Sunday, May 7, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the Seventh 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 1:6-14
Will you handle this Reading differently depending on whether or not your community observed and celebrated Ascension Day last Thursday?
1:6 Who are the “they” who has come together? What do they mean by “restore the kingdom of Israel”?
1:7 When will those who predict or claim to know when Christ will return learn not to?
1:8 Do you have power?  Has the Holy Spirit come upon you? Note the progression from the local to the global. How shall we interpret this if humans ever colonize Mars?
1:9 In the NRSV the action is in the passive.  Must we read “lifted up” as a physical reference?  In English, we occasionally say we “lift up” things without physically touching them or physically moving them.  What might the cloud symbolize? Do not forget the what is “up” in Jerusalem is “down” on the opposite side of the earth.
1:10 Were the two who were wearing white robes really men?
1:11 I think this is a good question.
1:12 Is the mount of Olives really a sabbath day’s journey from Jerusalem?  What is a sabbath day’s journey? How far is it?
1:13 Were they staying and eating in the same upstairs room? What is the significance of the naming? How many are named. Who is not named?
1:14 Might “constantly” be hyperbole? Who might the other women, in addition to Mary, have been Why are they and Jesus’s brothers not named?  Who were Jesus “brothers”? Were they biological brothers? How many were there?
1:13-14 That eleven men are named, but only one woman, in my mind makes this a sexist and patriarchal passage.  What would your reaction be if the passage read, “When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs were they were staying.  All of them were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, Martha, and Salome, as well as his brothers.”?

PSALM 68:1-10, 32-35
68:1 Is this Psalm paired with the First Reading only because of the “Let God rise up” language? What does it mean for God to rise up?
68:2 This makes God sound like a hot wind.
68:3 Do we ever act like the righteous?
68:4 Now we have “cloud” imagery to pair with the First Reading. This verse could be adapted for use as a Call to Worship.
            One: The Lord be with you.
            All:   And also with you.
            One: Sing to God.
            All:   Sing praises to God’s name.
            One: Lift up a song to the LORD who rides upon the clouds.
            All:   Be exultant before the LORD.
            One: Let us worship God
68:5 Where is God’s holy habitation?
68:6 Was Israel once desolate and a prisoner? Whom is the Psalmist talking about?
68:7 This sure sounds like a reference to the Exodus? How do you handle the “Selah” if at all?
68:8 When was the last time you heard someone begin a prayer with the address “God of Sinai”?
68:9 What is God’s heritage?
68:10 Was God’s flock needy?
68:32 Not only Israel but “kingdoms of the earth” are called to sing praises to God. This verse could also be adapted, and or combined with 68:4 for use as a Call to Worship.  Try writing your own inclusive Call to Worship using this verse. Note another Selah.
68:33-34 Here we have “rider in the heavens” and “skies” language to add to the “rise up” language of 68:1 and the “cloud” imagery of verse 68:4. When was the last time you heard God addressed as “O Rider in the Heavens?”
68:34 Here we find more sky imagery, leading me to wonder about what spiritual vacuum reports of UFOs and aliens might be filling.
68:35 My God is “awesome”!  How do you understand this affirmation?  What does it mean to be “awesome”? This verse offers more imagery and language for a Call to Worship.

1 PETER 4:12-14; 5:6-11
4:12 What is meant by ‘the fiery ordeal”?  Shall we read this any differently in light of the Holocaust/Shoah or even Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
4:13 “Rejoice”?  Really?  Is this supposed to a pep talk? Christ was not burned at the stake so how does experiencing a fiery ordeal equate with sharing Christ’s Sufferings?
4:14 I find this verse easier to take than the one before it. Have you ever been reviled for the name of Christ? I am wonder why “spirit of glory” is not capitalized but “Spirit of God” is capitalized.
5:6 What does it mean to humble oneself under the mighty hand of God? We usually exult God. Why would God exult us?
5:7 What might a Psychiatrist say about this verse?
5:8 In other words, “Pay attention.  There be Lions” and tigers, and bears, oh my! Revelation refers to Christ as the Lion of Judah. How do we reconcile the lion image as a biblical image for both Christ and the devil?  I wonder what Simba, or Aslan, might have to say this verse.
5:9 Might “all the world” be a hyperbole? Was persecution really that widespread?
5:10 Now I hear a word of hope rather than resignation but I wonder long “a little while” might be?  I like the “restore, strengthen, and establish” language and would consider using it as a Blessing or Benediction.
5:11 What function does this verse serve?

JOHN 17:1-11
17:1 What “words”? Worshipers might need to be reminded what preceded this passage. Can we still think of heaven as being up? What “hour” is Jesus referring to?  Is there a Quid pro quo here?
17:2 Did Jesus really refer to himself in the third person?
17:3 I like this image of eternal life more than eternal habitation on clouds playing harps or residing in the New Jerusalem: it is a state of mind or spirit rather than a place.
17:4 What work was Jesus given to do and how did he finish it?
17:5 Jesus had glory in God’s presence before the world existed?  Oh, that is right.  I forgot.  This is the Gospel According to John. See John’s prologue, John 1:1-18.
17:6 How could Jesus make known God’s name when Jews would not pronounce God’s name?
17:7-8 I think Jesus is attributing more knowledge and understanding to his followers than they really possessed at the time, or now.
17:9 Why the distinction between Jesus’ followers and the world?
17:10 How has Jesus been glorified in others?
17:11 If Jesus is no longer in the world but still coming to God, then where is he? What name has God given to Jesus?  How can those for whom Jesus prays in any sense of the word be “one” as Jesus and “his Father” are one?

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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