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Monday, January 26, 2009

+ E P I P H A N Y + FOUR, Year B +

Lexegete™ | Year B | Mark

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

February 1, 2009 (Lectionary 4)

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Psalm 111 (10)

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Mark 1:21-28

Prayer of the Day
Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior. Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion, that all creation will see and know your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia. The people who sat in darkness have seen | a great light;
for those who sat in the shadow of death | light has dawned. Alleluia. (Matt. 4:16)

1. CONTEXT: Mark 1:21-28

We have here not merely the first in a series of healing/exorcism
accounts demonstrating the authority of Jesus, but also the
introduction of something more ominous and mysterious, a pattern which
is key to Mark's peculiar presentation of our Lord's ministry and
On one level this is certainly an Epiphany reading, a story about
light overcoming darkness, but it is also a story of that
misunderstanding and detour which will finally exhaust and destroy
Jesus. Already here the wind begins to blow toward Golgotha.

In a setting of literary, prophetic, and baptismal anticipation (vv. 1-8),
Jesus from Nazareth has arrived on the scene, been baptized, and has
received the Holy Spirit and the revelation of a messianic identity
(vv. 9-11). God and the angelic company (cf. v. 13) know who this
Jesus is (and we the readers or hearers of the narrative have been clued in),
but the human community does not yet know.

What God knows, however, Satan and his minions also know. Jesus was
immediately driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for a forty day
struggle with the tempter, and the conflict between Jesus and the
demonic realm did not of course end there. In today's pericope the battle is
again joined.

Jesus has begun his mission of proclamation and teaching, announcing
the Kingdom and calling to repentance and faith (vv. 14 & 15). He has
also called disciples into his company, with words of still cryptic
meaning but of tremendous and immediate authority (vv. 16-20).

Now that authority is demonstrated further. Jesus is first recognized
as a powerful teacher, and then seen as one whose power extends to the
spiritual world, commanding obedience even from unclean spirits. Yet
note that the attention of the people focuses on the authority of
Jesus and his teaching rather than on the content of that teaching itself.
It is Jesus' fame, not the news of the Kingdom, which goes out from Capernaum.

In dealing with the unclean spirit who recognizes and names him as
God's holy one, Jesus must of course respond in the pattern of his own
teaching and show forth the Kingdom in compassion and healing, but he
will thereby also become all the more the focus of the people's attention, the
superstar and healer, the messenger eclipsing the message. Jesus'
repeated silencing of the demons who can proclaim his identity may thus be
attempts to limit the damage. (Human lips will not speak the secret until
Peter's "confession" in Chapter 8, and even then Jesus will enjoin
silence.) Yet the encounter with the demonic makes the exorcism
inevitable, and Jesus is launched on his doomed career as a celebrity.

1b. Text: Mark 1:21-28


1:21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.

1:22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

1:23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit,

1:24 and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God."

1:25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!"

1:26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

1:27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching-- with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."

1:28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.


21και εισπορευονται εις καφαρναουμ. και ευθυς τοις σαββασιν εισελθων εις την συναγωγην εδιδασκεν. 22και εξεπλησσοντο επι τη διδαχη αυτου, ην γαρ διδασκων αυτους ως εξουσιαν εχων και ουχ ως οι γραμματεις. 23και ευθυς ην εν τη συναγωγη αυτων ανθρωπος εν πνευματι ακαθαρτω, και ανεκραξεν 24λεγων, τι ημιν και σοι, ιησου ναζαρηνε; ηλθες απολεσαι ημας; οιδα σε τις ει, ο αγιος του θεου. 25και επετιμησεν αυτω ο ιησους λεγων, φιμωθητι και εξελθε εξ αυτου. 26και σπαραξαν αυτον το πνευμα το ακαθαρτον και φωνησαν φωνη μεγαλη εξηλθεν εξ αυτου. 27και εθαμβηθησαν απαντες, ωστε συζητειν προς εαυτους λεγοντας, τι εστιν τουτο; διδαχη καινη κατ εξουσιαν: και τοις πνευμασι τοις ακαθαρτοις επιτασσει, και υπακουουσιν αυτω. 28και εξηλθεν η ακοη αυτου ευθυς πανταχου εις ολην την περιχωρον της γαλιλαιας.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: Mark 1:21-28

Mk 1:21 - euthus ("immediately") is used 42 times in Mark, expressing
both the urgency of Jesus himself and the driving pace of the narrative. In
this verse that kairotic adverb sits awkwardly next to the chronological
"on the Sabbath." (The NRSV chooses to ignore *euthus* as if it were just
a filler word here, but does translate its recurrences in vv. 23 & 28.)

Jesus begins his ministry as one of teaching in a place and time for
teaching. The content of his teaching is presumably the announcement of the
Kingdom described in vv. 14-15 and/or its parabolic elaboration as evidenced
in chapter 4 etc. A distinction might be made between the *kerysson* of
v. 14 and the *edidasken* of this verse, but the continuity seems to
me more compelling than the difference. It is certainly possible to
imagine this teaching in terms of the fulfillment exegesis described in Lk
4:16-21, or as the ethical instruction which figures so extensively in both Mt
and Lk, but the point is still that Jesus' chosen focus is teaching. The
venue is appropriate to that function, in a building and on a day normally
associated with peace and sanctity. There is no indication that *Jesus* has
chosen this place for the kind of confrontation with the demonic which will

1:22 - Rather than recounting Jesus' teaching, Mark at once moves to
the crowd's reaction. The effect here is double-edged: we too are to
recognize the power of Jesus' teaching, an immediate authority contrasted with
the derivative argumentation of "the scribes," but that recognition
among the people now also eclipses the teaching itself. They do not speak about
the Kingdom, but about Jesus. Even the talk about the authority of the
teaching is really about the teacher. With this typically Marcan irony, the
power of Jesus is at once illustrated and subverted.

1:23-24 - Now (*euthus* again) comes the confrontation with the
unclean spirit, who shouts aloud through the possessed man in
recognition of Jesus. We are returned to awareness that the mission of
Jesus means war with Satan and all his demons. Against the unclean
spirits, Jesus has come with the holy Spirit (cf. v. 8). Of course
demons will recognize this teacher as both "Jesus the Nazarene" and "the Holy
One of God," and will know that what is at stake between them and him
(*hemin kai soi*) entails their destruction. While Jesus' very
presence itself can be understood as a sort of divine invasion against Satanic
power, however, note that it is the demon who, with apparent
recklessness, initiates this particular skirmish.

1:25 - "Be silent"-- The force of *phimotheti* might better be
rendered as "Shut up!" The verb has to do with putting on a muzzle or tying an
object up tight, and we can hear in this encounter the noise and
passion of real conflict. It may be argued that this imperative is simply part of the
exorcism, and that Jesus would naturally silence the shouting demon as
he uses his own speech to cast it out. The emphasis on the spirit's
recognition of Jesus in the preceding verse, however, coupled with all the
subsequent instances of such secrecy (most immediately in 1:34), argue
for a specific and urgent concern on Jesus' part. He does not want to be identified.

1:26 - Jesus words take immediate effect. The violence and suffering
associated with demonic powers-- and also with their exorcism from
human flesh-- is here tersely but movingly rendered. In 5:1-15, in a
story laced with humor as well as compassion and irony, Mark will provide a
more detailed pathology of possession.

1:27 - "They were all amazed" (*ethambethesan*) by this
demonstration of Jesus' authority, for he not merely teaches
powerfully but is able to command unclean spirits. That ability will later be
used by the scribes as an argument against him (3:23), but now the reaction
of the crowd is admiration, and they discuss this numinous event
among themselves. Their rather striking phrase *didache kaine kat'
exousian*, "a new teaching with authority," is open to several
interpretations and may carry both intentional meaning and hidden
truth. The text might of course be punctuated to make *kat' exousian*
modify the exorcism, but even then the question of the relationship
between Jesus' teaching and his authority remains. Has Jesus
demonstrated the authority of his previous teaching by this exorcism,
or is now the exorcism itself the "new teaching" for the crowd? Is the
unity of Jesus' teaching with his victory over the demonic being
implied or obscured? The crowd speaks profound truth about Jesus,
and we are of course to join in their sense of wonder, but we may also
note here a quality of abstraction: Jesus is an object for admiration
and a wonderful topic for discussion. This verse does stand in
apposition to and confirmation of verse 23, but it also extends the
self-subversive strains noted there.

1:28 - This exorcism results in the immediate (*euthus*) spread of
Jesus' fame everywhere (*pantachou*) in the surrounding region. Soon Jesus
will be constantly sought out by both the curious and those in need of
healing (1:32, 37, 45; 2:2, 13, etc.). This exorcism is of course the first of
many healings, victories for Jesus and for the Kingdom which he
champions, driving back the dominion of Satan. Nonetheless, I would suggest also
a negative significance in the fact that it is Jesus' fame rather than
the *euangelion* which now spreads like proverbial wildfire.

That fame, and the expectations which go with it, will have fatal
consequences for Jesus and for his cause. Jesus' self-described
*mission* of preaching and teaching (e.g. 1:38) must be carried out in
the midst of his *ministry* of healing and exorcism. There is no
contradiction there, for the one entails the other. By his anointed
nature, moreover, Jesus must do God's works of compassion and power.
And yet the result will not only obscure the hearing of his gospel,
it will drain him and finally destroy him. It is hardly surprising, then,
that Jesus seeks to keep both demons and humans from proclaiming his

Thus this healing may be understood as a tactical but Pyrrhic victory
for Jesus. Strategically, it is Satan who is winning, and Jesus who is
being drawn on to misunderstanding and defeat. It may in fact be this hidden
drama which explains not only Jesus' silencing of the demon but that
unclean spirit's apparent eagerness to confront the Christ. The
demon's note of mockery in v. 24 was then not just empty bravado. Satan will
gladly expend his forces for defeats like this.

We of course know the further and final irony that defeat of Jesus to
which these Pyrrhic victories lead will itself mysteriously be turned
to triumph. In a sense, the messenger is the message after all. Jesus
will take that mystery into the definition of his own mission midway
through the the narrative (Mk 8:31). But we're not there yet.

3. STRATEGY: Mark 1:21-28

Several points from this text seem to me of particular value-- indeed
urgency-- for proclamation. They could be developed either singly or
in relation to each other:

1) The Reality of the Demonic-- There is a need to recognize
complexity and moral ambiguity in this world, but it is often right and helpful
for us to be called back to the stark dualism underlying a text like this.
There are choices between evil and good, bondage and freedom,
isolation and community. The Gospel of God's Kingdom is not just about
virtue or serenity, about not being naughty or anxious; it is a
literally a matter of life and death. Many of the folks out there in "pewland" are
actively struggling with demonic powers in their own lives, and this
story can provide them with affirmation and courage for that struggle.
Others in your congregation are probably adrift in trivialities and
empty pastimes; they too might be blessed if this story helps point
them back to the moral significance of their existence.

Preaching about this will mean some concrete illustration(s) of what
we mean by the demonic, the forms of enslavement and destruction that you
see at work. It might also be helpful to draw on the imagery of the
text itself here. Note, for example, the contrast of singular and plural in
the demon's words to Jesus in v. 24. The work of demons, that difference
suggests, involves scattering and dividing up, but God's Holy One
stands against them as a sign of healing and integration.

2) The Force of the Kingdom-- This story does tell of a victory over
the demonic and a liberation from human bondage, and again I think that a
lot of folks can be blessed and drawn back from despair by this image and
reminder of the Holy Spirit's power to cast out the unclean ones.
Twelve Step programs have an effective way of speaking both about the
recognition of powerlessness and about the further truth that empowers. We are not
simply slaves or toys for our demons. To use Jesus' later imagery,
sometimes we see Satan's house plundered, and can believe that he has
been bound. The exposition and celebration of such epiphanies can
empower with hope.

3) The Detours of Compassion-- If you accept the contention of the
above analysis, the example of Jesus' healing ministry becomes
particularly moving. If, as I have argued, his command of silence indicates that he
knew he was being led down a road he did not choose, and he recognized the
dire implications of this ministry for his intended mission, then we
would do well to note how he let himself be interrupted. He may have
pleaded for secrecy and even tried to avoid the searching crowds, but when
confronted with the concreteness of human suffering and need, he responded
with immediate compassion. (So also, in the face of oppression and
arrogance, he would erupt in immediate and holy anger.) Even when he knew he was
falling into Satan's trap, he didn't hesitate. With all due care about
messianic delusions and codependency traps, we are still challenged by
that example, for the needs of others often intrude as interruptions
on our agendas as well.

4) The Limits of Healing-- Finally, if this story is not just about
healing and triumph but about a proclamation misunderstood and a
messiah drawn on towards his destruction, it might provide a helpful
way to deal with the problem of disappointed expectations and the
persistence of human suffering. It is so very clear here that this
exorcism is a sign of the Kingdom and a work of the Holy Spirit. Such signs are
still to be enacted and celebrated, but by themselves they are
temporary and treacherous victories, small against the cunning power
of Satan. The context of this sign is rather the proclamation of the
greater Kingdom which it reflects, and the Kingdom which finally
triumphs not in the miracles and power of Jesus, but on the Cross
where his faithfulness and compassion will bind and exhaust him.

4. FURTHER READING: Mark 1:21-28

For those who have not seen them, I recommend the discussions of
Mark's Christology in Arland Hultgren's excellent CHRIST AND HIS
BENEFITS (Fortress, 1987), esp. pp. 57-67, and Jack Dean Kingsbury's
THE CHRISTOLOGY OF MARK'S GOSPEL (Fortress, 1983). In addition to
many fine standard commentaries (e.g. Juel, Moule, or Nineham), I urge you
to check out Ched Myer's powerful reading of Mark in BINDING THE STRONG
MAN (Orbis, 1988). John Drury's article in Alter and Kermode's
LITERARY GUIDE TO THE BIBLE (Harvard, 1987) and Werner Kelber's MARK'S STORY OF JESUS (Fortress, 1979) are also incisive. (None of these authorities
reads quite the same pattern of irony for which I am arguing here, but I
think they're great anyway.)

5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Mark 1:21-28




A MIGHTY FORTRESS (LBW 228,229 [though I'd recommend the old
translation found in SBH & HB]; HB 687,688)


Exegete – Rev. John Stendahl - Lutheran Church of the Newtons,
Newton Centre, Massachusetts


Lexegete © 2009

Tischrede Software

North Dartmouth,MA 02747


Monday, January 5, 2009

+ Jan. 11, 2009 - | - Jan. 26, 2009 +

Lexegete ™ | Year B | Mark

Baptism of Our Lord

January 11, 2009 (Lectionary 1)
Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29 (3)
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

Prayer of the Day

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters. Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit, that we may follow after your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. A voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, | the Beloved,
with whom I | am well pleased." Alleluia. (Matt. 3:17)

1a. CONTEXT: Mark 1:4-11

For the third time in a bit more than a month, the Year B Lectionary has us confronting the person, message and ministry of John the Baptizer. It may see odd that the cycle of lessons is “redundant” in this way, and yet it only attests to the central importance of John for our understanding of the person, message and ministry of Jesus. Looking back on the exegesis of Matthew 3:13-17 in Lexegete: Year A, written by Sherman Johnson, we ought to remind ourselves of the following basics:

1. Jesus' baptism was the original theme of the feast of the Epiphany, as it still is in the eastern Churches. The account in Matthew followed the story of the ministry of John the Baptist at the Jordan, and his announcement of one "mightier" than himself who comes in judgment.

2. All the gospels agree that Jesus' ministry began after John had
made this testimony, al though the Fourth Gospel does not say that Jesus
was baptized. The Synoptics portray baptism in the light of early
Christian theology.

3. When the Markan account is compared with Matt. 3:3-17, it is clear that this time there is almost no emphasis upon John's reluctance. Matthew did not suggest that Jesus was sinless, as in the apocryphal gospels, but that he was greater than John. Since John's disciples continued for some time as a sect independent of the Christian Church, this witness to Jesus was an answer to anyone who claimed that John was the leader or Jesus the follower.

4. In Mark and in Matthew both, Jesus sees the Spirit descending like a dove, but others may have seen the skies open and/or heard the voice. Rabbis
believed that canonical prophecy had ceased, but they told of a voice
from heaven (bath qol, "daughter of a voice") which often spoke words
of Scripture, as on this occasion. Jesus is proclaimed as God's
Son or (inclusively) "child," both beloved and chosen. Similarly, in Mt. 4:3,6, the tempter calls him Son of God (an infrequent title in Q, which usually
speaks of the Son of Man).

5. Mark 1:11 could be understood as suggesting that Jesus
became “Son of God” at his baptism, but in Matthew he is that
at least from the time of his conception (1:20,23; 2:15). Thus the baptism
was a solemn appointment of the Messiah for his ministry. Acts
10:38, in the second reading for the day, says that Jesus was
"anointed...with the Holy Spirit and with power.”

1b. TEXT: Mark 1:4-11

1:4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

1:5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

1:6 Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

1:7 He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.

1:8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

1:10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.

1:11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

4εγενετο ιωαννης [ο] βαπτιζων εν τη ερημω και κηρυσσων βαπτισμα μετανοιας εις αφεσιν αμαρτιων. 5και εξεπορευετο προς αυτον πασα η ιουδαια χωρα και οι ιεροσολυμιται παντες, και εβαπτιζοντο υπ αυτου εν τω ιορδανη ποταμω εξομολογουμενοι τας αμαρτιας αυτων. 6και ην ο ιωαννης ενδεδυμενος τριχας καμηλου και ζωνην δερματινην περι την οσφυν αυτου, και εσθιων ακριδας και μελι αγριον. 7και εκηρυσσεν λεγων, ερχεται ο ισχυροτερος μου οπισω μου, ου ουκ ειμι ικανος κυψας λυσαι τον ιμαντα των υποδηματων αυτου: 8εγω εβαπτισα υμας υδατι, αυτος δε βαπτισει υμας εν πνευματι αγιω. 9και εγενετο εν εκειναις ταις ημεραις ηλθεν ιησους απο ναζαρετ της γαλιλαιας και εβαπτισθη εις τον ιορδανην υπο ιωαννου. 10και ευθυς αναβαινων εκ του υδατος ειδεν σχιζομενους τους ουρανους και το πνευμα ως περιστεραν καταβαινον εις αυτον: 11και φωνη εγενετο εκ των ουρανων, συ ει ο υιος μου ο αγαπητος, εν σοι ευδοκησα.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: Mark 1:1-11

Mk. 1:4 - baptisma - baptism ; metanoia - repentance
aphesis - forgiveness

1:5 - chora - country or land ; potamos - river ; exomologeo - promise or confess

1:6 - enduoo - dress, clothing; thrix - hair; kamelos - camel; zonei - girdle;
dermatinos - leather, animal skins; osphus - loins; achris - grasshopper or locust;
meli - honey ; agrios - wild

1:7 - ischuros - mighty or strong; ikanos - sufficient, enough; kupto - to bow one’s head; luo - to let loose, untie; himas - strap or thong; hupodeima - sandal

1:10 - schizo - separate, split or divide; peristera - dove - This may well be a recollection of Genesis 1:2, in which the Spirit hovers over the waters. In Jewish tradition the dove is usually the symbol of Israel, and occasionally of the Spirit.

1:11 - eudokeoo - take delight or pleasure in; In Matt. 3, this was literally," I delight in you," but the verb may refer to a decision made by God, hence the phrase may reflect Is. 42:1 (in the first of today's readings), where God's pais (servant, child) is Israel ho eklektos mou; cf. Is. 44:2, Jacob/Israel is God's pais egapemenos. Thus the verse may have a secondary reference to Jesus as the Servant in 2nd Isaiah (as in Mt. 12:18; cf. Acts 3:13, 26;4:27,30; Didache 9:2f., 10:2f.). Is Jesus then to be identified
as the “ true” Israel? The NT never says so explicitly, although theologians sometimes make the obvious inference.

3. STRATEGY: Mark 1:4-11

Whether one intends to preach on Mark 1:4-11 or only verses 7-11, the baptism of the Lord is clearly in the form of an epiphany, a revelation
of the nature of Christ. One way of approaching the homily is to think of Jesus as the pattern of Christians, in his servanthood and obedience to God's righteousness.

Although John recognizes that he is in the presence of a greater one, Jesus accepts
his baptism, not to become John's disciple but to associate himself
with the movement of national renewal; cf. Ezek. 36:25-27. As
Christians we too receive the Holy Spirit in baptism and become God's
children, crying Abba (Rom. 8:15).. As such we are members of the
Israel of God (Gal. 6:16; Rom. 11:13-24). The Book of the Acts of the Apostles
tells of Christian baptism from Pentecost on, as if it required no
explanation. The Fourth Gospel once speaks of Jesus baptizing during

his ministry (John 3:26), but later reports that only the disciples baptized (4:2).
In Matt. 28:19 it is the risen Christ who definitely commands
baptism. Is the story of Jesus' baptism a model for the Christian
rite, at least in Mark and Luke? The gospels suggest this only by
the prominent place they give it, yet we might properly use the event
as a prototype. A good disciple must be ready to drink the cup that
Jesus drank and undergo a baptism like his (Mark 10:38, but Mt. 20:22
speaks only of the cup), and Paul says that we were baptized into his
death (Rom 6:4).

Another approach is to concentrate on Acts 10:38. Immediately after his baptism, Jesus resisted temptation and began his ministry of healing and liberation.

Exegete: Sherman E. Johnson † was fourth Dean of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and author of Harper’s Commentary on the Gospel According to Mark (1960) and THE THEOLOGY OF THE GOSPELS (1966), among other books.

4. REFERENCES: Mark 1:4-11

Johnson, Sherman. “Baptism of Our Lord ( Matthew 3:13-17), in LEXEGETE: Gospels/Year A/Matthew. N. Dartmouth,MA: Tischrede Software, 1992.

Kingsbury, Jack D ean. Matthew (Proclamation Commentaries, G. Krodel,
editor). Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977.

5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Baptism of Our Lord (Epiphany 1)

Two hymns seems especially appropriate to the season and the day:

PRAISE (HB 135, LBW 90).

Other suitable hymns on Baptism include:






If this Day is to be an occasion for a wider celebration or
affirmation of Holy Baptism, either BAPTIZED IN WATER (HB 294) or

Additional music pertinent to the Baptism of Jesus may be found in the listings for
Advent 2 and Advent 3 in Lexegete, Year B, supra.

LEXEGETE™ / Year B / Gospel of Mark

Sunday after Epiphany
January 18, 2009 (Lectionary 2)
(Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins)

1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 (1)
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

Prayer of the Day

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer, for the countless blessings and benefits you give. May we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. We have found | the Messiah:
Jesus Christ, who brings us | grace and truth. Alleluia. (John 1:41, 17)

1a. Context: John 1:43-51

Although many congregations will still be basking in post-holiday Joy (or pre-Annual Meeting Anxiety), I suspect others will consider taking part in the 2009 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This seems especially apt, falling as it does in the same week as our national Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Birthday celebrations and the inauguration (Jan. 20, 2009) of America’s 44th President and first African American President, Barack Obama. Despite the presence of noted mega-evangelists such as Rev. Rick Warren and Rev. Samuel Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Council, this week is decidedly no time for “Civil Religion” to rear its ugly head.
This is a distinctive time to clarify the Separation of Powers in the U.S., including what Thomas Jefferson in 1802 spoke of as the “wall of separation between Church & State.” (Thos. Jefferson. Letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut).

The thoughtful preacher--assuming he or she will not be in Washington to attend the swearing-in of President Obama--will prayerfully prepare herself for this Sunday and the gravity of these days by examining one of many recent and excellent books on this topic by several of our best writers:. Here are just three:

a) The Christian World, by Martin E. Marty

The prolific Prof. Martin E. Marty needs no introduction! As dean of American writers on religion for lo! these many decades, he remains the truly original and creative student of God, Church, and Theology we have left today, and by far the most accessible. The Christian World is a “global history” of the Church but, more than that, it is a concise examination of the evolution of faith among the followers of Christ from the early Church down to the present moment. It is easy for Christians themselves to forget how globalized Christianity became over time, and how globally unified it was from the outset.

b) Divided by God: America's Church-State Problem--and What to Do About It, by Noah Feldman

Feldman may be less well known than Marty, yet he is no less brilliant! A professor of Law at Harvard, he grew up in Boston, where he graduated from Harvard in 1992, earning a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford (D.Phil in Islamic Thought, 1994). He is fluent in Hebrew, French, Arabic, and English. He received his J.D., from Yale Law School, 1997, where he was an editor on the Law Journal. He later clerked for Justice David Souter of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2001, he joined the faculty of New York University Law School until 2007, when he returned to Harvard. Divided By God, which appeared just when Feldman was serving as an advisor to the US Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, is a candid reflection of the problems posed by religion, especially ‘civil’ religion, within a pluralistic society. Because he is so familiar with the interaction of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, I can think of no one better qualified to make such an assessment of the splendor of American religious diversity today.

c) American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation by Jon Meacham

Finally, one of the real gems in recent years was Jon Meacham’s tour-de-force study, The American Gospel. An active Anglo-Episcopalian laymen who reads the Daily Office, Meacham is also a highly sophisticated Editor at Newsweek and at the same time as careful a scholar and historian as Marty or Feldman. Here he gives a lively, swift account of the formation of the myth that America is a “Christian nation” in the narrow sense of that phrase. Prof. Gordon Wood of Brown University, writing in the NY Review of Books took Meacham to task for oversimplifying American Pluralism and what the optimistic Meacham likes to think of as our “public religion” [his term for a kind of pan-religious national ethos of moral responsibility]. But On this point, while Wood is surely more schooled in the Founding Fathers, Meacham is right to note that only Franklin, of the Founders, treated religious faith itself as adiaphora. Isn’t that precisely why Revs. Warren and Lowery are on deck for the Obama Inaugration?

1b. Text: John 1: [35-42]43-51

John 1:35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples,

1:36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!"

1:37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

1:38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?"

1:39 He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon.

1:40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.

1:41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed).

1:42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter).

[break from Roman/Common Lectionary to Episcopal/Lutheran Lectionaries]

1:43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me."

1:44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.

1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth."

1:46 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."

1:47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!"

1:48 Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you."

1:49 Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"

1:50 Jesus answered, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these."

1:51 And he said to him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."

Greek: John 1:35-51

35τη επαυριον παλιν ειστηκει ο ιωαννης και εκ των μαθητων αυτου δυο, 36και εμβλεψας τω ιησου περιπατουντι λεγει, ιδε ο αμνος του θεου. 37και ηκουσαν οι δυο μαθηται αυτου λαλουντος και ηκολουθησαν τω ιησου. 38στραφεις δε ο ιησους και θεασαμενος αυτους ακολουθουντας λεγει αυτοις, τι ζητειτε; οι δε ειπαν αυτω, ραββι {ο λεγεται μεθερμηνευομενον διδασκαλε}, που μενεις; 39λεγει αυτοις, ερχεσθε και οψεσθε. ηλθαν ουν και ειδαν που μενει, και παρ αυτω εμειναν την ημεραν εκεινην: ωρα ην ως δεκατη. 40ην ανδρεας ο αδελφος σιμωνος πετρου εις εκ των δυο των ακουσαντων παρα ιωαννου και ακολουθησαντων αυτω: 41ευρισκει ουτος πρωτον τον αδελφον τον ιδιον σιμωνα και λεγει αυτω, ευρηκαμεν τον μεσσιαν {ο εστιν μεθερμηνευομενον χριστος}: 42ηγαγεν αυτον προς τον ιησουν. εμβλεψας αυτω ο ιησους ειπεν, συ ει σιμων ο υιος ιωαννου: συ κληθηση κηφας {ο ερμηνευεται πετρος}. 43τη επαυριον ηθελησεν εξελθειν εις την γαλιλαιαν, και ευρισκει φιλιππον. και λεγει αυτω ο ιησους, ακολουθει μοι. 44ην δε ο φιλιππος απο βηθσαιδα, εκ της πολεως ανδρεου και πετρου. 45ευρισκει φιλιππος τον ναθαναηλ και λεγει αυτω, ον εγραψεν μωυσης εν τω νομω και οι προφηται ευρηκαμεν, ιησουν υιον του ιωσηφ τον απο ναζαρετ. 46και ειπεν αυτω ναθαναηλ, εκ ναζαρετ δυναται τι αγαθον ειναι; λεγει αυτω [ο] φιλιππος, ερχου και ιδε. 47ειδεν ο ιησους τον ναθαναηλ ερχομενον προς αυτον και λεγει περι αυτου, ιδε αληθως ισραηλιτης εν ω δολος ουκ εστιν. 48λεγει αυτω ναθαναηλ, ποθεν με γινωσκεις; απεκριθη ιησους και ειπεν αυτω, προ του σε φιλιππον φωνησαι οντα υπο την συκην ειδον σε. 49απεκριθη αυτω ναθαναηλ, ραββι, συ ει ο υιος του θεου, συ βασιλευς ει του ισραηλ. 50απεκριθη ιησους και ειπεν αυτω, οτι ειπον σοι οτι ειδον σε υποκατω της συκης πιστευεις; μειζω τουτων οψη. 51και λεγει αυτω, αμην αμην λεγω υμιν, οψεσθε τον ουρανον ανεωγοτα και τους αγγελους του θεου αναβαινοντας και καταβαινοντας επι τον υιον του ανθρωπου.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. Analysis: John 1:35-51

1:35 - to epaurion - tomorrow, the following or next day; eisteikei - from isteimi

1:36 - emblepoo - to fix one’s gaze upon or observe; amnos - lamb

1:38 - strephoo - to turn around; met hermeineuoo - to explain, interpret

1:39 - dekatos - one tenth

1:42 - hermeneuoo - to interpret (source of our word “hermeneutic”)

1:47 - dolos - cunning, deception

1:48 - suchei - fig tree

1:50 - upokatoo - below or under

1:51 - anoigoo - open

3. Strategy: John 1:35-42 OR/AND John 1:43-51

Regardless of which of these pericopes will be followed by the preacher,
both tend to inform, instruct, and reinforce each other. Since the theological underpinnings of the Fourth Gospel lend themselves to a more complex, even abstract, approach to the light and life of Christ, today might be a unique opportunity to look more deeply into the precise language of John’s Greek, the better to understand what he has in mind by the use of words like εμβλεψας and phrases such as “ ο ερμηνευεται πετρος,” οr ” μεθερμηνευομενον διδασκαλε.”

All too many preachers are afraid of “teaching” through didactic or expository sermons, or they relegate teaching to an inferior sphere of activity, ala the secular world. But it would be exciting to hear just once a lucid explanation of hermeneutics so clear and concise that it could be grasped even by those who are yet to be caught up in the zeal of a mission high fulfilling (ELW 668) like the ELCA’s new emphasis upon The Bible as The Book of Faith!

It would be worthwhile to make posters of two or three Greek or Hebrew words from today’s texts (1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 (1); 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; or John 1:43-51) and explain how the meaning of these words is simultaneously ancient and contemporary, requiring interpretation. [ For more suggestions, see the interesting BOOK of FAITH website: ] We hear a lot today about “Change.” Does the Bible “change”? What does it mean if it does not? Moreover, as Dr. David Lose (Luther Seminary) points out on the website we sometimes engage in polemics to “prove” this or that Bible story to be “true,” But then what does this say about our understanding of the Truth of Sola Scripturaa? These are vigorous and daring questions which have always captured the imagination of thinking Christians everywhere. Fear not! (But remember: opening up such questions can unleash controversy and lead some to see pastors as dividers, “false teachers” or worse; cf. Rom. 16:17-20.

4. References: John 1:35ff.

Feldman, N. Divided by God: America's Church-State Problem--and What We Should Do About It

Lose, David. “Is the Bible True?” (DVD)

Marty, M.E. The Christian World

Meacham, J. American Gospel

5. Music Suggestions: John 1:35ff.






Exegete: David Buehler, Editor, Tischrede Software

Confession of Peter

January 19, 2009 (transferred from January 18)
Acts 4:8-13
Psalm 18:1-6, 16-19 (3)
1 Corinthians 10:1-5
Matthew 16:13-19

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, you inspired Simon Peter to confess Jesus as the Messiah and Son of the living God. Keep your church firm on the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace it may proclaim one truth and follow one Lord, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia. You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea | and Samaria,
and to the ends | of the earth. Alleluia. (Acts 1:8)

Nota bene: For an inspiring meditation on Mt. 16:13-19, see ch. 12 in CHRISTOPH BLUMHARDT AND HIS MESSAGE, online at :

[ Blumhardt is recalled as the Swiss Lutheran who became a Socialist,
and also a strong influence on the theology of Karl Barth. ]

Third Sunday after Epiphany

January 25, 2009 (Lectionary 3)
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 62:5-12 (6)
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service. Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia. The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God | has come near;
repent, and believe | in the good news. Alleluia. (Mark 1:15)

1a. Text / Context: MARK 1:14-20 [Translation composite]

Now after John was arrested, Jesus passed into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news." As Jesus passed along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew (who were fishermen) casting a net into the sea. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

1b. Text (NRSV): Mark 1:14-20

1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,

1:15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

1:16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen.

1:17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people."

1:18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

1:19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.

1:20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.


14μετα δε το παραδοθηναι τον ιωαννην ηλθεν ο ιησους εις την γαλιλαιαν κηρυσσων το ευαγγελιον του θεου 15και λεγων οτι πεπληρωται ο καιρος και ηγγικεν η βασιλεια του θεου: μετανοειτε και πιστευετε εν τω ευαγγελιω. 16και παραγων παρα την θαλασσαν της γαλιλαιας ειδεν σιμωνα και ανδρεαν τον αδελφον σιμωνος αμφιβαλλοντας εν τη θαλασση: ησαν γαρ αλιεις. 17και ειπεν αυτοις ο ιησους, δευτε οπισω μου, και ποιησω υμας γενεσθαι αλιεις ανθρωπων. 18και ευθυς αφεντες τα δικτυα ηκολουθησαν αυτω. 19και προβας ολιγον ειδεν ιακωβον τον του ζεβεδαιου και ιωαννην τον αδελφον αυτου, και αυτους εν τω πλοιω καταρτιζοντας τα δικτυα, 20και ευθυς εκαλεσεν αυτους. και αφεντες τον πατερα αυτων ζεβεδαιον εν τω πλοιω μετα των μισθωτων απηλθον οπισω αυτου.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London

Context - In the introduction to this volume of LEXEGETE by Prof.Edgar Krentz, it was noted that Mark 1:14 begins the longest (Mk 1:14-8:30) of the four divisions of the Marcan gospel: "Jesus' ministry in Galilee: the Proclamation of the Kingdom in Word and Deed." Within this context, there are four major themes, of which, cogent for our study, is the call and commissioning of the disciples for proclamation. Jesus' ministry, by tradition, begins shortly after his thirtieth birthday (Lk 3:23), following the arrest of John the Baptist (Mk 1:14 and parallels). Historical criticism has indicated that this is a fairly accurate timetable for the start of Jesus' ministry based on two facts well documented in history:

1.) The birth of Jesus in 4 B.C. during the reign of Herod the Great
(Mt.2:1, Lk.1:5-ff), and

2.) The arrest of John the Baptist in 28 AD for his opposition to the
Levirate marriage of Herod Antipas to his sister-in-law Herodias (Lk.3:19).

Jesus begins his ministry in his home territory, Galilee (Mk 1:14), where he is well known, even by the demons (Mk 1:24,34). He does not begin his ministry in the center of Jewish life, Jerusalem, but, rather, in that outpost of Jewish culture, Galilee, the least desirable part of the tetrarchy left to the sons of Herod the Great. This is not to say that Galilee had nothing to offer. Protected from the harsh Mediterranean winds, this "land between the desert and the sea" surrounding the sea of Galilee was then, as it is today, a fertile and beautiful land in contrast to much of the land surrounding it. Further, fishing on the Sea of Galilee, a large inland lake, was a major commercial enterprise. (For example, Tarchea on Galilee was the home of a major salt fishing industry, and its very name, Tarchea, means “to salt.”)

With this in mind, our Gospel begins with Jesus coming to the sea of Galilee to call disciples. We often think of these disciples as humble fishermen, but this is only a half-truth. Andrew and Peter own their own boat, and the family of Zebedee has a fishing business that employs at least five males (Mk. 1:19).
If they had been unsuccessful as fishermen, unable to profit from their livelihood, their call would have been “without cost,” for there would have been nothing to lose.

But as Bonhoeffer has suggested, there is always a “cost of Discipleship,” for when Christ calls a person, “he calls them forth to die.” The call of Peter and Andrew, James and John involves many costs: financial (to be sure), social, and personal. It is an exclusive call, a call to follow the one who can give them eternal life: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68; cf. also Pentecost 14 for a further treatment of this text.)

2. ANALYSIS: Mark 1:14-20

In MARK AS STORY, David Rhoads and Donald Mitchie once suggested that the Gospel of Mark can be understood using literary analysis; analyzing this shortest gospel (which they suggest was originally intended to be retold in a dramatic representation) can be understood in terms of its literary devices--its plot, its characters, its rhetorical devices. In our text from Mark 1:14-20, there are essentially two “characters”:

1) Jesus, and

2) Those whom Jesus calls (Peter and Andrew, James and John).

Jesus is characterized in this text as a complex person, whose words show self-understanding, and whose deeds show God’s revelation. He is called (by others) “son of God” and elicits fear, offense, amazement, fierce loyalty and determined opposition from those who meet him. In Mark’s Gospel, the term “disciple,” is only used for the twelve men that Jesus calls to follow him, and specifically, in this text, it refers only to the four (two sets of brothers) fishermen who follow him. Jesus identifies each by name, and three of the four (Simon Peter, James and John) become part of Jesus’ inner circle. The disciples in Mark’s gospel are viewed both favorably and unfavorably; favorably because they are loyal followers of Jesus, unfavorably because they fail to understand Jesus and do not imitate their “rabbi” (teacher) as good disciples should.
They struggle with issues of fidelity and loyalty, with fears and doubts. It is their struggles which allow Jesus to teach about faith and discipleship, and through their struggles the reader is brought to struggle with these very same issues.

3. Strategy: Mark 1:14-20

Christians are to be “little Christs.” To be called at baptism means to be pulled away from those things which would keep us from God. In Christ, as St. Paul reminds us, we are no longer our old selves, but new people of God. For us, no less than the first four disciples, the call of discipleship often means giving up something “near and dear.” In the case of the original four disciples, it meant giving up a profitable livelihood. For us, it may mean giving up cherished notions of how we are supposed to act, in order to “put on Christ.” Just as the hearers of Mark’s gospel were challenged to both emulate the good points of the early disciples and to avoid their failings, so the disciple of today is to pick up both the joy and the challenge of discipleship. As Bonhoeffer suggested, there is a “cost of Discipleship”; we are called forth to “die” to sin, so that we may be raised to new life, just as Jesus gave his life for us.

4. References: Mark 1:14-20

Reicke, Bo. The New Testament Era: The World of the Bible from 500 BC to AD 100. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. NY: MacMillan, 1959, 1963.

Rhoads, David and Donald Mitchie. Mark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982.

5. Music Suggestions: Mark 1:14-20

“Come Follow Me, the Savior spake” (LBW 455)

“They Cast Their Nets” (HB 661; LBW 449)

“Jesus Calls Us, O’er the Tumult” (HB 449-50; LBW 494)

Exegete: The Rev. Dr. George J. Koch Jr. is a longtime leader in the movement for study of Theology and Science within the ELCA and is currently an Interim Minister in the Metro Chicago Synod of the ELCA. His special field of study is Cognitive Science and the future of Artificial Intelligence, the subject of his doctoral dissertation at Andover Newton Theological Seminary.

Conversion of Paul

January 26, 2009 (transferred from January 25)

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends
Acts 9:1-22
Psalm 67 (3)
Galatians 1:11-24
Luke 21:10-19

Prayer of the Day

O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the gospel to shine throughout the world. Grant that we may follow his example and be witnesses to the truth of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. This Jesus | God raised up,
and of that all of | us are witnesses. Alleluia. (Acts 2:32)

1a. CONTEXT: Luke 21:10-19

1b. TEXT: Luke 21:10-19


Jesus Foretells Wars and Persecution

10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers [3] and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name's sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.


10τοτε ελεγεν αυτοις, εγερθησεται εθνος επ εθνος και βασιλεια επι βασιλειαν, 11σεισμοι τε μεγαλοι και κατα τοπους λιμοι και λοιμοι εσονται, φοβητρα τε και απ ουρανου σημεια μεγαλα εσται. 12προ δε τουτων παντων επιβαλουσιν εφ υμας τας χειρας αυτων και διωξουσιν, παραδιδοντες εις τας συναγωγας και φυλακας, απαγομενους επι βασιλεις και ηγεμονας ενεκεν του ονοματος μου: 13αποβησεται υμιν εις μαρτυριον. 14θετε ουν εν ταις καρδιαις υμων μη προμελεταν απολογηθηναι, 15εγω γαρ δωσω υμιν στομα και σοφιαν η ου δυνησονται αντιστηναι η αντειπειν απαντες οι αντικειμενοι υμιν. 16παραδοθησεσθε δε και υπο γονεων και αδελφων και συγγενων και φιλων, και θανατωσουσιν εξ υμων, 17και εσεσθε μισουμενοι υπο παντων δια το ονομα μου. 18και θριξ εκ της κεφαλης υμων ου μη αποληται. 19εν τη υπομονη υμων κτησασθε τας ψυχας υμων.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London

For me, the context of this celebration of St. Paul’s Conversion is threefold. First of all, this Gospel is a vivid reminder of the centrality of repentance/metanoia in the life of the Christian converted in Holy Baptism. The stakes are high! Second, it is a vivid reminder that the call to conversion is also a call to the spirituality and practice of Peace, Shalom. Finally, it is a tragic reminder reminder of how far we as believers have yet to travel before we will really have taken upon ourselves the yoke and the cross of Christ. As I write these words, it is only two weeks until America will inaugurate its first African American President, a moment which the whole world will celebrate with us as a milestone of freedom. Yet at the same time it is sobering to realize that he will
inherit an economy on the brink of despair, along with two wars, and two weeks of bombing and destruction in Gaza. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”

Famine, plague, and pestilence are readily visible in this 21st century kosmos of ours. They exist side-by-side with slavery, persecution, and martyrdom of all kinds. For many of us, this all arrives in the wake of 9/11/01. In my work with the Board of Homeland Security for the past two years, I have learned that there is no “if” language for the coming Flu Pandemic. WHEN it arrives (as unpredictable, yet as sure as Kingdom Come), it will be global, lightning fast, and it will be difficult to prepare for it.
Our grandparents were mostly not ready for the 1918 Pandemic, but they barely had the technology and medicine we have at our disposal (in the developed countries).
And so it goes. I have often found the Church’s rambling “memorials,” decrees and pronunciamentos to be a waste of energy. Yet a prescient one appeared in 2001, drawn up by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in response to 9/11. It is remarkable in that it does not attempt to label “good guys” or “bad guys” in the world, but rather throws the spotlight and a long list of “unfinished business” from Gaza to Sudan (most of which remains unfinished almost ten years later!).


David A. Buehler, PhD | MacAdemia™
Providence College, RI

PS: The Full "Pastoral Message for 9/11" is found online at: [© USCCB ]


LEXEGETE © Tischrede Software | Dartmouth, MA 02747