Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Luke 4:21-30

This passage is found in the RCL, Epiphany, Year C.  (Most recently Jan 31, 2016)

Summary:  Here is my preaching nugget based on the Greek.  Luke 4 begins with Jesus led out into the wilderness, where he is tempted at a high point to have all the power in the world.  He overcomes this.  Luke 4 ends with Jesus again cast out, this time to another high point.  Here the crowd is tempted to hoard God's love for themselves.  And they fail.  I think there is something here to play off Jesus' overcoming temptation to love only himself and the crowd's utter failure.  The church, time and time again, has succumbed to this temptation to love only ourselves.

χαριτος ("grace", from χαρις, 4:21)  The better translation here is "words of grace" rather than gracious words.  In fact, the literal translation is beautiful here:  "The words of grace walking out of his mouth."  What an image of Jesus: A bus station of grace!

δεκτος ("honor"/"welcome", 4:24)  Jesus words here have become a famous adage, "A prophet is without honor in his hometown."  The use of "honor" here covers up the connection to early in chapter 4, when Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord's favor.  The word here for favor is also δεκτος.  Jesus has defeated Satan to proclaim the year of the Lord's δεκτος.  The people here do not ascribe to him δεκτος.

εξεβαλον ("cast out", from εχβαλλω, 4:29).  This word interestingly parallels what happens to Jesus in his temptation, where he is cast out into the wilderness (admittedly, Luke does not use the word "cast out"; Mark does)  This word brings up a broader point that in Luke 4, there are two clashes:  Jesus and the devil and Jesus and the crowd.  I would say, and not in a sermon, that Jesus functions like an adversary in Luke 4, pushing the people, perhaps even instigating them.  I would say, and in a sermon, that the people fail, Jesus doesn't.  The word of grace will go on.

ωκοδομητο ("build upon" from οικοδομεω, 4:29) The town was built on a cliff.  This should already speak volumes.  But later on Jesus will exorcise demons off a cliff side.  Again, the crowd is literally trying to exorcise Jesus here.

διελθων ("pass through", 4:30)  Nothing profound here, but it is worth noting that Jesus could escape the crowds here.  Jesus choice to die was always simply this, his own choice. 

Grammar review: ουχι and question words
This word ουχι is used when a "yes" is expected.   In 4:22, the people are saying, "Isn't this Jesus..." Using ουχι to start the question means they are expecting a "yes."
My mneumonic is this:
μη (mh) gets a "no"
and ου/ουχι/ουχ get a "yes"
It is alphabetical order:  If the question starts with m, it will be an "n"o; if with "ou" then "y"es

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mark 5:21-43

This passage is found in the Narrative Lectionary, Epiphany Season, Year 2.  (Most recently January 24, 2016)

Summary:  This story is classic Mark:  A power struggle is at hand, between Jesus and the world, between the crowds and the religious leadership, between life and death, between despair and faith.  In the end, Jesus will serve as champion, or perhaps in a surprising way, a calm, peaceful and loving savior.  Regardless of what tact one takes in working through this passage, one should wrestle with what it means to "save."  This passage, like most in Mark, suggests a far bigger definition of save than our typical religious discourse!

Key words:
συνηχθη (aorist passive from of συναγω, meaning "gather", 5:21).  This verb has a clear English cognate:  Synagogue, where folks were gathered.  In this case we have two synagogues -- the unofficial gathering (συνηχθη) around Jesus and the synagogue (συναγωγος).  Mark lets us know that the real power is in the gathering around Jesus.

σωθη (aorist passive subjunctive of σωζω, meaning "save"; 5:23).  In American Christianity, the word save almost always connotes a future state, often hell, from which one is "saved."  In this case, the word σωθη is best translated "heal", as it can be in Greek.  A few points here:
- In the Bible, saving and healing are neither distant linguistically nor conceptually.
- Salvation grows out of faith.  In both stories, faith is needed.  In the second story, Jesus supplies the faith when we have lost it.
- Salvation is necessary for living.  It proceeds it grammatically in vs 23 and in our lives!
- Salvation brings new life.  In both stories, Jesus salvation brings NEW life.
- Salvation does not simply come from the spoken word.  In the later case, Jesus speaks and the girl arises.  But in the first case, simply the touch of Jesus heals the woman.  Jesus is the incarnate word -- when we think about how to heal people, it it not only our words, but also our touch.
- Saving is also for this life; I do not mean to juxtapose the importance of ultimate salvation against earthly in-breakings of the Kingdom of God.  They are related.  We can embrace the work of our savior in this life time.  The NET Bible writes, "This should not be understood as an expression for full salvation in the immediate context; it refers only to the woman’s healing."  Again, there is a real discomfort among Christians about talking about the work of Jesus Christ outside of life after death. 
To put it another way, I am becoming more convinced that when people show up at church on a Sunday, they are dying.  One could argue, they are already dead.  They need to be saved, that is, encounter the living Christ and hear his word, in order to live.

ελεγεν (imperfect of λεγω, meaning "say", 5:28)  The woman is repeatedly saying to herself -- not once -- that if she touches him, she will be healed.

μαστιγος ("whip" or "illness", 5:29)   The word for "disease" here comes from the word for whip; as in Jesus was whipped.

εξ αυτου ("of him", 5:30).  Here I beg to differ with the translation, "The power went out from him."  The Greek here does not say this.   It reads "The from him (εξ αυτου) power went him."  The positioning of "of him" means that it modifies the noun (power) not the verb (going-out).  The translators are lumping this preposition in with the verb and missing the connection between Jesus and the power.  Furthermore, this "of/from him" (εξ αυτου) power is kind of interesting...the power that arises from him?  Again, the preposition εκ/εξ can describe all sorts of relationships that encompass movement from/out of/originating in.  The power originating in him?  The power arising out of him?  The power belonging to him?  Regardless, the power is connected to Jesus, not simply in the air!

"Get up".  In vss 41 and 42, two words are used to describe the young girl getting up:  either εγειρω in vs. 41 or ανεστη in vs. 42.  Both are words used for resurrection in the New Testament; the reaction, εκστασει (if you sound it out in English, ecstasy!), is that of the women at the tomb in Mark 16.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Mark 4:26-34

This passage is found in Narrative Lectionary, Epiphany Season, Year B (Most recently: January 17, 2016)

Here is my post for Mark 4:26-34
http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2012/06/mark-426-34.html

I suggest three possible directions for a sermon:
1)  Reflection on church growth and how a congregation can open themselves to this
2)  Reflection on daily dying and rising and what growth looks like in a Lutheran context
3)  Reflection on Christ as the mustard seed

Also, for those doing the parable of the sower, here is my commentary on Matthew's version of this parable; while not the exact same, perhaps some helpful insights into the passage:
http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2011/07/matthew-1318-23.html