Friday, September 23, 2011

The Reflectionary: Scripture for Worship on September 25, 2011

A few years ago, I had a weekly feature here I called "The Reflectionary," which grew out of a podcast project I did for a few months. Basically, I would follow the Revised Common Lectionarythat is, the Bible readings that many churches use for their weekly worship gatheringsand post my own questions and comments as I reflected on each reading.

Three years ago this week, I moved this feature to the Presbyterian Bloggers site, where I kept it up for another year (although not under the "Reflectionary" name). Since the weekly Lectionary works on a three-year schedule, and it is now three years later, I find that those old writings are relevant once again, and since these particular reflections have never been posted here before, now's a good time to give them a new audience. So, for the next few months, I'll be giving my Friday slot over to reflecting on the readings for the coming Sunday. Consider it a "preview" of what your pastor might say (assuming that church uses the RCL, of course!).

I will provide links to all four "sections" assigned by the Revised Common Lectionary for a given Sunday worship gathering:
  1. Old Testament (or sometimes Acts)
  2. Psalms (not always from the book of Psalms, however)
  3. Epistles (sometimes Acts or Revelation)
  4. Gospels
I won't always comment on all four readings. The Psalms, in particular, I find it difficult to ask questions of, although I certainly welcome any comments or reflections anyone may choose to share. The reflections posted here are, of course, my own, and may not reflect a consensus of scholarship. Sometimes my questions may seem staggeringly obvious, but I generally do intend there not to be a single "right" answer. I do welcome comments (keep it civil, of course!), and am serious when I say I welcome discussion on these matters.

Here are the passages for September 25, 2011, the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). All links are to the CEB via, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead (either with your own Bible, or via the drop-down menu at

Exodus 17:1-7
  • Once again, the Israelites are complaining, and once again, God answers the complaints by providing the Israelites with what they need. What does this tell us about God? Contrast this with other passages in which God seems to punish people who commit what seem to be much smaller transgressions.
  • Put yourself in Moses' position. You are trying to do God's will, and people keep complaining and fighting with you as a result, expecting you to take care of all of their problems (both physical and otherwise, as is seen in other passages). How would you feel in that position? How do you think Moses feels about God right now?
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
  • The Psalm explicitly references what God did as told in the Exodus passage. Last week's Psalm detailed many specific events of the Exodus story. Why is remembering and retelling this story so important?
Philippians 2:1-13
  • A common meme in Christian circles of the past decade or two has been "What Would Jesus Do?" How might that thought be applied to this passage?
  • At the end of the passage, the writer instructs his audience to "work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling." It's common in the PC(USA) to emphasize God's work in our salvation, making the human contribution sometimes seem passive, at best. How is this to be reconciled with the instruction to "work out" our salvation here? What does the author mean? And why must this be done "with fear and trembling"?
Matthew 21:23-32
  • Jesus answers the chief priests' question by asking another question. Why not just give them a straight answer?
  • Why are the chief priests and elders so concerned about "authority" in the first place? Why do they ask Jesus this question?
  • Jesus' parable sets up a distinction between deeds and words. Are words unimportant, so long as the person eventually does the right thing? It's well-understood that Jesus emphasizes tax collectors and prostitutes here because they were considered particularly odious examples of "sinners" in first-century Jewish culture? But are such people still tax collectors and prostitutes after coming to Jesus, or is this merely a way of referencing what they came from in order to follow him? To put it another way, how much change does Jesus expect us to make in our lives? It's easy to say we have to give "our whole lives" to Jesus, but getting into the details of what that looks like is much harder, as important as it is.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post! I`ll send it to all my friends!



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