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Monday, October 29, 2007

Lexegete™ - November, 2007

Lexegete™ | Year C | Luke

All Saints
November 1, 2007
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
Psalm 149 (Ps. 149:1)
Ephesians 1:11-23
Luke 6:20-31

All Saints may be transferred to Sunday, November 4.

November 4, 2007 (Lectionary 31)

Complementary Series
Isaiah 1:10-18
Psalm 32:1-7 (Ps. 32:6)
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke 19:1-10

Semicontinuous Series
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Psalm 119:137-144 (Ps. 119:144)
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke 19:1-10

1a. TEXT: Luke 19:1-10
1και εισελθων διηρχετο την ιεριχω. 2και ιδου ανηρ ονοματι καλουμενος ζακχαιος, και αυτος ην αρχιτελωνης και αυτος πλουσιος. 3και εζητει ιδειν τον ιησουν τις εστιν, και ουκ ηδυνατο απο του οχλου οτι τη ηλικια μικρος ην. 4και προδραμων εις το εμπροσθεν ανεβη επι συκομορεαν ινα ιδη αυτον, οτι εκεινης ημελλεν διερχεσθαι. 5και ως ηλθεν επι τον τοπον, αναβλεψας ο ιησους ειπεν προς αυτον, ζακχαιε, σπευσας καταβηθι, σημερον γαρ εν τω οικω σου δει με μειναι. 6και σπευσας κατεβη, και υπεδεξατο αυτον χαιρων. 7και ιδοντες παντες διεγογγυζον λεγοντες οτι παρα αμαρτωλω ανδρι εισηλθεν καταλυσαι. 8σταθεις δε ζακχαιος ειπεν προς τον κυριον, ιδου τα ημισια μου των υπαρχοντων, κυριε, τοις πτωχοις διδωμι, και ει τινος τι εσυκοφαντησα αποδιδωμι τετραπλουν. 9ειπεν δε προς αυτον ο ιησους οτι σημερον σωτηρια τω οικω τουτω εγενετο, καθοτι και αυτος υιος αβρααμ εστιν: 10ηλθεν γαρ ο υιος του ανθρωπου ζητησαι και σωσαι το απολωλος.

Lk. 19:1 He entered Jericho and was passing through it.
Lk. 19:2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.

Lk. 19:3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.

Lk. 19:4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.

Lk. 19:5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today."

Lk. 19:6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.

Lk. 19:7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner."

Lk. 19:8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much."

Lk. 19:9 Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.

Lk. 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."

2. CONTEXT: Luke 19:1-10

Recently a Pastor I know told me that he was (since he will be leaving his patish around Christmas) going to preach on Zacchaeus next Sunday., Pentecost XXIII. But, for a twist, he plans to connect the Luke 19 text to Dr. Seuss’s “Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” Hmmm.....go figure.

I replied to him, though not in these exact words:

The story of Zacchaeus' discovery by Jesus is one of the most beloved of traditional gospel stories, and perhaps for that very reason one that is somewhat clouded by familiarity. There is little debate over the question of Zacchaeus' stature. He was small. Moreover, he was a tax collector.
And he was rich.

But beyond this the Third Evangelist has very little to say to us about his character. The implication is that the story is really not so much about Zacchaeus as it is about us, and that the little man in the sycamore tree offers Jesus an unusual opportunity to reach out to the world in a unusual way.

Apparently starting with material from Mark, Luke develops the notion that Jesus not only conversed with sinners and those ostracized by society, but he actually had dinner with them!

The main thing that can be said about the figure Zacchaeus is that, whatever his personal qualities of character, he was by definition alienated from his own people because as a tax collector he was collaborating with the oppressors--and was paid handsomely for doing so.
It seems odd that such a person would climb a tree just to see Jesus, and yet in the light of his smallness of stature, perhaps this is not really so far-fetched. The most striking and unusual note comes when Jesus
recognizes in this behavior a degree of receptivity to him and to his message of salvation. The only real reference to Zacchaeus' "character" comes in Lk. 19:6, where it says that he received Jesus "joyfully"
[chairo]. Thus as we explore this passage it would be a mistake to portray Zacchaeus either too much as a "saint" or too much the "sinner," but rather with a sense of simul justus et peccator like the rest of us.

Commentator: Dave Buehler
Editor: Lexegete, 1987-2007

© 2007 Tischrede Software


November 11, 2007(Lectionary 32)

Complementary Series
Job 19:23-27a
Psalm 17:1-9 (Ps. 17:8)
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38
Semicontinuous Series
Haggai 1:15b—2:9
Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21 (Ps. 145:3) or Psalm 98 (Ps. 98:9)
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38

1a. TEXT: Luke 20:27-38

Lk. 20:27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him

Lk. 20:28 and asked him a question, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.

Lk. 20:29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless;

Lk. 20:30 then the second

Lk. 20:31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless.

Lk. 20:32 Finally the woman also died.

Lk. 20:33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her."

Lk. 20:34 Jesus said to them, "Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage;

Lk. 20:35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.

Lk. 20:36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.

Lk. 20:37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

Lk. 20:38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."

1b. CONTEXT: Luke 20:27-38

Luke 20 : 27-39 consists of some Sadducees asking Jesus a mocking question about resurrection (vs. 27-33), followed by Jesus' response (vs. 34-39). The scene takes place in Jerusalem soon after Jesus' triumphal entry on Palm Sunday. Although the pericope is found in Mark (12: 18-27) and Matthew (22: 23-33), the Lukan version contains many more Hebraisms and recasts the opening statement of Jesus' response (v. 34).

The "Holy Week" setting of the passage is, of course, significant. For some 10 chapters (and throughout most of our Pentecost lections), Jesus has been preparing for his fateful arrival in Jerusalem. Immediately prior to chapter 20, Jesus triumphantly enters the city, weeps over its fate, and angrily drives out merchants from the Temple. Political and religious authorities respond by plotting to destroy Jesus. In chapter 20, the authorities approach Jesus four times to ask (or be asked) challenging and controversial questions.

Our passage is the third of these scenes. Daube suggests that the grouping and form of these scenes originates from a common rabbinic teaching device with liturgical roots (1). As such, our passage is of the type called a "mocking question," the purpose of which is to belittle the teaching of the rabbi. Sadducees approach Jesus and, after posing a hypothetical (and rather absurd) situation involving seven brothers in turn marrying one wife, ask Jesus, "In the resurrection...whose wife will she be?" Jesus refutes the mocking question by destroying its premises and re-asserting the legitimacy of belief in the resurrection.

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 20: 27-39

Luke 20: 27. The pericope identifies [Saddoukaios] as [hoi antilegontes anastasin me einai.] Although information about the Sadducees comes only from groups hostile to them, it seems that this group indeed did not believe in resurrection (as Pharisees and Christians did: see Acts 23: 6ff), insisting on a more conservative, literal reading of the Torah.

Luke 20: 28-33. The "mocking question" is about resurrection (v. 33). The subject is introduced in v. 28 by a reference to the Mosaic law in Deut. 25: 5-10 concerning "levirite marriage." As v. 28 indicates, levirite marriage specifies that when a husband dies childless, it is his brothers' duty to take the widow as wife and father children. According to INTERPRETER'S DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE, "The purpose of the law is clear--to prevent marriage of the Israelite girl to an outsider and to continue the name of the dead husband in Israel." (2) This point will become important in Jesus' response to the Sadducees.

Luke 20: 33. After the parable of the seven brothers, the "mocking question" is asked: "In the resurrection, ... whose wife will [the woman] be?" Clearly, the question is intended to establish the absurdity of resurrection. Resurrection would force law-abiding Jews into illegal and ridiculous polygamy.

Luke 20: 34-36. Jesus' response falls into two parts. In this first part, Jesus destroys the premises of the Sadducees' argument. There is no comparison between life in "this age" and "that age" (i.e., the age of the resurrection). Levirite marriage (with its goal of "name" preservation) applies only to the children of this age. In "that age" such laws are unnecessary. Life is preserved with and in God.

[Hoi huios tou aionos toutou.] This phrase is best understood inclusively as "children of this age." This is made clear in the following phrase where [gamousin kai gamizontai] clearly refers to men "marrying" and women being "given in marriage."

The argument in this first part is rather laborious. The reason why those in "that age" neither marry nor are given in marriage is because they can no longer die. Presumably this means they need no longer marry in order to perpetuate their name; they cannot die and so their name lives with them. The reason why they cannot die is then said to be because they are equal to angels and children of God as a result of being children of the resurrection.

Luke 20: 37-38. In the second part of his response, Jesus refers to Torah and asserts the legitimacy of belief in the resurrection. "The argument runs thus: God has revealed himself to Moses as the Lord of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which proves that these patriarchs are still alive, since such a relationship presupposes living partners: ERGO, there is a resurrection of the dead." (3)

3. STRATEGY: Luke 20: 27-38

This is not one of the most transparent pericopes in the New Testament. Beneath the strange (to modern ears) law of levirite marriage and such Hebraisms as "this age" and "those accounted worthy to attain to that age," is, however, a passage of tremendous power. Although the Sadducees only seem to be interested in ridiculing Jesus, Jesus seizes the opportunity to proclaim where true permanence and security are found. Levirite marriage attempted to legislate immortality by perpetuating a dead husband's name through children fathered by his brothers. Such solutions are unnecessary in the resurrection. As the example of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob makes plain, all live to God! True security and permanence are truly found in God, not law.

Given this understanding of the passage (an understanding which requires careful explanation of the underlying meaning of levirite marriage), preachers can proclaim the good news of the resurrection in ever new ways. What are modern equivalents to levirite marriage? What "laws" do people construct to guarantee permanence and security? Wealth? Status? A "guaranteed" religious experience, such as being "born again"? The trend toward multiple marriages called "progressive monogamy"? Whatever it is, the good news is that life in "that age" is radically discontinuous with life in this age. All those whom God accounts worthy to attain to resurrection (which is everyone!) live to God and so are promised life. Given this assurance now, we are free to let go of our security blankets and live to God.

4. NOTES & REFERENCES: Luke 20: 27-38

(1) Daube, THE NEW TESTAMENT AND RABBINIC JUDAISM, pp. 158-169. The device, found in the Passover liturgy, consists of a question of wisdom
concerning a point of law, a question of conduct, a mocking question, and an exegetical question.

(2) IDB, Vol. 4, p. 162.

(3) Reiling and Swellengrebel, A TRANSLATOR'S HANDBOOK ON THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, p. 655.

REFERENCES: Luke 20: 27-38

pp. 158-169.

Reiling, J. and J. L. Swellengrebel, A TRANSLATOR'S HANDBOOK ON THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, Leiden, 1971.

BIBLE, Volume 4, pp. 160-163, Abingdon, 1962.

Exegete: Michael J. Carlson

November 18, 2007 (Lectionary 33)
Complementary Series
Malachi 4:1-2a
Psalm 98 (Ps. 98:9)
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Semicontinuous Series
Isaiah 65:17-25
Isaiah 12 (Isa. 12:6)
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

1a. TEXT: Luke 21:5-19

Lk. 21:5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said,

Lk. 21:6 "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."

Lk. 21:7 They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?"

Lk. 21:8 And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!' and, `The time is near!' Do not go after them.

Lk. 21:9 "When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately."

Lk. 21:10 Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom;

Lk. 21:11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

Lk. 21:12 "But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.

Lk. 21:13 This will give you an opportunity to testify.

Lk. 21:14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance;
Lk. 21:15 for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.

Lk. 21:16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death.

Lk. 21:17 You will be hated by all because of my name.

Lk. 21:18 But not a hair of your head will perish.

Lk. 21:19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.

1b. CONTEXT: Luke 21:5-19

This pericope is framed by the story of the Widow's mite and Satan entering Judas. The setting is the Temple where Jesus continues his daily teaching. He is speaking to the disciples while all the people about them listen. Jesus had the support of the populace, which was enthusiastic about his teaching.

Verses 5-7 may be one of the hardest parts of the gospel tradition to interpret. There are many interpretations to choose from, so many that it tends to bewilder the serious student. Part of the problem is that these texts are often called Jesus' "eschatological discourse," for it is concerned with the eschata, "last things," of the world and Jerusalem. Others refer to this pericope as the Synoptic "apocalyptic discourse" as it presents the aforementioned eschata in apocalyptic garb. These words, "apocalyptic" and "eschatological", are problematic in themselves. We can say that "eschatological" describes a body of teachings about the last times which for the Lucan writer meant the end of Jerusalem, whereas "apocalyptic" is a form of writing about these end times. This Lucan discourse can be called "eschatalogical" in that it seeks to encourage its readers, as well as urge them to vigilance and prayer during times of persecution. Thus it can be regarded as apocalyptic writing.

This Lucan material has its parallels in Mark 13:5-37 and Matt. 24:1-36 and echoes material already used in chapter 17 (vv. 23-24, 26-27, 33, 34-35, 37).

In his Gospel Luke appears to have two primary aims. He has a special interest in ordering his story geographically, and he presents Jesus as bringing God's salvation to the publicans, sinners, Gentiles, and Samaritans, those whose need for the "Good News" is greatest. Also the Lucan Jesus deals gently with the outcast and the poor. Jesus is portrayed as a man of prayer and women have a special role in his ministry.

Although tradition holds for the authorship of Luke, the traveling companion of Paul and the "beloved physician," there is room for doubt. We find inconsistencies with the Pauline Letters and wonder whether his traveling companion would have been guilty of such monumental errors. There is, however, much support for a common author of Luke and Acts.

But in no case can the author be an eyewitness to events, rather he depends upon others who "were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word." (1:2) Nonetheless the writer of this gospel was an able and learned historian with a profound faith. The political situation during the reign of the Emperor Domitian (81-96) fits neatly into the situation of the church reflected in Luke's gospel; hence a date of AD 85 to 95 is likely. Since the evangelist's gospel contains such a highly developed style of Greek and where readers such as Theophilus (Acts 1-1) would have been at home_a locale where cultured Greek was the primary language_is about as much as we can ascertain about the church's locus. Persecution was a major problem for the disciples and would increase after Jesus' departure. The city of Jerusalem and the magnificent Temple would be totally destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The Lucan church suffered greatly under Domitian. Hence, one would do well to study these terrible times before attempting to preach on this pericope.

It should be noted that Luke does not introduce the word parousia ; it is not a Lucan word. In any event, it should not enter into a discussion of the Lucan pericope. Luke has his own way of referring to future events, and to use the Holy Spirit in this case would not be respecting Luke's gospel. This is problematic when this text is assigned to Pentecost.

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 21:5-19

Luke 21: 5-7 - These verses constitute the first pericope of this text. It is concerned with the fate of Jerusalem's glorious temple. Because of Luke's concern to keep Jesus in the temple, he doesn't go to the Mount of Olives and speak only to his disciples as he does in Mark 13:1-3. Jesus' reply to those commenting on the Herodian temple is not a warning, but a prophetic pronouncement, a terrifying prediction. The clarity of his words saw their fulfillment in late August and early September A.D. 70 when the Temple was utterly destroyed.

21:7 when will this happen? Here and later in the verse, "these things"
(tauta) refers clearly to the destruction of the Temple.

There is no mention of "the last things" for there is no mention of such in the Lucan gospel. Luke is concerned directly with events in history and shows Jesus as one who prophesies about coming events. This "when" question launches the reader into the monologue of terrible events to come.

21:8-11 - These verses are a collection of prophetic, threatening, terrifying sayings of Jesus. He uses apocalyptic language of wars, revolts and of natural disasters, yet they are not to be understood as referring to anything other than the devastation of the Temple and Jerusalem. This is a negative episode replete with horrifying images meant to warn the reader-hearer to remain true despite earth- shattering events. Jesus uses OT allusions in his discourse.(Isa 19:2, 2 Chr 15:6, Ezek. 38:19-22). The Jewish historian, Josephus, describes the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem with many horrifying details. Included in his story are references to charlatans and would-be messengers of god, as well as strange stars and the appearance of a comet. When considering such details as these, which accompanied the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, it is not implausible to conclude that this was the destruction or "the end" to which Luke was referring. Thus importing references to the end of the world at this point, although tempting, seems inappropriate, for this would be importing a Marcan or Matthean nuance into the context of Luke.

21:8 - Make sure that you are not led astray. The verb planao "led astray" is found only here; it connotes a departure from truth or fidelity. Such false prophets are not to be trusted. do not run after them, i.e. do not be taken in by their rhetoric and flair.

21:9 - The use of first of all (proton) and at once (eutheos) lead the way to the next pericope where Jesus warns his disciples that they will face persecutions before the "end" of Jerusalem.

21:12-19 - As background for this pericope it might be helpful to read Acts 4:16-18, 8:1b-3, 12:1-5, where actual persecutions are described. (Cf. I Thess 2:14, Gal 1:13). This part of the discourse describes the church under stressful conditions. Jesus recounts the coming persecutions which will come from all sorts of Jewish and Gentile sources. Families and friends, all will turn against them because they bear his name.

In addition, persecutions will consist not only of imprisonment but even death. And the reason will always be hatred because of "my name". Yet the evangelist's Jesus encourages his followers, "not a hair of your head will be lost" (an echo of Luke 12:7). By their endurance they will gain life, for they can never lose their souls even if their lives are lost. Here we see Luke at his finest, giving hope to the persecuted, truly Good News.

21:12 - will persecute you. The verb "pursue" (dioko) has a religious connotation here. Harassment takes place because of religious affiliation. hand you over to synagogues and prisons...kings and prefects. Luke alone adds "prisons" (phulakas). Synagogues and prisons refer to Jewish persecutions and kings and prefects refers to Gentile persecutions. because of my name
(eneken tou onomatos nou). Here Luke rewords Mark 13:9 in accordance with the Lucan emphasis on the name of Jesus in Acts.

21:13 - It will lead to your having to testify - you will be called on to act in a way that testifies to your fidelity, to what you truly are.

21:14 - not to rehearse your defense in advance. The verb (promeletao) is a technical expression for memorizing a speech in advance.

21:15 - I myself shall supply you with lips and with a wisdom. Literally this means "I shall give you a mouth and wisdom." Luke places the "I" (ego) at the beginning of the sentence as he substitutes Jesus as the giver of the needed gifts to his persecuted followers for the "holy Spirit" of the Markan gospel. In Acts 2:33 the Lucan writer has the risen Jesus saying that he will supply the wisdom and dispense the Father's promise.

21:16 - be handed over by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends. Conflict in families is part of the situation of persecution.
The disciples are not merely being given information but Jesus' words require difficult decisions for they conflict with loyalties both for the disciples in Luke's gospel as well as for its readers. The disciples are portrayed as persons who desire and expect the promise of salvation without suffering and rejection. This is Jesus' direct attack upon false expectations.

they will put some of you to death. A prophecy fulfilled in the deaths of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60) and James, son of Zebedee(Acts 12:1-2).

21:18 - not a hair of your head will be lost. The inference is that God will be protecting his own during the times of persecution. This is a doublet with Luke 12:7 "Even the hairs of your head are all numbered". Therefore, the disciples need not fear. Since this follows the statement that "they will put some of you to death," it refers metaphorically to a preservation beyond death. The Lucan narrator is suggesting that Jesus is dealing with weighty matters of lasting importance.

21:19 - by your will make your lives secure. Literally this means "in your persistence win your souls." The condition for salvation is not simply patience (hyptomoei) but persistent endurance. So one will acquire, "procure," (chtaomai) "inner life" (psyche).

3. STRATEGY: Luke 21:5-19

Although this text is difficult, due to verse 15, "For I will give you words and wisdom..." with no mention of the Holy Spirit and with Pentecost being the celebration of the coming of the Spirit, there are ways that one can handle this. One should stay true to the Lucan emphasis and not mention the Holy Spirit directly but place emphasis upon how Jesus Christ is with us as he promised, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:18) Jesus was honest with his hearers, he told them they could expect hard times, even death. We who preach his Gospel must also be honest. Although such persecutions are not afflicting us in our land, this is not true in all of Christendom. One way to address this might be to use a first person account of persecution in the sermon. This could be done by recounting an incident from the time of the Emperor Domitian. These are readily available in Tacitus, Josephus, and other histories of Christianity. For example: "I was five years old when they tied pig skins to my parents backs and set the dogs upon them...6,000 people starved to death in one week, my baby sister was one of those who died" etc.

Something along these lines can be an effective start for a sermon and give modern people a sense of the persecution suffered in the early church. Many parishioners have little sense of their Christian history. Although this may appear extreme, extreme measures are often required to bring the Bible to life. The Lucan church suffered severely. That is why his Jesus spoke so eloquently and gave such reassurance.

In addition, there are false teachers in America who beguile us with their rhetoric and flair. They preach false expectations, promise their hearers riches, and breed Christians who desire and expect the promise of salvation without suffering and rejection. Hence when people don't prosper, or when illness, drought, family problems, etc. befall them, they blame God or lose faith, and spend time in endless questioning. Either way life is lost, the inner life of zest which ends our text for today.

This text easily lends itself to this theme. Although our people are not starving, who knows what may come. Certainly we all struggle in one way or another. When Jesus spoke of a safety that went beyond the threats of this earth, "Not a hair of your head will be harmed," he assured us that although lives may be lost, our souls can never be lost. This makes an excellent message for today's blais_ generation, which so desperately needs something of substance.

It has been said that Jesus afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted. This text certainly lends itself well to this concept. Most of our pews are full of the comfortable and we all know the afflicted. This text speaks a powerful word of hope, as well as warning those who glory in their tidy and comfortable little niche.

Ole Borgen, a Bishop of the Northern Europe Area since 1970 and a Norwegian by birth, residing in Sweden, is responsible for United Methodists in these two countries as well as those in Denmark, Finnland and Estonia. His leadership became especially important in recent years during the gradual decline and fall of communism in Eastern Europe. He has warned the European church against being complacent in the face of a critical lack of growth. Ironically, h is European churches fit the profile of many of our American churches.

Borgen believes they die because their small communities with one-industry economies have died; because materialism and hedonism are the principles guiding people's lives; and because the laity have a tendency to be consumers of faith rather than producers of faith. "A comfortable church will never grow," says this Bishop. "Life must never follow a set pattern. We must never be afraid of the Holy Spirit." How about a sermon on church growth to our very "set" congregations?

4.REFERENCES: Luke 21:5-19

A book that is very helpful when studying Luke is:


Volume one: The Gospel According to Luke,

by Robert C. Tannehill. Philadelphia,Pa. Fortress Press, 1986.

Exegete: Rev. Saundra Craig, United Methodist Church


Day of Thanksgiving (U.S.A.)

November 22, 2007

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 | Psalm 100 (Ps. 100:4) | Philippians 4:4-9 | John 6:25-35


Last Sunday after Pentecost
November 25, 2007 (Lectionary 34)

Complementary Series
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 46 (Ps. 46:10)
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

Semicontinuous Series
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Luke 1:68-79 (Luke 1:69)
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

Andrew, Apostle | November 30, 2007

Ezekiel 3:16-21 | Psalm 19:1-6 (Ps. 19:4)
Romans 10:10-18
John 1:35-42

1a. TEXT: Luke 23:35-43

Lk. 23:35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!"

Lk. 23:36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,

Lk. 23:37 and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!"

Lk. 23:38 There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews."

Lk. 23:39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!"

Lk. 23:40 But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?

Lk. 23:41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong."

Lk. 23:42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Lk. 23:43 He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

1. CONTEXT: Luke 23:35-43

Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King in 1925 in order to celebrate the authority of Christ which shall lead all humanity into the peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ. It is now celebrated on the last Sunday before Advent. Lutherans now celebrate the feast and, while it is not referred to by name, the 1979 Episcopal BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER provides propers for it.

The gospel appointed for the day displays the paradox of Christian worship of Christ as king. The one place in the gospels where Christ is clearly depicted as king is on the cross, where he is crucified as a pretender to Messiahship. At the moment of degradation, suffering, and death, a caption above him reads, in Luke's words "This is the King of the Jews." The earliest Christian depictions of the crucifixion displayed this paradox by presenting a crowned Christ reigning from the cross, the so-called "Christus victor" iconography.

The cross has scandalized non-Christians. Celsus, an informed and perceptive second-century philosopher echoed the Luke's mockers when he wrote of Jesus: "If he really was so great he ought, in order to display his divinity, to have disappeared from the cross." [CONTRA CELSUM 2.68, tr. Henry Chadwick, p. 118]. One also thinks of a near disaster which befell Matteo Ricci, the sixteenth-century Jesuit missionary to China. The discovery of a highly realistic crucifix among his personal effects deeply

shocked the Chinese and gave rise to suspicion that he secretly engaged in malignant magical practices. Ricci, in the words of Jonathan Spence, "found it hard to marshall adequate explanation of the significance of Christ crucified. 'On the one hand,' as he wrote later (speaking of himself in the third person as he often did), 'he didn't want to say that that was our God, it seeming difficult to him among these ignorant people, and at such a time, to talk of these high mysteries, ...on the other, because he saw all the people turned against him, full of disgust for the cruelty which, it seemed to them, he had done to that man' --that is, to Christ."[Jonathan Spence, THE MEMORY PALACE OF MATTEO RICCI, pp. 246.]

Luke, departing from traditions otherwise attested, dramatically intensifies the paradox of Christ's reigning from the cross by including in his narrative Jesus' forgiveness of a penitent criminal crucified beside him. This is the crowning touch in a ministry consistently directed toward society's outcasts. It is also theologically appropriate. Forgiving the penitent thief is, as Joseph Fitzmyer points out, the way Luke makes clear the salvific character of Jesus' death [THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE I-IX, p. 23]. It is precisely that ministry of reconciliation and forgiveness which brought Jesus to the cross. In the words of Jurgen Moltmann [THE CRUCIFIED GOD, p. 130.]:

Anyone who proclaimed the coming of the kingdom and the
closeness of God as prevenient and unconditional grace to those
who according to the law were rightly rejected and could have
no hope, and who demonstrated this coming grace by giving
himself to those outside the law and the transgressors of the law,
who placed himself above the authority of Moses, and who was
all the time no more than 'a carpenter's son from Nazareth', was
inevitably bound to come into conflict with the devout and the
ruling class and their laws, and from the human point of view was
bound to lose this conflict. The conflict was provoked not by his
incomprehensible claim to authority as such, but by the discrepancy
between a claim which arrogated to itself the righteousness of
God and his unprotected and therefore vulnerable humanity.

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 23: 35-43

v. 35-36, 39 [ kai heistekei ho laos theoron. exemukterizon de kai hoi archontes . . . enepaixan de autoi kai hoi stratiotai . . . Heis de ton kremasthenton kakourgon eblasphemei auton.]--Note the dramatic character of the series: the people stood around (pluperfect) looking, the ruler taunted (imperfect), the soldiers mocked (aorist), the thief blasphemed (aorist). While they are only second in order, the use of the imperfect for the rulers, implying continual scoffing proceding from a special malice, singles out them for the greatest blame. The other tenses imply an action that was done once and completed. [Theoron] and [exemukterizon] allude to Ps. 22: 19. The contrast between the relatively innocent role of the people ([theoron] implys gawking at a spectacle) and the role of the rulers is striking.

v. 37 [en de kai epigraphe ep' autoi]--Fitzmyer (THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE X-XXIV, p. 152) points out that the inscription on the cross constitutes the only thing actually written about Jesus during his lifetime.

vv. 37 & 39 Note the contrast between the question which the Roman soldiers ask, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself," and that which the (presumably Jewish) criminal asks, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us?" The Jewish rulers (v. 35) also refer to Jesus as "the Messiah." "King of the Jews" and "Messiah" are equivalent terms used from different perspectives.

v. 40 [Oude phobei su ton Theon;] -- The first criminal's question expresses shock that his companion would speak in such a way in the face of God's judgment. Note that both criminals ask for salvation.

v. 41 [ouden atopon] -- Not only has Jesus done nothing criminal, he has done nothing "out of place."

v. 42 [Iesou, mnestheti mou hotan eltheis eis ten basileian sou] --The criminal's request is modest, as befits a genuine penitent. Alfred Plummer (ICC 535) quotes Augustine on the faith of the penitent criminal: "The Jews despised as he was raising the dead; the thief did not dispise as he was hanging beside him on a cross. " Both of the criminals, one with bitter sarcasm, the other with humble faith, ask Jesus to save them.

v. 43 [semeron] -- This is strong evidence that Jews of Jesus' time expected some sort of continued existence after death, not simply to await the general resurrection. Luke does not know of Jesus' descent into hell.

3. STRATEGY: Luke 23: 35-43

The discussion of context suggests an over-all strategy for approaching the text. The feast of Christ the King calls for a different approach to the text from that which would be appropriate for Holy Week. Here the emphasis is on the crucifixion as an event in Christ's life or in salvation history. Rather, the emphasis is on the character of Christ's kingship and, in particular, on the way God's power manifests itself, a way summed up in the opening phrase of Proper 21 in the BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER: "O God, who declarest thy almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity."

4. REFERENCES: Luke 23: 35-43

Chadwick, Henry, ed. and tr. ORIGEN: CONTRA CELSUM. Reprinted with
corr., Cambridge: University Press, 1964.
Volumes 28 & 28A.
Viking Penguin, 1985.

5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Luke 23: 35-43

Hymns should connect the kingship of Christ explicitly with the cross. Among those that do are "Hail, thou once despised Jesus" (HYMNAL 1982, 495), "All praise to thee, for thou, O king divine" (HYMNAL 1982 477), and "Lord Christ, when first thou cam'st to earth" (HYMNAL 1982 598).


Exegete: Rev. Dr. Joseph Trigg, Rector of Christ Church, LaPlata, MD
Fr. Trigg is the author of Origen. The Early Church Fathers. NY: Routledge, 1998.



© 2007 Tischrede Software



Thursday, October 18, 2007


Lexegete™ | Year C | Luke

s e m p e r r e f o r m a n d a

October 28, 2007 (Lectionary 30)

Complementary Series

Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22 or Sirach 35:12-17
Psalm 84:1-7 (Ps. 84:5)
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14

Semicontinuous Series

Joel 2:23-32
Psalm 65 (Ps. 65:11)
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14

OR - Simon and Jude, Apostles

October 28, 2007
Jeremiah 26:(1-6) 7-16
Psalm 11 (Ps. 11:1)
1 John 4:1-6
John 14:21-27

OR -- Reformation Day may be transferred to Sunday, October 28.

Reformation Day

moved to October 28, 2007

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 46 (Ps. 46:7)
Romans 3:19-28
John 8:31-36

1a. Context: John 8:31-36

Jesus is "the truth" that sets people free

This passage (8:31-36) is at the center of a larger loosely arranged collection on Jesus' preaching and teaching in Jerusalem (7:1_10:42). This larger section continues the theme of unbelief and defection from Jesus begun in Chapter 6, thus establishing the tone of the remainder of the Gospel. Specifically, this controversy is the clash between the revelation of God in Jesus Christ and human institutions and traditions. This conflict between Jesus and the religious establishment will evoke a death threat (11:47-53) and finally culminate in the cross.

At 8:1 we see Jesus preaching and teaching in the temple surrounded by "all the people" who were hearing and believing his word. Into that scene came the scribes and Pharisees with a woman caught in adultery. Clearly, these religious leaders sought to use this woman's offense to test Jesus and his adherence to the law of Moses (8:5). Thus, the controversy is set in place. Will Jesus confirm the Law and its traditions or will he supersede the Law and the traditions? The passage under study for this day does not seem to be of the same source as the preceding (8:12-30). At verse 30, John wrote that "many believed in him," but by verse 37, Jesus perceived that these same people sought to kill him. Again, it was a question of belief or unbelief, discipleship or defection, based on the revelation of God in Jesus Christ or on human traditions and ancestry.

1b. Text

Jn. 8:31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples;
Jn. 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
Jn. 8:33 They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, `You will be made free'?"
Jn. 8:34 Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.
Jn. 8:35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever.
Jn. 8:36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

2. Analysis: John 8:31-36

John 8:31 πεπιστεψοταω_The faith of the Judeans was less than personal trust that the construction, "believe in [ειω] him." Believing Jesus' word is not enough; what is required is trust in Jesus' identity_"unless you believe [πιστεψοητε] that I am [εγϖ ειμι] (ηε)" (8:24).

Note the phrase εγϖ ειμι, it should trigger thoughts about Jesus' identity from the great εγ⎣ϖ ειμι sayings in John's Gospel (6:35; 7:36; 8:12; 10:11).

8:31 με⎣ινητε_The sense here is of a continuing relationship or personal communion, not a simple or static designation of place or intellectual position. For Christians, continuing life (in its fullest sense) in Christ alone is central.

8:31 αλνυϖω_The adjective "truly" (⎣αλνυϖω) underscores the depth of the continuing relationship with Jesus and not a static adherence to a body of teachings.

8:31 μαυητα⎣ι_These disciples are those who are immersed in Jesus, the "water of life" (7:1-52), his word and in his identity. Mauhtaëi is a much stronger word than "believer," "follower," or "sympathizer."

8:32 γνϖσεσυε "will know" The middle voice of this verb speaks of the subject participating in the results of the action or of having personal interest. Thus, knowledge of Jesus' truth comes in continuing (meëinhte) in Jesus' word. It must not be understood as cognitive knowledge_a body of discernible facts readily available to the world's independent inquiry.

8:32 ∍αληυειαν_Here "truth" is John's technical term for the content, significance, and person of God's revelation in Jesus Christ. Jesus is "the truth" (14:6). It is not cognitive or even spiritual knowledge or truth (as Paul will argue in 1 Corinthians) that sets people free. The truth of God is Jesus Christ, just as Jesus is God's word_ο λογοω (1:1).

8: 32 ∍ελεψυερϖσει_Only in 8:32-36 does John in his Gospel use the verb "to make free." Here it is a freedom that liberates from darkness (verse 12), sin and death (8:25), and unbelief (8:32). What else are these freedoms than the sure promise of salvation (8:35-36)?

8:33 σπερμα ∍Αβρααμ_The Judeans claimed freedom on the basis of heritage and not on "continuing" or "knowing" God's revelation that requires trusting participation in a relationship.

8:34 ο ποιϖν την ∍αμαρτιαν_Is "sin" the act of disobedience or is it a state of being? As Luther would tell us, we are sin. To attempt to separate the act from being is to split hairs. We sin, therefore we are sin; we are sin, therefore we sin. It is enough to say, "we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves" (LBW, page 56). To attempt to save oneself by holding to one's own heritage or religious experience is like a drowning man seeking to save himself. Recognition of this bondage or slavery to sin is the first step in being set free by the truth.

3. Strategy: John 8:31-36

On this Day of the Reformation, Lutherans are often euphoric celebrating their "liberation" from Rome. [Ed. Note: see the blog “Ten Years...and Counting” at]

"We are Lutherans and are not in bondage to anyone!" How like the Judeans.

This text provides the necessary corrective to celebrating our heritage. Our reliance on Luther can and sometimes does obscure Jesus and his word. Luther supersedes ‘ ο λογοω and αληυειαν, the Book of Concord supersedes the Bible.

In the festival we often miss Luther's (and Jesus') point. What is at stake here is freedom, a freedom celebrated with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters and not from them. It is a freedom from darkness and unbelief that make us bond slaves of sin and death. Slavery to sin is separation. To be bound to sin is to be separated from others, from self, and from God.

We live in an elevator world, each going to our separate floors, pushing our own buttons, hostile to that teenage who reeks of pot. In elevators we do not talk or touch. We are separated from each other.

We also are afraid to get to know ourselves, for that person is too frightening, perhaps too disgusting, to really know. How often we commit certain acts in perfect consciousness, yet with the shocking sense that we are being controlled by an alien power.

Paul Tillich wrote that "the state of our whole life is estrangement from others and ourselves because we are estranged from the Ground of our being"_God. We hear the voice, but our ears are closed. We feel that something radical, total, and unconditional is offered to us, but we rebel against it. We shout like the Judeans, "I go to church!" But we will not accept God's decision to save us from ourselves.

In The Bondage of the Will, Luther wrote that we are either in bondage to sin or in bondage to Christ. There is no middle ground. To stand apart from Jesus Christ, even if you know Luther by heart, is to be a slave to sin and death. To "continue" in Christ is to be "free indeed" (8:36).

Exegete: Rev. Thomas S. Hanson []
is an ELCA Pastor in Arden Hills, Minnesota.



© 2007 Tischrede Software

Dartmouth, Massachusetts


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ten Years....and Counting!!!

S e m p e r R e f o r m a n d a

Reformation Sunday: A Visitor from the Past

Oct. 29, 1985 / Trinity, Fairhaven, MA
Remarks on The Day’s Theme

[ Pr: Pastor Nieman - as himself;
ML: Dr. Martin Luther – as D. Buehler ]

Pr - Today is Reformation Sunday, which recalls how Dr. Martinus Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The event actually took place on the Day of Halloween, October 31st, 1517. And so today we have as our guest at Trinity Lutheran, Dr. Luther himself--just arrived from Logan Airport in Boston. We are very honored to have Dr. Luther with us..... (noisy interruption occurs at side door)

ML- Danke schon, Mein Herr Pastor Nieman! The honor is mine. And I am very grateful to the people at Lufthansa Airlines for bringing me here from Wittenberg last night. One thing that bothers me, though, is that you call this a “Lutheran” Church. Don’t you know that I never intended to start my own church!? I wanted to part of one holy, catholic and apostolic Church: the Christian Church.

Pr - Well, it is true that the name Lutheran was sort of a nickname that just caught on. But we are still glad for all the things you did to help this church come to life.

ML - People thought I was a troublemaker, and some even thought I wanted to break the church apart. But I was only trying to get them to see the Good News about Jesus Christ!

Pr - Do you mean the idea of Sola Fide, Faith Alone?

ML - That’s right! In the 1500’s people thought they could earn God’s love by doing good deeds. I showed them how impossible that would be. We cannot make God love us more by doing good deeds. For God loves us in spite of ourselves!!!

Pr - But our Faith is still important isn’t it?

ML - Of course! Faith is the most important thing we have, for it comes from deep down within our hearts. It means that we fear, love and trust in God above everything else. Just you look at my Coat of Arms!

Pr – Otherwise...we start feeling too important and selfish, isn’t that right?

ML - Exactly! I myself am not that important, except that I was able to bring others to Jesus, and show them God’s love. And I’m still doing that now. In fact, I have to catch another plane to meet with Pope John Paul II in Rome tomorrow. By the way, can you tell me what time it is?

Pr - It’s just about 9:45, Eastern Standard Time!

ML - Ach du lieber!!!! @$#^$@#^@%$#!! I forgot to set my hourglass back. Oh well, I thank you for letting me visit with you today. May God Bless you All! Auf wiedersehen!!!

Pr - Let’s all say “Goodbye” to Martin Luther, everyone! “Goodbye! Auf wiedersehen.” That’s a German saying that means “until we meet again” and it’s a way of saying that we are always connected together by God’s love, no matter where we go.




1. Like most dialog sermons, this one went through many incarnations, starting in 1970, during a youth service at St. Paul, Arlington, MA. It become more keenly dramaturgical at First English Lutheran in Syracuse, NY (1973), and again at the Hedmark sanctuary of First, West Haven, CT, in 1975. By 1980, it had been adapted for the enormous sanctuary of Gloria Dei in Providence, Rhode Island, also stylized as Svensk Medievale by Martin Hedmark. It took the form you see here in 1985 when the Pastor was played by Rev. John Nieman (Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Ohio) and myself (Wittenberg ’67).
BTW, a personal goal of mine is to live long enough (72) to do this again in 2017!

2. The Luther part should be played for fun, as Eric Gritsch pointed out in his classic, Luther: God’s Court Jester (Fortress, 1983). Costume and props should BE minimal, but might include a black cassock, black capuche (a Fransiscan monk gave me one in 1985), a black cincture with wooden cross (on leather thongs) and, of course, sandals. An hourglass is a nice touch, but be careful since you may actually show up too EARLY in case of Standard Time, as did at St. Paul, Arlington, in 1970.

3. It goes without saying that Dialog (or dialogue) is an especially apt medium for expressing The Reformation Theme. For more on this medieval literary form, see:

4. Chauvinism or not, it is today still meet and right for Lutherans to prepare for October Thirty-One by re-reading Luther or Lutheran Theology.

Here are several useful starting points:

Koenig, R.E. “Ecumenical impasse? - doctrine of justification by faith.” Christian Century, Oct 14, 1998.
----> ( )

Lull, T. My Conversations with Martin Luther. Mpls: Ausgburg, 1999.

Marty, M. The Place of Trust. NY: Harper & Row, 1983.

_______. Lutheran Questions, Lutheran Answers. Mpls: Augsburg, 2007.

McGrath, A. Luther's Theology of the Cross. Oxford: Blackwell, 1990.

Oberman, H.A. Luther: Man Between God and the Devil. New Haven: Yale, 2006.

Pelikan, J. Reformation of Church & Dogma, Vol. 4 of The Christian Tradition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984.

Rupp, G. The Righteousness of God. NY: Philosophical Library, 1954.

Siirila, A. Divine Humanness. Mpls: Augsburg, 1970.

Tappert, T., ed. Selected Writings of Martin Luther. 1517-1546. Mpls: Fortress. 2007.

Todd, John. Luther, A Life. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1982.

Wengert, T.J. Harvesting Martin Luther’s Reflections on Theology, Ethics, and the Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.


David A, Buehler, Ph.D.
teaches philosophy and ethics at Providence College (RI)

October, 2007 | (TEN YEARS TO GO!!!)

Monday, October 8, 2007


Welcome to Yr. Obdt. Svt.! (

Additional entries are at:


Lexegete TM | Year C | Luke

October 21, 2007 (Lectionary 29)

Complementary Series

Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 121 (Ps. 121:2)
2 Timothy 3:14—4:5
Luke 18:1-8

Semicontinuous Series

Jeremiah 31:27-34
Psalm 119:97-104 (Ps. 119:103)
2 Timothy 3:14—4:5
Luke 18:1-8

1. CONTEXT: Luke 18:1-8a

This parable and the following (9-14) continue the
journey to Jerusalem, Jesus on the way to the cross. This
journey sets Jesus' theology of the kingdom in contrast to
the methods of the kingdoms of this world. Here we see
the freedom of God to act as God chooses, to the surprise
of those who have worked out the systems of the society in
which Jesus and the disciples lived and ultimately to the
surprise of the people of the infant church of Luke's
time. Jesus surprises us by praising unlikely people--a
woman, an unjust judge--for qualities that are not
acceptable in polite society, but are necessary for
survival. The negative example of the judge can be
compared to the dishonest steward of chapter 16.

At chapter 17:20, the Pharisees have asked a question
about the coming of the kingdom. Jesus discusses with
them the apocolyptic expectation of the day(s) of the son
of man. Danker points out that in this discussion Jesus
subsumes the traditional idea of the day of the Lord under
the idea of the Kingdom, rather than making the two
identical, thus making Jesus' appearance at the end of
time continuous with his contemporary activity. This
parable comes as an admonition to tenacity of faith in the
face of the oppostion of this world. The emphasis is not
on apocolyptic curiosity, but on current relationship to

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 18: 1-8a

Lk.18: 1 & 7, 8 The extent of the parable itself is
in dispute. Those who limit the parable to verses 2-5
place primary emphasis on the tenacity of the woman.
Those who hold that the original story continues to verse
8a place a dual emphasis on the judge and the woman, with
the judge being a negative example: If an unjust judge
can be persuaded to act justly, how much more will God act
in behalf of the people of God--the elect. To the
people whom Luke addresses this Gospel, the question of
the Pharisees in chapter 17 is pertinent when rephrased:
How long do we need to put up with abuse in this world?
The answer comes in verse 8: God will come unexpectedly
to see justice done--therefore, remain faithful until the
Under the latter interpretation, Luke's introduction to
the parable (verse 1) is too limiting, because it
emphasizes prayer in a manner that manipulates God,
whereas the emphasis on the judge in verses 7 and 8 lifts
up the compassion of God.

Lk. 18: 2-5 Scholars generally agree that the case as
presented is financial in nature, possibly relating to the
inheritance. The widow may have been quite young, as the
marriage age tended to be 12-15. Jeremias quotes an 1894
text which tells of a similar incident in Mesopotamia,
which the author had witnessed, wherein a woman cried out
because she did not have the money to bribe the judge's
secretaries in order to gain a hearing. The judge asked
about the ruckus, then heard the woman's case. Some
scholars see this as another instance of Luke's concern
for the oppressed, especially the poor and women.

Lk. 18: 5 [upopiaze me] It is debateable whether the
judge literally fears a black eye, or figuratively fears
exposure at some public scene.

3. STRATEGY: Luke 18: 1-8a

I suggest two possible themes for preaching: (1)An
emphasis on prayer without ceasing in the face of
difficult circumstances (God, are you listening?), or (2)
an emphasis on being found faithful to the end.

One way of recognizing the dual affect of prayer
without ceasing and faithfulness for an extended length of
time might be to recall the underground Christians of
Japan who continued to practice faith during persecution
by creating secret altars in their homes and passing the
faith quietly from generation to generation. One problem
with this illustration for those of us who worry about Too
much individualism in the American church is the fact that
even after the practice of Christian faith is safe in
Japan, the hidden Christians still continue their hidden
ways. Even so, the practice of prayerful hope in the
midst of an uncertain future supports both aspects of our

"When Arsenius (one of the desert fathers) had asked
for the second time, "Lord, lead me to the way of
salvation," the voice that spoke to him not only said, '
be silent' but also, 'pray always'...The literal
translation of the words 'pray always' is 'come to rest.'
The Greek word for rest is [hesychia], and [hesychasm] is
the term which refers to the spirituality of the desert.
A hesychast is a man or a woman who seeks solitude and
silence as the ways to unceasing prayer. The prayer of
the hesychasts is a prayer of rest. This rest, however,
has little to do with the absence of conflict or pain. It
is a rest in God in the mist of a very intense daily
struggle." (Nouwen, p. 55f)

Another approach to continuous prayer might be an
introduction to Psalm 13: "How Long, O Lord..." The
Psalm concludes with reliance on the steadfast love of the

"Our whole life is an effort to approach, to
appreciate, to some degree to participate in, the
absoluteness of God himself. But we can never do it;
that's why our whole life is a restlessness....This
restlessness may make us want to throw in the towel--or to
pull up our socks. You can play it either way. You can
either be creatively restless, as before the unknowable,
or you can simply collapse into futility. One of the
goals of the Christian message is to join together the
people of the way, the way of an eternally given
restlessness, and to win from that restlessness the
participation in God, which is all that our mortality can
deliver." (Sittler, p. 28.)

There are always stories of times of crisis in our
communities--either of personal, local, or broader
nature--in which there has been perseverence in the face
of great odds. I think of the variations in coping with
the great depression, the resentment that destroyed lives
and families as over against the faithfulness that created
systems of cooperation.

4. REFERENCES: Luke 18: 1-8a


Fortress Press, 1976.

Jeremias, Joachim. REDISCOVERING THE PARABLES. New York:

Scribner's, 1966.

NEW TESTAMENT. Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1974. IV: 187 f, 380 f; VIII: 435, 590 f; IX: 449 f.

Nouwen, Henri. THE WAY OF THE HEART. New York:
Ballantine, 1981.

Sittler, Joseph. GRAVITY AND GRACE. Minneapolis:
Augsburg, 1986.

Exegete: Herman W. Frerichs is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, now residing in St. Louis, MO (email: .)



© 2007 Tischrede Software

Dartmouth,MA 02747



LexegeteTM | Year C | Luke

October 14
(Lectionary 28)

Complementary Series

2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
Psalm 111 (Ps. 111:1)
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Luke 17:11-19

Semicontinuous Series

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
Psalm 66:1-12 (Ps. 66:9)
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Luke 17:11-19

Luke, Evangelist
October 18, 2007
Isaiah 43:8-13 or Isaiah 35:5-8
Psalm 124 (Ps. 124:8)
2 Timothy 4:5-11
Luke 1:1-4; 24:44-53

1. Context: Luke 17:11-19

Following a Lukan pattern of words/teachings of Christ followed by acts of loving service this lesson follows a strong section (16:1-17:10) on discipleship. In this section Jesus
calls his apostles (17:5), the inner circle of twelve amongst
the disciples, to a full commitment to the Gospel and not to use the gift of faith as a tool to self-glory or advancement as did several of Jesus' opponents.

Healing, in Luke, is a sign of God's divine
grace. Some may conjecture as to whether or not this is because of the Gospel's namesake being a physician, but healing plays a key role in this Gospel. From Jesus' sermon text in Nazareth (4:18 ff) to the end of this Gospel Jesus' teachings are reinforced with exorcisms and healings. Those healed are usually the outcast or at least the lesser of society unlike contemporary healers. Philostratus, a contemporary of the Gospel writers' era wrote in The Life of Apollonius of Tyana -- a miracle of Apollonius very similar to Luke 7:11-17, the Healing in Nain, except in Apollonius' case the dead child was from an important family, in Jesus' healing it was "a widow". Not from the upper or privileged class, as Jesus' contemporaries did, but the common people and outcasts. Our pericope today illustrates this point graphically with a Samaritan being the one who demonstrates faith in the manner recommended by the Psalms (Psalm 30:10-12 for example) i.e. to give thanks and praise to God for his gifts.

In Luke's Gospel those healed include people
with demons and diseases: 4:33ff, 4:40ff, 6:17ff, 8:2ff, 8:26ff,
9:10ff, and 11:14ff; Simon Peter's Mother-in-Law: 4:38; someone
paralyzed: 5:18; handicapped individuals: 6:6ff, 8:42 ff, 13:10ff,
14:2ff, 18:35ff, and 22:51ff; those dying and dead: 7:1ff, 7:11ff,
8:40ff; and those with leprosy: 5:12ff and 17:12ff. Invariably the
actions of healing came as a response or fulfillment of Jesus' teaching, most often as Jesus teaches of forgiveness and faith.

Our lesson for today is the third from the last
healing story in Luke's Gospel (followed only by the blind man in Jericho (18:35ff) and the restoring of the slave's ear in the Garden of Gethsemene (22:51ff). Following Jesus' teaching on discipleship it serves to epitomize responses of God's grace (either a faith response or not).

2. Analysis: Luke 17:11-19

Luke 17:11 Jerousalom - Jerusalem Luke uses
Jerusalem not just a the physical site of the climax of Jesus' ministry i.e. his death and resurrection, but also as a symbol of Jesus' opposition and the stories that follow those references are usually correctives to misunderstandings of the faith.

Luke 17:11 auto diorcheto dia meson Samareias kai
Galilaias. – he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Geographically very hard to do as that is the East-West running border well to the North of Jerusalem. Some have translated this passing through as between Samaria and Galilee. More likely Luke used this reference to account for the presence of a Samaritan (even a leper) amongst the Jews.

Luke 17:12 elenson omas - pity us / have mercy on us

Luke 17:14 ekatharisthosan - they were cleansed/they
were made clean

Luke 17:15 idon - seeing with alertness, suddenly

Luke 17:15 iatho - healed, cured, made well

Luke 17:19 sesoken - save (as in Christian), make
well, preserve

3. Strategy: Luke 17:11-19

This passage with its themes of healing,
outreach to outcasts (lepers), and faith shown by a "double" outcast -- Samaritan leper to God and a Jewish Rabbi, together can give a powerful message that can too easily be lost in the familiarity of the story. In addition to its place in Year C of our Pericope schedule it is also the appointed Gospel for the Lutheran calendar's day of Thanksgiving.

A first theme to explore is leprosy. Leprosy
was a disease that would exclude the sufferer from the community. Leviticus 13-14 discussed all the proper procedures for diagnosing, responding to, and cleansing lepers. Our pericope follows the outlined procedures properly from the warning cry to oncomers, to the distancing themselves from the village proper, to Jesus' instructions to go seethe Priest. Luke has Jesus treating this with lepers differently than in 5:12ff, where Jesus heals them. Here he follows the Levitical directions explicitly, instructing the lepers to present themselves to the Priest, as the Priest was the only person qualified to declare a person clean of leprosy.

Though these lepers were unclean, outcasts once
again our Lord reaches out to them with love and grace. The fear of becoming unclean, either ritually or physically does not deter our Lord. Donald Juel in his book LUKE - ACTS THE PROMISE OF HISTORY, writes:

"Jesus' ministry and his teachings embody God's
concern for sinners. God is not indifferent. The law is to
be obeyed, but religion that becomes merely exclusive, that
seeks to perpetuate social injustice, that destroys any
genuine concern for outsiders, is perverse. The pious
in Luke fear contamination from outsiders. Jesus is not
corrupted, however. By their contact with him, sinners and
tax collectors--people like Matthew and Zacchaeus--are
converted, reformed, restored. Touching the
women with a hemorrhage (Luke 8:43-48) or lepers (5:12-15 and 17:11-19) or even the dead (Luke 7:11-17) does not defile
Jesus; rather, the sick are healed, lepers cleansed,
and the dead raised."(p.39)

It might be well for us to examine who the
outcasts, lepers are in our communities, even in our congregations. AIDS comes quickly to mind these days, but what about chemical abusers, the homeless, the unemployed, the single parents, the abused, the abusers, the aged living alone, the physically impaired? These may be contemporary "lepers" that we are inclined to leave alone, as
individuals and as communities of the faithful.

Samaritans also fit into the outcast mold, as
they were seen as racially unclean and theologically in error by their Jewish contemporaries. Yet Luke each time he mentions
Samaritans or Samaria it is in a positive way. This is consistent with his treatment of other traditional outcasts, reinforcing the theme that is persistent in Luke-Acts, that for God there are no outcasts, and that should be true for God's people.

The issue of healing is also a significant theme
in this pericope. Luke uses different words for the ten
lepers and the one who returns for healing. The ten lepers are
cleansed -on their way to the priest, the one sees that he is cured -_ and returns to thank God and the Rabbi who did this marvelous thing. Jesus then says that he is healed. The word used by Jesus in vs. 19 for healing is the same word as is used for saving. An implication of this progression may be that though all were cleansed, only the one was healed,
brought to wholeness, saved. Faith made the difference between the one and the nine. Nine were satisfied with returning to their communities, one found something deeper to return to.

Eduard Schweizer commenting on this passage in
The Good News According to Luke writes these thought provoking words about healing:

"A Christian community where the sick are
not healed is a spiritually poor community. A community in
which the healing does not take place quietly but is
placed in the center for its propaganda effect is a
spiritually endangered community. Whether healing takes place through extraordinary means such as prayer or through
"ordinary"means, such as the faithful ministrations of a
doctor, is not the most important question. What matters
is whether or not the bodily healing leads to a new life with
God. Herethe sign of healing through prayer can be
helpful, and its total absence is an unnatural condition for the
community." (page 269)

This day may be an occasion to focus on healing and
its true meaning, perhaps using the Service of the Word for
Healing from the LBW Occasional Service Book or a parallel service from other traditions. The focusing of worship in this
important and often overlooked area could breathe new, healing life into any congregation.

Another theme to follow is the theme of
thanksgiving. The Samaritan praising God fell at the feet of Jesus and "euchariston" thanked him. The whole concept of thanksgiving and Eucharist could be explored as well as it related stewardship emphases.

Following one or more of these threads of themes
in a worship service can breathe new life into a very familiar
passage and perhaps lead to healing surprises for all.

4. References: Luke 17:11-19

Danker, Frederick W. JESUS AND THE NEW AGE According
to St. Luke
St. Louis, Clayton Publishing House, 1972

Gilbertson, James G. PC STUDY BIBLE Seattle:
Biblesoft, 1988
Computer Study Bible and Concordance in NIV,

Juel, Donald LUKE-ACTS The Promise of History
Atlanta: John Knox
Press, 1983

translated by David E. Green. Atlanta: John
Knox Press, 1984

Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing
Co., 1975

5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Luke 17:11-19

LBW # Hymn Name

111 Lamb of God, Pure and Sinless

336 Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me

252 You Servants of God

355 Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow

364 Son of God, Eternal Saviour

520 Give to Our God Immortal Praise!

6. Further Readings

Because the ELCA (among others) is now engaged in the renewal of parish-centered Bible Study, we here recommend-- for a somewhat different look at The Gospel of Luke--the SELECT Video Tape Course Series. This series is sponsored by Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Columbus, Ohio. Among their many clergy courses is "The Gospel of Luke." It is a concise, well defined six session course that any cluster of Biblically literate lay people or clergy periscope undertake. It is designed for the Church Professional, but need not be limited to such. Each course involves a reading from the Course professor (Donald Juel) in his book Luke-Acts The Promise of History , a discussion period based on the accompanying study guide, and a very brief (approximately 25 minutes) video tape lecture by Dr. Juel.

The Clergy group I participate in were studying
this course at the time of this writing and all of us gained new
insights into Luke's Gospel. A call to Trinity Seminary
[614/235-4136] will put you in touch with the course offerings and procedures to enroll or you may want to write them
at: Continuing Education Office, Trinity Lutheran
Seminary, 2199 E. Main St., Columbus, Ohio 43209.

Exegete: Philip N. Gustafson



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