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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Lessons for Sunday, September 28th, 2014

First Reading: Ezekiel 18:1–4, 25–32

The word of the LORD came to me:  2What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge"?  3As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel.  4Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.
25Yet you say, "The way of the LORD is unfair." Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?  26When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die.  27Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life.  28Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die.  29Yet the house of Israel says, "The way of the LORD is unfair." O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?
30Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin.  31Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?  32For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live.

Second Reading: Philippians 2:1–13

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy,  2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
  7but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
  8he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death — 
even death on a cross.
  9Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
  10so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
  11and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
  12Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;  13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Gospel: Matthew 21:23–32

23When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?"  24Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.  25Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" And they argued with one another, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?'  26But if we say, 'Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet."  27So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

28What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.'  29He answered, 'I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went.  30The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir'; but he did not go.  31Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.  32For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

Matthew 21:23-32; The Greek -- Pr. Fourman


vv 21:23 ελθοντος (ερχομαι) gen. aor. part. "[Jesus] entered" – a genitive absolute participle forms a temporal clause; "when he entered….
διδασκοντι (διδασκω) pres. part. "while teaching" - the participle serves to also form a temporal clause, those some take it as causal, "because he was teaching."
οι αρχιερεις (υς εως) "the chief priests" – i.e. priestly aristocracy who led the temple services and were members of the Sanhedrin.
οι πρεσβυτεροι (ος) "the elders" – non-members of the Sanhedrin.
του λαου (ος) gen. "of the people" - adjectival.
λεγοντες (λεγω) "saying”. attendant circumstance participle; "came and said."
εν + dat. "by [what authority]" - instrumental, expressing means, idiomatically, “what right have you to teach/speak as you are?"
ταυτα pro. "these things" - referring to the miracles, his activity in the temple, or possibly his teachings.
εδωκεν (διδωμι) aor. "gave" likely not a genuine question, but rather serves as a form of entrapment, which explains why Jesus plays with their question rather than answering it.

v24 In return, Jesus asks his own question, δε  but - here slightly adversative.
αποκριθεις (αποκρινομαι) aor. pas. part. - attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb, so "answered and said."
καγω "I" – an emphatic,  ερωτησω (ερωταω) fut. "will [also] ask" (Jesus can ask hard questions too.)

v25 Ιωαννου (ης ου) το βαπτισμα  gen. "John's baptism" - immersion (either literally in water, or figuratively in a pressure-cooker situation). Here, Jesus possibly has in mind the totality of John's ministry rather than just his practice of baptism.
ποθεν "where [did it come from]?" - a question of authority, i.e. "Who gave John the right to baptize?"
διελογιζοντο (διαλογιζομαι) imperf. "[they] discussed it" - the imperfect possibly indicating the discussion went on a bit, ie. It was a durative action (- the Greek is a construct that identifies the beginning of a discussion that is bound to go on; so some translate "they began to argue with each other".
εαν + subj. "if" - a conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true.

v26 δε "but" – “if – but” a classic Law dichotomoy.
φοβουμεθα (φοβεω) pres. pas. "we fear” - political expediency is not new to the 21st century. The religious authorities lined up with Herod and Pilate. "We can't say John acted on his own authority. The people are convinced that he is a prophet and they might turn on us."25
γαρ "for" -  a causal clause explaining why they are afraid.
παντες adj. "they all" - everyone. We have heard such absolutes uttered in tense church debates before.  (Everyone/no one________(fill in the blank).
εχουσιν (εχω) pres. "hold" - in the sense of regard “John as a prophet",

v27 αποκριθεντες (αποκρινομαι) aor. pas. pat. "so they answered" – i.e. they held a meeting, took a vote, and at least two thirds of them decided the best theological way forward.  It could also be rendered, :they said” but what fun is there in that? Especially anticlimactic when you consider the set up over the length of the discussion inferred in vs 25
οιδαμεν (οιδα) perf. "we don't know" – “literally, we cannot ‘see’ the answer. The authorities considered John slightly unhinged, but were too afraid to say it publically. Jesus demonstrates that they really had no authority to ask the question since they had failed to address the scriptures that pointed to John, that is they did not do their homework, so the result of their discussion was underserving of his attention.

v28 The parable of the two sons, v28-30. Unlike kingdom parables, teaching parables serve to illustrate a truth. The parable of the two sons illustrates the difference between saying and doing. The Pharisees had a real problem in this department; claiming to be righteous, but neglecting the weightier matters of the law. So Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven", 7:21
Τι δε υμιν δοκει "what do you think?" - what seems ‘right’ to you? We would say "let me run this by you." This construction is peculiar to Matthew. As a typical teaching parable once upon a time would better set the tone; "”Let me tell you a story about a man who had two sons…"  This is a sermon illustration!
προσελθων (προσερχομαι) aor. part. "he went" - attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb.
τω πρωτω dat. adj. "the first" - dative of direct object after the verb προσ prefix verb "to come to." So probably a comparative i.e. , "senior", "older", "the elder".

v29 ου θελω "I will not" - emphatic, "no, I will not !
υστερον adv. "later" μεταμεληθεις (μεταμελομαι) aor. pas. part. "he changed his mind" – which of course infers he had a mind worth changing, the implication is that the Pharisees for all their learning, do not.  Possibly ‘he regretted what he had said."

v30 προσελθων (προσερχομαι) aor. part. "then [the father] went " - a temporal clause. "The father" added for meaning to "he went". "Approached", Phillips.
τω ετερω dat. pro. "the other [son-" - the different son! Pronoun serves as a substantive, so the ‘second/younger’ son.
ωσαυτως adv. "the same thing" - likewise.
εγω "I will" - "emphatic”, I got your back.
και "and/but [he did not go]" - the literal "and went not" indicates that an adversative sense works best for the modern ear.

v31 των δυο adj. "of the two" του πατρος (ηρ ος) gen. "[did the will of] his father.
αμη λεγω υμιν "I tell you the truth" – normally found in John, this is a Semitisms, it can be translated, “believe me when I say to you” οτι - that…
οι τελωναι και αι πορναι " tax collectors and prostitutes" - the two groups excluded on moral grounds from the Kingdom.
προαγουσιν (προαγω) pres. "are entering [the kingdom of God] ahead of you" – Some think this reads “those who never accepted God's authority over them are now accepting it in Jesus and are entering the kingdom while those who reject it in Jesus will find themselves outside the kingdom.”  However, “entering the kingdom of God ahead of you" is about priority, not entering.  They will go first fits with the theme of the parable told before about the workers in the vineyard.  All get their pay but the pecking order gets turned upside down. Any use of ‘intellect’ to derive ‘authority’ is rejected.  Jesus believes in realized (revelatory) truth as well as ’received” or taught truth- not either/or but both/and.

v32 δικαιοσυνης (h) gen. "of righteousness" – forensic use, what the Law deems right, an attributive, limiting "way"; do "the righteous way." The word "righteousness" is theologically charged as well and fosters numerous meanings. But Matthew often uses the word to mean doing what is right according to the Father's will (i.e. forensic, legal right) and sometimes possessing a righteousness of which God is the source. But always true "righteousness" is beyond our ability.
αυτω "[you did not believe] him" – i.e. John, direct object after the verb πιστευω, "to believe in/to trust."  
ιδοντες (οραω) aor. part. "even [after] you saw" adverbial, best taken as concessive, "although/even though".
εστερον adv. "after" – so although you saw the witness of outcasts responding to the kingdom, ουδε μετεμεληθητε (μετομελομαι) aor. pas. "you did not change your minds" – not μετανοια (repent = change your ways). This word often takes the sense "be sorry" extending to "change your mind". The stronger religious sense "repent" may be inferred  but is NOT overt.

του πιστευσαι (πιστευω) aor. inf. "and believe/trust [him]" This construction, (genitive articular infinitive) usually forms a purpose clause in Matthew, "in order that". Following this line some scholars translates this clause "did not repent afterward, so as to believe in him." At any rate, as is typical of the gospels there is an interlocking of repentance and faith as a valid response to the gospel - a ‘turning around’ of thought and action and a relying upon Christ.

Oh, Grow up! -- Pr. Kruse

They are right, these Pharisees: If the prophet speaks and acts for heaven then it is right to make haste to listen and obey. Or, in reverse, if they say that John was not a prophet they will dishonor him in the hearing for those who thought that certainly he had been. Those who had thought him a prophet had come, listened, repented and been baptized. They, the Pharisees, had come and been rejected by John (Matthew 3) As a matter of fact, he had some strong words for them:

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9 Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

One might conclude that John had said to them: You are the chaff. The fire will be brought for you. Your way of life is on the way out like a tree that is surrendered to the ax. Maybe like a tree that is cursed and withers at the master’s command as has just happened but maybe an hour ago. 
But here they are: they had been unserious about the efficacy of John and had been called out for it. John, a prophet after the mold of Elijah, had not been tied to the customs and scruples of the day. He had called them vipers. That had stung their sense of honor. It is not likely that they had mourned John’s death nor would it have bothered them at all to hear that Herod had locked up John. To them, he was no prophet. 
Coming to think of it, no one is a prophet when he prophesies against us. No, real prophets only let “them” have it and let us think that for us all is well, or at least they leave us alone — right? Well if you are powerful enough, you can make sure it happens that way or at least you can silence the prophet. Herod had done that. The Old Testament is full of examples of court prophets now only remembered for having stood up to the real prophets to their ultimate disgrace. 
A prophet’s job is simple, daunting, and downright scary: Verbalize the will of God so that when it is done in all its beauty and terror the people will recognize that there is a God in the land and that God’s will is not to be trifled with since it will be done even if we stand in its way. It will be more painful for everyone involved, including God, if we choose to stand in the way of the will of God, but in the end, someone will loose. Prophets have the gift to acknowledge blinding flashes of the obvious: In any fight with God, God wins. It should be obvious but it isn’t.
We all fight God now and again. O.K., I know, you are saying to yourself: “I am a good person, I don’t get up in the morning and make a list how I will offend God today.” Few people do actually do that. But as Jesus observes, using the words of Isaiah: “‘This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.” (Mt 15:8-9) 
The heart of the first son in the parable is in the right place but his lips are unclean. The lips of the second son give the father honor but his heart is far from him. To be honest, both offend the father. One did the father’s will, the other gave him the expected public submissive answer. One spoke as if he did not have a stake in the house, the other acted like it. 
It is so ambiguous this parable. Both have given offense. Ask any parent at chore time. Both saddened or angered the father. I prefer kid 1.0, am faced with kid 2.0 frequently, but I long for the kid implied but not seen: The one who says yes and then does. There is a kid 4.0 as well, the one who says “no” and means “no” and does “no.” At least that one is true to his word. 
But maybe the fact that both sons have given offense is a good reminder who they both stand for in real life. If repentance is the will of the Father that begs to be done, then obviously someone needs turning. In the house of Father, and this interchange is taking place in the Temple, there is a lot of praising going on. At the Jordan river people were baptized into repentance. 
Maybe the question that demands to be asked is this: when, how, and where do the good attitudes of kid 1.0 and 2.0 meet in kid 3.0? You know, the kid who gives honor and praise to God and works his will? Is this the one who was baptized by the one that was to come, baptized with the Holy Sprit? Is this the one who becomes the true worshipper who lives like he truly belongs to God as a child of Abraham who gives glory to God with both lips and hands? 

We can all sing “Children of the Heavenly Father,” because that is who we are. But do we act like little children, defiant at chore time, or have we put childish ways behind and taken our place as those who act and work as if the business of the family was ours, not just the Father’s with us looking on and engaging when it suits us. Maybe, someone will eventually write: “Adult Children of the Heavenly Father,” but then, people might think we are forming a 12 step group. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

he Readings for September 21, 2014

First Reading: Jonah 3:10—4:11

Chapter 3

10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
Chapter 4

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry.  2He prayed to the LORD and said, "O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.  3And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live."  4And the LORD said, "Is it right for you to be angry?"  5Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.
6The Lord GOD appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush.  7But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered.  8When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, "It is better for me to die than to live."
9But God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?" And he said, "Yes, angry enough to die."  10Then the LORD said, "You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night.  11And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?"

Second Reading: Philippians 1:21–30

21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.  22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer.  23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better;  24but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.  25Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith,  26so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
27Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel,  28and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God's doing.  29For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well —  30since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Gospel: Matthew 20:1–16

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  3When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace;  4and he said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went.  5When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same.  6And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, 'Why are you standing here idle all day?'  7They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard.'  8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, 'Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.'  9When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.  10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.  11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner,  12saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.'  13But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.  15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?'  16So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

The Greek in Matthew 20 - Pr. Fourman

Matthew 20:1-16

vs. 1 ανθρωπω οικοδεσποτη dat. "a landowner" i. e. a farmer.
αμα πρωι "at once in the morning” literally "at dawn", the best time to hire workers as they will work for the whole day. μισθωσασθαι (μισθοω) aor. inf. "to hire" - infinitive forms an adverbial clause expressing purpose "to hire" εργατας (ης ου) "workers".

v2 συμφωνησας (συμφονεω) aor. part. "[they] came together, i.e. they arrived at an understanding - the terms of the arrangement were την ημεραν (α) "for the day" – with the pay of one denarius, the usual day's wage.

v3 τριτην ωραν "the third hour"  about 9am. εξελθων (εξερχομαι) aor. part. "he went out" and εστωτας (ιστημι) perf. part. "[others] who were standing ..." in the sense of were present in the marketplace. αργους adj. "not yet working” not yet hired, not idle or lazy – this is not a slam on their willingness to work, just waiting and available.

v4 εκεινοις dat. pro. "[he told] them" – a dative of indirect object. υαγετε, "go", the superlative (command) serves as an emphatic. δωσω (διδωμι) fut. "I will give" the wage I will give you will be ο εαν + subj. "whatever [is right]" and given that a denarius was the daily wage for a laborer, the implication is a proportionate pay for the time spent in the field will be paid – hence a fair wage.

v5 απηλθον (απερχομαι) aor. "[so] they went". Why not? εξελθων (εξερχομαι) aor. part. "he went out [again]" in the εκτην και ενοτην adj. "the sixth and the ninth [hour]" – i.e. 12 noon and 3pm."  Implication, there was way more work than he thought!

v6 την ενδεκατην adj. "the eleventh hour " (@ 5pm) .εξελθων (εξερχομαι) aor. pas. "he went out" - ευρεν (ευρισκω) aor. "foundεστωτας (ιστημι) perf. part. "the ones standing around" - adjectival
τι "Why ...?" - possibly a rebuke.

v7 οτι "because" – causal εμισθωσατο (μισθοω) aor. "[no one] has hired [us].  Begs the question why no one hired them. και υμεις "you also" - as in v4, an emphatic "you too go to my vineyard as well as the other workers."

v8 γενομενης (γινομαι) aor. mid. part. "when [evening] came" –day laborers are paid at the end of the day, sunset. ο κυριος "the lord” possibly NOT the same man who hired them (the οικοδεσποτε) but the actual owner του αμελωνος (ος) gen. "of the vineyard." τω επιτροπω (ος) dat. "foreman/steward the person in charge of the workers. αρξαμενος (ερχομαι) aor. mid. part. "beginning" with those who were hired last. εως  gen. "going on to [the first]"

v9 ελαβον (λαμβανω) aor. "received" a denarius.
v10 ελθοντες (ερχομαι) aor. part. "[so] when [those] came [who were hired first]" ενομισαν (ϖομιζω)  expected πλειον adv. "more" και αυτοι "each one of them"
v11 λαβοντες (λαμβανω) aor. part. "when they received it" εγογγυζον (γογγυζω) imperf. "they began complaining" κατα "against”  the manager.

v12 ουτοι pro. "these" οι εσχατοι adj. "who were last".
ημιν dat. pro. "[equal] to us" τοις βαστασασι (βασταζω) dat. aor. part. "who have endured”  το βαρος (ος ους) "the burden" - hardship, difficulty. Idiom; “who sweated the whole day long in the blazing sun".

v13 αποκριθεις (αποκρινομαι) aor. pas. part. "[he] answered" – i.e. the Lord, 
εταιρε (εταιρος) voc. sing. "friend" - a general address to someone where the name is unknown. There is no intimate relationship shown here, all really are treated alike, they are merely workers.  While there is the temptation to turn this into a grace story (the last shall be first) the Greek equally lays out a Law story about authority; about who gets a say in this decision.  Not the workers, only the Lord.  And the Lord’s word may be a word of grace, but it is also His word, not fair by human standards and indifferent to human effort. ουκ αδικω (αδικεω) "I am not harming [you]
ουχι "didn't [you agree]" -did you not consent to the verbal contract?  This is a negated question expecting a positive answer - always awkward in English and so a positive statement tends to convey the idea more simply, I paid you exactly what we agreed on.

v14 υπαγε (υπαγω) imp. "go away" – a command – end of discussion.  θελω "I want" - I will give whatever I want δουναι (διδωμι) aor. inf. "to give" a dependent statement of perception expressing what the master "wills" τουτω τω εσχατω dat. adj. "to this one who was hired last". ως "as [I also gave you]" i.e. the same pay.

v15 ουκ "don't" - not. This negation in a question produces a positive answer. εξεστιν pres. "I have the right" - is it [not] right, lawful, allowed μοι “for me” - a dative of interest ποιησαι (ποιεω) aor. inf. "to do" - τοις εμοις "my own stuff" most translators opt for "with my own money." ο οφθαλμος σου πονηρος "[are] you envious" - [is] your eye wicked" οτι "because" –  εγω pro. "I [am]" αγαθος adj. "good” generous? (‘Do you begrudge my generosity’ (RSV) is the least likely translation.)

v16 The issue here is often stated as one of God’s grace, and indeed, it is.  But the issue being argued here is about God’s will.  As the Lord says, “I can do whatever I want with those things which are mine. The Lord is reacting adversely to the questioning of his authority. They may not like his decision, they may even be entirely graceful or, depending on your circumstance, unfair, but it is HIS will, being question and so the issue before the crowd is not generosity but authority.  Who has the RIGHT to decide?  If you believe the Kingdom is a democracy feel free to debate the relative fairness of grace, but the Kingdom is a kingdom ruled by a King who is not accustomed, nor inclined to having his will questioned. ουτως "so" - thus, so, in this way, drawing the “logical conclusion”

οι πρωτοι adj. "the first" - the first ones become "the last" and "the last ones" are now like "the first".  Not better, but equal.  The additional of the words "for many are invited, but few are chosen" are likely a later gloss.

Do you really want a Contract with God?

“I wish to be one who conscientiously takes part in the unfolding of God's plans, and eventually have a glorious part in the final unfolding of time into the glory of God's Kingdom in heaven. If we are disciples (of Jesus) we shall be happy to spend ourselves and be spent for the salvation of souls.” — Katharine Drexel

The rich young man is walking away. He is not sure what he just heard. “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Yes, he is walking away from Jesus and he is grieving, says the text. Great were his riches. Peter and the disciples asked, rightly I think, “Who can be saved?” After all, Jesus has just said: “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Yet, he added: “With God all is possible.” 
Peter notes, probably puzzled, that he and his fellow disciples had left it all to follow. It was a  good observation indeed. Yes, Peter had a house and a business. He was not fantastically wealthy by any stretch of the imagination but he had not been poor, and he had left it all behind. Therefore, it could be done. Peter rightly realized that there was more to the matter or at minimum, he was confused about all this. Is it possible or not? 
Life changes are not improbable or unachievable. We see it around us now and again: A man or woman in a very promising career and with a fantastic and bright future sets it aside and follows  a different path all together. Sometimes like Katharine Drexel or Michael Talbot they set it aside to become religious people. Other times people will pursue art, farming, primitive life. Yes, we can change.
Is the capacity and sudden or slow new decision to lay it all down something suddenly gifted by the Holy Spirit? Is it obedience? Is it repentance unbidden and unexpected, repentance that appears to come entirely from depth of the soul and not known even to the heart that is joined to that soul? 
And if something is laid down, what, if anything, is picked up? Is anything gained? If so, was that the point of laying the other down? If so, then we are not looking at an emptying but at an exchange? Indeed, Jesus says: “You who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.”
And many who are first will be last, and the last will be first and there our parable today starts as an explanation to the questions raised by the rich young man and Jesus’ comment on the episode with him.
How will you receive the Kingdom of God? We have already wrestled with that question in chapter 18 of Matthew. Jesus’ answer was that one ought to take the example of a little child. Though it seems like a cryptic answer, it is instructive. How do children receive and from whom? The answer is: With empty hands and from their parents and family. 
In the parable there is bit of cultural stuff going on. One did not go looking for a job in olden days. Instead, one loitered in an agreed upon public place and waited for someone who needed day labor to come by. To ask for a job was to ask for something that belonged to the employer, specifically his money and one questioned his ability to manage his house to boot by suggesting that he needed the help. It would have been an offense. To go to someone and ask them to work was equally offensive because one asked for his time that, certainly, he had better things to do with. To stand in the market not doing anything was a sign that one had the time to give. To meet there and discuss labor on the employers volition was honorable and both sides were served. 
So far, so good, except that it is too easy to look at the interactions as purely transactional. Is there a contract being negotiated in the conversations between the landowner and the worker? Indeed there is: “After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.” But this contract is only made with the first group of laborers. After that, the agreement is that the landowner will: “pay whatever is right.” What that: “right” may be is not settled or revealed until payroll is called. 
There, as payroll is made, it is revealed what the owner’s definition of “right” is. That is revealing but really the minor revelation in the story. Let us go back to the matter of the rich young man for a moment. His question is what he must do to have or possess eternal life. His claim is that he has kept the commandments as Jesus has lectured him he should. Jesus then adds the one thing the man lacks, to give away what he currently is and attach himself to Jesus, with Jesus as his Lord and patron. 
This is also in play in the parable. There are wages negotiated. The first hired laborers insist that they had an agreement, with the landowner, and they did. The others had a promise and went to work based on the promise that the owner would do the righteous thing at the end of the day. One had a contract and the others had trust in the owner. The former got paid what they negotiated, the latter were pleasantly surprised to be paid more than they had a right to expect.
The complaint the first hired ones make is based on an understanding on everyones status before the landowner. Were they all merely day laborers, as they certain saw themselves to be, or was the relationship to be more? The landowner seems to be dealing with the laborers as if they were members of his household. Within his own house, indeed, he can do with his money and his people as he pleases and he is pleased to be generous. 
“Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” (18:3) and again: “it is to such as these [little children] that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (19:14) 
How do you prefer to be treated? Like one who has a labor contract or like one who belongs to the house? The landowner is happy to keep his obligations to those with whom he had a contract. But is a bargain enough for you? (If so, what kind of bargain do you think you have and is it enough?) To whom do kings give the thrones of their realm? (19:28)
Peter has given up his business and place in the social web of Capernaum. He left behind old ties to become part of new ones. Does he understand it as a bargain as day laborer’s handshake or as a new life of trust that as Jesus’ disciple all will be well and that with God all things are possible? 
Bargains are made all the time, even in families even in the Family of God. But there is a difference between owing our kids something and owing a 17 year old with an attitude something. There is a difference between being told to do something by a stranger and being told the same by dad. There is a difference between being criticized by a woman  on the street and being told the honest truth by ones wife. As long as Jesus is the other, outside of my circle of family, all things are merely bargains. Once the rich young man joins the Family of God all the bargains are merely the ways of the Family. To whom do kings give the thrones of their realm? (19:28)Where is eternal life found? 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Texts for September 14th, 2014

First Reading: Genesis 50:15–21

15Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph's brothers said, "What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?"  16So they approached Joseph, saying, "Your father gave this instruction before he died,  17'Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.' Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father." Joseph wept when they spoke to him.  18Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, "We are here as your slaves."  19But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God?  20Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.  21So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones." In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

Second Reading: Romans 14:1–12

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.  2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables.  3Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them.  4Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
5Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds.  6Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.
7We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.  8If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.  9For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
10Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.  11For it is written,
"As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God."
  12So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Gospel: Matthew 18:21–35

21Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?"  22Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
23For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.  24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him;  25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made.  26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.'  27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.  28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, 'Pay what you owe.'  29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.'  30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt.  31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.  32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?'  34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.  35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart."

Matthew 18:22-35 in Greek - Pr. Fourman

Matthew 18:21-35

v21 προσελθων (προσερχομαι) aor. part. "came" - having come, approached. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said".
κυριε (ος) "Lord" – a common form of address given to Jesus by the disciples. Probably not used as a divine address, although it is the way we use it of Jesus. For the disciples it can range from respect, "Sir", to identifying the person in charge, "boss".
ποσακις adv. "how many times?" - Literally, "how many times will my brother sin against me and I will forgive him?" Seeking a limit for forgiving certainly relates to the previous passage where God has no limit when it comes to his forgiving, but it is a different issue. 
ο αδελφος (ος) "[my] brother [or sister]" - context would imply "brother" here means fellow believer, but it is possible to render a general translation as "fellow man”.
εως + gen. "up to [seven times]" - spacial denoting an upper limit. Under Rabbinic law the upper limit was 3 - Peter's 7 possibly means "a lot".

v22 αυτω dat. pro. "[Jesus answered]" a dative of indirect object.
σοι dat. pro. "[I tell] you" – a dative of indirect object.
εβδομηκοντακις επτα "seventy-seven times"  (possibly seventy times seven or 490, or seventy plus seven i.e. 77). If Jesus is quoting Gen.4:24 then it is 77  but in either case it means more than a lot. 

v23 The parable of the unmerciful official, (v23-34).  Matthew's intent in using this parable in the present context is unclear. As a kingdom parable it confronts the reader with the present reality of the coming kingdom and of our need to repent and believe in response to it. It is, in the fullest sense, a gospel message, as are all kingdom parables. 
των ουρανων (ος) gen. "[the kingdom] of heaven" - genitive is adjectival, probably, limiting "kingdom"; i.e. a "heavenly kingdom" as opposed to an earthly kingdom. As usual Matthew shows deference to God with "the kingdom of heaven" rather than "the kingdom of God", although both refer to the eternal reign of God in and through Christ. "
ωμοιωθη (ομοιοω) aor. pas. "is like" – a comparative. better, "can be compared with the situation which arose when a king wished to settle accounts with his servants.
λογον (ος) "accounts" - often meaning "word, speech or revelation used here in the forensic sense of calculation, reckoning, or the settlement of an account.
δουλων (ος) "servants" - Usually meaning "servant/slave", but here is suggested that these servants are the king’s regional governors so it is likely that the man in question is the kings treasurer and he has been cooking the books.

v24 αρξαμενου (αρχω) gen. aor. part. "as he began" - a temporal clause.
συναιρειν (συναιρω) pres. inf. "the settlement of accounts - the infinitive is complementary.
ταλαντων (ον) "[ten thousand] talents " – a value hard to define since a "talent" is a measure of weight, it could be gold, silver or copper and so varies in value. The point is 10,000 of them is a king's ransom.
προσηνεχθη (προσφερω) aor. pas. "was brought" - possibly indicating compulsion.
v25 μη εχοντος (εχω) gen. part. "since he was not able" – i.e. "because."
αποδουναι (αποδιδωμι) aor. inf. "to pay".
ο κυριος "the master". The use of κυριος, "Lord", three times in this parable has prompted some to suggest Matthew wants his reader to equate the king with Jesus.
πραθηναι (πιπρασκω) aor. pas. inf. "[he ordered] that ........ be sold". The infinitive forms a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the master commanded.
αποδοθηναι (αποδιδωμι) aor. pas. inf. "to repay the debt" = to render what is due. The infinitive is adverbial, forming .

v26 πεσων (πιπτω) aor. part. "at this [the servant] fell" προσεκυνει (προσκυνεω) imperf. "on his knees before" - he prostrates himself. The imperfect expressing the continuation of this position during his pleading.
λεγων (λεγω) part. "he begged" - adverbial, modal, expressing the manner; "he worshiped him saying .....".
μακροθυμησον (μακροθυμεω) aor. imp. "be patient" - long-suffering, an appeal to a superior for forbearance.
αποδωσω (αποδιδωμι) fut. "I will pay [you] back" which, of course, is absurd since the debt is beyond repayment.

v27 του δουλου (ος) gen. "the servant's [lord]" - The genitive is subordination; "the master who ruled over that servant."
σπλαγχνισθεις (σπλαγχνιζομαι) aor. pas. part. "took pity on him" - filled with tenderness, affection – a word usually used of Jesus.  
αφηκεν (αφιημι) aor. "cancelled, forgave, pardoned, cancelled” same word Jesus uses in the Lord’s prayer 
το δανειον (ον) "the debt". The servant claims that he intends repaying the debt.

v28 δηναρια (ον) "denarii" - One denarius, a Roman silver coin, at the time the value of a worker's daily wage. To have a comparative, tne hundred is quite a sum, ten thousand talents is a butt load - there were 6,000 denarii in one talent.
κρατησας (κρατεω) aor. part. "he grabbed [him]" he επνιγεν (πνιγω) imperf. "began to choke" him. Not unusual for Greek, but very unusual (and violent) for the NT. 
αποδος (αποδιδωμι) aor. imp. "pay back" the servant uses the same words.
ει τι οφειλεις (οφειλω) "[pay back] what you owe" - where ει τι, (if anything) forms an indefinite phrase. The sense is "if you have something of mine give it back", is an idiom for "repay what you owe." There is no "if" about it.

v29 πεσων (πιπτω) aor. part. "fell to his knees" - attendant circumstance participle expressing action 
μακροθυμησον (μακροθυμεω) aor. imp. "be patient" – idiom, "Give me time" – you get the modern image of a payday lender here. The debt is legit, but in light of the circumstances the repayment demand, while perfectly legal (therefore by societal standards perfectly moral) is abhorrent
v30 ουκ ηθελεν (θελω) imperf. "refused" - direct discourse, "I refuse." Since an imperfect it is a sustained and repeated refusal.
απελθων (απερχομαι) aor. part. "he departed” - attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he threw"; "he left and cast him into prison."

v31 ιδοντες (οραω) aor. part. "when [the other servants] saw" - having seen. The participle is adverbial, best taken as forming a temporal clause, as NIV.
τα γενομενα (γινομαι) aor. part. "what was done".
ελυπηθησαν (λυπεω) aor. pas. "they were distressed/outraged".
ελθοντες (ερχομαι) aor. part. "going" they διεσαφησαν (διασαφεω) aor. "told" - explained, made clear, informed, τω κυριω "[their] master" – thus undermining for all time the parental direction to not be a tattle tale. 
τα γενομενα (γινομαι) aor. mid. part. "[everything] that had happened" – a complete account, noting was left out, no detail was spared – the plain unadulterated truth.

v32 προσκαλεσαμενος (προσκαλεομαι) aor. part. "calling" - attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said"; 
πονηρε voc. adj. "you wicked [servant]" – direct address – this is now personal.
σοι "[I canceled your debt" – a dative of indirect object; "for you." "I said you did not have to pay back a penny!”
επει "because [you begged me to]" - one act of mercy ought to beget another" – call it the logic of love, we might say “I paid it forward”.
v33 ουκ "[should]n't [you]" - a negated question formed to prompt an affirmative answer. The verb εδει "is necessary" is quite strong giving the sense "is it not necessary".
ελεησαι (ελεεω) aor. inf. "mercy" – the quality of divine compassion, ως "just as [I had mercy on you]" – a comparative.

v34 οργισθεις (οργιζομαι) aor. pas. part. "in anger" - the participle is adverbial, so, "because he was angry."
τοις βασανισταις (ης ου) dat. "jailers/torturers” – a dative of indirect object. The idea was to torment the person in prison so that the relatives and friends would raise the necessary funds to pay off the debt.
εως  subj. "until [he should pay back]" – a construction forming an indefinite temporal clause future time; "until he should pay the entire debt", which of course is never.
το οφειλομενον (οφειλω) pres. mid. part. "[all] he owed" . 

v35 ουτως και "and this [is how]" - thus, so also, the adverb ουτως makes an inferential reference to what proceeds, "thus/so", and και draws a comparison, "also/likewise." Judgment in the face of the coming kingdom is what faces us if we fail to show real forgiveness. Once again a Matthean discourse ends with a threat of judgment. 
εαν μη + subj. "unless" - Here introducing a negated 3rd. class conditional clause where the condition has a possibility of coming true; "unless, as may be the case, you forgive your ....... then this is how my heavenly Father ......"
εκαστος adj. "-" - each. The adjective serves as a substantive, "everyone".
τω αδελφω (ος) dat. "[his] brother " fellow believer/fellow human – a dative of direct object after the verb αφιημι, "to forgive."

απο των καρδιων υμων "from your heart". The prepositional construction formed by απο is adverbial, modal, expressing manner; so "sincerely forgive". In the New Testament, the heart, of course, is the center of our will and intellect, not the center of emotions.