Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 4th 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.

1 SAMUEL 16:1-13
16:1 How did the LORD speak to Samuel? The LORD calls the shots and chooses Kings, not Samuel.  What is a “horn” and what does it represent?
16:2 Who was more powerful and to be feared, Saul or Samuel? Where was this faux sacrifice to take place?
16:3 Why does the LORD keep focusing on Jesse rather than simply revealing the next king?
16:4 Why did the elders of Bethlehem tremble?
16:5 The Lord had instructed Samuel to invite Jesse but Jesse invites others as well.
16:1-5 I think there is some fascinating political intrigue being alluded to in these verses.  This sounds like nothing less than the makings of a coup d'état with the LORD as the main instigator and conspirator.
16:6 Why would Samuel have thought that Eliab was the LORD’s anointed?
16:7 Good advice for political parties as well as Pastor Nominating Committees, or any nominating committee. Outward appearance certainly influences people, as do credentials, but how does one judge another’s heart?
16:8 How did Samuel know that Abinidab was not the LORD’s chosen?
16:9 The narrative is starting to drag.
16:10 Apparently the author also thought the narrative was starting to drag. Do you see any symbolism in there being seven rejected sons? Why are only the three sons named? How much does Jesse know about what Samuel is doing?
16:11 Why was the youngest son the only son not present and presented? Note how this verse mentioning that David “is keeping the sheep” connects this reading to the Psalm, especially Psalm 23:1.
16:12 How does this verse read when juxtaposed with verse 16:7?
16:13 What do you make of the spirit of the LORD coming mightily upon David after Samuel anoints him? I wonder what ever happened to David’s older brothers.

What can one of the most popular passages in the Bible tell us today that we have not already heard before? How can we read and hear it in new and unexpected ways?  How much does the First Reading, 1 Samuel 16:1-13, influence and inform our  interpretation of this Psalm?
23:1 Does it serve any theological or homiletically purpose to point out that “The LORD” is not a reference to Jesus but to the LORD God?  How many Christians hear this Psalm as a Psalm about Jesus rather than a Psalm about God? The shepherd imagery seems to draw upon 1 Samuel 16:11.  How might the shepherd imagery be lost or diminished in modern and urban culture?
23:2 As a backpacker and hiker, I resonate with the imagery of green pastures and still waters.
23:3 What does it mean for a soul to be restored? What is a right path?
23:4 Do you prefer the “darkest valley” of the NRSV or the “valley of the shadow of death” of the KJV and RSV? Why do we associate dark places with evil?  What is the difference between a rod and a staff?  How can a rod and a staff protect?
23:5 How does it feel to walk into a room and find a table prepared for you?  Would you sit at a table in the presence of your enemies and dine? What does it mean to have one’s head anointed with oil and one’s cup overflowing? Can we really speak of overflowing cups when in the Eucharist we barely fill little plastic cups containing less than a shot glass?  Can we speak of being anointed with oil when most congregations rarely, if ever, practice it?  I argue for anointing with oil at the time of Baptism as well as the anointing with oil when laying on of hands associated with prayers for healing and wholeness.   If we practiced more anointing with oil, this popular Psalm might actually mean even more than it already does to some people. Does 1 Samuel 16:13 inform this verse?
23:6 Is there a difference between goodness and mercy or is this pairing just the nature of Hebraic poetry? What does it mean to dwell in the house of the LORD all one’s life?  Is “the house of the LORD” a reference and/or allusion to the Jerusalem Temple or something else?

5:8 Can we read this verse in juxtaposition with Psalm 23:4?  Are there any racial issues or attitudes influencing us when we read this verse? What does it mean to live as children of light? Does the Dead Sea War Scroll shed any light on this verse?
5:9 I love this verse.  This verse sounds like something Gandalf might say to Bilbo, or Frodo might say to Sam.
5:10 And how does one find out what is pleasing to the Lord?  Does Paul have a scavenger hunt in mind? Do we not already know what is pleasing to the Lord?
5:11 What are examples of the work of darkness? Can one expose works of darkness without shining light on them?  I am thinking of Christian muckrakers, whistleblowers, and gadflies.  Something about old fashioned photography with film helps me appreciate this verse more than does digital photography.
5:12 What secret things do you think Paul has in mind?  Is this a reference/allusion to mystery religions, or something else?  Let us not forget the rumors that were spread about cannibalistic Christian rites when non-Christians were dismissed from the Eucharist.
5:13 There is something to be said about transparency in all things.
5:14 What is the author of Ephesians quoting from?

JOHN 9:1-41
9:1-41 This is one really loonnngggg Reading?  Are you going to shorten it?  I think I will use only verses 1-12. There seems to be some relationship between blindness, sight, and sin.  The man born physically blind receives his physical sight, while the Pharisees, born able to see physically, are spiritually blind and refuse to have their third eye opened.  The man was not a sinner while the Pharisees are portrayed as sinners.  I think this is the nature of John’s Gospel, often teasing us with the interplay of the physical and the spiritual as it compares and contrasts the two realms.  This is pre-modern stuff.  There is no Cartesian mind/body split in John.  Both the spiritual and the physical seem to exist in the same sphere but operate on different plains of awareness.
9:1 Was Jesus, like Socrates, a peripatetic teacher?
9:2 What is wrong with this question? Why did the disciples think sin was the cause of the man’s blindness?
9:3 What is wrong with this answer? Are all people born blind born that way so that God’s works might be revealed in them? What about people born blind who never receive sight?
9:4 Who are the “We”? What night is coming? Consider juxtaposing this verse with Ephesians 5:8
9:5 Where is Jesus when he is not in the world? Is Jesus the illuminated word of God? Are all Christians called to be light in the world?
9:6 Why spit on the ground and make mud and put it on the man’s eyes?
9:7 Why was the man not healed until after he went and washed? What might John be saying here? What healed the man, the mud made with saliva, the water in the pool of Siloam, Jesus, the man’s faith and obedience, or something else?
9:8 Why was he not identified as a beggar before now?
9:9 “I am the man” sounds a lot like one of the “I am” sayings of Jesus in John’s Gospel.  Might this be intentional?
9:10 This is a legitimate question.
9:11 Is there any significance to the construction “the man called Jesus”?
9:12 How could this man knot know where Jesus is?  What might John be suggesting in this verse? Do you know where Jesus is and how to find him? Or does Jesus, in reality, find us?
9:13 Who brought the man to the Pharisees and why?
9:14 Oh no!  Not the Sabbath?  Surely there must be a law against spitting or making mud on the Sabbath!
9:15 Why is this man being interrogated?
9:16 Imagine that, religious authorities having a divided opinion!  Let’s put it to a vote, after all, the majority is always right.  Or can church councils sometimes ere? Note that Jesus can cause division.
9:17 A radical proposal - let the one whose life was changed have the final word. Do prophets usually heal? Has Jesus just been demoted from incarnate Word of God to a mere prophet?
9:18 I think some skepticism is a good thing, don’t you?
9:19 Can the parents legitimately answer the last question.  Read this verse in juxtaposition with the question asked in 9:2.
9:20 Here are the Facts.
9:21 What does it mean that “he was of age”?  Are the man’s parents passing the buck?
9:22 Let us not forget that most scholars agree that John is the latest of the four canonical Gospels, perhaps here reflecting the historical split between Judaism and Christianity.  What did it mean – what would it have meant – for a Jew to “be put out of the synagogue”?  The man had previously, in 9:17, proclaimed that Jesus was a prophet.  Did the man’s parents think that Jesus was the Messiah but were afraid to say so?
9:23 Is this echo of 9:21 for mere emphasis or is there something else going on here?
9:24 The Pharisees knew Jesus was a sinner. What do we know?
9:25 This man seems to be choosing his words carefully.
9:26 Has the answer not already been established?
9:27 Is this sarcasm or acerbic wit?  I think the Pharisees doth protest too much.
9:28 Is this the only reference in Scripture to “disciples of Moses”? Was the man really a disciple of Jesus?
9:29 But we know where he has come from, don’t we?
9:30 An astonishing application of logic and astonishing testimony from who is turning out to be an astonishing man.
9:31 Do we really know this? Is this true?
9:32 Is this a true statement?
9:33 Perhaps this is the key verse!
9:34 The typical response to questioning and challenging personal and institutional authority. Why the plural “sins” rather than the singular “sin”?
9:35 After thirty-four verses of narrative, “Son of Man” terminology is raised.  Why the change?  Here is the progression as I see it:
            9:1 Rabbi
            9:17 Prophet
            9:22 The Messiah
            9:33 Man from God
            9:35 Son of Man
9:36 How many people in the pew will also ask questions about “son of man” terminology?
9:37 Is this the first time in John that Jesus has identified himself as “the son of man”? Of course the man born blind would not have been able to literally see the “Son of Man” had Jesus not healed him of his blindness! May Jesus heal all of us of our spiritual blindness?
9:38 And another step in the progression listed in the comments for 9:35. Now we have “Lord” and a statement of, not blind, but seeing faith.
9:39 Where do we find ourselves in this verse.  Where does the institutional church usually, or sometimes, find itself?
9:40 And the answer to this question is?
9:41 Does spiritual blindness excuse sin?  Perhaps there is something to be said for spiritual blindness. Perhaps spiritual blindness absolves one of responsibility.  Being spiritually illuminated brings with it spiritual responsibility.

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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