Monday, January 31, 2022

Luke 5:1-11

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, 5th Sunday of Epiphany (which doesn't necessarily happen every Epiphany).  Most recently, February 6, 2022

Summary:  This is a great metaphor for the Christian life:  Jesus interrupts our life.  Asks us to do something small for the Kingdom.  We agree.  Jesus then pushes us beyond our comfort zone, to go deep.  We balk.  We do it.  We discover the riches of God's love.  This works something deep in our soul where we are brought to our knees.  We rise, ready to serve.

2022 insight:  I also reading Scripture with more of an eye on the community.  In this story, the work of ministry is too big for Peter alone; he needs his friends, even though Jesus is speaking directly to him.  After all of the ministry, family and church changes in the past two years -- who are your partners?

Key words:
εμβας (from εμβαινω, meaning "embark", 5:3)  Let's be clear:  The movement here begins with Jesus.  Not us.  Jesus gets in the boat, even uninvited!

επαναγαγε (meaning "put out to see", 5:3,4)  Jesus commands Peter and the others twice to put out their boats. 

  • The first putting out is:  ολιγον (meaning "few" or little", 5:3).  
  • The second time Jesus calls them to set their boats into the βαθος (meaning "deep," 5:1)

At first Jesus only asks for a bit of favor - a little movement!  The second time he asks them to take a risk.  The first time Jesus asks them to use what they have, in comfortable ways, for Jesus' purpose.  The second time, Jesus asks them to go a bit deeper -- less comfortable.  The word βαθος in Greek, like English, can refer simply to a physical measurement (something is deep), but also connotes a more mystical deepness, of something unknown and perhaps even unknowable (Psalm 69:2; Michah 7:19, 1 Cor 2;10 and Ephesians 3:18).  This seems a fitting metaphor for our life in Christ.  At first, we are asked to do something we know how to do, something we like to do, and then boom, we find ourselves pushed beyond our comfort zone, into the deep end of the pool!

ἐπιστάτα (vocative form of word meaning "master", 5:5)  It is only in Luke's Gospel that the disciples calls Jesus by this title.  In parallel stories in the other synoptics, Jesus is referred to as teacher.  While Luke indicates that Jesus is teaching (εδιδασκεν, 5:3), Jesus keeps with επιστατα.  Luke here seems to be suggesting a higher level of respect and admiration.  If I were translating this word, I would use "guru."  In ancient Greek επιστατα can mean "one who is set over, a commander, of a tutelary god, a president, steward of the games, a training-master."  (Liddell Scott)   BDAG also suggests this word is used as one would lead the student/mentee into virtue.  In short, this word might include teaching, but it is more of a moralistic if not wholistic teaching.  It describes one who is entrusted with the responsibility of a project, and that project might be our moral formation.  In short, when Peter calls Jesus this name, he is demonstrating great faith.  It is also worth noting that the confession that Jesus is κύριε (Lord), begins with Master.  Following Jesus may not begin with an all out acknowledgement of his divinity; this can happen as a later development.

It is also worth noting that Peter's confession of sin follows his witness of Jesus power and even after his obedience to Jesus.  Evangelism that begins with proclamation of wrath may not be the only way to bring a potential follower of Christ to his or her knees!

τα δικτυα (plural of "δικτυον" meaning "nets", 5:2, 4, 5, 6)  They are not cashing a fishing line; they are casting a net!  So, go fish!  Use your fishing metaphors, but don't use a fishing line.

χαλασατε (from χαλαω, meaning "drop nets", 5:4)  The word for "drop nets" means to "loosen."  In order to catch fish, they have to "loosen" their grip.  What ministry area are you holding on to too tightly?

μετοχοις (μετοχος, 5.7) and κοινωνοι (κοινωνος, 5.10)  Both of these words mean partner.  μετοχος comes from the Greek for "with-have"; the other, κοινωνος, comes up in other places in the New Testament in terms of fellowship.  

  • Peter cannot do his work of fishing or ministry-fishing alone.  He needs others.  After this time of pandemic, who are your partners?
  • Fellowship in Christian communities is also economic (Paul picks up on κοινωνος in his letters to the Corinthians)

ζωγρων (meaning "capture alive", 5:10)  It seems really strange here that would capture humans like fish.  Isn't Jesus about freedom and life?!  Jesus uses a different word than "fish"; he uses a word that means capture alive, as opposed to kill  In fact, in Ancient Greek, this word had two meanings:
1) to take alive, take captive instead of killing
2) to restore to life, revive
Jesus is interested in a live harvest!

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Greek Words for Love (1 Corinthians 13)

1 Corinthians 13 appears in year C of the Revised Common Lectionary, most recently Jan 30, 2022.

Summary:  Lots are made of the three or even four words for love in the Greek.  Let's look a bit closer at each word and how it appears in the New Testament.  Then we will look at other words for love that appear in Greek (and there are way, way more than four!)

αγαπη/αγαπαω:  Agape  (All citations in this section for "love" are the noun or verb form of αγαπη)

  • Basic:  This is a special kind of love meant to describe the divine love.  It is used heavily be a select number of New Testament authors and is rarely found outside of the New Testament.
    • As the Father loved me, so I love you.  John 15:9
    • But God proves his love for us...  Romans 8:5
    • This is my son, the beloved (αγαπτος) Mark 1:11
  • Slightly more complex:  It can also describe human love toward other humans
    • This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  John 15:12 
    •  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  Mark 12:30
  • Really complex:  It can be disordered love.  We can "agape" things that are not good.
    • Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Luke 11:43
    • No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Matthew 6:24

Overall, I think it is fair to say that within the New Testament, this kind of love refers to an "unconditional" and "sustaining" love that reflects God's love for humans.

φιλια/φιλεω:  Philia (All citations in this section for "love" are the noun or verb form of φιλια)

  • Basic:  This refers to brotherly or sisterly affection.  
    • In fact, the word for friend:  φιλος is clearly a linguistic sibling!
    • So the Jews said , "See how Jesus loved Lazarus!" John 11:36
  • More complex:  This kind of love is used to describe both divine love and human to divine love
    • Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; Matthew 10:37
    • I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.  Revelation 3:19
    • The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.  John 5:20

In short, the easy distinction between αγαπη and φιλια cannot be maintained in the New Testament.  One interpretation of this data is that the two words are fundamentally synonyms.  Another is to consider that there is both something unconditional (αγαπη) and mutual (φιλια) in Jesus love for us.  This is best seen in John 15:13

  • No one has greater love (αγαπη) than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends (φιλος).

However, I would be cautious about making too much linguistic hay out of how John uses similar one must be able to support this notion of unconditional and mutual love elsewhere in Scripture to make this point.

ερως:  Eros 

  • This word means "sexual" or "passionate" love.  Its English cognate is "erotic."  It is not found in the New Testament.  The Septuagint translators of the Old Testament employ it twice.
    • Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love. Proverbs 7:18 
    • Sheol, the barren womb, the earth ever thirsty for water, and the fire that never says, "Enough." Proverbs 30:16  This verse is fascinating because the Septuagint translators just go all over the place (which happens in the proverbs translations).  The verse literally reads in Greek:  'Hades, woman Eros and Tartarus and the earth will never be satisfied."  So let's not worry about this.

Basic point:  While Scripture may deal with the erotic, the word eros is not in its vocabulary, especially not in the New Testament.  There are many books written on discovering this kind of love within Scripture, but it is fair to say that Jesus was not teaching about eros.

στοργή:  Storge

  • This word means familial affection. 
  • It is not found in the New Testament.  It occurs in some inter-testamental writings, 3rd and 4th Maccabees.   
  • There is a derivative word of it that appears in Paul's letter to the Romans (see below).

While these are the big "four" in Greek, the New Testament and Scripture employed a number of other words for love.  

  • ελεος:  This word typically means mercy.  However, it is the translation of k-s-d (חסד) from Old Testament Hebrew into Greek.  When translated into English, חסד is often translated as "steadfast love."  There are a couple of verses in the New Testament in which this word ελεος could have been translated as love instead of mercy.  This brings up a great discussion about the connection between love and mercy!
    • He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."  Luke 10:37  
    • By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us Luke 1:78 
    • But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us Ephesians 2:4
    • Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.   Hebrews 4:16
    • For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment  James 2:13  
  •  There are a number of compound words with "φιλια" that occur in the New Testament.  These form words that describe all kinds of love!
    • φιλοστοργοι, philostorge, lover of familial affection and φιλαδελφια, philadelphia, love of sibling.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Romans 12:10  This means literally:  Be lovers of familial love toward one another in sibling love!
    • φιλαγαθος, philagaothos:  He must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled Titus 1:8
    • φιλανδρους, philandrous, lover of men, φιλατεκνους, philateknous, lover of children:   That they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children Titus 2:4
    • φιληδονος philhedonos, lover of pleasure and φιλοθεος, philotheos, lover of God: treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God 2 Timothy 3:4 
    • There is also a great compound word to describe God in Titus 3 - Lover of humans: When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared Titus 3:4
    • And finally, there is dear Theopholis (lover of God) to whom Luke writes his Gospel and Acts.

There are others too -- and not all good!  But it is clear that the New Testament employs a LOT of words to talk about love.  How do we get at God's love for us?  How do we describe what love between two humans in like?  

I hope you go love somebody today. 

And last, God loves you.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Luke 4:21-30

This passage is found in the RCL, Epiphany, Year C.  (Most recently January 30, 2022)

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!  It is also worth noting that the angriest people get with Jesus is when he preaches (or manifests) grace; it seems preaching God's abundant love may be more upsetting than preaching God's judgment.

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 εκβαλλω, 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 his own choice.  (See also John 10:39)

Grammar "fun" - Transliteration of names

Names rarely stay the same in different languages.  Like Robert becomes Roberto in Spanish, adding the "o" for a masculine name and rolling "r."  Even in languages where the spelling is the same (say German and English can both have "Robert") the pronunciation is very different.  When alphabets are entirely different, the changes in names across languages can be pretty striking.  A dramatic example of this is where the same root name is Hebrew (Yahweh saves) comes into English as "Jesus" and "Joshua"!  

In this case, we have the two great prophets mentioned by Jesus.  (This is the only time in the New Testament that Elisha is mentioned.)  It is strange to see how their names move across Hebrew and Greek into English

Elijah:   in Hebrew is (transliterated):  el-ee-yahu.  In Greek this becomes ηλιου, in which the η is pronounced more like an "a" in "ate" and the ι is like a double "ee" sound.  So its almost like aleeo-oo

Elisha:  in Hebrew is (transliterated):  Eleesh(ay).  The last letter in Hebrew is ayin (ע), technically a guttural stop (open your mouth wide and cut your breath for split second), which is something we don't have in English (or other indo-European languages, really).  The Greek got at this with a whole bunch of vowels at the end:  Ελισαιος.  Even more bizarrely, the Septuagint and New Testament spelling of his name are different (there is not ending "s" in the Septuagint).

What to make of all this:  Not to much!  But just interesting.  I have also heard that some scholars will use the Septuagint transliterations of names as a clue to how the ancient Hebrews pronounced their vowels, as we have more knowledge about ancient Greek pronunciation than Hebrew pronunciation!

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 17, 2022

Luke 4:14-21 and Isaiah 61

This passage is found in the RCL, Epiphany Season, Year C (Most recently: January 2022)  It is also found in the narrative lectionary year of Luke.

Summary:  Home run point, here but it will take a full count to get there...Most times the New Testament quotes from the Greek version of the Old Testament.  On rare, rare occasions, the New Testament writers seem to be quoting from the Old Testament Hebrew in their own translations (Proverbs 10:12 vs 1 Peter 4:8 eg).  In this case, Jesus seems neither to be translating directly from the Old Testament Hebrew, nor is he reading directly from the Greek.  He is intentionally adding to the Word of God.  This is a bold move.  He does so, I would argue, out of a Trinitarian conception of his mission, whereby the people will be brought into the mission of God.  (If you are saying to yourself, this is too much for a sermon, the basic point remains:  The Spirit of the Lord on Jesus is also the Spirit of the Lord on the church!)

Three little Greek appetizers before the main course:
φημη (pheme, meaning "fame," 4:14)   The word for "news" is "pheme" or perhaps better in English "fama." This is the root of our word fame. Jesus is famous!

δοξαζομενος (from δοξαζω, doxaz-oo, meaning "praise", 4:15)  The people "praise" Jesus. Interestingly, in the rest of the Gospel, the only one praised is God. This is the only instance of Jesus being praised in the Gospels.

δυναμις ("dynamis" meaning "power") and εδιδασεν (from διδασκω, meaning "teach", 4:15):  Luke tells us that Jesus began to teach; what I want to draw attention to is that the POWER of the Spirit is fueling Jesus' teaching ministry.  One cannot truly separate the teaching of the faith -- the ministry of the Word, from the Spirit.  This is good theology -- the Spirit enables the teaching and proclaiming of the Word.  (Lutheran theology heavily focuses on the proclamation of the Word.  Unfortunately, it often leaves it implicit rather than explicit that the Spirit drives proclamation.  But here Luke focuses on the POWER of the Spirit.   δυναμις (power)comes into English as dynamic or dynamite.  Is our teaching dynamic and dynamite?  A teaching ministry should be fueled by the Spirit and provide power for the rest of the ministry.

Digging into 4:18-19 vs Isaiah 61:1-2

First, before we get into the differences between the Old and New Testament:

Where does Jesus power come from?  The Spirit!
- Jesus words and the OT begin the same. The Spirit of the Lord (πνενμα κυριου) is upon me; he has annointed (εχρισεν, ie "Christed") me. It does well to remember the Hebrew words here: Ruach Adonai (רוח אדני) for Spirit of the Lord and Messiah (משך) for annoint.

Who is the ministry for:  The downtrodden!
- "captive" which comes from the Greek "αιχμαλωτος" which means "spear." Literally, those who are speared. This word is only used once in the New Testament. In the Old Testament it is used quite often in conjunction with those who were forced into the Babylonian exile.  See note at the end
- oppressed (τεθραυσμενους, participle form of θραυω) is only used once in the NT and literally means "shattered." I wonder who in our congregations feels speared and shattered?  All of these blessings Jesus is to bestow focus on the downtrodden.  Also, all of the blessings have an obvious material/physical aspect.

Now, let's get into the differences.

A quick comparison show that Jesus is not reading right from the Septuagint or the Hebrew.  Here is a literal translation, in each case I have underlined what is different in each version, not due to any linguistically subtle changes.

Luke 4:18-19 (Greek)
a) The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
b)  because he has anointed me
c)  to bring good news to the poor.
d)  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
e)  and recovery of sight to the blind
f)  to send the oppressed in freedom,
g)  to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Isaiah 61:1-2 (Hebrew)
a)  The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me
b)  because the LORD has anointed me
c)  to bring good news to the oppressed/poor
??)  and bind up the brokenhearted
d) to proclaim release to the captives
f') to release to the prisoners/bound up (from darkness?)
g) to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,

To summarize:  If Jesus were reading from the Hebrew, he has

  • added in"recover of the sight of the blind"
  • taken out binding up the brokenhearted
  • changed "release the prisoners/bound up" to "sending the oppressed in freedom"

Isaiah 61:1-2 (LXX, Greek translation of Hebrew)
a) The spirit of the Lord is upon me,
b)  because the LORD has anointed me
c) to bring good news to the poor
??) he has sent me to heal the crushed in spirit/heart
d)  to proclaim release to the captives,
e)  and recovery of sight to the blind
g) to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor

To summarize, if Jesus is reading from the Septuagint, he has

  • added in "sending the oppressed in freedom"
  • taken out "binding up the brokenhearted"
  • changed the order significantly.

This presents an obvious textual problem -- what is Jesus actually reading?  I am not sure we can ever answer this question, so I would like to assume that Jesus knows he is changing things and doing so for a reason.  So let's ponder the changes:

A) In the OT, Isaiah never talks about sight to the blind. Jesus does (the Septuagint does also).

B) Isaiah (in both the Hebrew and LXX) plays on the idea of binding -- the broken-hearted are bound; those bound are released. Jesus alters this image.  Jesus focuses on "freeing the captives" and "letting the oppressed go free." Jesus, thus, seems to by-pass the image of repairing/releasing the broken-hearted, instead choosing to include the idea of sending the oppressed.  This actually comes from Isaiah 58:6 where the prophet says, "To send the oppressed in freedom."

C) Jesus puts in the idea that he is sent to send others.  The word send in fact, appears twice, "He sent send."  The phrase "to let the oppressed go free" literally reads, "to send those shattered, in forgiveness; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." The translators are combining the phrase "send in forgiveness" into a single verb "free."  This makes sense in that to free someone is to send them in release.  But I think this misses something going on in the Greek.  The Father has sent the Son, who through the Spirit is sending others.  In fact, depending on how one links the infinitives, one could argue that those who are sent out are those sent to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.  Regardless of these grammar dynamics, the overarching theme of Luke's Gospel is that Jesus has come to send those who are oppressed, in forgiveness, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. 

Again, this whole grammar translation may seem to technical for a sermon.  But it fits more broadly into the case Luke makes in Luke-Acts, that the work of the Spirit is to bring us into the triune Mission of God.

D) Jesus drops the line immediately following this passage in Isaiah (...a year of the Lord's favor and day of vengeance). Here the LXX does not use such striking language, but in any case, Jesus avoids this idea all together.

What do we make of all of this?  Jesus is Lord of Scripture.  The Spirit is inspiring him.  The fulfillment of the old means something new!  Let me know what you think!


More on captives:  αιχμαλωτος typically refers to those in Exile (mostly it appears in Isaiah and Exile).  However, the Hebrew word 'underneath' αιχμαλωτος refers to both those in exile and those in other places who were captured in battle.  Regardless of whether one wants to focus on the exile or more broadly any time of military produced captivity, the word prisoners would likely have a modern connotation (someone who has gone through a criminal justice system) that would not be a helpful translation at this point. ...Unless someone wanted to make a point about the criminal justice system!

Monday, January 10, 2022

John 2:1-11

This passage occurs in the RCL Epiphany Season, Year C, most recently January 2022
I offer two summaries:
2013 Summary:  The numbers tell the story here.  This is Jesus FIRST miracle that happens on the THIRD day, in which he transforms SIX vessels of imperfect cleansing into celebration.  In fact, the word FIRST here means foundation, because this miracle foreshadows all the other miracles of Jesus; they are all miracles of transformation, including the resurrection on the third day.  Lastly, on a very Lutheran note, the transformation includes humans who are put to use for the service of others.

2019 Summary:   This passage is all about the mission of the church:  Jesus ministry takes place outside of the traditional boundaries and buildings.  It will involve the obedient participation of servants, who will become agents of transformation in this world, leading to a joyous party of abundance.

2022 Offering:  Even in times of scarcity (when experts tell us there is one more reason to fret), Jesus still calls a party.

Key words:
τριτη ("third", 2.1).  The phrase third day occurs in John's Gospel a few times.  All seem to be about the resurrection

- Jesus proclamation that the temple will be raised on the third day (2:19-20), also a reference to the resurrection on the third day.  

 - Jesus visits his disciples three times after the resurrection, including the three times (explicitly mentioned) he asks Peter if Peter loves Jesus.

So what to make of "three in this story?"  It seems a foreshadowing of resurrection, as Jesus begins to reveal his glory.  Interestingly, it could be read "on the third day there was a wedding" rather than "on the third day of the wedding."

εξ ("six", 2:6)  Six in the bible signifies something as incomplete.  It is not coincidental that John connects six with Jewish cleansing rituals.

αρχη ("first" or "principal", 2:11)  The word can mean first.  But if you look at the other times when it is translated as first (and not "beginning"), it has shades of "primary", or "foundational" first. So we need to ask ourselves -- why is this a foundational miracle?

John 6:64:  For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.
Colossians 1:18:  He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.
Hebrews 2:3, 3:14:  It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him...For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.
Rev 22:13:  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."

γαμος ("wedding", 2:1):  It is worth pointing out the incredibly obvious:  Jesus first miracle does not take place in a church, but in the world, at a wedding!

Οινον ουκ ("no wine"; 2:3)  The problem with humanity is that we are good at finding and proclaiming scarcity.  Jesus sees what we do not -- plenty of fluid!  Furthermore, the transformation of the water into wine is not for the water (or wine's sake), but is for the sake of the kingdom -- it is for God's glory and the neighbors at the party.  I think this phrase might be really helpful in a world constantly told that we are not enough and that we should be panicking.

Some other words:
διακονος (literally deacon, or deaconos, "servant", 2:5):  Jesus brings the διακονος to service for his ministry.

επιστεθσαν ("believe", 2:11):  Believe in the book of John is never a noun "faith" but only a verb "to believe" or "to trust."

Grammar review:  An idiom you should know
"τι εμοι και σοι"  Jesus asks this question of Mary.  This is not a very nice thing to say to a person.  It means, "Who the hell are you."  It is also used
* Widow to Elijah, whom she believes is responsible for her son's death;1 Kings 17:18
* The demons to Jesus when he wants to exorcise them; Mark 5:7
But what to make of a sermon here:  Maybe, just maybe, the mission of God is influenced by human prayers and requests!!

Monday, January 3, 2022

Luke 3:15-22

This passage occurs in the RCL Epiphany Season, Year C, most recently January 2021.

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.

Four sermon ideas based on the Greek:
What are you waiting for?
3:15 Luke here uses the word, προσδοκωντος, (participle for of προσδοκαω) 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 here a present participle (προσευχομενου), which means it is a concurrent action.

[Note: I have modified a previous post because I've learned more about the grammar at hand].  The way the participles line up, Jesus is baptized, starts praying and continued to pray as these other events happen.  But don't let the grammar get in the way of the big point:  Jesus first act after baptism is prayer!  Prayer is bound up with Baptism for Luke.  You might even say that it "activates" Baptism; prayer brings us back to Baptism, to the waters.  Prayer opens heaven to us!

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 "σομα" (soma; body) style!  The Spirit again become flesh in our Baptism into the body of Christ.

A fourth bonus: God's work of cleansing

διακαθαραι:  to thoroughly cleanse
παρακαλων ευηγγελιζετο: comforting/encouraging as he proclaimed the Gospel.

For John the Baptist, the idea that God is going to cleanse us is Good News.  This seems like the opposite of good news, this talk of things being cast in the fire!  Option 1:  See this as Good News in that God is going to take us, the chosen and beloved.  Sucks for others.  Option 2:  Or we can see this (through a Lutheran lens) that each person has wheat and chaff.  The sinner must be put to death in the waters of Baptism!  The end game is a cleansing for each of us though!