Tuesday, July 15, 2014

1 John 1:5-2:2

Summary:  This verse has a great verse (1 John 1:9) within some much more difficult verses about blood and sacrifice.  One could try to unpack the atonement theories of 1 John based on OT metaphors.  I think an easier and more helpful way is to think less about how the cross/blood/death actually accomplish this end and more what they actually accomplish.  I say this not simply because this is easier, but because I think 1 John is a study, not in the mechanics of justification, but in what forgiveness in Jesus offers us:  light, fellowship, and love.  These are juxtaposted, not with hell and wrath, but with darkness, isolation and fear, something that the people in my congregation experience all the time.

κοινωνια ("fellowship", 1.6)  This word has an intense meaning in the New Testament.  It ranges from
-  sharings of money (2 Cor 9:13; Romans 15:26; Hebrews 13:16)
-  sharings of a common spirit (2 Cor 13:13 original Trinitarian formula; Philippians 2:1)
-  sharings of Christ and his suffering (Philippians 3:10; 1 Cor 10:16)

It is a reminder that fellowship is not a diluted term in this passage or anywhere in the New Testament.  A look at the related noun κοινωνος (partner) reveals something similar.

αιμα ("blood"; think "hema" like "hematology"; 1.7)  The blood cleanses us from sin.  This is a tough one to wrap our minds around because we think of blood as very "dirty", certain not sterile and definitely not cleansing.  Is there a way to recover this ancient way of thinking of blood?

ινα ("so that", 1:9)  I remember back in Seminary one of my professors made a very, very big deal about how to translate this word.  The basic argument in this verse is that ινα cannot be translated, "with the result" and must be translated, "for the purpose of."  I do not think that argument is instructive here because there isn't a difference in God's purposes and God's results when it comes to forgiveness of the sinner.

In verses 2:1-2, Jesus is called three titles:
δικαινος ("righteous one", 2.1)  This is simply a good title for Jesus.  The question is, what does Jesus righteousness mean for you and for me?

παρακλετος ("advocate", 2.1) How Jesus and the Spirit are both called "advocates" are tough.  Interestingly, in the Gospel of John, when Jesus promises the advocate, John 14:16, he promises ANOTHER advocate, suggesting that he already was an advocate for us.

In the Gospel of John, the advocate seems more like a prayer partner, counseling us through sufferings.  In this case, the idea almost seems more legalistic, like one who is defending us before God's judgment.  Interestingly though, God's wrath is never mentioned in 1 John.  Judgment exists, but there isn't necessary a hell.  Simply darkness, isolation and fear.  Jesus seems to be reconciling us, in spite of our sins, back to the Father, back to light, back to fellowship and back to love.

ιλασμος ("atonement", 2:2) Discussing the entire meaning of atonement is well, well beyond the meaning of this passage here.  But I want to point out that this word here is the one connected to Leviticus, Romans.  Furthermore, as BDAG says about this word, "The unique feature relative to Gr-Rom usage is the inaitiative taken by God to effect removal of impedeiments to arelationshp with God's self." ιλαστηριον definition.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

1 John 1:1-4

The RCL post for today is found here: 
The narrative lectionary this week begins a sermon series on 1 John.  Here is a longer post connecting John 1:1 to 2:2.

Summary:  I realize its not entirely the purpose of 1 John 1, but the events in my congregation are really making me ask myself, in light of this passage:  What is of fundamental importance that I want to pass it along to my children?  What creates community in our family?  What creates joy in me and my wife to pass this along to our children?  What is the word of Life I want them to know?

Key words/concepts
ακουω, οραω, θεαομαι, ψηλαφαω (1 John 1:1)  The verb 'to hear' (ακουω) and 'to understand/see' (οραω) are both in the perfect, while 'to see' (θεαομαι) and 'to touch' (ψηλαφαω) are in the aorist. Again, an aorist tense suggests a one time event; a perfect tense has the connotation of a past action that creates an on-going and present status.  John (or the writer from the Johannine community), by using these tenses, suggests that although the original congregation can no longer touch or see Jesus because of his ascension, but the reality of hearing and understanding the word of God remains. This perhaps is not simply true of the original congregation, but us as well. We leave Sunday having seen and even touched Jesus in the bread and wine, but as we head out, we still are in the state of hearing and understanding.

ειμι ("to be", 1.2)   In both 1.1 and 1.2, the verb 'eimi' (to be) is used in the imperfect tense. In Greek, there really is no aorist tense of 'eimi,' the 'to be' verb. (which if you stop and think, makes a lot of sense). In both cases, the verb is translated with the English aorist form of the to be verb: "was." What is probably a more helpful translation is not the static "was" but an imperfect "was being" or "was and continues to be" or "has been"  In short, the English "was" makes it sound like the event of the Word being with the Father or the Word being from the beginning is over; the imperfect tense in the Greek suggests that that the Word continues to be with the Father and continues to be from the beginning.

απαγγελλω, μαρτυρεω, εχω, γραφω (1.3-1.4) The only verbs so far in the present tense are απαγγελλω (to proclaim), μαρτυρεω (to witness), and εχω (have + fellowship), and γραφω (to write), all of our actions.

εφανερωθη (1.2) The only God verb so far is "appear" (phanero-oo); always in the aorist.

λογος του ζωης (word of life, 1.1).  I was surprised to find that there was only one other place in the Bible where we find this phrase, Word of Life:  Philippians 2:16.  1 Peter 1:23 has a similar phrase, "living word of God" but truly "Word of Life" is only found twice.  Ponder what that means if anything. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Holy Trinity: Matthew 28

Three years back I really dug into the Matthew 28 text: http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2011/06/matthew-2816-20.html

What a few world shifting sentences!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11)

I want to redirect to my last year's post

In a nut shell, I find the church of Acts 1 to be very common:  A deeply loving and truly faithful community that doesn't outreach.  How can the Spirit move us from Acts 1 to Acts 2?  How can we as leaders be involved in this process?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ascension 2014 (Acts 1:1-11 and Philippians 2:1-13)

For those who will preach on the ascension this week, here are my blog entries.  The Acts 1 is more specific to the text, but the Luke one offers some theological content on the ascension.

Here is my entry on the Philippians "Christ hymn" the narrative lectionary text for the week.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Lutheran worship really has changed

I am preaching off the lectionary this week so I thought I would share some reflections on worship:

To celebrate our 275th anniversary as a congregation, we have been worshipping with elements from previous hymnals this Easter season.  As we’ve done this, I have been struck by how much worship has changed, especially over the past two generations.  This surprised me because I consider our church relatively traditional.  I have a great deal more sympathy for those of an older generation, who grew up using the Black and Red book, and who may struggle with elements in our worship service today.  Consider how the following elements of worship have undergone changes.

 B & R bookToday
InstrumentExclusively organOrgan, but also piano, drums and even guitar
HymnsOften German chorales with 4-part harmonyMany Methodist/"American" hymns, but global hymns often written for unison singing
BaptismMainly infantsPeople of all ages; appears more frequently in lectionary and liturgy
Confession and ForgivenessIntense rite with conditional absolutionUnconditional absolution; perhaps no C&F, perhaps Thanksgiving for Baptism instead
Holy CommunionHandful of times per year; for confirmandsEvery week; for children, some congregations Baptism optional
Participation by lay people
Role of pastorPastor reads, prayers and preachesNumber of people involved in almost every aspect of worship
Role of choirChoir leads congregation;
primary way to be involved
One of many ways to be involved in worship
VolumeSilence permeates worship, including before serviceSocial aspect of church emphasized, e.g., Passing of the Peace
ScriptStick to what is written in worship bookPastors, even lay people, more likely to deviate from Rubric/Script, or not even use one
PietyInward and repentantTherapeutic and Praise

Perhaps when commenting on piety, I come too close to offering my own diagnosis here instead of simply laying out the facts.  We cannot turn back time and I am not suggesting this.  Yet as we move forward in our congregation (and likely others as well), it is really helpful to remember that long time members of this (and other congregations) have experienced significant shifts in their lifetime of how God is worshipped in our sanctuary.  We may still have a traditional worship, but it is markedly different than the traditional worship of 1960.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Acts 17:16-31 (with link to John 14:1-14)

For RCL folks:  http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2011/05/john-141-14.html

For narrative folks, here is some commentary on the speech itself
Also, here is a link from my travels to the aeropagus a number of years ago:

I want to comment on a few words that appear before his speech, especially the terms Epicurean and Stoic.  I think we all know many of these two stripes

Επικουριος (17:18)
Basically:  Lead a "happy" life, which consists not in lust but in moderation and keeping one's nose clean.  The gods exist, but don't interfere with human life; talk of good life makes sense, but talk of judgement and other-worldly salvation makes no sense.

NET Bible: 
An Epicurean was a follower of the philosophy of Epicurus, who founded a school in Athens about 300 B.C. Although the Epicureans saw the aim of life as pleasure, they were not strictly hedonists, because they defined pleasure as the absence of pain. Along with this, they desired the avoidance of trouble and freedom from annoyances. They saw organized religion as evil, especially the belief that the gods punished evildoers in an afterlife. In keeping with this, they were unable to accept Paul's teaching about the resurrection.
Epicurus believed that what he called "pleasure" is the greatest good, but the way to attain such pleasure is to live modestly and to gain knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of one's desires. This led one to attain a state of tranquility (ataraxia) and freedom from fear, as well as absence of bodily pain (aponia). The combination of these two states is supposed to constitute happiness in its highest form. Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism, insofar as it declares pleasure to be the sole intrinsic good, its conception of absence of pain as the greatest pleasure and its advocacy of a simple life make it different from "hedonism" as it is commonly understood.
Epicureans do not deny the existence of God, simply that the gods have moved on and are unconcerned with human life; His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. 

Στοικος (17:18)
Basically, lead a virtuous life.  This is difficult, but seed of good in each of us can be fostered to overcome evil.  God is in everything.  Although at odds with Epricureans, both stress an avoidance of passion.

NET Bible:
A Stoic was a follower of the philosophy founded by Zeno (342-270 B.C.), a Phoenician who came to Athens and modified the philosophical system of the Cynics he found there. The Stoics rejected the Epicurean ideal of pleasure, stressing virtue instead. The Stoics emphasized responsibility for voluntary actions and believed risks were worth taking, but thought the actual attainment of virtue was difficult. They also believed in providence.

Wiki on Scotism vs Christianity: 
The major difference between the two philosophies is Stoicism's pantheism, in which God is never fully transcendent but always immanent. God as the world-creating entity is personalized in Christian thought, but Stoicism equates God with the totality of the universe, which was deeply contrary to Christianity. The only incarnation in Stoicism is that each person has part of the logos within. Stoicism, unlike Christianity, does not posit a beginning or end to the universe.
Stoic writings such as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius have been highly regarded by many Christians throughout the centuries. The Stoic ideal of dispassion is accepted to this day as the perfect moral state by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Saint Ambrose of Milan was known for applying Stoic philosophy to his theology.

σπερμολογος (17:18):  Seed talker, but more literally, sperm-logos.  For someone who simply picks up scraps of info; a babbler.
κατειδωλον (17:16):  Full of idols.  kata intensifies words!