Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, March 28, 2010, Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday) (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.)

For those who chose to observe the bifocal nature of this Sunday, there are six appointed Scripture Readings rather than four, and for one of the Readings there is a shorter (relatively speaking) alternative.

Luke 19:28-40
This Reading for the “Liturgy of the Palms” sounds a triumphant note of joy and praise, sans palms, as Jesus enters Jerusalem. Since in Luke the people spread their cloaks, rather than palms, on the road, perhaps we should refer to this Sunday as “Passion/Cloak Sunday” or simply “Cloak Sunday”.

v. 38 See Psalm 118:26 and Luke 13:35. Even though Luke does not mention Palms, if one reads Psalm 118:27, the verse after the one quoted then palms are indeed suggested or alluded to.

Does comparison with the synoptic parallels in Matthew 21:1-9 and Mark 11:1-10 as well as John 12:12-18 add to our understanding or detract through confusion and possibly conflation?

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
The choice of this “Liturgy of the Palms” Psalm (say that three time really fast) is obviously dictated by Luke, in the “Liturgy of the Palms” Gospel Reading, quoting verse 26. I think it can be argued that whenever the new Testament quotes a verse or two from a Psalm that the entire Psalm is drawn into the interpretation as in an oral Jewish culture most of the audience would likely have known the Psalm and thought of it even if only one verse were quoted. We experience the same when someone today quotes a line from a familiar poem, song or document.

Note the refrain of verses 1 in verses 2, 19 and 29.

How does this Psalm influence our interpretation of Luke 19:28-40 and vice versa? How does this Psalm influence our view of Jesus?

Isaiah 50:4-9a
It seems that verses 6-9 are why this passage was chosen for this Sunday, but what about verses 4-5? I usually think of the teacher’s role being to educate, not “sustaining the weary with a word.”

Not only has the Psalmist been given the tongue of a teacher, the Psalmist’s ear has also been wakened to “listen as those who are taught.” Are the best teachers the teachers who are also students? By corollary, are the best preachers those who are also preached to? Are the best worship leaders those who also are led in worship?

Psalm 31:9-16
A prayer for deliverance from personal enemies is an obvious choice for the liturgy of the passion. We can almost imagine hearing these words from the lips of Jesus as he was being crucified, or at any time during his passion. This Psalm reads like the thoughts and feelings of the dejected, rejected, and defeated. Nevertheless the Psalm, in the end, expresses prayerful trust.

Philippians 2:5-11
v. 8 recalls the passion.

v. 9 recalls the resurrection.

v. 11 “Jesus Christ is Lord” is one of the earliest, if not the earliest Christian Confession. From this basic affirmation, how did we get to the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene, not to mention the Westminster Confession? There is something to be said for simplicity, but simplicity, rather than precision, leaves room for multiple interpretations and levels of meaning. I can live with that.

Luke 22:14-23:56
This longer reading contains approximately 2,200 words. The shorter reading consists of approximately 900 words.

While I usually think any reading of Scripture calls for interpretation through some form of proclamation, I think this is the one Sunday where Scripture, without interpretation, can stand alone. Rarely do we have the opportunity to hear read in one service the entire Passion narrative. With a little effort this reading could be presented as a dramatic reading with members of the congregation reading various parts.

22 v. 51 Even in the midst of being betrayed, Jesus heals.

22 v. 54 How often do we follow Jesus . . . . “at a distance,” where it is easier and more safe?

22 vs. 67-70 Jesus does not claim to be the Messiah or the Son of God but rather the Son of Man.

23 v. 11 Why did Herod send Jesus back to Pilate?

23 v. 22 Three times Peter denies Jesus and three times Pilate asks “Why, what evil has he done?”

23 v. 41-42 Finally wisdom prevails, from the mouth of a convicted criminal, and our generation has a chant from the Taizé community to remember it.

23 v. 47 More truth

Luke 23:1-49 (Alternate)
(see appropriate ruminations above)

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