Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, March 13, 2011, the First Sunday in Lent (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.) Lectionary Ruminations is also cross posted on my personal blog, Summit to Shore.

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7
2:15 This verse places us within the second account of creation. If you do not know what I mean by that, post a question.

2:15-17 What is so special about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Was it poisonous? Please note that there is no mention of what sort of fruit tree this was. It was not necessarily an apple tree.

3:1 Note that the antagonist is a “serpent” but not necessarily a snake. Is the serpant playing word games, or what?

3:2-3 The woman seems to offer an honest defense, although she seems to recount God saying more than we were originally told. Did God actually say all this, or has the woman embellished the original admonition?

3:4 Depending on what “death” means (Bill Clinton?), it seems that the serpent can be judged truthful. On the one hand, the man and the women will eventually die a biological death, but not immediately. On the other hand, I think it can be argued that the man and woman are about to die a spiritual death.

3: 5 So, knowing good and evil makes one like God? Is this why the woman eats of the tree, to be like God? Or simply to know good and evil?

3:6 It seems wisdom is associated with knowing good and evil. The amateur philosopher in me is beginning to squirm. How can we relate this story to Plato’s analogy of the cave?

3:7 The metaphor of “open eyes” representing knowledge seems more Indo-European than Semitic, yet this second account of creation almost certainly comes to us from the Semitic oral tradition. For those who appreciate a little risqué Biblical humor, here is a joke I learned from one of my college Religion Professors. Q: If Eve wore a fig leaf, what did Adam wear? A: (go to the Addendum of Lectionary Ruminations for the Answer)

Here is a more serious question. How much of our interpretation of this text is influenced by Augustine’s doctrine of original sin having been imposed upon this text and us for centuries. For a different perspective, look to Matthew Fox’s Original Blessing.

Psalm 32
v. 1 An appropriate Psalm if one reads the Genesis account within the framework of original sin. In light of this verse, I wonder: did the man and woman of the Genesis Reading sew fig leaves together and make loincloths primarily to cover their genitals or to cover their sin?

v. 2 I read no deceit in either the man or the woman of the Genesis Reading. Did you?

v. 3 How can someone “keep silence” while at the same time “groaning”?

v. 4 What does God’s heavy hand feel like? What do you and your congregation do with the “selah”? Do you ignore it, read it, or interpret it musically?

v. 5 Confession is good for the soul as well as the psyche. Does God forgive the guilt of our sin without forgiving the sin?

v. 6 How does the “therefore” leading to an admonition follow from an individual’s experience?

v. 7 What does it mean that God is a “hiding” place? Would Marx accuse believers of turning to opium as a way of dealing with trouble rather than trying to change the trouble?

v. 8 Who will do the instructing here?

v. 9 How do we read this and the previous verse in light of the Genesis reading? I have known a few horses and mules. Sometimes I myself can be an ass.

v. 10 From you experience, does it ring true that the wicked are tormented?

v. 11 I hear a Call to Worship in this verse.

Romans 5:12-19
v. 12 It does not seem right to begin a Reading with “Therefore”. We are not given the premise of the argument. What was it that Paul was saying? Is Paul speaking literally or in a mythical sense? If death spread to all because of sin, then did sin spread like a virus? Viral infection offers a different image than sin being passed on through procreation.

v. 13 So if we had no law, we would not be aware of our sin?

v. 14 What does it mean that death “exercised dominion”? Portraying Adam as “a type of the one who was to come” is a significant theological move. Why does Paul play?

v. 15 How is the free gift not like the trespass? What is the “free gift”?

v. 17 It sounds as if now, people exercise dominion if life, whereas before, death exercised dominion.

v. 19 Note the verb tenses.

What does it mean to think of and talk about Jesus as “the second Adam”?

Matthew 4:1-11
v. 1 I cannot help but read this account, and its parallels, without thinking of Martin Scorsese’s 1988 film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ controversial 1960 novel “The Last Temptation of Christ”. Why would the Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness? What does the wilderness represent?

v. 2 What does the forty days and forty nights remind you of?

v. 3 what do you make of the fact that “the devil” and “the tempter” are apparently used interchangeably? Might the tempter be attempting to sow seeds of doubt?

v. 5 Was this a literal “taking”? What warning is there in the fact that the devil could correctly quote Holy Scripture?

v. 7 Is there more going on here than proof-texting?

v. 8 A week after the Transfiguration of the Lord, I might be hearing this verse a little differently then I would on any other Sunday.

v. 10 First it was the devil, then it was the tempter, now it is Satan. Should we read “Satan” as a name or a title?

v. 11 Here comes the Calvary, even if a little late. What does it mean that the angels came and waited on Jesus.

How do you understand this passage: as a description of real events in time and space or the description of a spiritual wrestling within Jesus, more of a visionary encounter or recounting?

ADDENDUM: The answer is: A hole in it.

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