Friday, November 04, 2011

The Reflectionary: Scripture for Worship on November 6th, 2011

Here are the passages for November 6, 2011, the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). All links are to the CEB via BibleGateway.com, 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).

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
  • One of the down-sides to BibleGateway.com is that the site doesn't really know how to handle partial verses, such as that called for with verse 3a here. The letter "a" indicates that only a part of the verse is to be read as part of the lectionary. In this case, the reading stops at the end of the first part of the verse, closing with "… I added to his descendants."
  • I read this passage feeling a certain sense of foreboding. Joshua begins with a bit of a history lesson, telling the other Israelites about the gods their ancestors worshiped long ago. Then, he issues a challenge, to them: "if you can't serve the Lord, choose which god you will serve." When the Israelites give, essentially, the right response: "No, we know what the Lord has done for us. We'll serve the Lord," Joshua tells them "you're not going to be able to serve the Lord," and emphasizes the fact that they are witnesses to each other that they have made this commitment. Of course, most of us as Christians read passages like this with some knowledge of the rest of the history of God's people, but even if we didn't know what was to come, I can't help but read something like this and say "You fools! You're doomed, now!" Am I wrong for thinking this way? Like I said, they gave the right answer, didn't they?
Psalm 78:1-7

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • In verse 13, we learn that the teaching to follow is given so that the audience "won’t mourn like others who don’t have any hope…" Does that mean that Christians aren't supposed to mourn? Or how is our mourning supposed to be different from those others, assuming that ours is characterized by hope?
  • Verse 15 references "a message from the Lord." What "message" is Paul writing about? Is he referencing something that we might find in Scripture? If so, where? If not, what else might he be writing about?
  • Verse 17 references something that some Christians refer to as part of the doctrine of "the Rapture." This is not an interpretation common among Presbyterians. How else might we interpret this passage?
Matthew 25:1-13
  • This parable clearly tells followers of Jesus to "keep alert," but what are we staying alert for? How are we to prepare for what is coming? How should our lives be different as a result?
  • This parable is one of several teachings that seem to argue that some people are not "included." How should we respond to this teaching? Is this a call to greater evangelism? Can we do anything about these people at all? Is this parable one about salvation, or something else? Indeed, if it is—to the degree that many Reformed believers argue that salvation is based solely on God's election, without regard to any action we have taken, how are we even to "be wise" and "keep watch"? Or should this passage be taken as an indication that the Reformed understanding of election may not be correct? Why is Jesus teaching us this parable?

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