Monday, May 7, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The Day of Pentecost (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 2:1-21
If you choose to use this reading as the Reading, then you would use the Romans 8:22-27 as the Second Reading.
2:1 How did early Christians know the day of Pentecost had arrived when they had not yet been filled with the Holy Spirit? In other words, what are the Jewish roots of Pentecost? Who are “they” and what does it mean (existentially and theologically) that “they were all together in one place?”
2:2 What Greek word is translated as wind and how else might it be translated? Why were they sitting in a house?
2:3 What is a divided tongue? Where might this image have come from/ What are its roots?
2:4 Do you think some of them spoke in other languages better than others? Was this the first and original Rosetta Stone? Why speak in other languages?
2:5 What is the difference between a devout Jew and a Jew? Where these Jews living in or actually visiting Jerusalem?
2:6 When was the last time you were bewildered?
2:7 When was the last time worship where you usually attend left you or anyone else amazed and astonished?
2:8-11 Why are all these but no other places mentioned?
2:10 What is the difference between a Jew and a proselyte?
2:11 What are God’s deeds of power?
2:12 When was the last time your sermon or Bible study amazed and perplexed anyone? I would settle for people simply asking “What does this mean?” after I lead a Bible study or preach a sermon.
2:13 What is the difference between new wine and old wine? Cannot both intoxicate?
2:14 Why Peter?
2:15 But it is always 9:00 AM somewhere in the world.
2:16 Of all the Prophets, why Joel? I think this might be the longest quote of Jewish Scriptures in the New Testament.
2:17-18 By quoting this passage, is Peter insinuating that it was the last days? If God poured out the Spirit on all flesh, sons as well as daughters, both male and female slaves, then why in Acts 2:14 does Peter address only men?
2:19 What is a portent?
2:20 Is this a reference to eclipses?
2:21 From Joel’s perspective how does one call on the name of the Lord when devout Jew would not pronounce the name of the Lord?
2:1-21 Was the miracle at Pentecost that people spoke various language, or that people understood all that was spoken? Native English speakers seem to sometimes have difficulty understanding one another even when we all speak and understand English.

EZEKIEL 37:1-14
If you use this as the First Reading, then you can choose to use either Acts 2:1-21 or Romans 8:22-27 as the Second Reading.
37:1-14 Remember that this is a vision of what is to be, not an historical account of something that has already happened. The language is figurative, not descriptive.
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.
37:2 What might the valley of dry bones symbolize?
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?
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! In other words, bones, sinews, flesh and skin do not make for life.
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 was the last time you heard a minister refer to “the four winds” or use that phrase in a prayer or another place in the liturgy?
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. Who is feeling dried up today?
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?

PSALM 104:24-34, 35b
104:24 What works? What does it mean “In wisdom you have made them?”
104:25 The sea may be a metaphor or even symbol of uncreated chaos left over from the creation.
104:26 Is this Hobbes’ Leviathan? Or is it Shamu? The Kraken? Nessie?
104:27-28 So God sustains even sea monsters?
104:29 What does it mean for God to hide the divine face? What does it mean to take away the breath? How else might the Hebrew word for breath be translated? Does the breath of God animate all living creatures, not just humans?
104:30 Does this verse alone justify pairing this Psalm with the Acts passage and to read it on Pentecost Sunday? What does it mean to ‘renew the face of the ground?”
104:31 What does it mean for the LORD to rejoice? Works appears for the second time in this verse. The first appearance was in verse 24.
104:32 Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Oh My! This must be Hawaii. Is it bad science, and bad theology, to associate natural geologic phenomena with God?
104:33 Is this talking about continuous song? It is too bad the reanimated bones in the Ezekiel passage did not erupt into singing songs of praise. We could have called them the grateful dead.
104:34 What does meditation refer to?

ROMANS 8:22-27
8:22 Who is “we?” Read this verse in light of Psalm 104:32. Does this verse legitimize Christians speaking of “mother earth?”
8:23 What are the first fruits of the Spirit? What does it mean to groan inwardly?
8:24 What is hope?
8:25 What do you hope for? Is Paul making the distinction between faith and fact?
8:26 Why do we not know how to pray as we ought?  Can prayer be taught?  Is there any comparison between “sighs too deep for words” and glossolalia? Might this verse be used to provide a theological foundation for the practice of Contemplative Prayer?
8:27 Does this verse suggest that the Spirit resides in the heart (rather than the mind) of individuals? What does it mean that the Spirit has a mind?

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
15:26 Is the Fourth Gospel the only New Testament writing to refer to the Spirit as the “Advocate?”  How do you reconcile this verse with the filioque clause of the Nicene Creed? Is “the Advocate” the same as “the Spirit of truth?”
15:27 From the beginning of what? What does it mean to testify?
15:4b What things?
15:5 Did not Thomas eventually ask?
15:6 Has Jesus ever said anything to you that filled your heart with sorrow?
15:7 Why can the Advocate not come to believers until after Jesus leaves them? Can Jesus and the Advocate not be present at the same time?
15:8 How was the world wrong about these things? Why had Jesus not set the world straight about these things?
15:9 What is the relationship between belief and sin?
15:10 What does Jesus going to the Father have to do with righteousness?
15:11 Who is “the ruler of this world?”
15:12 What else do you think Jesus wanted to say that he did not say? When, if ever, will he say them? Do you think Jesus regrets not having said more?
15:13 Where does the Spirit of Truth hear what he (or she?) speaks? Does the Spirit of truth speak only about the future?
15:14 How will the Spirit of truth glorify Jesus? What is Christ’s and how will the Spirit of truth declare it? Why did Jesus not declare it himself?
15:15 What does the Father have?

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.

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