Friday, March 10, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 3rd 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.

EXODUS 17:1-7
17:1 Let us not make no more of the name of the location than necessary.  Sin is a geographical location, not a theological condition (even though it seems otherwise).  What does it mean to journey by stages? Why would anyone camp at a place where there was no water to drink?  Perhaps we can put this verse in conversation with the Gospel Reading.
17:2 I empathize with both Moses and the people.  Why did the people look toward Moses for water rather than finding it themselves? What does it mean to “test the LORD” and why is quarreling with Moses apparently equated with testing the LORD? How do we test the LORD?
17:3 This seems like a valid complaint.  Sometimes a known discomfort, like slavery in Egypt, is preferable to the unknown.
17:4 Why does Moses ask for advice about what to do with the people rather than asking for water or help finding water?
17:5 Not all church leaders are blessed with such a staff, or any staff for that matter.  I am envious of Moses. What is the history and significance of this staff?
17:6 Will Moses see God standing on the rock?  What is so special about Horeb? Is there only one rock at Horeb? Is it significant that Moses did this “in sight of the elders” rather than alone, with no one watching? I wonder what the elders thought and how they felt as they witnessed this.
17:7 I have yet to find a congregation named “The Massah and Meribah (put your denominational moniker here) Church,” yet there are probably many such churches which can rightly claim the name.  Does the name of your church suggest its character?

95:1 Is it too obvious to see a connection between this Psalm’s “the rock of our salvation” and the Frist Reading’s “rock at Horeb”? What do rocks in the Bible symbolize? What is the difference between a joyful noise and well-rehearsed melody and harmony when it comes to congregational hymn singing?
95:1-2 This sounds like a responsive call to worship.
95:3 Who, or what, are these other “gods”?
95:4-5 Depths, heights, sea and land: what else is there?
95:6-7 Here is another possible Call to Worship.  Why do most mainline Protestants hardly ever bow down and kneel? Are our knees too old and arthritic?  Do the last two lines mix metaphors? Note that 95:7b more properly belongs with 95:8 rather than 95:7.
95:7b-8 What does the voice of God sound like? This verse obviously points back to the First reading, which argues for an intentional linguistic and theological connection using the word “rock” in 95:1.  Also, note that 95:1-7 were in the third person.  With 95:8 the Psalm shifts to the first person and God becomes the speaker.
95:9-11 Based on these verses, why might so many churches be struggling with declining membership and declining financial resources?
95:10 Are you surprised that the LORD can loathe anyone?
95:11 What, or where, is God’s “rest”?

ROMANS 5:1-11
5:1 I hate it when Lectionary Readings from the Pauline corpus begin with “Therefore”.  It means we are missing the initial points of the argument.  On the other hand, justification by faith is a keystone of protestant theology.
5:2-3 Where is all this “boasting” coming from?  See also 5:11.
5:3-5 sufferings . . . endurance . . . character . . .  hope.  This argument reminds me of the concept of disciplined training in the sense of “no pain, no gain.”  Is the Holy Spirit to be equated with God’s love?
5:6 Who are the ungodly and what does it mean that Christ died for them (or us)?
5:7 I confess that I have never been able to wrap my head around this one. It seems that it should be the other way around.
5:8 Following Paul’s argument, how did Christ’s death prove God’s love for us? Does this statement assume we are the “ungodly” of 5:6?  What is the connection, if any, between the “still weak” of 5:6 and “still were sinners” of this verse?
5:9 It seems to follow from Paul’s argument that we are already justified but not yet saved from the wrath of God. How does Christ’s blood justify?
5:10 Similarly, it seems that we are already reconciled but not yet saved.
5:11 Why does Paul feel a need to boast?  What is the difference between boasting and bragging?

JOHN 4:5-42
4:5-42 This Reading is longer than most Gospel readings and I am considering shortening it by ending it at with 4:15.  Will you read it all or truncate it?
4:5 Is there anything significant about the setting?  What do you know about Sychar?
4:6 What once happened at Jacob’s well? Is there anything significant about the time? Note that in last week’s Gospel reading, and just prior to this in the Gospel, Nicodemus came to Jesus by night.  Now it is noon, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky and when it barely casts any shadows.  Think about the temporal setting of this reading juxtaposed with the temporal setting of last week’s Gospel Reading.  What might John be trying to communicate by this juxtaposition?
4:7 Can we consider this John’s version of the Parable of the Good Samaritan?  What is more significant, that it was a Samaritan, or that it was a woman?
4:8 Is this a throw away verse? Why the parenthetical?
4:9 I think this is an understandable question, but does not the Samaritan woman violate some norms by asking it? Not only was Jesus a Jew, he was a male.
4:10 What, or who, is the gift of God? What is living water?
4:11 What purpose does this verse serve?
4:12 Is this a rhetorical question? Why does the Samaritan woman claim to be a descendant of Jacob rather than Abraham?
4:13-14 Even though it appears that Jesus does not answer the questions posed of him, this might be the heart of the reading, a reading as deep and multivalent as Jacob’s well. Like last week’s Gospel Reading, I cannot help but interpret this reading, especially this verse, from a Jungian perspective.
4:15 Did the Samaritan woman really understand what was being offered to her? I think the Samaritan woman was thinking literally when Jesus was thinking spiritually. How often do we confuse the literal with the spiritual in the church?
4:16-26 What do these verses add to the story?  Could we not stop reading at the end of 4:15 and still get the point? Why did Jesus want the Samaritan Woman to go call her husband?
4:16 Why would Jesus want her to call her husband?
4:17 Is this any more than an example of semantics and word games? Oh Wittgenstein, please help us.
4:18 How would Jesus know this and what does it matter how many husbands she has had or who she is now living with?
4:19 What does the woman mean by “prophet”?
4:20 What mountain is the woman talking about?
4:21 What hour might that be? Does  Jesus’ use of “woman” prefigure anything?
4:22 I think this sounds a little judgmental. What does it mean to “know?”
4:23 What does Jesus mean when he says “the hour is coming”?  What does it mean to worship “in spirit and truth”?  If one does not worship in spirit and truth, then how is one worshiping?
4:24 God is indeed spirit.  Later we will lean that Jesus is the truth.
4:25 How would a Samaritan know and believe this? Were the Samaritans as messianic as the Jews?
4:26 Does this verse require us to read this passage in the context of and in conversation with all the other “I am” sayings in John, not to mention Exodus 3:14? Is Jesus claiming to be the messiah or is he claiming to be God?
4:27 Why were the disciples astonished that Jesus was speaking with a woman. Note that they were astonished that Jesus was speaking with a woman but apparently not astonished that he was speaking with a Samaritan.
4:28 Did the woman leave her water jar on purpose, and if so, why?
4:29 Can we categorize the woman’s speech as a witness?  Can we call it evangelism?  Was it preaching? Should we read her question as a rhetorical question?
4:30 Did you know that early Christians were sometimes referred to as “followers of the way”? 
4:31-34 First, Jesus was thirsty. Now his disciples are worried about him being hungry. Why all this emphasis on Jesus’ thirst and hunger when, I assume, the point of the passage is our spiritual thirst and hunger?
4:32 What food did Jesus have that the disciples did not know?
4:33 So often it seems that the disciples simply do not get it.  Like the Samaritan woman, they think too literally and concretely.
4:34 What does Jesus mean? What spiritual food nourishes you?
4:35-38 These verses sound a bit apocalyptic.  What does it mean to enter into another person’s labor?
4:35 Was Jesus quoting an aphorism?
4:36 Who is the sower and who is the reaper? Can’t one person both sow and reap?
4:37 I wonder where got this saying.
4:38 Who are the others who have labored?
4:39 So the woman was a witness and evangelist! The Samaritans of her village believed because of her testimony, not because of what they say Jesus do or heard him say.
4:40 Why do you suppose Jesus stayed, depending on your perspective, as long as two days, or as little as two days? Is there any significance to the number two?  Where do you think he stayed?  Do you think the disciples also stayed? I wonder who Jesus stayed with.
4:41 So some did believe because of his word and some believed because of the woman’s testimony.  What was Jesus word?
4:42 Is this not what all teachers and preachers long to hear?  What is the difference between secondary and primary faith, and a primary and secondary witness?

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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