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, May 26, 2015

The Texts for Holy Trinity Sunday, 2015, May 31st

First Reading: Isaiah 6:1–8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.  2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.  3And one called to another and said:
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory."
  4The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.  5And I said: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"
6Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.  7The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out."  8Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!"

Psalm 29

1Ascribe to the LORD, you gods,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

2Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

3The voice of the LORD is upon the waters; the God of  glory thunders;*
the LORD is upon the mighty waters.

4The voice of the LORD is a powerful voice;
the voice of the LORD is a voice of splendor.

5The voice of the LORD breaks the cedar trees;
the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon;

6he makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.

7The voice of the LORD splits the flames of fire; the voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;*
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

8The voice of the LORD makes the oak trees writhe
and strips the forests bare.

9And in the temple of the LORD
all are crying, "Glory!"

10The LORD sits enthroned above the flood;
the LORD sits enthroned as king forevermore.

11The LORD shall give strength to his people;
the LORD shall give his people the blessing of peace.

Second Reading: Romans 8:12–17

12So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh —  13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!"  16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ — if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Gospel: John 3:1–17

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.  2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God."  3Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above."  4Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?"  5Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.  6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.  7Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.'  8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."  9Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?"  10Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
11Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.  12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?  13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.  14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Trinity Sunday, John 3 Greek Studies

Greek Study John 3:1-17

v1 Νικοδημος  των Ιουδαιων (ος) gen. "Nicodemus" [a member of] the Jewish [ruling council]" - [a ruler] of the Jews. The genitive is adjectival, of subordination; "a ruler over the Jews" = "a member of the Sanhedrin."

v2 νυκτος (νυξ τος) gen. "at night" - genitive is adverbial, of time. John likes the symbolism of night and day, the realm of evil and the realm of light..... Judas leaves the light and goes out into the night - Nicodemus comes out of the night into the light.
οιδαμεν (οιδα) perf. "we know" - Pharisees often speak as one, "we know", but Nicodemus may be using the royal plural, including Jesus' disciples in the "we".
διδασκαλος (ος) "[you are] a teacher" - Jesus will later expand on Nicodemus' recognition of Jesus as one of God's teachers, a Rabbi; see v11-13. Given has had no formal teaching, the designation "Rabbi" is an honorific.
εληλυθας (ερχομαι) perf. "who has come" - verb implies a recognition of Jesus' divine commission denied by other Pharisees, cf., 7:15, 9:16. This sets Nicodemus apart.
ποειν (ποιεω) pres. inf. "[could] do” infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "δυναμαι" is able - is used 6 time in the passage. Nicodemus confirms Jesus is able to do signs and therefore God is with him.
τα σημεια (οϖ) "the miraculous signs" - Nicodemus can see the signs demonstrate God is with Jesus and he is thus a prophet, although not necessarily the messiah.

v3 ιδειν (οραω) aor. inf. "to see" - infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "δυναμαι.” Used here in the sense of "encounter", "participate in" resurrection life.
εαν μη + subj. "unless" - a negated conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true.
γεννηθη (γενναω) aor. pas. subj. "are born" - in the passive, "begotten" identifying the function of the male in conception rather than the female in birth. 
ανωθεν adv. "again" - Adverb of time, "anew......." but also of place, "above", in the sense of heavenly origin. "From above" fits best given that Nicodemus' wrongly understands the word to mean "again" and is corrected by Jesus.  

v4 της μητρος (ηρ ρος) gen. "mother's [womb]" - genitive is adjectival, possessive.

v5 υδατος και πνευματος "water and the Spirit" - Rather than two separate elements joined by a coordinative και, it seems likely that και is epexegetic, "even", "born of/from water/washing, even of/from the breath of God. However one translates the phrase it denotes a single spiritual birth from above. Some scholars argue strongly against the "Spirit" meaning "Holy Spirit." 

v6 της σαρκος "flesh" - [of] the flesh, for John it is not "sinful flesh" as with Paul, but rather just "fleshly existence."
το γεγεννημενον (γενναω) perf. pas. part. "[flesh] gives birth to [flesh]" – this likely addresses Nicodemus' confusion of "born again (from a mother's womb)" with "born from above." 
του πνευματος (α ατος) gen. "the Spirit" - usually taken here to refer to the Holy Spirit but "the breath of God" may be intended. Natural birth produces natural life, but the breath of God produces spiritual life.

v7 υη θαυμασης (θαυμαζω) aor. subj. "you should not be surprised" - a typical Rabbinic statement. 
γεννηθηναι (γενναω) aor. pas. inf. "[you must be] born [again]" - infinitive serves as the subject of the verb "is necessary".

v8 το πνευμα (α ατος) "the wind" = 'ruach' the breath of God. Either the word here means "wind" and is used to describe the experience of a person who is born from above by the Spirit of God or the word means Spirit. The vulgate translates the word here as "Spirit" and therefore, the verse directly describes spiritual birth. Brown argues that the blowing of the wind is used as a simile for spiritual birth from above.

v9 γενεσθαι (γινομαι) aor. inf. "how can this be?" infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able." 

v10 του Ισραηλ gen. "[you are] Israel's [teacher]" - genitive is adjectival, possessive or of subordination, "over Israel." The presence of the article ο with "teachers" = "the teacher", may imply that Nicodemus is a particular teacher, one of Israel's finest teachers.
ου γινωσκεις (γινωσκω) pres. "do you not understand [these things]?" - Bultmann argues Jesus is not being critical of Nicodemus' failure to understand something that was evident in the Old Testament, but rather of the inability of Rabbinic scholarship to understand what he is talking about - yet note v12. So "'Are you the famous teacher of the famous Israel,' Jesus said to him, 'and you do not understand this?'"

v11 λαλουμεν (λαλεω) pres. "we speak" – idiom for "have a chat" - in the New Testament often used of communicating the gospel; "proclaim." The plural is interesting. Nicodemus approaches Jesus in a representative way, speaking for his fellow Pharisees. Jesus now speaks in a representative way, namely, Jesus and his followers. Whereas Nicodemus and his associates don't really know what they are talking about, Jesus and his associated do because they have firsthand knowledge derived from the Son of Man cf., v12-13.
ο εωρακαμεν (οραω) perf. "what we have seen" - that which we have looked at Nicodemus' words are based on ignorance, Jesus' words are based on what he knows and has seen.
ημων gen. pro. "our [testimony]" - genitive may be treated as possessive, "the testimony given by us".

v12 τα επιγεια pl. adj. "earthly things" - Jesus' teachings about the birth from above which he has tried to explain to Nicodemus in earthly terms. What then are the τα επουρανια (ος) "heavenly things" - the "heavenly things"?  The Paraclete? Salvation? Stuff yet to be revealed? 

v13 αναβεβηκεν (αναβαινω) perf. "has gone" – ascended = perfect tense implies Jesus has already ascended to heaven. The point is "no one has entered into communion with God and possesses an intimate knowledge of divine things.
ο.... καταβας (καταβαινω) aor. part. "the one who came" - participle serves as a substantive. Scriptural references to the Son of Man always refer to his coming to the Ancient of Days, ascending rather than descending. The point being made here is of origin, heaven, and thus his ability to speak on matters of divine revelation.

v14 υψωσεν (υψοω) aor. "lifted up" – the lifting up of the serpent on a pole by Moses serves as a sign of salvation.
υψωθηναι (υψοω) pas. inf. "be lifted up" - infinitive serves as the subject of the verb δει, "is necessary".

v15 ο πιστευων (πιστευω) pres. part. "[everyone] who is in faith" - [all] the faithful ones. ζωην αιωνιον "eternal life" – a central term in this gospel and used for the first time here. Sometimes translated "everlasting life" in the KJV, although it is not so much the duration but the quality of life that is in mind. The phrase is sometimes used in the synoptics where it seems to mean "life in the coming kingdom age." The phrase would therefore not be unfamiliar to a Jewish teacher like Nicodemus. John uses the phrase with the same meaning, except that this "life" is for now.  In John eternal life is realized rather than eschatological, or more correctly inaugurated in the present.

v 16 γαπησεν (αγαπαω) aor. "loved" -  John is focused on this word, using it 36 times in the gospel. He notes the Father's love for the Son and the Son's for the Father, the Son for disciples and disciples for the Son. The particular meaning is dictated by the context, but the common thread is a relational process rather than expressing feelings. "Holy compassion" is probably a better translation. The consequence of God's love for "the world" is the sending of Christ to be lifted up.
τον κοσμον (ος) "the world" - Not creation as such, but the world of humanity and human activity.
εδωκεν (διδωμι) aor. ind. act. "he gave" - gave in the sense of "sent" to the cross. The tense indicates a shift from Jesus' words to John's reflection.
τον μονογενη adj. "the one and only Son" - unique. John is stressing Christ's unique relationship with the Father. In fact, John only uses the word "son" of Jesus and never of his disciples which serves to underline the unique nature of the relationship between the Father and the Son.
ο πιστευων (πιστευω) pres. part. "[whoever] is in faith" - all the faithful ones.
αποληται (απολλυμι) "perish" – destroy -the natural state of humanity is death; only God possesses life, and by extension, those who are in relationship with Him through Christ.

v17 ου απεστειλεν (αποστελλω) aor. "did not send" - used of an authoritative sending and therefore used of Christian mission, the meaning John obviously wants to convey. God's mission, in the sending of Christ, is not the condemnation of mankind but rather its salvation.

κρινη (κρινω) aor. subj. "judge, decide against”- either is possible. Technically the word is used to offset salvation which is the purpose of Christ's coming. God sent Christ in order to save, not to condemn.

What is the smell of a Rose? Now, put it into words.

How do you explain “green” to a blind person? — Anthony de Mello

It is Holy Trinity Sunday again. Two temptations: 1) to explain the Holy Trinity and 2) to avoid talking about the Holy Trinity. Somewhere in the middle of this is a good strategy. Yes, the Trinity needs asserting. Note: Asserting, not exhaustive explanation but simple assertion. 
What is there to be said? To begin with: Jesus is risen! Yes, I know, you thought we were done with Easter but we really never are. Jesus is risen is a basic, a foundational expression of Christian Faith, maybe even a creed which is why it is included in the creedal statements after all. After Jesus rose from the dead, the Trinity is how we must now talk about God. (W. Bouman) 
Why? Because if Jesus is indeed beyond death to the point of being alive though not seen today, then it says something about who is God. Only God is eternal. Only God is immortal. So what to make of Jesus? Well, the prophets of the mother faith, the faith of the Exodus of Moses and Abraham, speak of one who will come from God, an anointed one, a Messiah, a Son of Man to use the Daniel 7 term and what is more That: “Son of Man,” will be: 
“. . .  given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages, should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.” 
This, says the New Testament has happened and Jesus is the one about whom the prophet speaks. Other prophetic passage, many from Isaiah can be and are added to the telling of the tale of Jesus. One who was like a human being is given the powers of heaven. All the powers of heaven. The powers that are normally reserved for God. His mastery over the spirit world and the natural world show these things already before his crucifixion. He is the providence of the God, the mastery of God, the very mouth of God. These are the things set forth in John 1, the great prolog. He is called: “God with us,” for a reason. It is rightly seen that he acts and speaks like the very God who made heaven and earth and even the bits we have never seen and even the parts we never will see. 
One of Aquinas’ basic principles was: Behavior is determined by the nature of things. There is a reason that we recognize certain behaviors as being peculiar to, let’s say, apple trees. If pears are found on such a tree we know we are in the wrong orchard or we have found a misplaced and misplanted tree. I like my cat, but he will not talk. It is not his nature. 
People are a bit more complicated. We know people and have a general idea about their individual natures. At the same time, we are reminded by experience that we all harbor original sin. We are complex. We might be gentle people but everyone, even St. Francis probably, can be provoked to anger and even violence. Francis was a soldier once after all. The High School Science mantra goes like this: Group projects are meant to teach me teamwork, cooperation, and group responsibility but what they actually taught me was: TRUST NO ONE. It is a description of human nature, I suppose. 
Behavior is determined by the nature of things might well be applicable to God as well. Why should it not be. The scripture is fairly consistent in its telling of the story of God. Redemption, providence, mercy are always present as is righteousness and zeal as well as anger over human sin. And are these not on display in Jesus along with the powers already mentioned? The conviction that this Jesus is God from God is not far fetched. But as soon as that is the case the question is: How then is there “One God?” Trinity says it is so because God appears in different “face.” (Gr. prosopon) In Latin the word is persona the second half of the word being related to sound. In other words, the sound of God’s voice is coming through this Jesus and only there is it realized fully and without doubt and without sin. 
Yet, this voice also comes from a different place. The Spirit can and does speak through means. Sometimes it is clothed in Sacraments. Sometimes it is clothed in shocking moments that are later called repentance. Sometimes it is clothed in fragile human voices or contained in fragile vessels that do the will and work of God. The Spirit blows where it pleases. We know it has passed in hindsight; in reflection on what has happened as we compare it to what we know to be the nature of God. Behavior is determined by the nature of things. Blessed are they who like Elijah can realize that the utter silence is the whispering of the voice of God. Few of us get to be that mystically endowed ever though we pray we might. 
Have I have succumbed to temptation 1)?  Maybe. But Bouman’s edict sticks in my mind: “The Trinity is how we must talk about God after the Resurrection of Jesus.” All the scripture somehow fits together if God is assumed as the background on which it is written as well as the one who mixes the colors used. 
The Trinity also makes sense of the Church. Yes, the Church. God parked the scripture with us — coming to think of it, God made us scribble part of it. God promised to be present in the work of the Spirit which is found reliably in the Sacraments which God parked also with the church along with the instructions to teach as Jesus, the second voice of the Trinity, taught. (Mt 28) 

Too often the church, it would seem to me, wants to err solidly on the side of temptation 2). We are afraid to explain this Trinity Biz. But is it really so hard? Can we actually not give answer to the question: “Who is your God?” Shame on us if we really cannot, or refuse to, or are afraid to. We can explain “Green,” but we need to want to. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Text for Ascension and the 7th Sunday of Easter, 2015

First Reading: Acts 1:15–17, 21–26

15In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said,  16Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus —  17for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry."  21So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,  22beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us — one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection."  23So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.  24Then they prayed and said, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen  25to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place."  26And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Psalm 1

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of
 the wicked, 
    nor lingered in the way of sinners,
    nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the LORD, 
    and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; 
    everything they do shall prosper.

It is not so with the wicked; 
     they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes, 
    nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, 
    but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Second Reading: 1 John 5:9–13

9If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son.  10Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son.  11And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Gospel: John 17:6–19

6I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;  8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.  9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.  10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.  11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.  12While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.  13But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.  14I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.  16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.  18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Luke 24 Greek Studies

Ascension of Our Lord: Luke 24:44–53

Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled."  45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,  46and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,  47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  48You are witnesses of these things.  49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.  51While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.  52And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;  53and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

v44 Ειπεν δε προς ουτους "He said to them" - Some scholars suggest this introduces a new scene, possibly Jesus' farewell words to his disciples before the ascension. 
ων (ειμι) pres. part. "while I was [still]" - adverbial, probably forming a temporal clause, Jesus has always been just a visitor with us. We can now visit with him.
πληρωθηναι (πληροω) aor. pas. inf. "be fulfilled" - infinitive forms a noun clause, subject of the verb "is necessary." The gospel begins "the time is fulfilled"
τα γεγραμμενα (γραφω) - perf. pas. part. "that is written" - adjectival, limiting "everything must be fulfilled" often used in the binding legal documents, the authority of 
ψαλμοις (ος) "the Psalms" Given that Jesus mentions "the Law and the Prophets" it is possible that the third section of scripture, "the Writings" which includes Psalms is intended.

v45 διηνοιξεν (διανοιγω) aor. "he revealed" Sometimes argued as the giving of the Spirit in line with John's gospel, Pentecost then is the empowering of the Spirit.
tou sunienai (sunihmi) pres. inf. "so they could understand" - the genitive infinitive forms a ‘final clause’ expressing purpose or a ‘consecutive clause’ expressing result.

v46 ουτως adv. "this is what [is written]" - thus referring to the content of the scriptural teaching concerning Christ or possibly causal, i.e. "because the scripture must be fulfilled".
παθειν (πασχω) aor. inf. "will suffer" - As with "rise" and "will be preached", the infinitive may be classified as forming a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what has been written, namely "that the messiah will suffer ....." The accusative τον χριστον serves as the subject of the infinitive. It is best translated in the future tense. Luke here gives a summary of the scriptural teaching concerning the messiah – that he suffers, rises and is proclaimed.
αναστηναι (ανιστημι) aor. inf. "rise" - resurrection is always difficult to source in scripture. Acts refers to Ps.16:10 and 110.1. 

v47 μετανοιαν (α) "repentance" - not feeling sorry but a change of will or direction, a turning from self to Christ.
αμαρτιων (α) gen. "of sins" - genitive is usually treated as verbal but can also be viewed as adjectival limiting "forgiveness" by making it more specific.
κηρυχθηναι (κηρυσσω) aor. inf. "will be preached" – the infinitive as with παθειν, "to suffer", cf. v46. 
αρξαμενοι (αρξω) aor. part. "beginning [at Jerusalem]" - adverbial, modal; best understood as "the mission will start in Jerusalem."

v48 υμεις "you" – emphatic - "You are the ones who must bear witness to both my crucifixion and my resurrection."

v49 egw pres. pro. "I" - Emphatic by use and by position. Jesus does the sending and begins the age old debate as to whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, or from the Father and the Son
αποστελλω pres. "am going to send" - present tense is obviously futuristic, but expresses continued action, ie. the bestowal of the gift is ongoing.
του πατρος (ηρ ρος) gen. "[what my] Father [has promised]" - usually taken as a verbal genitive, subjective, "the promise made by my Father", as NIV, but the ablative, is also possible; "the promise from my Father." 
καθισατε (καθιζω) aor. imp. "stay" – an imperative
endushsqe (enduw) aor. pas. subj. "you have been clothed with" – (may be clothed) descriptive language of the gift of the Spirit,.
δυναμιν (ις εως) "power" - Sometimes translated as a definite noun. Is this a gift of power or a gift of the powerful one? The words δυναμις and πνευμα, "spirit", are virtually synonymous terms since power is what the Spirit supplies. As far as the fulfilment of scripture is concerned, the promise of the new covenant is more the gift of the divine presence than the divine power.

v50 επαρας τας χειρας "he lifted up [his] hands" - attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "blessed". 
ευλογησεν (ευλογεω) aor. "he blessed [them]"

v51 εν τω + inf. "while he was blessing [them]" - The preposition εν with the articular infinitive forms a temporal clause contemporaneous time; "while, during ..."
διεστη (διιστημι) aor. "he left" - went away, moved on, went on, departed, separated [from them]. A rare word with unclear meaning; this story is usually depicted as Jesus ascending on a cloud with hands raised for blessing. The verb indicates nothing as to how he departs only that he "went away." Luke describes the ascension in Acts 1:9.where we find mention of a cloud and the use of verbs which imply upward movement, but is it Jesus himself going upward or is it the cloud which "hid him from their sight"? It is quite possible Jesus is enveloped in a cloud, obviously the shekinah glory of God and that the cloud then drifts away! Not as exciting as raising someone through the drop ceiling of the sanctitorium!
και ανεφερετο ειν τον ουρανον "was taken up into heaven" - Arguments abound as to why some manuscripts have this clause and others don't. Some argue it was removed to deal with a contradiction between the gospel and Acts (which, after all, have the same author). Others argue it was added when the gospel was separated from Acts. If added, (which seems likely) then what we have here is a resurrection appearance which ends with Jesus leaving his disciples. It serves as the end of the gospel, with the ascension being described in the first chapter of Acts.

v52 προσκυνησαντες (προσκυνεω) aor. part. "then they worshiped [him]" – the participle is adverbial, and not found in all manuscripts.

v53 δια παντος "[they stayed] continually" - a shortened version of δια παντος χρονου, "through all time" i.e. "continually." This doesn't mean that they were in the temple continually, rather that the disciples continued with their practice of temple worship. As the years passed, the liberty of the gospel began to free them from liturgical duties.

ευλογουντες (ευλογεω) pres. part. "praising [God]" - participle is adverbial expressing the manner of their attendance at the temple.

Once to every

If the Church survives in the West as a tiny and despised community, let her attend to the authenticity of her own life: Let her cultivate Eucharist and its associated practices of mutual care, with the world viewing this strange body. God may bless such witness, as he did that of the Irish and the Benedictines. And we should remember: Pagan antiquity did not exclaim, “See how they love us,” but “See how they love one another.” — Robert Jenson, First Things May 2014

Wil Willimon, and Stanley Hauerwas wrote a now classic book back in the early 1990s: Resident Aliens. The days of the culture accepting Christian Faith as normative was over, they said, and on the horizon was a time to come where Christians who had remained true to the Faith would again be in the minority and would again have to explain themselves and live a life “alien” to the world around them. Hauerwas’ own response to that new reality was: “Good for us! We should have been living that way all along anyhow. God is killing the church and it serves us darn right. We have made too many compromises.” (overheard in a lecture in 1993)
Jesus gets to ascend and I get to toil here. I can lament my toil or rejoice that Jesus is at the right hand of God pleading with the Father on my behalf. I am already of the kingdom of Christ but I get to dwell here among the temptation of the flesh, the world, and the Evil one. Actually, in Jesus’ speech in John 14 through 17 the world and the evil one are kind of the same. The world is reigned by evil. Judas has been lost to him. 
But the world is not in charge somehow. Peter gives in to the temptation of the flesh. He, Peter, must do something and save the situation. He must draw a sword and defend Jesus. (John 18:10) Jesus dissuades him and it is clear he is in charge of the situation and of the world in which it happens. Those who would arrest him must be coaxed to do their work by him. They faint at his self disclosure at first. He further confesses to Pilate that his armies are standing at the ready. (18:36, Matt 26:53) They have been told to stand down so the Father’s will can be carried out. To make the point of the power of heaven clear, when the angels came to open the tomb, the soldiers all faint in fear at the sight of the heavenly warrior. (Matt 28:2-4)
No, this “world” has no power. The “Evil One” has no power. Legions of warrior stand behind Jesus. And, they stand behind the church — unless the Father ignores Jesus’ high priestly prayer. The church has been clothed with power from on high. 
But that power is not directed by her or controlled by her as it seems to be only meant for and is exercised only when it is used to do the Farther’s will. Aside from that we can do nothing. John 15 has reminded us of that last week. We abide in Jesus’ word or we wither, Holy Spirit or not, we wither. Annanias and Sapphira are a stark reminder of this. (Acts 5:1-11) Demas is a reminder of this. (Phl 24, Col 4:14, 2 Tim 4:10) He walks away from the mission with Paul and in love of the world and vanishes. She can give up, this church. She can give in. She can compromise herself out of existence.  Which is the real problem: If she compromises, she will head for oblivion. 
In a way, Ascension and the last Sunday of Easter are mission festivals. The church has looked at the glory of the Resurrection and it is now time to do something about it. Jesus Christ did indeed rise. It is not a story cooked up. It is a report made by witnesses. They, literary critics note, did not write in the genre of myth but in the genre of report. He rose. Set aside your scruples. This is how God wants to be known: The one who sent his Son and who raised him from the dead. You now know all that. So, what are you going to do about it? God did. You have had 7 weeks to get used to the Good News, now maybe you could share it or — gasp — live according to it. By your life and by your living with your brothers and sisters will there be a hint that something irresistible is standing behind you? 
Hauerwas had a colleague who had hung a poster on his office door. “A Modest Proposal: What if Christians decided no longer to kill other Christians?” Hauerwas reports that the good professor was soundly chastised because it was just so exclusive. Why just single out other Christians to live at peace with? “Well, that’s why it is only a modest proposal,” was his reply. 
 There is great temptation before the church in mission. She is excited about the possibilities of the Kingdom of God. But, the world is a mess. “Let’s start at the top and fix it all the way down.” It is not too long before most programs and mission plans hit rocks, not because they were bad plans but because they were badly aimed and just plain grandiose. It is well and good to want to save the world. Good News: Someone already has done that. That someone also had a plan to follow up with. John writes that the world shall know we are Christians by our “love” in community. The world is to be jealous of our life with God. Matthew adds: Teach and baptize; enter people into that community, one by one. Luke adds: Be witnesses to Jesus. Mark adds: Preach the Good News to all Creation and never be afraid. Mother Theresa would say: "Don't look for big things, just do small things with great love.” It is in the little things done with great love that things get interesting and that love is an attitude, it is the power of the Holy Spirit all other “powers” must bow and serve it or remain silent. (1 Cor 13) 
It is my favorite season: The Honey Locust trees are beginning to bloom. A gentle honey like smell fills the morning air. Locust trees are not exactly what folks plant in the their yards. They come with the yard and most folks try to cut them down. After all, their shade is light and incomplete. The branches and saplings have thorns. Once you have one, you will have dozens. And they are relentless. I love them for all those reasons. Yes, they defend themselves against the angry gardner and the hungry deer. Yes, their shade is light but that lets other plants, including their saplings, have a chance to live. Yes, they throw seeds and more trees result. Yes, if you cut them, the stump will regrow and not only that, the tree or its remnant will take a root and send it on to cut through the dirt some yards away and there a new tree will pop out of the ground. They give up on branches that do not work any longer and shed them. Annoying, but they make the greatest firewood ever. They burn with unmatched heat. They are a feisty tree with many sprouts and seedlings. They give the yard a whiff of subtle beauty. They stick to it like no other thing as if to say: “Life belongs to life. Let me prove it to you.” I love my little Locust grove. I love my church. 
For the video nuts among you, two Thai commercials, by an insurance company no less, that might inspire and a hymn text long forgotten but somehow hauntingly proper to remember.

1 Once to every man and nation,
 comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
 for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
 offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever,
 ’twixt that darkness and that light.

3 By the light of burning martyrs,
 Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever
 with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties,
 time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward,
 who would keep abreast of truth.

2 Then to side with truth is noble,
 when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
 and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses
 while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue
 of the faith they had denied.

4 Though the cause of evil prosper,
 yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, 
and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
 and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,

 keeping watch above His own.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Text for the 6th Sunday of Easter, May 10th, 2015

First Reading: Acts 10:44–48

44While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.  45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles,  46for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said,  47Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?  48So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

Psalm 98 (from the Book of Common Prayer)

1Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.

2With his right hand and his holy arm
has he won for himself the victory.

3The LORD has made known his victory;
his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

4He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,
and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

5Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;
lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

6Sing to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the voice of song.

7With trumpets and the sound of the horn
shout with joy before the king, the LORD.

8Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,
the lands and those who dwell therein.

9Let the rivers clap their hands,
and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD, when he comes to judge the earth.

10In righteousness shall he judge the world
and the peoples with equity.

Second Reading: 1 John 5:1–6

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child.  2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  3For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome,  4for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.  5Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
6This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

Gospel: John 15:9–17

9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.  10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.  11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.  14You are my friends if you do what I command you.  15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.  16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.  17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.