Monthly Archives: October 2011

November 6th: “Serving the Lord”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Joshua 24:1-3a & 14-25

C. Other texts for Year A for Sunday, November 6th in Ordinary Time

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

1 The leaders were summoned. Presumably the leaders brought the people with them as Joshua had just given his farewell address to the leaders.

2 Transition from other gods to the LORD was made with Abraham. (Why not use Abram to represent his prior alignment with other gods and his new name to represent alignment with the LORD?)

3 The phrase “made his offspring many” is a convenient substitute for the more complete history that follows.

4-13 Our ability to look backwards determines our ability to look forward.

14-15 Joshua exhorts the people to make the same transition that Abraham had made from other gods to the LORD. But was that not the purpose of the sojourn in the Sinai? Obviously the problem of other gods is something people continually struggle with. In this age, New Age Spirituality, astrology, self-reliance, the stock market, and Paganism call some to worship other gods.

16-18 When confronted, people do not turn away from their spiritual home. The Israelites recognize the LORD’s working in their sojourn through the Sinai and taking of the Promised Land.

19 Where does Joshua get the idea that the LORD will not forgive their transgressions?

20 Is this the same as the “unforgivable sin” of blaspheming the Holy Spirit as cited by Jesus?

21-23 Three fold pledge to God. What if we were similarly challenged when we joined the church? Would some decline?

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

  • Cuts out an overview of the exodus.
  • As soon as Joshua has the people put away their foreign gods (idols) he sets up a stone as a witness against the people which had heard all of the words of the LORD.
  • Lops off Joshua recording the pledge in the book of the law and setting up a memorial stone (Ebenezer).

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?

  • Some scholars include Joshua with the Pentateuch, referring to the entire set as the Hexateuch, and have discerned verses of J,E,P, or D origin. It connects the Pentateuch with the narrative history that continues in Judges, Samuel, and Kings. Some of the etiological stories may have originated long before they were codified.
  • This comes at the transition between leaders (Joshua’s death). It also marks the transition from being conquerors of the land to a people with a land.
  • In Judges, the people repeatedly fail to keep this covenant: “Again Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” Or: “There was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” The latter should be of significance to Americans with our strong self-reliance and individuality.
  • This speech is probably a literary construct of what the writer thought, by the Holy Spirit, Joshua would have said on this occasion.

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 24 – Israel dedicates itself to follow the LORD on receiving the law. The dedication in Joshua follows receiving the land.

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

  • Work/serve – this verb is the root for servant/slave.

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?

  • Polemic

III. Question the text.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Serving God absolutely, as promised in this passage, is impractical. Yet it is the only possibility.

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

  • This is like a pep rally where the students are confident of victory, while the coach reminds them of the power of their foes.

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

Joseph R. Sizoo, The Interpreter’s Bible, “The Book of Joshua: Exposition” (Abingdon: 1953). “Nations are great not in proportion to their military prowess, but in proportion to their dependence upon God and moral leadership. … We bristle with self-importance saying, ‘my country – my land,’ as if we had brought it into being and made it secure. Perhaps the trouble today is this: people are unable to trace God’s hand at work in the movements of history and in their lives. At best to them history is the story of [humanity’s] discovery of God, but not of God’s revelation to [humanity].”

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?

Reading Alongside

A family Bible
Image via Wikipedia

Matthew 13:10 Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?

Two Christians sat and read the Bible sitting side-by-side. Each held the same translation, and spoke the same language. The first to finish sat back and smiled. The second began to weep. For although they read the same words, the experiences of their lives echoed differently among the pages.

Do you read the Bible? Or does the Bible read you?

October 30th: “Blessings Abound!”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Gospel Matthew 5:1-12

C. Other texts for Year A, All Saints Day

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

1. c.f. Theophany scene with Moses and the elders approaching God on Mt Sinai.

2. Joke based on the apostles’ response to this passage. Do we have to write this down? Will there be a test? … What are your cognitive goals?

3. Who are the “poor in spirit”? Could this literally mean that God loves those and will call home those who find no hope in this world? That God will save even those who are not rich enough spiritually to call upon the name of Christ for salvation?

4. Is there more to this than assurance of a life to come? Does this recommend mourning?

5-6 Meekness versus striving for righteousness. Meekness sets a bound as to what constitutes a just use of force.

6-7 Righteous vs. mercy. When do we seek justice and when do we grant mercy?

7-8 Mercy vs. Purity. Being merciful means compromising one’s purity. e.g. Pope advocated giving up capital punishment even of those who do terrible things.

6-9 & 10 Righteousness vs. Peacemaking. Seeking righteousness may result in strife.

11. Attacks often include a shred of truth, twisting truth, combining ignorance with a different perspective of how to live out these tensions.

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?

  • Luke 6:17, 20-23

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

/makarios/ ‘blessed,’ ‘fortunate,’ ‘happy,’ ‘well-off’: Trait of being god-like. Trait of being dead (having escaped the bounds of earthly existence. Trait of being wealthy in possessions or relations. BUT, Jesus says it is those who struggle in this earthly existence who are blessed. The prophets and apocalypses pick up the theme of eschatological blessedness.

III. Question the text.

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

M. Eugene Boring (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Matthew,” Abingdon, 1995.) interprets Jesus’ ascent up the mountain as theological to link Jesus with Moses for whom mountains were places of revelation. He notes the reversal from the usual practice of associating blessings with those fortunate circumstances. He concludes that rejoicing when persecuted should not express a martyr complex, but as acceptance of the “badge of belonging to the eschatological community of faith.”

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

Freed for Life

1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I would like to believe that I never make a mistake, but I know the truth. I would like to believe that I am always focused on doing God’s will in all situations, but I know the truth.

I would fear punishment for my mistakes, and exile for my momentary theological lapses, but I believe that the truth is Christ Jesus. My trust in the truth, does not for a moment ease my striving towards perfection in all things and in seeking God’s will always. Instead, I strive all the more as my humble response for the victory that Christ has won over the sting of death.

How has the resurrection freed you for life?

October 23rd: “Stewardship: Love God”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Gospel Matthew 22:34-46

C. Other texts for Year A, Sunday, October 23rd in Ordinary Time

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

35 Another trick question to divide Jesus’ supporters. We use this behavior today to divide political groups against a candidate.

40 If we could but love God, everything else would fall into place.

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

This is preceded by another controversy story, which ends with Jesus taking the Pharisee’s point of view against the Sadducees regarding remarriage and the resurrection. Could this testing by the Pharisee’s be an attempt to show Jesus as not one of them either?

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 reports this question and answer as a friendly inquiry from a scribe. Jesus’ conversation with the scribe ends with Jesus saying: “You are not far from the kingdom of heaven;” which may be understood as a word of encouragement, a declaration that the scribe is standing before the Son of God, or as sarcasm meaning the scribe is nowhere near the kingdom of heaven. Or as irony, the kingdom of heaven is standing only a few inches away from the Scribe.

Matthew omits the beginning of the Shema in his response, which is carried fully in Mark 12:28-34).

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

Matthew calls the Pharisee who questions Jesus as a lawyer. This is Matthew’s only use of /nomikos/. Boring translates this as an expert theologian, consistent with the NIV which reads “an expert in the law.”

III. Question the text.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

Jesus is asked to pick the most important commandment in the law. At that time rabbis had counted 613 laws, 248 positive commands, corresponding to the number of body parts, and 365 negative commands, corresponding to the number of days in a year. The trap comes from a belief that every commandment is equally binding and any rank ordering human presumption of knowing the divine.

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

M. Eugene Boring, The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Matthew.” “It is striking that Jesus is asked for one command but responds with two. Matthew alone specifically adds that the second is ‘like’ (/omoia/) the first. This does not mean merely that it is similar, but that it is of equal importance and inseparable from the first. The great command to love God has as its inseparable counterpart the command to love neighbor. One cannot first love God and then, as a second task, love one’s neighbor. To love God is to love one’s neighbor, and vice verse.” And can one love one’s neighbor, without loving one’s self as well?

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

Heroes

A British nurse in 2006.
Image via Wikipedia

Matthew 10:29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. … 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Why would anyone enter a burning building? Why would anyone chase a fleeing suspect? Why would anyone confront an armed combatant? Why would anyone treat a patient with a communicable disease?

Everyday our neighbors take calculated risks using special equipment and training. These everyday heroes take on these risks to care for our friends and our families, to pay forward the love they have received, to pay forward the love we have received from our eternal Father.

What risks do you take each day to demonstrate the grace of Christ to the people you meet?

October 16th: “Stewardship: Taxes”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Gospel Matthew 22:15-22

C. Other texts for Year A, October 16th in Ordinary Time

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

15 Why do the “Pharisees” of our day want to entrap Jesus?

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?

Matthew wrote this remembering the Zealot movement which resulted in a disastrous war (66AD – 70AD) and which arose in part over the Roman head tax. The tax had to be paid with Roman coins which blasphemously referred to Tiberius Caesar as son of the divine Augustus, and head priest.

III. Question the text.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

The trick to the Pharisees question was would Jesus side with the Zealots, and refuse to pay the tax, or would he affirm the tax and the inferred blasphemous statement, and thereby alienate the nationalists?

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

Eugene Boring, The New Interpreter’s Bible, “Matthew”. While affirming the need to make a distinction between things that belong to Caesar and loyalty to God, Matthew leaves actualizing the decision to the readers who must become “Jesus theologians.”

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

Old Fabric

Tattered clothMatthew 9:16No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made.
Every now and then I get reminded to throw out an old shirt whose cuffs or collar has become frayed or stained.

What about old ideas? Ideas and modes of thinking that no longer fit with current thinking?

Jesus challenges us to accept and to offer mercy instead of sacrifice. Meeting us not in our righteousness, but in our sins.

How has the idea of mercy torn at the fabric of your life?

Octobert 9th: “Stewardship: Invitation”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Gospel Matthew 22:1-14

C. Other texts for Year A, Sunday October 9th Ordinary Time

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

2 What would a wedding banquet for Jesus include?

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?

  • Luke 14:15-24
  • Thomas 64
  • If from a common source, Matthew has substantially modified the text to satisfy his own purposes.

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

  • The king sends out /douloi/, frequently translated slaves, but also servants.

III. Question the text.

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

  • Compare with satirical list of reasons not to bathe.
  • Hearers are asking themselves: “Where am I in this scene?”

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

Eugene Boring, The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Matthew”. Boring analyzes this passage as an allegory: The king corresponds to God; the feast to eternal salvation; the invited guests to Israel; the initial invitation to Abraham’s covenant, … Joshua’s covenant; the first two round of servants who remind the guests to the prophets; the final set of servants correspond to Christian missionaries; and the donning of wedding robes to conversion; thus several are invited (Israel and gentiles) but few are chosen ekletos (elected). Boring makes a jump that the wedding robes of the elect are fabricated by the fruits of their actions based on the previous parables and Romans 9-11 and 1Cor 10:12. We may get into the feast based on grace alone, but our election is demonstrated by our fruits.

Robert Grundy, Matthew: A Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art. Grundy links this parable with the preceding two noting that the first (the two sons) addresses the call to repentance by John the Baptist, the second (the ungrateful tenants) addresses the work of the prophets and Jesus Christ, and the third addresses the work of the church.

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