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 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.