Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Lectionary Ruminations: Scripture for Worship on September 6, 2009

Sometimes, it feels like life is just a constant barrage.  Right now, the area of Southern California in which I live is preoccupied with the fires in this area.  I have a few reflections on that over at my own blog, but suffice it to say, my wife and I seem to be in no real danger from the fires.  Even so, prayers are very much appreciated for this area, for those displaced by the fires, and for those who continue to fight them.

That said, here are the passages for September 6th, 2009, the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B). All links are to the NRSV via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead.

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
  • I'd have to pull out either my Hebrew grammar or a commentary to be sure, but offhand, as I read the word "name," I'm wondering if the text is trying to say "reputation."  Is this accurate?  If not, what is about a "name" that is so important?
  • This is one of those passages (there are quite a few) that tries to draw a direct link to a person's actions (for good or evil) and what happens to that person.  Yet, we all can point to examples of a person doing something wrong, yet never suffering consequences for those actions.  How are we to deal with this reality?
Psalm 125:1-5

James 2:1-10 (11-13) 14-17
  • The Revised Common Lectionary allows churches the option of reading--or not reading--the verses in parentheses.
  • The situation James describes throughout this reading doesn't seem to have changed much in modern times.  Why have we not learned our lesson?
  • I read someone recently who suggested that the response James describes in verse 16 is essentially the same as a person who prays for a poor person in their midst, yet doesn't actively help that person.  Is this suggestion fair?
  • I think that James is a particularly difficult book for Presbyterians, because we (rightly!) don't want to sound like we're arguing that our salvation is based on anything but God's action.  We can't do a thing.  Yet we do affirm the need for actions of grace such as James describes here.  How do we balance these ideals in our preaching?
Mark 7:24-37
  • Why does Jesus seem so reluctant at times to let other people know that he is present?
  • Verse 27, in particular, is one of the hardest sayings of Jesus to understand.  Why would Jesus speak this way to this person?  He doesn't sound compassionate at all, and in fact sounds a bit racist (admittedly recognizing that it sounds this way to my ears for reasons that might well not have been in play in the first century)!  On the other hand, I'm glad not only that Mark's gospel retained this saying (it's not the kind of thing a person "making up" Jesus' story as fiction would have been likely to include!), but that it is retained in the Sunday lectionary schedule, as well.  We need to wrestle with these difficult passages!
  • Perhaps I have the James passage, and our Presbyterian reaction to it, still in mind, but how do we deal with passages like verse 29, that seem to explicitly connect God's grace to a particular response on the part of a human being?
  • After healing the deaf man, Jesus again gives an instruction not to tell anyone what he has just done.  Why all the secrecy?  And why the attempt at secrecy that so clearly fails?

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