Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (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.

JOB 23:1-9, 16-17
23:1 Whom is Job answering?
23:2 What is Job’s complaint?  What is a “bitter” complaint?  Whose hand is heavy?
23:3 Whom does Job not know where to find?
23:4 Job is sounding like a trial attorney.
23:5 Is Job seeking understanding?
23:6 Why does Job think he would not be contended with?
23:7 Could any person who is not upright contend with such greatness and power?
23:8-9 Has Job really gone in all directions?  Like the Khan character in The Wrath of Khan, Job seems to be a two-dimensional thinker.  In a Copernican universe, three dimensions might be enough, but in a post-Einstein universe, we must posit at least four dimensions.  Where do we look for God in a four or more-dimensional universe?
23:16 Is Job’s terror anything like Rudolph Otto’s Mysterium Tremendum?
23:17 Does Job’s “if only” indicate the futility of trying to hide from God?

PSALM 22:1-15
22:1 Where have we heard this before? It seems like we hear this at least every three years if not more often. I think it was John Shelby Spong that taught me to read the Passion narratives as Midrash on Psalm 22.
22:2 How many times have you felt this way?
22:3 I think this “yet” is a one-word statement of faith.
22:4 Is this only an appeal to salvation history?
22:5 Is the psalmist perhaps trying to play on God’s emotions?
22:6 But I am not like my ancestors?
22:7 I have a hunch the psalmist is talking about more than just popularity.
22:8 Who or what is being quoted? Does the Psalmist assume, or do the people assume that God delights in the Psalmist?
22:9 God takes us from the womb?
22:10 This reads as if life, if not faith, begins at birth, not conception.
22:11 How far is too far?
22:12 What is a bull of Bashan?
22:13 Why talk about bulls as if they were lions?
22:14 Are these mixed metaphors/images? What does it mean to be poured out like water? What does it mean for a heart to be melted?
22:15 Give this Psalmist a drink of cool, refreshing water of life, please!

HEBREWS 4:12-16
4:12 How can a word, any word, be living and active?  What does it mean to separate soul from spirit? Is this word a written word, a spoken word, or both? Or more than both?
4:13 Were Adam and Eve still naked even after they attempted to cover themselves?
4:14 What is a high priest?  What is a great high priest? Why the plural “heavens?”  How many heavens are there? What confession?
4:15 Are there high priests who are unable to sympathize with our weaknesses?  Is there a difference between being tested and being tempted? Must a high priest, or any priest for that matter, be without sin?
4:16 In the context of this verse, how do you define “boldness?” Who sits on the throne of grace and where is it?

MARK 10:17-31
10:17 Who was setting out, where was he setting out from, and where was he heading to? What sort of journey? Is there any significance to the man using the word “inherit?”  What words, other than “inherit” do we usually hear associated with “eternal life?”
10:18 What has the Church and Christian community not learned from this verse?
10:19 Why does Jesus refer only to the second tablet of the law rather than both tablets?
10:20 This man is a saint!
10:21 The conundrum: give away your riches and you will have what you lack.
10:22 Was he grieving because he gave up eternal life for riches, or because he gave up riches for eternal life?
10:23 Do you hear this, 1%? Is the kingdom of God the same as eternal life?
10:24 Why were the disciples perplexed? The kingdom of heaven must be like flying with all one’s possessions in a carry on. Are we, as well, perplexed by this verse?
10:25 A few years ago I learned that is easier to drive a car through the Queens Blvd. overpass on the Jackie Robinson Pkwy in Queens than it is for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.
10:26 Is the answer not obvious?  The poor can be saved.
10:27 So even God can enable a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God?
10:28 Peter, also known as the “open mouth, insert foot” disciple, offers his two cents worth.
10:29 What relative is not mentioned?
10:30 When is “this age?” I can do without the persecution part. What and when is the age to come?
10:31 The classical Christian inversion.
                                                                  
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. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (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.

JOB 1:1, 2:1-10
1:1 This is a very long verse and sounds like “once upon a time?”  What do you know about the land of Uz?  What does it mean that Job “feared God?”
2:1 How many heavenly beings are there?  What is the meaning of the name “Satan?” Why was Satan among the heavenly beings? What are heavenly beings?
2:2 Would not an omniscient God not have to ask this question?  Do I hear an echo of Genesis 3:9?  Did Satan prefer the earth to heaven?
2:3 Why did the LORD bring up the topic of Job?  Since Satan had just been on the earth, is this a put down of Satan, God saying to Satan “Job is better than you?”
2:4 What is the meaning of “skin for skin?”
2:5 What does it mean to touch bone and flesh?
2:6 Is this going to be a test of Job’s integrity or Satan’s power?  Is God testing, even tempting, Satan?
2:7 Is there a double meaning to the phrase “Satan went out from the presence of the LORD?”
2:8 Some days, anyone of us may feel like Job. Why was Job sitting among the ashes?
2:9 Was Job’s wife also tempting him?
2:10 Job is, above all, a man of clear logic.  Job may not have sinned with his lips, but what about with his heart or mind? Could Job curse God and live?

PSALM 26
26:1 This indeed sounds like something Job might have said. What does it mean to be vindicated by the LORD?
26:2 What about “lead me not into temptation?” Did the Psalmist have a martyr complex?
26:3 Is claiming to walk in faithfulness an example of religious/spiritual arrogance?
26:4 Could Jesus have said this?
26:5 Would Jesus have so boasted?
26:6 This Psalmist is beginning to sound not only arrogant but self-righteous. I think this might be my least favorite Psalm!
26:7 What are God’s wondrous deeds?
26:8 Can we truly say this when God is omnipresent?  This seems to reflect worship of a domesticated God confined to the Temple rather than a wild and primitive wandering God sometimes abiding in a tent, sometimes a cloud, and sometimes a column of fire.
26:9 How might “the day of the Lord” inform our understanding of this verse?
26:10 What are evil devices?
26:11 Is the Psalmist pleading his case before God’s bench?
26:12 What does “level ground” suggest or represent? What is “the great congregation?”

HEBREWS 1:1-4; 2:5-12
1:1A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...."   So sorry, wrong story.  What ways did God speak by the prophets? Where and how does God speak today? Where do we see and hear God?
1:2 What does the author mean by “last days?” Why the plural “worlds?”
1:3 What is the difference between a reflection and an imprint?  What is his powerful word?  Does “purification for sins” presume any particular understanding of the Atonement?
1:4 What name did he inherit and from whom did he inherit it?
2:5 What is the coming world? Read this in light 1:2.
2:6-8 What is the source of this saying?
2:7 How are humans crowned with glory and honor?
2:8 Are all things really subjected to humans? Will all things someday be subjected to humans?
2:9 Where do we see Jesus today? Is death always a form of suffering, or in his death did Jesus suffer in a way that no human has suffered?
2:10 Who are God’s many children?  What is perfection? Note the plural “sufferings.” Why was it fitting?
2:11 We are all one family.
2:12 Where in the Gospels does Jesus say this? What congregation?

MARK 10:2-16
10:2 How many Pharisees, two, twenty, two hundred?  Were the Pharisees seeking to “test” Jesus as God tested Job and the Psalmist?  What could Jesus know about a man having a wife?
10:3 What did Moses, or what did God command you?
10:4 So much for family values.
10:5 Is this the only commandment due to our hardness of heart?
10:6 Which creation account does this presuppose?
10:7 Does a woman not also leave her parents?
10:8 What if the couple do not enjoy or engage in sexual intercourse?
10:9 What about conjoined twins?
10:10 In whose house?  Where the disciples also seeking to test Jesus?
10:11 What about a wife who divorces her husband?
10:12 The question is answered. Did Moses say anything about a wife divorcing her husband?
10:11-13 Have Biblical literalists arguing against same sex marriage ignored the fact that Jesus said nothing about same sex marriage but rather said this about heterosexual marriage and divorce?
10:13 Ouch.  This sounds ugly considering reported sexual abuse of young boys by clergy and football coaches.  I would prefer “laying on of hands” rather than “touch.” What is appropriate touch and what is not? Personally, I do not want to live in a touchless world.
10:14 How can the kingdom of God belong to little children?  Can we grow too big or too old for God’s kingdom? What does this say about removing or excusing children from worship for “children’s church?”
10:15 I think a whole sermon could be preached based on this single verse.
10:16 Who do we bless and how do we bless them?
                                                                  
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. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (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.

ESTHER 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
7:1 Who is the king and what is he king of?  What is the relationship between Haman and Esther?
7:2 On the second day of what? Can you think of any other passage in Scripture where a king offers half his kingdom?
7:3 Who are Esther’s people and why does she ask for her life and the life of her people?
7:4 Can you think of any other story in the Jewish Scriptures about someone being sold? How shall we read this in light of The Shoah?
7:5 How could the king not know about this?
7:6 Imagine the scene!
7:9 Does it matter that Harbona was a eunuch?  How could Harbona know what was going on when the King did not know?
7:10 The height of irony.
9:20 Why did Mordecai record these things?  Why did he send letters?  I think it would be a find of great historical significance if one of these letters or the court records were ever discovered.
9:21-22 The feast on these days commemorating all these events is called what?

PSALM 124
124:1 Must the LORD be on any one’s side?
124:1-2 This sounds like a call and response. What enemies attacked?
124:3 Thus, the victory belongs to the LORD.
124:4-5 Is this a reference to the Exodus?
124:6 Would the Psalmist still be praising the LORD if some or most of Israel had been given up as prey?
124:7 What is a fowler?
124:8 This is not the confession of a national security state.

JAMES 5:13-20
5:13 Is this an admonition?  Shall the suffering only pray?  How many congregations on Sunday morning really sound cheerful?
5:14 How many PC(USA) Elders do you know who anoint with oil when they pray for healing?
5:15 Is this a reference to faith healing?  What is the relation, if any, between faith and healing?
5:16 Why do we not practice mutual confession, or does a corporate prayer of confession count? How is the prayer of the righteous powerful and effective?  What about the prayer of the unrighteous?
5:17-18 What is the point, that we should pray it doesn’t rain? Can prayer affect the weather?
5:19-20 How do we wander from the truth? How do we bring truth wanderers back into the fold?

MARK 9:38-50
9:38 What do you think of the situation John describes?  What is your take on “demons?”
9:39 What do you think of Jesus’ advice?
9:40 Is the enemy of my enemy my friend?
9:41 What reward?
9:42 What is a stumbling block?  Of the sixteen occurrences of “stumbling block” in the NRSV, consider especially 1 Cor. 1:23.  Who are “these little ones?”
9:43-47 How do children and others who understand Scripture literally understand these verses?
9:48 Why do many of our contemporary images of hell include flames but not worms?
9:49 What does it mean to be salted with fire?
9:50 How does this verse follow from the verse that precedes it.
                                                                  
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. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (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.

PROVERBS 31:10-31
31:10-31 Is this an example of a sexist Lectionary, not necessarily because the reading itself is sexist, but because there is no “capable husband” text to balance it?
31:10 How do we hear this now that the Supreme Court has legalized same sex marriage? On the other hand, comparing a woman to a physical item could be seen as sexist, suggesting that a capable wife is a possession, mere “arm candy,” like a “trophy wife,” more precious than jewels.
31:11 What will the husband gain?
31:12 What sort of good. What sort of harm?
31:13 What about professional, non-domestic work?
31:14 The “Trader Joe’s” of wives!
31:15 Does the mention of “servant-girls” suggest this is a text for the more well to do?
31:16 Women could buy and own property?
31:17 Now I am envisioning Rosie the riveter.
31:18 Is there a double meaning here?
31:19 I know what a spindle is. What is a distaff?
31:20 I wonder if her husband does this as well? I wonder if her husband even knows about it.
31:21 Is crimson clothing warmer than other colors of clothing, or does wearing it make it easier to be found if lost in the snow?
31:22 What do you know about purple colored clothing? What does purple colored clothing signify?
31:23 What is the significance of “the city gate?”
31:24 Women could engage in their own business?
31:25 What does “laughing at the time to come” mean?
31:26 In other words, this woman does not keep silent.
31:27 This woman sounds very industrious.
31:28 How would a wife who is childless, perhaps not by choice, hear this verse?
31:29 Is the Psalmist addressing someone specifically or talking to the idealized “capable wife?”
31:30 What does it mean to “fear the LORD?”
31:31 Might this have been a feminist  sentiment in its day?

PSALM 1
1:1 Where do scoffers sit?
1:2 What does it mean to meditate on the Law of the LORD?
1:3 To borrow a phrase that at one time circulated on facebook, “following the law of the LORD bears fruits, not nuts.” How are the law of the LORD and streams of water alike?
1:4 What is chaff? What process is being alluded to here?
1:5 the wicked will not be judged, or they will not survive the judgement?
1:6 Is there a difference between the LORD watching over the way of the righteous and watching over the righteous?  Note that it is not the wicked that perish but the way of the wicked that will perish. What do you know about Jerusalem’s The Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations?

JAMES 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
3:13 Socrates, Plato and Aristotle might agree. How does wisdom beget gentleness?
3:14 What is the relation between wisdom and truth? Does the wise person harbor envy and selfishness? Does this verse have any bearing on the current US political climate?
3:15 There seems to be at least two types of wisdom, earthly and spiritual.
3:16 Could we read this as a commentary on our culture?
3:17 Wisdom from above sounds preferable to earthly wisdom.
3:18 In or out of context, this is one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture and one we should all keep in mind.  Why does the United States have a Defense Department (formerly the War Department) but has never had a Peace Department?  We have Military Academies but no nationally funded Peace Academy. Go figure!
4:1 Is this a na├»ve understanding of conflict?  How much of our conflict is based on psychological projection?
4:2 Were Christians actually committing murder? Are not murder and coveting against the moral law?
4:2-3 What is the difference between not asking and asking wrongly?
4:3 This is sounding like an indictment of the consumerist economy and marketing that appeals to selfish emotions.  How would this verse play out in a prosperity gospel?
4:7 I can do without devil language.
4:8 This makes sense to me and based on personal experience seems somewhat true. I read this verse in light of the tradition contemplative prayer and centering prayer.

MARK 9:30-37
9:30 No know what?
9:31 Do you think that when Jesus teaches his disciples he is teaching the church, and that when he speaks to the crowd, he is speaking to the wider culture?  Why might Jesus have used “Son of Man” imagery? Where does this imagery come from? Was Jesus applying this “Son of Man” imagery to himself?
9:32 How often do people in the pews or in the classroom not understand the preacher/teacher but are afraid to ask a question? I want people to ask questions. I wish they would ask more questions than they do.
9:33 What do you know about Capernaum?  Whose house might Jesus have been in?  Do you think the Disciple’s argued often? Shall we read this comment about argueing in light of Jmes 4:1? Might “the way” be multivalent?
9:34 Is Jesus not the greatest?  Oh, right, he is the least! Have you ever know members of the church to argue about whom among them is the greatest?
9:35 Why did Jesus sit them down? Does this verse suggest that there were more people around than just the twelve?
9:36 Where did the little child come from? How old do you think this child might have been? Why does Mark refer to the child as “it” rather than “him” or her?”
9:37 So welcoming a little child and holding him or her in my arms is akin to welcoming Jesus and thus God?  I can live with that! What does this have to do with being least of all and a servant of all, however?
           
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. Some of my other blog posts have appeared on PRESBYTERIAN BLOGGERS and The Trek.