Tuesday, February 24, 2015

RCL March 1: Mark 8:31-38 or Mark 9:2-10

There are two possible Revised Common Lectionary texts this week.  Here are links to my posts on both of them:

Mark 8:31-38
Little tid-bit:
Use of tenses: Mark carefully selects his tenses in this passage. When Jesus asks the question, he is using the imperfect tense, which implies repeated action.  Jesus repeatedly asks them:  "Who are people saying that am?" and "Who do you say that I am?"  In our life, we will repeatedly be asked who Jesus is.

Mark 9:2-10
Little tid-bit
εξ ("six"; there is a rough breathing mark, making it "hex" as in "hexagon"; 9:2).  This is the only time Mark records something as happening "six" days later.  So what happens on the sixth day?  Well, on the 6th day Jesus died on the cross!  Recall the OT:  On the sixth day humanity was created.  Very good (like Transfiguration).  But final?  No.

Narrative Lectionary March 1: Matthew 20:1-16

I have significantly updated my previous Matthew 20:1-16 post.

Summary:   Tough parable for us.  Most churches preach grace, but when exposed like this is 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!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

RCL Feb 22: Mark 1:9-15

I reworked my previous post on Mark 1:9-15

Juiciest tid-bit, thanks to the imperfect tense:
διακονεω ("serve"; 1:13):  What is interesting here is actually the tense of the verb:  imperfect.  In fact, the whole sentence is in the imperfect, strongly suggesting that all of these actions are on-going and occurring at the same time.  While Jesus is fighting the devil, he is with the beasts and angels are there helping him.  It was an intense time of total spiritual warfare in the wilderness.  The image is of the boxer in one corner with his people attending him to give him energy to go back in and fight.

Narrative Lectionary Feb 22: Matthew 18:15-35

I have two posts on this particular text:

Matthew 18:15-20
Juiciest tid-bit:

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.

Matthew 18:21-35
Juiciest tid-bit:
When you break down the Greek, you realize that Peter does not wonder "if" his brother will sin, but he wants to know what to do "when" his brother will sin.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Feb 15: Mark 9:2-9 and Matthew 16:24-17:8

Here are some updated posts I have done on Transfiguration
Revised Common Lectionary looking at Mark

Narrative Lectionary looking at Matthew
and the passages leading up to it:

PS The Matthew 17 has some tips about translating participles if that interests you...

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Feb 8: Mark 1:29-39 and Matthew 14:13-33

I updated both of my previous posts for this week's lectionary texts:
Revised Common Lectionary, Mark 1:29-39:
Narrative Lectionary:  Matthew 14:13-33

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Matthew 6:7-21; Must we forgive others?

The narrative Lectionary looks at Matthew 6:7-21 this week.  For my pound-it-out analysis of the Greek in Luke and Matthew's version of the Lord's Prayer, click here.

This week, I want to focus on the Bible verses 6:14-15:  (NRSV)
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

It brings up the haunting question, must we forgive others to be forgiven?  Before we answer this theologically, let's dig into the grammar and words in the Greek (is there a linguistic way out of this theological conundrum!)

παραπτωμα (paraptoma, "trespasses"):  In Matthew's Gospel a couple of words are employed to talk about sin.  In the Lord's Prayer, the word is "οφειλημα" which means first and foremost, a debt.  There is also the most theologically loaded term of sin, a wrongdoing against God, αμαρτια, used when Jesus institutes the Holy Communion.  The word in this verse, παραπτωμα, means linguistically, "overstep."  (This is what "trespass" literally means.)
How does this offer us a possible out:  You could say that that this verse actually exonerates us from forgiving the sins of other people.  We cannot do this.  Only God can forgive sins.  Jesus' claim to divinity in Matthew (see chapter 9 and healing of the paralytic) rests on his ability to forgive sins.  But we can and must forgive missteps.

υμων (of yours):  The entire section is conjugated in terms of verbs and possessive adjectives in the plural form of you.  Another way to look at this passage then is that Jesus is speaking to the collective and not just individuals.
How does this offer us a possible out:  It doesn't.  In fact, it makes it a whole lot more complicated.

ουρανιος (houranios, ie, horizon", "heavens.")  If you notice, the first part of the passage speaks about the Father in heaven; the second half simply about your father. 
How does this offer us a possible out:  Perhaps we are speaking about human judgements -- if we do not forgive others, our human piers will not forgive us.

αφητε (aphete, in various forms in this passage, "forgive")  This word provides two avenues for reflection.  First, it's meaning.  It can mean "permit" or "let go" in addition to "forgive."
How does this offer us a possible out:  If one reads this translating "permit" instead of "forgive" it has a slightly different meaning, one that is less about heaven and hell, but simply about how our attitude toward others becomes God's attitude toward us in life.  God becomes the universal tolerance karma instead of judge.
Lastly, this verb is in the aorist.  Aorist can be thought of as an inceptive aorist, meaning it points to the moment an action began.  So, "If you begin to forgive others their trespasses..."  Ultimately, this does not alter the meaning, it simply waters down the intensity.

To put it another way, the Greek in these passages does not intensify the English meaning.  If anything, they provide us with a more earthly than eternal framework for understanding its significance.  Regardless, our forgiveness before God and the forgiveness of others are bound together.  Jesus didn't wait until enough humans had forgiven each other to die on a cross! 

I think I would want to thread a very precarious theological needle and offer this:  While on earth. the extent to which we experience God's forgiveness is intimately related to how much we extend forgiveness to others.  Forgiveness and the prayer life that accompanies this are a way of life for Christians.  That said, when it comes to heaven and our sins against God, this comes down to the cross, grace and faith.