Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The Transfiguration of the Lord (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 24:12-18
24:12-18 Why must Moses go up to God rather than God coming down? In Christ, God came down to us. What mountain is this? If it were not for this verse, would we still make a distinction between the two tablets of the law? I can understand why “law” is singular, but why is “commandment” also singular?
24:13 Note that that Moses does not go up to God on the mountain alone. Moses takes with him his assistant (and heir apparent), Joshua. Why does the NRSV say Modes went up “into” the mountain?
24:14 Who is Aaron?  Who is Hur?
24:15 What shall we make of the cloud?
24:16 Shall we equate “the glory of the Lord” with the cloud?  From personal experience, I know there is something “numinous” about being on a mountaintop, above tree line, when clouds enshroud the summit.   What does the explicit linguistic connection to the creation account, i.e. “six days and the seventh day”, suggest about any theological connection between this account and the first creation account? Is the giving of the law anything like a new creation?
24:17 What does a devouring fire on top of a mountain look like?  Does this suggest lightening or a volcano or something else altogether? If this is what the people of Israel saw, what did Moses and Joshua see?
24:18 How much is the forty days and forty nights a prefiguration of the forty years in the wilderness and how much is this a post Exodus influence on an earlier tradition?  Or is the mention of forty days and forty nights an allusion to the story of the flood? How might this passage inform our understanding of The Season of Lent?
24:12-18 While this reading stands on its own merits, I find it difficult to read it without looking for connections to the Gospel Reading and wonder how much we should read the Gospel account of the Transfiguration as a Midrash on this text.  There are many similarities between the two texts, perhaps the least being the setting; that of a mountain.

PSALM 2
2:1 Is this a rhetorical question?
2:2 Is this a reference to secularization? Who is the LORD’s “anointed”?
2:3 What is the meaning of this?  What are bonds?  What are cords?
2:4 I like this image of a laughing God although we might debate the nature of the laughter.
2:5 From laughter to wrath and fury.
2:6  Zion, the holy hill, rather than the holy mountain Moses and Joshua ascended or upon which Jesus is transfigured.  Is this “king” to be equated with the “anointed” of 2:2?
2:7 What decree?  Is this the King speaking? Why does this verse sound familiar?
2:8 Forget the Promised land, have all the earth!
2:9 Was iron the hardest known metal at the time?
2:8-9 I this a prophecy or promise never, or not yet, fulfilled? 
2:10 This sounds like good advice in the world’s contemporary political and social climate.
2:11 What is fear? When was the last time you served the LORD with trembling?
2:12 What does it mean to (euphemistically?) kiss God’s feet? 

PSALM 99
99:1 The earth quakes but the people tremble (see Psalm 2:11).  What are cherubim and where are they? If The LORD is king, who is not the king?
99:2 Is The LORD great only in Zion?  What is the meaning of “peoples”?
99:3 What is God’s awesome name?  How can one praise God’s name if it is not pronounced?
99:4 This is great imagery for God appropriate for addressing God in prayer. What is the meaning of “equity”?
99:5 This sounds like a call to worship.  Where and what is God’s footstool?  Not that this verse addresses the people while the previous verse addresses The LORD.
99:6 How does Samuel come to be included with Moses and Aaron?  Who do you know who has cried to the LORD and God answered them?
99:7 This is undoubtedly a reference to the Exodus. Note that “decrees” and “statutes” are both plural.  Whom did God speak to in the pillar of cloud? What does a pillar of cloud look like?
99:8 An interesting juxtaposition: The forgiving LORD and the avenging LORD. Can The LORD have it both ways? Can we?
99:9 This sounds like another call to worship?  Must we worship only at God’s holy mountain?  What and where is God’s holy mountain?

2 PETER 1:16-21
1:16 What is a cleverly devised myth?  I wonder what Rudolph Bultmann or Joseph Campbell might have to say about this? Were some claiming that the gospel was a cleverly devised myth? How shall we read this verse as it relates to the mythopoeic nature of Scripture?
1:17 Did Jesus not have honor and glory before the event being recounted? What does the voice seem to echo?  What event is being referred or alluded to?
1:18 When Scripture relates the personal experience of the first followers of Jesus, what does that say about our own personal experience of the risen Christ? 
1:19 What is the prophetic message?  How has it been confirmed?  How can we do anything else than be attentive to a lamp shining in a dark place?  Where might this dark place be? What is the morning star and how does it rise in our hearts? Might this be a reference or allusion to Mercury and/or Venus? Why do we see Mercury and Venus only in before sunset or just after sunrise? Will there be any need for a lamp once the morning star rises and the day dawns?
1:20 This is why Christians interpret Scripture in community and why I invite, solicit, and encourage your comments responding to Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 (hint, hint; plead, plead).  What do we do when someone offers a new or different interpretation that is at odds with the historic or current community?
1:21 Prophecy, like poetry and art, comes from somewhere other than the prophet, poet, or artist, but who gets to make that claim?  What does it mean that Scripture (and thus prophecy) is self-authenticating?

MATTHEW 17:1-9
17:1 Six days later, after what? See Exodus 24:16. As Moses took Joshua, Jesus takes Peter, James and John.
17:2 What does it mean to be transfigured?  Why am I thinking of Franz Kafka? Has anyone else’s face ever shone like the sun?  Has anyone else’s clothes ever become dazzling white?
17:3 What is the meaning of “Suddenly”?  Why Moses and Elijah?  What might Moses and Elijah represent?  Why would Moses and Elijah want to talk with Jesus, or Jesus want to talk with them? Is there any significance to the fact that the three greats (Moses, Jesus, Elijah) are balanced by the three mere disciples (Peter, James and John)?  It seems we have a dyad of trinities.
17:4 Way to go Peter, interrupt a spiritual experience with mundane concerns! I wonder if at that moment Jesus really thought it was “good” Peter was there. Why three dwellings rather than just one for all three? What is the meaning of “dwelling”?
17:5 The text suggests a chronology of Jesus being transfigured before the bright cloud appeared.  Note the reappearance of the word “suddenly.”  Why does this voice and what it says sound familiar? What does the Gospel add or include that the Reading from 2 Peter did not?  You may want to take another look at Exodus 24:16.
17:6 Were the disciples overcome by fear by hearing the voice or by hearing what the voice said?  What does it mean to “fall to the ground”?  Might falling to the ground refer to posture?  What might have been the nature of the fear that came over the disciples?
17:7 Was this a reassuring touch?  Would there be any difference in interpretation if Jesus had said “Do not be afraid and get up.”?
17:8 Where did Moses and Elijah go?  Why did they leave?
17:9 Why would Jesus “order” these three disciples to tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead”? Who is the Son of Man?  Could this, indeed, be a misplaced resurrection appearance read back into the Gospel at an earlier point?  How might this Reading prefigure the resurrection? Why does Jesus refer to this as a “vision”?  What is a “vision”? Have you ever experienced such a “vision”?

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.

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