Saturday, September 02, 2023

Pentecost 14A

Psalm 28:6
O Lord, I love the house
in which you dwell,
and the place where your glory abides.
Psalm 26:8

Romans 12:9-21

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20 No, "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." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This Week

Some other year the lectionary assigns these texts, I'll teach or blog a deft Girardian presentation of the gospel reading, Matthew 16:21-28, but as dense as Romans generally is, it still feels simpler than attempting to navigate mimesis, skandalon, and other non-transactional cross talk.

Besides, the Apostle Paul's paranetic exhortations or encouragements are in-your-face, can lead to endless discussion possibilities, and they provide great content for three months into the season of Pentecost. With all of its instances of "you" being second person plural, this passage provides a long list of ideas for our attitudes in Christ, our behaviors within the community of the church and later as we continue our eucharistic lifestyle out in the world during the week.

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 that 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 Second Reading

With this type of list it's easy and helpful to compare different translations, and to compare the English with the original Greek. 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?

Here's a random comparison – a list! – of a few words in New American Standard Bible (NASB), New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition (NRSVUE), King James Version (KJV), and The Message (MSG). Every translation is an interpretation, even when there's a clear word-to-word parallel. Although others have called it a paraphrase or a remix, the late Pastor Eugene Peterson insisted his Message Bible was a translation he originally made to contextualize scripture for the congregation he was serving.

Love and Other Words

Greek has at least four words for love; today's reading includes 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 everything 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 research and discover it in at least six other places in the NT.
• eros – root of erotic and erotica, the meaning goes far beyond simply sexual to any pleasure or affinity that involves any of 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
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 "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 – 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

• 17b
Greek approximately says put the 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 in people you have serious differences with.

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

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