Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Do you remember your first time?

After Christmas 1977, four of us met up somewhere in New Hampshire’s White Mountains for a few days of winter backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. It was my second time in the Whites but my first time on the AT. The year before I had spent three or four days cross country skiing, hiking, and mountaineering near Pinkham Notch, but not on the AT.

Mt. Washington above Tuckerman's Ravine in winter
That first trip the year before was spectacular. Three of us enjoyed clear blue skies, cool days, cold nights, and a deep but solid snow pack. The temperature never went above freezing during the day. At night, it dropped into the single digits. In spite of the high winds and white out conditions above tree line that thwarted two different attempts to summit Mt. Washington, I loved the experience.

My second trip was not so spectacular. The winter had been warmer than usual. The snow pack could be measured in inches rather than feet either because less snow had fallen or much of what had fallen had melted. Daytime temperatures were going well above freezing, and night time lows were not dropping below twenty.

At least a couple of us on that second trip were experienced winter backpackers and knew we could not expect to cover much distance every day. Since the daytime temps were going above freezing we opted to carry snowshoes rather than cross country skis. I think I remember the trail being mostly free of snow or else so well packed down from other hikers that we never strapped on our snow shoes.


During our first day and just a few miles from the trail head, we encountered a stream that we thought we could not safely cross. In colder conditions, the stream would have had less water and might even have been frozen over. In summer, we probably could have rock hopped across it. The warmer weather and snow melt, however, had turned that mountain stream into a raging torrent. There was no way we were going to safely cross it. Dejected, we turned around, hiked back to our cars, and made alternate plans, that I think might have included a couple of motel rooms for the night.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on The Trek.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost (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.

GENESIS 21:8-21
21:8 What is the significance of this child (Isaac) growing and being weaned? Why did Abraham make a feast when Isaac was weaned?
21:9 Are these the mythological roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict? Why is the son of Hagar nowhere named in this passage?
21:10 Do you think inheritance was the only issue? What were the laws and customs of inheritance?
21:11 Which son is the cause of distress?
21:12 How many more times will God not operate by conventional standards? Note that God instructs the man/husband to do as his wife tells him!
21:13 So Abraham will be the father of at least two, if not many nations!
21:14 This verses raise a lot of issues that might insult the ears of modern readers, and rightly so. Where was and what was the nature of Beer-sheba?
21:15 Why did Hagar cast her son under a bush?
21:16 I wonder if Hagar thought she too was about to die.
21:17 I think it is interesting the God hears the voice of the boy even though the passage does not tell us the boy is crying, but it does tell us that Hagar is crying, which God seems to ignore. Where else have we heard “Do not be afraid”? What fear is God referring to?
21:18 It seems that Arabs could appeal to this verse for claiming God’s blessing. Had Abraham not told Hagar what God told him in 21:13?
21:19 Was the well there earlier and Hagar did not see it, or has it just appeared? Where else have we recently heard about eyes being opened?
21:20 What is the meaning of “God was with the boy”? I find it interesting that the boy became an expert with the bow in light of his mother having sat a bowshot away from him (21:16) when she thought he was about to die.
21:21 Where is Paran? I wonder what became of Hagar.

PSALM 86:1-10, 16-17
86:1 Are we to hear this today as the prayer of Hagar? Does this presume the preferential option of the poor and needy?
86:2 Is the Psalmist appealing to God’s conscience?
86:3 This verse reminds me of Luke 18:1-8. What does it mean to cry to God all day long?
86:4 What does it mean to lift up one’s soul?
86:5 Is the Psalmist asking to be forgiven?
86:6 Why must God be supplicated? This passage could easily be used as part of a call to pray or as an ending phrase of a prayer. What are other forms of prayer in addition to supplication?
86:7 Does the Psalmist not call on God in good days?
86:8 What other gods is the Psalmist referring to?  What are God’s works?
86:9 What nations does the Psalmist have in mind?  What about Genesis 21:18?
86:10 Is the Psalmist buttering up God? Are the wondrous things in this verse the same as the works in 86:8?
86:16 Who is speaking here?  Who is the servant? Who is the child? This verse alone justifies pairing this Psalm with the Genesis Reading.
86:17 How do we ask for and seek for signs from God?  Is the Psalmist reminding God of how God has helped in the past?

ROMANS 6:1b-11
6:1b Was this a rhetorical question or might some have actually been making this argument?
6:2 What if Paul was wrong? Is there a difference between living in sin and being a sinner?
6:3 We may know this but what about those to whom Paul was writing? How will this verse be heard in the pews?
6:4 What did Paul mean by “newness of life”?
6:5 Have we indeed been united with him in a death like his? What was his resurrection like?
6:6 How was our old life crucified?
6:7 How does death free us from sin?
6:8 Is Paul beginning to repeat himself? See 6:4.
6:9 Who is the “We?”
6:10 I find the dying to death and sin while  living to God an interesting literary construction and profound theological idea.
6:11 Is there a difference between actually being dead to sin and considering oneself dead to sin? Why is it that some people who claim to be alive to God in Christ Jesus seem to get no joy or satisfaction out of life?

MATTHEW 10:24-39
10:24 Who is speaking?
10:25 Who or what is Beelzebul?  Who is calling whom Beelzebul?
10:26-27 With covered/uncovered, secret/known, dark/light and whispered/proclaim language, this passage is beginning to sound gnostic and apocalyptic.
10:28 Who can kill both soul and body in hell?
10:29 Why are the sparrows sold?
10:29-31 Not one sparrow falls to the ground without God’s knowledge yet the sparrow still falls to the ground. Is there any comfort in that? What comfort is there in knowing that the hairs on my head are counted?
10:32 Is acknowledging Jesus the same as expressing one’s trust in him?
10:33 What does it mean to deny Jesus? Where does the agnostic, or the disinterested, fit into this?
10:34 There goes the image of Christ the peacemaker!  This and the following verses can be very troubling.  How do we deal with them in an age of jihad and fundamentalist extremism?
10:35-37 I wonder how James Dobson and his Focus on the Family deal with these verses. These verses seem to through so called “family values” out the window.
10:37 Note that one can still love their parents  and siblings but not more than they love Jesus.
10:38 What does it mean to “take up the cross?”
10:39 This verse sounds paradoxical yet I think it expresses a cross cultural and universal spiritual truth. 

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. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.

Sunday Afternoon Bus Ride through Queens

Q-58 Ltd from Flushing
Tall Vanilla Latte in my hand
Asians, Latinos, Anglos,
And one mentally disturbed child, autistic, perhaps

Bump, rattle, bump over the blvd
This Sunday’s salvation is the empty seat next to me
I’m all extroverted out
Need some introverted time within

Under the Van Wyck
Highway of death
World's Fair flying saucers have landed to the north
As the child now offers blood curdling screams
reminiscent of an animal trapped in the wild

Is that Mandarin, Cantonese, or Korean I hear?
Definitely a Spanish newspaper in front of me
The Lemon Ice King of Corona
Rules from its throne at 108 St and 52 Ave

Saris, shawls, and sweat suits grace Corona’s sidewalks
Satellite dishes straddle rooftops
As if there is a world with news
Outside of Queens

Mexican and Dominican storefronts now line Corona’s streets
As LEDs advertise CHUZOS
But Asian characters still adorn signs
Red and yellow billboards of ethnicity

Across Queens Blvd, making way down Grand
Home is not much farther
Soon, familiar sights and sounds of Ridgewood
No different, but still home


(I  received the Second Place People's Choice Poetry (Friday) Award at the 2017 West Virginia Writers Conference for this poem)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (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.

GENESIS 18:1-15 (21:1-7)
18:1 How did the LORD appear? In what form did the LORD appear? Is there anything special about oaks? Where was Mamre? Does the time of day or weather conditions make any difference?
18:2 So the LORD appeared as three men? Why did Abraham bow to the three men?
18:3 Why does Abraham address three men as “My lord?”
18:4 Who washed their feet? What do you know about customs of hospitality in that region at that time?
18:5 Bread is a staple of life. Is there any Eucharistic imagery here?
18:6 Abraham offers to provide bread but Sarah is left to do the work. Note that Abraham instructs Sarah to use “choice” flour.
18:7 How valuable would a calf have been?
18:8 What are curds? Why did Abraham watch but not join them in eating?
18:9 How did the three men know Sarah’s name?
18:10 What sort of statement is this?
18:11 Why might Abraham have ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women? Why the euphemism?
18:12 Why did Sarah laugh? What does Sarah mean by “pleasure?”
18:13 Through whom is the LORD speaking? When did Sarah say what the LORD said she said?
18:14 Is this a rhetorical question? Why a son and not a daughter?
18:15 Is this a case of “she said – he said?”
(21:1) Spoiler alert! I think including this and the following optional verses prematurely relieves the tension.
(21:2) At what time was that?
(21:3) What pun might we be missing?
(21:4) Is this the first God commanded circumcision?
(21:5) That’s old! Is it too old to biologically be a father?
(21:6) Recall 18:12.
(21:7) Who, indeed would have said this or anything like it?

PSALM 116:1-2, 12-19
116:1 I wonder what the supplication was. Do you feel like the LORD has heard your voice?
116:2 How is this an anthropomorphic euphemism?
116:12 Maybe ten percent of the bounty?
116:13 What is the cup of salvation? How does one call on the name of the LORD when the LORD’s name is not pronounced?
116:14 What sort of vows? How are these vows paid?
116:15 Who are the LORD’s faithful ones?
116:16 Note the shift from narration to first person address. What is a servant girl? Is the Lectionary suggestion that this verse alludes to the birth of Isaac?
116:17 What is a thanksgiving sacrifice?
116:18 Note the shift back to narration. See 116:14.
116:19 What and where are the courts of the house of the LORD? So what that this is one of the “Egyptian Hallel” psalms?

ROMANS 5:1-8
5:1 I just hate it when readings from the Pauline corpus begin with “therefore” because we do not have the preceding argument.
5:2 How have we obtained access to grace through Christ?
5:3 Have you ever boasted in your sufferings?
5:4 Does character really produce hope? Can one have hope with first suffering?
5:5 What do you make of the verb “poured?” How is love poured?
5:6 When were we weak? What is the nature of this weakness?
5:7 Why would anyone rarely die for a righteous person? Is a good person of better or higher quality than a righteous person?
5:8 Did God need to prove divine love? Did we need God to prove divine love to us?

MATTHEW 9:35-10:8 (9-23)
9:35 Are “all” and “every” a bit hyperbolic?
9:36 Who was harassing the crowds.
9:37 What was Jesus talking about?
9:38 Who is the Lord of the harvest? Does the final prohibition preclude paying church workers for their labor?
10:1 See 9:35.
10:2-4 Is this the only listing we find in the gospels?
10:4 Is the comment about Judas prefiguration or evidence that the Gospel was composed after the fact?
10:5 Why avoid Gentiles and Samaritans?
10:6 See 9:36.
10:7 How has the kingdom of heaven come near?
10:8 See 9:35 and 10:1.
(10:9) Does this precluded church workers receiving a fair wage?
(10:11) Why am I hearing echoes from the movie Wayne’s World?
(10:12) How does one greet a house?
(10:13) See 10:11. What makes a house or a person worthy?
(10:14) Have you ever shaken the dust off your feet after leaving a house or town?
(10:15) What do Sodom and Gomorrah have to do with anything? Doe this verse in any way follow from 10:14?
(10:16) The shepherds become the sheep. Who are the wolves? How are serpents wise? How are doves innocent?
(10:17) Whose councils? Is this another example of prefiguration or evidence that this Gospel was written at a later time when Christians were being persecuted?
(10:18) The preceding verse seemed to address persecution by Jews but this verse seems to address persecution by the Romans.
(10:19) Does this verse have anything to say about preaching every Sunday or preparing to preach?
(10:20) What are the homiletical implications?
(10:21) So much for family values! Do you think we would be reading this in Scripture if such had not been the case somewhere at some time?
(10:22) What about the one who does not endure to the end?
(10:23) How does this relate to 10:14? Have you ever felt persecuted?

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. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for Trinity Sunday (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.


Regarding Trinity Sunday and the Doctrine of the Trinity, you might also want to take a look at Random Reflections on the Trinity as well as Dance of the Trinity.

GENESIS 1:1-2:4a
For once, the lectionary prescribes that the First Reading of the Day begins where the Bible begins, “In the beginning” at Genesis 1:1.  This is also, perhaps, one of the longest Readings in the lectionary outside of Lent and the Passion narrative.  Am I stating the obvious when I note that this is the “first” creation account?  I take the Bible too seriously to take it literally.  Thus, I read Genesis 1:1-2:4a as a mythopoeic reflection on human origins rather than a scientific explanation of them.  Can we read and interpret this passage without reference to Genesis 2:4b and following?  How does reading this on Trinity Sunday influence our understanding and interpretation of the passage and how does this passage inform our understanding of the Trinity?
1:1 What translation do you prefer, “when God created” or “when God began to create?”?What difference does the translation make? What was before the beginning?
1:2 What is a “wind from God”? How else might we translate the Hebrew word sometimes translated “wind”?
1:3 This is more or less Creation ex nihilo!  Can we read this without also thinking of the prologue of John? Did God create a wave, a particle, or a string? Note that God creates simply by saying. What does this suggest about the creative word as well as the power of naming?
1:4 What would have happened if God saw that the light was not good? Does the light being good automatically mean that the darkness is bad or evil?
1:5 Note that God is the one who names.
1:6 Are you familiar with this three tiered cosmology? What and where is this dome? How do we deal with this antiquated cosmology?
1:7 God seems to like separating things.  See 1:4.
1:8 Again God names.  See 1:5.
1:9 If I understand the most recent scientific thinking about the beginnings of the earth, there was once just one large land mass or supercontinent before it broke apart, but one should not use science to “prove” Scripture, otherwise we will end up defending scripture against science if the science changes.
1:10 I wonder what criteria God used to determine “good”?
1:11-12 Note that vegetation precedes animal life.
1:13 Would there have been time, or a way to tell time, if there had been no evening and morning?
1:14-15 According to the three tiered cosmology, these lights are under the waters above them. Here we have the roots of both astrology and astronomy.
1:16 So where did the light come from in day one if God did not create the Sun until day four? Does it make a difference that we now know that the moon is not a light but reflects the light of the sun?
1:17-19 These verses seem somewhat redundant following 1:4-16.
1:20 Creatures appear after vegetation in this account.  How is this different compared to the second account of creation beginning in Genesis 2:4b?
1:21 I wonder what is meant by “great sea monster”?  Could this verse have referred to whales, Leviathan, the Kraken, or Nessie?
1:22 Who, or what, are told to be fruitful and multiply? Is this the first blessing?
1:23 We are now at the end of the fifth day and humans still have not appeared.
1:24 Living creatures on land appear after living creatures in the water and the air.
1:24-25 Note that sea creatures and birds are told to be fruitful and multiply in 1:22, but here, animals of the earth are NOT told that.
1:26 Where did this “us” come from and how do we deal with it?  There is that “dominion” word that has caused us so many environmental problems and which we will encounter again in Psalm 8:6.
1:27 What does it mean to be created Imago Dei, male and female?
1:28 Note that with the exception of 1:22, we are not told that God blessed any other creatures or parts of creation other than humans.  In light of how we have historically interpreted and applied the admonition to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion,” I think this has been more of a curse than a blessing as far as we “exploit neighbor and nature, and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care.” How shall we deal with the “be fruitful and multiply” admonition in light of the threat of overpopulation and right to life issues?
1:29-30 It sounds like we have been given plants to eat, but not animals. Maybe God is a vegan!
1:31 Note that we progress from good to very good!
2:1 Scientifically speaking, are the heaven and the earth ever finished?
2:2-3 Why does God need to rest?  Does God tire? What did God do on the eighth day?
2:4a How does this verse add anything to what proceeded?  What is the meaning of “generations?”

PSALM 8
8:1 “O LORD” = Tetragrammaton.  Even though I do not always point it out, be aware that when LORD appears in all upper case letters, it is really the name of God that appears in the text. Are Christians bound by the Hebrew tradition of not pronouncing the majestic name of God? How shall we interpret this verse when we now know there is no “above” the heavens but rather a “beyond” the heavens; no up there but rather an out there?
8:2 What do babes and infants speak other than gibberish? What is a bulwark?
8:3-4 Is there a difference between “creating” and “establishing”? There is no finger of God in the first creation account, only the voice of God. Why am I thinking of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam? I will never forget my sense of awe and wonder the first time I looked through a telescope and saw for myself the rings of Saturn.  I think I have heard it said that the Hubble telescope enables us to look back through time to the first moments after creation.  Do images from the Hubble telescope in any sense show us the face of God? I am reminded of William Shakespeare's monologue in which Hamlet asks "What a piece of work is a man!"
8:5 What does it mean for humans to be a little lower than God? How are human crowned with glory and honor?
8:6 Need I say anything more about “dominion” other than that an ecological awareness forces us to abandon outdated understandings?  See my comments regarding Genesis 1:26.
8:7 Why are sheep and oxen, out of all the animals, named?
8:9 Is this simply a refrain?

2 CORINTHIANS 13:11-13
This short Second Reading and the short Gospel Reading compensates for the long First Reading.
13:11 What does Paul mean when he writes “put things in order?”  What was his appeal? Why are we often inclined to not agree? What does it mean to live in peace?
13:12 What is a “holy kiss”?  Who are the saints?
13:13 Is this verse, a Trinitarian blessing, the only reason this Reading appears on this day, Trinity Sunday? Does anything else in this reading really add anything to the mystery of the Trinity?

MATTHEW 28:16-20
This short Gospel Reading and the preceding short Second Reading compensates for the long First Reading.
28:16 Why are there only eleven disciples? Which mountain had Jesus directed them to?
28:17 Some of the eleven doubted?  I wonder which ones doubted and which ones did not. What or who did they doubt? Can one worship even when one doubts?
28:18 Who gave this authority to Jesus and when?
28:19 How does verse proceed from 28:17? Is this Trinitarian baptismal formula the only verse that commends this reading as appropriate for Trinity Sunday?
13:20 What had Jesus commanded the disciples? What and when is the end of the age?  What is an age?  When did the age begin?

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. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review of Chris Bolgiano's The Appalachian Forest

Review of The Appalachian Forest, A Search For Roots and Renewal by Chris Bolgiano (Stackpole Books, 1998, 280 pages)

Book on the left, Shavers Fork on the right
I was born and have spent most of my life in the Appalachian Mountains. They are my second home, yet Chris Bolgiano provided me not only with a refreshing review of the region and the environmental threats related to its forested areas  but also abundant new information. She tied it all together with a well written, informative, and entertaining narrative. I highly recommend her book.

Of all the federal land in the southern Appalachians, I am most familiar with the Monongahela National Forest, but I am also familiar with Shenandoah National Park, the Nantahala National Forest, and The Pisgah National Forest.  Thanks to Bolgiano, I am now also familiar with other federal lands in the Appalachian mountains, how these lands contain and preserve some of the last remnants of the once Great Appalachian Forest as well as the hope for the emergence of a new Great Forest, and threats to the forest from clear cutting, strip mining, acid rain, and development.

Bolgiano reminded me that forests are more than trees. In addition to a thorough discussion of the American Chestnut and other trees indigenous to the Appalachians, she provides an  overview of some of the flora and fauna other than trees that inhabit this ecosystem, including ginseng, salamanders, black bears, and the mysterious “balds” unique to many Appalachian summits. She also provides a history of some of the people associated with the southern mountains, including the Scots-Irish “who formed the backbone of the Appalachian mountain culture,” and the Cherokee, some of whose descendants still live on a reservation in the area. I also met contemporary white water rafters and kayakers, mountain bikers, and environmentalists in the books pages.

I was fortunate to read the entire book over a four day period while camped along the banks of Shavers Fork, one of the longest and best native trout streams in the heart of West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest. The setting, I am sure, added to Bogliano’s informed but not overly scientific yet engaging style to provide me with an enjoyable read.

This post is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on The Trek.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the Day of Pentecost (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.

PREFACE: With options for the First Reading, Second Reading, and Gospel, there are various permutations of Reading arrangements. If you use the Acts passage as the Frist Reading you would use the 1 Corinthians passage as the Second Reading.  If you use the Numbers passage for the First Reading you could use either the Acts reading or the 1 Corinthians passage as the Second Reading but I think the Acts passage would be the better choice. How will you decide which Gospel Reading to use?

ACTS 2:1-21
2:1 What was the day of Pentecost before the coming of the Holy Spirit?  Who are the “they?” Where might that “one place” have been?
2:2 What came; a sound like the rush of a mighty wind or an actual mighty wind? Does it matter? Where is heaven?
2:3 What is a divided tongue?  How does a tongue, even a tongue as of fire, rest on someone?
2:4 What does it mean to be “filled with the Holy Spirit”.  Rosetta Stone, eat your heart out!
2:5 What purpose does this verse serve?
2:6 Who is in the crowd? Where did the crowd gather? Have you ever been bewildered?  What bewilders you? Who was speaking?
2:7 Have you ever been amazed and astonished by a Christian spiritual experience? Who were asking the question?  What Galileans were speaking?
2:8 Is this a Gospel rhetorical question?
2:9-11 Lay readers, and even some clergy, hate reading these verses.  I think, however, that this list serves a very important theological purpose. Is there anything special about the areas listed, or the number of areas listed?
2:11 What are God’s deeds of power?
2:12 Earlier it was bewildered, amazed and astonished.  Now it is amazed and perplexed.  What does this mean? When was the last time you were perplexed by a Christian spiritual experience?
2:13 Who sneered?  Does this verse explain at all why most PCUSA Presbyterians shun offering fermented wine at communion?  Are most Presbyterians afraid of losing control and appearing to be filled with new wine?  Rather than being filled with new wine, or any wine, we are filled with grape juice, a nice, safe alternative void of all power and warmth, (like the Spirit in most of our congregations?).
2:14 Why was Peter always the first to open his mouth? Who was Peter addressing? Where only men of Judea in Jerusalem?  Where were the Judean women?
2:15 As if people are not drunk before 9:00 AM?  Some people are just coming home from all- night parties at that time.
2:16 One cannot go wrong by quoting from a Jewish prophet when your audience is filled with devout Jews.
2:17-21 Is this a case where a prophecy in the Hebrew Scriptures prefigures a later event, or where a prophecy is used as an apology for a later event?  Should we interpret these verses in light of Pentecost or only within their context within the Hebrew Scriptures?
2:17-18 Does the Pentecost experience place us in the last days?  Note the inclusive character of these verses.
2:19-20 What shall we make of these portents and signs?
2:20 What and when is “the Lord’s great and glorious day”?
2:21 What does it mean to call on the name of the lord?  Saved from what?

NUMBERS 11:24-30
11:24 What are “the words” of the Lord? Is there anything special about the number seventy?  Is there any story like this in the New Testament?
11:25 In the NRSV the Lord, not LORD, comes down.  Does this make any difference?  Why did the Lord take some of the spirit that was on Moses and put it on the seventy elders?  Was there not enough Spirit to go around so it had to be rationed?  What does it mean to prophesy? Why could they not prophesy again?
11:26-29 Why are these two men named when the seventy are not named?  Why might they have remained in the camp? What did it mean to be registered?
11:27 Was this a young filer of complaints, a tattle-tale, or bearer of good news?
11:28 Why did Joshua want to stop Eldad and Medad from prophesying? Did he perhaps feel threatened? In my mind this seems to disqualify Joshua as Moses’ successor?
11:29 Indeed, would that all.  We can only hope and pray that it be so. It seems Moses was not concerned about safeguarding his power or authority but was willing to share it and see the prophetic and Spirit empowered circle expand.
11:30 Is the prophesying of Medad and Eldad the reason Moses and the elders returned to the camp.  I want to know the rest of the story.

PSALM 104:24-34, 35b
104:24 How could this verse serve as an interpretive lens for Numbers 11:26-29? What are the works of the LORD?
104:25 The sea kayaker and sailor in me is nodding his head.
104:26 Was this verse Thomas Hobbes’ inspiration for the title of his political treatise? How do we deal with perhaps purely mythical beings when we encounter them in Scripture?
104:27-28 Ergo, all creatures depend upon the LORD.
104:29 What does it mean for God to hide God’s face? What shall we make of the connection between the withdrawal of breath and death?
104:30 I love the juxtaposition of 104:29 and 104:30, especially the imagery of breath/death and spirit/creation. How do these verses apply to the institutional church in light of Pentecost? What is the relation between breath and spirit?
104:31 Would the LORD not rejoice in the LORD’s works?
104:32 I think this verse is applying storm imagery to the LORD.  How does this inform our interpretation of Acts 2:2?
104:33-35b These concluding verses could be adapted to function as a Call to Worship. For example:
     One: The LORD be with you.
     All:   And also with you.
     One: We will sing to the LORD as long as we live.
     All:   We will sing praise to our God while we have being.
     One: May our meditation be pleasing the LORD,
     All:   for we rejoice in the LORD
     One: Bless the LORD, O my soul.
     All:   Praise the LORD!
     One: Let us worship the LORD!

1 CORINTHIANS 12:3b-13
12:3b Is this really true?
12:4-6 Why am I thinking of Isabel Briggs Myers and her book Gifts Differing? Why do we tend to reserve the reading of these verses for the Rite of Ordination? Are gifts, services, and activities synonyms?
12:7 Is every Christian given a manifestation of the Spirit?
12:8-10 Do you think that Paul meant for this list to be exhaustive?  What is your gift?  What service do you perform? What activity are you engaged in? What is your manifestation of the Spirit?
12:11 What does “activated” mean? Note that it is the Spirit that chooses.
12:12 How does this analogy or metaphor help us make sense of the Pentecost experience?
12:13 Do you think Paul meant for “Jews or Greeks, slaves or free” to be exhaustive?  What does it mean to be “made” to drink?  Do Christians have no choice in the matter?  What does it mean to “drink” of one Spirit?  Is this an allusion to the Eucharist?

JOHN 20:19-23
20:19-23 What day does this take place?  How does this passage inform our understanding of the Pentecost experience? Did we not read these verses on the Second Sunday of Easter?
20:19 What is the significance of Jesus’ words “Peace be with you.”?
20:20 Did the disciples not recognize Jesus until after he showed them his wounds?
20:21 Why might Jesus have repeated what he said? How did the Father send Jesus?
20:22 Did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit?  If so, was it Jesus words or his breathing on them, or both, that allowed them to receive it?  Is this the Johannine Pentecost? What is the relationship between breath and Spirit?
20:23 To whom was Jesus speaking? How shall we Protestants deal with this verse? How does this verse follow from what precedes it?

JOHN 7:37-39
7:37 And what festival would that be? In the Christian tradition, what is the difference between a feast day and a festival day, if any?
7:38 May only believers drink? What Scripture passage does Jesus quote and what is the original historical and literary context of that passage?
7:39 So Jesus had to be glorified before there was a Spirit?  Did the author of the Gospel know this at the time Jesus quoted scripture, or does this comment make sense only in hindsight? How does the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit help us understand this verse?

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. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.