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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hosea 3:1-5; Psalm 101; Acts 21:15-26; Luke 5:27-39

Hosea is now commanded to “Go, love a woman who has a lover and is an adulteress,” in the same way that God still loves Israel, who has other lovers and pursues their delicacies. So, Hosea tells us the bridal purchase price and the nature of the marriage covenant. She must remain alone, in seclusion, and not play the whore. It is not only a metaphor for violation of the first commandment, but goes on to foretell a period of aloneness (exile). She is not to have sex with any man, not even he will come to her. For like her, the Israelites will remain many days without a king or prince, without sacrifice or the other implements of worship. Only after this will they come to appropriately respect the Lord for his goodness and return. Then the Lord will be their God, and restore the Davidic kingdom, which, of course, was the high-water mark of Israel’s political life in the land. The phrase “goodness in the latter days,” is not a reference to the end of time, though often it has been interpreted so, but rather, is simply an acknowledgement that this will be sometime in coming, but, indeed, will come to be.

Psalm 101 can be read either as a royal psalm, in which the King is making an oath concerning his office and promising to root out the evil and perverse from the community, or it may be read as a wisdom psalm that is a model for instructing the young, warning against attachments to the wrong things—“setting the eye on anything base”—slandering neighbors and abandoning one’s own integrity for the easier way. God looks with favor on the faithful. Those who walk in God’s way not only keep the law, but actually “minister” to the Lord. The language is harsh for effect, and not meant to be taken literally. “Morning by morning” is not a daily call to destroy all the wicked in the land. Soon the land would be desolate! Rather, it is an expression of the need for daily vigilance against the wicked.

The “we section” continues, describing how Paul and his companions got ready to go to Jerusalem, and how they were accompanied from Caesarea to Jerusalem by some of the believers, bringing Paul to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, one of the earliest disciples to become a believer during Paul’s first missionary journey. It is with Mnason that they stay. It is interesting that the Spirit again and again warns Paul against going to Jerusalem, and yet he insists upon going. One wonders how Paul’s ministry might have been changed, extended and borne even more fruit had he listened; a warning about learning to distinguish between faithful obedience and a piety borne of pride or determination. Arriving in Jerusalem brings to an end Paul’s third missionary journey. The next day, Paul goes to see James and all the elders and is warmly received. Paul relates to them the things God had done among the Gentiles through his three missionary journeys. James and the elders respond in praise and thanksgiving but then warn Paul about their dilemma. There are many thousands of Jews in and about Jerusalem who have become believers but who still remain zealous for the Law of Moses. They have heard about Paul and his work and how he has told not only the Gentile but also the Jewish converts living among them not to circumcise theirs sons or be constrained by the law and these men, in and about Jerusalem, are Paul’s enemy. What is to be done? Surely they will hear that Paul has come. The elders suggest that Paul accompany four men among them who have taken a Nazirite vow and are about to complete it. They suggest that Paul go with them, pay for the shaving of their heads (cutting the hair being the visual symbol of ending the vow), and go through the rite of purification with them. Thereby, his critics will know that their accusations about Paul are wrong as far as Jews are concerned. They reiterate what was said in the letter the elders sent throughout the region after their first meeting with Paul on this subject, telling the Gentiles the only constraints of the Law that they must observe is to abstain from what had been sacrificed to idols, from what had been strangled and from fornication. The next day, Paul accompanies the four men, and after having purified himself, goes to the temple with them for the offering of the final sacrifice that ends the vows, making public his own honoring of the Law. For the moment, it seems to calm the situation, but soon things will change.

As Jesus moves on he comes to Levi, a tax collector, and says, “Follow me.” Immediately, Levi leaves his post and money behind and follows Jesus. Later that day, Levi hosts a large banquet for Jesus, to introduce him to his friends, many of whom are tax collectors. When the Pharisees and their scribes see it, they are critical of Jesus: “Why is it you eat and drink with tax collectors and other sinners?” Jesus tells them that those who are well do not need a physician. He has come, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Not persuaded, the Pharisees continue their complaint: John’s disciples fast and offer prayers, he and his followers eat and drink, how does he explain this? It is quite simple, says Jesus, you cannot constrain members of the wedding party when the groom is among them. The days are coming when the groom will be taken away from them; then they will fast and pray. He then tells them a parable—the first time he uses that term in this gospel. No one sews a new piece of cloth on an old one as a patch, for not only does it not match, but when it is washed, the new will shrink and tear away from and further damage the old garment. No one puts new wine into old wine skins, for when the wine ages and ferments, it will burst the old wine skins. This latter portion of parables is frequently interpreted to mean that Jesus is the new thing. However, including the last verse, “no one who drinks old wine desires the new,” challenges those interpretations of this text. The “new” here is what the Pharisees have been adding to the Law of Moses (the old), which is sufficient unto itself, and which Jesus will later say has foretold his coming. It is the Pharisees and their scribes that have been tearing the fabric of faith with their new patches added onto the Law as they try to pour new wine into old wineskins, doing damage to God’s people. Jesus may seem to them to be something new, but he is really God’s ancient plan at work among them—the old wine, which, once it has truly been tasted, is good and not only sufficient, but far better than the new.

Posted October 1, 2014
Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hosea 2:16-23; Psalm 95; Acts 21:1-14; Luke 5:12-26

After saying that God will allure Israel into the wilderness, the oracle further describes an ideal time of restoration. Having shamed his people before their false lovers (the Baal), God will restore Israel as his wife. The Valley of Achor—once a sign of God’s judgment (Joshua 7)—will become a door of hope: God will again give her vineyards, grain and oil and she will call God “my husband, and no longer my Baal, “my master.” (The phrase in Hebrew has a wonderful double entendre for the word Baal, which refers to the Canaanite gods that Israel was also worshipping, whereas the Hebrew word “baali” means “my master.”) Then God will make a covenant with the wild animals, the birds and all that creeps on the ground, and will abolish the bow and the sword so that they may all lie down in safety. God’s covenant will bring peace in all regards. God will take Israel as his wife forever in righteousness, justice, steadfast love and mercy—the four dominant qualities that best describe God’s character—and she shall “know” the Lord. Again, the use of the word “to know,” with its sexual double entendre is vivid and intentional and highly ironic. It is a judgment on Baal worship, in which sexual intercourse was central, but from it comes no knowledge of the Lord. The oracle ends reversing the initial judgment: on that day they will call and God will answer, God will have pity on those formerly named “no pity” and they shall again be the Lord’s people and he will be their God.

Psalm 95 begins calling the congregation to worship, singing for joy to the Lord, who is the rock of our salvation, calling worshippers to come before him with joyful psalms (rather than bulls, goats or other sacrificial animals). This may indicate that the psalm was not composed until after the loss of the temple in 587 BCE and the Babylonian exile, when the rabbis began to define prayer and praise as another form of sacrifice to the Lord. The Lord is described as “a great God, and a great King above all gods,” indicating that, though Israel might now be monotheistic in its worship, it still considered there to be other gods over which the Lord is sovereign, rather than the Lord being the only god. Rather, he is the God of gods. Consequently, the Lord’s sovereignty over all creation is described in traditional ways: depths of the earth, heights of the mountains, seas, dry land and so on. Though God is Sovereign over all, God is also Maker and shepherd of the people, who are here called to “bow down” before and listen to, rather than test their maker. Then the Lord speaks, warning, “do not harden your hearts, as the people did at Meribah and Massah, moments in the exodus wilderness wandering (Ex. 17:1-7), that led to God’s judgment, that they would not enter God’s rest. It is a reference to their forty years of wandering and God’s loathing of them, and the consequent loss of the rest that could have come to them by entering the land of promise, as well as to the sabbath rest that is emblematic of sharing in God’s abiding presence.

Leaving the elders of Ephesus behind at Miletus, the text re-enters the “we narrative”, providing the travel Itinerary as Paul and his companions sail south to Cos, then southeast to Rhodes and on eastward to Patara. There they find a ship headed to Phoenicia, sailing south of Cyprus and finally landing at Tyre, an important port on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. There, while the ship unloads its cargo, they look up disciples and stay with them for seven days. During that time, through the Spirit, the disciples tell Paul not to go to Jerusalem, but Paul will not listen. When the time is ready for them to depart, the people accompany Paul to the ship, and after praying together on the beach, Paul and his travel companion(s) again board the ship and embark to Ptolemais. There, they are greeted by believers and stay with them one day, and from there sail on to Caesarea (travelling by ship along the coast was far easier and faster than traveling on land). At Caesarea they go to the house of Phillip the evangelist and also one of the deacons appointed in Acts 6.5. Philip has four unmarried daughters, each of whom has the gift of prophecy. And while there for several days, another prophet named Agabus comes from Judah, and taking Paul’s belt, Agabus binds his own hands and feet with it and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and will hand him to the Gentiles.’” Hearing this, everyone urges Paul not to go on to Jerusalem, but Paul insists it is his duty to go, not only to be bound in Jerusalem for the sake of the Lord Jesus, but also to die for him if necessary. Recognizing that nothing can persuade Paul otherwise, the believers with Phillip fall silent except to say, “The Lord’s will be done.”

Luke tells us of Jesus being approached by a leper who falls at Jesus’ feet and says, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretches forth his hand and touches the man, saying he chooses to do so, and instantly the leper is healed. Notice that in each of these forms of physical healing, Jesus is rendering himself ritually unclean by touching someone who is unclean. Clearly, that no longer matters to him—those barriers need to come down. But, he does tell the man to go and show himself to the priest, to verify the healing and be permitted back into the community, as well as to make the offering for his healing, prescribed by the Law of Moses. Consequently, word about Jesus began to spread even faster and wider, so that crowds were coming from everywhere both to hear him teach and to be cured. In the midst of these demands, Jesus regularly slips away from the crowds to pray. The next incident occurs while Jesus is in a house, teaching, and the Pharisees and teachers of the law are sitting nearby. We are told they have come from Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem—the whole region—and are here to verify for themselves what they have heard. Luke tells us the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal. Some men arrive carrying a paralyzed man on a pallet, trying to bring him to Jesus, but because the crowd is such around the house where Jesus is teaching, they cannot get near. Consequently, they carry the paralyzed man up to the roof of the house, remove the floor/roof tiles to open it, and then let the man down in front of Jesus surrounded by the crowd. Seeing the faith of these men, Jesus says to the paralytic, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The scribes and Pharisees hear this and immediately react: “Who is this speaking such blasphemies, since only God alone can forgive sin?” Luke tells us Jesus perceives their questions and answers with one of his own: “Which is it easier to say, ‘your sins are forgiven you’, or to say, ‘stand up and walk?’” And then, confronting the religious authorities with an act that will be both an answer to their question and a revelation that he is the Son of Man—the first time the phrase has appeared on Jesus’ lips in this gospel—he turns to the paralyzed man and says, “Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” Immediately, the man does just that, giving glory to God as he does. The crowd is amazed, and glorifies God along with the man, saying “We have seen strange things today.” They will see even “stranger things” as the days unfold. Notice that the Pharisees are silent.

Posted September 30, 2014
Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hosea 2:2-15; Psalm 89:1-18; Acts 20:17-38; Luke 5:1-11

Hosea begins by pleading with the children calling them Ammi (“my people”) and Ruhamah (“mercy”) signaling an openness to reconciliation, not only for himself with his wife and children, but more importantly still, God’s openness to reconciliation with his “bride” Israel. Hosea calls on the children to plead with their mother—notice, he will not claim her as his wife, for he is not her husband. He then levels his charges of adultery against her, embracing other lovers. This is clearly an allegory in which Gomer, Hosea’s wife, represents the adulterous people of Israel. “Adultery” in the mouth of a prophet is usually a way of saying that the people have chased after other gods (lovers) and looked to them as husband to provide for them. At issue is not only the alliance with Assyria, but also the cult of Baal, the fertility cult that was the chief competitor for the people’s religious affections. For some, it was a total commitment to the Baal cult, for most, I suspect, it was simply hedging their bets, for the cult proclaimed that it was Lord Baal that made the crops to grow, that gave them abundant harvest, bread, wool, flax and oil. Therefore, we read the references to this as Hosea vows, on God’s behalf, to strip Gomer (the people) of her husbands, to cause them to run after other loves and not find them, to take away what God alone has given them: grain, wine, wool and flax, and uncover her nakedness and shame. God will severely punish her on the festival days of Baal as she offers incense. But the oracle of judgment ends in a word of hope: the Lord will “allure her” and bring her into the wilderness once again and speak tenderly to her. It is an allusion to the wilderness wanderings of the people during the exodus when the Lord bound the children of Israel to himself.

Psalm 89:1-18 celebrates not only God’s sovereignty over all, it remembers God’s covenant with David and prays that God will continue to preserve and protect David and his reign forever and re-establish David’s royal line. In all probability, this psalm was written while Israel was in exile in Babylon (587-538 BCE). It is filled with longing for the restoration of Israel’s sovereignty and return to its land. The first eighteen verses begin with words of praise for God’s faithfulness and steadfast love. It then remembers the covenant God made with David, focusing on the Lord as the One who created all that is, and who is still sovereign over all. The clear implication is that God, who is a mighty warrior, and whose reign is based on righteousness and justice, must now act to keep his word. “Rahab” in verse 10 is not a reference to the prostitute in Jericho, but rather to the sea dragon who was the Canaanite God of chaos. The Lord is sovereign over chaos as well as all creation, even sovereign over Babylon who has them in subjection. Happy are those who know (and remember) the “festal shout” that accompanied worship in the temple, now gone. Still, they exalt in God’s name, for the Lord is the glory of their strength. It is the Lord who gives them strength (horn). He is their shield and king—the Holy One of Israel.

Though Paul has decided to sail past Ephesus in order to not be delayed there, from Miletus, about 30 miles north of Ephesus, he sends word to the elders in Ephesus to come and meet him. When they do, Paul recounts for them his ministry. It is the third time this has happened in Acts and it interrupts the “We” sections of the book. It is also the only long speech of Paul’s that is addressed to believers; the first two were to unbelievers. He remembers his past work, from the first day he set foot in Asia and the trials he endured because of the plots of “the Jews,”—some believers and some not. Yet, he did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming and teaching both publically and from house to house, about repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus. He then tells them he is captive to the Spirit as he makes his way to Jerusalem. He does not know what is in store for him except that the Spirit testifies to him, everywhere, that it will involve imprisonment and persecution. Nonetheless, Paul must go. He does not count his own life of value, but only the fact that he must finish the course and ministry he has received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace. That said, he tells them that none of them will ever see his face again. Consequently, he invokes the formal vow of separation, placing responsibility into their own hands: “I am not responsible for the blood of any of you.” We heard it in Corinth as well (18:6), for he has declared to them the full purpose of God. Now, they are fully accountable for themselves as well as those they oversee. Paul charges them to care for the flock the Holy Spirit has given them. He uses several formal terms that will later become formal offices of ministry; episkopos which, though our translations renders it “overseer,” is more commonly translated “bishop.” They are to shepherd (“pastor”) the church of God obtained by the blood of God’s own son. He then warns of those who will come after him after he is gone, calling them “savage wolves.” Even some from their own group will turn and begin to distort the truth in order to get people to follow them. They are to be alert, remembering that for three years Paul did not cease warning everyone, night and day, and with many tears. And so, he now commends them to God and to the message of God’s grace that can build them up and give them an inheritance among all who are saints. After reminding them that he has coveted no one’s silver or gold, and neither should they, he direct them to care for the poor remembering that Jesus said it was more blessed to give than to receive. With that, they all kneel and pray. There is much weeping among them. They embrace and kiss Paul, painfully aware that he has said that they will never see him again. And then they bring him to the ship.

The crowd has followed and detained Jesus to hear more of his teaching. Standing by the lakeside (Gennesaret is another name for the Sea of Galilee), Jesus sees two boats on the shore as their owners wash out their nets. Jesus gets into the boat that belongs to Simon and asks him to put out into the lake a bit, so that Jesus can be free from the crowd and teach (remember how sound carries over water). When Jesus is done teaching, he tells Peter to put out into the deep water and let down his nets for a catch. Notice Peter’s address: “Master, we have worked all night and caught nothing. Yet, if you say so, I will let down the nets.” He does, and the catch is such that the nets begin to break. As he attempts to pull the catch aboard, the boat beings to sink. Simon signals his partners who come to the rescue with their own boats, taking on board part of the catch. But Simon falls at Jesus’ knees and says, “Get away from me; depart, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Luke tells us that he and everyone with him were amazed by the size of the catch, including Simon’s partners James and John, the two sons of Zebedee. Luke has probably tried to say too much in that sentence and obscured, not only the profound impact all of this has had on Peter and his associates, but more, that it is precisely people like Peter—those who know their own culpability and failings—that Jesus is calling to himself to help with his work. “Do not be afraid,”—there it is again; how often those words appear in the Bible when God appears and is doing unexpected and marvelous things. From now on Peter is going to be catching people. Luke tells us that when they got to shore, they simply left the boats and their catch—everything!—and followed Jesus. He has called, and Simon Peter, James and John have become his first disciples.

Posted September 29, 2014
Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hosea 1:1—2:1; Psalms 66; James 3:1-13; Matthew 13:44-52

We begin a continuous reading of the Book of Hosea, the first of the so-called “Minor Prophets”—“minor,” because of the length of their books, not the importance of what they say. The prophecy is written in the mid-8th century BCE and concerns the northern kingdom (Israel). Its king, Jeroboam (r. 786-746 BCE), has continued the alliance with Assyria formed by his great-grandfather, King Jehu (r. 842-815 BCE). Hosea uses events in his personal life as symbols of what is going on between Israel and the Lord. The historical markers of Judean kings at the opening of the book lead scholars to think that Hosea may have been writing from the safety of the southern kingdom—Judah. God commands Hosea to take a wife of harlotry—probably a Canaanite cultic prostitute who engaged in sexual acts as part of the ritual of Canaanite worship—and have children with this harlot, because the land of Israel is committing harlotry in is alliance with Assyria. Further, he is to name each of the children born to her with symbolic names. (Born of her harlotry may mean that they are not Hosea’s own, though as her husband he is responsible for them). The first son is to be named Jezreel, after the historic place of God’s judgment upon the nation (2 Kings 9 & 10). Thus, more judgment is coming. His daughter is named Lo Ruhamah, “no mercy;” as there will be none in the coming judgment, and a third child, a son, Lo Ammi, “not my people,” for they no longer are. Alternatively, in the middle of this first prophecy of judgment against Israel, the Lord announces “I will have pity on the house of Judah (the southern kingdom), and I will save them...; not by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses or by horsemen.” This word in Judah’s favor is actually further judgment on King Jeroboam’s reliance on human power and foreign political alliance rather than God’s sovereign care. Yet, at the end of this first oracle come words of ultimate restoration of some of the people of Israel. A remnant “like the sand of the sea that cannot be measured or numbered,” will remain, and in that place where it has been said, “You are not my people,” it will then be said to them, “Children of the living God.” Then the people of Israel and Judah shall be joined together—the kingdom restored and united—and they shall appoint for themselves one head over them, as was the case prior to the revolt of the northern tribes after the death of Solomon (2 Samuel and 1 Kings1-12).

Psalm 66 calls upon the entire earth to make a joyful noise and sing to the glory of God’s name, telling God how awesome he is. The whole earth is called to worship God. Then all are invited to “come and see what God has done among mortals.” The psalm then remembers God’s acts of redemption out of Egypt and deliverance at the Red Sea. God has kept us among the living and does not allow our feet to slip. But, God also tests. And so, the people have known the burdens that come with subjugation by other peoples. But, in the end, God “brought us out into a broad and spacious place.” The psalmist now vows to enter the temple with burnt offerings to fulfill the promise that his lips have made, making an offering of bulls and goats. Finally, the psalmist calls on all who fear God to listen as he tells them what God has done for him. He cried aloud and extolled God and God listened because the psalmist was innocent. Had he cherished iniquity in his heart, God would not have heard his voice. But truly, God has listened. Blessed be God, who has neither rejected his prayer nor removed his steadfast love.

James issues a warning to teachers that they are being held to a higher standard than all else in the faith community. Therefore, they need to exercise care to assure their teaching is correct. He then turns to the subject of the power of the human tongue and its capacity for harm. Like the small rudder on a ship, it can guide large ships to great or disastrous things; like a forest fire, the tongue can rage and consume. Everything else in God’s creation has been tamed, but who can tame the tongue? With it, we both bless the God who made us and curse those whom God has made. This ought not to be. Do fountains spring forth both good and brackish water, or fig trees produce olives, or salt water make fresh? No! If you are wise, take heed and let your good deeds reveal your own integrity.

Jesus uses a series of illustrations to talk about the kingdom of God and its value. It is like a treasure hidden in a field. When someone becomes aware that the treasure is in the field, they rush to sell all that they have so they can purchase the field and enjoy its prize. It is like a pearl merchant looking for the very best; when he comes upon it, he sells all that he has in order that he can purchase the pearl. It is like a dragnet cast into the sea that gathers up everything, good and bad sea creatures alike. Then the fishermen bring the net to shore and sort through it, placing the good fish in a basket and throwing the bad away. Thus, at the end of the age, the angels will come and sort through the righteous and glean the wicked and toss them into the fire—a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus asks if they understand, and they say “Yes.” Therefore, he tells them that every scribe who is trained for this kingdom is like a householder who brings out his treasures, both old and new. There is continuity in this reign of God. Jesus’ disciples must understand that and, in doing so, are to measure all by the unsurpassed value of the new being revealed in Jesus.

Posted September 28, 2014
Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Esther 9:1-32; Psalm 87; Acts 20:1-16; Luke 4:38-44

The story of Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai come to an end. This and the next chapter of Esther appear to be a later addition, a summary explaining the holiday of Purim. But over the years the two chapters have become a part of the initial story. The first nineteen verses of chapter 9 chronicle a series of reversals: Mordecai is now in full power, having displaced the evil Haman, and all of Haman’s future is destroyed with the hanging of his sons on the same gallows. The fear of Mordecai has fallen on the Gentiles of the land, especially those in governmental offices, all of whom come out in support of the Jews against their oppressors. The Jews “struck down all their enemies with the sword, slaughtering and destroying them, and did as they pleased to those who hated them.” Remember, this is a novel, with a Jewish “happy ever after ending.” The numbers are large and symbolic in nature. Verses 17-19 speak of the origins of the festival of Purim, a secular holiday that not only celebrates the end of the fighting, but, ever after, commemorates the Jews’ liberations from their oppressors. As I said at the beginning: the word “God” never appears in this story. Rather, there seems to be an assumption that Providence is at work to preserve them through the wisdom of Mordecai and the courage and fidelity of Esther, and a means of encouraging similar wisdom, courage and fidelity among the people.

Psalm 87 praises the glories of Mt. Zion (Jerusalem and its temple). It is the inspiration for the hymn, “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken, Zion City of Our God.” It mentions other important places, Babylon, Rehab (Egypt), Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia, either as a means of identifying Jews who live there, or more probably, that even these nations have among them “children of Zion” who have helped establish those kingdoms and who recognize Zion as the city of God, and who are of special stature because Zion is the place of their birth. Of Zion, let it be said, “This one and that one were born in it, for the Most High himself will establish it. The notion is that the Lord himself records the names of those born there—blessed are they.

With the uproar put away in Ephesus, Paul gathers the disciples, encourages them, says “Farewell,” and then sets out for Macedonia, greeting and exhorting all the churches there as he moves on to Corinth, staying there for three months. But again, there is a plot set against Paul by the Jews in that city, which is discovered as Paul is preparing to sail to Syria. So, rather than sail from Corinth home, he returns on foot, retracing his steps back through Athens to Beroea, to Thessalonica to Philippi and on, and, from Philippi, sails to the western coast of Asia to the city of Troas. The text gives us a list of Paul’s traveling companions from the various cities in which he had established churches from Corinth, well into Galatia. These named traveling companions had gone ahead of Paul to wait for him in Troas. The text then falls back into the “we” narrative, explaining that Paul and his immediate companion(s) sailed from Philippi to Troas after the Passover, joining the others and staying there seven days. On that Sunday in Troas, all gather in an upstairs room of a house for worship. Paul intends to leave the next day, and so speaks long into the night. As he goes on and on, a young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, is either overcome by the fumes from the many burning lamps, or simply falls asleep as Paul drones on. Either way, the boy slips through the window and falls to the ground three floors below, now dead. Paul, realizing what has happened, rushes down to the boy, bends over him, takes him in his arms and says, “Do not be alarmed, his life is in him.” The narrative is clear; Paul has brought him back to life. But, why Luke, who has described the wonders God has done through Paul, this being the greatest—raising the boy from the dead—leaves it unstated as such, is something of a mystery. Perhaps it is because raising someone from the dead, in Luke’s mind, is a miracle reserved for Jesus alone. The disciples return upstairs (without the boy, who has been taken to his home), and they continue their worship, celebrating the Lord’s Supper (“breaking of bread’) and Paul talks on through the night until daybreak. At dawn, they go to the ship that is setting sail for Assos, which Paul had earlier made arrangements for them to take, but now has made plan to go to Assos on foot. In Assos, Paul rejoins them, and together they sail on to Mitylene. Their travel itinerary is detailed as the party of evangelists makes its way south to Miletus, a port on the mouth of the Meander River, about 30 miles from Ephesus. Though we might expect Paul to go to Ephesus, given his last experience there, he decides to sail past it in order to not have to spend more time in Asia. Paul wants to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost.

After teaching and the exorcism in the synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus crosses the street to Peter’s home and there find’s Peter’s mother-in-law ill and in bed with a fever. Jesus rebukes the fever and it leaves her and she gets up from her sick bed and begins waiting on them. Knowing he has gone there, many bring their sick to Jesus for healing, and he lays hands on them and makes them well. In exorcizing demons, many of them cry out in recognition, “You are the son of God.” Jesus silences them, for they recognize him as the Christ. After a long night of healing and exorcism, Jesus leaves the house for a lonely place, there to renew himself, but the crowd follows not wanting him to let him go away. He tells them he must leave, for he must preach the kingdom of God to other cities; it is for this that he has been sent. Luke tells us Jesus moved on south, preaching in the synagogues of Judea (the southern part of the country—Capernaum is located in the north, on the Sea of Galilee).

Posted September 27, 2014
The Rev. Dr.       Fred R. Anderson

Author: The Rev. Dr.       Fred R. Anderson
Created: June 21, 2012

The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson, Pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, offers thoughts on today’s lectionary readings.

© 2014