Monday, April 30, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 7th Sunday of Easter (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.

ACTS 1:15-17, 21-26
1:15 What and when were “those days?”? When did “those days” begin and when did they end?  Is there anything significant about the number 120?
1:16 What is the scripture (note the singular) to which Peter refers? I find this to be an interesting group: Friends, the Holy Spirit, David, Judas, those who arrested Jesus.
1:17 Do I detect regret combined with disbelief when it comes to Judas being numbered among The Twelve?
1:21 Was this the church’s first leadership crisis? Why does it have to be one of the men? What does it mean that Jesus “went in an out among us?”
1:22 Is the author referring to John’s baptism of Jesus, or John’s ministry of baptism, which began before John baptized Jesus?  Did Jesus have disciples before he was baptized? What does it mean to be a “witness to the resurrection?”  Could not a woman have fulfilled this role?
1:23 Who are “they?” Were Joseph and Matthias the only two people who fulfilled the criteria enumerated in 1:21-22? Why are neither of these two men mentioned in Luke’s Gospel?
1:24-25 How might God answer this prayer?
1:26 How does one cast lots and why do we not make decisions in the church this way today? What ever happened to Matthias and Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus?

PSALM 1
1:1 Are the wicked, sinners, and scoffers poetic synonyms?
1:2 When was the last time you took delight in any law?  What did the Psalmist mean by “meditate?” How might Christians familiar with various schools of meditation or contemplative prayer understand this passage?
1:3 Is there a Torah riparian zone?  Does this passage make any more sense in light of last Sunday’s Gospel reading from John 15:9-17?
1:4 What is chaff and when and why is it exposed to the wind?
1:5 What is the congregation of the righteous?
1:6 Is there a difference between watching over the way of the righteous and watching over the righteous? How does this verse influence our belief that Jesus is the way and how does our belief the Jesus is the way influence our interpretation of it?

1 JOHN 5:9-13
5:9 Who are “we?” How does God give testimony if not through humans?
5:10 Can God really be made a liar?
5:11 How is eternal life in God’s Son testimony?
5:12 How does one “have” the Son? How might Psalm 1:3 amplify this verse?
5:13 What does it mean to believe in the name of the Son of God? What is the difference between life and eternal life? How could those to whom John was writing believe in the name of the Son of God and not know they had eternal life?

John 17:6-19
17:6 How do Christians reconcile Jesus saying this with the Jewish conception of the unpronounceable name of God?
17:7 How do “they” know this?
17:8 What words?
17:9 Does this suggest that Jesus loved and cared more for his followers than the world? Are Jesus’ followers somehow different from the world?
17:10 How has Jesus been glorified in those given to him by God?
17:11 At the time Jesus prayed this prayed this prayer, what did he mean when he prayed “I am no longer in the world?”
17:12 Why the past tense?  What scripture? This passage reminds me of the parable of the good shepherd.
17:13 How will Jesus’ joy be made complete in his followers?
17:14 What do they belong to if not the world?
17:15 Who or what is the evil one?
17:16 Why is this idea of not being part of and not belonging to the world repeated so many times in this prayer?
17:17 Sanctify them in the truth or in the word?
17:18 How has Jesus sent his followers into the world?
17:19 Theologically, how does Jesus sanctify himself?

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 6th Sunday of Easter (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.

ACTS 10:44-48
10:44 How does the Holy Spirit fall?  Does “hearing” refer to a physical or a spiritual phenomenon, or both?
10:45 Where there uncircumcised believers? Think carefully about your answer. When was the last time someone in your worshiping community was astounded?  What is the gift of the Holy Spirit and how is it poured out?
10:46 What was more astounding, the people speaking in tongues, or the people extolling God?I wonder if speaking in tongues is a spiritual practice in any faith other than Christianity.
10:47 Is this a rhetorical question? Here is an example of people receiving the Holy Spirit before they were baptized, but there are other instances in Acts where people are baptized and then receive the Holy Spirit. Is this passage the proof text for those Christians who insist on tongue speaking as proof of spiritual preparation for baptism?
10:48 How do we reconcile baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ” with Trinitarian baptismal formula?

PSALM 98
98:1 What makes song new?  Are old songs not good enough?  How can we talk about God’s right hand and holy arm without over anthropomorphizing God?  Is this a right hand conspiracy?
98:2 How has the LORD revealed vindication? What victory might the psalmist be referring to?
98:3 Is it possible for the LORD to not to remember?
98:4 What sort of noise is joyful?  Does “all the earth” refer only to human beings or to all living creatures? Could “all the earth” also refer to waterfalls, wind, the sound of waves breaking on a sandy beach, and other natural sounds?
98:5-6 What?  No organ?  No piano? No guitar? No drums?
98:7 I think the question I raised in relation to 98:4 has been answered.
98:8 I have heard floods literally clap, but I have never heard hills literally, only metaphorically, sing. Was this verse the inspiration for the movie title The Sound of Music?
98:9 Will God judge all the earth, or only human beings? Is the psalmist making any distinction between the earth and the world? 

1 JOHN 5:1-6
5:1 Is it also true that everyone born of God believes that Jesus is the Christ?  Is being “born of God” the same as being born anew, or born from above?
5:1-2 Note the transition from the singular “child” to the plural “children.”  To what commandments is the author referring?
5:3 Would Paul agree that the commandments are not burdensome?
5:4 What is the meaning of “conquer?”  What is the meaning of “faith?” Is it faith that conquers?
5:5 Is there a difference between believing and saying that “Jesus is the Son of God?” Is  this verse asking a rhetorical question?
5:6 To what is the author referring when writing about “water and the blood?”  How does the “Spirit” testify?  What does the author mean “the Spirit is the truth?”

John 15:9-17
15:9 Who is speaking?  How does one abide in anyone’s love? What does it mean to abide?
15:10 Whose commandments?  What are these commandments?  If we keep the Son’s commandments, can we then ignore the Father’s commandments? What is the difference between the Son’s commandments and the Father’s commandments?
15:11 Is your joy complete?
15:12 Is this the answer to my question raised in relation to 15:10? But 15:10 spoke of commandments in the plural. In this verse, commandment is singular.
15:13 What does it mean to lay down one’s life?
15:14 So this friendship is conditional?
15:15 Did Jesus ever call people servants? Jesus may have told his disciples everything but they rarely understood what they were hearing.
15:16 This is sounding very Reformed and Presbyterian!  The Father will give us whatever we ask only if we bear everlasting fruit? What does it mean to ask “in my name?”
15:17 I heard only one command in 15:12, so why the switch back to the plural “commands?”

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

Monday, April 16, 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.

ACTS 8:26-40
8:26 How do you deal with angels in your teaching and preaching?  Why Philip? Does it matter that this is a wilderness road?
8:27 There is a lot in this verse to unpack.  Why are we told so much about this man? Is there anything special about Ethiopia? What is a eunuch? What or who is “the Candace?” Why would an Ethiopian come to Jerusalem to worship?
8:28 Thank God he was not reading Numbers! I wonder what language he was reading.
8:29 Has the angel of 8:26 become “the Spirit?”
8:30 Why would the Ethiopian be reading aloud?
8:31 Why would anybody read anything on their own if they needed a guide to help them understand it? This passage, combined with the Gospel Reading from two weeks ago, offers all the reason we need for ongoing study of scripture.
8:32b-33 Where in Isaiah can we find this passage?
8:34 What an opportune question!
8:35 Perhaps the lesson we should learn from this is to proclaim the good news beginning with where people have questions, where they are in their journey, and not require them to start somewhere else.
8:36 Was there a reason why this Ethiopian eunuch should not have been baptized? Had Philip informed the Ethiopian about baptism or did the Ethiopian already know about the practice?
8:37 This sure sounds like confessional language but does it say everything we would expect an adult being baptized today to say?
8:38 To bad we don’t have a description of the baptism. Then again, maybe we should be thankful that we don’t have a description. I wonder what body of water they were near and used.
8:39 Why would the Spirit snatch Philip away? If Philip was snatched way, who was the witness to the Ethiopian rejoicing?
8:40 What do you know about Azatos? Did Philip stop proclaiming the good news when he arrived at Caesarea?

PSALM 22:25-31
22:25 Who, or what, is the great congregation?  What vows? What is the meaning of “fear?”
22:26 What do we do with the shift from the second person to the first person?
22:27 How many ends does the earth have? How many families of the nations are there? How many nations are there? Does “nations” refer to political entities or ethnic groups?
22:28 How do we understand dominion? Israel recognized the Lord as their ultimate ruler, but what about other nations?
22:29 Who are sleeping in the earth? Is death being contrasted with life?
22:30 How can the Psalmist speak for posterity? How many generations? Seven generations? Infinite generations?
22:31 How can anything be proclaimed to people not yet born? Done what?

1 JOHN 4:7-21
4:7 Who is “us?”
4:8 What does it mean to say that God is love?
4:9 Why did God’s love have to be revealed?
4:10 How can a sacrifice atone? Does this passage presume any particular theory of the atonement?
4:11 But what does it mean to love one another? It seems that the arguments is not only trhat God is love but that God is the source of our love.
4:12 What does not seeing God add to the argument? How is God’s love perfected in us?
4:13 Who is “we?” Is it logical to shift so abruptly from loving to abiding, from the Son to the Spirit? What does it mean to abide?
4:14 What is the meaning of “world?”
4:15 See Acts 8:37.
4:16a What is the difference between knowing and believing?
4:16b I think this is not only good poetry but good theology.
4:17 What and when is the day of judgement?  What does “as he is, so are we in this world” mean?
4:18 I like this verse.  What does this verse say to “hell, fire and damnation” preachers and their sermons? What is the meaning of fear? What is perfect love?
4:19 Could be argued that without God’s love we cannot love?
4:20 How does this verse inform Christian ethics? What about loving people who are not brothers and sisters in Christ? What about loving the stranger?
4:21 After fourteen verses about love, why say anything about a commandment? Who is “him?” How does this relate to the New Commandment of John’s Gospel?

John 15:1-8
15:1 Is there a difference between a vine and the true vine? What is the meaning of “true?” Is there such a thing as a false vine? Should we be thinking specifically of grape vines or will imagining any vine do?
15:2 What branches do we find within ourselves? Even fruit producing vines are occasionally cut back! How do pastor’s and how does the church prune?
15:3 How does the word cleanse? Is cleansing the same as pruning?
15:4 How do we abide? See 1 John 4:13. Is love our fruit?
15:5 Note that this is one (of the seven) “I am” sayings of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. What is more important, bearing lots of inferior fruit or less but superior fruit?
15:6 Are we still talking about the branches within us? I think it is wrong to, in any way, connect this verse to any concept of hell or fires of hell.
15:7 Is Jesus the same as his words? Whatever we wish? What if I wish to win the lottery so that I can give it all away to charitable organizations?
15:8 Is bearing much fruit something other than becoming Jesus disciple? Note that Jesus uses the plural “disciples”.

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 4th Sunday of Easter (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.

ACTS 4:5-12
4:5 What happened the day before?  Who are the “they” of the “their”?
4:6 Annas and Caiaphas I am familiar with.  Who are John and Alexander?
4:7 What prisoners?  Did what? How are “power” and “name” connected?
4:8 Was Peter filled with the Holy Spirit prior to this or just for this?
4:9 Why is Peter being questioned? Are others also being questioned?
4:10 Juxtapose this verse and its “name” with Psalm 23:3 and 1 John 3:23
4:8-10 Peter’s response might have been better received if he had not accused his interlocutors of crucifying Jesus.
4:11 What is Peter quoting or alluding to?
4:12 This sounds like confessional language. How is healing (4:10) akin to salvation?

PSALM 23
23:1-6 Is this Psalm too familiar for us to hear it anew? If the Shepherd image no longer works for most people, what other images might we employ – dog walker, home health care or child care worker, guide?
23:1 Note that in the NRSV, LORD is all uppercase.  So what?
23:2 Have you ever been prone in a green pasture?  Have you ever been led by still waters?
23:3 Juxtapose with Acts 4:10 and I John 3:23
23:4 What is the darkest valley you have ever walked through?  Are a rod and a staff two different things or is this an example of Hebraic poetic repetition? How can a rod and staff comfort?
23:5 Have you ever eaten a meal in the presence of your enemies?  Has your head ever been anointed with oil? What is the meaning of an overflowing cup?
23:6 What and where is the house of the LORD? Would you want to dwell in the house of the LORD your whole life long?

1 JOHN 3:16-24
3:16 Who is “he”?  What does it mean to lay down one’s life? Consider John 10:11-18
3:17 Ouch! Perhaps we ought to read this in light of the Acts Reading (Acts 4:32-35) from two weeks ago.
3:18 Why the moniker “little children?”
3:19 It is beginning to sound like “truth” is being personified.
3:20 It sounds like one’s heart is the same as one inner voice or conscience. How and when do our hearts condemn us?
3:21 What does boldness before God look and feel like?
3:22 What has been asked? Whose commandments? Which commandments? Is there a quid pro quo here? Is this verse about prayer?
3:23 Where have I heard something like this before? Juxtapose this verse with Acts 4:10 and Psalm 23:3. What does it mean to believe in a name?
3:23-24 Consider this in the context of John 15:1-17.

John 10:11-18
10:11 And which Psalm are you know thinking of?
10:12-13 Who is the hired hand?
10:14 Should we make anything of the “I am” language? How do “I am” passages function in John’s Gospel?
10:15 Is Jesus referring to the crucifixion? See 1 John 3:16.
10:16 I love this verse and its invitation to think about Christian universalism.  What does it mean for there to be many folds in one flock? What is the difference between a fold and flock?
10:17 Does the Father need a reason to love the Son? Does the notion of Jesus taking up his life again conflict in any way with Jesus being raised rather than rising?
10:18 What command?

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

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Season’s First Paddle

A season’s first paddle elicits mixed emotions. I am excited about getting back out on the water as I look forward to breathing in fresh air, feeling spray against my face, seeing various water birds, and hearing waves lap against the hull. I am also apprehensive. I wonder if I will be able to find all my gear after it being stored for the winter. If I find it, will it be in good condition? How many cobwebs, spiders, and rodent nests will I need to clean out from inside my kayak when I take it down from storage? Will my forward stroke be as strong as it was last fall?

The first paddle of the season also means trying out new gear obtained over the winter. Last fall I purchased a NRS cVest PFD to replace my old original PFD but did not wear it before I put my boat and gear away for the season. I also recently acquired a new NRS H2Core Silkweight long-sleeve shirt that I was looking forward to reviewing after wearing it for a few paddles.

Fortunately, there were no live animals or nests inside my Dagger Zydeco 9.0  when I took it down, just some old dried leaves, a couple dead stink bugs, and a little water, sand and gravel indicating that I had not done a very good job cleaning out my boat when I last hung it up. I easily loaded it on top the car, strapped it down, and headed to one of my nearest go to paddling locations.

258 acre Cross Creek Lake offers three put in locations, the nearest less than eleven miles from home. Under a partly sunny sky and a temperature around fifty, I pulled into the unloading area near the docks and ramp, but the docks were not yet in the water. The low level docks that usually float near the ramp had not yet been installed after being taken out for the winter. They were still sitting along the edge of the parking area.

As I started to take my boat off its racks, I was also surprised how windy it was. I had not noticed any wind back home when I loaded my boat on top of the car.  Now it was blowing hard enough that I had to make sure it did not catch my kayak as I lowered it down. As I carried my boat toward the lake, I saw that the wind was whipping up some large ripples, large enough, I later learned, to splash across my deck even though they were not cresting.

I managed to remain dry when entering the cockpit by slipping down into it from a concrete dock abutment that reached out into the lake. With the wind at my back, I paddled the most direct course I could toward another dock area at the eastern end of the lake. Along the way I passed at least a dozen small boats, each with one or two anglers fishing.

Thirty minutes later, as I neared the eastern end of the lake, I saw what I expected. The low-level kayaking dock had not yet been put into the water. Rather than getting out of my boat to stretch, I stayed in the cockpit, resting for a few minutes and drinking a few swigs from my water bottle, before heading back across the lake.

As soon as I turned around, I felt the wind blowing almost directly onto my face. Rather than paddling a beeline through the middle of the lake and directly into the headwind, I paddled toward shore in search of a wind break, but found none. Not wanting to be pushed backward, I kept paddling at a steady pace, focusing more than usual on making sure each stroke was efficient and hopping my return to the car was not too taxing.

Forty-five minutes after turning around, I was back to where I started. My hands and feet were a little cold but my core was warm. I quickly took my kayak out of the water, carried it up to the car, placed it on its cradles, and strapped it down.  Then I stowed my gear and was headed back home.

As I drove country roads across rolling hills, I thought about how satisfied I was with my new PFD and new paddling shirt. Upon reflection, my forward stroke felt pretty good, especially when I was paddling into the wind. All in all, it was a good, if short, season’s first paddle. I felt both tired and refreshed, a bit challenged but also invigorated, and I was already looking forward to my next paddle.