Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for The 4th Sunday of Advent (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.

Be aware that the PC(USA) Presbyterian Planning Calendar lists the Lectionary Readings for Christmas Eve on the December 24th calendar block rather than the Lectionary Readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent, or both sets of readings.

Apparently there is some discussion going around about some congregations offering only one service on December 24th, a Christmas Eve Service. I serve half-time as the Interim Pastor of a small congregation of less than fifty members with an average of 20 in worship. We normally have only one Sunday service and one Christmas Eve Service but on Sunday, December 24th, 2017, we will be offering two services on December 24th. The first service will be our usual 11:00 AM Service of the Lord’s Day which will focus on the Lectionary Readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent. Our second service will be a 7:00 PM Christmas Eve Candlelight Service of Nine Lessons and Carols which will focus on celebrating the birth of Christ.

What are you and your congregation scheduling for December 24th?

2 SAMUEL 7:1-11, 16
7:1 What king are we talking about?
7:2 David seems to be speaking to Nathan as God might. Who was Nathan? What does the “ark of God” represent?
7:3 What did David have in mind? How did Nathan know this?
7:4 What carries more authority, the word of the king or the word of the LORD? Why did the word of the LORD come to Nathan at night?
7:5 Why the question?
7:6 What seems to be at stake here? What is the difference, if any, between a tent and a tabernacle?
7:7 Why is God asking questions? Are these rhetorical questions?
7:8-9 Why the history lesson?
7:10 Has this not already been accomplished?
7:11 The first part of this verse seems misplaced. Note the play on the word “house.”
7:16 Was this fulfilled?

Luke 1:46b-55
This Canticle was an Alternate Reading last week, the 3rd Sunday of Advent. This week, the 4th Sunday of Advent, it is the Primary Reading and the Psalm is the Alternate. I think the Magnificat works better this week than last. You may want to compare this Canticle to Hanna’s song in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.
1:46b Who is speaking? When, if ever, has your soul magnified the Lord? See #600 in The Presbyterian Hymnal and #99 and #646 in Glory to God: Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs.
1:47 When did your spirit last rejoice?
1:48 What does it mean to be called blessed?
1:49 Here is an alternative way to address and speak of God.
1:50 What does it mean to fear God? Why am I thinking of Edwin H. Friedman?
1:51 What does it mean for the proud to be scattered in the thoughts of their hearts? Since when did hearts think?
1:52-53 These verses all address a reversal, something that has already been accomplished, not something yet to come.
1:54 How has God helped Israel?
1:55 Once again Sarah is overlooked, yet without her Abraham would not have had any descendants.

PSALM 89:1-4, 19-26
89:1 How can the Psalmist, or anyone, sing forever and proclaim anything to generations?  Is this nothing more than poetic hyperbole?
89:2 How firm are the heavens?
89:3-4 Apparently an allusion to the First Reading.  Does this verse justify the Lectionary pairing this Psalm with the First Reading?  This Psalm is actually an alternate. Another possibility is the Magnificat, Luke 1:46b-55.  What is this verse quoting?
89:19 Who is the faithful one? Note that the rest of the reading is a narration of the vision.
89:20 What makes oil holy?
89:21 Must we anthropomorphize God?
89:22 Are enemies, by definition, wicked?
89:23 Do all foes hate their enemy?
89:24 What is a “horn?”
89:26 So David is the Son of God?

ROMANS 16:25-27
16:25 What does Paul mean by “my gospel?”  What is the mystery that has been revealed?
16:26 What does Paul mean by “prophetic writings?”
16:27 Here is a nice ascription of praise that could be used liturgically.

LUKE 1:26-38
1:26 In the sixth month of what? Why Gabriel? Why Nazareth?
1:27 Why a virgin? How can we read this verse with 21st century sensibilities without reading our prejudices back into the text? Why the house of David?
1:28 What does Gabriel mean by addressing Mary as “favored one?”
1:29 Apparently Mary did not know what Gabriel meant. When was the last time you were perplexed by a greeting and pondered what it meant?
1:30 I think the phrase “Do not be afraid” is the crux of this text. Why might Mary have been afraid? Have you found favor with God?
1:31 Note that Mary “will” conceive.  She apparently was not yet pregnant. Why name him Jesus?
1:32-33 This is quite a prophecy!
1:34 A good question.
1:35 Is there a difference between being called “Son of God” and actually being the Son of God? What if Mary have proclaimed #metoo?
1:36 Apparently Elizabeth was between the second and third trimester. The way she is described reminds me of Sarah. How were Mary and Elizabeth related?
1:37 Could this be the key verse of the passage rather than 1:30?
1:38 Where have we heard “Here am I” before?  What if Mary had not let it be according to Gabriel’s word?

I am a Minister Member of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and am serving as the Pastor of the Bethlehem United Presbyterian Church, Wheeling, WV. Sunday Worship at Bethlehem begins at 10:45 AM. Here is Bethlehem United's Facebook address: https://www.facebook.com/Bethlehem-United-Presbyterian-Church-102482088303980

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