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, September 29, 2015

The Texts for Sunday October 4th 2015

First Reading: Genesis 2:18-24

18The Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said, 
 “This at last is bone of my bones
  and flesh of my flesh;
 this one shall be called Woman,
  for out of Man this one was taken.”
24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

The Word of the Lord

Psalm: Psalm 8

1 O LORD our Governor, 
    how exalted is your Name in all the world!

2 Out of the mouths of infants and children 
    your majesty is praised above the heavens.

3 You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, 
    to quell the enemy and the avenger.

4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, 
    the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

5 What is man that you should be mindful of him? 
    the son of man that you should seek him out?

6 You have made him but little lower than the angels; 
    you adorn him with glory and honor;

7 You give him mastery over the works of your hands; 
    you put all things under his feet:

8 All sheep and oxen, 
    even the wild beasts of the field,

9 The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, 
    and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

10 O LORD our Governor, 
    how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Second Reading: Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

1Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

5Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. 6But someone has testified somewhere, 
 “What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
  or mortals, that you care for them?
7You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
  you have crowned them with glory and honor,
  8subjecting all things under their feet.”
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them,9but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12saying, 
 “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
  in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

The Word of the Lord

Gospel: Mark 10:2-16

2Some Pharisees came, and to test [Jesus] they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
10Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

13People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Mark 10:1-16 in Greek text

Greek Study Mark 10:1-16

v1 Jesus' teaching on divorce, v1-12 is typically Markan. The form-critical classification is “scholastic dialogue” and is an example of a teaching between Jesus and the Pharisees and Jesus and his disciples. 
αναστας "Jesus then left" - having arisen [from there he went to the border of Judea across the Jordan]. The participle forms a temporal clause.
τα ορια (ον) "[into] the region [of Judea]" – i.e. the border between Jewish and Gentile territory. 
περαν + gen. "across [the Jordan]" - across, probably "beyond", ie. into Peraea travelling from Galilee to Jerusalem he was skirting around Samaria.
συμπορευονται (συμπορευομαι) pres. "gathered around him".
ειωθει (ειωθα) pluperf. "[as] was his custom" - ειοθα is the perfect of εθω  (is accustomed)  but the pluperfect takes the imperfect "as he was accustomed".

v2 προσελθοντες (προσερχομαι) aor. part. "[some Pharisees] came" - attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the verb "were asking".
πειραζονες (πειραζω) pres. part. "tested [him]" - a purpose clause, "in order to…”.
εξεστιν "it is lawful" – literally is it permissible/allowed so it takes the form of a question.
απολυσαι (απολυω) aor. inf. "to divorce [his wife]" – here the infinitive forms a noun clause so the phrase translates; [they were asking him if] divorcing a wife is lawful [for a man]".

v3 αποκριθεις (αποκρινομαι) aor. pas. part. answering [them]; redundant.
τι "what" – an interrogative ενετειλατο (εντελλομαι) aor. "did [Moses] command" - in the sense of giving give orders or official sanction to?  Jesus is now testing them as to the regulation which Moses prescribed!

v4 επετρεψεν (επιτριπω) aor. "[Moses] permitted"  actually Mosaic law regulated divorce, but by his choice of the word "permitted" Jesus indicates divorce is actually more of a divine concession not a right or a normative action. We would say it is the exception, not the rule.  Now, the question becomes, “what is the rule?”
γραψαι (γραφω) aor. inf. "to write" - forms an object clause expressing what Moses allowed.
απαστασιου (ον) gen. "[a certificate] of divorce" adjectival, limiting "certificate" – this document was designed to provide protection for a woman – NOT permission for a man! (Deut.24:1-4) The Divine intent was here to provide protection for the weaker of two parties in a contractual arrangement – one could argue from the Greek and the texts inferred that the concession discussed was not how to end a ‘bad marriage” or to provide license to ‘move on” but rather on now to compassionately deal with the real world effects of the sinful consequence of broken relationships. In Greek, this word meant leave ("απο" means away) one's station (στασιου) – the word explodes off the page if you look at it Biblically or from the Greek military language from where it originates, for it literally means a defection from the one ahead of you in rank.  Moses gave permission to write a certificate of defection and I wonder how many sensibilities would be offended if we labeled divorce a “defection”?   And let me be clear, arguing that divorce is “necessary” or “good” is the same argumwent5 used with abortion being “necessary” or “good”.  Absolute prohibitions do not deal with reality, exceptions are real, but Jesus will not be distracted by ‘exceptions” – he is establishing a divine intent and norm….you have to be clear about what the baseline is from which you draw the ‘exception”.  Our society has, in my option, made the exception the rule.  And as he sometimes does, Jesus actually changes the law here, he makes it even more stringent.  I know it is inconvenient to think like this, but as he also does in the beatitudes he makes the Law MORE STRINGENT, NOT LESS.  And as we confess him to be God incarnate he is not expressing his ‘opinion” but rather clarifying a divine norm.  If you look up the word “divorce” will be taken to Deuteronomy 24:1 where a man is given permission to kick out his wife if she displeases him.  Jesus today calls men to a greater level of faithfulness than previous generations; men can no longer leave their wives because they displease them!  And Jesus even allows a situation where a women might leave their husbands as well, which is something which unthinkable in Jewish culture. So in a sense one can argue for that he enfranchises women, yet in doing so he asks for a greater, not a lesser, commitment from them as well.  And note that although the Bible's teaching about divorce shifts over time, its teaching about marriage remains the same (as it was from the beginning)! This is not about our practices…it is about the Divine expectation and norm, it is about what the church is called to teach.
v5 την σκληροκαρδιαν (α) "[your] hearts were hard" – lit. stubborn; "hard-heartedness", the inability (closer to the truth) to obey God's will. Situation that necessitate laws take into account actual sinfulness and are designed to limit and control its consequences. For example multiple sclerosis is an awful disease - the hardening of certain body parts until the person cannot move.  Well, in a downward spiraling relationship, there is a hardening of the heart, until finally the person cannot love.  

v6 Jesus supports his argument using two texts, i] Gen.1:27, ii] Gen.2:24, and draws a conclusion, v6-9. The argument is; "if the intention of the creator of the male and female was for them to be united into "one flesh" "so that they are no longer two, then God's will simply cannot be they divorce. Divorce is tantamount to an undoing the created order!
κτισεως (ις εως) gen. "of creation" – literally means "the sum total of everything created", so not "at the beginning of Genesis", but "from the beginning of creation". The Greek here is clearly referring to the created intent, not traditional or cultural positions. 

v8 εσονται ...... εις "will become" - this unusual use of the verb to-be with the preposition "into" derives from a literal translation in the Septuagint of the Hebrew.
ωστε "so that” - a consecutive clause expressing result, "And the two will become so completely one that they will no longer be two persons but one".

v9 Given the divine will for the integral unity of marriage, evident in the creation, Jesus issues an absolute decree on the issue of divorce using the conclusive Greek word: ουν "therefore" - expressing a logical conclusion.
συνεζευξεν (συζευγνιμι) aor. "has yoked together".
μη + pres. imp. "not" - construction commands the cessation of an action already in progress; so; "husbands must stop removing their wives!”

v10 Jesus now instructs the disciples on the issue of divorce, v10-12. 
εις την οικιαν "when they were back home again"
επηρωτων (επερωταω) "[the disciples] askedπερι + gen. "about [this]

v11 The lack of the exception for divorce, (except for adultery in Matt.19:9) expresses the absolute nature of this kingdom law. In fact, the exception clause in Matthew is more difficult to explain in light of the unforgiving Greek wording of this command and so is likely a later addition to the text!
ος αν + subj. "anyone who" - an indefinite relative clause establishing a hypothetical condition, 3rd class, "whoever, as may be the case.... then ".
επι + acc. "[commits adultery] against [her]" - spacial in the sense of "up against”; also possibly "with respect to" a wife's right to not have a third party intrude on the "one flesh" relationship she has with her husband. Mark's "against her" highlights the force of Jesus' pronouncement. Under rabbinic law a man may commit adultery against another man by bedding that man's wife or a wife may commit adultery against her husband by bedding another man, but it was inconceivable that a man, by bedding another woman, has in this act committed adultery against his own wife! And that is a loophole big enough to drive a truck through!

v12 Given that a Jewish wife could not divorce her husband it is argued that this is an explanatory inclusion for Gentile readers (given that under Roman law a wife could divorce her husband). While there is some second century evidence that in some Jewish circles a women did have the right to divorce her husband, either way the statement reinforces the absolute nature of Jesus' words. 
απολυσασα (απολυω) "divorces [her husband]" attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "marries"; "divorces and marries". Some suggest that this active participle is the consequence of wrongly reading an Aramaic passive participle so giving a translation in agreement with Luke 16:18b; " if she who has been divorced by her husband marries another, he commits adultery".

v13 Thankfully now, leaving divorce behind, Jesus welcomes little children, v13-16. Confronted by the absolute demands of the law we are reminded that there has only ever been one way to secure covenant compliance and that is through God’s mercy. Jesus uses the coming and blessing of children for to illustrate this. And it should not be lost that in the previous teaching on divorce; Jesus is protecting the legally weaker of two parties in the covenantal agreement (the wife). By welcoming παιδια (ον) "little children" which literally means to those too young to vote, provide a career or to legally hold property, therefore in society’s eyes not yet of value, he emphasizes that the values of God’s Kingdom are radically different than the values of any lesser Kingdom - including the USA, (God bless America). He calls disciples to be loyal to and to teach the values of God’s kingdom and not a lesser one!
ινα + subj. "in order that" a purpose clause.
αυτων gen. "[touch] them" - Genitive after a verb of touching- in the sense of laying hands upon for the conferring of a blessing.
επετιμησαν (επιτιμαω) aor. "rebuked" - the disciples told the people to stop bothering him

v14 ιδων (ειδον) aor. part. "when [Jesus] saw this" - participle is adverbial forming a temporal clause.
ηγανακτησεν (αγανακτεω) aor. "he was indignant" - against what they judged to be wrong.
ερχεσθαι (ερχομαι) aor. inf. "[let the little children] come [to me]" - "Children" is the object of the imperative verb "allow", the infinitive is complementary in that it completes the sense of the verb "allow" so "you must allow the children to come to me".
μη + pres. "not" a negation with the pres. imp. commands the secession of action in progress; "stop forbidding them."
του θεου (ος) gen. "[the kingdom] of God" - The genitive is interesting. Does the kingdom belong to God (possessive), proceed from God (ablative), is enacted by God subjective), or is it simply, in general terms, God-like (adjectival, descriptive)? The mystery of the genitive.
των .. τοιουτων "[belongs to] such as these" This statement is not an item in a doctrinal discussion on the innocence of children or on the age of accountability, but a proclamation on the nature of the kingdom. Inclusion is a matter of God's grace not rights or efforts. 

v15 αμην λεω υϑμιν "truly I tell you" underlining the words ος αν + subj. "whoever” see above for a conditional clause μη δεξηται (δεχομαι) aor. subj. "does not receive" – here Jesus, exegetes the nature of God's reign, i.e. those who do not come and receive as these children came and received will have no part in God's righteous rule.
ως "as [a child]" - a comparison. 
ου μη + subj. "[will] never [enter it]" – a subjunctive of emphatic negation. 
v16 εναγκαλισαμενος (εναγκαλιζομαι) aor. part. "he took [the children] into his arms" - attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "he blesses".
τιθεις (τιθημι) pres. part. "put [his hands]" - participle is modal expressing the manner of blessing, or possibly the means, "by laying on of hands” a blessing of OT precedence (Gen.48:14-18).

κατευλογει (κατευλογεω) imperf. "and blessed them" – a hapax legomenon, the imperfect may be expressing durative action - the prefix is intensifying, so "he kept on fervently/tenderly/ warmly/lovingly blessing them."  He is making a point here.

Cardiac Sclerosis

'When God wishes, He becomes fire, burning up every coarse passion that has taken root in the soul. "For our God is a consuming fire" (Dt. 4:24; Heb. 12:29). When He wishes, He becomes an inexpressible and mysterious rest so that the soul may find rest in God's rest. When He wishes, he becomes joy and peace, cherishing and protecting the soul.’— St. Macarius the Great
The text for today is indeed difficult one. For one thing, it is about divorce, often taken for granted in our society yet proscribed in Jesus’ words for today. It is made further difficult because marriage meant something different to the time of Jesus.
My favorite anthropological sociologist, John Pilch, points out that children, in spite of 1st century ambiguity toward childhood, were considered “from God.” Therefor, one never really became an empty nester as a parent and neither did one really ever become emancipated from ones father. Father and mother remained the steward of their progeny until death. As a son, one would always seek to be obedient the will of the elder of ones family. A daughter in the house would do likewise and would be required to transfer her allegiance to her family-in-law upon marriage.
To be good stewards of the children that God had supplied, one was expected to arrange good marriages for them, marriages that somehow counted as a blessing to the families involved. In other words, families married families, when husband a wife came together.
In olden days, divorce meant something different. Two families were put asunder. To make that worse, those families had received God’s gifts, offspring, and had taken their office of steward very serious. When the elders, after deliberation and negotiation, agreed that God was pleased to bind the couple and the families together, it was indeed as if “God had joined together.” Divorce was a negation of that very process and of the will of God that it aimed to discern. 
Somewhere in the ancient way of doing marriage is also a concern for generations yet to come. Once offspring, life from your life, is a gift from God, then all life is likewise something sacred that one is steward of. Will future generations of life be had and cared for? Will the family that will receive them be able to raise them? Will the husband make a good father and eventually patriarch to tend the process in future years? 
In our time, we seem to be more of the mind that the point of marriage is to find a soulmate of sort. That is a very different sort of arrangement and it is entered into by the will of the two people involved, not by their families. In our time,the phrase: “What God has joined together,” is based on the courtship of the couple, much of which is bathed in the flood of emotions that romance brings, not a serious deliberation or a panel of elders doing their best to make a good election for everyone involved. 
The Gospel of Mark is also written into a time in the life of the church when it first began to grow around the eastern Mediterranean. We probably need to remember that some of those who had become Christians had done so apart from their families. We will hear that the disciples: “gave up house, sisters, fathers, mother . . .,” to follow Jesus. (Mk 10:29-31) What now would marriage look like in the church and how would it come about? There no longer was a patriarch to negotiate for the son or daughter. What would marriage mean now? Maybe Ephesians 5 was a first attempt to put a new face on the purpose of marriage: showing, by faithfulness, gentleness, kindness, and mutual submission, how Christ acts towards his church. In that milieux, divorce would be very harsh note of discord. 
Our reading ends with a little episode that mirrors one we read two weeks ago. Children are brought to our Lord who only shortly before has said: “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mk 9:37) Today we hear: “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Shortly before saying that, Jesus has stood at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration and looked into the eyes of a terrified father whose son’s young life has been one of utter peril. (Mk 9:22) 
Children then and even now are fragile and uncertain. Their “life” often has “if” as its middle word. (Mikey Hart, “Apocalypse Now”) There is a reason that parents have sleepless nights — at least parents whose hearts are made out of flesh and are capable of aching. Hardened hearts might well be oblivious to the cares of children and frankly too busy to bother. (Mk 10:5)
You, yes, you, received life as a child. Was anyone a steward of your life? Were they good stewards of it? As a child, do you remember elders — not necessary family but adults in general — show you the meaning of a hard heart? 
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that the fragility of children put them at low places in the social pecking order in the 1st century. That did not mean they were unloved necessarily. Then the challenge was: Will you take a lower place and welcome them as if they were the Lord. Here the challenge is to be welcomed in the kingdom of God as one fragile and lowly. Can a hardened heart do either? Can hardened hearts care for life? Can they care for souls? Can they lead the church? (we are still arguing who is the greatest at this point in Mark) Can they read the commandments of God or see the life of Jesus without asking the universal first and wrong question: “What’s in it for me?” Can hardened hearts love God? 
Can a God whose heart is hardened become known as the babe of Bethlehem? Can you follow him if yours is? 

Will you welcome the child and be welcomed as a child for Jesus’s sake?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Texts for Sunday, September 27th, 2015

First Reading: Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29

4The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
10Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased. 11So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child, to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors’? 13Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. 15If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once—if I have found favor in your sight—and do not let me see my misery.”
16So the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you.”
24So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 25Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.
26Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 29But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord‘s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”

The Word of the Lord

Psalm 19:7-14

7 The law of the LORD is perfect
 and revives the soul; 
 the testimony of the LORD is sure
 and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just
 and rejoice the heart;
    the commandment of the LORD is clear
and gives light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is clean
and endures for ever;
    the judgments of the LORD are true
and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold, 
     sweeter far than honey,
than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened, 
    and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends? 
    cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me; 
    then shall I be whole and sound,
    and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
 heart be acceptable in your sight, 
    O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Second Reading: James 5:13-20

13Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.
19My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

The Word of the Lord

Gospel: Mark 9:38-50

38John said to [Jesus,] “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
42“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
49“For everyone will be salted with fire. 50Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Greek Study Mark 9:38-50

Greek Study Mark 9:38-50

v38 ο Ιωαννης  - the apostle John, son of Zebedee, brother of James.
εν + dat. "in [your name]" - "by/with your authority".
εκβαλλοντα (εκβαλλω) pres. part. "casting out [demons]" - 
εκωλυομεν (κωλυω) imperf. "we hindered/prevented [him] " - the imperfect is τενδεντιαλ/χονατιϖε, i.e. attempted action that is not completed;.
ουκ ηκαλουθει (ακολουθεω) imperf. "he was not one of [us]".

The issue here was one of derived authority, not the healings per se.  The particular beef was that they usurped the power that rightfully belonged to Jesus and by extension to them.  They are not “us”.  Jesus then goes on to re-define who “us” is!

v39 μη κωλυετε (κωλυω) pres. imp. "do not stop him" -this command entails the cessation of action already in progress. 
δυναμιν (ις εως) "a miracle" - powerful work.
κακολογησαι (κακολογεω) aor. inf. "say anything evil".

v42 σκανδαλιση/ (σκανδαλιζω) aor. subj. "causes ...... to stumble” as the setting of a trap for someone. (One wonders here the nature of the “trap’ that is being set here.)  
των μικρων τουτων "these little ones" - not "children" as such, nor members of the Christian community, but forgiven sinners outside the community!
των πιστευοντων (πιστευω) pres. part. "who believe".
μυλος ονικος "a large millstone" – i.e. a millstone that needs to be turned by donkey power!
περικειται (περικειμαι) pres. "tied around [his neck]".
v43 αποκοψον (αποκοψτω) aor. imp. "cut [it] off" - aorist expressing punctiliar action; in Greek this is a phrase usually used to describe castration; in Hebrew the making of a Eunuch,  likely NOT what Jesus means however but a graphic visual word nonetheless!
εχοντα (εχω) pres. part "with [two hands]" - attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the infinitive"; an idiom, "keep your two hands and go to hell”.
εις το πυρ το ασβεστον "where the fire never goes out" - possibly an illustration by Mark meant for Gentile readers to had a vision of hades different from the sheol of Hebrew thinking.
v44 along with v46 is an obvious addition and so is left out of most translations.
v45 βληθηναι (βαλλω) aor. pas. inf. "be thrown [into hell]" – this construction is the same as for απελθειν used in 43 and is known in Greek as a “divine passive” – i.e. that the action comes from God.

v47 εκβαλε (εκβαλλω) aor. imp. "pluck it out" – i.e. you throw out the eye rather than be thrown into hell. 
All of the Greek verbs used in these verses are strong words- meant as warning and to some seem inconsistent with the message of “gentle Jesus sweet and mild”. But in reality they were very much a part of his prophetic message - we just don’t like to hear them.  Every parent verbally rebukes and supports as the situation merits; those who do only one or the other often end up with damaged children!

v48 This verse serves as a ‘midrash’ on those that precede, referring to Isa.66:24, referring to the eternal punishment facing a person who has rebelled against God. The image of ongoing punishment, the constant feeding worm, the unquenchable fire, express eternal nature of punishment but also serve to heighten the extent of the loss. 
οπου "where" - a local clause.
ο σκωληξ ατων "their worm" – in the sense of  "worm that feeds upon them" – i.e. the image of a rotting corpse with no life.  Hell or eternal fire may here be a strong euphemism for eternal death.
v49 αλισθησεται (αλιζω) fut. pas. "will be salted" πυρι (πυρ ος) dat. "with fire".  
v50 καλον adj. "[Salt is] good" – actually salt is beautiful or useful. Beautiful in the sense that is varied uses, all of which are for the good.  And useful because it preserves things, heightens flavors, gives depth and meaning to life and, in the case of preserving food literally can be life preserving.  Remember while we tend to take salt for granted, in dry climes salt is an essential for the management of thirst. A a body sweats it loses both moisture AND salt, which can cause death as fast as thirst.  So salt was something people who travelled in dry areas kept on hand.
αναλον adj. "loses its saltiness" - leached salt leaves a useless chemical residue which, in some instances, can also be a poison!

ειρηνευετε (ειρηνευω) pres. imp. "be at peace" - consequential to "be salty"  is to be peaceful!.

Plundering the "strong man's" house

Do not be too quick to judge the man who no longer believes in God: for it is perhaps your coldness and avarice and mediocrity and materialism and selfishness that have chilled his faith. — Thomas Merton
So, they asked him whether they should stop the one who was not one of them but was doing good in Jesus’ name and his answer was . . .what? As it unfolds, Jesus’ answer says basically: “Instead of casting away those who are outside of our circle, maybe you need to recognize that the boundaries of that circle runs straight through your own lives.” 
Let me unpack that a bit. We hear horror stories now and again on how some countries in the Middle East mete out justice. For example: you do wrong; they take your hand. Doing that leaves you crippled and stigmatized but also insures that you will not repeat the action. 
Think about it for a moment: we “do” with our hands. We use our feet to “be on the way somewhere.” We take in the information that becomes thoughts and reactions with our eye. 
If your eye sees misery then your heart, which is connected to your eye, moves you to mercy, your feet carry you to the side of those who suffer, and your hands “drive out the demons” of misery by an act of humble servanthood, then eyes, feet, and hands have served your Lord Jesus well in extending his ministry of providence for the world. 
If your eyes see misery of your neighbors difficult life and your heart moves you to disgust, your feet move you to your computer, and your hands type a FaceBook post filled with vile gossip on the neighbor, it would certainly be better if eye had not seen, foot had not propelled you, and hand had not typed. 
If your eyes see the captives of demons freed in the name of Christ then your heart ought to rejoice, your feet ought to propel you to those likewise suffering, and your hands ought put Hades to flight. 
If your eyes see the captives of demons freed in the name of Christ but your heart instead is jealous or officiously bureaucratic about the exorcist, your feet propel you to Jesus or the church, and your hands pull them aside to say: “We stopped that rescue because he was not one of us and did not look like us,” then neither hand or foot or eye served you well and neither was the kingdom of God preached or advanced. 
At this point, you probably realize that I am of the opinion that Jesus did not ask his followers to mutilate themselves. The fact that only a few nuts have done so after reading these verses along with the fact that the church never counseled this type of self mutilation suggests to me that Jesus might not have meant this literally. The real invitation here is to find what drives us to sin and then exclude it from our lives because we are faithful followers of Jesus. To do less would offend both Jesus and harm the neighbor. 
The matter of the millstone is a nod at the harm to the neighbor, especially the vulnerable neighbor. Your lack of faithfulness to Jesus must not lead others to similar lapse of faith. Faith cannot ever have fine print or footnotes. Faithfulness either is done with all and every facet of our life or it is faulty to the core. It is either willing to let everything be led and determined by Jesus Christ — in other words: Let him be Lord and God — or it is wayward. To display such lacking faith is to mislead the little ones.
What is the glass of water about? Note who gives whom the water and why. In a parched land, giving another a glass of water is a necessary act of hospitality and kindness. In this verse, it is extended by unknown hosts who extend it to the disciples. In other words, these are those who would lighten the disciples’ burden while on mission. The unknown exorcist, by his actions of driving out the reign of darkness, was advancing the mission of Jesus and therefore of the disciples. 
In the Gospel of Mark, things are generally urgent. The work of preaching the Kingdom must be now immediately if not sooner and anyone who would advance the work is an ally to Jesus and anyone who would delay it is a hindrance.
In a way, this passage from Mark is like the second verse of ‘Just as I am:’ “Just as I am and waiting not, to rid my soul of one dark blot.” In the case at hand with the disciples, we need to remember that they have just been arguing about leadership in the Jesus movement. Their complaint about the unknown exorcist and Jesus’ admonitions ought to be seen against that backdrop. They are to test the sprits beginning with their own. Only those impulses that aid the mission ought to be tolerated within them and anything that happens to advance the mission, anything done in the name of Jesus, ought to he be the cause of thanksgiving because these are signs that the kingdom of God is advancing and that the house of the “strong man” — the evil one — is being plundered. 

Are we as singleminded as Jesus asks here? 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Texts for Sunday, September 20, 2015

First Reading: Jeremiah 11:18-20

18It was the Lord who made it known to me, and I knew;
  then you showed me their evil deeds.
19But I was like a gentle lamb
  led to the slaughter.
 And I did not know it was against me
  that they devised schemes, saying,
 “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
  let us cut him off from the land of the living,
  so that his name will no longer be remembered!”
20But you, O Lord of hosts, who judge righteously,
  who try the heart and the mind,
 let me see your retribution upon them,
  for to you I have committed my cause.

The Word of the Lord

Psalm: Psalm 54

1 Save me, O God, by your Name; 
    in your might, defend my cause.

2 Hear my prayer, O God; 
    give ear to the words of my mouth.

3 For the arrogant have risen up against me,
and the ruthless have sought my life, 
    those who have no regard for God.

4 Behold, God is my helper; 
    it is the Lord who sustains my life.

5 Render evil to those who spy on me; 
    in your faithfulness, destroy them.

6 I will offer you a freewill sacrifice 
    and praise your Name, O LORD, for it is good.

7 For you have rescued me from every trouble, 
    and my eye has seen the ruin of my foes.

Second Reading: James 3:13--4:3, 7-8a

13Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.4:

1Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. 7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8aDraw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

The Word of the Lord

Gospel: Mark 9:30-37

30[Jesus and the disciples went on] and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it;31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
33Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”