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Wrestling with the Word, episode 59: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year C (February 7, 2010) January 31, 2010

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Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

A purpose-filled life is one that is willing to submit to the will of God. Saying, “Your will be done” in our prayers paves the way for each of us to lay our lives on the line. The problem with such a prayer is that God just might answer. That can spell trouble. When God comes to address us in the Word, the first impact might feel like that of a head-on collision. Yet, only that realization of the awesomeness of God’s presence can make us whole, and only in God’s gift of healing us can we participate in God’s mission to the world. God’s purpose for us gives our lives meaning. “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 59: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year C.

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Psalm 138
The psalm of thanksgiving celebrates the realization that God answers prayers. That belief derives from the nature of God who acts out of covenant loyalty and fidelity. In doing so, God enables the worshiper to see that his/her salvation is part of the ongoing work of God that reaches out to the lowly. The recognition of this saving work for all people causes even the kings of the earth to acknowledge the power and glory of God. The past experience of answered prayer leads the worshiper to plead that God’s work never ceases and that God’s purpose for his/her life will come to pass.

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Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13)
The God whose holiness drives people to their knees acts to forgive sin and to bridge the gulf between people and God.

OR

Those who are judged and then forgiven by the presence of God and God’s Word, God commissions to be God’s spokespersons — no matter how difficult and incomprehensible that mission might be.

Context
The historical allusion to the year of King Uzziah’s death sets the passage at about 742 B.C. It was a time of impending disaster on the international scene, for Tiglath-Pileser III, king of the ever-expanding Assyrian Empire, had the kingdoms of Palestine in his sights. Takeover of the whole region by this brilliant military leader was inevitable, and the Assyrians had an international reputation for their brutality and ruthlessness. As Isaiah’s preaching developed, he interprets the Assyrian kings as Yahweh’s instruments of judgment upon the people of Israel (see Isa. 10:5-11). However, when those foreign kings became arrogant over their destructive work, then they became the object of Yahweh’s wrath (Isa. 10:12-19).

Key Words
V. 1. “the year that King Uzziah died”: The year of the king’s death was 742 B.C. In some biblical passages, Uzziah is known as Azariah. He began his rule in 783 and ruled for 42 years (not 52 years as reported in 2 Kings 15:2). Some scholars suggest that Uzziah was his throne name and that Azariah was his personal name. About 8 years prior to his death, he became leprous and was, therefore, unable to perform royal duties, and so his son Jotham became regent for his father. In spite of his illness, Uzziah proved to be one of Judah’s most able kings.

Vv. 1-2.  yôšēb … melē’îm … ‘ōmedîm = “sitting … filling … standing”  The use of the participles in a vision indicates an ongoing action, something like a peek into eternity.

V. 3.  melō’ kol-hā’ārets kebōdô = “the fullness of the whole earth is his glory”:  The literal translation of the construct relationship indicates that the whole world manifests the glory of God.

V. 4.  “foundations shook … voice … smoke”: These characteristics of a volcanic eruption occur throughout the OT (see, e.g., Exod. 19:16-18) as signs of God’s presence. In ritual the smoke results from the burning of incense, and drums and trumpets imitate the thunderous noise and shaking.

V. 5.  ’ôy lî kî-nidmêtî = “Woe is me! For I am done for!”:  The reason for his “woe” is the notion that, when a human being looks at God who is “other,” the observer will die. See Gen. 32:30; Exod. 33:20; Judg. 13:22.

V. 8.  hinenî šelāchanî = “Here am I. Send me.” The response “Here I am” is identical to that of others who are summoned by God to fulfill a mission. Cf. Abraham at Gen. 22:1; Moses at Exod. 3:4; Samuel at 1 Sam. 3:2ff.

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11
God revealed to Paul that the essential content of the Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and this is the tradition that witnesses pass on to each generation.

Context
Paul’s moves rather abruptly from the discussion about prophecy and speaking in tongues in chapter 14 to a profound discussion of the resurrection from the dead. These verses provide the background for the following presentation on the resurrection of the dead in general.

Key Words
V. 1.  parelabete = “you received” over a period of time:  At v. 3 Paul indicates that he himself received the gospel tradition but does not indicate its source. At 11:23 he reports that he received from the Risen Lord the tradition of the Lord’s Supper.

V. 5.  ōphthē = “he appeared”:  The term is common for post-resurrection appearances; cf. Luke 24:34 (to Simon); Acts 9:17 (to Paul); 13:31 (to the apostles who became witnesses); 26:16 (to Paul).

V. 8. hōsperei tō ektrōmati = “as to a miscarriage”:  In LXX the word refers to a premature birth (Num.12:12; Job 3:16; Eccles. 6:3).

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Luke 5:1-11
Jesus Christ calls to be his disciples those who are so overwhelmed by his presence that they confess their sinfulness before him.

Context
In the previous chapter, Jesus began his preaching and teaching ministry in his hometown at Nazareth. From there the people drove him out because of his teaching that the grace of God was for Gentiles. Then he went to the synagogue at Capernaum where he rebuked an unclean spirit. Following that exorcism, Jesus entered Simon’s house where he healed the man’s mother-in-law. Later, when people tried to constrain him, Jesus indicated his mission was to preach the good news of the Reign of God. This passage has its roots in Mark 1:16-20, but Luke adds a new twist by adding the story of the miraculous catch of fish (compare John 21:1-11). The call to Simon, James, and John, occurs without the fishing miracle at Mark 1:16-20 and Matthew 4:18-22. In those gospels, the calling of the fishermen appears prior to the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31; Matt. 8:14-16; but Luke 4:38-40).

Key Words
V. 2. “the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets”: The setting, similar to that of Mark 1: 16-20, presents Jesus, the Son of God, calling followers who are at their daily work.

V. 8. exelthe ap’ emou, hoti anēr hamartōlos eimi, kyrie = “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” While the words are similar to those of Isaiah, it is not the presence of God in a theophany but the miracle that Jesus performed that led Peter to his confession.

V. 10.  mē phobou = “Do not fear”:  The phrase is used often in connection with an epiphany or a theophany (cf. Exod. 20:20; Luke 1:30; Matt. 28:5). Luke has already used the expression in the angel’s address to Zechariah (1:13) and to Mary (1:30). It seems to mean, “do not worry” as Jesus speaks the expression to Jairus concerning his sick daughter (8:50) and to his disciples about the kingdom at 12:32. Luke will also use the expression in the same way at Acts 18:9 and 27:24.

V. 10.  apo tou nun anthrōpous esē zōgrōn = “From now on you will be catching human beings alive”:  In Jer. 16:16 God promises to send out fishers and hunters in order to gather people for the Day of Judgment. Amos also picks up the image for his announcement of judgment on the Day of the Lord (“the time is surely coming” at Amos 4:2). Habakkuk uses the image to portray the glee of the enemy at catching “people like the fish of the sea” (Hab. 1:14-15). While something similar might be intended here, the emphasis lies in the realm of “catching alive” for life in the kingdom. Jesus here makes the promise solely to Peter, although others see it, and their amazement leads them to follow Jesus also.

V. 11. aphentes panta ēkalouthēsan autō = “leaving everything, they followed him”: Their following arises not from volunteering (like Isaiah) for a mission but from the direct call from God’s on Jesus. Peter’s eventual execution will prove powerful evidence that he “left everything” to become Jesus’ disciple. Note how Luke magnifies the sacrifice the fishermen made by changing “leaving their nets” (Mark 1:20) or “leaving their boat” (Matt. 4:22) to “everything.”

Wrestling with the Word, episode 58: Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Year C (January 31, 2010) January 15, 2010

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Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

We have inherited and continue to develop the notion that good work leads to success. Some of the earliest writings in the world, the so-called wisdom traditions, teach that the good will receive rewards and the wicked will reap their deserved punishment. The lessons for this “epiphany” Sunday expose us to some stunning news. Speaking God’s word, apparently a good thing, can lead to failure in society’s eyes and to society’s rejection. God’s word is not always what we want to hear, especially when it confronts our established values.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 58: Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Year C.

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Psalm 71:1-6
The psalm is an individual lament in which the worshipper asserts trust in the Lord on the basis of God’s graciousness in the past. That past goes all the way back to the psalmist’s birth from his mother’s womb. Now, in the face of enemies and advancing age, the petitioner pleads for the Lord’s presence, counting on the Lord’s righteousness to deliver and to rescue. Considering the Lord “hope” and “trust,” the petitioner promises continuing praise to God.

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Jeremiah 1:4-10
In spite of Jeremiah’s protests of inadequacy, God calls Jeremiah to speak the word which brings comfort to the afflicted and judgment to the all-too-comfortable.

Context
According to the superscription at 1:2-4, Jeremiah’s call from the Lord occurred first about 627 B.C., and his ministry continued until about 588 B.C. This record of Jeremiah’s call, like those of Moses (Exod. 3:1-12) and Gideon (Judges 6), consists of an objection based on some plea of insignificance by the hearer, a specific commission by the Lord, and the divine promise to be present with the commissioned one throughout the trials to come. Given to a prophet, the call report authenticates the message of the speaker over against the more established guild of prophets (cf. Isaiah at Isa. 6; Second Isaiah at Isa. 40; Third Isaiah at Isa. 61; Amos at Amos 7).

Key Words
V. 4.  beterem ’etstsārekā babbeten  yeda‘tîkā ûbeterem tētsē mērechem hiqdaštîkā = “before I formed you in the belly I knew you and before you came forth from the womb I set you apart”:  The parallelism of yd‘ and qdš indicates a profound understanding of the Hebrew word for “know”:  an intimate relationship with God that determines the use of Jeremiah’s life. God defines the beginning of that relationship since prior to Jeremiah’s conception in his mother’s womb (see the similar relationship in Psalm 71).

V. 4.  nabî’ laggôyîm netātîkā = “a prophet to the nations I have given you”:  While Jeremiah’s preaching was directed mostly to the people of Jerusalem, God instructed him to speak as well to the “nations” (see chapters 46–51).

V. 8.  kî-’ittekā ’anî lehatstsîlekā = “for I am with you to deliver you”:  Though the Hebrew is different, see the promise of God’s presence at Gen. 28:15; Exod. 3:12. The verb “rescue” is the same Hebrew word used at Psalm 7:3 where the petitioner prays for the Lord’s “rescue” from enemies. The same verb appears often for God’s rescue from the power of the Egyptians in the exodus story and from the power of Babylon in Second Isaiah.

V. 9.  hinnē nātattî debāray bepîkā = “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth”:  By this declaration Jeremiah can authenticate his preaching and its source. The word of the Lord provides the power “to pluck up and break down” but also ‘to build and to plant” (v. 10).

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13
In contrast to our human tendency to separate ourselves from one another, God brings the baptized into one body in which all the parts contribute to the functioning of the whole and all members are called to love one another.

Context
The apostle directed his correspondence to a congregation that was split according to various factions:  Paul, Apollos, Cephas, Christ (1:11-13). While much of the letter is directed to issues raised by the Corinthians themselves, Paul turns at the beginning of chap. 12 to “spiritual gifts” and develops the notion that the many members of the church are like the members of body:  each contributing its talent without being relegated to an inferior position. The paragraph prior to our pericope ends with the announcement that God has so arranged things “that there be no dissension within the body, but the members have the same care for one another” (12:25).

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Luke 4:21-30
Against those who would claim the kingdom of God for themselves, Jesus delivers the unpopular message that God’s grace and God’s kingdom are for all people.

Context
In the preceding verses Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah during service in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. In particular, he read the section dealing with the call of Third Isaiah (61:1-2) in which the prophet was commissioned to announce the signs of the kingdom-to-come.

Key Words
V. 21.  sēmeron = “today”:  Luke uses this word to announce the birth of Jesus (2:11), the salvation of the outcast Zacchaeus (19:9), and the entrance into the kingdom by the repentant thief on the cross (23:43). All cases have an eschatological thrust, but none more strongly than here. The passage from Isaiah 61 indicates that part of that prophet’s message concerning the transformations of the kingdom to come is proclaim “the day of vindication of our God” (Isa. 61:2), that is, the Day of the Lord.

V. 22.  kai pantes emartyroun autō kai ethaumazon epi tois logois tēs charitos tois ekporeuomenois ek tou stomatos = “and all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words (words of grace) that came from his mouth”:  The astonishment of the people seems based on the incongruence that the son of Joseph, a craftsman, would speak so eloquently. (They did not have the advantage of the conception and birth stories of chapters 1-2.)  In Mark, the crowds express their astonishment at Jesus’ teaching with “wisdom” in the synagogue because he is “the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of” four brothers and some sisters (Mark 6:3). Here their astonishment develops from his announcement of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1-2.

V. 23. iatre, therapouson seauton = “Physician, heal yourself”: While the proverb has parallels in Greek writings, it is tempting to see it here as a foreshadowing of the mockery by the people at the foot of the cross: “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one” (24:23-24; see Matt. 27:42; Mark 15:30-31).

V. 24. oudeis prophētēs dektos estin en tē patria autou = “no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown”:  The same teaching appears at John 4:44. Of particular importance, however, is the example of Jeremiah who lamented his rejection by his friends, his relatives, and the people of his hometown Anathoth (Jer. 11:18-20; 15:17; 19:7-12).

Vss. 25-27. “Elijah … Elisha”: Jesus’ citing Elijah’s feeding of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17) and Elisha’s cleansing Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy (2 Kings 5) not only demonstrate the divine outreach to Gentiles. Those stories also set the stage for Jesus’ raising from the dead the son of the centurion’s slave and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:1-17). The latter event led the people to identify Jesus as “a great prophet.” Likely, the story of Jesus’ healing the ten lepers that identifies the only grateful one as a Samaritan is part of this continuing story (17:11-21).

Vv. 24, 25.  amēn legō hymin … ep’ alētheias de legō hymin = “truly I say to you … in truth I say to you “:  The three expressions indicate that Jesus, who alone in the NT used “Amen” to introduce a speech, spoke with the authority of God (see also en exousia ēn ho logos autou =  “with authority was his word” at v. 32).

V. 28. kai eplēsthēsan pantes thymou en tē synagōgē akounontes tauta = “and hearing this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage”: As with Jeremiah, Jesus’ message was unpopular among his own people—a threat to their security and their “special” favor from God.

V. 29.  exebalon auton exō tēs poleōs kai ēgagon auton … = “they cast him out of the city and led him …”: The phrasing seems to point toward the action at Jesus’ crucifixion (see 23:26). However, v. 30 reports that Jesus escaped and “went on his way.” It is pointless to conjecture how he accomplished that. The reason for Luke’s wording relates to Jesus’ teaching: “it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem” (13:33). Recall the city’s rejection of and attempt to kill Jeremiah (Jer. 38:1-6).

Wrestling with the Word, episode 57: Third Sunday after Epiphany, Year C (January 24, 2010) January 13, 2010

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Third Sunday after Epiphany

Many people have told me over the years that they get so little out of reading the Bible. Some have said that they feel they are reading somebody else’s mail. Others have told me it just does not make any sense in our day; it is just too old, too disconnected from issues in our time. All those concerns are completely understandable. Yet, the biblical records tell us that people who lived in biblical times had similar concerns. They needed to have the Bible read to them and interpreted. Sometimes in the process, those ancient people discovered to their surprise that they were part of the unveiling of a new day. It just happens to be the one Jesus started with his first sermon. It’s the day they share with us and we with them. We have all received the same letter.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 57: Third Sunday after Epiphany, Year C.

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Psalm 19
The psalm is a combination of several psalm types. Verses 1-6 is a hymn of praise to God the Creator by creation itself, glorifying God without words but with sound. Verses 7-10 praise God for providing the words of the Torah to maintain order and joy among the people with many beneficial results. Verses 11-13 extol the Torah for its function of warning “your servant” against errors and of offering guidance to walk blameless and innocent. The final verse expresses the well-known petition that the use of these words prove acceptable to the Lord, identified as “my rock and my redeemer” (gō’ēl).

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Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
When Ezra read aloud the book of the law of Moses while other people interpreted (or translated) the reading for the people, Ezra and Nehemiah announced “the day is holy to the Lord your God,” encouraging the people to rejoice over their understanding of the words.

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1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Continuing his teachings about the one Spirit distributing various gifts to the members of the church “for the common good,” Paul uses the human body and the correlation of all its parts as the image to teach the oneness of the body of Christ, the church.

Context
Already in the first chapter of this epistle, the Apostle thanks God for the fullness of spiritual gifts bestowed on the congregation in Corinth. Immediately, however, he pleads “that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you” (1:7, 10). Having written about many questions the people themselves asked via mail, Paul also had some things of a theological nature to say about their obvious divisions—among them spiritual gifts. While he does not use the word in this chapter, Paul speaks of “upbuilding” (oikodomeō/oikodomē) seven times in chapter 14 as his reason for relegating speaking in tongues to a lower level of importance than other spiritual gifts. More valuable, according to Paul, are those gifts of the Spirit that employ articulate and edifying speech.

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Luke 4:14-21
On the basis of Scripture’s promise of a new day to come for those who suffer, Jesus announces that his presence is the dawning of that new day.

Context
Like Mark and Matthew, Luke follows the temptation story with the beginning of Jesus’ preaching about the new day promised in Scripture. While Mark and Matthew summarize that preaching in terms of the “kingdom of God/heaven at hand” (Mark 1:15-16; Matt. 4:17), Luke tells it in terms of “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  Moreover, unlike Mark and Matthew, Luke places this initial preaching not merely in Galilee but in Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, where he is rejected by his own people.  This rejection in Nazareth Mark (6:1-6) and Matthew (13:54-58) postpone until later in the story. However, Luke wants to place the rejection at the very beginning of the story in order to move quickly to Jesus’ ministry among the Gentiles for whom Luke wrote his Gospel.

Key Words
V. 14.  en te dynamei tou pneumatos = “in the power of the Spirit”:  Luke emphasizes the role of the Spirit beyond the other synoptic writers. Zechariah and Elizabeth and their son John are filled with the Holy Spirit (1:15, 41, 67); the Holy Spirit was involved in Jesus’ conception (1:35); the Holy Spirit descended at Jesus’ baptism (3:22); Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” when he faced his temptations (4:1), and now Jesus begins his ministry “in the power of the Spirit.”

Vv. 18-19.  The quotation comes from Isaiah 61:1-2. However, added to the reference is Isa. 58:6: “to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Note that the second line of Isa. 61:2 is missing (“the day of vengeance/vindication of our God”) perhaps because it could have sounded a negative note against Gentiles who are in fact the audience of Luke’s Gospel. Perhaps also the line is saved for the brief sermon Jesus preaches in the next verse.

V. 21.  sēmeron = “today”:  Luke uses this word to announce the birth of Jesus (2:11), the salvation of the outcast Zacchaeus (19:9), and the entrance into the kingdom by the repentant thief on the cross (23:43). All cases have an eschatological thrust, but none more strongly than here. The passage from Isaiah 61 indicates that part of that prophet’s message concerning the transformations of the kingdom to come is proclaim “the day of vindication of our God” (Isa. 61:2), that is, the Day of the Lord.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 56: Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year C (January 17, 2010) January 12, 2010

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Second Sunday after the Epiphany

The Bible consists of 66 books, 39 in the Hebrew Bible and 27 in the New Testament. Yet we consider these many books, written over a period of about fourteen centuries, to be THE BOOK, thus its name, the Bible (from the Greek word byblos). Many pieces make up the whole. The Gospel lessons for the season called Epiphany “reveal” for us the identity and role of Jesus. They provide manifestations of Jesus through what he said and did. Yet, to catch the drift of the pronouncements in these lessons, we need the images, insights, words, and stories from many other books from the Bible. Many pieces fill out the picture to tell the story about Jesus’ identity. In doing so, they also tell the story about each of us providing the pieces that make up the community called the church.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 56: Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year C.

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Psalm 36:5-10
Psalm 36 provides a profound reflection on the Lord’s universal reach. Its two parts betray the whole as a wisdom psalm. The first part of the psalm (vv.1-4) denounces the wicked in terms that recall proverbial wisdom teachings, and the final two verses 11-12 return to that theme. The second part (vv. 5-10) continues the universal context of wisdom and acclaims God’s role as the life and light of the world.

“For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light” (Ps. 36:9).

(Ps. 27:1, also a wisdom psalm, opens with the confession “the Lord is my light and my salvation.”) At the heart of the Lord’s gift of life are the acts and attributes of YHWH that abound in the Hebrew Bible: steadfast love (vss. 5, 7, 10), faithfulness (v. 5), righteousness (v. 6), and salvation (v. 10)—all terms of relationship between YHWH and the world. The faithful actions of the Lord enable the worshiper to withstand without fear the onslaught of evildoers and to offer a plea for the continuation of divine fidelity (v. 10).

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Isaiah 62:1-5
To the people of Israel disappointed and disillusioned at their return from exile, the prophet promises his persistence in complaining to the Lord until God reverses their fortunes.

Context
The Edict of Cyrus, issued in 538 B.C., promised the exiled people of Israel in Babylon that they could rebuild their city of Jerusalem. To do so, they would, of course, have to return home. The evidence indicates that not many were willing to return after generations had made their home in Babylon. According to the prophet called Second Isaiah (Isaiah 40—55), the return home would coincide with the promised Day of the Lord when God’s kingdom would be established. Their homecoming provided no evidence that they were living in kingdom time. The prophet whose sermons appear in chapters 56—66 announced that God sent him as a messenger to announce that the fulfillment of God’s promises was still but surely to come. His sermons describe the conditions of the time: violence, destruction and devastation (60:17-18); afflicted, brokenhearted, imprisoned, mourning (61:1-2); ruined cities and devastations (61:4); shame and dishonor (61:7). God has commissioned him (anointed) to announce that God will surely accomplish the opposite of all these conditions.

Key Words
V. 1. lō’ ’echešeh = “I shall not keep silent”: At 61:1 the prophet announced that the Lord has “anointed” him to turn the dreadful situations into their opposites. Now he promises to give God no rest until the people realize their hopes.

V. 1. ‘ad yētsē’ kannōgāh tsidqāh wîšû‘ātāh kelappîd yib‘ār = “until her righteousness (or vindication) goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch”: Previously the author had said that “justice” and “righteousness” are “far from us” (59:9) and that “righteousness stands far off” (59:14).

V. 2. “The nations shall see your vindication (tsidqēk), and all the kings your glory”: The fulfillment of the Lord’s promises will have universal impact, just as Ezekiel (37:14) and Second Isaiah (52:7-10) promised.

V. 4. lō’-yē’āmēr lāk ‘ōd ‘azûbâ ûle’artsēk lō’-yē’āmēr ‘ōd šemāmâ kî lāk yiqqārē’ chephtsî-bāh = “No longer will you be called ‘Forsaken,’ and your land will no longer be called ‘Desolate,’ but you shall be called ‘My delight is in her’”: Strikingly there was a woman called Azubah; she was the mother of King Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:42). There was also a woman named Hephzibah; she was King Manasseh’s mother (2 Kings 21:1). The change of name in the prophecy indicates the change of fortune for the people and the land.

V. 5. ûmesôs chātān ‘al-kallâ yāsîs ‘alayik ’elōhāyik = “and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you”: The image of marriage appears often in the Hebrew Bible as an metaphor for the covenant relationship between YHWH and Israel (Hosea, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel). The wedding party imagery appeared just prior to our pericope at 61:10. The image is appropriate for a land that will be named “Married” (be‘ûlâ) in the previous verse.

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1 Corinthians 12:1-11
All members of the church derive their faith from the same source, from God, and all are called to use the gifts from the Spirit, the services from the Lord, and the workings from God for the upbuilding of the community.

Context
The correspondence between the apostle Paul and the congregation at Corinth is complex. Precisely how many letters Paul wrote, whether we possess all that he wrote, the sequence of the letters, and what did the Corinthians write to him about are some of the debated questions. Clearly, however, the issues here are ones about which the Corinthians requested some instruction. Also clear is the necessity of Paul’s emphasis on “unity” because the Christian community in Corinth was divided into factions. Paul’s plea very early in the letter is “that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose” (1 Cor. 1:10). The reason for those words is that there were divisions among them (1:11-17).

Key Words
V. 1.  peri de ton pneumatikon = “Now concerning spiritual gifts”:  The introduction of a new subject with the words peri de is identical to the 7:1:  “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote.” After dealing there with the question concerning marital and sexual matters, Paul moves from “now concerning the unmarried” (7:25ff.) to “now concerning the food offered to idols” (8:1). The introduction to the discussion about how women ought to dress when they pray in public (11:2ff) is different, but now, leaving some of the practical issues which must have been raised in their letter to Paul, the apostle returns to the theological issues “concerning spiritual gifts.” He had already given his thanks to God for the divine grace that enriched them “in speech and knowledge of every kind … so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of or lord Jesus Christ” (1:4-5, 7).

V. 2.  pros ta eidola ta aphona = “to dumb idols”:  The word aphonos means “silent,” “incapable of speech,” and so the description of idols who are incapable of speaking fits the indictment against idols in Second Isaiah (see Isa. 43:9; 44:7).

V. 3.  Kyrios Iesous = “Jesus is Lord”:  This confession, according to Romans 10:9, is necessary for salvation, but it can be uttered only by one who has been inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is not a mere ecstatic utterance but rather has a specific content about a specific person. Recall Paul’s assertion that assigning the titles “Son of God” and “Lord” to Jesus are the result of his resurrection (Romans 1:4, 10:9).

VV. 4-5.  Note the designation of titles and functions
Varieties of Gifts (charismata): same Spirit
Varieties of Service (diakonia):  same Lord
Varieties of Working (energemata):  same God

V. 7. pros ton sympheron = “for the common good”: Paul uses this word several times to point to behavior or action that is helpful or beneficial (see 1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23; 2 Cor. 8:10; 12:1). The first two passages cited distinguish action that is “beneficial” to others from what is personally “legal.”

Vss. 7-10. ekastō de didotai hē phanerōsis tou pneumatos = “To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit”: The gifts of the same Spirit are diverse, each contributing to the mutual upbuilding of the one family of faith: uttering wisdom, uttering knowledge, faith, healing, miracle-working, prophecy, distinguishing among spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpreting tongues.

V. 11.  kathos bouletai = “as he wills”:  The Spirit’s free choice is what determines the gifts, and so there is nothing that the so-called Spirit-filled person can claim for him/herself.

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John 2:1-11
The first sign Jesus performed, like all his other signs, indicated who he was and accomplished faith in his disciples who witnessed the miracle.

Context
The first 12 chapters of John’s Gospel are appropriately called the Book of Signs. They report one miracle after another in which the identity of Jesus is revealed, and through that revelation, people come to believe who he is and thus are saved. The conclusion of the Gospel at 20:30-31 summarizes this purpose.

Key Words
V. 1.  kai tē hēmera tē tritē = “and on the third day”:  On the one hand, the author appears to be providing day-to-day journaling of Jesus movements and action. Prior to this verse, the author uses the expression “the next day” (tē epaurion) at 1:29, 35, 43. The phrase in our verse, however, seems to be a resurrection formula, particularly because the second sign at Cana begins with a similar introduction:  meta de tas duo hēmeras = “after the two days” (4:43). That “after two days” and “on the third day” mean the same can be demonstrated by the synonymous parallelism at Hos. 6:2.

V. 2.  eklēthē … eis ton gamon = “invited to the marriage”:  While the marriage ceremony itself is not even hinted at, the emphasis in the story is on the reception. The party calls to mind the frequent allusions in the OT to such banquets:  the eschatological banquet (see Isa. 25:6-8; note the abundance of wine at Amos 9:13-14; the banquet which Wisdom serves wherein is the food of life (see Prov. 9:1-5; Isa. 55:1-3; Sirach 15:3; 24:19-21). In the Synoptic Gospels Jesus used the image of weddings and feats (Matt. 8:11; 22:1-14; Luke 22:16-18) as appropriate for the dawning of the eschaton. The imagery relates to the joy of the bridegroom for the bride at Isaiah 62:5.

V. 4.  gunai = “Woman”:  While the term seems abrupt, it was a polite way of addressing a woman (Matt. 15:28; Luke 13:12; John 4:21; 8:10; 20:13), even if atypical for a mother. Jesus, however, uses the same address for his mother at 19:26 in what is an expression of compassion from the cross. Further, the address might be a way of affirming that his origin is from God (1:1ff.).

V. 4.  oupō hēkei hē hōra mou = “my hour has not yet come”:  Jesus repeats the same expression at 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20 as a way of indicating that the hour for his passion, death, and resurrection was still in the future. In several instances, however, Jesus announced the positive side that the hour had begun for these things to take place:  see 4:21, 23; 5:25, 28; 12:23; 13:1.  Perhaps it is the motif of resurrection indicated by “on the third day” and by the eschatological banquet that causes Jesus to proceed with the miracle even prior to the passion.

V. 6. “six stones jars … for the Jewish rites of purification … each holding twenty or thirty gallons”: The abundance of wine (120-180 gallons) calls to mind the eschatological banquet at Isaiah 25:6-8 and the sign of the Kingdom of God beginning “on the Day of the Lord” at Amos 9:13-14.

V. 9. …ho architriklinos … ouk ēdei pothen estin = “the steward of the feast … did not know where it came from”: The expression is similar to the one Jesus expressed to Nicodemus about the wind/spirit at 3:8: “but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” The unknowing about Jesus origin also occurs at 7:27 and 9:29-30. At 4:11 the woman at the well asks Jesus about the living water he spoke of: “Where will you get that living water?” (pothen oun echeis to hydōr to zōn:). The disciples asked Jesus about the required food to feed the five thousand: “Where (pothen) will we buy bread…” (6:5). At 8:14 Jesus knows where he has come from, but “you do not know where I come from (ouk oidate pothen erchomai) or where I am going.” Pontius Pilate asks Jesus directly, “Where do you come from”? (19:9, pothen ei su). Indeed, the whole world “did not know him” (1:10).

V. 11.  ephanerōsen tēn doxan autou = “he manifested his glory”:  At 12:23 Jesus’ glory is manifested when the hour had come, the time when the Gentiles came to follow him. At that time, he spoke of the necessity of the grain of seed to die before it can live again.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 55: Baptism of our Lord: First Sunday after Epiphany, Year C (January 10, 2010) January 3, 2010

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Baptism of our Lord: First Sunday after Epiphany
We have finished celebrating Jesus’ birth. During that twelve-day party, we sang appropriate songs about Jesus as Son of God and as truly human, like us. Today we begin the season of Epiphany, a word that means “revealing.” The season will last four more weeks, and during that time, we will hear stories that reveal who Jesus was and what God sent Jesus to do. We begin the season with Jesus’ baptism, a story that announces his identity. It tells us how intimately Jesus shares his story with us, how profoundly he became one of us, and how the same Spirit that defined him also defines us.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 55: Baptism of our Lord: First Sunday after Epiphany, Year C.

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Psalm 29
The psalm is a hymn of praise that extols the majesty and glory of God in the language of a tumultuous storm. Borrowing much imagery and even precise wording from Ugaritic poetry about Baal, the psalmist celebrates the enthronement of YHWH over the watery chaos (“the flood”). The call goes out to the divine court to join in the praise to YHWH. The majestic splendor defines the basis for the plea that YHWH render strength and salvation to the people of Israel.

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Isaiah 43:1-7
To the people who feel that God has forsaken them, the Lord announces that through the special relationship they have because God created them, the Lord will save them from their exile.

Context
Within the context of the preaching of Second Isaiah, the theological problem of exile is the apparent forsakenness of God (see 40:27; 49:14). That absence led many people to abandon the God of their ancestors in favor of the deities of Babylon, the place of their captivity. The immediate context places the pericope after a speech in which the exiled people pour out their lament to the Lord who has poured out wrath on the people because of their sin. While their lament is as bad as it appears, the people do not recognize the part they played in leading to the judgment.

Key Words
V. 1. YHWH bōra’akâ ya‘aqōb weyōtserkâ yisrā’ēl = “the Lord who created you, O Jacob, and who formed you, O Israel”: Thus far in the collection of Second Isaiah, YHWH has been identified as “the Creator of the ends of the earth” (40:28) and as the one “who created the heavens” (42:5). Here the notion of the Creator of a people is a new twist to an old creation theme and intimately connects the people to YHWH (v. 15).

Vv. 1, 5. ’al-tîrā’ = “Do not fear”: The command is typical when God approaches human beings because standing in the presence of God can and should be terrifying. Here the reasons given for not fearing are (1) “I have redeemed you” (acted as your gō’ēl) and (2) “I am with you” (the promise made to Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah — all individuals). Here the Lord assures the divine presence as the people “pass through the waters” (cf. Ps. 66:12) and during their return home (cf. Gen. 28:15).

V. 4. mē’ašer yāqartā be‘ênay nikbadtā wa’anî ’ahabtîkā = “Because you are precious in my sight and honored, and as for me, I love you”: The motive for the Lord’s salvation act is divine love; recall the reason God chose Israel in the first place at Deut. 7:6-7.

V. 7. welikbôdî berā’tîv = “and for my glory I created him”: While the motive for the salvation is God’s love for Israel, the goal of it is the glorification of YHWH; cf. 43:21; 48:11.

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Acts 8:14-17
In order to avoid a constant schism between Jewish Christians and Samaritan Christians, the apostles confirm the unity of the church through the gift of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of their hands.

Context
Luke had reported the dispersion of Christians throughout Judea and Samaria because of the persecutions of which Saul was a part. This scattering led Philip to go to a city in Samaria where the people saw his healing miracles, heard his proclamation of the message about Jesus, and were baptized into the faith.

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Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Having been baptized and during the act of prayer, Jesus received the gift of the Holy Spirit while simultaneously hearing the announcement that he was the Son of God.

Context
Like Mark and Matthew, Luke introduces John the Baptist and his preaching prior to the baptism of Jesus. Unlike the other two synoptics, however, Luke tries to place all his information about John in one place and therefore mentions his imprisonment by Herod Agrippa in v. 20. When Luke then speaks of the baptism of Jesus, he uses the passive voice without specifically mentioning “by John” as do Matthew and Mark. One might imagine that Mark’s brief account of the baptism led many to ask why John would have baptized Jesus when Jesus was without sin. Matthew dealt with the matter by having Jesus say, “for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15), but Luke avoided the problem by failing to mention John’s role in the baptism at all.

Key Words
V. 22. su ei huios mou ho agapētos = “you are my son, the beloved”: The first part of the expression is reminiscent of Ps. 2:7, words said to the Davidic king on the day of his coronation. The use of “beloved” with huios occurs in the LXX only at Gen. 22:2, 12, 16 where it refers to Isaac at the point of his imminent sacrifice by his father Abraham. Luke follows Mark in making this heavenly address directly to Jesus, while Matthew makes it an address to all those standing by. While Mark and Matthew virtually repeat the words at the Transfiguration, Luke changes the word “beloved” to “chosen” (ho eklelegmenos) at 9:35.

V. 22. en soi eudokēsa = “in you I am pleased”: The expression recalls Isa. 42:1 where the Lord introduces the Servant with these words, thus making the connection between Jesus and the Servant of Second Isaiah. It is interesting to note that some manuscripts, above all Western manuscript D, omit this expression in favor of “today I have given you birth.” This reading eliminates the servant image in favor of added emphasis on the royal theme of Ps. 2:7.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 8: Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B (Feb. 15, 2009) January 26, 2009

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Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

Think of the words “comedy,” “community,” and “communication.” The stories of the healing of lepers in Mark 1:40-45 and 2 Kings 5:1-14 take on special meaning when we realize that when a person in the ancient world was declared to have leprosy, that person was destined to live alone, away from the company of other people. The laws in Leviticus 13—14 describe the examination by the priest, the resultant abandonment of the person from the community, and the means by which the person could be declared clean once again and restored to the community. The Psalm for the day brings us into the world of one who has felt cut off from the community and from God but now announces joy and thanksgiving over God’s healing.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 8: Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B.

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2 Kings 5:1-14
God provides knowledge of himself to those outside the community of faith through the words of people and, above all, through the divine word itself.

Context
Receiving the cloak of succession from Elijah, the prophet Elisha followed his mentor until that day when the whirlwind took Elijah up to heaven (2 Kings 2:-12). As evidence of his succession, Elisha performed at the outset many of the same acts as the predecessor, including the miracle of the abundance of oil out of small beginnings, the raising from the dead the son of the Shunamite woman, and the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. Furthermore, like his master, his miracles and ministry extended beyond Israelites to include the Gentiles.

Key Words
V. 1. “by him the Lord had given victory to Syria”: The extension of the Lord’s power reaches beyond the boundaries of Israel by this gift of victory to a commander of a non-Israelite army—whether he knew it or not. In the future, the Lord will use Nebuchadrezzar, King of Babylon as “my servant” (see Jer. 25:9 and elsewhere) and Cyrus, king of Persia, as “my shepherd” (Isa. 44:28 ) and “my anointed”… “though you do not know me” (Isa, 45:1, 5). That Naaman came to know the name of the Lord is clear from his response to Elisha’s instruction at v. 11.

V. 7. ha’elōhîm ‘ānî lehāmît ûlehachayôt = “Am I god, to kill and to make alive,…?”: The view that God was responsible for both life and death is attested several times in the Old Testament. In the Song of Hannah both weal and woe are the responsibility of the Lord who “kills and brings to life” (1 Sam. 2:6). In addition, the familiar words of Job ring out here: “the Lord gave, and the Lord had taken away” (Job 1:21).

V. 8. weyēda‘ kî yēš nābî’ beyisrā’ēl = “that he may know there is a prophet in Israel”: (1) The expression “that (someone) may know” appears in the story of the exodus (Exod. 9:14; 10:2) and in the promises of the return from Babylon (cf. Ezek. 35:9; 36:11; 37:14); through the Lord’s action for salvation or for judgment, others will come to know who he is. (2) What it takes to know there is a prophet is quite different at Ezekiel 33:33 where the Lord promises such awareness when the people ignore the prophecies.

V. 14. kidebar ’iš hā’elōhîm wayyāšob besārō kibesar na‘ar qātōn wayyithar = “… according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean”: In the Deuteronomistic history, events of various sorts occur “according to the word of the Lord” (see 1 Kings 8:20; 12:15; 15:29; 16:12; 2 Kings 1:17; 23:16-18; 24:2). While the verb tāhar = “to be clean” often denotes ceremonial or ritual purity (e.g., Lev. 14:20, 53), it refers here to the physical cleansing of leprosy.

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Psalm 30
In spite of the initial words that attribute the psalm to the occasion of purification of the Jerusalem Temple in 165 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, even though the worshiper alludes to it in summary form 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 response to this divine response, the psalmist, unable to remain silent (v. 12), encourages the faithful ones gathered in the temple to join in the praises and thanksgivings (v. 4).

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1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Having freed us from the power of sin and the condemnation of the law by baptism into Christ’s death, God calls us to live out our new identity through the way we lives our lives.

Context
Paul continues to address questions raised in a letter from the Corinthian congregation. In the immediately preceding paragraphs, he has written about the tension between freedom and responsibility, all in service to the law of Christ and the preaching of the gospel.

Key Words
V. 25. pas de ho agōnizomenos panta egkryteuetai = “Every athlete practices self-control in all things”: Paul uses the word for self-control for the unmarried at 7:9; there also he is establishing limits of freedom. At Gal. 5:23 such “self-control” is one of the fruits of the Spirit. At 2 Peter 1:6 such self-control is the supplement to knowledge.

V. 25 hēmeis de aphtharton = “but we an imperishable”: the same adjective describes the resurrected body at 1 Cor. 15:32 and the resurrection inheritance at 1 Peter 1:4.

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Mark 1:40-45
Responding to the plea from the man with leprosy to make him clean, Jesus heals him for restoration to the community through the practice prescribed in the Mosaic law.

Context
Jesus has been proclaiming in word and deed the message that the reign of God has come near. He has been calling a new community, exorcizing Satan’s army of unclean spirits, and healing the sick—all signs that the day of the Lord has begun..

Key Words
V. 40. “a leper”: Whether the man had leprosy as we know it today or a skin disease of some other sort, he was regarded as one who was unclean. The “medical” examination, conducted by the priest, determined the diagnosis (Lev. 13). If the priest declared him unclean, the leper had to live alone, banished from the community. The leper even had to announce “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever other people came near (Lev. 13:45-46). Shakespeare’s Romeo (in the play Romeo and Juliet) probed the depths of his sentence to banishment.

V. 41. kai splagchnistheis = “and moved with pity”: Jesus’ response of compassion to those who come to him for healing is evident also in Mark at 6:34 (Matt. 9:36) and 8:2; at 9:22 the word is used in a petition by the father of a young boy possessed of a demon.

v. 44. alla hypage seauton deixon tō hierei kai prosenegke peri tou katharismou sou ha prosetaxen Mōusēs, eis martuyrion autois = “but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as witness to them”: The rather detailed law for the protocol that led to atonement and restoration to the community is described at Lev. 14:2-32.

V. 45. ho de exelthōn ērxato kēryssein polla kai diaphēmizein ton logon = “And going out, he began to announce/preach loudly and to spread the word widely”: The miracle of the leper’s healing compelled him to express his praise and thanks in words to the communities to which he was restored, much like the healed person of Psalm 30.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 7: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B (Feb. 8, 2009) January 19, 2009

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Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Three of the four passages for this Sunday include God’s act of healing those in need. The first lesson from Isaiah 40 announces God’s response to the exiles in Babylon who feel forsaken by God. Psalm 147 praises God as both Creator and Redeemer who, among other things, heals the brokenhearted who cried out for help. In Mark 1 Jesus continues to demonstrate the nearness of the kingdom of God through his ministry of healing. The lesson from 1 Corinthians 9 connects with the Gospel for the day on mission of Paul, as of Jesus, to preach the gospel.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 7: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B.

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Isaiah 40:21-31

Addressing God’s word to an exiled people who felt God had forsaken them, the prophet asserts the supremacy of the Lord and the promise of renewal for those who wait for the Lord.

Context

The prophet we call Second Isaiah preached to the exiles in Babylon probably somewhere after 550 B.C. By this time, the people of Jerusalem had been living under Babylonian supremacy for more than 45 years. They had heard the word of the Lord only from the prophet Ezekiel in the early part of their exile, and because of God’s silence the people developed laments and many abandoned the Lord for the gods of Babylon. Second Isaiah, therefore, had two major issues to confront: (1) the apparent absence of God and (2) the idolatry of many people. God called him to announce the coming victory of the Lord over the idols and the human powers that be.

Key Words

V. 22. wayyimtāchēm kā’ōhel lāšābet = “and he spreads them like the tent to dwell”: the stretching out the heavens as the place where divinities live might be polemical against the creation myth of the Babylonians in which the abode of the gods is the body of the slain Tiamat (the Deep).

V. 25. we’el-mî tedammeyînû = “and to whom will you compare me?”: Here the Lord is addressing the question to the people, whereas in vs. 18 the prophet asks the same question of the people in relation to idols. Israel had long praised the Lord as being incomparable (see Ps. 89:6), but apparently, they had come to doubt it. See 43:8-13; 44:6-8; 46:5; 48:3-5.

V. 27. nisterā darkî mēYHWH ûmē’lōhay mišpātî ya‘abōd = “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right/justice is disregarded by my God”: A similar statement by the people appears at 49:14. This feeling of God forsakenness lies at the heart of the lament form; see Pss. 7, 13, 17, 22, 25, 26, 27, 31, 55, 77, 88, 89, 102.

V. 28. elōhê ‘ôlām YHWH bōrē’ qetsôt hā’ārets = God of eternity is the Lord, Creator of the ends of the earth”: The announcement that YHWH is the Creator of the earth—and not Marduk—provides the argument that YHWH has the power over nations and kings and can, therefore, accomplish the promised deliverance. See also Isa. 42:5; 44:24-25; 45:18. Bringing together the confession that God is both the Creator and the Redeemer, Second Isaiah makes a valuable contribution to Israel’s faith.

V. 29. nōtēn layyā‘ēp kōach ûle’ên ’ônîm ‘otsmā yarbeh = “he gives power to the faint and strengthens those without power”: God’s healing of the weary and faint is a common theme in the OT; see, for example, Deut. 32:39; Isa. 19:22; 57:18f.; Jer. 30:17; 33:6; Hos. 6:1; 11:3; Pss. 6:2; 30:2; 41:4; 147: 3.

V. 31. yārûtsû … yēle = “they shall run … they shall walk/go”: in a synonymous parallelism these two verbs mean the same.

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Psalm 147:1-11, 20c

The Lord be praised for the saving and healing the people of Israel and for providing care of all his creatures.

Structure

Like the preaching of Second Isaiah (see Isa. 40:21-31 above), the first part of the psalm (vss. 1-6) praises God as Savior and as Creator. The saving event appears in the praise to God for rebuilding Jerusalem and gathering the outcasts, that is, the exiles. In this sense, God has responded to the laments from the people. Further, God is the one who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (For the “healing” activity of God, see some references in the discussion at Isa. 40:29; the Hebrew word means basically “to make whole.”) The psalm extols the creating power of God by referring to the stars and the naming of the constellations (see Isa. 40:26). The second part (vss. 7-11) bursts forth in thanksgiving for God’s care of all creatures and for the care that God provides in feeding them by sending rain so that causes the crops might grow. Again, like Isaiah 40:29-31, God is not impressed with human strength but with those who wait for and hope in God’s covenant loyalty. The third (vss. 12-20) calls the chosen people to praise God for the blessings bestowed on Jerusalem.

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1 Corinthians 9:16-23

Entrusted and commissioned with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul writes that while we are free from all people and things, we are enslaved to Christ and called to heed his law.

Context

In responding to the questions raised by the Corinthian congregation via mail, Paul continues the discussion about Christian freedom he began at 8:1.

Key Words

V. 16. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”:  Like Jeremiah who lamented the call from God but could not but obey (Jer. 20:9), Paul admits that God compels him to preach the good news about Jesus and to do so freely, that is, without pay.

V. 17. oikonomian pepisteumai = “I am entrusted with a stewardship”: At 4:1 Paul indicated that Christian identity focused on our being “servants of Christ and stewards (oikonomous) of the mysteries of God,” that is, of the gospel.

V. 18. tē exousia mou en tō euangleiō = “my authority in the gospel”: refer to the discussion in Episode 6 on the use of “authority” in the Bible.

V. 19. Eleutheros gar ōn ek pantōn pasin emauton edoulōsa, hina tous pleoonas kerdēsō = “Though I am free from all, I enslaved myself to all, so that I might win the most”: The notion that Paul has enslaved himself stands somewhat in tension with his statement at 6:19-20 that God bought him with a high price, namely, the life of his Son. At 2 Cor. 4:5 Paul writes that we are “your slaves for Jesus’ sake.” Still elsewhere, Paul uses terminology that reflects ancient sacred manumission decrees: “for freedom” at Gal. 5:1.

V. 21. mē ōn anomos theou all’ ennomos Christou = “Not being a lawless one of God but a law-abiding one of Christ”: Paul uses the law of Christ elsewhere. At Gal. 6:2 “the law of Christ is to “bear one another’s burdens,” and at Rom. 13:8-10—without using the phrase—Paul highlights the command of loving the neighbor as oneself (Lev. 19:18 ) as the sum of the law (also see Gal. 5:14). Jesus’ so-called new commandment is to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

V. 22. hina tous astheneia kerdēsō = “so that I might win the weak”: The weak might be (a) those Christians who have not yet matured to comprehend the freedom of the gospel, like 8:9, or (b) non-Christians, as in Rom. 5:6. The goal to “win” actually means the same as “save” at the end of the verse. The use of the verb at this point leads to the athletic imagery of racing and boxing that follows.

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Mark 1:29-39

With the authority of God, Jesus heals the sick, casts out demons, and preaches his message, all signs that God is breaking into human history with a new time.

Context

Following his baptism, Jesus went into Galilee, preaching the message about the nearness of the reign of God. Immediately thereafter he began calling into being a new community of disciples and exorcised a demon.

Key Words

V. 31.  kai diekonei autois = “and she was serving them”:  the impf. indicates an ongoing activity, thus the NRSV “she began to serve them” is better than the RSV “and she served them.” In any case, the verb diakoneō is used frequently, but not exclusively, for the physical care provided by women for Jesus and the others; see Mark 15:41; Luke 8:3; John 12:2. For the service Jesus offers to humanity, see Mark 10:43-45.

V. 34. kai etherapeusen pollous kakōs = “and he cured/healed many sick”: In Mark’s Gospel Jesus heals others at 3:2, 10, 15; 6:5, 13. Thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit at Acts 2, the early church continued this healing ministry at 4:14; 5:16; 8:7; and 28:9. This healing is not simply the curing of diseases but the restoration to wholeness.

V. 34.  kai ouk ēphien lalein ta daimonia = “and he would not allow the demons to speak”:  The silencing of the demons and other forces of chaos is one of the ways Jesus brings them under control; see Mark 1:25; 4:39.  At the same time, the words contribute to the so-called Messianic secret which is typical of Mark: see 3:11-12; 8:30; 9:9.

V. 35. eis erēmon topon = “to a lonely place”:  In such locations Jesus is interrupted by others, paving the way for acts of ministry to occur; see also Luke 9:12.

V. 39.  hina ekei keruxō eis touto gar exēlthon = so that I might preach, for I came out for this (purpose)”:  the verse crystallizes the mission on which Jesus was sent:  to preach so that all might believe. See the key expression also at 1:14:  kērussōn to euaggelion tou theou.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 6: Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B (Feb. 1, 2009) January 14, 2009

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Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

We say that this person is an authority on global economics or that person is an authority on birds of prey and another is an authority on black holes. But to say that people are authorities in various fields is not the same as saying they have authority. Having authority is a power that comes with an office like king or queen, president or judge. Such authority can be designated to others by someone of higher authority, and so in various realms and at various levels persons demand and command. Different people have influence and respect. Superiors with higher authority can always control those of lesser authority, and so there are limits to authority. There is another side to authority. It includes the right to do something or the right over something, and so having authority sometimes means the freedom to act. The lessons for this day deal in various ways with being authorities (possessing wisdom and skill), with having authority (power and influence), and with limiting one’s authority or freedom.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 6: Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B.

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Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Because the people realized they were not able to hear the word of God directly, God promised to raise up a prophet after Moses through whom God would speak authoritatively.

Context
Deuteronomy 12—26 comprises the Code of Deuteronomy. Considered an updating of the much older Book of the Covenant (Exod. 21—23) couched in the words of Moses, the code expresses God commands for living in the land of Canaan. Chapter 18 describes the kind of leadership–priests, soothsayers, mediums, prophets–the people should or should not have in their lives in Canaan. In our pericope God promises for the people “a prophet” to serve as spokesperson for God’s word.

V. 15.  nābî’ … yāqîm lekā YHWH = “a prophet … YHWH shall establish for you”:  used for the kinds of leaders YHWH will provide for the people:  judges (Judg. 2:16, 18; 3:9, 15), a priest (1 Sam. 2:35), a king (1 Kings 14:14; cf. also 2 Sam. 7:12; 1 Kings 15:4).

V. 15. ΄ēlāw tišmā‘ûn = “to him you shall listen”: LXX renders these words quite literally as autou akousasthe = “to him you shall listen.” The commissioning of such a Moses figure will convey to him an authority based on speaking the prophetic word of God. The command seems to lie behind God’s concluding words from the cloud at the Transfiguration where akouete autou = “listen to him” is addressed to the three disciples concerning Jesus (Mark 9:7; note the presence of Moses on the mountain).

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Psalm 111
Like Psalm 112 and others, this psalm is an acrostic in which each half verse begins with the succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This structure accounts for its different style—not a parallelism of two lines as is true of most Hebrew poetry. According to v. 1, the psalm is a song of thanksgiving delivered in the sanctuary in the midst of the worshiping congregation. Yet usually a worshiper uses a thanksgiving psalm following the deliverance of a particularly lamentable situation (see the sequence of lament to thanks in Psalm 22). Here, however, the public thanksgiving is based on the ongoing goodness of God in delivering Israel from bondage and in establishing the covenant with Israel. Within that covenant God has uttered commands (like the Code of Deuteronomy) that are just, and God has remained ever loyal to the relationship (the meaning of “righteousness”). The lesson to be learned from all this praise to the Lord is that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” –exactly as the wisdom teacher instructed in Proverbs 1:7. The statement would bear on Paul’s concerns about the true definition of wisdom in 1 Cor. 8.

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1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Responding to a question about the relationship of Christian freedom and the practice of eating meat offered to idols, Paul reframed the question to focus on freedom and love.

Context
Having begun at 7:1 to answer questions raised in a letter from the Corinthian congregation, Paul now turns to the question “concerning food sacrificed to idols.”

Key Words
V. 1. hē gnōsis physioi, hē de agapē oikodomei = “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”: Paul is contrasting knowledge and love on the grounds that the former leads to individual pride, but the latter builds community. In 14:4 he will use a similar contrast between speaking in tongues and prophesying.

V. 3. ei de tis agapa ton theon, houtos egnōstai = “”but anyone who loves God is known by him”: Paul is not simply writing about a reciprocal relationship between believer and God (a Gnostic teaching) but about the Hebrew understanding of divine election (see Num. 16:5), a thought that appears also at 2 Tim. 2:19.

V. 5. hōsper eisin theoi polloi kai kyrioi polloi = “as in fact there are many gods and many lords”: Paul’s belief that other gods and lords (and spirits) exist is consistent with some of his writings elsewhere (Rom. 8:38; Gal. 4:8-9) and with the gospel stories about the ministry of Jesus. Strikingly, Satan and his armies of spirits have “authority” (exousian) in their own spheres of influence and in their own time (see the Temptation story at Luke 4:6 and the account of Jesus’ arrest at Luke 22:53). Having been conquered by Jesus Christ, however, they have no power and are “weak and beggarly” (Gal. 4:9).

V. 6. “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist”: The style seems to represent a creed or a hymn that Paul might be quoting here (cf. Col. 1:15-20). This is the Christian claim that the one God is revealed in Jesus Christ and that creation and redemption come together in this one God (a teaching introduced in Second Isaiah).

V. 9. “Take care that this liberty (exousia) of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block (proskomma) to the weak”: the more common word for “stumbling block” in the LXX is skandalon, a word which Paul pairs with proskomma at Rom. 14:13 (see Exod. 23:33 for proskomma). Note that exousia here has the meaning “freedom.”

V. 11. ho adelphos di’ hon Chistos apethanen = “the brother (or sister) for whom Christ died”: the death of Christ for our sins is the supreme act of divine love, as is clear from the use of the aorist tense in such passages as John 15:12: “that you love one another, as I have loved (ēgapēsa) you.”

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Mark 1:21-28
On the basis of his teaching and exorcising, Jesus is revealed as the one who, with the authority of God, brings chaos under control, as was expected on the Day of the Lord.

Parallel passage at Luke 4:31-37

Context
Following his baptism by John and his temptation by Satan, Jesus began his preaching ministry in Galilee (1:14-15) and called to be his disciples two sets of brothers:  (1) Simon and Andrew and (2) James and John (1:16-20). Now Jesus continues to demonstrate the signs that “the kingdom of God has come near.”

Key Words
V. 21. Capernaum: A town on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. According to Mark 2:1, Capernaum was Jesus’ home, as also seems to be true for Peter and Andrew (Matt. 8:14 and parallels). The synagogue there was the scene of several events in Jesus’ ministry in addition to this one; see Matt. 8:5-13; John 6:16-59.

V. 22. kai exeplēssonto epi tē didachē autou hēn gar didaskōn autous hōs exousian echōn kai ouch hōs hoi grammateis = “and they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes”: While the scribes were authorities on the law, they did not have authority. They were interpreters or expositors of the word of God; they did not proclaim the word like prophets. The response occurs at the conclusion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:28-29). The only differences are the specific subject “the crowds” and the possessive “their” scribes at the end. The wording is somewhat abbreviated in Luke’s version of the crowd’s astonishment (Luke 4:32).

V. 23. euthus … anthrōpos en pneumatic akathartō = “immediately … a man with an unclean spirit”: At Mark 3:23-26 Jesus equates the unclean spirits with Satan (and Beelzebul) as one enemy he must conquer. Note the urgency conveyed by the world “immediately.”

V. 24 ti hēmin kai soi = Lit. “what to us and to you”: The expression is a common one when a person (or spirit) is confronted by a person who threatens them; see 1 Kings 17:18; Mark 5:7; the use by Jesus to his mother at John 2:4 is surprising indeed.

V. 25.  epetimēsen autō = “he rebuked him”:  A technical term for putting chaos in its place, that is, controlling its rage against the orderly reign of God.  In the OT, YHWH rebukes the primordial waters (Ps. 104:5-9; Nahum 1:3-5; Ps. 18:15; Isa. 50:2), the armies attacking Jerusalem (Ps. 76:6; Isa. 17:13), the oppressors of the poor (Ps. 9:5), and Satan himself (Zech. 3:1-2). God’s rebuke of the sea monster Leviathan will prove to be the eschatological victory that ushers in God’s kingdom (Isa. 27:1). Jesus rebukes the unclean spirits (here and at 3:12), the raging sea (4:39), and Peter when he plays the role of Satan (8:33)–all agents of the chaos that must be brought under control.  For a fuller discussion see Foster McCurley, Ancient Myths and Biblical Faith (Fortress, 1983, reprint 2007: 11-71)

V. 27. didachē kainē kat exousian = “a new teaching with authority”: Ancient manuscripts differ on how the phrases should be divided, but the point nevertheless is that Jesus’ teaching carries a power that brings to submission the armies of Satan.

V. 27. kat exousian kai tois pneumatic tois akathartois epitassei kai hypakouousin autō = “With authority he commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him”: That the unclean spirits “obey” the commands of Jesus connects with the teaching of the first lesson in which the people will obey the words/commands of the prophet like Moses. Further, Jesus’ extends this authority to cast out demons to the apostles, giving them his authority (exousian) to defeat chaos (see Matt. 10:1)

Wrestling with the Word, episode 5: Third Sunday after Epiphany, Year B (Jan. 25, 2009) January 9, 2009

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Third Sunday after Epiphany

Episode 5 discusses the biblical passages assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary for January 25, 2009. In Mark 1:14-20 Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee by announcing the nearness of the promised kingdom of God and then immediately begins to gather the new community of the kingdom by calling disciples. In 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, the apostle Paul writes to the relatively new Christian congregation his opinions on marital status in light of the brief time that is available before Christ comes again to end the worldly structures as we know them, including marriage. God’s desire to forgive sinners and give them new opportunities for living occurs in the story of Jonah who reluctantly preaches God’s word to the hated Assyrians and thereby brings about their repentance and their deliverance. Psalm 62 describes a worshiper’s plight at the hands of others, the instruction of the psalmist regarding the use of worldly power, and the intervention of God to announce the faithful sufferer’s rescue.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 5: Third Sunday after Epiphany, Year B.

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Jonah 3:1-5, 10
In spite of the reputation of the people of Nineveh and contrary to the desires of Jonah, God refrained from destroying the city because of their repentance.

Context
The story of Jonah is difficult to date, although the focus on Nineveh forces us to see the author at work anywhere from the mid-eighth century B.C. onwards. The book is an extended parable about the grace of God.  As a result, one should preach on the entirety of the story.

Key Words
V. 2.  Nineveh:  The seat of the Assyrian Empire (8th to 7th centuries B.C.), it was the home of the king (see 2 Kings 19:36).  Nahum (1:1; 2:8; 3:7) and Zephaniah (2:13) promise God’s wrath for the Assyrians’ ruthless treatment of foes.

V. 5.  wayyiqre‘û-tsôm = “and they proclaimed a fast”:  a means of preventing certain destruction; see 2 Chron. 20:3; Ezra 8:21; Jer. 36:9.  wayyilbešû saqqîm = “and they put on sackcloth”:  a symbol of grieving (Esther 4:1; Lam. 2:10).

V. 10.  kî-šābû middarkām hārā‘ = “that they turned from their wicked way”:  their repentance became a byword in the NT: see Matt. 12:40-41; Luke 11:30.

V. 10.  wayyinnāchem hā’elōhîm `al-hārā‘â = “God repented concerning the harm”:  for other cases in which God reverses a decision to bring judgment see Exod. 32: 14; 2 Sam. 24:16; Amos 7:3, 6.

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Psalm 62:5-12
The first four verses of the psalm portray a person in dire straits, leaning like a wall ready to topple. People who pretend to be friends but who in fact are his adversaries torment the psalmist. Our verses communicate a quiet resolve the psalmist experiences when he focuses on God, his rock and his refuge. Be careful not to make a distinction in v. 13 between “God has spoken once” and “twice have I heard it”:  the “one thing” and “two things” make up a synonymous parallelism; see the numerical parallelisms at Prov. 30:15-16, 18-19, 21-23, 29-31.

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1 Corinthians 7:29-31
In light of the passing of the present age and Paul’s belief in the nearness of the appointed time, through Paul, God admonishes the Christians to live “as though” they were free of worldly sorrows and joys.

Context

Starting at 7:1 and continuing into chapter 16, Paul addresses the questions raised in a letter from the Corinthian congregation. To this point in the chapter, he wrote about behavior in marriage (vss. 1-11), marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian (vss. 12-16), circumcision (vss. 17-20), and slavery and freedom (vss. 21-24). In the paragraph beginning at vs. 25, Paul expresses his “opinion” about maintaining one’s marital status in light of the “impending crisis” (vs. 26; see Rom. 7:2 about change in the marriage relationship through death).

Key Words

Vs. 29. ho kairos synestalmenos estin = “the appointed time has grown short”: Paul speaks of the shortening of the time until the end at Rom. 13:11-12. This coming kairotic moment provides for Paul an ethic for the eschaton.

Vss. 29-31. hōs mē = “as though”: Paul instructs not a change in status but a perspective based on the view that, in the kingdom to come, the issues that concern us now will become irrelevant.

Vs. 31. paragei gar to schēma tou kosmou toutou = “for the present form of this world is passing away”: the social structure and patterns of this world have no permanence (see also 1 John 2:17).

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Mark 1:14-20
As Jesus preaches the nearness of the new expected time, he calls into being a new community of persons who will leave all to follow him.

Context
Mark has introduced the reader to John the Baptist and his preaching (1:2-8 ) and then to Jesus who was baptized by John and declared by God to be God’s Son (1:9-11).  Following the baptism and the announcement of Jesus’ identity, Mark records his brief account of the temptation by Satan in the wilderness.  Now begins the account of the earthly ministry of “Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Key Words
V. 14.  to euaggelion tou theou = “the gospel of God”:  the content of God’s gospel is the fulfilling of time and the beginning of the coming Reign of God; at Rom. 1:2-3 “the gospel of God” has more specifically to do with Jesus himself.  At Rom. 15:16 and 1 Thess. 2:2, 8 the message about Christ seems to be the gospel’s content, and at 1 Pet. 4:17 something to be obeyed.

V. 15.  ēggiken hē basileia tou theou = “the kingdom of God is at hand”:  “the Day of the Lord” when God would eliminate all forces that oppose his orderly Reign.  Thus the day that “is at hand” is sometimes a day of punishment (see Mic. 7:4) or of judgment (Zeph. 1:7). Paul used the expression to call Christians to act appropriate to the Day (Rom. 13:12; Phil. 4:5), and so did James (4:7).

V. 15.  metanoeite = “repent”:  in light of its significant position in Mark’s Gospel, it is striking that the word appears only one other time (6:12), but there it is the content of the preaching of the 12 apostles. Apart from the initial preaching of John and Jesus, Matthew uses the word only in the negative, i.e., people did not repent (11:20; 21:32). Luke uses it in a more instructive way (13:3; 17:4).

Vv. 18, 20. euthus = “immediately”: Mark uses the term in 34 verses. The two occurrences here are already the 3rd and 4th in the chapter. See 1:10 where the heavens opened immediately after Jesus emerged from the water and 1:12 where after Jesus’ baptism the Spirit “immediately” drive him into the wilderness. Obviously a sense of urgency fills Mark’s Gospel.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 4: Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year B (Jan. 18, 2009) January 4, 2009

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Second Sunday after Epiphany

Episode 4 of the Wrestling with the Word podcast discusses the biblical passages assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary for January 18, 2009. The Gospel from John 1:43-51 continues Jesus’ call of disciples, first Philip and then Nathaniel. Based on Jesus’ calling him “truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit,” Nathaniel confesses that Jesus is Son of God and King of Israel. The disciple’s realization of Jesus’ divinity might be related to Psalm 139 in which the psalmist speaks of God as one who is everywhere and who knows everything. The “epiphany moment” occurs at the end of this passage where Jesus promises to Nathaniel a vision about where and how God connects with humanity. The first lesson from 1 Sam 3 reports not merely the growth in stature of the young Samuel but, above all, the faithfulness of God in coming to people in the divine word. In the second lesson from 1 Corinthians 6, the apostle Paul addresses the role and use of our human bodies to glorify God who bought our freedom at a high cost.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 4: Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year B.

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1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)
When the word of God is rare in the land, God raises up a prophet through whom the Lord speaks.

Context
1 Samuel 1 reports the birth of Samuel to the barren Hannah.  As a response to the Lord’s gift, Hannah gave the child (after weaning him)to the priest Eli at the temple at Shiloh.  There the boy ministered to the Lord (2:11, 18 ) while the sons of Eli themselves are described as sinful. An unknown man of God prophesied God’s judgment upon the priestly house of Eli for the sins of the sons and the raising up of a faithful priest to go in and out before the Lord’s anointed (2:27-36).

Key Words
V. 1.  ûdebar-YHWH hāyâ yāqār = “and the word of God was rare”:  the word yāqār usually refers to “precious” stones  (Isa. 13:12; Zech. 14:6)..

V. 3.  “where the ark of God was”:  the presence of the ark indicates the temple at Shiloh was the primary sanctuary for the tribal organization prior to the transport of the ark to Jerusalem via Kiriath-jearim (2 Sam.6).

Vv. 4, 10. “Samuel! Samuel!”:  God sometimes uses the double address with the purpose of a call; see also Exod. 3:4.

V. 13.  kî-meqallîm lāhem (probably read elōhîm) banāw = “for his sons curse for themselves” (probably “God”):  the law expressly forbids cursing God (Exod. 22:28 ) and prescribes the punishment for such cursing and for blaspheming the Name as death (Lev. 24:13-16).

V. 19.  waYHWH hāyâ `immô = “and the Lord was with him”:  used of certain individuals to indicate their lives and their work prospered through the presence of God:  see Gen. 39:3, 23 (Joseph); 1 Sam. 18:12, 14 (David); 2 Kings 18:7 (Hezekiah); 1 Chron. 9:20 (Phineas).

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Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
Combining elements of a hymn and a prayer, the psalm creates an atmosphere of trust and awe as the worshiper ponders the omnipresence of God. Aware that God has been intimately involved in his entire life, even from the time he was in the womb, the worshiper reflects on the unfathomable nature of God, on God’s ability to see into and beyond a person’s exterior, and on God’s knowledge of the inner workings of all creation. Since the multitude of God’s thoughts is without number, the worshiper realizes God’s awesomeness as he submits to a divine trial for his innocence. For similar themes in the psalms, see  Psalm 7:5-9; 17:3; 26:2; 44:21 and Jer 12:1-4. Nathaniel must have had this divine wisdom and insight in mind when Jesus identified as a true Israelite without guile.

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1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Having bought us at a high price, God calls us not to defile our bodies but to regard them as temples of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God now and in the time to come.

Context
The pericope brings to an end the first part of the epistle that has been dealing with disorders in the Christian community at Corinth since 1:10. Paul first dealt with factions within the church and Christian wisdom (1:10–4:21), then with the incestuous man and sexual sins (5:1-13), and litigation in pagan courts (6:1-11).

Key Words
V. 15. pornos melē = “members of a prostitute”: Corinth was often called the city of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and sexuality. It is assumed that reverence for her involved a cult of prostitutes. Whether religious or not, the prevalent life style in the city led to the coining of new words and expressions: “to corinthize” or “to go Corinth” described a wild and loose life, and “a Corinth girl” was a euphemism for a prostitute.

V. 16. “The two shall become one flesh”: direct quotation of Genesis 2:24 where the first couple’s intimacy establishes their marital commitment to each other (“clings”). See the use of the same passage at Matt. 19:5; Mark 7:8; Eph. 5:31.

V. 20. doxasate dē ton theon en tō sōmati hymōn = “So glorify God in your bodies”: the emphasis on incarnational involvement in the world as the means to glorify God will become a critical theme in Paul’s later letter to the Romans (see Romans 12:1).

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John 1:43-51
In response to Nathaniel’s confession that Jesus is Son of God and King of Israel, Jesus announces his identity as the one in whom the divine and the earthly connect.

Context
In and following the Prologue to John’s Gospel (1:1-18 ) we were introduced to John the Baptist.  There follows the calling of Andrew and his brother Simon Peter whom Jesus has just named Cephas (1:35-42).

Key Words
V. 46.  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  The town is not mentioned in the Old Testament, in Josephus‘ writings, or in the writings of the rabbis.  In the time of Jesus, the town occupied a total of 40,000 square meters with a population of about two thousand .

V. 47. dolos = “guile”:  word appears as “guile” at 2 Cor. 12:16; 1 Thess. 2:3; 1 Peter 2:1, 22; 3:10; “stealth” (Matt. 26:4 = Mark 14:1), “deceit” (Mark 7:22; Acts 13:10; Rom. 1:29), and as “lie” (Rev. 14:5).  At 1 Peter 2:22 it is a characteristic inappropriate for a Christian (2:22).

V. 51.  ton ouranon aneōgota = “the heaven opened”:  as a prelude to a vision see Mark 1:10 (to Jesus); Acts 7:56 (to Stephen); 10:11 (to Peter); Rev. 19:11 (to John the Seer).

V. 51.  kai tous aggelous tou theou anabainontas kai katabainontas = “the angels of God ascending and descending”:  cf. Gen. 28:12.   The location at which such travel occurs is usually regarded as the “navel of the earth,” that is, the place where heaven and earth connect. Here Bethel (Gen. 28:12) and Jerusalem (Ezek. 38:12) are desacralized in favor of Jesus.

V. 51.  epi ton huion tou anthropou = “on the Son of man”:  in John’s Gospel the title is an exalted one (see 3:13, 14; 5:27; 6:27, 53, 62; 8:28; 9:35; 12:23; 13:31, not the despised one as at Mark 8:31 and elsewhere.