Monthly Archives: May 2011

June 5th: “A People Forgiven”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Luke 24:44-53

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

C. Other texts for Year A for 7th Sunday in Easter

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

44 “While I was still with you,” implies Jesus current presence is less than a visit, although he had eaten bread with the two on the Road to Emmaus and eaten fish.

45 Here he tells them (but Luke omits) how he has fulfilled the scriptures cited in v. 44. Why is Jesus’ earthly mission omitted?

47 Mission of the church is to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins.

48 Each of us stands on a corner of the world, begin in your corner and preach.
Like it or not, each of us has witnessed the rule of Christ.

49 The Holy Spirit will come with power. Candidate’s lament that Presbyterians seem to be still awaiting for this power.

50 How old is this gesture of benediction? Does this link to Moses holding his hands aloft at the battle of Mount Nebo?

51 Is this why the benediction is offered from among the congregation?

52 The disciples returned blissfully unaware of the secular cost they would pay for their spiritual bliss.

53 How does the message get out of the temple?

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

  • Pericope follows the Emmaus Road experience of the two disciples who meet and break bread with Jesus. They run back to Jerusalem, where Jesus presents himself to the eleven and he eat broiled fish in their presence.

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’s gospel ends with the women running away afraid to tell anyone what they had seen on Easter morning. There is no post resurrection experience.
  • In Matthew Jesus meets the disciples on the mountaintop, charges them to go and make disciples, although some doubted. There is no heavenly ascension.
  • Luke ends with the disciples waiting in Jerusalem for power, praising in the temple.
  • John puts the ascension on Easter morning.
  • Possible parallel with Elijah being carried into heaven on a flaming chariot.

III. Question the text.

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?

  • Final words from Jesus summarizing his ministry. It answers questions like: “If Jesus is risen from the dead, where is he now?”

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

  • In the Apostles’ Creed we say: “he ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty from thence he shall rule the quick and the dead.” So what difference does this make in my life each day?
  • Consider vv 50-53 as a leaving ritual. Consider the impact on the disciples if the resurrection story had ended as in Mark (the women fleeing afraid of the angel’s words). Parallel with good-byes from disrupted pastorates: the angry pastor lashing out in his last sermon, the pastor who leaves without saying good-bye or as if there was nothing to grieve, the pastor who shakes the dust from his feet.

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

A Lesson for May 25th

The US Navy attack submarine USS Annapolis (SS...
Image via Wikipedia

Colossians 3:23 Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters,24 since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.

When I was in the Navy I coordinated the operation of a nuclear reactor that produced steam to spin a turbine, that turned a propeller, that pushed a submarine, that helped deter aggression, so people could freely assemble and worship God. Some of the things I did seemed very remote from serving Christ: scheduling maintenance, reviewing logs, running drills, …, but when everyone did their small part, great things were accomplished.

I have heard similar strings of tasks applied to long distance truck drivers who haul equipment, that harvests food, so that people can eat and have sustenance to do God’s work.

How does your daily task fit into serving the Kingdom of God?

May 29th: “Looking for God?”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Acts 17:16-31

C. Other texts for Year A for 6th Sunday in Easter

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

17 How would Paul be received today? Imagine a representative of a foreign religion arguing in our town square, debating professors and ministers.

22 How are we very religious? Or perhaps how are we overtly irreligious?

23 If Paul were to wander through our community, what would he see as drawing our attention away from the one true God and the resurrection of the dead.

24 Do our church buildings reflect the idea that God does not live in shrines? Considering how they lie empty for six days so they can be partly filled for a few hours a week.

25 What is our image of God? The master programmer or perhaps the master program/equation? What heresies/limitations are involved in such images? Computers make only logical deterministic decisions. God offers us participation in the divine transrational future.

28-29 Where to we image God being? Far away/above us in heaven? How would our religious behavior change if we imaged ourselves as living and moving in God, and all people being God’s offspring?

30-31 Our age denies ignorance and tends toward intellectual arrogance, with the philosophers of our age asserting human knowledge surpasses a need for God.

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

  • Paul and Silas were traveling in Greece arguing in synagogues that Jesus is the Messiah and that Jesus’ suffering and resurrection were necessary.
  • Paul’s delivery provoked Jewish leaders in Thessalonica, who formed a mob that searched for Paul. This mob brought several believers before the authorities alleging they were disturbing the peace and proclaiming a king other than the emperor. Paul left Thessalonica during the night and found Beroea more receptive to the message, until the Thessalonians found him.
  • This passage begins with Paul biding his time in Athens until his friends can join him.
  • The lectionary skips over Paul’s observations and initial arguments that led to his opportunity to argue at the Areopagus.
  • After leaving Athens, Paul traveled to Corinth where his arguments again provoked established Jews.

II. Literary Study.

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

Paul is called a “babbler” (v. 18), literally “seed-picker” (Gk. spermologos), marking Paul as a wandering philosopher/preacher who, like a bird picking up seeds, collects philosophical terms here and there and uses them in his street diatribes with little or no grasp of their meaning (Mays, James Luther, Editor, Harper’s Bible Commentary).

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?

Paul uses the statues to various gods distributed throughout Athens as a touch point to connect with the people.

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 provides an example of Paul’s preaching style which used items familiar to his audience and Old Testament topics to proclaim the necessity of Christ’s suffering and resurrection.
  • The various idols enrage Paul, perhaps provoking asserting retributive justice against those with false faith.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Paul attracted conflict to his own detriment. The conflict aroused quick interest, yielding short lived fascination with his message and motivation for Paul to travel from town to town, spreading the Message.

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

  • Paul’s sermon ends abruptly, perhaps due to the light response he received for asserting the resurrection.
  • I would have liked to have seen a summary of his subsequent conversations with those who joined him and became believers.

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

  • An interesting account of an overly zealous preacher and part of his sermon. But how is it the word of God for us, in this time and this place?

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

Robert W. Wall (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Acts of the Apostles,” 2002) connects the cultural and intellectual reputation of the city of Athens’ to the importance of this speech. He alludes that even in Paul’s day, the “idols” in Athens would have been deemed works of art rather than objects of worship. He also notes that the Epicureans were materialists who considered idolatry illogical.

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?

God is bigger than we suspect and merits our complete obedience.

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

Paul presents God the Creator, who will judge all people through Christ.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Consider the limitations we place on who God is and what God is possible of doing.

A Lesson for May 18th

Bimalleolar fracture and right ankle dislocati...
Ankle fracture (Image via Wikipedia)

Luke 6:27“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Pray for those who abuse you? Really?

What do you say in such a prayer? Do you use the old Irish “blessing” that God would turn our enemies or at least turn their ankles so we might know them by their limping?

No, to pray that would be to pray against ones enemy. Jesus asks his followers to bless and to pray for their enemies. To do this I must understand the needs of my enemy and to pray for my enemy’s success.

If God meets my enemies’ needs, might they cease being my enemies? Might they be free to see my point of view and become my friend?

Who do you need to pray for?

May 22nd: “The Big House”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: John 14:1-14

C. Other texts for Year A for 5th Sunday in Easter

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

1. Why are we not to be troubled? In preceding passage, Jesus has just announced “Where I am going you cannot come/follow me.”

2. A place to go home to!

3. Jesus went to heaven ahead of us so that we may follow.

4. We know the way with our hearts not with our feet. The way is to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

5. Thomas is looking for the material rather than the spiritual. Similarly to Luke 24, where Thomas wanted to touch Jesus.

6. Jesus is the gatekeeper. However the text does not say that Jesus only lets believers in according to our criteria for belief in Christ, but rather based on God’s criteria.

7. In seeing and coming to know Jesus we have seen and have come to know the Father. But seeing the Father won’t we die (c.f. Moses on Sinai). Yes we do die. We are dead to sin and alive to all that is good.

8. Philip requires physical proof.

9. Repetition of seeing Jesus = seeing God.

10. Third repetition. This time Father is indwelling of Christ.

11. Believing because of what Jesus has done in their presence is better than not believing.

12. Great works are the fruits of belief.

13. Christological statement!

14. Hence, prayers end: … this we ask in Jesus’ name. Has that phrase become to lightly used?

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

  • This is part of the Last Supper discourse which begins with chapter 13 and continues at through all of 14 and perhaps also 15, 16, and 17. This passage is at least a good sample of the issues at hand if not the kernel.
  • Follows foot washing, breaking of the bread, and exit of Judas. Jesus has just announced to the eleven that he is leaving and that they may not follow, at least initially.
  • Followed by announcement of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Chapter 14 ends with: “Rise, and let us be on our way.” But Chapters 15 and 16 contain similar last minute instructions, and Chapter 17 contains Jesus’ blessing for the eleven, and finally Chapter 18 begins “After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples …”

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

7. The tense of ginwskw (to know) appears in the first instance may be either perfect, or pluperfect. More variants favor the pluperfect (had known), however the older variants favor the perfect (have known). Many of the variants using the pluperfect for the first instance also use it in the second instance instead of the future tense (will know). The difference between the perfect and pluperfect might be difficult to hear if the scribe were taking dictation.
ginwskw also used for ‘to discern’. Thus if the sentence is considered in response to Thomas, then it might be interpreted: Thomas, if you had recognized who I am, then you would have also known the Father. However if Jesus is speaking to all disciples (the 12 and us), then the perfect and future tenses are appropriate.

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?

  • This is the last Gospel written. Attributed to John, one of the 12. More probably written based on stories collected by the community where John lived. Hence the apparent concluding remark in chapter 14. This community lived after the death of many of the disciples and were very concerned about the promise of the after life and the concern about how they would know Jesus having not seen him personally.

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

  • This foreshadows the doubt of Thomas in John 20.

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

V. 1. pisteuete present active imperative 2nd person plural. Both instances are commands. Often translated as ‘to believe’, but ‘to trust’ and ‘to commit to the power of’ are other usages.

V. 2 oijkiva vs monai The father’s house is a permanent structure, but the rooms/inns are temporary resting/waiting places.

V. 6. Egw Eimi = I Myself Am. Redundant form in Greek. Reminiscent of Name of God given to Moses in the LXX of Exodus.

h odos the way/course/direction.

h zwh the life. Synonyms: bios yuch *Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible*: zwh and bios should be differentiated as health/existence and conduct of life. zwh Almost always preceded by eternal/everlasting/immortal or used with similar contexts. Usage yuch suggests breath and pulse or bodily function.
How does LXX translate nephesh?

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 a didactic conversation. The disciples ask questions and Jesus responds.
  • There are at five explanations of Jesus being related to the Father: 1 – know me = know Father. 2 – see me = see Father. 3 – I am in the Father and the Father is in me. 4 – My words are the Father’s words. 5 – glorifying the son = glorifying the Father.

III. Question the text.

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

In the preceding verses, Peter is told he cannot go where Jesus is going yet. Now Thomas and Philip question Jesus about where he is going. They seem perplexed about Jesus going to heaven. Are they looking for a Messianic conqueror? Are they having difficult time perceiving Jesus, whom they have lived with, eaten with, slept with, and traveled with, as part of God?

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: John is trying to explain the difficult concept of how that Jesus and the Father are one and yet that Jesus can go to the Father. There is a clear conflict between Thomas and Philip who knew Jesus as a real person and their perception of Jesus as part of God. The PC(USA) Brief Statement of Faith says: “Fully God, fully human.” The Westminster Confession of Faith VIII.2: “Which person is very God and very [human], yet one Christ …”

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

Gail O’Day (NIB) notes a shift in verse 4 that Thomas misses. Jesus says “you know the way.” This is finally clarified in verse 7 with “I am the way.” Thomas is thinking geographically, Jesus means relationally.

Fred Craddock (Knox Preaching Guides: John) suggests that the preacher expand on v. 12 by listing some of the works that Jesus has done according to the Fourth Gospel and how the Church has/might expand on those works.

Gerard Sloyan (Interpretation: John) notes that the common theme of chapters 14-17 is the indwelling of Christ in believers. He notes that the opening advice which might be platitudinous (“Don’t worry, be happy!”), instead is a real consolation in that Jesus adds the assurance of eternal life where there are many rooms.

These three commentaries are consistent in interpreting vv. 6 & 7 as a statement like that of Joshua “For me and my house, my faith is in the LORD,” rather than a polemic against other religions.

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 May 11th

1 John 5:11And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I once thought eternal life began after death. Then as family members and friends passed on to eternal life, I began thinking that eternal life is a parallel existence that one passed into only by dying. Thus accepting the testimony of Christ, might be thought of like a life insurance policy that pays out at death.

Looking back, I now recall weighing attending Seminary or Business School. In the end, Business School lost because it was only life insurance, while Seminary offered life assurance. While life insurance only provides a benefit for an untimely death, life assurance provides a benefit every day.

Life assurance comes with a daily benefit of knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God! This is eternal life; waking up every morning knowing that God loves me and that nothing I encounter or do can separate me from God’s limitless love.

How has eternal enriched your life this day?

May 15th: “It’s Me”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: John 10:1-10

C. Other texts for Year A for 4th Sunday in Easter

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

1 How might this phrase be modernized? “He who enters a home by a window … or enters a car with a coat hanger … bypasses security …

3 My dad had a corner office on the 50th floor, but he knew the security guards by name. Made entry easier, but also improved security.

4-5 Who are you on an “It’s me,” basis?

7-9 Some may read this exclusively, e.g. “Someone who does not enter by Jesus, does not get in,” (and that may be true), but it is more important that we read this as the easy way in is to get on a first name basis with Jesus.

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

  • Follows Jesus giving sight to a man blind from birth. After significant debate, the Pharisees throw the man out of the temple. This passage concludes with Jesus saying: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”
  • Followed by “I am the good shepherd …” which raises allegations of blasphemy for asserting being one with God the Father.

II. Literary Study.

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 a “figure”. By design it conceals and reveals, sharpening criticism like a modern political cartoon.

III. Question the text.

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

  • In these figures, the sheep have no voice.
  • The stranger/thief provides a contrast to the shepherd.

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: Contrasting false teachers and prophets with Christ as the protector of the sheep.

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

  • This passage has been used to align church leaders with the Good Shepherd: title of “Pastor,” role of pastoral care, congregations are called “flocks,” a shepherd’s crook might be used as a symbol of office, …

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

Gerard Sloyan (Interpretation: John, JKP, 1988) notes: “The game of picking one’s ‘thieves and robbers,’ one’s ‘other sheep not of this fold,’ is an old one. … No Christian confession or group should indulge lightly in declaring others ‘outside the fold.’ Their being of the same fold with all who bear the Christian name should be a matter of hope and prayer.”

Gail R. O’Day (The New Interpreter’s Bible, Abingdon, 1995, “The Gospel of John”) notes: “Scholars are divided on whether vv. 1-5 contain one unified figure of speech or whether it is the fusing of two distinct figures. … one about entering the sheepfold (1-3a), a second about the shepherd (3b-5).” A sharp division is not essential as the sentences form a consistent image of the shepherd as contrasted with the thief/stranger.

Fred B. Craddock (Knox Preaching Guides: John, 1982) discusses if this passage can be considered apart from chapter 9, due to the change in imagery. He argues for independence pointing to the time markers at 7:22 and 10:21.

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 May 4th

A tornado near Seymour, Texas
Will the end look like this? (Image via Wikipedia)

1 Peter 4:7  The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.

Wars, floods, tornadoes filled this morning’s news.  For some people, the end of all things must feel near indeed!
If you woke this morning and knew it might be your last, what would you do differently?
Peter answers: “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.”
When each person seeks continually to serve one another, we can readily face the difficulties of life.

May 8th: “Tell Everyone”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Luke 24:13-35

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

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

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

13 Where is Jerusalem relative to Emmaus? What nearby town is roughly this distance from from the church?

14 Consider the information lag for current events; relative to ancient events. Took two weeks for news of Washington’s election to travel from Philadelphia to New York City.

16 We continue to be kept from recognizing Jesus. Consider the painting of Jesus as a composite of many people’s faces.

17-19 Jesus asks the disciples to be witnesses.

24 The other disciples were also kept from recognizing Jesus, only the women saw.

25-27 Study of the Scriptures is essential for belief.
28-32 c.f. hospitality of Abraham in the OT.

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

  • The preceding pericope ends with Peter wondering what had happened in the tomb.
  • Verses 33-35 form a segue to the appearance of Jesus in the upper room with the Eleven. This passage is similar to that in John 20:19-31, which also includes the eating of fish. Thus the Eleven, according to Luke, have been told twice about the resurrection of Jesus.

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 summarizes this passage in two sentences: Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road and they were not believed when they reported this to others.

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?

What does Cloephas mean? Might be related to reports all(?).

What is significant about Emmaus? Could be etymologically related by Hebrew to word for alongside(?). PEotB relates it to warm springs.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Irony between what Jesus knows and what the two disciples accuse Jesus of not knowing.

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

  • Growing in Faith as a journey.

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

R. Alan Culpepper, (NIB: Luke): Emmaus is a place to get away from it all. Where you go when frightened by what’s happening. Did not plan to share table with God, but in sharing their table found God to be present. Opposite of what happened with Lazarus and the beggar. Perception of God is transitory (How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?) Easter is not over at sundown Sunday. Affects the rest of our lives. The women never saw angels again. Cloephas and the other never ate with Jesus again. Extension of the Easter reality. Our hearts are “strangely warmed” and we recognize him in the breaking of bread. “How can we not go out and tell?”

Fred B. Craddock: Interpretation: Luke In the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup all Christians become first century disciples.

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?

Jesus is always in our midst, even when we least expect it. We always eat with Jesus when we share whatever we have with those we meet.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Having met Jesus where we least expect to meet him, we must run back and tell everyone.