Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lectionary Ruminations: Scripture for Worship on January 25, 2009

Sarah has left it up to me to determine how far in advance these postings should go up. While there's something appealing about the Thursday suggestion, I'm also aware that the "Read and Learn" feature is currently scheduled for that day, and since neither JusticeSeeker nor Quotidian Grace have weighed in on the discussions on where to put this feature, I am reluctant to do anything that would either steal that feature's thunder or bump it to another slot. So I'm going to try keeping the feature on Saturdays, but will start posting entries a full week ahead of time. This entry is for tomorrow, but I'll post another entry at noon for next Sunday's entry. I guess that means I'll need to fix the banner at the top. ;)

Here are the passages for January 25, 2009, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B). All links are to the TNIV via, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead (either with your own Bible, or via the drop-down menu at

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
  • I confess to have a certain affection for the story of Jonah, having been in a children's musical based on Jonah when I was in middle school. Naturally, this means that I know the full story pretty well. When I read this selection of the text, I can't help but feel that the lectionary is counting on such prior knowledge of the story. What we get here is very basic: God said "preach to Nineveh," Jonah preached, Ninevah repented, God showed mercy. There's so much about Jonah's story that isn't here. We don't learn about how much Jonah hates Nineveh. We don't learn about how Jonah actively tries to avoid following God's command to preach, even going so far as to travel in the opposite direction. We don't learn about the "huge fish" (or, whale, if you prefer) that swallowed Jonah. Nor do we see Jonah's less than gracious reaction after God shows mercy to Nineveh. Do we need all of that context to understand this passage? Or are the few verses offered here enough for us to benefit?
  • Why do you think the Ninevites are so quick to believe Jonah's prophecy of destruction (let alone actually repent)? This doesn't seem to be the pattern of response to prophecy all that often.
Psalm 62:5-12

1 Corinthians 7:29-31
  • Some scholars have taken Paul's "time is short" insistence here as an indication that he believed that Christ's Second Coming would occur much earlier (indeed, within his own lifetime) than seems to have been the case. Do you agree that this was Paul's assumption? If so, how might this affect his instructions in this passage?
  • Assuming that Paul's instructions are valid for us today, how do we communicate this to a married person, or someone who is mourning? Indeed, given the near polar opposite in "those who are happy," how does Paul expect people to act? Are we somehow supposed to take whatever state we are in, and somehow act just the opposite? What would be the point? What's Paul trying to tell us about the implications of this world's temporary nature?
Mark 1:14-20
  • At this point in Mark's telling, the term "good news" is not explicitly defined, but seems to be assumed to be already understood. If you were one of the people hearing Jesus at this point in his ministry, how do you think you would have understood the term?
  • In the past, we've had a number of occasions where one week's passage follows immediately after the previous week's passage. In this case, we're actually going just a tiny step backward in time, to the calling of Andrew and Simon Peter. The pair is mentioned in last week's reading, but they were already with Jesus by that point. Why is the lectionary ordered in this way?
  • Besides the obvious question: "What did Jesus mean when he promised Andrew and Peter that they would 'fish for people'?", why do you think this promise would have been so appealing to the "conventional" fishermen that they would abandon their work to follow Jesus? Indeed, assuming that Jesus made the same promise to James and John, why was this promise so intriguing that they would not only abandon their work, but their father in the process? (And if Jesus didn't make the same promise, what did he say that got such a reaction?)

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