Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lectionary Ruminations: Scripture for Worship on September 28, 2008

Since this is my first post on this blog, an introduction is in order. My name is Mark Baker-Wright. I currently serve as an Assistant to the Faculty and Dean's Office for the School of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, which is where I earned my MDiv over 6 years ago. Although Fuller is a multi-denominational seminary, Presbyterians make up a good percentage of the students (and professors) who come here. Even so, my personal perspective has been shaped by this multi-denominational environment. My wife, in fact, is in the ordination process to be an Episcopalian priest while also working on a PhD in Worship and Culture. Although I remain committed to the PC(USA), it is my firm belief that we grow in God's will for our lives as we learn from our fellow Christians and their various practices.

I have a personal blog, Transforming Seminarian, which alternates between reflection on the Christian life and various church practices, and more whimsical matters, such as my love of Transformers toys. I first started doing lectionary reflections through that blog a couple of years ago. My process in doing these reflections is more one of "seeking answers together" than an attempt to be the "teacher," providing answers outright. Although I hope that the questions and comments I pose to various lectionary readings here will reflect my education and experience, I'm looking for greater growth, too, and invite comments. Sometimes my questions may seem staggeringly obvious, but I really do intend there not to be a single "right" answer, and am serious when I say I welcome discussion on these matters.

I will provide links to all four "sections" assigned by the Revised Common Lectionary for a given Sunday worship gathering:
  1. Old Testament (or sometimes Acts)
  2. Psalms (not always from the book of Psalms, however)
  3. Epistles (sometimes Acts or Revelation)
  4. Gospels
I won't always comment on all four readings. The Psalms, in particular, I find it difficult to ask questions of, although I certainly welcome any comments or reflections anyone may choose to share.

Here are the passages for September 28, 2008, the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). All links are to the TNIV via BibleGateway.com, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead (either with your own Bible, or via the drop-down menu at BibleGateway.com).

Exodus 17:1-7
  • Once again, the Israelites are complaining, and once again, God answers the complaints by providing the Israelites with what they need. What does this tell us about God? Contrast this with other passages in which God seems to punish people who commit what seem to be much smaller transgressions.
  • Put yourself in Moses' position. You are trying to do God's will, and people keep complaining and fighting with you as a result, expecting you to take care of all of their problems (both physical and otherwise, as is seen in other passages). How would you feel in that position? How do you think Moses feels about God right now?
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
  • The Psalm explicitly references what God did as told in the Exodus passage. Last week's Psalm detailed many specific events of the Exodus story. Why is remembering and retelling this story so important?
Philippians 2:1-13
  • A common meme in Christian circles of the past decade or two has been "What Would Jesus Do?" How might that thought be applied to this passage?
  • At the end of the passage, the writer instructs his audience to "work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling." It's common in the PC(USA) to emphasize God's work in our salvation, making the human contribution sometimes seem passive, at best. How is this to be reconciled with the instruction to "work out" our salvation here? What does the author mean? And why must this be done "with fear and trembling"?
Matthew 21:23-32
  • Jesus answers the chief priests' question by asking another question. Why not just give them a straight answer?
  • Why are the chief priests and elders so concerned about "authority" in the first place? Why do they ask Jesus this question?
  • Jesus' parable sets up a distinction between deeds and words. Are words unimportant, so long as the person eventually does the right thing? It's well-understood that Jesus emphasizes tax collectors and prostitutes here because they were considered particularly odious examples of "sinners" in first-century Jewish culture? But are such people still tax collectors and prostitutes after coming to Jesus, or is this merely a way of referencing what they came from in order to follow him? To put it another way, how much change does Jesus expect us to make in our lives? It's easy to say we have to give "our whole lives" to Jesus, but getting into the details of what that looks like is much harder, as important as it is.

1 comment:

khendricks said...

Logos Bible Software is working to digitize Jane Williams' Lectionary Reflections. I thought you might be interested.