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Archive for the ‘NT Studies’ Category

When we sit down and read the Christmas story, as recorded for us in Luke, around our cozy living rooms surrounded by friends and families with warm drinks in our hands we often don’t pick up on the subversive nature of the story being read.  While sitting in our pews and holding our candles, raising them at the crescendo of our favorite Christmas hymns, we often miss the political message we are proclaiming.  Yet, the birth narrative is as political and subversive as they come.  Caesar Augustus, whom is referred to at the front end of the story, is regarded as the divine son of god who proclaims good news of salvation, peace, and victory (or peace through victory).  The Roman empire, as every empire does, promised that if one would submit to their rule, though oppressive, you will experience peace, stability, and (ah em) freedom.  And the more peace and stability one would experience, the more one, whether explicitly or implicitly, would revere the great lord Caesar all the more. (more…)

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The Lesser to Be Greater

The Gospel lessons this year come predominately from Luke, thus this is where my studies have been focused.  It is well known that Luke is constantly showing how the marginalized are exalted in God’s Kingdom as clearly displayed in life of Jesus, showing that the lesser will be greater.  It is intriguing how Luke constructs the story in the first few chapters to show the reality that the lesser will be greater in the interplay between the birth of John and Jesus.  I will highlight a few of these areas in what follows.

First, Elizabeth and Zechariah, though commoners, are a married priestly family, thus having some status in the community.  On the other hand Mary, probably around 12 or 13 years old, and Joseph (Joseph plays little to no role in Luke’s narrative besides that of being a descendant of David) are not married, though betrothed, and are relative nobodies, with Mary being impregnated by the Holy Spirit (imagine explaining that one to your mother).  Though both Elizabeth’s and Mary’s pregnancies are miraculous, Mary’s is much more scandalous do the fact that she is not legally married, thus pushing her closer to the margins. Moreover, John is born earlier than Jesus, thus being the elder of the two (echos of the Jacob/ Esau story).  John’s birth is somewhat normal in that family and friends are witnesses and celebrants, as would be expected – though it is certainly mixed with the miraculous.  Jesus’ birth is celebrated by angels and lowly shepherds in a small town barn – again to a now newly wed, preteen girl who became pregnant before married.  Yet, out of this “nothingness,” being born to a faithful “nobody” the Son of God has come to “proclaim good news to the poor…freedom for the prisoners…sight for the blind…set the oppressed free…(and) proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (4:18-19) –  take that Caesar.  Surely, Mary’s prophetic song become reality in that “(God) has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (1:46-55).  Jesus emerges from these stories as the greater, though being born in a more humble state, of course setting the stage for John playing his part as the one who “prepares the way of the Lord.”

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I realize that this post is a couple of weeks late, but the more I work through our lenten journey at our church the more importance Transfiguration Day takes.  I have come to appreciate the placement of the story of the Transfiguration in the Gospels in a completely different way since becoming a pastor.  A few days prior Jesus instructed the disciples concerning his death and resurrection.  Also, he instructed them about the life that they are called to live – a life of cross-bearing.  Surely, there was confusion and discouragement among the disciples.  This was not what they signed up for.  They left their employment to follow the triumphant son of David who was going to rid Israel of the yoke of Rome.  They didn’t follow Jesus that he might be killed.  So in some respects the Transfiguration before James, John, and Peter was an event of encouragement.  Coming down the mount meant the way of to Jerusalem, the way of the cross.  Thus, they needed to see that the one who was going to die, and who was instructing them to carry their cross as well, was the glorious One, the Son of God.  Only with witnessing this would their feeble hearts be able to continue the way to Jerusalem with Jesus.  And it was only in seeing this that they could have some idea of or confidence in Jesus’ words of resurrection.

 We too are as feeble as the disciples, constantly needing encouragement as we follow the way of the cross this Lent and everyday.  And the primary place that we receive our encouragement is to join with the saints in liturgy on Sundays (Resurrection Day).  Here the veil is slightly removed as we join in the praises of heaven, hear God’s Word, pray together and dine at the Table.  Maybe this is one reason Sunday’s are not counted in the days of Lent.  Sunday’s almost become little Transfiguration Days along the pilgrim way to the cross.

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In John 4, it is recorded that Jesus knows about the woman’s relationships, that she has had 5 husbands and the one she is living with currently is not her husband.  Yet, unlike the beloved, though highly questioned as to its authority or accuracy, story of John 8 where Jesus instructs the lady to “sin no more” there is no admonition for her to have this man “move out.”  Yet, because of her testimony many Samaritans believed.  This certainly raises some questions of how to approach relationships pastorally where a newly converted Christian is living with their partner.  I am curious of anyone’s opinions on this.  

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A few questions for the online community:

Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the women were with the disciples in “the upper room” waiting as Jesus had told them to (Acts 1:12-14).  And in 2:1 Luke writes that “they were all together in one place.”  Did the Spirit fall upon Mary and the women?  Did they speak in other languages with the disciples?  If your opinion is that they did, does this have any bearing about women’s roles in the church?  

You are invited to join the discussion…

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“…until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5)

Often times it seems the church thinks of what is yet to come using terms such as ascending and descending.  Yet, Peter uses the word “revealed.”  The picture is that of the curtain being drawn, and the final Act playing before our eyes.  Or it seems similar to when the scales fell off of Paul’s eyes and he could once clearly again.  Could this be behind Paul saying that right now we look through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:12)?  And what does this say about Heaven?  Could it be that Heaven isn’t some place “way up there?”  Could it be that day, when the trump is blown, our eyes will see the “spiritual” realities that prior were held from our sinful eyes?  We too might see the mighty hosts all around, having the scales fall from our eyes; we would see that our communal worship on a Sunday morning is a participation in the “heavenly” worship that is happening beyond the scope of our seeing now.  In fact, we would see that our work for the Kingdom right now is a participation with “spiritual” work that is being done, that is putting down all of God’s enemies. 

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“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” (1 Peter 1:3-4)

Here the Apostle Peter reminds the early church that in the midst of their sufferings their hope is not in things perishable, but in God who put on display His mighty power and mercy through the resurrection of the Son, Jesus Christ.  Note, Peter does not despise the physical or material as some try to do.  What he does, is locate hope, which is not material, in the imperishable, eternal nature which is shown in resurrection of  Jesus, which is before the Christian in the inheritance of the Kingdom, particularly the New Heaven and New Earth.  Further, this hope does not rest on what we can do or the things we can surmount or who we are; it lies fully in who God is and what He has done on account of His great mercy in Jesus the Christ.  Hope cannot be stolen or taken away; it is fixed in the permanent, unchanging nature of God, His acts, and the surety of His promises.  Thus, it is a living hope, not one that is dead, and it propels us in faith toward our inheritance, that we might say in the midst of our present condition – as Peter says, “Praise the LORD!”

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