Sunday, September 17, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 21 (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 17:1-7
17:1 Where was the wilderness of Sin?  I wonder how worshipers hear the name of the location. What does it mean to journey by stages?  Did the LORD command them to journey, or did the LORD command them to journey by stages? Why would anyone camp at a place where there was no water?
17:2 How many times have the people quarreled with Moses?  How is quarrelling with Moses the same as testing the LORD?
17:3 Were the people questioning Moses’ motivation or leadership and judgment?
17:4 How many pastors, how many times, have similarly cried out? Was Moses more concerned about the welfare of the people or his own hide?
17:5 Apparently Moses served in a multi staff congregation!  I want to know more about this staff.  Where might it be now? Why am I thinking of Gandalf and his staff?
17:6 How would Moses recognize the LORD standing on the rock? Was this a well-known rock or a rock with a known well?  What do you know about Horeb? Were the elders there to serve as witnesses?
17:7 “Is the LORD among us or not” seems to be the question of the day.  Why do we never see churches with names like “The Massah …” or “The Meribah (put your denomination here) Church”? Why is quarreling and the grumbling, rather than the water from the rock, remembered by the naming?

PSALM 78:1-4, 12-16
78:1 Who speaking here?
78:2 Apparently someone was teaching in parables centuries before Jesus.  I love the phrase “dark sayings from of old.”  It reminds me of literature such as Beowulf and the Legend of King Arthur as well as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  I imagine the whole congregation of Israel gathered around a blazing fire while camped for the night, telling stories from the past as well as re-hashing the day’s events.
78:3 I sometimes wonder what dark sayings from of old have been lost from the oral tradition. How does preaching contribute to the oral tradition?
78:4 Why would anyone want to hide such things from their children? Were they ashamed of their past? What are the glorious deeds of the LORD? What wonders has the LORD done?
78:12 In the sight of whose ancestors? Where is Zoan?
78:13-16 Are these the only glorious deeds of the LORD and the only wonders God has done. What is not mentioned?
78:15-16 Do these two verses talk about the same thing?

PHILIPPIANS 3:4b-14
2:1 Why “if?”
2:2 Are we to assume Paul’s joy was not complete?
2:3 Can’t selfish ambition sometimes be a great motivator?
2:4 This seems to run against most current practices. The first question people often seem to ask is “what is in it for me?”
2:5 Based on this verse, are we then to think and act in accordance with Philippians 2:6-8?
2:6 How would one exploit equality with God?
2:7 Are “likeness” and “form” synonyms?
2:8 Obedient to who or what?
2:9 Was “Jesus” above every name before it was given to Christ, or was it elevated above every name because of Christ’s obedience?
2:10 Whose knees are under the earth?
2:11 Is “Jesus Christ is Lord” not the most basic confession of the Christian faith?
2:12 How have the Philippians “obeyed” Paul? How do we work out our own salvation? What is meant by fear and trembling?
2:13 Or? What is the meaning and function of this verse?

MATTHEW 21:23-32
21:23 Is this a legitimate question?  What is the answer?
21:24 Is Jesus engaging in a tit for tat?
21:25-27 It seems the chief priests and elders choose to not speak the truth but rather the most politically advantageous answer. Does this behavior remind you of any person or persons in our day?
21:27 Did the chief priests and elders really know but were not willing to answer, or did they really not know? What is the difference between not knowing the truth and not speaking the truth?
21:28 What is the symbolism of the vineyard? Whom might the two sons represent?
21:28-32 Whom is Jesus addressing? How does this parable logically follow from what precedes it? Is this a parable or an analogy?
21:31 Touché!  Maybe the tax collectors and prostitutes will go into the kingdom ahead of the chief priests and elders, but perhaps the elders and chief priests will still go in. Is this another reversal parable, similar to the Gospel Reading from last week?
21:32 And the lesson is? Where do you find yourself in the parable?

ADDENDUM
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.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 20 (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 16:2-15
16:2 Why might Pastor’s sometimes feel like Moses and Aaron?  How do we complain and what do we complain about?
16:3 What is a “fleshpot?” Why would the Israelites have preferred to die in slavery in Egypt rather than in freedom in the wilderness?
16:4 How is God sending bread to a hungry people a test?  What exactly and specifically are God’s instructions?
16:5 Why is twice as much provided and gathered on the sixth day?
16:6 In 16:4 the Lord spoke to Moses, but here both Moses and Aaron speak to the Israelites. What is so special about the evening?
16:7 How will the people see the glory of the Lord in the morning? What is “the glory of the Lord”? Were the people complaining against the Lord or against Moses and Aaron?
16:8 The Lord has promised bread but not said anything about meat. Is this verse an expanded reiteration of the verse preceding it?
16:9 Was Aaron only Moses’ spokesperson? What does it mean to draw near to the Lord?
16:10 If the people were already in the wilderness, how could they look “toward” the wilderness?  What and where is your wilderness?
16:11 This has to be one of the shortest verses in the Hebrew Scriptures.
16:12 How shall eating meat and bread convince people that the Lord is their God? Where is the meat coming from?
16:13 Here comes the aforementioned meat. Have you ever eaten a quail?  I have. Quail is delicious but not very satisfying if you are particularly hungry.
16:14 What is this fine flakey substance called?
16:15 How can a fine flaky substance be considered bread?

PSALM 105:1-6, 37-45, 45b
105:1 What is the LORD’s name?  How can one call on the LORD’s name when one is not permitted to pronounce the LORD’s name? What are the LORD’s deeds? Who are the “peoples?”
105:2 What are the LORD’s wonderful works? Are the wonderful works the same as the deeds?
105:3 How do we glory in God’s name?
105:4 Is the LORD’s strength the same as the Lord’s presence?  Does presence bring strength?
105:5 This is the second time wonderful works are mentioned.  Are the wonderful works the same as miracles and judgments?  Is this just a feature of Hebrew poetry or is something else going here.
105:6 Why are offspring always the offspring of only men? The Hebrew Scriptures often mentioned the descendants of Abraham and Jacob, skipping over Isaac. Why?
105:37 What does the silver and gold refer to?
105:38 If Egypt was glad, why did the Egyptian army pursue the fleeing Israelites?
105:39 So the cloud was not only a sign of God’s presence but also camouflage for the Israelites?
105:40 Did the people ask or complain?
105:41 What does this verse reference?
105:42 What was the holy promise? Could the LORD possibly forget that promise?
105:43 Can we had complaining and grumbling to joy and singing?
105:44 So the LORD’s people were given what was not theirs?
105:45 Had the LORD bribed the Israelites?

PHILIPPIANS 1:21-30
1:21 How can dying be gain?
1:22 What does Paul mean by flesh?
1:23 What preferences is Paul internally debating?
1:24 Whose remaining in the flesh, Paul’s or the Philippians’?
1:25 What is Paul convinced of?
1:26 Were the Philippians boasting?
1:27 What is a life worthy of the gospel? How does one stand firm? What does Paul mean by one spirit?
1:28 Who were the opponents? What evidence is Paul referring to?
1:29 Does believing always go hand in hand with suffering?
1:30 What struggle did the Philippians and Paul share?

MATTHEW 20:1-16
20:1 This is a kingdom parable.
20:2 What is the usual daily wage?
20:3 Why were these others standing idle in the marketplace?
20:4 What wage would be right?
20:5-7 It seems the landowner goes out about every two or three hours. Why were these people not around earlier in the day? Why did the landowner night hire more workers the first time?
20:8 Who is the landowner and who is the manager? The last shall be first and the first last – this is the only way this parable works. Where else in the Gospels can we find this sort of reversal?
20:9 Why did those who worked only a few hours receive the usual daily wage?
20:10 Why did those hired earlier and who worked longer expect to be paid more than the usual daily wage?
20:11 Where else in today’s Readings have we heard about grumbling?
20:12 I can sympathize with the sentiment.
20:13 This is true but it still seems unfair.
20:14 Why did the landowner choose to do this?
20:15 Are these more than rhetorical questions?
20:16 What is the meaning of this?

ADDENDUM
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.