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, October 28, 2014

The Readings for All Saints Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

First Reading: Revelation 7:9–17

9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.  10They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
"Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
  11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,  12singing,
"Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen."
  13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?"  14I said to him, "Sir, you are the one that knows." Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal ;they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
  16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
  17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, 
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Second Reading: 1 John 3:1–3

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  2Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.  3And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Gospel: Matthew 5:1–12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.  2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account  12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:1-11; the Greek Text -- Pr. Fourman

Matthew 5:1-10

v1 ιδων (ειδον) "when he saw [the crowds]" - adverbial, probably temporal, forming a causal clause; "Jesus went up the mountain because he saw the crowds.
το ορος "a mountainside" - the definite article may indicate a particular hill, but most likely prompting us to think of Mount Sinai.
καθισαντος (καθιζω) aor. part. "sat down" participle is adverbial, temporal; "when he sat down his disciples came to him." A teacher sits down to teach.
οι μαθηται "the disciples" - Given the context, the beatitudes are for the disciples, but are the disciples the "poor in spirit", etc.? Some scholars take the view that the beatitudes are statements of grace directed to the disciples, "blessed are you, the poor in spirit ...." but the Greek is not that specific (although v11-12 does move to "you", meaning "you disciples.") 

v2 ανοιξας το στομα aor. part. “opening [the mouth] attendant circumstance participle expressing action "he opened his mouth...
εδιδασκεν (διδασκω) imperf. "to teach" the imperfect may be used here to make the point that the sermon on the mount is a summary of Jesus' teachings, so "this is what he used to teach".

v3 μακαριοι adj. "blessed" - not the best translation, "fortunate" or "well off", possibly "happy are you". Jesus is telling his disciples that they are fortunate to be this way, fortunate to possess these qualities of life, because in possessing them they inherit God's promised kingdom. The beatitudes are not imperatives so not earned but gifts. 
οι πτωχοι adj. "the poor ones" - those in total poverty, possessing nothing and with no means to earn a living other than by receiving alms.
τω πνευματι (α ατος) dat. "in spirit" - dative is local, serves to define the poverty. To be poor in spirit is to be totally destitute spiritually and so recognize the need for a total dependence on God. As Matthew uses this phrase it has nothing to do with actual poverty.
οτι "for" - introducing a causal clause explaining why the poor in spirit are blessed. Note repeated use of this conjunction throughout the beatitudes.
αυτων εστιν "theirs is" – in the sense of consequence (not reward).
των ουρανων (ος) gen. "[the kingdom] of heaven" - the eschatological reign of God.

v4 οι πενθουντες (πενθεω) part. "the mourning ones - participle serves as a substantive. It is likely that the mourning is over sin; "fortunate are those who are broken before God."
παρακληθησονται (παρακαλεω) fut. pas. "will be comforted" - a divine passive; "God will comfort them".

v5 οι πραεις (πραυς) adj. "the gentle ones”. a substantive. "Gentle" in the sense of not demanding of God, so "submissive to the will of God" and therefore willing to look to him for vindication.

κληρονομησουσιν την γην "[for they] will inherit the earth" - lit. receive by lot, therefore "possess" - identifying the consequence of covenant inclusion through submission to the divine will (cf. Psalm 37:11, inheriting the promised land. "They will receive what God has promised").

v6 οι πεινωντες (πειναω) pres. part. "the hungering ones" - a substantive.
την δικαιοσυνην (η) "righteousness" - righteousness, justice. Jesus is not speaking of for social justice, nor even those who desire social justice, but a desire for personal vindication, of being set-right before God, of being "judged in the right" - the same sense of justification expounded by Paul. 
χορτασθησονται (χορταζω) fut. pas. "will be satisfied ".

v7 οι ελεημονες (ων ονος) "the merciful ones" – the reciprocal nature of mercy and forgiveness is stressed in the New and Old Testaments. The Lord's Prayer gives the classic example, "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." This beatitude is not saying that those who show mercy will have mercy shown to them, ie. a salvation by works idea. Rather that they who show mercy will know mercy.  

v8 τη καρδια (α) dat. "[the pure] in heart" - dative of locality, the purity of heart referred to here may be the righteousness of God or the regenerate nature – it is certainly not moral or sexual purity. Those who possess righteousness will "be like him" and …
οψονται (οραω) fut. "will see [God]" – i.e.  find themselves in God's presence.

v9 οι ειρηνοποιοι (ος) "the ones who make peace" – a hapax legomenon. Clearly, Jesus is not thinking of conflict-resolution managers. In the end Jesus maybe referring to those who are no longer at war with God.
θεου (ος) gen. "[sons] of God" - genitive is relational; so “members of God's family”, i.e. the baptized.

v10 οι δεδιωγμενοι (διωκω) perf. pas. part. "the persecuted ones" - the perfect tense indicates persecution that began in time past, the consequences of which continue into the present, although with participles, duration is also intended those who endure persecution. The meaning of the word is usually in the NT, "to put to flight" or "drive away", but also carries a positive sense, "to follow with intensity and purpose and effort, in order to catch up with, for friendly or hostile purpose - to run after, to chase after, to pursue. to hasten, to run, to press forward, to press on, to follow without hostile intent". This meaning certainly fits with the other beatitudes; "blessed are you who pursue the living God." The trouble is v10 and 11 indicate the sense is "blessed are you when people persecute you because of your standing with God." So perhaps Jesus is warning his disciples that a servant is not greater than his master; if they persecute the master they will persecute the servant.
ενεκεν + gen. "because of" - causal.
η βασιλεια των ουρανων "the kingdom of heaven" - Matthew ends with a typical inclusio, rounding of the beatitudes as a package by ending where he started.

v11 εστε "are you" - The change from the third person to the second person is important, as noted above. This application of the final beatitude guides us in the application of the other beatitudes.
οταν + subj. "when" –an indefinite temporal clause expressing general time.
ονειδισωσιν (ονειδιζω) aor. subj. "people insult (reproach, upbraid)
ψευδομενοι (ψευδομαι) part. "falsely" - the act of being publically attacked alone does not carry any implied lessing, it iw shen in telling the truth you are maligned falsely, when the 8th commandment is ignored, that God blesses the truth teller.  
ενεκεν + gen. "because of [me]" – causal – probably because of their testimony of Christ, but even more likely etter, because of their identification with Christ. This is a foreshadowing of the Passion events, of denial and abandonment by the disciples.  They will not be ‘happy’ about the results of those actions.

v12 αγαλλιασθε (αγαλλιαω) imp. "be glad" -  exceeding glad.
οτι "because" - a causal clause explaining why the disciples should rejoice and be glad.
ο μισθος "reward" - the reward is divine approval. "payment/wage" is another possible translation but seems crass, this serves to highlight the transitory nature of suffering.
γαρ "for" - Luke uses γαρ for οτι above giving both an equal causal standing. Here the choice of γαρ is causal, “..indeed in just the same way they made the prophets before you suffer persecution...".

ουτως adv. "in the same way" – an idiom, the persecuted believer stands in good company.

Coming in from the Cold -- Pr. Kruse

You can see for yourself in the portraits the destruction the illness has caused to my whole body. There is, at least, a small light of hope which could restore me, if not a miracle; but I do not want to tempt the Lord, as I am persuaded that the will of the Lord is that I die in the same way and of the same sickness as my afflicted sheep.” St. Damien of Molokai

Carl Jelsing, poet laureate in North Dakota where there are many poet laureates for some reason, died late December 1992, a few month after my ordination. We buried him right after Christmas on the west side of town on a sunny day when the weatherman had just announced a cold snap. It was 30 degrees below zero, the sun was bright, several feet of snow covered the ground from a Christmas Eve Blizzard, and there was not even a hint of wind at the grave site. As I read the Liturgy of interment, I noticed that a fog was building between my eyes and the Occasional Services book in my hand. It was so cold that my breath was hanging between me and the page like small cloud that I had to disperse with my hand now and again so I could proceed. 
Carl had been one of the last real stalwarts of the old Free Lutheran Church. Not the one now in existence, but the Free Lutheran Church that had, reluctantly, entered the old ALC generations back. My congregation had voted against the creation of a new church but then had voted to join. They had done the same at the creation of ELCA. 
Carl was an old Haugean from Norway, an immigrant as a child, 80 years prior to his death. He was a Haugean lay preacher, bound and determined to maintain the tradition of lay preaching and presiding over the flock because that is what Norwegian pietist Haugean tradition had taught him. He preached in Norwegian at the old Tunbridge Church, which never joined ALC, a quaint open country church, closed years prior but lovingly maintained by one or two families in true Free Lutheran spirit who opened it now and again so Norwegian services could be held. 
Carl’s funeral was, in a way, a celebration of his Norwegian-ness as much as it was of his life. One of the readings was done in Norwegian and, when you died, apparently, someone has to sing: “Den store hvide flok vi se” (Norwegian for: “The Great White Flock we see” LBW “Who is this host arrayed in white” ELW: “Behold the host arrayed in white.”) When music was discussed it was raised immediately and everyone, except for me, knew that this needed to be in the service somewhere prominent. Carl had been the one who had sung it at many Norwegian funerals in the past. Someone from a neighboring church had already been contacted. “Den store hvide flok vi se” was going to be sung. There was no question about it. 
The soloist met with the organist to practice. In the discussion she asked him: “How many verses are you singing?” At that moment, the man grew stern and almost angry: “There is only one verse!” I have seen various versions of the song in Danish (the author was a Dane) and Norwegian and am not sure what the fuss was, but somehow, at this occasion, something within came to the surface. If truly there is only one verse that ought to be sung, the translator of the hymn among Lutherans, Gracia Grindal, should have well known that. Her father was one of my predecessors, was Norwegian, and certainly he, she, and Carl must have known one another since Harold Grindal had had charge of Tunbridge church. 
Yes, I have researched this question: How many verses are there to this thing? I can’t tell but in some places a three verse poem appears under the author name in our hymnal, Brorson, but the words of that poem make up only the words of the first verse in the hymnal. 
In the end, I am fairly certain that the “one verse only” rule was something that Carl and those close to him in the local Norwegian Free Lutheran Church were advocating, the reason for this is now safely shrouded in the vail and fog of time gone past. 

We do not write about death enough. Christians, it is said, were once the people who cared for the dying, gently and lovingly. When the Blessed Mother Teresa took up her mission to the dying in Calcutta she was continuing a long history of a mission of Grace. We, the Christians, were the ones not afraid of death. St. Francis hugged the leper with that in mind. He was not afraid of dying even dying of leprosy. Fr. Damien, now also St. Damien, went to Hawaii’s leper colony to minister there and stayed for years. Leprosy is not easy to transmit, but that is recent knowledge. Damien eventually was diagnosed with it and lived out his life on Molokai, allowing himself to be photographed often to document the progress of the disease. In doing so he also documented the grace that a Christian at his best displays when faced with pestilence: Peaceful Grace and fearlessness in dying and death. Damien, I seem to recall long after having read his story, entered the leper colony again after being diagnosed and gently said to his flock: “Now I am truly one of you.” 
Those could be words spoken by Christ. “I die in the same way and of the same sickness as my afflicted sheep.” “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21) Incarnation is the work of Immense Hope, immeasurable Love, and graceful fearlessness, whether it is found in Christ or in the saints.

Us regular saints, like Carl Jelsing, are called to the same incarnation in our lives. We all leave behind a witness and that witness is often a story obscured by a light cloud formed from the breath of the Holy Spirit maybe condensing in the cold of a North Dakota afternoon, that does not allow us to read it clearly. Our motives and reasons, blessed or malignant, for doing or adamantly not doing something, like singing any verses of “Den store hvide flok vi se” past the first, or closing a congregation rather than joining it to a new Church but at the same time somehow leaving it there frozen in time, will be lost in the shrouds of history. The stories of life in church in little places unknown to most will go untold after a generation or so. The host in heaven arrayed in white will know the stories but they are beyond telling them having reserved their breath to join the songs of the angels and heavenly hosts.
The day we celebrate, All Saints, was meant for the saints of whom stories are told in abundance. They are the ones whose first names are all the same for some reason: “Saint.” and whose last name is also the same: “Christian.” We share the latter with them. We recognize them — well, to be honest, we have to leave it to others to do the recognizing because we lack the mechanisms for canonization — because they lived the basic, cardinal virtues out loud and they lived them big: Faith, Hope, and Love. They lived immense Hope, immeasurable Love, and graceful fearlessness (Faith). 
We celebrate a sort of “All Souls” as Lutherans because we know that all lives show a glimpse of God in them and live, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot, the cardinal virtues. Sometimes their stories recall themselves to us for no reason. I have no idea why I recalled Carl as I sat down to write. But the recollection serves a purpose: It connects us to the shoulders we stand on. To the past that is not so past because it too will need to be redeemed, not by us but by the Father in Heaven. But it is out of that past that we receive our story and if it is to end with the host arrayed in white, then that story will be redeemed by God as well. 
If we try to redeem it ourselves, we will end up speaking foreign tongues no one can understand any longer in empty churches on the prairie where no one has reason to go, and we will sing no more than a third of the song as the bitter cold settles around the walls outside, soon to enter when the heat is turned off. 
It is up to us. We either recover this odd conviction of Christians that we fear not death or we freeze.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Readings for Reformation Sunday 2014, Oct 26th

First Reading: Jeremiah 31:31–34

31The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt — a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.  33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the LORD," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
The Word of the Lord

Second Reading: Romans 3:19–28

19Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  20For "no human being will be justified in his sight" by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
21But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets,  22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction,  23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;  24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed;  26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
27Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith.  28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
The Word of the Lord

Gospel: John 8:31–36

31Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples;  32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."  33They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, 'You will be made free'?"

34Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever.  36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

John 8, the Greek Text - Pr. Fourman

Greek Study John 8:31-36

v 31 Ιουδαιουσ - to the Jews (ablative plural) In NT usage the term Ιουδαιοι may refer to the entire Jewish people, to the residents of Jerusalem and surrounding territory (i.e., “Judeans”) or the authorities in Jerusalem, or merely those who were hostile to Jesus. Here the phrase refers to the Jewish people in Jerusalem who had been listening to Jesus’ teaching in the temple and had believed his claim to be the Messiah, hence, “those Judeans who had believed him.” 
  μεινητε εν τω λογω − if you continue in my word a conditional clause

v 32  και η αληθεια ελευθερωσει υμασ- the truth will release you, (aorist future indicative – present condition with future consequence) the translation “set you free” or “release you” (unlike the more traditional “make you free”) conveys more the idea that the hearers were currently in a state of slavery from which they needed to be freed.   The statement the truth will set you free is often taken as referring to truth in the philosophical (or absolute) sense, or in the intellectual sense, or even (as the Jews apparently took it) in the political sense. But in the context of John (particularly in light of the prologue) this must refer to truth about the person and work of Jesus.  αληθεια is a word from 2 Greek words; “λεθοσ” (to forget) and α (not) – hence “truth” is “not to forget”.

v 33 σπερμα lit.  - we are the seed (an idiom) 

v 34 πασ ο ποιων τηναμαπτιαν  - who commits sin - could simply be translated, “everyone who sins,” but the Greek is emphatic, using the participle ποιων  with πασ, a typical Johannine construct. Here continuous action is intended. The one whose lifestyle is characterized by continuous sin is a slave to sin (the same idiom used for addiction in the ancient world). A sin junky is not free but enslaved. To break free requires outside intervention. The particular sin of the Ιουδαιουσ, repeatedly emphasized in the Fourth Gospel, is the sin of habitual unbelief. The present tense in this instance looks at the continual refusal of the Jewish leaders to acknowledge who Jesus is in spite of the evidence.

v 35  μενει εν τη οικια  - remain in the household. The Greek work οικια can denote the family (relatives by descent and marriage) as well as slaves and servants living in the same house (think “extended family”).
ο υιοσ μενει εισ τον αιωνα the son remains forever” Jesus’ point is that while a slave may be part of a household, the slave is not guaranteed a permanent place, while a son will have a guaranteed place in the house.

v 36 υιοσ  − son  - the question is whether this is to be understood as a direct reference to Jesus or as an indirect reference to the illustration begun in the previous verse – in which case the ‘son” would be the chosen people.

Quote the Pope? On Reformation Sunday? -- Pr. Kruse

“Injustice comes not only from violent acts of men with power, but from the false prudence of the sage.” — Aquinas

Lost on us lot of protestants is the fever that is alive in the Catholic world these days. They have had a “Synod” of bishops to discuss and issue a statement on family issues, specifically, about the place of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics and, since this is 2014 and many Americans remain Catholic, about homosexuality. 
It seems that at some point there was a half time report that was really quite radical and was eventually calmed down significantly. The author is a German: Walter, Cardinal Kasper. It is not so much what he proposed that interests me but the criticism that is leveled against him. He is accused of “Pastoralism.” 
What is Pastoralism, you ask? It seems that it signifies the excessive shapeless concern for the treatment of individuals that in turn leads to the ignoring of doctrine. (Michael Miller, Catholic World Report, Oct 18,2014)
The Pope himself spoke at the end of the synod and felt there were some serious temptations for the church that had been laid open in the discussions. Specifically: 
- One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.
 - The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”
 - The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).
 - The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfill the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.
 - The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantine-isms,” I think.

I am not sure he was trying to be profound but he kind of was. Every one of these paragraphs are worthy of lengthy discussion which I obviously cannot give it here but they are worthy to be pondered as we think about being a faithful church.
The more Reformation Sunday makes me think about what makes faithful church the more I realize how much this is a masochists event. There is always a ditch close by to fall into. Our texts this week really make our work as church not much easier. John speaks of freedom from sin in truth and in the word of Jesus. Jeremiah, however, speaks of the law placed within each heart. While Romans maintains that that knowledge of the law merely brings knowledge of sin and that a new standard, faith in Jesus is needed and has been given. 
And faith can be made the bread that is turned into stone to throw at the unfortunate we are arguing with right now especially if they are not “going with the spirt” as Jeremiah would pose, something we can then throw further at those who insist that one needs to continue in Jesus’s words. 
Maybe that is  roundabout complaint that, as Francis says, we tend to be come byzantine after a few years of history. Church and world both tend to do this and there seems to be no escape and no easy answer. Humans are complicated and complicating. 

Was the Reformation an attempt to simplify believing and having faith? Maybe so. Are we making it too complicated? Maybe so.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Texts for October 19th, 2014

First Reading: Isaiah 45:1–7

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped
to subdue nations before him
and strip kings of their robes,
to open doors before him — 
and the gates shall not be closed:
  2I will go before you
and level the mountains, 
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
  3I will give you the treasures of darkness
and riches hidden in secret places,
so that you may know that it is I, the LORD,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
  4For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I surname you, though you do not know me.
  5I am the LORD, and there is no other;
besides me there is no god.
I arm you, though you do not know me,
  6so that they may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is no one besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
  7I form light and create darkness,
I make weal and create woe;
I the LORD do all these things.

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.
2We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly  3remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  4For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you,  5because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.  6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit,  7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.  8For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it.  9For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God,  10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

Gospel: Matthew 22:15–22

15Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said.  16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.  17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?"  18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites?  19Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius.  20Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?"  21They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's."  22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Greek Considerations for Matthew 22:15-22 -- Pr. Fourman

Matthew 22:15-22

v15 τοτε adv. "then" - Temporal adverb, used to make the point that the religious leaders' attempt to "trap" Jesus is a response to the parable of the Wedding Feast.
πορευθεντες (πορευομαι) aor. part. "went out" - attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "take" so "snuck off."
ελαβον (λαμβανω) aor. "laid [plans]".
παγιδευσωσιν (παγιδευω) aor. sub. "trap [him]" - they "planned how they could trick Jesus into saying something wrong", CEV.
αποστελλουσιν (αποστελλω) pres. "they sent" - they a dramatic present to increase the impact of the moment.
Ηρωδιανων "the Herodians" - The only reference to this party found in the New Testament; supporters of Herod and therefore supporters of the Roman occupation.
διδασκαλε (ος) voc. "teacher" – a title of respect.
αληθης adj. "a man of truth" - integrity.
του θεου (ος) gen. "[you teach the way] of God" – i.e. t way of life willed by God.
εν αληθεια "in [accordance with] the truth" – i.e. in faithfulness. It is doubtful they actually believe Jesus teaches divine truth, but they may believe he is sincere about his teachings. They are damning him with faint praise.
ανθρωπων (ος) gen. "[because you do not look into face] of men” a genitive possessive, "a man's face" an idiom, "you are not swayed by a person's outward show" "you don't pander." 
v17 δουναι (διδωμι) aor. inf. "to pay" - an infinitival clause subject of the verb εξεστιν, "is it right/permissible" to pay κηνσον (ος)  “the imperial tax" - The tax here is not the regular duties levied on goods etc. but the poll tax, a direct administrative tax levied by the Roman government on the Jewish populous. It was hated by the Jews.
Καισαρι dat. "to Caesar" – a dative of indirect object; the Roman government.
γνους (γινωσκω) aor. part. "knowing" - having adverbial, probably causal, "because he was aware of their την πονηριαν (α) "evil intent."
υποκριται (ης ου) "hypocrites" – those who wear a mask {i.e. actors} - their flattery shows they are not genuine seekers of the truth.
πειραζετε "trap" a word that can mean "test" in the sense of putting someone to a test with the intention of faulting them, the same word used of Jesus time in the wilderness with Satan.  
δηναριον (ον) "a denarius " - a silver Roman coin valued at a day's wage that carried the emperor's image and often a religious inscription (eg. Tiberious, "God and High Priest"). As such it was highly offensive to the pious Jew; certainly not something you would carry into the Temple, but the poll tax had to be paid with this coinage.
λεγει (λεγω) pres. "he asked" – the historical present tense for dramatic effect. Also found in v21a, 21b.
η εικων (η) "imageη επιγραφη (η) "[and whose] inscription" 
v21 αποδοτε (αποδιδωμι) aor. imp. "give" - the word carries the sense of returning something that rightly belongs to another. No matter how the Jews may despise the Romans, they are obliged to contribute to the cost of government, given that they share in its benefits. 
καισαρι τα καισαρος "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's" - the things of Caesar. As with "of God", the genitive "of Caesar" is adjectival, possessive." 

v22 ακουσαντες (ακουω) aor. part. "when they heard this" εθαυμασαν (θαυμαζω) aor. "they were amazed" - used to describe a pre-faith response to Jesus; more than mere acknowledgment, less than transforming faith.
αφεντες (αφιημι) aor. part. "so they left [him]” – a word normally from legal usage; they ‘remitted” or ‘released” him, i.e. they suspended their legal attacks.

Rum and Coffee with a dollop of Whipped Cream -- Pr. Kruse

I feel that when I am charitable it is Jesus alone who acts in me; the more I am united to Him the more do I love all my Sisters. If, when I desire to increase this love in my heart, the demon tries to set before my eyes the faults of one or other of the Sisters, I hasten to call to mind her virtues, her good desires; I say to myself that if I had seen her fall once, she may well have gained many victories which she conceals through humility; and that even what appears to me a fault may in truth be an act of virtue by reason of the intention. St. Therese of Lisieux — Story of A Soul, Chapter IX

(My thanks go out to my colleague and fellow worked in the little corner of the vineyard where is serve, Fr. Hummel, with whom I happened to have discussed this text recently)
Who are you trying to please? Really? Those whom you are trying to please, you tend to serve. So maybe ask yourself: Whom are you serving? “That’s easy,”  you, say. No, no, no: wait a moment before you answer. Pharisee-ism is crouching at the door waiting to devour you, resist it. 
The coin in your pocket bears an inscription: “Tiberius Caesar, Augustus, son of the divine Augustus, high priest,” but you claim that the God who is enthroned in the holy of holies is the one true God and alone divine  — not Augustus — and Tiberius is priest to nothing. So what to do? Schemes seem to have abounded in the olden days to pay your taxes but make sure that somehow you did not have to handle the money with that blasphemous inscription and the idolatrous picture that it surrounded. But taxes you had to pay. It would have caused more troubles than it was worth to refuse to pay them. 
Now, your allies are with you in the temple to argue with Jesus and he asks how you pay the taxes. What coins to do you use for it? One of you produces the coin and it says: “Tiberius Caesar, Augustus, son of the divine Augustus, high priest.” Blasphemy and idolatry stamped into metal and one of you brought it into the temple. Not a good start to the day.
But as always, it gets worse: "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God’s."
What will we do with that pronouncement? Do we see in this the endorsement of Jesus for the American principle of “separation of church and state?” Certainly the Pharisees made no such assumption of principle. But even we need to ask ourselves: is the assumption that there is a separation between church and state or is the assumption that the separation is between faith and state?
To put it another way: Even the good kings, like David, had to answer to God in the end. So did the bad kings like Ahab. Even the kings of the nations answer to God, even Nineveh is condemned now and again by the prophets and gets it comeuppance. How can we then speak of “the things that belong to God” versus “the things that belong to Cesar?” If a separation of realms was a reality then why would God be so rude as to transgress it?
But in our place and time that is a question that will get asked. “What do I owe to God?” The answer: “Everything, 24/7,” will be dismissed immediately as extreme, unrealistic, and impractical. I give the pharisees credit: At least they thought that all is owed to God, 24/7, and that it mattered not one iota that Cesar was happy but that it meant a lot that one gave to God what was God’s, namely, honor, praise, obedience, and love. Jesus’ answer merely said to them: “You are not giving to God what is God’s by all rights.” You can pour yourself a stiff half cup of rum and then cover it with coffee and cream should the parson come to the house  and claim to be drinking coffee. Technically, you are right: you are drinking coffee. It is the “and” that is the problem. (The drink: Coffee, rum, and whipped cream is called “A Pharisee” in costal northern Germany. A parson seems to have named it)
But Cesar demands his tribute, our allegiance, sometimes even our lives. We carry the pack that the soldier demanded we carry for 2 miles even though 1 mile is our civil obligation. We give to those who ask or even demand. We “love” our enemies. (Matt 5:41-43) Before the altar we recollect ourselves and first make amends with those who are weighed down by resentment on account of us. (Matt 5:23-24) We do not do these things for the sake of those who beg. We do these things not for the ones who demand. We do them for the sake of God.  To be more exact, we do them for the sake of the queen of virtues: Love, or as St. Therese would say: Charity. ( I Cor 13:13) That was the missing ingredient in the life of the Pharisees. They paid their taxes in grumbling and resentment and in utter hate of the emperor, who, like king David, was king, but very, very misguided. 
You cannot sustain the claim to love God in the face of the fact that you hate your neighbor, (I John 4:20) even if that neighbor was a pagan Roman emperor with a blasphemous concept of himself. Was it really the idolatry and the blasphemy that was the problem or was it rather your hate of the blasphemer that drove you to hate everything that reminded you of him? 

Those who believe in God ought to look with charity and compassion on all, including prince and pauper. They are to do what makes Charity increase for in Charity will be disclosed the heart of God. Apart from Charity, no truth is of value, even if it is read straight from the bible.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Readings for October 12th, 2014

First Reading: Isaiah 25:1–9

O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
  2For you have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the palace of aliens is a city no more,
it will never be rebuilt.
  3Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
  4For you have been a refuge to the poor,
a refuge to the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
  5the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,
you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
the song of the ruthless was stilled.
  6On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
  7And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
  8he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, 
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
  9It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the LORD for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.\

Second Reading: Philippians 4:1–9

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
2I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.  3Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.  6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Gospel: Matthew 22:1–14

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying:  2The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.  3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.  4Again he sent other slaves, saying, 'Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.'  5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business,  6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.  7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.  8Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.  9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.'  10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe,  12and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless.  13Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'  14For many are called, but few are chosen."