This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on October 15, 2017.
In church life, we often shy away from naming names. Our general practice is to discuss church problems in vague sometimes passive-aggressive terms and hope that the offending parties recognize themselves in the critique. However, there are times when we must name names for the good of the church body, to motivate change and promote unity and peace. In the lectionary passage for this week, Paul decides it is time to name names.
Paul very rarely mentions individuals in his letters unless he is using them as examples and/or including them in his travel plans (as we see in the case of Timothy and Epaphroditus in this letter). Yet here, in 4:2-3, Paul directly addresses the situation of two women, Euodia and Syntyche with an exhortative plea. We can conclude several things from this rarity: first, the problem that Paul refers to must have the potential to affect the entire church at Philippi; second, the problem will soon become destructive for the church, probably because it undermines what he has focused on in this letter—unity in the body; and third, the women he mentions must be important in the Philippian community of believers.
Considering these conclusions, the most likely background to this passage is that Euodia and Syntyche are leaders in the church having a quarrel that is threatening the peace and unity of the entire church at Philippi. Internal and external details support this view. Internal to the letter is the detail that Paul has already singled out the leaders of the church; the beginning of Philippians includes the unique address in 1:1, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and the deacons…” (emphasis mine). In no other Pauline epistle do we see this type of address and it likely points to the fact that Paul wants the leaders in the church to take special notice of his message because he will address them later. He also describes Euodia and Syntyche as his co-workers, who struggled beside him in the work of the Gospel (4:3).
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on June 11, 2017.
The benediction in 2 Corinthians comes after Paul’s passionate defense of his ministry in chapters 10-13. Though he had visited the church in Corinth numerous times, in his absence super-apostles moved in claiming Paul’s teachings were inferior to their own. The work of this rival group had proven divisive in the church. The congregation was fractioned and fractured. Thus, Paul was considering a return visit in light of a likely schism in the church.
Congregational conflict is not new to churches in the twenty-first century. The first-century church knew all about it. There was sexual immorality, idolatry, cliques, false teachers, and disunity in the Corinthian church. It was a mess. And God met the congregation in their mess. Likewise, struggles in ministry aren’t new either. Paul loved the church in Corinth so much that their unhealth caused him physical grief. “For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.” (2 Corinthians 2:4) Pastor, has your love for your congregation ever brought you to literal tears? Have you ever gone to great lengths to help your congregation grasp God’s dreams for them, only to be met with blank stares and indifference- or worse, criticism and rejection? You are walking in Paul’s shoes. Ministry can be a real struggle. And God meets pastors in their struggle.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 9, 2017.
My youngest daughter has me on a very high pedestal. Her trust in me is limitless. When something breaks, her response is, “Daddy can fix it.” When a comparison is drawn among her little friends, I am always the victor. When in fear she thinks, “Daddy will save me.”
The “servant of Yahweh” plays a central role in second Isaiah. It’s exegetically correct to note that nothing significant distinguishes who this servant is. However, Christians typically hold that this is a foretelling of Jesus. Jewish tradition holds that the servant is actually the community of Israel. In either case, the fact holds that the servant is faithful to Yahweh, in the midst of mistreatment.
This is one section of a more complete picture that second Isaiah is trying to paint of a singular “servant of Israel.” The entire narrative captured in Isaiah 49:1-50:11. The breakdown of the passage is as following:
The servant introduced 49:1-7
Reaffirmation of return and restoration 49:8-13
Israel’s statements of reluctance 49:14,24
Yahweh’s answers to their reluctance 49:15-23,25-26
Yahweh’s statements about exile 50:1-3
The obedient servant 50:4-9
Reprobation if they follow their own light 50:10-11
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.