Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Luke 7:36-8:3

This passage occurs in the RCL during year C, most recently June 2016. 
This passage also occurs in the Narrative Lectionary, Year 3, most recently Feb. 2017.

Summary:  A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. story.  It is a beautiful story of what forgiveness looks and feels like.
It is profound that this passage is paired with the Galatians 2:15-21 reading.  In that passage we hear about what the process of justification (forgiveness) and sanctification (Christian living) look like in propositional truth form.  In this passage, we see what it looks like in narrative form.  I love the Paul passage, but the Luke one may be easier to preach on.  What does justification look like:  The world's opinion of you has not changed, but you can worship the crucified savior.  What does sanctification look like:  The world's opinion of you has not changed, but you can go in peace.  As either Paul or Luke portray it, sin does not go away, either inside or outside, but Christ's love, given to us in faith, gives peace and joy.

Key words: 
ηλειφεν (from αλειφω, aleipho, meaning "anoint", 7:38)  This word is interesting because of where it appears in the Old Testament (or the Old Testament translated into Greek, the Septuagint).  Priests were anointed (Exodus 40:13; Numbers 3:3); those in grief mourn (2 Samuel 12:20; 14:2).  Either of these offer great ways to think about Jesus:  He is being anointed priest by a grand sinner; or the woman is in mourning over his death.  I vote for the later because she uses μυρον (7:37) or myrrh, which is used for the burial of the dead.

Note:  Although this word means anointed, it is not the same word as anoint like a king.  That word in Greek is "Christ"!

αγαπη (agape, meaning "love", 7:42)  The proper/necessary/automatic response to forgiveness is love.  Duh.  But...why is this not always the case for us when we experience forgiveness?  Perhaps we do not believe we have sinned; perhaps we do not know what love is.  The story suggests that the Pharisee, being unaware of his sins, did not appreciate his forgiveness and therefore did not love (or know how to love?).  If this is the case, then good preaching should make us feel really bad (right!?) in order to make us realize how much Jesus loves us.  I think this is somewhat true, but I wonder what else there might be.

Another take: the new creation loves and rejoices in forgiveness.  But this is often hidden from us.  We don't feel forgiveness and we don't feel love when we are in church and experience church.  God preaching reminds us that even when we don't "feel" it, God is still present, forgiving us and renewing us, even amid death and sin, that are always present realities.

To put it another way -- how do I know I am forgiven?  We have permission to worship the cruficified savior.

εχαρισατο (from χαριζομαι, charizomai, meaning "forgive" or "grace", 7:42)  It is important, at least to me, to acknowledge that humans do not forgive each other.  We can be gracious to each other and cancel debts, but forgiveness of sin belongs to God.  This is why there is such consternation that Jesus actually forgives (αφιημι).  Outside of commissioned priests, finding examples of humans forgiving each other is truly rare in Scripture, if arguably at all.  We are called to be gracious to one another and forgive (if not bear) one another's burdens.  But when it comes to a final reckoning, this belongs to God, and not my neighbor.

σεσωκεν (from σωζω, sozo, meaning "save", 7:50)  Beautiful use of perfect tense in Greek.  The faith saved her in the past but creates a future state of being saved.

ειρηνην (Irene (extra "n" is because its accusative case), meaning "peace" 7:50)  This is a stark look at the peace of Christ.  The community looks down on her, yet she has peace.  Peace in Christ does not mean the external reality has changed.  It means inside we know who Jesus is and that Jesus loves us.

αυτιας ("of theirs", 8:3)  This feminine plural dative...means this:  women were funding Jesus ministry.  They were also commissioned.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Galatians 2:11-21

This passage occurs as the RCL New Testament lesson during year C, most recently June 2016.  It sometimes appears as Galatians 2:15-21.

Summary:  I feel like Paul's point is easier than to sing than to preach:  We are saved by grace; we still sin; Christ dwells in us.  The solution to sin is not a better you or me, but Christ dwelling in me and you.

Last lectionary cycle (2013) I played with the phrase "orthopedics" and walking with the Gospel.  I wore two shoes.  The first shoe was for the the law.  In fact, I wore no show on one foot.  I could only see my bear, stinky, calloused and splotchy haired feet:  A reminder I am a mortal sinner who is not God.  The other shoe was a work boot for the mission trip.  Christ forgives us but also makes a home in us, so that, just like him, we might live for God, which of course, means a life of praise and service toward the neighbor.

Key words and concepts:
κατεγνωμενος ("condemned," καταγινωσκω, 2:11)  Some translations stick in a "self-condemned" here because the verb is in the passive.  (It literally reads "He was condemned".)  Not sure if it is fair to read this as self-condemned or not.  What I do know is that the NIV's "he was in the wrong" is about a sugar coated as a summer fair cotton candy stick...

αφοριζω ("set aside," 2:12)  Being set aside is not always a bad thing. Paul says he is "set aside" to be an apostle (Rom 1:1) and Paul even addresses this fact in Gal 1:15!!  For what are we as baptized Christians set-aside?

ορθοποδεω ("walk consistent with", 2:14). (Loan word in English: orthopedics!) Paul here talks about walking correctly toward/with the truth of the gospel! Great image. This is perhaps our goal as pastors, to give people the right shoe!  Somehow walking with Christ includes being crucified with him and living to God (2:20).

Side note:  This word is a only used once in the New Testament.  Sometimes people use the frequency of infrequent words to justify Pauline authorship.  Unfortunately, there are just as many single use words (technically:  hapax legomenon) in Galatians as in Ephesians, a letter whose authorship is often debated; for a nice article on the difficulties of using hapax legomenon as evidence of authorship, see a good wikipedia article.

πιστεως χριστου ("faith of Christ", 2:16):  This is a little phrase in a big theological debate:  How to translate:  Faith of Jesus Christ?  There are two clear options:
A) Objective genitive: The genitive is the object; faith's object is Jesus Christ.  Faith in Jesus Christ.
B) Subjective genitive: The genitive is the subject; Jesus Christ is the subject who has the faith.  Jesus Christ's faith

If you push toward objective translation, you are basically saying we are justified by Christ's faith in God, which may mean our own faith is not necessary for salvation.  I am comfortable leaving this translation ambiguity, because Galatians 2:19-20 argues that our and Christ's hearts became one in faith anyway!

For those curious, though, the NET Bible summarizes the challenge: A decision is difficult here. Though traditionally translated "faith in Jesus Christ," an increasing number of NT scholars are arguing that πιστεως χριστου and similar phrases in Paul (Rom 3:22, 26; Gal 2:16, 20; 3:22; Eph 3:12; Phil 3:9) involve a subjective genitive and mean "Christ's faith" or "Christ's faithfulness" (cf., e.g., G. Howard, "The 'Faith of Christ'," ExpTim 85 [1974]: 212-15; R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ [SBLDS]; Morna D. Hooker, "πιστις χριστου," NTS 35 [1989]: 321-42). Noteworthy among the arguments for the subjective genitive view is that when πιστεως takes a personal genitive it is almost never an objective genitive (cf. Matt 9:2, 22, 29; Mark 2:5; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 5:20; 7:50; 8:25, 48; 17:19; 18:42; 22:32; Rom 1:8; 12; 3:3; 4:5, 12, 16; 1 Cor 2:5; 15:14, 17; 2 Cor 10:15; Phil 2:17; Col 1:4; 2:5; 1 Thess 1:8; 3:2, 5, 10; 2 Thess 1:3; Titus 1:1; Phlm 6; 1 Pet 1:9, 21; 2 Pet 1:5). On the other hand, the objective genitive view has its adherents: A. Hultgren, "The Pistis Christou Formulations in Paul," NovT 22 (1980): 248-63; J. D. G. Dunn, "Once More, PISTIS CRISTOU," SBL Seminar Papers, 1991, 730-44. Most commentaries on Romans and Galatians usually side with the objective view.

Some grammar odds and ends:
2:12 Lesson on infinitive phrases: The phrase "Before they came..." is in "articular infinitive with preposition" construct. Which basically means it reads like this: "Before the coming them" and should be translated, "Before they came." First translation help: The subject of any infinitive phrase in Greek is in the accusative. Second translation help. The verb here is in the aorist. Which suggests not as much past time but "point" or "event" time. Before the event of their coming...or even "Before their arrival." 

2:14 Lesson on the subjunctive: Paul uses an "ei" clause; because the verb of the clause is in the indicative and not the subjunctive, you can (and should) translate the "ei" as "since" and not "if."