Monday, August 21, 2017

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 Pastor of the Bethlehem United Presbyterian Church, Wheeling, WV. Sunday Worship at Bethlehem begins at 10:45 AM. Here is Bethlehem United's Facebook address:

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