Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 5th Sunday In Lent (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.

EZEKIEL 37:1-14
37:1 What does it mean for “the hand of the LORD” to come upon a person?  Has the hand of the LORD ever come upon you or upon someone you know?  What does it mean to “be brought out by the spirit”? I interpret this reading as a vision experienced by Ezekiel, certainly not an account of anything that happened in real time and space, but only within the psyche of Ezekiel. That does not make it any less “real.”
37:2 Why is Ezekiel led all around?
37:3 Is there any significance to the fact that the LORD addresses Ezekiel as “Mortal” rather than by name?  Is the LORD asking a rhetorical question?  I think the “mortal” passes the buck with his answer.
37:4 Can bones hear? If dry bones cannot hear, then who or what can?
37:5-6 What linguistic and theological moves are being made by connecting breath with life
37:7 Apparently bones can hear!
37:8 Oh no! No breath! What good is the word of the LORD if there is no breath, no inspiration?
37:9 Can the breath hear? What do you know about the four winds?  I cannot read this passage without thinking of the four winds of Native American spirituality. When the last time you heard a worship leader refer to the four winds in a prayer, or use it in the liturgy? Note that the bones did not simply die. They were slain. What killed them?
37:10 Was the breath the last, or the most essential ingredient?
37:11 Oh, so these were not bones at all, but a living nation feeling dried up, proof positive that this is a vision not to be taken literally. How many aging congregations, large and small, feel like or even appear to be a valley of dry bones?
37:12 Is this verse about a physical resurrection or a spiritual resurrection, physical graves or metaphorical graves?
37:13 What sort of grave bound people is the mortal prophesying to?
37:14 What are the linguistic and theological connections among wind, breath, and spirit? IMHO, this is a verse that many aging congregations and congregations of the aging, often feeling “very dry” and completely cut off, almost in the grave, need to hear and reflect upon.  Are they willing, really willing, to have the LORD put the spirit within them?

121:1-8 This is not only one of my favorite Psalms but one of my favorite passages in the entire Bible, and one I have committed to memory. How might our interpretation and preaching being affected when we encounter one of favorite, or even least favorite, passages of Scripture?
121:1 What sort of images do you see or think of when you read or hear “out of the depths”.  I cannot but help but interpret “depths” from a Jungian perspective.  You might be more inclined to take a psychoanalytic reproach.  How many of us are not thinking of one form of depression or another?
121:2 When we implore the LORD to hear our voice, is it really to catch God’s attention or to focus our own?  What is a supplication?
121:3 Does the LORD mark iniquities, or not? Who can stand?
121:4 Forgiveness and Grace!  I like the translation “revere.” The KJV and RSV was “feared,” suggesting a wrathful God rather than an awesome God. What does it mean to revere?
121:5 Note the shift from direct address to narrative. What does it mean to “wait for the LORD”?  How do you “wait” for the LORD? In a culture of fast food and instant gratification, this verse might be more poignant today than ever before.  Why am I thinking of the contemplative tradition as well as centering prayer?
121:6 Is there something more going on here than Hebrew poetry?  Who watches for the morning? What does it mean for the morning watch when the morning arrives?  What does it mean for the person waiting for the LORD, hoping in God’s word, to see and witness the arrival of what one has been waiting for?
121:7 Note the shift from the first person narrative to direct address and admonition.  The Psalmist started out by addressing the LORD and is now addressing Israel. What is “steadfast” love? What power redeems?
121:8 Is this still direct address or a shift back to narrative? In other words: “Wait for no one or nothing else. Place your hope in no other person or no other thing than the LORD.”

ROMANS 8:6-11
8:6 This reads like a proverb and can almost stand on its own.  What does Paul mean by “flesh” and “spirit”? What does he mean “death” and “life and peace”? How many times and in what other places does Paul employ a flesh/spirit dualism? Does it make any difference that Paul was writing before Descartes and we are reading Paul’s letter after Descartes’ mind/body split?  How might the death and life of the Ezekiel 37:1-14 Reading inform our interpretation of Paul for this particular Sunday?
8:7 How does Romans 8:6 lead to Romans 8:7? What does Paul mean by “God’s Law”?
8:8 How might Paul’s statement run counter to the doctrine of the incarnation? Note that it is “in the flesh” and not “of the flesh.” Is that significant? After all, this is the Fifth Sunday “in Lent” and not “of Lent”!
8:9 If we are indeed “in the Spirit” as Paul says, then why did he have to say what he said in verses 6-8?
8:9-11 Does Paul use “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of Christ” synonymously? Is he really talking about “the Holy Spirit”? How many mainline Christians, especially staid Presbyterians, might find Paul’s focus on the Spirit unsettling?
8:10-11 Does it help or hurt to read this passage in juxtaposition with Ezekiel 37:1-14, especially Ezekiel 37:14?

John 11:1-45
11:1-45 Spoiler alert:  If you do not know how the Easter Story ends, this might give it away.  Is there any way to make this 45 verse Reading shorter while still maintaining its integrity?
11:1 Note that we told Bethany is the village of Mary and her sister Martha, but not told that both Mary and Martha are the sisters of Lazarus.
11:2 Why the redundancy of telling us Lazarus was sick? Where can we read about Mary anointing Jesus? What are we told that Lazarus was Mary’s brother but not directly told that Lazarus was Martha’s sister?
11:3 What is the nature of this “love”?
11:4  Jesus’ response sounds much like his response in last week’s reading, John 9:3. What is this “Son of God” language doing here?  I would expect to see “Son of Man” language.
11:5 Whereas Mary was named in 11:2 but Martha was not, Martha is named here but Mary is not.
11:6 Why the two day wait?
11:7 What is significant about Judea? Is there any significance to the “again”?
11:8 Is there a problem with the temporal language?
11:9 I know Jesus was speaking generally, but technically, there are only two days a year when there are twelve hours of daylight. Does the light/darkness dualism suggest a hint of Gnosticism?
11:10 Always have an external light source nearby if there is no light in you.
11:11 Was Jesus simply using a euphemism for death, or is there something else going on here?
11:13 I wonder how many times the disciples did not really understand what Jesus was talking about.  How many times do worshipers in the pews not understand the preacher?
11:14 No euphemisms here! Lazarus hadn’t “passed.” He had “died”! Christians on the resurrection side of Easter should not mask death with euphemisms and near should preachers and pastors! Can I get off my soap box now?
11:15 Believe what?
11:16 Die with whom?  If Thomas means Jesus, then Thomas does not seem to doubt his resolve to follow Jesus to his own death.
11:17 What is the significance of four days? Did it take two days to travel from where Jesus had been to Bethany?
11:18 Is there any significance to this geographical information?
11:19 What does this suggest about Lazarus or about Mary and Martha?
11:20 Is this a typical Martha/Mary response? Do you go to meet Jesus or do you wait for Jesus to come to you?
11:21 Is Martha blaming, even berating Jesus for her brother’s death?
11:22 Is Martha expressing true faith or something else?
11:23 Why “Again”? When has he risen before? What does “ rose again” mean in the Apostles’ Creed?
11:24 What is the matter, Martha, is not the promise of resurrection on the last day enough to comfort you in your grief? By the way, just what is “the last day?”
11:25 Is this one of Jesus’ “I am” sayings?  Where do we find the other “I am” sayings and what are they? Is this passage nothing but background, creating the opportunity or supplying the context for this “I am” saying?
11:26 Do you believe this?  Exactly what are we being asked about?
11:27 Mary really does not answer the question, nevertheless, this reads, and sounds, like an early Christian confession of Faith. Once again, a woman get it right when the male disciples often got it wrong.
11:28 I did not hear Jesus calling for Mary, did you? Why the “privately”? After confessing that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world,” why does Martha refer to Jesus as “Teacher”?
11:29 Mary finally comes to Jesus.
11:30 Why did Jesus not accompany Martha when Martha went to Mary? I am detecting some plot holes.
11:31 Who were these Jews?
11:32 See John 11:21. Mary joins the blame game.  At least the sisters agree on something! Does Mary have a foot fetish?
11:33 Why would seeing tears disturb and move Jesus in a way he had not yet been moved and disturbed? Is there a difference between being “greatly disturbed” and “deeply moved”!
11:34 “Come and see” sounds like something someone would say about Jesus, not Lazarus. Maybe that is the point.
11:35 And what do we know about this verse?
11:36 To quote Tina Turner, “What’s Love got to do with it?”
11:37 Is this more than a rhetorical question? Are some of the Jews joining in on the blame game? How often do we want to blame someone, even God, when a loved one dies even of natural causes?
11:38 Is this nothing more than foreshadowing?
11:39 Is there any significance to the fact that it is Martha, rather than Mary, who comments about the stench?
11:40 When did Jesus say this to Martha?
11:41 Who are the “we”?
11:41-42 Are words sometimes better than silence?
11:43 Would Lazarus not have come out if he had not been called?
11:44 How did Lazarus come out if his feet were bound with strips of cloth?  How did he see where to go if his face was wrapped in a cloth? Could there be more to the command “Unbind him, and let him go” than meets the eye? Maybe Jesus was referring not just to the strips of cloth. Obviously we cannot read this at only a literal level, if at all literally.
11:45 How many are “many” and what about the Jews who had come with Mary but did not believe in him?


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, March 15, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 4th Sunday In Lent (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.

1 SAMUEL 16:1-13
16:1 How did the LORD speak to Samuel? The LORD calls the shots and chooses Kings, not Samuel.  What is a “horn” and what does it represent?
16:2 Who was more powerful and to be feared, Saul or Samuel? Where was this faux sacrifice to take place?
16:3 Why does the LORD keep focusing on Jesse rather than simply revealing the next king?
16:4 Why did the elders of Bethlehem tremble?
16:5 The Lord had instructed Samuel to invite Jesse but Jesse invites others as well.
16:1-5 I think there is some fascinating political intrigue being alluded to in these verses.  This sounds like nothing less than the makings of a coup d'├ętat with the LORD as the main instigator and conspirator.
16:6 Why would Samuel have thought that Eliab was the LORD’s anointed?
16:7 Good advice for political parties as well as Pastor Nominating Committees, or any nominating committee. Outward appearance certainly influences people, as do credentials, but how does one judge another’s heart?
16:8 How did Samuel know that Abinidab was not the LORD’s chosen?
16:9 The narrative is starting to drag.
16:10 Apparently the author also thought the narrative was starting to drag. Do you see any symbolism in there being seven rejected sons? Why are only the three sons named? How much does Jesse know about what Samuel is doing?
16:11 Why was the youngest son the only son not present and presented? Note how this verse mentioning that David “is keeping the sheep” connects this reading to the Psalm, especially Psalm 23:1.
16:12 How does this verse read when juxtaposed with verse 16:7?
16:13 What do you make of the spirit of the LORD coming mightily upon David after Samuel anoints him? I wonder what ever happened to David’s older brothers.

What can one of the most popular passages in the Bible tell us today that we have not already heard before? How can we read and hear it in new and unexpected ways?  How much does the First Reading, 1 Samuel 16:1-13, influence and inform our  interpretation of this Psalm?
23:1 Does it serve any theological or homiletically purpose to point out that “The LORD” is not a reference to Jesus but to the LORD God?  How many Christians hear this Psalm as a Psalm about Jesus rather than a Psalm about God? The shepherd imagery seems to draw upon 1 Samuel 16:11.  How might the shepherd imagery be lost or diminished in modern and urban culture?
23:2 As a backpacker and hiker, I resonate with the imagery of green pastures and still waters.
23:3 What does it mean for a soul to be restored? What is a right path?
23:4 Do you prefer the “darkest valley” of the NRSV or the “valley of the shadow of death” of the KJV and RSV? Why do we associate dark places with evil?  What is the difference between a rod and a staff?  How can a rod and a staff protect?
23:5 How does it feel to walk into a room and find a table prepared for you?  Would you sit at a table in the presence of your enemies and dine? What does it mean to have one’s head anointed with oil and one’s cup overflowing? Can we really speak of overflowing cups when in the Eucharist we barely fill little plastic cups containing less than a shot glass?  Can we speak of being anointed with oil when most congregations rarely, if ever, practice it?  I argue for anointing with oil at the time of Baptism as well as the anointing with oil when laying on of hands associated with prayers for healing and wholeness.   If we practiced more anointing with oil, this popular Psalm might actually mean even more than it already does to some people. Does 1 Samuel 16:13 inform this verse?
23:6 Is there a difference between goodness and mercy or is this pairing just the nature of Hebraic poetry? What does it mean to dwell in the house of the LORD all one’s life?  Is “the house of the LORD” a reference and/or allusion to the Jerusalem Temple or something else?

5:8 Can we read this verse in juxtaposition with Psalm 23:4?  Are there any racial issues or attitudes influencing us when we read this verse? What does it mean to live as children of light? Does the Dead Sea War Scroll shed any light on this verse?
5:9 I love this verse.  This verse sounds like something Gandalf might say to Bilbo, or Frodo might say to Sam.
5:10 And how does one find out what is pleasing to the Lord?  Does Paul have a scavenger hunt in mind? Do we not already know what is pleasing to the Lord?
5:11 What are examples of the work of darkness? Can one expose works of darkness without shining light on them?  I am thinking of Christian muckrakers, whistleblowers, and gadflies.  Something about old fashioned photography with film helps me appreciate this verse more than does digital photography.
5:12 What secret things do you think Paul has in mind?  Is this a reference/allusion to mystery religions, or something else?  Let us not forget the rumors that were spread about cannibalistic Christian rites when non-Christians were dismissed from the Eucharist.
5:13 There is something to be said about transparency in all things.
5:14 What is the author of Ephesians quoting from?

JOHN 9:1-41
9:1-41 This is one really loonnngggg Reading?  Are you going to shorten it?  I think I will use only verses 1-12. There seems to be some relationship between blindness, sight, and sin.  The man born physically blind receives his physical sight, while the Pharisees, born able to see physically, are spiritually blind and refuse to have their third eye opened.  The man was not a sinner while the Pharisees are portrayed as sinners.  I think this is the nature of John’s Gospel, often teasing us with the interplay of the physical and the spiritual as it compares and contrasts the two realms.  This is pre-modern stuff.  There is no Cartesian mind/body split in John.  Both the spiritual and the physical seem to exist in the same sphere but operate on different plains of awareness.
9:1 Was Jesus, like Socrates, a peripatetic teacher?
9:2 What is wrong with this question? Why did the disciples think sin was the cause of the man’s blindness?
9:3 What is wrong with this answer? Are all people born blind born that way so that God’s works might be revealed in them? What about people born blind who never receive sight?
9:4 Who are the “We”? What night is coming? Consider juxtaposing this verse with Ephesians 5:8
9:5 Where is Jesus when he is not in the world? Is Jesus the illuminated word of God? Are all Christians called to be light in the world?
9:6 Why spit on the ground and make mud and put it on the man’s eyes?
9:7 Why was the man not healed until after he went and washed? What might John be saying here? What healed the man, the mud made with saliva, the water in the pool of Siloam, Jesus, the man’s faith and obedience, or something else?
9:8 Why was he not identified as a beggar before now?
9:9 “I am the man” sounds a lot like one of the “I am” sayings of Jesus in John’s Gospel.  Might this be intentional?
9:10 This is a legitimate question.
9:11 Is there any significance to the construction “the man called Jesus”?
9:12 How could this man knot know where Jesus is?  What might John be suggesting in this verse? Do you know where Jesus is and how to find him? Or does Jesus, in reality, find us?
9:13 Who brought the man to the Pharisees and why?
9:14 Oh no!  Not the Sabbath?  Surely there must be a law against spitting or making mud on the Sabbath!
9:15 Why is this man being interrogated?
9:16 Imagine that, religious authorities having a divided opinion!  Let’s put it to a vote, after all, the majority is always right.  Or can church councils sometimes ere? Note that Jesus can cause division.
9:17 A radical proposal - let the one whose life was changed have the final word. Do prophets usually heal? Has Jesus just been demoted from incarnate Word of God to a mere prophet?
9:18 I think some skepticism is a good thing, don’t you?
9:19 Can the parents legitimately answer the last question.  Read this verse in juxtaposition with the question asked in 9:2.
9:20 Here are the Facts.
9:21 What does it mean that “he was of age”?  Are the man’s parents passing the buck?
9:22 Let us not forget that most scholars agree that John is the latest of the four canonical Gospels, perhaps here reflecting the historical split between Judaism and Christianity.  What did it mean – what would it have meant – for a Jew to “be put out of the synagogue”?  The man had previously, in 9:17, proclaimed that Jesus was a prophet.  Did the man’s parents think that Jesus was the Messiah but were afraid to say so?
9:23 Is this echo of 9:21 for mere emphasis or is there something else going on here?
9:24 The Pharisees knew Jesus was a sinner. What do we know?
9:25 This man seems to be choosing his words carefully.
9:26 Has the answer not already been established?
9:27 Is this sarcasm or acerbic wit?  I think the Pharisees doth protest too much.
9:28 Is this the only reference in Scripture to “disciples of Moses”? Was the man really a disciple of Jesus?
9:29 But we know where he has come from, don’t we?
9:30 An astonishing application of logic and astonishing testimony from who is turning out to be an astonishing man.
9:31 Do we really know this? Is this true?
9:32 Is this a true statement?
9:33 Perhaps this is the key verse!
9:34 The typical response to questioning and challenging personal and institutional authority. Why the plural “sins” rather than the singular “sin”?
9:35 After thirty-four verses of narrative, “Son of Man” terminology is raised.  Why the change?  Here is the progression as I see it:
            9:1 Rabbi
            9:17 Prophet
            9:22 The Messiah
            9:33 Man from God
            9:35 Son of Man
9:36 How many people in the pew will also ask questions about “son of man” terminology?
9:37 Is this the first time in John that Jesus has identified himself as “the son of man”? Of course the man born blind would not have been able to literally see the “Son of Man” had Jesus not healed him of his blindness! May Jesus heal all of us of our spiritual blindness?
9:38 And another step in the progression listed in the comments for 9:35. Now we have “Lord” and a statement of, not blind, but seeing faith.
9:39 Where do we find ourselves in this verse.  Where does the institutional church usually, or sometimes, find itself?
9:40 And the answer to this question is?
9:41 Does spiritual blindness excuse sin?  Perhaps there is something to be said for spiritual blindness. Perhaps spiritual blindness absolves one of responsibility.  Being spiritually illuminated brings with it spiritual responsibility.

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.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 3rd Sunday in Lent (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 Let us not make no more of the name of the location than necessary.  Sin is a geographical location, not a theological condition (even though it seems otherwise).  What does it mean to journey by stages? Why would anyone camp at a place where there was no water to drink?  Perhaps we can put this verse in conversation with the Gospel Reading.
17:2 I empathize with both Moses and the people.  Why did the people look toward Moses for water rather than finding it themselves? What does it mean to “test the LORD” and why is quarreling with Moses apparently equated with testing the LORD? How do we test the LORD?
17:3 This seems like a valid complaint.  Sometimes a known discomfort, like slavery in Egypt, is preferable to the unknown.
17:4 Why does Moses ask for advice about what to do with the people rather than asking for water or help finding water?
17:5 Not all church leaders are blessed with such a staff, or any staff for that matter.  I am envious of Moses. What is the history and significance of this staff?
17:6 Will Moses see God standing on the rock?  What is so special about Horeb? Is there only one rock at Horeb? Is it significant that Moses did this “in sight of the elders” rather than alone, with no one watching? I wonder what the elders thought and how they felt as they witnessed this.
17:7 I have yet to find a congregation named “The Massah and Meribah (put your denominational moniker here) Church,” yet there are probably many such churches which can rightly claim the name.  Does the name of your church suggest its character?

95:1 Is it too obvious to see a connection between this Psalm’s “the rock of our salvation” and the Frist Reading’s “rock at Horeb”? What do rocks in the Bible symbolize? What is the difference between a joyful noise and well-rehearsed melody and harmony when it comes to congregational hymn singing?
95:1-2 This sounds like a responsive call to worship.
95:3 Who, or what, are these other “gods”?
95:4-5 Depths, heights, sea and land: what else is there?
95:6-7 Here is another possible Call to Worship.  Why do most mainline Protestants hardly ever bow down and kneel? Are our knees too old and arthritic?  Do the last two lines mix metaphors? Note that 95:7b more properly belongs with 95:8 rather than 95:7.
95:7b-8 What does the voice of God sound like? This verse obviously points back to the First reading, which argues for an intentional linguistic and theological connection using the word “rock” in 95:1.  Also, note that 95:1-7 were in the third person.  With 95:8 the Psalm shifts to the first person and God becomes the speaker.
95:9-11 Based on these verses, why might so many churches be struggling with declining membership and declining financial resources?
95:10 Are you surprised that the LORD can loathe anyone?
95:11 What, or where, is God’s “rest”?

ROMANS 5:1-11
5:1 I hate it when Lectionary Readings from the Pauline corpus begin with “Therefore”.  It means we are missing the initial points of the argument.  On the other hand, justification by faith is a keystone of protestant theology.
5:2-3 Where is all this “boasting” coming from?  See also 5:11.
5:3-5 sufferings . . . endurance . . . character . . .  hope.  This argument reminds me of the concept of disciplined training in the sense of “no pain, no gain.”  Is the Holy Spirit to be equated with God’s love?
5:6 Who are the ungodly and what does it mean that Christ died for them (or us)?
5:7 I confess that I have never been able to wrap my head around this one. It seems that it should be the other way around.
5:8 Following Paul’s argument, how did Christ’s death prove God’s love for us? Does this statement assume we are the “ungodly” of 5:6?  What is the connection, if any, between the “still weak” of 5:6 and “still were sinners” of this verse?
5:9 It seems to follow from Paul’s argument that we are already justified but not yet saved from the wrath of God. How does Christ’s blood justify?
5:10 Similarly, it seems that we are already reconciled but not yet saved.
5:11 Why does Paul feel a need to boast?  What is the difference between boasting and bragging?

JOHN 4:5-42
4:5-42 This Reading is longer than most Gospel readings and I am considering shortening it by ending it at with 4:15.  Will you read it all or truncate it?
4:5 Is there anything significant about the setting?  What do you know about Sychar?
4:6 What once happened at Jacob’s well? Is there anything significant about the time? Note that in last week’s Gospel reading, and just prior to this in the Gospel, Nicodemus came to Jesus by night.  Now it is noon, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky and when it barely casts any shadows.  Think about the temporal setting of this reading juxtaposed with the temporal setting of last week’s Gospel Reading.  What might John be trying to communicate by this juxtaposition?
4:7 Can we consider this John’s version of the Parable of the Good Samaritan?  What is more significant, that it was a Samaritan, or that it was a woman?
4:8 Is this a throw away verse? Why the parenthetical?
4:9 I think this is an understandable question, but does not the Samaritan woman violate some norms by asking it? Not only was Jesus a Jew, he was a male.
4:10 What, or who, is the gift of God? What is living water?
4:11 What purpose does this verse serve?
4:12 Is this a rhetorical question? Why does the Samaritan woman claim to be a descendant of Jacob rather than Abraham?
4:13-14 Even though it appears that Jesus does not answer the questions posed of him, this might be the heart of the reading, a reading as deep and multivalent as Jacob’s well. Like last week’s Gospel Reading, I cannot help but interpret this reading, especially this verse, from a Jungian perspective.
4:15 Did the Samaritan woman really understand what was being offered to her? I think the Samaritan woman was thinking literally when Jesus was thinking spiritually. How often do we confuse the literal with the spiritual in the church?
4:16-26 What do these verses add to the story?  Could we not stop reading at the end of 4:15 and still get the point? Why did Jesus want the Samaritan Woman to go call her husband?
4:16 Why would Jesus want her to call her husband?
4:17 Is this any more than an example of semantics and word games? Oh Wittgenstein, please help us.
4:18 How would Jesus know this and what does it matter how many husbands she has had or who she is now living with?
4:19 What does the woman mean by “prophet”?
4:20 What mountain is the woman talking about?
4:21 What hour might that be? Does  Jesus’ use of “woman” prefigure anything?
4:22 I think this sounds a little judgmental. What does it mean to “know?”
4:23 What does Jesus mean when he says “the hour is coming”?  What does it mean to worship “in spirit and truth”?  If one does not worship in spirit and truth, then how is one worshiping?
4:24 God is indeed spirit.  Later we will lean that Jesus is the truth.
4:25 How would a Samaritan know and believe this? Were the Samaritans as messianic as the Jews?
4:26 Does this verse require us to read this passage in the context of and in conversation with all the other “I am” sayings in John, not to mention Exodus 3:14? Is Jesus claiming to be the messiah or is he claiming to be God?
4:27 Why were the disciples astonished that Jesus was speaking with a woman. Note that they were astonished that Jesus was speaking with a woman but apparently not astonished that he was speaking with a Samaritan.
4:28 Did the woman leave her water jar on purpose, and if so, why?
4:29 Can we categorize the woman’s speech as a witness?  Can we call it evangelism?  Was it preaching? Should we read her question as a rhetorical question?
4:30 Did you know that early Christians were sometimes referred to as “followers of the way”? 
4:31-34 First, Jesus was thirsty. Now his disciples are worried about him being hungry. Why all this emphasis on Jesus’ thirst and hunger when, I assume, the point of the passage is our spiritual thirst and hunger?
4:32 What food did Jesus have that the disciples did not know?
4:33 So often it seems that the disciples simply do not get it.  Like the Samaritan woman, they think too literally and concretely.
4:34 What does Jesus mean? What spiritual food nourishes you?
4:35-38 These verses sound a bit apocalyptic.  What does it mean to enter into another person’s labor?
4:35 Was Jesus quoting an aphorism?
4:36 Who is the sower and who is the reaper? Can’t one person both sow and reap?
4:37 I wonder where got this saying.
4:38 Who are the others who have labored?
4:39 So the woman was a witness and evangelist! The Samaritans of her village believed because of her testimony, not because of what they say Jesus do or heard him say.
4:40 Why do you suppose Jesus stayed, depending on your perspective, as long as two days, or as little as two days? Is there any significance to the number two?  Where do you think he stayed?  Do you think the disciples also stayed? I wonder who Jesus stayed with.
4:41 So some did believe because of his word and some believed because of the woman’s testimony.  What was Jesus word?
4:42 Is this not what all teachers and preachers long to hear?  What is the difference between secondary and primary faith, and a primary and secondary witness?

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.