Monday, October 19, 2015

Mark 10:46-52

This passage occurs in both the Revised Common Lectionary Year B and the Narrative Lectionary Year B.  See note below on its potential as a Reformation day passage.  (Most recently Feb 21, 2016).
I prefer the Mark 10:46-52 text for Reformation Day than the John 8 text (here is my commentary on this passage).  You have a man crying out for mercy (Luther's search); a religious crowd opposed to him (sinful self and world); a display of Jesus compassion; Jesus' Word giving life; Proclamation that faith saves; lastly, new life in following Christ.
To review:
Salvation, even new creation, by faith alone
The mercy of Christ
The sinfulness of the world, even in religious matters
The redeeming Word

Or John 8, with landmines of antisemitism.  You make the call...

οδος ("road" or "way", from οδος, vs. 46)  This word has layers of meanings.  It is one of those words that can simply mean "path for travel" but more abstractly "way"."  Early Christians were called followers of "The Way."  In Mark 8, 9, and 10, Jesus has been on the way.  This journey in Mark is about spiritual blindness and sight.  It begins with the disciples blind to Jesus power; it ends with blind Bartimeaus receiving sight.  It points toward the reality that any talk about spiritual journey without struggle, sin and setback is nonsense.

Βαρτιμαιος ("Son of honor", 46) We don't know many names of those cured by Jesus, but this one has a name -- Son of honor.  In this case, the son of honor is banished by the crowd, mocked and insulted.  Perhaps this is foreshadowing of Jesus, the true son of Honor, being mocked by the crowd.  Furthermore, it is ironic that James and John, the sons of Zebedee, ask for power and get the cross.  This man calls out for mercy and gets resurrection.

ελεησον ("mercy", from ελεεω, 48)  A key feature of Martin Luther's journey was the search for mercy.  Is this what people hunger for today?  It certainly is what Christ has come to bring.

στας ("stand", 49)  For the first and only time in Mark's Gospel, Jesus stands still.  He takes a pause from the journey on the road to have compassion on this man.  The story pivots on Jesus' action here (you could even do a need chaistic structure within the story with this as the fulcrum).  It is worth remembering about this story and really the whole Reformation, that Jesus' love and compassion are at the center.

θαρσει ("take courage", 49)  This word can also mean "be audacious."  Christ is calling us to follow him, over and against the cries of the world.

εγειρε ("raise" or "resurrect", 49)  Jesus has been proclaiming his eventual resurrection.  Now the resurrection is happening -- the kingdom of God unfolding in our midst.  What makes it possible?  The voice of Jesus -- the word of God.

σεσωκεν ("save", from σωζω 52)  This word refers to both "earthly" salvation as well as heavenly.  Explosive term.  It can meal heal, but also save.  But basic point here:  It is not simply about the afterlife.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ruth 1:1-17

This passage occurs in the Narrative Lectionary, Year 2 (Most recently: Oct 18. 2015)
Summary:  This moving passage about love and grief needs no Hebrew to be understood.  However, the Hebrew helps us see that Naomi has a very deep faith.  A deep faith that lets her weep, that lets her "let go" and finally that lets her embrace.

רעו ("rahav", meaning "famine", vs 1)  For most Americans, the idea of famine is nonsense.  Grocery stores are always full, in years of drought and years of floods.  Yet in the Bible, famines are quite common.  Often they move the plot along (famine forces Abram to move to Egypt; famine forces prodigal son to near starvation).

בית לחם ("Bethlehem", meaning "house of bread" vs 1)  This little verse suggests to the person familiar with the Hebrew Bible (or whole Bible!) that something special is going on here. Bethlehem is a small town...from which both David and Jesus come!  Great and beautiful irony that Jesus and David come from town called "house of bread."

פקד ("peqad", meaning "visit" vs 6)  This verb, when used in conjunction with the Lord, is quite significant.  In this case it means something like, "God turned full attention toward..."  While is not necessarily good, it is used in a few cases of something wonderful happening in the Bible:
- Birth of Isaac (Gen 21.1)
- God deciding to free Israelite people from slavery (Exodus 4.31)
- Birth of Samuel (2 Sam 2:21)
- Cyrus rebuilding temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1.2)
In short, its inclusion here is quite a bold statement by Naomi

אמה ("am", meaning "mother" vs 8; see note on "h")  I was struck by the fact that Naomi instructs them to go to the house of their mothers.  Is this because this is a gathering of women?  Or that their fathers are dead?  Perhaps they know grief too?!

note:  the ה"h" on the end signifies "direction" as in "go in the direction of your mother"

חסד ("kesed" meaning "steadfast love", vs 8)  This is a crucial word in the Old Testament.  What I want to point out is that Naomi's words are deeply theological.  She is able to discuss both the Lord visiting her people; the Lord's steadfast love; the Lord's arm against her in death.  This is a complex and mature faith, one that should not be overlooked.

ותבכינה (a conjugated version of (בכה), meaning "weep", vs 9)  A feminine plural is not a common verb conjugation in Hebrew (alas!)  But notice how although Naomi kisses, they all weep.  The word weep is akin to wail.  It is a deep expression of grief (Psalm 137:1, Genesis 21:16).  I wonder how often, in America, we do not let people weep as they should.