Monday, July 3, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 9 (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.

GENESIS 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Even after skipping over some verses of chapter twenty-four, this is still the longest of the day’s Readings.
24:24 Who is speaking?
24:35-40 This sounds like things have turned out pretty well for Abraham and Sarah.  Almost sacrificed, Isaac is now of marrying age.  What to do? He cannot marry one of the locals, can he?  Do we find in these verses the roots of a prosperity Gospel?
24:35 How do we deal with the slavery issue?
24:36 Note that Abraham, not Sarah, is the master.
24:37 Abraham and Sarah consider the land they are living in to be a foreign land. Are Abraham and Sarah refugees, illegal aliens, settlers, invaders, or what? Why is it important that Isaac not marry a foreigner?
24:42-44 Do these verses remind you of any verses in the NT, John 4:1-42 perhaps?
24:42 What is it about springs? Is the LORD not also the God of the person speaking? Where slaves usually compelled to worship and serve the god of their master?
24:43 Must the woman be young?
24:44 What do you think if this almost divining, soothsaying, match-making method?
24:45 What does it mean to “speak in one’s heart”? How did the servant know Rebekah’s name?
24:46 Why was Rebekah so willing to serve a stranger?
24:47 Who are these people and why are they being named?  What is the significance of the ring and bracelets?
24:48 I wonder if there were any women in this village who were not Abraham’s kin.
24:49 Is the servant speaking to Rebekah, the LORD, or someone else? What is this turning to the right hand or the left language all about?
24:58 Who called? Can we consider this “The call of Rebekah?”
24:59 Why does Rebekah have a nurse?
24:60 Can we read this as the blessing of Rebekah? Is it mere coincidence that this apparent blessing almost perfectly dovetails with the LORD’s blessing of Abraham and Sarah?
24:61 Rebecca had maids as well as a nurse? I wonder how many maids accompanied Rebekah.  How does a nurse differ from a maid?
24:62 What do we know about these places?
24:63 Was Isaac expecting or watching for camels to appear?
24:64 Why did Rebekah slip from the camel when she saw Isaac?
24:65 Why was Rebekah not veiled until she was about to meet Isaac? How does this verse shed light on current debates about the hajib? I thought Abraham, not Isaac, was the slave’s master.
24:66 Have we just been told everything Isaac was told?
24:67 Why did Isaac take Rebekah into his mother’s tent rather than his own? Freud might have something to say about this verse. How did we get from the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah to the death of Sarah in just one verse?

PSALM 45:10-17
45:10-15 While these words were not originally addressed to Rebekah, they do seem to fit.  This reads like a liturgy from a royal wedding.  Have you ever used them or heard them used in a wedding liturgy?
45:10 What does it mean to incline one’s ear?
45:11 Is beauty all that matters? Is the Lord and bowing language just an example of the sexism of patriarchy?
45:12 Who are the people of Tyre?
45:13 Is every bride a princess? Was Rebekah a princess?
45:14 How have we gone from many colored, gold-woven robes to white wedding dresses?
45:15 Who is joyful and glad?
45:16-17 The psalm seemed to have been speaking to and of the Bride.  Now it seems to speaking to the Bridegroom/King.
45:16 What and where is the place of ancestors? Why are sons but not daughters mentioned?
45:17 Is male progeny the only way to be remembered?

Perhaps this alternate reading is suggested by the love mentioned in Genesis 24:67.
2:8-13 Can you hear these words perhaps coming from Rebekah’s mouth?  These are some of the most sensual passages in Scripture.  I think we do them disservice to spiritualize them and see them as anything less than biblical erotica.
2:8 Is there some poetic hyperbole here?
2:9 Why the plural “our”? It sounds like the beloved is a bit of a peeping Tom.
2:10 “Come away” to where and what for?
2:11 Why do we have this reference to the seasons and weather?
2:12-13 Do these verses suggest more than just natural fertility and human love?
2:12 Whose time of singing has come?
2:13 The ending lines sound like a refrain., See 2:10.

ROMANS 7:15-25a
7:15 Here are some Pauline verses I can finally fully identify with!
7:16 Why?
7:17 Does the devil make us do it?
7:18 I too, know this. What is the relation between flesh and will?
7:19 Sometimes even the good we think we are doing is corrupted and ends up being sinful.
7:20 I doubt if the “sin” defense would stand up in a court of law.
7:21 Is this just a play on words or 180° theological move?
7:22-23 What is the contrast being made between “inmost self” and “members”? How many “laws” are there?
7:22 Does “law of God” refer to the Ten Commandments or something else?
7:23 What members is Paul referring to? What is the relationship between members and mind?
7:24 Could we ever use this liturgically as part of a Confession of Sin or does it sound to antiquated? Does anyone even use the word “wretched” in common, every day speech anymore?
7:25 What does this phrase add to Paul’s argument? Why does Paul make this exclamation?

MATTHEW 13:1-9, 18-23
11:16 Why might I read this differently in my late 50’s than I would have in my early 30’s? What generation was Jesus speaking about?
11:17 Is this a quote? From what or where is Jesus quoting?
11:18 Why does John get dragged into this? Who said John had a demon?
11:19 How do those in the pews hear and understand “Son of Man”?  Who was saying such things about Jesus? What point is Jesus making by referring to Lady Wisdom and “Her” deeds?
11:18-19 It seems that prophets are damned if they don’t and damned if they do? 
11:25 What “things” have been hidden from some and revealed to others?  Who are the “wise and intelligent” and who are the “infants”?  Does the mention that the Lord of heaven and earth has “hidden” these things place this in the genre of apocalyptic literature or a mystery religion?
11:26 What was God’s gracious will?
11:27 It seems as though Jesus has gone from praying to proclaiming.
11:28-30 These verses seem to stand on their own.  Are they out of context?  Do they naturally and logically follow from what precedes them?  How might they add to our understanding of the previous verses? I think a whole sermon could be preached – a whole lesson developed – around these three verses.
11:28 What heavy burdens might Jesus have had in mind?
11:29 What is Christ’s yoke?
11:30 What is Christ’s burden? 

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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