Friday, April 7, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the Resurrection of the Lord / Easter (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.

PREFACE: There are several options regarding the Readings. If you use the Jeremiah 31:1-6 Reading then you would usually use the Acts 10:34 Reading rather than the Colossians 3:1-4 Reading. You may choose either John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10 as the Gospel Reading.

ACTS 10:34-43
10:34 What is the context of this passage? To whom is Peter speaking? What would it mean if God did show partiality?
10:35 What does “nation” refer to? Does it refer to political realities or ethnic groups? What does it mean to “fear” God? Is Peter referring to “God fearers?”
10:36-39 This reads like a brief synopsis of the life and ministry of Jesus.
10:36 What is this message?
10:37 This message began in Galilee. Where might it end?
10:38 What does it mean to be anointed with the Holy Spirit? What is the difference between being anointed with oil and being anointed with the Holy Spirit and power? Is not the Holy Spirit the same thing as power?
10:39 Why is Judea distinguished from Jerusalem? Why does Peter say Jesus was hung un a tree rather than a cross?
10:40 The Easter Proclamation!  Note that God raised Jesus. Jesus did not rise by his own power. How do you understand “allowed”?
10:41 What is the significance of eating and drinking with the resurrected Christ? How does this inform our practice and understanding of the Eucharist?
10:42 Who commanded “us”? What is the difference, if any, between preaching and testifying?
10:43 What “prophets” is Peter referring to?

31:1 At what time? How many families of Israel will there be “at that time”?
31:2 What sword and what wilderness?  Is this a reference to the Exodus or something else?
31:3 Who is “him”?  Who is “you”? It your Bible provides them, be sure to check the textural footnotes/apparatus.
31:4 How is Israel virgin? I would like to see this dance of the merrymakers.
31:4-5 Is something silently being contrasted here? Why all the “again”s? Samaria?
31:6 What do you know about the hill country of Ephraim?  Sentinels usually watch for invaders.  Why would sentinels call for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem?
31:1-6 I am struggling to determine why anyone would choose this reading over Acts 10:34-43.

PSALM 118:1-2, 19-29
118:1-2 We have a call and response here that could easily be used or adapted as a Call to Worship.
118:14 How shall Christians read “salvation” in the Hebrew Scriptures?
118:15 Is the Psalmist quoting a glad song of victory? Does our congregational singing sound like glad songs or more like funeral dirges?
118:15-16 Why do we never read about the left hand of the LORD?
118:17 What are the deeds of the LORD and how do we recount them?
118:18 What do you think was the nature of the Psalmist’s punishment? Can some punishments be worse than death?
118:19 What are, and where are, the gates of righteousness? Note that “gates” is plural, not singular!
118:20 I would love to know how you interpret this verse in light of verse 19. If there are many gates of the righteous, why is there only one gate of the LORD?
118:21 Note the shift from speaking of the LORD in the third person to speaking to the LORD in direct address.
118:22 Where and when will Christians hear this verse again?
118:23 What is the LORD’s doing? Why am I thinking of Billy Crystal?
118:24 What is the day the LORD has made?  How can we be glad in it? Like the first two verses, this verse could be used or adapted as a Call to Worship, perhaps combined with 118:1-2, such as:

           One: O Give thanks to the LORD, for the LORD is good;
           All:  the LORD’s steadfast love endures forever!
           One: Let Israel say,
           All:  God’s steadfast love endures forever.
           One: This is the day that the LORD has made;
           All:  let us rejoice and be glad in it.
           One: Let us worship the LORD our God!

3:1 Why the “So”? Why an “if/then” statement even though the “then” is implicit? Is this raising a reference to baptism or the final resurrection?  What are the things that are above?  Regarding the right hand of God, see Psalm 118:15-16.
3:2 Does it make any difference that the admonition refers to the mind rather than the heart? What does it mean to “Set your mind”? What things are above and what things are on the earth? How do we read this in light of a round earth?
3:3 How have we died? What does it mean that your life is hidden?
3:4 I thought Christ has already been revealed in the life and ministry of Jesus.  Must this, by necessity, refer to the final resurrection at the end of the age?

JOHN 20:1-18
20:1 What is the first day of the week?  What does it mean that it was still dark?  How did Mary see that the stone had been removed from the tomb if was still dark?
20:2 Let’s speculate about the identity of the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.  From the context, I think we can rule out Peter.  Whom might Mary have meant by “they”?  Why does Mary say, “we do not know”? If she was not alone, who was with her?
20:3 Do we ever set out and head toward the tomb?
20:4 Poor Peter the slowpoke, slow to run, quick to speak. Maybe he was not a faster runner because he was always sticking his foot in his mouth.
20:5 Why did the other disciple not go in?
20:6 Peter might be slow but he is not hesitant.
20:7 What is the significance to the wrapping from the head being folded and not with the other wrappings?  Why mention it if it is not significant?
20:8 I find it interesting that in reference to Peter, there is no mention of him believing.  In this passage, it is this “other disciple” that is the first to “believe,” but what did he believe?
20:9 Did the other disciple believe that Jesus had been raised, that the tomb was indeed empty, or that someone (they of verse 2) had taken the Lord out of the tomb? What is the difference between knowing and understanding the scripture? What scripture is being referred to?
20:10 This is a pretty anticlimactic verse.  I am glad the story does not end here.
20:11 Why did the disciples abandon Mary, leaving her all alone? Were they simply being typical men?  Why did Mary remain rather than departing with the two disciples? Why did Mary apparently not look into the tomb until the disciples had left?  Note that both Mary and the other disciple (John 20:5) had to bend over to look into the tomb?
20:12 How shall we moderns, or post-moderns, deal with angels when we encounter them in Scripture? Why had Peter and the other disciple not seen any angels?
20:13 Did the angels speak in unison? Apparently Mary is still convinced that someone has taken and moved the body of Jesus to another location.
20:14 How could, and why would, Mary not recognize Jesus?
20:15 Both Jesus and the Angels (John 20:13) address Mary in the same way and ask the same question, but Jesus asks even more than the angels asked.  Where else, when else, and who else has Jesus addressed as “Woman”? How could Mary confuse the risen Christ for the gardener?
20:16 After having first addressed her as “Woman”, Jesus now address Mary by name and she calls him “Rabbouni” rather than “gardener”. Does the risen Christ ever address us by name?
20:17 Why would Jesus say this?  Was Mary attempting to grab hold of him or had she already done so? What do you make of Jesus talking about not yet having ascended?  What is the meaning of “brothers”?  Why “I am ascending” rather than “I will ascend”? Must this have been written from a post ascension perspective?
20:18 Does this make Mary the first post resurrection witness? Preacher? Evangelist? Perhaps, in recognition of the role played by Mary, the first words of any Easter liturgy ought to be spoken by a woman!

MATTHEW 28:1-10
28:1 What is different in this account compared to John’s account?  How do we account for the differences?  Do the differences matter? Who was “the other Mary”?
28:2 I will repeat the same question as above.  Does the rolling away of the stone “cause” the earthquake?  Might the earthquake be symbolic of something else? Did the two Mary actually see the stone being rolled away?
28:3 What do we usually associate lightning and snow with?
28:4 Are there any other occurrences in Scripture where an angel caused so much fear that people acted dead?
28:5 When and where else have we heard an angel say “Do not be afraid”? Did the angel want the guards to be afraid?
28:6 Does seeing an empty tomb prove that Jesus was raised? If your Bible provides it, not the textual variant.
28:7 Why were the women not permitted to see the resurrected Jesus at the tomb?  Why did the disciples have to go to Galilee to see the resurrected Jesus? Why did the angel send this message through the Mary’s rather than also appearing before the disciples?
28:8 How often in your experience has fear been accompanied by great joy? Why are the two Mary fearful when the angel told them not to be afraid?
28:9 Note that here, unlike in John 20:17, the women are allowed to take hold of Jesus.  What is so special about “feet”? Had anyone in the Gospel, prior to this point, worshiped Jesus? Had anyone in this Gospel, prior to this, taken hold of Jesus’ feet?
28:10 Note that this time it is Jesus, not an angel, who says “Do not be afraid”?  What are we afraid of when it comes to Easter, Jesus, and the resurrection?

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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