August 28th: “Burning Coals”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Second Reading Romans 12:9-21

C. Other texts for Year A for August 28thSunday in Ordinary Time

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

9 But knowing good from evil is the hard part. Yet that is the part of our nature that is made in the image of God.

10-13a These are the skills most likely to be acquired by flash-in-the-pan Christians.

13b Now things get tough. Invite strangers into your home. Who are strangers to us?

14 But Paul just wrote that we are to hate what is evil. Ahh! Note the difference between hating “what is evil” and the doer of what is evil. The doers are to be blessed.

17a Christians de-escalate violence.

18 How much does it depend on me? How do my purchases of goods made by Sudanese contribute to that war?

19 How many times times must I leave room for the wrath of God? What if my enemy hits me seven times? Not seven times but seven times seven.

21 Evil leads to more evil. Good leads to more good. Consider what caused the Berlin wall to fall. Was it the successive building of ever larger weapons? Or was it the prayers and aide offered to satellite countries.

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

  • This appears to be a continuation of the thoughts begun in verses 1-2. The intervening verses 3-8, dwell on the varieties of gifts and givers.

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

In verse 14, some variants omit “you” thus, “Bless those persecuting [you]; bless and do not curse.” Throughout vv. 9-18 the victims/recipients of actions are not identified, except for this verse. The pronoun here answer questions that might flow from v. 19 “Never avenge yourselves;” e.g. “From what did they need to avenge themselves?” or “Should we not stand up for those who are persecuted, and deter their abusers?”

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?

Matthew 18:7 How many times must I forgive a member of the church who sins against me?

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

  • “heap burning coals upon their heads” ? If the fire in one’s home had gone out, burning coals would be carried in a plate atop one’s head as aid from those with a warm hearth. This and the verse preceding are from Proverbs 25:22.

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?

  • Center of Gravity: Genuine love.
  • Emotional Center: Love your enemies.
  • Music: “In Christ There Is No East or West”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Repay evil with love, leaving room for the wrath of God.

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

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?

Love differently than the world loves.

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

What does it REALLY mean to act like a Christian?

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Kill your enemies by converting them with kindness.

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