Sabbatical

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I’ll be on a sabbatical week where I can do some reading, thinking and walking around looking at trees and rocks.  My reading list includes

  • the Bible – but not all of it.
  • The Lost World of Scripture by John Walton
  • Meditation and Communion with God by John Jefferson Davis
  • The Unfolding Mystery of the Divine Name, Michael Knowles
  • Bridging the Diversity Gap by Alvin Sanders

 

Parable of the Sower – a worksheet on Jesus’ Gospel

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To follow up the previous post, I have made a worksheet from Matthew on what the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom might mean.  It seems to me best to define the term from Matthew’s context first and then broaden the search.

 

What is the Message

 

Parable of the Sower – a Fresh Read

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I am trying to think about Matthew 13:1-23 with a fresh read perspective – that is to try to read it for what it syas, not for what people say it says.

So here are a few questions.

  • What exactly is the seed?
    •  Is what Jesus has been teaching and preaching?
    • Is it the “deposit” mentioned in the NT letters?
  • Can the seed/message be tweaked or changed for the soil/audience
    • That seems to happen in the sermons in Acts.
  • What exactly is the act of sowing?
  • Is there any strategy to sowing?
    • It looks to be non strategic in the parable – the farmer sows everywhere.
  • What exactly are the soils?
    • Kinds of people by sociological category?
    • or by Spiritual openness?
  • What is the secret?
  • Why don’t some see/hear/believe when others do?
  • Are there more actions than sowing and receiving?
  • Does the soil have a choice in its condition?

 

There seems to be a structure

A – Parable of Sower v. 1-9

B – Why Parables? v. 10

B’ – Why Parables. v. 11-17

A’ – Parable of Sower. v. 18-23

Preaching at what level?

scribe.2So the message last week was based on Matthew 12:15-21 – Servant King

Someone after the message, more or less implied that this kind of preaching is a bit over the heads of people.

Now I did adapt an academic paper on the use of Isaiah 42 in Matthew 12 for this message.

Yet, I adapted it to a more popular level.

It was not a story or testimony, but an exploration of the ministry of Jesus seen through this lens.

Is this too deep?  I don’t think so, but then each week I have already spent a week with the sermon.

How hard or easy should a sermon be?

Should it stretch our thinking?

Should add a few more polishing strokes to the smooth stones in our minds,

Or add a new rough piece that will need some time and thought to accommodate to our thinking?

Matthew 12, Isaiah 42 and a visit to the Library

scribe.2I chased down a footnote regarding the use of Isaiah 42:1-4 in Matthew 12.  It is the longest citation in Matthew, who is usually quite economical in his quotes.  So why quote the whole section from the first Servant Song in Isaiah?

The footnote sent me to find  Jerome H. Neyrey’s article in the journal Biblica, volume 63.  The author shows that the citation has a number of contacts with the entire chapter, and is not simply related to the fact that Jesus chose to withdraw from a center of controversy, as the conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities grew.  Another author, also found at the library search, suggests that Matthew 12:15-21 serves as an interlude that speaks broadly to the nature of Jesus ministry as Messiah.  The Messiah as Servant.  (Douglas R. A. Hare, Matthew, John Knox, 1993).

Here are Neyrey’s 8 points of contact, note I have recast this for non technical readers.

1,  Servant/son {Matthew’s quote uses “pais“} – followed immediately by the question of whether Jesus is the Son of David, or a servant of Beelzebul.

2.  My Spirit – followed by the extended discussion of a house divided – 12:25-28

3. Preaching to Nations, followed by examples of Jonah, Niniveh, Solomon, The Queen of the south(v. 39-42) and who is his kinsman (v. 46-50)

4. Not Quarreling – refusing to give a sign in 12:38-39

5.  Not Listening – 10:16-19, 12:38-42, 13:13-15

6.  Healing {bruised reed and smoldering wick} 12:9-13 {and chapters 8-9}

7.  Judgment/Justice {“krisis”}- followed by warnings of future judgment for Blasphemy against the Spirit (12:30-33), Good Words (12:33-37) and Sign seekers (v. 39-42)

8.  Name –  with numerous names for Jesus – 12:8{Son of Man}, 23{Son of David}, 31-32, 40 and throughout Matthew.

For my preaching purposes I have created a summary sentence.  Yep, it looks like a 6 point sermon this week.

Jesus is

God’s Chosen

Spirit filled

Messenger

Who is a Gentle

yet Firm

Hope for all people.

Jesus, Palm Sunday and Isaiah 42

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I am not to the events of Palm Sunday in Matthew, but we celebrate that day on the Church calendar.  It is fitting that the passage I landed upon is Matthew 12:15-21 which cites one of the Servant Songs found in Isaiah.

15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
    my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
    and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
    nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21     and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”  Matthew 12:18-21 ESV

At this point in his ministry, with many who follow and a rising force in opposition, he continued his works of compassion, but asked the people to keep it quiet.  And so the one who arrives in Jerusalem, the Messiah, arrives on a donkey, not a war-horse, and is cheered with palm branches and the cries of children.

Jesus as Servant King.

An Invitation in the Presence of my Enemies – Matthew 11:28-30

yoke (1)Matthew 11-13 chronicles the rising opposition to Jesus.  Again remember that Matthew gathers material thematically.  So it is interesting that in the midst of this we have this sequence in Matthew 11

  • A warning to those who do not repent because of the works of Christ – v. 20-24. this is the very shocking idea that it will go better for Sodom than for the towns near Nazareth.
  • A statement that the Lord hides things from the wise and reveals them to the child-like – v. 25-26
  • A Christocentric claim that all has been given to Christ, including knowledge of the Father. – v. 27
  • An invitation to the weary to take on Jesus’ yoke – v. 2-30

So we have a sort of Calvinist proof text in the verses on God hiding and revealing things – the wise (in their own eyes) can not see what is there because God hides it from them, and yet the childlike (willing to be taught? dependent?) have these things revealed.

This is followed by an open invitation to “all” who are weary and heavy laden, who are invited to “come” and “take my yoke”.  As is often the case the scriptures juxtapose Calvinist and Arminian verses right next to each other.  And most will chose the one they like and explain away or diminish the one they don’t.  Whereas the scriptures are happy to leave them side by side, seeing not a contradiction but some kind of harmony.

What is also of interest, is that the open invitation is “to all who are weary and burdened”.  This does not limit the invitation from Jesus’ enemies.

I have often wondered at the expression in Psalm 23 “You have prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies.”  Why are there enemies present?  Is the psalmist gloating?  Is the table and the cup that overflows some kind of invitation?  Some of the language of Psalm 23 suggests the desert wanderings of Israel after the Exodus.

In Matthew, one of the most open and inviting passages is placed right in the center of the time where Jesus is being opposed and eventually rejected.  In the middle of this life and death conflict, the invitation remained open “to all who are weary and heavy laden.”  Opposition to Jesus leads to something that is worse than Sodom at the last judgment.  Yet acceptance of Jesus yields a well fit yoke that is not burdensome, but rather a yoke that gives rest.

 

 

Milestones – 20 and 8

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We arrived on Good Friday, April 1, 1994 to take up the position of Pastor at Bethany Evangelical Free Church. Today marks 20 years in the same place.

Observations:

  • the 20 years have been different – no two repeated.
  • We talked about looking more like the neighborhood, so we are now multicultural (with four language groups partnering at this location) but we have not really see that many from the Isthmus community make a connection here.
  • I once said that I thought the church could grow in this location to about 200.  That is roughly the number of active participants of the three congregations here now (Bethany English and Lao Fellowship, Nueva Vida and Greater Madison Chinese EFC)
  • There have been major trends passing by in the ministry world:  “seeker driven” was in its heyday, now “missional” is.  We are a bit ahead of the curve with ‘chaos theory ministry.”
  • Oh yes, the internet was kind of showing up to the non-geek crowd – I remember the hubbub over Windows 95.
  • I take a much more literary approach to Biblical study than I did – and will not be going back.

About 8 years ago I started this blog.  The name came to me in the shower.  I hoped to keep the Jesus Junk and in-house churchy talk to a minimum and provide a place where people who are curious about the bible will want to explore.  It has turned out to also keep on conversations with folks I have known over the years.  Many of my posts are test runs for sermon or class ideas.

  • The NIV changed to the New NIV. I use it but I don’t like it much.
  • The ESV is a nice study text, but I am not in love with it either.
  • The ESV Literary Bible is great, except for sepia toned small print – what were they thinking?
  • Something like 55,000 people have visited the site, but more see it through Facebook.  That is about 10 times the size of the town I grew up in.  But maybe Port Orchard made multiple visits.
  • Adding pictures doubles the readership of a blog
  • The most read post is still “A visit to the ant hill” based on Proverbs 6:6.

As far as I know I will continue with Bethany and Fresh Read…but that is up to the Boss.