Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Crafting of a Sermon - #4

Fruit, in Jerusalem
I am working on my sermon again. The text: John 20:11-18. I'm wrapping up looking at Craig Keener's John commentary. Vv. 17-18 read: Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

"Jesus commissions mary as his agent - although first-century Palestinian Jews rarely appear to have used women as agents - to his "brothers" (20:17)." (Keener, John, 1191) By "brothers" Jesus does not mean his physical brothers. Jesus' physical brothers did not believe him (John 7:5). Now, those who believed in Jesus were his "brothers" (see Mark 3:34).

Jesus' use of "my Father and your Father, my God and your God" is "fictive kinship language." (Ib.) It was "a way of emphasizing a common bond." (Ib.) It's a way for Jesus to say, "Mary, you are in my family!" This is a huge statement, and I cannot just pass it by. I'm now thinking of my neighbor Dave, who is a very cool guy and a great neighbor. He plants a huge garden every summer that produces beans and peppers and other delicacies, to include the summer delicacy of all delicacies, tomatoes. Linda and I LOVE tomatoes fresh from the garden. Dave has told me, re. his garden, "John, everything I have is your's." So, just a few hours ago, I walked back to Dave's garden... no, it's my garden, too, since Dave has told me that everything of his is mine..., and picked fresh tomatoes and fresh hot peppers and a green pepper, right off the vine. "My tomatoes are your tomatoes." That's what Dave told me. What's cool and amazing about that is I have done nothing to grow Dave's garden. But I am the recipient of its bounty. When Jesus tells Mary that he's returning to "my Father and your Father," it says she is the recipient of all that the Father has for Jesus. That seems big to me.

Jesus tells Mary, "Don't hold on to me." Or: "Don't touch me." "Don't embrace me physically." Craig Keener says that "tocuh" probably refers to "embrace." (Ib., 1193) What is going on here?

"Scholars have offered various proposals to explain the prohibition of "touching" Jesus." (Ib.) Craig says that the Greek wording suggests the translation as: "Stop touching me," or "Stop attempting to touch me," rather than "Don't touch me." Jesus' command is probably best translated as: "Stop holding on to me." Which would imply, of course, that Mary was already holding on to Jesus' physical body. Keener writes: "More than likely Jesus simply places a temporal limitation on Mary's embrac or wish to embrace: soon Jesus must ascend, so the postresurrection rendevous Jesus promised must be carried out urgently." (Ib.) Like - "Stop holding on to me, because I've got things to do, like ascend to the Father who is, btw Mary, your Father as well."

Maybe Jesus is counseling Mary "not to become excessively attached to his physical presence... In any case, Mary seems to understand Jesus' message correctly, for she devotes herself immediately to bearing his message." (Ib., 1194)

John 20:17 is talking about an "ascension." What does this mean? I read further in Keener's commentary, but now my reading has become more difficult. It's the sign for me to stop for now. My brain needs a break from this. I'll think more clearly after a getaway from these verses. Getting away from the text, after being immersed in it, allows for discernment and creativity. I've mostly learned when it's time to focus on the sermon and when not to. This is why I begin working on the next sermon days before it is given. For me preaching is a slow-cooker. The more time I have, the better. Ideas come easier. So what can happen tonight is this. I've worked hard trying to get a clear understanding of this story. It is with me; it's getting inside me. To now get away from it for a while does not mean I am fully away from it. Tonight I could get some revelation on the text from God without attending to it, since it's working a number on my heart and mind. When it comes, if it comes tonight, I'll be taking notes.