Monday, October 16, 2017

Zechariah 3 sermon prep - part 7

Chiasmus from the Greek letter chi

 

The Greek letter chi is in the form of a cross.  It gives itself as the base of a word used to describe a literary device; chiasmus.  In a chiasmus, the thought pattern moves through a sequence such that the sequence adds to the overall meaning of the text.

 

Image of the Greek letter chi (image credit as linked)

 

A very simple form of chiasmus is available in Luke 16:3;

 

I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.


 

The chiasmus pattern is quite simple:

 

‘a’: “I cannot dig”,

‘b’: “to beg”,

‘a’: “I am ashamed”

 

 

Without knowing anything else of the preceding or following text the chiasmus alone is complete in giving the reader an understanding of the despair that the person is feeling.  Their inability to dig places them in a position where their only option is to beg – to which they find shame.  The reader enters into an understanding of state “I cannot dig” and exits knowing of the protagonist’s shame.

 

A dad joke uses chiasmus:

 

“My daughter was eating a banana skin and all when I arrived home yesterday.  I rushed her to the doctor as she was not peeling very well”


‘a’: “My daughter was eating a banana skin and all”,

‘b’: “when I arrived home yesterday”,

‘b’: “I rushed her to the doctor”

‘a’: “as she was not peeling very well”

The two 'a' items pertain to my daughter.  The 'b' items refer to my action.





The hymn ‘Jesu, Lover of my soul’, by Charles Wesley, concludes with a chiasmus in its last stanza:

 

Thou of life the fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart;
Rise to all eternity.

 

In that stanza the pattern follows the individual lines as: a b b a.  The ‘a’ focus is upon Christ and the ‘b’ focus is upon the individual (including the references “me”, “my”).  Wesley was arguably a master of chiasmus. 

 

The Hebrew of Genesis 9:6 forms a six word sentence that perfectly frames, by word, a six word chiasmus of form:

 

a b c c b a.

 

Modern translations, in English lose the benefit of such framing with this version being eleven words long:

 

“Whoever sheds human blood,
    by humans shall their blood be shed;

Genesis 9:6 NIV

 
The Bible itself is chiasmus:


'a': creation (Genesis)
'b': fall (Genesis)
'c': consequence of fall (Old Testament)
'b': rescue through Christ (Gospels, Epistles)
'a': new creation (Revelation)

The eight visions of Zechariah take the form:

 

a b b c c b b a

 

where each of the letters a, b and c, identify with the situation of the vision.

 

It is a most inspired construction.  It adds richly to an understanding of the text to understand the structure of the text.  Zechariah 3 - the focus of sermon preparation - is the first of the 'c' visions.

 

{a link to part 8 will be added here when part 8 is available}

{reverse link to part 6 here}

 

Shalom,
Ozhamada

 

Note: all links good as at 16 October 2017

 

Note: There is much more about chiasmus in Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An introduction and commentary.  Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 1972, paperback, pages 74 to 77.

Zechariah 3 sermon prep - part 6

In preparing a sermon on Zechariah 3 it is interesting to consider why the temple, and all practices completed within it, were to be restored, within the post-exile Jerusalem.  Zechariah 3 contains God’s imprimatur on the Day of Atonement: that the Day of Atonement is restored, and that it is to continue un-interrupted through to the time of the Saviour.  We see this in that Zechariah, in the vision, observes the Chief Priest Joshua, within the spiritual realm on the Day of Atonement.  In that realm, Joshua appearing on behalf the entire nation, is given fresh garments by angels attending Christ.  In that realm, we also observe that Joshua is connected through to the coming of the perfect High Priest: the coming of Christ.

 

The restoration of the temple is interesting on two grounds:

 

  1. [Looking backwards in time] That the Prophet Nathan had considered a tent a more appropriate symbol of God’s presence that an temple, and,
  2. [Considering the thinking of the time] That a whole series of ideas had arisen as to Mount Zion and the importance of ensuring that an edifice was upon the Mount to honour God.

 

Part 5 considered the first of these two points.  This post considers the second.

 

The first consideration in post-exile times as to rebuilding the temple is that there was a thought amongst those returning from exile that the temple should not be built.  Their thoughts were not to God’s lack of need of a temple – or that God was better housed in a tent as suggested by Prophet Nathan – instead they were of absence of direction in that a pagan king had sought the temple to be re-built.

 

Here we need to understand a pagan Cyrus and his effect upon the Jewish nation:

 

Cyrus II of Persia, sometimes referred to as Cyrus the Great, adopted a very clever strategy.  To understand that strategy is to understand the strategy of the Roman occupiers of Israel at the time of Christ.  Cyrus implemented systems such that the customs and religions of the lands he conquered were largely kept in operation.  His strategy relied on an understanding of how people under his rule where best controlled where they largely were allowed the exercise of national custom.  It was also a polytheist strategy (many gods). Cyrus seemed to want the benefit on his empire of the blessings of all gods.

 
Cyrus the Great (image source linked)



The Romans employed a similar style of maintaining national custom. For instance, Herod notionally stood as tetrarch, or king of Jews, at time of Christ.  The Roman style is seen in how Pilate tries to hand Jesus over to the Jews for punishment at their hands, whilst the Jews observe that only Romans may crucify.  Cyrus seemed more advance in his thinking of the purported benefits of polytheism than the Romans.

 

2 Chronicles records the decree of Cyrus that allows for return of the Jewish nation from exile and for rebuilding of the temple:

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:

“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the Lord their God be with them.’”2 Chronicles 26:22-23 NIV

 

Curiously, some of the Jewish people that Haggai and Zechariah observed within the people return from exile had little notion of the first part of these verses - that Cyrus acted in a manner that fulfilled the word of God.  They instead seemed to have been stiff-necked as to the instruction of a pagan king.  Such people were not opposed to rebuilding the temple – only to the clarity of the initiation of the effort.   Plausibly, they were looking for a direct indication from God that the temple be re-built.

 

Only when Haggai shared word from Yahweh that the temple rebuilding began in earnest:

 

Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord.


 

That God occasionally acts through pagans is perhaps more fully understood in modernity.

 

{a link to part 7 will be added here when part 7 is available}

{reverse link to part 5 here}

 

Shalom,
Ozhamada

 

Note: all links good as at 16 October 2017

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Clumsy witnessing


This morning I was at a loss as to what to put to paper.  Yahweh, however powerfully provided.  I have a story for you of a moment of practical and clumsy witnessing:

 




 

A favoured local cafe has long tables that sit up to twelve people. The tables have proven a suitable place to strike up conversation with others – a function of sharing the same place with them. An open Bible can be a magnetic conversation starter.

 

My adjoining table companions were a mixed set of three.  The age difference and ethnic difference was notable. A quick assessment suggested anything up to a forty year age difference between the single lady and the elderly couple.  As the single lady’s meal arrived I complimented on her choice of food.  That led to a volunteer of information on how she was dining with her neighbours – a treat for all three of them after the neighbours had kept an eye on her property over an extended period of absence.  I duly greeted the three.

 

Jesus had something to say about being good neighbors.  There had to be a way of capturing the moment to bring together the threesomes joyous outing and an insight into the words of the Lord.  Thinking quick – and it needed to be quick to catch the moment – my in-head Bible concordance went into turbo mode to search for references to neighbours.  The Parable of the Good Samaritan came to mind.  Jesus offers that Parable in response to a question: "And who is my neighbour?" (Luke 10:29)

 

Turning to Luke 10, I shared the prime elements of the story, emphasised how Jesus called us to look after our neighbours, and celebrated the threesome's outing.  It led to a reply about how Sydney people generally are not good at being neighbours and how they were glad to have found friendship despite their age and ethnic differences.  They expressed how they were glad that the Bible emphasised that we should all be good neighbours.

 

For, the beauty of the Parable, in that moment, is that Jesus calls upon all people to treat everyone as their neighbour.

 



 

Shalom,
Ozhamada

 

Note: all links good as at 13 October 2017

Friday, October 13, 2017

Zechariah 3 sermon prep - part 5

In preparing a sermon on Zechariah 3 it is interesting to consider why the temple, and all practices completed within it, were to be restored, within the post-exile Jerusalem.  Zechariah 3 contains God’s imprimatur on the Day of Atonement: that the Day of Atonement is restored, and that it is to continue un-interrupted through to the time of the Saviour.  We see this in that Zechariah, in the vision, observes the Chief Priest Joshua, within the spiritual realm on the Day of Atonement.  In that realm, Joshua appearing on behalf the entire nation, is given fresh garments by angels attending Christ.  In that realm, we also observe that Joshua is connected through to the coming of the perfect High Priest: the coming of Christ.

 


The restoration of the temple is interesting on two grounds:

 

  1. [Looking backwards in time] That the Prophet Nathan had considered a tent a more appropriate symbol of God’s presence that an temple, and,
  2. [Considering the thinking of the time] That a whole series of ideas had arisen as to Mount Zion and the importance of ensuring that an edifice was upon the Mount to honour God.

 

In this post, I address the first of these points.  A future post will consider the other.  Both are important in sermon preparation as they explain the significance of the vision that Zechariah receives.  Both enrich an understanding of the text.

 

But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?  I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”2 Samuel 7:4-7 NIV

 

The Prophet Nathan’s consideration of a tent as a symbol of God’s presence is rooted in Israel’s history.  It is also rooted in the nature of God:

 

The historical root is identified to the Exodus.  Not once did God require his leaders to build him a house.  The tent served all necessary function – as a Holy Place and as a symbolic representation of God amongst his people.  All of the functions of religious practice were completed within the tent.  God honoured the rituals no less that they were concluded within a tent.

 

The root in the nature of God is based upon the dynamic nature of God.  God is mobile – his manner of interaction with man is dynamic.  The mobility brings with it freedom to deal with men who are moving.  Thus, it makes sense that God is symbolised on earth within a tent because a tent itself is mobile.  Indeed, the dynamism of God distinguished the nation of Israel from nations around them: nations that had gods of wood or stone.

 

It is inspiring to have a God that is satisfied in a tent.  It speaks of a God that wants to be proximate to his people, to relate to them, to live among them.  It speaks of a God that is approachable and is welcoming.  And, in respect Zechariah 3 , it speaks of a God that will not be bound by the temple, that does not see the physical temple as a permanent dwelling.  It speaks of a God that one day after Zechariah’s time will write his decrees on people’s hearts.

 

{a link to part 6}

{reverse link to part 4 here}

 

Shalom,

Ozhamada

 

Note: all links good as at 13 October 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Regaining digital real estate

Joni Mitchell has a famous popular music hit Big Yellow Taxi that includes the lyrics:

 

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til its gone

 

Facebook has a function where people can review an organisation.  The function allows the user to assign between 1 and 5 stars and to share comments.  It is a function that is useful in finding a good café or for venting steam when a latte is delivered late.  It is a function that allows comparison of similar businesses.  Using location detection software Facebook prompts input.  So, a mobile Facebook user may discover a message of order: “You’ve just been at Mr Bean’s Café, please record a review”.

 
A snapshot of review



The Sydney Anglican Facebook site includes the review function.  Prior to the start of this week, the number of ratings was at a comatose level –less than twenty.  At this time, reviews have rocketed to a count of 123.

 

The change arose for one simple reason, or depending on your perspective, 1,000,0000 reasons.  This linked Sydney Morning Herald article identifies the issue.  That 1,000,000 reasons led to a few 1 star reviews and accompanied ripe comments.  It also seems to have led to a response.  The response seems to have come from many attending Sydney Anglican’s annual Synod: over 100 people have given 5 star reviews.  None of the 5 star reviews refer to the issue of the 1,000,000 reasons.



 
One Facebook users 1 star review









The game is one where the 100 plus 5 star reviews favourably lift the average, e.g:

 

(100 *5 + 10 * 1)/110. 
I’ll let you do the math.

 

So, an average of 4.5 stars looks just fine.

 

It was the church regaining valuable digital real estate.  And besides, the real stars of the church are its clergy.

 

Shalom,
Ozhamada

 

Note: all links good as at 12 October 2017

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Review of a short story: Birthday Dance


Mark 6 includes an account of the beheading of John the Baptist.  In brief, the story runs like this:

 

Herod (Herod Antipater), the Jewish Tetrarch marries his Brother Philip’s wife.  John the Baptist makes his objection known to Herod – saying that he cannot take another man’s wife.  The women; Herodias, comes to the marriage with a daughter.  The daughter’s name and age are not stated in either Mark’s account, or the only other Gospel account, in Matthew (Matthew 14).

 

A banquet is held for Herod’s birthday.  The daughter dances for Herod and pleases him.  Under oath, and before all the party guests, Herod offers his stepdaughter anything that she asks for.  At her mother’s prompting, Herod’s stepdaughter asks for the head of John the Baptist.

 

John’s head is delivered to the party room on a platter.

 

 

I returned to the account of the beheading recently on reading a short story; Birthday Dance, as published in a collection of short stories all of author Peter Robinson.  The collection in paperback is “The Price of Love: Eleven Ways to Pay with Your Life”.  Peter Robinson wrote the Inspector Banks series of books that were made into a popular television series.

 
\
(Image credit: via this link)



In Birthday Dance, Robinson creates a fictional account of the beheading of John the Baptist.  The account takes some liberties and contains some errors.  Three things stood out:

 

  • The daughter refers to John the Baptist as Uncle John.  It is an affectionate, familial reference which leaves the reader with little doubt that ‘Uncle’ is used directly in a family sense.  The Bible provides no evidence that John the Baptist was kin.  John is identified in the Bible as kin of Jesus.
     
  • The daughter is named as only ‘Sal’ in the short story.  In explanatory notes at the rear of the book Robinson offers her full name; Salome.  The Bible does not name the daughter.  It is the Jewish historian; Josephus, that gives us Salome’s name.
     
  • Robinson has the head of John the Baptist delivered not to Herod’s birthday party – which both Mark and Matthew are clear on - but to the room of Herodias.

 

Birthday Dance is a fictional account.  It takes from the Bible and wraps around the Biblical account some imagined circumstances.  It is not all bad as it presents the Bible to some degree.  I hope that every reader of Robinson’s short story turns to the Bible.  There they may be enlightened as to the actual story.

 

Shalom,
Ozhamada

 

Note 1: all links good as at 11 October 2017
Note 2: Robinson's short story partly inspired this blog post.