Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 19 (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.

EXODUS 14:19-31
14:19 Are the “angel of God” and the “pillar of cloud” one and the same or are they different manifestations of the same reality?
14:20 What is the meaning of “army”?  How could fleeing slaves have an army in the military sense of the word?  How could the cloud light up the night?  What did not come near the other?
14:21 How might we variously understand the action of Moses stretching his hand over the sea?  What, if any, is the significance of the wind? If God was acting here, why did Moses need to do anything? Might the causeway at Lindisfarne, off the eastern coast of England, in any way help us envision how God might have been working here?
14:22 How might we variously understand “wall?”
14:23 Why do chariot drivers driving chariots not like mud?
14:24 When is the morning watch? Why did the Egyptian army panic? Are the pillar of fire and pillar of cloud one and the same?
14:25 Why did Captain Kirk, in a damaged Enterprise, enter a nebula when Kahn, in a perfectly functioning starship, sought to engage him in battle?
14:26 What is it about the hand off Moses? Why does God need to work through the hand of Moses?
14:27 When did the water’s part and when did the water’s return?  How might we variously understand “tossed?”
14:28 Does this verse conflict with the one before it?
14:29 Is this merely a restatement of 14:22?
14:30 How did the Egyptians end up on the seashore?
14:31 If it was the LORD that saved Israel, why did Israel “fear” the LORD and believe in Moses as well as in the LORD?

114:1 When did Israel go out from Egypt? Why do we have a comment about strange language?
114:2 Are the references to “Judah” and “Israel” a reference to places, a people, or both? God needed a sanctuary?
114:3 Does this verse conflate two events? What does “Jordan turned back” mean or refer to?
114:4 How do mountains and hills “skip?”
114:5-6 Why are bodies of waters being compared, or poetically paired, to mountains and hills?
114:7 Is this a reference to the God of the earthquake?
114:8 When did God turn rock into a pool of water and flint into a spring of water?

EXODUS 15:1b-11, 20-21
15:1b Yes, there are other psalms or songs in the Bible other than in the Book of Psalms.  Who first sang this one?  This is an alternative to Psalm 114.  Which of the two, if either, will you use, and why?  How are they different and how are they similar?
15:2 This sounds like a statement of faith.
15:3 Must we maintain this militaristic image of God?
15:4 Why, in the NRSV, does this begin with quotation marks?
15:5 See Psalm 114:8.
15:6 What is the significance of the LORD’s “right hand?”
15:7 Note that the text states these were the LORD’s adversaries, not the Israelites’ adversaries.
15:8 God has nostrils?  The parting of the waters was the result of God sneezing?
15:9 So much for the boasts of the enemy!
15:10 Did the LORD blow wind from the nose or mouth?
15:11 And the answer to the questions asked in this verse is? Who or what are the “gods?”
15:20 Note that Miriam is called a prophet!  Why is she identified as Aaron’s sister rather than as the sister of both Aaron and Moses?  When was the last time you heard a tambourine played in a service of worship? When was the last time you saw dancing or you yourself danced in a service of worship?
15:21 This last line sounds like a refrain; a restatement of 15:1b.

ROMANS 14:1-12
14:1 What does it mean to be “weak in faith?” Who were/are the weak in faith and how can they be welcomed?
14:2 Are vegetarians weak?
14:3 Is Paul writing about only diets?
14:4 Who are “servants of another” and who is the “another”? How does this passage inform Church discipline?
14:5 Is Paul talking about the Sabbath and/or the Lord’s Day (Saturday and Sunday), or what?
14:6 Is Paul writing about fasting? Do you know the meaning of the word “adiaphora,” especially as Calvin used it?
14:7-9 These verses are often used as part of the liturgy for the Service of Witness to the Resurrection and I myself have spoken these words numerous times graveside.  What do they have to do, however, with what precedes or follows?
14:10 I think this is more than a rhetorical question.
14:11 Where is this written? What does quote have to do with the topic at hand?
14:12 Each of us will be accountable, but accountable based on what?

MATTHEW 18:21-35
18:21 Why might the word “church” seem out of place here?  How might we account for it being used here?  Is there anything special about the number “seven” in this context? Do you think Peter was really looking for an answer or just seeking justification of his own views and practice?
18:22 Is there anything special about “seventy-seven”?  Are there parallels to this passage in the other Gospels, and if so, how do they agree and disagree?
18:23-35 Is this a “Kingdom Parable?” If this passage is not about wealth, then what is it about?
18:24 What is the current value of ten thousand talents?
18:25 I guess there were no bankruptcy provisions back then, only debtor’s prison.
18:26 Was does falling on knees signify?
18:27 Must forgiveness proceed from pity?
18:28 What is the current value of a hundred denarii? How does the value of a hundred denarii compare to the value of ten thousand talents?
18:29 Note that this is nearly verbatim of Matthew 18:26.
18:30 So much for paying it forward!
18:31 Communities have their standards and expectations.
18:32 That is indeed the case.
18:33 And what is the answer to this rhetorical question?
18:34 How can the master hold his slave accountable for a debt he has already forgiven? Is torture worse than imprisonment?
18:35 Is this a threat?  Does this verse suggest that forgiveness, even salvation, is revocable? Will God hand the unforgiving over to be tortured?

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.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 18 (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.

EXODUS 12:1-14
12:1 God now speaks to both Moses and Aaron.  What about Mariam?
12:2 What month?  I think Israel recognized at least two calendars, one civil/religious and the other agricultural. How many ways do contemporary Christians tell and mark time?
12:3 Why a lamb?
12:4 How many people does it take to eat a lamb?
12:5 Why without blemish? From the sheep or the goats?
12:6 Why keep it four days? Or was it kept only three days if it was slaughtered at twilight?
12:7 I wonder what was done with the blood that was not put on the doorposts and lintel. What about the doorposts and lintel of a family partaking in another house?
12:8 Why unleavened bread and bitter herbs?
12:9 I can understand the prohibition about not eating any raw lamb but why not boiled? Why roasted whole? Is it sanitary to roast it whole?
12:10 Do not let anything remain until the morning!  But if anything does remain until the morning, burn it. Why?
12:11 This sounds like the original fast food. But it takes a while to roast a lamb and then burn the remains.
12:12 What is the irony here?  Why is judgment executed on the gods of Egypt rather than upon Pharaoh? Why are creatures other than humans affected?
12:13 Is the blood a sign for the whole congregation of Israel or a sign for God? Are creatures other than humans also saved by the LORD passing over?
12:14 Do “day of remembrance,” “a festival,” and, “a perpetual ordinance” all mean the same thing?

149:1 What is a “new song” and what is the difference between a “new song” and any other sort of song? How shall PC(USA) Presbyterians, introducing the new hymnal Glory To God, read this passage? When is a song no longer new?
149:2 Is there any difference between “Israel” and “the children of Zion” or is this just an expression of Hebrew poetry? How easily do Christians refer to the same thing(s) with different words? Does “King” refer to God or the earthly king?
149:3 When was the last time people worshiping in your congregation praised God’s name with dancing?  When was the last time you heard a tambourine (or a lyre) in worship?
149:4 I like the image of God taking pleasure in me.
149:5 Did people really sing for joy on their couches? What about couch potato worshipers watching Sunday morning preachers on TV?
149:6 I like the image of singing but not swashbuckling.
149:7 I do not like the way this Psalm has progressed from singing a new song of praise to using swords to execute vengeance and punishment.
149:8-9 I do not like the militaristic imagery as this is beginning to sound like the call a holy war. How shall we deal with this in light of the history of the Crusades and current so-called  radical Islamic terrorism?

ROMANS 13:8-14
13:8 Here is a solution to our personal and national debt!
13:9 Of all the commandments, even all the ten commandments, why are these four mentioned?
13:10 Can we forget the commandments as long as we love our neighbor?
13:8-10 See Matthew 19:18-19
13:11 What time is it? “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers” is logically a true statement unless there is no salvation. The future is always growing closer to the present no matter how far away the future may be. What does it mean to wake from sleep? Seep is often a metaphor referring to death. Is that how it is being used here?
13:12 What are the works of darkness?  What is the armor of light? Can the Dead Sea Scrolls help us as we interpret this passage?
13:12-13 Is the assumption that some types of behavior are more typically engaged in at night and refrained from during the day?
13:13 May we logically assume that “reveling and drunkenness, debauchery and licentiousness, quarreling and jealousy” are among (or all of) the works of darkness?
13:14 Is putting “on the Lord Jesus Christ” the antithesis of “gratifying desires of the flesh?” Is Paul alluding to baptism?

MATTHEW 18:15-20
18:15 How does someone “sin” against you? How might Family Systems Theory inform our interpretation and application of this verse?
18:16 What “word” are these “witnesses” confirming? Are the witnesses to be neutral?
18:17 What does it mean for church member to be “as a Gentile and a tax collector”? This is beginning to sound like a church disciplinary process.
18:18 Have we heard these words before, in another context? What is the meaning of binding and loosing?
18:19 Just two? Anything? Is this an example of hyperbole? What if two different groups of Christians agree in the group but each group takes the opposite position of the other group? What if three Christians agree on earth about something that two other Christians have agreed to oppose?
18:20 What does it mean to “gather in my name?” Two or three is a lot less than a minyan.

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.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Prayer for Texas

We often stand in awe before your creation, O God,
mesmerized by both its beauty and its power.
The wind and the rain that has engulfed Texas
reminds us of the ferocity of natural forces
as well as of our reliance upon you.
We pray for the victims of wind, rain, and flooding
along the Texas coast, especially the residents of Houston.
We pray for their safety and the safety of first responders.
In the midst of such natural disasters
help not refer to them  as “Acts of God,”
or see them as instruments of your judgment
upon those who are suffering from the storm,
or even your grace
shed upon those who escape while their neighbors don’t.
Rather, help us see them as weather events
that are part of the natural state of our living planet. Amen.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Buried In Foreign Soil Under a Foreign Flag

A Confederate veteran buried in Union soil with an American flag flying above his grave? I recently arrived early at an Ohio sister Presbyterian Church for a meeting. Since I was the first one there and the building was still locked, I walked across the country road in front of the sanctuary to a cemetery on the other side from where I had parked. While I had been to this church before, I had never taken the time to stroll through the nearby graveyard. I was surprised and perplexed by what I saw.

Under a bright sun set in a nearly cloudless sky on a warm August Sunday afternoon, I meandered among the tombstones and freshly mowed grass. As I slowly walked around, I was drawn by small American flags waving in the slight breeze – the ensigns inviting me to more closely examine the markers they were attached to. One Stars and Strips marked the grave of a Revolutionary War Veteran. Another identified the final resting place of a Veteran of the World War. I assumed the marker had been placed there before there had been a Second World War. Another signified a Veteran of Viet Nam.  Several were attached to markers denoting Union Soldiers.

As I examined a Union Soldier’s grave, one John Cole, whose tombstone had held up very well in spite of its years of being exposed to the elements, I noticed that he died in Martinsburg, Virginia on February 18, 1863 at the age of 20 years, 10 months, and 11 days. I quickly did the math and determined that if John had lived just four months and two more days before he died he would have died in Martinsburg, West Virginia rather than Martinsburg, Virginia, on Union soil rather than Confederate soil.

Another of those American flags waving in the breeze indicated a Confederate Veteran, but the tombstone was so deteriorated that I could not read a single word of its inscription, if it ever had one. Then, in light of the recent controversy over statues of confederate generals and politicians being removed from public spaces, I thought how ironic it was that the remains of this Confederate Veteran (presumably from Ohio, which seemed odd) was lying in a grave marked with the flag of a country and a government he had fought against. I shared my quandary with a friend who speculated that some well-meaning veteran’s organization quickly moved through the burial ground and placed United States flags on the graves bearing a veteran’s marker without noticing that this particular veteran was a veteran of the Confederate States of America, not the United States of America.

At the southern end of North Carolina’s Outer Banks on the island of Ocracoke is a small “British Cemetery”  where the bodies of several British Sailors, veterans of World War II, are interred, their bodies having washed up on Ocracoke after their ship had been sunk while defending the American coast. The United States eventually deeded that land to the British and a Union Jack now continually flies over the tombs of those British Soldiers, tombs in British, not American soil. Admittedly, the British were at that time, and have been ever since, our allies. Those sailors of a foreign nation died defending American (and therefore British) interests in a struggle against Nazism. If the bodies that had washed up on the beech been of German Sailors and had been buried there, I doubt the land would have been deeded to Germany or that a Nazi flag, or even a German flag would now be flying overhead.

What of this Confederate Veteran whose body lies buried in an Ohio Cemetery, Ohio having always been a “free state” of these United States of America? How might a Confederate Soldier feel, if a corpse were able to feel, not only being buried on foreign soil but lying underneath the flag of a nation and a government he fought against?

As more and more confederate monuments in public spaces come down, and they will come down, if they cannot be relocated to a museum where their history can be properly interpreted and set in context, and where they can no longer serve as threatening reminders of Jim Crow, a truly lost cause, and white racism and white supremacy, then perhaps they should all be buried in a mass grave on public land – land with a huge flag of the United States of America flying overhead.  The United States government can then deed that land not to a racist, treasonous, secessionist, no longer existing Confederacy but to the promise of and hope for a truly land of the free and home of the brave where all men and women “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Monday, August 21, 2017

More Hard Learned Backpacking Lessons

Me the first day in the Sods

Backpacking in the Snow
A year after the hard learned backpacking lessons of my first winter backpacking trip, I again headed out in winter. My second winter backpacking trip was to West Virginia’s Dolly Sods Wilderness just a year or two after it was designated a Wilderness. While farther south than Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail and the Laurel Ridge which it follows, where I had backpacked the previous winter, Dolly Sods is 1,500 to 2,000 feet higher and more exposed.  It is also more rugged and remote.
I had been to Dolly Sods a few months earlier in the previous early fall. Dave, my best friend and hiking buddy who had been one of the other two on the Laurel Highlands Trail trip, had not been there before but was up to the challenge.

Our ride dropped us off at a snow covered trail head. Other than the inch or two or snow on the ground, the weather conditions reminded me of the first day of our previous year’s trip. The sky was blue. The sun was shining. The air was crisp. Most importantly, the three to five day forecast for nearby Elkins, WV promised above normal temperatures and no precipitation.
Both Dave and I were more experienced and better outfitted than we were the year before. If we had any cotton with us it was probably only bandannas and maybe t-shirts. We both wore or carried wool, nylon shells, and down parkas. Since no trail shelters were available, we carried a four season REI Crestline Expedition A-frame mountaineering tent. Our only questionable gear choice was relying on a chemical heat tab stove for boiling water to rehydrate freeze dried meals as I had yet to invest in a liquid fuel, white gas stove.
Dave greeting the Sunrise at Lions Head
a day or two before the front moved in
The three to five day forecast generally held true. By our second day of backpacking around the Sods, all evidence of the previous snow had melted. On the third or fourth day we were hiking, the temperature must have been in the low to mid-sixties, and we were wearing short sleeved shirts. We perhaps would have worn shorts if we had them. We were certainly enjoying one of the best backpacking trips we had ever experienced, discovering plenty of water, finding excellent campsites, and enjoying beautiful views–until our fourth or fifth day, that is.
Here Comes the Cold, Sleet, Snow, and Wind
As we were heading toward our end of day destination, the Red Creek Campground, the only developed camping area anywhere near the Sods, the weather started deteriorating. Clouds moved in blocking the warming sunlight we had experienced the previous few days. The mid to low-sixties of the previous day had dropped into the mid to low-forties. A fine mist started falling, a fine mist that eventually changed over to sleet as the temperature continued to drop into the thirties. By the time we made it to the Red Creek Campground and pitched our tent in a flat grassy spot, the windblown sleet that was now falling at an angle had already accumulated into a thin layer of granular ice covering grass and rock alike.
In our tent and down bags, we were out of the elements and as snug as bugs in a rug. Using the small heat tab stove outside the tent but under the vestibule of the fly, we prepared a dinner of a Mountain House entree and Mountain House vegetables. Finishing up by the light of a candle lantern and our headlights, we turned in for the night, expecting to continue backpacking the following morning.
The wind picked up as we slept and started roaring only as it can on the Sods, unimpeded by tress or ridges. The sleet turned to snow but did not accumulate at any alarming rate. The temperature continued to drop, probably into the twenties or teens. What alerted us to the continuing deteriorating conditions was when a few steel skewer stakes were pulled from the soft, damp, unfrozen earth by the increasing force of the wind.
We donned our down parkas and headlights and stepped out into the bitter cold and fierce wind of the night to reinsert the stakes only to have then again pulled out with the next heavy gust of wind. Keeping the tent taunt and up seemed like a constant struggle.
Hunkering Down
The snow stopped falling by morning, and we found only an inch or two upon a thin layer of frozen sleet. The wind, however, had not died down. The moist earth had at least partially frozen so the steel skewer tent stakes were now holding, despite the wind.
Because of the wind and extremely cold temperature, we decided to hunker down for the day rather than risk frostbite or even hypothermia by backpacking in such conditions. Eventually, the three person tent, even though its stakes were holding, began to feel cramped with us and all our gear in it and we longed to stand up. We put put on our wool and down and walked to one of the two out houses in the campground where we could at least stand up. We soon learned, however, that staying in the tent in our sleeping bags was warmer than standing around in the outhouse, so we eventually moved back and forth until nightfall. As time wore on we started to think that if the weather did not improve, or if we did not manage to get down off the Sods and out of the weather, that we might not survive our second winter backpacking trip.
Bugging Out
By our second morning in Red Creek Campground the wind had died down, the sun was again shining, but the temperature was still bitter cold. We decided our best course of action was to call it a trip, break and pack up our camp, and backpack down and out of the Sods via the Forest Service road rather than following a trail. When we went to put on our boots, however, we discovered they were rock hard frozen, even the laces. I would later learn to put my boots inside a stuff sack and sleep with them inside my bag at night during cold weather to keep them freezing, but that lesson had not yet been learned.
As soon as we put on our boots, even though we were wearing liner and wool socks, both of us were feeling the cold. Our feet, especially our toes, were cold. After we started hiking we knew we would survive when we started worrying about frost bitten toes rather than surviving.
We had not been hiking along the snow covered road more than a few minutes when we saw a pickup truck driving away from us ahead of us. Dave a whistle he had hanging from a lanyard as loud as he could and we started waving our arms. We managed to flag down the driver, who turned around and came back toward us. We explained our predicament and he invited us into the back of the truck. We climbed in with our packs and snuggled up against the back of the cab to guard against the wind as he drove off the Sods and down to the warmer and dryer valley below.
When he dropped us off down in the valley at an establishment with a pay phone, I called our ride to come and pick us up. While there had been little snow in the valley to the east of Dolly Sods, there were several inches of the white stuff on the ground when we arrived in Elkins, to the west of Dolly Sods.
Looking back, I wish we had been carrying a white gas stove with a windscreen rather than the chemical heat tab stove. I would soon invest in an Optimus 8-R that would serve me for years and trips to come. I also wish we had even a few longer, plastic snow stakes that would have held well in the moist, soft ground rather than pulling out when the wind started howling. I would soon invest is some and successfully use them while winter camping the following winter in the White Mountains. I also wish I had had Super Gaiters to help keep my feet warm, another eventual purchase that served me well in the Whites. Otherwise, all my gear performed well.
I have enjoyed several winter backpacking trips and even a two week winter base camp experience since, but none nearly as harrowing or uncomfortable as my first two winter backpacking experiences. Apparently I learned enough from those first winter backpacking trips to make me safer and more comfortable in spite of adversities such as rain, snow, sleet, hail, wind, and below freezing temperatures.

This post originally appeared on The Trek.

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 17 (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.

EXODUS 3:1-15
3:1 The Moses saga continues with last week’s infant Moses now a married, grown man.  What other great figures from the Jewish Scriptures spent their early life as a shepherd?  Is the fact that Moses’ father-in-law was a priest a foreshadowing of Moses future role? Where or what is Midian and is it significant? Why would Moses lead his flock beyond the wilderness where there be dragons or deities? Did Moses know he was near Horeb, the mountain of God, or is this description hindsight?
3:2 Note that in the NRSV it is “the”—not “an”—angel of the LORD.  Why do we usually refer to this as “the burning bush” rather than “the bush that was not consumed?” How often are angels and/or the LORD associated with fire?
3:3 Turn aside?  Where had Moses been looking before he looked at the bush?
3:4 What if Moses had never turned aside? Might we miss signs of God’s presence if we are not attentive, not turning aside to notice something out of the ordinary? How often in the Jewish Scriptures does God call a person’s name twice?  How many people in the Jewish Scriptures, and who, respond to God “Here I am.” If the angel of the LORD appeared to Moses from the midst of the bush, why did the LORD and not the angel call to Moses?
3:5 Why do some people remove their shoes and socks when standing on holy ground? Why do Christians not worship barefooted? I wonder how close to the bush Moses was when he was commanded to remove his sandals.
3:6 Who was Moses’ father?  Abraham?  Isaac?  Jacob?  Someone else?  Why are only men mentioned?  Can we be faithful to Scripture and include Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel as well as Zilpah and Bilha in this list? Why was Moses afraid to look at God?
3:7 What took God so long to respond?  How does God “know” their sufferings?
3:8 Where has God come down from and why did God need to come down at all?  What is a land flowing with milk and honey like? Is it not a problem that this land seems to be already inhabited by others?
3:9 How did the cry of the Israelites come to God?  How did God see?
3:10 So, God comes down (v. 7), but sends Moses!
3:11 A perfectly good question. 
3:12 It sounds like the confirmation will be after the fact?  It is like me telling you that you are an excellent Biblical scholar and you asking me how you can be sure that you are an excellent Biblical Scholar and me answering that you will know you are an excellent Biblical Scholar when you earn a Ph.D.
3:13 Why does Moses refer to “your ancestors” rather than “our ancestors”?  Why is knowing God’s name so important?
3:14 “I AM WHO I AM?” Why, in NRSV, does this appear in upper case letters?
3:15 It seems that the LORD is known more by past associations than name or title, nevertheless, exactly what is God’s name and title?  Is God’s name the same as God’s title?

PSALM 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b
105:1 In the NRSV, “LORD” is all upper case.  Therefore, what would be the “name” to call on?  What are the LORD’s deeds? Who are the peoples?
105:2 This is beginning to read like a couplet. Are Hymns in worship sung “about” God or “to” God? Are the LORD’s wonderful works the same as the LORD’s deeds?
105:3 How does one “Glory in” the LORD’s name when the LORD’s name is not pronounced? Does your heart rejoice?
105:4 How can we continuously seek God’s presence? Is the LORD not always present with us?
105:5 Are both “miracles” and “judgments” among the LORD’s works in 105:2?
105:6 Why is Isaac omitted?
105:23-26 Is this merely a retelling of part of salvation history or is something more going on here?
105:45b A budding psalmist can never go wrong ending a psalm this way. How often do we end up praising the LORD for something we at first was a curse?

ROMANS 12:9-21
12:9 How can love not be genuine?  Is “hating evil” the opposite of “holding fast to what is good?”
12:10 Is non-mutual affection better than no affection at all?
12:11 What is zeal? What does it mean to be ardent in spirit?
12:12 How does one persevere in prayer?
12:13 Is this a reference to any particular offering?  How long should hospitality to strangers last?
12:14 What does Paul mean by “bless”and”curse?”
12:15 Who were rejoicing and who were weeping?
12:16 What if we extended the admonition to “live in harmony with one another” to extend to other species?  Who are the lowly? I think Socrates would have liked this verse.
12:17 What is noble in the sight of all?
12:18 And what if by “all” we meant all living creation, not just other humans? What if it is not possible to live peaceably with all?
12:19 What is the “wrath of God”?  While Paul advises us to not avenge ourselves, what about state sanctioned punishment for crime? Where is it written that “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” and how often is it quoted out of context and misapplied?
12:20 Since when is food and water the same as burning coals?  Is this good statecraft and foreign policy?  What would H. Richard Niebuhr say about this? What sort of enemies does Paul have in mind?
12:21 Paul is sounding like Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.  Or maybe King and Gandhi learned their non-violent civil resistance from Paul!  Or Jesus?

MATTHEW 16:21-28
16:21 From what time on? Why did Jesus not show this earlier? What does it mean that he is “showing” and not “telling?”
16:22 Why did Peter take Jesus aside?  Why did Peter rebuke Jesus?
16:23 Did Jesus just refer to Peter as Satan?  What is the pun in referring to Peter as a stumbling block?  What is the human thing Peter was setting his mind on?  What was the divine thing Jesus wanted Peter to set his mind on?
16:24 What does it mean to “deny” oneself? Is there a difference between taking up Jesus’ cross and taking up one’s own cross?
16:25 What is the meaning of this?  Is this a paradox?
16:26 What is a life worth?
16:27 Who is “the Son of Man”?  Is Jesus applying this title to himself? Why this shift from moral admonition to apocalyptic language?
16:28 How shall we interpret this passage nearly twenty centuries after the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ?  What does it mean to “see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom?”   Can we read this as a reference to the Christian Pentecost of Acts rather than a second coming of Christ?

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.