Sunday, October 15, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 25 (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.

DEUTERONOMY 34:1-12
34:1-3 Why all the geographical references? Do we know today where all these places are?
34:4 Once again, the women are not mentioned. Why would God allow Moses to see this land, even show him this land, if he were not going to be allowed to enter it?
34:5 Did Moses die on Mount Nebo or on the plains of Moab?
34:6 We know the vicinity of where he was buried but not the actual place.  Why not?
34:7 Is there any sexual connotation here?
34:8 Why mourn thirty days?
34:9 Was Joshua ordained by Moses?  What is so special about the laying on of hands? Why? What do you know about Reiki and body work?
34:10 It was true then but is it still true today? The LORD may have known Moses face to face but did Moses know the LORD face to face?
34:11 What signs and wonders?
34:12 What mighty deeds and terrifying displays of power? Is this verse simply reiterating the preceding verse for emphasis and linguistic effect?

PSALM 90:1-6, 13-17
90:1 How can the Lord be a dwelling place?  What does it mean to dwell in the Lord?
90:2 God was God even before the big bang.
90:3 Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, or in a more modern cosmology, ashes to ashes, star-dust to star-dust.
90:4 I know this is metaphor, but do the metaphorical math.  1000years = 1 day. What is a watch in the night? What might Einstein say about this verse?
90:5 What does “them” refer to, to mortals or to 1000 years? How are dreams like grass renewed in the morning?
90:6 Is this a comment about the human lifespan?
90:13 Is the Psalmist asking the LORD to repent?
90:14 I think this verses harkens back to 90:5b.  As the grass is renewed in the morning, God’s steadfast love renews us daily.
90:15 How many days has the Psalmist’s community been afflicted? How many years have they seen evil?
90:16 Is the Psalmist asking the LORD to show some results?
90:17 What work?
90:1-6,13-17 Does this psalm reflect the pre-Exodus or post-Exodus period? God is timeless but we are not. May our labor, our work, not be in vain.

1 THESSALONIANS 2:1-8
2:1 Were some claiming that it was in vain?
2:2 Shame on those Philippians. What was the nature of the great opposition? What do we do with this “gospel of God” when we usually use the terminology “Gospel of Jesus Christ”?
2:3 Were some claiming that Paul and his companions were engaging in deceit, impure motives, or trickery? Are any contemporary religious leaders similarly accused, true or falsely?
2:4 Is this a biblical warrant for being faithful over being popular or successful?
2:5 I am hearing a refrain.  “As you know” here and “You yourselves know” in 2:1
2:6 What religious leader does not occasionally appreciate praise, especially during Clergy Appreciation Month?
2:7 What sort of demands?  What might the imagery of a “nurse tenderly caring for her own children” suggest?
2:8 How does Paul and his colleagues share their own selves?

MATTHEW 22:34-46
22:34 Is the Gospel writer playing on some rivalry here? What is the difference between Pharisees and Sadducees?
22:35 What is the meaning of “test”?
22:36 Was he asking about the Decalogue or the entire Levitical law code? Was this anything like a presbytery’s examination of a candidate seeking ordination?
22:37 What is Jesus quoting? Is this from The Shema?
22:38-39 If this is the first and greatest, how can there be anything like it?
22:39 What is Jesus quoting?
22:40 Why does Jesus add the prophets to the law?
22:41 This is becoming a dialogue.  Is this question also a test, a tit for tat? Is Jesus attempting to turn the tables?
22:42 Were not all male Jews “sons of David?”
22:43 Why does Jesus say “by the Spirit”?
22:44 What is Jesus quoting?
22:45 Jesus and I are still waiting for the Pharisees to answer. How would you answer the question?
22:46 As a practitioner of the Socratic Method, I think questions are good.  Sometimes the questions we ask are more important than any answer we might receive. Why would the Pharisees no longer ask Jesus and questions?

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, October 10, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 24 (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 33:12-23
33:12-23 How would you categorize the conversation between Mosses and the LORD?
33:12 Why does Moses think the LORD will send someone with him? It sounds like Moses is reminding the Lord of what the LORD has promised. Does the LORD need reminded?
33:13 Do you think Moses has found favor in the LORD’s sight? Have you found favor in the LORD’s sight? I find it interesting that Moses referes to the people as a nation when they do not have a homeland.
33:14 What is the LORD’s “presence?”  Is this the answer Moses was expecting?
33:15 Is Moses challenging The LORD or putting the LORD on notice?
33:16 Where is the LORD’s presence today? How is the LORD present today?
33:17 It seems Moses gets his way! What does it mean that the LORD knows the name of Moses? Does the LORD know your name?
33:18 What is the LORD’s “glory?”
33:19 Once again it seems like Moses is going to get what he asked for.
33:20 Why can no one look upon the face of the LORD and live? In Scripture, have there been any exceptions to this?
33:21 Why are many holy places rocks, rocky, or associated with rocks?
33:22 Why will the LORD put Moses in a cleft of the rock and cover the face of Moses?
33:23 If I am reading this correctly, the LORD is literally planning to “moon” Moses?

PSALM 99
99:1 Why would the peoples tremble? What and where are cherubim and how does God sit enthroned upon them?
99:2 What and where is Zion?
99:3 How does one praise the LORD’s name when the LORD’s name is never pronounced? See Exodus 33:19. What does it mean to be “Holy?”
99:4 What is this righteousness?
99:5 How does one extol the LORD? What and where is the LORD’s footstool? 
99:6 Is this Psalm as much about Moses, Aaron, and Samuel as it is The LORD?
99:7 Why does the LORD not speak like this anymore?
99:8 How can the LORD be both forgiving and avenging?
99:9 What and where is the LORD’s holy mountain?

1 THESSALONIANS 1:1-10
1:1 It appears three people are writing this letter.  What else do we know about Silvanus and Timothy?
1:2 Always?  Constantly? Is this hyperbole?
1:3 What work and labor might the authors be referring to?
1:4 Who is “he”? What does it mean to be chosen? Is being “chosen” the same as being called or predestined?
1:5 What do power, the Holy Spirit, and full conviction add to the word?
1:6 How did the Thessalonians imitate Paul, Silvanus, Timothy and Jesus?
1:7 Where are Macedonia and Achaia and how did the Thessalonians become examples to people in those places?
1:8 How has the faith of the Thessalonians become known in other places?
1:9 How would the people in Macedonia and Achaia know this?
1:10 Note that “rescues” is in the present, not the future tense.

MATTHEW 22:15-22
22:15 Who and what were the Pharisees? Can you smell a conspiracy?
22:16 Who were the Herodians and why were they conspiring with the Pharisees? Where these people speaking the truth even though they sought to entrap Jesus?
22:17 What is the trap that is being set? What sort of taxes were paid to the emperor and with what were they paid?
22:18 What was their malice?  Why are they hypocrites? How was Jesus aware of their malice?
22:19 What do you know about the denarius? Whose image was on the denarius? What sort of images were on Jewish coins? What and where is the irony in what is happening here?
22:20 I suggest you consult some other translations of this verse.  What are other options for the Greek translated in the NRSV as “head?”
22:21 What bore the image of the emperor? What bears the image of God? What things then, are the Emperor’s and what things are God’s? Consider Genesis 1:27.
22:22 Why were the Herodians and the disciples of the Pharisees amazed? Are you ever amazed by the words of Jesus?

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.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time / Proper 23 (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 32:1-14
32:1 The people grow impatient with Moses and in the leadership vacuum left by his absence turn to Aaron.  What lesson might pastors learn from this? Did the people think Aaron would do for them what Moses would not?
32:2 Gold is currently selling for about $1,200/oz. Note that men, at least young men, were wearing ear rings at that time.
32:3 Is this an example of group think?
32:4 Why a calf?  Why is “calf” singular and “gods” plural?
32:5 What good is a golden calf without an altar?
32:6 This sounds like a party. Perhaps the people really did not want an idol but a religiously sanctioned party.
32:7 The LORD finally speaks up but it seems like the LORD is placing the blame for the idolatry or the responsibility for correcting it entirely on Moses.
32:8 Did the golden calf represent other gods, or was it meant to represent the LORD?
32:9 What does stiff necked mean?
32:10 The LORD wants to be alone. Is the LORD offering Moses a bribe? A reward?  A temptation?
32:11 Note that the LORD is the God of Moses, not of the people.  Is Moses buttering-up God? Compare this verse to 32:7. It seems Moses is throwing everything back into God’s hands, or is Moses just passing the buck?
32:12 Is Moses appealing to the LORD’s pride? Can the LORD really change the divine mind?
32:13 Does the LORD really need to be reminded? Why are the women never mentioned?
32:14 The LORD does indeed change the divine mind? Can we say that God repents?

PSALM 106:1-6, 19-23
106:1 Must love endure forever in order to be steadfast?
106:2 Is this a rhetorical question?
106:3 Can anyone then be happy?
106:4 What does it mean to be remembered by God?
106:5 This is beginning to sound like a nationalistic Psalm.
106:6 Here is a good phrase to include in a prayer of confession of sin, but how does it follow from what precedes it? Should we be reading and interpreting this verse in light of the Exodus Reading?
106:19 Apparently we are indeed to read this as a comment on how our ancestors in verses 6 sinned.
106:20 Can glory ever be captured by any image?
106:21 Is the issue really forgetfulness or is it idolatry?
106:22 What were the works in the land of Ham?
106:23 Is Moses an illustration of what it means to “stand in the breach?” Who created the breach and how?

PHILLIPPIANS 4:1-9
4:1 I hate it when a Reading begins with “therefore” because we are not hearing what came before. How and why are the Philippians Paul’s “joy and crown”?
4:2 If Euodia and Syntyche are conflicted, it seems Paul is not taking sides.
4:3 Whom is Paul addressing as “my loyal companion?”  What might this verse be saying about women serving as leaders in the early church?  Is “The Book of Life” available from Amazon.com and/or available for download on a kindle? Of all Paul’s coworkers, why are only Euodia, Syntyche, and Clement named?
4:4 This is surely an often quoted verse but usually out of context.
4:5 What does letting your gentleness be known have to do with the Lord being near?
4:6 Does the advice of this verse depend on the fact that “The Lord is near” or is this advice good at anytime?
4:7 What do you understand the peace of God to be?
4:8 This is quite a list of adjectives. What are you thinking about right now?
4:9 What do you think the Philippians learned, received, heard, and saw?

MATTHEW 22:1-14
22:1 In seems the author is aware that Jesus often spoke in parables.
22:2 Here is another kingdom parable.  Must we equate the king with God and the son with Jesus?
22:3 How do we deal with slave language and all its connotations? How is this parable similar to the parable in Matthew 21:33-46 from last week? Who might the slaves represent? Who were the invited guests?
22:4 Any connection between the “oxen” and “calves” of this passage and Exodus 32:1-14 is purely coincidental.
22:5 What does it mean to “make light of” something? Why might the invited guests not want to attend a wedding banquet?
22:6 Once again, see Matthew 21:22-46.
22:7 Was the King’s response a reasonable one? Who might the troops represent or refer to?
22:8 Why I am thinking of Wayne’s World?
22:9 If the city was burned (22:7), who would be hanging out on the main streets?
22:10 So the kingdom of God is filled with both good and bad?
22:11 What is a wedding robe and what might it represent?
22:12 I think he should have answered “Your slaves invited me and I was gathered in with everyone else here.” Who was speechless, the man or the king?
22:13 I know this is only a parable, but still, this seems like harsh punishment simply for showing up at a royal wedding underdressed.  What do you think?
22:14 What is the difference between being “called” and “chosen.” Some Presbyterians might read this as “many are cold but few are frozen.”

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.

In light of the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, I invite you to read my essay "End the Culture of Gun Violence."

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

#uovpax #peacetweets

The Peacemaking Sub-Committee (@uovpax) of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery’s Mission Committee is sponsoring a #peacetweets contest, concluding at midnight on Sunday, November 26, 2017.

In 140 characters or less (including spaces) and using the hashtags #uovpax and #peacetweets, post a message of intention and inspiration for peace to Twitter.  Your #peacetweets may be a passage from scripture with citation, a quote from your favorite author with attribution, an original prayer, thought, or intention and inspiration for peace, including an attached photograph that depicts a message of peace.

The member of presbytery or participant in any of its churches whose #peacetweets is most retweeted and whose #peacetweets is most liked will each receive a copy of the 2010 book Peace Tweets. Winners and their #peacetweets will be announced and prizes awarded at the November 28th, 2017 Presbytery Meeting.

Please “follow” @uovpax on Twitter. Post your #peacetweets. “Retweet” and “like” the #peacetweets of others. Invite your Twitter friends, your children, grandchildren, and the youth of your church to participate. If you are not already on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com. Click “Sign up for Twitter.” Provide basic information about yourself and choose your username, and then start posting #peacetweets