Friday, October 21, 2011

The Reflectionary: Scripture for Worship on October 23, 2011

For those who've kept track, today's supposed to be the end of the world (less "again" this time and more "still"), according to Harold Camping. After the failure of the May 21st prophecies, the media hasn't said much about the "final end" that was supposed to come today. Although I've really already dealt with that issue back in May, I do want to at least mention the fact in passing.

That done, and since I have every reason to assume we'll all still be around, here are the passages for October 23, 2011, the 30th 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

Deuteronomy 34:1-12
  • The passage opens with Moses being granted a chance to see the land that the people of God would soon take possession of. It calls attention to the fact that Moses will not be entering this land himself. The reasons for this are detailed in a passage not covered in this lectionary cycle, but might be worth looking at.
  • For some reason, the passage calls attention to the fact that, when Moses died, "His eyesight wasn’t impaired, and his vigor hadn’t diminished a bit." Did God actively kill Moses, just to make sure that Moses wouldn't get to enter the promised land? How should we deal with this passage?
  • Last week's Exodus reading made a big deal about how Moses couldn't see God's face and live. This reading specifically says "Moses knew the LORD face-to-face." Is there a contradiction here? What should we understand about these passages?
Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
  • Picking up directly from last week's epistle reading, Paul writes of his relationship with the Thessalonians. Does anything about Paul's relationship with these people seem distinctive? What aspects of Paul's relationship with them seem in common with other churches?
  • There's a translation issue in the later verses. In the TNIV (which I used when I originally wrote this reflection), Paul seems to refer to himself (and his companions) as "young children" in the beginning of verse 7, then reverses the metaphor by referring to the Thessalonians as "children" as he moves toward verse 8. Other translations, including the CEB, don't seem to contain this reversal, but the references to "children" are all directed outward. Why would the TNIV translate the passage in this way? What is Paul trying to get at? As you consult other translations, it may also be helpful to check the footnotes, or even the original Greek if you're able.
Matthew 22:34-46
  • In response to the question about what commandment is the greatest, Jesus responds by quoting certain Scripture passages. What is special about these passages? Also, why does Jesus give a second response to a question that seems intended to have a singular answer?
  • Jesus asks a question about what people believe about the Messiah. After hearing the response that the Messiah is "David's son," Jesus quotes a Psalm (Note that the Psalm itself doesn't use quite the same wording. Is this significant?). Was this Psalm considered to have specifically "Messianic" meaning in Jesus' time? How was this understood? Why is the usage of the title "Lord" in reference to a "son" considered such a contradiction? Indeed, why is it such a profound thing when Jesus asks this question that "nobody dared to ask him anything" after that?

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