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.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Readings for worship March 1st, 2015, the 2nd Sunday in Lent

First Reading: Genesis 17:1–7, 15–16

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.  2And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous."  3Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,  4"As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations.  5No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.  6I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.  7I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.  15God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.  16I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her."

Second Reading: Romans 4:13–25

13For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.  14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.  15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
16For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us,  17as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations") — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.  18Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become "the father of many nations," according to what was said, "So numerous shall your descendants be."  19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb.  20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,  21being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  22Therefore his faith "was reckoned to him as righteousness."  23Now the words, "it was reckoned to him," were written not for his sake alone,  24but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,  25who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Gospel: Mark 8:31–38

31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.  32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?  37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?  38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Mark 8:31-39 Greek Text

Mark 8:31-38

31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.  32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?  37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?  38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

v31 διδασκειν (διδασκω) pres. inf. "[and he began] to teach" - the infinitive is complementary here, completing the sense of the verb "he began". This is used to break from the proceeding episode and introduce a new one. 
του ανθρωπου (ος) gen. "[Son] of man" –this is Jesus' favored messianic title drawn from Daniel 7:13-14.
παθειν (πασχω) aor. act. inf. "suffer [many things]" - this infinitive, along with "to be rejected" and "to be killed" serve as the subject of the verb " necessary." Note Jesus' shift to "Son of Man" as the suffering one. The notion of a suffering messiah is not an easy thing for the disciples to wrap their heads around. In the face of such identity issues, Jesus moves to his often used self-identification Son of Man as it is a glorious image rather than a suffering image and therefore more (maybe?) palatable to the crowds.
αποδοκιμασθηναι (αποδοκιμαζω) aor. pas. inf. "rejected" note that Mark lists the three groups involved in Jesus' humiliation, but the Pharisees, are not mentioned!
αποκτανθηναι (αποκτεινω) aor. pas. inf. "he must be to be killed" - infinitive, as above. In a reading back of tradition, the word crucifixion would be used, but Mark is preserving the original sense of the words held in the oral tradition.
meta "after [three days]" - "after" causes a timing difficulty so in Matthew and Luke it is th  trith, dat., "on the third day." The difficulty underlines its originality, although it was normal practice to count part of a day as a day. The number three, of course, is dictated by Old Testament precedence, eg. Jonah in the big fish.
αναστηναι (ανιστημι) aor. pas. inf. "rise" - to rise. infinitive, as above can be transitive or intransitive but since the Son of Man is the subject, it is intransitive so "rise" not ‘risen’

v32 ελαλει (λαλεω) imperf. "he was speaking” the durative sense "he kept on telling them".
παρρησια (α) dat. "plainly" - frankly, openly – without guile! 
τον λεγον (ος) "about this word/matter/thing/issue.
προσλαβομενος (προσλαμβανω) aor. part. "took [him] aside" - Why take Jesus aside? Is Peter embarrassed with what he is about to say or about what Jesus has just said?
επιτιμαν (επιταμαω) inf. "to rebuke" – more accurately to sternly warn infinitive is complementary, the word is used of the casting out a demon, so it is very strong. Our modern idiom would be that Peter tries to set Jesus straight.
v33 επιστραφεις (επιστρεφω) aor. pas. part. "when [Jesus] turned [and looked at his disciples]" although Peter may have meant it as a private word, it obviously has a public affect, so Jesus observing that the other disciples have most likely overheard Peter's words decides a public response is necessary.
επετιμησεν (επιτιμαω) aor. "he rebuked" - a public dressing down.
οπισω + gen. "[get] behind [me]" - used here adverbially. Jesus is telling Peter to get back with the disciples and accept his authority rather than tell him what he should, or should not do or say.
σατανα (ας) "Satan" - aligning Peter with Satan is harsh, but not meant as aalthough it is most likely that the temptation which has come through Peter's words that is “Satanic”. Peter has unwittingly promoted the temptation that the kingdom can come by means other than the suffering Jesus faces.
ου φρονεις (φρονεω) "you do not have in mind" - lit. "you are not thinking the things of God, rather the things of human beings."

v34 Jesus' call for commitment, v34-38. Although Mark may have been the first writer to craft the synoptic tradition, these sayings are evidence of an early amalgamation in the oral tradition of the apostolic church.
προσκαλεσαμενος (προσκαλεω) aor. mid. part. "then he called [the crowd] it is important to note Jesus calls the crowd to him while the disciples tag along. The point is that Jesus now addresses the crowd as well as the disciples. The implication is Jesus is calling people to discipleship and the focus is on Jesus and his suffering, not the suffering of a disciple. 
ακολουθειν (ακολουθεω) pres. inf. "[would] come" -[willed] to follow – this is an derivation fo the word ακουω, which means “to hear” so the etiology of disciple is “to hear and to respond”
απαρνησασθω (απαρνεομαι) aor. imp. he must deny actually to renounce. The word is commonly taken to mean self-denial in varying degrees of selflessness, but it may just mean the shame of accepting a messiah facing death.
αρατω (αιρω) aor. imp. "take up" - it is hard not to see the cross in this image, although, at this point of time, the image would conjure up a cross-bearing criminal shamed in the presence of neighbors and friends. Jesus has not said how he is to be "killed" and so rather than reflecting Jesus' suffering this image may simply illustrate the shame involved in accepting a humiliated messiah.

v35 θελη (θελω) subj. "wishes/wills/wants. a person who wants to protect their security and their standing now have misplaced priorities.
σωσαι (σωζω) inf. "to save/rescue/heal/preserve”. Mark has "wants to save", Lk. "seeks to preserve", Matt. "finds". Mark emphasizes decision for unbelievers in radical terms: "to cling to the things of life…”. 
ψυξην (η) "life" – actually “whole being” the Greek sense "soul" is not intended, either here or v36 & 37. The Hebrew sense of the word meaning the whole self seems more than likely. It is pushing too far to suggest that a person who saves the mortal body at the cost of denying their faith forfeits eternal life. If this were the case only John, out of the twelve, is saved! 
απολεσει (απολλυμι) fut. ind. act. "will lose/ruin/destroy”
v36 Two proverbs are used to support the statement made in v35: "There is no one who would choose to keep all the wealth of the world at the expense of his or her own life, and (v 37) there is nothing, no matter how valuable, that one can offer in exchange for one's own life".
ωφελει (ωφελεω) pres. "good is it for" - does it profit, benefit κερδησαι (κερδαινω) aor. inf. "to gain [the whole world]" - this infinitive, along with "to forfeit" stands as the subject of "to gain”
ζημωθηναι (ζημιοω) inf. "forfeit
την ψυχην (η) "life" -, as above, the entire self.

v37 δοι (διδωμι) aor. subj. "give" ανταλλαγμα (α ατος) "in exchange"
v38 Note how Mark has used the received tradition of this saying differently from Matthew, (10:32). Mark drops the words that apply to disciples and left the saying in a form that applies to everyone "whoever". The saying warns believers and unbelievers alike that they should not allow the shame of association with Jesus to get in ths way of their acceptance of him. 
επαισχυνθη (επαισχυνομαι) aor. pas. subj. "is ashamed"
εμους adj. "my [words]" - [the words] of me. "Words" is absent in some texts, but not all so “my words” is most likely the original intent.
τη μοιχαλιδι adj. "adulterous [and sinful generation]" - taking the religious meaning "faithless/godless/disloyal"

οταν + subj. "whenever [he comes]" an indefinite temporal clause; ‘when he returns’, is incorrect. It is erroneous to assume that all references to his coming are to his coming back at the end of the age. The Daniel image is of his coming to the Ancient of Days to receive the Kingdom (7:13). This coming is to reveal του παρος (ηρ ρος) gen. "[his] Father's [glory]" and is less definite, perhaps a proleptic resurrection account or a reference to His ascension or the coming of the Holy Spirit, or??  Anything is possible.

Dividing by Zero

The second kind is the worship of admiration and desire which we give to God on account of His essential glory. He alone is worthy of praise, who receives it from no one, being Himself the cause of all glory and all good, He is light, incomprehensible sweetness, incomparable, immeasurable perfection, an ocean of goodness, boundless wisdom, and power, who alone is worthy of Himself to excite admiration, to be worshipped, glorified, and desired.  — John of Damascus

 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3: 34-35)  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary[a] and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us? (Mark 6:3) 
We all have “history.” Something in the past has a hold of us in unseen ways. We open our mouths and sounds emerge. There is a “brogue” a turn of the tongue, a use of peculiar phrases and we unveil part of the tapestry that is us, our recent sojourn and even our origin. You can complain about: “Being pegged,” or “being stereotyped,” but the things that happen to us, the places we travel and the things we do have a way to make and leave their marks on our body, mind, our voices our habits, and our spirit. It would be best to not loose sleep over this. We are who we are. 
Yet, in America we have a long history (there it is again) of being a place where one went o reinvent oneself. We are a great mass of land with a history of new arrivals settling and shedding old ways. We maintained that spirit of our history as a nation. Since everyone is from somewhere else ancestrally, we all give ourselves permission not to act like those ancestors but at the same time, we are fascinated with the story of where we came from. 
I hail from a place where history has a different pull and sense. I come from a place where some names still carry the history of feudal times and everyone recognizes this. If someone has the old “von” prefix on their name it is not unlikely that they had royal or noble blood. They might otherwise be regular Joes but their name tells of a broader history that precedes their birth and even their family and they will carry that history up front and unveil it every time they say their name. At some level, the connotations of the naming are still recognized.
You might not be different. We choose our children names seemingly freely and often discover names not used in the past. But that is recent. Living generations remember that one need children in line with familiar family names. My wife and I thought we were being clever to search and find a name that was both kind to our older daughter and also not common, even in our own families. The question was asked of us immediately: “Is that a family name?” “No, we just liked it.” That worked until aunt Annemarie wrote to point out that the name had been used with my people in the 17th century and thanking us from recovering it. 
History will not let you go and neither do we let go of it, even when we claim that we do not care. Our own histories tell a story and that story is painted and framed in people around us. We are all part of a larger but immediate whole. Family comes to mind quickly, as does our various associations and communities. Jesus has a family: Mary, James, etc. Jesus has a village: Nazareth. He has history there and he has security there. All he has to do is to be one of them. And there is the rub. Mark reports in chapter 3 and again in chapter 6 that Jesus has broken with village and family. 
Why? The answer is in the very opening of the Gospel of Mark. Jesus has a history that Nazareth does not know and that history is much broader and is kept is in heaven. Jesus is the Son of God. His real name is Jesus Christ, not Jesus bar Joseph. 
It ought to be recognized that as Jesus walks away from family and village that he is walking away from any security on this earth. That is how his time and place worked. We have the illusion that we are free to explore life and leave place and people, seemingly at will, because we are part of a greater organism known as America. It gives us the freedom to make decisions about our life that the ancients did not have. But even as we do this, we merely walk from one association of people into another one. Like it or not, we are always part of one or another association. Within that group, no matter how small or large, there are rules and values to upheld and respected. There are third rails to avoid and conventions to keep. Peter’s admonishment to Jesus in verse 33 is part of that fabric. He is not doing wrong per se. He is saying the right thing but in the wrong association, the wrong family. 
So, which associations do you belong to? How is that working out? Radio host Laura Schlesinger once quipped: “Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a long time making it.”  Some of us have a lifetime invested in community that does not lead to life. 
This was the experience of St Frances Assisi. He was hauled before a Bishop because his father hoped to protect the family fortune that Francis was busy trying to give away. All that old man Pietro Bernardone really wanted was to have his son swear in the presence of the bishop  that he renounced any claim to the Bernardone treasure. In a flash of brilliance of insight and Holy Spirit — or plain insanity, you never know with Francis — Francis realized what had been the base value of the family he had been a part of for so long: The family fortune. In that moment he not so much renounced anything even though that was the result but more important he claimed a new allegiance, a new family: He seems to have said something like: “From now on I will truly pray: ‘My Father in heaven.’” He had left the Bernardone family and joined the one offered to him by Jesus. He had denied all that he had been up to then with all its benefits and securities and all its values. In other words, he denied himself, he denied his very essence. How effective does this seem to have been? Ask most people who Francis’ family name was and you will get blank stare, but him everyone seems to know and they even connect him with divinely inspired charity and wisdom.
In mathematical terms, Francis’ life had a singularity. A point where all things momentarily collapsed into eternity only to emerge again on earth on some other side across a gulf that is unfordable by human reason or imagination nor will it leave old and new history contiguous. We in the church might call it conversion. In a way he follows Jesus’ example. Once the voice from heaven said: “You are my son,” Jesus’ old history and old allegiances have met singularity and are no more. Family and village and all the history he had with them are now no longer a tie that binds.
In Jesus’ life there are three “singularities” in my reckoning. One at his baptism, one at transfiguration, and one at resurrection. One changes him, one changes his friends, one changes the world. We read the second one a few weeks ago. It follows six days after today’s episode. It might be seen as the Holy Trinity’s way of driving home to the disciples that through Jesus none other than the God of heaven spoke. They will not attempt to rebuke him again. The relationship has changed. They will however make very human attempts to give this new “family” that does the will of God shape and structure. OK, they will do it badly, but they seem to realize that this is now an all or nothing relationship. They have now: “left everything and followed” him. (Mk 10:28)

As Lent now proceeds, we are asking ourselves: What does “denying ourself” look like? Singularities are the solution to the formula: f (x) = 1/x when x goes to zero. We have all been carefully taught not to let that happen. In a way, denying ourselves, repenting of, well, everything, also requires the gall to dare to do the unthinkable. But to what end? The gulf is unfordable. You must trust. The worse case scenario: Cross and resurrection. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Readings for the First Sunday in Lent, February 22

First Reading: Genesis 9:8–17

8Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,  9"As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you,  10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.  11I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."  12God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:  13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,  15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.  16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth."  17God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."

Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:18–22

18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,  19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,  20who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.  21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you — not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Gospel: Mark 1:9–15

9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  11And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,  15and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news."

Lent 1, Mark 1, Greek studies

Mark 1:9-15

v9 εγενετο (γινομαι it came to pass. en + dat. "at [that time]" ηλθεν (ερχομαι) aor. "he cameαπο "from" τηϖ Γαλιλαιας (α) gen. "in Galilee
εβαπτισθη (βαπτιζω) aor. pas. "He was baptized" υπο + gen. "by [John]

v10 αναβαινων (αναβαινω) pres. part. " coming up” participle is adverbial, probably temporal, so " as soon as Jesus came up out of the water".
τους ουρανους (ος) gen. pl. "the heavens"  
σχιζομενους (σχιζω) pres. pas. part. "torn open" split, divided- an image reflected in both the crucifixion (the veil of the temple is “σχιζω”) and perhaps a referent back to the creation account (the heavens and the earth are “σχιζω” i.e. divided!)
katabainon (katabainw) pres. part. “descending" εις "on him" "came down and entered into him", BAGD, is possible.
ως "like [a dove]" – a comparative; either descending as a dove would descend, or descending looking like a περιστεραν (α) "a dove" – actually a pigeon. An allusive image, either the divine is being represented as a bird-like creature coming to rest on Jesus, or the dove (a common symbol of Israel at the time, serves to identify Jesus as the new Spirit-filled corporate Israel. The second option seems best.
v11 ο ουιος (ος) "[my] Son" Probably messianic rather than filial. 
ο αγαπητος "whom I love" - the adjective functions as a substantive; pushing toward the idea of "unique/only son", given that the Hebrew "only" is often translated by the same Greek word in the LXX, obviously in messianic rather than filial terms. 
ευδοκησα (ευδοκεω) aor. "I am well-pleased" – is a timeless aorist, best represented by a present tense. So "I think this good", or "I have chosen you", or more gently "on you my favor rests." 

v12 εκβαλλει (εκβαλλω) pres. "sent [him] out" - thrust him out- the present tense of a very forceful word. 
την ερημον (ος ον) "the desolate place” a place of testing and confrontation with the divine but also a haunt for evil powers.

v13 τεσσερακοντα "forty [days]" - alluding to the forty years of Israel's wanderings in the wilderness prior to entering the promised land. Unlike the old Israel, Jesus, the new Israel, does not fail the test.
πειραζομενος (πειραζω) pres. pas. part. "being tested” Satan puts Jesus to the test as Israel was tested in the wilderness, therefore "was put to the test by Satan", NJB.
διηκονουν (κιακονεω) imperf. "served" - "ministered/attended" is better.

1:14 μετα .. το παραδοθηναι (παραδιδωμι) aor. inf. "after [John] was put in prison" - Mark clearly has Jesus' public ministry following John's. 
κηρυσσων (κηρυσσω) pres. part. "proclaiming" - an attendant circumstance participle identifying action accompanying the main verb "went", so “Jesus went .... and preached", The ministry of Jesus, as with the ministry of John, is defined as one of communicating a message.
το ευαγγελιον (on) "the good (important) news" such as news reported from a battlefront. The message may be good or bad news, either way it is important. 
της βασιλειας (a) "of the kingdom" - "the important message concerning the kingdom  is widely attested, but is discounted by most scholars. None-the-less, it does remind us of the content of the message, namely, the coming kingdom of God - the dawning of God's promised righteous reign.
του θεου "of God" – an ablative, expressing source/origin.

v15 ο καιρος (ος) "the appointed time
πεπληρωται (πληροω) perf. "has been fulfilled, the sense "completed" is best, in that the prophecies concerning the coming of the messiah and the inauguration of his kingdom, have come to fruition in the person and work of Christ, therefore, the kingdom is upon us, is "now". The perfect tense underlines the idea of completion. 
η βασιλεια (α) "the kingdom" - referring to the righteous rule του θεου "of God
ηγγικεν (εγγιζω) perf. "is near" - expresses motion toward, so the perfect tense is expressing the idea that the motion in time toward the realization of the kingdom has virtually reached its completion, therefore "at hand", or "is rubbing up next to." Of course, this word leads to the great debate over the "now/not yet" of the kingdom. 
μετανοιετε (μετανοεω) imp. "change direction; turn around", the imperative is "turn from your opposition to, God", of course, the word "repent" means something quite different in modern language, so we are best not to use it!
πιστευετε (πιστευω) pres. imp. "believe" - the sense of the word is "to put one's weight on", rather than "give intellectual ascent to" so perhaps “trust” is a better translation.

Wisdom gained

The first kind is the worship of latreia,(adoration) which we give to God, who alone is adorable by nature, and this worship is shown in several ways, and first by the worship of servants. All created things worship Him, as servants their master. "All things serve Thee," (Ps. 119.91) the psalm says. Some serve willingly, others unwillingly; some with full knowledge, willingly, as in the case of the devout, others knowing, but not willing, against their will, as the devil's. Others, again, not knowing the true God, worship in spite of themselves Him whom they do not know. — St. John of Damascus

  1. We are again at the Jordan with John, just as we have been a few weeks ago at the beginning of Epiphany. But now, it is Lent. It is not so much the baptism that now concerns us but the temptations in the wilderness. Unlike Luke and Matthew, Mark is frightfully sparse on details. One wonders if the episode is really of import to Mark. Yet,he bothered to record it and that might imply some importance. 
  2. So, between baptism and first proclamation lies a wilderness experiment of significant duration. The number: “40” recalls the wandering of Israel as nomads before the entry into the Land. They also battle demons in the wilderness and often they lost their struggle. They, likewise, were attended by the voices from heaven, transmitted through Moses, not through angels. 
  3. It was but a few days back that we read from the story of the healing of Simon Peter’s mother. There, Jesus would not allow the demons to speak, because they knew him. (Mk 1:34) In turn, I suppose Jesus knew them. This familiarity, is this the fruit of the desert? Somehow an initial skirmish between Jesus and Satan has taken place. For now, Mark will not let us know how that went but we assume that Jesus prevailed in the fight.
  4. Going into the desert was not for the fainthearted. The books on the wisdom of the desert Fathers are certainly quaint. Yet, the fathers and mothers of the desert went there to be tested as once Jesus had been tested. They assumed that the evil one would follow them and that many a demon would surface that they would have to conquer. The desert saints went into the desert to discover what would follow to assail them. Those who conquered seem to have become wise and very peaceful people.
  5. Merton recalls to us an episode of a pilgrim reaching one of the masters and begging him for a word of wisdom to take with him. The sage refused explaining that the only reason the pilgrim asked for a word of wisdom was so that he could repeat it once back in town. Merton put this story at about page 30 of a 100 page book, just far enough for the average preacher to have gotten excited about all the great quotes to use in sermons. There was wisdom to be gained in the desert. But you cannot ask for it. This wisdom is the result of the struggle, not words of sages passed on for discussion or consideration. 
  6. We almost read a story of Jesus versus the world of darkness last week. After Jesus, Peter, James, and John descend from the mount of Transfiguration there is a possessed young man. The disciples were no mach for the situation but Jesus certainly was. As the disciples inquire about their own inability to deal with the demon Jesus tells them that: “This type only comes out with prayer.” (Mk 9:29) Was the desert the prayer that he was speaking of? Did he not repeat the desert now and again by sneaking out before dawn to pray in lonely places? (Mk 1:35)
  7. Mother church has called a fast: Lent has come and for 40 days you will do what, Christian? In a strange way, Lent is an invitation into the desert. You, Christian, have demons that contend with you even now, even if you do not realize it or admit it. They contend with you quietly and you have made peace with them. Time has come to face them, to conquer them. That is done intentionally.
  8. There is one who is too strong for you, but he has been overcome. That is the evil one, Satan himself. Jesus has overcome his power by not surrendering to him or making peace with him. Jesus overcame it by overcoming his greatest advantage, the power to accuse you of your sin. Jesus has overcome his greatest weapon: The threat of death. 
  9. This is what makes our fight in the desert of Lent possible. Whatever battle we fight, the dark foes have no cavalry to hope for. That was destroyed at Calvary. We face up to our demons and sins in hope and confidence. We fight them in the name of the one who conquered and we fight them to his Glory.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Readings for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, February 8th, 2015

First Reading: Isaiah 40:21–31

21Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
  22It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to live in;
  23who brings princes to naught,
and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.
  24Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows upon them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
  25To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
  26Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing.
  27Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
"My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God"?
  28Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
  29He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
  30Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
  31but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, 
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.\

Psalm 147

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16–23

16If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!  17For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.  18What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.
19For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.  20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.  21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law.  22To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Gospel: Mark 1:29–39

29As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  30Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.  31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  33And the whole city was gathered around the door.  34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.  36And Simon and his companions hunted for him.  37When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you."  38He answered, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do."  39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Mark 1:29-39 Greek Texts Studies

Mark 1:29-39

v29 ευθυς "as soon" - immediately. Mark regularly uses this word to portray the activity of Jesus' ministry.
την οικιαν (α) "the house [of Simon and Andrew]" - genitive "of Simon and Andrew" is possessive. Excavations of the first Christian church, close to the Jewish synagogue, in Capernaum, shows that the church is built atop a private home. As the early church worshiped in private homes it has been suggested that this home is Peter and Andrew’s.

v30 Σιμωνος (ων ονος) "Simon's [mother-in-law]" κατεκειτο (κατακειμαι) imperf. "was in bed" lying down; an idiopm, in madern parlance, “she was laid up with an illness”.
πυρεσσουσα (πυρεσσω) pres. part. fever-stricken,  a high temperature was not necessarily dangerous, but was viewed as a consequence "of divine punishment or demon possession.
λεγουσιν (λεγω) pres. "they told" - an impersonal plural not attributed to the Disciples.
v31 προσελθων (προσερχομαι) pres. part. "So he went to her" and ηγειρεν (εγειρω) aor. "raised her up" – the word is used a number of times for a healing with allusion to resurrection – here likely used literally, “he helped her out of bed” the healing is clearly implied..
κρατησας (κρατεω) aor. part. + gen. "took her hand" – as above, accompanying the verb "raised"; "he went to her, took her hand and lifted her up",  - this is descriptive of the “hands-on approach” of Jesus indelibly marked on the disciples memory and carried into the Markan tradition.
διηκονει (διακονεω) imperf. + dat. of persons. "began to wait on" - she was serving, an inceptive imperfect stressing the beginning of the action indicating the totality of the healing; "she returned to her duties." An idiom; her normal life was restored to her.

v32 οψιας gen. adj. "that evening" – sa genitive in agreement with "having come." The Sabbath was over, Mark makes a point of both Jesus and the crowd obeying Sabbath regulations, although he may just be saying that the crowd was keen to see Jesus and did so as soon as they were able.
γενομενης (γινομαι) gen. aor. part. "beginning”. genitive absolute participle forms a temporal clause; οτε "after [sunset]".
εδυ (δυϖω) aor. "[sun]set" – to go down.
εφερον (φερω) imperf. "the people brought" - were carrying, the imperfect is durative, repeated action; "they kept on bringing"  
τους ... εχοντας (εχω) κακως pres. part. "those having badness". ie. the sick.
τους δαιμονιζομενους (δαιμονιζομαι) pres. pas. part. "the demon-possessed" - the same as the sick, plus (in Mark) those who deformed in any way. 

v33 ολη η πολις "all the people" – an idiom = "a big crowd"
ην ... επισυνηγμενη (επισυναγω) perf. pas. part. "gathered" – a perephrastic pluperfect = "synagogue" derives from this word, so Mark is saying something like "the whole town formed a congregation at the door.
v34 εθεραπευσεν (θεραπευω) aor. "[Jesus] healed
πολλους adj. "many" -  literally all the ones." 
εχοντας (εχω) pres. part. "having”  κακως badness
νοσοις (ος) dat. "[various] diseases" - dative is adverbial, so “many who were ill with  ποικιλαις, "various".
εξεβαλεν (εκβαλλω) aor. "he drove out" – exorcised the deamons, “healed” diseases, two actions. .
λαλειν (λαλεω) pres. inf. "[would not let the demons] speak".
οτι "because" - explaining why Jesus would not let the demons speak.
ηδεισαν (οιδα) pluperf. "they had known” pluperfect is intensive expressing abiding results - Mark notes Jesus silenced the demons which may have to do with the messianic secret but more likely that by silencing the demons he is demonstrating his power and authority over them. 

v35 πρωι εννυχα λιαν adv. "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark" - Jesus is an early riser in Mark.  (Apparently he, also, has a Protestant work ethic! Or maybe he just doesn’t like people as much as we are led to believe and so rises early to void them.)
αναστας (ανιστημι) aor. part. "Jesus got up" - having arisen. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verbs "went out" and "went away"; "very early in the morning Jesus rose up and left, making his way to a solitary place", Cassirer.
απηλθεν (απερχομαι) aor. "went off" - out of the house and out of Capernaum, and away from the crowds. Mark uses this word in the sense of going away from people rather than going away from a place. 
ερημον adj. "a solitary [place]" a wilderness image.
προσηυχετο (προσευχομαι) imperf. "[where] he prayed" - expressing continued action, so Mark is describing what Jesus is doing when the disciples found him and also the true reason for his getting up early and avoiding the crowds.  Piety trumps extroversion

v36 κατεδιωξεν (καταδιωκω) aor. "went looking for" – to hunt down, pursue closely, track down, follow after. Simon and the other three disciples are a bit ‘clingy’ at this point. 

v37 ευρον (ευρισκω) aor. "when they found him" – the Greekk sentence runs from v36; "Simon and his companions searched for him, found him and  λεγουσιν (λεγω) pres. "exclaimed" – an historic present tense expressing what was happening at that time.
παντες adj. "everyone" –to emphasize completeness (all you all).

v38 αγωμεν (αγω) subj. "we go" – A hortatory subjunctive  αλλαχου adv. "elsewhere "
ecomenaV (ecw) pres. mid. part. "nearby" – (lit. possessing) here an idiom limiting "villages", the middle voice has the meaning, "neighboring".
κωμοπολεις (ις εως) "villages" - Jesus probably means other market towns like Capernaum rather than just all the local villages.  So Capernaum may be the center of local commerce, but it is not the center of Jesus’ world.
ινα + subj. "so that [I may preach] a purpose clause.
εξηλθον (εξερχομαι) aor. "I have come" - possibly came out from Capernaum, or came out on a mission, or even, came forth from the Father. This statement at one level it serves to explain why Jesus came out from Capernaum, at another level it serves to explain the purpose of his ministry. 

v39 ηλθεν (ερχομαι) aor. "so he wentεις ολην "throughout  the whole [of Galilee]" κηρυσσων (κηρυσσω) pres. part. "preaching" - participle,  εκβαλλων  "driving out

εις "in [their synaogues]" - expressing movement toward their synagogues, so is likely an idiom for “itinerant preacher and healer”.