Tag Archives: Mark

February 12th: “I Choose You”

This Week’s Passage: Gospel Mark 1:40-45

Highlights: Jesus risks physical and social well being to cleanse a leper. How do we need to be cleaned? Who do we need to reach out to?

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for Sunday, February 12thin Ordinary Time

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

40 Would this have been difficult for the leper? Or would his leprosy have driven him to the point of grabbing at every straw? How did he overcome the social stigma and separation?

41 It is not our choice, but Christ’s choice to reach out and touch.

42 What do we wish to be cleansed from

43 Is there an implication that Jesus warned the leper not to worship him or idolized him for the physical healing apart from the spiritual healing?

44 Go and worship God as you were instructed.

45 How would this look today? Is this the error of worshiping the medium rather than the message?

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

  • This could be seen as an example of Jesus casting out demons mentioned in v. 39. Beginning the story with v. 35 places this missionary trek in the context of prayer.
  • This passage shifts Jesus from generic healings to theological healing. In the next passage a paralytic man is restored by receiving forgiveness of sins. By parallel, cleansing equals forgiveness as both mean restoration to community.

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

  • A few variants omit “and kneeling down” in verse 40 and others change verse 41 from “being filled with compassion” to “was angry”. But these are less reliable manuscripts.

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?

  • Matt 8:2-4 – Omits Jesus’ feelings of compassion. Omits the leper’s freely proclaiming being healed and the impact of notoriety on Jesus’ preaching.
  • Luke 5:12-16 – Omits Jesus’ feelings of compassion. Generalizes the notoriety that the healing gave Jesus.

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?

  • Including Jesus’ feelings helps emphasize his humanity.
  • Clean appears 4 times: The leper asks to be made clean. Jesus chooses to make him clean. The leper was made clean. And he was commanded to make an offering for cleansing. Cleanliness would have restored the leper to community, thus his first act would be to worship God who made him clean.

III. Question the text.

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

Leper: Came hoping that Jesus would cleanse him and was so elated he could no longer contain himself.

Jesus: Jesus was dismayed (perhaps even angry) that the community had deemed lepers untouchable. Thus touch demonstrated the leper’s restoration to community.

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: Demonstrate Jesus willingness to violate social norms to restore people to community.

Music: “There Is a Balm in Gilead”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Lepers were supposed to announce their uncleanliness so no one would inadvertently touch them. Yet Jesus intentionally touches the man before he is made clean and before he presents himself to the priest and thus remove the requirement to announce his uncleanliness.

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

  • Pokemon refrain, “I choose you!” Does this reflect a need in our community to be chosen?
  • I sat next to a drunk while he waited for AA to start and I waited for my meeting to start. “Never sat next to a preacher before. Can I shake your hand?”
  • Country song: “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play”.

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

Lamar Williamson, Jr. (Interpretation: Mark. John Knox Press, 1983.) favors reading Jesus’ feeling anger in verse 41 as it is the more difficult reading and fits with the verbs used in verse 43 and anticipates this healing interrupting and impeding his work. He interprets Jesus command to offer sacrifice as affirming Jesus respect of the Jewish law and affirming ritual as completing restoration to community. He cautions against presuming that “God always wills healing” and against using healing ministries to attract converts or make healing a central ministry of the Church.

Pheme Perkins (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “Gospel of Mark”. Abingdon, 1995.) expands the pericope to include verses 29 through 45, making this episode the capstone of a series of healings. She notes that the formula “If you will, you can” appears in ancient prayers, acknowledging the sovereignty of gods in healing, thus modeling the correct method of praying for healing.

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?

  • To follow Christ is to risk social and physical well being to restore people to community.

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

  • We want Jesus to choose us. But only God’s will matters.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

  • Recognize that while God desires us to be in community, our well being is subject to God’s will not our request.

Celebrating the Lord’s Supper in Easter 2012

Bread and cup“Teach the congregation about the depth of meaning in the Lord’s Supper, not just with words, but also with how we celebrate Communion,” the Elders on Session challenged. In addition to serving communion every Sunday in Easter, they wanted more. Thus we are now scheduled serve communion eleven times in ten weeks (including Maundy Thursday and the first Sundays of April and June).

Worship Plans for Easter 2012

These worship plans are tentative and subject to revision. Suggestions will be carefully considered.

Date

Theme

Implementation

April 1
Passion Sunday
Isaiah 50:4-9a – Christ: God’s Forgiveness
Remembrance of God’s grace, Christ’s sacrifice, and work of the Spirit.
Communion as Atonement
Small cups & wafers served to participants in pews
Christ’s Body given & Blood shed for us.
April 5
Maundy Thursday
Sin as slavery; Orderly plan of freedom.
Institution of the Lord’s Supper
Passover Meal: Unleavened bread, wine
April 8
Resurrection
Mark 16:1-8 – You are looking for Jesus
Gift of God through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit
High formality. Sung responses.
Child delivers elements gift wrapped.
Participants come forward to receive bread and small cups.
April 15
Easter 2
Acts 4:32-35 – Everything in Common
Reconciling community
Sit in a circle, minister to one another.
Intinction with one loaf
April 22
Easter 3
Youth Group skit
The resurrection has implications today.
Youth serve with modernized setting: Bread sticks in a pizza box, Grape Kool-Aid in plastic cups
April 29
Easter 4
John 10:11-18 – Good Shepherd
Eucharist is our great sacrifice of praise to God.
Each family presents a slice of bread during the offering. Those slices are shared during communion.
May 6
Easter 5
John 15:1-8 – On Christ’s Vine
Incorporation
One loaf divided and shared with cups in pews. Elder and Deacons immediately leave worship to offer communion to those unable to attend.
May 13
Easter 6
John 15:9-17 – Love one another
Spirit filled symbol of God’s Love
Women of the Church
Heart shaped pieces of bread
May 20
Easter 7
John 17:6-19 – Christ glorified in disciples
Sanctification
Wedding Feast: Invitations sent with a “robe”
Wedding runner & Unity Candle
Table filled with food: Fish, milk, wine, honey, salt, …, braided bread.
May 27
Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21 – God pours out the Holy Spirit
Confirmation
Give all members a red stole
Confirmands get white stoles
Give red stoles after confirmation
June 3
Trinity Sunday
John 3:1-17 – Born of water and spirit.
Rebirth
Flour and oil dedicated as a sin offering after assurance of pardon. Children shape flour into pastry and bake it during sermon to be served for communion.

Other Notes:

  1. Commend using the unison prayer after communion as a prayer before meals.
  2. Add explanatory notices in bulletin beginning in Lent, March Newsletter, and email March 21 – May 23.
  3. Families invited to bring bread for one of Sunday.

January 22nd: “Immediately!”

This Week’s Passage: Mark 1:14-20

Highlights: Meeting Christ is a life changing experience resulting in an urgent desire to tell someone else of what Christ has done for us. Get caught up in the urgency of the gospel.

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for January 22ndSunday in Ordinary Time

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

14a Mark does not explain this until 6:16-29. Was this generally known by Mark’s audience? Or perhaps it demonstrates John’s following! Perhaps Mark includes this to show a shift of mantel from John to Jesus. Although the Fourth Gospel does this smoother having John’s disciples follow Jesus.

15 Note difference from John’s announcement of the good news. Both preach repentance, but John says: “One is coming mightier than I.”

16 Jesus meets us where we are. Like Moses saying the law is not far away (Deut 30:11 ff).

17 Is “fishers of men” a call to be powerful over others?

20 Would we leave behind all as quickly to follow Jesus?

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

  • This passage marks the institution of Jesus ministry.
  • Prior to this Jesus is baptized and tested in the wilderness, here he calls a staff for his ministry.
  • Should the passage start at 14b, thus avoiding the distractions of John the Baptizer: Which John? Why arrested? Why tell us?
  • It is followed by a series of healings which establish his authority and initiate the doing ministry.

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?

  • Traditionally ascribed to a follower of Peter who wrote down a collection of stories about Jesus from Peter. Peter’s arrest and impending trial (or that of other followers) would have given urgency to the spreading of the gospel.

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 4:18-22 – Essentially the same as Mark.
  • Luke 5:1-11 – Luke places Jesus as using a boat of Peter, James and John to teach from. When Jesus tells them where the fish are they are surprised and make a Christological statement.
  • John 1:40-42 – John makes a statement of who Jesus is; where as Mark conveys an urgency of spreading the gospel.

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

  • Mark FREQUENTLY uses /kai euqus/ (and immediately) to convey the urgency of the gospel. This phrase appears twice in these 7 verses.

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 narrative gives a quick pace to the story.
  • Verse 19 slows this pace only slightly, giving the detail that they were preparing their nets to go fishing. But even this detail underscores the urgency of their mission, because they dropped their plans to follow Jesus.

III. Question the text.

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

The participants in this narrative do not interact with one another nor with the events. Events envelope the disciples. Jesus is the point about which the events swirl.

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: Drop what you are doing and come and follow me NOW!
  • Music: “Jesus Call Us”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Did they really just drop their nets and follow Jesus with but one word? We might say that we would do likewise, but we live after the Crucifixion.
  • When Jesus called these men, he was only a popular teacher. Granted there are today charismatic people who gather people about them, but these men had jobs and family responsibilities.
  • What might have pushed these men to be open to following Jesus? Were they experiencing relationship difficulties at home? Have an unmet desire for adventure/ministry? Had fishing become unprofitable?

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

Pheme Perkins (New Interpreter’s Bible, “Mark”. Abingdon) notes the similarity of these calls to the call of Elisha who was plowing his field. She notes at least James and John were well off in being able to have hired hands and that the sudden departure of the sons may have put the entire family at risk. Also Peter was married (1:30) and presumably the abandoning of fishing put his wife at risk. She contrasts the OT use of nets and hooks to depict destruction with “fishers of men” indicating fulfillment, paralleling the shift from John the Baptizer’s emphasis on judgment to Jesus’ emphasis on fulfillment. Under reflections she notes the disquieting parallel with modern young people leaving family and occupation to join cults.

Ralph Martin, in (Knox Preaching Guides. John Knox Press), suggests this sermon outline: a “relationship to Christ is (1) personal; (2) life transforming; yet (3) societal, beckoning us to join Christ’s people whose motto is service for others (‘fishers of men’).”

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?

Meeting Christ is a life changing experience resulting in an urgent desire to tell someone else of what Christ has done for us.

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

Although we have our daily tasks in life, Christ interrupts us and invites us to share his ministry, inviting others to be transformed as well.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Get caught up in the urgency of the gospel.

January 8th: “In the Desert”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Gospel Mark 1:4-11

C. Other texts for Year B for the Baptism of the Lord

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

4 Acts 19 clarifies the difference between John’s baptism of “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” and Jesus’ baptism of being sealed in the Holy Spirit. Although in modern practice we incorporate John’s baptism of confession of sins and repentance, within Christian Baptism.

5 If John was baptizing in the Jordan, in the “wasteland”, and in proximity to Jerusalem and the Judeans, then John would be approximately at the location of the crossing of the Jordan with the waters held back by God, of Israel under Joshua’s command, and of Elijah and Elisha, and where Naaman washed seven times (2 Ki 5:10).

6 Was camel’s hair rare or common?

7 Untying the thongs of sandals”; a job for the lowest of the low, especially considering the lack of modern plumbing and the passage of animals on public streets.

8 How has receiving baptism with water and Spirit made us different?

9 Does Jesus receive John’s baptism, which is confession of sin and repentance, which would make no sense since Jesus was without sin, or does John participate in the baptism of Jesus by the Holy Spirit? If the latter, then does it matter who officiates at a Christian baptism?

10 This affirms that Jesus is baptized by the Holy Spirit.

10 The text does not indicate if anyone other than Jesus sees the “heavens being torn open.” Similarly in our baptism, only the candidate experiences the opening of heaven.

11 Affirmation of the divinity of Jesus and of his free will. For if Jesus did not have free will to sin, then why would God be well pleased of him?

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

  • Mark 1:1 Functions as a prologue to the whole book, and thus may be excluded from this pericope.
  • 2&3 Foreshadows the significance of John the Baptist as a messenger sent before the Messiah. NB v2 is a misquote of Malachi 3:1 and v3 comes from Isaiah 40:3. Malachi 3:1 accurately inserted here would make an even stronger Christological statement!
    The Revised Common Lectionary parses this into two passages: 1-8 for Advent and 4-11 for the Baptism of our Lord, after Christmas.
  • 12 This begins another story line, although Mark strings it together with “And immediately …”

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

5 NIV reverses the order of the baptism and confession of sins. Perhaps reflecting a theology that makes verbal confession of sin a prerequisite of baptism?

10 Most translations smooth out the Markan connection phrase: “And immediately.”

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?

The Gospel of Mark may be viewed as either a condensation of Matthew/Luke for evangelists, or the first gospel written and being a source for Matthew and Luke. Because this passage marks the divinity of Jesus, the dealing with Jesus’ divinity at his birth may be a later issue; suggesting that this may be an earlier gospel. Traditionally Mark is viewed as a scribe of Peter, but various critical methods have questioned the historicity of this making it more a matter of faith.

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

  • Matthew 3:1-12 — John demands “fruits of repentance” and warns of separating the wheat for storage from the chaff to be burnt. John would have prevented Jesus’ baptism as unnecessary, but Jesus insists to fulfill righteousness. While the text only mentions Jesus seeing the Spirit of God descending, the voice announces: “This is my Son;” implying that others hear the voice of God.
  • Matthew 3:1 ff Omits the Malachi passage. Includes different exhortations of the Baptizer than Luke. The Baptizer is not fit to CARRY Jesus’ sandals. Jesus baptizes with Spirit and fire. The Baptizer deters baptizing Jesus insisting on Jesus’ primacy. The temptation follows 40-day fast.
  • Luke 3:1-20 — Luke gives the exact year of this occurrence. John baptized not only in the Jordan with the people coming to him, but also in the region around the Jordan. John demands “fruits worthy of repentance” and warns that the Messiah comes with a “winnowing fork.” The actual baptism of Jesus is tacked on like an aside. Luke omits the Malachi passage, but expands the Isaiah passage. Luke also greatly expands the message of John to include exhortations to repent. Luke adds “with fire” after “baptize with the Holy Spirit.” Luke follows the baptism with a long geneology of Jesus. The temptation of Jesus follows the 40 days of fasting. Rather than being tempted for 40 days.
  • John 1:6, 15, & 19-34 — John the Baptist sees the HS descend upon Jesus as a sign that Jesus is the Messiah. John’s Gospel is much more interested in signs. John 1:23ff The Baptizer identifies himself as the voice calling the the desert. The Baptizer identifies Jesus prior to the baptism. The Baptizer reports having seen the Spirit descend upon Jesus. There is no temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus proceeds to call his disciples.

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

8 Redundant subjects used: “I myself baptized” and “he himself will baptize”.

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?

  • Mark frequently uses the phrase “and immediately” to connect one vignette to the next and convey the urgency of the gospel.

III. Question the text.

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

John is the prophetic voice. What would such a person look like today? He would have to be dressed differently than those around him, yet not so differently dressed as to be shunned. His demands on those around him would have to be different, but within the expectations of the people in order for them to throng to him. Perhaps he would be like a modern-day revivalist, like Billy Graham. However, other than establishing John as a prophet who called for confession of sin and repentance, Mark tells us little about him in order not to distract us from the one coming after him. If one were to preach on John, Mark would have us use John to proclaim Christ and keep Christ as the focus.

Jesus is the recipient of the action. The Baptism happens to him with his only action his coming to John.

The people are only props for the description of John.

No character interaction. Reads like a news report (X happened to Y) rather than as a dramatic history.

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?

In which wasteland was John preaching: the Negeb or the spiritual wasteland that the people may have been experiencing?

What difference does it make as to what John ate and wore? P. Perkins (NIB) writes that these further John’s credentials as a prophet likening him to Elijah, “a hairy man with a leather belt around his waist” (2 Ki 1:8) and to Daniel in abstention from meat and wine (Dan 1:8).

Dove: Is this also an incarnation of God?

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?

CoG: This passage is here to establish the divinity of Jesus. John must first be established as a prophet so that his words announce the coming of the Messiah. Thus the passage denotes the coronation of Jesus as the Christ.

Music: “Fairest Lord Jesus”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Jesus has no sins to confess, yet he presents himself to John for baptism which was available to others for confession of sin.

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

  • While the Christmas story is of the Word made Flesh, God made fully human, this story is of Jesus who was fully human made fully divine, or of the Flesh made Word.
  • What would the voice of God the Father have to say to us?
  • Look at “What Presbyterians Believe about Baptism”.

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

Ralph Martin (Knox Preaching Guides: Mark, John Knox Press, 1981) likens the opening verse to the title page of a modern book, telling the reader what will follow. Calling this the beginning recalls Genesis 1:1, asserting a new start in the world’s history. He quotes Alexander Whyte: “Life is made up of new beginnings.” He links John’s clothing and diet to Elijah, demonstrating his prophesied return.

Lamar Williamson, Jr. (Interpretation: Mark, John Knox Press, 1983) notes that “John’s appearance and message caused great excitement,” then asks: “How can readers today recover that excitement?” He suggests artful “combining of Malachi 3:1 (influenced by Exodus 23:20) Isaiah 40:3.”

Pheme Perkins (“The Gospel of Mark: Introduction, Commentary and Reflection” The New Interpreter’s Bible, (Abingdon, 1995)) suggests (p. 529) that Mark choose to dispense with a recounting of a birth narrative of Jesus to avoid the danger of disciples wondering about and focusing on the years of his life prior to the start of his ministry. Such information would have no bearing on God’s plan for salvation. She reflects that “the titles for Jesus are so familiar that is difficult to hear ‘Christ’ or even ‘Son of God’ as though for the first time.” Later, (p. 531) she notes that the call to “prepare the way of the Lord” may also be a warning for the God’s coming in judgment for Christians, thus verses 1-3 may all be considered as introduction to the entire gospel.

Laurie Wheeler (“A Repentant Community” The Presbyterian Outlook, August 18/25, 2008, p. 18.) “Then as now, preparation for rebirth begins in a widespread recognition of the need for forgiveness, and the public demonstration of lives turned around, prepared in hope to receive the Lord and follow in his way.”

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?

  • Demonstration of Jesus’ humility and divinity.

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

  • Jesus, who did not need John’s baptism, shared our common lot and the Holy Spirit dwelt through him.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

  • How has receiving the Holy Spirit made us different?

December 4th: “Road Work”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Gospel Mark 1:1-8

C. Other texts for Year B for 2nd Sunday in Advent

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

1 This can be the beginning both of the text and of the announcement of the text.

2 This is NOT written in Isaiah, but in Malichi 3:1.

3 Isaiah 40:3 LXX. BHS adds “in the desert.”

4 Acts 19 clarifies the difference between John’s baptism of “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” and Jesus’ baptism of being sealed in the Holy Spirit. Although in modern practice we incorporate John’s baptism of confession of sins and repentance, within Christian Baptism.

5 If John was baptizing in the Jordan, in the “wasteland”, and in proximity to Jerusalem and the Judeans, then John would be approximately at the location of the crossing of the Jordan with the waters held back by God, of Israel under Joshua’s command, and of Elijah and Elisha, and where Naaman washed seven times (2 Ki 5:10).

6 Was camel’s hair rare or common? Or just uncomfortable?

7 Untying the thongs of sandals”; a job for the lowest of the servants considering the lack of modern plumbing and the passage of animals on public streets.

8 How have we been baptized with water and Spirit? How has that made us different?

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

Mark 1:1 Functions as a prologue to the whole book, and thus may be excluded from this pericope.

2&3 Foreshadows the significance of John the Baptist as a messenger sent before the Messiah. NB v2 is a misquote of Malachi 3:1 and v3 comes from Isaiah 40:3. Malachi 3:1 accurately inserted here would make an even stronger Christological statement!

The Revised Common Lectionary parses this into two passages: 1-8 for Advent and 4-11 for the Baptism of our Lord, after Christmas.

12 This begins another story line, although Mark strings it together with “And immediately …”

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

  • 5 NIV reverses the order of the baptism and confession of sins. Perhaps reflecting a theology that makes verbal confession of sin a prerequisite of baptism?
  • 10 Most translations smooth out the Markan connection phrase: “And immediately.”

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?

  • Traditionally Mark is viewed as a scribe of Peter, but various critical methods have questioned the historicity of this making authorship more a matter of faith. The Gospel of Mark may be viewed as either a condensation of Matthew/Luke for evangelists, or the first gospel written and being a source for Matthew and Luke.

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

Matthew 3:1-12 — John demands “fruits of repentance” and warns of separating the wheat for storage from the chaff to be burnt. John would have prevented Jesus’ baptism as unnecessary, but Jesus insists to fulfill righteousness. While the text only mentions Jesus seeing the Spirit of God descending, the voice announces: “This is my Son;” implying that others hear the voice of God.

Matthew 3:1 ff Omits the Malachi passage. Includes different exhortations of the Baptizer than Luke. The Baptizer is not fit to CARRY Jesus’ sandals. Jesus baptizes with Spirit and fire. The Baptizer deters baptizing Jesus insisting on Jesus’ primacy. The temptation follows 40-day fast.

Luke 3:1-20 — Luke gives the exact year of this occurrence. John baptized not only in the Jordan with the people coming to him, but also in the region around the Jordan. John demands “fruits worthy of repentance” and warns that the Messiah comes with a “winnowing fork.” The actual baptism of Jesus is tacked on like an aside.

Luke omits the Malachi passage, but expands the Isaiah passage. Luke also greatly expands the message of John to include exhortations to repent. Luke adds “with fire” after “baptize with the Holy Spirit.” Luke follows the baptism with a long genealogy of Jesus. The temptation of Jesus follows the 40 days of fasting. Rather than being tempted for 40 days.

John 1:6, 15, & 19-34 — John the Baptist sees the HS descend upon Jesus as a sign that Jesus is the Messiah. John’s Gospel is much more interested in signs.

John 1:23ff The Baptizer identifies himself as the voice calling the the desert. The Baptizer identifies Jesus prior to the baptism. The Baptizer reports having seen the Spirit descend upon Jesus. There is no temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus proceeds to call his disciples.

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

8 Redundant subjects used: egw ebaptisa literally: “I myself baptized” and autos baptisei literally: “he himself will baptize”.

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?

  • Mark frequently uses the phrase “and immediately” to connect one vignette to the next and convey the urgency of the gospel.

III. Question the text.

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

John is the prophetic voice. What would such a person look like today? He would have to be dressed differently than those around him, yet not so differently dressed as to be shunned. His demands on those around him would have to be different, but within the expectations of the people in order for them to throng to him. Perhaps he would be like a modern-day revivalist, like Billy Graham. However, other than establishing John as a prophet who called for confession of sin and repentance, Mark tells us little about him in order not to distract us from the one coming after him. If one were to preach on John, Mark would have us use John to proclaim Christ and keep Christ as the focus.

Jesus is the recipient of the action. The Baptism happens to him with his only action his coming to John.

The people are only props for the description of John.

No character interaction. Reads like a news report (X happened to Y) rather than as a dramatic history.

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?

  • In which wasteland was John preaching: the Negeb or the spiritual wasteland that the people may have been experiencing?
  • What difference does it make as to what John ate and wore? P. Perkins (NIB) writes that these further John’s credentials as a prophet likening him to Elijah, “a hairy man with a leather belt around his waist” (2 Ki 1:8) and to Daniel in abstention from meat and wine (Dan 1:8).
  • Dove: Is this also an incarnation of God?

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?

  • CoG: This passage is here to establish the divinity of Jesus. John must first be established as a prophet so that his words announce the coming of the Messiah. Thus the passage denotes the coronation of Jesus as the Christ.
  • Music: “Fairest Lord Jesus”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Jesus has no sins to confess, yet he presents himself to John for baptism which is used by other for confession of sin.

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

  • While the Christmas story is of the Word made Flesh, God made fully human, this story is of Jesus who was fully human made fully divine. And what of the image of God within each person. What would the voice of God the Father have to say to us?
  • Look at “What Presbyterians Believe about Baptism”.

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

Pheme Perkins, “The Gospel of Mark: Introduction, Commentary and Reflection” The New Interpreter’s Bible, (Abingdon, 1995) suggests (p. 529) that Mark choose to dispense with a recounting of a birth narrative of Jesus to avoid the danger of disciples wondering about and focusing on the years of his life prior to the start of his ministry. Such information would have no bearing on God’s plan for salvation. Later, (p. 531) she notes that the call to “prepare the way of the Lord” may also be a warning for the God’s coming in judgment for Christians, thus verses 1-3 may all be considered as introduction to the entire gospel.

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 is divine at least by the time he is baptized by John.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Advent is when we prepare our hearts and minds and souls and bodies for the coming of Christ into our lives.

November 27th: “Watch! He Is Coming!”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Mark 13:24-37

C. Other texts for Year B for 1st Sunday in Advent

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

24a Of what distress does Jesus speak? but that only begs the question of knowing the hour.

24b-25 Why the extinguishing of all of the natural lights? Is it so that the only light before us will be Christ, the Light of God, so that we will be fixed upon this light alone?

26-27 This compares with Rev 7.

28 Does the fig tree come to leaf sooner than other trees? Is it like a forsythia bush, which is among the first to blossom in the spring? Or does this refer to the fig tree that Jesus curses which withers and dies.

30 Obviously this does not mean that those who physically heard the words of Christ would not die until he comes again, but does it mean that the age of humanity would not pass away as has passed away the age of dinosaurs? Does this mean that as we each die that Christ comes again?

31 The word that was in the beginning and ever shall be.

32 While “that distress” and the darkening of the sun and the stars and the coming of the Son of Man will mark the gathering of the elect, like the fig tree marks summer, ignore the false prophets who foretell the end of the world.

33-36 Perhaps these signs are like the footsteps of the owner coming up the path. When you see these signs it is already too late. If you are going to live as if Christ mattered, do it today!

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

  • This apocalypse begins with 13:1. It goes through three preceding stages: rumors of war, persecution of believers, and widespread panic and slaughter.
  • Followed by priests plotting to kill Jesus and woman anointing him with a jar of nard.

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 21:29-33 – Expands parable of the fig tree to include “all of the trees.”
  • Matt 24:32–36 – Very similar to Mark, but omits parable of man leaving servants in charge.

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?

Fig tree: Leaves used by Adam and even for modesty. Possibly symbolic of prosperity (see 1 Kings 4:25). In Greek mythology (probably known by audience) a crow is tempted by ripening figs and is delayed in completing an errand and punished by Apollo.

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?

  • CoG: Do not wait until you see signs of the apocalypse to begin preparations. For even when things look best, the time is near.
  • Music: “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”

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

  • A woman, new to the faith, asked about the second coming. She wanted to know what to do with all of the predictions of signs of the Second Coming in the Bible. How would she recognize them as real and not a trick by some false prophet? And if she could deduce for herself as to what year it would be? I quoted to her: No one knows the day nor the hour. But as for me, I would live each day as if tomorrow was the day when Christ would come again, for if in leaving her shop I chanced to pull out in front of a large truck, then for me today would have been my last day to do anything about it. [BTW, I was always VERY careful pulling out of her shop across the two lanes of traffic and a turning lane.]
  • A preacher reported that as a teenager her mom would leave her in the house to clear the table and wash the dishes while the mother went out for a regular evening meeting. The teenager would delay in doing the tasks so that she would just finish the task as her mother entered the house, so it would look as if she had spent the whole three hours cleaning up, yet knowing full well that her mother was not deceived.

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

Pheme Perkins, The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Mark” (Abingdon Press, 1995). “Today’s readers have a difficulty with prophetic oracles, because they think of them solely in terms of predicting the future. [Similar to predictions from experts and pundits.] Old testament prophecy, however, provides a different framework for statements about the future. They are diagnoses of the moral or spiritual health of the people. … Destruction occurs only because the words of warning go unheeded. Thus prophetic speech is a form of instruction, not fortune telling.”

In her reflections, she hypothesizes two stories of last words to a loved one who dies unexpectedly to illustrate the need for watchfulness even two millennia after these words were first spoken. She concludes: “Being a faithful Christian does not just ‘happen’ like crabgrass or dandelions popping up in the lawn. It requires the care, attention, and cultivation of an expert gardener.”

Lamar Williamson, Jr., Interpretation: Mark, (John Knox Press, 1983) notes that signs which people associate with the end of the world have occurred countless times. Offering pragmatic guidance for the present he cites a New England legislature panicked by an eclipse. Opposing adjournment one commissioner said: “Mr. Speaker, if it is not the end of the world and we adjourn, we shall appear to be fools. If it is the end of the world, I should choose to be found doing my duty. I move you, sir, that candles be brought.” The command to “Watch” stresses the dimension of present responsibility.

Ralph Martin, Knox Preaching Guides: Mark (John Knox Press, 1981) cites verse 13 as key to understanding this chapter: “… but the one who endures to the end, will be saved.”

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?

  • Do not be tempted to wait for signs, be ready at all times.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

  • Encourage endurance in the face of troubling times.

July 10th: “sharing the Gospel with the community in word and deed”

This week, as on the last three weeks, the sermon will consider one of the four facets of the congregation’s vision statement. The notes below lift up exemplifying passages from the Bible and the Book of Confessions.

Exemplifying Scripture

Jeremiah 3:12-15

Matthew 13:1-9 & 18-23

Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Mark 16:15 – Go into all the world, and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.

John 20:21 – Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’

Acts 16:25-34

The Westminster Confession of Faith:

6.055 1. God in infinite and perfect love, having provided in the covenant of grace, through the mediation and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, a way of life and salvation, sufficient for and adapted to the whole lost race of man, doth freely offer this salvation to all men in the gospel.(1)

6.056 2. In the gospel God declares his love for the world and his desire that all men should be saved; reveals fully and clearly the only way of salvation; promises eternal life to all who truly repent and believe in Christ; invites and commands all to embrace the offered mercy; and by his Spirit accompanying the Word pleads with men to accept his gracious invitation.(2)

6.057 3. It is the duty and privilege of everyone who hears the gospel immediately to accept its merciful provisions; and they who continue in impenitence and unbelief incur aggravated guilt and perish by their own fault.(3)

6.058 4. Since there is no other way of salvation than that revealed in the gospel, and since in the divinely established and ordinary method of grace faith cometh by hearing the Word of God, Christ hath commissioned his Church to go into all the world and to make disciples of all nations. All believers are, therefore, under obligation to sustain the ordinances of the Christian religion where they are already established, and to contribute by their prayers, gifts, and personal efforts to the extension of the Kingdom of Christ throughout the whole earth.(4)

The Confession of 1967:

9.37 The church disperses to serve God wherever its members are, at work or play, in private or in the life of society. Their prayer and Bible study are part of the church’s worship and theological reflection. Their witness is the church’s evangelism. Their daily action in the world is the church in mission to the world. The quality of their relation with other persons is the measure of the church’s fidelity.