Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for Trinity Sunday (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.

PROVERBS 8:1-4, 22-31
8:1 Why might some want to substitute “Sophia” for the NRSV “wisdom?” Are wisdom and understanding the same thing? Note that understanding is personified in the feminine!
8:2 Note that wisdom, like understanding in the preceding verse, is personified in the feminine. What does it mean for wisdom to take a stand?
8:3 Why am I thinking of the classic Greek philosophers in the Agora?
8:4 How does wisdom call and cry out? Philosophy literally means the love of wisdom. Do we live in a post-philosophical age? What is the contemporary relationship between the philosophy and spirituality, the academy and the church? Has wisdom generally been declining in America?
8:22 What does it say about wisdom that she is the first act of creation? What were the other acts of God? Wisdom, unlike Christ, is a creation. Christ is preexistent.
8:23 What does it mean that wisdom was set up?
8:24 Which creation account might this refer to?
8:25 Might some of this apparent parallel repetition be due to Hebraic poetic structure?
8:26 The Creator is talked about with masculine pronouns while wisdom was talked about with feminine pronouns.
8:27 What does it mean to draw a circle on the face of the deep?
8:28 How are the skies above and the fountains of the deep related?
8:29 What are the foundations of the earth? Can we even continue to use such language in a post-Copernican world view?
8:30 How is wisdom like a master worker? It is beginning to sound as if wisdom was in some sort of a relationship with the Creator.
8:31 How might wisdom rejoice?
8:1-4, 22-31 How does this passage add to our understanding of the Doctrine of the Trinity and our observance of Trinity Sunday?  Does the fact that we are reading this passage on Trinity Sunday affect how we might interpret it?

PSALM 8
8:1 How do Christians in a Western Democracy hear and understand references to “Sovereign?”  What is the LORD’s name? Note that his praise is repeated in 8:9
8:2 What babes and infants?  What is a bulwark?  Who is the enemy and the avenger?
8:3 This is one of my favorite verses.  I will never forget the feeling of overwhelming awe and wonder when I looked through a three-inch refractor telescope and saw for the first time with my own eyes the rings of Saturn. How might images from the Hubble Space Telescope help us with this verse?
8:4 Why am I thinking of Shakespeare's Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act II, Scene 2, What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god -- the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!?
8:5 Perhaps this verse should have been read last week on the day of Pentecost. Maybe you can still hear echoes from last Sunday’s Genesis Reading if you used it rather than the Acts Reading.
8:6 How shall we read and interpret “dominion” in an age when humans “threaten death to the planet entrusted to their care,”  including certain global climate change?
8:7 What are beasts of the field?
8:8 Has all animal life on earth now been mentioned?
8:9 Echoes of 8:1! This might be used as a refrain or response in a Call to Worship.
8:1-9 Why might this passage have been chosen for Trinity Sunday? How does this Psalm express the childlike wonder at the root of philosophical speculation?

ROMANS 5:1-5
5:1 What came before the “Therefore?” What does it mean to be justified by faith? Was there no peace with God before justification by faith and/or before Jesus Christ?
5:2 Why does Paul say we boast? What is the difference between boasting and bragging?
5:3 Do you ever boast in your sufferings?
5:4 Do you agree with Paul’s assertion? Is this a “no pain, no gain” theology?
5:5 Why only hearts and not hearts and minds? Is the Holy Spirit the vessel from which or through which God’s love is poured, or is the Holy Spirit the manifestation of God’s love?
5:1-5 Why might this passage have been chosen for Trinity Sunday? Can we read or understand it without a Trinitarian hermeneutic? One of my D. Min. Professors once said that the Doctrine of the Trinity is not Biblical, but it is essential. What do you think the Professor meant?

JOHN 16:12-15
16:12 Why did Jesus not find the time or take the opportunity to say these things before his death?  Why can the disciples not hear them “now?” When will they hear them?  What might Jesus want to tell us that either have not already heard or are not yet ready to hear?
16:13 Are we to assume that the Spirit of truth is the same thing as the Holy Spirit? Where does the Spirit hear the truth the Spirit speaks? Does the Spirit speak for Christ? Is there a difference between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of Christ? Iy sounds like the Spirit of truth is primarily a spokesspirit.
16:14 What does it mean that the Spirit of truth glorifies Jesus? Does the Spirit worship Jesus?
16:15 How does this verse flow from what came before it?
16:12-15 And one last time, why might this passage have been chosen for Trinity Sunday?

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, May 13, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the Day of Pentecost (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.

ACTS 2:1-21
If you use Acts 2:1-21 as the First Reading, then you would not use Genesis 11:1-9 and would  Romans 8:14-17 as the Second Reading.
2:1 What was the significance of Pentecost before the events recounted in this reading?  Some people in the pew may not realize that Pentecost was a Jewish festival long before it was a Christian one. Who was together?  What place were they in? 
2:2 Did they hear the rush of a violent wind or something likened to the sound of a violent wind?  What is the most violent wind you have ever heard? Did the sound fill the place or did the wind fill the place?
2:3 What is a divided tongue?  What is the difference between divided tongues as of fire and plain, ordinary divided tongues?  Why is the description in 2:2-3 so imprecise?
2:4 What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?  Were they empty of any spirit before this, or did the Holy Spirit replace what was in them, or what?
2:5 What is a devout Jew?
2:6 When was the last time you were bewildered?
2:7 When was the last time you were amazed and astonished? Why wee all the tongue speakers Galilean?
2:8 What if there had been no one there to hear?
2:9-10 Is there any significance to the countries and places listed?
2:10 What is a proselyte?
2:11 What are God’s deeds of power?
2:12 When was the last time you were perplexed? I wonder how many worshipers leave worship wondering what it all meant.
2:13 What is significant about new wine? Is this verse multivalent?
2:14 Why is Peter usually the first one to speak? Why did Peter not address all the visitors?
2:15 Does no one get drunk before nine o’clock in the morning?  It must be nine o’clock in the morning somewhere?
2:16 What do you know about Joel?
2:17-21 Is this an example of prophecy fulfilled?  Midrash?  Both? This could perhaps be the longest quote of Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament.
2:17 What is significant about “daughters?”
2:18 What is significant about “women?”
2:19 What are portents and what do these portents mean?
2:20 What is the Lord’s great and glorious day?
2:21 What does it mean to call on the name of the Lord?  What Lord’s name is to be called on?

OR

GENESIS 11:1-9
If you use Genesis 11:1-9 as the First Reading rather than Acts 2:1-21, then you may choose to use either the Acts 2:1-21 or the Romans 8:14-17 reading as the Second Reading.
11:1 What was the language?
11:2 Who is “they?” Where is Shinar?
11:3 Why are bricks so important? What is bitumen?
11:4 What city might this have been?  Was this tower a ziggurat? How is their hubris different from our own?
11:5 Could the Lord not see the tower from heaven? Apparently, the city and tower caught God’s attention, which is perhaps just what the people wanted.
11:6 So what is the problem? Who was the Lord talking to?
11:7 Who are “us?” Might this be the imperial “we” or “us” as the Queen of England might say? How will confusing human language solve any problems?
11:8 Did the confusing of human language cause the scattering?
11:9 What language is “Babel” and what does the name mean?

PSALM 104:24-34, 35b
104:24 How manifold are the LORD’s works? How often do we marvel at our works rather than the LORD’s works? What does “in wisdom” mean?
104:25 What might the sea represent? I wonder what Rachel Carson or Jacques Cousteau read this verse.
104:26 Where would Thomas Hobbes be without this verse?
104:27 Does this verse suggest that even non-human creatures are aware of the LORD?
104:28 How does this and the proceeding verse inform a Christian environmental ethic?
104:29 What does it mean for God to “hide” the divine face? How can sea creatures return to their dust?
104:30 So it is the LORD’s spirit that creates? How did we move from the sea in 104:25 to the ground?
104:31 We usually are called to rejoice in the LORD. How does the LORD rejoice?
104:32 Are we talking volcanoes here, or is this verse describing the God of the storm?
104:33 I wish more congregants and worshipers would take this verse to heart and really sing out in worship.
104:34 What is the meaning of “meditation?”
104:35b What is the difference between blessing the LORD and praising the LORD?
104:24-34 Does the mention of the spirit in 104:30 make this Psalm particularly appropriate for Pentecost?

ROMANS 8:14-17
If you used Genesis 11;1-9 as the First Reading, you may use either Romans 8:14-17 or Acts 2:1-21 as the Second Reading.
8:14 What does it mean to be led by the Spirit of God? What does being led by the Spirit of God  feel like? Who are led by the Spirit? Are you led by the Spirit?
8:15 How does the spirit of slavery and the spirit of adoption relate to the Spirit of God?  When do you cry “Abba! Father!?”
8:16 What is the relationship between our spirit and the Spirit of God? Do Christians have two spirits within them?
8:17 How do we suffer with Christ?

JOHN 14:8-17 (25-27)
14:8 Finally, someone other than Peter speaks! Even Philip, however, seems to stick his foot in his mouth. How might Orthodox iconography help us here?
14:9 How did Philip not know Jesus? How can people who have not seen Jesus see the Father?
14:10 What is the nature of this belief?
14:11 Note that Jesus says, “Believe me” and not “Believe in me.” What is the difference? What works was Jesus referring to?
14:12 What does it mean when Jesus says, “Very truly?” What greater works might Jesus have had in mind?
14:13 Whatever we ask in his name?
14:14 Really? What does “in his name” mean?
14:15 What commandments?
14:16 Another Advocate?  How many Advocates are there? Why is Advocate capitalized?
14:17 So the Advocate is the spirit of truth? Can anyone see the Spirit? Note the present tense “abides” and the future tense “will be in you!” What is the difference between “abiding” and “in?”
(14:25) So?
(14:26) So the Advocate is the same as the Spirit of truth is the same as the Holy Spirit? How will this Spirit teach? Does the Book of Hebrews claim Jesus as an Advocate? What is the relationship between the Holy Spirit and anamnesis?
(14:27) This is one of my favorite verses. What is the nature of this peace? This sentence of Scripture is often incorporated into The Service of Witness to the Resurrection.
                                                                  
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.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

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

ACTS 16:16-34
16:16 Who are the “we?”  What makes a place of prayer different from any other place? What is a spirit of divination?
16:17 Why was she following Paul and those with him? Why would she proclaim such a thing? Is this an example of irony?
16:18 Why might Paul have been annoyed, after all, she was speaking the truth and seemed to be giving them free publicity? Note that what this girl was saying was not soothsaying but truth telling.  What was Paul’s motivation for casting out the demon?
16:19 And the moral of the story is “do not threaten someone’s livelihood?” When did Silas enter the scene? What do we know about him? Was the narrator not seized and dragged? It seems that economics is sometimes the driving force of the universe.
16:20 Who are the magistrates? How were Paul and Silas disturbing the city? So what if they were Jews?
16:21 What customs might Paul and Silas have been advocating and why were these customs not lawful?
16:22 Why would the crowd join in attacking them? Is this at all reminiscent of the passion of Christ?
16:23 What is a flogging?
16:24 How many were so incarcerated?
16:25 Is there any significance or symbolism associated with midnight?
16:26 Is this a description of a mere natural phenomena or something more? I can imagine an earthquake opening doors, but not chains coming unfastened.
16:27 Why was the jailor about to kill himself?
16:28 Why would Paul announce their presence?
16:29 Why did the jailer fall down trembling before Paul and Silas?
16:30 Might there be a multi-valent meaning to the question?
16:31 What does Paul mean by “Believe?” How can a household be saved based on one person’s belief?
16:32 Is speaking the word of the Lord the same as preaching a sermon?
16:33 Do you think the jailor washed their wounds using the same source of water used for the baptism?
16:34 Even though Paul and Silas were eating a meal in the jailor’s house rather than the jail, were they still prisoners? Note that the jailer became a believer in God, not a believer in the Lord Jesus.

PSALM 97
97:1 Does it make any sense to talk about the LORD being king when living in a democratic republic?  What do coastlands symbolize or represent?
97:2 Why are clouds and thick darkness all around the LORD?  What is the relationship between righteousness and justice?
97:3 What does fire symbolize or represent?
97:4 What, if any, is the connection between thunder storms and God? How does the earth tremble? IS the psalmist praising the storm God?
97:5 Is this a description of volcanic activity?
97:6 Project images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope here! Yes, peoples (note the plural) behold God’s glory but do they know they are beholding God’s glory?
97:7 What about people who do not worship images?  How do gods bow down before the LORD if there are no other gods?
97:8 What is the difference between Zion and Judah?
97:9 How can the LORD be over all the earth if the earth is round? Who or what are these other gods?
97:10 Rather than hating evil, I prefer loving the good.
97:11 Do the unrighteousness not see or experience the sunrise?
97:12 How can one give thanks to the LORD’s holy name when the LORD’s holy name is not to be pronounced?

REVELATION 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
22:12 Who is speaking?  This sounds like a verse in support of “works righteousness.” Will the reward enable the repayment?
22:13 Does this need explanation, or do all those in the pew understand it?
22:14 What do washed robes symbolize?  What would one wash them with? What is the tree of life?”  How else would one enter a city if not by the gates (note the plural)?
22:16 What angel is Jesus referring to?  How can one be both a root and a descendant?  What is “the bright morning star?”
22:17 Who is the bride? What is the “water of life” and how does it differ from “the tree of life?”
22:20 Who is testifying to these things?
22:21 Who is offering this blessing? Who are all the saints?

JOHN 17:20-26
17:20 Who is asking? Who are “these?”
17:21 How does “oneness” lead people to belief?
17:22 How does glory promote oneness?
17:23 Why will complete oneness lead to the world’s knowing anything?
17:24 What would it mean for “those” to be where Jesus is?
17:25 What might this verse suggest about religious and/or spiritual knowledge?
17:26 What is the significance or symbolism of making God’s name known? How might knowing God’s name enable God’s love to be in someone?
                                                                  
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, May 6, 2019

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

ACTS 16:9-15
16:9 Was this a dream or a vision?  Does it make a difference?  How many visions has Paul now experienced? Where is Macedonia and where was Paul when he saw this vision? Have you ever experienced a big dream or vision that altered the course of your life and/or ministry?
16:10 What is the meaning of “immediately?” What would Paul need to cross over in order to go to Macedonia? Note the plural “us?”
16:11 Who is “we?”  Who is telling this story?  What do we know about Troas, Samothrace, and Neapolis? Is it possible to retrace this route today?
16:12 What do we know about Philippi in addition to what we are told in this verse? Does it make any difference that Philippi is a Roman colony?
16:13 What is “a place of prayer?”  Why might it have been outside the gate? Why might it have been near water? Where there no men gathered there? 
16:14 What is a “worshiper of God??  What do we know about Thyatira?  Is there any significance to Lydia being a dealer in purple cloth?  How does the Lord open the heart?  Was Lydia spiritual but not religious?  Was she “a seeker?”
16:15 Who were in Lydia’s household and why were they all baptized?  Consider Acts 11:14 from last week’s Lectionary. Might Lydia’s invitation to Paul and those with him to stay in  her home be a bit scandalous?

PSALM 67
67:1 The “us” makes this a communal rather than a personal psalm.  Who are the us? What does it mean for God’s face to shine on someone?  What is “The Aaronic blessing?” How do you handle “Selah?”
67:2 Is God’s way the same as God’s saving power, or am I reading too much into the parallelism of the Hebrew Poetry? Note that 67:1 seems addressed to worshipers while 67:2 appears to be addressed to God.
67:3 Why the plural “peoples” rather than the singular “people?”
67:4 Is there a difference between “nations” and “peoples?”
67:5 I hear a refrain (see 67:3) that could be adapted for use as a Call to Worship.
67:6 What is the “increase” yielded by the earth? It seems the psalmist shifts from addressing God to addressing worshipers.
67:7 What is the meaning of “all the ends of the earth?” How many ends does the earth have? How can the ends of the earth revere God?

REVELATION 21:10; 21:22-22:5
21:10 What is the meaning of “in the spirit?” Have you ever been in the spirit?  Who carried the narrator away?  What great, high mountain might the narrator have been carried away to? How could Jerusalem come down out of heaven?
21:22 Was the author writing before or after the destruction of the temple? How can the Lord Almighty and the Lamb be a temple?
21:23 Maybe the city does not need the light of the sun or moon, but what about their gravitational pull?
21:24 It sounds like this Jerusalem is like a beacon on a hill.
21:25 What do open gates symbolize?
21:26 What is the glory and honor of the nations?
21:27 What is the Lamb’s book of life?
22:1 Where did the angel come from?  Are there any rivers in contemporary Jerusalem?  What is the water of life? Are God and the Lamb sitting on a single throne?
22:2 This city is beginning to resemble Venice more than Jerusalem. How is a tree on “either” side of a river?  What kind of tree has twelve kinds of fruit?  How can leaves heal? Let’s see, 12 fruits x 12 months = 144 individual pieces of fruit.
22:3 Servants will worship the singular whom?
22:4 Other than names, what is traditionally on foreheads?
22:5 What does the absence of night symbolize or suggest? Who are “they” who will reign?

JOHN 14:23-29
This week’s Lectionary offers the choice of one of two Readings from John. How will you decide which one to use?
14:23 Whom did Jesus answer? Is God’s love conditional or unconditional?
14:24 Is it logical to conclude that if a person keeps Jesus’ words that they will also love Jesus? Is this verse anti-Semitic?
14:25 How could Jesus say these things if he were not present? Who is “you?”
14:26 What is the meaning of “Advocate” apart from the Holy Spirit? Why is “Advocate” capitalized?  Why might anyone need or want an Advocate? What is the difference between teaching and reminding? Will the Advocate give additional or new teaching in addition to what Jesus already taught?
14:27 “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” is one of my favorite verses in all Christian Scripture.  I often read this Sentence from Scripture at a Service of Witness to the Resurrection and/or at the graveside.  Is fear a form of doubt or lack of faith?
14:28 Why the “if?” Did Jesus think those to whom he was speaking loved him or not?
14:29 Can they not believe now? Why would they not believe until after this occurs?

OR

JOHN 5:1-9
5:1 After what? Which festival might this have been? Does it matter?
5:2 What and where is the Sheep Gate? What is the meaning of Beth-zatha? Is the fact that this pool had five porticoes significant? What is a portico?
5:3 Paralyzed?
(5:4) What are you going do with the questionable 4th verse? If you choose to use it, how will you handle that a paralyzed person would not be able to step into the pool?
5:5 Is the number thirty-eight significant. This man would be older than Jesus.
5:6 Why would Jesus ask such a question?
5:7 What is the problem?
5:8 What is the meaning of Jesus’ proclamation?
5:9 What is the significance of “at once?” Does it matter that it was the Sabbath?
                                                                  
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.