Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 2nd Sunday In Lent (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 12:1-4a
12:1-4a This is one of the shortest Readings we have seen in a while and perhaps one of the shortest in the three year lectionary cycle.
12:1 How do you think the LORD said this, in a dream, a vision, or what?  Note the spelling of the name “Abram.”  This reads like an archetypal call narrative.  Where was Abram’s country?  Who were Abram’s kindred? What was Abram’s relationship with the LORD prior to this?
12:2 In retrospect, it seems the LORD delivered on these promises. What does it mean to be someone to be a blessing.
12:3  Note that it is the LORD who curses, not Abram. This verse, alone, ought to be enough to combat anti-Semitism.
12:4a Did Lot go with Abram or did Abram take Lot with him? Who was Lot and what was his relationship to and with Abram?

121:1 I recall that there are various interpretations of this Psalm, one being the “nature’ interpretation that sees in the hills evidence of the LORD’s presence, the other suggesting this verse is setting up a comparison between the local mountain deities, which do not provide help, and the LORD, which does.  When such diverse interpretations present themselves, how do we decide?  Saint Patrick’s Day will be coming up on Friday, March 17, 2017  and you may want to consider this psalm in conversation with the Legend of Patrick lighting the Easter fire on the “hill” Slane. You might also recall that just two weeks ago we read passages where a theophany occurred on a mountain (What is the difference between a mountain and a hill?) .
121:2 Regardless of which interpretation of this Psalm you subscribe to, this assertion still follows. Must one be a “creationist” to think of the LORD as making heaven and earth?
121:3 What does it mean that our foot will not be moved?  What difference does it make if the LORD slumbers or not?
121:4 Is there any difference between “slumber” and “sleep”, or this simply an example of Hebrew poetic construction?  Does “Israel” refer to a people, a nation, or both?
121:5 What does it mean for the LORD to be a “keeper” and “shade”? Why is the shade on the right hand and not the left?
121:6 I love this verse, but while I can recall some hot summer days when it seemed like the sun was striking me, and I have been sunburned more than once, I cannot recall the moon ever striking me or burning me. How might the moon strike us by night?
121:7 Now here is a verse I can treasure!
121:8 What is the “going out” and the “coming in” a reference to and does it make any difference that they appear in this order?

ROMANS 4:1-5, 13-17
4:1 I see an obvious connection to the First Reading, but it would seem that Christians of non-Jewish background cannot claim Abraham as our ancestor, according to the flesh, as Paul did. We can claim him only as our ancestor by faith.
4:2 Why does Paul use “if”?  Was Abraham justified by works or not?
4:3 Where does Scripture say this?
4:4 Except in the church!
4:5 I like that trust is connected with faith, a theme emphasized in the PC(USA) A Brief Statement of Faith. Who are the ungodly?
4:13 Is Paul engaging in exegesis, Midrash, or eisegesis?  What law was there for Abraham since Moses had not received it?
4:14 Could one not argue for trust and faith in the law?
4:15 How does the law bring wrath?
4:16 What is “it”?  Faith is connected with grace, and with grace there is a guaranty.
4:17 Following Paul’s theological reasoning, perhaps we should be considered “Abrahamians” rather than “Christians?” Could Paul’s argument serve as a basis for interfaith dialogue among Jews, Christians, and Muslims?

JOHN 3:1-17
3:1-17 This passage is so nuanced and so multivalent, I am not sure where to begin. I prefer a Jungian interpretation, but does that preach?
3:1 What do you know about Pharisees?  Is there any symbolism or significance associated with the name “Nicodemus”?
3:2 What is the significance that Nic came at night?  I see a literary and theological connection with the woman at the well, at noon, and wonder if we can only interpret both passages in dialogue with each other rather than apart.  I suspect this is not the Royal “we”, so who else is Nic speaking for? What ‘signs” was Nic referring to?
3:3 “Very truly, I tell you” seems to be a formulaic introduction to teachings in John.
Does being “born from above” give one a bird’s eye view or angel’s eye view?
3:4 Nic is confusing obstetrics and gynecology with theology, stuck in a literal rather than metaphorical understanding.  How many people in the pew are stuck in the literal? What do you know about “rebirth therapy” and “rebirthing”?
3:5 See my comments for 3:3. Jesus not only connects water with spirit but both water and spirit with “birth from above”.
3:6 Is Jesus, or John, introducing a dualism, and if so, does it come from some other source?
3:7 What does it mean to be astonished? When was the last time you were astonished by something you read in Scripture?
3:8 What is Jesus comparing everyone born of the spirit to: the wind, our the hearing of the wind, or our not knowing where it comes from and where it goes? Modern weather measurements and forecasting does indeed allow us to know where the wind comes from and where it goes. What other connections are there between wind and Spirit? Does faith precede understanding or can understanding precede faith?
3:9 Thanks, Nic, for asking the question we have all been wanting to ask.
3:10 Touché!  Must religious and spiritual leaders always have all the answers?
3:11 See 3:3. Who is the “we?”  What do “we” know and what have we “seen?”  What is the nature of religious and spiritual knowledge when we are post enlightenment interpreters of pre-enlightenment scripture?  Is this a singular or a plural “you”?
3:12 is the earthly/heavenly duality the same thing as the flesh/spirit duality of 3:6?
3:13 Does this verse reflect a post ascension perspective?  How will people in the pew hear and understand “Son of Man?”
3:14-15 Here is a passage worth exploring from a Jungian perspective. Consider the rod of Asclepius.  Be sure to read the Hebrew scripture alluded to. One could preach a whole sermon just on these two verses. How is looking at Jesus upon the cross like the Children of Israel looking at a bronze snake upon a pole?
3:16 What could I say that has not already been said? Maybe that we too often quote this verse without considering its context?
3:17 I wish some hell, fire, and damnation preachers who often use Scripture to beat people down would remember this verse.

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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