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Fwd: [DUSA-news] Breath of the Spirit 1.6.08

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  • John Schott
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3, 2008
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      JANUARY 6, 2008: EPIPHANY

      Isaiah 60:1-6
      Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
      Matthew 2:1-12

      The renowned 20th century scholar of the Christian Scriptures, Rudolf
      Bultmann, always reminded his students that every Scripture passage
      originally had a "sitz im leben" in the community for which it was written.
      In our language, something was going on in that community which prompted the
      sacred author to compose this particular pericope. No biblical writer worked
      in a vacuum.

      Just glance at today's second and third readings. The sitz im leben jumps
      from the page.

      Jesus' earliest followers thought only Jews would want to become his
      disciples. The historic Jesus of Nazareth went town to town, synagogue to
      synagogue preaching a reform of Judaism. He was Jewish, his audience Jewish,
      his topic Jewish. Why would Gentiles - non-Jews - give him a second thought,
      unless they were writing a doctoral dissertation on first century C.E.
      Palestinian carpenters-turned- reformers?

      Yet against all expectation, large numbers of Gentiles began to take an
      interest in Jesus' teaching and lifestyle. Though initially these Gentile
      converts were expected to become Jews before they became "Christians,"
      eventually people, like Paul, began to realize the risen Jesus was calling
      them to faith as Gentiles. They could follow him without jumping through the
      Jewish "hoops" their predecessors in the faith had thought essential to

      Though contrary to popular Jewish belief, Paul and his coworkers ultimately
      started to appreciate that their "outreach" to non-Jews was part of Yahweh's
      overall plan for the salvation of all people. God somehow had shared this
      "mystery" with Paul. "The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,
      and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."
      Christianity would never be the same again.

      But Jesus' Jewish followers didn't just vanish after Gentiles started to
      convert. Twenty years after Paul's death, Matthew composes his gospel for a
      Jewish/Christian community, a church whose members presumed Saturday
      synagogue attendance and Mosaic law observance were part of their imitating
      Jesus. Yet the evangelist is forced to remind his readers that there are
      other ways to carry on Jesus' ministry beyond the Jewish structure within
      which he exercised his own ministry.

      At the beginning of his gospel, Matthew demonstrates that even those who
      flaunt the Torah regulations forbidding "star gazing" can find their way to
      Jesus. Pagan magicians can know more about navigating the road to Bethlehem
      than Herod's Scripture scholars. In Matthew's infancy narrative, these
      non-Jewish strangers are the only people who do Jesus "homage." This magi
      passage certainly "blew the minds" of many faithful Jewish/Christian

      On the other hand, even main-stream Jews knew their own prophets had
      frequently spoken about Gentile involvement in their faith. Five hundred
      years before Jesus' birth, Third-Isaiah conceived of a rebuilt Jerusalem
      being a magnet for everyone, even non-Jews. "Nations (Gentiles) shall walk
      by your light, and kings by your shining radiance . . . . Caravans of camels
      shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come
      bearing gold, frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of Yahweh." No
      Jewish prophet ever left the impression that Jewish communities were "in
      here by themselves." They were always part of a larger world.

      No doubt our modern belief that we're part of an almost infinite expanding
      universe forces us to have a different sitz im leben than our faith
      ancestors. But even if we don't know how to spell "quantum theology," God's
      plan for creation's eventual salvation still contains elements just as
      mysterious as those Paul discovered 2,000 years ago.

      Subject: [DUSA-news] Breath of the Spirit 1.6.08

      Wishing everyone a wonder-filled and blessed New Year for 2008!

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