Monthly Archives: March 2011

A Lesson for March 30th

Order of Courage
Order of Courage (Image via Wikipedia)

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.

Every few days I hear of Christians who die for their faith and occasionally a congregation decimated for testifying about Jesus Christ to people who fear faith different from their own religion.

I wonder if following Christ in America has become too easy. There is little social risk for attending church or not attending church. Sunday has become a day for sports and recreation. We give up chocolates for Lent, when we might rededicate our lives to pointing beyond ourselves to a new reality in Christ, so others might experience God’s grace. But telling others about our faith could be socially risky.

For what would you dare to die?

April 3rd: “Seeing Jesus”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: John 9:1-41

B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …

C. Other texts for Year A the Fourth Sunday in Lent

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

4 What are the works of God?

5 Since Jesus is still in the world, we are able to work the works of God! Miracles?

6 The blind man has no say in his being healed. Or one must suppose this is answer to his prayers known by God.

9 How are we blind to miracles around us?

16 What then is the purpose of the sabbath observance? If there is good in what we do, then is anything permissible on the sabbath?

22 What cultural pressures keep us from confessing Christ as Lord?

41 1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • Exodus 4:11 Then the LORD said to [Moses receiving God’s call at Sinai], “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
  • Psalm 146: 8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
  • Isaiah 29:10 For the LORD has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep; he has closed your eyes, you prophets, and covered your heads, you seers.
  • Isaiah 29:18 On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.
  • Isaiah 35:4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
  • Isaiah 56:10 Israel’s sentinels are blind, they are all without knowledge;
  • Matthew 9:27-31 Two blind men follow Jesus crying loudly until he asks them if they believe and heals them. He orders them to keep silent, but they spread the news.
  • Matthew 12:22-32 The crowd bring a blind mute man to Jesus whom Jesus heals. The crowd calls him Son of David, but the Pharisee’s call him Beelzebul. Jesus refutes them asserting that for Satan to cast out Satan, Satan would be divided against himself.
  • Matthew 15:12-14 Jesus answered them: … 14 Let [the Pharisees] alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”
  • Matthew 20:30-34 Two more blind men cry out to Jesus and are healed.
  • Matthew 23:16-39 Jesus berates the Pharisees as blind for requiring compliance with the law, yet neglecting the people.
  • Mark 8:22-26 Blind man of Bethsaida healed with saliva, but it takes two applications. Jesus orders him not to return home. [The John text answers the question of why not to go home again.]
  • Mark 10:46-52 & Luke 18:35-43 Blind Barimaeus [Son of Uncleanness] requests and received healing by the road in Jericho.
  • Acts 13:11 Saul aka Paul is made physically blind on receiving his spiritual sight.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

During the opening scene Jesus and the Pharisees discuss the blind-man as if he could not hear them. Would he have heard the Pharisees’ question before (whose sin?) and have heard both answers argued? Then Jesus comes and offers a different possibility. No sin, but for the glory of God! Grace instead of blame!

The narrator chided the parents for not witnessing about their son’s healing, but they had no first hand knowledge.

The blind man is driven to confessing belief in Jesus as the Son of Man by the denial of the Pharisees.

The Pharisees are stuck in their old way of thinking.

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

The man is sent to Siloam to wash. Siloam which the narrator says means “sent.”

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: The physically blind man sees Jesus. The spiritual leaders are blinded by tradition from seeing Jesus.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Who can see and who is really blind?

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Jose Miguez Bonino & Nestor Oscar Miguez (That You May Have Life, United Methodist Church, 1991) provide a thorough analysis of the major players in this episode. The neighbors deny the miracle. The parents deny responsibility to protect themselves. The religious authorities arrange the facts to keep settled issues fixed; even before realizing Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, they are upset because Jesus had given sight to the blind person; in their rigid approach they cannot rejoice for the miracle. The man born bind not only recovers his sight, but also his humanity; the episode begins with him as “a bundle beside the road;” but returns from the pool called Sent seeing and speaking “I am.” The man-born-blind recognizes that the Pharisees do not want to know how he was healed but to discredit Jesus, and he confronts them. The man-born-blind begins outside the community because he could not see and is ejected from the community because he sees too much. Although he has confronted authorities he kneels before Jesus.

Gerard Sloyan (Interpretation: John, John Knox Press, 1988, p114ff) cites two third-century people in the Talmud reported to have been healed in the name of Jesus. The Talmud opines: “It is not permitted. … It were better for him had he died.”

A Lesson for March 23rd

Adhesive bandage
Healing Device (from Clker.com)

John 5:6When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

A little boy received a carpet burn and did not want to have a bandage put on it. No matter how or who tried to coax him, he shook his head and continued playing. He did not want to be made well.

Traditionally Christians use the season of Lent to examine our own lives to discern how we might make our lives better. We would do well to answer this question: “Do you want to be made well?” Then use the season of Easter to live in to a new way of living, a new way of being well, to take up whatever we are lying atop and walk.

What wounds/illnesses are we willing to live with than accept healing?

March 27th: “Where is God NOW?”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Exodus 17:1-7

B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …

C. Other texts for Year A for 3rd Sunday in Lent

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1. The Desert of Sin: Don’t we all begin our journeys from this desert? Sin most certainly is a desert without an oasis.

2. While the quarreling is not documented, how is the demand for water so unreasonable and testing of God? Is it not similar to “Give us our daily bread”?

3. Have we not seen similar circumstances when a person is rescued at great expense revived by medical technology only to linger for months or years? Don’t we also question God’s wisdom in rescuing these people only to let them die a more difficult death?

4. How would this story be different if the people had cried out to the LORD directly?

5. Bringing in the elders may help shift Israel’s focus away from Moses as the intercessor of the people.

6. God does provide our daily bread and water!

7. Or perhaps: ‘Why would the LORD allow this to happen if he really cares for us?’

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • The similarity with Ex 15:22-26 of grumbling, thirst, and a miracle suggest that this episode marks the end of a larger segment.
  • Preceded by the episode of the first giving of quail and manna.
  • Followed by an equally short passage about the battle with the Amalekites in which Israel wins only while Moses holds up his hands. Here God battles with Israel.
  • This is followed by Moses sitting in judgment and Jethro’s advice to establish gradations of judicatories (very Presbyterian!). This is another way of showing God among Israel.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

  • Exodus recounts Israel’s learning to become a nation. Thus this passage recounts part of the struggles or recognizing God’s presence among them.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

Ex 15:22-26 follows this type scene, but here the LORD through Moses sweetens the bitter waters of Marah.

Num 20:1-13 is similar scene to Ex 17, but Moses is told to speak to the rock and instead strikes it twice and takes personal credit for bringing water out of the rock. As a result, the LORD denies Moses the privilege of leading Israel into the promised land.

Deut 8:15, Neh 9:15, Ps 78, 105, 114, Isa 32:2, and 48:21 recall the mercy of the LORD in bringing water from a rock to assuage the thirst of the people.

Ekek 47:1-2 — Water comes from under the temple in Ezekiel’s vision.

John 19:34 — Water gushes forth from Jesus’ side after being pierced by a spear.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

The people have only seen the miracles come from the hand of Moses, so they complain against him and not petition God directly. They have also not come to understand the purpose of their journey in the wilderness beyond their present struggles.

Moses is caught in the middle; the people grumble at Moses and the LORD leads Moses step by step. Moses asks how to lead the people, so he won’t be stoned, and the LORD says follow me.

The LORD is more patient in this scene than in the preceding scenes in which the LORD sought to test Israel.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • When in trouble pray to the LORD directly who is concerned for our daily needs, water and bread, and who has gone on before us to prepare what we need.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • There is a conflict in the people’s understanding of whom they are following: is it Moses or the LORD. The stated conflict of water brings this to the surface, as does other conflicts in the Church. Perhaps as the ordination of homosexuals surfaces a conflict of desiring sinless leaders for the Church.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Where is the LORD among us NOW?! Why don’t we see any miracles NOW?!

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Walter Bruggemann (New Interpreter’s Bible): “[While Pharaoh could not give life,] Yahweh’s capacity [is] to give life where there is none, to give bread from heaven and water from rock[. These] are examples of “creatio ex nihilo, God’s capacity to form a people out of ‘no people’.” (NIB v.I, p. 805)
Bruggemann (p. 817) notes that when Moses accuses Israel of testing Yahweh, he has effectively equated his leadership with God’s. Perhaps that is why Israel is ready to stone him; a person cannot be God.
Bruggemann contrasts the two exchanges between Moses and the people: In the second exchange, verses 3&4, Moses calls on Yahweh opening the opportunity for life giving change.
In commenting on the naming of the waters, Bruggemann concludes that the narrator focuses the story on the unfaithfulness of Israel. While God’s power to create and sustain life is not a question for the narrator, what is significant is that at this time and this place Israel questions God’s sovereignty.
Under “Reflections”, Bruggemann posits two uses of the passage: 1. The misappropriation of salvific powers by television commercials which parallel this story line; problem, need, intervention, resolution (If you buy this product your life will be happy). 2. Verse 7 invites a utilitarian interpretation (if one is faithful then God will take care of them), but Job 42:1-6 indicates the answer is otherwise.

A Lesson for March 16th

Butterfly Leg of the 200 IM
(Image by recursive_1 via Flickr)

Hebrews 3:12 Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Every Saturday morning in Officer Candidate School we had mandatory “fun,” a variety of team sporting events, after which we could leave the base until Sunday night. When my principal event, the  swimming relay came last, many of my classmates would have slipped away to the dorm to get ready for the weekend. While others on my team could swim faster, I could swim butterfly. I still recall one of my classmates cheering and walking beside me, exhorting me to reach the far end of the pool. In this way she helped me and kept herself out of trouble.

Who might you cheer to their success and keep yourself pointed towards God?

March 20th: “Go!”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Genesis 11:27 – 12:4a

B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …

C. Other texts for Year A for 1st Sunday in Lent

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1.   Why does Abram have to leave? Is the salvation in the land?

3.   Blessings are very easy to give yet have wonderful possibilities, in being blessed by God and blessing others through the blessing we receive from God.

4.   Abram followed his father’s pattern of living.

5.   Abraham took everything and everyone with him.

6.   Strangers will be in the land that we seek to occupy.

7.   The gift comes first. Then worship in response to that gift.

8.   Abram worshiped God wherever he went.

9.   Abram continued on his journey.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Preceded by Terah, Abram’s father, settling in Haran, and, after 250 years, Terah died. Terah was headed from Ur to Canaan but stopped at Haran, a trip that Abram completes.
  • Followed by Abram going to Egypt due to the famine in the land.

II. Literary Study.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • /BRC/ — to bless or to kneel. Used for God blessing people, for people blessing God, and for people blessing other people. D. C. Davis (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Zondervan, 1976, v. 1, p. 624) stresses that a blessing was not a magical act having independent force, but remains under God’s control.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

  • This is an itinerary, annotated with the LORD telling Abram why to leave and where to go.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

The LORD sends Abram thither and yon and Abram goes building altars wherever he stays. Sarai and Lot come along for the ride.

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

Haran to Canaan: Shechem, Moreh, Bethel, Ai, Negeb. Is this a deliberate path or ambling?

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • This passage recounts the reason Abram traveled in Canaan and provides divine authority for Abram’s heirs to occupy the land.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Absence of conflict is noteworthy. The LORD tells Abram to go and he goes without any stated resistance.

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

  • Why did Terah stop in Haran?The absence of a reason allows us to write in our own reasons for not fully answering God’s call.
  • How did Abram validate that the call he received was from the LORD? What discussions happened in his household regarding leaving his country, his kin, and his father’s house?The absence of resistance to God’s call emphasizes Abram’s faith.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Abram’s departure is presented absent drama or conflict. God made a promise of a great future and Abram walked into that future.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

William L. Holladay (Christian Century, May 22, 1996, p. 596 “A New Beginning: Abram”) muses about Abram’s reasons for leaving Ur and his father’s home: Warmer weather, family pressure, exploration, … Did God motivate Abram with words or entice him with a better future? Like Abram, God calls us into the future without telling us what lies ahead. [c.f. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair; we experience the future like riding a train facing the caboose. We can clearly see what lies behind us, but the future is visible only in the corner of our eyes. We can guess at the future by recognizing patterns from the past.]

W. Eugene March (The Presbyterian Outlook, June 7, 1999, p. 16, “God’s Call to Abram”) notes the ambiguity in God’s call to Abram: God’s instruction is to leave without a destination; the land is already occupied and Abram only gets a burial plot during his lifetime; God promises to make him a great nation, but Abram’s life ends with only one heir. Abram made altars to stake God’s claim upon the world much the way our worship and breaking bread establishes Christ’s claim upon the world.

Richard J. Clifford (The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, “Genesis” para. 20) notes that Abram’s trek foreshadows the path used by Jacob and the conquest by Joshua. Thus Abram’s trek marks a symbolic conquest later fulfilled by Joshua.

Walter Brueggemann (Interpretation: Genesis, pp. 105 – 125) incorporates the exegesis of this text in Hebrews 11: The promise of land is made to a landless people; The promise of a great nation is made to a barren couple. He notes a theological shift between 11:32 and 12:1 from the history of humanity to the history of Israel, from the history of a doubting people [Terah stopped in Haran.] to the history of a faithful people.

Terrence Fretheim (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Book of Genesis”) begins the pericope at 11:27 to show that Abram’s call is not a “bolt out of the blue,” but a continuation of a journey started by his family.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

The call of Abram follows the pattern of creation seen in at the beginning of the world, in Noah’s passage through the flood, and prefigures the creation when Israel passes through the wilderness.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Abram demonstrates a careful and deliberate response to the LORD’s command to leave the past behind and to step boldly and faithfully into an unknown future.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

This passage should inspire the hearer to attempt the impossible.

A Lesson for March 9th

Nineveh. The Mashki Gate.
One of Nineveh's 15 Gates, Reconstructed. (Image via Wikipedia)

Jonah 4:2 He prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.

Do you pray for your enemies? Nineveh merited being removed from the face of the earth. If Jonah had prayed for Nineveh, the enemy of his nation, it might have been for swift punishment for their sins against God. But, instead of being plowed under, or overthrown, Nineveh experienced moral conversion.

What might happen if our enemies suffered similarly, suddenly seeing the error of their ways and the goodness of God?

What opportunities for working together might we recognize when we pray for our enemies success?

March 13th: “Temptations”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Matthew 4:1-11

B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …

C. Other texts for Year A for 1st Sunday in Lent

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1. c.f. Lord’s prayer: “Lead us not into temptation …” Does the Spirit also lead us into temptation?

2. The devil seeks us when we are weak. Yet fasting is a spiritual discipline. So Jesus would have been physically weak but spiritually strong. How can we turn physically weakening events into strength building events?

2. A literal 40-day fast would be humanly impossible. Would 1st century people have a different understanding of a long fast? Would it have included more than water?

3. How do we continue to tempt God for proof of divine reality/power?

4. Consider those who have died rather than reject God.

4. “Lord, won’t you buy me Mercedes Benz?”

5. How do we continue to tempt God for proof of divine reality/power?

8. Why does God limit divine power? Why won’t God speak aloud to the nations?

11. Matthew includes Jesus conception by the Holy Spirit to counter perceptions that the temptation marked the transition from human to divine.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • The narrative jumps abruptly from the John’s baptism of Jesus to his temptation, and from the temptation to news of John’s arrest.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • Mark 1:12-13 – between baptism and calling the disciples. Temptation occurs during the forty days rather than afterwards. Wild animals and angels attend Jesus possibly even during his fast. No dialog between Jesus and Satan.
  • Luke 4:1-13 – Temptation lasts all of the 40-days; questions occur during the 40-days. Tempter named the devil. Temptations ordered differently: bread, worship, testing God. The devil leaves when the testing is done, instead of after Jesus’ dismissal. Alludes to further temptation/encounters at an opportune time.
  • John – No Temptation. Calling of the disciples occurs immediately after Jesus’ baptism by John.
  • Deut 8:3 (NRSV) – He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
  • Deut 6:13 (NRSV) – The LORD your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear.
  • Psalm 91:11-12 (NRSV) – For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
  • Deut 6:16 (NRSV) – Do not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. [At Massah the Hebrews tested God asking: “Is the LORD among us or not?”]

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • Every other time peirazo is used in Matthew, the tempters/testers are human beings: Pharisees and Sadducees (16:1); Pharisees (19:3); Pharisees and Herodians (22:18); and a legal expert (22:35). Jesus always responds to these tests with scriptures — either direct quotes or allusions — as he does in our text.
  • The Greek Satanas is a transliteration of the Hebrew word for “adversary.” In the Hebrew scriptures the satans or “adversaries” are primarily other people, not supernatural beings. This word is used in two other verses in Matthew. In Satanas 12:26 refers to a supernatural being or power: “If *Satan* drives out *Satan*, he is divided against himself. How can his kingdom stand.” In 16:23, it refers to a human being: “Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Out of my sight, *Satan*! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'”
  • diabolosusually translated “Devil” literally means “the slanderer” or as an adjective: “slanderous”. (This other meaning is used in 1 Tim 3:11; 2 Tim 3:3; Tit 2:3.) It is the word used in the LXX to translate the Hebrew _SaTaN_, which, as I noted above, literally means “adversary”. (Besides the four instances in our text (vv. 1, 5, 8, 11; it also occurs in 13:39 and 25:41 of Matthew.)
  • ei– if/since: The deceiver does not challenge the divine sonship of Jesus, but challenges Jesus to demonstrate his authority.

III. Question the text.

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

Forty-days and forty-nights: Recalls days of rain endured by Noah in the ark. Recalls the testing of Israel during 40 years in the desert. Recalls the 40 year cycles in the book of Judges.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Jesus was tempted, as we also are tempted. But Jesus withstood temptation, so that he might take on our sins.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • This is the pure conflict between good verses evil. It ends with Satan choosing to withdraw. The conflict seen here echoes in later conflicts between Jesus and various powers, and echoes in our own lives.

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

  • The devil quickly cedes each point. Too often life presents us with related temptations after we beat back an initial temptation. Or wears us down with trivial temptations before presenting the main temptation. Yet God wants us to know that each and every temptation is easily satisfied with the Word of God.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Is the devil/Satan real? What do we mean by the devil/Satan being “real?”
  • How can I avoid/mitigate temptation by the devil/Satan?

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

BRIAN STOFFREGEN (EcuNet: GOSPEL NOTES FOR NEXT SUNDAY: dated: 2/3/2008 8:04 AM) asks: What’s wrong with turning stones into bread (if one can do it) to feed the hungry? Later, Jesus will turn a couple fish and five loaves of bread into a feast for 5000. What’s wrong with believing scriptures so strongly that he trusts the angels to protect him? Later, Jesus will walk on water, perhaps slightly less difficult than floating on air. What’s wrong with the King of kings and Lord of lords assuming control over the kingdoms of the world? Isn’t that what we are expecting at the parousia?

Robert Gundry (Matthew, Eerdmans Publishing, 1982) notes parallels with testing of Israel in the desert, which Israel failed. He notes Moses also fasted for 40 days while receiving the law on Mount Sinai.

M. Eugene Boring (The New Interpreter’s Bible: Vol. VIII; “Matthew,” Abingdon, 1995) asserts “there was no Jewish tradition that the Messiah would be tempted by Satan.” He also notes the similarity with ancient tales of rabbis who battled each other with Scripture. He surmises that throughout the Gospel God is the hidden actor and Satan is the hidden opponent, only appearing here in character.

Sara Covin Juengst (Horizons Bible Study Vol. 9 No. 3: Encounters with Jesus, 1996, Presbyterian Women, Presbyterian Church, USA) asks several thought provoking questions, including: “What is the fallacy in using [‘the devil made me do it’] about our temptations?” “In what ways do you put God to the test?” “Why is it so difficult to believe God will provide for ALL your needs?” “What kinds of false loyalties are we tempted to have in today’s world?”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

A Lesson for March 2nd

Mahonia - ‘Golden Abundance'
‘Golden Abundance' (Image via Wikipedia)

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

I remember in college a friend noting that people were often giving me things. This was not because I was particularly needy or continually begging, but because I would lend my things to others and they would repay me. And the more I shared the more people would share with me. My friends and I developed a culture of generosity.

God wants us to develop a culture of abundant life; to dine with friends sharing stories and conversation that season a meal better than the finest chef; to labor so that our bodies glow robed with a job well done.

How have you experienced and shared abundant life?