Monday, September 18, 2017

Matthew 20:1-16

This passage occurs in both the Revised Common Lectionary and the Narrative Lectionary (most recently March 1, 2015).

Summary:   Tough parable for us.  Most churches preach grace, but when exposed like this, grace just seems, well, unfair!  But grace it is.  And grace abounds.  I find grace in that God goes after the lazy (αργος); furthermore, even the envious (πονηρος, evil in fact) get into heaven.  We do not enter God's Kingdom based on our heart being perfect, but simply by God's grace.  I also find grace to be the hiring, not the pay-day; It is all by God's grace that we are hired in the first place and get to belong to God, to work in his vineyard.  I also find grace irresistible in that even the grumpy don't get kicked out of God's vineyard!

Key words
απεστειλεν (aorist form of αποστελλω, apostello, meaning "send"; 20.2).  John's Gospel get a lot of publicity for the idea of sending (even within the Trinity), but Matthew uses the word αποστελλω 22 times! (Mark 20; Luke 25; John 27).  Here they are even sent into the...

αμπελων(α) (ampelon, meaning "vineyard"; 20:1,2,4 and 7).  First, it is interesting that Matthew and John have such a strong connection here, with vineyard and sending.  Another comparison worth exploring is between the parables in chapter 20 and 21, both about vineyards.

αργος (argos, meaning idle; 20.6)  I have no unique insights to add to this word.  I just want to point out:  God goes after the lazy, those not fit for work elsewhere, those who simply stand around.

αποδος (from αποδιδημι. meaning "pay/give back"; 20:8)  Matthew uses this word quite frequently in his Gospel:
Matthew 6:4, give in secret, your father will reward/pay/give back in secret (see also 6:6, 6:18)
Matthew 12:36 On judgement day, we will have to "give back" an account of our life (see also 16.27)
Matthew 18 and the parable of the unforgiving servant -- lots of pay back in this story!
Matthew 22:21  Give/render to Caesar what is Caesar.
Matthew 27:58  Pilate gives the dead body back.
In the case of Matthew 20, the workers are paid/rendered/given back their wages.  The question is:  What is salvation?  Working in the vineyard or getting paid?  I would argue that the moment of salvation is becoming one of God's workers in the vineyard.  Ultimately, as long as we view salvation as pay, there is likely little joy along the way and much frustration about the salvation state of our piers.

καυσων(α) (causon, like caustic in English; 20:12)  It is worth reminding ourselves that doing Christ's work is not always easy.  I wonder if the Gospel for this passage is found way back in Matthew 11:  Come to me, all your who are heavy laden..."

τοις εμοις (dative with "the of me"; 20:15)  The Greek here is not good English, but the English reader can make sense of it.  When you have the word "the" without a noun it means more like "things", in this case, "the 'the' of me" or "the 'things' of me."  The question is here, is the master talking about money or people?  It seems that in the case of God, the things of God are the people. 

πονηρος ("wicked" or "envious"; 20:15)  Even the wicked still get into the vineyard!!  God is really gracious.

ισους (isous, from isos, meaning the same, as in "iso-metric"; 20:15)  The problem is that the master is making people equal to each other.  This should call to mind Philippians, in that Jesus did not regard equality (same word) as something to be exploited, but humbled himself.  In this case, becoming like Christ is being willing to work in the vineyard and to rejoice over a repentant sinner instead of being frustrated they get the same "reward" as us!

Last bonus:  The evil eye in 20:15
The literal translation of 20:15 is "Or is your eye evil because I am good."  God does not describe himself as generous but as good. Ultimately goodness is tied into generosity.  Furthermore, those disgruntled are described as having an evil eye.  A reminder that a reward is given to those with jealousy and evil in their hearts, not just those pure in heart.  God is good.  He gives to humans. Regardless of how long they worked; regardless of how lazy they are; regardless of how good they are.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Matthew 18:21-35

This passage occurs in the RCL "Pentecost"/"Ordinary"/"Proper" Season, Year A, most recently September 2014. 
Summary:  A classic tale of forgiveness.  A man owes an absurd amount (Roughly 10.8 billion by my calculations).  After being forgiven he arrests his friends who him a couple of hundred dollars.  Take your pick:  Are we debtors, beggars or slaves?  All popular American terms.  At least the first one...

Key words:
δανειον  ("debt"; 18.27) The use of this word for "debt" here is unique in the NT.  The word normally carries with it a suggestion of interest, even usury with this debt.  Most simply it means a loan.  God is calling the loan and then forgives it.  What has God loaned you!?

ει τι ("whatever" 18.28)  The exact construction of the phrase "Pay what you owe me" is rather interesting. It actually includes an "ει τι" phrase. This phrase is normally translated "if anything," as if to say, the man was not even really sure what the debt was, if in fact, it was anything.

παρακαλεω ("encourage"/"plead"; 18.29, 32)  This is a powerful theological word used twice in this section.  Also used in the present tense.  Here the image is one of constant begging (used in present tense).  (The word for Holy Spirit is derived from this word:  "paraclete")

συνδουλος ("fellow-slave" 18:28, 29, 31, and 33)  The Greek can put "fellow" and "slave" together in one word.  Powerful word.  Fellow slave.

Grammar review:  Future vs. Subjunctive:  Sins aren't subjunctive in this case!
The Greek language is obsessed with the future.  There are multiple ways to show the future implications of a given action.  Worth noting is that there is no future subjunctive.  Either something will happen in the future or it might happen starting from this moment forward in an unknown time.  But you cannot do "might happen in the future"; that simply means might happen.  Today, when Peter is asking Jesus about forgiving others, he does not put the verb αφησω (forgive) in the subjunctive.  The whole sentence is in the future.  In short, Peter expects sin and forgiveness. The sentence literally reads: "How often will my brother against me and will I forgive him? Until seven times?"

Monday, September 4, 2017

Matthew 18:15-20

This passage occurs as a New Testament Lesson in the RCL "Pentecost"/"Ordinary"/"Proper" Season, Year A, most recently September 2014. 
Summary:  Jesus seems to let us off the hook today, telling us we can treat sinning Christians like gentiles and tax collectors, as long as we've gone through the appeal court system.  However, this is the worst news of all, because Jesus spends most of his time eating with tax collectors and even getting harassed for his association with them.  In other words, Jesus doesn't give us permission to drop them, but rather instructs us to bear them, teach them and even get persecuted because we continue to care for them over and against their difficulties toward us.  Yes, he does let us remove our heart strings a bit from them, but not our moral obligation.  Hence why Jesus has to promise us his presence in the midst of conflict!

Key Words:
αδελφος (brother/sister; found throughout section)  Earlier in Matthew's Gospel, he refers to his followers as his brothers and sisters (12:49).  He is telling his disciples that in the church they are also brothers and sisters to one another. 

εθνικος (pagan, gentile, literally "ethnic"; 18:17)  Jesus suggests we treat Christians who have greatly sinned against us as gentiles.  Interestingly, Jesus final words in the Gospel of Matthew instruct us to preach to the gentiles (all the nations of the world; same root word) and earlier Jesus reminds us to love our enemies, because even the gentiles to this.  Jesus is not giving us permission to be rude and dismissive to our brothers and sisters in Jesus, even those whom we are angry with.

τελωνης ("tax collector"; 18:17)  Jesus eats with tax collectors.  He repeatedly takes heat for being seen with them.  So considering someone a tax collector means something more like this:  "Treat them in such a way that no one knows how much they anger and embarrass you, bearing your cross and thanking God for this opportunity to become a more patient and compassionate person."

συμφωνησωσιν ("agree" or "match", from συμφωνεω; 18:19)  The actually meaning of this word is not that interesting.  What is interesting is the derivation, "symphony" which means "together-sounds."  Jesus says that if we make a symphony, God listens.  Haha!

συνηγμενοι ("gathered"; passive perfect participle from "συναγω"; 18:20)  This participle covers up a familiar word:  synago, from which we get synagogue.  The voice is significant here.  We do not gather ourselves in the church, but rather are gathered God.  Thus, we are moving  from human action to God's promise. Also worth noting that Jesus promises his presence in the midst of the office of the keys and congregational conflict.  The church is a gift, however human and sinful it can be!
Translation Issue:  Hypothetical situations with εαν

Technically, this word is a combination of:  ει αν, both of which are "subjunctive" markers.  Put them together and you have a very hypothetical situation.  If you have the word εαν, the writer/speaker is not specifying if this will actually happen.  It means something like, "if" or perhaps "whenever."  If is used in Greek to set up a simple phrase (so necessary for science), if-then.  So in our text for this week, Jesus is not promising conflict; nor is he promising that people will not listen.  He is simply saying, "If you experience this, well, then do this..."

Also worth noting:  Every other verse in this section has an "if" clause, yet in 18:20 Jesus simply declares -- Where two or three are gathered, I am in the midst of you.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Track vs Field: The unchurched and churched

Reformation 500 and the unchurched
This summer my congregation did a great deal of research into the unchurched in our community.  This was part of our celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  We are thinking about the call of the Holy Spirit to continue to reform the church, in this case, our congregation.  One of our projects was to build a "Thesis 96" wall outside our church.  We invited people in the church and community to write their statement (or thesis) to the church.  It has been really awesome to see what people have written.  But that is for another day!

Our hope through the Thesis 96 project and our Reformation 500 celebrations is to consider -- what prevents people from accessing God's grace in our culture, specifically our community, today?  How could be better reach out to the unchurched in our community.

Track vs Field Understanding
Back to the unchurched.  I confess that I often end up with a view of the unchurched and churched that looks something like this: 

In this view, there are unchurched and churched people.  Each group is divided into two subgroups:  The unchurched has people that are really opposed to the Gospel (we'll call them atheists) and people that are somewhat open ("seekers"); the churched has people that come ("participants") and those that really are involved ("elders").  We could nuance this chart, maybe adding a few more arrow segments, but basically the idea is to move people from left to right.  If they are questioning, get them in the door.  If they are in the door, get them involved.  There are tons of books written to give churches tools as to how to make this conveyor belt process work.
There are also tons of blogs/books written as to why people are drifting from right to left on this chart!  Given this mentality, it is easy to feel like we are fighting an impossible task, running right into the head waters of our culture that is increasingly ambivalent, if not hostile to church, institutions and in many ways, commitments.
As we did research, which included looking at data and talking to people in our community, it occurred to me that this track or linear view was really inadequate for our task.  I want to propose a more "field" than "track" view of the churched and unchurched.
In reality, there are many reasons why people are unchurched.  Some of it comes out of opposition to the church or the idea of God.  Frankly though, survey after survey shows that most Americans do not consider themselves strident atheists.  Most people instead are out of church totally or most Sundays for a variety of reasons
- They moved to a new community or had a huge change in their family situation
- They were burned out on their church
- They were abused by their church
- They have never been to church and have never been invited (7 out of 10 unchurched people has never been invited)
- They work on Sundays or have made a commitment to their child's sporting "career."
Furthermore, there are lots of ways that people plug into church
- Some people are "all in" - "elders" who come nearly every Sunday and serve in leadership
- Some are homebound members
- Some connect only with certain areas of ministry - education or social ministry or a particular outreach of the church
- Some come when they are can, but are really busy
- Some connect only online
- Some travel extensively and are only plugged in when they are in town
In short, we do not have two or even four groups that could fit on a line.  There are people all over the highway in terms of church involvement or not.
General Motors' Maven
General Motors has a subdivision called Maven, which is providing short term rentals of GM cars.  It is designed to compete with ZipCar.  General Motors has come to the conclusion that for certain phases of life, people want access to a car, but neither want nor can afford ownership.  In some cities, people use Maven for weekend getaways, in other cities people use Maven to get across town and still in other cities people use it as their vehicle for money making through Uber!  What is most striking though is that General Motors does not simply think this kind of car utilization is for a phase of life; it acknowledges that many people will never own a car, but will be interested in using a car.  General Motors set up Maven so that even if people are not buying cars, they can still make a profit in the car industry!
To put this perspective back into our discussion about churched and unchurched, I think we should realize that just like many people today will not own cars, but will still use them, many people in our congregation will not be "all in" and may, in fact, never be "all in" but they will still be in the sphere of our congregation.  Just like people are automobiles for different reasons and to different extents, the people who come into our congregation will engage in different ways.  This does not mean they are bad or incomplete Christians or even that they only have a consumer mentality, but their life set up prevents them from being "all in."
Creating paths instead of a track
Rather than trying to move everyone along some mythical church conveyer belt, I suggest we embrace a far scarier task:  Providing more (personalized!) paths to faith development.  Let's assume that young families are not going to come more than twice a month.  How can we help them pray at night with their kids?  Let's assume that homebound members cannot serve on committees.  How can we keep them connected and feeling a part of the decision making process at the church?  Let's assume that the person who only comes to play in the handbell choir is unlikely to come for anything else.  How can we make that 6 hours a month she commits to the church as faith filled as possible?
The goal of making disciples may ultimately have a linear or clear trajectory, namely, helping people see their relationship with God in terms of transformation rather than transaction.  However, the map of people's engagement with the church is anything but linear.  To put it another way, I feel liberated - my job is not simply to move people from an increasing pool of unchurched to a shrinking pool of churched.  My task is to help the congregation figure out "faith paths" that can move people toward a deeper commitment to their Lord and the church, acknowledging this will not necessarily look "all in" from a church perspective.  This does not mean that serving Jesus demands anything less than "all in"; rather, this acknowledges that being "all in" to Jesus will manifest itself in a variety of levels of engagement with the church, particularly one congregation.

Matthew 16:21-28

This passage occurs in the RCL, year A (most recently Aug 31, 2014).
Summary:  Whatever one does, we shouldn't water down this passage.  It is harsh.  As I reflect on it this year, I am really struck by the tenses of the verbs, that "deny" and "pick up" are aorist or one-time events, yet follow is a present, or on-going event.  This suggests to me, with a Lutheran understanding of Baptism and vocation, of a life-long cross that we inherit in our Baptisms, the cross of service to our neighbor.  We are always following Jesus, discovering what this cross entails.  It looks different, but it is always the same -- care of our neighbor.   Lastly, I think the good news for me is actually found in the next story, the transfiguration.  We get overwhelmed by the cross but then Jesus opens our eyes to his glory -- and we can carry on.

οπισω ("behind", 16:23,24)  This word appears twice:  Get behind me Satan and then if you want to come behind me.  In life, we are never truly our own free agents, but either following the forces of evil or Christ.  Hmm...too dramatic.  Don't water down this passage.

απαρνησασθω ("deny", 16:24) and αρατω ("pick up", 16:24)  What I have always struggled with here is that these verbs are in the aorist tense, which suggests a one-time event.  Does this mean we should move toward a decision/one-time event understanding of faith?  Keep reading...

ακουλουθειτω ("follow", 16:24) this is in the present tense.  We are to pick up the cross one time, but then continue to follow Jesus are whole lives?  Rather than understand this to mean that we make a one-time decision to follow Jesus, I argue we need to re-think what Jesus means by cross here.  When I think of picking up my cross, I think of my baptism.  The cross given to me in a my baptism confers on me the life orientation of living a disciple.  In my life, this same cross -- living as a disciple -- unfolds in different ways, always through service to the neighbor.   It is always the same cross-  dying to myself and to the world, but it looks different -- patiently bearing the criticism of others, apologizing to my colleages when I am wrong, listening to my neighbor whine, potty training my daughter and so forth.  In life, we don't get one particular cross, one challenge to bear, but the whole weight of our neighbor's needs is ever upon us.
To put it another way, the cross of life should weigh upon us so heavy that we call out to Jesus for mercy and forgiveness.  And he then can carry the cross for us.

σταυρον ("cross" 16:24)  Just a quick reminder that before we get to sentimental about cross, this was an ancient capital punishment device.  We need to make the cross abstract to make sense of it (ie, we don't need to nail wood planks and walk around with them); but we need to not make it too abstract that we lose the challenge of it.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Matthew 16:13-20

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A, most recently Aug 27, 2017.
Summary:  This passage of Peter's confession has a number of familiar theological words that I try to unpack a bit.  This year I want to unpack the setting, Caesarea Philippi, home to all sorts of crazy, pagan, awful stuff.  It can be easy to look at our world, even our country, even our community, and feel overwhelmed and disgusted.  Even at those times our job as a church is to confess Christ, in and out of season, whether it is popular or not.  What is our confession?  It is that he is the Christ, the anointed savior, son of the living God.

Idea for a children's sermon:  the whole fish i-ch-th-u-s thing (Jesus Christ God's Son Savior) as the most basic confession.

καισαρειας φιλιππι (Caesarea Philippi, 16:13):  This town is not a coincidental mention.  It was a trading hub, located along some major land routes and in possession of a great harbor.  It had been associated, in the past, with Baal (OT Canaanite god) and Pan (Greek god).  In Jesus day, it was one of the Roman capitals in the area, with immense building projects undertaken by Herod, including the construction of a temple in honor of Augustus.  In fact, one of the temples was believed to be located at the gates of hades, a direct connection to the underworld.  Philippi epitomized the Greco-Roman religious mileau of the day: a pantheistic cult that continuued to give more space to emperor worship; above all, a worship of beauty, sex, power and money. 

One can go even further though and think about the extent to which these are all not simply dead gods, but gods of death.  At the main temple in Caesarea Philippi, which was a temple believed to be the gates of Hades, people would offer dead animal sacrifices  ( good pictures!).  Hence the importance in Peter's confession that God is a living God! 

If you want to go even further, you can study more about what worship of Pan actually entailed, but now we have an adult only sermon.

υιος του ανθροπος  (Son of Man 16:13).  As Christians we instantly recognize this title to refer to Jesus.  In fact, we often look at this title as one that uplifts Jesus as the pinnacle of humanity.  That he was a pinnacle is not arguable; but what the pinnacle entails is up for debate!  In the Old Testament, this particular title for an individual or humanity seems to suggest humanities weakness:
- What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:4; See also Psalm 144:3)
If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is but a maggot-- a son of man, who is only a worm!" (Job 25:5-6)
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19)
God also calls Ezekiel the Son of Man a number (80?) times; it is a way of reminding Ezekiel he is not divine.  In short, to Bible calling Jesus the Son of Man ascribes both majesty but also humilty to Christ. 

χριστος  (Christos, Messiah, 16:16)  Christos is Greek for anointed.  In Hebrew, the word for anointed is Messiah.  Peter is calling Jesus the Messiah.  The Old Testament strongly associates Messiah with a king, in the line of David, one who leads and protects the people.  The idea seems to be that a Messiah is a divine talisman, in that he has special protection (1 Sam 26:23; Psalm 20:6).  Interestingly, in Leviticus (4:6 eg) the High Priest is also referred to as the "annointed" or "Messiah."  Furthermore, Isaiah in chapter 61, declares himself annointed for his vision, hence prophet could also be understood as the role of the annointed (Psalm 105:15 connects this as well).  As Messiah then could be understood to capture three offices:  king, priest and prophet, which matches up with Calvin's understanding of Christ and his offices.  The question for me, beyond the blog post, is whether there is really a developed understanding as the Messiah as one who will suffer in the Old Testament.  While Kings, priets and especially prophets may suffer, there seems a much stronger note of victory, even theology of glory, surrounding this term.  This would explain why Peter so soon afterwards does not want Jesus to suffer!  (In short, Peter knew his Old Testament!).  It also shows a great contrast with the term son of Man!

πετρος /πετρα Petros Petra:  We've all heard that Peter's name means Rock, because he was the Rock on which the church would be built.  Both words clearly have a the same first few letters (Petr), but I am not sure if we must necessarily infer that Peter the person is what the church will be built on.  Beyond some linguistic oddities (Petra is a feminine noun and ends in an a, nothing like Peter's name's ending), the far more logical thing is that the church will be built on the confession, which comes from heaven.  I think the Bible really underscores this by showing Peter's misunderstanding just a few sentences later.

αδης hades:  See my blog post on words for hell in the Bible.

Grammar note 1:  Verb tenses -- when Jesus asks the disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" the verb is in the imperfect, noting a repeated action.  Jesus continually asks and continues to this day to ask:  Who do you say that I am?

Grammar note 2:  In the infinitive phrase "Who do you say that I am" the word "I" is in the accusative (me).  Why?  Because in the subject of an infinitive clause is in the accusative, not the nominative.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Matthew 15:21-28

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A, most recently in August 2017.

Note:  My post for this passage grows out of a session of Summer Greek I helped teach at United Lutheran Seminary on August 18, 2017.  So exciting to help future pastors see how Greek can impact their preaching.  I definitely learned a great deal from them.  This post also reflects the events that happened in August 2017, when there was a violent White Supremacy rally in Charlottesville, VA.  Unfortunately, Donald Trump's words following this event threw gasoline on the oldest fire in America: racism.

Summary:  Most times I would preach on the woman's faith and the dynamics of prayer. I would wrestle with Jesus reluctance to be a God of mercy and justice for her; was Jesus sense of mission changed by this and other interactions?  I really don't think so, but wow, this is a tough passage!

This year though, based on events in our nation, my attention is drawn to the disciples and their unwillingness to speak on behalf of the needy.  I see their hardness of heart as the primary objective of Jesus' healing.  Ultimately, in order for the church to be a place big enough for Jews and Gentiles, the Jewish followers of Jesus are going to have to accept Gentiles.  As the book of Acts and Paul's letter to the Galatians shows, this is a long road.  In short, I see this story beginning with #ShePerisisted and ultimately turning into #JesusPersisted because he is willing to walk a long, long path with his disciples to open their eyes to God's mercy.  To draw it back to today's context, I see a lot of people really hesitent to listen to the cries of the voiceless.  This is our call and struggle as a church, to move from #ShePersisted to #WePersisted in that as a church we begin/continue to speak for those who are voiceless.  We can do this because #JesusPersisted for you and for us, forgiving our hardness of heart and opening our heart to the depth of God's love.

Key Words:
Related to Jesus
εξελθεν (from εξερχομαι, meaning "go out", 15:21)  and ανεχωρησεν (from αναχωρεω, meaning "withdraw" or "depart", 15:21):  By using both of these verbs in one sentence, Matthew really draws out that Jesus wants to get away.  Perhaps this reflects Jesus' own need for Sabbath; Since John's beheading, he has continually had a desire for a break.  I think many people these days are overwhelmed by world (and not just personal) events and want to get away and take a breather!

λογον (meaning "word", 15:23)  It is quite remarkable that the word incarnate does not have a word for this woman!

απεσταλην (perfect form of αποστελλω, meaning "send", 15:24)  Given the importance of this verb in the New Testament (and in Christian theology) it is an incredibly powerful statement.  As it is presented here it sounds cruel rather than compassionate.

ιαθη (from ιαομαι, meaning "heal", 15:28)  It is interesting that Matthew uses this particular word here for "heal"; only two people are "healed" (as indicated by ιαθη) in Matthew's Gospel.  The other one is the Roman Centurian's youth (see 8.8, 8:13), another pagan youth whose parent/guardian must plead on their behalf.  I am not sure if I would want to analyze what kind of healing then is associated with ιαθη as opposed to other verbs, but I find it interesting that Matthew links these two stories.  Also interested is that the only other citation in Matthew's Gospel of this verb is a link to an Isaiah 6 passage where God basically declares that God will not ιαθη Israel...

While such a discourse is likely beyond a sermon, this passage is all about healing -- who is really healed?  The girl of course, but what about her mother?  (seems safe to say yes).  What about the disciples?  There is a rift between these two groups that needs to be healed and this is ultimately the work of Christ.

Related to the woman
καναναια ("Canaanite", 15:22)  This is the only time in the New Testament we see this word, although it is very common in the Old Testament.  It is worth noting that Mark describes her as a more generic pagan, but Matthew opens up the door to an ancient blood fued by using the word Canaanite.

εκραζεν ("cry out", 15:22,23)  The word for cry out comes into Enlgish as "crazy."  She literally went crazy!  What is most significant here is that the verb is in the imperfect tense, which describes on-going action.  #ShePersisted.  She kept and kept crying out.

ελεησον με κυριε  (15:22)  Her cry here is just about the perfect liturgical cry: Kyrie Elision.  Just as we so often begin worship and later with multiple chants of this, she begins her worship (the passage indicates, yes, she did worship) with multiple chants of this.

κυριος ("Lord", 15:22,25,27)  It is fascinating to see the way in which "Lord" shows up in this passage.  She calls on Jesus as Lord.  In the Septuagint, the translators would translate YHWH as Kurios.  So, here is she picking up on the ultimately proper Jewish prayer, giving her bold confession of faith, calling Jesus both God and son of David?  Or is she simply using the word in Greek to mean "master."  In short, should we translate this as "lord" (generic term of respect) or "LORD" (translation of ancient name of God).  This starts to get at the nature of her faith -- does she really know this is God?  Does she have a bedrock faith in a God of justice and mercy?  Or is she really grasping at straws?  Can we ever tell with faith in crisis?

Note:  I do not know what to make of the plural use of this noun in verse 27.  Perhaps one could maintain that it adds to the confusion about her intentions.

Related to the disciples
ηρωτουν (from ερωταω, meaning "ask", 15:23)  This verb is also in the imperfect.  The disciples keep asking Jesus.

απολυσον (from απολυω meaning "send away", 15:23)  This harkens back to the feeding of the 5,000, when the disciples ask to send away the multitude!