Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Luke 6:27-38

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, 7th Sunday of Epiphany, most recently February 20, 2019.  

Summary:  Books and books have been written about Jesus words here.  I unpack how Jesus uses the verb "love" here, which I think may open up some new preaching directions for those who feel they've been down this road before.  At the end of the day, I think Jesus is challenging the individuals and the whole community to love, I mean really...truly love, even those we don't want to love.

αγαπάτε ("love", verses 6:27, 6:32, 6:35)  Most people reading this blog will be familiar with the various words for "love" in Greek and know that αγαπη refers to a "higher" love, the sustained and sacrificial love embodied by Jesus Christ.  If you want to preach on this word, consider at least two other points

1)  This word is used as a verb throughout this section.  In English "love" is the same word whether a verb or noun.  We likely miss the fact that Jesus offers "love" here as an action, not a concept.   Furthermore, αγαπάτε is a present tense verb, indicating the action is on-going.  So a better translation would be "Constantly engaging in the act of loving to your neighbors."  Love is not a concept here, love is an action.   The entire structure of Jesus mini sermon is verbs in command form, unpacking what it means to love:
Offer (cheek; metaphorically, vulnerability)
Do not stop (again, vulnerability)
Lend & Do not ask for return
Do good
Be merciful

My sense is that almost any sermon can wax and wane poetically on loving and do to others...a good sermon will conclude with God's mercy for us...but I wonder if a sermon that really gets at what Jesus is trying to say will linger a bit on the verbs in this section. 

2) The verb is in the second person plural.  This means it is not necessarily directed to individuals but to the community.  In fact, this whole section is generally in the plural
* Back in verse 20 Luke indicates that Jesus is speaking to his disciples.  
* More importantly, nearly all of the other nouns and pronouns in this section are plural.  
In short, a more analytic translation of Jesus famous dictums would be:
"You all, keep loving, totally and sacrificially, your enemies, and likewise you all keep doing to those who keep hating you all."
"Just as you all are wishing that the people will keep doing to you all, you all are to keep doing to them likewise."

This is not to say that there isn't an individual component to this command.  Linguistically, 2nd person plural can refer to each individual in a group or the group as a whole.  Furthermore, Jesus switches to the 2nd person singular when talking about having your check hit.

I think this 2nd point, that the verb "love" is in the plural can be put into a sermon in two ways.  First, loving enemies is really hard.  Don't do it alone.  Second, Jesus isn't just calling us as individuals to think about our actions, but think about how we act as a whole body of disciples.

χαρις ("credit", 6:32, 33, 34)  This word is normally translated as "grace" or "gift."  Those words would make for very awkward English:  "What grace is that to you?"  But that is literally the translation!  This is brought home in verse 35, when Jesus talks about how God is good to the ungrateful and wicked.  The word for ungrateful is αχαριςτος, literally, without grace.  

What to make of this?  Perhaps Jesus just uses the word grace to mean credit.  But that seems odd, especially given the repeated use of the word.  I would offer that Jesus is suggesting that the root of love is grace, namely, God's grace to us.  As he concludes his argument, be merciful as God is merciful.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Luke 6:20-31 (Luke 6:17-26)

This passage occurs in Revised Common Lectionary for All Saints Sunday in year C, most recently November 2016.  A similar passage, Luke 6:17-26, also occurs in the RCL, year C, Epiphany, most recently February 17, 2019.

You don’t need Greek to catch the big picture here: Jesus is turning the world upside down and is, well, happy about it!  The Greek helps us wrestle with the thornier issues of 
WHO are blessed;
WHEN are they blessed;
& WHAT does this blessing look like?

For example, Jesus does not say in Greek, “Blessed are you who are poor” but rather he simply says, “Blessed are the poor.” Who are the poor?  Are they blessed only in the afterlife?  What does this blessing mean?  

The Greek doesn’t change the radical nature of the passage but rather invites us into the rugged yet rejoicing terrain of Jesus’ thought.  My most radical thought, the poor are blessed because we, who hear God’s Word, have the kingdom from God to give away to them!

A Warm up:

επαρας (from επαιρω, meaning "lift up", 6:20).  Jesus did not simply look up, but he lifted his eyes into them. Luke begins this passage with emotional intensity!

Key Words:

μακάριος (‘blessed’ or ‘happy’: 6:20; 21; 22): The theological Lexicon of the New Testament (Spicq) helps us understand the striking nature of Jesus' use of this word.  After a long summary of the Greek understanding of what it means to be blessed (pretty much what average Americans think), the Lexicon finally reviews Jesus' words: “It is impossible to insist too strongly on the meaning of this μακάριος …This is much more than contentment; it is an interior joy that becomes external, elation translated into shouts, songs, acclamations. …Secondly, the new faith implies a reversal of all human values; happiness is no longer attached to wealth, to having enough, to a good reputation, power, possessions of the goods of this world, but to poverty alone.”

οι πτωχοι ("the poor", 6:20).  Blessed are the poor. The Bible does not say, “Blessed are you who are poor.” It simply says, “Blessed are the poor.” I prefer talking about people as individuals first and adjectives second (the people who are poor vs the poor).  But it brings up the question here -- is Jesus talking about the individuals who are poor or the whole group?

πλουσίος (‘rich’; 6:24): Luke uses this word more times than the rest of the Gospels combined. Generally, Luke has a fairly negative attitude toward the rich, however, it would be unfair to say that Luke, or therefore Jesus, simply criticizes them. Zacchaeus, for example, is rich; Jesus comes to his house!

οὐρανος (‘heaven’: 6:23): It might be tempting to think of heaven as a “state of being” rather than a place. However, in Luke’s Gospel, heaven is not simply a relationship or a state of the world, but a place. Luke uses the word 35 times, almost exclusively to refer to the dwelling place of God, but in a very concrete way, namely, the space above us.  According to Luke, Jesus is not saying:  Well, you will be poor but you will have me. Jesus is saying, you are suffering now but have a reward (μισθός) in heaven. But we will return to this point!

μισθός (‘wages’ or ‘reward’: 6:23 also 6:35). This word literally means pay, as in a worker receives his pay for a day’s work (Luke 10:7; Matthew 20:8).

A Classic Theological Translation Problem  

η βασιλεια του θεου (6:20)

η βασιλεια του θεου: “Kingdom of God” is tricky. The genitive case has a lot of possibilities. In English this ambiguity is preserved because the word “of” is ambiguous too. A few examples of possible translations:

a) “Kingdom belonging to God” (The house of my family)

b) “Kingdom from God” (Sound of water drops)

c) “Kingdom done by God” (Singing of a choir)

d) “Kingdom for God” (Love of money)

e) “Kingdom consisting of God” (as in “bag of money)

So, which is the right one?  First, we can leave it ambiguous, as almost every translator does:  “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

But we could translate a bit more boldly:  “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom from God.”

In other words, the poor are blessed because we, who hear God’s Word, have the kingdom from God to give away to them!

Missing word:  'To Be'
In Greek, as in Hebrew, a sentence can occasionally lack a verb. For example, Psalm 25:8 is translated as, “Good and upright is the LORD.”  The Hebrew simply reads "Good-upright LORD."  Admittedly, Hebrew always seems to be missing words the English reader longs for. However, here Hebrew is simply putting the adjectives (good and upright) in predicate form. This is how grammar people, whose addiction to Latin is scary, describe the placement of the word “brown” in: “The cow is brown” instead of “The brown cow.” The point is that the author is saying that the rest of the stuff in the sentence (like in Psalm 25: Good and upright) describes the subject (God). Because of the rules of Hebrew, you don’t have to use a verb when you do this. You let the reader do the work.

Greek does this less frequently (far less frequently) but on occasion it still happens. In verse 6:23 we have such a construction:ιδου γαρ ο μισθος υηων πολυς εν τω ουρανω
or literally “Behold for your wages great in heaven.” A predicate adjective, meaning, the phrase “great in heaven” describes the wages (even though we lack the verb "is" or "will" or any form of "to be").

So has our grammar helped us derive meaning? Well, maybe. The point is that the wages are great and are in heaven. We know then, the WHAT (great) and the WHERE (in heaven). The question then is WHEN do we get them! The sentence grammar suggests they are in existence now.  But do we have access to them?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Luke 5:1-11

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, 5th Sunday of Epiphany (which doesn't necessarily happen every Epiphany).  Most recently, February 10, 2019

Summary:  This is a great metaphor for the Christian life:  Jesus interrupts our life.  Asks us to do something small for the Kingdom.  We agree.  Jesus then pushes us beyond our comfort zone, to go deep.  We balk.  We do it.  We discover the riches of God's love.  This works something deep in our soul where we are brought to our knees.  We rise, ready to serve.

Key words:
εμβας (from εμβαινω, meaning "embark", 5:3)  Let's be clear:  The movement here begins with Jesus.  Not us.  Jesus gets in the boat, even uninvited!

επαναγαγε (meaning "put out to see", 5:3,4)  Jesus commands Peter and the others twice to put out their boats.  The first time, he calls them to cast out their boat

ολιγον (meaning "few" or little", 5:3).  Then, later the second time, he calls them to set their boats into the

βαθος (meaning "deep," 5:1)

At first Jesus only asks for a bit of favor - a little movement!  The second time he asks them to take a risk.  The first time Jesus asks them to use what they have, in comfortable ways, for Jesus' purpose.  The second time, Jesus asks them to go a bit deeper -- less comfortable.  The word βαθος in Greek, like English, can refer simply to a physical measurement (something is deep), but also connotes a more mystical deepness, of something unknown and perhaps even unknowable (Psalm 69:2; Michah 7:19, 1 Cor 2;10 and Ephesians 3:18).  This seems a fitting metaphor for our life in Christ.  At first, we are asked to do something we know how to do, something we like to do, and then boom, we find ourselves pushed beyond our comfort zone, into the deep end of the pool!

επιστατα (vocative form of word meaning "master", 5:5)  It is only in Luke's Gospel that the disciples calls Jesus by this name.  In parallel stories in the synoptics, Jesus is referred to as teacher.  While Luke indicates that Jesus is teaching (εδιδασκεν, 5:3), Jesus keeps with επιστατα.  Luke here seems to be suggesting a higher level of respect and admiration.  If I were translating this word, I would use "guru."  In ancient Greek επιστατα can mean "one who is set over, a commander, of a tutelary god, a president, steward of the games, a training-master."  (Liddell Scott)   BDAG also suggests this word is used as one would lead the student/mentee into virtue.  In short, this word might include teaching, but it is more of a moralistic if not wholistic teaching.  It describes one who is entrusted with the responsibility of a project, and that project might be our moral formation.  In short, when Peter calls Jesus this name, he is demonstrating great faith.

It is also worth noting that Peter's confession of sin follows his witness of Jesus power and even after his obedience to Jesus.  Evangelism that begins with proclamation of wrath may not be the only way to bring a potential follower of Christ to his or her knees!

τα δικτυα (plural of "δικτυον" meaning "nets", 5:2, 4, 5, 6)  They are not cashing a fishing line; they are casting a net!  So, go fish!  Use your fishing metaphors, but don't use a fishing line.

ζωγρων (meaning "capture alive", 5:10)  It seems really strange here that would capture humans like fish.  Isn't Jesus about freedom and life?!  Jesus uses a different word than "fish"; he uses a word that means capture alive, as opposed to kill  In fact, in Ancient Greek, this word had two meanings:
1) to take alive, take captive instead of killing
2) to restore to life, revive
Jesus is interested in a live harvest!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Luke 4:21-30

This passage is found in the RCL, Epiphany, Year C.  (Most recently Feb 3, 2019)

Summary:  Here is my preaching nugget based on the Greek.  Luke 4 begins with Jesus led out into the wilderness, where he is tempted at a high point to have all the power in the world.  He overcomes this.  Luke 4 ends with Jesus again cast out, this time to another high point.  Here the crowd is tempted to hoard God's love for themselves.  And they fail.  I think there is something here to play off Jesus' overcoming temptation to love only himself and the crowd's utter failure.  The church, time and time again, has succumbed to this temptation to love only ourselves.

χαριτος ("grace", from χαρις, 4:21)  The better translation here is "words of grace" rather than gracious words.  In fact, the literal translation is beautiful here:  "The words of grace walking out of his mouth."  What an image of Jesus: A bus station of grace!  It is also worth noting that the angriest people get with Jesus is when he preaches (or manifests) grace; it seems preaching God's abundant love may be more upsetting than preaching God's judgment.

δεκτος ("honor"/"welcome", 4:24)  Jesus words here have become a famous adage, "A prophet is without honor in his hometown."  The use of "honor" here covers up the connection to early in chapter 4, when Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord's favor.  The word here for favor is also δεκτος.  Jesus has defeated Satan to proclaim the year of the Lord's δεκτος.  The people here do not ascribe to him δεκτος.

εξεβαλον ("cast out", from εχβαλλω, 4:29).  This word interestingly parallels what happens to Jesus in his temptation, where he is cast out into the wilderness (admittedly, Luke does not use the word "cast out"; Mark does)  This word brings up a broader point that in Luke 4, there are two clashes:  Jesus and the devil and Jesus and the crowd.  I would say, and not in a sermon, that Jesus functions like an adversary in Luke 4, pushing the people, perhaps even instigating them.  I would say, and in a sermon, that the people fail, Jesus doesn't.  The word of grace will go on.

ωκοδομητο ("build upon" from οικοδομεω, 4:29) The town was built on a cliff.  This should already speak volumes.  But later on Jesus will exorcise demons off a cliff side.  Again, the crowd is literally trying to exorcise Jesus here.

διελθων ("pass through", 4:30)  Nothing profound here, but it is worth noting that Jesus could escape the crowds here.  Jesus choice to die was always his own choice. 

Grammar review: ουχι and question words
This word ουχι is used when a "yes" is expected.   In 4:22, the people are saying, "Isn't this Jesus..." Using ουχι to start the question means they are expecting a "yes."
My mneumonic is this:
μη (mh) gets a "no"
and ου/ουχι/ουχ get a "yes"
It is alphabetical order:  If the question starts with m, it will be an "n"o; if with "ou" then "y"es

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Luke 4:14-21 and Isaiah 61

This passage is found in the RCL, Epiphany Season, Year C (Most recently: January 27, 2019)  It is also found in the narrative lectionary year of Luke, most recently January 15, 2017.

Summary:  Home run point, here but it will take a full count to get there...Most times the New Testament quotes from the Greek version of the Old Testament.  On rare, rare occasions, the New Testament writers seem to be quoting from the Old Testament Hebrew in their own translations (Proverbs 10:12 vs 1 Peter 4:8 eg).  In this case, Jesus seems neither to be translating directly from the Old Testament Hebrew, nor is he reading directly from the Greek.  He is intentionally adding to the Word of God.  This is a bold move.  He does so, I would argue, out of a Trinitarian conception of his mission, whereby the people will be brought into the mission of God.  (If you are saying to yourself, this is too much for a sermon, the basic point remains:  The Spirit of the Lord on Jesus is also the Spirit of the Lord on the church!)

Three little Greek appetizers before the main course:
φημη (pheme, meaning "fame," 4:14)   The word for "news" is "pheme" or perhaps better in English "fama." This is the root of our word fame. Jesus is famous!

δοξαζομενος (from δοξαζω, doxaz-oo, meaning "praise", 4:15)  The people "praise" Jesus. Interestingly, in the rest of the Gospel, the only one praised is God. This is the only instance of Jesus being praised in the Gospels.

εδιδασεν (from διδασκω, meaning "teach", 4:15)  The Spirit of the Lord -- the POWER  of the Spirit led Jesus to teach.  One cannot truly separate the teaching of the faith -- the ministry of the Word, from the Spirit, the POWER of the Spirit in fact.  Also, the word for power here is δυναμει, which comes into English as dynamic or dynamite.  Is our teaching dynamic and dynamite?

Digging into 4:18-19 vs Isaiah 61:1-2

First, before we get into the differences between the Old and New Testament:

Where does Jesus power come from?  The Spirit!
- Jesus words and the OT begin the same. The Spirit of the Lord (πνενμα κυριου) is upon me; he has annointed (εχρισεν, ie "Christed") me. It does well to remember the Hebrew words here: Ruach Adonai (רוח אדני) for Spirit of the Lord and Messiah (משך) for annoint.

Who is the ministry for:  The downtrodden!
- "captive" which comes from the Greek "αιχμαλωτος" which means "spear." Literally, those who are speared. 
- oppressed (τεθραυσμενους, participle form of θραυω) is only used once in the NT and literally means "shattered." I wonder who in our congregations feels speared and shattered?  All of these blessings Jesus is to bestow focus on the downtrodden.  Also, all of the blessings have an obvious material/physical aspect.

Now, let's get into the differences.

A quick comparison show that Jesus is not reading right from the Septuagint or the Hebrew.  Here is a literal translation, in each case I have underlined what is different in each version, not due to any obvious linguistic subtle changes.

Luke 4:18-19 (Greek)
a) The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
b)  because he has anointed me
c)  to bring good news to the poor.
d)  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
e)  and recovery of sight to the blind
f)  to send the oppressed in freedom,
g)  to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Isaiah 61:1-2 (Hebrew)
a)  The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me
b)  because the LORD has anointed me
c)  to bring good news to the oppressed/poor
??)  and bind up the brokenhearted
d) to proclaim release to the captives
f') to release to the prisoners
g) to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,

Isaiah 61:1-2 (LXX, Greek translation of Hebrew)
a) The spirit of the Lord is upon me,
b)  because the LORD has anointed me
c) to bring good news to the poor
??) he has sent me to heal the crushed in spirit/heart
d)  to proclaim release to the captives,
e)  and recovery of sight to the blind
g) to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor

A) In the OT, Isaiah never talks about sight to the blind. Jesus does (the Septuagint does also).

B) Isaiah (in both the Hebrew and LXX) plays on the idea of binding -- the broken-hearted are bound; the captive are freed. Jesus alters this image. The NRSV translates this sentiment as "free the captives" and "he will let the oppressed go free." Jesus, thus, seems to by-pass the image of repairing/releasing the broken-hearted, instead choosing to include the idea of sending the oppressed.  This actually comes from Isaiah 58:6 where the prophet says, "To send the oppressed in freedom."

C) Jesus puts in the idea that he is sent to send others.  The word send in fact, appears twice, "He sent send."  So why don't English bibles use the word "send" twice?  It is because they cover it up! The phrase "to let the oppressed go free" literally reads, "to send those shattered, in forgiveness, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." The translators are combining the phrase "send in forgiveness" into a single verb "free."  This makes sense in that to free someone is to send them in release.  But I think this misses something going on in the Greek.  The Father has sent the Son, who through the Spirit is sending others.  Not only is this in itself a sermon worth unpacking, I think the deeper and better sermon point is that Jesus has come to send those who are oppressed, in forgiveness, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
Note: This may seem to technical for a sermon.  But it fits more broadly into the case Luke makes in Luke-Acts, that the work of the Spirit is to bring us into the triune Mission of God.

D) Jesus drops the line immediately following this passage in Isaiah (...a year of the Lord's favor and day of vengeance). Here the LXX does not use such striking language, but in any case, Jesus avoids this idea all together.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

John 2:1-11

This passage occurs in the RCL Epiphany Season, Year C, most recently January 2019.
I offer two summaries:
2013 Summary:  The numbers tell the story here.  This is Jesus FIRST miracle that happens on the THIRD day, in which he transforms SIX vessels of imperfect cleansing into celebration.  In fact, the word FIRST here means foundation, because this miracle foreshadows all the other miracles of Jesus; they are all miracles of transformation, including the resurrection on the third day.  Lastly, on a very Lutheran note, the transformation includes humans who are put to use for the service of others.

2019 Summary:   This passage is all about the mission of the church:  Jesus ministry takes place outside of the traditional boundaries and buildings.  It will involve the obedient participation of servants, who will become agents of transformation in this world, leading to a joyous party of abundance.

Key words:
τριτη ("third", 2.1).  The phrase third day only occurs in John's Gospel during this story and the accounts of the resurrection.  Furthermore, Jesus refers in this chapter to the fact that the temple will be raised on the third day (2:19-20), also a reference to the resurrection on the third day.  Jesus' glory will fully be revealed then.

εξ ("six", 2:6)  Six in the bible signifies something as incomplete.  It is not coincidental that John connects six with Jewish cleansing rituals.

αρχη ("first" or "principal", 2:11)  The word can mean first.  But if you look at the other times when it is translated as first (and not "beginning"), it has shades of "primary", or "foundationally" first. So we need to ask ourselves -- why is this a foundational miracle?

John 6:64:  For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.
Colossians 1:18:  He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.
Hebrews 2:3, 3:14:  It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him,  For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.
Rev 22:13:  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."

γαμος ("wedding", 2:1):  It is worth pointing out the incredibly obvious:  Jesus first miracle does not take place in a church, but in the world, at a wedding!

Οινον ουκ ("no wine"; 2:3)  The problem with humanity is that we are good at finding and proclaiming scarcity.  Jesus sees what we do not -- plenty of fluid!  Furthermore, the transformation of the water into wine is not for the water (or wine's sake), but is for the sake of the kingdom -- it is for God's glory and the neighbors at the party.

Some other words:
διακονος ("servant", 2:5):  Just a quick pointing out of this word, whose meaning continues to come under fire (can this exist outside of the word and worship is the current Catholic debate).  In this case, Jesus brings the διακονος to service for his ministry.

επιστεθσαν ("believe", 2:11):  Believe in the book of John is never a noun "faith" but only a verb "to believe" or "to trust."

Grammar review:  An idiom you should know
"τι εμοι και σοι"  Jesus asks this question of Mary.  This is not a very nice thing to say to a person.  It means, "Who the hell are you."  It is also used
* Widow to Elijah, whom she believes is responsible for her son's death;1 Kings 17:18
* The demons to Jesus when he wants to exorcise them; Mark 5:7
But what to make of a sermon here:  Maybe, just maybe, the mission of God is influenced by human prayers and requests!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Luke 1:39-56 (Magnificat)

This passage occurs in the RCL Advent Season, most recently December 2018.
Luke's Magnificat:
Summary:  Luke is such a gifted writer that the preacher need not do much more than slow down and help people hear what he writes. I have focused on joy.  In Luke's Gospel, joy is associated with the Jesus and communal worship. The Bible pushes this further and connects joy with suffering; if that seems an unfair stretch for this passage, Mary is certainly joyful amid great uncertainty, political oppression if not also family instability.

(Note, I add in some reflections on the verbs at the end).

Key Words:
εσκριτησεν ("stir with joy", from σκριταω 1:41,44). In the New Testament, this word appears only in Luke. The Hebrew word that LXX translators translated as σκριταω has fascinating imagery, including the movement of cattle released from a stall. There is something uncontrollable about this type of movement. In Ancient Greek it would refer to the movement of wind gusts.   (Alas, I couldn't come up with something concrete to tie together Spirit and joy here based on this word!)  John has an uncontrollable joy in encountering Jesus.

2014 additional note: When I think of this word now, I think of my own daughter skipping home from school in her excitement about the day.

αγαλλιασει ("extreme joy", 1:44; as a verb in 1:47) This word means a great joy that often results in body movement. It appears in other key places in the Bible both as a noun and verb
Psalm 51: Restore to me the joy of your salvation.
Psalm 100:2 Worship the Lord with gladness, come into his presence with singing
Luke 1:47 My spirit rejoices in God my savior
Acts 2:46 The original worshiping community
Matthew 5:12 (Beatitutdes) Rejoice when they mistreat you...they did the same to the prophets.
(1 Peter also associates this word with faith in the midst of suffering and trials.)

χαρα ("joy"; not in this section!) Okay, okay, the word joy is not in this section. But joy shows up a lot in Luke
1:14: Joy at birth of John
2: Joy in the news of angels to the shepherds
15:10 and 7: Joy at a repentant sinner.
24:41 Joy of the disciples at the resurrection
24:52 The disciples end Luke's Gospel by worshiping in joy

Grammar: A hidden resurrection (Luke 1:37-38)
In many cases, it is impossible to translate word for word, not only because of meaning but also syntax. English translators are (almost) forced to hide a resurrection that happens in Mary.
Mary has just heard the Word of the Lord and responded in faithful obedience (1:37-38). The translators make it look like there is a new paragraph: "In those days..." where the Greek connects Mary's faith to the next move. It reads literally, "Raised up, Mary, in those days went." In fact the word for rise/rose is actually αναστατις, which means even "resurrection."
So, a nice Lutheran translation would be:
"May it be according to your word." Raised up to new life, Mary went to Elizabeth...

To put it simply, Luke subtly reinforces the notion that the Word of the Lord produces resurrection.

A 2018 addition:  One thing that I noted is looking at the verbs in the Magnificat associated with God's action: 
look (48)
bless (48)
done (49)
done (51)
*scatter (51)
*tear down (52)
uplift (52)
fill (53)
*send away (empty) (53)
help (54)
remember mercy (54)
speak (55)
First, God is the main agent.  This is not a social agenda for humans.
Second, most are positive, but a handful are "negative" or "destructive."  In short, God's primary work is giving life; the act of judging and punishing is secondary, or as Luther calls it, alien.
Third, all of the verbs are in the aorist tense, suggesting that they refer to one time events.  This means that Mary somehow sees Jesus birth as accomplishing (or having already accomplished) all of this.  Ponder that!!