Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Blog Club

Welcome to the newest member of our web ring and blog roll, Tangerine Lizard of Christ plays in Ten Thousand places.

I hope to offer new and personal intuitions and insights into old stories and contemporary events. I am a Minister within the Uniting Presbyterian Church in South Africa (UPCSA)in active early retirement, ordained in 1985 and having served congregations in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The title of my blog Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places is taken from Gerard Manly Hopkins poem entitled "As Kingfishers catch flame," which stresses the individual yet manifold expression of 'selves being Self in Christ. Eugene Peterson’s “conversation in spiritual theology” found in in his book "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places" is another foundational text for me. This emphasizes my belief that God is at work in Christ through the Holy Spirit outside the Church -even at work in what we consider may "counter" and "strange" (also Gerard Manly Hopkins) My interests are particularly in new interpretations and expressions of the evangelical Christian faith, and how these impact on the local church and community - or not.

Glad to have your voice here!

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.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving! Monday Blog Club

Serve yourself a slice of turkey with all the trimmings, sit down, and enjoy catching up with a few blogs this week. Today we have a collection of three new and/or updated blogs for the web ring.

1) Very Truly Blessed: Striving for a servant's heart, Christian blog by Gail:
Very Truly Blessed is a blog about life being rediscovered in the guise of a small Presbyterian Church. Away from any church for years and years, I found a small church 1 block from my house, a few months after my Mother died. Today, the Christ, the church and my family are the center of my life. I have been in the Sashabaw Presbyterian Church now for almost 4 years. I started going with my oldest daughter. I was reserved. After a few months I became a Presbyterian and joined the Church. The next year, my husband and I took over the building and grounds duty, and the next year, I became a elder. At the same time of this process, I rediscovered the piano and now am the backup musician for Sunday morning. In addition, I have the honor of teaching the elementary age kids in Sunday School. Sashabaw Presbyterian has truly been a blessing in my life. The church brought both myself and my family closer to God and to the community in which we live. My husband who had never in his life attended Church now attends on a regular basis. We are indeed very truly blessed.

2) Robert's Musings by Robert Shaw:
Life is much more enjoyable when read with the lens of Scripture and Scripture becomes all the more powerful when read with the lens of current events. Robert Shaw, pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Winfield, Indiana, post his reflections each Wednesday morning. Each entry begins with an excerpt from the applicable readings in the Daily Lectionary. His reflections look for the intersection of current events and Scripture. New entries are announced via Twitter (christpresbycp) and his Facebook account. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) posts the Daily Lectionary at: Robert Shaw is am looking for a few other Presbyterian bloggers who would help him extend this exercise to a new daily blog. We would read each other's entries and provide encouragement and comments. Hopefully a combined effort would yield greater readership which would increase visibility and thereby spread the gospel to people beyond the fringes of the church. His biography and contact information is available at

3) And, finally this week, we have Robin at Metanoia. Robin describes herself as a married mom of three. Elder and Candidate for Ordination in the PC(USA). Almost brand-new M.Div. Spiritual Director in the Ignatian tradition. Writer, photographer, canoer, hiker, voracious reader ~ and someone who knows the beach is the best. Metanoia is her non-anonymous blog.

Welcome, bloggers and readers, new and old! Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Go Fish!: ADVENT-ures in Christmas Outreach and Evangelism

In just nine days we will start Advent (or as I heard one radio DJ say, “the Christmas gift buying season.” Ouch!). What is your church doing to leverage opportunities for reaching out to non-believers in your community during the season? Do you have a plan? And does that plan look beyond Christmas into the next year?

Don’t panic. My questions aren’t meant to create angst for you as you head into the holidays. But I do hope that if your church does not have a plan, you will shift your thinking just enough to find a few ways to reach out.

I also hope that you’ll think about more than just Christmas. It’s great if guests come to your church for Christmas Eve candle lighting services, but it’s a missed opportunity if you’re not engaging those guests with an invitation to events in January and beyond.

Here are several ideas that might be of help to your church.

1) Is your “home” ready for guests?

If you’ve got houseguests coming next week for Thanksgiving, you’ve already made plans to clean the house, get the bed linens ready, buy extra food, etc. Have you done the same thing for your church home? Is everything spiffied up around the grounds and the sanctuary? Have all the brochures and fliers been updated? Bulletin boards refreshed? Is there a plan for providing fresh coffee and maybe some Christmas cookies? Could the church afford some sort of guest gift?

2) Are you showing off your best face to the community?

If you have a website, has it been updated for Advent? Is all information on the site current? Is there advice to guests about what to expect? Where to park? What the childcare arrangements are?

What does the front of the church and the parking lot look like? Any quick-fixes or weeding that needs to be done? Do you have a professional-looking banner inviting the community to Advent or Christmas services?

3) Do your members have tools to invite friends to services?

For a reasonable cost and in a short amount of time, you can have business cards or postcards made up so that members have an easy-to-carry invitation to holiday services at the ready. I have used an on-line printing service with great success. Encourage members to carry a few cards with them, and to be thinking and praying about people they could invite.

4) How is your congregation blessing the community during the holidays?

Could your congregation collect food for the local food pantry? Are members helping out at non-profits that distribute food and presents during the holidays? Those organizations would be thrilled if a team came from your church to work various shifts throughout the season. Is there an organization in your community in need that your church could adopt, one that wouldn’t normally get a lot of attention at this time of year? And, how could you partner with other organizations, churches, community members to serve? For example, could members invite friends and neighbors to donate food to the food drive, or sign-up to volunteer with the group at a non-profit?

5) Do you have something to invite guests to beyond the holidays when they visit on Christmas Eve?

Is there something happening in January, or in the next quarter, that might be of interest to them? A special event? An interesting class or a class that gives a beginning look at Christianity or discipleship? A meet-the-pastor event? New Members class? A get-together for young families? A luncheon for older adults? What about offering a way to accept prayer requests?

6) Do you have a way to collect information about your guests?

If you have guest pad, remember to ask people to fill it out during worship. Not everyone is going to want to identify themselves, but give them the opportunity and then follow up with a letter from the pastor, or some other kind of welcoming note.

7) Who is praying for the church and the community throughout Advent?

Do you have a prayer team, or small group, that could hold the church, the pastor(s), and most importantly, the surrounding community, in prayer?

One note: don’t get so caught up in the details of reaching out to the community and welcoming guests that you forget to focus on what Advent is all about. Take time to pray, to worship, to enjoy God’s presence. Invite the Holy Spirit into the planning and into all your church does this season. Your church and the community will be richly blessed.

What does your church do to reach out to the community/welcome guests during Advent? Share with us in the Comments section so we can learn new ideas from each other!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, November 21, 2010, Christ the King (Reign of Christ) 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.)

Jeremiah 23:1-6
v. 1 I wish this had been the text the Sunday prior to election day.

v.2 A pretty severe warning: attend to my people or I will attend to you!

v. 3 Since the shepherds have not been gathering the people, God will take on the task and role of the Shepherd.

v. 4 If the LORD is going to raise up new shepherds, should one assume that God had raised up or not raised up the former shepherds?

v. 5 “The days are surely coming” sounds like apocalyptic language. Why is “Branch” capitalized in the NRSV?

6. Note the dual identification: “Judah” and “Israel”. What is the Hebrew translated as “The LORD is our righteousness”?

Even though this is Christ the King Sunday, I cannot but help read and hear this as applying to pastors as shepherds. How does this being Christ the King Sunday influence how we hear and interpret this Reading?

Luke 1:68-79
This psalm, or canticle, is known as the “Benedictus” or “canticle of Zechariah . Why do you think it, rather than a psalm from the Psalter, was chosen to pair with the Jeremiah Readinig?

v. 69 Shall we read this verse as a fulfillment of Jeremiah 23:69?

v. 70 Which “prophets” (note that it is plural) do you think the Arthur had in mind?

v. 72 If it is pointed out that God has remembered the holy covenant, can it be assumed that previously God forgot or neglected this covenant?

v.76 Who is being addressed? Who is the “child”?

v.78-79 I love the imagery of this verse. What might it allude to?

Colossians 1:11-20
vs. 11-12 This sounds like a formal blessing or benediction. Who are the “saints in the light”?

v. 13 This sounds as though the “power of darkness” is being compared to the “kingdom of his beloved Son.” At least “kingdom” resonates with the “Christ the King” theme.

v. 15 How shall we read “image” and to what might it allude? From a theological perspective, how shall we deal with the statement that he is “the firstborn of all creation.”

v. 15-16 How do we reconcile “the firstborn of creation” with the statement that he is “in him all things in heaven and on earth were created.”?

v. 16 When you think of “things invisible”, what comes to mind? To what do “thrones or dominions or rulers or powers” refer? Why might the author offer us a four descriptive identifiers rather than just one? What does it mean, “things have been created through him”?

v. 17 As many times as I have read this, “in him all things hold together” sounds like I am reading it for the first time.

v. 19 From a Christological perspective, does “in the him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” mean the same thing as when we say that he is “of one substance with the Father”?

Luke 23:33-43
v. 35 Does this being Christ the King Sunday compel us to focus on the “anointing of kings” aspect of what it means to be called “the Messiah of God, his chosen one.”

vs. 37-38 Now we get overt references to Jesus being “King of the Jews”. But was he not King of much more?

v. 39 Can we read this as meaning that one of the criminals questioned Jesus kingship?

v. 42 Why am I hearing the fifth track of the Sing to God CD from the TaizĂ© Community? See Hymn #599 in The Presbyterian Hymnal. After to references to king, we are now presented with a mention of “kingdom”.

v. 43 Shall we equate “Paradise” with Jesus’ Kingdom mentioned in the previous verse? For the record, a couple weeks ago while visiting the Universal Theme Park in Orlando; I enjoyed a “cheeseburger in paradise.” It was delicious.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Getting Ready

When we are running around the house in the morning getting ourselves ready for work, school or other planned activities for the day, we lose ourselves in the moment. We just need to get to the next task of getting dressed, eating breakfast or something that resembles it, getting the kids off to school, or getting ourselves up and off to school, and other daily routines. We seem to get lost in the manic race of daily life, leaving no quality time to spend reaching out to Christ for His help in all of this rat race. We need to make sure we are getting ready for our next assignment, our next “job opportunity,” our next appointment, and the list could go on and on. If we allow ourselves to continue down this dangerous path, we will find that we are no longer giving to God what is rightfully his; our lives. We need to spend more time “getting ready” to meet with our God, to bow before Him and rejoice in being His.

When I begin to write these blogs, I’m always humming a Christian tune. This evening, I began humming a song by the group Casting Crowns. Their familiar hit “Till the Whole World Hears” reminds me that we need to always be in the mode of “getting ready” by preparing our lives to stand before God. As God’s children, we will be called on to shout to the World His goodness and mercy. Are we ready to take up our megaphones and shout to the world around us that Christ is King and that He is the truth and the Light? We need to be doing things that demonstrate this each and every day. We should not take the chance of waiting until later to take up His cause, but rather living it out, shouting it so the “whole world hears.”

As I sit at my laptop and type these blogs, I have to think about how God wants me to live a life that is worthy of His love. I often try to discern just how I should be “getting ready” for my next assignment. God has given me the patience to wait, to just continue on my journey until He sends me in another direction. But until then, I will continue to ready myself and others around me for His grand entrance into this troubled world. We need to prepare, to create an environment that God would be pleased to be a part of. When He returns, we need to make sure He will look at all of our preparation, our “getting ready” and say “Good job my faithful servants.” Then we will fully understand, we will have accomplished His goal of getting everyone ready to assume our next role in His production. We will be “lifting up your name for all to hear the sound.” Then we will know that we have shouted "until the whole world hears."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, November 14, 2010, the Thirty-Third 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.)

Isaiah 65:17-25
v. 17 Promises, promises.

v. 18 Note the verb tenses. “I am creating” and ”I am about to create”.

v. 19 More promises. Is there any difference between “Jerusalem” and “my people” or they one in the same?

v. 20 I can celebrate considering centenarians youthful, but considering cursed anyone who dies before 100? I do not think so.

v. 21 Planning for the future?

v. 22 What are the “days of a tree”? What sort of tree might Isaiah had in mind? Surely, he was not aware of California Redwoods.

v. 23 This verse seems like a restatement of the ideas in verse 21.

v. 24 An interesting verse especially if we relate it to prayer.

v. 25 A vision of the peaceable kingdom, except for serpent. Is the serpent culled out because of the curse in Genesis, or is there another reason? I wish this verse applied to modern Jerusalem. Do you think Isaiah’s vision included a wall/barrier of separation?

Isaiah 12
v. 1 Does the “in that day” suggest this is apocalyptic language and imagery? The Psalm usually illuminates the First Reading, but this Psalm (can we call it that?) seems to prefigure the First Reading?

v. 4 Another “in that day”. Not that both appearances of “in that day” are paired with the action of giving thanks.

v. 6 I love this verse. How many occurrences are there of “royal Zion” compared to just plain and simple “Zion” ? “The Holy One of Israel” is biblical language that finds its way into the PC(USA) A Brief Statement of Faith in line 5, “we trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel,”

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
v.6 Does “command” make this an admonition? How is “Idleness” contrary to “the tradition” and what is the “tradition” being referred to?

v. 7-8 Is this an argument for tentmaking?

v.10 Is this a reference to bread in general or the bread of the Lord’s Supper?

v. 11-12 How much of this argument is addressed to people who see no need to work if the Lord will soon be returning?

Luke 21:5-19
v. 6 Is this an example of foreshadowing or an example of an historical event finding its way back in a text set in an earlier period? “The Days will come” suggests we might interpret this as an apocalyptic or eschatological text.

v. 7 “Sign” also suggests this is an apocalyptic/eschatological text.

vs. 9-11 When, in the history of humanity, was this text not applicable?

v. 12 Which persecution might this be referring to? Obviously, this reflect the period after heightened tension, if not the actual break, between Judaism and Christianity.

v. 14-15 I doubt the congregation I serve will read this as giving me permission not to prepare a sermon.

v. 16-17 This is sounding pretty ugly!

v. 18 This is not a bald man’s favorite verse.

v. 19 Personally, I do not find this very comforting.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Are we more than our brains?

Last month we began a series on Nancey Murphy's book Bodies and Soul, or Spirited Bodies. This month I want to consider a point she makes in chapter two. The gist of the chapter is that previously unexplained aspects of humans, such as emotion, consciousness, memory, and the will, which historically were attributed to the soul have been explained by science. The idea of the “soul”doesn't come from the Hebrew Scriptures but developed as a way to explain things about us that the science of the time couldn't explain.

Now, thanks to modern neuroscience,we have other ways to understand things like emotion, consciousness and memory. Of course we don't have complete explanations for all of these. There is still plenty of really interesting work to be done. The “hard problem” for neuroscience these days is understanding how consciousness comes from brain activity. They are certainly correlated. Without brain activity we are not conscious. And consciousness appears to require an brain. But how the brain and consciousness are “connected” is still essentially unknown.

Murphy claims biblical studies and neuroscience “are both pointing in the same direction: toward a physicalist account of the person. Humans are not hybrids of matter and something else, they are purely physical organisms” (69)

She is quick to make clear that she is not claiming we are “nothing but” brain processes. Because the soul has been used to explain human rationality, morality and religion some say if there is no soul then humans are not rational, moral or religious. What we thought was morality, rationality and religion are nothing but brain processes.

Murphy wants to develop a different position.
The nonreductive physicalist says instead that if there is no soul then
these higher human capacities must be explained in a different manner. In part they are explainable as brain functions, but their full explanation requires attention to human social relations, to cultural factors, and, most importantly, to our relationship with God.

So take a particular human event- my writing this sentence, for example. Is what is going on in my brain right now an adequate explanation? Clearly not. Part of the explanation is the fact that I care about sharing my ideas with my readers. Why do I care about writing this book and doing it well? Part of the answer is that I recognized some years ago that I had a call from God to use my philosophical education for the
sake of the church. So a complete explanation involves interactions with
other people and the action of God in my life. (p 70)

It seems to me this is a difficult idea for westerners perhaps especially Americans who pride ourselves on individualism.

We know we are shaped by our family and cultures. But most of us harbor an idea that as individuals we can, if needed, overcome those forces. We all love a success story of someone thriving in spite of a dysfunctional family or overcoming social barriers. Of course those stories exist, but we often neglect to account for other cultural and relational forces which helped the person succeed. We love the "rugged individualist", the "self made man", the "I did it my way" stories.

But if Murphy is right, none of us are quite the individual entity we think we are. Non reductive physicalism, in addition to inviting us to reassess what it means to be an individual human, may also cause us to rethink what it means to be a human in community.

How might that change the way we read Scripture? How might that change the way we are the church?

I'm at the Princeton Conference on Emerging Adults this weekend and likely won't check for comments too frequently... but I will check eventually. Thanks for your patience. If you're at the conference, look me up and we can chat.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, November 7, 2010, the Thirty-Second 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.)

Haggai 1:15b-2:9
vs. 15b-1 Is there anything significant about this setting in time? I think “the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai” is an interesting construction, a little different than the usual construction “the word of the LORD came to . . . “

v. 2 Who are these people and what are is their significance? Who would be their equivalents today?

v. 3 Is this a rhetorical question? What is the “this house” being referred to?

v. 4 What is the opposite of courage?

v. 5 This verse reminds me of the Magnificat well as line 66 of the PC(USA) Brief Statement of Faith

vs. 6-7 The shaking of the foundations? Is this a reference to something more than an earthquake?

v.8 Red this verse just before collecting the day’s offering.

v. 9 Is this prophecy or a creative anachronism?

Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21
v. 3 This verse could be incorporated into a call to worship.

v. 4 Generation to generation, the essence of religious nurture

v. 5 How many people in the pews, the classroom and in Bible Studies are familiar with, and comfortable with, “meditation” in the Judeo-Christian tradition?

v. 19 How shall we interpret “fear”? Is there any relation between this verse and Haggai 2:4?

v. 20 Really? When and how?

v. 21 Another verse appropriate for use as a call to worship.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
v. 1 An eschatological passage perhaps with thematic ties to the day’s Gospel Reading.

v. 2 So someone writing and sending troubling pseudonymous letters?

v. 3 Why would anyone be deceptive about such things? Was this deception intentional?

v. 4 Who is being subject of this verse?

v. 5 A rhetorical question? I would love to have been there to hear what was told them prior to this letter.

v. 13 What does it mean to be chosen as “the first fruits”?

v. 14 When was the last time someone called through YOUR proclamation?

v. 15 What “traditions” does the author have in mind? Note that these traditions were taught in two ways, word of mouth (preaching? teaching?), and letter (correspondence). As Reformed Christians who tend to emphasize “sola scriptura”, how do we reconcile this verse with other theological affirmations such as the Wesleyan Quadlitatteral?

vs. 16-17 A nice blessing/benediction. How does it follow from what precedes it?

Luke 20:27-38
v. 27 When I was a young child I was taught to remember the difference between Sadducees and Pharisees by recalling that Pharisees at least entertained the possibility of a resurrection, while Sadducees did not. That was why the latter were sad, you see.

v. 28 Were these Sadducees interested in theological conversation, or in trapping Jesus? Is their question not something like “Have you quit beating your spouse?” or “Can God create a rock so heavy that God can not lift it?”

vs. 34-35 Does the reference to “to this age” place this passage in the genre of apocalypticism and/or eschatology? How was this verse interpreted and applied by communal religious societies in early America, such as the Shakers and the Oneida Community?

v. 37 How do we deal with “the dead ARE raised” rather than ”WILL be raised”?

v. 38 Can the dead be alive to God while still dead to us? How has and does this reading inform and influence our doctrine of the resurrection?

A week and a half prior to this Sunday, I asked three people at a Bible Study to write down a question they have about the resurrection. Here are their questions”

Are there any other religions that have a resurrection theme?

Why did Jesus bother with being born, his life, ministry, resurrection, etc. since he was God anyway?

After the resurrection – or when someone dies – does the spirit go straight to heaven?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Hope After All

When I arrived in Fayetteville NC this weekend, I quickly assumed my role as a roadie for my favorite band Third Day. These guys know just how to put on a show, creating a church service complete with Max Lucado as the worship leader. The early part of the day was spent setting up, particularly the band’s merchandise. We finished in time to break for dinner before returning at 6 p.m. to finalize any last minute details, catch the show, then pack up after and head home. This was a great experience to get in on the behind-the-scenes activity of a major Christian rock group, especially one that seems to stay at the top of the charts. But all of this did not even provide the highlight of the event for me.

To my astonishment, there were so many teenagers and parents mingling with the crowd, enjoying the sounds, very loud sounds, of the bands before the main attraction. And get this; they did not even have earphones hanging from their ears, reminiscent of scenes I have encountered where this particular group is wondering, clueless to their surroundings. These teens were actually interacting with their surroundings, and even their parents. It was a great environment to be in, feeling the spirit take hold in a concert hall. This was the main attraction for me, to see this group interact, participate, engage and enjoy. This particular scene was comforting to me, one that gave me hope that all was not lost on this age group quickly approaching adulthood.

One other small event took place that also seemed to stand out for me. This particular situation presented itself when all of the volunteers scheduled to help with the event did not make it. We had extra tickets that were given to us in order to provide all volunteers with access to the show. When we discovered the extras, I quickly went to the ticket window where I found a young couple ready to spend a lot of money to see their favorite bands. I made my way over to them and offered them the two tickets. They looked at me very strangely, as if the “concert police” were looming around the corner waiting to pounce. When I finally convinced them of the situation, they graciously accepted and entered the coliseum. Fortunately, their seats where in our section, and they enjoyed the show with our group.

These contemporary Christian concerts are the most rewarding and rejuvenating events I can ever attend. I plan to attend them when situations and finances allow, taking in the great music, the great company, and the Holy Spirit as they all play a part in making these shows such joyous events. But the most joyous part of the event for me is that the youth and parents who attend these shows are so involved that it gives me “hope after all.”