Saturday, August 29, 2020

Pentecost 13A

Romans 12:9-21

9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Prayer Hymn by Colin Gibson

Where the road runs out and the signposts end,
where we come to the edge of today,
be the God of Abraham for us,
send us out upon our way.

Lord, you were our beginning,
the faith that gave us birth.
We look to you, our ending,
our hope for heaven and earth.

When the coast is left and we journey on
to the rim of the sky and the sea,
be the sailor's friend, be the dolphin Christ
lead us in to eternity.

Lord, you were our beginning …

When the clouds are low and the wind is strong,
when tomorrow's storm draws near,
be the spirit bird hovering overhead
who will take away our fear.

Lord, you were our beginning…


Who would have imagined the year 2020 would bring a global pandemic? As we know, the Corona virus (not caused by Corona Beer that reported diminished sales) invaded the planet and changed everything. It has devastated lives and the economy, made everyone wonder when staying safer at home, wearing masks, and physical distancing will end. I wonder if this long stretch qualifies as a time of exile from our usual? Is it a time of sabbath ceasing from typical productivity? Is this a long winter anticipating the arrival of spring? Is it something else? Is it possible we won't have a name for it until life opens up more and we return to more normalcy? In any case, we all continue to be thankful for and pray for essential workers and for an effective vaccine.


Today we have a reading from the letter or epistle to the Church at Rome. Romans is the last of the apostle Paul's seven "undisputed" letters or epistles that bear unmistakable marks of his authorship in terms of vocabulary, syntax, and sentence structure. The dense book includes Trinitarian theology of creation, redemption, and sanctification. Today's second reading provides a list of in-your-face exhortations for our attitudes and behaviors.

Pauline Lists

The apostle Paul loves to make lists! His most famous list may be the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." These are the words the NRSV uses; check out other translations! In a list that precedes this one, he contrasts these desirable qualities with what he calls works of the flesh. In several places Saint Paul lists his own credentials and qualifications.

Today's Scripture

With this type of list it's easy and helpful to compare different translations, and to compare the English words with the original Greek. to do. How about defining these traits for yourself and/or describing situations where drawing on them would be life-giving to yourself and the people around you? If we were meeting in person we'd probably do that and likely have time for only a few of them. I'm thinking of illustrating this passage with expressive colors and typography—no representational images.

For today here's a random comparison of a few words in New American Standard Bible (NASB), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), King James Version (KJV), and The Message (MSG). You probably own several bible versions and you can find many online to compare translations of this and other passages. We need to keep in mind that every translation is an interpretation, even when there's a clear word-to-word parallel. We've mentioned how after people called it a paraphrase, a remix, or another type of version, the late Pastor Eugene Peterson insisted his Message Bible was a translation he originally made to contextualize scripture for the congregation he was serving.

The Greek language has at least four words for love; today's reading from Romans refers to 3 of those 4 kinds of love!

• agape – God-like, grace-filled, unconditional, life-giving care not based on emotion or whim
• storge – instinctive, familial- and familiarity-type affection
• philia – friendship, love in action with of all that implies. This Romans passage says "philadelphia" a word we know well from the Pennsylvania City of Brotherly Love, so philia means "Love ya like a brother or a sister. Like my own sibling." Although this is the only place Paul uses the word philadelphia, you can find it 6 other places in the NT (teaser: you can research those for yourself)
• eros – root of our words erotic and erotica, the meaning goes far beyond simply sexual to any pleasure or affinity that involves our senses

• verse 9a
love = agape
Greek is un-or anti-hypocritical [love]
NASB is most literal, "without hypocrisy"
NRSV genuine
KJV without dissimulation
MSG love from the center of who you are; don't fake it

• 9b
hate, abhor evil MSG="run for dear life from" evil

• 10a
Greek is philadelphia
NASB Be devoted to one another in brotherly love
NRSV love one another with mutual affection
KJV kindly affectionate with brotherly love = literal philadelphia
MSG Be good friends who love deeply

• 10b
Greek is philo (brotherly, sisterly, sibling love) + storgoi, from storge, one of four Greek words for love
NASB give preference to one another in honor
NRSV outdo one another in showing honor
KJV in honor preferring one another
MSG practice playing second fiddle

• 11a
NASB not lagging behind in diligence
NRSV Do not lag in zeal
KJV Not slothful
MSG don't burn out

• 11b
serve, serving the Lord. Greek is doulos (slave) rather than diakonos (servant. where we get our word "deacon")

• 12
NASB devoted to prayer
NRSV persevere in prayer
KJV continuing instant in prayer (different use of instant them we have for "be there in an instant," instant pudding, instant gratification, instant oatmeal)
MSG pray all the harder

• 13
hospitality here is another "phil" root word. MSG advises us "be inventive in hospitality" What examples of inventive hospitality can you imagine?

• 15
Feeling what the other person feels = empathizing, though it says be of the same "mind" rather than emotion

• 17b
Greek approximately is put best construction on everything
KJV Provide things honest
MSG discover beauty in everyone

• 18
peace here is irenic absence of conflict that can be the start of friendship and cooperation
KJV as much as lieth in you, live peaceably
MSG If you've got it in you, get along with everybody

• 19
beloved / be-loved has the agape love root
Greek orge equals English anger, indignation, avenging, vengeance, revenge. It may or may not relate to English orgy that didn't connate licentious excess until a couple of centuries ago.

• 20
feed, water [clothe, house] your actual enemies in all four versions. I'll add enemies along with others you have serious differences with.

• 21
The final flourish, "overcome evil with good" is identical in the first three translations.
MSG wonderfully tells us, "Don't let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good."

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