Friday, January 13, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 3rd Sunday After Epiphany (Year A)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 is a further revision and refinement of my Lectionary Ruminations and Lectionary Ruminations 2.0.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 draws on over thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without over reliance on commentaries, I intend with sometimes pointed and sometimes snarky comments and Socratic like questions, to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to lead a Bible study, draft liturgy, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.

ISAIAH 9:1-4
9:1 Who were those in anguish?  When was the former time? Where is the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali and what is so special about these lands?  When might the latter time be? Who is “he”?  Why is the sea associated with Galilee?
9:2 Who walked in darkness and lived in a land of deep darkness? Have you ever walked in the dark? What is the nature of the great light that has shined?
9:3 Who is being addressed? What does it mean to multiply the nation? I am a little troubled by the mention of plunder.
9:4 Who is the “you” that has broken these things?  Who was the oppressor?  What happened “on the day of Midian”?

PSALM 27:1, 4-9
27:1 Who shall you fear and of whom shall you be afraid?  In my experience, fear can be a crippling and paralyzing experience for congregations facing an uncertain future and needing to change.  The “light” of this verse explains why this psalm was paired with the Isaiah reading (See Isaiah 9:2).  When read together, how does this Psalm enter into dialogue with the First Reading and vice versa? Why does this verse remind me of Taizé?
27:4 A worthy petition, don’t you think?  Does living in the house of the LORD mean living in the Jerusalem temple?Does this verse not express the desire of all Christian mystics?
27:5 What might qualify as a “day of trouble”?  Being concealed under the cover of a tent and being set high on a rock (for all to see) seem like a mixed metaphor.  As a backpacker, I really like the tent imagery, and as a rock climber I like the rock imagery.
27:6 What does it mean to have your head lifted up above your enemies? Does the “tent” in this verse and in Psalm 27:5 allude back to the Tabernacle or Tent of Meeting before the Temple was constructed?
27:7 This verse could be used as a response in bidding prayer or as the opening petition in a prayer.
27:8  What can happen to people who see the face of God?  What does it mean to seek God’s face?  What does God’s face represent?
27:9 Why might God ever hide the divine face, turn the servant away, and cast the servant off, and forsake the servant?

One problem with this passage might be that we are too familiar with it and our preconceived notions of what it says and means might get in the way of fresh interpretations.  On the other hand, readers may want to review Is Christ Divided: A Report Approved by the 200th General Assembly (1988), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as a lens through which to view and interpret this passage.
1:10 How does Paul strengthen his appeal?  Has he played the “Christ” card? Would Paul be making these statements if there were not disagreements and divisions?
1:11 Who is Chloe and Chloe’s people? Has Paul already taken sides by acting on a report from Chloe’s people? Has Paul been triangulated?
1:12 Who was Apollos?  Who was Cephas? Have you ever heard talk in your particular church approximating what Paul is describing here?
1:13 Are these rhetorical questions presuming the answer “No”?
1:14-15 I think Paul, in another letter, claimed to never have baptized.  Even in this verse, Paul does not seem to totally trust his own memory. Who were Crispis and Gaius?  
1:16 Why the parenthesis? Who was Stephanas?  What is the meaning of “household?”  Might this household have included children and infants?
1:17 On what basis is Paul arguing that eloquent wisdom might empty the cross of Christ of its power?  Is Paul simply feigning humility? For generations after Paul, Philosophy was considered the handmaiden to Theology.  Where would the Gospel be without philosophical reflection?
1:18 what do you make of the juxtaposition of foolishness and the power of God?

MATTHEW 4:12-23
After an excursion into the Gospel According to John, we are now back to a somewhat lectio continua reading of Matthew.
4:12 Why did Jesus withdraw to Galilee upon learning that John had been arrested.  From where did Jesus withdraw?
4:13 Apparently, Jesus withdrew from Nazareth.  What, if any, is the significance of Capernaum?  Are Zebulun and Naphtali the only reasons why the Isaiah 9:1-4 Reading appears in today’s Lectionary Readings?
4:14-16 Other than the fulfillment of prophecy (See Isaiah 9:1-4), is there any other significance to Capernaum?  Does it sometimes seem like Matthew goes out of the way to document fulfillment of prophecy?  Why does Matthew 4:15-16 differ slightly from Isaiah 9:2 in the NRSV?  Does it matter?
4:17 Have fun unpacking Jesus’ proclamation.  How has the Kingdom of heaven come near?
4:18-19 How does this version of the call of Simon and Andrew differ from last week’s account in the reading from John 1:29-42?  Why the difference?  
4:20 Note the word “immediately”.  What is the meaning (or meanings) of “followed”?
4:21 Why might Jesus’ first four disciples have been two sets of brothers?
4:22 Note another appearance of “immediately.” What more do John and James leave behind compared to what Simon and Peter left behind?  What are we called to leave behind when we follow Jesus?
4:23 Should we assume that Simon, Andrew, James and John were “following” Jesus as he went through Galilee. What is the “good news of the kingdom” and does it differ from “the Gospel”? Is “every disease and every sickness” hyperbole?

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.

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