Monday, December 24, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the Baptism of the Lord (Year C)


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.

ISAIAH 43:1-7
43:1 Who is initially speaking? To whom is the LORD speaking? What is the relationship, if any, between redemption and calling by name?
43:2 What waters are being referred to?  When Christians read this passage considering the Sacrament of baptism, are we misreading the Hebrew Scriptures, or simply exercising Hebrew Midrash from a Christian perspective?  I wonder how post Shoah Jews read and interpret this passage.
43:3 PC(USA) Presbyterians: Do not forget the opening lines of A Brief Statement of Faith!  How was Egypt given as a ransom?  Why the mention of Ethiopia and Seba?
43:4 I like the first part of this verse, but the second part rubs me the wrong way. If the LORD is giving away people and nations, to whom or what is the LORD giving them to?
43:5-6 Note that all four cardinal directions are named. These verses remind me of an invitation to the Lord’s Table: “They will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.” It also reminds me of some Native American traditions relating to the four winds and/or four directions.
43:6 Note that sons and daughters are both mentioned, a rare inclusive verse!
43:7 Could this verse not be used to argue for universalism?  This verse could provide an interesting juxtaposition in relation to the exclusiveness of Christian Baptism.

PSALM 29
29:1 What does it mean to ascribe?  How do we ascribe?  What, or which, heavenly beings are addressed here?
29:2 Do you worship in holy splendor?  What does holy splendor look, smell, sound, feel, and taste like?
29:3 What does the voice of the LORD sound like?  Would you recognize it if you heard it?  Being a sailor and kayaker, I really like and relate to this verse.  How do people who are land locked and had never experienced the ocean or other large body of water understand this verse?
29:4 With a voice like this the LORD deserves a contract as an announcer and/or commercial spokesperson.
29:5-9 Think of the scene/passage in The Hobbit where Bilbo and the dwarves find themselves amidst giants “hurling rocks at one another for a game, and catching them and tossing them down into darkness where they are smashed among the trees far below, or splintered into little bits with a bang.” This passage is not talking about a “April showers” God but rather a “summer thunderstorm” God.
29:6 Where is Sirion and why is it mentioned?
29:7 Is this a reference to lightening or a volcanic eruption?
29:8 Where is the wilderness of Kadesh?
29:9 Who say “Glory?”
29:10 How are people in flood ravaged areas hearing this?
29:10-11 How do we reconcile images of a storm god with peace?
29:1-11 There is no still small voice here, no safe, domesticated God. This Psalm is about the God of fierce landscapes, the God of raw power represented by severe and intense natural phenomena. I doubt many would be comfortable welcoming this God into their clean, climate controlled, predictable sanctuaries.

ACTS 8:14-17
8:14 Is the Jerusalem setting important?  What if the apostles had been someplace else other than Jerusalem when they heard this news? Was it surprising or problematic that Samaria (not Samaritans?) had accepted the word of God?  Why was James not sent?
8:15 Does this sound a little judgmental to you? How it is possible that someone accepts the word of God without receiving the Holy Spirit?
8:16 Who is this verse talking about?  Why, in the NRSV, is this verse in parenthesis? How does this verse challenge some who insist on baptizing “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit?” or else it is not a Christian, Trinitarian, Baptism?
8:17 What is so special about the laying on of hands?  Is it possible for a person or a people to receive the Holy Spirit without being baptized? Is either prayer or the laying on of hands not enough? Must prayer and the laying on of hands be combined? What is the difference between “baptism in the name of Jesus” and “baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit?”

LUKE 3:15-17, 21-22
3:15 What people?  When was the last time people in the pews of churches you know were filled with expectation?  Why would people think John could be the Messiah?
3:16 What is so special about the thong of a sandal?  Is the doublet “Holy Spirit and fire” merely poetic, or something more?
3:17 What is a winnowing fork and what is it used for?  What is a threshing floor and what is it used for?  What is chaff?  How do we preach the Gospel in an urban environment where all people know about wheat is that it comes in five pound bags of ground flour and they probably have no idea what the imagery of this passage is communicating?  Why was chaff burned?  Does this passage require the existence of a fire filled hell? Is this unquenchable fire related to the Holy Spirit and fire of the previous verse?
3:21 Really?  All the people?  Do you think this is an exaggeration, a hyperbole?  What does it mean for heaven (singular, not plural) to be opened?
3:22 So the Holy Spirit was someplace over the Jordan River, on the other side of earth from people along a declination of plus or minus 180 degrees?  What is the meaning of “bodily form?”  If in some ways it was like a dove but not really a dove, how was it different? What might a dove symbolize? Whose voice came from heaven and what did it sound like?  Where and when might we hear these words again?
                                                                  
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.

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the Epiphany of the Lord (Years ABC)


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
This is the first year since 2013 that Epiphany falls on a Sunday.  The Lectionary Readings for Epiphany are the same for Years A, B, and C.  It has been my desire, when the service of Epiphany is at night, to combine it with a star watching party with local astronomers and their telescopes, a desire not yet realized.

ISAIAH 60:1-6
60:1 While this is a very appropriate text for Epiphany, what was the original light Isaiah was referring to? What was the original setting historical setting?
60:2 How do we deal with cultural pejorative associations with darkness?
60:3 Does “nation” refer to political entities or peoples?
60:4 Where were the sons and daughters before they returned? Where did thy return from?
60:5 How do we read and interpret this when humans have overfished most species?
60:6 Does this passage shed light on the reading from Matthew 2:1-12, or should we interpret Matthew 2:1-12 as Midrash on this Isaiah 60:1-6? Do you think the author of Matthew had this reading from Isaiah in mind when writing the Gospel? Might this passage have influenced how and what the author of Matthew wrote in the opening chapters of that Gospel?

PSALM 72:1-7, 10-14
72:1 What does it mean that God gives the king justice? Is God’s justice different from human justice?
72:2 What does justice for the poor look like?
72:3 As a native resident of West Virginia, “The Mountain State,” whose lumber, coal, and now natural gas has been extracted and exploited by and the financial benefit of out of state interests, I might hear this passage differently than others.
72:4 I wish Congress and the Trump Administration would read and ponder these verses!
72:5 How long will the sun and moon endure?
72:6 Are you familiar with the king’s connection to the land in the grail legend?
72:10 Do you think this verse justifies this Psalm being associated with Epiphany? Where was Tarshish, Sheba, and Seba?
72:11 What does falling down before the king represent and symbolize?
72:12-14 More verses for the 99% and for Congress and the Trump administration to ponder in the New Year.

EPHESIANS 2:1-12
3:1 So Paul was a prisoner for the sake of the Gentiles but not for the sake of the Jews?
3:2 Paul seems to be emphasizing his ministry to the Gentiles while not saying anything about the Jews.
3:3 What mystery is Paul talking about? What words is he referring to?
3:4 What is the mystery of Christ?  Why all this talk about mystery?  Is Paul trying to appeal to followers of Gentile mystery religions?
3:5 Note the plural “apostles” and “prophets.”  Paul seems to place himself in a company.  He is not alone.
3:6 What body?
3:7 How does one become a servant of the gospel?
3:8 I would rather be the least of all the saints than the greatest of all the sinners, but are not all saints forgiven sinners?
3:9 If you know the plan of the mystery, then is it still a mystery?  This mystery was hidden “in” God?
3:10 Is this one of the earliest uses of the “church?”  What does it mean that there is a rich variety of God’s wisdom? Rulers and authorities are in the heavenly places?
3:11 Do “eternal purposes” require a doctrine of predestination or a sort of Christian fatalism?  Where does free will fit in here?
3:12 I like the note of “boldness and confidence.”

MATTHEW 2:1-12
2:1 When was the time of King Herod? Forgetting what you think you know from familiar carols, according to this Scripture, how many wise men were there?  Must the original “Magi” be translated “men?”  Where in the East might they have come from?
2:2 What does it mean that the Magi saw a star at its rising?
2:3 I can understand why Herod would be frightened, but why would all Jerusalem be frightened?
2:4 Are the chief priests and scribes in any way the Jewish equivalent of the pagan Magi?
2:6 What prophet is being quoted?
2:7 Why did Herod practice secrecy?
2:8 What is the meaning of “sent?”
2:9 Do you know how to use a sextant?  What sort of stars rise, move, and then stop?
2:10 When was the last time you were overwhelmed with joy?
2:11 House?  What happened to the stable?  Where was Joseph? How many treasure chests might there have been?  What is the symbolism, if any, of the gold, frankincense, and myrrh?  Does the fact that three types of gifts are mentioned mean that there had to be three magi?
2:12 Was just one of the magi warned in a dream or did all three dream the same dream? Have you ever been warned about something in a dream?  What other dreams and how many other dreams are there, if any, in the Gospel According to Matthew?  What might Morton Kelsey, John Sanford, Joseph Campbell and/or Carl Jung have said about this dream?
                                                                  
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, December 17, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 1st Sunday After Christmas (Year C)


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.

1 SAMUEL 2:18-20, 26
2:18 What sort of “ministering” was Samuel engaged in? What is an ephod and what does it mean that Samuel was wearing one?
2:19 Who was Samuel’s mother? Did Samuel grow out of his robe every year or was it wearing out after a year’s use?
2:20 Why is Elkanah mentioned by name but Samuel’s mother is not? Who was Eli?
2:26 What is meant by “stature” and what is meant by “favor?”
2:18-20, 26 Why would this passage appear in the Lectionary today, the first Sunday after Christmas?

PSALM 148
148:1 Note that this is one of the “Hallel” Psalms, perhaps especially appropriate this First Sunday after Christmas and the last Sunday before the New Year. Where are the heights?
148:2 What is the difference between angels and all the host?
148:3 How do sun, moon and stars praise?
148:4 Where are the highest heavens? What water is above the heavens? How can post-modern, round earth, heliocentric Christians continue to find meaning in pre-modern, flat earth, geocentric biblical imagery?
148:5 To which creation account does this verse refer?
148:6 What bounds cannot be passed?
148:7 What sea monsters might the psalmist have had in mind? What might the “deeps” represent?
148:8 Does the weather praise the Lord? Have 21st Century Christians lost touch with storm imagery related to God?
148:9 What is the difference between a mountain and a hill? How might you hear and read this if you have lived in Iowa all your life?
148:10 Do creeping things that give us the creeps really praise the Lord?
148:11 Do Presidents, Premiers, and Prime Ministers fall under “all rulers of the earth?”
148:12 There is no ageism or sexism here?
148:13 How is the name of the Lord praised when the name of the Lord is not to be pronounced?
148:14 What is a horn?

COLOSSIANS 3:12-17
3:12 Who are God’s chosen ones? Is this list of virtues meant to be definitive?
3:13 What does it mean to bear with one another? I am hearing echoes of The Lord’s Prayer here.
3:14 How does love bind? I like the imagery of perfect harmony, but for there to be harmony there must be more than one voice. Perhaps singing in a choir has helped me better understand and appreciate this imagery.
3:15 What is the peace of Christ and how does it rule? In the Hebrew tradition, what is the meaning of “hearts?”
3:16 What is the word of Christ and how is it different from the peace of Christ? What is the difference among psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs?
3:17 Doing is one thing. What about being, or thinking, or feeling? How do we do anything, let alone everything, in the name of the Lord Jesus?

Luke 2:41-52
2:41 Why am I hearing an echo of 1 Samuel 2:19? Whose parents?
2:42 Is there anything special about being a twelve-year-old Jewish boy?
2:43 Was Jesus misbehaving by staying behind? How could his parents not know he was not with them when they left for home?
2:44 How far is a day’s journey?
2:45 I wonder if they returned that night or waited until the next day.
2:46 Is the “after three days” a premonition or forth telling allusion to the resurrection? Why would Jesus have been listening and asking questions rather than teaching?
2:47 What and whose questions was Jesus answering?
2:48 Why were Jesus’ parents astonished? Is there any significance to Jesus’ mother calling him “child” rather than “son?” This passage suggests that Jospej was still alive at the time.
2:49 Was Jesus being a smart ass?
2:50 What did they not understand? Would anybody ever understand Jesus during his ministry on earth?
2:51 So Jesus’s staying behind was indeed seen as an act of disobedience? What things did Jesus’ mother ponder in her heart?
2:52 Why am I hearing an echo of 1 Samuel 2:26? Do you think the author of Luke was alluding to the story of Samuel in the Temple when writing this story?
                                                                  
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, December 10, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 4th Sunday of Advent Time (Year C)


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 are a couple of options this week. One could use the Canticle (Luke 1:46b-55) rather than the Psalm (80:1-7) and the shorter Gospel Reading (Luke 1:39-45), or one could use the Psalm (80:1-7) rather than the Canticle (Luke 1:46b-55) and not use the Canticle at all, or one could use the Psalm and include the Canticle as part of the Gospel Reading (Luke 1:39-55). I will use the Canticle rather than the Psalm and then use the shorter Gospel Reading.

MICAH 5:2-5a
5:2 What is the meaning of “Bethlehem?”  What is the significance, or insignificance, of Ehhpratah?  What sort of origin is from of old? When were ancient days?
5:3 Who is giving whom up?  Who is in labor?  Whose kindred shall return?
5:4 What does it mean to feed a flock in the strength of the LORD?
5:5a What does it mean to be “the one of peace”?

LUKE 1:46a-55
1:46b What is the first word in the Latin Vulgate translation of this verse?  How does one’s soul magnify the LORD?
1:47 When and why does your spirit rejoice?
1:48 What is the nature of this lowliness?  What does it mean to be called blessed?
1:49 What great things has the Mighty One done?
1:50 What is the nature of this fear? Is there no mercy for those who do not fear?
1:51 What does “in the thoughts of their hearts” mean? Do we think with our hearts or minds? Do we feel with our hearts or minds?
1:52 What powerful have been brought down from their thrones? What lowly have been lifted up?
1:53 This reads like a 99% passage. What good things have been fed to the hungry? What does it mean to be rich but empty?
1:54 What is the meaning of “in remembrance of his mercy?”
1:55 What promise is being referred to?

PSALM 80:1-7
80:1 What does it mean to “give ear?” How can Jospeh be led like a flock? What are cherubim and where might one find them?
80:2 Why are only these three tribes mentioned?
80:3 What does it mean for God’s face to shine?
80:4 Have you ever felt like God was angry with your prayers?
80:5 Could Christians read this as “anti-Eucharistic” imagery?
80:6 How would the psalmist now if enemies were laughing among themselves?
80:7 This sounds like a refrain. See 80:3.

HEBREWS 10:5-10
10:5 What came before this “consequently?”  Is it not essential to the argument?  Where did Christ say this?  What body has been prepared? 
10:6 What is the difference between a burnt offering and a sin offering?
10:7 What, or where is the scroll of the book?
10:8 What is being quoted?
10:9 The “first” and the “second” refers to what?
10:10 Does this verse presume, or require, any specific theory of the atonement?

LUKE 1:39-45
1:39 What days?  Why did Mary set out and go with haste? What Judean town? Why is it not named?
1:40 Why did Mary not greet Zechariah?
1:41 What is the meaning of the child’s leaping?  Was it the child’s leaping that filled Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit?  If not, when was she filled?
1:42 I wonder how loud her cry was.
1:43 And we too wonder?
1:44 How did Elizabeth know it was joy and not some other emotion?
1:45 Which of the two women is blessed?
1:(46-55) See my ruminations on the Canticle above.
                                                                  
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, December 3, 2018

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 3rd Sunday of Advent Time (Year C)


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.

ZEPHANIAH 3:14-20
3:14 Who is daughter Zion and why is she singing? What is the difference between singing and shouting? What do singing and shouting have to do with rejoicing?
3:15 Who made judgments against Israel?  Who were Israel’s enemies? Has the King of Israel, the LORD, not always been in the midst of Israel?
3:16 What day?  Who will say this to Israel? What do weak hands symbolize?
3:17 I do not like militaristic imagery being applied to the LORD. It is what gave us the Crusades. I do, however, like the imagery of the LORD singing?
3:18 Is worship at your church like a day of festival?
3:19 Are these oppressors the same as the enemies of 3:15? This sounds like a preferential option for the lame, outcast, and shamed.
3:20 At what time? Is the “that time” of this verse the same as the “that day” of Isaiah 12:4? Where are we now if we are not home? What does it mean to be renowned? What does it feel like to be renowned?

ISAIAH 12:2-6
12:2-6 How does your worshiping community react when the Second Reading or Psalm is not a Psalm but a Canticle?
12:2 What is the relationship between trust and fear? How do Christians understand thanksgiving for salvation within the Hebrew Scriptures? This verse reminds me of the TaizĂ© chant “In God I Trust.”
12:3 What and where are the wells of salvation?  Can water from the wells of salvation be bottled and sold?
12:4 What day?  How does one call on the name of the LORD and exalt in his name if the LORD’s name is not to be pronounced? What are the deeds of the LORD?
12:5 Are sung praises preferred over spoken praises? See Zephaniah 3:14.
12:6 Zephaniah 3:14 called for singing aloud. Isaiah here calls for shouting aloud. What is the difference between singing and shouting? Who is the Holy One of Israel?

PHILIPPIANS 4:4-7
4:4 Note that “rejoice” also appeared in Zephaniah 3:13. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being lethargic and 10 being manic, how would you rate your religious/spiritual community’s ability to rejoice?
4:5 How do you define gentleness?” Near is a relative term.  How near is the Lord?
4:6 This must be Bobby McFerrin’s favorite Bible verse.  What is the difference, if any, between prayer and supplication? Is prayer only about requests?
4:7 Are “hearts” and “minds” all inclusive?  What about body and soul?

LUKE 3:7-18
3:7 John the Baptizer (I prefer “Baptizer” over “Baptist”) appears in all four Gospels. As someone once noted: “You cannot tell the Gospel Story without John.” What do you think was the size of the crowds?  How often do evangelists insult those they are preaching to?  What wrath is coming? Who warned them?
3:8 What fruits are worthy of repentance? What stones? 
3:9 Why are non-fruit bearing fruit trees cut down and burned? Does this verse contribute to the imagery of Dante’s inferno?
3:10 This verse is a preacher’s dream! No one ever asks me questions during my sermons.
3:11 This is not good news for the 1%. Maybe someone at the next presidential debate ought to ask each candidate to comment on this verse.
3:12 Why “even?”  Other than John and Jesus, is anyone else in the New Testament ever referred to as a teacher?  I think it is significant that John is addressed the same way Jesus would be later addressed.  Or maybe it is significant that Jesus is later addressed the same way John is here addressed.
3:13 Why and how would a tax collector have collected more? What do you know the collection of taxes in Jesus day?
3:14 Were these Roman solders? Why would Roman solders go out to hear John?
3:10-14 What do you make of the fact that tax collectors and soldiers are the only two groups of people mentioned?
3:15 What if John had been the Messiah?
3:16 How does water compare with fire and the Holy Spirit?  What is the relationship between the Holy Spirit and fire? Might “untying the thong of a sandal” have been an idiomatic expression or colloquialism?
3:17 What is a winnowing fork?  What is a threshing floor? What is chaff? Oh no, more fire! 
3:18 I wonder what the other exhortations were?  Did the above really sound like good news to you?
                                                                  
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.