Monday, December 4, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 3rd 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.

ISAIAH 61:1-4, 8-11
61:1 What does it feel like to have the spirit of the LORD upon oneself?  What else can one be anointed with in addition to the spirit and oil?
61:2 What is “the year of the Lord’s favor” and “the day of vengeance of our God” and how can they be mentioned in the same sentence?
61:3 What is a garland? What is oil of gladness? What is so special about oaks?
61:4 What other ancient ruins come to your mind in addition to Jerusalem?  Iona?  Lindesfarne?
61:8 Has the identity of the speak just shifted? Does justice involve more than just hating robbery and wrongdoing? Who are “them?”
61:9 What does it mean for a people to be blessed by the LORD?
61:10 Has the identity of the speaker again shifted? What does it feel like for one’s whole being to exalt in God?  God has clothed us with a tux and gown?
61:11 Do righteousness and praise just appear or do they grow and blossom?

PSALM 126
126:1 In other words, we thought it not possible?  Note that this is in the past tense. When did the Lord restore the fortunes of Zion?
126:2 Why laughter? Shall we read this verse as a commentary on Isaiah 61:9?
126:3 What great things has the Lord done for us?
126:4 What is so special about the watercourses in the Negeb? What and where is the Negeb?
126:5-6 These verses, like Advent, proclaim a reversal of the status quo.
126:6 Shall we read this verse as a commentary on Isaiah 61:11?

LUKE 1:46b-55
This canticle is an alternative to the Psalm. How will you decide which one to use?
1:46b Who is speaking? When, if ever, has your soul magnified the Lord? See #600 in The Presbyterian Hymnal and #99 and #646 in Glory to God: Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs.
1:47 When did your spirit last rejoice?
1:48 What does it mean to be called blessed?
1:49 Here is an alternative way to address and speak of God.
1:50 What does it mean to fear God? Why am I thinking of Edwin H. Friedman?
1:51 What does it mean for the proud to be scattered in the thoughts of their hearts? Since when did hearts think?
1:52-53 These verses all address a reversal, something that has already been accomplished, not something yet to come.
1:54 How has God helped Israel?
1:55 Once again Sarah is overlooked, yet without her Abraham would not have had any descendants.

1 THESSALONIANS 5:16-24
5:16 This is good advice. Is this the second shortest verse in the Bible?
5:17 More good advice. What does it mean to “pray without ceasing”? What do you know about contemplative prayer and contemplative living?
5:18 I find giving thanks in all circumstances harder than praying without ceasing or always rejoicing. I have been in some circumstances where I would have had great difficulty giving thanks.
5:19 Oh, how many ways we quench the Spirit. Let me count the ways.
5:20 How do we despise the words of prophets? What prophets are being referred to? Who are today’s prophets whose words are being despised?
5:21 How do we “test” anything, let alone everything? Does this verse address the spiritual discipline of discernment? Does this verse support the mission of Consumer Reports or the Underwriters Laboratory and similar organizations and institutions? How do we hold fast to what is good? What is good?
5:22 How many forms of evil are there?
5:23 Note the tripartite “spirit and soul and body.”  What is the difference between spirit and soul?  I would feel more comfortable with “mind, body and spirit”. I think I have never heard this used as a benediction or blessing but I like it.
5:24 Who is it that calls? What does it mean to be called?

JOHN 1:6-8, 19-28
1:6 Are some “sent” and others not? What is the difference between “sent” in this verse and the “calls” of 1 Thessalonians 5:24?
1:7 “Witness” and “testify” are not usually part of the mainline and Presbyterian vocabulary.  Do they make you feel uncomfortable? How much do we hear them as legal terms and how much do we hear them as religious terms?
1:8 Was someone saying John was the light?
1:19 In this context, who or what is a Levite? It seems that John’s testimony was given in the context of him being questioned or examined. Was John on trial?
1:20 “Confessed” is an interesting choice of words.  John says, “I am not” while Jesus will say, at least seven times, “I am”! Were some hoping, even saying, that John was the Messiah? Is the gospel writer attempting to knock John the Baptizer down a notch or two?
1:21 People thought John was Elijah or Kahlil Gibran? Is this and the preceding verses more a commentary on John the baptizer or more of a commentary on the zeitgeist?
1:22 Why is John’s identity so important?
1:23 Are these John the Baptizer’s words or John the Evangelist’s words?
1:24-25 In verse 19 it was Jews sent by priests and Levites. Now it is those sent by the Pharisees. What is the connection between the Pharisees and baptism?
1:25 Is the presumption that it would have been alright for the Messiah, Elijah, or the prophet to baptize?
1:26 What did John mean by “Among you stands?”
1:27 Is there anything significant or symbolic about untying sandals?
1:28 What difference does it make where this took place?
                                                                  
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.

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