Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Buried In Foreign Soil Under a Foreign Flag

A Confederate veteran buried in Union soil with an American flag flying above his grave? I recently arrived early at an Ohio sister Presbyterian Church for a meeting. Since I was the first one there and the building was still locked, I walked across the country road in front of the sanctuary to a cemetery on the other side from where I had parked. While I had been to this church before, I had never taken the time to stroll through the nearby graveyard. I was surprised and perplexed by what I saw.

Under a bright sun set in a nearly cloudless sky on a warm August Sunday afternoon, I meandered among the tombstones and freshly mowed grass. As I slowly walked around, I was drawn by small American flags waving in the slight breeze – the ensigns inviting me to more closely examine the markers they were attached to. One Stars and Strips marked the grave of a Revolutionary War Veteran. Another identified the final resting place of a Veteran of the World War. I assumed the marker had been placed there before there had been a Second World War. Another signified a Veteran of Viet Nam.  Several were attached to markers denoting Union Soldiers.

As I examined a Union Soldier’s grave, one John Cole, whose tombstone had held up very well in spite of its years of being exposed to the elements, I noticed that he died in Martinsburg, Virginia on February 18, 1863 at the age of 20 years, 10 months, and 11 days. I quickly did the math and determined that if John had lived just four months and two more days before he died he would have died in Martinsburg, West Virginia rather than Martinsburg, Virginia, on Union soil rather than Confederate soil.

Another of those American flags waving in the breeze indicated a Confederate Veteran, but the tombstone was so deteriorated that I could not read a single word of its inscription, if it ever had one. Then, in light of the recent controversy over statues of confederate generals and politicians being removed from public spaces, I thought how ironic it was that the remains of this Confederate Veteran (presumably from Ohio, which seemed odd) was lying in a grave marked with the flag of a country and a government he had fought against. I shared my quandary with a friend who speculated that some well-meaning veteran’s organization quickly moved through the burial ground and placed United States flags on the graves bearing a veteran’s marker without noticing that this particular veteran was a veteran of the Confederate States of America, not the United States of America.

At the southern end of North Carolina’s Outer Banks on the island of Ocracoke is a small “British Cemetery”  where the bodies of several British Sailors, veterans of World War II, are interred, their bodies having washed up on Ocracoke after their ship had been sunk while defending the American coast. The United States eventually deeded that land to the British and a Union Jack now continually flies over the tombs of those British Soldiers, tombs in British, not American soil. Admittedly, the British were at that time, and have been ever since, our allies. Those sailors of a foreign nation died defending American (and therefore British) interests in a struggle against Nazism. If the bodies that had washed up on the beech been of German Sailors and had been buried there, I doubt the land would have been deeded to Germany or that a Nazi flag, or even a German flag would now be flying overhead.

What of this Confederate Veteran whose body lies buried in an Ohio Cemetery, Ohio having always been a “free state” of these United States of America? How might a Confederate Soldier feel, if a corpse were able to feel, not only being buried on foreign soil but lying underneath the flag of a nation and a government he fought against?

As more and more confederate monuments in public spaces come down, and they will come down, if they cannot be relocated to a museum where their history can be properly interpreted and set in context, and where they can no longer serve as threatening reminders of Jim Crow, a truly lost cause, and white racism and white supremacy, then perhaps they should all be buried in a mass grave on public land – land with a huge flag of the United States of America flying overhead.  The United States government can then deed that land not to a racist, treasonous, secessionist, no longer existing Confederacy but to the promise of and hope for a truly land of the free and home of the brave where all men and women “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Monday, August 21, 2017

More Hard Learned Backpacking Lessons

Me the first day in the Sods

Backpacking in the Snow
A year after the hard learned backpacking lessons of my first winter backpacking trip, I again headed out in winter. My second winter backpacking trip was to West Virginia’s Dolly Sods Wilderness just a year or two after it was designated a Wilderness. While farther south than Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail and the Laurel Ridge which it follows, where I had backpacked the previous winter, Dolly Sods is 1,500 to 2,000 feet higher and more exposed.  It is also more rugged and remote.
I had been to Dolly Sods a few months earlier in the previous early fall. Dave, my best friend and hiking buddy who had been one of the other two on the Laurel Highlands Trail trip, had not been there before but was up to the challenge.

Our ride dropped us off at a snow covered trail head. Other than the inch or two or snow on the ground, the weather conditions reminded me of the first day of our previous year’s trip. The sky was blue. The sun was shining. The air was crisp. Most importantly, the three to five day forecast for nearby Elkins, WV promised above normal temperatures and no precipitation.
Both Dave and I were more experienced and better outfitted than we were the year before. If we had any cotton with us it was probably only bandannas and maybe t-shirts. We both wore or carried wool, nylon shells, and down parkas. Since no trail shelters were available, we carried a four season REI Crestline Expedition A-frame mountaineering tent. Our only questionable gear choice was relying on a chemical heat tab stove for boiling water to rehydrate freeze dried meals as I had yet to invest in a liquid fuel, white gas stove.
Dave greeting the Sunrise at Lions Head
a day or two before the front moved in
The three to five day forecast generally held true. By our second day of backpacking around the Sods, all evidence of the previous snow had melted. On the third or fourth day we were hiking, the temperature must have been in the low to mid-sixties, and we were wearing short sleeved shirts. We perhaps would have worn shorts if we had them. We were certainly enjoying one of the best backpacking trips we had ever experienced, discovering plenty of water, finding excellent campsites, and enjoying beautiful views–until our fourth or fifth day, that is.
Here Comes the Cold, Sleet, Snow, and Wind
As we were heading toward our end of day destination, the Red Creek Campground, the only developed camping area anywhere near the Sods, the weather started deteriorating. Clouds moved in blocking the warming sunlight we had experienced the previous few days. The mid to low-sixties of the previous day had dropped into the mid to low-forties. A fine mist started falling, a fine mist that eventually changed over to sleet as the temperature continued to drop into the thirties. By the time we made it to the Red Creek Campground and pitched our tent in a flat grassy spot, the windblown sleet that was now falling at an angle had already accumulated into a thin layer of granular ice covering grass and rock alike.
In our tent and down bags, we were out of the elements and as snug as bugs in a rug. Using the small heat tab stove outside the tent but under the vestibule of the fly, we prepared a dinner of a Mountain House entree and Mountain House vegetables. Finishing up by the light of a candle lantern and our headlights, we turned in for the night, expecting to continue backpacking the following morning.
The wind picked up as we slept and started roaring only as it can on the Sods, unimpeded by tress or ridges. The sleet turned to snow but did not accumulate at any alarming rate. The temperature continued to drop, probably into the twenties or teens. What alerted us to the continuing deteriorating conditions was when a few steel skewer stakes were pulled from the soft, damp, unfrozen earth by the increasing force of the wind.
We donned our down parkas and headlights and stepped out into the bitter cold and fierce wind of the night to reinsert the stakes only to have then again pulled out with the next heavy gust of wind. Keeping the tent taunt and up seemed like a constant struggle.
Hunkering Down
The snow stopped falling by morning, and we found only an inch or two upon a thin layer of frozen sleet. The wind, however, had not died down. The moist earth had at least partially frozen so the steel skewer tent stakes were now holding, despite the wind.
Because of the wind and extremely cold temperature, we decided to hunker down for the day rather than risk frostbite or even hypothermia by backpacking in such conditions. Eventually, the three person tent, even though its stakes were holding, began to feel cramped with us and all our gear in it and we longed to stand up. We put put on our wool and down and walked to one of the two out houses in the campground where we could at least stand up. We soon learned, however, that staying in the tent in our sleeping bags was warmer than standing around in the outhouse, so we eventually moved back and forth until nightfall. As time wore on we started to think that if the weather did not improve, or if we did not manage to get down off the Sods and out of the weather, that we might not survive our second winter backpacking trip.
Bugging Out
By our second morning in Red Creek Campground the wind had died down, the sun was again shining, but the temperature was still bitter cold. We decided our best course of action was to call it a trip, break and pack up our camp, and backpack down and out of the Sods via the Forest Service road rather than following a trail. When we went to put on our boots, however, we discovered they were rock hard frozen, even the laces. I would later learn to put my boots inside a stuff sack and sleep with them inside my bag at night during cold weather to keep them freezing, but that lesson had not yet been learned.
As soon as we put on our boots, even though we were wearing liner and wool socks, both of us were feeling the cold. Our feet, especially our toes, were cold. After we started hiking we knew we would survive when we started worrying about frost bitten toes rather than surviving.
We had not been hiking along the snow covered road more than a few minutes when we saw a pickup truck driving away from us ahead of us. Dave a whistle he had hanging from a lanyard as loud as he could and we started waving our arms. We managed to flag down the driver, who turned around and came back toward us. We explained our predicament and he invited us into the back of the truck. We climbed in with our packs and snuggled up against the back of the cab to guard against the wind as he drove off the Sods and down to the warmer and dryer valley below.
When he dropped us off down in the valley at an establishment with a pay phone, I called our ride to come and pick us up. While there had been little snow in the valley to the east of Dolly Sods, there were several inches of the white stuff on the ground when we arrived in Elkins, to the west of Dolly Sods.
Looking back, I wish we had been carrying a white gas stove with a windscreen rather than the chemical heat tab stove. I would soon invest in an Optimus 8-R that would serve me for years and trips to come. I also wish we had even a few longer, plastic snow stakes that would have held well in the moist, soft ground rather than pulling out when the wind started howling. I would soon invest is some and successfully use them while winter camping the following winter in the White Mountains. I also wish I had had Super Gaiters to help keep my feet warm, another eventual purchase that served me well in the Whites. Otherwise, all my gear performed well.
I have enjoyed several winter backpacking trips and even a two week winter base camp experience since, but none nearly as harrowing or uncomfortable as my first two winter backpacking experiences. Apparently I learned enough from those first winter backpacking trips to make me safer and more comfortable in spite of adversities such as rain, snow, sleet, hail, wind, and below freezing temperatures.

This post originally appeared on The Trek.

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 17 (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.

EXODUS 3:1-15
3:1 The Moses saga continues with last week’s infant Moses now a married, grown man.  What other great figures from the Jewish Scriptures spent their early life as a shepherd?  Is the fact that Moses’ father-in-law was a priest a foreshadowing of Moses future role? Where or what is Midian and is it significant? Why would Moses lead his flock beyond the wilderness where there be dragons or deities? Did Moses know he was near Horeb, the mountain of God, or is this description hindsight?
3:2 Note that in the NRSV it is “the”—not “an”—angel of the LORD.  Why do we usually refer to this as “the burning bush” rather than “the bush that was not consumed?” How often are angels and/or the LORD associated with fire?
3:3 Turn aside?  Where had Moses been looking before he looked at the bush?
3:4 What if Moses had never turned aside? Might we miss signs of God’s presence if we are not attentive, not turning aside to notice something out of the ordinary? How often in the Jewish Scriptures does God call a person’s name twice?  How many people in the Jewish Scriptures, and who, respond to God “Here I am.” If the angel of the LORD appeared to Moses from the midst of the bush, why did the LORD and not the angel call to Moses?
3:5 Why do some people remove their shoes and socks when standing on holy ground? Why do Christians not worship barefooted? I wonder how close to the bush Moses was when he was commanded to remove his sandals.
3:6 Who was Moses’ father?  Abraham?  Isaac?  Jacob?  Someone else?  Why are only men mentioned?  Can we be faithful to Scripture and include Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel as well as Zilpah and Bilha in this list? Why was Moses afraid to look at God?
3:7 What took God so long to respond?  How does God “know” their sufferings?
3:8 Where has God come down from and why did God need to come down at all?  What is a land flowing with milk and honey like? Is it not a problem that this land seems to be already inhabited by others?
3:9 How did the cry of the Israelites come to God?  How did God see?
3:10 So, God comes down (v. 7), but sends Moses!
3:11 A perfectly good question. 
3:12 It sounds like the confirmation will be after the fact?  It is like me telling you that you are an excellent Biblical scholar and you asking me how you can be sure that you are an excellent Biblical Scholar and me answering that you will know you are an excellent Biblical Scholar when you earn a Ph.D.
3:13 Why does Moses refer to “your ancestors” rather than “our ancestors”?  Why is knowing God’s name so important?
3:14 “I AM WHO I AM?” Why, in NRSV, does this appear in upper case letters?
3:15 It seems that the LORD is known more by past associations than name or title, nevertheless, exactly what is God’s name and title?  Is God’s name the same as God’s title?

PSALM 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b
105:1 In the NRSV, “LORD” is all upper case.  Therefore, what would be the “name” to call on?  What are the LORD’s deeds? Who are the peoples?
105:2 This is beginning to read like a couplet. Are Hymns in worship sung “about” God or “to” God? Are the LORD’s wonderful works the same as the LORD’s deeds?
105:3 How does one “Glory in” the LORD’s name when the LORD’s name is not pronounced? Does your heart rejoice?
105:4 How can we continuously seek God’s presence? Is the LORD not always present with us?
105:5 Are both “miracles” and “judgments” among the LORD’s works in 105:2?
105:6 Why is Isaac omitted?
105:23-26 Is this merely a retelling of part of salvation history or is something more going on here?
105:45b A budding psalmist can never go wrong ending a psalm this way. How often do we end of praising the LORD for something we at first was a curse?

ROMANS 12:9-21
12:9 How can love not be genuine?  Is “hating evil” the opposite of “holding fast to what is good?”
12:10 Is non-mutual affection better than no affection at all?
12:11 What is zeal? What does it mean to be ardent in spirit?
12:12 How does one persevere in prayer?
12:13 Is this a reference to any particular offering?  How long should hospitality to strangers last?
12:14 What does Paul mean by “bless”and”curse?”
12:15 Who were rejoicing and who were weeping?
12:16 What if we extended the admonition to “live in harmony with one another” to extend to other species?  Who are the lowly? I think Socrates would have liked this verse.
12:17 What is noble in the sight of all?
12:18 And what if by “all” we meant all living creation, not just other humans? What if it is not possible to live peaceably with all?
12:19 What is the “wrath of God”?  While Paul advises us to not avenge ourselves, what about state sanctioned punishment for crime? Where is it written that “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” and how often is it quoted out of context and misapplied?
12:20 Since when is food and water the same as burning coals?  Is this good statecraft and foreign policy?  What would H. Richard Niebuhr say about this? What sort of enemies does Paul have in mind?
12:21 Paul is sounding like Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.  Or maybe King and Gandhi learned their non-violent civil resistance from Paul!  Or Jesus?

MATTHEW 16:21-28
16:21 From what time on? Why did Jesus not show this earlier? What does it mean that he is “showing” and not “telling?”
16:22 Why did Peter take Jesus aside?  Why did Peter rebuke Jesus?
16:23 Did Jesus just refer to Peter as Satan?  What is the pun in referring to Peter as a stumbling block?  What is the human thing Peter was setting his mind on?  What was the divine thing Jesus wanted Peter to set his mind on?
16:24 What does it mean to “deny” oneself? Is there a difference between taking up Jesus’ cross and taking up one’s own cross?
16:25 What is the meaning of this?  Is this a paradox?
16:26 What is a life worth?
16:27 Who is “the Son of Man”?  Is Jesus applying this title to himself? Why this shift from moral admonition to apocalyptic language?
16:28 How shall we interpret this passage nearly twenty centuries after the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ?  What does it mean to “see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom?”   Can we read this as a reference to the Christian Pentecost of Acts rather than a second coming of Christ?

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.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 16 (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.

EXODUS 1:8-2:10
1:8 Thus begins the Moses cycle/narrative.  What does this verse say about the importance of memory? Changes in administrations often have consequences.
1:9-10 How might these verse inform current thinking and analysis of American immigration policy?
1:10 I can understand the fear of insurrection, but why the fear of escape?
1:11 What do we know about Pithom and Rameses?
1:12 What lesson might be learned from this?
1:13-14 What Governments are ruthless today? What economic systems are ruthless?
1:15 Were Shiphrah and Puah the only two midwives?
1:16 Why kill the males but allow the females to live?  The opposite would seem to make better sense.  I wonder if Shiphrah and Puah served as midwives only to Hebrew woman or also to Egyptian women
1:17 In this context, what does it mean to fear God? Were Shiphrah and Puah Jews, or not? Did Shiphrah and Puah engage in civil disobedience?
1:18 Oh no!
1:19 When is it okay to lie? Is this verse also meant as an insult to Egyptian women?
1:20 God apparently rewards lying and disobeying civil authority.
1:21 Was not having a family considered a curse?
1:22 Was Moses the only Hebrew baby boy not thrown into the Nile? In a sense, Moses was thrown into the nile, but placed in a little floating ark first. How might this verse and Exodus 1:16 inform our understanding of the account of the slaughter of the innocents found in Matthew
2:1 Why are the man and woman not named?  Is there anything special about the house of Levi?
2:2 What might have happened if the woman had seen that he was not a fine baby? Is there anything significant about the time span of three months?
2:3 What else was once plastered with bitumen and pitch? What is the Hebrew word translated as “basket,” how else is this Hebrew word used in the Hebrew Scriptures, and how else might it be translated?
2:4 Did the mother tell the sister to watch or did the sister take this watching upon herself?
2:5 This seems like a fortuitous and ironic development.
2:6 Why did she think this might be a Hebrew baby?
2:7 I think the sister acts somewhat boldly here as she makes the best of the opportunity. Could an Egyptian not nurse the baby?
2:8 This sounds like a strange construction since this is the boys sister and thus his mother is also her mother, yet she is referred to as “the girl”.
2:9 The child’s own mother ends up nursing the child who might have died if the daughter of the man who ordered his death had not found him and had pity.
2:10 Yes, this explains the name Moses, bit is there also some foreshadowing going on here?

12:1-2a When I begin a responsive reading and the response sounds shallow, hollow, and barely audible, sometimes I will repeat the call phrase.  Might something similar be happening here?
12:2b Who are Israel’s enemies that attacked?
12:2b-6 Does this Psalm reflect the Exodus? Why is this Psalm paired with the First reading? 
12:4-5 This apparent reference to the Exodus seems to be jumping ahead of the story.
12:6 Blessed be the LORD indeed.
12:7 The snare has been broken but the LORD was the one who broke it.
12:8 This sounds like a familiar refrain. What else is there other than heaven and earth?

ROMANS 12:1-8
12:1 What is a “living” sacrifice?  What is “spiritual” worship?  Is there such a thing as unspiritual or spiritless worship? How might Paul have addressed the Shoah?
12:2 What is the difference between “conformed” and” transformed”?  How are our minds renewed?  Why does Paul write about the renewing of our minds rather than the renewing of our hearts?
12:3 How do we measure our faith? Do you think that sometimes Paul thought too much of himself?
12:4 What does Paul mean by “members?”
12:5 I understand the logic with the exception of the last phrase.  How are we individually members one of another? Might holography and holograms help us here?
12:6-8 “We have gifts that differ” in the NRSV is “We have gifts differing” in the KJV. The KJV rendering is the biblical phrase that inspired Myers and Briggs to title their book applying Jung’s type theory Gifts Differing.  You may want to also look at 1 Corinthians 12. What are your gifts? Is Paul’s list meant to be exclusive?

MATTHEW 16:13-20 (SJB)
16:13 Where did Jesus enter from?  Is there anything special about the district of Caesarea Philippi?  Why would Jesus ask his disciples this question?  Does the average person in the pew or Bible Study have a clue about the baggage associated with “Son of Man” language and imagery?
16:14 Apparently there were various views of who Jesus was. I guess times have not changed.
16:15 Here is the quintessential question. What is your answer? IMHO, Statements of Faith prepared for examination of a candidate or transferring minister tells us more about a person’s breadth of theological education and ability to think systematically rather than about what a person actually believes.
16:16 As usual, Peter is the first to speak up.  Did he get it right or did he stick his foot into his mouth? Compare the Gospel parallels.  Can we think of each of the Gospels as a somewhat unique answer to this question? Do Paul’s writings offer us yet another answer?
16:17 What does this say about the nature of revelation?
16:18 What is the play on words with “Peter” and “rock”?  Do you recall how in the Gospel Reading just two weeks ago this “rock” starting sinking because of little faith? What and where is Hades and what are its gates?
16:19 What are the “keys to the kingdom”?  What does it mean to “bind” and to “loose”? Where, previously in Matthew, have we encountered “binding” and “losing” language?
16:20 Why would Jesus order his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah?  What do you know about “the messianic secret?” Has this passage just equated “the Son of Man” with “the Messiah”?

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, August 8, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 15 (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 45:1-15
45:1 Much has transpired between this week’s First Reading and last week’s First Reading.  Does any of what transpired between the two readings matter? Has Joseph reached his limit? Perhaps Joseph did not want to let the Egyptians know that the men before him were his brothers.
45:2 I wonder what the Egyptians and household of Pharaoh thought when they heard Joseph weeping? What was the cause of his tears?
45:3 Note that Joseph asks if “his” father, not “our” father was still alive. Why were the brother’s dismayed by Joseph’s presence?
45:4 Why does Joseph repeat himself?
45:5 Is this an example of Joseph engaging in some theological reflection?  Why would Joseph’s brothers be angry? Joseph is the one we might expect to be angry.
45:6 It sounds like things will get worse before they get better.
45:7 Might we compare Joseph to Noah?
45:8 Might Joseph have been older than Pharaoh?
45:9 How many ways might this verse be interpreted?
45:10 Was there anything significant about the land of Goshen? Why might Joseph want to keep hit family close by?
45:11 How will Joseph provide for his brothers? From what resources will he draw?
45:12 Why is Benjamin singled out?
45:13 Is Joseph rubbing it in?  Is he blowing his own horn? In other words, go back and tell Dad that my dreams have come true.
45:14 Once again, why Benjamin?  What was so special about the relationship between Joseph and Benjamin?
45:15 Would Joseph’s brothers not talk with him before this?  I wonder what they talked about.

133:1 In light of today’s First reading, is this supposed to be a comment on Joseph’s family?  Would it be a comment on Joseph’s family before or after the reunion narrated in the First Reading? Where is Edwin H. Friedman when you need him?
133:2 I have always appreciated the sensual nature of this verse.  What does oil symbolize?
133:3 What and where is Hermon?  What is significant about Hermon’s dew? What did the LORD do (no pun intended) at Hermon? Is the Lord’s blessing life for evermore?

ROMANS 11:1-2a, 29-32
11:1 Might Paul have answered this rhetorical question differently after the Shoah?  Even though we are currently reading the Joseph narrative and the Pauline corpus lectio continua, the “Benjamin” connection between this Second Reading and the First Reading is a nice one. See Genesis 45:12 & 14.
11:2 What does Paul mean by “foreknew”?
11:29 What are the gifts of the calling of God? Christians in particular ought to remember this verse when engaging in dialogue with religious Jews.
11:30-31 Who are “they” and how have they been disobedient?
11:32 What does it mean to be imprisoned in disobedience?

MATTHEW 15:(10-20) 21-28
(15:10) I think every time Jesus says something like “listen and understand” that we can expect some enigmatic saying to follow. The crowd will probably neither listen nor understand.
(15:11) What comes out of the mouth?  Is Jesus commenting on the digestive system?
(15:12) What did the disciples think? Did the disciples take offense?
(15:13) Does this verse reflect a negative view of the Pharisees?  Is Jesus saying that the Pharisees are plants not planted by God?
(15:14) Leave them alone even though they are blind or “because” they are blind?  Might there be some creeping anti-Semitism in this verse?
(15:15) What parable?  Why is it that Peter is usually the first one to open his mouth – and then stick his foot in it?
(15:16) Me thinks the answer is “YES”! At times it seemed like the disciples misunderstood Jesus nearly as much as the Pharisees. Is our understanding any better?
(15:17-18) Oh, that parable!  So Jesus was in fact talking about the digestive system.  Is Jesus saying that words are dirtier than crap?
(15:19) All these come from the heart?  This is an impressive list. Is anything not mentioned that you might have expected to be here?
(15:20) Is this a comment about religion or hygiene?
15:21 What place did Jesus leave? Is there anything significant about Tyre and Sidon?
15:22 What makes a “Canaanite” woman different than any other woman, or a Jewish woman?  What do you know about “The Jesus Prayer,” Hesychasm and the Philokalia? How do post-moderns deal with demons?
15:23 Why does Jesus ignore this woman?  Why do the disciples want to send her away?
15:24 Who are the lost sheep of the house of Israel?
15:25 What does a kneeling posture signify? This is the second time this woman calls Jesus “Lord”!  Is her supplication not an example of the simplest prayer of a believer?
15:26 Did Jesus just call this woman a bitch?
15:27 Did this woman just accept the insult of being labeled a bitch by Jesus yet still refer to him as “master”?  Must “crumbs” refer to bread crumbs or any type of leftover?
15:28 Now Jesus addresses her as “woman”! Whom else as he addressed this way? What makes her faith “great”?  How would anyone know that the woman’s daughter was healed instantly?

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.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Prayer for August 6, 2017 - Hiroshima Day

Seventy-two years ago this coming Sunday, August 6, the United States ushered in the Atomic Age by dropping an atomic bomb upon Hiroshima, Japan. Here is an original prayer for use in worship that recognizes this as well as the fear that North Korea will possess nuclear warheads and ICBMs capable of reaching American soil.

God of peace,
we are mindful that seventy-two  years ago today,
as the only nation with an atomic bomb,
we unleashed the power of the atom upon Hiroshima, Japan.
Now we are but one of many nations possessing
the incredible destructive threat of nuclear weapons,
and we fear that North Korea will soon have that same capability.
Help us, the United Nations, and the peace loving nations of the world
find a  diplomatic and peaceful solution to the nuclear threat posed by North Korea,

that the Korean Peninsula, Japan, we, and the world might live free from fear of nuclear war.
In the name of the Prince of Peace we pray. Amen.