Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Mark 4:26-34

This passage occurs in the RCL "Pentecost"/"Ordinary"/"Proper" Season, Year B, most recently Summer of 2018.
Summary:  When I first studied this passage for preaching, I was just finishing my first year of parish ministry.  At that point, two things stood to me.  First, the motif of "death and resurrection" in the first parable and the idea of "service to the neighbor" in the second parable.   As I re-read this passage in 2012, I focused more on how this passage relates to congregational leadership and fostering faith.  This year (2015) through, I propose that Jesus is the mustard seed that dies to become the tree.

Key Words:

Some words on church growth and leadership:
βαλη (from βαλλω; "thrown", 4:26)  The most famous "sower" parable, which is found earlier in chapter 4, has a professional sower "sowing" (σπειρω) the seed.  In this parable, we simply have a man throwing the seed.  This reminds us that the sowers of the Word need not be simply authorized and trained clergy, but that God chooses the foolish and insignificant to do the work of the Kingdom! 

Side note on Google:  Part of Google's success as a company is their willingness to try things.  They have created a culture where people are willing to throw stuff on the wall and see what sticks.  In fact, when it comes to advertising, Google encourages companies to try as many permutations of their wording as possible to see what works.  Churches tend to be much more cautious.  These parables encourage us to try stuff without as much planning!

ελεγεν (from λεγω; "was speaking", 4:26) The imperfect tense is used here to portray Jesus speaking; this means that Jesus likely was repeating these parables more than once! Throughout this section, Jesus speaks in the imperfect tense, suggesting that he did not simply say this word but repeated it.  In order for Jesus to get his message across, he needs to say it over and over.  To go back to Google; Jesus has to try it in many ways to get it through!

αυτοματη ("automatically", 4:28)  This is a humble reminder for all pastors that growth in the church is not a result of our own efforts, but the will of the Spirit, manifesting itself!

Some words on death and resurrection, as well as classic Lutheran themes:
καθευδη and εγειρηται (εγειρω)  ("sleep and awake", 4:27):  These words can also mean to die and to rise.  This is a reminder that those of us that sow the seed will also experience death and resurrection.  I know I have often felt crushed as a pastor by the inability of people to hear the word.  And then risen to new life through worship and the Word!  It also strongly suggests daily dying and rising to live out our vocation of sharing the Word.

χροτον...πληρυς σιτον ("grass...full grain"; "4:28")  I am going to go out here on a limb, but I think this parable shows that sanctification and justification, while of the same movement, are not entirely the same.  To be raised up (justified) does not suggest that God's work in our lives is done.  The grass, while growing, must still grow into maturity. As χροτον (grass) it could still be eaten, but it will take time in order for it to become σιτον (seed itself) that could be used for next year's harvest.  Similarly, we are reborn in Baptism and renewed in our weekly confession and forgiveness; God's Spirit still works on us, through this renewal, to transform and grow us, so that we might be of use to our neighbor.  All metaphors are imperfect, but the emphasis here is not simply on the moment of receiving faith, but growing in the soil of the Word.  As a confessional Lutheran, I would want to add that growth means more faith, which means simply becoming more dependent on God.  To put this in a sound bite:  the taller the plant...the more it needs it roots.

Some words I put together to think about Jesus Christ as the seed and the church as the plant:

καρποφορεω ("bear fruit", 4:28)  The point of our dying and rising is to bear fruit (Romans 7:4).  In fact, one could argue that the seed that is being sown in this case is not simply Scripture but Jesus Christ, because the verb for the maturation of the seed is "παραδοι" from paradidemi.  This word means betray, which is a word that links and moves the plot ahead in Mark's Gospel.  Strangely, this is the only time this verb appears with the word fruit; perhaps a further suggestion that Mark is referring to Jesus as the word of God that dies for us to become the tree.

αναβαινει ("ascend"; here meaning grow; 4:30)  Jesus does not say that "once the plant has grown" he says, "growS and becomeS and makeS" all in the present tense.  The growth of the mustard plant continues on and on.  In this sense, I see the mustard plant (in the parable) as something supernatural; I offer it is the church, born by the death of Jesus Christ.

πετεινα του ουρανου ("bird"..."bird of heaven"; 4:32)  The NET Bible suggests this phrase means "wild birds" as opposed to "domesticated birds."  Even if the NET Bible overstates its case, a few points we can make if we compare the tree to the kingdom of God to the Christian community on earth, to finally, a congregation:
* The tree does not live for itself; the Christian life is not a life lived for oneself.  This is true for an individual and for a congregation. (Vocation 101)
* To be the church is to host not simply nice people that "look like us" but all sorts of wild birds, maybe even ones harsh to the church!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Mark 3:20-35

This passage occurs in the RCL "Pentecost"/"Ordinary"/"Proper" Season, Year B, most recently Summer of 2015.

Summary:  For this week I have intensely looked at 3:29, "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven."  While many other images and motifs stand out in this passage, I have noticed my lay people gravitate toward this passage.  First a correction in translation and then an explanation.  Long story short:  Forgiveness is complex, but awesome and possible.

New for 2015:  I added a bit more on the Holy Spirit.

First, a correction in translation:  3:29
NRSV/NIV, etc, read:  "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin "

This is not correct.  The Greek literally reads: "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, he does not have forgiveness eternally and is guilty of an eternal sin."
To make clear:
* The verb forgive is not used
* The word never (or its Greek equivalent ου μη) is not used
* The "But" to start of the sentence is δε, a very weak conjunction, often not translated; it normally indicates a change in subject more than a change in thought.

What this means:
Jesus never denies the possibility of forgiveness; he says this person is not in a state of forgiveness at when he/she deny the Holy Spirit.
However, denying the existence of the Spirit, which means denying the work of God to forgiveness sins, make the church and raise the dead, is not simply an earthly matter, but an eternal one.
Third, Jesus says that all sins can be forgiven (even eternal ones); however, one cannot deny the existence of God's activity in this world (the Spirit) and still receive this forgiveness. I would argue here that experiencing forgiveness is an act of faith.  See Babylonian Captivity of the Church if you think this is not Lutheran.  But to really solve this dilemma of forgiveness, let's press ahead

More on forgiveness
αφεσις:  (3:29)
Liddell-Scott offer a few images of this word in classic Greek:
1) a letting go, dismissal
2) a quittance or discharge from a bond: exemption from service: a divorce
3) a letting go of horses from the starting-post, and then the starting-post itself

Often times we as (Lutheran) Christians have focused on the second notion of forgiveness.  "The debt is paid."  Perhaps some Buddhists focus on the first -- simply "let go" of your anger.  But I think the third point is perhaps the most Christian:  Forgiveness is the letting go of us, setting us free for life in the Kingdom.

In this sense, the words of Jesus make the most sense.  If you don't believe in the Holy Spirit, and God's work of forgiveness, holiness, the church and resurrection, then you will never be free.  Ever. 

Yet ironically, this passage shows the Spirit at work; the church is being created, brothers and sisters in Christ, over and against hostility, disbelief and betrayal (vs 19)!

More on the Holy Spirit
ο πνευμα ο αγιος ("The Holy Spirit"; 3:29)
Mark only references the Holy Spirit a few times besides this episode in chapter three (NRSV):
1:8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
1:12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
13:11 When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.
12:36 David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared, 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet." '

One could argue that the Holy Spirit is conferred in Baptism and gives the ability to proclaim the Word of God (1:8 and 13:11).  However, it seems that this far too domesticates Mark's sense of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit pops up in times of conflict:  the ministry of John the Baptist (who will be beheaded); the temptation against Satan in the wilderness; casting out demons in chapter 3 and conflict with teachers of the law; prophecies about oppression; David's declaration about victory over enemies.  The Holy Spirit is still a source of comfort, but more in the battle medicine kind of way.  I think this speaks to Mark's theology of the cross.  Where is holiness found?  In the midst of turmoil.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Mark 2:23-3:6

This passage occurs in the year B of the Revised Common Lectionary, most recently June 3, 2018.

Summary:  Mark paints a vivid scene here, one of intense conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees, or more deeply, between God and the hardness of the human heart.  This is what is really at stake here -- not the value of the Sabbath for our society today (which we lost) -- but the hardness of the human heart.  I would make the argument that precisely as our society lost the Sabbath, we became harder in our hearts.

Key words about healing
1.  θεραπευσει  (literally "therapy" meaning "heal"; 3.2)  English speakers will recognize the word "therapy" and immediately move to healing.  However, the original meaning of this word was much more akin to serving the gods, like a priest.  In fact, in the Old Testament the word never means heals, as in God heals, but means the people serve the god or king.  It seems that over time so much temple worship was focused on sacrifices offered in hopes of healing that temple service and healing became associated.  Interestingly, BDAG alludes to this possible shift in the meaning of their word, but does not offer any citations.  See a website about ancient temple practices in Greece (that I worked on!)

Key point for us:  Jesus turns the Bible upside-down by actually doing the service toward people without sacrifice!!

2.  εγειρε εις το μεσον  (meaning "arise in the middle"; 3.3)  The English translators simply record "stand in front."  But Jesus literally says, "Arise in their midst." First off, it is really a bold command, one that not only takes courage of Jesus to give, but also of them man to obey.  Second, it plays on the word for resurrection.  I am going out on a limb here but first
- He will be healed, not only in body, but in spirit.  He becomes bold!
- His healing is linked to his final healing, namely, the resurrection of the body.

3.  σωσαι ψυχην (meaning "save a soul"; 3.4)  Anyone who takes a class in Greek quickly learns that the word σωζω (in this case, in the form σωσαι) means more than a ticket to heaven, but means the broad work of salvation that comes to us through God.  It is also interesting that what is at stake here is not simply his hand but his ψυχην (psyche).  When God heals, God heals the whole of a person.  This has implications for how we understand ministry here (the healing of the whole person) but also how we understand the resurrection (the salvation and resurrection of the whole person!)

Key words about intensity of emotions
Side note:  Mark's linguistic genius is often overlooked.  He writes very intense short stories, using verb tenses and key words to quickly paint a dramatic scene.
1.  οργης (meaning "wrath", 3.5)  This is the only time when Jesus exhibits wrath in the whole New Testament.

2.  πωρωσις  (porosis, 3.5)  Jesus anger is over, the hardness of their heart.  This then has an implication for what is of fundamental concern for God:  hardness of our hearts.  The Frieburg dictionary puts it:
"...as a medical technical term, of covering with a callous or a thick growth of skin hardening; of the eyes dulling, blindness; figuratively in the NT, of unwillingness to learn insensibility, obstinacy, stubbornness."

3συλλυπουμενος (meaning "sympathy" or "concern"; 3.5)  This verb is really interesting.  The συλ beginning hides the fact that it really belongs to the συν family of verbs.  συν means "with" and is added to the beginning of verbs to suggest a joining.  In Greek, as in Latin, as in English, as in Hebrew, "n" is a weak sound and often gets eaten up by other sounds, in this case the ν becomes and λ just like the n in con-lect become an "l" to form "collect."  Point being is that Jesus has an incredible mixture of emotions.  He is wrathfully angry but also deeply grieving with them.

4.  ελεγεν; εσιπτων ("speaking" and "keeping silent", 2.27 and 3.4)  What I want to highlight here is that these verses are in the imperfect tense.  This tense describes on-going or repeated action (it is imperfect -- it is not complete!)  So Jesus was telling them repeatedly "Humans are not made..." and they were continually silent in response to Jesus' rebuke. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Romans 8:12-25

This passage occurs as a New Testament Lesson in the RCL "Pentecost"/"Ordinary"/"Proper" Season, Year A, most recently July 2017.   A portion of it (Romans 8:12-17) occurs on Holy Trinity Sunday in Year B, most recently May 2018.

Summary:  Paul describes in some beautiful and novel ways our relationship to God through the work of the Holy Spirit.  First, Paul uses the word adoption (υιοθεσια); he, alone among NT writers, uses this concept to talk about our relationship to God.  Second, Paul uses a string of "συν" verbs to talk about our togetherness with God:  We have inheritance, suffering and glorification WITH Christ.  Lastly, Paul says we have the first-fruit of the Spirit.  EVERY time before this, first-fruits went to God to appease him.  Now, God is offering us the first-fruit (απαρχη) of the Spirit.  I am still pondering the interpretation of verse 23, but it is clear that Paul is pushing the dimensions of the God-humanity relationship in new (and strange) directions, made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit through Christ.

Key Words:
υιοθεσια ("adoption"; 8:15, 23)  Paul employs the imagery of adoption to describe our relationship with God.  Rather profound, not only because of the metaphor itself, but because Paul had no Biblical antecedents.  Paul claims that our adoption comes with rights, including inheritance and glorification.  (oh, yes, and suffering too).

ει ("if"; 13, 25)  This word is often translated as "if" but it can also mean "since."  For example, in verse 25, it would be a much more natural reading in English: "Since we hope for what we have not seen, we wait in patience."  I've written about this word before in my grammar review, but in this passage, it does have an impact on translation, especially in verse 13.  [Basic review:  "ει" with subjunctive verb means "if"; with an indicative verb it can range from "if" to "since under the condition of X."  The verbs in vs. 13 are indicative, so we have some flexibility.]  If you read verse 13 with "if" it reads like a moral imperative:  sin and die or put to death the body and live.  But if you read it with "since" it makes a much more Lutheran reading:  "Since you are sinning, you will die; since you, by the Spirit, putting the deads of the body to death, you will live."  In otherwords, Paul may simply be describing a situation rather than prescribing a situation.

ματαιοτης ("futility" or "vanity" 8:20)  This is the main word of the book of Eccles. in the OT.  I think keeping it as "vanity" might be a better translation.  This is life before Christ:  not simply dark or evil, but vain and rather pointless.

απαρχη ("first-fruit"; 8:23)  Paul employs this word in a striking way.  Normally this word refers to the choice part of the sacrifice offered to God.  God explicitly commands this part; the rest can be used for secular (ie our) use.  Paul says that we now have the first-fruit of the Spirit.  There a number of ways to read this passage (I assume) but one that strikes me is this:  We have Christ, the first fruit sacrifice of God.  This means the age of sacrifice is over.  We no longer have to live in fear of appeasing God, but we can live as his children, assured of his mercy and grace.  Another way to think of it is this.  The Spirit is the first-fruit, in the sense of the Spirit is the downpayment, the promise, the sealed legal papers, of our future glory with God.  This word remains an enigma to me, but it is clear that Paul is pushing beyond the bounds of its normal cultic and OT usage. 

σαρξ:  (Note:  This is a much longer entry)
Paul uses σαρξ three times in this passage (8:12 (twice); 8:13). It seems to have a variety of meanings concretely and abstractly related to “flesh.” Although Paul uses the word in various ways, in Romans he tends to offer a negative view of σαρξ, presenting it as hostile to the purposes of God.

BDAG suggests a variety of meanings for σαρξ ranging from purely physical to more abstract. Although BDAG suggests that Paul uses σαρξ to signify a variety of these possible meanings, it also indicates that

“in Paul’s thought especially, all parts of the body constitute a totality known as sa.rx or flesh, which is dominated by sin to such a degree that whatever flesh is, all forms of sin are likewise present, and no good thing can live in the σαρξ.”

The Theological Lexicon of the New Testament offers a similar assessment: “Paul treats the flesh – the inferior part of the person – as the locus of the passions and covetousness.”

In the beginning of the book, Paul seems more neutral on flesh.  His argument against flesh grows!  For example, although Jesus is the descendant of David according to the flesh, he is designated son of God in power according to the Spirit (1:4). Indeed, faith, not our fleshly ancestry in Abraham, provides us with justification (Romans 4:24; Paul reiterates this point in chapter 9). Paul even writes that the inward – real – circumcision is not in the flesh, but in the heart by the Spirit (2:28-29). It is clear that even when Paul uses σαρξ in a more neutral manner, he views it as incomplete, if not incompatible, with God’s purposes and the work of the Spirit.

Although Paul uses σαρξ throughout Romans, it overwhelmingly appears in the middle of his letter. Here Paul explicitly describes σαρξ as hostile to purposes of the God. He writes, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (7:18).” Most of chapter 8 negatively contrasts the flesh against the Spirit. For example, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace (8:6).”

In conclusion, Paul uses this word generally and also specifically in chapter 8 of Romans to describe something in our human nature opposed to God and the work of the Spirit. Paul seems more concerned with what it does (causes us to sin) than what it is (some entity in us). The Spirit will not work to improve the flesh, but the flesh and its works must be put to death.

Translation/Grammar Review:  συν verbs
Greek can easily make new verbs by combining prefixes to existing verbs.  In English, we could do this too, but perhaps not as easiliy:  "Co-suffering" would make sense, but it would be bad English.  But in Greek writers will often add suffixes freely to verbs to slightly modify their meaning.  Paul does this a number of times in this passage, see, for example, verses 16, 17 and 22.  Here Paul adds the prefix συν, which means "with" to a number of verbs.  Some words in English still have this prefix, for example:  "synergy" or "syntax."   But mostly in English we have words with the Latin "con" or "co" as their prefix (which also means "with").

At first, you might not notice the verbs because you don't see συν.  Don't worry!  The problem is "n" is a weak sound, so it often gets dropped -- in every language.  For example, it is not "con"operation, but cooperation.  It is not "con"munication, but communication.  The "n" is dropped or moved to another sound.  (In Hebrew this makes certain verbs very difficult to detect after they have been conjugated). 

This happens in verse 17: συγκληρονομοι, συμπασχομεν, συνδοξασθωμεν.  The point for translation is that you have to try to capture, in both 16-17 and 22 the great amount of "co"working that is happening:
We are "co" witnesses (16); "co" inheritors"; "co" sufferes and "co" glorifieders (spelling intentional).

Isaiah 6:1-8

This passage occurs on Holy Trinity Sunday in Year B, most recently May 27, 2018.

Summary:  This passage beautifully contrasts Uzziah and the Lord as kings of Israel.  What emerges is a profoundly beautiful version of God's holiness...and also love for this world.  It is also a deeply political passage, reminding us, as Psalm 146 says, do not put your trust in princes; Yet Isaiah is not given permission to abandon this world (or the temple, or the state!)

Key Words
- Contrasting Uzziah and the Lord
שנח-מוח ("year of death", vs 1)  This passage begins with an ominous wording:  "The year of death."  This will set up the contrast for the living Lord.

המלך ("king", vs 1 and vs 5)  Whether the people cried to return to their fleshpots in Egypt or called on Samuel to anoint a king, the question for Israel is always:  Who is your king?  The king on the "so-called" throne has died but the living Lord abides.  This is a king who is worshipped by eternal messengers

מלא ("full", 6.4) The word "full" is used three times in this section; the robe fills the temple; the house is filled with smoke; the earth is filled with God's glory.  It is a reminder that with God there is always abundance even amid deep scarcity.

המןבח ("altar", 6.6)  First point:  the word for altar comes from the word for sacrifice.  This connotation, clear in both Greek and Hebrew, is lost in English.  The sacrament of the altar then, is the sacrament of the place of sacrifice.  

Second point:  Uzziah ends his life with leprosy, punished by God for attempting to make a sacrifice -- instead of the priests -- in the temple.  (2 Chronicles 26)  Uzziah tried to claim to much power -- state and temple -- and God would have none of it.  A reminder that the kings of earth always try for more than is granted to them.  Also interesting that it will be the altar, where Uzziah sinned, where Isaiah will be commissioned to preach.

- Some further thoughts on holiness:
קדיש ("qadesh" meaning "holy", vs 3)  Hebrew does not use many adjectives; it simply repeats words to add emphasis.  To use a word three times means something is really holy.   This is the only time that the word Holy is repeated in the entire OT; in the book of Revelation the phrase will be used again threefold.  The use of holy three times here suggests that the temple is the location of the fullness of God's glory on earth -- heaven on earth!

It is also worth pointing out that Isaiah is acutely aware that he is unclean and not holy.  What keeps him unholy, most noticeably, is not simply his own sin but the collective sin.  

שרפים ("Seraphin" meaning "angels", 6.2)  The word "Seraphim" comes from the Hebrew word for snake, which comes from the Hebrew verb, "burn"; this is in fact, what the Seraphim will do, burn pure the lips of Isaiah.  This is terrifying image of angels!

As Fausset's Bible Dictionary says:
"3152.01 Isa. 6:2,3. God's attendant angels. Seraphim in Num. 21:6 means the fiery flying (not winged, but rapidly moving) serpents which bit the Israelites; called so from the poisonous inflammation caused by their bites. Burning (from saraph to burn) zeal, dazzling brightness of appearance (2 Kings 2:11; 6:17; Ezek. 1:13; Mt. 28:3) and serpent-like rapidity in God's service, always characterize the seraphim..."

צבאית ("Sabboth" meaning "army", 6.3) The word "Sabboth" or "hosts" here does not mean dinner or Sabbath; it means legions of war.  This is fascinating the long form of God's holy name in the Bible includes a title of war.  I believe this must be contrasted with Isaiah 2, where the swords will be transformed into plowshares on the mount of Lord.  God's "warrior" side is always a secondary or penultimate side, designed to purify and cleanse.  Obviously the problem is that people always believe their war is to purify and justify terrible atrocities.

שלחני ("Send" in this case (שלח) with (ני) on the end for "me!", 6.8)  We are forgiven and sent out into the world.  This idea of being sent is not a concept made up in the Gospel of John (or anywhere else in the New Testament.)  It is core to the prophets.  God gathers -- in this cases draws us into the temple -- to cleanse and send us.  Our holiness - our sanctification - is all about being made useful to God.  Why does God cleanse Isaiah?  Ultimately for the redemption of Israel.

Holy Trinity Sunday: John 3:1-21, Romans 8:12-25 and Isaiah 6:1-8 (Year B)

There is a lot of rich and beautiful imagery, word play and of course, theology in this week's passages. (Holy Trinity for Year B).

John 3:
This is a broad look at the story of Nicodemus.  I find an interesting connection with the Holy Trinity Isaiah text in this way -- In Isaiah, there is a death.  The story of Israel's people seems coming to a grinding halt, if not end.  But God is King and so the story moves on.  In the same way, Nicodemus' story seems at an end; but God is King; the Spirit is ALIVE and so the story moves on.

breaks down John 3:16
We've heard John 3:16 a million times before. For this week, I broke it down, word by word. Awful for a sermon, yes, but a closer look reveals how this really is the Gospel in a nutshell. Fun Greek fact: The phrase eternal life is literally "eons of a zoo." God's eternal party is a zoo! Helpful Greek fact: This eternal zoo is not a future reality, but a present one, available here and now.

Romans 8:12-25
is a very thorough review of Romans 8:12-25.  Summary:
Paul describes in some beautiful and novel ways our relationship to God through the work of the Holy Spirit. First, Paul uses the word adoption (υιοθεσια); he, alone among NT writers, uses this concept to talk about our relationship to God. Second, Paul uses a string of "συν" verbs to talk about our togetherness with God: We have inheritance, suffering and glorification WITH Christ. Lastly, Paul says we have the first-fruit of the Spirit. EVERY time before this, first-fruits went to God to appease him. Now, God is offering us the first-fruit (απαρχη) of the Spirit. I am still pondering the interpretation of verse 23, but it is clear that Paul is pushing the dimensions of the God-humanity relationship in new (and strange) directions, made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit through Christ.

Also, here is the link to my previous work on Isaiah:
I seriously need to re-work this.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Acts 2:1-11

Summary:   Luke's use of language in his first two sentences of Acts chapter 2 sets up an incredible contrast.   Verse one captures the togetherness of the pre-Pentecost community; verse two shows the Holy Spirit bursting the community into the world.  As I contemplate the church over the centuries, I wonder if we always stand between verse 1 and 2; full of love and community, but waiting for the awesome movement of the Spirit to push us outside of ourselves.   Moving churches out of their walls is a Herculean task, but God is up to it!

Image one: The pre-Pentecost community (Verse 1 captures all of chapter 1)

ομου + επι το αυτο ("together" and "all together") Luke uses a rather redundant phrase. Both halves mean "together"; in English he basically wrote "They were together with each other in the same place." Luke wants to drive the point across that they were united. It is important to note that a united church is not a church in mission; a united church is a church waiting for mission.

(Snarky side comment:  The church of Acts 1 may as well be called First Lutheran Church of Jerusalem.  Great doctrine.  Great fellowship.  Perfect Committee Structure.  No outreach.)

εν τω συμπληρουσθαι (συμπληροω; fulfill)  To the point: By employing this particular construction, Luke makes it clear that they did not simply come together on Pentecost, but they had been together for a while. A few other points here about the verb fulfill:
* The verb fulfill occurs three times in just a few verses. The days of Pentecost were being fulfilled; the house was filled; now the people are filled.
* The verb is in the present  suggesting it is ongoing action; especially when paired with an imperfect as the main verb. The notion suggested here is that they have been together (rather obediently!) since Jesus told them to wait.
* Purely grammar note: Chapter two begins with an articular infinitive using the construction, εν τω + infinitive which means "During the ..." In this case, the verb is "fulfill."

Summary, Luke does not simply imply "The group was assembled for the celebration" but rather, "As the day of Pentecost approached, they were continually together in the same place."

Image two: The Spirit comes [vs 2 (and the rest of Acts)]

ηχος ("sound"; literally echo!) The Spirit comes as an echo...that has reverberated across the years.

φερημενης (φερω; "carry") The wind that comes is a carrying wind; a wind that will carry the disciples outside of their walls.

βιαιος ("violent") When this word occurs in the OT, it describes the wind blowing back the waters during Exodus.   Maybe that is one metaphor for the Spirit's activities during the 21st century: Making a way through the troubled waters for the church. Interestingly, this word is used in classical Greek to describe the "power" or "strength" of Hercules. This may also be a way to think about the Spirit -- overcoming the Herculean task of getting Christians to leave the door. Sometimes this might take shaking things up a bit!

To put this together, the Spirit carries with it...a hint of upheaval...that echoes across the centuries.

A few other points:
ευλαβης ("devout"; 2:5)  The men in Jerusalem are considered "devout".  Interestingly, Simeon was labeled as devout as well -- a rather rare term in the NT (only used four times). As Jesus was revealed (as a baby) to a devout man, the church was revealed (as a baby!) to a devout man.

ιδια διαλεκτω ("Our own language" literally "the idiom dialect"; 2:6) Luther hits the nail on the head: Muttersprache.

ακουω ("hear"; 2:6,8 and 11)  This verb means listening. Perhaps the more important activity of the Holy Spirit is working on the ears of the listener!