Monthly Archives: February 2013

March 3rd, “Worship as Nourishment”

Does your spirit hunger and thirst? God’s market is open, even when your wallet stays closed.

This Week’s Passage: Isaiah 55:1-9

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year C for 3rd Sunday in Lent

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

1-2 – – “Buy and eat.” Not free food, but free market.

3-5 – – God’s covenant attracts others.

6-9 – – Repentance defined

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

  • The remaining section of the chapter compares the word of the LORD to rain that freely waters the earth before returning to heaven.

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: Repentance satisfies and God nourishes.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • God offers mercy freely, unlike the street vendor who expects compensation for his food purchased.

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

W. Eugene March (“Seek the Lord,” The Presbyterian Outlook, p. 20, December 17th, 2001.) places this passage at the end of Second Isaiah, who wrote to exiles in Babylon about 539 BC. He notes the contrast between the vendor’s call –“Come, buy, eat!”– and God’s abundant and unlimited gracious care. He interprets verses 6-9 as boldly asserting God’s abundant pardon, “the door through which all may enter into the forgiving mercy of the Lord God.” He asks: “How does the good news about God’s capacity and willingness to pardon affect your outlook on life and your understanding of th message the church has to proclaim?”

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?

People cannot buy God’s pardon, it is abundantly available to all who would return to God’s ways.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Return to God with rejoicing!

February 24th: “It’s About God”

Acts of piety, especially forgiveness of sins, restore connections with God. Who we seek to impress, determines the value of what we do. Seek to impress God.

This Week’s Passage: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope:

C. Other texts for Year C for 2nd Sunday in Lent

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

1-4 – Deeds done to impress people, do not impress God.

5-8 – Prayers with deep oratory quality do not connect with God.

9-10 – Know who you are talking with and seek God’s kingdom.

11-13 – “WE” petitions not “ME” petitions.

11 – – Minimal food needs for life.

12 – – Dialectical understanding of forgiveness: both present now in Jesus, and needed after the final judgment. Emphasizes the danger of presuming God’s grace.

13-15 – We want God to lead us from temptation and forgive us when we stray. Therefor we hope God will forget our mistakes and while remembering our weaknesses that led to those mistakes. We must do the same for our neighbors; releasing their mistakes and guarding their weaknesses.

16-18 – Since fasting yields heavenly rewards, we should dress like we are being honored.

19-21 – The mate to giving to impress God, is giving to put our hearts in the right place.

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

  • 7-15 – The RCL omits the Lord’s prayer. Omitting shifts the focus towards the behavior of righteousness. But including the prayer shifts the focus towards being at prayer in all things. To paraphrase St Francis: Pray at all times, if necessary use words.
  • 19-21 – The RCL includes these verses making the focus of this paragraph on storing up treasures in heaven. When these verses are included with the next pericope, the focus becomes not storing up treasures on earth.

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

  • 4 & 6 – Some minor variants (as reflected in the KJV) add “openly” to the end of each of these verses. The oldest and most reliable manuscripts (and most modern translations) do not have this word.
  • 13 – There are ten endings in various manuscripts for this verse. The oldest and most reliable manuscripts (and most translations) omit any doxology. N.B. Roman Catholics do not typically add a doxology when repeated in worship because it was missing from the Vulgate. Protestants typically add the doxology because the oldest Greek manuscripts available to the Reformers included the doxology.

II. Literary Study.

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

/anTrwpwn/ – NIV & RSV translate this and its cognates as “men”, but Greek has a separate word for males. Thus “people” would be a better translation.

/paraptwmata/ – trespasses. Perschbacher notes in the *New Analytical Greek Lexicon* that in other literature this word means to step falsely.

/upokritai/ – hypocrites. Boring notes this word was “a neutral term to the Greeks, literally meaning “stage actors.” Modern usage has loaded it with negative connotations.

/epiousios/ – daily, necessary, continual, for today, for tomorrow. This word appears only in this prayer, both in the NT and in other Greek literature. Boring reminds us that day laborers may have gone from one day to the next without knowing where there next day’s bread was coming from. Thus this prayer may have been a request to place concerns for tomorrows food into God’s care.

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?

Two fold inclusio: giving and building treasures forms the outer pair, prayer and fasting the inner pair, with forgiving the central ideal.

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: Forgiveness is the greatest act of piety.
  • Emotional Center: Seek to impress God with piety.

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

M. Eugene Boring, (“The Gospel of Matthew”, NIB) notes the parallels between vv. 2-4, 5-6, and 16-18. He also notes the 3 units of the “inserted” prayer. He notes the references to the synagogue (2 & 5) should not be interpreted as indictments against Jews in general, because both of these practices would not be in keeping with norms of synagogue worship. But rather what is indited is the attitude with which a hypocrite comes to pray. [For example coming to church so that others can see you there.] The Lord’s Prayer has many similarities with other first century Jewish prayers, especially the Kaddish. He suggests that the original prayer was in Aramaic. He also suggest that the original prayer was addressed to /abba/, a familiar form of address rather than a formal address as with the modern English “Father.” He notes that the prayer like authentic worship is God centered, not human need centered.

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.

Who we seek to impress, determines the value of what we do. Seek to impress God.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Acts of piety, especially forgiveness of sins, restore connections with God.

February 17th: “Worship as Giving Thanks”

How are we living now in a promised land, physically and eternally? And how do we give thanks?

This Week’s Passage: Deuteronomy 26:1-11

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year C for 1st Sunday in Lent

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

1 – – Considering both the promised land that we are in and the promised land that is yet to come and considering both the physical and the eternal places where we are and will be, how are we living now in the promised land, physically and eternally? What promised land, physical and eternal, lies be for us to possess and to settle in to?

2 – – All that we have to obtain food to put in our mouths comes from the land that God has given to us. Hence it is appropriate to dedicate a portion of what we produce for doing God’s work in the world.

3 – – Acknowledgment of fulfilling the commands to possess and settle in the land that God has given.

4 – – The priest has no lines except to accept the gift. Should the priest consider the honesty of the gift (as Peter considered and rebuked Ananias and Sapphira for their dishonest gifts) or is the priest to accept whatever gift is given?

5-9 – Statement of God’s actions in the past redeeming Israel from positions of inferiority.

10-11 – Our gifts celebrate all the bounty which God has given. They are not payments, like rent.

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

  • Preceded with several unrelated household laws and a reminder of the harassment by the Amakelites, as if to say, those who do not keep these laws will be blotted out as the Amakelites were blotted out.
  • Followed with a ritual of tithing, prescribing how to give thanks, and a charge to observe these ordinances annually.

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?

Deuteronomy 12:5-7 specifies bringing offerings to the place the LORD will name.

This passage provides the ritual of offering and details the rationale for the offering of first-fruits.

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?

Divinely instructed cultural code.

III. Question the text.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • This makes a radical departure from sacrifices. Other gods demanded offerings as payment for protection or payment for gifts received. This is an act of thanksgiving.

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

  • What “lands” have we escaped from?
  • How is our present circumstance a “promised land”?

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

Joseph Blenkinsopp (“Deuteronomy,” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Prentice Hall, 1968.), citing von Rad, notes verses 5 – 9 may be the oldest Israelite “credo”.

Ronald E, Clements (“The Book of Deuteronomy,” The New Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon, 1998.) notes this passage declares “the primary importance of the sanctuary with its controlling position in shaping the life of the community in all its aspects.” Citing Rost, Clements opposes von Rad, opining the included creed is of late and revisionist view of the meaning of worship. He reflects that the attention of this passage comes from its portrayal of God as one who acts in history. “Moreover, because these events are related directly to the situation of the worshiper, making reference to the land on which the crops were grown, a bridge is built between the past and the present and between God and human beings.”

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?

Worship is an act of thanksgiving for God acting in our past and in our present.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

God gives to each of us the whole of our lives and we should give thanks for that gift.