Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Acts 16:9-16

This passage occurs in the RCL Easter Season, Year C, most recently May 26, 2019.

Summary:  Two things caught my attention about this passage.  First, a woman wins an argument with Paul :-)  Second, Lydia has so much in her life going right for her.  Yet she is not content.  Often we assume that people need to hit rock bottom for the Christian Gospel to make an impact.  In Lydia's case, clearly something about her life was incomplete, even if she was not lamenting her life or commiting awful sins.  I wonder if this is a helpful angle for reaching the consumerists out there -- no, you are not awful, evil and hell-bent people, but deep down something is missing; the world of selling and consuming doesn't add up.

παρακαλων ("encourage" (participle form), 16:9)  It is interesting that the man "encourages" them to come to Macedonia.  You could call him an advocate for Macedonia.  In fact, the word for Spirit in John's Gospel (and the appointed text for this week) is παρακλητος, the noun form of this verb.

συμβιβαζων ("proving, pulling together, knit" (participle form), 16:10)  I find this is great verb for how we understanding the work of the Spirit -- we pull pieces together to build of picture, a map, of what the Spirit calls us to do.  When this word is used in Colossians it means "knit together."  We pull at pieces -- visions, stirrings of the hearts and basic facts -- to figure out the will of the Spirit.

κολωνια ("colony", 16:12)  This word does not really feature in the interpretation of this passage, but it speaks to how we can understand Paul's letter to the Philippians:  See here for more info.

πορφυροπωλις ("dealer in purple cloth", 16:14) Lydia, unlike the jailer, does not encounter the Gospel at a time of weakness, but of relative strength.  She is a rich merchant who sails the seven sees.  She is at worship.  Yet something isn't right; she hungers for something more.

Sad side note:  Purple cloth was ruined because of over harvesting of the snails that produced the dye.  It is believed those particular snails are actually extinct.

διηνοιξεν ("open", 16:14)  This word can simply mean "open" but it can also mean "open" in a more metaphorical way.  See the word dianetics and Scientology!!

ο οικος αυτης  ("the house of hers", 16:15)  This verse is often used as justification (or permission) for infant Baptism.  No changes here, but I think the translators over-translate here.  They translate it "She and her house."  It should read, "Her house was baptized."  First, the word "she" is missing.  The only thing in the nominative is "the house."  It seems unlikely "she" is implied in the verb because the verb baptize is in the singular, which would not match "she and her house."  Furthermore, the word "de" appears, which suggests a change in subject; "Lydia" was the subject in the previous sentence suggesting a new subject.  She was baptized; my point is simply that her house was not baptized as an afterthought, but that the act was done all together.

If I lost you, I think I might of lost myself with this last point.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

John 21:1-19

This passage appears in the revised common lectionary, year C, the 3rd Sunday of Easter.

The passage describes beautifully the Christian's experience before God:  We are drawn out of our every day life, called into an encounter with the Risen Lord.  Jesus forgives us, restores us fellowship and sends us out to care for others.  In short, we are called back into the world, in service.

Key words:
συροντες  (συρω, meaning "drag", 21:8) and
ειλκυσεν (ελκω, meaning "draw" or "drag", 21:6 and 11)
Both of these words indicate that the disciples had to work to bring in their haul.  Serving Jesus and working in ministry are hard work!  (See note below on ειλκυσεν)

παιδια (meaning "child", 21.5) Paidia means "child" not "friend" as the NIV has it.  Jesus refers to the disciples as children.

ιχθυς (meaning "fish,"; 21:6, 8 and 11)  Just a friendly reminder that the fish became an early Christian symbol, as the letters formed an Anagram:  Jesus (I) Christ (X) God's (Th) Son (U) Savior (S).

εβαλεν (βαλλω) (meaning "cast" or "throw"; 21.7)  The word for "cast" nets is "βαλλω" which is used for both the nets and for Peter "casting" himself into the see.   Interestingly in 18:10 and 18:11, when Peter draw (ειλκυσεν) his sword and then was told to put it away (βαλε).  This is a great reminder about how this passage reveals the transformation at work in Peter.  He was casting away swords he had drawn; now he is drawing the fish-filled nets he has cast.

ανθρακαι(ν) (meaning "coal", 21.9)  Jesus is cooking over "anthrakia" which means "coals" (ie anthracite coal).  When Peter earlier denied Jesus, it was over a coal fire (the only two times this word appears in Scripture).  How often does God do this, where God takes the very place, location, thing, relationship, addiction, sin, fear and transform this into an instrument of God's healing.

εσχιθη (σχιζω, meaning "tear", 21.11)  The net is not torn (schiz-oo). Interesting that John concludes with the net not being schismed; in Mark's Gospel, the Passion ends with the curtain being torn! Different metaphors, for sure, but something about the nature of Jesus in both is nicely caught with this subtle difference.  The church will grow and grow, into a full harvest, but it will not schism.  Sadly the church has schismed, a reminder that we are already called to mend the nets of Christianity.
There are three interactions between Jesus and Peter.  The big point is that just as Peter denied Jesus three times, he professes his love three times.  However, linguistically, these three interactions are distinct.

φιλεω vs αγαπαω ("love")  What to say on the various words for that Peter and Jesus use?  Some feel this is a big deal (Peter responds to the question of do you love (apage) me by saying that he "philos" Jesus.  I don't think that John makes much of the dinstinction; he uses them interchangably. If anything, the ambiguity of "philo" and "agape" points toward the intimate (and therefore mutuable and vulnerable) and transcendent (unconditional and permenant) love of Jesus toward and with his disciples.

προβατα αρνιον ("sheep").  The flock includes "lambs" and "sheep", new/young and old/mature!

ποιμενα βοσκε ("tend") Feed/tend vs shepherd.  Feed and tending VS shepherding.  We are called to feed people (teaching ministry) and shepherd them (pastoral ministry).  Both of these verbs are in the present tense, suggesting this is an on-going action!

Fun with Greek
present tense:  Most of the verbs in sections 1-12 are in the aorist tense.  Except for the proclamation:  "He is the Lord" as well as the sentence "Jesus is coming, taking the bread and giving it them" suggesting this is an on-going task of the disciples.

αριστησατε (αρισταω; 21:12, 15)  This word means to break the fast with a meal.  I only highlight it because it has a clear English cognate:  artisan!  Jesus serves an artisan meal :-)

μη (21.5) Jesus asks a "meh" question which expects a "no" answer. (ou questions expect a yes answer. How can one remember this? Alphabet. m-n; o-y)

153:  There are so many theories about this number.  Some of them involve grammatica, where letters have numbers and therefore words have a number value.  MANY theories have been put forward about what this number may mean:  The whole variety of fish in the world and therefore the breadth of the Gospel "catch"; the number 153 is a triangle number, the sum of the numbers 1-17...  Anchor Bible commentary surprisingly goes into various ways people have looked at this.