Response to Reader Question
2007-08-28 by David Schlafer

 I have been asked to say a bit more about the meaning of the final sentence in my Preaching the Lesson entry for this week--i.e. my caution against "flattening out the words of Luke's Jesus about status and service by abstracting them from the rich narrative texture of their immediate setting and the dramatic context of Luke's narrative as a whole."  The article is, in fact, an explicit attempt to avoid such a flattening. 

Taken at face value, the passage leads immediately to a puzzle: "what could Jesus possibly have meant with his socially obnoxious behavior and his practically unhelpful advice?" 

The preacher's temptation is to fix on the words of Jesus per se, in isolation from the dramatic action of his healing the hapless dropsy victim; and then to work toward rendering those words somehow intelligible and edifying in their own right. 

That will not work, I think, since these words are injected as an intervention upon a multi-dimensional addiction--one which is central to the immediate context, and integral to the whole of Luke's Gospel 

Only if the preacher explores that richer, wider, more dynamic setting (with resonating references to the dynamics of addiction in our own power-hungry culture), will the words of Luke's Jesus effect the same illumination as we may assume they did for their original hearers.





Let God be God (September 2)
2007-08-28 by John Carr

As it happens, I'm preaching this Sunday (I also wrote Pastoral Implications for this week).  As I have been doing my own preparation, I realized that I might have said more about the fact that Jesus is addressing the Pharisees, perhaps the ultimate stereotype of the "God-player" -- who were keeping an eye on him.  I did assume that some attention would be given to this in the exegetical essay. 

Also, I need to do a "mea culpa."  I made a reference to vs. 10 of the Jeremiah passage.  The vs. 10 to which I am referring is in Jeremiah 1 -- i.e. my eye slipped over to the previous page as I was thinking about the interaction of the Jeremiah passage with the other passages. 

Here is how I see the passages from the Psalms and Hebrews. Since, in our congregation, we read the psalms responsively, I'm having it introduced with these words. Responsive Psalm 81: 1, 10-16: "In this psalm, we enact the internal conversation God is having about the ungrateful stubbornness of the people Israel.  Undoubtedly, God -- at least sometimes – has this internal conversation about us."

Here is the introduction to the Hebrews passage. Hebrews 13: 1-8, 15-16: "This passage is about how the followers of Jesus are to serve others.  We do not have to appease God’s anger by offering animal sacrifices.  Rather, in Jesus, we come to know God as One who simply asks that we focus our attention on the needs of others, rather than just being concerned about our own wants and needs." 

For me, these passages provide further context for the Luke passage. 

John C. Carr, Ph.D., Reg. Psychologist (Alberta # 1035)

 Pastoral Therapy & Education

 Edmonton, Alberta, Canada





Confusion, Pericope Group, and the Readings
2007-08-28 by David von Schlichten

This morning, at our Tuesday pastors' pericope group, we came up with the following thoughts about Sunday's readings:

 

  1. Pride and humility are a salient theme. Christ calls us to humility, which includes doing good for others without expecting a reward. (See below for more.)

  2. Hospitality is another salient theme. How do we welcome the stranger? Do people feel welcome when they visit our congregations? Jeff, our group leader, noted that the Greek word for “hospitality” is “philoxenia,” which means “love of the stranger.”

 

While sitting there, I wondered what I was going to have for lunch (Luke's gospel makes me hungry). More importantly, I found myself struggling anew with the idea that Jesus would teach us to take the place of humility in order to be exalted. Surely, Jesus is not saying that, is he?

Therefore, after pericope group (and lunch; I had fish), I returned to Aida Besancon Spencer's “Exegesis” article in LH this week, as well as John C. Carr's “Pastoral Implications” article. After revisiting those two pieces, I understand in a firmer, more enduring way that Jesus is not condoning false humility for the seeking of personal gain. His main point is “ [ . . . ] [A]ll who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (v.11). Verse eleven is the key to understanding Jesus' point.

In other words, Jesus tells the “parable” of where to sit at a banquet to make this point about humility. That is, he is using the situation in front of him to make a larger point about living in the kingdom of God. He is not merely giving advice for people on how to sit at table; such instruction simply does not fit with the larger context of Jesus' teachings in Luke 14, let alone in the Gospels in general. This proverbial wisdom of Jesus is much more.

After all, Jesus goes on to stress inviting people who cannot pay you back, people who cannot reward you. He is concerned about way more than simply doing that which makes a person look good. 

Eugene Peterson's piquant paraphrase of this verse in The Message is nourishing: “If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face. But if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

Then there's the hospitality theme, which got me thinking anew about Ozzfest, a day long series of heavy metal rock concerts that I had the misfortune to attend last Friday, but I'll write more about that literally hellish experience and the theme of hospitality tomorrow.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, poedifier





Highlights of this Week's "LH" Articles
2007-08-28 by David von Schlichten

I wish Jesus would sit at my table and take the food away from me before I overeat. “Take away this day my daily Oreos.”

Seriously, here are some gleanings from this week's Lectionary Homiletics texts to ruminate on.

Exegesis

Aida Besancon Spencer points out that Jesus is not saying that we can never invite our friends, relatives, and rich neighbors to our table but that we are not to be in the habit of inviting only such people (Jesus uses the present imperative, “do not keep inviting”). Further, he is challenging the idea of seeking earthly reward, teaching that we should seek reward from God instead.

SEE THE SAMPLES SECTION FOR AIDA'S ENTIRE ARTICLE, AS WELL AS ROGER GENCH'S "THEOLOGICAL THEMES" ARTICLE. 

Pastoral Implications

John C. Carr makes numerous excellent points about psychology and the texts for Sunday, including the Gospel reading. The reading from Luke seems to reward passive-aggressive behavior; be humble to manipulate others into rewarding you. Carr stresses that lectionary and historical context are crucial for a proper understanding of this passage. In addition, people often play God, exalting themselves, and such a role is deleterious psychologically for the person playing God and for those who regard that person as God-like.

Carr concludes with the understanding that the Gospel reading warns against playing God, exalting oneself, while Psalm 112 and Hebrews 13 provide a supplement that helps people to see that healthful self-esteem arises when humans act as humans and regard God alone as God.

Lesson and the Arts

Johan van Parys writes of several paintings germane to the Gospel reading. One especially noteworthy is Veronesi's (1528-1588) depiction of the Last Supper called “Dinner at the House of Levi.” The painting shows Jesus and the Twelve surrounded by people from all strata and lifestyles. Van Parys was accused of heresy for including low-class people at the Last Supper, so the title was changed to end the controversy. Van Parys points out that Jesus does indeed welcome all kinds of people to the Table, so the painting, in a sense, is correct. Further, if Jesus is so welcoming, we are to be likewise.

Sermon Reviews

Alex Gondola summarizes a sermon by W. Robert McLelland in which the preacher makes the point that we are reared to be self-effacing but that, at God's banquet, God has made us the guests of honor. We are to think of ourselves in this manner. Of course, such an honor brings with it responsibility.

Later, Gondola summarizes a sermon by Richard W. Patt in which Patt explains a difference between entertaining and hospitality. Entertaining is about the host showing the guests that he or she is perfect at hosting. We hosts want to exhibit how lovely our home is, how delicious our food. With hospitality, coming across as perfect is not the goal. Rather, the goal is, as the etymology of “hospitality” suggests, to provide shelter and healing (like a hospice or hospital).

As usual, the writers have given us much to feast on, so I'll be chewing away without, for once, having to worry about gaining weight. More to come.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, poedifier





Food for Thought in Every Chapter of Luke
2007-08-26 by David von Schlichten

As someone once pointed out to me, food imagery is in every chapter of Luke. I did a quick search and came up with this. Please feel free to comment, revise, etc. (the following is not exhaustive):

1: God has filled the hungry with good things

2: manger

3: John the Baptist speaks of bearing good fruit ( also grain in v17)

4: "Turn these stones to bread."

5: fasting vs. eating (why do Jesus' disciples not fast?)

6: plucking heads of grain and eating them

7: at a Pharisee's table

8: parable of sower

9: feeding over five-thousand people

10: verse 7

11: "Give us each day our daily bread"

12: parable of rich fool with grain in his barns; life is more than eating

13: fig tree planted in a vineyard

14: this week's reading

15: "Kill the fatted calf"

16: Lazarus and rich man, who feasts sumptuously

17: verses 27 and 35

18: Pharisee boasts of fasting twice a week

19: Mount of Olives

20: vineyard parable

21: fig tree and sign of the kingdom of God being near

22: Passover and Holy Communion

23: "They gave him sour wine."

24: road to Emmaus and breaking of bread

All right, so what does it all mean? Perhaps the following:

1. How we eat reflects who we are (for more, see Roger Gench's "theological themes" article on pages 38-9 in LH)

2. Christ feeds us in various ways

3. Christ is revealed to us in the breaking of the bread.

By the way, I will be blogging each day this work week (Mon-Fri). I look forward to reading the blogs of others and to feedback, including questions and corrections. Let's have a feast of blogs. :-)

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, poedifier





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