Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lectionary Ruminations: Scripture for Worship on November 15, 2009

Here are the passages for November 15th, 2009, the Thirty-Third 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.)

1 Samuel 1:4-20
  • This is another fairly well-known passage, but it has a few elements that may strike modern Christians as just a little odd.  First of all, notice that Elkanah has two wives, Hannah and Peninnah.  The book of I Samuel makes no reference to this bigamy as being a sin.  Why not?  How should we respond to this kind of reading in the Bible?
  • When Hannah goes to Shiloh to pray, and Eli the priest sees her, Eli thinks that she’s drunk.  Why does he immediately jump to this conclusion?  Is there something about Hannah’s prayer that is unusual?  Does Eli not normally come across people praying this way?
1 Samuel 2:1-10
  • The version of the Revised Common Lectionary used in the PC(USA)'s Book of Common Worship does not have a reading from the Psalms this week.  A rarity.  Rather, this passage, which consists of Hannah's prayer, is used in place of the weekly Psalm.
  • Why does Hannah "rejoice in (her) victory"?  What "victory" has she achieved at this point in the story?
  • Using only this passage as a description of what God is like, who do you understand God to be?  What kind of a picture of God is created?
  • Back when I was first starting my own blog, Transforming Seminarian, I experimented for a brief time with regular bible studies as blog entries, and a couple of reflections on the first chapters of I Samuel were among my earliest experiments.  Although my purpose there, more than four years ago, was a little different than what I do here now, I think it's safe to say that those were some of my earliest attempts at the kind of "question asking" that I have come to use regularly in lectionary reflections.  If you're interested, you're welcome to have a look.
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25
  • The Revised Common Lectionary allows churches the option of reading--or not reading--the verses in parentheses.
  • Besides the common thread of Christ's priesthood and the nature of his sacrifice, a common theme in Hebrews has been the author's use of Old Testament passages.  In this passage, verses 16 and 17 are a paraphrase of Jeremiah 31: 33-34.  If you check out the book of Jeremiah, you'll notice slight changes in the wording when compared to the book of Hebrews.  What should we make of these differences?  What might we learn from the context of Jeremiah that might help our understanding of this passage of Hebrews?
  • Living in community with other Christians can be hard.  My wife and I have been involved with a number of churches over the years that have wonderfully good intentions about reaching out to others in love, but who tend to overwork their leaders into burnout.  Then there are the problems that many Christians find in having to live up to certain ideals and expectations among other members of the community.  Some choose to respond by leaving the church, believing that they can follow Christ on their own.  The author of Hebrews seems to be writing to this kind of situation, as well, as apparently many Hebrew Christians were choosing to stop attending worship gatherings.  Why does the author tell Christians not to give up on meeting together?   Why should we continue to gather together as a community?  And how do we balance the demands of living a faithful Christian life with the need to allow ourselves to be taken care of?  How does understanding Jesus Christ as our priest affect the answer to these questions?
Mark 13:1-8
  • When I was in college, I learned of a man who, a few years earlier, had written a book with the title 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988 (at least, that's how it's generally sold.  His own title was more emphatic that it would happen then).  When 1988 came and went with no Rapture, he made a second book describing why the Rapture could be in 1989. I haven’t actually read the books, but I do rest assured that 20 years have passed since then.  The same guy apparently tried a couple more times after that, before finally passing away in 2001, but it seems clear that he lost what little credibility he might have had by then.  Still, other books describing apocalyptic events and predicting when the last days will occur continue to be popular among Christians even today.  Why do you think this is?   Jesus warns that many will come in his name and deceive people.  How are we to determine what is real, and what is false?  How should we understand the birth pains Jesus describes at the end of the passage?  Does it matter when the end times will come?  Why or why not?

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