Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, November 28, 2010, the First Sunday of Advent (Year A)

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 2:1-5
v. 1 I find it interesting that biblical prophecies are introduced in a variety of ways. Some prophets receive a word, some hear a word, and others see a vision. How does Amos “see” “the word”?

v. 2 Does “in the days to come” set this Reading in the Apocalyptic genre? The mountain of the Lord house being established as the highest of the mountains is probably a comment about the mountain’s political and religious stature, not its geographical height. What does it mean that “all the nations” shall stream to the mountain of the Lord?

v. 3 Is this a vision of a return to the church growth of the 1950’s?

v. 4 Exactly what is a plowshare? What is a pruning hook? How can Christians in an urbanized setting far removed from any agriculture find meaning in implements of war being transformed into agricultural tools?

v. 5 What does it mean to “walk in the light of the LORD”?

Psalm 122:1-9
v. 1 This verse echoes Isaiah 2:3. Does this first verse establish this Psalm as a Psalm of Ascents?

v. 2 Is this an allusion to standing on holy ground?

v. 4 Note that here “the tribes go up: whereas in Isaiah 2:2 “all the nations shall stream” to the mountain of the Lord.

v. 5 Why is “thrones” plural? Who sits on these thrones?

v. 6 Jerusalem certainly needs our prayers today. The prayer is called for in 6a and the prayer follows in 6b-7.

v. 8 Are the prophets relatives and friends in Jerusalem?

v. 9 How does one seek good for Jerusalem?

Romans 13:11-14
v. 11 The phrase “Besides this” suggests we are missing the previous point. The salvation alarm clock is ringing.

v. 12 What are “works of darkness”? What is the “armor of light”?

v. 13 While “drunkenness” stands alone, note the pairing of “debauchery and licentiousness” and “quarreling and jealousy”. What is debauchery? What is licentiousness?

v. 14 Is the admonition to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” a reference to baptism, or something else? How we realistically “make no provision for the flesh”? Is there a difference between maintaining health of the flesh and gratifying its desires?

Romans 13:11-14
v. 36 “that day and hour” certainly places us in the Apocalyptic genre. There is an interesting juxtaposition between not knowing “that day and hour” within the context of the liturgical and secular calendar. While no one knows “that day and hour” we all know that Christmas is now only twenty-seven days away, and still most of us will not be fully prepared when that day finally arrives.

v. 37 How will the “days of Noah” belike “the coming of the Son of Man”? Those with a theological education will undoubtedly understand the “Son of Man: reference but I understand how most people in the pews and in the Church School Class will hear and understand it. How much do teachers and preachers need to unpack such “theological baggage” or can we simply gloss over it?

vs. 38-39 These verse answers, somewhat, the question about the “days of Noah” and “the coming of the Son of Man” comparison.

vs. 40-41 More agrarian imagery that we may need to translate into the post industrial and more urban context. At one time, these verses seemed to be some of the favorite among apocalyptically minded evangelicals employing “the rapture” as an evangelism tool. Since I have lost touch with that segment of the church, I wonder if they are still popular passages.

vs. 42 Good advice regardless of one’s theological posture.

v. 43 How does this follow from what proceeds it?

v. 44 “be ready” seems synonymous with “keep awake”. Consider again the question I raised regarding verse 37. There seems to be a tension between being told that the “Son of Man is coming” but not knowing when he will come. It sounds a little like making an appointment for repair service in the home on a certain day but not knowing what time the repair person will arrive, or know that UPS or Fed-Ex will deliver a package on a certain day but not knowing what time.


Today’s Readings are for the First Sunday of Advent, which means this is the first Sunday of a new Liturgical year and the beginning of a new lectionary cycle, “Year A” or the year of Matthew. Preachers and Teachers new to the Revised Common Lectionary and Lectionary based preaching, teaching and Bible study may not be aware that each cycle in the three-year Lectionary cycle focuses on a different Synoptic Gospel. Year A is the year of Matthew. Year B is the year of Mark. Year C is the year of Luke. Passages from John appear in all three cycles, especially during Lent and Easter.

Thus, preachers and teachers, for their own edification, preparation and as a spiritual discipline, might read the entire Gospel of Matthew as soon as practical. They might also read a brief and broad theological commentary on Matthew.

I sometimes think of Advent as a bi-focal season. On the one hand, we look back and prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, or his first coming. On the other hand we, we look forward and prepare to welcome Christ at his return, or his second coming. How do these two foci influence our interpretations of the readings for Advent? Can we focus on each reading using both lenses or do some readings lend themselves to one focus more than the other? Are we perhaps missing anything by consciously or unconsciously limiting ourselves to these two viewpoints? What other viewpoints might there be.

Speaking of celebrations, I will soon be celebrating the first year anniversary of providing “Lectionary Ruminations” for Presbyterian Bloggers. I posted my first “Lectionary Ruminations” on February 18, 2010 for the following Sunday. I have written, and posted, every Thursday since. I wish I had been able to begin Year C’s post with the first Sunday in Advent, but that was not possible. About the day and hour I will no longer write and post Lectionary Ruminations, no one knows. Until that unexpected hour, I am glad to begin Year A with this First Sunday of Advent post and to initiate the new Liturgical Year by also beginning to cross post Lectionary Ruminations on my personal blog, Summit to Shore.



Anonymous said...

Good insights and thought provoking questions. Thank you for your insight.

John Edward Harris said...

Tahnks, Anonymous. I hope you will log in next week and invite you to follow up comments bouncing off specific questions.