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.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Greek Studies for Matthew 20:1-16

Matthew 20:1-16

v1 ανθρωπω οικοδεσποτη dat. "a landowner" i. e. a farmer.
αμα πρωι "at once in the morning” literally "at dawn", the best time to hire workers as they will work for the whole day. 
μισθωσασθαι (μισθοω) aor. inf. "to hire" - infinitive forms an adverbial clause expressing purpose "to hire" 
εργατας (ης ου) "workers".

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

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

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

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

v6 την ενδεκατην adj. "the eleventh hour " (@ 5pm) 
ξελθων (εξερχομαι) aor. pas. "he went out" – 
ευρεν (ευρισκω) aor. "found"  
εστωτας (ιστημι) perf. part. "the ones standing around" - adjectival
v7 εμισθωσατο (μισθοω) aor. "[no one] has hired [us] this begs the question why. 
και υμεις "you also" - as in v4, an emphatic.

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

v9 ελαβον (λαμβανω) aor. "received" a denarius.

v10 ελθοντες (ερχομαι) aor. part. "[so] when [those] came [who were hired first]" ενομισαν (ϖομιζω)  expected πλειον adv. "more" και αυτοι "each one of them"

v11 λαβοντες (λαμβανω) aor. part. "when they received it
εγογγυζον (γογγυζω) imperf. "they began complaining

v12 ι εσχατοι adj. "the last ones"
τοις βαστασασι (βασταζω) dat. aor. part. "who have endured”  
το βαρος (ος ους) "the burden" - hardship, difficulty an idiom.

v13 αποκριθεις (αποκρινομαι) aor. pas. part. "[he] answered" – i.e. the Lord, 
εταιρε (εταιρος) voc. sing. "friend" - a general address to someone where the name is unknown so there is no intimate relationship, all really are treated alike - mere workers.  There is a temptation to turn this into a grace story (the last shall be first) the Greek equally lays out a Law story about authority; who makes this decision.  The Lord’s word may be a word of grace, but it is His word, indifferent to human effort. 
ουχι "didn't [you agree]" -did you not consent to the verbal contract?  awkward in English - a positive statement conveys the idea simply, I paid exactly what we agreed.

v14 υπαγε (υπαγω) imp. "go away" –end of discussion.  
θελω "I want" whatever I want 
δουναι (διδωμι) aor. inf. "to give
τουτω τω εσχατω dat. adj. "to this one last one". ως "as [I also gave you]".

v15 εξεστιν pres. "I have the right
ποιησαι (ποιεω) aor. inf. "to do [what I want to do]
τοις εμοις "my own stuff" most translators opt for "my own money." ο οφθαλμος σου πονηρος "[are] you envious" - [is] your eye wicked
αγαθος adj. "good” generous? (‘Do you begrudge my generosity’ 

v16 The issue being argued is God’s will.  The Lord acts adversely to the questioning of his authority. They may not like his decision, but it is HIS to make. Who has the RIGHT to decide?  If you believe the Kingdom is a democracy feel free to debate the relative fairness of grace, but the Kingdom is a kingdom ruled by a King who is not accustomed, nor inclined to having his will questioned. ουτως "so" - thus, so, in this way, drawing the “logical conclusion”

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

Reflections for September 24 on Matthew 20:1-16

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

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

Bargains are made all the time, even in families even in the Family of God. But there is a difference between owing our kids something and owing a 17 year old with an attitude something. There is a difference between being told to do something by a stranger and being told the same by dad. There is a difference between being criticized by a woman  on the street and being told the honest truth by ones wife. As long as Jesus is the other, outside of my circle of family, all things are merely bargains. Once the rich young man joins the Family of God all the bargains are merely the ways of the Family. To whom do kings give the thrones of their realm? (19:28)Where is eternal life found? 

Greek Studies for Matthew 18:22-35

Greek Study Matthew 18:21-35

v21 προσελθων (προσερχομαι) aor. part. "came" – approached and said…
κυριε (ος) "Lord" – a common form of address, for the disciples it could range from respect, "Sir" to person in charge, "boss".
ποσακις adv. "how many times?" –they seek a limit for forgiveness and it relates to the previous passage where God has no limit, but it is a different quality of sin. 
ο αδελφος (ος) "[my] brother" – so context implies believer, i.e. church.
εως + gen. "up to [seven times]" – the upper limit - under Rabbinic law the upper limit was 3 so Peter's 7 is generous, twice as much as required plus 1…

v22 εβδομηκοντακις επτα "seventy-seven times"  possibly seventy times seven or 490, or seventy plus seven i.e. 77. If Jesus is quoting Gen.4:24 then it is 77 in any case a lot

v23 των ουρανων (ος) gen. "[the kingdom] of heaven" ωμοιωθη (ομοιοω) aor. pas. "is like" – a comparative (see the Kingdom parables).
λογον (ος) "accounts" – usually means "word” but here in the forensic sense of calculation.
δουλων (ος) "servants" – usually means slave, but here is suggested that these servants are the king’s accountants, so it is likely the man in question is cooking the king’s books!

v24 συναιρειν (συναιρω) pres. inf. "settlement of accounts - infinitive is complementary.
ταλαντων (ον) "[ten thousand] talents " –since a "talent" is a measure of weight and could be gold, silver or copper it varies in value, but 10,000 is a huge pile of loot!
προσηνεχθη (προσφερω) aor. pas. "was brought" – under compulsion, kind of an early form of IRS audit!

v25 μη εχοντος (εχω) gen. part. "since he was not able" – i.e. "because" he was not able αποδουναι (αποδιδωμι) aor. inf. "to pay".
ο κυριος "the master". The use of κυριος, three times in this parable Matthew likely wants us to equate this king with Jesus.
πραθηναι (πιπρασκω) aor. pas. inf. "[he ordered] that ........ be sold"- infinitive forms a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the master commanded.
αποδοθηναι (αποδιδωμι) aor. pas. inf. "to repay the debt" as above.

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

v27 του δουλου (ος) gen. "the servant's [lord]" - "the master who ruled over that servant."
σπλαγχνισθεις (σπλαγχνιζομαι) aor. pas. part. "took pity on him" - a word usually used of Jesus.  
αφηκεν (αφιημι) aor. "cancelled/forgave” same word Jesus uses in the Lord’s prayer 

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

v29 πεσων (πιπτω) aor. part. "fell to his knees" as above…
μακροθυμησον (μακροθυμεω) aor. imp. "be patient" as above, the modern image is of the payday lender. The debt is legit, but in light of the circumstances the repayment demand while legal is also abhorrent
v30 ουκ ηθελεν (θελω) imperf. "refused" - direct discourse, "I refuse." 
απελθων (απερχομαι) aor. part. "he departed” - "he left and cast him into prison."

v31 ιδοντες (οραω) aor. part. "when [the other servants] saw" - a temporal clause.
τα γενομενα (γινομαι) aor. part. "what was done".
ελυπηθησαν (λυπεω) aor. pas. "they were outraged".
ελθοντες (ερχομαι) aor. part. "going" they  
διεσαφησαν (διασαφεω) aor. "told" - explained, made clear, informed, 
τω κυριω "[their] master" (thus undermining forever the parental direction to not tattle)
τα γενομενα (γινομαι) aor. mid. part. "[everything] that had happened" – a complete account, noting left out, no detail spared – the plain unadulterated truth.

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

v34 οργισθεις (οργιζομαι) aor. pas. part. "in anger" adverbial, so  "because he was angry."
τοις βασανισταις (ης ου) dat. "jailers/torturers” – the idea was to torment the person in prison so that relatives and friends would raise the necessary funds to pay off the debt.

v35 ουτως και "and this [is how]" - once again a Matthean discourse ends with judgment! 
εαν μη + subj. "unless" - introducing a negated 3rd. class conditional clause where the condition has a possibility of coming true.
τω αδελφω (ος) dat. "[his] brother " fellow believer – a dative of direct object after 
αφιημι, "to forgive."

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

Reflections for September 17th

So then, each of us will be accountable to God. — St. Paul of Tarsus

I owe some of my thoughts here to John Pilch to whom I give credit in advance. 
In our Gospel text this morning there is a bit of haggling going on. The unmerciful servant haggles with the master, the second servant with the unmerciful one, and Abraham haggles with God over Sodom and Gomorra. I know, the latter text is not on the table this Sunday but it is instructive. 
Haggling is not so much about money as it is about relationship, which is why Abraham can get up the nerve to haggle with God. The seller can set any price he wants though he probably has a lower limit. The buyer has limits of his own, mainly the amount that he can actually pay. The process of haggling is an exercise in relationship. Both sides are attempting to find out what the other can afford. 
This is true if both are living in a relationship culture, not a money culture like ours today where pulling one over on someone is just good business and known as used car sales. In a way, used car sales technique tries to simulate ancient relationship culture by presenting us with a confidence man who is trained to schmooze us. Yet, the actual sale is negotiated with an unseen and uninvolved person in the business office who has no emotional entanglement with the buyer at all.
It goes without saying that in the traditional arrangement of the parable’s time, the closer the relationship, the lower the price will be for the buyer. The seller will still get sufficient returns on his investments, but the relationship demands that he not be greedy about this. To become known as not giving ones close relationships a good deal is to become known as one who does not value relationships and is untrustworthy in personal interactions. At the same time, continuously not getting ones due in negotiations means becoming known as benighted.
There are things at stake for the buyer as well. To refuse to come to terms on the sale by demanding unrealistically low sale prices indicates that one does not value the relationship. Haggling is a strange dance of relationship, says Pilch. The sale has already been made. The relationship has seen to that. Who else would one buy from than from ones closest allies? The haggling process is merely indicative of and is guided by how close the relationship is and how the participants’ hearts show that they value relationships.
So, here we have a household. A master of the house is doing business with his servants. Those servants were considered part of the household, just a little lower than the actual family they were serving. Just like the full family members they were expected to be fiercely loyal to their master and to show that loyalty by comporting themselves according to the masters expectations and the master’s own ways of acting when in public. The servants are to act in public like their master since they were seen as an extension of the master’s presence himself. 
Therefore, once the master models forgiveness, once the master models a highly generous haggling style with his own, there is then no excuse for the servants and the family to not do likewise. 
As the unmerciful servant meets the second servant he shows two flaws in his heart: First, as fellow servants in the same house they are to be in relationship and therefore any haggling ought not ever end as harshly as his dealing with servant two. He does not value the relationship at all it would seem. Instead he is putting the second servant out of the house not for debts against the master but debts due him. In other words, he is treating a member of the master’s house like a total stranger. 
Secondly, his actions deny his own place in the master’s house. Having just been shown great mercy in dealing with the debts of others he is refusing to follow the master’s modeled way of acting. He is acting like one who does not belong to the household or does not value being part of the household. 
The result of the matter is that he is treated as he wishes. He is treated as a stranger who happens to owe money. Though the master would not do this to his own, he will to do so with strangers since there is no relationship. He must. To do other is to show either powerlessness or imbecility. For the servants this is a fairly clear matter: You either belong or you do not and your actions will disclose what your heart believes. 
When St. Peter asks: “How many times must I forgive a fellow church member,” he is asking a very important question. We do him wrong stipulating that he is looking for some fine print to visit onto those whom he does not like. No, Peter is asking what the ways of the master of the church are for it will be incumbent on him to enact whatever that character might be. Therefor, Jesus’ answer is not about St. Peter, or you, or me, it is about God. 
Ours is a used car culture more than relationship culture. It would not have occurred to St. Peter to say or believe the modern day proverb: never buy a used car from a friend. That would have been the opposite of the way that his brain was wired. It is said that Jesus talked about money more than most anything else. It made sense in his time when dealing with money and therefor with others was done mainly in relationship culture ways. 
In our time talk of money might well trigger mainly the used car part of our brains. We believe in transactions governed by contracts. In our society it makes sense to plead with people to not see the 7 times 70, or 77 times as a “77 strikes and you are out” hardened and fast contract. But even if we succeed in that will they hear that the underlying message really was to be conformed to the Master’s heart? It is not the sign of the church to be a forgiving people that values the relationship for its own sake. That is the road to cheap grace. One must remember that this is a parable about forgiving. Real offense against the master’s will has occurred. It is forgiven, not tolerated. Further, the absolution only really means anything if everyone has stake in the house that speaks it.
The servant in the parable gave twofold offense: He did not value his relationship to the master and he did not value his relationship to his neighbor. These two are connected so as to be one conviction of the heart and one should not be played off against the other. That conviction might be summed up: “this is the house I live in, this is where I belong, I am injured when it is injured, I rejoice when it rejoices, this is the place that has first claim on me, this is who I stand with,” or shorter and straight to the point: “I am a child of this house and God is its master.”

We haggle with God every day. It is called prayer. Prayer’s purpose is to tune our hearts to the Father’s heart and live life from the heart. (Nouwen) “Forgive us our debts (trespasses),” is a haggle spoken by one of the house. Only in the house with the Master does it make sense to say it. Were Master and petitioner not in relationship, the negotiation would merely be a matter of which level of hell one would end up in. Only with those where a mutual and bound relationship is evident can there be an assurance of mercy. The servant has all he has because of the generosity of the master. Any paying back a debt would be a zero-sum game for the house. It is not so with strangers. To pray is to remind us by the very action of praying that we belong, that this God has first claim on us, that this God and these people is who I stand with, that this is the house I live in, and here I live forever.