Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 1 (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.

30:15 Why am I surprised to read “See” rather than “Hear” or “Listen”?  I am also somewhat surprised to read “today” rather than “this day”. Does this verse feed the so called “Prosperity Gospel?”
30:16 This is a rather long verse with a lot packed into it. Are ways, commandments, decrees, and ordinances synonyms used for emphasis or does each term refer to something different? Note that life is paired with prosperity.  Death is paired with adversity. How much is this a linguistic/poetic construction and how much is it a theological construction?  Does this verse lend itself to a justification by works or health/wealth/prosperity sort of faith?
30:17 Why now “hear” rather than “see”?  Is “hearing” an allusion to Deuteronomy 6:4?
30:18 I find it interesting that while death will come quickly if people’s hearts turn but the people will still enter and possess the land.
30:15-18 Note that 30:15-16 seems to be contrasted with 30:17-18.
30:19 Who can dispute with witnesses like heaven and earth?  In 30:15, the pairing was life/prosperity and death/adversity.  Now it is life/blessings and death/curses.  In 30:15 the scheme was A and A’, B and B’.  Here, it is A and B, A’ and B’.
30:20 This is the second occurrence of “loving the LORD your God: see 30:15. Can we remain faithful to the text while adding Sarah, Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, Bilhah, and Rachel?

PSALM 119:1-8
119:1 The First Reading establishes the choice.  The Psalm outlines the rewards or effects of the better choice.
119:1-8 Note the synonyms: (1) law, (2) decrees, (3) ways, (4) precepts, (5) statutes, (6) commandments, (7) ordinances, and (8) statutes (again).  What can teachers and preachers learn from the Psalmist’s literary creativity in addition to the Psalmist’s theology?  This Psalm is also an acrostic!  “Ah, but can Doctors even feign great homilies? I judge keeping lovely muses nasty.  Oh, please, quit reading sarcastic tomes.  Unveil virtuous workers. Xanex yields zero.” These first eight verses are all “aleph” verses. Do you ever play with words, rhyming schemes, acrostic constructions, parallelisms, alliteration, or chiastic constructions in your sermons? Try it sometime. Its fun!

3:1 Picking up where we left off last week . . . are you a spiritual person or are you an infant in Christ?  What about most of the people in the Christian community in which you find yourself? Is Paul dissing or insulting the Corinthians, or maybe applying a little tough love?
3:2 As a preacher or teacher, do you serve milk, a Gerber’s Gospel, or a meat and potatoes Gospel?  How can we feed all the people with the Word of God when some people are infants in Christ and others are spiritual people looking for, and perhaps needing, a better-rounded and mature diet?
3:3 How much jealousy and quarreling exist in your congregation? Of all the sins Paul could have called out, he called out these two!
3:4 To whom do you belong? Who are the Paul and the Apollos in the communities we know?
3:5 Note that Paul, in this verse, sets himself on equal footing with Apollos and vice versa.  Peter and Christ have dropped out of the construction.
3:6 Are you a planter or a waterer?
3:6-7 God may give the growth, but who is the reaper?
3:8 What wages are appropriate?  Should planters be paid the same as waterers?
3:9 Note the “we/you” language.  Where do you fall in this dichotomy?  After all this agricultural imagery, why does Paul introduce “God’s building?”

MATTHEW 5:21-37
5:21 Note the emphasis on hearing rather than sight and seeing.  “It was said to those of ancient times” sounds like something in the past that has no or little influence in the present.  Who said this and to whom?  When were those ancient times?
5:22 Judgment, the council, the hell of fire – this sounds like increasing levels of punishment.
5:23-26 You might want to skip over these verses during the stewardship drive. What if you have something against your brother or sister?
5:24 How is reconciliation accomplished. Maybe it is time we in the PC(USA) revisit the Confession of 1967.
5:27 This is beginning to sound formulaic (see 5:21).
5:27-28 I remind you to comments made by Jimmy Carter when he was still President.
5:29-30 If we do not take this literally, then what is the meaning of the figurative language? How might young children hear this verse?
5:31 Note the slight change in the formulaic introduction. 
5:32 the logic seems flawed in the husband divorces his wife for reasons other than unchastity.
5:33 More formulaic language.  Does it make a difference that all these things were said rather than written?
5:34-36 How do we interpret these verses when we are required to take a civil oath, as in an oath of public office or court of law?
5:37 Goodbye equivocation and qualification.

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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