On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Texts for Sunday March 2nd, 2014: Transfiguration Sunday

First Reading: Exodus 24:12–18

12The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction."  13So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God.  14To the elders he had said, "Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them."
15Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.  16The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud.  17Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.  18Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

Second Reading: 2 Peter 1:16–21

16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  17For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."  18We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.
19So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.  20First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation,  21because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Gospel: Matthew 17:1–9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.  2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.  3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.  4Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."  5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!"  6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.  7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid."  8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

What the Text Says Matthew 17:1-9 - Pr. Fourman


v1  μεθ (μετα) + acc. "after" - after [six days]. Temporal, possibly "on the sixth day", is more likely that the phrase "after six days." This purposely draws on a Sinai motif: the glory of the Lord was on the mountain six days / Moses was with the Lord on the mountain six days, cf. Ex.24:15-18.
παραλαμβανει (παραλαμβανω) pres. "[Jesus] took with him" only the inner circle of apostles(Peter, James and John) get to witness the inner-workings of Christ's mission.
αναφερει (αναφερω) pres. "led up" - as with Moses, Jesus leads his disciples up the mountain to confront the divine.
υψηλον adj. "high [mountain]" - again the Sinai motif although no particular mountain is identified. Some suggest Meron between Caesarea Philippi and Capernaum, others Hermon north of Caesarea Phillipi, some Tabor between Carmel and Galilee.
κατ ιδιαν "by themselves" an idiom for “privately”.

v2 μετεμορφωθη (μεταμορφοω) aor. pas. "he was transfigured" - visibly changed, a divine passive, ie. God does the changing. The focus is Jesus' face, but Matthew tells us his whole presence (cloths and all) radiated. There are some scholars who consider this a misplaced resurrection account. 
εμπροσθεν + gen. "before [them]" λαμψεν (λαμπω) aor. "shone" - another Sinai motif; Jesus' face glows like the face of Moses in Ex.24:29-35
λευκα adj. "white" - Bright white clothing is a common Biblical motif for the garb of heavenly beings (Dan.7:9) and resurrected righteous. 

v3 και ιδου "And behold” another idiom meaning "just then".
ωφθη (οραω) aor. pas. "there appeared to" – intransitive; a word used of beings that make their appearance in a supernatural manner.
συλλαλουντες (συλλαλεω) pres. part. "talking with" – There is a certain surreal quality of this scene, like looking at a Picasso and trying to puzzle out the painter’s intent.  It is meant to be opaque in the sense that they can ;’see’ what is happening, but they are not privy to the ‘private’ conversation occurring between these three figures. The conversation about his “exodus" (a la Luke) is not mentioned by Matthew.

v4 αποκριθεις (αποκρινομαι) aor. pas. part. "[Peter] answered [said] τω/ Ιησου (ους ου) dat. "to Jesus" a dative of indirect object, Peter does not dare speak to either Moses or Elijah..
κυριε (ος) voc. "Lord" - Mark uses "Rabbi" and Luke has "Master" (επιστατεσ) In each case it is an address to the teacher.
σκηνας (η) "tabernacles, tents, booths, dwellings” another allusion to the Exodus, literally the “Feast of Booths” or Sukkoth.

v5 λαλουντος (λαλεω) pres. part. "while [he] was [still] speaking" with whom’ Peter or Moses & Elijah is unclear.  The point seems to be God gets the last word, not Peter or the prophets.
νεφελη (η) "a cloud" - a sign of God's OT presence, his Shekinah glory; another Exodus  image, rthe “pliiar of cloud by say” (Ex.19:9, 24:16-25).
ο υιος μου ο αγαπητος "my son whom I love" - a divine word to the disciples and not just to Jesus at his baptism. This is sometimes taken as an allusion to Ps.2:7 (the crowning of the messiah and his victory over the nations) or Isaiah 42 (the suffering servant). Mark 9:7 and Luke 9:35 omit εν ω ευδοκησα, "with him I am well pleased." What seems unlikely is that the term "beloved son" (more literally unique/one and only son) expresses a filial relationship with God - the reference is messianic.

v6 ακουσαντες (ακουω) aor. part. "when [the disciples] heard " επι + acc. "[they fell facedown] to [the ground]" - - a descriptive way of saying "they did obeisance"
σφοδρα adv. "terrified" a STRONG Greek word, referring back to the terror that the children of Israel felt when God spoke to them from the cloud covering Sinai.

v7 αψαμενος (απτω) aor. part. "touched" - the function here is more adverbial; "Jesus came forward and having touched them said" perhaps an idiom “he raised them to their feet saying…”
μη φοβεισθε (φοβεω) pres. imp. "don't be afraid" again, a connection, foreshadowing? of the resurrection account. 

v8 επαραντες (επαιρω) aor. part. "when [they] looked up" – the Shekinah was gone. 

v9 καταβαινοντων (καταβαινω) gen. pres. part. "as [they] were coming down [the mountain]" – a transitory clause, what goes up, must come down, literally and theologically.  
ενετειλατο (εντελλω) aor. + dat. "commanded” 
μηδενι ειπητε (ειπον) aor. subj. "don't tell anyone". Jesus maintains the so called “messianic secret” for this is the fifth time Jesus has commanded secrecy (here only till the raising of the Son of Man). But the reason for his is unclear, so this is likely an old tradition passed down uncritically.  
το οραμα (α ατος) "what you have seen" - the vision requires a midrash; which is the resurrection, εως + subj. "until ο υιος του ανθρωπου "the Son of Man" (Jesus' favorite messianic title) εγερθη/ (εγειρω) aor. pas. subj. "has been raised

v10 τι ουν "why therefore” Presumably this command prompts the disciples' question, the logic of which is not clear. Are the disciples questioning Jesus' command? If the Scribes are right and Elijah precedes the messiah, shouldn't the disciples tell everyone what they have just seen?

v11 αποκριθεις (αποκρινομαι) aor. pas. part. "[Jesus] answering μεν...δε "to be sure ....... but" - "on the one hand [Elijah is coming .....] (v11b), but on the other hand [I tell you that Elijah has already come .....], (v12).
αποκαταστησει (αποκαθιστημι) fut. "he will restore/reestablish/bring back”. The future tense is interesting; is Jesus simply confirming that the disciples have properly understood the Scribes' teaching on the role of Elijah? The Scribes are right, but only in part? 

v12 υμιν dat. "[I tell] you" - οτι  that back to the Sermon on the Mount, ηλθεν (ερχομομαι) aor. "has [already] come" - the eschatological age has come and the promised Elijah has fulfilled his work.
ουκ επεγνωσαν (επιγινωσκω) aor. "they did not recognize [him]" – an idiom. “how could they be so rigtht and so wrong at the same time”?
ουτως "in the same way" the Baptist is dead, and now the Son of man is going 
πασχειν (πασχω) pres. inf. "to suffer" - [is about] to suffer. 
υπ (υπο) + gen. "by [their hands]"  

v13 συνηκαν (συνιημι) aor. "understood" - obviously based on something more than v12 (a growing knowledge of the Jesus’ messiahship). Matthew's point is that unlike the Scribes, the disciples do understand the Baptist's role, which makes them more astute than the Scribes at the very least.

Question your Doubts - Pr. Kruse

Scripture had to be read anew with the suffering Christ, and so it must ever be. We constantly have to let the Lord draw us into his conversation with Moses and Elijah; we constantly have to learn from him, the Risen Lord, to understand Scripture afresh. Ratzinger, Joseph (2007-05-15). Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (p. 313). The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

I am writing in a stressful time for me. I have a song stuck in my head: “Oh Come All You faithful” to be exact. Annoying as that may be in late February, it is actually much better than the last time this happened to me. Then it was Al Yankovich: “There’s a Cat in the Kettle at the Peking Moon,” a parody of Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle.” I am not sure what my mind is trying to tell me right now by having “Oh Come . . ,“ stuck in it. With the Weird Al song, I am quite sure, it was trying to say: “I’m bored.”  
The mind works on us every day. Western culture likes to play these things down and is the minority view in doing so. The interior life of people is not just a bunch of neurons firing and making stuff up, at least not to the rest of the world. In most cultures today, if a child came to breakfast and said: “I talked to great grandfather last night,” the answer from the parents would be: “What did he have to say,” regardless of the great grandparent’s place in life or lack thereof. Visions are important to most cultures, even though they are taken serious in our’s only on Saturday afternoon programs on Si-Fi Channel or History Network. 
"Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” For Westerners: No problem! We’ll be happy to shut about it. Peter, James, and John may not have shared our dismissal of the matter though, even if they had been 95% sure that 9 /10th of what they had seen had been 99% vision. So, the question needs to be asked how they would have been changed by the experience and why it was necessary at that point in the story for them to be changed that way. 
They had been called by Jesus by the side of the lake. Everyone who heard the Sermon on the mound agreed that his teaching had authority. (7:28) He had healed many to the delight of everyone. He had driven out demons. That crossed a boundary. Some ask him to leave their region. (8:34) The Pharisees see this power and question the origin of it. Could it be that his power is not from above but from below? (12:24) Their argument is bolstered by Jesus claim to be Lord of the Sabbath and therefore over its rules. (12:8) How can the Son of the Most High contradict the law of the Sabbath? They had a point: Could not the dark prison below do miracles by commanding its own to mislead the faithful? Jesus’ own mother has attempted to seize him and take him out of public view since he had attracted negative attention from the Pharisees. (12:46) His own hometown had rejected him. (13:53-58) Jesus had attracted the attention of Herod. (14:1) That crossed another boundary. Attention from the political realm, especially from Herod is not a good thing as John the Baptist found out. Neither does anyone else, including Jesus, doubt that the political powers, having taken note of him, will be the death of him. (16:21) He had hung out with out with tax collectors and sinners and it had been noted. (9:11) That crossed yet another boundary because that association was not just ignoble in the eyes of the mosaic law but also a dark blot on his honor and standing in his culture.
How does one sum up this plot line from the Sermon on the Mount to the Mount of Transfiguration? If at verse 7:28 you had all the confidence in the world  in Jesus and were ready to follow him, obey him; if you were ready to defend him and tell of his deeds and preach his message (10:5), by the end of chapter 16 you might now be harboring some — what shall we call it — misgivings, or questions, or doubts; all the same, you were asking a more fundamental question: Can I afford to give my allegiance any longer? In a world where such things as honor and allegiance mattered they were aligned with someone whose honor was increasingly under question, especially since he had given away that his was a cause that would end in his dishonorable death. Judas had the right idea. At least let Jesus die with honor in battle for his cause. Lead the legions to him at dark and maybe he will fight. It is one interpretation of Judas’ actions. 
The vision on the Mountain of Transfiguration made an important point to Peter, James, and John: Jesus is aligned with God and God is aligned with him — Take that all you who think him a disciple of Hades. Moses who gave the law is there — Take that Pharisees! Elijah who challenged Kings like no other is there — Take that Herod! Both of them are mystical figures who had no graves, at least none that anyone could find or point to. God himself had taken care of their earthly forms somehow, somewhere east of Jordan in the land of Moab. (Dt 34:6, 2K 2:12) It would follow that only God almighty might find them again to have them appear on a mountain in the region of Caesarea Philippi and if they can, by the word of God and by the grace of heaven, appear there as real as Jesus then is the dishonor and disgrace of this world suffered by Jesus and his followers really dishonor and disgrace? “Blessed are you . .“ (5:10,11)

“Do you want us to wait to disconnect the ventilator?” I heard my self answer: “Yes, but that would be unfair to Mom, go ahead, I’ll be O.K.”   “Drive careful...”  “I won’t.” I set to driving the six hour trip to Nashville. Yes, my mind agreed that it was best for her not to wait for me. But my heart had not settled into the thought of letting go. My foot was firmly planted on the accelerator. 
I was outside Carrolton, Kentucky. I was staring out at the highway as if in a trance. The sky was a uniform grey and the fields and woods that bordered the highway seem to match that color as they do in January when everything is painted in shades of grey. Then I heard my soul say: “Mom, why don’t you go. I’ll be alright.” It gave me a start. I knew something had happened inside me. I looked at the clock. It was 3:35; I found out later that it was the very time of her death.  
I was at a gas station 20 minutes later.  My phone rang. It was my friend Michael Shahan, our family pastor in Nashville:  “Peter, where are you?”  “At a gas station, Michael, I know why you are calling. Mom died 20 minutes ago.”  “That’s odd. Your brother asked me to call you?”  “I just knew. Don’t ask me why right now. I’ll tell you eventually.”
The greatest mystery of the contemplative life is not that we see God in the world, but that God within us recognizes God in the world.  God speaks to God, Spirit speaks to Spirit, heart speaks to heart.  Contemplation therefore, is a participation in this divine self- recognition.  It is the divine Spirit praying in us who makes our world transparent and opens our eyes to the presence of the divine Spirit that surrounds us. (Nouwen- Greer “The Only Thing Necessary,” 1999, 35)
I use this Nouwen quote to make sense of the moment. There is a connectedness that is the Holy Spirit that was in two places at once and let there be peace in both places. It should not surprise us that when God stirs in our presence that things are happening that we cannot, and maybe do not want to, explain. 
That Sunday I found myself in my pulpit. I had the text from John 2: The wedding at Canaan. I now understood it. Miracles and visions are there to ease our hearts, they are signs to tell us that God is good, that God can be trusted, that there is nothing to fear, that in spite of it all God loves us deeper than we know.  But those miracles do not go on forever. They are hints of the future, often missed. They end at some point. They are reassuring words of the heaven.
Certainly the guest at the wedding at Cana had no idea where the wine they where drinking had come from. They most certainly assumed that their host had provided it. No one asked; not even the head steward who assumed the host had merely held back on the most choice wines. Very few, Mary and a few disciples, actually knew what had happened.  Everyone else was probably left to wonder where all the wine was from. Yet, a question lingers: After Jesus’ death and resurrection, did the wedding party think back and say: “He was at our wedding, was he not?  Is that how the matter with the wine happened?” If they ever did, they most certainly marveled, but the stone jars where empty by then and remained that way.  At the same time however, would they not have rethought all their encounters with Jesus to see if anything else stood out?  Would they not also have entertained the possibility that God might do further miracles around them and therefore have lived life just a little bit more attentively?
And the disciples? Would the vision they had seen not allowed them to question their doubts, doubt their questions, and give up on their misgivings? Don’t get me wrong: They have a long way to go and this vision will not carry it all the way, no vision really ever does unless it is at the occasion of an utter conversion — ask St. Paul about that. (Acts 9) No, these “events,” vision or physical, have the simple subtext: “Don’t give up.” Must they be physical or can they be ambiguous? Does it really matter? If, in this case, it allows the disciples to follow Jesus some further on down the road to see the outcome of the whole affair then it was worth it and who says that it was not God breathed? They gave Glory to God because of it. Is that not the point? (5:16) What — Peter denied him in the end so it did not work? Peter was at least there to deny him. Where you? Would you have been? 
Few are the Saints who are without “events” that they cherish if only in the secret spaces of their hearts. As a matter of fact I know of none, but I have not memorized Butler’s great compendium on the saints. Synapsis do not fire at random. (Yes, they can, that is called epilepsy.) Who says God cannot be involved in that? Can God still have our permission to be about the affairs here on Earth? The flash of a vision is the same as sick person healed or a dying person at peace if they achieve their aim: Glory is given to God and peace is extended to his people on Earth. (By the way, Pharisees, all of Jesus’ Sabbath “work” did that. Just saying)

On a particularly difficult day, having the second layer of your conscious mind stuck singing: “Sing choirs of angels, sing in exultation, sing all you citizens of Heaven above, Glory to God in the highest, Oh come let us adore him, Christ the Lord, “ means what? 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Readings for the 7th Sunday of Epiphany, February 23rd, 2014

First Reading: Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
2Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.  9When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  10You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God.
11You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another.  12And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD.
13You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.  14You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.
15You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.  16You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD. 
17You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.  18You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:10–11, 16–23

10According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it.  11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.  16Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?  17If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
18Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise.  19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,
"He catches the wise in their craftiness,"
  20and again,
"The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
that they are futile."
  21So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours,  22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all belong to you,  23and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Gospel: Matthew 5:38–48

38"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'  39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;  40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well;  41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.  42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
43"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

What the texts says - Pr. Fourman

Matthew 5:38–48

38"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'  39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;  40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well;  41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.  42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
43"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

v38 ηκουσατε (ακουω) aor. "you have head" - 

v39 δε "but" - υμιν dat. pro. "[I tell] you" emphasizing the statement to follow; "but I say unto you", AV.
μη αντιστηναι (ανιστημι) aor. inf. + dat. "do not resist
τω πονηρω dat. adj. "an evil person
οστις pro. "if someone" ραπιζει (ραπιζω) pres. "strikes [you]" - strikes. 
τω θελοντι (θελω) dat. pres. part "someone/anyone wants
κριθηναι (κρινω) aor. pas. inf. "to sue/ judge/take to court.”  The infinitive, as with λαβειν, "to take", is complementary completing the verbal sense of the participle "willing".
τον χιτωνα (ων ωνος) "tunic" - the basic garment worn by everyone. ; to be sued for this garment indicates that its owner is poor.
αφες (αφιημι) aor. imp. allow, permit.
το ιματιον (ον) "cloak" - the outer garment, all-purpose coat to use as a blanket, suitcase; sleeping bag or tent. Exodus 22:25-27 requires that this garment must not be taken away from a poor person permanently.

v41 αγγαρευσει (αγγαρευω) fut. "forces/compels” in the sense of "impress into service", following the military practice of a soldier's right to press a person into his service to carry his kit for one mile.

v42 δος (διδωμι) aor. imp. "give" τω/ αιτουντι (αιτεω) dat. pres. part. "to the one who asks [you]" μη αποστραφη/ς (αποστρεφω) aor. pas. subj. "do not turn away" τον θελοντα (θελω) pres. part. "the one who wants" δανισασθαι (δανειζω) aor. inf. "to borrow" - to borrow, lend. Tis turns the legal and ethical 1st century world upside down.

v43 αγαπησεις (αγαπαω) fut. "love" in the sense of "compassion", Lev.19:18. The law, summed up in love, is simpler, and yet more demanding.
μισησεις (μισεω) fut. "hate" - in the sense of "hostile toward.". The Law certainly encourages love toward a fellow Jew, but doesn't encourage hatred toward an enemy. Nonetheless, such an inference can be drawn from Deuteronomy 7:2, 30:7. Psalm 139:21-22, 26:5. τον εχθρον (ος) "enemy" - the enemy. 
αγαπατε (αγαπαω) pres. imp. "love" του εχθρου, "enemies (plural) as opposed to " enemy", v43, so widening the application and raising the bar.
των διωκοντων (διωκω) pres. part. "those who persecute [you]" because they are the most difficult enemies to love.

v45 γενησθε (γινομαι) aor. subj. "you may become or show yourselves to be", υιοι (ος) "sons [legal heirs] του πατρος of your Father  ουρανοις, "in heaven".
v46 The loving righteousness required of a son of God is not reciprocal, i.e. it does not look for love in return. Love deserves no reward, it is endemic.
τους αγαπωντας (αγαπαω) pres. part. "those who love [you]
εχετε (εχω) pres. "will you get" – “what reward can you expect". A rhetorical question, answer: "none". When it comes to receiving the promised blessings of the covenant there is no reward for doing what is commonplace and expected.  The reward comes first!
τους αδελφους (ος) "brothers" here in the sense of fellow Jews or fellow believers, so "greet warmly and with respect".
περισσον adj. "[what are you doing] more than others?" as above, rhetorical, answer same and for the same reason. Covenant people are held to a different standard from the world.  In the world it might be considered unique or noteworthy to do such things, standards to which people of good character can aspire, but never realistically achieve as norms. But in the covenant community this is not the ceiling, it is the FLOOR.

v48 υμεις pro. "youemphatic, εσεσθε (ειμι) fut. "be" used here as an imperative, τελειοι "perfect/complete" – literally, finished. 

Where does it end? - Pr. Kruse

What happens to the sons after they return to the Father? They become men and fathers themselves and become like the Father. - Nouwen (paraphrased)

The pain of a slap in the face is really minor if you think of it. The point of a slap in the face is really not to hurt the other person but to humiliate them, maybe to get their attention in a way that says: “Pay attention to me! I set the agenda here!” Someone who does so is not necessarily an enemy, he is merely someone who claims priority or authority over you. If he is an enemy, then his slap is a way of goading you into a fight or a way of saying.
In Jesus’ time and place, a slap was an insult and required retaliation if administered by someone of equal or inferior standing and especially if it was administered by someone of a different faction or family. It was best if one was surrounded by friends and was prevented from launching a counter attack. It was also good if one was surrounded by ones family if one had launched the originating slap and could be pulled out of the arena quickly. It was best for all involved, including the intervening families, because it prevented bloodshed that had to be avenged and offered the possibility of letting tempers cool down and having the elders of each side settle the matter calmly. 
St. Nicolas or Myra holds the title of “Patron Saint of Secret Givers.” He gained it by saving a father and his daughters from the humiliation of being found out as too poor to afford the daughters to marry. He gave quietly so the father and the house would not be obligated by customs or found out as needy.
Giving in Jesus’ time, and Nicolas’ time as he only live 300 years later, came with strings attached. One became obligated by receiving or being lent to and one expected allegiance of those to whom one had given or lent. To lend to anyone without strings was strange behavior. It was better to give and lend strategically to increase ones status and honor and it was good to have it made very clear that and to whom one had given. (Matt 6:2)
Jesus seems to contradict some rather common societal modes of operation here along with common sense: Loosing ones coat meant to walk around indecently like a beggar. Giving him your cloak meant freezing in the night as it was used to cover oneself if caught outside on the road. 
Not only that, but: “be perfect like your Father in heaven is perfect?” That just makes no sense at all unless one believes that Jesus is setting unrealistic goals on purpose here. That he is aiming high is certainly true but I am not sure that here and in this instance, he is asking the impossible. 
Let us think for a moment about what perfect might mean here. Nouwen takes the approach to translate the word as “mature,” in other words: Finished or complete in your being, no longer a child about the world around and aware of its flawed ways and means.
For a moment, just as a thinking exercise, let us assume that a god who is an cruel, immature brat; someone to who allows every insult to stick on him, someone who keeps a long list of wrongs yet to be avenged and a long list of debts yet owed to him, someone who has no problem plotting and carrying out revenge, someone to whom all life is cheap and the care for the individual by family or community is irrelevant. I have just described the opposite of everything Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 5. 
In a certain way, the sermon on the mound is about the character of God. Beginning with the Beatitudes, a different sense of values and ways is being described. It is not too far fetched to say: Should not the children of God resemble their Father? In other words, should not the values of Jesus, the Son, be the values of the children of God who, one prays, will grow up to some level of maturity? “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (1 Cor. 13:11) I note that 1 Cor. 10 notes that this will be when “completeness, Maturity,” comes these things will take place and the same greek term is used there as in Matt 5:48. 
As the Sermon on the Mount proceeds, it becomes clear that those who would be disciples are indeed to act as if they had been raised by heaven itself and act as now mature offspring thereof. Their treasure is in heaven. (6:20) The fruits of their labor and existence are clearly the same as the fruits of heaven. (Matt 7:20) They address Jesus as “Lord” not as a matter of courtesy but because they truly know him as their superior and master of the house in which they live. (7:21)
It is not far fetched here on earth to say: “I see so much of your father in you.“ It is meant as a compliment or encouragement, usually. Is it far fetched then that one might say to a Christian who lives the life set before him by Jesus: “I caught a glimpse of heaven in you?” 
We remember saints because at their time and in their lives, this is exactly what happened. Someone saw them and praised God for having sent them in His stead. They became the well of an icon on which the face of the Beloved Son was painted and allowed to spill over the well and into life because the icon does not contain the face but gives it to the world. 

And you, church, would you ask this question:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

he Readings for Sunday, February 16th, 2014

First Reading: Deuteronomy 30:15–20

15See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.  16If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.  17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them,  18I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.  19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,  20loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:1–9

And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.  2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready,  3for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?  4For when one says, "I belong to Paul," and another, "I belong to Apollos," are you not merely human?
5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each.  6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  8The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each.  9For we are God's servants, working together; you are God's field, God's building.

Gospel: Matthew 5:21–37

21"You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.'  22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire.  23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,  24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.  25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.  26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
27"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.'  28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
31"It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.'  32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 
33"Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.'  34But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,  35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.  37Let your word be 'Yes, Yes' or 'No, No'; anything more than this comes from the evil one. 

What the Text says: Matthew 5:23-36 - Pr. Fourman

Matthew 5:21-37

5:21 Exceeding righteousness, v21-48: i] Murder stems from malevolence and both lead us to 
hell's fire, v21-22.
ακουσατε (ακουω) aor. "you have head" - in the sense of understand.l
τοις αρχαιος dat. adj. "to the people long ago" - the ancients. 
ου φονευσεις (φονευω) fut. "do not murder" - you shall not murder the future tense functions as an imperative; the sense is "murder/assassination" not "kill".
τη/ κρισει (ις) dat. "[will be subject] to a moment of decision" probably the judgment of the local court, possibly divine judgment.
υμιν dat. "[I tell] you". The Old Testament prophets would say "thus says the Lord", Jesus says "I say unto you", serving as a declaration of God’s will.
ο οριζομενος (οριζω) pres. pas. part. "the one being angry”- attributive, limiting everyone/anyone who gives vent to anger.
τη/ κρισει (ις εως) dat. "[will be subject to] a moment of decision".
ρακα "Raca" – I love this, the closest English equivalent to ‘shithead”.
μωρε adj. "fool" – literally, “moron”.
του πυρος "the hell-fire".
v23 Two parables; the first seems to encourage a disciple to deal with an offence caused to a brother before approaching God in prayer, ie. the parable has ethical intent, establishing reconciliation as a precondition for acceptable worship. Yet, if the purpose of Jesus' exposition of exceeding righteousness serves to expose sin and its inevitable consequence (a moment of divine decision) then it is likely the primary focus is theological rather than ethical. 
προσφερη/ς (προσφερω) aor. subj. "you are offering [your gift]" - you is now singular indicating that personal application is in mind.
kata + gen. "against [you]" - expressing opposition. Similarities between this and Mark 11:25, have been noted, although in Matthew a brother has something against the worshipper, whereas in Mark the worshipper has something against the brother. Mark’s context is the cleansing of the temple and symbolic cursing of the fig tree. To this Mark attaches three independent parabolic sayings which serve to reinforce a right approach to God in the face of eschatological judgment. The links between Matt.5 and Mk.11 interesting; the context is eschatological judgment and its avoidance, and this with Matthew's removal of reciprocal mercy, indicates Matthew may well be using the parable with a similar intent.
ελθων (ερχομαι) aor. part. "come" past action with future consequences.  
v25 The second parable, teaches the importance of being always ready and anxious to take the first step towards the healing of a quarrel between neighbors. If the purpose of Jesus' exposition of exceeding righteousness serves to expose sin and its consequence. 
ισθι ευνοων (ευνοεω) pres. part. "settle matters" the present imperative of the verb to-be with the present participle forms a periphrastic present construction; "settle the dispute" ταχυ adv. "quickly" literally “while there is time".
το αντιδικω/ (ος) dat. "with [your] opponent” a Dative of indirect object.
εως οτου "who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him".
μηποτε + subj. "or [he may hand you over]" τω κριτη (ης ου) dat. "to your judge".

v26 αμην λεγω σοι "I tell you the truth" – an idiom; take my word for it…. indicating the parable is anything but a moral tale. 
ηκουσατε (ακουω) aor. "you have heard/you are aware".
ου μοιχευσεις (μοιχευω) "do not commit adultery" - under Mosaic law, consensual sex between two unmarried person's was settled in marriage and so is not technically adultery. Sexual union, of itself, establishes marriage, whether it is formalized or not, and so a sexual union that follows on from a former union that was not formalized in marriage is adulterous because it intrudes on the previous one-flesh union. Of course, all this is academic since when it comes to God's law lust is as good as the deed- i.e. we are all 0 for 10 where the commandments are concerned.  
εγω δε λεγω υμιν "but I tell you" - antithesis
ο βλεπων (βλεπω) pres. part. "[anyone] who looks at" - the one looking at. 
γυναικα (η αικος) "a woman" - As above, "a married woman."
προς το επιθυμησαι (επιθυμεω) aor. inf. "lustfully" - to desire [her]. To looks at her with intent of having have intercourse, and in so doing he pulls a Jimmy Carter (adultery in his heart). 

v29 In two parabolic sayings 
ο δεξιος (ος) "right" - most are right-handed and for them the right eye is the more important.
ο οφθαλμος (ος) "eye σκανδαλιζει (σκανδαλιζω) pres. "causes [you] to sin
εξελε (εξαιρεω) aor. imp. "gouge" – remove it. 
χειρ "hand
v31 Divorce is against the will of God, v31-32- even the disciples get the point, exclaiming "if such is the case between a man and his wife, it is better not to marry.".
απολυση/ (απολυω) aor. subj. "divorces" - release, send away. 
αποστασιον (ον) "certificate of divorce" - a paraphrase of Deuteronomy 24:1 where the Mosaic law, recognizing the human condition, regularizes marital separation by the requirement of a "document of dismissal", a process which had become in Jesus' day little more than "publicly sanctioned adultery." 

v32 ο απολυων (απολυω) pres. part. "who divorcesπαρεκτος + gen. "except" - apart from. Only Matthew records this exceptive clause, Mark and Luke's accounts of Jesus teaching on divorce provide no grounds whatsoever for a breaking of a marriage. It is out of character for Jesus, particularly to compromise God's law. Even conservative commentators view the exception as Matthew's own rather than a word from Jesus. Matthew is spelling out to Jewish believers what was implicit in the first century; namely that a person was required to divorce an adulterous wife. Other commentators see evidence of early church tradition, of the authority of the church to bind and loose, to make laws and make exceptions to laws. The exception may simply be a recognition that where the one-flesh union has been destroyed by πορνεια, "sexual unfaithfulness", then the marriage, by this act, is no longer a divinely sanctioned union and thus legally void,. 

μοιχευθηναι (μοιχευω) aor. pas. inf. "to become an adulteress" - to commit adultery. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb ποιεω, "makes". A divorced woman forced to take another husband is forced into an adulterous union. The responsibility for this situation properly rests on the one who divorced her.

v33 ουκ επιορκησεις (επιορκεω) fut. "do not break your oath (swear falsely)” τω/ κυριω/ (ος) dat. "[fulfill] to the Lord" - " perform what you have sworn to the Lord." τους ορκους (ος) "the oaths".

v34 μη ομοσαι (ομνυω) aor. inf. "do not swear" - sometimes taken literally as a command to not take an oath, it is usually accepted that Jesus is denouncing the use of formula oaths for the purpose of deception.

εις "by, to, toward [Jerusalem]. 

v36 τη/ κεφαλη/ (η) "head" is that the person would "give his head if he were not speaking the truth",  ie. he would take his life.
ποιησαι (ποιεω) aor. inf. "[you cannot] make" - person cannot change the natural color of their hair, only God can do that, apparently an observation that did not see the advent of Grecian Formula.

v37 εστω (ειμι) pres. imp. "[it is what it is”" ναι ναι "yes  yes" - the doubling is for emphasis

το ... περισσον adj. "anything beyond" τουτων gen. pro. "this" is from του πονηρου (ος) gen. "the evil one" – i.e. intended for deception. “Methink thou speakest too much!”