Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lectionary Ruminations: Scripture for Worship on November 22, 2009

Here are the passages for November 22nd, 2009, Christ the King Sunday (Year B).  Christ the King Sunday (some churches may refer to this Sunday as "Reign of Christ Sunday") is the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar, and is one that many Christians (let alone many Presbyterians) may be unfamiliar with, being a relatively recent addition to the liturgical calendar.  It was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.  This day is intended to remind Christians of the sovereignty of Christ.  Although the day is not as well known in many Protestant churches as it is in the Roman Catholic Church, it is gaining wider recognition through its inclusion in the Revised Common Lectionary, and is indeed recognized through the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website.  All lectionary links are to the NRSV via that 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.)

2 Samuel 23:1-7
  • The first passage for “Christ the King” Sunday deals not with the kingship of Christ, nor even directly with the kingship of God, but rather features the "last words" of King David. If you read ahead after this passage, you’ll notice that the book of 2 Samuel has a bit more to say about King David.  Why should the census, for example, be related to us after David's "last words"?  And the book of 1 Kings, generally recognized as a continuation of the Samuel narrative compiled by the same author (or authors), features David for a bit more before shifting the story to Solomon. Why does the author feature David’s “last words” at the beginning of 2 Samuel 23, rather than at the end of David’s narrative? 
  • David’s story is a complex one, full of highs and lows, and the Bible does not shy away from telling of David’s shortcomings. When David says “If my house were not right with God, surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant,” how does David consider his house to have become right with God? What does David understand about God?
Psalm 132:1-12 (13-18)

Revelation 1:4b-8
  • As with the 2 Samuel passage, this Scripture reading for “Christ the King” Sunday contains language about kings that seems not to reference Christ himself, but rather human beings. However, in verse 5, Jesus Christ is said to be the ruler of the kings of the earth. Are the kings of the earth, generally speaking, aware of Jesus’ status over them? How does Jesus rule over them?
  • Verse 6 uses the language of “kingdom” to talk about those who follow Christ. In what ways are we a "kingdom"? 
  • Verse 7 references two Old Testament passages: Daniel 7:13, and Zechariah 12:10. If you check out these passages, you'll find the passages in contexts that don’t seem to make much sense when compared to the way the passages are being used here. Why is there such a difference? What does the author of Revelation intend for us to understand by using these passages here?
John 18:33-37
  • Finally, we come to a Scripture passage that deals directly with Christ as a King, but it is a passage that challenges any earthly concept of what a king should be. This familiar scene comes from shortly before Christ’s crucifixion. What are we to understand about Christ’s kingship from this passage?

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