verse with Isaiah 55:3.
63:4 Evangelicals and Charismatics more often get this than main line Christians do.  When was the last time you and your congregation lifted up hands to call on God’s name?  How about a little more embodied worship for the frozen chosen? How can we call on God’s name when some argue that God’s name should not be pronounced?
63: 5 I think the “rich feast” imagery becomes a little hypocritical and watered down when many will receive barely a crumb of bread and only a small sip of grape juice at the Lord’s Table.  Our liturgical actions often do not match our liturgical words.
63: 6 What is the meaning of “meditate”? How familiar are you with mindfulness meditation and/or contemplative/centering prayer?
63:7 What image and/or metaphor lies behind the “shadows of your wings”?  This verse reminds me of last week’s Gospel Reading.

10:1 What cloud and what sea? 
10:2 What is the meaning of “baptized into Moses”? How can one be baptized in a cloud?
10:3 What spiritual food did the people eat?
10:4 What spiritual drink did the people drink? What rock was Christ?
10:3-4 When I read these two verses I hearken back to Isaiah 55:1-2 and Psalm 63:1, 5.
10:5 How did God strike them down?
10:6 Is all salvation history but an example?
10:7 Where is this written?
10:8 What event is being referred to?
10:9 Is this verse alluding to Massah and Meribah in Exodus 17:7, or to something more?
10:10 Who or what is the destroyer?
10:11 Is this the case with all of Jewish Scripture or just the Exodus narrative?
10:12 Is this why we usually do not stand for worship, so that we will not fall?
10:13 What is the meaning of “testing”?  How shall we read this in light of the petition of the Lord’s Prayer “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”?

13:1 What does this verse refer to?
13:2,4 Does thinking like this at all exist today? What about when bad things happen to good people?
13:3 This sounds like a hell, fire, and damnation sermon.
13:4 Or more importantly, where they worse offenders than you?
13;5 Déjà vu (Luke 13:3). I think I would not use this as a refrain in a responsive reading.
13:6 What is a parable? What is a parabola?
13:7 Is three years long enough for a fig tree to bear fruit?
13:6-9 How does this parable address or respond to what came before?
13: 8 Well, shit! Why am I thinking of the Mark Whatney character in The Martian?
13:8-9 If it sometimes seems that preachers are slinging bullshit from the pulpit, maybe it is because they think the faith of those in the pews needs a little fertilizing.  It is not an original idea, but I resonate with it.

ADDENDUM

I am currently a Member at Large of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I am a trained and experienced Interim Pastor currently available to supply as a fill-in occasional guest preacher and worship leader or serve in a half-time to full-time position. On February 28 I will be preaching at the Follansbee, WV Presbyterian Church. On March 6 I will be preaching at the Richmond, OH Presbyterian Church, and on March 13 I will be preaching at the Ridge (Jewett, OH) and Scio, OH Presbyterian Churches.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, February 21, 2016, the Second Sunday in Lent (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.

15:1 After what things?  Why is LORD in all uppercase letters in the NRSV and many other translations? Why are we reading about Abram rather than Abraham? Have you ever experienced such a vision?  How many people in the pews have ever experienced such a vision?  What is the difference between a vision and an actual historical event? Why did Abram need a shield?
15:2 Was an heir, someone to bequeath his reward, the only thing Abram was hoping for?
15:3 What is the name of this slave and who bore him?
15:4 Is This time the word of the LORD came to Abram but there is no mention of a vision. Was this man not Abram’s biological issue? Was the problem biology or legality?
15:5 How many stars have been mapped and/or cataloged? People who have never been out of light polluted urban centers may not be able to conceptualize what Abram saw when he looked up into the night sky.
15:6 Where will we hear this again? What prompted Abram to believe the Lord?
15:7 What land is the LORD referring to? Did Abram not know the identity of the Lord GOD?
15:8 What is the difference between believing (15:6) and knowing?
15:9 Is there anything special about these animals?  Is there any significance to some of the animals being three years old?
15:10 Is this what means to “cut a covenant”? Why were the birds not cut in two?
15:11 Why did Abram drive the birds away?
15:12 Is there a difference between a vision and a dream, especially a “big” or “numinous” dream? Have you ever felt anything like “a deep and terrifying darkness” descend upon you?
15:17 What do the fire pot and flaming torch represent? Is this a description of an historical event or a description of what Abram saw during his deep sleep?
15:18  Did Abram’s descendants ever inhabit all of this land?

27:1 Do you hear an echo of Genesis 15:1?  This verse reminds me of a Taize chant. Are these rhetorical questions?
27:2 What evildoers devour human flesh? Or is “devour” a figure of speech?
27:3 Are these the words of an individual or a community?
27:4 What is and where is the house of the Lord?  Who among us today desires to “live in the house of the LORD all the days” of our life?  Most folk grow antsy and are ready to go home after just one hour or more.
27:5 I can understand how being concealed under a tent is a shelter, but being set up high on a rock?
27:6 Does this psalm mix imagery from before the Temple period with references to the Temple (27:4)?
27:7 I think this makes a good first prayer petition. What if the psalmist cries in silence?
27:8 What is so special about the face of the LORD?
27:9 What does it mean when the LORD hides the divine face?
27:7-9 Verses 1-6 speak of the LORD in the third person but with verse 7 the Psalmist shifts to direct address.  Verse 10 and 13-14 also speak of the LORD in the third person while verses 11-12 return to direct address.  How does this pattern inform our understanding of corporate and personal prayer?
27:10 Who are my mother and father? So faith is thicker than family?
27:11 What is the LORD’s way? Sometimes a level path is even better than one leading downhill.
27:12 False witnesses are one thing but violent adversaries are another. Sticks and stones can break my bones but names and false accusations can never harm me.
27:13 Is this more a statement about the LORD or about the psalmist?
27:14 What does it mean to wait for the LORD? Is waiting for the LORD preferable to waiting for Godot?

3:17 Imitate who, how?  What example was the author thinking of? Who are the “us”?
3:18 What does it mean to be an “enemy of the cross of Christ”? Who does Paul have in mind when he writes about these enemies of the cross?
3:19 Is this a condemnation of gluttony?
3:20 In the context of that era, what did it mean to be a citizen?  In this era of partisanship and a deadlocked congress, in the midst of a presidential election cycle, what does it mean that “our citizenship is in heaven”?
3:21 How is the body our humiliation?  What is the nature of this power?
4:1 What does it mean to “stand firm in the Lord” and how do we do it?  Might we ever confuse standing firm with stubbornness and intransigence?

13:31 What hour?  Why would some Pharisees warn Jesus?  Why did Herod want to kill Jesus?
13:32 What did it mean to call someone a fox? What does Jesus mean when he refers to “the third day”? Is there some foreshadowing here?
13:33 Is “the next day” the same day as “the third day”? Where was Jesus when he spoke these words?
13:34 Is this still Jesus speaking?  Where did this hen and brood imagery come from?  Take a glance at Ruth 2:12 and Psalm 17:8, but especially at the Apocryphal book of e Esdras, where God is “animalized” as a mother hen.
13:35 What is the meaning of “you house is left to you”?  Where have he heard “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” before?  See Psalm 118:26.

ADDENDUM

I am currently a Member at Large of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I am a trained and experienced Interim Pastor currently available to supply as a fill-in occasional guest preacher and worship leader or serve in a half-time to full-time position.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, February 14, 2016, the First Sunday in Lent (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.

26:1 How shall we define this “land”?
26:2 How do we move from “some” to 10%.  What is the meaning of “first”? What difference does it make for our Stewardship that we are commanded to take some of the “first fruit” rather than what happens to be left over to present to God? Where is the place of the LORD?
26:3 “Your” seems odd.  I would expect “our”. This sounds like a liturgical formula.
26:4 Since it is the contents of the basket that matter, I wonder what happens to the basket.
26:5 Please, please, please know the difference in meaning and pronunciation between Aramean and Armenian. Did this wandering Aramean have a name? Who is your daddy? Might this passage suggest that faith is a journey or lead into a reflection on the Lenten journey?
26:6 Why not the overt mention of slavery or servitude?
26:7 How do we move from “ancestor” in 26:5 to “ancestors” in this verse?
26:8 What is the meaning of “mighty hand” and “outstretched arm”?
26:9 What does it mean for a land to flow with milk and honey?
26:10 Apparently fish and fowl were not brought. Is this set down before the priest, by the priest, or is the priest not at all involved in this setting down?
26:11 Who are Levites and why are they and aliens singled out?  Note that the people are to celebrate “with all the bounty”, not celebrate the bounty.

91:1-2, 9-16 How many ways does this Psalm identify God?
91:1 Is God’s shadow the same as God’s shelter?  What does a shadow shelter from?
91:2 What is the difference, if any, between refuge and fortress?  Is this couplet nothing more than an example of Hebraic poetic construction?
91:9 This verse contains the second appearance of “Most High”.  What does this title of God communicate that other titles do not?
91:10 I hereby proclaim this the backpackers and campers verse!
91:11-12, 1a3 Cn we read and interpret these versus without hearing them applied to Christ?
91:11 What is your angelology?
91:12 What about this verse troubles me?
91:13-14 Note the switch from the third person to the first person between verses 13 and 14.
91:14 Who is now speaking? What is God’s name and how can we know it if we are not supposed to pronounce it?
91:15 Is God present only in times of trouble?
91:16 What is the meaning of “salvation” in the context of this verse?

10:8b  This is Paul writing, not John.  What does Paul mean by “word”.
10:9 Is Paul is calling for both verbal assent as well as spiritual assent?  The church can judge the first but not the second.  This is perhaps one of the oldest, and simplest, statements of faith.  Note what is does not say.  How did this short Biblical confession become expanded into the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed, not to mention the Westminster Confession?
10:10 What is the difference between being justified and being saved?  Did Paul really mean to relegate justification to the affections and salvation to confession?
10:11 What Scripture is Paul quoting?
10:12 What is the meaning of “Greek”?
10:13 What does “call on the name of the Lord” mean and what does it sound like?  How can we interpret this without wandering into debate between inclusive universalism and exclusive particularism?  What are the implications for evangelism on the one hand and interreligious dialogue on the other?

4:1-13 Do not forget to look at the parallels, beginning at Matthew 4:1 and Mark 1:12.
4:1 What does it mean to be full of the Holy Spirit?  Can one be led by the Spirit if one is not full of the Spirit? Is wilderness simply a geographical reference or is it also symbolic? I referred you last week, and I will refer you again to Belden Lane’s book The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality.
4:2 What is the symbolic significance of forty?  What does it allude to? Who was there counting?  What is your demonology?  What would the physical, psychological, and spiritual state of anyone who had fasted forty days be like?
4:3 “If”?
4:4 Where is this written?
4:5 Is this physically possible in a round world?
4:6 Had any authority been given to the Devil, or is the Devil lying?
4:7 Why does the Devil want to be worshiped?
4:8 Where is this written?
4:9 “If”? Yet again? It sounds as though the Devil is taunting or even attempting to sew seeds of doubt.
4:10-11 Where is this written? Note that even the Devil can quote Scripture! Look above at Psalm 91:11-12.
4:12 Where is this said?
4:13 What would be an opportune time?  This verse always reminds me of Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel Last Temptation of Christ.  I think the movie adaptation is better than the book, but nevertheless, what does it mean for our faith that Jesus was tempted at least three times and perhaps more, even at a later time?

ADDENDUM
I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, Ohio but will be available to supply preach or serve in a part-time of full-time position beginning late February or early March, 2016.