Saturday, May 30, 2015
(The following analysis follows the method in my new book, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted; A Guide to Law and Gospel Preaching. It can be purchased through wipfandstock.com or amazon.com. These questions are in the appendix in the back of that book.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? Jesus is refuting the assertion of the scribes who are saying, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons." He is also refuting the assertion of his family who thinks he is out of his mind. Finally he is declaring that those who do the will of God have a stronger bond than those who are related by blood.
In all of this there are hints of Law and Gospel and even the call to obedience: In verse 27 Jesus implies that he has entered the stronghold of Satan and bound the strong man, and that is why he can cast out demons. Good news! In his rebuke of the scribes Jesus is saying, "If you think I am filled with an unclean spirit, you are lost indeed!" Strong words of law. Finally the call to obedience is implied in the last scene where he says that "whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."
2. How does the Word not function in the text? As stated above, the three ways that the Word functions - law, gospel, call to obedience - are all present, at least implicitly, here.
3. With whom are you identifying in the text? It is tempting to jump to the end of the story and identify with those who are sitting around Jesus - those who do God's will - but it is probably better not to begin there. We always want to identify with those whom the word addresses, so identifying with either Jesus' family or the scribes is where we must begin.
4. What, if any, call to obedience is there in the text? The call to obedience - the call to follow Christ - is implied here. When we are doing the will of God in response to the Gospel, we are following the call to obedience.
5. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? As always, there are many possibilities. Several to ponder: Confused/enlightened, blasphemous/forgiven, part of the human family/part of God's family.
6. Exegetical work: Translation is very enlightening in this text. For example in the NRSV, vs. 21, we read, "When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, 'He has gone out of his mind.'" When we translate this we notice that what sounds like two groups of people - Jesus' family and 'people' - is really one. A literal translation would be something like, "When those near him heard [it], they came to take him away for they were saying that he was out of his mind." It is clear that "those near him," which could include his family, were a group of people who were concerned that Jesus' spectacular ministry was getting out of hand, and they wanted to restrain him. It was not that "people" were saying things, but the family and those near Jesus were saying things. This is something only translation reveals.
A helpful source of commentary on Mark is M. Eugene Boring's commentary from The New Testament Library. About this text, Boring writes, "[Jesus' family] not only abstain from becoming his followers, but join the scribes in actively opposing his ministry." It makes me think about our own well-meaning attempts to domesticate the Gospel.
7. How does the Crossings Community model work with this text? Mark Marius does a nice analysis of this text, archived under 2012 Year B Gospel for the Second Sunday of Pentecost. He takes up the theme of what it means to be of 'right mind'. On the web at crossings.org/text study.
8. Insights from the pioneers of the New Homiletic? Henry Mitchell always reminds us that the preacher should be the first one to experience the ecstasy of the Gospel and celebrate it. This text would be a great time to go "out of your mind" in celebration of the Gospel!
Blessings on your proclamation.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
(The following analysis follows the questions in the appendix of my book, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted; A Guide to Law and Gospel Preaching. It can be purchased at wipfandstock.com or amazon.com and is also available on Kindle.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? If a simple way of stating the Law is "You need Christ," then this text mainly functions as law. Over and over Nicodemus is being told, "You need Christ." By being told that he needs to be born from above, Nicodemus is being told that he needs Christ. By being shown that he does not understand the things of God, Nicodemus is being told that he needs Christ. Only in the last verses where God's love, forebearance and compassion are revealed does the Word function as Gospel.
2. How is the Word not functioning in the text? There is no call to follow Christ here, or what I have termed "'the call to obedience," which is how we respond to the Gospel. All the imperatives in this text are prior to the announcement of the Gospel, therefore they are not calls to obedience, but calls to repentance. The call to repentance is not the call to obedience. The call to repentance comes in response to the Law, the call to obedience comes in response to the Gospel.
3. With whom are you identifying in the text? Clearly we are in the position of Nicodemus. We are those who need to be born from above. We are those needing to be born of the Spirit. We are those who need to hear the Gospel - even if we have heard it many times before.
4. What, if any call to obedience is there in this text? Since there is none, we will need to fill this in by reflecting on what the love, forbearance and compassion of God call us to. This will require us to ponder other scriptures, such as the First Lesson, Isa 6:1-8, where we see Isaiah's response to God's forgiveness is to accept the call to bear testimony.
5. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? There are many couplets that come to mind: Dead/Alive, Born from Below/Born from Above, Lost/Saved.
6. Exegetical Work: I love Craig Koester's book, Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel. He has much insight into this text. One example: "The dialogue shows that Nicodemus and those he represents derive their basic identity from their earthly origins." (p. 46). I always find Raymond Brown's classic commentary helpful as well. One quote: "If natural life [comes from] God's giving breath to man, eternal life comes when God gives his Holy Spirit to a man." (p. 140) (pardon the non-inclusive language).
7. How does the Crossings Community model work with this text? As always you are urged to go to crossings.org/text study and look up some of the archived examples of the Year B Gospel for Holy Trinity Sunday. I find it very interesting how different writers can approach a text from entirely different directions and still see the Law/Gospel paradigm present. A good example of this is Timothy Hoyer's analysis from 2012 where he uses the notion of "being right," and Steven Albertin's analysis from 2009 when he uses the notion of "starting over." Good stuff!
8. Consider the insights of the pioneers of the New Homiletic. Always remember Fred Craddock's principle: The main thing is getting something heard, not getting something said.
Blessings on your proclamation this week!
Saturday, May 16, 2015
(The following questions are taken from the appendix to my book, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted; A Guide to Law and Gospel Preaching). This blog each week is meant to be a companion to that book which is available from wipfandstock.com or amazon.com).
1. How does the Word function in the text? The Spirit is filling the house, enabling the disciples of Jesus to speak in other languages. Peter too, is filled with the Spirit and announces the pouring out of God's Spirit on "all flesh." This is an announcement of Good News. This, then means that we as preachers will need to announce to our listeners the pouring out of God's Spirit on them. Gospel!
2. How is the Word not functioning in the text? Is there a word of Law here - a word that says, "You need Christ"? It's not explicit, but perhaps can be implied by the crowd's comment, "They are filled with new wine." This comment, certainly the voice of skepticism regarding the Spirit's presence, is one that naturally comes to us whenever we insist that our spirit is sufficient for all things.
3. With whom are you identifying in the text? This is an interesting question; one could identify with the skeptics or with those who have been filled with the Spirit's power. Or an interesting approach might be to reflect on our dual identity as sinner/saint, simultaneously one who is filled with the Spirit and who is doubtful of the Spirit's presence.
4. What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text? The word that says, "Follow Jesus" is not present here. The final verse announcing the need to call on the name of the Lord is not a call to follow, but a call to repentance.
5. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? Using Peter's sudden transformation as a point of departure we might try Denier/Declarer, or Fear-filled/Spirit-filled.
6. Exegetical work: I often find Mark Allan Powell's model helpful in thinking about narrative texts like this. His book, What is Narrative Criticism? includes an appendix with questions leading us through a narrative analysis of a text. One very helpful question is "Where is the most detail in the text?" This helps us identify where the writer wants us to slow down and notice the action. In this text the most detail is in Luke's extended verbatim of Peter's sermon. Those words are most important.
7. How does the Crossings Community model work with this text? A nice example for this text can be seen at the community website, crossings.org/text study, under 2014 Year A Gospel for The Day of Pentecost. Peter Keyel sees the word of Law working in the bewildered state of many of the observers of the first Pentencost and shows how the question, "What does this mean?" can turn to praise.
8. Insights from the pioneers of the New Homiletic? Since this story moves the listeners in the story from disequilibrium to equilibrium, this might be an excellent opportunity to do this to our listeners as Eugene Lowry does in his work, The Homiletical Plot.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
(Note: The following questions are taken from the appendix to my book, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted; A Guide to Law and Gospel Preaching, available from wipfandstock.com or amazon.com. This book is not meant as an exhaustive method, but as a companion book to many other fine exegetical helps.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? Jesus, the Word in this text, is doing one thing: asking the Father to protect those whom he is leaving behind. He reveals a number of things about these "left behind" ones: They belong to the Father (vs. 10), the world hates them (vs. 14), they do not belong to the world (vs. 14), and they are sent into the world (vs. 18). This concern of Jesus is pure Gospel. The things revealed about these left behind is a word of Law, reminding us of our need for Jesus.
2. How is the Word not functioning the text? Of the three functions of the Word in any text - Law (You need Jesus), Gospel (Here is Jesus) or the call to obedience (Follow Jesus) - the one missing in this text is the call to obedience. The nearest thing we have to this is the reminder that we have been sent into the world that hates us and to which we do not belong.
3. With whom are you identifying in the text? We are those for whom Jesus prays. We are the ones who overhear this prayer.
4. What, if any call to obedience is there in this text? As said above, the call to obedience is hard to find here. We will need to go to other scriptures to include this call.
5. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? Belonging to the world/belonging to God.
6. Exegetical work: There is a nice article in Kittel's TDNT, (vol. III) about "kosmos" the Greek word for "world." We are reminded that "the komos is now understood as the theatre of salvation history, as the locus of the revelation of Christ, and in consequence it appears in a wholly new light." Also, in the Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures (vol IVb) we hear from Augustine, who in talking about those left behind, says, "They were no more of the world, because they were born again of the Holy Spirit." See Col. 1:13 "transferred into the kingdom of his beloved Son."
7. How does the Crossings Community model work with this text? As always, you can go to crossings.org and see the 7th Sunday of Easter for models. Here's one to try:
D1 We are afraid of not belonging to the world.
D2 We depend on the world, not God.
D3 Not trusting God, we are separated from the one we belong to.
P4 In Christ God reconciled the world to himself (and us).
P5 Reconciled to God, we trust God and no longer fear being not of the world.
P6 Not belonging to the world, we can freely serve the world.
8. Consider the insights of the pioneers of the New Homiletic?
This might be a great text for taking Rice's advice and seeking out the "shared story" of those who have set their heart on the world only to find themselves separated from the One to whom they belong.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
(Note: The following questions are taken from the method in my book, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted; A Guide to Law and Gospel Preaching. They are found in the appendix of that book and this blog is meant as a companion to my book, and my book as a companion to other preaching texts.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? Jesus is speaking imperatively throughout this text, John 15:9-17. Most simply, "Abide in my love." (vs. 9b) Jesus is also announcing that we are no longer called servants, but friends, and it is he who has chosen us, not we him. (vs. 15-16). The commands are a call to obedience. The command to love is the call to respond to God's love. The announcement that we are chosen and we are called friends is pure gift, pure gospel.
2. How is the Word not functioning in the text? A word of Law is not explicitly present here. There is not, in my definition of the Law, a word here that says, "You need Jesus." This can be implied perhaps, for instance, by infering that our joy will not be complete apart from Jesus, but we will need to produce this word from other texts in order to complete this sermon.
3. With whom are you identifying in the text? As always we identify with those being addressed by Jesus, not with Jesus himself. So here, we hear the call to abide in Christ's love and to love one another, and we hear the announcement that we have been chosen and are called friends.
4. What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text? This text, as said above, is primarily the call to obedience. It will be important for the preacher to be sure to make clear that this call to love is not announced as a precondition for God's love or favor, but a response to that love.
5. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? Ignored/chosen. Joyless/joy-filled.
6. Exegetical work: It is interesting to note Luther's sermon on this text (Luther's Works, Vol. 24). Like Brown he says, "This [loving] is the meaning of the words 'that you should go and bear fruit.' You need not go to Rome or Jerusalem, but you are to go to your neighbor." One other quick note is that all the conditional phrases in this 15th chapter of John are conditions of uncertainty. So verse 10 might well be translated, "Whenever you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love..."
7. How does the Crossings Community model work with this text? As always I would refer you to the archived text studies at crossings.org under the 6th Sunday of Easter to see some models of Law and Gospel design.
8. Insights from the pioneers of the New Homiletic? Eugene Lowry's advice to always move your listeners from disequilibrium to equilibrium is key. His book, The Homiletical Plot, outlines how to achieve this.
Blessings on your proclamation.