Monthly Archives: December 2012

January 6th: “Shine for All to See”

The glory of the LORD amplifies our light, reconciling people to God’s future.

This Week’s Passage: Isaiah 60:1-6

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Epiphany, Year C

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

I do this early, before researching the passage influences my questions.

1 — In the context of John’s Gospel which identifies Christ as the light of the world, we see this passage as shining because Christ has come into the world. How did Israel interpret this light?

2 — What are darkness covers people today? Loss of hope. Future beyond the daily grind.

3 — Whose light do nations and kings come? Does this refer to the light of God? Or to God’s light shining among us and reflected by us?

4 — We might deny recognition by those around us, but if we pay attention, we will see that the world does appreciate the light of God shining from the Church and that people do come here for reconciliation.

5 — But they do not bring this to us, but to the light of God, shining in our midst. The Magi did not bring gifts to a baby, but to the promise that shone through the baby.

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

  • This is the beginning of a long prophecy that continues and expands upon this theme.

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?

Often attributed to Third Isaiah, student(s) of the prophet who wrote to those who had returned to their now shattered homelands.

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: The glory of the LORD amplifies the light of his people.
  • Emotional Center: Family will be restored as people seek this light.
  • Image: Lighted arrow guiding people to look and return.

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

  • This is a picture of restoration and what might be.

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

Walter Bruggemann, “Off By Nine Miles” (http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2103 ) “Matthew is not the first one to imagine three rich wise guys from the East coming to Jerusalem. His story line and plot come from Isaiah 60, a poem recited to Jews in Jerusalem about 580 B.C.E. These Jews had been in exile in Iraq for a couple of generations and had come back to the bombed-out city of Jerusalem. They were in despair. Who wants to live in a city where the towers are torn down and the economy has failed, and nobody knows what to do about it? … The poet anticipates that Jerusalem will become a beehive of productivity and prosperity, a new center of international trade.”

Bill Long, “Blinded by the … Darkness” (http://www.drbilllong.com/LectionaryIV/Is60.html) recounts how the darkness of current events (attempted assassination of Benazir Bhutto) can blind us from the light. He concludes: “We always look at this passage as a promise of light and the glory of the things coming from light, but the only verb used in a future tense in the first 1 1/2 verses relates to darkness. The light has already come. Thus arise. But, darkness will come.”

John Shearman, Kir Shalom (http://www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermons/c-epip-js.php) This passage from the unknown prophet of the Babylonian exile, styled as “the Second Isaiah,” is almost certainly the source for Matthew’s story of the visit of the Magi bearing gifts for Israel’s new born king. Many modern depictions of that event and the carol, “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” also take their basic elements from this passage. As it stands, however, it presents a clear description of Yahweh’s activity within human history interpreted metaphorically as giving light where darkness has previously prevailed. This, of course, recalls the first act of creation in Genesis 1: the creation of light where there had been only chaos and darkness. It also reiterates the theme of the first poem in the collection of Second Isaiah (40:5): “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed..”
The phrase “the glory of the Lord” in vs.1 (Heb. *kabhodh*) appears extensively in Isaiah and elsewhere in the OT. It is a central word for divine self-revelation or epiphany. The Christian festival and the liturgical season of Epiphany have this fundamental meaning. It refers not only to the revelation of Christ to Gentiles, but the self-revelation of God in Christ to the whole 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?

Restoration to prosperity from living under the light of the LORD.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Hope in the face of darkness.

December 23rd: “You Want Me to Do What!?”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the passage: Luke 1:26-56

Other texts for Year C, Advent 4

Micah 5:2-5

Hebrews 10:5-10

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

38 Mary submits to the Spirit.

39 Mary has just received the vision of the angel that she will bear Jesus. Since Elizabeth was old and barren, her pregnancy would be a certain sign verifying what was said to Mary.

41 Did the ancients perceive that infants held a special bond with God? This foreshadows John’s announcing the reign of Christ.

42 This seems atypical of Scripture, frequently the reader is told what the God tells the prophet, then the prophet tells others. Here the step of the Holy Spirit communicating to Elizabeth is completely ignored.

43 Why are we so favored that our predecessors have built this Church and preserved the stories? Why are we so favored that Christ became human? Why are we so favored that …?

44 Do we leap for joy when the news of Christ reaches our ears?

45 Mary was not required to believe.

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

This is uniquely Lukan material.

42 Is repeated by an unnamed woman in 11:27. But Jesus supercedes this blessing with a blessing of all who hear and obey the word of God.

This contrasts sharply with Job’s curse of his birth (Job 3:1ff).

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

46 Some ancient manuscripts credit Elizabeth with the Magnificat. This would be consistent with v. 41 that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Mary might not yet fully understand nor accept what has happened to her. But Elizabeth could fully understand from the parallel of her own pregnancy to the expectancy of the hope of the world.

If properly attributed to Mary, then the Magnificat is a testimony of her belief by the sign of Elizabeth’s pregnancy as to what will happen.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the context of the passage, and the book?

  • Preceded by the announcement to Mary in the sixth month of the pregnancy of Elizabeth. Elizabeth has been in seclusion much of this time out of embarrassment for becoming pregnant at such an old age. Mary quickly accedes to the angel’s request.
  • Followed by the Magnificat and the birth of John.
  • Annunciation to Mary and confirmation by Elizabeth functions in this chapter as an interlude in the birth narrative of John. Over the next two chapters the narratives of John and Jesus are tightly intertwined. The narratives start with John’s birth which parallels the births of the patriarchs. The narratival shift to Jesus is complete with the jailing of John and the Baptism of Jesus.

III. Question the text.

D. 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?

    • Emotional Center: Wonder/Amazement/Joy
    • Center of Gravity: Beatification of Mary
    • Music: Beethoven’s Ode to Joy

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

      • This scene happens in front of us, rather than involving us.
      • The hearer needs to be transformed to hear Mary’s greeting and leap for joy!

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

Heidi Husted Armstrong (“Advent 2006: Revolution from the bottom up,” The Presbyterian Outlook, Dec. 4/11, 2006) notes the personal nature of the Magnificat. Mary uses the first person singular pronoun. She writes: “the gospel is bigger than personal salvation. And yet … it is certainly not less.” She also notes in vv 51 – 53 Luke’s use of the 3rd person singular to indicate divine action putting the Kingdom of God in the world.

Fred Craddock (Interpretation: Luke) concludes that Mary does not visit Elizabeth to confirm the angel’s prophecy, but is drawn to Elizabeth out of their common experience. He opines that Luke is alluding to the birth of Jacob and Esau, where they struggled in Rebekah’s womb and the younger (Mary) served the older (Elizabeth).

R. Alan Culpepper (“The Gospel of Luke,” The New Interpreter’s Bible)

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?

 

December 16th: Christmas Music Celebration

Chior robed in red
We’ll lift voices and hands to celebrate the coming of Christ.

Our choirs have been practicing for weeks to celebrate the coming of Christ into the world.

This special worship service interprets readings from Hebrews and Luke with performances by:

  • Our Adult Choir
  • Children from our Sunday School classes and Youth Group
  • The Joyful Ringers, our bell choir
  • A trio, a duet, and a solo.

A reception with punch will follow.

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December 9th: “Road Construction”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Luke 3:1-6

B. Other Texts for the 2nd Sunday in Advent, Year C

1. Malachi 3:1-4

2. Philippians 1:3-11

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

2b The call of John follows the pattern of the call of several of the prophets. In Hebrew the phrase frequently translated as “The word of the Lord came to …” can also be translated as “The word of the Lord HAPPENED to …” I believe the latter more nearly reflects what occurs. The former can be interpreted like receiving the morning news paper, it implies the word of the Lord can be received with out action. But whenever the word of the Lord HAPPENS to the prophets they immediately do and speak. When the word of the Lord HAPPENS to someone they are no longer the same as they were before.

3 How is John’s baptism different from the baptism of Jesus Christ? For me the difference is first repentance “BECAUSE OF” rather than “FOR” the forgiveness of sins and second the addition of the assurance of eternal life. This is why I baptize infants, not because they have turned from their sins, but as a sign and seal that they have already been forgiven so that they might turn towards God throughout their lives.

4a And also in the post exilic prophet Malachi.

4b What do we need to do to prepare the way of the Lord TODAY?

5 C.F. Interstate roads to local roads with dive through hollows and jog around farms. The latter is nicer for sightseeing and for distractions along the way. But the straight roads are for urgent traffic. The word of the Lord requires the path for the most urgent traffic. With the least distractions from the left or to the right.

6 We should not be quick to narrow the scope of God’s action. N.B. The covenant of Noah is with every living creature (Genesis 9:12).

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

  • The New Oxford Annotated Bible Includes Malachi 2:17 and 3:5 with 3:1-4. These verses then become the answer to 2:17 (Where is the God of justice?) and 3:5 exposes the other side of the sword of justice which cuts away those who “do not fear the [Lord.]”
  • Follows youth of Jesus. Precedes the baptism of Jesus by John.
  • Luke 3:7-17 shifts the emphasis from the one who prepares the way to the message that the one who prepares gives to the people. This is next Sunday’s pericope.

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

Luke 3:6 NIV “all mankind.” NRSV “all flesh.”

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?

Luke maintains a tension between the kingdom as already and the not yet come. Thus the listing of the secular and religious rulers acknowledges the “not-yet” and the identification of John as the voice in the wilderness fulfills the “already.”

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

Matt 3:1-12 — Omits historical markers, which places John the Baptizer in context of secular and religious rulers. Adds John’s call to repentance. Relocates John from the Jordan to the desert of Judea. Shortens the quotation of Isaiah to only the first phrase.

Mark 1:1-8 — Presents Mark as a fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah rather than as conforming to the prophecies.

Luke 3:1-6 — Of the Synoptics, only Luke includes and interprets the quote: “and all flesh shall see God’s salvation.” Or according to Isaiah: “And all flesh shall see it together.”

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 John the Baptizer narrative serves as an interlude from the chronology of Jesus’ life, focusing on the chronology of John the Baptizer. It also foreshadows the Jesus’ ministry and rejection of his message.

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: The Word of the Lord came in the midst of life, not apart from an historical setting. And the Word that came was consistent with the prophecies that proceeded him.
  • Emotional Center:
  • Music:

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

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

Why are we reading about John the Baptizer while we are trying to get ready to celebrate Christmas?

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?

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

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?