Monday, September 15, 2014

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, September 21, 2014, the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

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.

16:2 Why mighty Pastor’s sometimes feel like Moses and Aaron?  How do we complain and what do we complain about?
16:3 What is a “fleshpot”? Why would the Israelites have preferred to die in slavery in Egypt rather than in freedom in the wilderness?
16:4 How is God sending bread to a hungry people a test?  What exactly and specifically are God’s instructions?
16:5 Why is twice as much provided and gathered on the sixth day?
16:6 What is so special about the evening?
16:7 How will the people see the glory of the Lord in the morning? What is “the glory of the Lord”? What are Moses and Aaron?
16:8 The Lord has promised bread but not said anything about meat. Is this verse an expanded reiteration of the verse preceding it?
16:9 What does it mean to draw near to the Lord?
16:10 If the people were already in the wilderness, how could they look “toward” the wilderness?  What and where is our wilderness?
16:11 This has to be one of the shortest verses in the Hebrew Scriptures.
16:12 How shall eating meat and bread convince people that the Lord is their God? Where is the meat coming from?
16:13 Here comes the aforementioned meat. Have you ever eaten a quail?  I have.  Quail is  delicious but not very satisfying if you are particularly hungry.
16:14 What is this fine flakey substance called?
16:15 How can a fine flaky substance be considered bread?

105:1 What is the LORD’s name?  How can one call on the LORD’s name when one is not permitted to pronounce the LORD’s name? What are the LORD’s deeds? Who are the “peoples”?
105:1-2 What are the LORD’s wonderful works? Are the wonderful works the same as the deeds?
105:3 How do we glory in God’s name?
105:4 Is the LORD’s strength the same as the Lord’s presence?  Does presence bring strength?
105:5 This is the second time wonderful works are mentioned.  Are the wonderful works the same as miracles and judgments?  Is this just a feature of Hebrew poetry or is something else going here.
105:6 Why are offspring always the offspring of only men? The Hebrew Scriptures often mentioned the descendants of Avraham and Jacob, skipping over Isaac. Why?
105:37 What does the silver and gold refer to?
105:38 If Egypt was glad, why did the Egyptian army pursue the fleeing Israelites?
105:39 So the cloud was not only a sign of God’s presence but also camouflage for the Israelites?
105:40 Did the people ask or complain?
105:41 What does this verse reference?
105:42 What was the holy promise? Could the LORD possibly forget that promise?
105:43 Can we had complaining and grumbling to joy and singing?
105:44 So the LORD’s people were given what was not theirs?
105:45 Had the LORD bribed the peoples?

1:21 How can dying be gain?
1:22 What does Paul mean by flesh?
1:23 What preferences is Paul internally debating?
1:24 Whose remaining in the flesh, Paul’s or the Philippians’?
1:25 What is Paul convinced of?
1:26 Were the Philippians boasting?
1:27 What is a life worthy of the gospel? How does one stand firm? What does Paul mean by one spirit?
1:28 Who were the opponents? What evidence is Paul referring to?
1:29 Does believing always go hand in hand with suffering?
1:30 What struggle did the Philippians and Paul share?

20:1 This is a kingdom parable.
20:2 What is the usually daily wage?
20:3 Why were these others standing idle in the marketplace?
20:4 What wage would be right?
2o:5-7 It seems the landowner goes out about every two or three hours. Why were these people not around earlier in the day?
20:8 Who is the landowner and who is the manager? The last shall be first and the first last – this is the only way this parable works. Where else in the Gospels can we find this sort of reversal?
20:9 Why did those who worked only a few hours receive the usual daily wage?
20:10 Why did those hired earlier and who worked longer expect to be paid more than the usual daily wage?
20:11 Where else in today’s Readings have we heard about grumbling?
20:12 I can sympathize with the sentiment.
20:13 This is true but it still seems unfair.
20:14 Why did the landowner choose to do this?
20:15 Are these more than rhetorical questions?
20:16 What is the meaning of this?

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. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, September 14, 2014, the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

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.

14:19 Are the “angel of God” and the “pillar of cloud” one and the same or are they different manifestations of the same reality?
14:20 What is the meaning of “army”?  How could fleeing slaves have an army in the military sense of the word?  How could the cloud light up the night?  What did not come near the other?
14:21 How might we variously understand the action of Moses stretching his hand over the sea?  What, if any, is the significance of the wind? If God was acting here, why did Moses need to do anything? Might the causeway at Lindisfarne, off the eastern coast of England, in any way help us envision how God might have been working here?
14:22 How might we variously understand “wall”?
14:23 Why do chariot drivers driving chariots not like mud?
14:24 When is the morning watch? Why did the Egyptian army panic? Are the pillar of fire and pillar of could one and the same?
14:25 Why did Captain Kirk, in a damaged Enterprise, enter a nebula when Kahn, in a perfectly functioning starship, sought to engage him in battle?
14:26 What is it about the hand off Moses? Why does God need to work through the hand of Moses?
14:27 When did the water’s part and when did the water’s return?  How might we variously understand “tossed”?
14:28 Does this verse conflict with the one before it?
14:29 Is this merely a restatement of 14:22?
14:30 How did the Egyptians end of on the seashore?
14:31 If it was the LORD that saved Israel, why did Israel “fear” the LORD and believe in Moses as well as in the LORD?

114:1 When did Israel go out from Egypt? Why do we have a comment about strange language?
114:2 Are the references to “Judah” and “Israel” a references to places, a people, or both?
114:3 Does this verse conflate two events? What does “Jordan turned back” mean?
114:4 How do mountains and hills “skip”?
114:5-6 Why are bodies of waters being compared, or poetically paired, to mountains and hills?
114:7 Is this a reference to the God of the earthquake?
114:8 When did God turn rock into a pool of water and flint into a spring of water?

15:1b Yes, there are other psalms or songs in the Bible other than in the Book of Psalms.  Who first sang this one?  This is an alternative to Psalm 114.  Which of the two, if either, will you use, and why?  How are they different and how are they similar?
15:2 This sounds like a statement of faith.
15:3 Must we maintain this militaristic image of God?
15:6 What is the significance of the LORD’s “right hand”?
15:8 God has nostrils?  The parting of the waters was the result of God sneezing?
15:11 And the answer to the questions asked in this verse is? Who or what are the “gods”?
15:20 Miriam was a prophet?  Why is she identified as Aaron’s sister rather than as the sister of both Aaron and Moses?  When was the last time you heard a tambourine played in a service of worship? When was the last time you saw dancing or yourself danced in a service of worship? The last line sounds like a refrain; a restatement of 15:1b.

14:1 What does it mean to be “weak in faith”? Who were/are the weak in faith and how can they be welcomed?
14:2 Are vegetarians weak?
14:3 Is Paul writing about only diets?
14:4 Who are “servants of another” and who is the “another”? How does this passage inform Church discipline?
14:5 Is Paul talking about the Sabbath and/or the Lord’s Day (Saturday and Sunday), or what?
14:6 Is Paul writing about fasting? Do you know the meaning of the word “adiaphora”, especially as Calvin used it?
14:7-9 These verses are often used as part of the liturgy for Witness to the Resurrection and I myself have spoken these words numerous times graveside.  What do they have to do, however, with what precedes or follows?
14:10 I think this is more than a rhetorical question.
14:11 Where is this written? What does this have to do with the topic at hand?

18:21 Why might the word “church” seem out of place here?  How might we account for it being used here?  Is there anything special about the number “seven” in this context? Do you think Peter was really looking for an answer or for justification of his own views and practice?
18:22 Is there anything special about “seventy-seven”?  Are there parallels to this passage in the other Gospels, and if so, how do they agree and disagree?
18:23-35 Is this a “Kingdom Parable”? Is this passage is not about wealth then what is it about?
18:24 What is the current value of ten thousand talents?
18:28 What is the current value of a hundred denarii?
18:34 How can the master hold his slave accountable for a debt he has already forgiven?
18:35 Is this a threat?  Does this verse suggest that forgiveness, even salvation, is revocable? Will God hand the unforgiving over to be tortured?

ADDENDUM
I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Churchof Cadiz, worshipping at 154 West Market Street, Cadiz, Ohio, every Sunday at 11:00 AM. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, September 7, 2014, the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)


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.

12:1-14 Many congregations, such as the one I serve as Interim Pastor, will be celebrating the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper this coming Sunday simply because it is the first Sunday of the month.  I could not expect a more fitting passage than this one to preface the celebration yet is it simply a quirk of the Lectionary that we have it this year.
12:1 God now speaks top both Moses and Aaron.  What about Mariam?
12:2 What month?  I think Israel recognized at least two calendars, one civil/religious and the other agricultural. How many ways do contemporary Christians tell and mark time?
12:3 Why a lamb?
12:4 How many people does it take to eat a lamb?
12:5 Why without blemish? From the sheep or the goats?
12:6 Why keep it four days? Or was it kept only three days if it was slaughtered at twilight?
12:7 I wonder what was dome with the blood that was not put on the doorposts and lintel.
12:8 Why unleavened bread and bitter herbs?
12:9 I can understand the prohibition about not eating any raw lamb but why not boiled? Why roasted whole?
12:10 Do not let anything remain until the morning!  But if anything does remain until the morning, burn it. Why?
12:11 This sounds like the original fast food.
12:12 What is the irony here?  Why is judgment executed on the gods of Egypt rather than upon Pharaoh? Why are creatures other than humans affected?
12:13 Is the blood a sign for the whole congregation of Israel or a sign for God? Are creatures other than humans also saved by the LORD passing over?
12:14 Do “day of remembrance”, “a festival”, and “a perpetual ordinance” all mean the same thing?

149:1 What is a “new song” and what is the difference between a “new song” and any other sort of song? How shall PC(USA) Presbyterians, introducing the new hymnal Glory To God, read this passage?
149:2 Is there any difference between “Israel” and “the children of Zion” or is this just an expression of Hebrew poetry? How easily do Christians refer to the same thing(s) with different words?
149:3 When was the last time people worshiping in your congregation praised God’s name with dancing?  When was the last time you heard a tambourine (or a lyre) in worship?
149:4 I like the image of God taking pleasure in me.
149:5 Did people really sing for joy on their couches?
149:6 I like the imager of singing but not swashbuckling.
149:7 I do not like the way this Psalm has progressed from singing a new song of praise to using swords to execute vengeance and punishment.
149:8-9 I do not like the militaristic imagery as this is beginning to sound like the call a holy war. How shall we deal with this in light of the history of the Crusades and current Islamic terrorism?

13:8 Here is a solution to our personal and national debt!
13:9 Of all the commandments, even all the ten commandments, why are these four mentioned?
13:10 Can we forget the commandments as long as we love our neighbor?
13:11 What time is it? “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers” is logically a true statement unless there is no salvation. The future is always growing closer to the present no matter how far away the future may be.
13:12 What are the works of darkness?  What is the armor of light? Can the Dead Sea Scrolls help us as we interpret this passage?
13:12-13 Is the assumption that some types of behavior are more typically engaged in at night and refrained from during the day?
13:13 May we logically assume that “reveling and drunkenness, debauchery and licentiousness, quarreling and jealousy” are among (or all of) the works of darkness?
13:14 Is putting “on the Lord Jesus Christ” is the antithesis of gratifying desires of the flesh”? 

18:15 How does someone “sin” against you? How might Family Systems Theory inform of interpretation and application of this verse?
18:16 What “word” are these “witnesses” confirming?
18:17 What does it mean for church member to be “as a Gentile and a tax collector”? This is beginning to sound like a church disciplinary process.
18:18 Have we heard these words before, in another context? What is the meaning of binding and loosing?
18:19 Just two? Anything? Is this an example of hyperbole? What if two different groups of Christians agree in the group but each group takes the opposite position of the other group?
18:20 What does it mean to “gather in my name”?

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.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, August 31, 2014, the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

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.

3:1 The Moses saga continues with last week’s infant Moses now a married, grown man.  What other great figures from the Jewish Scriptures spent their early life as a shepherd?  Is the fact that Moses’ father-in-law was a priest a foreshadowing of Moses future role? Where or what is Midian and is it significant? Why would Moses lead his flock beyond the wilderness where there be dragons or deities? Did Moses know he was near Horeb, the mountain of God, or is this description hindsight?
3:2 Note that in the NRSV it is “the”, not “an” angel of the LORD.  Why do we usually refer to this as “the burning bush” rather than “the bush that was not consumed”? How often are angels and/or the LORD associated with fire?
3:3 Turn aside?  Where had Moses been looking before he looked at the bush?
3:4 How often in the Jewish Scriptures does God call a person’s name twice?  How many people in the Jewish Scriptures, and who, respond to God “Here I am.” If the angel of the LORD appeared to Moses from the midst of the bush, why did the LORD and not the angel call to Moses?
3:5 Why do some people remove their shoes and socks when standing on holy ground? Why do Christians not worship barefooted? I wonder how close to the bush Moses was when he was commanded to remove his sandals.
3:6 Who was Moses’ father?  Abraham?  Isaac?  Jacob?  Someone else?  Why are only men mentioned?  Can we be faithful to Scripture and include Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel as well as Zilpah and Bilha in this list? Why was Moses afraid to look at God?
3:7 What took God so long to respond?  How does God “know” their sufferings?
3:8 Where has God come down from and why did God need to come down at all?  What is a land flowing with milk and honey like? Is it not a problem that this land seems to be already inhabited by others?
3:9 How did the cry of the Israelites come to God?  How did God see?
3:10 So, God comes down (v. 7), but sends Moses!
3:11 A perfectly good question. 
3:12 It sounds like the confirmation will be after the fact?  It is like me telling you that you are an excellent Biblical scholar and you asking me how you can be sure that you are an excellent Biblical Scholar and me answering that you will know you are an excellent Biblical Scholar when you earn a Ph.D.
3:13 Why does Moses refer to “your ancestors” rather than “our ancestors”?  Why is knowing God’s name so important?
3:14 “I AM WHO I AM”?  Why, in NRSV, does this appear in upper case letters?
3:15 It seems that the LORD is known more by past associations than name or title, nevertheless, xxactly what is God’s name and title?  Is God’s name the same as God’s title?

105:1 Why, in the NRSV, does “LORD” appear in uppercase?  What is God’s name?  Hoe can one call on God’s name when God’s name is not pronounced? What are God’s deeds?
105:2 This is beginning to read like a couplet.
105:3 What does it mean to seek the LORD?
105:4 How does one seek the LORD’s presence?
105:5 Are works, miracles, and judgments synonyms for the same phenomena?
105:6 Why is Isaac not mentioned?  Why are Sarah, Leah, and Rachel not mentioned?
105:23-26 Is this merely a retelling of part of salvation history or is something more going on here?
105:45c A budding psalmist can never go wrong ending a psalm this way.

12:9 How can love not be genuine?  Is “hating evil” the opposite of “holding fast to what is good”?
12:10 is non-mutual affection better than no affection at all?
12:11 What is zeal? What does it mean to be ardent in spirit?
12:12 How does one persevere in prayer?
12:13 Is this a reference to any particular offering?  How long should hospitality to strangers last?
12:14 What does Paul mean by “bless”and”curse”?
12:15 Who were rejoicing and who were weeping?
12:16 What if we extended the admonition to “live in harmony with one another” to extend to other species?  Who are the lowly? I think Socrates would have liked this verse.
12:17 What is noble in the sight of all?
12:18 And what if by “all” we meant all living creation, not just other humans? What if it is not possible to live peaceably with all?
12:19 What is the “wrath of God”?  While Paul advises us to not avenge ourselves, what about state sanctioned punishment for crime? Where is it written that “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” and how often is it quoted out of context and misapplied?
12:20 Since when is food and water the same as burning coals?  Is this good statecraft and foreign policy?  What would H. Richard Niebuhr say about this? What sort of enemies does Paul have in mind?
12:21 Paul is sounding like Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.  Or maybe King and Gandhi learned their non-violent civil resistance from Paul!  Or Jesus?

16:21 From what time on? Why did Jesus not show this earlier?
16:22 Why did Peter take Jesus aside?  Why did Peter rebuke Jesus?
16:23 Did Jesus just refer to Peter as Satan?  What is the pun in referring to Peter as a stumbling block?  What is the human thing Peter was setting his mind on?  What was the divine thing Jesus wanted Peter to set his mind on?
16:24 What does it mean to “deny” oneself? Is there a difference between taking up Jesus’ cross and taking up our own cross?
16:25 What is the meaning of this?  Is this a paradox?
16:26 What is a life worth?
16:27 Who is “the Son of Man”?  Is Jesus applying this title to himself? Why this shift from moral admonition to apocalyptic language?
16:28 How shall we interpret this passage nearly two centuries after the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ?  What does it mean to “see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom”?   Can we read this as a reference to the Christian Pentecost of Acts rather than a second coming of Christ?

ADDENDUM

I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Churchof Cadiz, worshipping at 154 West Market Street, Cadiz, Ohio, every Sunday at 11:00 AM.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, August 24, 2014, the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

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.

1:8 Thus begins the Moses cycle/narrative.  What does this verse say about the importance of memory? Might we consider this reading a feminist narrative?
1:9-10 How might these verse inform current thinking and analysis of American immigration policy and even recent events in Ferguson, Missouri?
1:11 What do we know about Pithon and Rameses?
1:12 What lesson might be learned from this?
1:13-14 What Governments are ruthless today?
1:15 Were Shiphrah and Puah the only two midwives?
1:16 Why kill the males but allow the females to live.  The opposite would seem to make better sense.  I wonder if Shiphrah and Puah served as midwives only to Hebrew woman or also to Egyptian women
1:17 In this context what does it mean to fear God? Did Shiphrah and Puah engage in civil disobedience?
1:19 When is it alright to lie?
1:22 Was Moses the only Hebrew baby boy thrown into the Nile? How might this verse and 1:16 inform our understanding of the account of the slaughter of the innocents found in Matthew 2:13-23?
2:1 Why are the man and woman not named?  Is there anything special about the house of Levi?
2:2 What might have happened if she saw that he was not a FINE baby? Is there anything significant about the time span of three months?
2:3 What else was once plastered with bitumen and pitch? What is the Hebrew word translated as “basket” and how else is it used in the Hebrew Scriptures?
2:4 Did the mother tell the sister to watch or did the sister take this watching upon herself?
2:5 This seems like a fortuitous and ironic development.
2:6 Why did she think this might be a Hebrew baby?
2:7 I think the sister acts somewhat boldly here as she makes the best of the opportunity.
2:8 This sounds like a strange construction since this is the boys sister and thus his mother is also her mother, yet she is referred to “the girl”.
2:9 The child’s own mother ends up nursing her child who might have died if the daughter of the man who ordered his death had not found him and had pity.
1:10 Yes, this explains the name Moses, bit is there also some foreshadowing going on here?

12:1-2a Sometimes when I begin a responsive reading and the response sounds shallow, hollow, and barely audible, I will repeat the call phrase.  Might something similar be happening here?
12:2b Who are Israel’s enemies that attacked?
12:2b-6 Does this Psalm reflect the Exodus? Why is this Psalm paired with the First reading?
12:8 This sounds like a familiar refrain.

12:1 What is a “living” sacrifice?  What is “spiritual” worship?  Is there such a thing as unspiritual or spiritless worship? How might Paul have addressed the holocaust, or Shoah?
12:2 What is the difference between “conformed” and” transformed”?  How are our minds renewed?  Why does Paul write about the renewing of our minds rather than the renewing of our hearts?
12:3 How do we measure our faith? Do you think that sometimes Paul thought to much oh himself?
12:4 What does Paul mean by “members”?
12:5I understand the logic with the exception of the last phrase.  How are we individually members one of another? Might holography and holograms help us here?
12:6 “We have gifts that differ” in the NRSV is “We have gifts differing” in the KJV. It is the biblical phrase that inspired Myers and Briggs to title their book applying Jung’s type theory Gifts Differing.  You may want to also look at 1 Corinthians 12. What are your gifts?

16:13 Where did Jesus enter from?  Is there anything special about the district of Caesarea Philippi?  Why would Jesus ask his disciples this question?  Does the average person in the pew or Bible Study have a clue about the baggage associated with “Son of Man” language and imagery?
16:14 Apparently there were various views of who Jesus was. I guess times have not changed.
16:15 Here is the quintessential question. What is your answer? IMHO, Statements of Faith prepared for examination of a candidate or transferring minister tells us more about a person’s breadth of theological education and ability to think systematically than they do about what a person actually believes.
16:16 As usual, Peter is the first to speak up.  Did he get it right or did he stick his foot into his mouth? Compare the Gospel parallels.  Can we think of each of the Gospels as a somewhat unique answer to this question?
16:17 What does this say about the nature of revelation?
16:18 What is the play on words with “Peter” and “rock”?  What and where is Hades?
16:19 What are the “keys to the kingdom”?  What does it mean to “bind” and to “loose”?
16:20 Why would Jesus order his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah?  Has this passage just equated “the Son of Man” with “the Messiah”?

ADDENDUM

I am currently serving at the Interim Pastor of The Presbyterian Churchof Cadiz, worshipping at 154 West Market Street, Cadiz, Ohio, every Sunday at 11:00 AM.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cass Scenic Railroad

The sudden jerk and sounds of wooden passenger cars creaking, metal wheels straining against metal rail, and escaping steam meant we were moving.  If there was any doubt, the eerie shrill of the locomotive’s whistle signaled the beginning of our evening excursion.  From the old logging town of Cass, at 2,442 feet, we were headed for Bald Knob, West Virginia’s third highest peak at 4,482 feet, and a mountain view of August’s Supermoon and Perseid Meteor Shower.

I am not a train aficionado but as a young boy I played with model trains in several gauges.  Last Christmas I set up a LGB “G Scale” train under the Christmas tree around its base.  This was only the second time in my life, however, that I had been aboard a passenger train pulled and pushed by a working historic steam locomotive. The other time was a few years ago aboard the Wanamaker, Kempton and Southern Railroad, or Hawk Mtn. Line, in Berks County, Pa. On a recent evening it was West Virginia’s Cass Scenic Railroad.

I may not be a railroad buff but I am a born and raised in West Virginian Mountaineer. I love the rough peaks and valleys of the Allegheny Highlands, from Dolly Sods’ Bear Rocks to the towering faces of Seneca Rocks and the wind swept summit of Spruce Knob.  I also love learning about my native state’s mountain culture and history. It was only recently, however that I experienced an excursion on the Cass Scenic Railroad and experienced not only the summit of Bald Knob but a taste of West Virginia’s logging history.

When Shay No. 6, a 162 ton steam locomotive built for coal service on the Western Maryland Railway, left the station and began pulling four or five covered but open air passenger cars up the mountain toward Bald Knob, I was not sure what to expect.  A member of the crew occasionally informed us about natural and historical sites as we slowly rolled through the train yard and up the mountain.  A few minutes after leaving the station all signs of modern civilization were behind us.

Through thick Appalachian forest we climbed, sometimes up a phenomenal9 % grade,  an occasional clearing affording panoramic views of near and distant hillsides covered in trees , wisps of fog, and occasional evening sun, the higher summits enshrouded in clouds. Twice we came to a stop as the train changed directions on switchbacks too steep and too narrow for a curve.

A stop at Whittaker Station, elevation 3,264 feet, afforded a chance to get off the train, stretch legs, explore a recreated 1940’s logging camp, use modern rest rooms, and take some close-ups of the mighty locomotive, built in the 940’s,  pulling us up the mountain. 

Between Whitaker and Bald Knob the train stopped again, this time at a spring to take on water for the boiler, but we were not allowed off the train.

When we arrived near the top of Bald Knob, over two and a half hours after leaving Cass, eleven miles of track behind us, the mountain was enveloped by low clouds.  We disembarked there was no Supermoon or meteor shower to be seen.  The view from the scenic overlook was nothing but cloud and mist.  We still enjoyed complimentary beverages; mine an RC, and Moon Pies.

Eventually the locomotive’s whistle blew, signaling us to get back on the train.  We descended at a quicker pace than our climb, and with no stop to take on water or at Whittaker Station, we arrived back at Cass in less than two hours.
 
I cannot explain why it took this Mountaineer so long to finally experience the Cass Scenic Railroad but I am glad I finally did.  I look forward to a return visit when I have time to explore the town of Cass and other attractions associated with the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, August 17, 2014, the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

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.

45:1 Much has transpired between this week’s First Reading and last week’s First Reading.  Does any of what transpired between the two readings matter? Perhaps Joseph did not want to let the Egyptians know that the men before him wee his brothers.
45:2 I wonder what the Egyptians and household of Pharaoh thought when they heard Joseph weeping?
45:3 Why were the brother’s dismayed by Joseph’s presence?
45:4 Why does Joseph repeat himself?
45:5 Is this an example of Joseph engaging in some theological reflection?  Why would Joseph’s brothers be angry? Joseph is the one we might expect to be angry.
45:6 This is beginning to sound like our recent Great Recession!
45:7 Might we compare Joseph to Noah?
45:8 Might Joseph have been older than Pharaoh?
45:9 How many ways might this verse be interpreted?
45:10 Was there anything significant about the of Goshen? Why might Joseph want to keep hit family close by?
45:12 Why is Benjamin singled out?
45:13 Is Joseph rubbing it in?  Is he blowing his own horn?
45:14 Once again, Why Benjamin?  What was so special about the relationship between Joseph and Benjamin?
45:15 Would Joseph’s brothers not talk with him before this?  I wonder what they talked about.

133:1 In light of today’s First reading, is this supposed to be a comment on Jacob’s family?  Before or after the reunion narrated in the First Reading?
133:2 I have always appreciated the sensual nature of this verse.  What does oil symbolize?
133:3 What and where is Hermon?  What is significant about Hermon’s dew? What did the LORD do (no pun intended) at Hermon? Is the Lord’s blessing life for evermore?

11:1 Might Paul have answered this rhetorical question differently after the Shoah?  Even though we are currently reading the Joseph narrative and the Pauline corpus lectio continua, the “Benjamin” connection between this Second Reading and the First Reading is a nice one.
11:2 What does Paul mean by “foreknew”?
11:29 What are the gifts of the calling of God? Christians in particular ought to remember this verse when engaging in dialogue with religious Jews.
11:30-31 Who are “they” and how have they been disobedient?
11:32 What does it mean to be imprisoned in disobedience?

15:10 I think every time Jesus says something like “listen and understand” that we can expect some enigmatic saying to follow. The crowd will probably neither listen not understand.
15:11 What comes out of the mouth?  Is Jesus commenting on the digestive system?
15:12 What did the disciples think? Did the disciples take offense?
15:13 Does this verse reflect a negative view of the Pharisees?  Is Jesus saying that the Pharisees are plants not planted by God?
15:14 Leave them alone even though they are blind or “because” they are blind?  Might there be some creeping anti-Semitism in this verse?
15:15 What parable?  Why is it that Peter is usually the first one to open his mouth – and then stick his foot in it?
15:16 Me thinks the answer is “YES”! At times it seemed like the disciples misunderstood Jesus nearly as much as the Pharisees.
15:17-18  Oh, that parable!  So Jesus was in fact talking about the digestive system.  Is Jesus saying that words are dirtier than crap?
15:19 All these come from the heart?  This is an impressive list. Is anything not mentioned that you might have expected to be here?
15:20 Is this a comment about religion or hygiene?
15:21 What place did Jesus leave? Is there anything significant about Tyre and Sidon?
15:22 What makes a “Canaanite” woman different than any other woman, or a Jewish woman?  What do you know about “the Jesus prayer” and Hesychasm and the Philokalia? How do post-moderns deal with demons?
15:23 Why does Jesus ignore this woman?  Why do the disciples want to send her away?
15:24 Who are the lost sheep of the house of Israel?
15:25 This is the second time this woman calls Jesus “Lord”!  Is her’s not the most simple prayer of a believer?
15:26 Did Jesus just call this woman a bitch?
15:27 Did this woman just accept the insult of being labeled a bitch by Jesus yet still refer to him as “master”?  Must “crumbs” refer to bread crumbs or any type of leftover?
15:28 Now Jesus addresses her as “woman”! Whom else as he addressed this way? What makes her faith “great”?  How would anyone know that the woman’s daughter was healed instantly?

ADDENDUM

This coming Sunday I will be preaching and leading the 11:00 AM Worship Service at The Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, 154 West Market Street, Cadiz, Ohio. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, August 10, 2014, the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

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.

37:1 Why Jacob’s grandfather Abraham not mentioned?  Were not both Jacob’s father and grandfather aliens?
37:2 Here we have the beginning of the Joseph narrative’ almost as if a separate narrative has been spliced on.  Is there anything significant about Joseph being seventeen years old?  Why are Bilhah and Zilpah referred to a “His father’s wives” rather than maids or servants?
37:3-4 Note that in 37:1 Joseph’s father is referred to as “Jacob” but here he is referred to a “Israel”.  This is beginning to read like the story of yet another dysfunctional family. Is there any symbolic significance to a long robe with sleeves?
37:12 What do we know about Shechem?
37:13 What usually happens when people respond “Here I am”?  Are there any other instances in Scripture were a person responds to another human (rather than to God) “Here I am”?
37:14 What do we know about the valley of Hebron?
37:15 Why is Joseph in Shechem when his father sent him to the valley of Hebron?  Was Joseph wandering in the fields because he was lost? Do you think this was an ordinary “man”?
37:17 What do we know about Dothan?
37:18 Note to self: Play ominous music here!
37:19 Why do his brothers refer to Joseph as “this dreamer”?
37:20 A conspiracy is hatched. What other dreamers have people tried to kill? How might this verse shed light on Psalms that speak of being rescued from the pit?
37:21-22 What might have been Reuben’s motive for saving his brother?
37:23 I wonder what Joseph’s brothers did with his robe.
37:24 What is the meaning and significance of the fact that the pit was empty with no water in it?  What was this pit for?
37:25 Who are the Ishmaelites?  What do we know about Gad? What purpose do the Ishmaelites serve?
37:26 Is Judah concerned only about making money from our bother’s demise? What prefiguration might be intended?
37:27 Might Reuben have influenced Judah?
37:28 Who drew Joseph up out of the pit, his brother’s or the Midianite traders?  What is the difference between Midianites and Ishmaelites?  Is there any symbolic significance to the twenty pieces of silver?

105:1 In the NRSV, “LORD” is all upper case.  Therefore, what would be the “name” to call on?  What are the LORD’s deeds? Who are the peoples?
105:2 Are Hymns in worship sung “about” God or “to” God? Are the LORD’s wonderful works the same as the LORD’s deeds?
105:3 How does one “Glory in” the LORD’s name when the LORD’s name is not pronounced?
105:4 How can we continuously seek God’s presence? Is the LORD not always with us?
105:5 Are both “miracles” and “judgments”  among the LORD’s works in 105:2?
105:6 Why is Isaac omitted?
105:16-22 Now we learn why this psalm is paired with the First Reading.
105:45b How often do we end of praising the LORD for something we at first was a curse?

10:5 From what does Paul quote?
10:6-7 Is Paul quoting or composing? How would ascending into heaven be the same as bringing Christ down?
10:8 What is Paul quoting?
10:9 So public confession as well as an interior faith are essential?  What if there is only one but not the other?
10:10 What us the relationship between justification and salvation, confession and faith?
10:11 What Scripture is being quoted?
10:12 Who was wanting to make a distinction between Jew and Greek?
10:13 What does it mean to call on the name of the Lord? What is Paul quoting?
10:14-15 Is this nothing more than the old “Can someone who has never heard of Christ be saved?” question? Later Christians would baptize Plato and Aristotle as proto-Christians.
10:15 Should all candidates for the ministry of proclamation have their feet examined?  It is no wonder Paul was once confused with Hermes.

14:22 I am always surprised when read “Immediately” in a Gospel other than According to Mark.  Why might Jesus have sent the disciples off without him?
14:23 Here we have a “Summit to Shore” narrative!  Thanks, Matt! If he went up to the mountain alone, why are we told he was alone when evening came? Some of us go to the Mountains not because they are there but to find peace and solitude.
14:24 Meanwhile, back on the boat . . .
14:25 So the disciples spent the entire night on a boat battered about by winds on the open water?
14:26 Why were the disciples terrified? Did the disciples think they were seeing any old ghost or the ghost of Jesus?
14:27 Here we have yet another “immediately”.  Is this the heart of the passage? Where else have we heard, or will hear, “do not be afraid”?
14:28 If?  Did Peter not know or was he not sure?  Why did Peter need to be commanded?
14:29 Was Jesus issuing a command or giving permission?
14:30 How could Peter not have noticed the strong wind before he left the boat? I cannot help but read this as a metaphor.
14:31 As a former American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor I think Jesus should have remembered “Throw, Row, Tow, Then Go!”  Was Peter’s faith really “little”?  None of the other disciples set out to walk on the water, except Peter!  What was it Peter doubted? What is the relationship between faith and doubt?
14:32 Why might the wind have ceased when Jesus and Peter got into the boat?
14:33 What convinced these disciples that Jesus was the Son of God, that he walked on water?  That he “saved” Peter?  That the wind stopped when Jesus and Peter climbed into the boat?

ADDENDUM

On Sunday, August 17, 2014, I will be preaching at The FirstPresbyterian Church of Cadiz, Ohio