Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Lectionary Ruminations: Scripture for Worship on November 8, 2009

Here are the passages for November 8th, 2009, the Thirty-Second 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.

Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17
  • In the first part of this passage, there are several words in the text that can often be interpreted to suggest that Naomi is telling Ruth to seduce Boaz much as a prostitute might do, an impression increased by the fact that the lectionary skips the rest of chapter 13 and the beginning of chapter 14, creating the impression that virtually nothing has happened between Naomi's instructions and Ruth's marrying Boaz.    This interpretation, if accurate, is difficult to reconcile with the rest of book, which goes at some length to portray Ruth as exceedingly righteous.  In fact, in chapter 3, verses 10 and 11, which we didn’t read here, Boaz speaks of Ruth’s kindness and noble character, using words that it would be hard to imagine Boaz using if Ruth had just offered herself up to him sexually, even if one assumes that the sexual values in this context were not as restrictive as the values that Christians usually say the Bible prescribes.  How do we deal with this kind of passage?
  • Without question, Naomi is asking Ruth to take a huge risk by appearing to Boaz in the middle of the night as he is going to sleep.  That much seems clear.  But does Naomi intend for Ruth to send Boaz a signal of immediate sexual readiness, or simply one that Ruth’s mourning period for her original husband is now at an end, and that Ruth is ready to get on with her life?  
  • Whichever interpretation of Naomi's instructions one prefers, I expect we can agree that Ruth’s trust in Naomi is very high indeed.  What might we learn from this?
Psalm 127:1-5

Hebrews 9:24-28
  • Although the emphasis of this passage continues to be on Christ’s sacrifice, and on the fact that what Christ has already done for us, once-for-all, is the most important thing, we are given a glimpse into the nature of Christ’s second coming.  We’re not given very many details, and so there’s still plenty of room to debate about pre-millennialism, post-millennialism, a-millennialism, and all the rest.  We are simply told that Christ will come again to bring salvation to his people.   What do you think it will mean for Christ to bring salvation in his second coming?
  • By the way, although there's one more week we'll be in Hebrews in the Revised Common Lectionary, this is the last week I'm following David Scholer's series on Hebrews over at Transforming Seminarian.
Mark 12:38-44
  • It has often been pointed out that Jesus saved his harshest words for those who were the religious leaders of their time.  Just look at Jesus’ accusation that the teachers of the law “devour widows’ houses.”  The people who were supposed to be the best of God’s followers often turned out to be the most opposed to Jesus and his teachings.  I often think that this irony is entirely lost to many of the religious leaders of our own day (the ones I disagree with, obviously!), and it is a true tragedy.
  • The story of the widow who donates the copper coins, and Jesus’ praise of her action, is a famous one.  Despite Jesus’ praise, I do have to wonder what became of the widow afterward.  It is made abundantly clear that she had no money, and no resources to live on.  Who, if anyone, took care of her?  There’s no indication that she joined Jesus and his followers after this incident, so we can’t assume they took care of her.  Although I do believe that this story is not really telling people to give as much as they can, even to the point of destitution, I find the implications of such a passage troubling.  There's so much within Christianity that seems to tell us "give until it hurts, and then give a little more.  Whatever you're giving, it isn't enough.  After all, what can you give that will ever compare to what God gave you?"  I wouldn't dream of saying that anything we can offer would ever beat out God's gifts to us, but am I the only one who feels that passages like this can be abused all too easily?
  • But I don't want to neglect the importances of the widow's trust.  The widow is placed in stark contrast to the religious leaders Jesus had criticized, who were apparently willing to exploit other people to the point of destruction in order to get the recognition they wanted.  The widow trusted that, even though she had nothing, God would take care of her, and Jesus praised her for that. In a day when so many of us struggle financially, such trust is hard to come by.  How can we encourage such trust, while not making people feel guilty if they exercise healthy boundaries?

1 comment:

Briefcase said...

What do you think it will mean for Christ to bring salvation in his second coming?

Here's what I think: Read my free e-book Walkabout: The History of a Brief Century!