Monday, July 22, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary 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.

ISAIAH 1:1, 10-20
1:1 Did Isaiah have only one vision.  What is a vision? Have you ever seen a vision? Does it matter that Isaiah was the son of Amoz? When were the days of these kings and what were their reigns like?
1:10 Why are the rulers of Sodom and the people of Gomorrah singled out?
1:11 Is this an anti-institutional rant? Is this anything more than a call for the end of sacrifices?
1:12 Had the LORD not previously asked for sacrifices?
1:13 This could sound like an indictment of corporate worship, or at least high church liturgical worship with smells and bells, but it is not. What is it?
1:14 The Lord is beginning to sound like a reforming iconoclast.
1:15 What does the mention of stretched out hands refer to? How are the people’s hands full of blood? Does the LORD ever not hear our prayers?
1:16 What sort of washing is envisioned? Can Christians read this as a prefiguration of baptism?
1:17 A good progressive call to social and economic justice, especially during any election season. I wonder how the current inhabitant of the Oval Office and current inhabitants of Congress read this.
1:18 What does “argue it out” mean?  Is this a legal reference? Are you ready to argue with the LORD? Why might sins be the color of scarlet and crimson?
1:19 Where else in Scripture do we find a connection between obedience and a vibrant land?  Is there a similar idea expressed in the Grail Legend?
1:20 Following upon the preceding verse, this almost sounds like a “two ways” proposition.

PSALM 50:1-8, 22-23
51:1 How and why does God summon the earth? What does it mean to summon the earth?
51:2 If God is omnipresent, why does God shine forth out of Zion? Can God not shine forth out of anywhere?
51:3 This sounds like the God of the storm.  What about the God of sheer silence?
51:4 What does calling to the heavens and to the earth have to do with judgment?
51:5 I thought God made a covenant, not the faithful ones. What was the sacrifice?
51:6 How do the heavens declare God’s righteousness? Can the Hubble Space Telescope help us see this declaration?
51:7 Why does God testify “against” Israel? Is this a legal reference?
51:8 Then why does God rebuke?
51:22 This verse makes God sound like a ravishing lion. How do we forget God?
51:23 This verse, as well as 51:8, sound contradictory to the reading from Isaiah. I am thinking of the Eucharistic liturgy where we pray “Accept this, our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.”

HEBREWS 11:1-3, 8-16
11:1 This definition sounds antithetical to those who seek to “prove” God’s existence.  I like this definition of faith, but I also like Calvin’s definition of faith as   “a firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit." (Institutes 3.2.7)
11:2 Note that “ancestors” is plural, so who else might Paul have had in mind in addition to Abraham? Do we have faith in order to be accepted, or are we accepted because we have faith?
11:3 Why “worlds” plural?  How many worlds are there? Which creation account might Paul be alluding to?
11:8 Abraham is established as the archetypal faithful person.  Why is Sarah not mentioned? How do immigrants like Abraham influence the Christian attitudes toward immigration?
11:9 Why was staying in the promised land after he arrived an example of Abraham’s faith?
11:10 What city did Abraham look forward to?
11:11 Sarah is finally mentioned! I think this passage reflects a pre-modern understanding of the biology and genetics of reproduction.
11:12 Modern biology would say “from these two people”.
11:13 Who are these?  Are we talking about more than Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob?  Are we all still not strangers and foreigners on the earth?
11:14 Where do Christians find their homeland?
11:15 One should never look back?
11:16 How does this verse influence Christian attitudes to the Nation of Israel and the physical Holy Land? What is the relationship between the “better country” and “the city prepared for them”? Can Christians read this passage through the Book of Revelation’s promise of a new heaven, a new earth, and the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of heaven?

LUKE 12:32-40
12:32 What was the little flock afraid of?  How little was it? What are YOU afraid of? What is the relationship of “the kingdom” in this verse to the “country” and “city” in Hebrews 11:16? What is the kingdom?
12:33 How do capitalist American Christians, especially “Prosperity Gospel” Christians, reconcile their economic behavior with this verse? How are ancient arms related to present day charity and tithing?
12:34 Where is YOUR treasure? WHAT is your treasurer?
12:35 What might be a present day image or metaphor to capture the idea of this verse – perhaps “Have your clothes, shoes, flashlight, and cell phone close at hand, your ‘go bag’ ready”?
12:36 Does the fact that the master was returning from a wedding banquet rather than some other function influence the way we interpret this passage?
12:37 The servers become the served. The master becomes the servant.
12:37-38 How do we deal with “slavery” language with all its racial, cultural, and historic baggage?
12:39 The introduction of a “thief” seems to confuse the metaphor.  Can we drop this verse and still preserve the message?
12:40 What is the historical significance of “Son of Man” imagery and language?  Is the Son of Man coming like a master returning from a wedding banquet or like a thief? Does it make a difference?
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.

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