Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, April 17, 2011, Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday) (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.)

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. I will focus on the shorter option.

Matthew 21:1-11
v. 2 Must we have BOTH a donkey and a colt?

v. 5 What prophet is quoted and why does it appear that the author of Matthew does not understand Hebrew poetry?

v. 8 Was it palm branches that were cut?

v. 9 Where have we (and those in the crowd) heard this before?

v. 10 Is this not the question we seek to answer?

v. 11 Is this a satisfactory answer to the above question?

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
The choice of this “Liturgy of the Palms” Psalm (say that three times) is obviously dictated by Matthew, in the “Liturgy of the Palms” Gospel Reading, which in verse 9 quotes Psalm 116 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 29.

How does this Psalm influence our interpretation of Matthew 21:1-11 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 while

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.

Matthew 27:11-54 (The shorter Reading)
(The longer reading is Matthew 26:14-27:66. While I usually think any reading of Scripture calls for interpretation through some form of proclamation, this may be 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.)

vs. 11-14 Why would Jesus not answer these charges?

v. 15-23 It it mere coincidence that both prisoners were named Jesus?

v. 18 What do you make of this “jealousy”?

v. 19 Another example of a truth telling woman.

v. 24 This hand washing is perhaps what Pilate is most remembered for.

v. 25 How shall we deal with this verse that could be interpreted as being anti-Semitic?

vs. 27-31 Biblical material for Mel Gibson.

v. 32 we all have our own particular cross to carry, and if a Roman soldier asks you to carry a cross one mile, offer to carry it two.

v. 34 Why would Jesus not drink?

vs. 38-44 Was there anyone who did not deride, mock, or otherwise taunt Jesus?

v. 45 Is it in anyway significant that the darkness lasted three hours?

v. 46 Is Jesus by any chance quoting something? What does he quote?

v. 51 What is the symbolism of the torn curtain?

v. 52 Saints?

v. 54 Truth not from the disciples, not from a woman, not from any of the Jews, but from Roman soldiers.

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