Thursday, February 4, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, February 14, 2016, the First Sunday in Lent (Year C)

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.

26:1 How shall we define this “land”?
26:2 How do we move from “some” to 10%.  What is the meaning of “first”? What difference does it make for our Stewardship that we are commanded to take some of the “first fruit” rather than what happens to be left over to present to God? Where is the place of the LORD?
26:3 “Your” seems odd.  I would expect “our”. This sounds like a liturgical formula.
26:4 Since it is the contents of the basket that matter, I wonder what happens to the basket.
26:5 Please, please, please know the difference in meaning and pronunciation between Aramean and Armenian. Did this wandering Aramean have a name? Who is your daddy? Might this passage suggest that faith is a journey or lead into a reflection on the Lenten journey?
26:6 Why not the overt mention of slavery or servitude?
26:7 How do we move from “ancestor” in 26:5 to “ancestors” in this verse?
26:8 What is the meaning of “mighty hand” and “outstretched arm”?
26:9 What does it mean for a land to flow with milk and honey?
26:10 Apparently fish and fowl were not brought. Is this set down before the priest, by the priest, or is the priest not at all involved in this setting down?
26:11 Who are Levites and why are they and aliens singled out?  Note that the people are to celebrate “with all the bounty”, not celebrate the bounty.

91:1-2, 9-16 How many ways does this Psalm identify God?
91:1 Is God’s shadow the same as God’s shelter?  What does a shadow shelter from?
91:2 What is the difference, if any, between refuge and fortress?  Is this couplet nothing more than an example of Hebraic poetic construction?
91:9 This verse contains the second appearance of “Most High”.  What does this title of God communicate that other titles do not?
91:10 I hereby proclaim this the backpackers and campers verse!
91:11-12, 1a3 Cn we read and interpret these versus without hearing them applied to Christ?
91:11 What is your angelology?
91:12 What about this verse troubles me?
91:13-14 Note the switch from the third person to the first person between verses 13 and 14.
91:14 Who is now speaking? What is God’s name and how can we know it if we are not supposed to pronounce it?
91:15 Is God present only in times of trouble?
91:16 What is the meaning of “salvation” in the context of this verse?

10:8b  This is Paul writing, not John.  What does Paul mean by “word”.
10:9 Is Paul is calling for both verbal assent as well as spiritual assent?  The church can judge the first but not the second.  This is perhaps one of the oldest, and simplest, statements of faith.  Note what is does not say.  How did this short Biblical confession become expanded into the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed, not to mention the Westminster Confession?
10:10 What is the difference between being justified and being saved?  Did Paul really mean to relegate justification to the affections and salvation to confession?
10:11 What Scripture is Paul quoting?
10:12 What is the meaning of “Greek”?
10:13 What does “call on the name of the Lord” mean and what does it sound like?  How can we interpret this without wandering into debate between inclusive universalism and exclusive particularism?  What are the implications for evangelism on the one hand and interreligious dialogue on the other?

4:1-13 Do not forget to look at the parallels, beginning at Matthew 4:1 and Mark 1:12.
4:1 What does it mean to be full of the Holy Spirit?  Can one be led by the Spirit if one is not full of the Spirit? Is wilderness simply a geographical reference or is it also symbolic? I referred you last week, and I will refer you again to Belden Lane’s book The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality.
4:2 What is the symbolic significance of forty?  What does it allude to? Who was there counting?  What is your demonology?  What would the physical, psychological, and spiritual state of anyone who had fasted forty days be like?
4:3 “If”?
4:4 Where is this written?
4:5 Is this physically possible in a round world?
4:6 Had any authority been given to the Devil, or is the Devil lying?
4:7 Why does the Devil want to be worshiped?
4:8 Where is this written?
4:9 “If”? Yet again? It sounds as though the Devil is taunting or even attempting to sew seeds of doubt.
4:10-11 Where is this written? Note that even the Devil can quote Scripture! Look above at Psalm 91:11-12.
4:12 Where is this said?
4:13 What would be an opportune time?  This verse always reminds me of Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel Last Temptation of Christ.  I think the movie adaptation is better than the book, but nevertheless, what does it mean for our faith that Jesus was tempted at least three times and perhaps more, even at a later time?

ADDENDUM
I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, Ohio but will be available to supply preach or serve in a part-time of full-time position beginning late February or early March, 2016.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, February 7, 2016, the Transfiguration of the Lord (Year C)

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.

34:29-35 This reading was probably paired with the Gospel Reading because they both mention mountains, shining faces, and narrate a theophany.  What is the difference between reading the Luke passage through the lens of Exodus and reading the Exodus passage through the lens of Luke? In the past couple of months I read Belden C. Lane’s The Solace of Fierce Landscapes
Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality, which might influence how I interpret and preach this passage this time around. How does your reading influence how you interpret Scripture and how you preach?
34:29 If you had looked at the face of Moses, what would you have seen?  When was the last time anyone left a worship service with a shining face?  Do you know anyone whose seems to beam, not because they use make-up or cleansing cream, but because they seem to radiate a spiritual energy from within? Is anybody else thinking about auras?
34:30 What about the shining face of Moses scared Aaron and the people?
34:31 Why would Moses calling to the people help them overcome their fear?
34:32 What is the meaning of “in commandment”?
34:33 Why did Moses put a veil on his face?  Is there any value in drawing a possible metaphorical connection between the veil over Moses’ face and the veil in the Temple?  Those familiar with Celtic Christianity might wonder if the veil over Moses face was made of gossamer.
34:34 Why would Moses take off the veil when speaking with God?
34:35 Could the Israelites see the shining face of Moses through the veil that he wore?

99:1-9 How does this Psalm help interpret and shed light (pun intended) on both the First Reading and the Gospel Reading?
99:1 Why would people tremble just because the LORD is king?  Why would the earth quake just because the LORD sits enthroned upon the cherubim?  When was the last time you trembled in the presence of the LORD? What are cherubim and where might we find them?  Should we call Indiana Jones for help with this one?
99:2 Is the use of great and exalted and example of Hebrew poetic parallelism?
99:3 What is great and awesome about the LORD’s name?  Other than the LORD’s name, can you think of anything awesome? How can anyone praise the LORD’s great and awesome name when the name is not to be pronounced?
99:4 What sort of justice does this Mighty King love? What is meant by equity?
99:5 Where is the LORD’s footstool?
99:6 What does it mean to cry to the Lord?
99:7 What did the LORD’s voice sound like?  Is there a difference between decrees and statutes or is this more poetic parallelism?
99:8 Why the past tense?  Note that verses 1-7 and 9 speak of the LORD in the third person while this verse addresses the Lord in the second person.  Why the change?  Is it significant? How can the LORD be both a forgiving God and an avenging God?
99:9 Where is the LORD’s mountain and does the mention of a mountain justify the lectionary assigning this Psalm for use on The Transfiguration of the Lord?  Is the psalmist suggesting that the LORD can be worshiped only at God’s holy mountain and nowhere else?

3:12 What hope?
3:13 Moses did not act with boldness? Glory was being set aside?  Does Paul’s use of Moses’s veil as a metaphor justify assigning this passage to The Transfiguration of the Lord?
3:14 Whose minds were hardened?  Are our minds ever hardened, and if so, how?
3:14-15 Be careful of possible anti-Semitic interpretation of these verses.  Christians as well as Jews often have hardened minds and can read the Hebrew Scriptures through a metaphorical veil which hides and distorts.
3:16 How does turning to the Lord remove the veil?
3:17 How do we interpret this verse in light of the Doctrine of the Trinity? In this context, what is the meaning of freedom?
3:18 Even though our veil has been removed, we still do not look at the LORD directly, but through a mirror?  I might prefer to look at God directly, even if through a veil, than without a veil but at a reflection.  To what does “the same image” refer?  Is it the image of God in which humans were created? Is it the image of Christ?  Is it the image of Moses reflecting the image of God?
4:1 Who are “we”? What ministry?
4:2 What shameful things do we hide that we should renounce? Do Christians ever practice cunning in an attempt to grow churches and ministries?

9:28-36 You may want to check the parallels in Matthew 17:1-8 and Mark 9:2-8. Why is there no Transfiguration in John?
9:28 Eight days after what sayings?  Is there any significance to the number eight? What mountain?  Why go up a mountain to pray? You too may want to read Belden C. Lane’s The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality    Can Jesus not pray anywhere?  Note that once again Jesus takes with him the elite three— Peter, James, and John—a counter balance to the REALLY big three—Jesus, Moses and Elijah.
9:29 Is this perhaps a midrash on Exodus 34:29-35? Why didn’t Moses’ clothes become dazzling white?
9:30 What is significant about Moses and Elijah?  Why these two men?
9:31 What departure?
9:32 Is this a veiled reference (pun intended) to someone’s future falling asleep in the Garden while Jesus prayed?
9:33 Who were leaving? What is the meaning of “not knowing what he said”?  How often do we, like Peter, stick our foot in our mouth, not knowing what we have said?
9:34 Why would entering a cloud induce feelings of terror?
9:35 Whose voice?  Where and when have we heard this, or something like this, before?
9:36 Why did they keep silent?  When were “those days”?
(9:37-43) How do these verses add to, or detract from, the Reading’s focus on The Transfiguration?  If we choose to include these optional verses (I will probably not include them) then we might want to point out that while Peter wants to stay on the mountain to build a museum, Jesus descends back into the trenches and gets back to the business of exorcizing demons and healing the sick. In that regard, who are the faithless and perverse generation?
(9:37) How great?
(9:38) Does this verse echo 9:35?
(9:39) What does this sound like?
(9:40) Were the disciples that powerless?
(9:41) What is the meaning of this?
(9:42) Have you ever rebuked an unclean spirit? Are there such things as clean spirits?
(9:43) What does it mean to be astounded?  Why were they astounded at the greatness of God rather than the greatness of Jesus? When was the last time you were astounded by God?

ADDENDUM
I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, Ohio but will be available to supply preach or serve in a part-time of full-time position beginning late February or early March, 2016.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, January 31, 2016, the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

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.

1:4 Has the word of the LORD ever come to you, and if so, how? How do you know it is a word of the Lord and not some deception of the imagination?
1:5 I doubt this could be used as an argument for life beginning at conception as this sounds like life, or personhood, begins even before conception.  What do you know about the philosophy of George Berkeley and does it have any bearing on how we might interpret this passage?  Is this God talking to Jeremiah?
1:6 Is this “I do not know how to speak” and “I am only a boy” defense anything like that of Moses?
1:7 Such a defense, as above, never seems to work. Sometimes it seems like God calls us before we are prepared or ready and we get on the job training.
1:8 Do not be afraid of who, the nations?
1:9 Does this remind you of any other perhaps similar accounts in the Hebrew Scriptures?  Is this entire Reading a call narrative?
1:10 Note two pairs of destructive activities and one pair of creative activities. How can a prophet do such things with only words?

71:1 What comes to your mind when you hear the word “refuge”?  What is so bad about shame?
71:2 How does the LORD incline the divine ear?
71:3 How is a rock of refuge like a fortress?  Do any particular rocks come to your mind when you hear “rock of refuge”?
71:4 Is the Psalmist already in the hand of the wicked and the grasp of the unjust and cruel?
71:5 I just recently say Star Wars VII – The Force Awakens and so when I read this I am thinking of Star Wars IV – A New Hope a Princes Leia pleading “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you're our only hope.”
71:6 Does this verse justify the Lectionary pairing this Psalm with the First Reading from Jeremiah (See Jeremiah 1:5)?  Does this verse justify referring to the LORD as a midwife?

13:1-13 Why read this in Sunday worship if there is no wedding to follow?  What can be said about this Reading that has not already been said?  Why do we tend to read this at weddings when we really need to read it at divorce proceedings and in the midst of church conflict?
13:1 What do the tongues of angels sound like? Do you remember “The Gong Show”?
13:2 Those are big “ifs”!
13:3 Is this an allusion to a story Jesus told about rich young man (see Matt. 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, and Luke 18:18-30)?
13:4-7 Is there anything missing from this definition/list?  How about Jenny (Ali McGraw) telling Oliver (Ryan O'Neal) “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” as written by Erich Segal in Love Story?
13:8 Of the three Greek words for love, which word is Paul using?
13:9 Is all knowledge partial? Does this suggest a apophatic form of spirituality?
13:10 When will the complete come?
13:11 Is there a difference between being childish and childlike?
13:12 It is a little enigmatic, nevertheless, this is one of my favorite verses.  Is there any play on the idea of “icon” here?  What is the difference between a thing reflected and its reflection? The best mirrors in Paul’s day were probably made of highly polished metal. Glass mirrors as we know them did not exist.
13:13 Where did faith and hope come from?

4:21 Who is speaking?  To whom is he speaking?  What is the setting?  What scripture?
4:22 All?  Is this hyperbole?  When was the last time you were amazed by anyone’s words?  I think it is interesting that the speaker is identified as Joseph’s son rather than Mary’s son.
4:23 Where did this proverb come from?  What were people saying about his time in Capernaum?
4:24 What do you think about this? I wonder if Jeremiah had any such notion.
4:25 What does this have to do with anything?
4:26 Where was Elijah from? Is there anything significant or special about Zarephath in Sidon?
4:27 So?
4:28 Why were they filled with rage?  I thought they were all amazed.  What happened between verse 22 and verse 28?
4:29 Why am I thinking about swine?
4:30 What does it mean that “he passed through the midst of them”? Was this a sign? A wonder? A miracle?

ADDENDUM
I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, Ohio but will be available to supply preach or serve in a part-time of full-time position beginning late February or early March, 2016.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, January 24, 2016, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

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.

8:1  Is “all” hyperbole? What people gathered?  How many Americans will think of Richard Nixon when they hear this (Or maybe you are too young to remember the Watergate Scandal)?  Geographically, where is the Water Gate?  What does it mean that Ezra was a scribe?  What is the book of the law of Moses?
8:2 Was Ezra a priest, a scribe, or both?   Or were there two people named Ezra?  What about people who could not hear with understanding?  How do we hear or not hear with understanding?  Is there anything special about the first day of the seventh month?
8:3 This was not a twenty minute reading of Scripture!
8:5Why did the people stand up when Ezra opened the book? Does your congregation stand up when scripture is read? Did he open a book or a scroll?
8:6 What does it mean to bless the LORD?  I thought God usually blessed individuals and communities, not the other way around.  What is the meaning of first raising hands and then bowing heads? When is it appropriate to worship with faces to the ground?
8:8 Who was reading, Ezra, or others as well, since it says “they”?  Note that “they” were not only reading but also interpreting.  This is beginning to sound like the reading of Scripture and the exposition of a sermon. Why could the people not understand what was read without interpretation?
8:9 So Ezra was both a priest and a scribe!  Is this a display of civil religion? Who were the Levites, what did they teach, and how and when did they teach it?  Why would people weep when they hear the words of the law?
8:10 Who is speaking? Note the sending of portions to those for whom nothing is prepared. What days are not holy to the Lord?

19:1 Are these spiritual heavens or astronomical heavens?  What is the difference?  What is a firmament? Why am I thinking of images from the Hubble Space Telescope?
19:2 Is there any significance to the day being paired with speech and the night being paired with knowledge?
19:3-4a What is this, a conundrum?
19:4b-6 How can we interpret pre-Copernican poetry in a post-Copernican world?
19:7 Is this verse the reason why the Lectionary pairs this Psalm with the First Reading?
19:7-9 How many synonyms of Law can you identify in these verses?
19:10 If one is familiar only with a tradition of hellfire and damnation preaching; and an image of a vengeful, wrathful, punishing God; how would these verses sound? I find it interesting that honey is the color of gold.
19:11 What is the reward? Is being rewarded the reason Christians in the Reformed Tradition keep the law?
19:12 Is this a rhetorical question?
19:13 Keep jerks away from me and I will not be a jerk?
19:14 Pet Peeve Alert! Why must so many preachers employ this as an exercise in personal piety by praying this verse before preaching?  Does not a more communal Prayer for Illumination, read before the reading of scripture, serve better?

12:12 How can we hear old, tired metaphors in new ways?
12:13 What does it mean to “drink” of one Spirit?  Is Paul already thinking of the Lord’s Supper or does this imagery lead him to his later comments about it?
12:14 Is this what we usually think of when we think of church membership? How is membership in the body of Christ different from membership in secular organizations?
12:15 Do you have any problem thinking of body parts (members) talking? Note that the foot is not excluded by the hand but excludes itself.
12:16 Note that the ear is not excluded by the eye but excludes itself. This and the previous passage is not about the body turning away members but members not thinking they are worthy to be part of the body.
12:17 If the whole body were teaching elders or pastors we would be in deep doo-doo.
12:18 Is Paul talking about the human body, the body of Christ, or both?
12:19-20 How many members does the human body have?
12:21 This is a reversal of 12:15-16. Now Paul is talking about parts excluding other parts.
12:22 What, or who, are your weakest members and how are they indispensable?
12:23 Is Paul still talking about the human body or the body of Christ, or both?
12:24 Is this Paul’s application of Jesus’ classic reversals such as the first becoming last and the least becoming the greatest?
12:25 Can you think of what dissension is like in the human body or is Paul no longer talking about the human body? What might Paul have meant by “dissension”?
12:26 Is this what it is like in your congregation? Perhaps Congress needs to hear this more than Sunday worshipers.
12:27 Didn’t we know this was what Paul was talking about all along?
12:28 Is this meant to be all inclusive list or in any way hierarchical based on the order of those things mentioned? Some are people or positions and others are gifts. Is Paul confusing categories?
12:29-30 Are these rhetorical questions?
12:31 What are the greater gifts (note that it is plural)?

4:14 Was Jesus earlier not filled with the power of the Spirit? Where did Jesus return from?  Note that “a report” is singular, not plural.  I wonder what the report was.
4:15 Had Jesus not taught, or not taught in synagogues, or not taught in their synagogues before this time? Is “praised by everyone”  hyperbole?
4:16 Note that he had been brought up in Nazareth but not necessarily born there.
4:18-19 What if Jesus had been handed a different scroll?  Who is speaking within the context of Isaiah?
4:20-21 Why were the eyes of all fixed on him? Would Jesus not have spoken further if the eyes of all had not been fixed on him? What if people had ignored him after he read and went about their business?
4:21 What did Jesus mean by this?

ADDENDUM

I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, Ohio but will be available to supply preach or serve in a part-time of full-time position beginning late February or early March, 2016.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, January 17, 2016, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

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.

62:1 Who is speaking? Who will not keep silent?
62:2 What is the significance of a new name? What will this new name be?
62:3 What is a diadem?
62:4 Why, in the NRSV, is “Forsaken,” “Desolate,” “My Delight Is in Her,” and “Married” capitalized? What is the meaning of married land?  Does this metaphor justify this passage being paired with John 2:1-11?
62:5 Does this verse inform any New Testament metaphors?

36:5 Where does the LORD’s love extend from? What is the difference, if any, between steadfast love and faithfulness, or is this just a poetic construction?
36:6 Is this just a poetic way of saying height and depth?  Do dogs and cats and other animals and pets have to be baptized or born again to be saved?
36:7 This is the second occurrence of “steadfast love” in this Reading. What sort of avian creature is God being likened to?
36:8 To what does “house” refer?
36:9 Could this verse be behind myths and legends about the fountain of youth?  How do we see light in light?  Do we see light, or what light illuminates? Is light a wave, a particle, or both?
36:10 This is the third occurrence of “steadfast love” in this Reading. So God’s steadfast love does not extend to strangers?

12:1 Are most Christians today informed or uninformed about spiritual gifts?
12:2 Is this a valid portrayal of paganism?  What is the difference between Paganism and Atheism and between Paganism and Agnosticism? Is the neo-Paganism (Wicca and other earth/nature based religions) of today anything like what Paul meant by Paganism?
12:3 Really?
12:4 Why am I thinking about Isabel Briggs Myers and the MBTI? Would the Enneagram also fit in here?
12:5 How are gifts and services related?
12:6 What does Paul mean my “activities”?
12:4-6 Is there any scheme at work here: gifts-Spirit, services-Lord, activities-God?
12:7 Have you been given a ma infestation of the Spirit?
12:8 What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?
12:9 Are some not given the gift of faith? I wonder what meant by “healing”. Do you think he would have been thinking about anything like modern medicine or Reiki?
12:10 How do we post-moderns understand the gift of miracles?
12:8-10 Was this list meant to be exhaustive or just suggestive?
12:11 Are some gifts given but never activated?

2:1 How does this passage foreshadow the resurrection?  Why is the mother of Jesus not named?  Who do you think was being married?
2:2 All the disciples or just some of the disciples? Why would the disciples have been invited?
2:3 Is the mother of Jesus stating the obvious?  Why tell Jesus?  Did he not already know?
2:4 Why does Jesus address his mother as “Woman”?  What “hour” is Jesus referring to?
2:5 What gave the mother of Jesus the right and authority to tell the servants what to do?  Maybe she was catering the reception?  Is “servants” a play on words?  Do the disciples always do what Jesus tells them?
2:6 Is there any significance in the number of jars?  Does the number of jars matter?  What are the Jewish rites of purification? Does it matter that the jars hold between between twenty or thirty gallons?
2:7 Does this assume that the jars were empty?  Does whether they were empty or full before Jesus said to fill them make a difference?  Is there any significance that the jars were filled to the brim?
2:8 Did the servants draw out water or wine?  Who and what was the chief steward?
2:9 This reads as if the servants drew water out of the jars but that the water turned to wine as the servants were taking it to the steward. What do you think happened?
2:10 Why serve good wine first and then inferior wine later?
2:11 If this was the “first” of his signs, how many more signs were there and what were they?  Is there any significance to “Cana in Galilee” being mentioned here as well as in 2:1?  Was his glory hidden before this?  Did his disciples not believe in him before this?
2:1-11 This is one of my favorite passages in my favorite Gospel.  I think it could preach several sermons to unpack, interpret, and apply it, especially after a few glasses of wine.

ADDENDUM

I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, Ohio but will be available to supply preach or serve in a part-time of full-time position beginning late February or early March, 2016.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, January 10, 2016, the Baptism of the Lord (Year C)

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.

43:1 Who is initially speaking? To whom is the LORD speaking? What is the relationship, if any, between redemption and calling by name?
43:2 What waters are being referred to?  When Christians read this passage in light of the Sacrament of baptism, are we misreading the Hebrew Scriptures, or simply exercising Hebrew Midrash from a Christian perspective?  I wonder how post Shoah Jews read and interpret this passage.
43:3 PC(USA) Presbyterians: Do not forget the opening lines of A Brief Statement of Faith!  How was Egypt given as a ransom?  Why the mention of Ethiopia and Seba?
43:4 I like the first part of this verse, but the second part rubs me the wrong way. If the LORD is giving away people and nations, to whom or what is the LORD giving them to?
43:5-6 Note that all four cardinal directions are named. These verses remind me of an invitation to the Lord’s Table: “They will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.”
43:6 Note that sons and daughters are both mentioned, a rare inclusive verse!
43:7 Could this verse not be used to argue for universalism?  This verse could provide for an interesting juxtaposition in relation to the exclusiveness of Christian Baptism.

29:1 What does it mean to ascribe?  How do we ascribe?  What, or which, heavenly beings are addressed here?
29:2 Do you worship in holy splendor?  What does holy splendor look, smell, sound, feel, and taste like?
29:3 What does the voice of the LORD sound like?  Would you recognize it if you heard it?  Being a sailor and kayaker, I really like and relate to this verse.  How do people who are land locked and had never experienced the ocean or other large body of water understand this verse?
29:4 With a voice like this the LORD deserves a contract as an announcer and/or commercial spokesperson.
29:5-9 Think of the scene/passage in The Hobbit where Bilbo and the dwarves find themselves amidst giants “hurling rocks at one another for a game, and catching them and tossing them down into darkness where they are smashed among the trees far below, or splintered into little bits with a bang.”
29:6 Where is Sirion and why is it mentioned?
29:8 Where is the wilderness of Kadesh?
29:9 Who say “Glory”?
29:10 How are people in flood ravaged Missouri hearing this?
29:10-11 How do we reconcile images of a storm god with peace?
29:1-11 There is no still small voice here, no safe, domesticated God. This Psalm is about the God of fierce landscapes, the God of raw power represented by severe and intense natural phenomena. I doubt many would be comfortable welcoming this God into their clean, climate controlled, predictable sanctuaries.

8:14 Is the Jerusalem setting important?  What if the apostles had been someplace else, other than Jerusalem, when they heard this news? Was it surprising, or problematic, that Samaria (not Samaritans?) had accepted the word of God?  Why was James not sent?
8:15 Does this sound a little judgmental to you? How it is possible that someone accepts the word of God without receiving the Holy Spirit?
8:16 Who is this verse talking about?  Why, in the NRSV, is this verse in parenthesis? How does this verse challenge some who insist on baptizing “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit?” or else it is not a Christian, Trinitarian, Baptism?
8:17 What is so special about the laying on of hands?  Is it possible for a person or a people to receive the Holy Spirit without being baptized? Is either prayer or the laying on of hands not enough? Must prayer and the laying on of hands be combined?

3:15 What people?  When was the last time people in the pews of churches you know were filled with expectation?  Why would people think John could be the Messiah?
3:16 What is so special about the thong of a sandal?  Is the doublet “Holy Spirit and fire” merely poetic, or something more?
3:17 What is a winnowing fork and what is it used for?  What is a threshing floor and what is it used for?  What is chaff?  How do we preach the Gospel in an urban environment where all people know about wheat is that comes in five pound bags of ground flour and they probably have no idea what the imagery of this passage is communicating?  Why was chaff burned?  Does this passage require the existence of a fire filled hell? Is this unquenchable fire at related to the Holy Spirit and fire of the previous verse?
3:21 Really?  All the people?  Do you think this is an exaggeration, an hyperbole?  What does it mean for heaven (singular, not plural) to be opened?
3:22 So the Holy Spirit was someplace over the Jordan River, on the other side of earth from people along a declination of plus or minus 180 degrees?  What is the meaning of “bodily form”?  If in some ways it was like a dove but not really a dove, how was it different? What might a dove symbolize? Whose voice came from heaven and what did it sound like?  Where and when might we hear these words again?

ADDENDUM
I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, Ohio but will be available to supply preach or serve in a part-time of full-time position beginning late February or early March, 2016.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, January 3, 2016, the Second Sunday after Christmas (Year C)

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: The Lectionary Readings for the Second Sunday After Christmas are the same in all three years, A,B & C.

31:7 I wonder what effect it would have if you started your next sermon by proclaiming “For thus says the LORD.”  IMHO, most worshipers need to take the admonition to “Sing aloud with gladness” more seriously.  Who is “the chief of the nations”? Who are the remnant of Israel?
31:8 What might the “land of the north” symbolize? What promise do we find for ourselves in this promise of restoration? 
31:9 Why do the remnant weep? Who or what is Ephraim?
31:10 Why do the nations need to hear this? Who scattered Israel and why?  Why is Israel now being gathered?
31:11 How has the LORD ransomed Jacob? Whose hands were too strong? Could this be one of the roots of a ransom theory of the atonement?
31:12 What and where is the height of Zion? I like the image of a life likened to a “watered garden”.  How many people in our society are experiencing a life akin to a dried up, dead garden?
31:13 What sort of dance do you imagine this being? This verse would work well within the context of a Service of Witness to the Resurrection.
31:14 Here is an image I can relate to.

147:12 This is another of the “praise” Psalms that close the Psalter, thus a Psalm that could be adapted for use as a Call to Worship.  How is this Psalm related to the one before and after?
147:13 What does strengthening the bars of gates symbolize? Where are children blessed?
147:14 I find peace and finest wheat a powerful but an odd poetic pairing.
147:15 Why am I thinking of the Greek god Mercury? What is God’s command?
147:16 I understand how frost is like ashes, but how is snow like wool? How will this verse sound in the Eastern United States compared to the Western United States this day?
147:17 This and the preceding verse works this time of year in most of the northern hemisphere, but what about in the southern hemisphere?
147:18 This is the second reference in this Psalm to God’s “word”.  See 147:15 for the first time.  It appears again in 147:19. How can a word melt anything?
147:12-18 It should be clearly evident why this Psalm was paired with the Jeremiah Reading.  But the Psalm seems to emphasize the emotions of return and restoration while ignoring the lament aspect of the deportation that preceded it.  Where do we, as Americans, as Christians, and as Presbyterians find ourselves today—in exile or restoration?
147:19 How do statutes and ordinances relate to the LORD’s word? What is the relationship between Jacob and Israel?
147:20 What are the LORD’s ordinances? Why do other nations not know them?

1:3 What are spiritual blessings?  Where are the heavenly places? This verse starts out sounding like The Magnificat.
1:4 Presbyterians take note: here is a verse in support of predestination and election.  Have you ever thought of yourself as holy and blameless? When was the foundation of the world? You might want to juxtapose this verse and its “before the foundation of the world” with John 1:1 and its “In the beginning”.
1:5 Another verse in support of the doctrines of predestination and election unless this verse applies only to the Ephesians.  What is your destiny?
1:6 Who or what is “the Beloved”?
1:7 Now we have  a “blood” atonement after the ransom of Jeremiah 31:11.  How does blood redeem?
1:8 What is the difference between wisdom and insight?
1:9 What is the mystery of God’s will?  I think we do not talk enough about mystery.
1:10 Is this a verse in support of divine “fate”? What is this “plan”? What and/or when is “the fullness of time”?
1:11  What is our “inheritance”?  This is yet another verse in support of predestination and election.
1:12 Who are “we”?
1:13 Who are “you”?  How is the Holy Spirit a “seal”?
1:14 How is a seal a pledge?

John’s prologue is my favorite passage in the Bible.  This is also the first passage I translated from the Greek when learning Greek.  How is your preaching or teaching influenced when you encounter one of your favorite passages?  While 1:1-9 are optional, I really think they need to be read and I will be including them in the Gospel Reading.
1:1 Can we read this and hear this read without recalling the first creation account of Genesis 1? How, in a brief amount of time, can we unpack the significance the Greek “logos” since the English “Word” just does not seem to translate it?
1:2 When was the beginning?
1:3 What is the meaning of “all things came into being through him”?
1:4-5 Maybe these verses should have been read at the winter solstice, back on December 21st in the northern hemisphere, rather than today.
1:4 Can there be life without being? How does light serve as life? Does this verse lend itself to universalism?
1:5 Note that the light shining is in the present tense but the darkness did not overcome it is in the past tense. How could darkness ever overcome light unless we are talking about a black hole?
1:6-9 In a matter of weeks we have moved from the conception of John the Baptizer to his testimony.  Once again, I am wondering how much we are missing when we reflect about the relationship and connection between John the Baptizer and Jesus. I wonder what John would have thought if he had read this description of himself and his ministry.
1:6 What does it mean to be sent from God?
1:7 Believe what?
1:8 How does one testify about anything? Was this verse meant to knock John down a notch or two?
1:9 Is there a false light? I like the construction “was coming” as it suggests a process rather than a point. Like 1:4, does this verse suggest a universalism? This verse is the last of the optional verses.
1:10 What does it mean to be “in the world”? What does it mean to “know” and “not know”?
1:11 What was his own?
1:12 Who received him?  Who believed in his name? What is the meaning of “power”? What does it mean to be a child of God?
1:13 Is there any difference between “the will of the flesh” and “the will of man”? Is there any theological difference between being born “of God” and being born from above? How might William James enlighten us to the meaning of being born of God? Must this birth be a physical birth or are there other types of birth, like, perhaps, spiritual birth?
1:14 In his 1996 book Mystical Christianity: A Psychological Commentary on the Gospel of John, Episcopal Priest and internationally known Jungian analyst writes “John 1:14 is one of the most important verses in the New Testament, a cornerstone of the Christian religion.” (p. 14) Without this verse there would be no LECTIONARY RUMINATIONS 2.0?  Why?
1:15 Why the parenthesis in the NRSV?  So what?
1:16 What does his “fullness” refer to? What is grace upon grace?
1:17 “Law” versus “grace and truth” or “Law and grace and truth”?  Note that “grace and truth” was first mentioned in 1:14.
1:18 Are there not some passages in the Hebrew Scriptures to refute the claim that “No one has ever seen God”?  Once we have come to know God the Father through the only son, should we not focus on our relationship with the Father rather than the Son? What is the difference between a Theocentric faith and a Christocentric faith? Can one know God without seeing God? What does “the Father’s heart” symbolize or represent?

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