Monthly Archives: August 2012

September 2: “Do It Justly”

What does your anger say about the sincerity of your Christian faith?

This Week’s Passage: James 1:17-27

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for Sunday, September 2nd in Ordinary Time

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

19 – Listen patiently like the Quakers or the Navajo. Count to ten before you speak.

20 – We must be careful how our anger is released.

22 – Our faith must affect who we are and how we act Monday – Saturday!

23 – Our familiarity with having looked into a mirror and forgotten what we look like, or looking at ones watch and having to look a second time when someone asks for the time, shows how we are also familiar with having heard but not acted.

25 – The Communion table is an Alter Table, because we come to this table and are changed by God.

26 – Consider the “Christians” who protest at funerals. Any validity in their message is lost with the anger that carries the message.

27 – Can anyone really keep oneself unstained by the world? And if one could, why would we need Jesus?

II. Literary Study.

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

“Anger” appears 253 times in the Bible.

  • God gets angry: Exo 4:14; Num 11:1; Num 11:33; Num 12:9; Num 22:22; Num 25:3&4; Num 32:10, 13, &14; Deut 4:25; Deut 6:15;
  • God is slow to anger: Exo 34:6; Num 14:18;
  • When humans get angry, they miss an opportunity to serve God: Num 24:10,
  • Prov 14:29 – Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but one who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
  • Eph 4:26 – “Be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not make room for the devil.

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?

The letter of James is more like Wisdom Literature than a typical Greek epistle.

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: Worship must have an impact on the hearer!
  • Emotional Center: Exhortation and Excoriation
  • Music: “Called as Partners in Christ’s Service”

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

R.A. Martin (Augsburg Commentary: James. 1982) notes: “The law is not the tyrannical force we Christians often consider it to be.”

Luke T. Johnson (“Letter of James,” The New Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon, 1998) reflects that readers “now occupy the place of the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” and should feel challenged by James to discern if the reality he presents is one they know and seek to live by, or if they have been self deceived.

Michelle Bartel (The Present Word: Fall 2003, Faith Faces the World. PC(USA).) “Even though this word is rooted, or implanted, in us, it is powerless to save our souls until we become rooted in it.”

Laurie Wheeler (“Active Listening,” The Presbyterian Outlook, July 21/28, 2008.) asks: “Would your interaction with Scripture over the past two weeks classify you as a passive passenger or active crew member in 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

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Exhortation to truly hear and act accordingly in response to the implanted word and there by receive God’s blessing.

The story in Mark 7 similarly condemns religiously following the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of the law.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

These passages should prompt a hearer to examine their own practice of religion. How do my beliefs affect my actions every day? Has my conduct of worship become a shallow ritual rather than a life altering experience?

August 26th: “God’s House”

Like Solomon we too must be careful not to limit God’s presence to church, but beyond all of life; must not forget that the LORD forgives even non-believers who pray in His name; and heed God’s call to radical obedience.

This Week’s Passage: 1 Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11) 22-30, 41-43

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for Sunday, August 26th

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

22 – – Solomon’s posture signifies supplication.

23 – – General adorations.

24 – – Specific instance for adoration.

25-26 – Request for continuation of the reign of David’s heirs.

27 – – Acknowledgment that “this house” cannot contain God.

28-29 – Petition for protection of “this house” and the hearing of prayers offered toward “this house.”

30 – – Petition for forgiveness of Israelites who pray toward “this house”.

41 – – Petition to hear the prayers of foreigners made toward “this house”.

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

  • This is the dedication of the temple that Solomon had built. The ark has been installed and now the prayers.
  • Skips over four specific cases when people might come to the temple to pray. Then lops off two more.
  • The scene ends with Solomon blessing the people, and a festival.

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?

1 Chronicles 6 replicates 1 Kings 8:12-52 amplifying Solomon’s posture during his prayer and appending Psalm 132:8-10.

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?

The petitions reflect typical human behavior following a formula of: forgive them when they pray, if x happens to them because they did not do y. These may be interpreted as prophetic or post-exhilic emendations; “See, Solomon said this would happen to us.”

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: God with us is at the same time presumptive, assuring, and fearsome.
  • Emotional Center: “Hear the plea of your servant … heed and forgive.”

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

Choon Leong Seow (“The First and Second Books of Kings,” The New Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon, 1999.) contrasts this passage with Isaiah’s description of Hezekiah’s prayer (Isa 37:14-46). Here the LORD is clearly present as King! He also notes that the word translated as “dwelling” connotes “enthroning.”

Walter Brueggemann (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Kings. John Knox Press, 1982.) notes how the text portrays the enthronement of the LORD as presuming upon God presence, assuring God, presence, and threatening God’s presence. Linking to Mark 10:35-50, he cautions about attempts to contain God. Linking to Luke 7:36-50, he recognizes Jesus’ forgiveness. And Linking to Mark 8:34-36, he reminds us of radical obedience.

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

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

Like Solomon we too must be careful not to limit God’s presence to church, but beyond all of life; must not forget that the LORD forgives even non-believers who pray in His name; and heed God’s call to radical obedience.

August 19th: “Ask”

Solomon’s love of God was flawed, yet God answered his request for wisdom. If we listen, we may hear God asking us what we need to participate in building the Kingdom of Heaven. If we respond faithfully, we will ask not for divine action, but for skills for ministry.

This Week’s Passage: 1 Kings 3:3-14

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for Sunday, August 19th

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

3 Offering of sacrifices away from Jerusalem was prohibited by Deuteronomy 12:13-14. Yet Solomon receives his vision in such a place.

4 – Solomon’s sacrifice at Gibeon would parallel a protestant US president traveling to pray at the Wailing Wall, at St Peter’s Cathedral, at Mecca, to …

5 – I imagine God asking this question of each person: “What do you need for me to give you?” But only the most pious having ears to hear and a heart inclined to follow where the LORD would lead.

6-9 – Adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication.

15 – Had this been a delusion of grandeur or a divine message? His response could either be penance for foolishness or thanksgiving. The ancients would have understood a dream as an epiphany.

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

  • This is preceded by Solomon removing courtiers who were less than loyal. Although he had offered each mercy their dishonesty resulted in their deaths.
  • Including Solomon’s marriage to an Egyptian woman and providing sacrifices at a place other than Jerusalem, shows his love of God has some serious flaws.
  • Solomon’s vision ends with verse 15.
  • Verse 16 provides an example of Solomon using this gift of wisdom. Perhaps he had been annoyed that a domestic dispute could distract him from matters of state and thereby ordered the child split to end the matter. Only when one offered to cede her half so the child might live did he demonstrate wisdom.

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?

2 Chronicles 1:3-13 – places the Tent of Meeting and bronze altar in Gibeon, justifying Solomon’s worship away from Jerusalem. And that Solomon went there to ask of the LORD before all Israel rather than out of worshipful respect of God. Solomon asked for confirmation of his kingship and wisdom. The request is phrased more powerfully. God’s presence at Solomon’s inquiry confirmed his power. Omits God’s second bonus of long life for righteousness. Omits subsequent worship at Jerusalem.

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

Hebrew words for “hand” appears throughout this passage — 2 … a third under the hand of Joab …; 4 … the king stood at hand the gate …; 12 … were weighed into my hands I would not lift my hand against the king’s son; 14 … three javelins in his hand …; 18 … it is called Absalom’s hand … — illustrating the problem of taking things into our own hands.

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?

  • Presented as a record of events seasoned with a little theological reflection.

III. Question the text.

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

Solomon appears a one thrust into leadership, begging for wisdom to do what he has been tasked to accomplish. In Kings, Solomon sounds contrite. In Chronicles, Solomon sounds like an authoritative leader.

The LORD sounds like any doting father, rewarding his son for asking only for what he needs to accomplish the tasks laid before him.

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: Solomon’s contrite request for wisdom to face the task of leadership.
  • Emotional Center: God awards gifts beyond Solomon’s request.
  • Music: “Seek Ye First”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Solomon violated David’s statutes by marring a foreign woman and sacrificing at one of the high places other than Jerusalem, yet God had granted him great gifts.

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

  • Will God similarly hear my request? Or more appropriately, what request would God have me ask?

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

Choon Leong Seow (“The First and Second Books of Kings,” The New Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon, 1999.) notes that Solomon had no excuse for worshiping away from Jerusalem, as the Ark was in Jerusalem. Seow finds this dream sequence comparable to other accounts from this era, affirming Solomon’s kingship by the appearance of God in his dream. Seow cautions interpreters to present a more nuanced view of Solomon, who loved the LORD, but whose actions were tainted at several significant episodes. Thus: “It is the very human, selfish, negligent, Solomon who benefits from God’s self-revelation and gifts.”

Walter Brueggemann (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Kings. John Knox Press, 1982.) interprets 1 Kings as edited to make a theological point with a keen sense or irony for those who are perceptive of the incongruities between what appears to be true and what is understated. Brueggemann begins the pericope with verse 1, placing the theological lesson in reality of international politics. This marriage of the King of Israel with an Egyptian woman violated Deuteronomic law, yet is presented with out judgment against Solomon.

P. Kyle McCarter, Jr. (Harper’s Bible Commentary, James Luther Mays, Editor. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc. 1988.) opines that the “story of Solomon’s dream has been expanded editorially by the insertion of certain materials lacking in the parallel version of the event in 2 Chron. 1:3-13, which seems to have escaped Deuteronomistic editing.”

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?

Since the LORD graciously answered Solomon’s prayers, we should also expect the LORD to answer our prayers.

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

Solomon used a widely accepted formula for prayer: Adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication. He asks not for himself, but so that he might accomplish God’s mission in the world.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

If we listen, we may hear God asking us what we need to participate in building the Kingdom of Heaven. If we respond faithfully, we will ask not for divine action, but for skills for ministry.

August 12th: “Good News?”

Following Absalom’s treason, David’s role as king conflicts with his role as father, echoing conflicts in our lives and describing the grief of the Creator for the sins of his people.

This Week’s Passage: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for Sunday, August 12, 2012

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

5 — Absalom merited death for high treason against the king and Judah. Yet David ordered his commanders to treat him gently. How do we get less than we deserve?

6 — Ephraim was a tribe of Israel adjacent to Judah and west of Benjamin and Jerusalem.

8 — Imagine running to engage an enemy or flee from another among trees and rocks. The forest claiming victims would have been discerned as the hand of the LORD.

9 — Mule = sign of kingship leaving Absalom. Hanging in a tree = cursed by the LORD.

15 — The armor-bearers pile on after Joab has speared Absalom.

31 — Joab sent a Cushite to bring news of Absalom’s death perhaps recalling the fate of the messenger who had brought news of Saul’s death.

32 — Is David’s dilemma concerning Absalom any different than God’s with us? For we too merit death for our transgressions yet God is loves us dearly and would grieve deeply should anything happen to us.

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

  • This is a short excerpt from the Succession Narrative. Listeners will need to hear a synopsis of what has come before to understand why the army of Judah wants Absalom dead.
  • If verses 16 – 30 are also skipped, then listeners will need to know that the Cushite is a messenger sent by Joab to David to avoid personally sending the bad news.
  • This is followed by Joab explaining how the people of Judah would perceive David’s remorse for Absalom.

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

9 — Greek, Syriac, and Targum “was left hanging between heaven and earth;” Hebrew: “was put between heaven and earth.”

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?

  • This transition is omitted from Chronicles. It would have shown David as weak.

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: David mourns for Absalom who had committed treason.
  • Emotional Center: “Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

David ordered the army to be gentle with Absalom who had led rebels against David and his men.

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

Bruce C. Birch (“The First and Second Books of Samuel,” The New Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon, 1998.) notes that the term “thousands” may have indicated a type of unit rather than a census. Quoting Walter Bruggemann, Birch notes the parallels between Absalom’s suspension in the oak tree and the narrative being “suspended between life and death, between the sentence of a rebel and the value of a king, between the severity of the king and the yearning of a father.” Birch links this episode of David’s life, and the death of Absalom, with David’s transgression with the wife of Uriah. Reflecting on this passage Birch recognizes that we grieve today on hearing of violence and rebellion that tears families asunder, “but have not reached out in ways that would have forestalled violence and rebellion. Issues of poverty, education, familial dysfunction, substance abuse and consumerist values distort the future of many of our sons and daughters who then attempt to seize their birthrights in violent ways …”