Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the Fifth Sunday of 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.

ACTS 7:55-60
7:55 This verse offers us the opportunity to enter into all sort of speculation about the Holy Spirit.  For instance, what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to gaze into heaven? Furthermore, do people need to be reminded that “right hand of God” symbolizes; not the absolute superiority of right handedness and right handed persons?
7:56 What purpose, if any, does this verse serve?

7:57 Is this a literal or a figurative covering of ears? Who rushed against Stephen and why?
7:58 If we knew nothing about the rest of the story, would we even notice that a young man is named?  Note that this young man casts no stones. I wonder how young this man was. Why was Stephen stoned outside of the city rather than in it?  What city are we talking about?
7:59 This is certainly the prayer of a martyr.  Is this not also the prayer of anyone near death? Is it not the prayer of all Christians? Is there a difference between praying to Jesus and praying in the name of Jesus?
7:60 What does the mention that Stephen “cried out in a loud voice” remind you of?  Take a look at Luke 23:46.  Compare the conclusion of Acts 7:60 with the conclusion of Luke 23:46. What do these similarities say about Stephen?

PSALM 31:1-5, 15-16
By the Lectionary pairing this Psalm with Acts 7:55-60, are we to read this Psalm as a commentary on what else might have been going through Stephen’s mind but not recounted in the Acts passage?
31:1 What is “refuge”? The most contemporary example I can think of is a “wildlife refuge”. When I visit National Wildlife Refuges I am reminded how quiet and serene a refuge can be.

31:2 Does the “Incline your ear” make this a petition?  How can a rock be a refuge?  Is there such thing as a weak fortress?
31:3 Rock/fortress and lead/guide seem to be poetic constructions.  
31:4 What is the imagery here?  How can one be taken out of a net if the net is still hidden?
31:5 Does this verse sound familiar? Where else are we used to hearing it? Consider this verse in conversation with my comments regarding Acts 7:60.
31:15 I consider the first line the ultimate confession of faith and trust.
31:16 What does it mean for God’s face to ‘shine” on a person? Has God’s face ever shone upon you?

1 PETER 2:2-10
2:2 What is a “babe in Christ”? What is the pure, spiritual milk of which Peter speaks? Does there come a time when we outgrow spiritual milk and need to move on to more solid spiritual food?
2:3 Is this a reference to the Eucharist, more than the Eucharis, or something else altogether?

2:4 How can a stone live?  Come to think of it, I do remember one episode in the original Star Trek series where stones were living. To what might “rejected by mortals” allude or refer?
2:5 How can we be built into a spiritual house?  Is there such a thing as an unholy priesthood?  What sort of sacrifice is spiritual?
2:6-8 Is this proof texting or the imaginative play and interplay of biblical images from several sources? Is Peter engaging in anything like midrash?
2:9-10 These are two of my favorite verses of Scripture. Where Does Peter get these images? What mighty acts might Peter have in mind?  From where does Peter draw his words in 2:10? Was Peter addressing all Christians or Jewish Christians in Jerusalem?

JOHN 14:1-14
14:1-7 I have probably read these verses at more Services of Witness to the Resurrection than at Services for the Lord’s Day. Maybe it is time we hear them in a context other than one related to death. How has your heart been troubled?
14:2 Is Jesus talking about the Temple, or something else? What do you make of there being “many dwelling places” in God’s house? In what sense does our dwelling place need to be prepared?

14:3 What does it mean for Jesus to take us to himself? Why does Jesus want us with him?
14:4 Early followers of Jesus were known as followers of the way before they were known as Christians. Maybe we can think of Jesus as a spiritual GPS.
14:5 Is it ironic that Thomas is the one to speak?
14:6 Here is one more of the “I am” sayings” found in John.  How do Universalists deal with this passage?
14:7 Because of Christ, can Christians see God without fear of being struck dead?
14:8 How can Philip say this after what Jesus says in the previous verse?  Is Philip dense?
14:9 Apparently Jesus thought the same way about Philip as I do. Philip was dense! Is there any significance to this exchange involving Philip?
14:10 What does it mean for the Father to dwell in Christ?
14:11 Do we take Jesus at his word or do we need works? What works does Jesus have in mind?
14:12 This formulaic phrase, “Very truly, I tell you”  (Αμήν Αμήν λέγώ ύμίν in Greek) is found 25 times in John’s Gospel and nowhere else in the Bible.  What do you make of this fact? What works could be greater than the works of Christ?
14:13 Whatever?  Really?  I want to win a major lottery prize, even though I do not play the lottery.
14:14 What does it mean to ask in Jesus’ name? 

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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