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Monday, June 4, 2007

Sight/Sound in the R-Rated Public Square

One of the odd things one notices about recent contemporary speaking, writing, and perhaps even film-making is the constant tendenz to break things down to their snallest constituents. Call it the New Physics of Communication, a quest for the Quarks among the Qualia. How just Ducky! But the ensuing reality that unfolds in our public dialogue and discourse is often less than clear, and much less rational. This, I contend, is the result of our reliance on modern connotations for what are essentially Ancient words and thought-forms, or art-forms, or just Forms.

For example I frequently find myself feeling (or sounding like) a complete babe in the wordy woods online whenever I attempt to go after a clarification for something someone has uttered on a listserv, blog, or whatever. It is as if we live in a time when it is no longer worthwhile to speak clearly, only just to to speak and speak some more. How this derives from Talk Radio (see Liev Schreiber's current play on Broadway) or the politics of self-righteousness and victimhood or Culture Wars or Red v. Blue or Retro/Metro is all beyond me. Nevertheless, it is abundantly clear that a kind of Cultural Manicheanism has established itself as claiming the floor in our civic conversation. Ever since Richard John Neuhaus's minor classic, The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America, this has been presumed to reveal a critical fissure between state and church. Neuhaus wrote in the 80's, but more recently his model of church/state miscommunication has become endemic in all the
spheres of human life.

The coming of the Internet has surely intensified this breakdown in the clarity of our society's communication. And so thirst-like is the nature of this process that the only remedies we are offered seem to involve either quantitatively MORE (or qualitatively BETTER) communication. That this dilemma echoes Neuhaus is made clear on page 1 of TNPS, where he describes a famous New Yorker cartoon lampooning a NEW box of "NEW!" breakfast cereal, wherein the only thing new is that word "new"....

Something similar happens when one listens to our political leaders, movers and shakers engage in what calls itself "debate" these days. It was Thomas Hoving of the Met who long ago wrote that our "consummate art-form is Packaging." And in these (latter) days of YouTube, podcasting, Mefeedia and cetera, the Packaging has over-taken us all.

I got to thinking about all this during a showing of "Paris, je t'aime" at the Avon Cinema in Providence. [By the way, one of the nice things about Providence is that it is a big little city which adores movies. In addition to the Providence Place IMAX complex next to Gloria Dei Lutheran, the Avon and the Cable Car Cinemas are longtime rivals vying for the best of current foreign films. Meanwhile many of the best arthouses in New England (The Orson Welles in Cambridge, the Lincoln and York Square Cinemas in New Haven) have all but vanished.]

"Paris, je t'aime," although a bit hectic for some filmgoers, does not disappoint as a virtual smorgasbord of modern film-making. It contains nearly twenty short films by 18 directorial teams, all set in the neighborhood quartiers of Paris. The casting is drawn from a satisfying blend of familiar stars, wonderful character actors, and several even risen from the dead. The film is rated R for language and brief drug use, and the story lines follow adult romantic themes, yet it it makes a wonderful introduction to the the OTHER consummate art-form today, the movie playing in your neighborhood. Sadly, this film will likely not be seen in many American neighborhoods or Naked Public Squares. Who knows? Maybe we'll also catch it on Youtube or DVD. The Coen brothers' foul-mouthed comic vignette in the Quartier Tuileries is by itself worth the cost of admission--alongside several other hilarious adventures in the City of Light.
For those of us who cannot afford a trip to Paris...even more so. (Who could forget the Vampire Sequence with Elijah Wood?)

Your obdt. svt.,

dave buehler |

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Pentecost 3 June 17, 2007 (Father's Day)

LEXEGETE™ / Year C / Gospel of Luke

June 17, 2007 (Lectionary 11)
Complementary Series
2 Samuel 11:26—12:10, 13-15
Psalm 32 (Ps. 32:5)
Galatians 2:15-21
Luke 7:36—8:3
Semicontinuous Series
1 Kings 21:1-10 (11-14) 15-21a
Psalm 5:1-8 (Ps. 5:8)
Galatians 2:15-21
Luke 7:36—8:3

1a. TEXT: Luke 7:36-50

Lk. 7:36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into
the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table.
Lk. 7:37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he
was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment.
Lk. 7:38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his
feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing
his feet and anointing them with the ointment.
Lk. 7:39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to
himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what
kind of woman this is who is touching him-- that she is a sinner."
Lk. 7:40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to
you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak."
Lk. 7:41 "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred
denarii, and the other fifty.

Lk. 7:42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them.
Now which of them will love him more?"
Lk. 7:43 Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the
greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly."
Lk. 7:44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see
this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she
has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.
Lk. 7:45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not
stopped kissing my feet.
Lk. 7:46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet
with ointment.
Lk. 7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been
forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is
forgiven, loves little."
Lk. 7:48 Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
Lk. 7:49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among
themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"
Lk. 7:50 And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

1b. CONTEXT: Luke 7:36-50

The general theme of the two volume work of Luke-Acts relates to
beneficial actions of God in the lives of people in this world. The theme is
developed in the meaning of what God has done, first in the servant, Jesus,
and then in the servant, the church. In volume one, the Gospel, after
introducing Jesus, the work of Jesus is described in two stages. This is
followed by a report of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
This lection is a portion of stage one of the report of Jesus' work. This
stage focuses on the identity of Jesus. After reporting the call of the disciples,
Luke includes his version of the Sermon on the Mount. Following the sermon
is a series of segments describing contacts by Jesus with people. In these
contacts the nature of his mission is revealed. Jesus healed the son of a
Roman Centurion. He restored life to the son of a widow. He related his
work to the ministry of John the Baptist. In this lection, Jesus contrasts his
contact with the reputable guests at a party with his contact with a woman
known to be a sinner.

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 7: 36-50

Notes from the English Text: Simon, a prominent community leader,
invited Jesus, the traveling Rabbi, to a dinner party at his home. The polite
atmosphere of the dinner was soon disrupted when a woman of the city,
known to be a sinner, approached Jesus while he was at the table. To the
shock of the host, Jesus allowed the woman to wash his feet with her tears
and dry them with her hair.

When Simon challenged his behavior, Jesus told his host a small story
about two men who owed debts they could not repay. One owed a small
amount while the other owed much. The Lender cancelled the debts of both.
Jesus then asked: "Which of the two will be more grateful?" Simon selected
the one whose cancelled debt was larger. Jesus agreed and then pointed out
the contrast between the way she had treated him and the way Simon had
treated him. The behavior of both revealed the attitudes in their hearts.
Notes on Greek words and phrases:

7:37 - [ ]; "a sinner in the city;" This arrangement of words to describe
her is a reflection of her notoriety. It does not in itself describe what kind of
7:41 - [ ]; "debtor;" This word is used only here and Luke 16:5 in the
New Testament.
7:42 - [ ]; "forgave;" This is a warm word for forgiveness. It is a favor
freely and graciously offered.

7:47 - [ ]; "forgiven;" This word describes a direct assurance of
forgiveness or pardon.

Notes from commentaries:

In the social setting of Jesus' day, dinner parties were often community
events. The table in the middle of the room was for invited guests. People of
the community were welcome to stand around the wall and listen in as the
guests talked. Dinner guests literally "reclined" at table. Couches were set at
angles around the table. Guests reclined with their heads near the table. The
woman who approached Jesus, left the wall and went to his feet which were
extended away from the table. With that arrangement, she could easily wash
his feet and dry them.

While the typical conclusion about the woman who was "a sinner of the
city" is that she was a prostitute, that is not necessarily so. A "sinner" could
be one guilty of immorality, like a prostitute. "Sinner" also referred to people
who engaged in a dishonorable or ritually unclean occupation. Some such
occupations were tax collector, shepherd, donkey-driver, peddler, and
tanner. Her husband or father could have followed an occupation that set
the family apart in the city.

The text does not report the cause of the woman's tears. What it does
report is her exceptional gratitude to Jesus. The implication of gratitude is
that she had already been forgiven and responded accordingly.
Simon invited Jesus to a dinner because he was a visiting Rabbi. He halfthought
he might be a prophet. His reception was polite but not warm.
Some of the expected courtesies of a host were omitted. Simon did not have
a servant wash Jesus' feet - a sign of concern for a guest's comfort when
people wore sandals and accumulated dirt in travels. He did not offer
perfumed oil for Jesus's head - a relief after walking in the hot sun. The
contrast is between the host whose hospitality is restrained and the woman
whose ministries were excessive. Jesus indicated that her care was prompted
by deep gratitude for forgiveness.

Simon was shocked that Jesus allowed a woman, a sinner, to touch him in
public. That Jesus did so weakened Simon's belief he might be a prophet. He
expected a prophet to know what kind of woman she was.
In good Rabbinic fashion, Jesus told Simon a story. "Two men borrowed
money. One owed 500 coins; the other owed 50. Neither was able to
repay the loans. The lender forgave both." Which would be more grateful,
Jesus wanted to know. Simon thought the person who had the larger debt

Simon thought Jesus did not really see the woman like he did. Jesus
questioned that: "Simon, do you see this woman?" Simon only saw her
exterior. Jesus saw deep into her heart. Jesus really was a prophet. Then,
perhaps it was obvious that Simon was unable to see her like Jesus did, Jesus
explained what was happening in her life. Her behavior was an expression of
deep gratitude for being forgiven. The character of her heart was revealed by
what she did.

Her behavior was in sharp contrast to that of Simon. His behavior had
revealed not even courteous care for Jesus at the same time her behavior
revealed deep gratitude. She had been forgiven - he had not.

3. STRATEGY: Luke 7: 36-50

The text offers several possibilities for application to human life today.
The loving, forgiving activity of God precedes the human response. The text
strongly emphasizes that the woman's grateful behavior was a RESPONSE to
what God had done for her. She did not minister to Jesus to be forgiven;
she ministered to Jesus in gratitude for having been forgiven. In a society that
can so easily require one to earn or deserve what is received, this text offers
an opportunity to explore the grace of God. If people must earn or deserve
God's love, they are "out of luck." None do. BUT they have hope because
God chooses to give love first.

A second option can focus on the grateful response of the woman to her
forgiveness. Genuine gratitude prompts one to do acts of devotion to Jesus.
While she was able to serve Jesus directly, today we serve him in the people
around us. Anyone in need, hurting, or helpless becomes "Jesus" whom we
can serve. It requires little effort to discover many we can care about.
A third option could be self-righteous blindness. The malady of Simon
exists in us today. Too easily those of us who are "reputable" stereotype
those who are not like us and label them "sinner." This text, and its "metastory"
may convict us and call us to spiritual insight and true repentance that
can accept the freely offered forgiveness of God.

A fourth option might assist the church in responding to a current issue.
While it does not use the entire lection, it does stimulate a new perception.
The question of Jesus: "Simon, Do you see this woman?" could be asked of
us. While society has often failed "to see" women, the church is worse. We
have looked at the exterior of gender or role and missed seeing God's call,
God's gifts in women. This lection could become the opportunity to "see
women." [In 1984, a guest Chaplain for the Minnesota House of
Representatives learned about women in politics. In his prayer to open the
House session, the minister asked the Lord "to bless the men" in the
chamber" and to help "the men make wise decisions." He made other
references to male legislators, none to women. When he said, "Amen," and
returned to the House retiring room, he was followed by the 19 women
House members. They let him know they did not appreciate being left out of
his prayer. He apologized and told them: "I am sure God gave his blessing to
you, too."]

Exegete: Brian A. Nelson, D. Min.
(Disciples of Christ, W. Lafayette, IN


LEXEGETE™ © 2007

Tischrede Software

Dartmouth,MA 02747

PENTECOST 2 | June 10, 2007

LEXEGETE™ / Year C / Gospel of Luke

(Lectionary 10)

Complementary Series
1 Kings 17:17-24
Psalm 30 (Ps. 30:2)
Galatians 1:11-24
Luke 7:11-17

Semicontinuous Series
1 Kings 17:8-16 (17-24)
Psalm 146 (Ps. 146:8)
Galatians 1:11-24
Luke 7:11-17

1a. TEXT: Luke 7:11-17

Lk. 7:11 Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large
crowd went with him.

Lk. 7:12 As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried
out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town.

Lk. 7:13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not

Lk. 7:14 Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!"

Lk. 7:15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

Lk. 7:16 Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!"

Lk. 7:17 This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

1b. CONTEXT: Luke 7:11-17

The account of the raising of the widow's son is form the special "L" source. It shares many similarities with the Elijah story in 1 Kings 17:17-24. The story follows the healing of the centurion's slave and leads up to Jesus' reply to the disciples of John the Baptizer, "the dead are raised up" (Luke 7:22).

The story gives witness to the fulfillment of the prophesies in the Songs of Mary,
Zechariah and Simeon and the Isaiah prophecy in Luke 4:18,19 in the person of Jesus. He is the one Israel has hoped for. The Lucan theme of mercy and compassion for the poor, women and all marginalized persons is developed.

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 7:11-17

Luke 7:13 - And when the Lord aw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do
not weep." - ho kyrios - Among the gospels, this title appears only in Luke, as mentioned elsewhere in this volume of LEXEGETE. The title is introduced her and reflects a later Christological understanding of Jesus' identity.

Lk. 7:13 - esplagchnisthei - to have compassion - The theme of compassion is developed here. It was the through the tener splagchna of God that Jesus was sent to preach the good news (Luke 1:78,79). One's innermost being, bowels, are moved with pity and mercy. This is the feeling of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) and the father of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Luke helps us realize the compassion and mercy God pours out to all who fear him and especially to the poor, lost, the broken.

Lk. 7:13 - do not weep - The beatitudes are here coming alive...."Blessed are you who weep
now for you shall laugh" (Luke 6:21b).
Lk. 7:14 - And he came and touched the bier - heipsato - Touching the dead resulted in
ceremonial uncleanness for Jewish priests, those who had been anointed to serve God
(Lev. 21:11,22:4f.). Jesus ignores this concern about purity in touching the bier. He is
willing to touch and be touched by the "untouchables." (See 5:13, the leper; 6:19, the
crowd; 8:43f., the woman with the flow of blood; 7:36;f., the woman who anoints his feet;
18:15, the infants; 22:51, the slave's ear).
Lk. 7:16 - Fear seized them all and they glorified God saying, "A great prophet has risen
among us!" and "God has visited his people!" - fear - phobos- This is similar to the fear
experienced by the shepherds when the angel appeared to them and announced the birth
of Christ. "Fear" is an awareness of God which leads to glorifying God. "Fear" is the
attitude of humility Jesus invites his followers to in the parable of the pharisee and the tax
collector (187:9-14). As Mary proclaimed, "his mercy is on those who fear him."
Lk 7:16 - great prophet - In the Elijah story (1 Kings 17:17-24) after the prophet restores
life to the widow's son she remarks, "Now I know that you are a man of God." The
miracle pointed to the authority of the prophet and the authenticity of his message. In
calling Jesus a "great prophet," the bystanders link Jesus to the prophets of old: Moses,
Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jonah, et alia. Jeus is authenticated, sent by God to communicate the
invitation to repentance and God's love and mercy. But Jesus more than parallels the
prophets of old (see Luke 4:25-27). In the person of Jesus many will be raised from the
dead (7:22;8:54,55). Many lepers will be cleansed (5:12f.; 17:11-19). The greater number
of healings indicates that Jesus is greater than the prophets. He is the one of whom the
prophets foretold (24:44f.).
Lk. 7:16 - God has visited his people - As predicted by the prophets and lauded by
Zechariah (1:68), "the Lord has visited and redeemed his people." God has come to look
after and care for his people. In coming Jesus demonstrates God's concern and
responsibility for humanity.
3. STRATEGY: Luke 7:11-17
Several approaches could be taken in exploring this text in a sermon:

If Jesus came to us today, would we know to be the Lord, the Christ?
One way we might be able to identify Jesus is through Scripture. Knowing what the
prophets foretold about him would help us to recognize him. If we are weak in our
understanding of Scripture, Jesus would help us by pointing out passages which point to who he is. We might recognize him through what he does, his actions, or what he teaches. If we are humble and fear God, then Jesus will be able to make himself known to us.


Jesus has shown us the importance and power of touch in our daily lives. Touch
communicates our love and our concern for others. Touch demonstrates our presence
with others. As the AIDS (HIV) epidemic continues to spread and reach into more amd
more of our relationships, our willingness to touch the victims and the infected will convey our presence and God's in ways that words and prayers cannot.


What a tremendous feeling it must have been for the bystanders to realize that God
has visited his people. What an awareness of God's concern and sense of responsibility for them. They counted for something, were valuable in God's eyes. God had not forgotten them. In parish visiting we demonstrate our concern for the health and wellbeing of others. We communicate their importance to us (and God) by visiting with them.

Each of these three main themes offers a special message of value and importance to the whole people of God. The hymns suggested in the following section were selected to amplify and underscore these themes.

4. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Luke 7:11-17

a) Recognizing our Lord:
b) The power of touch:
JESU,JESU (HB 602, Ghanaian folk song);

c) Reaching out:
Propers for this observance are much the same in most lectionaries,
and for all three years of the sequence. In both the Book of Common Prayer and the Lutheran Book of Worship, these include:

Psalm - 112
Lesson - Isaiah 42:5-12
Epistle - Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3
Gospel - Matthew 10:7-16
In the Gospel for this occasion, Jesus sends out his disciples to do as he has done (Matthew

Barnabas and Paul are commissioned and sent our for ministry in Acts 13:3. Paul
and Barnabas develop relationships with those they preached to and taught. They have a desire to visit those churches which they founded (Acts 15:36). In there visiting Paul and Barnabas manifest the concern and responsibility for reaching out, which was mentioned above as theme (c) in the Proper 5 Gospel.
Thus one approach for this day would be to address the occasion not merely by
rehearsing the story of Barnabas, but expanding it to include the missionary outreach and church-building which Barnabas, Paul, you and I can engage in down to the present. Thus this day could be a great celebration of the church's mission in the contemporary scene, addressing a wide range range of important global, spiritual, human concerns.

Exegete – Rev. Dr. Lance B. Almeida †

The late Reverend Doctor Lance B. Almeida, of Millinocket, Maine, beloved husband of
Alison Almeida, was ordained October 12, 1985, and received his doctor of ministry from Bangor Theological Seminary in 1997. He was elected to the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine and later served as its president. Father Lance was rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Millinocket, for 15 years. He was a chaplain at Millinocket Regional Hospital, a member of the hospital's Public Information Committee, a member of the Drug and Alcohol Team at Stearns High School and a member of the Katahdin Area Coalition. He was a hospice volunteer, enjoyed being an AARP tax preparer and played golf, bridge and tennis. We were privileged to serve with Fr. Lance while he was at St. John’s in Fall River, MA. He Lance is much missed by his family, friends, colleagues and parishioners.



© 2007 Tischrede Software

Dartmouth, MA 02747

More Towne Times

Still, blogging versus Town meeting

I found myself guffawing a few weeks ago at a line from our Bishop Margaret's homily at this year's Renewal of Vows (Worcester, MA)...she was referring to the myriad barriers and "walls" people create in order to preserve their "uniqueness" (Spiritual and otherwise....

The example that broke me up was "skiers and boarders" since, as everyone on the snow knows (with an exception made for Waitsfield, VT) "there are no FORMER snowboarders, but lots of former SKIERS" (Jacob The Venerable, circa 1988).....the whole notion of Alterity applied to these two snowspas is of course ad absurdem--exactly the good Bishop's point!

Yet I am also reminded (by my English Teacher spouse, more often than not) that Frost's "Mending Wall" is absolutely equivocal on the alleged moral inferiority of walls (see poem at WWW.POEMHUNTER.COM).

And another thing: in his memorable brief paperback ' The Christian in Modern Style,' the late Pr. Henry Horn talked about "The Office of a Wall," an idea which he borrowed from a book written by a guy forced to wear a helmet due to a head injury. With his inimitable insight, Henry pointed out that walls (viewed solely as boundaries or line-drawing) are actually quite a nice thing for the clarity of all our Christian thinking.

Never mind that for the Cultured Despisers of today, "Christian thinking" is the worst sort of oxymoronic phrase. We must own this dilemma and for that very reason pay homage to the good boundaries that exist between us evangelical catholics and those who hide their Good News under the god-awful bushel basket of Arminianism, of which more later.

And that funny (not really) thing really did happen on the way to our Town Meeting here on Buzzards Bay not too long ago. Recently our town voted to (NOT) override the Prop 2.5 limits on taxation (thanks a lot, California!?) because it might have raised our taxes here by about the cost one Big Mac per month (we like to eat). It was soundly defeated but since then the Town finds itself in deep Fiscal Doo-Doo, since we will no doubt be charged for everything from garbage collection (down to the color-coded bags) to crossing guards. Where Janet teaches, D.H.S., they have already tried trimming the budget by down-sizing teachers and asking her (and older colleagues) to double up on classes, including ones outside their subject area. The (further) decline in education is the most likely result. But, philosophically & theologically, it is astounding to me that this all derives from a freak accident which occurred on a local highway early one morning when a young cop was on his way home from work. I guess he had been asked to work an extra shift, was utterly exhausted, and fell asleep at the wheel. Our frugal (?!) leaders turned to self-insuring the Town to save premiums and so we need to keep him alive in his tragic condition.

I had been a member of Town Meeting until this year, mainly because I missed One meeting and didn't petition the right authority figure for mercy. As a joke (I surmise), my wife wrote me onto the ballot for one of about 9 vacant seats. The Town then sent me a form for choosing between two OTHER write-ins, both unknown to me. And so it goes. There is a kind of cosmic entropy which sets in and bears down hard upon New England Town Meetings, and especially ours in Dartmouth.

Which remains a reason for me to just blog forward, more or less.