Thursday, October 27, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, November 6, 2016, the Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (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 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 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.

1:15b When did King Darius rule?
2:1 Do these dates matter? How does the word of the LORD come to a prophet?
2:2 Who are these people?
2:3 Are these rhetorical questions? How much time has elapsed between Haggai’s prophecy and the destruction of the temple?
2:4 What is courage?  Does the 1957 Pulitzer Prize winning Profiles in Courage offer any insight?
2:5 Is this spirit the Holy Spirit?  According to A Brief Statement of Faith – Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) “the Spirit gives us courage
            to pray without ceasing,
            to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
            to unmask idolatries I Church and culture,
            to hear the voices of people long silenced,
            and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.”
2:6 Why am I thinking of Paul Tillich’s The Shaking of the Foundations?
2:7 Did this ever come to pass?
2:8 Why does the LORD need or want gold or silver? Does this have any stewardship implications?
2:9 It sounds like the LORD is not only promising to make the Temple great again but greater than it ever was.

Why is there a choice of Psalms this week?
145:1 How can God’s name be blessed and praised unless God’s name if God’s name is not pronounced?
145:2 How can Christians bless and praise God’s name every day when most Christians probably only worship one day a week, if at that?
145:3 This sounds like a Call to Worship. If God’s greatness is unsearchable, then why do we engage in theological reflection?
145:4 Is this still true?  Is this a biblical mandate for Christian Education, catechesis, and faith formation? What mighty acts might the Psalmist had in mind?
145:5 How do you understand the word “meditate”? Could this be construed in support of meditative and contemplative prayer?
145:17 Do kindness and justice always go hand in hand?
145:18 Is the Lord distant to all who do not call on the Lord?
145:19 What desires? What does it mean to fear the Lord?
145:20 Must the Lord destroy the wicked in order to watch over all who love him? Can we assume that if someone is destroyed in any other way than by natural death that they were wicked?
145:21 This sounds like a restatement of 145:1-2. What is meant be “all flesh”?

Why is there a choice of Psalms this week?
98:1  Why sing a new song and not an old song?  What makes a song new? What marvelous things has the LORD done?   What does a metaphorical right hand symbolize?  Is this a right handed conspiracy?
98:2 What victory?
98:3 How can love be steadfast love and how can there be any faithfulness if the is no memory? Can this and the preceding “victory” language lead to a militaristic and triumphalist faith and theology?
98:4 Is there a difference between “joyful noise” and “joyous songs/praises”?  What about noise that is not joyful? What about funeral dirges masquerading as hymns?
98:5-6 I wonder how churches that eschew singing accompanied by instruments handle these verses. I do not mean to malign Bach, but why have we become so dependent upon the organ and piano while neglecting strings and brass?
98:7 Now I know why I like ambient music that incorporates natural sounds like breaking waves.
98:8 Is anyone else thinking of Julie Andrews?
98:9 Righteousness and equity do not scare me.  Do they scare you?

2:1-2 I wonder what Paul would say now about the coming of the Lord nearly two-thousand years later. Christians should not be shaken, but relieved, by apocalyptic visions.
2:2 Was someone else preaching and/or writing letters claiming to be Paul?
2:3 How were Christians deceived then and how are they deceived today?
2:4 Whom is Paul writing about? What temple is Paul referring to?
2:5 Do those whom you taught or preached to remember everything you have said?  When and how long was Paul with the Thessalonians?
2:13-14 As a Presbyterian, I am hearing echoes of call, election and predestination.
2:15 What does it mean to stand firm and hold fast?  What traditions is Paul referring to?  Today, Protestant usually eschew “tradition” while Roman Catholics embrace “tradition.”  Does the Wesleyan Quadrilateral help us handle and deal with tradition?
2:16-17 How do Trinitarians deal with non-Trinitarian blessings and benedictions, or do you find an allusion to the Holy Spirit in this verse?

20:27 At some point in my youth I learned that the Sadducees were the ones who denied the resurrection.  That is why they were “sad, you see.”
20:28 Do you find it odd that the Sadducees referred to Jesus as “teacher?”
20:28-35 What do you know about levirate marriage?  Does this passage have anything at all to say concerning marriage equality, family values, or society’s social welfare safety net? How might couples, or women, who either want children but can’t conceive, or couples who are childless by choice, hear this passage?
20:29 Is there any significance to the number seven?
20:33 Maybe in the resurrection this woman will get to pick the man she wants to be married to!
20:34 What does Jesus mean by “this age?”
20:35 So much for family values and the defense of marriage!
20:36 How do angels figure into this?
20:37-38 If you were no so used to this argument, would you buy it? Was the Sadducees' question about the nature of the resurrection or the reality of the resurrection? Why am I thinking of the Irish Philosopher George Berkeley?

ADDENDUM
I am currently a Member at Large of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and will begin serving as the Interim Pastor of the Richmond United Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Ohio on Tuesday, November 1st, 2016. Sunday Worship at Richmond begins at 11:00 AM.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Spinning Wheels (From DC to PGH – Day 9)

            Even before Vince and I rolled into Point State Park, I knew that someday I would have to return to the C and O Towpath and Great Allegheny Passage to fill in the section between Hancock and Frostburg that we shuttled over. The question was when and how.

            Before I cycled most of the DC to Pittsburgh route with Vince, I would not have considered a solo ride. Afterward, having experienced a long distance ride, and familiar with both the Towpath and the Gap as well as the starting and ending points, I was not just open to riding from Hancock to Frostburg alone but more or less committed to it.

            Cycling from Frostburg to Hancock was out of the question. Vince and I had undertaken an east to west ride and that was how I wanted to complete it. Cycling from Hancock in the east to Frostburg in the west was the only option for me even though I knew it would probably b e more difficult.

            I knew I could not ride the approximate seventy-five miles in one day, especially considering the elevation I would have to climb from Cumberland up to Frostburg. I also knew that the route from Hancock to Cumberland would be fairly level and that I would not start gaining elevation until after Cumberland.  Therefore I planned to drive to Hancock, where I would leave the car, and cycle the Western Maryland Rail Trail and the Towpath to as near Cumberland as I could while still camping. The next day I would cycle through Cumberland to Frostburg and take a shuttle back to Hancock and the ca I was using.

            A little over two months since Vince and I had completed our trip, the weather and my schedule finally provided the opportunity I needed to undertake the trip.  After driving about three hours from home to Hancock, I drove around Hancock a few more minutes searching for anything that looked like free overnight parking near the Towpath and Western Maryland Rail Trail. Not finding any, I stopped in at C & O Bicycle to find out where I could park the car for an overnight trip.

            The salesperson behind the counter told me that I could purchase a $5 overnight parking permit for a lot just a couple blocks away and almost on the Rail Trail and near the Towpath. That seemed like a fair price and the best option and is what I ended up doing.

At the western terminus of the Western Maryland Rail Trail
            Since I was going to be out for only two days and a night, I had far less gear than when Vince and I had set out from DC headed for Pittsburgh. I was able to easily fit everything in my two rear panniers and on the back rack between the panniers, foregoing the front panniers. Once those panniers, tent and sleeping pad were attached to my bike, I was cycling westward on the Western Maryland Rail Trail by 12:45 PM.

            Two months earlier, Vince and I had ridden into Hancock via the Western Maryland Rail Trail, so that is why I decided to follow it westward rather than riding the Towpath.  After cycling the dry and smooth rail trail for a little over eleven miles, I finally reached its western terminus and transitioned over to the C and O Canal Towpath. I wasn’t on the Towpath more than a few minutes before I encountered a mud puddle and claimed my first splash. Mud puddles were not all I encountered, however. I also saw several deer and some pheasants soon after I transitioned to the Towpath.

             I had planned to stop for a break at Bill's Place in Little Orleans but totally missed any signage and rode right by. I later learned that I was not the first person to have missed the turn off. I therefore kept cycling until I finally took a break about 20 ½ miles after leaving Hancock at the Stickpile Hill  Hiker Biker Campsite where I enjoyed a pepperoni roll as a late lunch and filled up both of my water bottles. I also popped an Advil. I would have preferred to take an Aleve but mistakenly grabbed the wrong bottle out of the medicine cabinet when I was packing for the trip.

            As I rode closer and closer to the Paw Paw tunnel I was looking forward to experiencing some natural air conditioning as the temperature was quite warm and a little higher than I expected. Of all the tunnels I have encountered while cycling, some of which bear signage that recommends cyclists dismount and walk their bikes through, I have always chosen to ride rather than dismount. The Paw Paw Tunnel was another matter. No other tunnel I have ridden through consists of a small, unlit walkway with a water filled canal on the other side of the railing.

After exiting the Paw Paw Tunnel
             I walked my ride through the tunnel and enjoyed its natural air condition, but it was not as cool as I had hoped. It was, however, wetter than I expected. At times I felt drips off the side wall hit my scalp and face. At times I felt like I was walking across flowstone in a cave rather than on a walkway. When I encountered a few pedestrians I pushed my bike as far to the side and stood off to the side so they could pass. That was how narrow the walkway was. I could not imagine having tried to ride through the tunnel.

           After exiting the Paw Paw tunnel and about thirty-seven miles out of Hancock, I stopped once more, this time at the Town Creek Hiker Biker Campsite, where I again filled up my water bottles. While I was taking a break at Town Creek a volunteer trail ambassador from Paw Paw rolled in. I asked him if the pump at the Iron’s Mountain Hiker Biker Campsite, where I planned to camp for the night, was working, but he did not know. He told me he had cycled only as far as the Spring  Gap Drive-In Camp  and assured me that the pump was working there, so I planned to fill up my water bottles at Spring Gap in case the pump at Irons Mountain was not working.

            As I continued to ride I realized that I was making good enough time that I might be able to pull off my third half century ever, the other two having been just this season. Just two miles short of a half century and with time running out I stopped at Spring Gap to fill up not just my two water bottles in cages but also an empty liter Nalgene bottle in my pannier. I was so close to completing a half century  that I really did not want to take the time to do this but I also did not want to risk having to ration water if none was available at Irons Mountain.

            At 6:35 PM, with ten minutes to spare, I stopped at milepost 175 after having cycled 50.5 miles! My third half century! And I accomplished it with panniers and gear on the back, riding uphill, 4/5 of it on the unpaved and sometimes muddy C and O Towpath!

            Less than a tenth of a mile later I arrived at the Irons Mountain Hiker Biker Campsite, my intended destination for the night. Not only was the pump working, meaning I would not have to ration water, but the campsite was level and lush with a nice view of the Potomac. It was also unoccupied. The only downside was the nearby railroad bridge crossing the Potomac just upstream which meant the sound of passing trains throughout the night.

Camping at Irons Mountain Hiker Biker Campsite
            As I was making camp I debated whether or not to put the rainfly off my tent. Without it I would more ventilation and sleep cooler.  When I checked the weather forecast, however, I learned that there was a chance of rain during the night so I went ahead and put the fly up, but it never did rain that night.

            After a freezer bag dinner of Salmon Couscous Pilaf I reflected on my day’s ride. I had been cycling about 14-15 mph on the Western Maryland Rail Trail but slowed down to 12-13 miles as soon as I transitioned to the Towpath. Near the end of my ride, as I was tiring but still hoping to pull a half century, I was struggling to maintain a 10-12 mph pace.  I wish I had brought and attached the plastic Axiom splashguard I had purchased moths before in Hancock but the weather had been so dry I thought I wouldn’t need it. In reality, I encountered more mud puddles on the Towpath than I expected. Some of those puddle had standing water. The splashguard would have kept some of that mud off me and my bike.

            As dusk approached I began to think that I might be enjoying this beautiful hiker Biker Campsite all to myself. As it turned out, I did. One couple riding west to east passed by after I had arrived but they did not stop. Not only was I cycling alone, I was also camping alone.

Here are the link to previous installments in the "Spinning Wheels" series:

From DC to PGH - Day 8 (25th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 7 (24th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 6 (23rd Installment)
My First Tour the Montour (22nd Installment)

From DC to PGH - Day 5 (21st Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 4 (20th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 3 (19th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 2 (18th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 1 (17th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 0 (16th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Prologue (15th Installment)
Transitioning (14th Installment)
Flats (13 Installment)
Beware Dehydration (12 Installment)
Creams & Powders for your Butt (11th Installment)
Group vs. Solo Rides (10th Installment)
Competitiveness (9th Installment)
Stats (8th Installment)
Accidents Happen (7th Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (6th Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (5th Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (4th Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (3rd Installment)
Reading and Riding (2nd Installment)
Group vs. Solo Rides (10th Installment)
Competitiveness (9th Installment)
Stats (8th Installment)
Accidents Happen (7th Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (6th Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (5th Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (4th Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (3rd Installment)
Reading and Riding (2nd Installment)
Starting Over (1st Installment)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, October 30, 2016, the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (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 over reliance 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.

1:1 What is an oracle? Why are oracles seen rather than heard? What is the difference between an oracle and a vision?
1:2 It sounds like Habakkuk is growing impatient. Was the LORD really not listening or was that just Habakkuk’s impression?
1:3 This can sound very timely in our contemporary context.
1:4 What law is Habakkuk saying is becoming slack?
2:1 Is this a physical or a metaphorical watchpost and rampart?
2:2 Why has the “oracle” of 1:1 become a “vision”?   Can a vision always be translated into words?  Are the tablets an allusion to the Torah?  What kind of writing is required to be read by a runner?
2:3 So this is a vision of an impending, yet to come vision?
2:4 Is it impossible to be both proud and righteous, righteous and proud?

119:137 What a smooth segue from Habakkuk 2:4 to this verse! Does a righteous god not presume right judgements?
119:138 What is the relationship between righteousness and faithfulness?
119:139 Have you ever been consumed by zeal?
119:140 What promise?  What does “well tried” mean?
119:141 Small in comparison to what or who?
119:142 Is God’s law true by itself, or true because it is God’s law?
119:143 What commandments is the Psalmist referring to?  Would most Christians today consider God’s commandments a delight?
119:144 What sort of understanding is the Psalmist praying for? How does understanding lead to life?
119:137-144 How many synonyms for “law” can you find in this reading? After the Frist Reading, I can almost hear Habakkuk speaking these words.

1:1 What do you know about Silvanus?  What do you know about Thessaloniki?
1:2 How do Trinitarians deal with a non-Trinitarian greeting?
1:3 How does Paul know that the Thessalonians’ faith is growing and their love is increasing?  What were his metrics?
1:4 What persecutions and afflictions was Paul referring to?
1:11 Why I am I thinking of the movie Wayne’s World?
1:12 Is the name of Jesus Christ glorified in you?  Are you glorified in him?

19:1 What do you know about Jericho?
19:2 What matters more—the man’s name, occupation, or that he was rich?
19:3 Why do people want to see important and famous people?  Might “short in stature” refer to more than this man’s physical height?
19:4 Is there anything special, significant, or symbolic about sycamore trees?
19:5 How did Jesus know Zacchaeus was there?  How did Jesus know his name?  What is the meaning of “must”?
19:6 Who would have been unhappy to welcome Jesus?
19:7 Might “All who saw it” be a hyperbole?   How could “all who saw it” know that Zacchaeus was a sinner? What was the nature of his sin?
19:8 What might have motivated what Zacchaeus said? Should we hold up “half” and “four times” as benchmarks?
19:9 What might be the meaning of “Today salvation has come to this house”?  Would salvation have come to his house if he were not a son of Abraham? Was Jesus the salvation?
19:10 Why does Jesus often refer to himself as “the Son of Man”?  Does what Jesus say mean that Zacchaeus was in fact lost but is now saved?

ADDENDUM
I will begin serving as the Interim Pastor of the Richmond United Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Ohio on Tuesday, November 1st, 2016. Sunday Worship begins at 11:00 AM.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Spinning Wheels (From DC to PGH - Day 8)

            It was the last day of our DC to Pittsburgh cycling adventure and Vince and I had eaten breakfast, packed up, and were cycling again by 9:30 AM.  I was expecting to meet my ride around near Point State Park around noon so we needed to maintain a pace of about 10 ½ miles an hour if we were going to make it on time. It was doable.

Vince breaking camp for the last time          
            Our first stop was Mon/Yough Trail Council  Visitors Center in Boston. I had started at least one GAP day trip in Boston but the Visitors Center was closed that day.  This day, it was open. Vince and I parked our bikes out front and walked in. We were greeted by the friendly volunteer who asked us to sign the guestbook. The fact that this was the smallest of the three visitor’s centers we stopped at along the GAP did not diminish our appreciation for the opportunity to browse the merchandise and enjoy conversation with the attendant.

            Back on our bikes, after about seven or eight miles out of Dravo, I was in the lead as we crossed the bridge from the south bank of the Youghiogheny to the north bank heading into McKeesport.  As soon as we crossed the bridge Vince tells me my rear tire is wobbling. I didn’t feel the wobble but when I looked down at my rear wheel I could see it.

            I stop, dismount, and look to see what the problem might be. I soon discover that a section of the sidewall is pulling away from the bead! I realized that I might be facing a catastrophic failure that I had no way of quickly fixing since I had not brought an extra tire with me. I had visions of having to call my ride and asking them to pick me up somewhere between McKeesport and Pittsburgh.

Emergency Repairs
            So close to the finish, we kept cycling, but as I peddled I was thinking about what I could do if the situation grew worse, and what I could do to prevent it from getting worse. After a couple more miles I latched on to an idea.

            Vince and I stopped at the top of a concrete approach ramp to a bridge over a section of train tracks. I climbed off my bike and took a small roll of duct tape out of my saddle bag. Threading the tape between spokes, I tightly wrapped it three times around the tire and rim around the middle of the bulge. I did the same on both sides of the first wrap. Then I took a couple cable ties out of my saddlebag and tightly cinched them around the center wrap.  I thought, and hoped, that this temporary fix would at least reinforce the sidewalls enough to get me to Point State Park.

            I haven’t always carried duct tape and cable ties in my saddlebag. While reading what several others had blogged about cycling the C and O Towpath and Great Allegheny Passage I had noticed that someone carried a small roll of duct tape and some cable ties because they had so many uses. I imagined using duct tape to repair a torn tent, and using a cable tie to reattach a loose cable or water bottle cage, but I never imagined I would use them in combination to reinforce a tire pulling away from the bead. I will carry duct tape and cable ties with me wherever and whenever I ride.

            Hoping that my temporary fix would hold for about another eighteen or nineteen miles, Vince and I rode on as we cycled ever farther into the industrial heartland of Pittsburgh, rolling past old vacant mills and vacant commercial lots. The closer we got to Point State Park the more cyclists, joggers, and trail walkers we saw. The experience was far removed from the near isolation we sometimes experienced for miles on end while cycling the western end of the Towpath and eastern end of the GAP.

REI Southside Pittsburgh
            Our last stop for the day and the trip was the Recreational Equipment Incorporated store on the South Side of Pittsburgh. I have been a member of REI for over forty years and rarely pass up an opportunity to stop in when I pass a store. We parked and locked up our bikes out front and went in to use the restroom and make a few purchases. I actually had a shopping list that included some tent stakes to replace the few I had broken on the trip, and some Nite Ize CamJam Small Cord Tighteners for a friend who had loaned me his for the trip. If we were not so close to finishing, and if I did not have confidence in my temporary rear wheel fix, I might have purchased a new tire and installed it right then and there and then.

            Since Vince had never before cycled all the way into the point, I lead the way, cycling down Fort Pitt Boulevard,  cutting through a parking lot, and threading through some pedestrian underpasses that led us to the park. We cycled on the upper level of the park past the fountain and then turned around and descended to the lower level, dodging pedestrians, including several loose children, on our way to the fountain and the iconic “Forks of the Ohio River – Point State Park” inland marker.  It was about fifteen minutes after noon when we finally arrived.

Vince and I at Point State Park (The End)
            Dark clouds seemed to be massing and we could hear distant thunder and felt a few rain drops, a fitting ending, I thought. We started this trip in rain and we were ending it in rain.  I called my ride to let them know where I was and to find out where they were. Vince and I high fived each other, took some photos, and then I said goodbye as I rode off to be picked up on a nearby street.

            I saw my ride pulling up as I approached the street. I quickly dismounted, took the panniers of my bike and threw them into the back of the car, and loaded my bike onto the rear rack. On the way home, we stopped at the Trek store where my bike was purchased. There I buy two new tires. I also buy new pads for the disk brakes.  I planned to install it later at home.

            Once home, I wash and dry my bike. Then I replace the brake pads, degrease and lube the chain, and oil all the pivot points. While changing the rear tire I notice that another section of the side wall was starting to separate from the bead. I feel fortunate that the tire did not fail before finishing the trip.

            After changing the tire I researched the average life span of a bicycle tire. I learned that a lot of factors, like how you ride and where you ride, can affect the life of a tire, but the general consensus was that 1,500 miles is the average length of a bicycle tire. Looking through my riding journal I determined that my rear tire was probably about three years old and had 1,550 miles on it! Had I known that, I would have put new tires on my bike before embarking on the Towpath and GAP.

The iconic inlaid marker!
            I used almost every piece of gear that I took on the trip accept a pair of Marmot PreCip pants and a small solar/crank powered AM/FM radio. I would not have wanted to do without anything else I took. I also cannot think of anything I wish I had taken that I did not other than a small amount of degreaser and wet chain lube.

            As I was reorienting myself to life off my bike and off the Towpath and GAP, I thought to myself “After having acquired a bike a little over two years ago and starting to cycle again after not riding for nearly thirty-five years, I am a cyclist.  I am more of a cyclist than I ever was. I can weather nasty conditions. I am in half decent shape. I have what it takes to undertake and complete a major multi-day ride.” I also realized that many of my camping and backing skills and experiences, and gear, were easily transferable to bike camping. I also began to think about and plan for how and when I would complete the section of the ride we had shuttled over, the section from Hancock to Frostburg.

Here are the link to previous installments in the "Spinning Wheels" series:

From DC to PGH - Day 7 (24th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 6 (23rd Installment)
My First Tour the Montour (22nd Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 5 (21st Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 4 (20th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 3 (19th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 2 (18th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 1 (17th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 0 (16th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Prologue (15th Installment)
Transitioning (14th Installment)
Flats (13 Installment)
Beware Dehydration (12 Installment)
Creams & Powders for your Butt (11th Installment)
Group vs. Solo Rides (10th Installment)
Competitiveness (9th Installment)
Stats (8th Installment)
Accidents Happen (7th Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (6th Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (5th Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (4th Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (3rd Installment)
Reading and Riding (2nd Installment)

Starting Over (1st Installment)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, October 23, 2016, the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (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 over reliance 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.

2:23 What is the “early rain” and the “later rain” and what is the difference?  What is the meaning of this metaphor?
2:24 I like this image of agricultural abundance, an image which suggests life and freedom from hunger. Might Christians also find in it a prefiguration of the Eucharist?
2:25 Can we thank the LORD for agricultural abundance if we no longer equate agricultural disasters with the LORD’s wrath?
2:26 Why is agricultural scarcity equated with shame?
2:27 What does it mean for God to be “in the midst of Israel”?
2:28 Is the pouring out of the spirit anything like the giving of the early and the late rains of verse 2:23?  Are prophecy, dreams and visions anything like the agricultural abundance of 2:24?
2:29 Why would it be unusual for slaves to be so gifted by God?
2:30 Are blood and fire and columns of smoke, the darkening sun and blood moon the only portents?
2:31 During solar eclipses, it appears that the sun is indeed turned into darkness.  During lunar eclipses the moon can take on a reddish color.  Eclipses have been considered portents in almost all religions. I usually consider “great” a positive attribute.  Does “great and terrible” suggest a sort of yin-yang quality to the day of the LORD?
2:32 What does it mean to call on the name of the LORD?  How does one call on the name of the LORD when the Lord’s name is not to be pronounced?

65:1 What is the relationship between praise and vows?  What vows might the Psalmist have in mind?
65:2 I believe God does indeed answer prayer but not always with the answer we want or expect. To whom or what does “all flesh” refer?
65:3 What does it mean that deeds of iniquity overwhelm us?  Are we ever overwhelmed by our own sin?
65:4 Reading this as a Calvinists, I detect some predestination, or at least election, within this verse. Did anyone actually live within the temple courts?
65:5 What awesome deeds might the Psalmist have in mind?  What is the farthest sea from which you live?
65:6 What about plate tectonics.  Maybe this is metaphor and not science?
65:7 Why are roaring seas and waves coupled with tumultuous people?  How shall we read this verse during hurricane season?
65:8 Are those at the earth’s center not equally awed?  Why or why not?  What are the gateways of the morning and the evening?  How do they shout for joy?
65:9-13 These verses seem to express the same or similar theology as some of the verses in the Frist Reading.
65:9 What river is the river of God?
65:10 How can Christians in urban and industrialized contexts relate to such agricultural imagery?
65:11 God has a wagon that leaves wagon tracks? What is this imagery about?
65:12-13 Note that these verses describe wild, not cultivated, abundance.
65:12 What is a wilderness pasture?
65:13 I wonder if the meadows are wearing wool clothes.

4:6 What is a libation and how is Paul being poured out like one?  What departure is he referring to?
4:7 I love this verse and have used it many times in Services of Witness to the Resurrection. 
4:8 Can this crown be worn only after physical death?  Is there any possible connection with this crown of righteousness and auras/halos?
4:16 What first defense is Paul referring to?  Is Paul expressing any anger, disappointment, or resentment?
4:17 Is “lion’s mouth” a metaphor or had Paul actually faced being thrown to the lions?
4:18 Is Paul thinking of physical rescue and salvation or spiritual, or both?

18:9 How shall we read “also”?  Do you know of anyone who thinks they are righteous and regard others with contempt?
18:10 How does the juxtaposition of a Pharisee and a tax collector intensify the parable?
18:11 Have you ever heard anyone pray like this?
18:12 Do such acts of devotion and spiritual disciplines automatically make a person righteous?
18:13 I wonder why I am once again, as I have once or twice in the past few weeks, thinking about the Philokelia and The Jesus Prayer.
18:14 What does it mean to be justified?  Was it the words the tax collector spoke that justified him or the sincerity behind and underneath the words?  The final juxtaposition suggests the topsy-turvy nature of the New Testament vision of the Kingdom of God: the rich shall be poor, the first last, etc.

ADDENDUM
I will begin serving as the ½ time Interim Pastor of the Richmond United Presbyterian Church, Richmond, OH, beginning November 1, 2016.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Kayaking the Yough, with thanks to Performance Kayak

I recently enjoyed a Western PA Kayaking meetup group “Paddle Party,” an easy six mile paddle on Pennsylvania’s Youghiogheny River from Smithton Beach to Performance Kayakjust upstream of West Newton, PA, followed by a lunch hosted by the great folks who own and run Performance Kayak.  Although I have cycled past Performance Kayak at least twice as I was riding the nearby Great Allegheny Passage, this was my first time to meet the Lucas family, who own and manage the business. It was also my first time to kayak on the Youghiogheny River and to attend a Western PA Kayaking meetup group paddle and to meet some of the fine people (and competent paddlers) who are part of the group.

Loading boats before the trip
I was the first paddler to arrive at Performance Kayak but others started arriving soon after. One of the first things I noticed was a couple dozen demo kayaks out on the grass, all for sale at reduced price, and the display building open for browsing, as it was Performance Kayak’s end of year sale and open house. If I didn’t already own two kayaks, a Necky Chatham 17 and a Dagger Zydeco 9.0, I would have been even more tempted to take home one of the lightweight Eddylines I saw. It was probably a good thing I had not put the extra set of Yakima Hull Raisers on the cars roof rack or the temptation might have been too great to resist.

After the announced starting time, Performance Kayak started loading our yaks on a couple trailers. Those paddling then climbed into either the van or the pickup truck, each vehicle towing a trailer of boats behind it. Performance Kayak shuttled us six miles upstream to Smithton Beach, about a fifteen minute drive.  The short van ride gave me the opportunity to start becoming acquainted with some of the others I would be paddling with.

On the Yough near Smithton Beach
Once at Smithton Beach, Performance Kayak unloaded all the boats and set them aside. I carried my Dagger Zydeco 9.0 from the parking lot down to the river’s edge and was about the third or fourth person out of our group of about a dozen to put in. The trip leader in me coming out, I paddled upstream and hugged the near bank until all our group was in the water, and then paddled downstream to join them.

High, swift, and brown after the previous day’s rain, the Yough delivered. We indeed enjoyed an easy trip as we paddled and drifted the six miles downstream back to Performance Kayak without incident. I did manage to catch an eddy downstream of the only rock I saw. At least I assumed it was a rock, a rock fully covered by water. The only thing that would have improved the trip would have been if the trees were another week or two into their fall colors.

About ninety minutes after we hit the water, I spied the sign announcing our arrival back at Performance Kayak and the wooden ramp and dock below the sign. I was the third paddler to reach the take out and quickly climbed out of my boat, carried it up the bank to a level area, and then came back down to the river to help others as they took out. After the last of our group got out of their boat and carried it up the ramp I went to retrieve my boat from where I had left it only to discover that someone had already carried it up into the yard.

Some of group paddling ahead of me
After putting my boat back on top of the car, I changed out of my long sleeve NRS rash guard into a long sleeve cotton t-shirt and out of my NRS neoprene wet shoes into Chacos. I took apart my Werner Comano paddle and placed it and the rest of my paddling gear on the floor behind the car’s front seats. After that, it was time for the “Paddle Party!”

The Lucas family and Performance Kayak provided an incredible spread. They provided slaw, beans, potato salad, fried chicken, various chips, hot apple cider, and draft beer.  We all enjoyed this incredible lunch outside around tables on the wooden deck. It was the perfect ending to a perfect paddle.

As we were finishing up lunch I had the opportunity to chat with owner Hansel Lucas 2. As we talked around one of the tables outside on the deck, I learned that Hansel got into paddling about forty years ago, and kayaking about twenty years ago. The last fifteen years he has been into kayak racing. After several years in the military and then working in electronics, he started Performance Kayak four years ago.

"Paddle Party" Lunch at Performance Kayak
Performance Kayak is a family business. Hansel 2 and his wife Kim manage the store just upstream of West Newton at the end of Buddtown Rd. , not far from milepost 113 on the Great Allegheny Passage. His son Hansel 3, and daughter-in-law Jody, manage the other Performance Kayak store at Brookville. Any of a number of grandchildren might also be seen around the stores.

According to Hansel, he can easily put sixty hours a week into the business during their busy season, which I was surprised to learn is February, their racing month. He also said that even when they are not open is he available 24/7 by phone; although you might need to leave a message and he will get back to you.

Performance Kayak. on the Yough upstream of West Newton
As I listened to Hansel talk about kayaking, racing, the Yough, and Performance Kayak, it was obvious that he is truly a people person and loves what he does. He claimed that unlike big box stores, Performance Kayak is ready, willing, and able to provide personal service and follow-up after purchase service and care. Based on what I had seen that day, I had no reason to doubt him.


Although this was my first time to enjoy a Paddle Party at Performance Kayak, I hope it was not my last. I am already looking forward to next year’s end of season event, or perhaps a start of season event (hint, hint) next spring. Until then, I might have to start saving up for one of those lightweight Eddylines.