Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, April 5, 2015, the Resurrection of the Lord (Easter Day) (Year B)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 is a revised continuation of Lectionary Ruminations.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 draws on nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without overreliance on commentaries I intend with comments and questions to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.  All lectionary links are to the via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website.

PREFACE: Christ is risen!  He is rise, indeed! There are several possible combinations of readings for this Sunday. If one uses the Isaiah passage for the First Reading then either the Acts passage or the First Corinthians passage is used for the Second Reading. If the First Reading is from Acts then the First Corinthians passage is the default Second Reading. There are also two possible Gospel Readings, one from John and one from Mark.

10:34 To whom was Peter speaking? Would anyone expect God to show partiality?
10:35 What does Peter mean by “nation”? What does it mean to fear God (See my comments on Mark 16:8)?
10:36 What does Peter mean by “the people of Israel”? Is this the Gospel?
10:37 What is the geographic relation of Judea to Galilee?
10:38 Peter now seems to expand on 10:36. What is the difference between being anointed with the Holy Spirit and being anointed with power? What does it mean to be oppressed by the devil? How shall we handle possession and devil language and image in a post-Christian and post-modern world?
10:39 What does it mean to be a witness? In 10:37 it was Judea and Galilee. Now it is Judea and Jerusalem. Who are “they”? Why does Peter say Jesus was hung on a tree (rather than a cross)?
10:40 Note the passive: God raised Jesus. Jesus did not raise himself. What if God had not allowed him to appear?
10:41 Is this a proof text for the doctrine of predestination? What is the significance of eating and drinking? Is “rose” a passive or active verb?
10:42 Jesus was ordained? What does it mean to judge the living and the dead?
10:43 All the prophets? Really? Might Peter sometimes be prone to exaggeration?

25:6 What mountain? Watch for the restatement of poetic parallelism. Does “all people” open up an argument for universalism?
25:7 Why has a shroud been cast over all peoples?
25:8 Note that 25:6 talks about food and drink and 25:7 talks about death, and now we have death being swallowed up (like food?)! How will God wipe away tears?
25:9 What day? The Lectionary apparently views this as a passage that prefigures resurrection or in some way theologically informs our understanding of resurrection. How would this passage have functioned in the Hebrew Scriptures before Jesus?

118:1 By definition, does not “steadfast  love” endure “forever”?
118:2 This reads like common liturgy, that is liturgy for use in common, or public, worship.
118:14 What is the difference between strength and might? Does “salvation” mean something different in the Psalms than it does in the New Testament?
vs. 15b-16 Do you think that the Psalmist might actually be quoting a Psalm that never made it into the Psalter? What is so special about the “right hand” of the LORD?  Is this an example of a bias toward right-handedness?
118:17 What are the “deeds” of the LORD?
118:18 Are any punishments worse than death?
118:19 What, and where, are the gates of righteousness?
118:20 What is “this”? Is the Psalmist referring to a metaphorical gate or one of the gates leading in and out of Jerusalem?
118:21 What was the answer?
118:22 What stone might the Psalmist had in mind? How does this fit in with the rest of the Psalm?
118:23 What the Psalmist seeing something?
118:24 What day has the LORD made?

15:1 Is this anamnesis? When and where did Paul proclaim this?
15:2 How does one hold firmly to a message?
15:3 How did Paul receive what he is now handing on, and when did he receive it?  Where does Paul begin the narrative? Did he leave anything out?
15:4 Note the passive “he was raised”.
15:5 Why are the appearances to women not mentioned?
15:6 Is there are problem caused by the fact that some have died?
15:7 Who is James? Is there a difference between “the twelve” of 15:5 and the apostles?
15:8 Why does Pail consider himself untimely born?
15:9 While Paul considers himself the least of the apostles, he still considers himself an apostle.
15:10 Is “I am what I am” an allusion to the tetragrammaton? Has this phrase made it into popular English?
15:11 Who are they?

I covered this reading at the beginning of this week’s ruminations.

20:1 Who removed the stone? How and when was it removed?
20:2 Which disciple is “the one whom Jesus loved”?  Why did Mary say “we”? Why the shift from the singular to the plural? Who were the “they” who had taken the Lord?
20:3 Why is the other disciple not bnamed?
20:4 Was the other disciple faster, younger, or was Peter simply a slow poke?
20:5 Why might the disciple not have gone in right away?
20:6-8  What do you make of Peter seeing, but the other disciple seeing and believing? What did he believe?
20:9 How do you reconcile this verse with the preceding one? How could they not have understood?
20:10 This reads like a rather anticlimactic verse.
20:11 It seems the Mary is alone, so why the “we” back in verse 20:2?
20:12 Would you recognize an angel if you saw one? Why had the angels not appeared to Peter and the other disciple, or where they there all along but Peter and the other disciple did not or could not see them?
20:13 Do you hear an echo?  Now it is “I”, not “we”.
20:14 If you saw Jesus, would you recognize him?
20:15 I definitely hear an echo. Where would Mary have taken the body of Jesus?
20:16 Does it make any difference that at first Jesus addresses Mary as “Woman” but later addresses her by her name? Why does John translate “Rabbouni”?
20:17 Was Mary attempting to hold on, or already holding on to Jesus? As if Mary could hold on to Jesus after the ascension? How do we try to hold on to Jesus when perhaps we shouldn’t?
20:18 I think this makes Mary the first “witness” of the resurrection.

16:1 Who was James?  How does one anoint with spices?
16:2 I wonder what the women would have experienced if the women had gone to the tomb before sunrise.
16:3 Why were they wondering who would roll away the stone. This stone was most likely not a spherical stone but a round stone much like a stone grinding wheel.
16:4 What does this suggest?
16:5 Who was this young man? What does the white robe symbolize or suggest? Why was he sitting on the right side rather than the left or does it not matter? If it does not matter, why is the detail included?
16:6 Why did the young man think the women were alarmed? Note the passive voice. Jesus did not rise. Jesus was raised.
16:7 Why is Peter singled out? Why would the resurrected Jesus go to Galilee? Had Jesus told the disciples that they would see him, resurrected, in Galilee? Is this anything like a return to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry?
16:8 What does the verb “fled” suggest? Are terror and amazement the same thing? Are you familiar with Rudolf Otto’s concept of the Mysterium Tremendum (or Mickey Hart’s recording by the same name)? If they said nothing to anyone, then how did the details of their experience become known?

ADDENDUM
I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Churchof Cadiz, worshiping at 154 West Market Street, Cadiz, Ohio, every Sunday at 11:00 AM. Please like The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz on facebook.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, March 29, 2015, Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday) (Year B)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 is a revised continuation of Lectionary Ruminations.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 draws on nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without overreliance on commentaries I intend with comments and questions to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.  All lectionary links are to the via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website.

PREFACE: There is not only a dual emphasis/focus this Sunday but also several Alternate Readings. There is so much Scripture this day that I will not be offering a verse by verse rumination as usual.

The liturgy of the Palms Readings:
118:1-2 This looks like a liturgical introduction and could be adapted as a Call to Worship.
118:19-20 What and where are the gates of righteousness?
118:22 Where will we hear this again?
118:24 What day? Did the LORD not make every day?
118:26 Who comes in the name of the LORD? Where will we hear this again?
118:27 What festal procession is being referred to? What and where are the horns of the altar?
118:29 Hear the refrain of 118:1

11:1 Is there anything special we need to know about Bethpage and Bethany? Why would Jesus send two disciples rather than one?  Which two do you think he sent?
11:2 What village? How did Jesus know there would be a colt there?
11:3 Is this the only instance where Jesus refers to himself as Lord?
11:6 Was what Jesus had told them to say some kind of secret message?
11:8 What is the meaning of spreading cloaks and leafy branches on the road?  What might be a modern equivalent?
11:9-10 What is being quoted?
11:11 All he did was look around?

12:12 What festival?
12:13 Why did the people take palm branches? What is being quoted?
12:14 He “found” it?
12:15 What is being quoted?
12:16 Hindsight is often 20-20. How much do we not yet understand?

The liturgy of the Passion Readings:  
50:4 I take this verse personally. Note how this moves from teacher to one who is taught.
50:5 How does God opens our ears? Note that Semitic culture tended to be oral rather than visual.
50:6 Who is speaking?
50:7 What does it mean to set one’s face like flint?
50:8 Who is the “us”?
50:4-9a How does this passage inform our observance of Passion Sunday and how does our observance of Passion Sunday influence how we might read and interpret this passage?

(the link on the PC(USA) page was malfunctioning as of 3/22/15) 
These verses sound as if they could have been spoken by Job!
31:9 What was the Hebrew understanding of the relation between the soul and the body?
31:14 How might the psalmist maintain trust in God in spite of all the psalmist’s suffering?
31:16 What does it mean for God’s facet to shine upon us?

2:5-11 Note that these verses appear as poetry, not prose.
2:5 What mind was in Christ Jesus? I can have the mind of Jesus?
2:6 What is God’s form? IsPlato’s theory of forms at all helpful here?
2:7 Was Jesus born in human likeness or was he born as human? How are likeness and from related?
2:10 There are beings in heaven with knees?  What beings under the earth have knees?
2:11 Is “Jesus Christ is Lord” the simplest and perhaps oldest confession of faith?

This is an extremely long passage. You may want to shorten it to Mark 15:1-47 or even Mark 15: 1-39. My ruminations cover the shortest reading, 15:1-39
15:1 What do you know about all the different players; the chief priests, the elders, the scribes, and the whole council? How would the above relate to Pilate?
15:2 Did Pilate say that Jesus was the King of the Jews?
15:3 What things?
15:5 Why was Pilate amazed?
15:6 What festival?
15:7 What insurrection?
15:9 Why did Pilate refer to the King of the Jews rather than to Jesus?
15:10 Was Pilate’s analysis correct.  Was it jealousy that really motivated the chief priests?
15:15 How could Pilate have Jesus crucified if he was not guilty of any crime?
15:16-23 I think John Shelby Spong makes a strong argument for reading the crucifixion account, at least in its original form, as Midrash on Psalm 22.
15:16 What is a cohort?
15:17 Is there anything special about purple? I wonder where this cloak came from.
15:17-18 Where is the irony?
15:21 Why are Simon, Alexander and Rufus named?
15:23 Why wine mixed with myrrh?
15:31 What others had Jesus saved?
15:32 I know this is Mark, but I hear echoes of the ending of John.
15:33 Note the contrast—noon and darkness.  According to my calculations, Jesus was on the cross six hours.
15:34 Is Jesus quoting something? If so, what?
15:35-36 How might Elijah figure into all of this?
15:38 What symbolic statement is being made here?
15:39 What is the irony here?

See the above ruminations.

ADDENDUM
I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Churchof Cadiz, worshiping at 154 West Market Street, Cadiz, Ohio, every Sunday at 11:00 AM. Please like The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz on facebook.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, March 22, 2015, the Fifth Sunday in Lent (Year B)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 is a revised continuation of Lectionary Ruminations.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 draws on nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without overreliance on commentaries I intend with comments and questions to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.  All lectionary links are to the via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website.

Preface: If you are preaching in a PC(USA) church this coming Sunday, how might the passage of amendment 14-F affect what you preach? Should it even make a difference? If so, why? If not, why not?

31:31 Why does Jeremiah write about coming days rather than a new age? What was the old covenant? Why the twin construction “Israel” and “Judah”?
31:32 God is a husband?
31:33 How does God put a law in a person?  How does God write on the heart? Will this new covenant abrogate or fulfill the old covenant?
31:34 Note that God will be the agent of divine knowledge, not people, and this will spell the end for Christian Education and faith formation.

51:1 Here are examples of Hebrew poetic parallelism.  Are steadfast love and abundant mercy the same thing? I am old enough to remember what a ink blotter was, but do younger people know what it means to “blot out”? May delete, erase, or strike over would be a better translation today.
51:2 Is iniquity the same as sin? Note that sin is singular.
51:3 Are transgressions the same as sin? Again, note that sin is singular, so why do many Prayers of Confessions use “sins” rather than ‘sin”?
51.4 Some Calls to Confession call us to confess our sins against God and neighbor, but can we really sin against anyone other than God?
51:5 If this is not a proof text for original sin, what is it? Does this verse have any bearing on the abortion debate?
51:6 What is the inner being? What is a secret heart? What is the relation between truth and wisdom?
51:7 What is hyssop and how does it purge? I wish the Psalmist had said “fresh snow” because the snow still around a week after the last storm was pretty dirty and ugly.
51:8 What is the source of this joy and gladness? God has crushed bones?
51:9 What is the meaning of “Hide your face”? Note that in this verse “sins” is plural. Note also that it is not transgressions but iniquities being blotted out (see 51:1).
51:10 This is one of my favorite verses of Scripture.  What is a clean heart? Does having a clean heart mean having a new and right spirit? Are we the passive recipient of a new and right spirit that God puts in us or do we bear some responsibility for welcoming and even nurturing a new and right spirit?
51:11 Is a holy spirit the same as a new and right spirit? I think we misread this Hebrew Psalm if we bring to it our Christian Trinitarian theology. Note that the previous spirit asked God to “put a new and right spirit with me” while this verse asks “do not take your holy spirit within me.”
51:12 One must have once enjoyed the joy of God’s salvation in order to be restored to it. What is a willing spirit?

Remember the Psalm 119 is an acrostic psalm. I will be using Psalm 51:1-12 rather than this alternate.
119:9 I wonder what the psalmist’s definition of a “young person” was. What is a pure way? What did the psalmist mean by the LORD’s “word”?
119:10 Note that the psalmists seeks the LORD with whole heart, not whole mind or intellect. Are the commandments the same as the “way” in 119:9?
119:11 Once again heart rather than mind or intellect. What does it mean to treasure?
119:12 How does the LORD teach? What are statutes?
119:13 How else shall the psalmist declare if not with the lips? What are ordinances?
119:14 What are the LORD’s decrees and do you delight in them?
119:15 How might the psalmist understood meditating? I wonder if what the psalmist had in mind was anything like mindfulness meditation or contemplative prayer? What are precepts? What are the LORD’s ways. Note that “ways” is plural!
119:16 Do you delight in the LORD’s statutes?

5:5 Is the common perception that priests become priests to glorify themselves? At the time of Jesus, how did one become the high priest of the Jerusalem Temple? When did Christ become a high priest? What are the functions of a high priest?  Where have we heard this quote before?
5:6 Where is this other place?  Who is Melchizedeck and what is the order of Melchizedek?
5:7 What is the difference between “prayers” and “supplications”? Does this verse describe the work of a high priest? Is our reverent submission a perquisite for God hearing our prayers?
5:8 Was learning obedience the purpose of Christ’s suffering?
5:9 How was Christ made perfect?  What is the theological difference between being perfect from before creation and being made perfect at some later time?
5:10 Is “designation” the same as “appointed” in 5:5?

12:20 What festival?  Who are the Greeks? Does the adoration of the magi at all inform how we might read this passage?
12:21 Who was Philip?  Does his home town matter?  What are the possible meanings of “see”?
12:22 Why did Philip go and tell Andrew? I wonder where Peter, James and John were.
12:23 What hour has come?  Who is the Son of Man?  What does it mean to be glorified?
12:24 Why does Jesus often introduce sayings with “Very truly, I tell you”?  Would Jesus ever not speak truly?
12:25 Did the grain of wheat love its life or not love its life?
12:26 What does it mean to serve Jesus? What does it mean to follow Jesus?
12:27 Why is Jesus’ soul troubled? What “reason” is Jesus speaking about?
12:28 How is a name glorified? Is the voice for the benefit of Jesus or the benefit of the crowd standing around?
12:29 Why would some hear thunder and others hear the voice of angels? Do angels speaking sound like thunder?
12:30 I guess Jesus answered my question for 12:28.
12:31 Has the world already been judged? Who is (or was) the ruler of this world? Driven out to where?
12:32 What is Jesus speaking about his crucifixion, his ascension, both, or something else altogether? Does “all people” point to possible universalism? Does “lifted up” possibly allude back to last week’s reading from Numbers and John?
12:33 Once again, Jesus answers my question for 12:32.

ADDENDUM
I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Churchof Cadiz, worshiping at 154 West Market Street, Cadiz, Ohio, every Sunday at 11:00 AM.  Please like The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz on facebook.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Essential Tenets Affirmation of Faith

I have been preparing to present the PC(USA) Book of Order mandated session provided period of study and preparation for ruling elders and deacons per G-2.0402. Part of my preparation has been revising an Affirmation of Faith I first created in 1985. Here is the new revision that is is intended, in part, to generally identify "the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church" of the third question for ordination (W-4.4003b). Feel free to use it for instruction and/or in worship as long as it includes attribution.

Affirmation of Faith
(Adapted from the Book of Order F-2.03-05 by John Edward Harris ©2015)

One: We witness to the faith of the Church catholic.
All:   We witness to the mystery of the triune God
            and the incarnation of the eternal Word of God in Jesus Christ.
One: We uphold the affirmations of the Protestant Reformation.
All:   We uphold and affirm the Protestant watchwords –
            grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone.
One: We express the faith of the Reformed Tradition.
All:  We affirm the sovereignty of God
            who in Christ and by the power of the Spirit
            creates, sustains, rules and redeems the world.
        We affirm the election of the people of God
            for service as well as for salvation.
        We affirm covenant life marked by a disciplined concern
            for order in the church according to the word of God.
        We affirm faithful stewardship that shuns ostentation
            and seeks proper use of the gifts of God’s creation.
        We affirm the human tendency to idolatry and tyranny,
            which calls the people of God
            to work for the transformation of society
                        by seeking justice
                        and living in obedience to the Word of God.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Prayers for #selma50 and #InternationalWomensDay or #IWD2015



I wanted to observe and pray for two events today, #selma50 and #InernationalWomensDay or #IWD2015,vso I wrote these two petitions and included them in the Prayers of the people at The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, Cadiz, Ohio, where I serve as Interim Pastor.



God of all people,
a day and fifty years following Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama,
we pray for improved relations among the races in our country.
We pray that Jew, Christian, Muslim, people of all faiths, and no faith;
Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and White European,
may once again link arms in common cause,
working together to end racism,
and to insure freedom, liberty, and equal rights for all your children.

On this International Woman’s Day, O God
we are reminded how you,
like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child,
are faithful still.
We pray that you will not forsake us now
as we seek to celebrate the gifts of women,
recognizing and giving thanks
for their many contributions to the church
and to society at large.
We pray that you will be faithful still
as we continue the struggle to guarantee equal rights,
including equal pay for women,
and that sexism will soon become an ism of the past.

You can also find these prayers, and The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, on Facebook.

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, March 15, 2015, the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Year B)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 is a revised continuation of Lectionary Ruminations.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 draws on nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without overreliance on commentaries I intend with comments and questions to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.  All lectionary links are to the via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website.

21:4 Where is Mount Hor? Be aware that “Red Sea” may be a scribal error or mistranslation.  Why did they avoid Edom?
21:5 Is this the plural “you”? Are God and Moses that closely associated?  What was the miserable food the people detested?
21:6 Why would the LORD send poisonous snakes. You may want to take a look at the Hebrew text and consult the gleanings in the Torah. Maybe the people needed St. Patrick as their leader rather than Moses.
21:7 There is nothing like a few poisonous snakes to motivate people to repent.  Although it is part of the dubious Longer Ending of Mark, how might this passage influence our understanding of Mark 16:18
21:8-9 What do you know about the psychological and spiritual symbolism of the rod of Asclepius?  What might Carl Jung have said about this passage?  Why did Moses make the serpent out of bronze when God had not said anything about bronze? Is there anything idolatrous about what Moses has fashioned?  See John 3:14.

107:1 Is it redundant to say that steadfast love endures forever?
107:2 Who are the redeemed?
107:3 Note the four cardinal directions. How did the redeemed become scattered?
107:17 Must illness always be a result of sin?
107:18 Why would someone loathe food?
107:19 Did the call on the LORD before they were in trouble?
107:20 How can a word heal? I like the image of a healing word more than the image of a bronze snake on a poll (see Numbers 21:9)
107:21 What are the LORD’s wonderful works to humankind?
107:22 Are the LORD’s deeds the same as the LORD’s wonderful works?

2:1 What sort of death is the author writing about? What is the difference between trespasses and sins? Shall we read this in light of Psalm 107:17?
2:2 Who or what is the ruler of the power of the air? What about earth, fire and water?
2:3 Does the argument presume a dichotomy between flesh and spirit? Is Paul saying that he was once disobedient?
2:4-5 How are mercy and grace related?
2:6 How can Paul speak of himself and those to whom he was writing in the present tense?
2:7 When and what are the ages to come? How many ages are there?
2:8 This might be one of the most important verses for Protestantism.
2:9 Why does Paul bring up works?
2:10 Is this a reference to the creation of Genesis? The argument seems to be that once saved by grace, good works will follow. Therefore, by extension, good works are evidence of our salvation.

3:14 I love The Fourth Gospel! See Numbers 21:9. I think this is Midrash at its best! You may want to look at what John Sanford has to say about this passage in his Jungian/Psychological commentary on John entitled Mystical Christianity. Who is speaking in this verse?
3:15 Note that it is belief in the Son of Man, not merely looking upon him lifted up, that bestows eternal life.
3:16 Why do so many people quote this verse while ignoring the two verses before it? What is the meaning of “gave”? Should we read this in light of the akedah (Genesis 22:1-19)
3:17 So why does so much of popular Christianity sound condemnatory?  What is the meaning of “the world”?
3:18 What is the source of condemnation? Is John saying that all are condemned prior to God sending the Son? What does it mean to believe in a name?
3:19 How can we talk about light and darkness while avoiding racial overtones?  Is “shadows” or “night” a better image than “darkness”?
3:20 But not all evil deeds are done at night. Some evil deeds are done in broad daylight but nevertheless concealed. How does light expose evil?
3:21 What is one does good deeds away from the light?

ADDENDUM

I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, worshiping at 154 West Market Street, Cadiz, Ohio, every Sunday at 11:00 AM. Please like The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz on facebook.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, March 8, 2015, the Third Sunday in Lent (Year B)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 is a revised continuation of Lectionary Ruminations.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 draws on nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without overreliance on commentaries I intend with comments and questions to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.  All lectionary links are to the via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website.

The Big Ten is not a college athletic conference!
This week I am reading this passage partially through the lens of Bruce Feiler’s 2001 best seller Walking the Bible because I finished reading it a few days ago and also recently watched a DVD of the PBS Documentary by the same name. How does what you have recently read or watched inform and influence how you read and interpret the biblical text?
20:1 How does God speak if God does not have a physical body with vocal chords?
20:2 Note that LORD appears in all uppercase letters. Why?
 20:3 Do other people have another god or other gods? What other gods was the LORD God competing against in Exodus? What other gods does the LORD god compete against today?
Can we have other gods after God? Lesser gods after God?
20:4 What is an idol? With all due respect to Plato, what would the form of something in heaven look like?  Is there any place other than heaven above, earth below, or water under the earth?
20:5 God experiences emotions?  What other emotions might God experience? Would God not punish to the fifth generation? 
20:7 What is rightful use of God’s name?
20:8 How do Christians justify worshiping on Sunday rather than Saturday? Can any day of the week be a person’s Sabbath if they are required to work on Saturday?
20:12 How do children honor parents?  Is this word in effect only as long as our parents are living? Is this the only word out of the ten that comes with a cause and effect promise?
20:13 What is murder? Is there a difference between murder and killing?
20:14 What are the corollaries to this word? Can one argue that if sexual relations are reserved for marriage then marriage must include sexual relations?
20:15 Define theft.
20:16 Is it permissible to bear false witness against someone who is not your neighbor? Who is the neighbor?
20:17 Does it bother you that this word seems to categorize a wife as a piece of property? Is it permissible to covet something that belongs to a person who is not my neighbor?

19:1 How do the heavens speak?  Is the Hubble Space Telescope a microphone for the heavens?Is there any difference between the heavens and the firmament?  Is the Glory of God the same as God’s handiwork?
19:2-4d What do you make of these verses?  What are they saying?  Is speech being poetically equated with knowledge?
19:4c-6 Do these verses presume a pre-Copernican universe? Why does the psalmist write about the sun but not the moon?
19:7-9 How many synonyms “law” are there in these verses? Is “fear” in anyway a synonym for” law”? Do these verses justify the lectionary pairing this psalm with the Exodus 20:1-17 Reading?
19:10 At the close of the market on February 27, 2015 Gold was trading for $1212.60 an ounce. Three years ago it was trading for $1,683.30 an ounce. Does that mean that the law of God is less desirable than it was three years ago?  How sweet is honey?  Was there any other known sweetener at the time of the psalmist? I find the second half of this verse to be very sensual.
19:11 What is the reward?  Does this verse lead to works righteousness?
19:12 Do not forget the advice of the oracle at Delphi.  Know Thyself. Are our faults sometimes hidden from us or do we simply refuse to acknowledge them?
19:13 Who are the insolent? So I shal be blameless if I stay away from the insolent?
19:14 Pet Peeve Alert!  This is not a Prayer for Illumination.  Displays of personal piety by praying a personal prayer aloud before reading Scripture have no place in worship or at the lectern or pulpit before preaching or the classroom before teaching. If you want to pray this silently before you preach or teach, fine, but I do not want to hear you pray aloud for yourself.

1:1 How is the message of the cross foolishness?
1:19 Where is this written? Note the chiastic structure here and throughout this passage.
1:20 Who is the one who is wise?  Certainly not Socrates! Who is the debater of this age?  Was Paul erecting a straw opponent or might he have had someone or something specific in mind?
1:21 Is Paul using wisdom in more than one sense? As an amateur philosopher I am feeling a little hostility from and toward Paul in these words. Is Paul’s proclamation foolishness because his proclamation is about the cross?
1:22 And how shall we read John’s book of signs in light of verse and argument? See John 2:18 What is wrong with wisdom? Is a stumbling block the antithesis of a sign?
1:25 God is foolish and weak?

2:13 What does it mean to go “up” to Jerusalem?
2:14 Why would anyone sell cattle, sheep or doves in the temple?  Why were money changers present in the temple?
2:15 Did Jesus drive out only the sheep and the cattle? What is the possible irony here?
2:16 Why were people selling doves? What is wrong with God’s house being a marketplace?
2:17 Where is this written?
2:18 See 1 Corinthians 1:22.
2:19 I doubt the Jews were asking to an after the fact sign.
2:20 Can we fault the Jews for hearing and understanding Jesus as they did?
2:21 Does this verse add to or detract from the account? Do Christians really need an explanation or is this an example of pointing out the obvious?
2:22 What was it about the resurrection that reminded the disciples about anything Jesus said?  What “scripture” did they believe? Is this remembering the same as the anamnesis of The Eucharist? Does this verse equate the word that Jesus had spoken with scripture?

ADDENDUM

I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, worshiping at 154 West Market Street, Cadiz, Ohio, every Sunday at 11:00 AM.  Please like The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz on facebook


Monday, February 23, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, March 1, 2015, the Second Sunday in Lent (Year B)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 is a revised continuation of Lectionary Ruminations.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 draws on nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without overreliance on commentaries I intend with comments and questions to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.  All lectionary links are to the via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website.

17:1 Last week, we encountered Noah and Noahic Covenant.  This week, we encounter Abraham and the Abrahamic Covenant.  How do these two covenants inform our understanding of Lent and Easter? Abraham was only ninety-nine year old? Well, at least he was not one hundred years old!
17:2 Of all people, why did God Almighty choose Abraham?
17:3 Why does Abram fall on his face? Why do we no longer fall on our faces when we encounter God Almighty?
17:4 What is the meaning of “nations”?
17:5 Why does God change Abram’s name to Abraham? Note the use of the past tense “I have made you”.
17:6 Will Abraham be exceedingly fruitful or will his descendants be exceedingly fruitful?
17:7 In verse 17:2 God Almighty promises to establish a covenant with Abraham.  In this verse, the promise is extended to Abraham’s offspring.
17:15 Why does God have Abraham change Sarai’s name to Sarah?
17:16 What is the difference between a covenant and a blessing?

22:23 What does the psalmist mean by “fear”? Why does the psalmist refer to offspring of Jacob/Israel rather than Abraham?
22:24 Is the Psalmist the afflicted?
22:25 What is the great congregation? What vows will be paid?
22:26 Why “poor” rather than “hungry” if the issue is their being fed?
22:27 Remember what? Why “families of the nations” rather than just “nations”?
22:29 Is life being contrasted with death? How can the dead bow down?
22:30-31 Is this promise for the church as much as for Abraham and his offspring? How does one proclaim anything to the yet unborn?

4:13 Did only Abraham have faith, or did his descendants also have faith? What came first, the promise or Abraham’s faith?
4:14 This sounds logical.
4:15 Again, this sounds logical. Whose wrath does the law bring?
4:16 What does Paul mean by “the faith of Abraham”?
4:18 Is “hoping against hope” the same as “faith”?
4:19 Is hope or faith ever misplaced?
4:20 This sounds like faith is trust rather than assent to doctrine. Is distrust the opposite of faith? Is distrust the same as doubt?
4:21 God may be able to do what God promised, but does God always do what God is able to do?
4:22 What is Paul quoting?
4:23 How could anything written about Abraham be written for Abraham’s sake alone?
4:24 It seems Paul is now arguing that faith is belief rather than trust. How are belief and trust the same and how are they different?
4:25 Must one believe only that Jesus was raised, or that he died for or trespasses and was raised for our justification?

8:31 Why does Jesus not begin to preach this until Chapter eight? How many people in the pews understand “Son of Man” language? How much time should a preacher spend in a sermon unpacking “Son of Man” language?
8:32 Did Jesus not always speak openly?  Why did Peter rebuke Jesus?
8:33 Why did Jesus look at the disciples rather than looking at Peter when he rebuked Peter? What might be the multi-faceted meaning of “Get behind me Satan”? What are the “divine things” Peter out to be setting his mind on?
8:34 What cross? Is this the first time in Mark that Jesus or anyone else has mentioned a cross?
8:35 I think this is the kernel of wisdom in the husk of this passage. Was Peter seeking to save hi own life or the life of Jesus?
8:36 Is this anything like the Faustian bargain?
8:37 Is this a rhetorical question?
8:38 Who might Jesus have in mind when he refers to those who are ashamed of him? Was this warning only for those in Jesus’ day, or for the readers Mark was writing to and for, or for all generations? I can not recall ever being ashamed of Jesus but I have sometimes been ashamed of what others, including the Church, have done, and are doing, in his name.

ADDENDUM
I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, worshiping at 154 West Market Street, Cadiz, Ohio, every Sunday at 11:00 AM.  Please like The Presbyterian Church on facebook