Tuesday, January 22, 2013

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

This passage occurs in the RCL Epiphany Season, Year C, most recently January 2013.
Summary:  I looked at Paul's words from 1st Corinthians today.  I am not sure if I have arrived at a sermon, because the words really spoke to me as a leader.  Do I really honor the weaker members of my church?  Do I see myself as brother and sister in Christ to other Christians, especially outside of my congregation?  If there is something worth preaching on though, it is Paul's communal understanding of Baptism, over and against our individual notions of salvation.

εβαπτισθημεν ("baptize" or "dip", from βαπτιζω, 12:13)  Two things are worth pointing out here.  First, that Baptism is in the passive here.  In the Old Testament, cleansing rituals were done by an individual for one's self.  Baptism is a passive experience; it is something that is done to us by God, through the church.

It is also worth noting that Paul here puts a clearly communal understanding of Baptism.  Most of Western reflection on Baptism has noted the individual's relationship to Christ, but here, Paul uses Baptism to speak of the bridge between each of us.

τιμη ("honor"; 12:24) Our society is not an honor - shame society.  The ancient world was.  A modern example of this is in Wii tennis (a product of Japan, still an honor-shame society).  When you lose, you sulk with your head down.  I suppose I should say more about the historical conditions of shame and honor, but the point doesn't get lost in translation.  To give honor to the poor, inept and feeble is what Paul commends to us here.  Do we do this in our churches?  We all honor our star volunteers, but what about the people who consistently don't perform they way we need them to.

σχισμα ("divisions"; literally schism, 12:25)  Paul explains that their should be no schisms in the body.  This is a painful word for me because clearly the church around the world is not united.  Ironically, Baptism is one of the issues about which we most often disagree!

κυβερνησις ("government" or "guidance", 12:28)  Greattreasures.org defines this word as as:  "a steering, piloting, direction, hence, a governing. The idea being that of guidance rather than rule."  I think this really defines well the role of a pastor.  One who steers, but doesn't rule.

Grammar:  συν verbs
In Greek, the prefix συν (syn in English) is often added to verbs to give them a collective meaning.  We can translate this in English, but we add words.  In verse 26, Paul uses most of his verbs (co-suffer; co-rejoice) with συν. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

John 2:1-11

This passage occurs in the RCL Epiphany Season, Year C, most recently January 2013.
Summary:  The numbers tell the story here.  This is Jesus FIRST miracle that happens on the THIRD day, in which he transforms SIX vessels of imperfect cleansing into celebration.  In fact, the word FIRST here means foundation, because this miracle foreshadows all the other miracles of Jesus; they are all miracles of transformation, including the resurrection on the third day.  Lastly, on a very Lutheran note, the transformation includes humans who are put to use for the service of others.

Key words:
τριτη ("third", 2.1).  The phrase third day only occurs in John's Gospel during this story and the accounts of the resurrection.  Furthermore, Jesus refers in this chapter to the fact that the temple will be raised on the third day (2:19-20), also a reference to the resurrection on the third day.  Jesus' glory will fully be revealed then.

εξ ("six", 2:6)  Six in the bible signifies something as incomplete.  It is not coincidental that John connects six with Jewish cleansing rituals.

αρχη ("first" or "principal", 2:11)  The word can mean first.  But if you look at the other times when it is translated as first (and not "beginning"), it has shades of primary, or foundationally first. So we need to ask ourselves -- why is this a foundational miracle?

John 6:64
For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.
Colossians 1:18;
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.
Hebrews 2:3, 3:14
It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him,
For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.
Rev 22:13
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."

Two other words:
διακονος ("servant", 2:5):  Just a quick pointing out of this word, whose meaning continues to come under fire (can this exist outside of the word and worship is the current Catholic debate).  In this case, Jesus brings the διακονος to service for his ministry.  Can you count this as a worship service...hmm...there is Wine and the word.

επιστεθσαν ("believe", 2:11):  Believe in the book of John is never a noun "faith" but only a verb "to believe" or "to trust."

Grammar review:  An idiom you should know
"τι εμοι και σοι"  Jesus asks this question of Mary.  This is not a very nice thing to say to a person.  It means, "Who the hell are you."  It is also used
* Widow to Elijah, whom she believes is responsible for her son's death;1 Kings 17:18
* The demons to Jesus when he wants to exorcise them; Mark 5:7

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Luke 3:15-22

This passage occurs in the RCL Epiphany Season, Year C, most recently January 2013.  
Summary:  I get why the lectionary dismisses vs 18-20.  However, I would encourage you to add them back in.  John ended up in prison; all those who come near the waters of Baptism risk their health and life.  This is perhaps why Baptism for Luke is so tied to prayer -- because where there is Baptism, there is the cross, and where there is the cross, there will be prayer.  I also recognize why the lectionary separates out Jesus Baptism from Jesus' temptation.  But again, this is highly problematic because it robs Baptism of its fundamental character:  entrance into the Spiritual warfare of Christ against all evil in the world including in ourselves.

Three sermon ideas based on the Greek:
What are you waiting for?
3:15 Luke here uses the word, "prosdoka-oo" for "wait" or "expect." Interestingly, Luke uses this word a whole bunch (6x in Luke; 4x in Acts), far more often than anyone else. In this case though, the people are not waiting for Jesus, per se, but rather the Messiah, and wondering whether John would be it. Perhaps a reminder and a challenge -- what are we waiting for?  Jesus shows up when we were expecting something and offers us REAL life.

Power of prayer:
3:21 Once again the Gospel of Luke, we find Jesus praying. The word "praying" is a present participle in this case, which means it is a concurrent action. The question of course, if which verb is it concurrent with: the Baptism or the opening of the heavens? The Greek here presents a grammatical ambiguity; perhaps it alludes to a spiritual mystery. Its intersection points toward another insight: Prayer is what unlocks the power of our Baptism. God has claimed us and established a relationship with us. Prayer is how we live into this relationship -- how the heavens are opened to us.

(I would add that the grammar leans toward the pray being concurrent with the heavens opening.  Regardless, the first action after Jesus' Baptism is prayer.)

The word baptize is used four times in a few verses here. I think Luke wants to draw our attention to the actual action. Perhaps to tie it back to prayer, because of the act of Baptism, we always hear the answer to our own prayers: That we are a beloved child of God and brother of Jesus Christ, claimed in the waters.

Incarnation of the Spirit:
3:22 At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of the flesh; in Baptism we celebrate the incarnation of the Spirit! The Holy Spirit fleshed itself -- it came "soma" (body) style!  The Spirit again become flesh in our Baptism into the body of Christ.