Sunday, May 29, 2011

Prayer for Memorial Day

Veterans Memorial
Atlantic City, NJ
Almighty God, strong to save,
     we remember the brave men and women
          who have given their lives on the land, in the air, and upon the sea
          in defense of our freedom and liberty,
     from the minutemen killed at Lexington or Concord,
     to the brothers killed from both the North and South in the Civil War,
      from the greatest generation who gave their lives during World War II,
     to the Active Duty troops and National Guard men and women
          killed in Iraq and Afghanistan
Tomorrow, as we remember and memorialize those who have died,
     may the day serve to memorialize them not through words engraved into stone
     but gratitude burned into our hearts and minds.

God of earth, sea, and sky,
     we also pray that you will guard the brave women and men
     who are this very moment risking their lives for our country
     as they serve in foreign lands.
Give them compassion for enemies who also fight for patriotic causes.
And keep our sons and daughters,
     our husbands and wives,
     and our brothers and sisters
     from hate that hardens,
     or from scorekeeping with human lives.
Though they must be at war, let them live for peace,
     as eager for agreement as for victory.
Encourage them as they encourage one another,
     and never let hard duty separate them
     from loyalty to your Son, our Lord, Jesus the Christ.
Amen.


Note: I have been using this prayer for some time, slightly redacted every year. I have been using it so long that I have perhaps lost touch with some its original sources. There are obvious allusions to the Navy Hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”, #562 in The Presbyterian Hymnal, as well as phrasing drawn from a prayer “For Those in the Military” #65 page 818 in the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, May 29, 2011, the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

Posted each Thursday, Lectionary Ruminations focuses on the Scripture Readings, taken from the New Revised Standard Version, for the following Sunday per the Revised Common Lectionary. Comments and questions are intended to encourage reflection for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged. All lectionary links are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead. (Other references are linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.) 


v. 22 Last week we learned that Paul stood by while Stephen was stoned.  Now, Paul is preaching in Athens before the Areopagus.  The transition and the symbolism are startling. 

v. 23 If Paul were to walk through  one of our cities, what would he identify as the objects of our worship?

vs. 24-29 What is the content of Paul’s preaching?  What does he not say?  Is Paul’s sermon more Theistic than Christocentric?

v. 24 Can we still talk about God, who made the world and everything in it, without positing a six day creation and getting sidetracked into the creationism/evolution debate?

v. 26 Who is this ancestor?

v. 27 What does it mean to search and grope for God?  Is this still a valid argument in the post-modern world?

v. 28 An appeal to secular/pagan poets.  Have we in the church forgotten how to employ the artistic expressions of contemporary culture?

v. 31 Bote that Paul refers to a “man” God raised from the dead.  Paul seems not to here assert any divinity to this “man”.

v. 8 This sounds like, and could be used as, a Call to Worship.

v. 10 What does it mean to be tested and tried? What testing and trials might the Psalmist be referring to?

v. 11 Last week the net was hidden.  This week, the people have been in the net.

v. 12 What and where is the spacious palce?

v. 13 What does it mean to pay vows?

v. 16 Another Call to Worship? What does iot mean to fear God?

v. 20 Does God ever reject prayer?  Can steadfast love ever be removed?

1 Peter 3:13-22
v. 13 Is this a rhetorical question, or what?    It sometimes seems, in life, that no good deed goes unpunished.

v. 14 Who are “they”?  What do “they” fear?

v. 15 How does one sanctify Christ in their heart?

v. 17 Does the reason for suffering in any way affect the moral value of our suffering?

v. 18 What does this verse say about the nature of the resurrection?

v. 19 “He descended into hell”?  “He descended to the dead”?

v.21 Some interesting words about baptism.  Just as there are many understandings of the Lord’s Supper, are there also many understandings of Baptism?

v. 15 A big “if”?  What is the nature of this love?  What are Christ’s commandments?

v. 16 Is Christ’s intercession contingent on our keeping his commandments?  Why, in the NRSV, is “Advocate” capitalized?  Can we read and interpret this verse without being informed by the Doctrine of the Trinity?

v. 17 Notice that in the NRSV “Spirit” is capitalized.

v. 18 “Orphaned” could be an often overlooked but powerful image. Is Jesus talking about the coming of the Spirit, the Second Coming, or something altogether different?

v. 20 What day is “that day”?

v. 21 Is this free grace or does there seem to be an element of works righteousness, an element of conditionality?

ADDENDUM
In addition to serving as the half time Designated Pastor of North Church Queens and writing Lectionary Ruminations, I also tutor part time.  If you or someone you know needs a tutor, or if you would like to be a tutor, check our my  WyzAnt page and follow the appropriate links.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, May 22, 2011, the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

Posted each Thursday, Lectionary Ruminations focuses on the Scripture Readings, taken from the New Revised Standard Version, for the following Sunday per the Revised Common Lectionary. Comments and questions are intended to encourage reflection for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged. All lectionary links are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead. (Other references are linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)


Acts 7:55-60
v. 55 This verse offers us the opportunity to enter into all sort of speculation about the Holy Spirit. When reading this for worship, you may want to substitute “Stephen” for “he”. Do people in the Bible Study and in the pews need to be reminded what “right hand of God” symbolizes; the absolute superiority of right handedness and right handed persons and the total degenerate nature of left handedness and left handed persons?

v. 56 can you spell r-e-d-u-n-d-a-n-t? What purpose does this verse serve?

v. 57 Is this a literal or a figurative covering of ears?

v. 58 If we knew nothing about the rest of the story, would we even notice that a young man is named? Note that this young man casts no stones.

v.59 Certainly the prayer of a martyr. Is this not also the prayer of anyone near death?Is it not the prayer of all Christians?

v. 60 what does the mention that Stephen “cried out in a loud voice” remind you of? Take a look at Luke 23:46. Compare the conclusion of verse 60 with the conclusion of Luke 23:46.

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
By the Lectionary pairing this Psalm with Acts 7:55, are we to read this Psalm as a commentary on what else might have been going through Stephen’s mind but not recounted in the Acts passage?

v. 1 What is “refuge”? The most contemporary example I can think of is a “wildlife refuge”.

v. 2 “Incline your ear”? Is this a petition? How can a rock be a refuge? Is there such thing as a weak fortress?

v. 3 Rock/fortress and lead/guide seem to be poetic constructions.

v. 4 What is the imagery here? How can one be taken out of a net if the net is still hidden?

v. 5 Does this verse sound familiar? Where else are we used to hearing it?

v. 16 What does it mean for God’s face to ‘shine” on a person?

1 Peter 2:2-10
v. 2 What is a “babe in Christ”?

v. 4 How can a stone live? Come to think of it, I do remember one episode in the original Star Trek series where stones were living. How can we be built into a spiritual house? Is there such a thing as an unholy priesthood? What sort of sacrifices are spiritual?

vs. 6-8 Is this proof texting or the imaginative play and interplay of biblical images from several sources?

vs. 9-10 These are two of my favorite verses of Scripture. Where Does Peter get these images?

John 14:1-14
vs. 1-7 I have probably read these verses more at more Services of Witness to the Resurrection than at Services for the Lord’s Day. Maybe it is time we hear them in the context other than one related to death.

v.2 What do make of there being “many dwelling places” in God’s house?

v. 3 If we are reading this in worship on Sunday, May 22, that will mean that Jesus did not return the day before to take us to himself. Of course he did not return at that time. All along, I have known that he will return at five minutes after 5:00 am on the tenth day of October in the year 2020, Jerusalem time.

v. 6 Another one of the “I am” sayings” found in John. So much for universalism!

v. 8 How can Philip say this after what Jesus says in the previous verse? Is Philip dense?

v.9 Apparently Jesus thought the same way about Philip as I do.

v. 11 Do we take Jesus at his word or do we need works?

v.12 This formulaic phrase, “Very truly, I tell you” (Αμήν Αμήν λέγώ ύμίν in Greek) is found 25 times in John’s Gospel and nowhere else in the Bible. What do you make of this fact?

vs. 13-14 Whatever? Really? I want a new car, new house, and to win a major lottery prize, even though I do not play the lottery. What does it mean to ask in Jesus’ name?

ADDENDUM
My comments pertaining to the right hand of God in Acts 7:55 and the return of Christ in John 14:3 are obviously tongue in cheek and meant to see if they motivate anyone to take me to task with a comment.

Monday, May 16, 2011

STS-134

Model of Space Shuttle
Kennedy Space Center
This morning over the internet, I watched the NASA STS-134 live feed of the launch and first few minutes of flight of the space shuttle Endeavor. This historic flight, the last for Endeavor and the second to last launch in the space shuttle program, brings back many memories associated with the space program.

I am a child of the space age, born after the launch of Sputnik. As many boys my age, I played with G.I. Joe Action Figures. One of the accessory I received as a Christmas present was a Mercury Capsule and Space flight suit for Joe. I would slip Joe into that silver suit, attach his helmet, slip him into the seat of the capsule, and in my imagination launch him into space. That Mercury Capsule accessory included a 45-rpm recording of an excerpt from John Glenn’s historic Friendship 7 flight, when he became the first American to orbit the earth.

I remember during elementary school, assembling in a large room to watch live Gemini launches via a black and white television. Sometimes we would sit for what seemed like hours as countdowns were extended due to technical difficulties. I think we were once even sent back to class, only to be recalled to the assembly area when a postponed countdown was resumed.

I remember a Christmas Eve broadcast from Apollo Astronauts orbiting the moon when they read Scripture, and watching, with my parents, the first lunar landing.

I remember building a plastic Revell model of the Saturn V. Fully assembled, it stood nearly 45 inches tall. I remember obtaining from the Gulf filling station across the street from my house a cardboard punch-out model of the LEM. Once assembled, I would tie a string to its top, suspend it from a high point, and slowly lower it, as if it were landing on the moon.

I mourn the end of the Shuttle program and desire to see Americans, or better yet, a consortium of states, sending humans back to the moon, on to Mars, and setting our sights once again upon the stars. Watching today’s launch of the space shuttle Endeavour has increased that desire.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, May 15, 2011, the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

Posted each Thursday, Lectionary Ruminations focuses on the Scripture Readings, taken from the New Revised Standard Version, for the following Sunday per the Revised Common Lectionary. Comments and questions are intended to encourage reflection for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged. All lectionary links are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead. (Other references are linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)

v. 42 Greek Scholars; is it the apostles’ teaching and the apostles’ fellowship, or the apostles’ teaching and fellowship? In other words, does “Apostles’’” modify both teaching and fellowship or just teaching? Regardless, I consider these the four marks of the church. Against them, how do we measure up?
v. 43 How do you understand “Awe”? Are the wonders and signs the same thing as miracles,or something different?
v. 44 Pure communism?
v. 45 “All” means whom? Does the answer to that question depend on what the meaning of the word “is” is?
v. 47 Note the distinction between what was happening in the Templeand what was happening in homes. How do you understand “day by day”?
What can we say about the most popular passage in the Bible that we have not already said, like just six weeks ago on April 3, the Fourth Sunday in Lent? Whu does this Psalm appear twice in the lectionary in such a short span of time?
v. 1 Does it serve any theological and homiletically purpose to point out that “The LORD” is not a reference to Jesus but to the LORD God? How many Christians hear this Psalm as a Psalm about Jesus rather than a Psalm about God?
v. 4 Do you prefer the “darkest valley” of the NRSV or the “valley of the shadow of death” of the KJV and RSV?
v. 5 What does it mean to have one’s head anointed with oil and one’s cup overflowing. Can we really speak of overflowing cups when in the Eucharist we barely fill little plastic cups containing less than a shot glass? Can we speak of being anointed with oil when most congregations rarely, if ever, practice it? I argue for anointing with oil at the time of Baptism as well as the laying on of hands associated with prayers for healing and wholeness. If we practiced more anointing with oil, this popular Psalm might actually mean even more to some people.
v. 6 What does it mean to dwell in the house of the LORD all one’s life? Is “house of the LORD” a reference and/or allusion to the Temple, or something else?
v. 19 I would rather not receive this credit. What about you? What does it mean to be “aware’ of God?
v.20I understand this within its context, but in ou context, can this lead to and feed a martyr complex?
v. 21 I thought we were called to love one another, even to serve, but to suffer?
v. 22 Where is this quote from?
v. 23 So much for an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
v. 24 The first part of this verse often serves as a call to confession. How is anyone healed by another’s wounds?
v.25 Is this the verse that motivated the creators of the lectionary to make Psalm 23 the Psalm for this day? I like the “guardian of our souls” language.
v. 1 A formulaic opening to yet more sheep and shepherd imagery. Whom do you think Jesus/John had in mind?
v. 3 This verse seems to suggest that there are sheep of more than one shepherd in the sheepfold.
v. 4 What shall we make of the “voice”?
v. 5 Is there any correlation between the Stangers of this verse and the thief and bandit of verse 1?
v. 6 And want made John think that we would understand?
v. 7 Again the formulaic phrase. Why the change of metaphor from shepherd to sheepfold?
v.8 This verse seems to refer back to verse 1. Whom is Jesus referring to?
v. 9 I am fascinated by the “come in and go out” language, suggesting movement rather than stasis. If I understand the imagery correctly, we come into the sheepfold at night to find protection, but during the day, we go out into pasture to find nourishment. What was Jesus talking about?
v. 10 Who is the thief?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, May 8, 2011, the Third Sunday of Easter (Year A)

Posted each Thursday, Lectionary Ruminations focuses on the Scripture Readings, taken from the New Revised Standard Version, for the following Sunday per the Revised Common Lectionary. Comments and questions are intended to encourage reflection for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged. All lectionary links are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead. (Other references are linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)


Acts 2:14a, 36-41
v. 36 Why “both” Lord and Messiah?

v. 37 What does it mean and feel like to be “cut to the heart”? When was the last time you were “cut to the heart” and what precipitated it? Is there any significance to the fact that the crowd addresses Peter and the other apostles as “brothers”?

v. 38 How do we reconcile the Trinitarian baptismal formula with Peter’s admonition to be “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ”?

v. 39 In this context, we might know who “you” and “your children” are, but who are those “who are far away”?

v. 40 I would love to hear all those “many other arguments”.

v. 41 Is there any significance to the number three thousand?

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
v. 3 What are “pangs”?

v. 4 This is perhaps the shortest prayer in Scripture.

v. 12 A good question to ask when talking and thinking about stewardship.

v. 13 What is “the cup of salvation”?

v. 14 What does it mean to “pay” “vows”?

v. 15 In what sense is death ever “precious”?

v. 16 What bonds have been loosed?

1 Peter 1:17-23
v. 17 This sounds a lot more polished than what we heard from Peter in the First Reading. Is this an argument for works righteousness? What is “reverent fear”? What exile is being referred to?

v. 18 Is there any other way to read this verse other than through the lenses of a ransom theory of the atonement?

v. 19 This verse seems to presume a preexistent Christ.

v. 23 The being “born anew” sounds like John’s being “born from above”, but what is this “not of perishable but of imperishable seed”?

Luke 24:13-35
v. 13 What day is it? Is there any significance to the fact that Emmaus was seven miles from Jerusalem? Who are “them”?

v. 14 What thungs?

v. 16 How can one’s eyes be kept from recognizing Jesus?

v. 17 Was this a rhetorical question?

v. 18 Do we know anything else about Cleopas? What an ironic question.

v. 19 Another rhetorical question. Only “prophet”?

v. 21 Notice the past tense.

v. 22 “Some Women”? Do they not have names? Is there a difference between “seeing angels” and “seeing a vision of angels”?

v. 24 Who are “those who were with us”? Who are “us”?

v. 25 Now the truth comes out. How often have you wanted to preach something similar?

v. 26 A rhetorical question?

v. 27 The Law and the prophets but no writings.

v. 29 What does the time of day have to do with anything?

v. 30 Déjà vu

vs.30-31 The best argument for frequent—even every Sunday—celebration of the Eucharist that I know.

v. 31 Read this in light of verse 16.

v. 32 Is there any relation between the opening of the scriptures and the opening of the eyes?

v. 33 Is “hour” any more than a simple reference to the chronological time of day? So these two are numbered among the eleven.

v. 34 Appeared to Simon? No one else?

v. 35 Does this offer new or additional meaning to the Eucharistic remembering?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

About the May 2011 Header Photo

Another month—another header photo. I shot this view of Silver Lake, the local name for the Ocracoke, NC harbor, almost a year ago. At the time, my wife, dog and I were enjoying a two-week car camping vacation on the Island. When I took this photo, we were enjoying dinner at the Jolly Roger, one of Ocracoke’s food and beverage establishments that sit on and look out over the harbor.