Monday, October 17, 2022

Luke 18.9-14 Translations and notes (Judge and Widow: Lectionary 30, 20th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C)

The Revised Common Lectionary gospel text for Lectionary 30 (on 23 October 2022) is Luke 18.9-14, the parable told be Jesus commonly known as "The Pharisee and the Tax Collector." There are some interesting word choices that need to be made (just- or right- cognates? exalt / lift up / promote <> humble / bring down?), so you may want to check my translation and notes. 

We have had all these parables lately in the lectionary, and one resource I recommend is Robert Farrar Capon's Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus. (Affiliate link) I really think he has the right idea about how the parables work. You may not always agree with him, but he's always provocative in a way that I have found him to be a good conversation partner with this parables. For this Pharisee and tax collector parable, check out this short reflection. (It's from a 1983 interview on the Chicago Sunday Evening Club and 30 Good Minutes. The original transcript is no longer on the web, but the link is to where someone preserved it.) He gets right to the heart of why it should not be easy to preach this parable. Are you just hoping for the tax collector coming back and being able to humble-brag pray like the Pharisee? "The answer is we fear salvation that is so cheap that it saves everyone in his or her death." And to see just how hard it is for people to hear this, check out the interview that followed Capon's presentation HERE. The interviewer just can't get his head around it despite Capon's insistence the parable is about death and resurrection, not about being a better person.

 One other resource to note if you are not familiar with it is the GoTell website. Lots of excellent stuff. Check under the Stories header to find comments on specific texts. Here is the page for Luke 18.9-14.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Luke 18.1-8 Translations and notes (Judge and Widow: Lectionary 29, 19th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C)
The Revised Common Lectionary gospel text for Lectionary 29 (on 16 October 2022) is Luke 18.1-8. It seems to be a simple enough parable that Luke explains for the reader in verse 1: Always pray and don't get discouraged. That's good advice, but there is lots more going on in the parable than that. 

When I go over this parable in my classes, I don't have people look at the text, and I start and just read the parable in verses 2-5. When you do so, the judge is clearly the focus. I then include verses 6-7 which also reinforce that interest in the judge, but the logic here is from lesser to greater, a typical pattern: If a bad judge can do good, how much more so a good God. Okay, that works, but it is an odd way to think about God's actions as simply being better than a bad example.

But now when I include verse 1, the focus switches to the widow. The word typically used to describe the widow is "persistent," and that is reflected in her actions of keeping on coming and keeping on pestering the judge. (The verbs are present tense with the sense of a repeated or ongoing action.) Okay, that's fine, but I think the key is not just about persistence but also about not getting discouraged.

Then, I add verse 8 to the reading. Suddenly we have introduced the Child of Humanity and the issue of faith. Further, reference is made to the Child of Humanity "when he comes." Here we should note that the verb used twice to describe the widow is the same "coming" verb. What if... the God / Jesus figure in the parable is the widow and not the judge? In that case, this parable functions similarly to the Luke 15 parables where the shepherd persists in finding the lost sheep, the woman persists in searching for her lost coin, the father persists in trying to bring home both his sons. And if we are to think about ourselves in this parable, I suspect we are closer to the judge by not regarding God properly and thinking about ourselves more than others. 

While it's good advice to always pray and not get discouraged, this parable is also one of grace. Does it matter whether the judge ends up doing right even for the wrong reason? The parable points to a persistent God who will not stop until the unjust do the just thing. In the end, that's what really matters.

If you want to study further, here is my collection of translations and notes. I also include my own translation. If you go to the end you will see how I have highlighted themes in the parable. The parable also has a nice oral quality to it that I try to capture in my translation.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Luke 17.11-19 Translations and notes (Ten "Lepers": Lectionary 28, 18th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C)

The Revised Common Lectionary gospel text for Lectionary 28 (on 9 October 2022) is Luke 17.11-19, the well-known story of the ten "lepers." (Persons with a leprous skin disease would be a better description. The NRSVue uses "defiling skin disease.") There is lots of odd stuff going on in the story:

  • Where is "the midst of Samaria and Galilee"?
  • Jesus only indirectly heals by simply telling them to go
  • 1 out of 10
  • One is a Samaritan

 With this in mind, I think it is more helpful to read this story as a parable instead of a healing miracle. I did a rhyming sermon once upon a time when this text was the regular text for Thanksgiving services. You'll see that I take it in the direction of a parabolic reading that makes it more than a simply scolding about remembering to say "Thank you." HERE is the sermon. You are welcome to use / adapt it for a non-Thanksgiving context. (I would appreciate a reference to my site if you do.)

I also have accumulated a variety of translations and added notes and my own translation you can consult. As one gets used to an author's style, this one is typical Luke in some ways, but it also strikes me that one can still hear echoes of how this story was orally presented and not literarily improved.