Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, March 21, 2010, the Fifth Sunday in Lent (Year C)

Posted each Thursday, Lectionary Ruminations focuses on the Scripture Readings, taken from the New Revised Standard Version, for the following Sunday per the Revised Common Lectionary. Comments and questions are intended to encourage reflection for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged. All lectionary links are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible 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.)

Isaiah 43:16-21
vs. 16-17 These verses seem to be an obvious allusion to the Exodus.

vs. 17-18 As leaders or members of congregations facing change, how do these verses both challenge and comfort us?

v. 19 A way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert? I doubt Isaiah was writing about global climate change. Maybe he was writing about internal attitude change?

v. 20 Wild animals will declare God’s praise. Why do humans find honoring God so difficult?

The Psalmist seems to be asking God for a reprise. “Hey, God! Remember what did a while back? Do it again. Do great things for us like you did for our ancestors.” The Psalmist also seems to be looking for the sort of reversal (vs 5-6) sung about by by Hannah and Mary.

Philippians 3:4b-14
vs. 4-6 Paul’s resume. Quite an impressive PIF!

vs. 7-9 What? All those credentials are not worth crap. What matters for Paul is knowing Christ as Lord and the righteousness that comes through faith.

v. 10 “I want to know” is, I think, an aorist infinitive, thus (if my rusty Greek is at all still functional) we cannot determine whether Paul is reflecting on something ongoing that continues into the future or something limited to the future. I’ll bet on the former: a present action that continues but is not yet complete. But I stand open to correction. V. 11 suggests that Paul will only fully come to know Christ and the power of his resurrection when he himself completes his baptism.

v. 12-13 In light of v. 10-11, how do we “press on” in this life when our “prize” will not be obtained in this life but in the life to come? Could this line of thinking lead to voluntary martyrdom?

John 12:1-8
As I have asked in relation to previous well known passages, how do we read, hear and interpret this passage afresh, as if we are encountering it for the first time?

Where do we find ourselves in this story? At the table with Lazarus and Jesus? Serving with Martha? Anointing Jesus feet? Complaining about budget priorties? Watching from an open window?

Who are we in this story? Lazarus? Martha? Mary? Judas? The poor? Jesus?

There seem to be a lot of possible juxtapositions: Lazarus was dead but is now alive, Judas complaining about Mary’s actions but Jesus defending her actions, Lazarus was raised but Jesus will be buried, those in the story will always have the poor but will not always have Jesus.

Usually we think of Jesus giving or hosting a dinner for us, a dinner called, among other things, the Lord’s Supper. This passage presents others giving a dinner for Jesus. So what?

If Mary bought the perfume intending to keep it for the day of Jesus’ burial, why is she now, at least six days before his death, using it to anoint his feet?

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