Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Matthew 5:38-48

This passage occurs in the Epiphany season of the Revised Common Lectionary (Year A), most recently February 2017.
Summary:  Once again, Jesus offers us challenging words.  He calls us as a church, as the community of disciples, to act differently than the rest of the world.  He calls us to turn the other cheek; to love our neighbor and to give without counting the costs.  Yet he also points to the cross and God's act of self-giving.  Jesus is the one who will be slapped (ῤαπιζω), his coat (ιματιον) will be taken and finally Simon will be put into service (αγγαρευσω) to carry Jesus' cross.  Furthermore, Jesus will teach his disciples not simply to "give" but to pray to the heavenly father to "give" them their daily bread.  Lastly, the very gentiles (εθνικος) Jesus seems to chastise will be those Jesus calls us to baptize.  Read in isolation, these verses are simply moral exhortation, but read in the context of the whole, they powerfully remind us of the Gospel.

ῤαπιζει ("slap," 5:39; 26:67)  A rather rare word in the Bible (4x).  Interestingly though, the word comes back in Matthew's Gospel during the passion when Jesus is the one who is slapped.  (Ι included the accent mark to make it clear that the word is pronounced with a "her" at the beginning.)

ιματιον ("coat" 5:40, 27:31, 27:35)  A very common word in the Bible.  Like ῤαπιζω, this word comes back into Matthew's Gospel during the passion when they take Jesus' coat.

αγγαρευσει ("put into service", 5:41, 27:32)  The word only appears twice in the Bible, both times in Matthew's Gospel.  Here and in the passion narrative, when Simon or Cyrene is "put into service" to carry the cross.  Someone was asked to go the mile; now a "second" has come in its place.

δος ("give," aorist imperative of διδημι, 5:42; very common but also 6:11).  Jesus exhorts us to give to people who ask from us.  The same verb (in the same form) will appear only a bit later in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus teaches us how to pray, telling us to δος to God for our daily bread.  We are to live out of generosity, only dependent on God's graciousness.

διωκοντων ("persecute" or "persue," present participle of διωκω, 5:44)  The Gospel of Matthew never specifices that Jesus is himself persecuted, although the story clearly demonstrates that he is.  In fact, Jesus warns the disciples that they will be persecuted (10:23, 23:34).

εθνικος ("Gentile" or "Pagan," gentile as an adjective; 5:47)  Just a reminder of how "raw" the word for "Gentile" is:  Ethnic.  Gentile sounds so clean to us; I don't think it sounded this way in Greek!  Also, even though Jesus may disparriage the gentiles now, he will finally tell us to baptize them ("the nations") in his name!

Aorist tense as pastoral advice??
One mysterious issue I cannot solve is this:  Generally, the verbs describing the response of others are in the present tense; while the verb commanding our response are in the aorist tense -- for example the one "striking" us in the present tense, suggesting on-going action; we are commanded to "turn" the other check is in the aorist tense, suggesting this is a one time event.  Perhaps even Jesus here reminds us the limits of our passive response to the world's violence?  In comparison, the commands to love and pray are on-going.  I wonder if there is a real pastoral approach here to individuals (as opposed to systems) who are cruel to us -- in the short term, we are called to suffer abuse, but in the long term we are called to remove ourselves from the situation, only to offer prayers.

[Note, even more unusually, Jesus does tell us that we are to go the second mile continually.  This one I cannot figure out.]

Grammar + Translation:  Matthew 5:40
Translating participles when they connect with other verbs.

και τω θελοντι σοι κριθηναι και τον χιτωνα σου λαβειν, αφες αυτω και το ιματιον
NRSV  and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well;

The second half of the sentence is more straight-forward:  αφες αυτω και το ιματιον

As usual, look for your subject and verb.  You don't have an obvious subject; this is because the verb "αφες" is an imperative (command) so, like English, you don't necessarily state the subject ("Give" instead of "You give").  It is important to recognize this as the subject (within the verb) because το ιματιον also could look like a subject.  το ιματιον (the coat) looks the same in the accustative or nominative!  But once you have the subject verb figured out, you have "forgive/permit/allow αυτω και the coat."  αυτω here is in the dative and simply means "to/for/with him." Now we have "permit him και the coat."  The και is probably best here translated as "even," so you end up with "permit him even the coat."

The first-half is where the action is:  και τω θελοντι σοι κριθηναι και τον χιτωνα σου λαβειν

You have three verbs:  θελοντι, κριθηναι, λαβειν
The first is a participle; the other two are verbs.
τω θελοντι is a substantive participle, which we translate as "the one who does X."  In this case, "the one who wants."  Now, the word "want" in both Greek and English is a helper verb (sometimes called modal); it often takes another verb.  I want to eat, for example.  The other verbs that it does with are in the infinitive.  And...wow...look, the other verbs in this sentence are in the infinitive!  So the outline of the sentence is:  "The one who wants to judge and take."  But we run into a problem here.  The verb κριθηναι is in the passive.  "be judged."  The one who wants to be judged doesn't make sense.  But if we add back in the σοι it helps a bit:  "The one who wants you to be judged."  Or as dictionaries suggest,  κριθηναι, should be translated (because it is passive) as "bring before court."  So, "The one who wants to sue you."  Then the second half becomes easy:  "Take your coat."  Do you see why σου becomes "your"?
Participles can act as helper verbs!  This can be confusing, but when you have verbs llike θελω, you should always look for another verb!

Monday, February 13, 2017

1 Corinthians 3:10-11;16-23

This passage occurs in the RCL during the Year A Epiphany Cycle, most recently February 2017.

Some brief commentary:
All of the "You"s in this section (You are God's building, you are God's temple, God's spirit live in you) are you plurals.  Paul argues that God's Spirit dwells in the collective, not the individual.  Interestingly, there is individual judgment, but there is collective blessing!  Furthermore, Paul reserves his judgment it seems, for church leaders.

σοφος αρχιτεκτων ("wise architect" or "master builder", 3:10)   Hebrews will call God the master builder and Jesus; Paul does not declare himself to be a master builder, but says he was like/as a master builder.  Important distinction!  We fill roles within the church, but God is the builder and ultimately, owner.

πυρ ("fire", 3:13;14)  Paul offers that we will be cleansed as if by fire.  For Paul judgment does not preclude salvation, but may in fact, be part of salvation!  This is a massive point that I will need, someday, to expand upon!

υμεις ("you"; 3:17)  To remind us all -- "you" in English can be translated a number of ways in Greek -- you individual (συ), you plural (υμεις), you in all sorts of cases  (υμιν e.g.)  In this case, the English translation: "You are God's temple" will almost certainly be heard by English ears as meaning "You individually are God's temple" rather than what the Greek suggests "You all are God's temple." 

Paul will pick up on the idea that our individual bodies are temples (νοας) of God (1 Cor 6:19) but in this section (3:10-23), Paul addresses our unity within the body of Christ.  Paul is able to tie together our individual responsibility with our collective unity.  I would offer that most of us as Americans need far more discussion and contemplation of our collective unity.

Grammar tid-bit
παρα (3:11)  This preposition can mean many things; in this case it means "outside of" more than "alongside of." 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

This passage occurs in the RCL Year A Epiphany Season, most recently February 2017.

Summary:  This passage is paired with Jesus teaching on adultery and divorce.  Therefore, this passage is unlikely to be preached on.   However, I find myself drawn this year (2017) to Paul's letter to the Corinthians because they struggled with division; likewise, our culture, if not our congregations, are struggling with divisions, over politics, but more deeply over a host of underlying issues.

Paul reminds us that our purpose is to be servants of Christ; to spread his Word; to build up the body of Christ.  In this purpose I believe that Christians of different political backgrounds can find common ground.

Key Words
ερις ("heris", meaning "factions" or "disputes", 1 Cor 3:3)  This is not essential for the meaning of the passage, but I wanted to point it out.  The word "heresy" comes from the Greek for faction.  It did not originally mean dogmatically false.  It simply meant different.  Overtime, the factions within the church were used by God to formulate the key doctrines of the Christian faith:  That Jesus died and rose from the dead; that Jesus is fully God and fully man; that the Holy Spirit is coequal to the Father and Son.  Disagreement can be worked for God's greater purposes!

ανθροποι ("anthropoi" meaning "humanly", 3:4)  The cognate here should be clear; I highlight this word because it raises a question -- is Paul criticizing disagreement in general or disagreement in the church?  My sense is that neither Paul nor Jesus questions the necessity of disagreement or even courts of law.  This in turn raises my question:  What is the spiritual way to deal with conflict?   Matthew 18 addresses this practically: address the person directly, etc.  1 Corinthians 3 addresses this theoretically:  Remember your works are nothing before the cross (1:18) and that everything good comes from God.

διακονοι ("diakonia", meaning "servant", 3:5)  The term "deacon" in the church often is seen as meaning servant.  In this case Paul means servant, but he also means servant of the Word.  Deacons in the Bible and in the church have a call to ministry that includes both hands-on service but also proclamation.

ηυξανεν (from auxanoo, meaning "cause to grow", 3:6,7)  This verb comes into English in words like "augment"  A couple of things about its use grammatically"
- Paul indicates that he planted and Apollos watered.  Both of these verbs are aorist tense, suggesting a one time event.  When Paul writes that God causes to grow, Paul uses the imperfect tense, suggesting an on-going action.  This means that God's work continues long after, if not long before, the work that we do. 
- Paul even gives God a title in vs 3:7 when he employs a participle form of this verb:  God, the one who causes to grow.

εν ("hen" meaning "one", 3:8)  The NRSV and NIV say that Paul and Apollos have one common purpose.  The Greek is stronger than this:  Paul and Apollos are ONE.  Not have a common purpose, they are one.  In the next verse Paul will describe them as συνεργοι, or co-workers.

οικοδομη ("building up", 3:9)  This word can mean building.  I do not think this is the best translation.  Throughout 1 and 2 Corinthians, as well as Ephesians, Paul uses this word frequently.  He almost exclusively uses it to refer not to the building, but the act of building up.

- On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.  1 Corinthians 14:3
- So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church.  1 Corinthians 14:12
- Now, even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it.  2 Corinthians 10:8
- So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I come, I may not have to be severe in using the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.  2 Corinthians 13:10
- to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  Ephesians 4:12

(2 Cor 5:1 and Eph 2:21 are exceptions but I feel they prove the point in that the buildings they refer to are not earthly, but the heavenly home of Christians or the eternal body of Christ.  Paul never uses this word to refer to the earthly Kingdom.)

This is not to say that the idea of a building is a bad one; Paul continues with this metaphor the rest of chapter 3.  My point is that Paul has in mind, I believe, a more dynamic metaphor here, not a static one.  We are not the finished building of God, but the always-being-grown (see discussion on imperfect tense earlier) body of Christ.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Matthew 5:21-37

This passage occurs in the Epiphany season of the Revised Common Lectionary (Year A).  Most recently it occurred in February 2017.
This passage is brutal, even in the Greek.  Normally English translations water down the Greek.  For example, in 5:25, most translations have Jesus saying, "Settle the matter."   He is more likely saying, "Get on good and friendly terms."  When it comes to the passages on divorce and adultery, the Greek makes the passage more complex, not necessarily more intense.  For example, the word for a divorced woman in 5:32 is "the freed one."  The grounds for adultery, furthermore, probably mean more than simply lustful looking.  I don't these subtleties change the preaching approach (which is "Lord have mercy"), but they might be helpful in studies with people to talk about lust, marriage, freedom and reconciliation.

Key Words for Preaching and Teaching:
ευνοων ("make friends" (participate of ευνεοω), 5:25).  This word occurs only once in the New Testament. 

The NRSV and NIV translate this along the lines of "come to terms quickly."  The original Greek here is sharper, meaning "make friends with."  Jesus wants more than simply a truce, he wants friendship!

επιθυμησαι ("desire" (aorist infinitive of επιθυμεω), 5:28).  This word does not necessarily imply sexual desire.  It simply means desire (literally:  upon-soul).  The NT uses this verb to refer to good desire, such as a desire for the coming of Jesus (Matthew 13:17).  So the verb is itself not sexual or "dirty."  Furthermore, given the use of this verb (within a "προς" infinitive construct), Jesus here means more than simply "looking at a woman" but means something more like, "looking with the purpose of desiring her" or "looking with the result that your heart is upon her."  Jesus is not saying that all looking at a woman is lustful, but lustful looking is already adultery. 

λογου πορνειας ("matter of unchastity", 5:32).  Jesus says this is an exceptable reason for divorce.  But what does it mean?  Both of these words have easy English cognates:  "logos" comes into English in the many words that end in -logy; "porneias" comes into English in the word pornography.  The combination is a bit strange, though.  "A word of porn" might be one literal translation.  A better translation is probably to treat λογου (here in genitive) as "matter." 

But what about πορνειας?  This can mean having sex out of wedlock and includes prostitution.  It covers the spectrum of "non permitted sexual intercourse."  It is odd that Jesus, while discussing adultery as a sin before God, expands the definition of adultery; when discussing grounds for divorce he seems to narrow the scope of adultery.  Maybe he wants to make sure that people don't think that lustful looking constitutes divorce?  If anything, he seems to offer narrow grounds for divorce:  sexual misconduct, which includes but is not limited to prostitution.  The NRSV (unlike the NET here, yuck), hits the nail on the head.  The Message also offers a helpful translation:  "If you divorce your wife, you're responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity)."

απολελυμενην ("divorced" (passive feminine participle of απολοω), 5:32).  This participle does not naturally mean divorced, but actually, "freed" or "released."  It is interesting that Jesus used this word here -- if you marry one who is freed, you commit adultery.  It is also interesting that the woman is not seen here as the one committing adultery.  The Message bible translation connects these two by suggesting that the one "freed" is the one who committed the sins earlier in the passage.  Not necessarily!  I find it powerful that the word for divorced is "freed."  Many divorced people might find a glimmer of comfort in this!

αρχαιοις ("ancient" from αρχαιος (dative plural); found in 5:21; 33). This word, from which we get "archeology," simply means old or ancient. It is used in the form here "the ancients." The question is, what is Jesus speaking about: the ancient days, the ancient times, the ancient generations? Not much worth investigating here, but wanted to point it out why translations differ.  Jesus implicitly critiques but affirms the tradition.   

Translation and Grammar Review:
Matthew 5:27, You have heard:  "Do not commit adultery."  Let's unpack what should be an easy sentence!  (And get around the road blocks it throws up!).
ηκουσατε οτι ερρεθη ου μοιχευσεις

ηκουσατε:  Remember here that Jesus is speaking not to individuals, but to everyone.  Hence the plural ending.  Also, this verb is really a familar one, but the aorist changes the first letter.  If you run across words beginning with η switch it to an α and see if you recognize it.  ακου...should be a familiar root!

οτι:  Can mean because or that.  When used with a sense verb (hear, say) it is almost always "that"

ερρεθη:  This is an odd form (aorist passive) of a very common verb:  λεγω.  Unless you read Greek a fair amount, the odd forms of words in the aorist or aorist passive are probably not going to be remembered.  No big deal.  This is what Bible works is for.  "To speak" in the aorist passive is simply, "was said"

ου:  When Jesus retells the OT commands, he presents them in an unusual way. The 10 commandments, when given to Moses in Hebrew, are not really commandments in terms of their linguistic form. They read, literally, "You are not murdering" instead of "Do not murder."  (If they were "Do not murder" they would be in the form with μη+aorist verb).  The odd use of language here is meant to emphasize the strict nature of these commandments.  Hence why Jesus (and everyone else in the New Testament) uses "ου" instead of "μη."  As a way to express this in English, most translators have used "shall" instead of "do" (natural English command form) or "will" (most linguistically faithful word to original Greek and Hebrew).

μοιχευσεις:  Adultery.  Now what that means is tough.  Does this include premarital sex?  Ten years ago I would have said no, but now I think it does.
Alas, sometimes easy words make for hard sentences to translate!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Luke 7:1-17

The narrative lectionary offers Luke 7:1-17 as one of its readings during the Epiphany season (most recently, February 5, 2017).  In the RCL, this passage is two separate passages, both of which I have written about.  Here are the links to those passages

Luke 7:1-10:  http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2013/05/luke-71-10.html  I offer some thoughts on faith and healing.

Luke 7:11-17:  http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2013/06/luke-711-17.html    I offer some possibilities of what Jesus means by prophet.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Matthew 5:13-20

This passage occurs in the Epiphany season of the Revised Common Lectionary (Year A), most recently February 2017.

I updated this a fair amount in 2017.
The basic meaning of the passage should not be lost:  Discipleship of Jesus means living our lives in contrast to the world's general order.  This might invite the preacher to lean heavily on the law for such a sermon.  A closer examination of verses 18-20 suggests that Jesus clearly rejects the law as a path to salvation.  First, those who don't do law are still in the kingdom of heaven; second, those who love the law do not have the necessary righteousness and finally, the law eventually will give way in the new creation. 

Key words:
μωρανθη ("lost flavor" or "made fools," aorist passive subjunctive of μωραινω, 5:13):  The word here means "lose flavor" but elsewhere means "make fools."  Paul uses this saying that people, thinking they are wise, have become fools (Romans 1:22; 1 Cor 1:20).  Interesting to think about salt (ie, us) becoming fools!  Maybe this is precisely the call of the beatitudes and the sermon on the mount:  We are to become beaten down by the world, trampled underfoot.  Our hope is not in the world's kindness, but the power of Christ's resurrection to renew and restore us.

ορος ("mountain" or "hill", 5:14).  A small reminder that this passage takes place during the sermon on the mount!  In another blog post I look at how Matthew uses mountains.

λαμπει ("shine," of λαμπω, 5:15; also 5:16; also 17:2, during transfiguration).  The only time anyone truly shines in the Gospel of Matthew is Jesus during the transfiguration.  A reminder that the church only functions as the light when it reflects the light of Christ.

νομισητε ("think," aorist subjunctive of νομιζω, 5:17).  Jesus kind of does a play on words here.  He says that he has not come to abolish the law (νομος).  He starts out the sentence with a verb that has the same root.  Okay, nothing here for a sermon, more a little smile when you read the Greek :-)

ιωτα  ("iota," 5:18).  This is fascinating.  The law here has already been translated from Hebrew to Greek.  The tiddle of Hebrew has been changed.  Yet Jesus argues that even the smallest point of the law remains.  So do we assume here that this means the law is so eternal that it transcends language?

εως ("until," 5:18).  It is worth stopping for a second here -- until heaven and earth pass away, the law remains in power.  This suggests that the law is incredibly enduring, yet not eternal.  It too shall pass away.  It is worth remembering that the law was given to deal with sin (Galatians 3:19).  Once sin is gone, no more need for the law.  However, we will not get rid of sin until heaven and earth pass away and therefore, the law is with us.

ποιηση ("do" aorist subjunctive of ποιεω, 5:19):  Alas my Lutheran heart sinks.  Jesus actually expects us to do stuff.  It is fascinating to look up the word faith in the Gospel of Matthew.  Faith leads to sins being forgiven (9:2), heals people (9:22; 9:29; 13:58; 15:28), moves mountains (17:20), empowers prayer (21:22).  So it is not that faith and justification are separate in Matthew's Gospel.; rather, Jesus expects people to do stuff!

δικαιοσυνη ("righteousness"; 5:20)  If the Pharisees and teachers of the law have not achieved enough righteousness before the law to get into the Kingdom of Heaven, what hope do we all have?  Practically, I think Jesus reminds us that observation of the law is not just about the letter, but also the Spirit (which the Pharisees miss).  Existentially and ultimately, this verse, like so many others in Scripture, reveals that our righteousness before the law is not what gets us into heaven.  Even the most law observing people cannot achieve righteousness.  However, Jesus said in the verse prior that  people who don't do the right things are the least in the Kingdom.  So we need a righteousness that exceeds the most moral of people to get in; yet the least moral get in.  Clearly, righteousness before the heavenly throne is not based on the law.

Grammar review:  How to translate the aorist subjunctive
As you can tell from the words above, Greek likes to employ the aorist subjunctive.  This is both complex yet simple for the English reader.  It is complex because it is used in many and unusual ways.  "Subjunctive" normally refers to hypothetical events.  However, Greek conceives of the subjunctive in some different ways than English.  So understanding what is signified by the aorist subjunctive may not be very intuitive or directly translatable.  What makes it simple is that there are basically six (or so) categories of use and they all have a translation formula.  This passage has a most of the categories for translation.

εαν clause
In 5:13, you have the aorist subjunctive in εαν clause: μωρανθη
The word εαν signifies an uncertain event (technically ει αν) and will almost certainly have a verb in the subjunctive mood.  In this case, Jesus is saying that the salt may or may not lose its flavor.  The way to translate this is with the word "if."  If salt loses its flavor...

εαν + μη or ει + μη clause
In 5:20 you have this in εαν μη περισσευση.  The way to translate this is with "unless"

ος αν clause
This is akin to εαν in terms of hypothetical translations.  In 5:19 you have this with ποιηση, when its used with ος αν.  In this case you can translate it with, "whoever"

μη prohibition
5:17 reads μη νομισητε.  Greek will put simple commands in the μη + aorist subjunctive.  This implies that the listener should do this activity without implication of the action being on-going.  You could think of this as a prohibition.  It is how Greek does negative aorist prohibitions.  Like "Don't eat that" would employ aorist subjunctive.  In contrast, when Jesus says, for example, "Do not let your hearts be troubled," he uses the present tense, implying that they were worrying and they shouldn't ever again.  The way you translate this use of the aorist subjunctive is by saying, "Do not XYZ."  Aorist subjunctive makes no implication about past or future action.

ου μη prohibition
5:20  ου μη εισελθητε.  This simply should be translated as "no, not ever"  Strongest negative possible in Greek!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary (Year A), most recently in January 2017.

Rather than review this whole passage, I just want to offer an in-depth commentary on this one crucial verse:

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."  1 Corinthians 1:18

...foolishness to those who are perishing
            Although the NIV, NRSV, NAU and NET translate απολλυμι as “perishing” it should not be understood as merely physical death.   The middle voice of this verb (it cannot be determined if the verb is middle or passive) means “ruin."  Looking at how Paul uses this verb throughout his letters to the Corinthians suggest Paul employs a metaphorical, or perhaps better said, theological layer when he uses the word "perish." 

            When Paul later uses the verb in the present tense in chapter 8:11, “So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed (απολλυται),” Paul does not mean that weak believers are immediately undergoing physical death.  Instead, Paul is trying to talk about the process of dying; or being captive to sin, the law and the flesh.  Paul will use this verb to refer to physical death (10:9, 10:10, and 15:18) but in these cases, the verb tense is aorist.  15:18 even refers to the physical death of Christians.  In short, all humans perish (aorist tense), but non-believers are perishing (present tense).

            This pattern of Paul using απολλυμι in the present tense to signify not an ultimate death, but the process of perishing, matches with 2 Corinthians and Romans.  These passages also continue the pattern of contrasting those being saved and those being ruined.
  • For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;  2 Corinthians 2:15
  • And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  2 Corinthians 4:3
  • If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died.  Romans 14:15
            This point is most saliently brought home by contrasting 1 Cor 15:18 which talks about the reality that Christians will die (aorist tense) with 2 Cor 4:9, that even through Christians are “struck down” they are not “απολλυμενοι.” 

What does this mean for a sermon:  Consider the ways in which life outside of Christ consists of perishing each and every day.

...power of God to those who are being saved
            Paul uses the word power in a variety of ways.  One of the most important, however, is that God’s power will bring about resurrection:  Both Jesus and ours.  (And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power, 1 Cor 6:14), It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power (15:43). 
The final word in the section "σωζω" is also a loaded theological term.  Although BDAG indicates this word can mean “heal”, Paul normally employs it to mean “save/preserve from eternal death.”  In America today, people often think about “being saved” as an event-triggered state which allows for a reality in heaven.  There are some verses in 1 Corinthians that could perhaps suggest this (1:21,7:16, 9:22,10:33).  However, for Paul, salvation seems to work in the opposite direction: the age-to-come reality breaks into our own present state.  For, in both 1:18 and 15:2, "σωζω" is in the present passive, indicating that salvation is not a one-time event, but an on-going process.  The consummation of our salvation comes on the final day of judgment (3:15,5:5), which Paul likens to a fire.  All that remains of the present age of darkness will be burned away.  Therefore, being saved means not only existing in, but being transformed by, this future reality.
            The most saliently comes across in verse 1:18.  The cross does not simply trigger a salvation event.  The wording is not:  The words of the cross is the power of God for salvation to those believing, as it is in Romans 1:16.  Rather it is the power of God to those being saved.  What is amazing is that the power of God is not simply the saving, but rather, to those being saved, the cross is the power of God.  At the very least the power of God entails something more dynamic than ultimate salvation; it may even include something more than being saved.
            2nd Corinthians gives an image of how the power of God becomes that which allows Christians to endure hardship. 
  • But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)
  • We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed (u`pe.r du,namin) ‘beyond our strength’ that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)
  • but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love,  7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; (2 Corinthians 6:4-7)
  • but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
            This is an amazing revelation of the power of God.  The power of God does not glorify the Christians, but propels them through suffering.  Paul even takes it a step further in Philippians: I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, Philippians 3:10
To conclude with another quote from Corinithians around power:
For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. 2 Corinthians 13:4

What does this mean for a sermon:  Well, everything.  But I think the notion of dynamic salvation is crucial (pun intended); I also think clarifying the power of God is really important for people.  (This links up well with the connected Gospel passage on Matthew 5!)