Saturday, September 20, 2008

Reflectionary: Scripture for Worship on September 21, 2008

The Reflectionary is a weekly blog entry consisting of questions and comments on readings from the Revised Common Lectionary used at many Christian churches.

Starting September 27th, entries may be found via Presbyterian Bloggers. Each entry features the readings for the following Sunday, in hopes of enhancing the experience of participation during one's regular Sunday worship gathering.

Here are the passages for September 21, 2008, the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). All links are to the TNIV via, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead (either with your own Bible, or via the links at

Exodus 16:2-15
  • As I read of the Israelites' grumblings, even to the point of wishing they were back in Egypt (where they were cruelly treated as slaves), I am reminded of how basic a need hunger is. Can you think of any time when you or someone you knew was willing to give up an essential freedom, just in order to be sure that basic needs were being met?
  • Moses goes to some lengths to tell the Israelites that their complaints are not so much with him or with his brother Aaron, but with God. Why does God meet the needs of those who complain against God in this instance, rather than punish them for their lack of faith?
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
  • Often, the Psalms praise God for deeds God has done in the history of Israel. Parts of the Exodus story (including the passage above) are repeated here. How many specific deeds are related? Look at how those deeds are spread across many chapters and books in that story. How often do you see these events retold elsewhere in the Bible? Why does the Bible bother with this repetition?
Philippians 1:21-30
  • The apostle Paul ponders questions of his own life and death in this passage. Some have argued that, if it weren't for Paul's desire to be a blessing to other people, this passage suggests that it would be just as well for him to die. What would you have to say to such an argument? Why are we as Christians called to live, rather than to just wait for the end?
  • What is Paul's attitude toward suffering?
Matthew 20:1-16
  • Different commentaries and footnotes on the Bible occasionally give differing ideas of what a "denarius" was worth (one decades-old note I saw last week suggested "about twenty cents," which strikes me as low, even accounting for inflation!). Others avoid giving clear modern equivalents, suggesting instead that the denarius was the usual amount paid to a laborer for a day's work. Does this explain why the first group of workers were so willing to go to work for that stated amount (this first group being the only group we are explicitly told was given an exact value for their wages), despite their clear discontent at the end of the story?
  • What "wages" do we expect to be paid for service to Jesus? In what ways might we sometimes act like the first group? Who might you be upset to see paid those same "wages"?

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