Monthly Archives: January 2013

February 3rd: “Why Not Us?”

In a few sentences Jesus provokes the people from praising him to driving him away. What boundaries have we created to limit the application of God’s grace and thereby limited the action of God’s grace in our lives?

This Week’s Passage: Luke 4:21-30

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year C for Sunday February 3rd

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

21 – – Summary of Jesus’ comments on Isaiah about the year of the Lord’s favor.

22 – – Local boy becomes great preacher and town is inspired.

23 – – Why did the proverb apply? What did they expect Jesus to heal himself from?

– – – People always look for signs and miracles, as entertainment.

24 – – Consider difference between a prophet and a preacher.

25-27 – Why might outsiders be more receptive to a prophet than an insider? Conversely, what are the dangers of an insider speaking prophetically?

28-29 – Prophets are unwelcome.

30 – – But Jesus’ time had not yet come.

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

  • Second part of passage on Jesus preaching. Consider as one pericope?
  • Preceded and followed by Jesus going to other towns, where he preaches with authority and casts out demons.

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 6:1-6 – Very terse account. People question where he gained wisdom and power. Jesus amazed by people’s unbelief.

Matthew 13:54-58 – Very similar to Mark 6:1-6.

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

Prophet: mouthpiece for God, chosen by God, often proscriptive rather than predictive.

III. Question the text.

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

Jesus begins speaking graciously but shifted to speaking prophetically, telling his neighbors they were closed to the word of God, which riles them to violence.

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?

Jesus begins speaking graciously but shifted to speaking prophetically, telling his neighbors they were closed to the word of God, which riles them to violence.

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: No prophet is acceptable in his hometown.
  • Emotional Center: The people go from speaking highly of Jesus to attempting to kill him.

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

  • Would a more pastoral approach have turned their hearts?
    No. Some people will steadfastly refuse to receive Christ.

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

  • Pastors, Elders, and Deacons are set apart, ordained, by God through the voice of the people. None-the-less they are to discern the will of God rather than the will of the people. Unlike political leaders, they do not need to run for office, but must have the courage to do what is right, even at the risk of being run out of town.

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

R. Alan Culpepper (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Luke.” Abingdon, 1995.) explains the proverb “Doctor, heal yourself,” as a reaction to the townspeople saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” Thus they may have expected a great prophecy that would have healed them of their ignominy (e.g. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” – John 1:46). Yet like the neighbors of Elijah or Elisha, they were unwilling to act with the faith of the woman at Sidon or Naaman. He reflects: “Those who would exclude others thereby exclude themselves. … Jesus could not do more for his hometown because they were not open to him. How much more might God be able to do with us if we were ready to transcend the boundaries of community and limits of love that we ourselves have erected?”

Fred B. Craddock (Interpretation: Luke. JKP, 1990.) interprets Jesus’ two proverbs as indicating the Nazarenes were resentful that Jesus had taken God’s favor to others beyond Nazareth, that included non-Jews.

Perry H. Biddle (Preaching the Lectionary: A workbook for year C. WJKP, 1991.) is reminded that Jesus was and was not Joseph’s son and thus interprets the proverbs cited by Jesus as his moment of differentiation and ceases to be merely “one of us.”

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 provokes those who might constrict his ministry.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

What boundaries have we created to limit the application of God’s grace and thereby limited the action of God’s grace in our lives?

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January 27th: “Serve the Good Wine”

Like the cup of communion, the wine is poured out without request from those who benefit and is poured out with extravagant abundance!

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: John 2:1-11

B. Other texts for Year for Sunday within

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

1 What “third day”?

3 How do we ask Jesus for things? Do we simply expect Jesus to fill our needs when notified?

4a What concern is the wine to Jesus? –> “Give us this day our daily bread …”

4b When are we commissioned to ministry? Installation? Ordination? Seminary/Sunday School? Baptism!

5 This is a statement of faith! That Jesus can solve our problems, and even when he has objected, will solve our problems.

6 Did John have a numerological meaning hidden in the six jars holding 2 to 3 measures? (Six being the incomplete number.) Or is this only to demonstrate that this was a large household and the vastness of Jesus’ grace poured out for us?

7 Are we the treasure, in stone jars, filled with water, awaiting transformation into superior wine?

8 What would the servants have been thinking when they took the water to the wine steward?

9 Imagine the reaction of the servants when the steward proclaimed what they to be only water as the best wine.

10a Heard Baptists excuse this wine as weaker, less intoxicating, than modern wine, but the guests would get drunk.

10b Consider wine as a metaphor for God’s mission to the people.

10c Keep the good wine until later?

11 Jesus first miracle is to make wine! We should celebrate his glory!

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

  • John delimits this story with “On the third day” and with “after this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.”

6. 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 a unique passage.

Joel 3:18 In that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; a fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD and water the Wadi Shittim.

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

Water for purification rites? Nothing overt in Scripture.

Wine: Other than this passage, and a reference to this passage, John does not use this word.

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. John seeks to affirm that the actions of Jesus are continued by the actions of the Holy Spirit ‘Paraclete’ as present among believers. John seeks to show the revelation of the glory of Jesus Christ from the beginning of his ministry. John has a different understanding of the second coming of Jesus Christ. He understands that God is with us now in the form of the Paraclete.

III. Question the text.

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

Jesus was a wedding guest. Is not concerned about the shortage of wine. But instructs servants to fill the jars with water. The miracle has to be deduced from Mary’s instructions and what we know of Jesus.

Jesus’ mother (unnamed in this passage) neither asks nor tells Jesus to provide more wine.

The servants are fully aware of what has happened, but only after the wine steward tastes the wine. Had they thought that Jesus was about to pull a fast one?

The wine steward affirms the completion of the miracle. And wrongly attributes the beneficence of good wine to the bridegroom.

The disciples are transformed through learning about this miracle.

The bridegroom is the beneficiary of the miracle, but is oblivious to it. Like people in a disaster benefiting from others.

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?

On the third day: If we presume that this is a sequence of days beginning with Jesus’ baptism (creation) then he recruits disciples on the second and third day, and this story comes on the third day after meeting Philip, or the sixth day after his baptism. The wedding then links to Genesis in the creation of humanity. The six jars of water may also link to the six days of creation.

Jesus is the only named character, keeping our focus on him.

Why six stone jars? Why two to three measures each? Stone jars would ensure ritual purity that an earthen jar would not, in the event of contamination with a dead unclean animal, including the washing of items so contaminated. The volume of wine produced connotes the superabundance of gifts available through Jesus.

Cana occurs later as a place where Jesus perceived the people demanded signs to believe in 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: A sign that Jesus is more than a mere mortal.
  • Emotional Center: The surprise of the wine steward on drinking the good wine.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • What concern is the lack of wine to Jesus?
  • What does Jesus mean that his hour has not come? Has our hour come?
  • Does serving the good wine last parallel Jesus appearing after the prophets?

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

  • The sign swamps the details of the story.

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

Gail R. O’Day (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of John”) opines that these jars symbolize the new wine filling the old vessels of Jewish purification. She connects the abundance of good wine with Amos 9:13 & Joel 3:18 as a symbol of the joyous arrival of God’s new age.

Gerard Sloyan (Interpretation: John) notes ancient interpretations which link the mother of Jesus to Eve, with both sharing the title of Woman. He notes potential problems of upstaging the wedding with this miracle if everyone knew of the source of the wine, thus explaining Jesus’ silence regarding the transformation, and also the difficulty of keeping this secret in a small town (thus when Jesus returns the people want to see more miracles from him).

The NIV Life Application Bible opines that running out of wine at a wedding was more than a breach of hospitality. They suggest that Mary was not asking for a miracle, only that he find someway to solve the bridegroom’s social problem.

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 this is the last Gospel, written long after Paul’s letters, does this function as the institution of the Lord’s Supper? This cup is the new covenant, sealed in my blood, poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Like the cup of communion, the wine is poured out without request from those who benefit. And it is poured out with extravagant abundance!

January 20th: “God’s Mission Needs a Church”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Luke 4:14 – 21

C. Other texts for Year C for Sunday within January 21 – 27

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

14 This shows a passage of time between his baptism and this episode. How might we react to someone filled with the power of the Holy Spirit?

15 This episode is not his first teaching episode.

16 This would be a normal custom for a young male to read in the Temple.

17 Big Temple! Not every place would have more than the Torah.

18-19 Who picked this passage? Or more precisely, through whom did the Holy Spirit work to point to this passage?
The pericope invites analysis of this selection from Isaiah rather than the town’s reaction
to his subsequent rebuke. What is our purpose as related to God’s purpose and mission?

20 Imagine a child of the congregation returning home, having gained favorable notoriety.

21 A summary of his sermon.

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

  • This passage follows Jesus sojourn in the desert, while being tempted by the devil, following his baptism. Thus this is Jesus’ first interactions with people in his ministry.
  • The townspeople discredited Jesus then he denied authority to do works in Nazareth, resulting in the Nazarenes throwing him out.

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

  • Mark 1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
  • Matthew 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6 – Place Jesus’ ministry in Nazareth later and omit an initial positive reception.

II. Literary Study.

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: What is God’s mission today? How does our mission statement and implementation track with this passage from Isaiah?
  • Emotional Center:
  • Music: Hymnal #332 “Live Into Hope”

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

Fred B. Craddock (Interpretation: Luke. JKP, 1990.) concludes that Luke placed this event out of historical order, “sacrificing chronology” to make a programmatic statement. He notes that Jesus’s first public word, after reading Scripture, is “today.” He opines that throughout Luke-Acts “ ‘today’ is never allowed to become ‘yesterday’ or slip again in to a vague ‘someday.’ ” He reflects that the church subsequently has continued to receive this word, much like the original hearers in Nazareth, with admiration, wonder, and doubt.

R. Alan Culpepper (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Luke.” Abingdon, 1995.) compared Luke’s rendering of what Jesus read with the Septuagint and found “to bind up the brokenhearted” omitted from Isaiah 61:1 and “to let the oppressed go free” added from Isaiah 58:6 with a change of tense to match the infinitives in the preceding verses. He also notes the continuation of the theme of good new for the poor from the Magnificat and in later teachings.

Rosalind Banbury (The Presbyterian Outlook, “Who is Jesus?” August 11, 2008, p. 18.) affirms the interpretation of “the year of the Lord’s favor” as referring to the Jubilee Year, the periodic return of property proscribed in Leviticus.

James H. Price (The Presbyterian Outlook, “Luke’s mission statement” July 25/Aug. 1, 2005, p. 17) cautions interpreters not to read this passage in light of Mark 6:2-3. In Luke’s version of Jesus’ preaching in his home town the people’s reactions can be classified as positive until he compares them to the people that Elijah and Elisha could not minister with. None-the-less, he concludes: “This passage is not about the Jewish rejection of Jesus, but about the peril of our missing ‘today’ the vision of God’s grace that surpasses the bounds of what we deem appropriate.”

Carol M. Bechtel (The Presbyterian Outlook, “When God Steps Off the Screen” December 1988, p. 41.) compares this passage to Woody Allen’s film The Purple Rose of Cairo, where a character in the film within the film steps off the screen to dialog with a woman in the audience. She asks: “How many times does Jesus step off the screen on a Sunday morning without our taking any notice?”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Jesus shifts from merely being a spiritual leader to God incarnate and declares his mission statement.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Hearers are called to experience Jesus fulfilling this mission statement, not only for the people of Nazareth 2000 years ago, but especially for us today.