Monday, March 12, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for Palm/Passion Sunday (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.

PREFACE: There is not only a dual emphasis/focus this Sunday but also several Alternate Readings. There is so much Scripture this day that I will not be offering verse by verse ruminations as usual.

LITURGY OF THE PALMS

MARK 11:1-11
11:1 Is there anything special we need to know about Bethpage and Bethany? Why would Jesus send two disciples rather than one?  Which two do you think he sent? What do you know about the Mount of Olives?
11:2 What village? How did Jesus know there would be a colt there? Note that there is only one animal.
11:3 Is this the only instance where Jesus refers to himself as the Lord?
11:6 Had Jesus given the two disciples some sort of secret message? Had Jesus been prescient or had he made prior arrangements to use the colt?
11:8 What is the meaning of spreading cloaks and leafy branches on the road?  What might be a modern equivalent?
11:9-10 What is being quoted? Does it matter? Why I am thinking Eucharistic liturgy?
11:11 All he did was look around? I find that somewhat anticlimactic.

OR

JOHN 12:12-16
12:12 What festival?
12:13 Why did the people take palm branches? What is being quoted? I find it significant that both Mark and John quote nearly the same text.
12:14 He “found” it? Again, note that there is just one animal. In John, Jesus sits on the colt after we are told about the palm branches. In Mark, we are told about the branches and cloaks after Jesus sits on the animal.
12:15 What is being quoted?
12:16 Hindsight is often 20-20. How much do we not yet understand?

PSALM 118:1-2, 19-29
118:1-2 This looks like a liturgical introduction and could be adapted as a Call to Worship.
118:19-20 What and where are the gates of righteousness?
118:22 Where will we hear this again?
118:24 What day? Did the LORD not make every day?
118:26 Who comes in the name of the LORD? Where will we hear this again?
118:27 What festal procession is being referred to? What and where are the horns of the altar? Shall we read the Gospel accounts of the Palm Sunday procession as fulfillment of or allusion to this verse?
118:29 Hear the refrain of 118:1

LITURGY OF THE PASSION

ISAIAH 50:4-9a
50:4 I take this verse personally. Note how this moves from teacher to one who is taught. I think the best teachers are still very much students.
50:5 How does God open our ears? Note that Semitic culture tended to be oral rather than visual.
50:6 Who is speaking?
50:7 What does it mean to set one’s face like flint?
50:8 Who is the “us?” Is this a Psalm of a single individual or is it giving voice to the community?
50:4-9a How does this passage inform our observance of Palm/Passion Sunday and how does our observance of Palm/Passion Sunday influence how we might read and interpret this passage?

PSALM 31:9-6
These verses sound as if they could have been spoken by Job!
31:9 What was the Hebrew understanding of the relation between the soul and the body?
31:12 Are we to read these words as referring to or prefiguring Christ’s Passion, or simply as a meditation or commentary on Christ’s Passion?
31:14 How might the psalmist maintain trust in God in spite of all the psalmist’s suffering?
31:16 What does it mean for God’s face to shine upon us?

PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11
2:5-11 Note that these verses appear as poetry, not prose.
2:5 What mind was in Christ Jesus? I can have the mind of Jesus?
2:6 What is God’s form? Is Plato’s theory of forms at all helpful here?
2:7 Was Jesus born in human likeness or was he born as human? How are likeness and form related?
2:9-10 What is so special about the name “Jesus” and was this name special before Christ?
2:10 There are beings in heaven with knees?  What beings under the earth have knees?
2:11 Is “Jesus Christ is Lord” the simplest and perhaps oldest confession of faith?

MARK 14:1-15:47
This is an extremely long passage. You may want to opt for the shorter alternative.  My ruminations cover only the shorter option of 15:1-39
15:1 What do you know about all the different players; the chief priests, the elders, the scribes, and the whole council? How would the above relate to Pilate?
15:2 Did Pilate say that Jesus was the King of the Jews? Is “You say so” any kind of an answer?
15:3 What things?
15:4 Apparently Pilot did not think “You say so” was an answer.
15:5 Why was Pilate amazed?
15:6 What festival?
15:7 What insurrection? Was Barabbas a rebel? Had he committed murder?
15:9 Why did Pilate refer to the “King of the Jews” rather than to Jesus?
15:10 Was Pilate’s analysis correct.  Was it jealousy that really motivated the chief priests?
15:12 Who was calling Jesus  the King of the Jews?
15:15 How could Pilate have Jesus crucified if he was not guilty of any crime? To whom did Pilate hand Jesus over to?
15:16-23 I think John Shelby Spong makes a strong argument for reading the crucifixion account, at least in its original form, as Midrash on Psalm 22.
15:16 What is a cohort?
15:17 Is there anything special about purple? I wonder where this cloak came from.
15:17-18 Where is the irony?
15:21 Why are Simon, Alexander and Rufus named?
15:23 Why wine mixed with myrrh?
15:25 Does the time matter?
15:31 What others had Jesus saved?
15:32 I know this is Mark, but I hear echoes of the ending of John.
15:33 Note the contrast—noon and darkness.  According to my calculations, Jesus was on the cross six hours.
15:34 Is Jesus quoting something? If so, what?
15:35-36 How might Elijah figure into all of this?
15:38 What symbolic statement is being made here?
15:39 What is the irony here?
15:40 Where there more women looking on than just those named?
15:41 How many women?
15:42 When does evening begin?
15:43 What council? Does this refer to the council mentioned back in 15:1?
15:44 Had Pilate expected Jesus to hang on the longer before he died?
15:45 Who else had the right to claim the body?
15:46 Where is the detail we are used to?
15:47 Where was Salome? Why does it matter that both Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses (Jesus’ mother?) saw where the body was laid? Had Joseph of Arimathea meant to keep it secret?

OR

MARK 15:1-39 (40-47)
See the above ruminations.

ADDENDUM
I am considering playing a dramatic recording of the Mark 14:1-15:47 Reading and preaching a short sermon of perhaps three to five paragraphs. What do you think of the idea?

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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