Saturday, May 27, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the Day of Pentecost (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: With options for the First Reading, Second Reading, and Gospel, there are various permutations of Reading arrangements. If you use the Acts passage as the Frist Reading you would use the 1 Corinthians passage as the Second Reading.  If you use the Numbers passage for the First Reading you could use either the Acts reading or the 1 Corinthians passage as the Second Reading but I think the Acts passage would be the better choice. How will you decide which Gospel Reading to use?

ACTS 2:1-21
2:1 What was the day of Pentecost before the coming of the Holy Spirit?  Who are the “they?” Where might that “one place” have been?
2:2 What came; a sound like the rush of a mighty wind or an actual mighty wind? Does it matter? Where is heaven?
2:3 What is a divided tongue?  How does a tongue, even a tongue as of fire, rest on someone?
2:4 What does it mean to be “filled with the Holy Spirit”.  Rosetta Stone, eat your heart out!
2:5 What purpose does this verse serve?
2:6 Who is in the crowd? Where did the crowd gather? Have you ever been bewildered?  What bewilders you? Who was speaking?
2:7 Have you ever been amazed and astonished by a Christian spiritual experience? Who were asking the question?  What Galileans were speaking?
2:8 Is this a Gospel rhetorical question?
2:9-11 Lay readers, and even some clergy, hate reading these verses.  I think, however, that this list serves a very important theological purpose. Is there anything special about the areas listed, or the number of areas listed?
2:11 What are God’s deeds of power?
2:12 Earlier it was bewildered, amazed and astonished.  Now it is amazed and perplexed.  What does this mean? When was the last time you were perplexed by a Christian spiritual experience?
2:13 Who sneered?  Does this verse explain at all why most PCUSA Presbyterians shun offering fermented wine at communion?  Are most Presbyterians afraid of losing control and appearing to be filled with new wine?  Rather than being filled with new wine, or any wine, we are filled with grape juice, a nice, safe alternative void of all power and warmth, (like the Spirit in most of our congregations?).
2:14 Why was Peter always the first to open his mouth? Who was Peter addressing? Where only men of Judea in Jerusalem?  Where were the Judean women?
2:15 As if people are not drunk before 9:00 AM?  Some people are just coming home from all- night parties at that time.
2:16 One cannot go wrong by quoting from a Jewish prophet when your audience is filled with devout Jews.
2:17-21 Is this a case where a prophecy in the Hebrew Scriptures prefigures a later event, or where a prophecy is used as an apology for a later event?  Should we interpret these verses in light of Pentecost or only within their context within the Hebrew Scriptures?
2:17-18 Does the Pentecost experience place us in the last days?  Note the inclusive character of these verses.
2:19-20 What shall we make of these portents and signs?
2:20 What and when is “the Lord’s great and glorious day”?
2:21 What does it mean to call on the name of the lord?  Saved from what?

NUMBERS 11:24-30
11:24 What are “the words” of the Lord? Is there anything special about the number seventy?  Is there any story like this in the New Testament?
11:25 In the NRSV the Lord, not LORD, comes down.  Does this make any difference?  Why did the Lord take some of the spirit that was on Moses and put it on the seventy elders?  Was there not enough Spirit to go around so it had to be rationed?  What does it mean to prophesy? Why could they not prophesy again?
11:26-29 Why are these two men named when the seventy are not named?  Why might they have remained in the camp? What did it mean to be registered?
11:27 Was this a young filer of complaints, a tattle-tale, or bearer of good news?
11:28 Why did Joshua want to stop Eldad and Medad from prophesying? Did he perhaps feel threatened? In my mind this seems to disqualify Joshua as Moses’ successor?
11:29 Indeed, would that all.  We can only hope and pray that it be so. It seems Moses was not concerned about safeguarding his power or authority but was willing to share it and see the prophetic and Spirit empowered circle expand.
11:30 Is the prophesying of Medad and Eldad the reason Moses and the elders returned to the camp.  I want to know the rest of the story.

PSALM 104:24-34, 35b
104:24 How could this verse serve as an interpretive lens for Numbers 11:26-29? What are the works of the LORD?
104:25 The sea kayaker and sailor in me is nodding his head.
104:26 Was this verse Thomas Hobbes’ inspiration for the title of his political treatise? How do we deal with perhaps purely mythical beings when we encounter them in Scripture?
104:27-28 Ergo, all creatures depend upon the LORD.
104:29 What does it mean for God to hide God’s face? What shall we make of the connection between the withdrawal of breath and death?
104:30 I love the juxtaposition of 104:29 and 104:30, especially the imagery of breath/death and spirit/creation. How do these verses apply to the institutional church in light of Pentecost? What is the relation between breath and spirit?
104:31 Would the LORD not rejoice in the LORD’s works?
104:32 I think this verse is applying storm imagery to the LORD.  How does this inform our interpretation of Acts 2:2?
104:33-35b These concluding verses could be adapted to function as a Call to Worship. For example:
     One: The LORD be with you.
     All:   And also with you.
     One: We will sing to the LORD as long as we live.
     All:   We will sing praise to our God while we have being.
     One: May our meditation be pleasing the LORD,
     All:   for we rejoice in the LORD
     One: Bless the LORD, O my soul.
     All:   Praise the LORD!
     One: Let us worship the LORD!

1 CORINTHIANS 12:3b-13
12:3b Is this really true?
12:4-6 Why am I thinking of Isabel Briggs Myers and her book Gifts Differing? Why do we tend to reserve the reading of these verses for the Rite of Ordination? Are gifts, services, and activities synonyms?
12:7 Is every Christian given a manifestation of the Spirit?
12:8-10 Do you think that Paul meant for this list to be exhaustive?  What is your gift?  What service do you perform? What activity are you engaged in? What is your manifestation of the Spirit?
12:11 What does “activated” mean? Note that it is the Spirit that chooses.
12:12 How does this analogy or metaphor help us make sense of the Pentecost experience?
12:13 Do you think Paul meant for “Jews or Greeks, slaves or free” to be exhaustive?  What does it mean to be “made” to drink?  Do Christians have no choice in the matter?  What does it mean to “drink” of one Spirit?  Is this an allusion to the Eucharist?

JOHN 20:19-23
20:19-23 What day does this take place?  How does this passage inform our understanding of the Pentecost experience? Did we not read these verses on the Second Sunday of Easter?
20:19 What is the significance of Jesus’ words “Peace be with you.”?
20:20 Did the disciples not recognize Jesus until after he showed them his wounds?
20:21 Why might Jesus have repeated what he said? How did the Father send Jesus?
20:22 Did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit?  If so, was it Jesus words or his breathing on them, or both, that allowed them to receive it?  Is this the Johannine Pentecost? What is the relationship between breath and Spirit?
20:23 To whom was Jesus speaking? How shall we Protestants deal with this verse? How does this verse follow from what precedes it?

JOHN 7:37-39
7:37 And what festival would that be? In the Christian tradition, what is the difference between a feast day and a festival day, if any?
7:38 May only believers drink? What Scripture passage does Jesus quote and what is the original historical and literary context of that passage?
7:39 So Jesus had to be glorified before there was a Spirit?  Did the author of the Gospel know this at the time Jesus quoted scripture, or does this comment make sense only in hindsight? How does the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit help us understand this verse?


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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