Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lectionary Ruminations: Scripture for Worship on October 4, 2009

Here are the passages for October 4th, 2009, the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B). All lectionary 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.  (Other references are linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)

Job 1:1, 2:1-10
  • We’ll be spending the next several weeks reading the book of Job, so this serves mostly as an introduction. I find it interesting to note that the lectionary skips right over the first round of Satan’s attacks upon Job, and goes right to round two. Why do you think the lectionary does this?
  • What do you make of the verbal sparring between God and Satan? Based on this reading alone, and assuming you didn’t know anything else about God, what would you say God thinks about Job, that he would allow Satan to torment him so? The answers to this question might become important as we proceed with Job in future weeks. 
  • How would you respond to your situation if you were Job?  I’m sure there will be more to say about what this book has to say about the reality of suffering in our world in coming weeks.
Psalm 26:1-12

Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12
  • This is a week of beginnings! Not only do we start the book of Job this week, but we start the book of Hebrews, which we will also be following in the weeks to come. Although this book is grouped with the letters (sometimes called Epistles) in the New Testament, it really doesn’t start out much like a letter. We’re not introduced to who the author is (and, in fact, there really is no consensus on who the author of Hebrews is), we’re not told to whom the letter is addressed, and there isn’t the usual “Grace and peace to you” sequence that is traditional in most letters of this period. Instead, we just jump right in.
  • Whoever wrote the book of Hebrews knew the Jewish scriptures well. Just within the reading we have here, we see verses 6-8 quote Psalm 8:4-6 with minor alterations. Later, verse 12 refers to Psalm 22:22, again with small changes. You may want to compare these passages in your own Bible. Do you think that such changes as appear between Hebrews and the Psalms are significant? Why or why not? What is the author of Hebrews trying to say about Jesus by referencing these ancient texts? 
  • Separate from these lectionary reflections, I'm going to start commenting on (and linking to) a series of lessons on Hebrews given in 2001 by the late Dr. David M. Scholer, an American Baptist most known for his work on Gnosticism and advocating for the full inclusion of women in all forms of service to God.  They're not entirely appropriate to dwell on here, but I invite you to come over to Transforming Seminarian if you're interested.
Mark 10:2-16
  • It is one of the great tragedies of modern times that Christian marriages tend to end in divorce about as much as non-Christian marriages do, and Jesus does have some pretty strong words to say, but why do you think the Pharisees were asking Jesus this question in the first place? What kind of answer do you think they hoped he might say? How did the Pharisees view divorce? Usually, Christians tend to caricature the Pharisees as advocating more restrictive laws than Jesus does, yet in this passage, the opposite seems to be the case (at least on the surface). What’s really happening here?
  • It may be worth noting that Jesus’ response to the Pharisees is not so much a prohibition on divorce, as it is praise for marriage. It is not until later, when Jesus is alone with disciples and they ask him more questions, that Jesus really says anything about divorce at all, and even that has less to say about divorce than it does about remarriage, a topic not explicitly brought up by the Pharisees. Why does Jesus answer these questions in this way?
  • Once again, we see Jesus encouraging people to let children come to him, and he uses them as an illustration of an important truth. We’ve seen Jesus say something about children a few times in the past few weeks. Why does Jesus talk about children so much?

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