Tuesday, July 30, 2019
(The following questions have been developed as a way of getting at some of the fundamental concerns for Law and Gospel preachers around the function of the Word. These questions are not meant to be exhaustive, but meant to be used with other fine sets of questions which lift up other issues. To learn more about Law and Gospel preaching, see my brief guide, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from wipfandstock.com or amazon.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? Right out of the gate, the writer assumes that the Gospel has done its work: You have been raised with Christ! So then, says Paul, "Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." This then is purely a call to obedience. We are exhorted to live in a certain way in response to what God has done for us in Christ.
2. How is the Word not functioning in the text? There is really no word of Gospel here, no word which announces what Christ has done; all of that has been thoroughly proclaimed in chapters 1 and 2. Also there is only a glancing blow from the Law, where Paul reminds his readers that "on account of these [sins] the wrath of God is coming upon those who are disobedient." (vs. 6) Besides that there is little mention of our need for a Savior.
3. With whom are you identifying in the text? Clearly we are those to whom this word is addressed. In our baptism we have been buried with Christ, and by the power of God we have also been raised with him. We are the ones being called to seek the things that are above, and not set our minds on the things of the earth.
4. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? Since this is almost wholly a call to obedience, we must improvise in coming up with couplets for this text. Some ideas: dead/raised; life hidden/life revealed.
5. Exegetical work: It is telling that in Luther's extensive commentary on Psalm 51, he refers explicitly to Paul's words here: "This is the Christian life, as it is marvelously described in Colossians 3:1-3, that we seek the things that are above, as [those] who are dead to the world and whose life is hid in Christ; and in 2 Corinthians 7:1, that we 'cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit.' He means that in him and in all Christians there remain such defilements of the spirit, that is, evil opinions about God, and defilements of the flesh, that is, vicious lusts; and that it should be our labor and effort to clean these out with the help of the Spirit... You can readily say, 'I believe in Christ.' But it takes the hardest kind of work to keep this faith fixed and sure and permanent in the heart." (Luther's Works, Vol. 12, Selected Psalms, p. 329-330) It becomes evident in looking at the grammar in this passage that our death and rising in Christ is an accomplished fact, but our ongoing life is a continual struggle. The present tense imperative instructs us: "Seek (and keep on seeking) the things that are above." "Set your minds (and keep setting them) on the things that are above." The aorist form in verse 5, however, gives us a new command: "Put to death (once and for all!), therefore, whatever in you is earthly." Similarly in verses 8 and 9, we have the aorist form: "You must get rid of all such [evil] things..." (once and for all!) and "seeing you have stripped off the old self with its practices..." (once and for all). It seems that Paul wants us to be seeking the things above continually, while ridding ourselves of our death-dealing habits, once and for all.
6. How does the Crossings community model work with this text? Betty Krafft, in her analysis, raises up one of the issues for Law and Gospel preachers with a text like this, which is primarily a call to obedience: what if all this text is doing is proving to us the truth of Romans 7? "The evil that I wish not to do, that I do, and that good which I would do, that I do not." She suggests that the first half of the equation ends for us in the wrath of God which "is coming on those who are disobedient." The second half of the equation is that we have died and been raised in Christ. We will have to decide if this text functions this way for us. See her entire analysis, archived under the reference at crossings.org/text-study.
Blessings on your proclamation!
Monday, July 29, 2019
(The following questions have been developed to help Law and Gospel preachers assess how it is that the Word is functioning: one of the chief concerns of Law and Gospel preachers. For more on this unique genre of preaching, see my brief guide, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from wipfandstock.com or amazon.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? Paul's concern is clearly that these dear Colossians not be taken "captive through philosophy and empty deceit." (vs. 8) He announces to them again how God has done all that is needed in Christ Crucified. This is a purely Gospel function, culminating in the grand announcement that "when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with [Christ]." There is no clearer gospel word than this! Of course, it is also true that there is no clearer word of Law than this: "You were dead in [your] trespasses."
2. With whom are you identifying in the text? As is usual with these epistles, we must identify with those to whom the letter is written. We are the ones who are easily led astray and taken captive "through philosophy and empty deceit," we are the ones who were dead in our trespasses before Christ came, and we are those whom God has forgiven in Christ. Alleluia!
3. What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text? The call to obedience is present in this text both at its beginning and at its end. In the opening verse, Paul exhorts his listeners to "continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith." There is no clearer call to obedience than this. Also, at the end of the passage, (vss. 16-18), Paul encourages his listeners to not let anyone condemn or disqualify them in connection with matters of little importance. This too is a call to obedience.
4. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? Since this is a complete law/gospel text, it is not hard to suggest several couplets: dead/alive; guilty/forgiven; keeping score/erasing the record.
5. Exegetical Work: When baptism is highlighted as it is in this passage, it is not surprising to find that virtually all the reformers (Calvin, Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, Agricola, etc.) have commented on this passage, as well as the writers of a number of confessions. (e.g., Belgic and Schleitheim Confessions). (See the fine commentary series on the Reformers available from IV Press, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, for the complete list.) Martin Luther's concluding remarks in his article regarding Baptism in his Large Catechism will suffice as an example: "Thus we see what a great and excellent thing Baptism is, which snatches us from the jaws of the devil and makes God our own, overcomes and takes away sin and daily strengthens the new man, always remains until we pass from this present misery to eternal glory. Therefore let everybody regard his (sic, etc.) Baptism as the daily garment which he is to wear all the time. Every day he should be found in faith and amid its fruits, every day he should be suppressing the old man and growing up in the new." (Tappert, The Book of Concord, p. 446)
6. How does the Crossings Community model work with this text? Marcus Felde does a little play on words to help us understand what is at stake for us in this text. Playing on the "spiritual circumcision" we receive in Christ and the "uncircumcision of our flesh" in which we lived before Christ, Felde talks about our state as those who go from "circumscribed" (i.e. held captive, bound) to "uncircumscribed" in Christ (i.e. free, without limit). He also suggests that Paul is raising up Christ as a colossus of sorts, the One who disarms the powers and principalities. See crossings.org/text-study for the whole analysis, archived under the reference.
Blessings on your proclamation!
Thursday, July 25, 2019
(The following questions have been developed to help answer some of the fundamental concerns of Law and Gospel preachers, specifically around the function of the Word. For more on this method and on this unique genre of preaching, see my brief guide to Law and Gospel preaching, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from wipfandstock. com or amazon.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? The Word functions in all the ways that it can in this passage, albeit overwhelmingly as Gospel. Especially in the ancient creed-like hymn quoted in vss. 15-20, the Word is functioning as Gospel. The message is a proclamation of the preeminence of Christ, and the reconciliation achieved through the Cross.
2. How is the Word not functioning in the text? The Law gets only a small role in this passage. Verse 21 reminds us of our place outside of Christ: "estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds." Besides this there is precious little evidence of Law in this text.
3. With whom are you identifying in the text? We have two choices in this text: the Colossians, or the writer of this letter. If we identify with the Colossians, then we will need to claim their identity as previously "estranged, hostile, doing evil." If we identify with the writer, then we are the proclaimer, the one sounding the alarm, the one whose job it is to "present everyone mature in Christ."
4. What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text? The call to obedience is implied in verses 22-23: "[be] holy and blameless and irreproachable before him...Continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard." While there is no imperative given in these verses, it is definitely implied, lest the listeners fall prey to the notion that once baptized, one's ongoing life is of no concern to Christ.
5. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? If we borrow the writer's language in verse 21, we can come up with several couplets: estranged/embraced; hostile in mind/welcomed; doing evil/walking in righteousness.
6. Exegetical work: According to a number of sources, the main problem in Colossae that was being addressed here was the notion of "the stoicheia" (the 'elemental spirits of the universe'), which it was taught "constituted the pleroma (the 'fulness,' the full complement) of divine powers through whom God ruled the world. These powers were the means whereby divine revelation was given unto [humanity]; they controlled the ways of access whereby [mortals] ascended to their eternal destiny." (Price, Interpreting the New Testament, p. 465) This heresy is what the writer seeks to address by highlighting the work and preeminence of Christ. The writer "affirmed that 'all the fullness of God' - the full complement of divine power - dwelt in Christ alone. The conclusion followed: the stoicheia possessed no power superior to, nor in any way qualifying, the power of the Christian redeemer." (Ibid., p. 468) "As in no previous situation, [the writer] was led to press beyond the thoughts of Christ's eschatological role in history to a proclamation of his pre-eminence in the order of Creation, to an acknowledgment that Christ's power to reconcile was not restricted to the Church, but was sufficient to reconcile everything that exists in the universe unto God." (Ibid.) Ralph Martin affirms Price's analysis and also reminds us what is at stake for the Colossians: "[The writer] has given to the stoicheia (2:8, 20), the elemental forces of the universe, a changed status. Like his Colossian readers,he believed that such cosmic agents owed their being to the creator Christ, but when they are brought into a cosmological system and treated as rivals to Christ they stand in dualistic tension with the Christ... They take on a demonic character and require him to assume that they have broken away from their station as 'created orders' by claiming an independent status, demanding human allegiance and veneration.' (Martin, Interpretation Series, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, p. 107)
Blessings on your proclamation!
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
(The following questions are not meant to be exhaustive, but have been formulated to lift up some of the chief concerns of Law and Gospel preachers. They are meant to be used with other fine sets of questions available to exegetes. For more on Law and Gospel preaching, see my brief guide, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from wipfandstock.com or amazon.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? The opening is pure thanksgiving, as Paul commends the Colossians for the fruit they are bearing, according to reports from Epaphras. In the second half of this passage, the verbs are in the subjunctive mode as Paul relates his concerns, praying that they may be filled with knowledge, that they might lead lives worthy of the Lord, and that they might be made strong. Finally Paul exclaims the Gospel word in all its fullness: "He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son."
2. How is the Word not functioning in the text? I don't hear a clear word of Law here. That word, which is the Word functioning to say, "You need Jesus", is implied however in Paul's concerns. He prays that they might be filled with knowledge. Why? Because ignorance will lead them astray. He prays that they might lead lives worthy of the Lord. Why? Because other paths lead to destruction. He prays that they might be made strong because they must "be prepared to endure everything." The Law is present here, but just not obvious.
3. With whom are you identifying in the text? We are the Colossians. We might well be followers of Christ, but we are not yet filled with all the fullness of God. We are not yet wise or strong or beyond being led astray. We need this reminder that not merely faith, but faith, hope and love are all needed in equal measure to live lives worthy of the gospel.
4. What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text? The call to obedience is more implied than commanded. Behind Paul's prayers is the call to obedience to bear fruit and live lives worthy of the Lord.
5. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? Paul's concerns would seem to suggest several possible couplets: ignorance/wisdom; weakness/strength; despair/hope.
6. Exegetical work: Ralph Martin, in his commentary, has an interesting discussion about verses 12-14. He makes the argument that verse 12 is the beginning of a new section which leads into the hymn which begins in verse 15. He notes that Ernst Kasemann, in his discussion, argues that "at verse 12 an early Christian baptismal liturgy opens, and we are invited to overhear some of the main sentiments of that service which celebrates the realities of Christian experience." (Interpretation series, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, p. 104). Apparently some translators agree with Kasemann: "And give thanks, with joy, to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for his people..." (Today's English Version) The opening verb of verse 12 is a participle, which opens up its translation to many possibilities, but Martin believes it should be translated as an imperative. I love the sermon preached by Leo the Great on this text: "'Snatched from the powers of darkness' at such a great 'price,' and by so great a 'mystery,' and loosed from the chains of the ancient captivity, make sure, dearly beloved, that the devil does not destroy the integrity of your souls with any strategem." (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, NT, IX, p. 9)
7. How does the Crossings Community model work with this text? The analysis by Robin Morgan does a nice job of highlighting what is really at risk in this text, namely faith. Paul's concern is that the faith of the Colossians will falter. Morgan's analysis focuses on this nicely. See the entire analysis, archived under the reference at crossings.org/text-study.
Blessings on your proclamation!
Saturday, July 20, 2019
(The following questions have been developed as a way of getting at one of the central concerns for Law and Gospel preachers, i.e. how does the Word function? These questions are not meant to be exhaustive, but to be used with other sets of questions which explore other issues. For more on Law and Gospel preaching, see my brief guide, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from wipfandstock.com or amazon.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? I hear this text as Gospel: God will answer prayer; God does answer prayer; God stands ready to answer prayer. Verse 9 is the heart of this passage where we are assured that asking, knocking, and seeking will result in good things, specifically the giving of the Holy Spirit. (vs. 13).
2. How is the Word not functioning in the text? I do not hear a great deal of Law in this text, reminding us of our need for a Savior. What seems to be underlying this passage, however, is the tendency we have to doubt God's care for us. Because our prayers seem at times to go unanswered we easily conclude that God has not heard, does not care, and is not responsive to our prayers. Perhaps this theme can be explored as a way of preaching the Law.
3. With whom are you identifying in the text? We are the disciples who, at the outset of this passage, ask Jesus to teach them to pray. I suspect that they are not merely asking for technical assistance, but for a heart for prayer, for faith. This is, indeed, a need we all have.
4. What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text? The call to be persistent in prayer is certainly part of our call to obedience, but there is reason to think that this is not the point of this passage. The word that has been translated "persistence" is widely thought to be an inaccurate translation. Given that, we might need to seek other ways in which God calls us to obedience.
5. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? The text centers around faith in God's willingness to answer prayer, therefore some couplets we might explore are: doubt/faith; despair/hope; lostness/being found.
6. Exegetical work: Kenneth Bailey makes a very strong argument regarding the initial phrase of the first parable: "Understanding the phrase "tis eks umon" in Luke 11:5 as expecting an emphatic negative answer is crucial to the interpretation of this parable. Jesus is asking, "Can you imagine going to a neighbor, asking for help to entertain a friend and getting this response?" The Oriental responsibility for his guest is legendary. The Oriental listener/reader cannot imagine silly excuses about a closed door and sleeping children when the adequate entertainment of a guest is the issue." (Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes, p. 121) This is a crucial point for us in the West to understand. We hear the neighbor's request and we might well think, "How rude. I wouldn't get out of bed for that guy either!" But the Oriental response is the opposite. What this makes clear is that Jesus' listeners would have assumed that the neighbor's request was granted, irregardless of the inconvenience. Bailey then goes on to show how this fits in with the translation of "anaideian" in verse 8, which is often translated "persistence." He says, "The key to this parable is the definition of the word "anaideian". This word took on the meaning of "persistence". It is here more appropriately translated "avoidance of shame," a positive quality. The literary structure of the entire parable makes clear that this quality is to be applied to the sleeper. Thus the parable tells of a sleeping neighbor who will indeed preserve his honor and grant the host's request and more. Even so, man before God has much more reason to rest assured that his requests will be granted." (Ibid., p. 133) Bailey's work is supported by other writers as well (Scott, Jeremias, etc.) and helps clear up the confusion with the second parable. Now both parables proclaim the same thing: Since even a sleepy neighbor knows the duties of hospitality, and the loving parent knows what a child needs, how much more will your heavenly Parent give to those who ask.
Blessings on your proclamation!
Thursday, July 11, 2019
(The following questions have been developed to get at some of the fundamental concerns of Law and Gospel preachers, around the function of the Word. They are not meant to be exhaustive. To learn more about Law and Gospel preaching, see my brief guide, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from wipfandstock.com or amazon.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? I hear this Word as a word of Gospel. The Lord is obviously concerned about Martha and her unending attempts to please him, and he says, in effect, "Stop being anxious. Only one thing is needed [and I have provided that in my person]."
2. How is the Word not functioning in the text? Even though many a Law-based sermon has been preached on this text, saying, "Repent of your busyness!" I don't believe it is warranted. I do not hear Jesus rebuking Martha, but rather showing her compassion. It is a little like his word to the crowds, "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."(Matt. 11) Or "Be not anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself." (Matt. 6)
3. With whom are you identifying in the text? Martha is the one being addressed by the Word (i.e. Jesus), thus we must identify with Martha. We, "good church folk" are often the ones scurrying around, in charge of everything from the patched together boiler to the cookie baking. We are the ones who need Jesus to free us from our anxious ways, to allow Him to take our burdens upon him.
4. What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text? The call to obedience is always the call to live in a certain way in response to God's work in Christ. Here, the call is to faith, not obedience. Jesus is saying, "Martha, Martha, trust that all that is needful has already been done."
5. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? Theologically, we could assign several couplets here: bondage [to fear/anxiety]/freedom [from fear/anxiety]; distracted and overburdened/freed for wholehearted service.
6. Exegetical work: Luther, in a sermon on this text, imagines that Jesus addresses Martha by reminding her of his preaching on the mountain: "Martha, you have many worries. I have preached the gospel before which says that one should not worry: one should work but not worry, and especially when the Word is brought forward, then one should neglect business... and only cling to the Word." ("On the Day of Mary's Ascension," Reformation Commentary on Scripture, NT, III, 229). Kittel has a brief article on merimnao, the word translated in verse 41 as "worried." This article is helpful, even though it does not address this text specifically, but refers to the Sermon on the Mount: "What makes a proper concern foolish is anxiety and the illusion to which it gives rise in its blindness, namely, that life itself can be secured by the means of life for which there is concern... Such anxiety is futile; for the future which they think they can provide for is not in their hands." (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, IV, p. 592).
7. How does the Crossings Community model work with this text? Steven Albertin has several entries for this text, but the one entitled "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" is the one that I believe gets at the heart of this text. Albertin points out that when anxiety overtakes us, it is because we think that "it's all on us." It's not, it's all on God. As a mentor of mine shared: "This is the 11th commandment: Thou shalt not take thyself so seriously." Go to crossings.org/text-study for this analysis and a number of fine other examples.
Blessings on your proclamation!
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
(The following questions have been developed to help preachers discover some of the fundamental concerns for Law and Gospel preachers; (i.e. how is the Word functioning?) These questions are not meant to be exhaustive, but may be used in conjunction with other fine sets of exegetical questions. For more on Law and Gospel preaching, see my brief guide, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from wipfandstock.com or amazon.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? The early optional verses are clearly a call to obedience. Here Paul is exhorting his listeners to "fulfill the law of Christ", which is the law of love. In the middle section, Paul introduces the Law: "whoever sows to their own flesh, will reap corruption from the flesh." This is a warning to all to continue living in the Spirit. In the final section, Paul returns to the theme which is the occasion for this letter - circumcision and uncircumcision. He writes once more about the futility of the old system, but then suddenly breaks into a word of Gospel: "a new creation is everything!" Here it is, the announcement that Christ crucified has made all things new; we are new, the community of believers is new, all things are new in Christ.
2. With whom are you identifying in the text? We are the Galatians. We are those who are tempted to believe that sowing in the flesh brings life and peace and joy. We are those who "think we are something" and thereby deceive ourselves. We are those who easily forget that "making a good show in the flesh" is futile. We are those who have been made new in Christ.
3. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? Paul's theological argument suggests several couplets: sowing in the flesh/sowing in the Spirit; old creation/new creation.
4. Exegetical work: In the final verse, Paul refers to "the rule" of the new creation. The Greek word is kanon, from which we get the word "canon". Kittel has a fine article on this term which is very helpful: "Here Paul sums up not merely the content of the epistle but the whole doctrine of true Christian behavior. Redemption through the crucifixion of Christ takes the one who accepts it out of the world by whose concepts and standards he [or she] has previously lived and sets him [or her] in a new creation or a new reality...For the Christian there is only one canon, namely, that these concepts of the old world have become meaningless and that he [or she] allows his [or her] whole life to be determined by the new reality of the freedom given in Christ." (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, III, p. 598). Luther also has much to say about this verse in his commentary: "To them which walk after this rule belongeth peace, that is the favour of God, forgiveness of sins, quietness of conscience, and mercy, that is to say, help in afflictions and pardon of the remnants of sin which remain in our flesh. Yea, although they which walk after this rule, be overtaken with any fault or fall, yet for that they are the children of grace and peace, mercy upholdeth them, so that their sin and fall shall not be laid to their charge." (A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, p. 565)
5. Consider the insights of the pioneers of the New Homiletic? When preaching on a non-narrative text like this, it is even more important than ever to remember the advice of David Buttrick who asked preachers to consider how many moves they were making in the sermon design. Too many moves leads to confusion and lack of focus, too few can produce sections which a listener has trouble attending to for length.
Blessings on your proclamation!
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
(The following questions are just a few of the questions a thoughtful scholar of scripture might ask. These were formulated to get at some of the fundamental concerns of Law and Gospel preachers regarding the function of the Word. For more on this unique genre of preaching, see my brief guide to Law and Gospel preaching, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from wipfandstock.com or amazon.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? This text looks in many ways like it is a call to obedience (i.e. Follow Jesus!) Specifically here, Jesus says, "Go, and do likewise. i.e. Be compassionate." But if we look at the economy or abundance of detail in the parable we see that there is little time spent here exhorting us to deeds of mercy. Indeed the main points of abundant detail are the extensive description of the beaten man's condition, and even more so, the extravagant description of the merciful deeds of the Samaritan. If this is a clue to the function of the text, then what we have here is a classic Law/Gospel text. We are the beaten one on the roadside, "half-dead" in sin, as St. Paul might have said, and God is the One who picks us up out of the ditch and gives us life. The text, seen this way, functions as a Gospel text, lifting up the extravagant mercy of God in Christ.
2. With whom are you identifying in the text? We have lots of choices in this text, but we must be wary of one character whom we are most easily drawn to - the hero of the story. The preacher's temptation to be the hero, or suggest to one's listeners that it is our job to be the hero is usually a bad idea. As above, we could do well to identify with the man beaten and left half dead. It would then be our task as preacher to help others identify with this beaten one. Or we could take up the identity of the priest or Levite - an unenviable role, to be sure, but that might be a good way to call attention to our love of piety over pity. Or we could identify with the expert in the law who started the whole discussion. Is he asking honestly or not? Luke says he is "testing" Jesus. We could ask our listeners to identify with him.
3. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? Lots of classic couplets come to mind with this text: dead/alive; lost/found; thrown aside/treasured; left for dead/given life.
4. Exegetical work: Mark Allan Powell's slender volume, What is Narrative Criticism? is an excellent resource for narrative texts like this. In the appendix to this work Powell gives a fine set of questions around events, characters, settings, and overall interpretation which help us see what is going on in a narrative text. The question "How is the event reported in terms of narrative time?" (Powell, p. 103) is the question which helped me see the Law/Gospel character of this story as outlined in question one above. Another resource which is better known, but also helpful in this story is The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. The entries regarding Priests and Levites are telling: "The Levitical priesthood... embodies the duty, as well as the honor and privileges of the whole nation as the covenant people of God." "The essential function of the Levitical priesthood is therefore to assure, maintain, and constantly re-establish the holiness of the elect people of God." (IDB, III, p. 876f) It is also in this resource that the entry regarding lawyers makes the point that in Luke's gospel, with one exception, the word for "expert in the law" always has a bad sense. In short, they are opponents of Jesus. (IDB, III, p. 102).
5. How does the Crossings Community model work with this text? There are a number of fine analyses on the crossings community website, but the most recent one, by Brad Haugen, picks up on the emphasis I use above. According to Haugen, we are the ones left half dead on the roadside, and it is only because God refuses to have enemies, that we are saved. Go to crossings.org/text-study for the entire analysis.
6. Consider the insights of the pioneers of the New Homiletic? Eugene Lowry insisted that one of the main jobs of the preacher was to move one's listeners from disequilibrium to equilibrium. How might we do that here? It might happen, simply by identifying with the man on the roadside.
Blessings on your proclamation!
Monday, July 8, 2019
(The following questions are not meant to be sufficient of themselves, but they are meant to be used in conjunction with other fine sets of questions which an exegete might use. These questions simply help unlock some of the fundamental concerns of Law and Gospel preachers. For more on this unique genre of preaching, see my brief guide to Law and Gospel preaching, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from wipfandstock.com or amazon.)
1. How does the Word function in the text? The first verse in chapter five sets the tone with its double imperative: "Stand firm...do not submit again to the yoke of slavery." This is clearly a call to obedience. Later, Paul lays it out: Verse 13b: "Through love become slaves of one another." Verse 16: "Live by the Spirit... do not gratify the desires of the flesh." Verse 25: "If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit." All of these verses are imperatives, calling the believer to live in response to the Gospel.
2. How is the Word not functioning in the text? Neither the Law (i.e. You need Christ!), nor the Gospel (i.e. Here is Christ!) get much of a hearing in this text. There is a stern warning in verse 21 that alerts us to the dangers of the works of the flesh: "those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Even here, however, we are not pointed to Christ. There is also a cursory mentioning of God's work in Christ in verse 24: "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." That we belong to Christ is certainly good news, but that also is only mentioned in a glancing manner. Perhaps the closest thing to a gospel verse is the first verse: "... Christ has set us free."
3. With whom are you identifying in the text? We are certainly among those whom Paul is addressing. We are the ones whom Christ has set free. We are those who are called to freedom. We are those who are exhorted to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh.
4. What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text? Even though this text is primarily a call to obedience, there are amidst it a number of helpful couplets: bound/set free; yoke of slavery/freed; subject to the Law/led by the Spirit; living in the flesh/living in the Spirit.
5. Exegetical work: Our old friend, Martin Luther, comes to our rescue in helping us notice one small thing upon which St. Paul's argument hinges. In his commentary on Galatians, Luther writes: "The Apostle saith not, the works of the Spirit, as he said the works of the flesh, but he adorneth these Christian virtues with a more honourable name, calling them the fruits of the Spirit. For they bring with them most excellent fruits and commodities: for they that have them give glory to God, and with the same do allure and provoke others to embrace the doctrine and faith of Christ. (A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, p. 523) Luther's lifting up of the terms "works" and "fruits" gives the preacher a place to stand in this text which seems bereft of gospel news. By using the term "fruits" for our virtues, Luther makes it clear that all our good works are a result of God's good work in us; they are not our works. Indeed, because they are fruits, the glory goes to the Vinedresser. Our "works", on the other hand, are our own, and as such must be repented of. The works of the flesh, in all of their hideousness, are ours alone.
6. How does the Crossings Community model work with this text? Lori Cornell uses a play on words to get at the heart of this text. A "free-for-all" she identifies as the license to self-indulgence that Paul warns against. But "free for all" is what Christ's gift is to the world. See her entire analysis by going to crossings.org/text-study, archived under the text.
Blessings on your proclamation!