and Class Day have sharply reduced the time available
for our culture vulture. However, I do want to
recommend once again the remarkable film by Deepak Mehta, WATER,
now widely available on DVD.
Produced in 2005 after innumerable legal battles,
death threats, and even riots, the film is a stunning
commentary on the treatment of outcasts and widows
And, since the Christian way of confronting polytheism
is found in the Feast of the Holy Trinity, here is this
week's LEXEGETE pericope study, by Rev. Richard Koenig:
Lexegete ™ | Year C
THE HOLY TRINITY
First Sunday after Pentecost
June 3, 2007
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm 8 (Ps. 8:1)
1. Text: John 16:12-15
Jn. 16:12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
Jn. 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
Jn. 16:14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Jn. 16:15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
1. Context: John 16:12-15
The Gospel for this Sunday consists of a portion of the great Johannine Last Discourse of Jesus to his disciples before his death. The Discourse itself runs from 13:31 to 17:26. Both the Last Supper and the Discourse are sections in what Father Raymond Brown terms John's Book of Glory which comprises chapters 13 through 21. The other sections of the Book of Glory are the Passion Narrative (chapters 18 and 19) and portions entitled The Risen Jesus (chapter 20) and Epilogue (chapter 21).
Fr. Brown gives our text the title, "The Paraclete as Guide of the Disciples." In the perplexing manner of the Johannine discourse, our text echoes some of the things that Jesus has said earlier in 13:31-14:31. Brown believes that the duplication is the result of an editorial combination of several Last Discourses that were circulated in different Johannine communities. If this is so, we may deal with our text discreetly in relative independence to that which precedes and follows. At the same time, we would do well to heed Brown's concluding remark in his introduction to the Discourse: "None of this [the manner of composition and apparent incoherence] should prevent the reader from recognizing that the Last Discourse is one of the greatest compositions in religious literature. The one who speaks here speaks as no man has spoken." (p. 582)
2. ANALYSIS: John 16: 12-15
In the first section of the Gospel of John, Jesus has been speaking for the most part either to hostile audiences or to individuals and groups that have difficulty comprehending his message. In the Book of Glory (chapters 13-21) he turns to speak to his own, this is, his beloved friends, the disciples whom he had chosen and who would be his witnesses after his departure.
That Jesus would depart was a subject that filled the disciples' hearts with fear. Jesus addresses the fear by assuring his followers that what looms as an unbearable loss will paradoxically turn out to be the generator of rich promise. The essence of the promise is the coming of the Spirit, the Paraclete, who will more than compensate for the removal of Jesus from the company of the disciples.
In taking to themselves Jesus' recorded words, readers of the Gospel and those who hear the Gospel preached from it receive the same comfort as did the disciples. The Last Discourse is composed not only as a word to the Twelve but to Christians throughout the following ages.
The special import of our text for this day, however, is the way it leads us into the fundamental dogma of the Church on the Trinity of God. Observing the context in which the text appears, a word of Jesus to his own, will help to avoid making the Trinity an arcane exercise in theological speculation. The text's implicit Trinitarian theology is an invitation into the life and being of the God whom the Spirit has made known in Jesus Christ.
v. 12: The idea that there are different levels of maturity in the Christian life occurs many times in the NT. See, for example, Ephesians 4:14 and Hebrews 5:13, 14. Spiritual immaturity, characterized by a lack of understanding and steadiness in faith, is to give way to a deeper grasp of God's revelation and a more consistent Christian life.
After the Resurrection, the disciples would understand the ministry of Jesus more profoundly.
v. 13: The inability of the disciples to understand the reason for Jesus' death requires the gift Jesus promises, that is, the Spirit. The Spirit will clarify what was contained in Jesus' proclamation. Thus, the Spirit will convert what Jesus revealed into the disciples' own.
v. 14: In the process the Spirit will glorify Jesus, for then the disciples will see Jesus for what he was as one who was sent from the Father. But in so doing the Spirit will glorify the Father whose saving intention Jesus fulfills. The point is amplified in verse 15.
Our text is striking for the frequency with which the idea of speaking occurs. "I have yet many more things to 'say' to you" (v. 12). [The Spirit] "will not 'speak' on his own authority, but whatever 'he hears' he will 'speak' and 'declare' to you..." (v. 13). [The Spirit] "will take what is mine and 'declare' it to you" (v. 14). "Therefore I 'said' that he will take what is mine and 'declare' it to you" (v. 15).
The God of the Bible is the God who speaks [Deus loquens]. In contrast to many familiar notions on the way humans communicate with the divine (mysticism), the God of the Bible takes the initiative, reveals himself, and continues to reveal himself by means of the Word.
The means of communication is no accident. God is discourse, says Robert Jenson, in conscious reference to the dogma of the Trinity. God's self-disclosure in the Son (the Word!) through the Holy Spirit bespeaks his innermost nature. Our text testifies to the conversation God carries on with us and within himself. The dogma of the Trinity gathers up the insights Christians derived from their encounter as believers in the one God with Christ. Trinitarian faith is faith in [Deus loquens], the God who speaks.
3. STRATEGY: John 16: 12-15
The situation in the life of the disciples on the occasion of our text was the imminent departure of their Lord and the consequent loss of his voice and presence. Sadness filled their hearts. The situation in which many of our hearers today live is one in which the voice of God is also thought to be silent. It may not be spoken about, but the experience of the absence or silence of God is at the edge of consciousness.
The text tells us that however firmly it might be declared that God's voice has been stilled, God speaks. God has uttered his Word in Christ (John 1, Hebrews 1) and communicates that to us through the Spirit. This is his promise. The God who IS Father, Son, and Holy Spirit speaks in order to share himself with us.
The sermon might be a comfort and a challenge. It is a comfort to be assured that he who loves us in Christ is not silent. The question for us is how we listen. The question is whether we are listening. The question is what we are listening for.
The preacher might want to try a second tack and develop the wonder of speech. "Speak to me," we say to establish communication, even with inanimate objects like dice. "Do you hear what I am saying?" we ask in order to make sure we are getting through.
Speech is the wonderful, mysterious means given to us to share our inner life with one another. The God of the Bible is the God who speaks. That is shown us in our text. God speaks to us in Christ through the Spirit. His word of judgment and grace comes to us in order to allow us to share in his life.
Love is not muzzled or silent. "In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit" not only establishes the ground on which we gather but holds before us the promise of what is to happen: God will speak to us again in his Word by the Spirit.
4. REFERENCES: John 16: 12-15
Brown, Raymond E. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN,
XIII - XXI. The Anchor Bible, vol. 29A,
Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1970.
Jenson, Robert E. "The Being of God," in
CHRISTIAN DOGMATICS. Vol. 1, Carl E. Braaten
and Robert W. Jenson, eds., Philadelphia:
Fortress Press, 1984, pp. 163-181.
Exegete: Richard E. Koenig
Rev. Koenig is a Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (Ret.), a longtime contributor
to the Christian Century, an author and editor,
and leader in Lutheran ecumenical dialogue.
He and his wife, Elaine Koenig, live in Cromwell, CT.
5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: John 16:12-15
Some hymns recommended for the Festival of the Holy Trinity
and/or this pericope include the following:
ALL GLORY BE TO GOD ON HIGH (LBW 166; HB 421)
ANCIENT OF DAYS, WHO SITTEST THRONED IN GLORY (HB 363)
CREATOR SPIRIT, HEAV'NLY DOVE (LBW 284; HB 500)
FATHER MOST HOLY, MERCIFUL AND TENDER (LBW 169)
HOLY GOD, WE PRAISE THY NAME (HB 366; LBW 535)
HOLY HOLY HOLY (HB 362; LBW 165)
I BIND UNTO MYSELF THIS DAY (HB 370; LBW 188)
O GOD, WE PRAISE THEE, AND CONFESS (HB 364)
SING PRAISE TO OUR CREATOR (HB 295)
THE GOD OF ABRAHAM PRAISE (HB 401; LBW 544)
LEXEGETE © 2007
Dartmouth, MA 02747