Thursday, November 23, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 1st Sunday of Advent (Year B)

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.

A little over three years ago I had just finished reading Lowry’s Living with the Lectionary (1992, Abingdon Press) and found this passage warning about quick fix lectionary aids insightful. “The problem is that lectionary preachers often turn to these helpful aids prior to having internalized the texts. When I have inquired of lectionary preachers, how they prepare—the sequence of their work—I find a trend. Often they read the text and immediately turn to the published lectionary commentaries.  They may receive good advice, but altogether prematurely. In short, at the point in sermon preparation when they ought to be internalizing the text and exploring the many questions which might emerge, they are already finding answers to the questions they have not yet raised. The result is a homiletical preparation short-circuit.” (p. 25)

I think Lowry’s warning is reflected in the way I prepare Lectionary Ruminations 2.5. I first read the text and then consider what questions I have or think it is important to ask of the text, perhaps make a few observations and opine about the text, but I DO NOT CONSULT ANY LECTIONARY AIDS as I write. Similarly, I think it would behoove readers of Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 to first read the text and consider what questions they ought to be asking and what questions the text asks of them before reading Lectionary Ruminations 2.5.

This First Sunday of Advent begins the new liturgical year, Year B, the year of Mark. A Reading from Mark, therefore, serves as the Gospel Reading after nearly a year’s worth of Gospel Readings from Matthew.

If you will be using the PCUSA resource GLORY TO GOD: Hymns and Songs for Advent and Christmas over the next several weeks, you might find this Alphabetical Index of Hymns helpful.

ISAIAH 64:1-9
64:1 Must God tear the heavens open to come down? Is God tearing open the heavens anything like a rip in the fabric of space time?
64:2 Who are God’s adversaries
64:3 What awesome deeds does Isaiah have in mind? Is this a reference to the giving of the theophany on Mt. Sinai?
64:4 What does it mean to wait for God?
64:5 Did God hide because the people transgressed or did the people transgress because God hid?
64:6 How can righteous deeds become like a filthy cloth? This reads like a communal confession of sin.
64:7 What does it mean that God has hidden the divine face?
64:8 Why the change of metaphors from storm and fire to potter and clay?
63:9 Please God, be just a little angry and remember our iniquity for just a little while.

PSALM 80:1-7, 17-19
80:1 The verse follows nicely upon the heels of last week’s First Reading. What are cherubim and where are?
80:2 Who or what are Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh? What does it mean for God to stir up the divine might?
80:3 What is the shining face of God or what does it represent or symbolize?
80:4 Is there a difference between being angry with the people and being angry with their prayers?
80:5 This sounds like anti-Eucharistic language.
80:6 Is this an appeal to God’s pride?
80:7 What does God’s shining face represent or symbolize?
80:17 Whom is the Psalmist talking about?
80:18 Is the Psalmist bargaining with God, offer a quid pro quo?
80:19 A repeat of 80:7, suggesting this is a liturgical response.

1:3 Is there anything unique about “Grace to you and peace?”
1:4 Why “my” God and not “our” God?
1:5 How are we enriched in speech and knowledge?
1:6 What is “the testimony of Christ?”
1:7 What spiritual gift might we be lacking in? What does it mean for the Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed?
1:8 What is “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ?”
1:9 What is “the fellowship of his Son?” Is that something like Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring?

Mark 13:24-37
13:24 In what days? So the sun and moon will no longer give light AFTER suffering? Is this something other than total solar eclipse?
13:25 Do you think the writer was referring to meteors rather than stars? What powers are in the heavens?
13:24-25 If something is being quoted, what?
13:26 Who and/or what is “the Son of Man”? Why does the Son of Man come in clouds? How shall we interpret this, literally or metaphorically?
13:27 Where are the Son of Man’s angels? Does “the four winds” refer to the four cardinal directions?
13:28 How you ever lived around fig trees? What about the parable of the fig tree?
13:29 What things? What gate?
13:30 How do we reconcile this verse with the fact that we are still reading it and waiting nearly two-thousand years later?
13:31 How will heaven and earth pass away but not words? What words?
13:32 So why all the talk about the lesson of the fig tree if no one knows the day or hour?
13:33 In other words, pack your Christian “go bag” and make sure there is gas in the car, milk in the fridge, bread in the bread box, and Charmin in the bathroom.
13:34 Is this a parable? I am being reminded of a couple of parables in Matthew.
13:35 I would rather my master return than a thief come. Is keeping alert in 13: 33 the same as keeping awake in this verse?
13:36 Are we all expected to be doorkeepers? Does “sleep” refer to slumber or death?
13:37 What does it mean to “Keep awake??
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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