Tag Archives: allegory

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Song 4:1-5:1

Song 4:1-5:1
A short lesson on method of interpretation, what is an Allegory, “My Sister, My Bride” – what does this mean?

[Short note, I realize now that if you look at the Lutheran Service Book Lectionary, I forgot to take the jump after Pentecost to the appropriate date. I just kept moving down the column. Since I’ve started Song of Solomon, I’m going to keep going down the assigned readings until the book is complete. At that point I’ll skip ahead to the proper date. I now also get something else. Since the only time these days that we are reading would be normally be read would be when Easter is the earliest is could possibly be, the vast majority of the time Song of Songs would be cut out. You’d read it something like once every 20 years. My inability to read has stumbled me into the book the lectionary is designed to skip. Sigh.]

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Song 2:8-3:11

Song 2:8-3:11
Resonant Language, Jerome’s advice concerning the order of reading, biblical warrant for allegorical reading

“I am the door” – mapping a metaphor in time and space for eternity

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Text: John 10:1-10
Full Sermon Draft

It was mother’s day, it was also the day often called Good Shepherd Sunday, so called because the reading comes from John 10 where Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd. Except that the lectionary this year gives us not the shepherd but the ten verses often missed where Jesus proclaims himself the door.

The sermon is a mapping of what that could mean. We look at the literal elements of a door brought up by the text: open, closed, proper entry, improper entry, protection. So, when Jesus says that “I am the door” those are the appropriate elements to ponder. What does an open door mean? What does a closed door mean? Since Jesus claims that he himself is the door, most of these things have Christocentric, that is Christ at the center, answers. In particular we examine election, justification and the door to prayer. The sermon proclaims how the door works in these ways and teaches us how we should think of Jesus. We make two moral examples of how we should live today. And the sermon concludes with the eschatological or final things meaning of the door. Jesus has used a figure of speech – the door – to describe spiritual reality, so we spend some time pondering the core meanings. I’d invite you to give it a listen.

Where Jesus is, There is the Temple – A Temple built for All Peoples

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Biblical Text: Luke 17:11-19

Full Sermon Draft

I was somewhat shocked this week when I went to read what the church fathers had to say when commenting upon the text. Not shocked in a bad way, but maybe I should say surprised. Maybe it is the limits of my sources which are basically those contained in the ACCS. The ACCS is an updated form of the Catena Aurea or Golden Chain, a string of quotations and gloss that past commentators felt important. But the 10 lepers did not attract much comment, and the comments it did attract were not moralism. While I would not call them moralists, the church fathers were not ashamed to encourage holy living or acquiring virtue. (Again the could be because of later editors felt that was what was worth copying and preserving). Instead what was present was what I would call beautiful and clear allegory.

Now we think of allegory as meaning flight of fancy. I’ve read enough of it to know it can be that, but I also think that is an awful label for what was essentially a method of pondering the scriptures. After preaching for five years week in and week out, what I now recognize is a tool for preaching. The literal level is the basis, and it grounds what you say in history and the text. This is trying to understand the text in its own time. The typeological level is about bringing the specific literal to the eternal. A good reformation way of thinking of this is how does the literal story tell us about who Jesus is and his purpose and work. What does faith latch onto? The third section then asks the question: Knowing that eternal truth how do we live in the now? Having generalized the truth, how do we realize it today. The last section never loses sight of the final day. What is the final fulfullment, the eschatological or resurrection reality contained in the text. What is our hope derived from the text? Over the entire method it is a way to be grounded in the words of scripture and history while connecting it (and ourselves) to the grand story of salvation.

So, this sermon takes the form of an allegory. Not those flights of fancy, but just a way of structuring the proclamation. And to ground it further, the Hymn of the Day was A Great and Mighty Wonder. Celebrating Christmas in October might seem odd, but the hymn dovetails perfectly with what the Father’s said and what I tried to proclaim. As so often is the case, the hymnwriters preach better than the preacher.

Neighborhood Watch

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Biblical Text: Luke 10:25-37
Full Sermon Draft

I am constantly amazed at how the perfect text seems to appear to match external circumstances. What are the odds that the one time in three years that you read the Good Samaritan with its question of “Who is my neighbor?” would appear at exactly the same time as a verdict in a trial of a Neighborhood watch. A trial which is really about answering that question – who is the neighbor?

This is one of those sermons that stands as piece. It is a meditation on the gospel scene of a lawyer and Jesus with our lives woven in between the lines.

Here is the conclusion, but if you’ve got 12 minutes, give the entire thing a read or a listen. I’m pretty sure that none of the 24 hour news commentary has this.

The law can’t do anything about our refusal to see our neighbor. The law leaves a dead 17 year old and a man whose life has been beaten and robbed and left out in the open of the public square. If we insist on the law – what must I do – that is what we get. But Jesus, by being a neighbor to us first, has shown us a better way. A way of grace and mercy. Go and love likewise, as you have first been loved. Amen

Whose expectations get met?

Full Text of Sermon

The text is Matthew 21:33-46 which is the parable of the wicked tenants. I’ve pondered this parable for a long time – at least in American terms. It is filled with an urgency and a venom missing is the mustard seed and birds of the air. It has an easy allegory, but one that seems tailor made to produce pharisees. There are parts of it that to a Lutheran are shockingly troublesome. The production and handing over of “fruits” reads like works-righteousness. And the whole “leasing” of the vineyard reducing the Kingdom to a financial transaction. It doesn’t fit my nice and tidy systematic theology. And if we accept the easy allegory the church has placed on the parable almost from the start, does it mean anything to us today? Not much that I could see.

So for me here the key isn’t so much allegorical as centered in the Question of Jesus – “What will the landowner do when he returns?” Everybody has expectations. Some expectations get met and others go bust. The thought for the Christian life is to get your expectations in line with God’s. The landowners expectations get met. The only question is by whom. A cornerstone has been set. The vineyard will produce a crop. Do we fall over that cornerstone attempting to meet our expectations against the landowner, or do we produce the fruit in season viewing the vineyard and its cornerstone in the cross as marvelous?

Catching Up

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Text: John 9:1-41

This text is too big. A man goes from being blind through various confessions to the worship of Christ at the end. From the point of his healing, until that end, the story is about Jesus but Jesus himself is absent. It’s a tight allegory on a Christian life with the counter-point of the pharisees deepening knowledge and surety of things that are false. Its also the type of text that really needs two way communication. Its the type of think you wrestle with with others.

Sermon – “Daughter…” – Mark 5:21-43

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Sermon Text: Mark 5:21-43

In this sermon I did something that probably would have received low marks from seminary profs. I probably strayed too far into allegorizing the text for the application. That is part of the reason why the opening includes the remarks that the reading might be idiosyncratic. It probably comes from studying Hebrews in Bible Class which contains an extended allegory on Melchizedek, an obscure OT figure. A full allegory has four levels of meaning: Literal, Christological, Moral and Mystical. It is not that an allegory can’t be true, but that modern textual methodology calls it a foul ball. What one person sees in an allegory might not be universally applicable. An allegory can be too cute for its own good. The other side of the balance sheet is that the church for 1200+ years primarily read the scriptures as allegory. Only with the advent of the pre-modern university did a heavily literal approach start to take priority. It can be said that the reformation was really and argument over which level of allegory was the most important. The Reformers argued for the Literal and the Christological while the late medieval Catholics emphasized the mystical and then the moral. (And that paragraph is one that could be picked apart to death as to those who really study this stuff that is really superficial to the point of being wrong. Forgive me the brevity.)

When reading a text, and in preaching on a text, those levels of meaning are still important. You can talk about a moral meaning from a text without necessarily allegorizing. The literal events of this text were the faith of a woman in the power of Jesus to heal, and a demonstration of that power even over death. To transfer that text to modern day you would emphasize the power of Christ in the the people who live by faith. I still did that, but in a way that makes the literal meaning of the text receed into the background.

A contrast is established between Jairus who approaches Jesus from the front and the unnamed woman who approaches from behind. I tried to set us or most moderns up as Jairus – the respectable churchman who approaches Jesus desperate but asking for a favor. The flip is that Jesus calls the low status unnamed woman daughter. While we might associate with Jairus, salvation, peace and health are in approaching Jesus like this woman – in fear and telling the whole truth. [Think confession and absolution.] Jairus and the disciples are amazed at the power of Jesus, but it is the woman who is called daughter. In fact it takes a miracle of Jesus – a raising of the dead – to convert us from thinking of ourselves a Jairus (fundametally respectable and ok asking for a favor) to thinking of ourselves as the woman (bloody and unclean with sin). And when Jesus does raise us from the dead, we must be fed with the Word of God. See what I did, certain elements of the story like how a person approached, physical attributes or physical needs are read as symbolic. If you agree with my symbolic readings it makes sense, but you might just as easily think I’ve gone off the deep end.

All that said, I think the sermon conveys truth. I would defend its textuality on the basis of the words and events narrated and how the church has matrixed those words and events through time. Being called a child/daughter by God is the result of accepting the Gospel which follows repentance. True repentance is the work of God in us – a raising of the dead. It is the poor that are blessed with the Kingdom of Heaven. The church has consistenly talked about sin as a disease. This was not an academic’s sermon, but I think it might be closer to the way actual people think.