This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 2, 2017.
Romans chapter 8 is the highpoint section in Paul’s most remarkable letter. Romans 8:6-11, along with the previous five verses (8:1-5) and subsequent six verses (8:12-17), conveys a series of dichotomies: flesh vs. the Spirit; death vs. life; the law of the Spirit of life vs. the law of sin and of death; death and resurrection; Spirit of God and children of God; spirit of slavery vs. Spirit of adoption. Verses 6-11 form a small part of a broader exposition Paul provides the contrast between flesh and Spirit. It is crucial for the preacher to understand Paul’s perception concerning these two forces and to avoid misrepresenting the metaphorical concepts he uses to convey his message.
Do we understand what Paul means by “flesh”? How should preachers interpret Paul today, particularly, in a world where we idolize attractive celebrities, vigorous athletes, carnal desires, while we are embarrassed by grotesqueness, physical atrophy, and the ailments of senility?
Is the Apostle’s understanding of “flesh” as trivial as that diffused by today’s secularized culture? Is Paul simply offering us the pitfalls of network television? Is he describing practical Christianity with the unreserved dismissal of the luxuries of a consumer-driven society? Perhaps this is what countless of faithful believers assume.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on September 25th, 2016.
At first glance, this scene in Jeremiah seems ridiculous. Jeremiah is buying plots in his hometown of Anathoth in the middle of a Babylonian siege that will ultimately lead to the exile of King Zedekiah and the Israelite people. Remember, Jeremiah is in prison and has been labeled a traitor to his people because he told everyone to lay down arms and surrender in the middle of the siege. According to the law of the land, traitorous behavior like this warrants a prison cell.
Looking deeper into the story, this ridiculous moment unfolds a larger vision for God’s people. Yes, they will be conquered and exiled, driven away from their geographical identity as the Israelite nation. The old covenant will no longer exist. However, Jeremiah is proclaiming a new covenant to come, a time when the Israelite nation will become stronger in their faith and identity as God’s people. They will soon worship God outside of their institutional walls for the temple will be destroyed, but they will learn to worship their God no matter where they are living. The reshaping of identity is beginning in the fiery blaze of the conquering Babylonian army. The end of one nation is leading to a new beginning of a new nation that will emerge from the fire.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on June 5, 2016.
Immediately following the healing of the Gentile centurion’s slave in Capernaum, Jesus is found in the village of Nain, just five miles from his hometown of Nazareth in Upper Galilee. This story takes Jesus’ healing ministry up a notch. Here he will heal a dead man, demonstrating that neither illness nor even death have power over his messianic ministry. The progression moves from teaching in the Sermon on the Plain to healing in Capernaum to resuscitation in Nain. And the latter anticipates Jesus’ own resurrection to come.
Nain is mentioned only here in the Bible. The widow is Jewish and the death of her only son indicates the end of the family line. This woman is now on her own. Her father and husband are gone, and now her son has died. This grief leaves her not only alone, but also vulnerable. She now will have no family to care for her and will have to depend upon the kindness of her neighbors, since such a woman would have lacked the capacity to provide for her own wellbeing.