Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, October 31, 2010, the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (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.)

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
1:1 Is “oracle” technical term? Notice Habakkuk “saw” the oracle rather than “hearing” or “receiving”.

1:2 How many times have we felt like Habakkuk?

2:1 Was Habakkuk really a guard/watchman, or is he simply employing figurative language? Does “he” refer to the LORD?

2:2 Now we have a “vision” rather than an “oracle”.

4: 4 This verse preaches. Who were the proud and who were the righteous of Habakkuk’s day? In our day?

Psalm 119:137-144
v. 137 Was this verse and its ability to comment on Habakkuk 1:4 and 2:4 the reason why this Psalm appears today? Note all the following synonyms for “judgements”.

v. 139 How does zeal consume?

v. 144 Understanding = life?

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
v. 1 So who is the real author of this letter?

v. 2 Classic Christian salutation, which combines Hebrew and Greek elements.

v. 3 Butter them up.

v. 4 What have been their persecutions and afflictions?

v. 11 How does God make us worthy of his call?

Luke 19:1-10
v. 3 Is there a difference between trying to see Jesus and trying to see who Jesus was?

v. 5 How did Jesus know his name?

v. 6 Should we read more into “he was happy to welcome him” than first meets the eye?

v. 8 What motivates Zacchaeus?

v. 9 Realized eschatology? Could “house” also mean “household”or “family”?

v. 10 Does this assume Zacchaeus was a Jew? What if he had not been?

v. 11 How do most people in the pews or classroom hear “Son of Man”?

Happy All Hallows Eve.  How many of you will be wroshiping again tomorrow to observe All Saints Day?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Moving Forward, without Moving Forward

There are times and places in our lives when we are faced with very difficult, gut-wrenching decisions. We are forced into making what seem to be life changing choices that change the direction of our lives. These decisions can create havoc in what seems to be a very sane and peaceful existence in our nice, comfortable world. It’s funny how we are so intensely focused on this one huge decision when we are confronted with so many others that can be just as important and crucial. We tend to overlook those decisions that we would rather not make, and put more emphasis on those that are easy to solve with a quick and easy fix.

I believe God is testing our faith with both the small and life changing options. In an effort to explain this particular test of faith, God puts all of the options in front of us for all of the painstaking questions that we need to resolve. He then gives us all of the advice we could ever search out in His Word. After giving us everything we need, He watches as we stumble blindly into the situation, trying to fix the problem with our own wisdom, our own knowledge. Why do we attempt to solve the world’s problems, using our diminished supply of knowledge, counting on the world’s population to back us up each and every time? We are just a bit conceited, a bit boastful maybe. This is where God would say to us that it’s time to look to His book to find what we are all searching for.

A good example of this is the book of Proverbs. In this collection of wise advice, we can find wisdom that would cover just about any situation or condition we would ever find ourselves in. Pair this with the book of Psalms, and you have a best seller. There’s nothing we could ever be confronted with that is not discussed or mentioned within the pages of these two biblical segments. It’s always the stumbling we do that amuses our great God, tripping over the very knowledge and wisdom He has so graciously provided, looking so dumbfounded all the way. This is the very thing that keeps us from moving forward. God provides us with the destiny, and the means to get there, yet we stumble and fall along the way as we try to get there by our own means, following our own route. In my personal life, I often rely on my own simple ways and move forward before realizing God has other ideas about where I need to move. The contemporary Christian music group Third Day has a new album out simply titled “Move.” The songs on this CD are all very inspiring and very insightful. In the song “What Have You Got To Lose” the words of the song call out to those who are trusting their own ability to choose, begging them to “let go of all you know, only then can life be found.”

When will we learn that we just need to give God the chance, getting out of His way, and allow Him to lead us to His kingdom? Only then will we really move forward, giving God the glory during our move.

Monday, October 25, 2010


In lieu of a Member Blog Meet and Greet today, here's a shot of my eldest singing in church this morning. (Front row on left, green dress)

Alleluia, indeed!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Tough Decisions: We Don't Always Have Clear Cut Answers

Often times in our Christian journeys we are faced with decisions for which we long to find some clear cut answer in our understanding of Scripture. Sometimes that clear cut answer is there. Many times, it is not.

A personal example: after my father died, it fell to me to be the full-time caregiver for my mother. At the time she was approaching 80 years of age and suffered from a number of ailments typical of folks that age. After about 7 years, one night she became disoriented, but not in pain, and when she'd speak, it would come out as jibberish. A few days after she'd been admitted to the hospital it seemed she was simply not getting any better (among other things, her kidneys had failed). It was at that point that our doctor, a good friend and man of deep Christian commitments, came to me and presented me with a decision: either we could pursue aggressive medical treatment, which would not cure Mom but simply, and possibly, extend her physical life for a little while, and which would take a significant physical/emotional toll on her, or we could simply make her comfortable as possible and let "nature take its course," as they say.

Making that decision took some time and prayer. My Christian faith told me that human life, being created in the image of God, was of infinite value and worth, that it was sacred. On the other hand, death is a part of life and my Christian faith informed my view of death as well. Should I pray for a miracle? After all, I really didn't want her to die; I wanted her around. Should I pray that God would miraculously heal her, do what medical science could not do? Or should I pray for her to have a good death? Should I pray that God would grant to her a smooth entrance into eternity?

While the core essence of our Christian faith is clear and certain (reflected in those earliest creeds and confessions of the Church), much of our journey is not so clear and certain. We need the gift of discernment. We need the leading, the guiding of the Holy Spirit as we genuinely wrestle with those difficult decisions, such as the one I faced with my mom, such as the ones which face many of us eventually. We need prayer.

In the case of my mother, my prayer initially was for wisdom, for guidance. Eventually, after a lot of prayer and thinking and talking with others, my prayer became that God would grant to her comfort in her last hours and grant her a smooth entrance into eternity.

Point is, in a lot of situations there are no rules to follow, no clear cut guidelines telling us what is "the" Christian thing to do. We allow our understanding of God, our understanding of Scripture to inform our decision making and we pray for wisdom and guidance, for the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, October 24, 2010, the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (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.)

Joel 2:23-32
v. 23 After several weeks of lamentation, doom and gloom, it is refreshing to hear something rejoicing over.

v. 24 It often seems that the land and its produce are the best indications of Israel’s spiritual and religious health.

v. 26 How shall we read and interpret the promise “my people shall never again be put to shame” in light of the holocaust?

v. 28 In verse 23 we are told that God has poured down abundant rain. In this verse, God talks about pouring out my spirit. What is the connection, if any, between rain and spirit? What is the significance of “all” flesh? What is the significance that both sons and daughters shall prophesy? What is the connection between the “sons” and “daughters” of this verse with the “children of Zion” in verse 23? Is there any difference between “dreams” and “visions”. Why are both “old men” and “young men” mentioned but there is no similar mention of young women and old women?

v. 29 Both male and female are mentioned in this verse, but does the emphasis fall on the fact that the spirit is inclusive of both sexes, or that “slaves” are included? “In those days” sounds like an apocalyptic formulaic saying.

v. 30 More apocalyptic language

v. 31 What is the danger of interpreting this and the preceding verse literally? How can a day be both “great” and “terrible”?

v. 32 Note “everyone”. Might this “everyone” include others not children of Zion? Why “in” and not “on” Mount Zion? When and where has “the LORD said”? Who else will be “among the survivors” in addition to “those whom the LORD calls”? Can Reformed Christians refer to this verse to defend the Reformed doctrine of election?

Psalm 65:1-13
v. 1 Unlike Joel 2:32, there is no “Mountain” here so “in” seems to make sense.

v. 2 Note “all” flesh, an echo of Joel 2:28.

v. 3 I like that this is in the conversational direct address and present tense.

v. 4 Note that God chooses.

v. 5 What are these “awesome deeds”? I think “ends of the earth” and “farthest seas” is nice poetic imagery.

v. 7 Why is the “roaring of the ocean” and “waves” paired and equated with “the tumultof the peoples”?

v. 8What are the ‘gateways of the morning and the evening”?

v. 9 What is “the river” of God? Is the agricultural imagery a little overpowering for an urban context?

v. 11 God has a wagon?

v. 13 If only Presbyterians could learn to shout and sing like the meadows and valleys!

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
v. 6 How many people know what a “libation” is? It sounds as though Paul is preparing for, looking forward to, even anticipating his death.

v. 7 Sports imagery from the Olympic style games.

v. 8 What is a “crown of righteousness”? On this day the “that day” echoes the “those days” of Joel 2:28.

v. 16 Does the reference to “first” defense suggest that there was more than one defense? What “defense” is being referred to? Whom might Paul have expected to come to his support?

v. 17 With the “Lord” standing by one’s side, who needs any other support? What is the “message” being referred to? How did Eugene Peterson translate this verse? Is “lion’s mouth” a literal or a figurative reference?

v. 18 A well known acclamation of praise ends the Reading.

Luke 18:9-14
v. 9 Who might those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt” have been? I am glad Jesus was talking to them and not to us!

v. 10 Remember, this is a parable. What sort of parabolic situation is setting up with the inclusion of a Pharisee and a tax collector as the two main characters?

v. 11 At least this was a sincere prayer. Maybe sometimes sincerity is not all it is made out to be.

v. 13 What is the symbolism of beating one’s breast”. The tax collector’s prayer echoes the prayer of the ten lepers from two weeks ago in Luke 17:13. Once again, as I did in relation to Luke 17:13, I draw your attention to The Jesus Prayer of Hesychiasm and the Philokelia.

v. 14 A typical parabolic reversal.

When I am not posting Lectionary Ruminations on Presbyterian Bloggers I am posting about a variety of topics, especially kayaking and other mostly outdoor related topics, at Summit to Shore.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Practicality of the Bible

When I overhear they younger generation discussing the Holy Bible, I often hear references to the age of the book and to the question of meaning for today’s world. Most wonder how a book written by over forty different people over two thousand years ago could be practical to today's issues. This subject is often debated in our churches, with the discussions centering on the inerrancy and shear truths that make up God’s Holy Word. It is one thing to discuss just how these words directed and disciplined the Jews and Gentiles some 2000years ago, yet it is another to explain how these same words can give us guidance that applies to situations today. In my opinion, I feel that this is just what we need, just when we need it.

All one needs to do is to take a thirty minute tour through the Book of Proverbs to see and hear the wisdom that applied then, yet still applies to this day and age. In fact, the very first Proverb gives us great instruction on what we need to do in order to please our God. It discusses everything from obeying our parents to dealing with the evils of peer pressure. The last time I checked, this would be a great lesson for our teenagers of today. The Bible has been around for two thousand years, and continues to be the most read book on the market. The only thing we leave out is taking the knowledge we gain and applying it. If we could only convince our younger generation to actually read God’s Word, and take some of it to heart, we would have much fewer issues of delinquency and loss of parental rights that take place in our courtrooms.

I have had the privilege, or as some would say the punishment of working in the Juvenile Court System for a short time. This is the biggest eye opener that anyone needs in order to wake them up to what’s actually happening, as opposed to what they believe is happening. The growing number of cases on the docket is just one indicator that we have a serious problem. We also have what could be described as the solution to the problem, but it’s not allowed in the schools and classrooms where these young people get there guidance on how to live their lives. We need to take a hard look at where our society is headed, with these “gen-X” and “gen-Y” individuals looking to become our next batch of corporate executives and government leaders. Just take a look around at all the negative influences that prey on our young people today, then take a look at our defenses we use against peer pressure, broken homes and poverty. We seem to be out-gunned and short of qualified troops to deal with these issues. Yet while all of this is happening, we are quick to send aid to foreign countries and provide huge bailouts to the fortune 500 companies. I’m not sure about you, but I fail to see the logic in this.

But hey, I’m just a simple citizen trying to figure out why our government leaders and corporate "big shots" choose to operate in a manner that does not reflect the quote that permeates our society "in God we trust." The book of Proverbs reminds us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.” (Ps 3:5) I see great practicality in these words. I’m not sure where the confusion lies. There is nothing impractical about knowing God, trusting God and adhering to His guidance and discipline.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Blog Club

Today's first blog is Mrs.ReverendDr.: The life of a full time, head Pastor's wife, offering a variety of posts about ministry, hospitality and Church-clergy relations in the PC (USA) church. (She now blogs as Coupon Queen at Eerie Deals.) I've followed Mrs.Rev.Dr.'s blog from time to time since she joined the web ring. I find her stories fascinating, as she is a minister's wife and I am a minister's daughter but our experiences are very different! I'm bummed that she's no longer blogging at Mrs.Rev.Dr.

Second is My Farcical Existence by Miranda. Miranda's blog has lain dormant for over two years but remains on our blog roll and always will, since she started the unofficial PC(USA) Blog. If you're curious about our roots, check out the archives here and go read some vintage Miranda. Cheers!

And, finally, we have NeilCraigan.Com: On a journey to become human... Neil is an Irish American pastor living and serving in Minnesota. And he's a runner! (I have a soft spot for distance runners. Had a great time watching my husband finish a Halloween 10k this morning. Wish I had been able to run it, too!) Recent posts on include Thoughts on Presbyterian Worship, Music in Worship, a thought on narratives, and an NPR interview with Peter Himmelman about his priorities as a husband, father, and observant Jew.

Happy reading!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Managing the Mysterious

I apologize for not having this posted on Tuesday. I have been “losing myself” in His majesty at Regent Univ.

I was puzzled the other day while sitting in my Spiritual Formation classroom. The topic of how we discern the workings of the Holy Spirit was the center of our discussion. This started the wheels turning in my head, thinking about how mysterious this concept is to the person who has never set foot inside a house of worship. Does that make our sanctuary a “haunted house” type of place, spewing smoke and strange sounds to people passing by? To a child, this would be the perfect attraction for the upcoming season of ghosts and goblins. How do we, as Christians manage these mysterious concepts when they are just that, very mysterious and strange to someone who does not know Christ.

When we think about how God, in his magnificent triune existence, is the “perfector of our faith,” we must remember that not everyone around us knows the same God. If we were to examine how we came about having faith in our God, we may find that it was a long, very complicated process, one that does not lend itself to brief explanation. Our journey, or at least the one I have been on, seems to get more complicated at each turn, offering up several different options to be chosen from. I often feel that we have created such a complicated method of coming to know Christ, that we have created more obstacles to others feeling His love and His forgiveness. We tend to create barriers with the bricks of the church, keeping people out instead of inviting them in. I have found, in my short tenure at Regent, there is no need for boundaries when Christ is at the center of all.

It has been such an eye opening experience to watch others come to Christ, fully accepting Him as Lord and Savior, but with no expectations, no preconceived notions, without limits on our great God. This is where I believe we could take a note or two on just how to describe the triune God to others. This is where I believe we can drop all notions of putting walls around the Holy Spirit, making Him ours, solely ours.

One of the many ways we use to demonstrate our faith, to get the message out to the masses is through song. The genre of Contemporary Christian Music has been around for ages. This style of music flushes out the Holy Spirit in all of us. This music generates true and genuine expressions of the Holy Spirit at work in those who allow themselves to become lost in His grasp. I am slowly learning this very unusual method of “managing the mysterious.” It is just amazing to watch the spirit in action as He moves over an entire room of very different, very diverse individuals having an impact on each and every life. This is one way in which I hope to “manage the mysterious.” By allowing ourselves to be completely immersed in His majestic love for us, we can truly experience a taste of heaven as we all sing together the words on the screen. It is simply an amazing event to be a part of witnessing His Holy Spirit working in and among friends. We just simply need to figure out how to get this feeling to those who yearn for it.

I know that our God, our great triune God, can and will be everywhere at once. He will be with us as we move to the music, celebrating His presence and helping us to “manage the mysterious.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Go Fish!: Tell Us A Story

“You are one of the stories God wants to tell in the world.” - Donald Miller

Last month I had the great privilege to attend Donald Miller’s first-ever Storyline Conference in Portland, OR. If you don’t know who Donald Miller is, get yourself a copy of Blue Like Jazz, stat. Miller is speaking for a generation of young believers and seekers (as well as middle-aged ones like myself) through his blog and several books, and soon through the screen version of Blue. Nearly 500 people flew in from all over the continent to hear Miller explain why we can all live a better story with our lives.

The conference was based on Miller’s 2009 book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The book chronicles how Miller decided to live a better life using the elements of story writing.

In Portland he laid out for attendees how to plot out both the negative and positive story turns of our lives and showed how those turns can be used by God to create good. He asked us to figure out who we are and what skill set God gave us. He also encouraged us to pay attention to our daydreams, because what’s on our heart is on God’s heart, and they may be the direction God wants us to head in our lives.

Miller used his gift of storytelling to share tales of people who are making a serious difference in the world. Through Miller’s career he has been blessed to meet many people who are telling stories of kindness and compassion through their actions. In addition, Miller interviewed guests on stage to share their stories of how they are helping others.

Storyline wasn’t about evangelism, but I couldn’t help but make the connection. After all, if God is telling a story through our lives, then he means for that story to be “read” by others around us. What story are we telling about God to others with our actions?

My next question is, are we prepared to tell others – not just show them - God’s part in our story?

Apparently about a billion of us were watching the 33 Chilean miners being rescued from the San Jose Mine this week (a great week for Kleenex!). What amazing stories those miners told, and will continue to tell.

I still tear up when I think of the one miner who said that there were 34 miners trapped because God was always with them. Another miner said he was with the devil and with God, and he chose God. Down in the mine the men worshipped and prayed together, led by one miner who served as their spiritual leader throughout the ordeal.

As each one emerged from the depths of the earth, the miners’ unabashedly told stories to all of us of how God made a difference in their lives going through a terrible calamity. They didn’t edit themselves worrying about what non-believers would think. They just told their stories of how God made a difference in their lives.

Near the conclusion of the Storyline conference, Miller used a quote from Robert McKee, famed Hollywood screenwriting guru. It’s aimed at writers, but it works for all of us as we “write” the stories God wants us to tell:

“Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear.”

Every day we get a chance to write a new and better story and share it with the world. And because of our faith, we can share that story without fear.

Miller sent us off with this benediction: “May you tell beautiful stories.”

The Storyline Conference is being repeated January 23 – 24, 2011, in Portland. Details aren’t up yet, but you can keep checking at And if you’re a fan of Blue Like Jazz, check out the amazing story that’s being told about how the movie is getting made at It’s already the largest crowdsource-financed movie in history, and is on its way to collecting the most amount of donations for a creative project on

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, October 17, 2010, the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (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.)

Jeremiah 31:27-34
v. 27 Does the phrase “the days are surely coming” suggest that this is a somewhat apocalyptic passage? What does it mean to “sow” with the “seed of humans” and “animals”?

v. 28 Prophecy of a flip-flopping reversal.

v. 29 Does this “Proverb” and folk-like saying occur anywhere else in the Scriptures?

v. 30 This seems to be another flip-flopping reversal, of what was in the previous verse. Why all this talk about eating “sour grapes”? How might contemporary proverbs and folk sayings influence how we hear and interpret this passage?

v. 31 Now we move from diet to theology! Yea!

v. 33 And yet another flip-flopping reversal, of what was in the preceding verse. If we read this literarily, we should be able to tell at the time of an autopsy whether a person was among God’s covenant people. If they are, something will be “written” on their heart.

v. 34 The end of religious education.

Psalm 119:97-104
v. 97 Is it the “law” of this verse that connects this Psalm with the Jeremiah Reading, particularly Jeremiah 31:33?

v. 99 The reflections of a first semester Seminarian?

v. 100 The reflection of young minister?

v. 103 An appropriate verse for Chewing on the Word: Lectionary Runinations.

v. 104 “Precepts”, and in other verses “words”, “ordinances”, “decrees”, “commandment”, and “law”. Are there any other synonyms I missed? Can you think of any others that are not in this verse?

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
v. 14 From whom did Timothy learn what he has learned?

v. 15 What are “the sacred writings” to which Paul refers?

v. 16 How many different understandings of “inspired” are your familiar with? What is scripture good for? If we were to ask Paul “What is scripture not useful for?” how might he reply?

v. 1 This sounds like is taking an oath or “swearing on the Bible”. Why such an appeal to authority?

v. 2 This sounds like a charge to a newly ordained and/or installed pastor or recognition of a newly credentialed Certified Christian Educator.

v. 3 Does “For the time is coming” suggest this a somewhat apocalyptic passage? I think this time has arrived.

v. 4 What does Paul mean by “truth” and “myths”. Some myths can contain a lot of truth, but only if you interpret them as myths. I am thinking of “Carl Jung” and “Joseph Campbell” type myths here.

v. 5 And what do we mean by “sober”?

Luke 18:1-8
v. 1 In relation to the previous Reading, what is the difference between a “parable” and a “myth”?

v. 2 How less specific can we be, “a certain city”? How in the world did this parabolic person become a judge with such poor qualifications? Oh, that’s right, this is a parable.

v. 3 What is the significance, if any, that the supplicant was a “widow”?

vs. 4-5 And the lesson here? Apparently, justice might be blind, but it is not deaf!

v. 6 Why should we listen to this unjust judge when he is such a jerk?

v. 7 And the answer to this rhetorical question is? Is this an argument for prayer that is only intercession and supplication? What about adoration, confession and thanksgiving?

v. 8 How many people in the pews will get this “Son of Man” language and how much time should be devoted to explaining it? And as I asked about verse 7, what is the answer to the rhetorical question posed in this verse?

Regarding the 2 Timothy Reading, I suggest you consult Presbyterian Understanding and Use of Holy Scripture and Biblical Authority and Interpretation.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Blog Club

  1. At Monmouth Presbytery Mission Cafe and soon-to-be presbytery website, Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 2008 General Assembly, posted this response to the teen suicides. Other recent posts include Hunter Farrell's letter about the General Assembly Mission Council's Independent Abuse Review Panel (IARP) report and a link to an inspirational post about creation care. Lots to see here!
  2. Church of Scotland/Presbyterian Minister: preacher, pastor, and encourager, Mary Haddow, blogs at Mountain Tops and Monday Mornings: thoughts of a follower of Christ … a wife, mother and pastor. Recent posts include her reflections on being ministered to while ministering, the God-shaped hole in all of us, and, my favorite, Surviving the Friendly Fire, about ministers dealing with constant criticism (and little support) from congregations.
  3. Mr. Locke's Classroom is the blog of Neal Locke. Neal is a former high school English teacher, current Presbyterian seminary student, and future monastic microbrewer. He's also a husband and a father. Recent posts include a three-part series on Who Is My Neighbor: Pastoral Ministry in a Border Community. Alongside the blog are mstrlocke's tweets.

What a creative and diverse blog roll we have!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, October 10, 2010, the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (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.)

v. 1 These are the words of Jeremiah, not the words of the LORD. Where was Jeremiah at the time he wrote the letter?

v. 4 Even though these are the words of Jeremiah’s letter, his letter contains the words of the Lord. Note who has sent the exiles into exile.

v. 6 Shall the wives be chosen only from among the exile community or shall they also be chosen from among the indigenous inhabitants? What does history tell us, if anything?

v. 7 Seeking the welfafre of the city where God has sent them, and praying to the LORD on its behalf, means, in essence,seeking the welfare and praying for enemies and captors (or former enemies and hosts?).

Over the past three weeks, the readings have progressed from pre-destruction, lament over the destruction, and post destruction of Jerusalem. This broad sweep invites us to reflect on how Jeremiah’s preaching has changed. It might sound trite, but might we say that before the destruction he afflicted the comfortable while after the destruction he comforted the afflicted?

vs. 1-2 These verse could form the basis of a Call to Worship.

v. 3 In light of the Jeremiah Reading, do you think God’s enemies really cringe? Who are God’s enemies. Is it safe to assume that Israel’s enemies are God’s enemies? Is it safe to assume that our enemies are God’s enemies?

v. 4 Does the reference to “All the earth” refer to only human beings?

v. 5 What has God done? This is the second occurrence in the NRSV translation of this Psalm of “awesome”. The first occurrence was in v. 3.

v. 6 What is being recounted here?

v. 9 In light of the Jeremiah Reading, while we might be captives and exiles, at least we are alive?

v. 10 In the wilderness, Israel tested God. Now God tests Israel? How is silver “tried”?

v. 11 Is this a reference to bondage in Egypt or Babylonian captivity?

v. 12 This Psalm sounds to me more like a Psalm celebrating the Exodus. If so, why would the RCL folk choose to pair it with the Jeremiah Reading?

v. 8 What does Paul mean by “Remember”? Compared to later creedal statements, Paul’s “gospel” is basic, no frills, and almost void of doctrine.

v. 9 Does Paul mean to suggest that while he might be “chained like a criminal” he is not a criminal?

v. 10 the ears of Presbyterians and other Reformed Christians ought to perk up when they hear Paul’s reference to “the elect”.

v. 11 Why has this verse not become associated with baptismal liturgies?

v. 14 How does the “remind” connect with the “remember of v. 8? What is the “this” to “remind them of”? Does Paul really have the moral authority to admonish others not to “wrangle over words”? In light of this blog column, when does “Chewing on the Word” and ruminating about the Lectionary Readings become wrangling?

v. 15 How does one rightly explain the word of truth? How would Paul define “the word of truth”?

v. 11 What is the significance of the fact that Jesus was “On the way to Jerusalem”? What is significant about the region “between Samaria and Galilee”?

v. 12 Is there any symbolic significance to there being “ten lepers”? How can ten lepers both approach and keep their distance?

v. 13 This verse reminds me of The Jesus Prayer of Hesychiasm and the Philokelia.

v. 14 Why does this verse say Jesus saw the ten lepers rather than hear them since they were calling out to him? Why would Jesus send the lepers off to the priests rather than healing them at that moment?

v. 15 Is one out of ten lepers a tithe?

v. 16 What is the significance that the one leper who returned was a Samaritan? Can we assume anything about the ethnic or religious identity of the nine who did not return? Does v. 18 shed any light on the question?

v. 19 Since v. 14 says “they were made clean,” can we assume that the faith of the others who were made clean, presumably the other nine, also made them well?

It has nothing to do with the lectionary readings, but this particular Sunday will be 101010 (October 10, 2010). In addition to posting Lectionary Ruminations every Thursday on Presbytery Bloggers, I also blog about a variety of topics on my personal blog, Summit to Shore.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Did You Feel That ?

Sometimes when we are going about our mundane, repetitious and boring tasks, we suddenly feel something strange. In most cases, we just shrug it off to be something we can safely ignore, and move on to more important issues. We never stop to think of what it may have been, or who it may have been. I truly believe that this is a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit. It’s nothing but a tap on the shoulder from our God who wants and needs our attention. I was privileged to be a witness to our wonderful God as He slowly transformed 11 individuals with the use of His Holy Spirit.

The process began Thursday as the team began preparation for the 28th Presbytery of the James Pilgrimage (PJP 28). This gathering had been in the planning phase for a year, and was about to be launched in a very quiet and humble fashion. The pilgrims began to arrive, being dropped off by their sponsors, and left with a team of strangers who would be their servants for the next three days. This experience is very humbling in that as a pilgrim, you will not have access to a watch or cell phone. We, as the team, will take care of everything. We even go as far as reminding you of medication schedules and any other concern you may have. It is somewhat frightening to place complete trust in a complete stranger, but it is also very liberating at the same time. I was honored to be a part of this process of witnessing a very dramatic, obvious and gratifying change in the pilgrims. There is only one explanation for this dramatic shift. God was there among us through His Holy Spirit. It was the most awesome thing to watch as we guided these individuals on a journey that only God could lead.

As the days went by, you could just see the transformation take place. The faith journeys of each individual were moving them forward, but only as fast or as slow as each one needed to move. It was just simply amazing to watch the Holy Spirit move everyone, including the team members, as the weekend progressed. I cannot say enough about this small group of dedicated individuals who had worked so hard to bring this wonderful experience to fruition. I was blown away by the humble and servant-like attitude displayed throughout the weekend by all the team members. It was very assuring to me that we, as the team, were able to reach these pilgrims and take them further along in their faith walk.

While traveling back to Regent Univ. I was able to ponder just what I had witnessed. There seemed to be a change in me as well. My faith had grown, just like the faith of the individuals who had just walked with Christ through PJP 28. To see the change in the faces, attitudes and faith of the new “babe chicks” was nothing more than evidence for me that there is a God, and he works through us by using the Holy Spirit to examine, influence and convince. There is just no other explanation for what happened at PJP28. Congratulations to the new “Babe Chicks.”


Friday, October 01, 2010

What Are We?

Underneath the flash and spark of the science and religion debates are some real issues that reflect some real differences of world view. One of these, I think, are differing ideas about what a human being is. What do you think we are?

Here are your choices: *

1. We are made of one "part"
a. a physical body only. (materialism)
b. spirited bodies, incarnated souls, (physicalism)

2. We are made of two "parts" (dualism)
a. a body and a soul
b. a body and a mind

3. We are made up of three parts, body, soul, and spirit. (trichotomism)

4. We are made up of one "part" which is spiritual or mental (idealism).

So, what did you pick? Was it hard to decide? Is this a topic you have given much thought to?

Nancey Murphy in her book, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies, suggests that most people haven't thought very seriously about this. That's a shame, because as she points out, our view of what a person "is" affects our opinions about many modern concerns. Abortion, end of life, stem cell research- just to name a few.

Historically the mainstream Christian position has been dualism. Murphy contends that much of our Christian thinking about this has been more heavily influenced by Greek and Roman philosophy and less influenced by scripture. The Old Testament, for the most part, assumes a robust physicalism. This is not the "nothing but" materialism of modern reductionism which claims humans are nothing but our physical bodies and so genetics, endocrinology and the rest of science can account for all that we are. In the Hebrew Bible, people were understood to be unities of body, mind, and soul. We cannot be separated into component parts. Sometimes this idea is expressed by the phrase "incarnated souls" or "spirited bodies". The New Testament writers reflect the variety of first century opinions about what constitutes a human being but are more concerned about relationship.
So the Greek philosophers we have surveyed were interested in the question:what are the essential parts that make up a human being? In contrast, for the biblical authors each "part" ("part" in scare quotes" stands for the whole person thought of from a certain angle. For example, "spirit" stands for the whole person in relation to God. What the New Testament authors are concerned with, then, is human beings in relationship to the natural world, to the community and to God. Paul's distinction between spirit and flesh is not our later distinction between soul and body. Paul is concerned with two ways of living: one in conformity with the Spirit of God, and the other in conformity to the old aeon before Christ. (21-22)

So Murphy argues that there is no clear definitive Biblical teaching about what a human being is. Therefore, she believes Christians in our time are free to, and should, rethink our beliefs about what a human being is and that we should use the findings of modern science as well as scripture to help us do this.

Murphy acknowledges that there will have to be "adjustments" made to certain Christian beliefs but she contends that on the whole, they will be helpful. For example, physicalism could help Christians embrace a strong belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. And, it could help encourage an appreciation for the physical world- our bodies included- that would discourage an "other worldliness" that sometimes keeps us from acting in this world.

I have to confess, I haven't finished her book yet. I'm reading it as part of a science and religion book discussion group and I haven't read ahead. It will be interesting to think more about this as she makes her case for physicalism.

But I am wondering about the implications of physicalism for the science and religion dialogue.

If more Christians adopted a physicalist view, would that remove some of the stumbling blocks in the science and religion dialogue? Removing dialogue stumbling blocks is not an adequate reason to adopt the physicalist position. But what if after serious study and prayer and discussion, physicalism became a more commonly held belief? Would we stop debating about souls and start focusing on entire people?

Certainly this view of humanity, physicalism is a more complex accounting of humans than the "nothing but-ism" of some materialists. There still might be too big a difference to overcome. How ever, not all scientists are materialists, and some are very willing to engage a more complex view of human kind.

What do you think? Is physicalism a view that Christians could faithfully adopt? Would a physicalist anthropology help resolve some of the science and religion tensions?


Adapted from Nancey Murphy's book Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?, Current Issues in Theology, Iain Torrance, editor. Cambridge University Press: 2006.