Monday, March 18, 2019

Lectionary Ruminations 2.5 for the 5th Sunday in Lent (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 43:16-21
43:16-17 These verses appear to reference the Exodus. Is that the only way they can be interpreted?
43:18-19 These are two of my favorite verses, but how do they relate to what has come before and what follows?  What images come to mind when you hear “former things” and “things of old?”  As leaders or members of congregations facing change, how do these verses both challenge and comfort us?  Does “way” in any way point back to the “way in the sea” of 43:16? It seems that God does not totally transform the wilderness, or the desert, but rather provides a way in and through it.
43:20 Apparently even the prophet knew that all God’s critters have a place in the choir.  Why do humans so often assume that God’s new heaven and new earth is reserved only for humans and no other living creatures?  If wild animals honor God, why do humans find honoring God so difficult?
43:20-21 Did God not form all people, not just God’s chosen people, for the divine self? 

126:1  When did the LORD restore the fortunes of Zion? How were the people like those who dream?
126:2 When was the last time you heard Presbyterian pews or any pews filled with laughter let alone shouts of joy?
126:3 What “great things” might the Psalmist have had in mind? What great things has the LORD done for you?
126:4 Why does the psalmist ask the LORD to restore fortunes when in 126:1 it was stated the LORD has already restored fortunes? When and how are the watercourses in the Negeb restored? You may want to juxtapose this verse with Isaiah 43:19-20.
126:5-6 Why would someone cry when they sow? How can tears nurture joy?

3:4b To what is Paul referring?
3:5 Paul was a Pharisee? I recognize there is still a distinction between cultural or secular Judaism and religious Judaism., but is this the distinction Paul was making? Can we extend Paul’s argument to cultural or secular Christianity?
3:6 How can Paul claim to be blameless under the law?
3:7 What gains might Paul have been referring to? Note that Paul uses the past tense “had.”
3:8 What Greek word does the NRSV translate as “rubbish” and how else might it be translated?
3:9 Is there more than one kind of righteousness?
3:10 What is the power of Christ’s resurrection? What does Paul mean “becoming like him in his death?” Was Paul seeking to be a martyr? How do we become like Christ in his death?
3:11 What did Paul mean by “if somehow?” Was obtaining the resurrection from the dead the only or prime motivating factor for Paul? Is it the only or prime motivating factor for our faith?
3:12 Already obtained what?
3:13 You may want to juxtapose “forgetting what lies behind” with Isaiah 43:19.
3:13-14 What imagery is being employed? Is Paul’s faith based on or motivated by a reward or goal?

JOHN 12:1-8
12:1-8 Where do we find ourselves in this story, at the table with Jesus and Lazarus, serving with Martha, anointing Jesus’ feet, complaining about church budget priorities, watching from an open window?
12:1 Is there anything special about the number six or six days?  What do you know about Bethany?  Where and when have we met Lazarus before?
12:2 Only Lazarus has been named, so who is the plural “they?” Where and when have we met Martha before?  Who do you think, in addition to Lazarus, was at table with Jesus?
12:3 Where and when have we met Mary before?  How costly was this perfume? What is nard?
12:4 The parenthetical expression reminds us that this was written after the fact and that the author was writing with the benefit of hindsight.
12:5 Adjusting for inflation, what is the current value of three hundred denarii?
12:6 Might this parenthetical expression be redactor overkill? Note that Martha and Mary were doing for others while Judas was doing for himself. Martha and Mary gave for others. Judas gave nothing but his criticism.
12:7 Why would Mary buy this perfume before Jesus died? If she bought it for Jesus’ burial, why is she now, at least six days before his death, using it to anoint his feet?
12:8 How shall we interpret and apply this passage considering the issue of income inequality in the midst of a presidential campaign?
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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