Sunday, March 4, 2018

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

JEREMIAH 31:31-34
31:31 Why does Jeremiah write about coming days rather than a new age? What was the old covenant? Why the twin construction “Israel” and “Judah”?
31:32 God is a husband? How will the new covenant not be like the old covenant?
31:33 How does God put a law in a person?  How does God write on the heart? Will this new covenant abrogate or fulfill the old covenant?
31:34 Note that God will be the agent of divine knowledge, not people. Will this spell the end for Christian Education and faith formation.

PSALM 51:1-12
51:1 Here are examples of Hebrew poetic parallelism.  Are steadfast love and abundant mercy the same thing? I am old enough to remember what an ink blotter was, but do younger people know what it means to “blot out?” Might delete, erase, or strike over would be a better translation today.
51:2 Is iniquity the same as sin? Note that sin is singular. What is the difference, if any, between “sin” and “sins?”
51:3 Are transgressions the same as sin? Again, note that sin is singular, so why do many Prayers of Confession use “sins” rather than ‘sin”? How might the Temple of Apollo at Delphi inform our interpretation of this verse?
51.4 Some Calls to Confession call us to confess our sins against God and neighbor, but can we really sin against anyone other than God?
51:5 If this is not a proof text for original sin, what is it? Does this verse have any bearing on the abortion debate?
51:6 What is the inner being? What is a secret heart? What is the relation between truth and wisdom?
51:7 What is hyssop and how does it purge? I wish the Psalmist had said “fresh snow” because snow lying around a week after a storm can look dirty and ugly.
51:8 What is the source of this joy and gladness? God has crushed bones?
51:9 What is the meaning of “Hide your face?” Note that in this verse “sins” is plural. Note also that it is not transgressions but iniquities being blotted out (see 51:1).
51:10 This is one of my favorite verses of Scripture.  What is a clean heart? Does having a clean heart mean having a new and right spirit? Are we the passive recipient of a new and right spirit that God puts in us or do we bear some responsibility for welcoming and even nurturing a new and right spirit?
51:11 Is a holy spirit the same as a new and right spirit? I think we misread this Hebrew Psalm if we bring to it our Christian Trinitarian theology. Note that the previous verse asked God to “put a new and right spirit with me” while this verse asks “do not take your holy spirit from me.”
51:12 One must have once enjoyed the joy of God’s salvation in order to be restored to it. What is a willing spirit?

PSALM 119:9-16
Psalm 119 is an acrostic psalm. Does that fact influence how we interpret it?
119:9 I wonder what the psalmist’s definition of a “young person” was. What is a pure way? What did the psalmist mean by the LORD’s “word?”
119:10 Note that the psalmists seeks the LORD with whole heart, not whole mind or intellect. Are the commandments the same as the “way” in 119:9?
119:11 Once again, note the use of heart rather than mind or intellect. What does it mean to treasure? See Jeremiah 31:33.
119:12 How does the LORD teach? What are statutes?
119:13 How else shall the psalmist declare if not with the lips? Is the Psalmist God’s spokesperson? What are ordinances?
119:14 What are the LORD’s decrees and do you delight in them?
119:15 How might the psalmist have understood meditating? I wonder if what the psalmist had in mind was anything like mindfulness meditation or contemplative prayer. What are precepts? What are the LORD’s ways. Note that “ways” is plural! How many ways does the LORD have or how many ways are there to the LORD?
119:16 Do you delight in the LORD’s statutes?

HEBREWS 5:5-10
5:5 Is the common perception that priests become priests to glorify themselves? At the time of Jesus, how did one become the high priest? When did Christ become a high priest? What are the functions of a high priest?  Where have we heard this quote before?
5:6 Where is this other place?  Who is Melchizedeck and what is the order of Melchizedek?
5:7 What is the difference between “prayers” and “supplications?” Does this verse describe the work of a high priest? Is our reverent submission a perquisite for God hearing our prayers?
5:8 Was learning obedience the purpose of Christ’s suffering?
5:9 How was Christ made perfect?  What is the theological difference between being perfect from before creation and being made perfect at some later time?
5:10 Is “designation” the same as “appointed” in 5:5?

John 12:20-33
12:20 What festival?  Who are the Greeks? Does the adoration of the magi at all inform how we might read this passage?
12:21 Who was Philip?  Does his home town matter?  What are the possible meanings of “see?”
12:22 Why did Philip go and tell Andrew? I wonder where Peter, James and John were.
12:23 What hour has come?  Who is the Son of Man?  What does it mean to be glorified? Did the Greeks seeking to see Jesus usher in the hour?
12:24 Why does Jesus often introduce sayings with “Very truly, I tell you?”  Would Jesus ever not speak truly? What did Tertullian mean when he said “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church?”
12:25 Did the grain of wheat love its life or not love its life?
12:26 What does it mean to serve Jesus? What does it mean to follow Jesus?
12:27 Why is Jesus’ soul troubled? What “reason” is Jesus speaking about?
12:28 How is a name glorified? Is the voice for the benefit of Jesus or the benefit of the crowd standing around?
12:29 Why would some hear thunder and others hear the voice of angels? Do angels speaking sound like thunder?
12:30 I guess Jesus answered my question for 12:28.
12:31 Has the world already been judged? Who is (or was) the ruler of this world? Driven out to where?
12:32 What is Jesus speaking about his crucifixion, his ascension, both, or something else altogether? Does “all people” point to possible universalism? Does “lifted up” possibly allude back to last week’s reading from Numbers and John?
12:33 Once again, Jesus answers my question for 12:32.

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. My various blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and Appalachian Trials.

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