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, January 22, 2019

Texts for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, January 27th, 2019

First Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10

1All the people [of Israel] gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. 2Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. 3He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. 5And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 8So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
9And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. 10Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Psalm: Psalm 19

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31aBut strive for the greater gifts.

Gospel: Luke 4:14-21

14Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
  because he has anointed me
   to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
  and recovery of sight to the blind,
   to let the oppressed go free,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

A Greek Text Study of Luke 4:14-21

Greek Study Luke 4:14-22

V14 υπεστρεψεν "returned", expresses space/sphere,  so "empowered, or full of the Spirit", or accompaniment, "equipped with 
του πνευματος (α ατος) gen. "[the power] of the Spirit" - ablative, expressing source.
φημη (η) "news" - in a neutral sense - not in the sense of the English transliteration, "fame".
καθ (κατα) της περιχωρου (ος) "through the [whole] countryside" - surrounding region. meaning "throughout Galilee".

v15 εδιδασκεν (διδασκω) imperf. "he taught" - he was teaching. Imperfect expressing ongoing action, probably iterative, repeated action; "he went on teaching", Barclay.
δοξαζομενος (δοξαζω) perf. pas. part. "everyone praised [him]"  A strong word, usually reserved for God. The cause of the praise is usually attributed to Jesus' miracles, but Luke links it to his teaching.

v16 hn teqrammenoV (trefw) perf. pas. part. "he had been brought up" – idiom, he had been fed, nourished, reared. The perfect participle with the imperfect forms a periphrastic pluperfect serving to emphasize the duration of his living in Nazareth as a child and young man. 
των σαββατων (ον) gen. "the Sabbath day."
το ειωθος (ειωθα) perf. part. {as was his}custom" - his habit ie Jesus was a pious Jew.
αναγνωναι (αναγινωσκω) aor. inf. "to read" - infinitive expresses purpose, "he stood up [in order] to read." In the synagogue service the rabbi teacher stood read and sat to teach. There was probably a cycle of readings, first from Torah followed by a reading from the Prophets. The reading was in Hebrew with a translation in Aramaic.
v17 του προφητου (ος) gen. "[the scroll] of the prophet" – an idiomatic sense; "the scroll which contains the writings of Isaiah the prophet".
αναπτυξας (αναπτυσσω) aor. part. "unrolling" ευρεν (ευρισκω) aor. "he found"  Jesus found the reading in the scroll indicating it wasn't part of the Pericope.  The scroll would have already been open ready for the reader. It could just mean Jesus "found on the page."
ην γεγραμμενον "it is written" - the imperfect with the perfect participle forms a periphrastic pluperfect. Establishing a tense separation between the reading Jesus found and what was written.
v18 κυριου (ος) gen. "[the Spirit] of the Lord" – ablative of origin, "the Spirit poured out from the Lord.
επι "is on/over [me]" -  Spacial - expressing the fact that the Spirit has come upon Jesus to enable his ministry he is "consecrated", set apart, to perform. This ministry is defined in four infinitival phrases: "to communicate ..", "to proclaim ..", "to release .." and "to preach .. (v19)."
εινεκεν + gen. "because" - for the sake of. Causal clause, "for this reason [he anointed me]." "Anointed" in the sense of commissioned to undertake a particular task. 
ευαγγελισασθαι (ευαγγελιζω) aor. inf. "to preach good news" – i.e. to communicate
απεσταλκεν, "he has sent", In the NT this word usually includes the content of the communication, namely the announcement of the coming kingdom of God and the invitation to enter ("repent and believe"). The word by itself simply means "important communication."
πτωχοις dat. adj. "the poor" identifying for whom the preaching is performed.
κηρυξαι (κηρυσσω) aor. inf. "to proclaim/preach” - a purpose clause.
αφεσιν (ις εως) "freedom,forgiveness, remission, pardon”, from captivity. Clearly tapping into the slavery imagery, exodus and exile, but in the sense of "freedom from slavery to sin", so "forgiveness."
αιχμαλωτοις (ος) dat. "the prisoners" identifying for whom the freedom is performed.
αναβλεψιν (ις εως) "recovery of sight" - restoration of sight- spiritual sense is intended. Due to sin, people are blind to the Word of God and divine revelation is withheld.
τυφλοις dat. adj. "for the blind".
αποστειλαι (αποστελλω) aor. inf. "sent to” εν αφεσει (ις εως) [to release] in freedom, liberty. a modal phrase expressing manner, "to send away in freedom the τεθραυσμενους (θραυω) perf. pas. part. "oppressed" - down-trodden.

v19 κηρυξαι (κηρυσσω) aor. inf. "to proclaim" - the fourth and final infinitive
ενιαυτον (ος) "the year" – era 
κυριου (ος) gen. "of the Lord's" an idiom, "this is God's year to act!"
δεκτον adj. "favor" - acceptable, welcome, agreeable, favorable, acceptable", the year in which God's will and purpose in Christ is operative for salvation. This may relate to the fulfilment of Jubilee, Leviticus 25, the fiftieth year when slaves are released, debts cancelled, etc. In Christ, Jubilee is spiritually realized, which, of course, is the point Jesus draws from the texts.

v20 πτυξας (πτυσσω) aor. part. "he rolled up [the scroll]" - temporal, so when.
αποδους (αποδιδωμι) aor. part. "gave it back to".υπηρετη (ης ου) "the assistant”
εκαθισεν (καθιζω) aor. "sat down" - he sat down. took the preacher's seat!
παντων gen. adj. "[the eyes] of everyone" ησαν ατενιζοντες "were fixed [on him]" – i.e. focused. a periphrastic imperfect. The word expresses an intense focused gaze and is used by Luke at important moments when people's attention is concentrated.

v21 ηρξατο (αρχω) aor. "he began" The use of this word differs depending on the context. Often it serves to emphasize the importance of what is said. 
σημερον adv. "today" - emphatic serving to underline the fact that the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy is palpable.
πεπληρωται (πληροω) perf. pas. "is fulfilled" – completed happening now.
εν τοις ωσιν υμων "in your hearing" – literally in the ears.  It is unclear what is "in the ears." Is it scripture, or that which is fulfilled. Probably the latter - the promise is being realized at the moment of their hearing. 

v22 εμαρτυρουν (μαρτυρεω) imperf. "spoke well of" - witnessing, bearing testimony to, speaking of. What better place than a synagogue to gather a quorum of witnesses to the truth!   Yet, the question that follows evidences skepticism on the part of the congregation, so possibly "everyone noticed what he said", a dative of disadvantage; "everyone spoke up against him" as they 
εθαυμαζον (θουμαζω) imperf. "were amazed" - ongoing action. Amazement is an important initial response to the gospel; the kind of response a person makes when confronted with theophany. Mark plays with this response: his gospel begins and ends with people being amazed; "amazement" is a sot of pre faith response.
της χαριτος (ις ιτος) gen. "[the words] of grace”. Possibly an objective genitive, so "words about grace". The word "grace" χαριτος is translated in many ways: "winning words" ,"well spoken", " wonderful things said", "beautiful words", "astonished by his eloquence", "the words of charm" – idiomatically - "They were astonished words of such grace should fall from his lips".
τοις εκπορευομενοις (εκπορευομαι) pres. part. "that came

ουχι "[Isn't this Joseph's son?]" - This negation is used where a question presumes a positive answer. The question evidences the skepticism of the congregation. Familiarity breeds contempt.

A Reflection on Luke 414-21

Sometimes it happens that when you start to pray, you find you can pray well. At other times, even when you have expended great effort, you may find your efforts frustrated. This experience is to make you learn that you must exert yourself constantly, for having once gained the gift of prayer, you must be careful to keep it safe (29. Philokalia 1:179). — Evagrios of Pontus

A beginning note: The lectionary disassembles an episode in the ministry of Jesus this week and next week. Jesus walks into he synagogue in Nazareth and all does not go well. This week’s half of the episode leaves off before the conflict happens. I chose not to separate things this week or next week. So, you will hear that Jesus’ sermon is not well received even though Sunday’s text does not quite get there this week.
It is texts like Luke 4 that give rise to the idea that Luke writes a social justice Gospel. That notion is really hard to argue with since it is generally held that Luke writes into a rich community and since his stories seem to, in part, want to answer the question: “How can a rich man be saved?” The rich fool and Lazarus give details.
The themes in the reading that Jesus is given to speak on in the synagogue are not new to us. They are contained in the canticles of Mary and Zachariah from chapter 1:  Restoration and redemption, and both canticles anticipate or announce the imminent presence of God and Messiah. We, the readers of Luke’s Gospel, already know that Jesus is that Messiah. His birth came with angels’ song and his baptism with the very voice of God. 
Speaking of the voice of God, Alan Rickman just died. Long before he played Snape in Harry Potter he got to be the voice of God: Metatron, in the movie Dogma, but that is another story. But still, his best line is: “All who are not dead or from a parallel dimension do well to hold their ears right about now,” right before the true vocalization of God makes the banished angel Bartleby’s head explode. 
In a way, Jesus should probably have prefaced his sermon in Nazareth in Luke 4 with Rickman's/ Megatron’s line. In a way, it made his listeners’ heads explode. How could he claim the words of ancient prophecy, of ancient lore, to be referring to himself? How dare he! But then, remember, that you and I are by now of a parallel dimension. We know, having read the first 3 chapters, who Jesus is. Nazareth, on the other hand, is deaf to this. 
Ancient words read by the faithful have a function in the faith where they are treasured. They serve as a voice of wisdom, history, identity, and, yes, God. We ponder them and rearrange and reset our lives and our living by what they say to us. We hear them and rebel against them too. As a matter of fact, that seems to be the more common response. We find  ways to shield ourselves from the voice. We hold our ears so to speak, so that the true awesome creating and killing voice of God can somehow not get to us. 
Yet there are certainly times when we have taken our hands away from our ears — maybe to scratch our nose — when it suddenly intrudes and when that happens, all manner of things get wrecked like moneychangers’ tables in the Temple; and some things get healed as well. 
In Nazareth, God was about to do an old thing, that is God was about to fulfill the words of ancient prophets, a fulfillment that really ought to have been looked forward to. Unknown prophets like Simeon saw it and said so. (2:29ff) 
Is the fulfillment of God’s promises something we actually wish to see or are our spirits quietly whispering the refrain of Melville’s Bartleby: we “would prefer not to?” Melville’s Bartleby dies a much less fantastic and much less messy death than Dogma’s Bartleby. Melvin’s Bartleby starves, he preferred not to eat. 
Do you prefer God and God’s plan or do you prefer them not? When God’s great plan is read do you prefer it not come to be in your sight? If God’s voice sounds from the promises of prophecy do you prefer not to hear? 

“Of course not! That would be silly,” you say. And everyone in Nazareth agrees with you. But they still try to take Jesus to the cliff.