Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, October 2, 2011, the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (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 may be linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
v. 1 What might it mean that what follows are referred to as “words”? Why does he Revised Common Lectionary skip over some of these words?

v. 2 Why, in the NRSV and many other translations, does “LORD” appear in all uppercase letters?

v. 3 What about other gods “after” the LORD?

v. 4 What about imaginative or imaginary forms? Does Plato’s theory of forms have anything to say here? What about Anselm’s ontological argument? How do we make idols today? How do Moslems avoid making idols?

v. 7 What about making a rightful use?

v. 8 I think Seventh Day Adventists have a right to boast about this one. How do you remember the Sabbath and keep it holy?

v. 12 This one comes with a promise—or is it a reward?

v. 13 What is murder? We seem to have wordsmithed this one to death!

v. 14 What does this commandment have to do with premarital sex?

v. 15 Unless the thief is already rich and has the government behind them?

v. 16 What about bearing false witness against people who are not your neighbor? Does Jesus have anything to add here?

v. 17 Why does “house” appear before “wife”? What about anything that belongs to someone other than your neighbor?

vs. 18-20 What do these verses add to what precedes them? Early in my ministry, I discovered Jan Milic Lochman’s Signposts to Freedom: The Ten Commandments and Christian Ethics and I highly recommend it as a thoughtful interpretation of the Ten Commandments.

Psalm 19:1-14
vs. 1-6 Do we have to buy into a pre-Copernican three-tiered universe in order to read this as God’s word?

vs. 7-9 Were you aware there are so many synonyms for “law”?

v. 10 Since when is the law, any law, more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey?

v. 14 This verse is often quoted/prayed by preachers before they preach a sermon, and I think wrongly so. A Prayer for Illumination prior to the reading of Scripture is sufficientforboth the readingof the word and the preaching of the word.

Philippians 3:4b-14
v. 4b Is there a pun at work here?

v.7 What gains might Paul have had?

v. 10 How will Paul become like Christ in his death?

vs. 12-14 What is the metaphor Paul is employing?

Matthew 21:33-46
v. 33 If this is a parable, is it wrong to equate God with the land owner? If so, who might be the tenants?

v. 34 and likewise, who might the slaves be?

v. 37 A son, but not necessarily an only son.

v.42 Where might we read this in scripture?

v. 43 Is this parable a “kingdom parable”?

v. 45 If verse 45 is true, what, then, is the irony of verse 46?

ADDENDUM
This Sunday, for many, will be World Communion Sunday.  Do this readings lend themselves to a Eucharistic Sermon?

In addition to serving as the half time 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 out my WyzAnt page and follow the appropriate links.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, September 25, 2011, the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (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 may be linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.) 

Exodus 17:1-7
v. 1 What does it mean to journey “by stages”? Did the LORD command them to journey or journey by stages? Why would anyone camp at a place where there was no water?

v. 2 How many time now, have the people quarreled with Moses? How is quarrelling with Moses the same as testing God?

v. 4 How many pastors, how many times, have similarly cried out?

v. 5 So Moses served in a multi staff congregation! I want to know more about this staff. Where might it be now?

v. 6 “The rock”? Was this a well-known rock? The only rock? What do you know about Horeb?

v. 7 “Is the LORD among us or not?” seems to be the question of the day. Why do we never see churches with names like “Massah and Meribah (put your denomination here) Church”?

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
v. 1 Who is the speaker?

v. 2 Apparently someone was teaching in parables centuries before Jesus. I love the phrase “dark sayings from of old”. It reminds me of literature such as Beowulf and the Legend of King Arthur as well as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I imagine the whole congregation of Israel gathered around a blazing fire while camped for the night, telling stories from the past as well as re-hashing the day’s events. I sometimes wonder what dark sayings from of old have been lost from the oral and written tradition.

v. 4 Why would anyone want to hide such things from their children?

v. 12 Where is Zoan?

vs. 15 & 16 Do these two verses talk about the same thing?

Philippians 2:1-13
v. 1 If?

v. 2 Are we to assume Paul’s joy was not yet complete?

v. 4 This certainly runs against most current political rhetoric.

v. 5 Based on this verse, are we then to think and act in accordance with verses 6-8?

v. 6 How would one exploit equality with God?

vs.9-10 Was “Jesus” above every name before it was given to Christ, or was it elevated above every name because of Christ’s obedience?

v. 11 Is this not the most basic confession of the Christian faith?

v. 12 How do we work out our own salvation? Why with fear and trembling?

v. 13 Or? What is the meaning and function of this verse?

Matthew 21:23-32
v. 23 Is this a legitimate question? And the answer is?

v. 24 Tit for tat?

vs. 25-27 In other words, do not speak the truth but the most politically advantageous answer.

v. 27 Did the chief priests and elders really know but were not willing to answer, or did they really not know?

vs. 28-32 How does this parable logically follow from what precedes it?

v. 28 What is the symbolism of the vineyard?

v. 31 Touché! Maybe the tax collectors and prostitutes will go into the kingdom ahead of the chief priests and elders, but perhaps the elders and chief priests will still get in.

v. 32 And the lesson is?

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 out my WyzAnt page and follow the appropriate links.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, September 18, 2011, the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (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 may be linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)

 Exodus 16:2-15
v. 2 Why do many Pastor’s sometimes feel like Moses and Aaron? How do we complain and what do we complain about?

v. 3 What is a “fleshpot”?

v. 4 How is God sending bread to a hungry people a test? What exactly and specifically are God’s instructions?

v. 5 Why is twice as much gathered on the sixth day?

v. 6 What is so special about the evening?

v. 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?

v. 10 If the people were already in the wilderness, how could they look “toward” the wilderness? What and where is our wilderness?

v. 11 How shall eating meat and bread convince people that the Lord is their God?

v. 13 Have you ever eaten a quail? I have. They are delicious, but not very satisfying if you are particularly hungry.

v. 14 What is this fine flakey substance called?

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
v. 1 What is the LORD’s name? How can one call on the LORD’s name when one is not permitted to pronounce the name of the LORD?

v. 1-2 What are the LORD’s deeds and works?

v. 6 Why are offspring always the offspring of only men?

v. 38 Egypt was glad?

Philippians 1:21-30
v. 21 How can dying be gain?

vs 21-26 Is Paul really struggling, or is this just rhetoric?

v. 27 What is a life worthy of the gospel.

V.30 What is Paul’s struggle?

Matthew 20:1-16
v. 1 A kingdom parable.

v.8 The last shall be first and the first last – this is the only way this parable works.

v.9-10 How would The Tea Part handle these verses and this parable?

How does this parable preach with high unemployment in a fragile economy?

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 out my WyzAnt page and follow the appropriate links.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Memories and Dreams - A Sermon Ten Years After 9-11

Memories and Dreams
A Sermon by the Reverend John Edward Harris, D. Min.
Preached at the Whitestone Community Service of Prayer
In Remembrance of the Events of September 11, 2001
St. Luke Roman Catholic Church, Whitestone, NY
September 10, 2011

When the topic of the terrorist attacks of ten years ago comes up in conversation, as it has so often of late, what is one of the first questions we are likely to ask or to be asked? “Where were you when you first learned of the attacks?”

I was living in West Virginia, having started a new pastorate just the week before. As I was driving to the hospital to visit a member, I was listening to NPR, when an announcer broke in to regular programming to say that a plane had reportedly crashed into one of World Trade Towers, but that details were sketchy. A little later, as I was visiting the member and his wife in his hospital room, we were watching the coverage of the events on the television in his room when the second plane hit the tower. At least that is the way I remember it now ten years later.

Nearly two weeks later, I wrote in my journal for the first time after the attacks. Here is an excerpt from what I wrote. Please keep in mind that the chronology might be a little off because I was writing from memory.

“Tuesday, September 11, is a day that will live long in my memory and in the memory of all Americans. Around 9:00 AM, a 747 or 757, hijacked out of Boston, flew into one of the Twin World Trade Towers. Less than 15 minutes later, another hijacked airliner crashed into the second tower, a crash watched my millions, if not during the live coverage of the first crash, then on taped replay. Within the hour, a third hijacked airliner, out of Dulles, crashed into the Pentagon. And a fourth jetliner, hijacked out of Newark, crashed into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew tried to retake the plane from the hijackers. Its intended target may have been Camp David, or the White House or Capitol.

Within an hour or two after being crashed into by the two planes, both Twin Towers collapsed in upon themselves to the ground. Two weeks later, debris is still being removed and any hope of finding survivors is nil. In total, over 5,000 people were killed or are missing from the result of the terrorist attacks.

The attacks are being linked to Saudi Arabian Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorist Osama Bin Laden, believed to be hiding out somewhere in Afghanistan.

President Bush has declared war on Terrorism and American Forces are being deployed to the Persian Gulf and Middle East for an expected retaliatory strike against terrorist camps and bases, an assault that will undoubtedly involve US ground troops and some US causalities.”

Ten years ago, we began a new chapter in America’s history. We are still looking back, still remembering, still asking questions, still wandering what it all means. The end of this chapter in America’s history has yet to be written, however. American troops are still in Afghanistan and still in Iraq in what is now the longest war in American history. As we live and breathe, and remember those who died on September 11, 2001, you and I, along with Government workers from the President of the United States to the Army Private serving in Afghanistan, along with Captains of Industry to the construction worker laboring to rebuild the World Trade Center, along with Bishops and Moderators and Church leaders to the average worshiper in the Synagogue, Church and Mosque, are still living in aftermath of 9-11 and wondering how to move forward, how to bring this chapter to an end.

This evening, in a small part of the great city of New York known as Whitestone, Protestants and Roman Catholics have broken down historical barriers that have divided us centuries and have come together to remember and pray for peace. We have gathered not just to look back and remember, but also to look forward and dream as we pray.

Yes, as Christians we do look back; back to God’s good creation broken by sin, back to God’s promises to Noah and to Abraham and Sarah, and back to the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. We also look forward, however. Along with Isaiah, Joel, and Micah, we look forward to beating swords in plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Along with John on the Island of Patmos we dream of a new heaven and a new earth. We dream of the holy city, not New York but the new Jerusalem, and in that city God will wipe away every tear. Death will be no more. Mourning, crying, and pain will have ended. In the midst of the city will be the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. On either side of the river will be the tree of life. The leaves of the tree will for the healing of the nations.

As disciples of the Prince of Peace, we must not only dream of peace, and pray for peace, but be peacemakers, asking for and offering forgiveness, seeking and working for reconciliation not only between Roman Catholics and Protestants, but also among Jews, Christians, and Muslims, indeed, among peace loving people of all faiths, and even no faith.

We who lived through the events of September 11, 2001 can never forget the events of ten years ago tomorrow, nor fail to remember the people who lost their lives that day and the days soon after. However, let us dwell not on what once was but on what shall be, looking not to the past but to the future, a future that for Christians is filled with hope and the promise of peace. Let us not ask one another “Where were you and what where you doing ten years ago tomorrow?” Rather, let us ask one another “Where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing ten years from tomorrow?”

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, September 11, 2011, the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (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.)


Exodus 14:19-31
v. 19 Are the “angel of God” and the “pillar of cloud” one and the same; or, are they different manifestations of the same reality?

v. 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?

v. 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? Might the causeway at Lindisfarne, off the eastern coast of England, in any way help us envision how God might have been working here?

v. 22 How might we variously understand “wall”?

v. 24 Why did the Egyptian army panic?

v. 25 Why did Captain Kirk, in a damaged Enterprise, enter the Nebula when Kahn, in a perfectly functioning starship, sought to engage him in battle?

v. 26 What is it about the hand off Moses?

v. 27 When did the water’s part and when did the water’s return? How might we variously understand “tossed”?

v. 28 Does this verse conflict with the one before it?

v. 30 If it was the LORD that saved Israel, why did Israel “fear” the LORD and believe in Moses as well as in the LORD?

Psalm 114:1-8
v. 1 When did Israel go out from Egypt?

v. 2 Is the reference to “Judah” a reference to a, to a people, or both?

v. 3 Does this verse conflate two events?

v. 4 How do mountains and hills “skip”?

vs. 5-6 Why are bodies of waters being compared, or poetically paired, to mountains and hills?

v. 7 Is this a reference to the God of the earthquake?

v. 8 When did God turn rock into a pool of water and flint into a spring of water?

Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21
v. 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?

v. 3 Must we maintain this militaristic image of God, especially on a day such as 9-11-11?

v. 6 What is the significance of the LORD’s ”right hand”?

v. 8 God has nostrils? The parting of the waters was the result of God sneezing?

v. 11 And the answer to the questions asked in this verse is . . .

v. 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?

Romans 14:1-12
v. 1 What does it mean to be “weak in faith”?

v. 2 This verse sounds shockingly timely.

v. 4 “Servants of another”? Who is Paul talking about? “Their” own lord? How many “lords” are there?

v. 5 Is Paul talking about the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day (Saturday and Sunday), or what?

v. 6 Do you know the meaning of the word “adiaphora”, especially as Calvin used it?

vs. 7-9 These verses are often used as part of the funeral liturgy. What do they have to do, however, with what precedes or follows?

v. 11 Where is this written?

Matthew 18:21-35
v. 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?

v. 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?

vs. 23-35 Does this qualify as a “Kingdom Parable”?

v. 35 Is this a threat? Does this verse suggest that forgiveness, even salvation, is revocable?

ADDENDUM
Asking the obvious, how do any of these Readings help us preach, and/or teach, ten years to the day, of the tragic events of 9-11-2001? Are you dumping the lectionary for other readings?
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, September 1, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, September 4, 2011, the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (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.)


Exodus 12:1-14
v. 1 God now speaks top BOTH Moses and Aaron. What about Mariam?

v. 2 What month? I think Israel recognized at least two calendars, one civil/religious and the other agricultural.

v. 4 How many people does it take to eat a lamb?

v. 10 Do not let anything remain until the morning! BUT, if anything does remain until the morning, burn it. What sort of logic is this?

v. 12 What is the irony here? Why is judgment executed on the gods of Egypt rather than upon Pharaoh?

v. 13 Is the blood a sign for the whole congregation of Israel or a sign for God?

v. 14 Do “day of remembrance”, “a festival”, and “a perpetual ordinance” all suggest the same thing to you?

Psalm 149:1-9
v. 1 What is a “new song” and the difference between a “new song” and any other sort of song?

v. 3 When was the last time people worshipping in your congregation praised God’s name with dancing? When was the last time you heard a tambourine (or a lyre) in worship?

v. 5 Singing for joy on couches?

v. 6 I do not like the militaristic imagery. This and the following verses are beginning to sound like a call to a holy war.

Romans 13:8-14
v. 8 Here is a solution to our national debt!

v. 9 Of all the commandments, even all the ten commandments, why are these four mentioned?

v.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.

v. 12 What are the works of darkness? What is the armor of light?

v. 13 May we logically assume that “reveling and drunkenness, debauchery and licentiousness, quarreling and jealousy” are among (or all of) the works of darkness?

vs. 12-13 Is the assumption thatsome types of behavior are more typically engaged in at night and refrained from during the day?

v. 14 Putting “on the Lord Jesus Christ” is the antithesis of gratifying desires of the flesh”?

Matthew 18:15-20
v. 15 How does someone “sin” against you?

v. 16 What “word” are these “witnesses” confirming?

v. 17 What does it mean for church member to be “as a Gentile and a tax collector”?

v. 18 Have we heard these words before, in another context?

v. 19 Just two? Anything? Is this an example of hyperbole?

v. 20 What does it mean to “gather in my name”?

vs. 15-21 Is this an example of primitive church discipline, or something else?

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.