Lectionary Reading Blog for 23 April: 2nd Sunday of Easter or Easter Eve

This is a violent passage. Is it suitable for Easter? Is it suitable for baptism? Traditionally Easter Eve is a time for baptism.

We travel with Jesus through the waters of death to new life. We travel with the Israelites through the sea to freedom from the Egyptians.

One of the questions to ponder in light of this story is what we would like to leave behind in the water and in death. What difficulty or evil is pursuing us? What did we get rid of at baptism? What did Jesus loose in death? We might be like the Israelites, needing deliverance from those things that oppress us from outside ourselves. It is hard to imagine this without violence, even if the text emphasises stillness (v.14 charash = keep silent).

Jesus went the way of peace, he was silent. Following him means we need to think what oppresses us inside ourselves. When we go the road through the valley (or the waters) of death we trust God to go with us. What do we want to leave behind in death? What do we want to die to? I imagine the Israelites not only lost an army of Egyptian soldiers but they also lost some of their fear and their doubt and their lack of trust both in Moses and God when they sang with Miriam a song of deliverance. “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously”. New life indeed.

23 April 2017
Exodus 14: 10-end; 15: 20-21


This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anna-Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Director of Studies for the Centre for Formation in Ministry.

Lectionary Reading Blog for 16 April: Easter Day

Jeremiah tends to be a prophet of judgement and punishment; a prophet of lament. In this passage, while still in exile, we hear the voice of hope.

Here is the Easter gospel as sung by Jeremiah hundreds of years before Jesus. “Grace in the desert” and “eternal love”, “building” and “planting” and a return to “Zion”. For a people in exile it must have sounded like resurrection. In the middle of all this hope we find a beautiful description of the resurrection: “I have continued my faithfulness to you”. The Hebrew word for ‘continued’ is mashak, which literally means ‘draw’, you could translate ‘draw out’ or ‘proceed’ or ‘prolong’. Faithfulness (hesed) can also be ‘friendship’ or ‘graciousness’ or ‘loving kindness’. God’s faithfulness crosses all the boundaries. It goes into the desert, it does not retreat in the face of sin and ultimately it proceeds into death. In the resurrection God prolongs his friendship into and through death. It is God’s loving kindness that draws Jesus out of death. God’s friendship does not stop it continues against all the odds, it is eternal love that is stronger than death.

16 April 2017
Jeremiah 31:1-6


This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anna-Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Director of Studies for the Centre for Formation in Ministry.

Lectionary Reading Blog for 9 April: Palm Sunday

This passage is very carefully selected, if you stray even one verse this way or that, even to 9b, you will find blistering judgement.

Although we clearly associate this passage with Jesus’ passion (especially Matthew 26: 67) there is no direct reference to this passage in the New Testament. The gospel writers did not quote it in their telling of the passion. I wonder whether that was on purpose. I wonder whether for the writers of the New Testament the judgement of this passage is inherent and cannot just be selected out. The “flint face” from v. 7 is possible because there will be no shame as there will be vindication. The adversaries and those who have declared guilt will not have the last word. They will be judged for what they have done. Do we associate that also with the passion? What might that mean for the Roman soldiers; what might that mean for us?

The “I” in this passage is introduced as a “disciple” (v.4, one who is taught – limmud) rather than as a “teacher”. A disciple who both speaks encouragement and who listens (I wonder what he hears). A disciple who crucially does not turn away (sug) even when the going gets very tough. I wonder whether we might in this passion tide not only recognise Jesus in the disciple but also ourselves.

9 April 2017
Isaiah 50: 4-9a


This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anna-Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Director of Studies for the Centre for Formation in Ministry.

Lectionary Reading Blog for 2 April: 5th Sunday of Lent

The lament of Israel in v.11 seems to offer the image of this amazing vision.

“Our bones have dried up” they complain, “our hope is lost” and “we are cut off”.

I appreciate the sense of being cut off as a loss of hope, it is something I might experience myself. I do not understand the dried up bones so well. What do they mean with this? Are they speaking of their death? Do they feel dead even while alive?

In Ezekiel’s vision this lament, “our bones have dried up” becomes an image of Israel. A valley full of dry bones. Do we ever feel like this about our own faith communities? As if, we are a valley of dry bones? It is a strong image even if one that does not really chime with our climate. God’s response is wind or breath also translated as Spirit (ruah) rather than blood or water. I would think dry bones need a beating heart, but God knows dry bones need breath, air, space to breathe, Spirit. When our communities sometimes feel like a valley full of dry bones, do we pray for God’s wind to blow life into us?

2 April 2017
Ezekiel 37: 1-14


This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anna-Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Director of Studies for the Centre for Formation in Ministry.

Lectionary Reading Blog for 26 March: Mothering Sunday

Two mothers meet around an ark (tebah – this word is only used here and in the story of Noah in Genesis 6-8).

The water that should have destroyed the baby has saved him. Two mothers who are both instrumental in his salvation. Although it might seem that the birth mother is of low-status (slave) and the adoptive mother of high-status (princes); the story is clear that for the identity of this boy the birth mother’s belonging to the clan of Levi is more important than the high-status of the foreign princes.

This shared motherhood seems to be without envy or strive. Both mothers are crucial. Both mothers nurture. Both mothers have to let go. Moses is named by his adoptive mother an Egyptian name that means (in Egyptian) ‘son’. When the name is re-interpreted for his Hebrew family an association is made with the Hebrew verb “to draw out from water”. A reflection of the story of his two mothers? Maybe, but also an association on his future destiny. He will draw the people of Israel out from water. Two mothers from two very different cultures. Two mothers who do mothering very differently. Both mothers help Moses to develop into the legendary leader he will become.

26 March 2017
Exodus 2:1-10


This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anna-Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Director of Studies for the Centre for Formation in Ministry.

Lectionary Reading Blog for 19 March: 3rd Sunday of Lent

I have always thought the Israelites in the desert to be a grumpy and grumbling lot – murmuring.

Complaining about everything. Reading Exodus 17 today I wondered what it would be like to be with my husband and three children camped in the desert and there is no water. This is not complaining about the colour of the Christmas cards; this is life or death. What does Moses expect?

Just as in Numbers 20, a similar story, it is not completely clear what Moses does wrong; so in this passage it is not clear why the people are not allowed to ask for water. Why does Moses interpret this desperate cry as testing the Lord. It must be to do with tone and attitude. I wonder how lament is different from complaint. Reading it in the context of John 4, as we do this Sunday, reminds us that the rock at Horeb could be in us waiting to let the living water of the Spirit flow. If only we can ask for it without quarrelling and complaining, without the doubt whether God is among us. It would be a pity if the mountain of God (as Horeb is also called – Exodus 3) would become again Massah (= testing) and Meribah (=quarrel).

19 March 2017
Exodus 17:1-7


This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anna-Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Director of Studies for the Centre for Formation in Ministry.

Lectionary Reading Blog for 12 March: 2nd Sunday of Lent

The call of Abram in Genesis 12:1 is not really the beginning of the story.

The story really starts with his father, Terah (Gen. 11: 27). Terah gets his children later in life: he is seventy unlike his father and grandfather who got children when they were 29 and 30. I wonder why?

One of his sons, Haran, dies young and another son, Abram marries a barren wife. Then Terah takes the orphaned grandson, Lot and Abram the son without children on a long journey to Canaan. Again I wonder why?

Half-way they stop and settle and Terah dies. That is the context into which the call from God comes to Abram. God tells him to leave his father’s house to go to Canaan. Just like his father had done; he is to finish the journey that his father began. When he goes he takes Lot with him, just as his father had done. I wonder how Abram recognised God’s voice. I wonder whether the content of the call helped.

The call on Abram to depart is an amazing combination of both something completely new that leaves everything behind and a continuation of a family tradition. He leaves his father’s house to fulfil his father’s dream. The blessing is equally double sided. Abram is to become a great nation and in him all other families (nations) shall be blessed. A great nation that will not be an all consuming colonial empire but a blessing to others.

12 March 2017
Genesis 12:1-4a


This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anna-Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Director of Studies for the Centre for Formation in Ministry.

Lectionary Reading Blog for 5 March: 1st Sunday of Lent

Read in combination with Matthew 4 and Romans 5 and a long Christian tradition it is rather easy to read Genesis 2 and 3 as a story of ‘sin’ and ‘punishment’; a story of ‘temptation’, ‘disobedience’ and ‘the fall’.

But this reading does not really fit t:he text of Genesis 2 and 3 (maybe that is why the lectionary only chooses part of the story). None of these words: ‘sin’, ‘disobedience’, ‘punishment’ actually feature in the story. What does feature are two trees: the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, both in the middle of a garden. Adam is to ’till’ (abad is really ‘serve’) and ‘keep’ (shamar is ‘keep’ in the sense of ‘watch’ or ‘guard’ or ‘preserve’) the garden and presumably these two trees. I have always been very surprised that God forbids Adam to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I thought morality and conscience were good things; I further thought they might be what makes humanity different from other animals; what is more I thought conscience might be what makes us in the image of God. But then this is the God who makes animals and thinks that they can be a partner for Adam. Now the tree of life I am less sure about. Immortality and the hankering after it do not seem virtues in the same way. The combination of the two trees is indeed divinity.

5 March 2017
Gen.2:15-17; 3:1-7


This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anna-Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Director of Studies for the Centre for Formation in Ministry.

Lectionary Reading Blog for 26th February: Sunday Before Lent

Six days is a long time to wait. I wonder whether the six days in Matt. 17:1 are to remind us of the six days of nothingness that Moses had to wait through. The seventh day is the day that God rested from creating.

Now the seventh day is the day that God calls. Six days is a long time to wait. The disciples waited for ten days for the coming of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of Acts after forty days of appearances of Jesus. In Exodus we have had ten days to get to Sinai and now forty days and forty nights on the mountain where God’s glory appears as a devouring fire. What does the cloud do? Hide God’s glory? Protect Moses from being devoured? Is Moses in the cloud or in front of it? Six days is a long time to wait. I wonder what God called on the seventh day. Or is it just everything God goes on to say from chapter 25? God settles (shakan) on Mount Sinai (v.16). When God starts talking the first thing he talks about is a place to settle (shakan) among the people of Israel. Six days is a long time to wait but on the seventh day we hear: God wants to live among us. Can we wait?

26 February 2017
Ex. 24:12-end


This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anna-Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Director of Studies for the Centre for Formation in Ministry.

Lectionary Reading Blog for 19th February: 2nd Sunday Before Lent

LiturgyandSpiritualityThis text is so rich it is hard to know whether to go for the ‘dark deep’ (v.2) the ‘dragons’ (v.21) or ‘dominion’ (v.28) or the ultimate relationship between all those.

But I think that the real sting is in the tail end. So much so that even the chapter numbers want us to stop reading after six days, but there are seven days in this creation story. “… and he rested on the seventh day (…) on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.” (2: 2-3) What does that mean: “God rested”? What happens if God rests?

The Hebrew word for ‘rest’ that is used here is shabath this means to rest or to cease, desist. For example in Lamentation 5:14, 15 we find this word: old men ‘leaving’ the city gate, young men ‘ceasing’ their music. It seems to me the letting go of power and control, the letting go of worry, maybe. The writer of Hebrews 4 urges us to join God in his rest. I wonder whether Jesus is doing the same in Matthew 6. Both in Matthew 6 and in Hebrews 4 this is a very difficult thing. It requires a lot of trust. To cease the good work of creating is not easy. How difficult to let go of work, to let go of control, to trust. But God gives us an example and he blesses it. The deep trust God shows us in his resting is a blessing.

19 February 2017
Gen. 1:1-2:3


This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anna-Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Coordinator for the Centre for Encountering the Bible and Director of Studies for the Centre for Formation in Ministry.