Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Mark 12:13-17

This passage is found in the Narrative Lectionary Year 2 (Most recently: Feb 28, 2016)

Summary:  The basic sermon point is this:  Everything belongs to God; taxes are for good or for bad, to be paid.  I'd like to dwell a bit more on two other terms:  image and inscription.  These words unpack the tension of old and new creation.

Two Words:
εικων (icon/image):  Humans are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26/27; even after the fall, humans are still in the image of God (Gen 9:6)).  After these passages in Genesis, the idea of humanity in the image of God recedes into the background of the Old Testament.  Most of the time, when there are divine images, they are graven images of other gods.

Two possible directions for a sermon:
- The image of Caesar is of a human.  Any human is in the image of God, and therefore it is an image of God.  Therefore the coin belongs to God, not just to Caesar.  We live in a world that is God's, but somehow also of kings and emperors.  Sometimes the image of God seems in the background against the world's chaos and injustice!
- The image of Caesar is a graven image of another god.  Jesus is calling them out because even though they don't use these coins inside the temple, they still live in the world of Caesar coins.  In fact, they carry with them an image of a false god (in fact, they were caught red handed with this image in their pocket!)

The New Testament makes scare reference to the idea of image of God, but when it does, it normally refers to Christ as the image of God:
- Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.
- 1 Corinthians 15:49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.
- 2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
- Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;

There is the thought that we will be transformed into this image (Romans 8:29) and also
- 2 Corinthians 3:18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
- Colossians 3:10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.

In fact, there is only one reference to image of God outside of the Gospel, Christ and the transformational power of the Holy Spirit:
1 Corinthians 11:7 For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man.

Even with this passage, the overall New Testament emphasis on "image of God" is to the new creation's image of Christ, rather than the old creation's image.

This then is rather interesting:  Is Caesar in the image of Christ?  It pushes harder on what we mean by image of God; how creation and restoration relate to the image of God.

επιγραφη (inscription):  This word comes into the Gospel's one other time:  the inscription on the cross when Jesus has an "epigraph" or "inscription" King of the Jews.  Does Caesar or Jesus deserve that title?  (Clearly Jesus). 

I am not sure if its great for a sermon, but this passage and the other passages these key words allude to suggest a real tension between the old and new creation as well as the "now and not yet" of Jesus' power in the world.

A reminder of translation difficulties:
The Pharisees try to "butter" Jesus up with praise.  Their praise though is really tough to translate.  Verse 14 literally reads:
And going they said to him, "Teacher we know that you are true/genuine and it is not a concern to you about anyone; for you do not look in to the face of people, but teach upon the truth the way of God."
They are trying to get across the point that Jesus is not superficial and does not try to please people with his teachings.  This would be a very odd way to say it in modern English!  In this case the literal translation almost certainly fails.  One must message the translation to something like:
"Teacher, we know that you are a genuine person, who truly teaches the way of God, not concerned for what people might think of you or what their status is..."  Or something like that.

Luke 13:1-9

This passage is found in the Revised Common Lectionary year C during Lent (Most recently: Feb 28, 2016)

Summary:  This passage must be read in conjunction with 13:10-13, where Jesus heals someone who has been sick for some time.  The point is that Jesus does not give up on us, but always calls us to repent.  To put it another way -- repentance is not grounded in fear, but in hope.  Hope that judgment may be avoided; hope that the future will not simply be a repetition of the past; hope that God has power greater than sin. 

(I also think there is a sermon on the word "found" as well, see below)

A few things worth noting here:

πεπονθασιω (perfect form of πασχω, meaning "to suffer"; 13:2)  The word here for suffer is "pasch-oo" (hence the English 'passion').  Interestingly this is the only time in the Gospel of Luke where someone else besides Jesus is suffering.  Also interesting is that the verb is in the perfect, meaning they suffered, but are still in the state of suffering.  Trying to unpack that one.

μετανοητε ("repent"; 13:3,5)  The form of this verb is important.  The Greek for "repent" here is a present tense subjunctive, not an aorist imperative.  Literally: "If you are not continually repenting..."  In short, Jesus is not calling them to repentance once (or over one sin) but calling them to a lifetime of repentance (the thesis #1 of Luther's 95 theses...)

απολλυμι ("destroy"; 13:3/5) The word here for destroy is "apollu-mi." This word means destory or lose.   (Lose is in the middle voice)  In chapter 9, Jesus warns his disciples that they must "lose" their life (same verb)

ευρισκω ("find"; 13:6)  The word find (ευρισκω) is very common in the Gospel of Luke (almost as much as M, M and J combined).  Luke presents Jesus as a God who finds us, finds us suffering, lost and in need of repentance.  But he brings us in any way!

αφες (αφιημι; 13:8) The servant here, as he is telling the master to "leave it alone," is also in the Greek saying, "forgive it."  Forgiveness means "give it another chance!"

Monday, February 8, 2016

Luke 4:1-13

This passage is found in the RCL, Lent 1, Year C (Most recently: Feb 14, 2016)

Summary:  I'd like to propose a highly Lutheran understanding of this reading.  (Shocking, I know).  I was struck by the idea that Jesus is full of the Spirit.  What does this mean?  It means he is filled with the Word in order to combat the devil.  The Word and the Spirit go together; to be Spiritual means you know the Word well enough that it becomes part of you, so that you might draw on it in time of temptation.

Pastoral note:  I think this is what sanctification actually looks like, that the Word has become so a part of us that we can actually draw on it.  In my experience, when people go through challenging times, the immediate reaction of the Christian is not much different than a pagan.  However, the Christian, when he hears the promise, either in a verse or hymn, has something resonate in his or her soul that revives them.  The pagan does not. The Word, like daily bread, has a shelf life, but it also eventually converts itself into muscle that can be called on for great strength.

Key Words
πληρης ("filled", 4.1)  This adjective means filled.  This is straight forward; interestingly the only other time in Luke's Gospel this word occurs it refers to someone filled with leprosy.  Also interesting is that leprosy normally entailed banishment, which is what Jesus is suffering here in the wilderness.  Even without the leprosy connection, Luke and the synoptic Gospels make it clear: to be baptized means to be led by the Spirit which entails confronting evil.  I would also argue that Jesus' way of arguing, using God's word, shows the way in which Spirit and Word work together.

αγω ("lead", 4.1, 9)  Intensifying this connection between the work of the Spirit into confronting evil:  The Spirit "leads" Jesus into the wilderness; later, the Devil "leads" Jesus to a high mountain

πειραζω ("tempt", 4.2)  but really:  "μενος" (this is not a word, but is the ending of a word.  Greek participles are complicated, but when you see this five letter suffix, you know you have an present, passive participle; 4.2.)  In this case, the verb for "tempt" is a present, passive participle. This means two things. First, that the temptation was on-going. Second, because "being tempted" is a present participle, this action occurred concurrently with the action of the main verb.  In this case the main or governing verb is "being led" by the Spirit.  (which is a passive and imperfect verb). So while he is continually being led by the Spirit, he is continually being tempted by the Devil. The two are on-going and concurrent actions.

Further, the word here for "test" (4.12) is essentially the same word as tempt (the word has a little preposition to intensify its meaning). Jesus here tells the Devil to stop tempting him basically -- do not put the Lord, ie, me, to the test!

παραδιδομι ("betray" or "give over", 4:6)  The word for "given over" is paradido-mi, which also means "handed over" as in "betrayed."  This suggests that perhaps the devil is not fully honest in his description that all things have been handed over to him.  If they have, it is through betrayal, where people thought they gained someone for themselves only to have the devil take it back.

Grammar:  Since you are the son of God!

ει ("if" or "since", 4:3) The Greek for "if" here (ει) does not necessary translate as "if." Normally, the decision to translate "ει" as "if" or "since" depends on the mood of the verb; if it is indicative, then one translates it as "since." In this case, "to be" is in the indicative. This means "if" could, if not should, read "Since you are the son of God..."

Another grammar tid-bit:
4:4 "Man does not live by bread alone." Interesting here is that the Greek takes this Hebrew imperfect (which connotes it as on-going or future) and puts it in the future: "Man will not live by bread alone." Making it a promise more than a given reality!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mark 8:27-9:8

Here is a look at the Mark passage for Feb 7 Narrative Lectionary selection: 8:27-9:8

The brilliance of Mark is how he weaves stories together.  This is great gift but also challenge of preaching on Mark!
Mark 8:27-38: http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2012/09/mark-827-38-2012_11.html
Mark 9:2-10:  http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2012/02/mark-92-10.html