St. John Lutheran Church-Drake
Sabbath Day's Journey
The first thing that someone might note from the Gospel text for this Sunday [Luke 13:1-9] is that it is earlier in the account than the text from the previous Sunday [Luke 13:31-35]. Someone might think that this is a mistake. The overwhelming consensus is that we are headed toward the END of the gospel account and should not go backward.
In response to that, I would like to remind the reader than the events in the gospel accounts are not necessarily in chronological order. The Gospel according to Luke is ‘orderly’ (see Luke 1:3), but this word could (and, in my opinion, should) be taken in a predominantly theological way and not chronological.
It would also be good to note that, when comparing the texts, there is a heightening in the text for this Sunday in at least two ways. First, whereas the first text talked of a possible death, the second text speaks of multiple people who died, whose blood was ‘mingled with their sacrifices’ (verse 1). Second, while the first text talked about Herod, the person with the real power in that area and at that time was Pontius Pilate, and he is identified as the clear culprit in the second text.
It is interesting that both these persons are described as seeing Jesus after he was arrested, and only in the Gospel according to Luke is the point made that these two enemies became friends (see Luke 23:1-12). I personally think that ‘miracle’ should be attributed to Jesus and his working like an ox—a worker who does not shy away from extremely difficult work but is willing to get it done. And it is certainly amazing what he can—and still does—get done.
If you are familiar with the text for this Sunday, it ultimately deals with the issue of why bad things happen to good people (although a good point may be brought up that those supposedly good people in the text were from Galilee—that was not something you would put on a resume). This issue that has come up since the time of the biblical Job (and perhaps even before him) has a name: theodicy.
I hope you will not mind looking behind the history of that word—and, strangely enough, the closely related word of ‘optimism’.
The word ‘theodicy’ is made up of two Latin words meaning ‘God’ and ‘justice’, and it finds its roots in Leibniz, who was considered one of the greatest thinkers of the 16 and 1700’s, and perhaps of all time. He has been called a universal genius. He wrote a book entitled Theodicy in 1710.
A dictionary with some authority (the OED) defines the word ‘theodicy’ in this way: “The, or a, vindication of the divine attributes, especially justice and holiness, in respect to the existence of evil; a writing, doctrine, or theory intended to ‘justify the ways of God to men’.”
The above entry also connects the reader to the word ‘optimism’. I was not aware of Leibniz’s responsibility for this word as well. (It also comes from a Latin word—'best’.)
Here is the first part of that entry: ‘A name given to the doctrine propounded by Leibnitz, in his Theodicte (1710), that the actual world is the ‘best of all possible worlds’, being chosen by the Creator out of all the possible worlds which were present in his thoughts as that in which the most good could be obtained at the cost of the least evil. Also applied to doctrines of earlier or later thinkers to a like effect (page 164).’
There is a certain danger when the source for your definitions and your amounts of good and evil are based in creation rather than redemption. It is not surprising that Leibniz was in the middle of the Enlightenment, a period of time which emphasized reason and individualism instead of tradition. The bible was being pushed aside, and what was seen was considered important. But what you see can change significantly.
The Lenten journey, on the other hand, does not change. After the forty days are over, we know where we will be ending up. I would encourage you to let what you see at THAT location sink in.
- Rev. Paul Landgraf