Friday, October 07, 2011

The Reflectionary: Scripture for Worship on October 9, 2011

Here are the passages for October 9, 2011, the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). All Scripture links are to the CEB via BibleGateway.com unless otherwise noted, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead (either with your own Bible, or via the drop-down menu at BibleGateway.com).

Exodus 32:1-14
  • The Exodus story is filled with well-known examples like this one of Moses' people doing things that get them in trouble. Leaving aside that they haven't yet heard the commandment against idols that Moses is still on the mountain picking up from God, one wonders at how this particular idolatry managed to take place. For example, when the Israelites say about the gold calf they just got done creating "These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt," how is it that they can actually believe such a thing? (Side questionwhy do they seem to be using the plural "gods" for what seems to be a singular object: the golden calf?)
  • Moses talks God out of destroying the Israelites after God proclaims intentions to do so. What does this tell us about the nature of God? Some scholars have used this passage to argue that God is not, as is often claimed, unchanging. Do you agree or disagree? On what basis?
Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23
  • When considering the questions from the Exodus passage above, note this Psalm, and particularly the last few verses. Does the fact that God's people remember these events in a Psalm like this one affect how you think about the Exodus story itself?
Philippians 4:1-9
  • Paul does a bit of name-dropping here. Why does he take the trouble to do so? What can we learn about the people he mentions here? Does the fact that two of these people specifically named are women tell us anything important? When Paul addresses his reader as his "loyal friend," what does this tell us about his audience, and the potential relationship they may have with these named individuals?  And why does seem to be a singular reference, rather than a plural?  Wouldn't a letter to "the Philippians" imply a plural audience?
  • Right now, in the midst of economic struggles, and any number of other real-life trials, Paul's advice to "be glad in the Lord always" (traditionally "rejoice") and "don't be anxious about anything" can be especially hard to follow. Other than just to "try harder," how might we better attempt put these words into practice, even in such times? What kind of assistance does Paul leave us with, that we share these teachings with our fellow believers?
Matthew 22:1-14
  • Despite the fact that this reading is the beginning of a new chapter, it continues the trend of the past couple of weeks in continuing on straight from the previous week's reading without skipping any verses. Keeping in mind that the chapter breaks were not added to the Scriptures until many centuries after the words themselves were written, how might the context of the previous readings affect your understanding of this parable? Who is Jesus talking to? Why does he share this story with them?
  • In the context of the parable, why might the subjects have ignored the invitation to the banquet? Even more so, why might they have treated the king's messengers so cruelly? Do such actions make sense? Do they make sense when these same actions are applied outside of the context of the parable itself to what the parable is talking about in the real world?
  • Assuming that the king in the parable is a reference to God, how do that actions of the king toward the people originally invited to the banquet inform our understanding of God?
  • The king invites other people to the banquet. All types of people, "both evil and good." We have come to expect this kind of action from God, and we like to talk about how all-encompassing God's love is. But the parable doesn't end with this invitation. Instead, we get a perhaps unexpected bit about the person who comes to the banquet without wedding clothes. Given that people were drawn in from everywhere, how reasonable is the king's expectation that the man should have had wedding clothes to wear, let alone that he'd wear them? What aspect of the real world is the parable trying to get at here? And, again, how do the king's actions toward this man inform our understanding of God?

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