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Wrestling with the Word, episode 76: Lectionary 10 (2 Pentecost), Year C (June 6, 2010) May 19, 2010

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Lectionary 10 (Second Sunday after Pentecost)

In the chaotic and threatening times in which we live, some people long for the good old days when things were stable and peaceful. Some even say it was more obvious in those days that God was in heaven and all was right with the world. Strikingly, the biblical witnesses seem to have looked at life in quite the opposite way. When God stayed in heaven, life on earth was painful, even lamentable. God’s absence caused the afflicted and oppressed to cry out for help. When God showed up on the earth, things became topsy-turvy. Lamentation turned to rejoicing. Enemies became friends. Mourners became dancers. Judges and rulers became judged and ruled. Outsiders became caregivers. Outcasts were included. And death was transformed into life. Oh, for the good old days!

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 76: Lectionary 10 (2 Pentecost), Year C.

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Psalm 30
In spite of the initial words that attribute the psalm to the purification of the Jerusalem Temple in 164 B.C., the psalm is an individual thanksgiving in response to an individual lament. Verses 6-10 articulate the lament and the situation in which the worshiper had experienced. The summary of that suffering appears in verses 1-3: troubled by enemies, the psalmist cried to the Lord for help, even from the depths of Sheol, and the Lord heard and healed. In verses 6-10 the lament is described in more detail. Because of the psalmist’s arrogance over prosperity, the Lord hid away (see Pss. 10:1; 27:9; 55:1; 104:21), a truly “lamentable” situation. In response to the cries for the Lord’s help/strength, the Lord dressed up the petitioner for a new occasion—party clothes instead of mourning garments. In expressing gratitude for this divine response, the psalmist recognizes that the Lord’s deliverance served the purpose of opening his lips to give God thanks and praise (v. 12). The grateful petitioner, therefore, encourages the “faithful ones” gathered in the temple to join in the praises and thanksgivings to the Lord (v. 4).

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1 Kings 17:17-24
In response to the prophet’s plea for the dead widow’s son, the Lord extends mercy to the non-Israelite family who recognize the faithfulness of God’s word in the prophet.

Context
After predicting a drought in the land, Elijah heeded the word of the Lord and went to Zarephath in the vicinity of Sidon.  There he sojourned with a poor Canaanite widow and provided for her and her family a never-ending supply of meal and oil. That section of the story ends with the narrator’s remark that the miracle occurred “according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah” (v. 16).

Key Words
V. 17.  nešāmā = “breath”:  The same word appears at Gen. 2:7 when God breathes into the nostrils of Adam..

V. 18.  ma-llî wālāk = “what to me and to you” (LXX:  ti emoi kai soi):  The expression is usually used by one who is threatened by another:  “what do we have to do with each other?”  See Judg. 11:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; 19:22; 2 Kings 3:13; 2 Chron. 35:21.  In NT see Mark 1:24//Luke 4:34; Matt. 8:29; John 2:4.

V. 21.  nepheš hayyeled = “the life of the boy”:  In Hebrew the word nepeš (sometimes translated “soul”) refers to the whole living body and is sometimes used for “life” itself.

V. 24.  ûdebar-YHWH bepîkā ’emet = “and the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth (or truthful).” The expression indicates that the woman came to realize that Elijah was a prophet because the word of the Lord he had spoken came to pass. The effectiveness of God’s word distinguishes YHWH from the idols, probably even the gods the woman had been worshiping (see Isa. 44:6-8).

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Galatians 1:11-24
Against the distortion of his teachings by those followed him to Galatia, Paul insists that God called him and Christ instructed him in the truth of the gospel in order that God might be glorified.

Context
After the salutation of his letter, Paul moves immediately to the issue at hand:  the Christians of Galatia are “deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel” (v. 6).  Apparently after Paul’s initial visit there when he formed the Christian community in Galatia, some others followed him preaching and teaching a different message:  to the gospel of Jesus Christ must be added the Jewish law and the rite of circumcision.

Key Words
V. 11.  ouk estin kata anthrōpou = “is not human (in nature or origin):  Compare kata anthrōpon at Gal. 3:15; Rom. 3:5;  1 Cor. 3:3; 9:8; 15:32.

V. 13.  hoti kath’ hyperbolēn ediōkon = “that with violence I persecuted”:  See also 1:23; 4:29:5:11; 6:12.  The last reference implies the Christian responsibility to be persecuted for the cross of Christ (see Mark 8:34 and parallels).

Vss. 15-16.  eudokēsen [ho theos] …  apokalypsai ton huion autou en emoi = “God was pleased … to reveal his son to me”  For other cases where God is “pleased,” see Luke 12:32; 1 Cor. 1:21; Col. 1:19; cf. Psalm 40:13.

V. 15.  ho aphorisas me = “the One who set me apart”:  The word appears also at 2:12 but in terms of Peter’s withdrawing from Gentiles.  In LXX the term translates the Heb. verb qdš = “to be/make holy.”  It refers to the setting aside of objects (Exod. 19:23 and often) and persons like Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5) for divine purposes.

V. 15.  ek koilias mētros mou = “from the womb of my mother”:  See similar callings in the reports of the Servant of the Lord ( Isa. 49:1) and Jeremiah ( Jer. 1:5).

V. 16.  euangelizesthai auton = “proclaim him as the good news”:  For Christ as the content of the gospel, see Rom. 1:2-5; 16:25-27; 2 Cor. 1:19; Phil. 1:15.

V. 20.  hoti ou pseudomai = “I do not lie”:  Recall 2 Cor. 11:31, also citing God as witness; cf. 1 Thess. 2:5. Perhaps the statement of the woman to Elijah provides another parallel (1 Kings 17:24).

V. 24.  edoxazon en emoi ton theon = “they glorified God in (because of) me”:  Recall the words of the Servant of the Lord(  Isa. 49:3) and his role to “be a light to the nations (v. 6). Indeed, according to Acts 13:47, Paul quotes Isa. 49:6 as the explanation of his role in God’s mission to the gentiles/nations.

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Luke 7:11-17
In response to the grief of a mourning mother, Jesus Christ raises her son from the dead with the result that the people glorify God and recognize in Jesus the presence of God.

Context
Following the story about Jesus’ healing the centurion’s servant who was near death (vv. 1-10), Jesus enters the town of Nain where he meets the funeral procession for a young man who had died.  The two stories (and this one in particular) pave the way for the question which the disciples of John bring to Jesus in verses 18-23.

Key Words
V. 12.  monogenēs huios = “the only son”:  cf. another such son at 9:38; used of Christ as John 1:18.

V. 12.  chēra = “widow”:  See 4:26 where Jesus refers in his sermon to the widow of Zarephath, the story in our first lesson (1 Kings 17).

V. 14. hēpsato tēs sorou = “touched the bier”:  note the ancient view that proximity to a dead body defiles; cf. Num. 6:9-12; Sirach 34:25-26.

V. 16.  ēgerthē = “has arisen”:  The same word appears in Jesus’ command to the dead man at v. 14. Jesus, therefore, speaks a word that comes to pass.

V. 16.  epeskepsato ho theos ton laon autou = “God has visited his people”:  The statement appears in Zechariah’s prophecy at 1:68 in connection with God’s redemption. The noun form appears at 19:44 for God’s judgment. In the OT the expression appears in connection with both salvation and judgment.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 75: Holy Trinity, Year C (May 30, 2010) May 19, 2010

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Holy Trinity

The church’s doctrine of the Holy Trinity is an intellectual puzzle. At the same time, it integrates for us the witnesses of God throughout the Scriptures. While any particular passage that we study, even the ones for today, might in themselves be puzzling, the whole testimony to God from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22 is even more of a mystery. Only God can enable us to believe that it all fits together, that God acts as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And even though we do not comprehend things completely, God gives us enough to live by now and promises the rest for our living eternally. The significance of wrestling with the mystery is this: that whatever we say about the three persons of God, we are confessing what God has come to mean to us. There is no talk about God—and there never has been–apart from God’s role in our lives and in the life of the world. Let us listen to some of that talk from our lessons for the day.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 75: Holy Trinity, Year C.

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Psalm 8
This hymn glorifying God the Creator exults in the wonder of what it means to be human. Though small and seemingly insignificant, the worshipper casts in poetic form what Genesis 1 sets forth in prose, namely the awesome “royal” dignity and identity given to humanity be God. Perhaps because of the expression “son of man” (NRSV: “mortals”) in verse 4, the early church interpreted the psalm as a prophecy about Jesus Christ. In its own context, however, “son of man” is simply parallel to “humanity” (’ādām). The power of the poem lies in its amazement at the majesty of the Creator God on the one hand, and the status and responsibility God has given to human beings on the other hand.

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Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Before anything else was made, the Lord created wisdom, who, like a child, delighted in observing God’s structuring of the world and in understanding how it all belongs together.

Context
Part of the tenth and final discourse developed in Proverbs 1–9, wisdom now takes on personalized forms, first that of a person who speaks, then that of a little child, and in chapter 9 of a virtuous woman who invites the simple to walk in her way.

Key Words
V. 22. YHWH qānānî = “created me”:  For qānā as ancient term for “create”; see Gen. 14:19 of El Elyon. Some scholars prefer to understand the word as referring to birth, that is, begetting.

V. 22.  darkô = “his dominion”:  The word derek usually means “way,” but for the use of drk(t) with the meaning “dominion,”see also Job 26:14; 40:19; Ps. 18:31 (substitute for RSV’s “ways”).

V. 23.  nissaktî = “I was set up/installed”; See only other use of verb at Ps. 2:6 (Heb. 7) where it refers to the installation of the Davidic king on Mount Zion.

V. 24.  tehōmōt = “deeps”: To capture the imagery the word conveyed, read as the Babylonian Ti’amat, the chaos monster vanquished by Marduk who then used her body to create the firmament and the earth (Enuma Elish IV).

V. 24.  nikbaddê-mayim:  Read nibkê-yam = “springs of Yamm,” the Canaanite sea monster subdued by Baal, the god of fertility.  For parallelism of tehom(t) and yam, see Job 38:16.

VV. 24-25.  chōlāltî = “I was delivered (at birth)”:  For a similar use of chûl, see Deut. 32:18; Job 39:1; Ps. 29:9; Isa. 51:2.

V. 30.  ’āmôn = “little child”:  The translation seems better than “master workman” although certainty is impossible because the word appears only here in Hebrew Bible. The functions of delight and rejoicing seem more appropriate for the child image than for that of an architect.

V. 31.  betēbēl ’artsô = “in the world of his earth”:  The expression is due to poetic redundancy, like Job 37:12; usually the words stand in parallelism.

V. 31. weša‘ašû‘ay ’et-benê-’ādām = “my delights (are) with humans (lit., “sons of man”): While Wisdom delights in people on the earth, elsewhere God delights in the having planted the vineyard called Israel (Isa. 5:7). In the Wisdom Psalm 119, the psalmist delights in the law/laws of God (vss. 24, 77, 92, 143, 174).

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Romans 5:1-5
By justifying us through faith in Christ Jesus, God gives us that peace which enables us to give honor to God through the tribulations of life here and now.

Context
In 4:1-8 Paul had explained that Abraham was justified by faith, and in 4:13-25 he writes that as with Abraham, the promise of God is only to faith.  Now he begins a section which runs through 8:39 about the reality of the righteousness of faith as Christian freedom.

Key Words
V. 1.  oun = “therefore”:  At the end of chap.4, Paul spoke of God’s giving to us righteousness on the basis of faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

V. 1.  eirēnēn … pros ton theon = “peace with God”:  The announcement of peace with God occurs in Romans prior to this verse:  1:7 (“peace from God” as a Christian greeting); 2:10 (along with glory and honor is given to those who do good); 3:17 (in OT quote). Following  this verse, God’s peace appears at  8:6 (along with life it is the result of setting one’s mind on the Spirit); 14:17 (along with righteousness and joy it constitutes the reign of God); 14:19 (along with mutual upbuilding it is the goal of the Christian community); 15:13 (along with joy it is the gift of God which enables the Christian to abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit); 15:33 and 16:20 (a characteristic which defines God: “the God of peace”).

Vv. 2-3.  kauchōmetha = “we boast”:  Paul uses the word negatively in Romans at 2:17, 23; 3:27 (noun); positively here and v. 11; 15:17 (noun). The positive use by a Christian indicates a confession in which the believer acknowledges belonging to Christ. The negative use indicates that a person belongs to himself/herself.

V. 3.  thlipsis = “affliction”:  The word describes evildoers at 2:9; that which has no power to separate us from the love of God at 8:35; here and at 12:12, the New Time suffering of the followers of Christ.

V. 5.  ou kataischynei = “not put to shame” (RSV, NRSV: “disappoint”):  The expression originates in Ps. 22:6 (Eng. v. 5) and 25:20 where the loyalty and love of God protect the believer from hostile forces.  Used in Romans also at 9:33 and 10:11 in quote of Isa. 28:16 where it promises the same protection for anyone who believes in the Lord.

V. 5. hoti hē agapē tou theou … dia pneumatos hagiou tou dothentos hēmin = “because God’s love … through the Holy Spirit given to us”: The gift of God’s love can be believed and appropriated by us only because of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit.

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John 16:12-15
Preparing the disciples for his own departure, Jesus promises the Spirit who will guide them in truth, declare the things to come, and glorify Jesus.

Context
Still addressing the disciples after supper the night before the Passover, Jesus had promised following his departure the gift of the Counselor (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).

Key Words
V. 12. all’ ou dynasthe bastazein arti = “but you cannot bear them now”: As elsewhere in John’s Gospel, the expression probably refers to the deeper understanding of Jesus’ words the disciples will have following the resurrection and gift of the Spirit. Recall the author’s words at 2:22 concerning raising the temple in three days. Note also the author’s comment about the disciples remembering Jesus’ words regarding the king’s entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey (12:6). The, there is Jesus’ remark to them that “afterward” they will understand his words and acts regarding foot washing (13:7).

V. 13. … to pneumas tēs alētheias … hodēgēsei hymas en tē alētheia pasē = “the Spirit of truth … will guide you in all truth”: The function of the Spirit as the “guide” or “teacher” of truth sounds much like the role of Wisdom in the OT, particularly the Wisdom woman who invites students to “walk in the way of insight” (Prov. 9:6) and promises that “whoever finds me finds life” (Prov. 8:35).

Wrestling with the Word, episode 74: Day of Pentecost, Year C (May 23, 2010) May 13, 2010

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Day of Pentecost

The human mind is a marvelous instrument. It helps us find our way in the world. It enables us to plan, to measure, to reflect, to calculate, and to take responsibility for ourselves and for others. Our minds can develop instruments to see so far out into space that we can look back in time, determine the origins of life, and calculate genetic structures. Yet, the human mind has its limits (and that is not only because of aging). Its limits are due to our inability to believe things that are beyond the scope of human reason. My mind cannot bring me to believe that God is the Creator of the universe, although I would love to figure out how God and evolutionary processes exist side by side. My mind cannot lead me to believe that the death of a Jewish man on a cross about the year A.D. 29 could accomplish God’s forgiveness of sin for the whole world. Nor will my mind enable me to grasp that the same person was raised from the dead only a couple of days later. It is no wonder that the church celebrates the Day of Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit, for this gift enables us to believe what our minds cannot comprehend.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 74: Day of Pentecost, Year C.

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Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
The psalm is a hymn of praise to God the Creator. It bears striking similarities both to the Egyptian “Hymn to the Sun God” and to Genesis 1. All three have in common the belief that each phenomenon of nature exists to fulfill a particular function. Further, like Genesis 1, the sea and its creatures (even Leviathan here) do not represent chaos but playful things in which God delights. Our verses summarize the preceding material with the confession that “in wisdom” (v. 24) and with divine “spirit” or “breath” (v. 30), God not only creates everything but sustains all creation with appropriate nourishment. For all these wonders, the psalmist offers praise with song, music, and poetic meditation (vss. 33-34).

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Genesis 11:1-9
Against humanity’s attempts to play God, the Lord exercises royal authority by turning their plans against them and separating them from one another.

Context
The story concludes the history of the brokenness of humanity which began in Genesis 3.  One story after another depicts humanity’s attempts to “be like God” – to use the serpent’s words. Each attempt results in humanity’s alienation from God and from one another.

Key Words
V. 2. biq‘â be’erets šin‘ar wayyēšebû šām = “a plain in the land of Shinar and dwelt there”: The word Shinar seems to describe an area that comprised the ancient land of Sumer and the land that later became Babylonia. The term appears in the OT also at Gen. 14:1, 9; Isa. 11:11; Dan. 1:2, and Zech. 5:11—all apparently as a name for the area that later generations knew as Babylon.

V. 4.  ‘îr ûmigdāl werōšô baššāmayim = “a city and a tower and its top in the heavens”:  In ancient Babylon the temple abode for the gods Marduk, Enlil, and Ea was called E.SAG.ILA = “house of the lofty top.”  The tower in the complex was called E.TEMEN. AN.KI = “House of the Bond of Heaven and Earth.”

V. 4.  wena‘aseh-llānû šēm = “and let us make a name for ourselves”:  To understand the expression as a claim to fame, see ’anšê haššēm = “men of renown” (Gen. 6:4). The problem is that humanity is created to acclaim the name of God as great (see Psalm 76:1; 86:12; 92:1; 96:4, 8; 99:2-3). In order for humans to have a “great name” requires the gift and blessing of God; see Gen. 12:2; waagaddelâ šemekâ = “and I will make your name great” (cf. 2 Sam. 7:9).

V. 7.  nēre wenābelâ šām sephātām = “let us go down and confuse there their language [lip]”:  For Yahweh’s heavenly court as a possible addressee here, see 1 Kings 22:19-23; Isa. 6:1ff.; Job 1; Ps. 81; 89, etc.  Note the word for “confuse” (nābelâ) derives from the root bll and not from bbl from which Babel comes.

V. 9.  ‘al-kēn qārā’ šemāh bābel = “one called its name Babel”:  In the Babylonian language bab-ilāni or bab-ilî means “the gate of the gods.”  Cf. Gen. 28:18 where at Beth-el (House of God) Jacob declares he is at ša‘ar haššāmayim = “the gate of heaven.”

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Acts 2:1-21
God confirms the prophetic promise of a New Day by sending the Holy Spirit to inspire a universal audience to speak/hear the word of God in his/her own language so that the community of the new time might be realized.

Context
After the ascension of Jesus from the Mount of Olives, the disciples, about 120 in number, gathered in Jerusalem to choose a twelfth apostle to take the place of Judas.  The lot fell on Matthias.  Still in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, the apostles experienced the birth-day of the church. The excitement of the scene should not detract the reader from Peter’s explanation of the event and his sermon that follows our pericope.

Key Words
V. 1.  “the day of Pentecost”:  The festival was known in the OT period as “the feast of the harvest of the first fruits” (Exod.23:16), “the feast of weeks, the first fruits of the wheat harvest” (Exod. 34:22; Deut. 16:9-12), “the day of the first fruits” (Num. 28:26).  It was one of three festivals each year when all the males of Israel were to appear at the Jerusalem temple.

V. 2.  pnoē = “wind”:  One would expect pneuma here for “wind”; This term appears in NT elsewhere only at Acts 17:25 for “breath.”

V. 3.  glōssai hōsei pyros = “tongues as fire”:  For the connection of the Holy Spirit and fire, see Matt. 3:11 (//Luke 3:16); for fire as a visible manifestations of God (see Exod. 3:2; 19:18; Isa. 31:9). Perhaps more important, the final chapter of Isaiah prophesies an eschatological theophany in terms of fire, storm-wind, flames of fire; it goes on to describe God’s gathering of “all nations and tongues” and the divine promise that “all flesh shall come to worship before me” (Isa. 66:15-23)

V. 17-21. The words are Joel 2:28-29 with additions.  In v. 17 ev tais eschatais hēmerais = “in the last days” recalls Isa. 2:2 to refer to the New Day. The Lord’s promise to “pour out my spirit on all flesh” has taken audible and visible form in the scene that has just occurred, and the universality of that prophecy in Joel becomes the critical issue for the author of Luke-Acts through the interpretation and sermon of Peter.  In v. 18 the final words kai prophēteusousin = “and they shall prophesy” reflect the thought of Num. 11:29 where Moses desires that “all the Lord’s people were prophets.”

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John 14:8-17 (25-27)
In response to Philip’s request that Jesus show the disciples the Father, Jesus indicates that he and the Father are one and that when he goes away, he will pray that the Father send the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who will teach them all things and bring to remembrance all that Jesus had told them.

Context
After Judas had left the room of the final supper, Jesus began the Last Discourse (13:31).  He said that by loving one another, others will know they are his disciples (13:31-35).  Peter offered to lay down his life that he might go with Jesus, but Jesus predicts Peter will deny him three times (13:36-38).  Jesus then promises to prepare a place for his disciples in his Father’s house (14:1-6).

Key Words
V. 9. kai ouk egnōkas me = “and you do not know me”: The verb “know” should probably be understood in the OT sense of “know” where it means not intellectual awareness of a personal relationship. See Jer. 31:34; Hos. 6:6; Amos 3:2. At John 1:10, the world does not “know” the light that has come into the world. At John 10:38, Jesus connects “knowing” the relationship between the Father and the Son on the basis of the works that Jesus performs, just as in the following two verses here.

Vss. 10, 11. “I am in the Father and the Father in me”: The identity of God the Father and God the Son is attested throughout John’s Gospel, including Jesus’ claim to the divine title I AM. The same theme appears in Matt. 11:27//Luke 10:22.

Vv. 15, 21.  “my commandments”:  Whatever commandments Jesus intends, the saying is similar to 15:10 where the commandments involve “abiding in love.” When Jesus teaches the “new commandments” at 15:12, he focuses exclusively on a specific kind of love: “that you love one another, as I have loved you.”

V. 16.  allon paraklēton dōsei hymin = “he will give you another Paraclete/Advocate/Counselor/Helper”:  While this is the first occurrence in John’s Gospel, the term appears as the title/function for the Holy Spirit also at 14:26 (see note on v. 26); 15:26 (function of bearing witness to Jesus); and 16:7 (function of convincing the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment).

V. 17.  ho ho kosmos ou dynatai labein, hoti ou theōrei auto oude ginōskei = “whom the world is not able to receive, because it neither sees nor knows him”:  cf. 1:10:  “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him,” referring to the Word/Wisdom.  Although the world does not know and see the person of God, God loves the world (3:16), and Jesus prays that the world might believe that God sent him (17:20-26).

V. 26. ekeinos hymas didaxei panta kai hypomnēsei hymas ha eipon hymin egō = “that one will teach you many things and remind you of the things I said to you”: The teaching function of the Spirit recalls that of Wisdom in the traditions of the OT (see Prov. 8:1ff.; 9:1-6; and the seven “wisdom”gifts of the spirit at Isa. 11:2-3). As for the reminder of things Jesus had said to the disciples, note John 2:22 on the resurrection.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 73: Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C (May 16, 2010) May 10, 2010

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

In the musical Camelot, King Arthur tells Guinevere on the day of their meeting about his teacher Merlin. Arthur says, “He lives backwards… He can remember the future… He can tell you what is in it.” The Bible abounds in visions of the future. Those visions give us hope in difficult times. But they also give us direction in how we live our lives in the present. That guidance is not the result of magic but of revelation. Committing ourselves to follow the guidance begins and ends with confession and praise.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 73: Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C.

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Psalm 97
This psalm extolling the glorious reign of God, like the similar Pss. 47, 93, 95, 96, 98, 99, bases the reign of God on the divine act of creation. Clearly, since God is the creator of the entire universe, God cannot be made like the idols of the peoples. Clear also is the promise of the Creator God to preserve the life of the saints and deliver them from the wicked. That posture of God is appropriate because God rules with “justice and righteousness (as) the foundation of his throne” (v. 2).

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Acts 16:16-34
Though the messengers of God are constantly opposed by religious, political, and financially-threatening forces, God manages to bring the risk of witnessing to fruition, with the result that others come to rejoice over their belief in God.

Context
The immediate context is the city of Philippi where the apostles are guests in the home of Lydia. The larger context of opposition and imprisonment continues the experience of Jesus, the other apostles, and certainly Stephen.  Paul and his group experienced such opposition in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9), in Beroea (17:10-14), in Corinth where he was imprisoned, and in Ephesus where he escaped the crowd’s wrath.

Key Words
V. 16.  pneuma pythōna = “a spirit, a divination”:  Young women with such gifts of divination were called pythōnes, literally pythons.  They were persons inspired by Apollo, the Pythian god who was symbolized by a snake (the Python) at Delphi.  Like the oracle at Delphi, such persons of divination brought visitors from far and wide, seeking to receive answers to their puzzling questions. Obviously, such oracle-giving could become a profitable business, as indeed it was for this woman’s owners. Interestingly, although Paul was annoyed by her constant presence, she spoke the truth.

V. 30.  kyrioi, ti me dei poiein hina sōthō = “Lords, what must I do to be saved?”:  Recall the question of the Jewish lawyer at Luke 10:25:  ti poiēsas zōēn aiōnion klēronomēsō = “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  The response to the question after the resurrection is different from the one Jesus gives in Luke 10.

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Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
To those suffering persecution for their faith, the Risen Christ promises to come soon with the gift of life in the New Day.

Context
In the final vision John the Seer saw a tree of life on each side of the river and a city with nothing accursed in it.  Now in the conclusion to the book, these themes occur in regard to the coming of Christ.

Key Words and OT Allusions
V. 12.  On the Lord coming with recompense see esp. Isa. 40:10; on repaying everyone according to deeds, see Ps. 28:4; Jer. 17:10.

V. 14.  On the righteous entering the city by the gates see Ps. 24:3-6; on the tree of life, see v. 2; Gen 2:9; 3:22, 24; and especially Ezek. 47:12.

V. 16.  On `riza as descendant of David see Isa. 11:10 (Rom. 15:12); Sir. 47:22 (Rev. 5:5); on the star as a royal Davidic image see Num. 24:17

V. 17.  hydōr zōēs dorean = “water of life as a gift”:  Recall Jesus’ words at John 4:14. In OT see Ezek. 47:1, 6b-12; Zech. 13:1; 14:8. On dorean = “as a gift,” “without price” see Isa. 55:1.

V. 20.  “I am coming soon”:  cf. Paul’s closing at 1 Cor. 16:22.

V. 21.  hē charis tou kyriou ‘Iēsou meta pantōn = “the grace of the Lord Jesus be with all”:  some ancient manuscripts add hagiōn = “the saints.”  In any case, the concluding blessing is potent in its indication that even now, while the faithful wait the new day to come, the grace of the Lord Jesus is present even in the midst of their persecution (cf. 2 Thess. 3:18).

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John 17:20-26
Jesus prays that the love of God and of Jesus for the disciples and their love for one another become the means by which the world will believe that God sent Jesus into it.

Context
In his prayer to God on the night of his betrayal, Jesus had just prayed that God not take the disciples out of the world but to protect them from the evil one.  Indeed, Jesus indicated that he has sent them into the world, just as God sent him into the world.

Key Words
V. 21.  ho kosmos = “the world”:  occurs 57 times in John’s Gospel against 9 in Matt. and 3 in Mark and in Luke.  The lack of the world’s knowledge of God is attested at 1:9-10; God’s love for the world at 3:16-17; God’s desire to save the world at 1:29; 4:42, etc.

V. 23.  teteleiōmenoi eis hen = “they might be brought to completion as one” (passive):  The same verb (active) appears only for the completion of the work of Jesus at v. 4; 4:34; 5:36; 19:28.

V. 23.  hina ginōskē ho kosmos hoti = “in order that the world may know that”:  This theme is common in OT that by some miraculous deed others would know that Yahweh is God:  used of the Egyptians at the exodus event at Exod. 7:5; 10:2; 14:18.  The expression appears most frequently in Ezekiel both for Israel’s knowledge of God through judgment, e.g., 12:16, 20; 13:9, 14, 23, and for the nations’ knowledge of God through the salvation of Israel from exile (36:23; 37:28).

Wrestling with the Word, episode 72: Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C (May 9, 2010) May 3, 2010

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Sixth Sunday of Easter
Looking at the events that occur around us can give the impression that God is absent from the world. That impression provided the basis for apocalyptic literature in the Bible. When the world seemed hopeless and godless, then the people’s only hope was for the end, the promised reign of God. Certainly that promise appears throughout the Old and New Testaments, and thank God that it does. It provides us, as the prophet Jeremiah expressed it, “a future with hope.” At the same time, however, the Bible abounds in the announcement that God is with us here and now. Our lessons for the day, especially Acts 16 and John 14, announce that God is in our midst.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 72: Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C.

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Psalm 67
The psalm is a community thanksgiving, set in the context of a harvest festival (“The earth has brought forth her increase,” v. 6), but the peculiarly Israelite connection is the revelation of the Lord through “salvation,” most particularly the deliverance from the land of Egypt.  The divine gifts to Israel, however, do not give that people alone the right to praise the Lord, for here the prayer is that “all the peoples praise you” (vv. 3, 5), that “the nations be glad and sing for joy” (v. 4), and that “all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him” (v. 7) — all in response to God’s justice (v. 4) and abundant blessings on the whole earth.

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Acts 16:9-15
Working through the vision of a man from Macedonia pleading for help, God called Paul and the others to preach the gospel in Philippi where Lydia, upon hearing the word, offered the apostles the hospitality of her home.

Context
Beginning in 15:36, the author of Luke-Acts reports the second missionary journey of Paul and others; it will continue through chapter 18. The second journey was intended to revisit every city where they preached on the first journey (15:36).  Some controversy arose in regard to the entourage, but Paul ended up refusing to take John called Mark because of his withdrawing on the earlier trip.  As a result, Paul selected Silas to accompany him.  They then journeyed through Syria and Cilicia, to Derbe (14:20-23) and Lystra (14:8-19).  At Lystra Paul met Timothy and was sufficiently impressed to take him along.  Immediately preceding our passage, the Holy Spirit would not allow the group to go to Bithynia. Instead they traveled to Troas where this vision occurred.

Key Words
V. 9.  “a man of Macedonia”:  The vision was understood by Paul as God’s calling them to Macedonia. The Macedonian’s identity is irrelevant.

V. 12.  Philippi:  The city was founded by Philip, father of Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.  An imposing sight on the mountain and protected by a wall all around it, the city was an important site for establishing the first Christian congregation in Europe.

V. 14.  Lydia:  The woman is described as “a worshiper of God” (sebomenē ton theon), a term that describes a gentile who, though not yet a full proselyte, attached him/herself to Jewish religion, attending the synagogues and observing Sabbath and food laws. The word first appears in the Book of Acts at 13:43 where the expression describes a group people who are not Jews but worshipers with Jews in the synagogue (see also 17:17). At 13:50 the word appears for the “devout women of high standing” along with the leading men of the city, and at 17:4 it refers to “devout men.”  The same words used of Lydia describe Titius Justus at 18:7.

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Revelation 21:10, 22–22:5
God provides hope for the persecuted by giving a vision of a new Jerusalem in which the presence of God and of the Lamb will eliminate the need for any other source of light and in which two trees of life will provide healing for the nations.

Context
At the beginning of the chapter, John the seer writes that God gave him a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, one that existed without the chaos of the sea. Within that vision, one of the seven angels invites him to see the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.

Key Words
V. 10.  epi oros mega kai hypsēlon = “upon a mountain great and high”:  In the LXX oros hypsēlon is used only for holy mountains (Deut. 12:2; Isa. 14:13; 40:9; 57:7; Jer. 3:6; Ezek. 17:22; 40:2 [the place of Ezekiel’s vision of the temple]).  In NT the words describe the scene of the third temptation (Matt. 4:8) and the site of the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2 and Matt. 17:1).

V. 23.  “the glory of God is its light”:  For God as the source of light, see Gen 1:3-13; Isa. 10:17; 60:19-20. Then note how God transfers this honor and responsibility to God’s Son (John 1:4; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46) and even to God’s people (Isa. 49:6; Matt.5:14).

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John 14:23-29
In response to concerns about Jesus’ going away to be with the Father, Jesus assures the disciples through the promised word that he, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, will be present to those who love him.

Context
Continuing his discourse after Judas had left the meal, Jesus responded to questions the disciples asked.  One of those asked by the other Judas was about Jesus manifesting himself to them but not to the world.

Key Words
V. 23.  “If someone loves me, that person will keep my word (logos)”:  Note v. 15 where “commandments” is used in place of “word.” At 12:50. Jesus tells that the commandment God has given him to say and speak is “eternal life.” At 15:12, the commandment that Jesus gives the church is “love one another as I have loved you.”

V. 23.  kai monēn par’ autō poiēsometha = “and we will make a dwelling place with them”:  See Ezek. 37:27 where God promises “my dwelling place will be with them.”  Note the different use of the theme at 14:2. The same promise appears in the final vision of John the seer at Rev. 21:3.

V. 26.  ho paraklētos = “the Paraclete”: The word describes one who appears on another’s behalf, like an attorney. Only here does the word appear in explicit connection with the Holy Spirit.  For the same functions of guiding and teaching, see 16:13.  For other occurrences of Paraclete in John’s Gospel (in reference to the Holy Spirit), see 14:16; 15:26; 16:7).  At 1 John 2:1 Jesus Christ is the paraklētos who advocates for us before God.  The related noun paraklēsis means “comfort, exhortation, encouragement.” The function of the Spirit here is to “teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.” Recall the note at John 2:22: “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”

V. 27.  eirēnēn tēn emēn = “peace”:  The word “peace” is the English translation of the Hebrew shalom which is a common greeting from one to another.  Here, however, it is “my peace” that Jesus leaves behind for his disciples.  As greeting among Christians, see Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; Col. 3:15.

V. 28.  hypagō  kai erchomai pros hymas = “I go and I come to you”:  For previous references to Jesus’ going, see 13:33; 14:4; for coming, see 14:3-4, 18.

V. 29.  kai nyn eirēka hymin prin genesthai … = “now I have told before it takes place … “:  Note the similarity with 13:19 where is added “that I am (he)” (egō eimi); cf. also 16:4.  In Second Isaiah God’s speaking beforehand what will come to pass is evidence that Yahweh and not the idols is God (Isa. 43:12; 44:6-8; 48:3-5; 55:10-11). That same prophet introduces the divine title “I AM HE” (Isa. 43:10, 13, 25; 51:12; 52:6); in all cases the LXX renders egō eimi.