Thursday, February 09, 2012

“ . . .(T)he kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a (bank) who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since (it) was not able to pay, the master ordered that (it) and (it's assets) and all that (it) had be sold to repay the debt.
    “At this the (banker) fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The (banker’s) master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
    “But when that (banker) went out, he found (a person for whom he held the mortgage) who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
    “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
    “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the (person's house taken away because he could not) pay the debt. When the other (debtors) saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
    “Then the master called the (banker) in. ‘You wicked (banker),’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow (debtor) just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed (them) over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
    “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Brothers Warner

I am watching the long version of a documentary on the Warner Brothers by Cass Warner Sperling, The Brothers Warner, and I'm being recalled to history as ethical text. Harry Warner was a great man in many ways, and he insisted on following his moral conscience in his film-making. In 1934 he pulled Warner Brothers out of the highly profitable German market. 1934. Years before anyone else dared to put their profits on the line.

I was impressed by this but I was more impressed by his thwarted attempt to make a movie called Concentration Camp that same year. Though most people never suspected the extent of the horrors of these camps, people knew the basic outline of what was happening, but ignored it in favor of ease. They never made the movie because they were censored by the production board. In fact the production board refused to let them make any anti NAZI films before Confessions of a Nazi Spy in 1939.

My personality profile places me firmly in the group of people who have no particular desire for change, or challenges to the status quo. When it comes to most issues, I feel only an ambivalence toward such things because my focus is on relationships with people and fighting the man inevitably means putting relationships at risk. Oddly, I am more comfortable with personal change and I enjoy moving between cultures and sub-cultures for the same reason: I see intercultural movement as relational in nature and adapt quickly because it fosters relationship.

Now, I think I should apply the insights of theological hermeneutics (or perhaps the hermeneutic of suspicion) to the ethical reading of history. In the story of the prodigal son, we must read ourselves as the inhospitable older brother, in Anna Karenina we must read ourselves in the degenerate cast, in the Gospels we must read ourselves on the side of the murderers of Jesus, in Gulliver's Travels we must be both the Yahoos and the transformed Gulliver (but not the Houyhnhnms). If I read the ethical text of history with this suspicion of self, I must come to the conclusion that I would be an isolationist; therefore, I must beware of my tendencies and fight them even though my position seems perfectly logical to me.

Does that constitute advocacy of actions against logic in the name of ethics?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hello Christians, You Need to Read This:

"If Vanier is correct that within France within the next few years there will be no children born with Down Syndrome because they will all have been aborted, then something is deeply wrong with our society. As my friend John, who has Down Syndrome, puts it, 'That doesn't make us feel very welcome, does it.' And he's right. Stanley Hauerwas correctly points out . . . that one of the real dangers for people with disabilities in Western cultures is compassion . . . How odd"
What was the scene in heaven like when God chose those people with disabilities to incarnate. Did his voice boom through Heaven, "Who shall I send and who will go for us?" A humble soul squeaks, " here am I . . . send me"

"Go and show this people who I am, show them that my power is made perfect in weakness. Give flesh to Jesus in the lives of his people."

"How long, O Lord?"

"Until they have driven you from the Earth."

Couldn't this be considered genocide? Killing a type of people because of their genetic material? That is the same reasoning that led to the dehumanization of native peoples all over the world, and aren't we ashamed of that? Have we only relented and stopped heedlessly killing "primitives" because we were wrong about their intellectual capacities? One major excuse for American slavery was that black people could not become civilized, that they lacked the same capacities as people of European descent. Was their argument right? Is it okay to devalue people because of diminished capacities? Are they less "human" than us? What about sentience? People with mental disabilities are, in my experience, capable of feeling as deeply as anyone else. And self-awareness? Arguing this way is stupid and wrong-minded; the truth is that we do not kill from right-minded good will, but for misguided compassion, from self-interest, and from fear.

We reflect on the horror we would feel to have our capacities diminished, but we do not ask those who actually live in those bodies if they wished that they had not had a chance to live. Instead we let our instinctual fear of difference drive us. We let our fear of having to give too much of ourselves, of having to be burdened with people made in God's image who are less able.

I am misguided, selfish, and terrified too.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I-III John

I'm working on a class on I-III John with Mike Sanders at church. I did the I John translation on Sunday night and Monday of last week. Thank you (i.e. RE:Greek), it took me a third the time it usually does to translate these.

There are few major points to I John: 1. love each other, 2. Jesus was here physically, and 3. he was the Son of God. The first is stressed as a command and the second is reinforced with a lot of sensory (empirical) language, like the words in the first verse. The author uses third most often in passages that reference God as a witness.

I John

1 That thing which was from the Beginning:[1] that thing which we heard;[2] that thing which our eyes saw; that thing which we gazed at and which the touch of our hands confirmed about the Word of Life.[3] 2 The Light appeared and we see it and we testify and report to you concerning the Eternal Life, which was with the Father and was revealed to us. 3 That thing which we saw, and which we heard, we are reporting to you too, so that you may also share our community[4] and the community which we have with the Father and with his Son, Jesus the Messiah[5].

I John is a presentation of two ways of life: Eternal Life and the World. He mentions these as ways of “walking,” which means ways of behaving. Ask yourself about what he is including in each category.4 We write these things so that our joy may be complete. 5 This is the message, which we heard from him and report to you: "God is Light and there is not even a hint of darkness in him." 6 When we say, "we share community with him," but we keep on walking in the darkness, we are liars and we do not do the truth. 7 However, when we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have community with one another and the blood of Jesus, his Son purifies us from each sin. 8 When we say, "we are sinless," we are leading ourselves astray and the truth is not among us. 9 If we keep on admitting to our sins, he is faithful and just, so he lets our sins go and purifies us from all our wrong actions.[6] 10 When we say, "we have not sinned," we are putting him in the place of a liar and his Word is not among us.

2:1 My children, I am writing to you so that you will not sin and, when someone does sin, we have an advocate[7] with the Father: Jesus the Just[8] the Messiah. 2 He is also a sacrifice for our sins, not only for ours, but for the entire world 3 and this is how we know that we know him: if we keep his command. 4 The person who says, "I know him," but does not keep his commands is a liar and the Truth is not in this person. 5 but whoever might keep his word --truly the love of God has matured in this one. This is how we know that we are in him: 6 The person who claims to remain in him ought to walk just as that one did. 7 My loved ones, I am not writing you a new command, but an ancient command, which you had from the first. This Ancient command is the Word which you heard. 8

Then again, I am writing you a new command, which is true to him, and among you, "the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining."[9] 9 The person who claims to be in the light, but hates his brother is in the darkness even now. 10 The person who loves his brother remains in the light and there is not a cause in him to make a person fall.

Text Box: Mirror Reading is the practice of looking at the text and then, by taking what you already know of the history and situation, figuring out what is missing; like what the questions being answered and the people being opposed might be like.   Looking at what the author is trying to combat, the people who left seem to have thought that they were smart or “mature.” They thought that they had special knowledge that the other people in the congregation did not. Part of this knowledge revolved around the identities of the “Son of God,” “Word” “the Liar,” and “The Antichrist” as well as what the “Truth” is and how to obtain the “(Good) life” or “Eternal Life” among other things. What other words can you find that seem important to the author’s point?

11 The person who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness and he does not know what he is doing because the darkness has rendered his eyes sightless.

12 I am writing to you, children: "your sins have been forgiven because of his name."[10]

13 I am writing to you, fathers: "you know that thing that was from the beginning."

I am writing to you, young people: "you have overcome The Evil one."

14 I wrote[11] to you, children: "you have known the Father."[12]

I wrote to you, fathers: "you have known that thing that was from the beginning."

I wrote to you, young people, "you must be strong the Word of God must remain among you and you have overcome The Evil one."

15 You must not love the World, nor the things of the World. When someone loves the World, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 because each thing in the World (the desire of the body, the desire of the eyes and the "good life"[13]) is not from the Father, but is from the World. 17 The World is passing on, along with its desires, but the person who does the will of God remains forever. 18 Children, it is the Last Hour and, just as you have heard, "the Antichrist has come;" even now many "Antichrists" have come, this is how we know that it is the Last Hour: 19 "They left from among us, but they were not part of us, for if they were part of us, they would have stayed with us, but, they did this so that they might be revealed (that they are all not part of us)."[14] 20 On the other hand, you have an anointing[15] from the Holy One (along with everything you know). 21 I did not write to you "you do not know the truth," but I wrote "you know it," and "Every lie is not from the Truth."

22 Who is the Liar if it is not the one who denies him: "Jesus is not is the Christ," This person is the Antichrist (the one who denies the Father and the Son). 23 Each one who denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son also has the Father. 24 That which you heard from the beginning must remain among you; if that which you heard from the beginning remains among you, you will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 This, then, is the promise which he proclaimed to you: eternal life. 26 I wrote these things to you about those deceiving you; 27 as for you, the gift which you received from him is still among you and you do not need someone to teach you, since that same gift teaches you concerning all things[16], and it is true and not false, so, just as he taught you, remain in him. 28 Now, children, remain in him so that, when he is revealed, we will be bold and not be ashamed by him when he comes. 29 If you recognized that he is just, you know that everyone who acts justly is born of him. 3:1 Wow, what startling love the Father has given to us, that we are named "Children of God," and we are, this is why the world does not know us: because it did not know him.

2 My loved ones, now we are Children of God --and what we are going to be has not yet been revealed-- we know that, when he is revealed, we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is. 3 Everyone, then, who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure. 4 Everyone who keeps on sinning also breaks the law (sin is also lawlessness). 5 On the other hand, you know that he was revealed so that sins might go away and he is sinless. 6 Everyone who remains in him does not sin: everyone who keeps on sinning has not seen him, nor have they recognized him. 7 Little children, you must not be deceived: the one who acts justly is just, just as he is just. 8 The person who keeps on sinning is from the Devil since the Devil is a sinner from the beginning until the Son of God is revealed, so that he might unmake what the Devil has made. 9 Each person who is born of God does not keep on sinning[17] because God's seed is still in him and he is not able to keep on sinning because he is born of God. 10 This is how the Children of God are revealed (and the Children of the Devil): everyone who does not keep acting justly is not from God along with everyone who does not keep loving his brother

11 since this is the message which you heard from the beginning: we must love each other. 12 Don't be like Cain: he was from the Devil and slaughtered his brother and why did he slaughter him? Because the things which he did were evil but the things which his brother did were just. 13 And do not be surprised, brothers, if the World hates you, 14 We know that we have been translated out of death into life because we love our brothers: the person who does not love remains in death. 15 Each person who hates his brother is a murderer and you know that each murderer does not keep eternal life in him. 16 This is how we know love: he gave his life for us, and we must give our lives for our brothers. 17 Whoever has the "good life" according to the World and sees his brother in need and closes his heart off from him, how can the love og God still be in him? 18 Little children, do not just love with what you say, or in language but with what you do and truly. 19 This is how we know that we are from the truth even when our hearts convict us: 20 "when our heart condemns us, God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” 21 My loved ones, if our heart does not condemn us, we are confident when it comes to God

22 and when we request something we receive it from him because we keep is command and we keep doing the things that please him. 23 This, then, is his command, that we remain faithful to the name of his Son, Jesus the Messiah, and that we love one another, just as he commanded us. 24 The person who keeps his command is still in him, and he is still in that person, and this is how we know that he is still among us, by the spirit which he gave us.

4:1 My loved ones, you must not believe every spirit, but examine the things a spirit does: If it is from God, since many false prophets have gone out into the World. 2 This is how you know the spirit of God: every spirit which confesses Jesus Christ came physically is from God. 3 On the other hand, every spirit which does not confess Jesus is from God is not, and this is the "Antichrist" which you have heard, "he is coming and is now in the World already." 4 Little children, you are from God and you have conquered them: "greater is the one among you than the one in the world." 5 These are from the World. It is because of this that they speak from the World's perspective, and the World listens to them. 6 We are from God. The person who knows God listens to us, whoever is not from God does not listen to us: that is how we know the true spirit and the deceiving spirit. 7 My loved ones, we love each other because love is from God and each person who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The person who does not keep on loving does not know God because God is love. 9 The love of God is revealed in this way among us: God sent his one-of-a-kind Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 Love has its origin in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son, a sacrifice for our sins.

11 My loved ones, if God loved us in this way, we also must love eachother 12 No one has ever gazed on God-- when we love each other, God remains in us, and his love is brought to maturity in us. 13 This is how we know that we are still in him and he in us: by the spirit he gave to us. 14 We have also seen and testify, "the Father sent his Son: the Savior of the World." 15 Whoever might testify, "Jesus is the Son of God," God is still in that person, and that person in God. 16 We also know and believe the love which God has for us: God is love and the person who remains in love remains in God and God remains in him. 17 This is how the love of God is matured with us so that we have confidence on the day of judgment: "We are just as he was in the this World." 18 Fear is not part of love but mature love throws fear out, since fear comes from punishment, but the person who is afraid has not grown to maturity in love. 19 We love because he loved us first. 20 If someone says, "I love God," but he hates his brother, he is a liar, for the person who does not love his brother, who he has seen, is not able to love God, who he has not seen. 21 This, then, is the command we have from him, let the person who loves God also love his brother.

5:1 Each person who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God and everyone who keeps loving the Progenitor also loves the person to whom he is father. 2 This is how we know that we love the Children of God: when we love God and keep his commands. 3 Therefore, this is the love of God, that we keep his commands and his commands are not difficult to carry. 4 Because everyone who has been born of God conquers the World. This is the conquest that has conquered the World: our faith. 5 Who is the conquerer of the World other than the person who believes that Jesus is the son of God? 6 He is the person who came through water and through blood: Jesus the Messiah (not in water alone, but in water and in blood) and the spirit is the the one who testifies because the spirit is true. 7 Therefore, there are three who testify: 8 the spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are one. 9 If we accept the testimony of people, the testimony of God is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he testified concerning his Son. 10 The person who believes in the son of God has the testimony in himself. The one who does not believe God puts him in the place of a liar because he refuses to believe the testimony which God delivered concerning his Son.

11 This, then, is the testimony: "God gave us eternal life, and this is life in his Son. 12 The person who has the Son has the life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. 13 I wrote these things to you: those who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you could know that you have eternal life. 14 This , then, is the confidence that we have toward him: when we ask that which agrees with his will, he will listen to us. 15 So, if we know that he listens to us, anything that we ask, we know that we have the things for which we have asked him. 16 When someone sees his brother sinning a non-deadly sin, he should ask and life will be given to that person (for those who are committing non-deadly sins --there is a deadly sin, I'm not saying he should pray about that.) 17 All injustice is sin, and it is non-deadly sin. 18 We know that each person who has been born of God does not keep on sinning but God protects the one born of him and the Evil One does not touch him. 19 We know that we are from God and the whole World is in the grasp of the Evil One. 20 We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we know the truth and we are in the truth, in his son, Jesus the Messiah: he is the true God and eternal life. 21 My little children, keep yourselves from idols.

II John

1 The Elder to the Chosen Lady and to her little children, whom I truly love . . . and I am not the only one, but all of those who know the truth 2 . . . because of the truth which is still among us and will be with us forever, 3 Grace, mercy, and Peace from God the Father and from Jesus the Messiah: the Son of the Father, will be with us in truth and love. 4 I was very happy because I found some of your children walking in truth, just as we received the command from the Father. 5 So, now I am asking you, Lady, not like I am writing you a new command, but what we had from the beginning: "Love eachother." 6 This, then, is love: that we walk according to the command: This is the command, just as you heard from the beginning, that you walk in it, 7 because many went out into the World. These are those who do not confess Jesus the Messiah has come in physical reality: this is the Antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, so that you might not destroy what we worked for, but receive payment in full. 9 Everyone who goes out but does not remain in the teaching of the Messiah does not have God. The person who remains in the teaching, he has the Father and the Son 10 If anyone comes to you and does not carry this teaching, do not take him into your home and do not greet him,

11 because the person who greets him shares in the evil things he does. 12 I have many other things to write to you but I don't want to write them with paper and ink but I hope to come to you and speak with you person to person so that we may be filled with joy. 13 Greet the little children of your sister, the Chosen.

III John

1 The Elder to my dear Gaius, whom I truly love. 2 Dear one, I am praying that everything you do would be well and be healthy just as your soul is healthy. 3 For I was very happy, when the brothers came and reporting that you are in the truth just as you walk in truth 4 I have no greater joy than that I might hear that my little children walk in the truth. 5 my loved ones, you are acting faithfully whatever you do for the brothers, even these who you do not know. 6 They testified about you in love before the church; you will do well to send them on in a way worthy of God. 7 For they went out on behalf of the name and they did not take any money from pagans. 8 So then, we ought to receive people such as these so that we may be fellow-workers in the truth.

9 I wrote something to the church, but Diotrophes (the person who is jealous of his place as first among them) does not receive us. 10 Because of this, when I come I will remind him of the things he does: speaking foully, bringing false charges against us and, not being satisfied with these things, he does not receive the brothers and prevents those who wish to receive them and he kicks them out of the church

11 My loved ones, do not imitate this evil thing but the holy thing: the person who does good is from the lord, the person who does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius is supported by everyone and by the truth itself and we also testify and you know that our testimony is true.

13 I have many things to write to you but I do not want to write via ink and pen; 14 I hope to see you right away to speak with you person to person. 15 Peace to you: the Friends greet you, greet the Friends by name.

[1] This is probably referring to the genesis of their faith, not to the beginning of the book of Genesis.

[2] If you read on (cf. 1:9, 3:11), you will find that the thing that was from the beginning was the “command” and that the command is “love each other.” Interestingly enough, this also seems to be saying that the way we know this from the beginning is that we were there to see Jesus act accordingly (1:6).

[3] The “Word of Life” here is Jesus. The thing which everyone took away from experiences with Jesus was his real and physically present love for others.

[4] This is what it means to have fellowship: to share a community, to have a common identity.

[5] Messiah and Christ are the same word, but I like to use Messiah whenever possible to remind myself that Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel’s promise and a Jew: important points biblically and theologically.

[6] The word here is justice which is the same as righteousness (doing what is right) or legal innocence (its original meaning). Look for related words throughout the letter and remind yourself that it has a broader meaning here.

[7] This may just be someone to encourage the sinner, but it is more likely meant to mean a legal representative or mediator.

[8] See note 6

[9]a This seems to be a reason to follow the command, or a citation in support of the command, not the command itself.

9b Because the author seems to use quotations a lot, I have tried to render every possible instance as a quotation unless it does not make sense in context.

[10] He is telling them exactly what his message to each group is. It may be that this should be translated (as most versions do) “I am writing to you because . . .” or “I am writing you that . . .” but it seems likely that the parts I have included in quotation marks are intended to be read as his message to each group and so should be read as notes.

[11] He is still talking about what he is writing in this letter, in Greek you can use various tenses to reference what you are writing in a letter. I think he changes tense just to intensify his earlier statements, most of which are repeated here.

[12] His style indicates that knowing the father is the same thing as being forgiven (see 1:12)

[13] The “Good Life” (βιον) is a life of indulgence, and was so commonly used in this sense that the NT writers never use it for the life Christians live.

[14] For John, and “antichrist” is not some big, supernatural thing, but a person who leaves (which is the same as a person who denies that Jesus really came physically (cf 1:22).

[15] What might this “anointing” be?

[16] This is one of the claims of those who left.

[17] The emphasis in the passages on sinning is on the ongoing action or continuous sin, not on committing a sin here and there, as the whole dialogue about people who claim to be sinless indicates.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Readings for April 20th

Thanks to too much caffeine (and the resulting insomnia), I'm a little ahead, so here are next weeks readings:

Themes include: snatching/ taking away/ saving, the word “word” or “λογος”/ “λογικος

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

1 For the Director of Music: A Davidic Psalm.[1]

In you, Adonai, I seek refuge:

don’t let me be forever ashamed,[2]

rescue me in your pursuit of fairness.

2 Point your ear in my direction, snatch me up quickly, be my fortress on a cliff:

a safe house to save me.

3 Because you are my cliff

and my safe place

and you will lead me for your reputation

and guide me to rest.

4 You will lead me out from the trap,

hidden for me in secret because you are my safe place.

5 My spirit to your hand I will entrust,

you will pay my ransom,

Adonai: Faithful God

15 My times of trial are at hand,

from my enemies’ and persecutors’ hands snatch me away.

16 make your face shine on your servant, because of your loyalty save me.

Acts 7:55-60

55 Then he was filled with the Holy Spirit and he looked into Heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,[3] 56 and he said, "Look! I see Heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57 Then, crying loudly, they plugged their ears and rushed, united, upon him.[4] 58 They threw him out of the city and began to stone him and the witnesses to his death left their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.[5] 59 Then, as they began to stone him, Steven called out, "Lord Jesus, take my spirit."[6] 60 He fell to his knees and cried out loudly, "Do not hold this evil act[7] against them," and when he said this, he fell asleep.[8]

John 14:1-14

1 Your heart must not be troubled: believe in God and believe in me also. 2 There are many dwellings in my father's household,[9] if there were not, I would have told you,[10] since I am going there to prepare a place for you.

3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and I will take you with me so that you can be where I am. 4 However, you do know the path to where I am going.

5 Thomas asked him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, how can we have known the path?" 6 Jesus answered him, "I am the Path and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the father, except through me.[11] 7 If you have known me, you will also know my Father, and now you know him and have seen him.” 8 Phillip said, "Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied."[12] 9 Jesus replied, "You were with me for such a long time, but, don't you know me, Phillip?[13] Whoever sees me, has seen the Father. How can you say, 'show us the father.'" 10 "Don't you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?[14] This is what I am saying to you: I don't speak for myself, but the Father remains in me to do his deeds."

11 You must believe me, that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, and if not, you must believe because of these deeds. 12 This is true: the person who believes in me will do the same deeds I do, and he will do greater deeds than these because I am going to the Father. 13 And whatever a person might ask for in my name, I will give it to him so that the Father might be glorified in The Son. 14 If you ask for something in my name, I will do it. [15]

I Peter 2:2-10

2 Like newborn babies, you must crave the spiritually[16] innocent milk, so that you will be nourished by it into salvation, 3 if you tasted that the Lord is good. 4 to whom you come, living stones, by people: Rejected, but by God: Chosen. Honored.[17] 5 Then these, as living stones,[18] are constructed into a spiritual house, into a holy priesthood, offering holy sacrifices, accepted by God because of Jesus Christ. 6 That is why this stands in scripture: "Look! I am placing a cornerstone in Zion: Chosen. Honored; and the one who believes on him will not be made ashamed for it." 7 Therefore, the honor belongs to you: the believers, but for those who are not believers, "The same stone that the builders rejected has become the keystone. 8 and "a stone over which people trip and a stumbling-block." They are stumblers because they are disobedient to the word; which is why they were placed there. 9 But you are a chosen race, a king-priesthood, a holy nation, a people destined to be His, so that you may shout the excellent qualities of the one who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light; 10 you who once were not a people, but are now a[19] people of God, who were once shown no mercy, but have now been pitied.

[1] Hebrew has this introduction and keeps it as its own verse, so the rest of the verses are one off in English.

[2] Or “Don’t ever let me be ashamed.”

[3] The place of honor.

[4] This is a parallel with the attempted synagogue execution of Jesus (Luke 4:16-29). Note the imagery: the ears of those listening on Pentecost were pierced, but a speech that should do the same thing here has a different result because these people refuse to let their ears hear (fulfilling the Isaiah motif of never hearing).

[5] I suspect that this is what Paul refers to a the thorn in his side: the memory of being a persecutor and party to murder.

[6] This is an intended parallel to Jesus on the cross; also in verse 60.

[7] Or “sin.”

[8] died

[9] You may like the KJV’s “mansions,” but, at the time that they used that term, it meant a place to live, not a palatial dwelling.

[10] This is to counter any rumors that that heaven has a limited number of spots (not 4400).

[11] As many have pointed out, Jesus says that no one comes to the father except by him, but he makes no limitation on the way in which people may find him.

[12] I believe that this is a request to be like Moses, to get to go to the tent of meeting or Sinai.

[13] Knowing Jesus is better that walking in a cloud ala Moses.

[14] What does this mean? If you take what he says to them about a believer doing the same types of things that he did, it seems that Jesus is saying that he speaks and does just as God would. In other words doing as God/ Jesus would makes God/Jesus metaphysically present in you. Perhaps we need to read this beside Jesus’ declaration that no one comes to the father except through him.

[15] In context, I suspect that Jesus is saying that if calls on his authority to do good, Jesus will grant them the authority to do good.

[16] More literally “rationally innocent . . .”

[17] These terms are loaded with Jewish back-stories. The readers are obviously Gentile converts who feel like second-class Christians because they have no nation, and are not the chosen people and therefore have less worth or honor even than unbelieving Israel.

[18] What might this mean, living stones? Could it be a reference to Jesus’ words in Matt 3:8-9? Is there another reference that might fit?

[19] Note that he is not negating the Jewish claim to the title “People of God” but making it a nonexclusive claim.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Readings for April 13th

Themes include: Abundance/ overflowing / adding, gifts from God

Psalm 23 - A Davidic Psalm

Far from the funeral text we often use it as, Psalm 23 is about life; after all, goodness and hesed are pursuing him all the days of his life. Furthermore, the last verse is not speaking about living in God's house in Heaven, it clearly indicates that the author intends to return to the temple on a daily basis. I suspect that the grassy fields and restful waters are metaphors for what he finds in the temple.

In this case the author knows about sheep, but is near enough to the temple to visit daily, so this does fit David himself. On the other hand, I think that "to David" in the Psalms is a musical designation (maybe "to the tune of") rather than an indication of authorship (even if the author was David).

1 Adonai is my shepherd: I will not be in need.

2 He will let me lie down in grassy pastures, he will lead me to waters of rest.

3 On account of his name, he will restore my life;

he will lead me down the well-worn blameless paths.

4 Even when I walk in the Valley of Deathshadow, I will not be afraid of evil if you are with me: your club and staff, they comfort me.

5 You will prepare a feast for me right in front of my enemies, you cover my head with oil; my cup is full to the point of overflowing.

6 Only goodness and loyalty will chase me[1] every day of my life and I will return to the House of Adonai every day.

Acts 2.42-47

42 They kept actively following the teaching[2] of the Apostles[3] and keeping fellowship[4] with each other and breaking of bread together, and praying. 43 So each soul[5] was in awe of the many miracles and signs performed through the Apostles. 44 Then all of the believers were in the same place and shared everything 45 and they began to sell their possessions and their property and they divided them all as anyone had a need.[6] 46 Each day they continued in unity in the temple and broke bread in each house, sharing the food in joy and simplicity of heart 47 praising God and having the favor of all of The People[7]; the Lord added daily to their numbers with those being saved.[8]

John 10:1-10

1 You can count on this[9]: "If someone does not enter the sheep pen through the gate, but enters another way, that person is a thief and robber; 2 the person who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The person watching the gate opens it for this person, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 Whenever one takes out all of one's own sheep, one walks in front of them and the sheep obey that person because they know that person's voice. 5 They will never listen to another, but will run away from him because they do not know the voice of the other." 6 This is the proverb that Jesus told to them (the people who did not understand anything which Jesus said to them).[10] 7 Again Jesus said, "You can count on this: I am the sheep gate. 8 Everyone who came before me[11] is a thief and robber but my sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate: if anyone might come, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal and kill and destroy I came so that they might have life, and have it overflow.”

I Peter 2:19-25

19 For this is grace: if for conscience sake toward God, someone suffers pain unjustly. 20 For where is the honor if you are beaten and you endure because you sinned? On the other hand, if you do good and suffer patiently: this is grace[12] from God. 21 You have been called for this reason: "Even Christ suffered for you, leaving you something to imitate[13] so that you might follow in his footsteps."[14] 22 He did not do wrong things, nor was there any lie found in his mouth. 23 When he was abused, he did not abuse, when he suffered he did not make threats but handed it over to The One Who Judges Righteously.[15] 24 That one carries our evil himself by his own body on the cross, so that from evil we might remove ourselves and might be made alive: by his wound, you are healed. 25 For you were always wandering off like a sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your Lives.

Galatians 4:3-9

The people to whom he is writing have a syncretism problem. They were from a Jewish background but began to view Christianity in Pythagorean or Neo-Platonic terms, called Gnostic in a later time. They think that God cannot directly touch the world, so he created lesser powers (evidently these are called Elements/Principles of Cosmos/ the World) to create and operate within the world. Among these powers is the Fullness, and it seems likely that they have begun to use the words Law, the Son in similar ways.

3 In the same way we were enslaved by the Principles of the Cosmic Powers[16] 4 But, when the Fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son; being born of a woman, being born under the Law 5 so that those under the Law might be set free, so that we might receive adoption as his children. 6 Because you are his children, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba, Father." 7 So that you are not a Slave[17] any longer but, through God, a child, and if a child, also an heir. 8 On the other hand, at that time because you did not know God, you were enslaved to those things that are not gods by nature.[18] 9 Now, knowing God (or rather, being known by God)[19], how can you return again to the weak and impoverished Principles[20], to whom you want again to enslave yourselves

[1] This is wordplay: rather than enemies in pursuit, the author has goodness and loyalty.

[2] i.e. the things that they taught on Pentecost. This might just as well been rendered: “they followed that teaching of the Apostles (mentioned previously).”

[3] The word Apostle, had the original translators not decided to transliterate it, would have been translated “Missionaries” or, perhaps better, “Proxies.”

[4] Here the focus is on commonality, the origin of the Greek word for fellowship.

[5] The word soul if often used in Greek to refer to people as individuals: in English we only see this in dramatic retellings of tragedy, “More than ____ souls lost their lives. . .” but they could use it more freely.

[6] This passage is meant to show that Isaiah 53 is being fulfilled in the church. Do we fulfill this ideal adequately today in our congregations?

[7] Probably referring to the Jewish people/ Israel

[8] Note, firstly, that salvation has already begun for these people and is a continuing process, note, secondly, that the stress is on God’s power.

[9] Traditionally, “Truly, truly I say to you,” “truly” here is the Hebrew “Amen” which indicates the confirmed (firm), tested, or advocated nature of the words given.

[10] It may be that these people did not understand because they refused to understand.

[11] Most likely referring to the many false messiahs that came before him

[12] This could have many translations: approved by, favored by, a gift from, gains the favor of, but I liked the strange fitness to the image of patient suffering as grace.

[13] Like an artist uses a model

[14] These look like the words to a hymn to me.

[15] This is one of the passages we must struggle with if we choose not to wholly embrace Christian pacifism

[16] More literally “organizational /elemental principles of the world.” These are probably the classical elements: Air, Fire, Water, and Earth, personified.

[17] The word “slave” seems also to have developed theological significance for the recipients of this letter.

[18] He is using their wrong theology to teach them right theology. They say themselves that these things they call powers were far from God in nature so that they could affect the world when he, due to his nature as pure spirit could not interact with matter.

[19] An impossibility according to their schema.

[20] Weak and impoverished also sound like theologically loaded terms in context.