Tuesday, March 20, 2012

John 12:20-33

This passage occurs in the RCL Lent Season, Year B, most recently March of 2015.

This pericope highlights the engagement and even confrontation between Jesus and the world.  It looks like this:
1)  world hungers for Jesus, meets him in community
2)  call to discipleship -- which is service
3)  call to suffering -- which is glory
4)  call to judgement -- which is resurrection
I think this does model how people actually encounter Jesus and the church.  People find a community that has something to do with Jesus, they hear about serving others, but finally they encounter Jesus Christ crucified.  This in turns sheds light on all other things, including evil, judgment and resurrection.  I hesitate to make some nice ordo salutis here, but I wonder if one could play around here with this passage and how people actually experience Jesus, especially for the first time.
I'd go further to say that this passage highlights three ways in which we are to act as the church:  worship, service and finally suffering.

αναβαινω vs. προσκυνεω ("go up" and "worship" 12:20):  John puts a little play on words here; a funny juxtaposition.  The word for "go up" means literally this "go" and "up"; the word for worship means "fall down at one's knees to kiss the ground."  They went up to kneel.  Worship involves getting out of bed, moving around and then finally being humble, even still, in the presence of God.

διακονος ("servant"; 12:26):  The word here for servant comes from table-waiter.  It will come into English with the whole slew of church related "diakon/deacon/diaconal" words.  Here Jesus says that if they want to see Jesus, they must see the servant, because he identifies himself not simply as but with the servant.  It is striking that in the next chapter Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.  This dialogue in chapter 12 offers us the suggestion that Jesus' washing of the feet was not simply an internal community action, but a reminder to the disciples of their posture in the world.

ψυχη ("soul" or "life";12:25; 27)  The word for life here is "psyche," which can also mean soul. It comes into English as psychology, etc.   The same word comes into play in verse 25 and 27, both when Jesus is talking about his disciples, but also himself.  (why the translators hide this, I'll never know...)  While he does not make the same crucifixion promise as he does in the synoptics, here he connects the cost of discipleship with his death on the cross. 

εκλω ("drag"; 12:32) The word for "draw" here means to forcibly draw, as in draw ships out to see; drag in oar in water, drag to court. It can mean draw as in attract, but it seems to have a more forceful image. This word will come back at the end when Peter casts out his nets at Jesus' command and he draws in the fish. Interestingly, Peter will also draw his sword in the Garden. Jesus will drag us up to him.  I guess here is the question:  Is this a word of universal salvation or universal judgment.  If you continue the argument to 12:48, you've got to wonder, does Jesus draw men up to judge them??

Grammar:  Greek subjunctive:  εαν
Greek has all sorts of subjunctive (ie, not 100 percent going to happen) possibilities, as most languages do.  The most "maybe yes, maybe no" form is simply: εαν, which we find repeatedly in this section.  This means things are really up in the air...in this case, our willingness to serve others as Christ served us.  What also seems up in the air is whether Jesus will come back.  But we know that to be true, so relax.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Luther: The Gospel is a Story

Just a great quote from Luther: 
"Thus the gospel is and should be nothing else than a chronicle, a story, a narrative about Christ, telling who he is, what he did, said and suffered...There you have it.  The gospel is a story about Christ, God's and David's son, who died and was raised and is established as Lord."
Luther, "A Brief instruction on what to look for and expect in the Gospels."  LW 35 117-118

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

John 2:13-22

This passage occurs in the RCL Lent Season, Year B, most recently March of 2015.  It also occurs in the Narrative Lectionary Year 4 Epiphany season.
There is a great play on words in this section that our English translators (perhaps through no fault of their own!) cover up.  Jesus uses five different terms to describe the temple complex.  The most challenging distinction is between house of market and a house of God.  I do not think our churches are in danger of becoming marketplaces, even those with starbucks in their lobbies.  I still think when it comes to Sunday morning, these are the two options, two alternative worlds we live in:  a house of market, where we have to work, pay bills and shop or a house of God, where we can rest, receive God's grace and give thanks.

Key words - two small ones and then a big one!
φραγελλιον ("whip", 2.15) The word here for whip will be used against Jesus in Matthew and Mark.
λυω ("free"; "destroy", 2:19)  The word here for destroy actually means to loosen (remember the basic verb conjugation charts?). It also means to destroy, but an interesting idea.  How does Jesus death set him free?

Temple:  Five for one!
There are five words used here for temple:
ιερον (2:15):  The word hieron (rough breathing mark means its English equivalent starts with an "h")is essentially the same word as a word for sacrifice. This word comes into English as hierarchy.  It refers to the whole temple complex.  It is interesting to note that all the animals being purchased were for sacrifices.  Any system of sacrifice inevitably leads to priestly power, abuse and money; in short, hierarchy.

οικος του πατρος μου (house of my father; 2:16)  Jesus here identifies his relationship to God and the temple.  If it belongs to his father, it belongs to him too.  What does it mean for something to be God's house?  How might we look at church differently if we saw it as God's house?

οικος του εμποριον (house of market; 2:16)  German has a nice word:  Kaufhaus, in which the word for shopping center contains the word house.  Since we don't in English, the writers drop it and say, "market" instead of the literal "house of market."  While our churches today may not be a house of market, I wonder if this really is the alternative to church:  a few more hours to purchase things on TV, at the mall or on the internet; a few more hours to work; a few more hours to pay bills.

ναον (temple; 2:19)  This word properly refers to the actual sanctuary, as opposed to the entire court.  (Ie the place where the people worshiped and the priest made sacrifices).

σωματος (body; in nominative:  σωμα; 2:21)  In the Gospel of John, in spite of how "spiritual" everything seems, there is no escaping the bodily death and resurrection of Jesus!  Finally, the place of sacrifice, the place of worship, the dwelling of God is in Jesus body.  Jesus had already alluded to this at the end of chapter 1 when he said that angels would descend on him, referring to Jacob, and calling himself, indirectly, bethel, the house of God, the earthly portal to heaven.

2.16 Jesus switches words here from the narrators "temple (hieron)" to "oikos (house).

2.20 Jesus now switches to the word "naos" (temple) which means building that is a dwelling place of the holy; Paul tells us in 1 Cor that we are a "naos." Then John inserts that Jesus is talking about the temple of his body (somatos). In short, Jesus is shifting away from talking about a place of worship to a house of God to a dwelling place of God to finally himself.