Friday, August 29, 2008

Lectionary Notes

Some thoughts on the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 22, Year A
31 August, 2008
The Sentence for this Sunday, which we use as the Gospel Acclamation or alleluia verse, is founded on Ephesians 1.17, 18 : "that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints." In most cases the sentences for the Propers in the BAS are the same as the alleluia verse of the equivalent Propers in the Roman Rite, in the case the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.

The Collect is a reworking of the Prayer Book collect for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity:
Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of thy Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us in all goodness, and of your great mercy keep us in the same. through Jesus Christ our Lord.
There are comments on the original Collect in the notes for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity earlier in this Blog. It need only be added now that the revision in the BAS is more radical than the one in the American Prayer Book (p. 233).
The Readings
First Reading: Exodus 3.1-15. We continue reading selections from the story of God’s liberation of his people from Egypt. When Moses was grown up he had to escaped from Egypt because he had murdered an Egyptian overseer. Going to the land of Midian, in the Sinai Peninsula. The Midianites were a people related to the Israelites (see Gen 25.2). There he married Zipporah, daughter of the priest Jethro. Meanwhile, the Pharaoh (probably Seti I) died, and “the people of Israel groaned under their bondage and cried out for help”.
The call of Moses is also a revelation of the Lord God as one who cares for his people and hears their cry of anguish. The revelation itself is a miracle: both because the bush that burns and is not consumed causes Moses to wonder, since it is outside the known powers of nature and because it is clearly God’s direct action. But how do we imagine this event? Does God speak aloud, actually moving the air and acting on Moses’ ear-drums? Or is the voice that Moses hears an inner one? There is no way to know, but however we think of it, we must decide whether we believe that God did act.
The first verse of this passage is a good example of why comments have to be selective!
v. 1: Jethro is sometimes called Ruel (2.18), or possibly Hobab (Num 10.29). The confusion over his name does not affect today’s passage. Beyond the wilderness has been interpreted to mean a mysterious place like the deep in the forest of fairy tales, or simply in the middle of nowhere. The Judaica Press Complete Tanach
[1] renders the phrase as “after the free pastureland”; another version is “the edge of the desert”. To Horeb the mountain of God. The mountain of God is called both Horeb or Sinai; Horeb seems to reflect a later tradition. Whatever its name, the precise location of the holy mountain is not known, although tradition places it at Jebel Musa or Mount Catharine in the south of the Sinai.
v.2. The bush may have been a thorn-bush or bramble-bush. Note that the Hebrew word, S'neh, is similar to the word Sinai.
v. 4. When the Lord calls from the bush Moses answers “Here am I”. In the Septuagint Greek text, however, what Moses says is τί ἐστι; (ti esti?), “What is it?” In some ways this seems to me a more natural response!
vv 6-10. The Lord declares to Moses that he has seen the suffering of his people and heard their cries, and has come down to free them and lead them into that good kand he had promised their ancestors. He will send Moses to Pharaoh to lead the people out of Egypt.
v 11. Moses is reluctant to obey. Like Gideon (Judges 6.11-22) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1.4-10) he raises objections to God’s call. In 3.11-4.17 Moses makes four excuses; this reading includes only the first two: “who am I to do this?” (3.11), to which God replies, “I will be with you”, and “the people will ask the name of the God who sent me” (3.13), to which God replies by solemnly declaring his name.
v. 14. Note that the Lord’s reply, I am who I am, can be translated in different ways: the NRSV offers I AM WHAT I AM and I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE. The Greek version, ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν (egō eimi ho ōn), can mean something like I am he who is, which has serious theological implications (see Eric Mascall, He Who Is, esp. pp 5, 10, 13; Existence and Analogy, pp 10-13).
v. 15. The divine Name, YHWH (the Tetragrammaton), is not pronounced under any circumstances in Jewish tradition. Four things may be noted here. Instead of YHWH, the Hebrew word Adonai, Lord, or Elohim, God, was pronounced instead. The vowel-signs for these words were added to the Tetragrammaton to ensure the proper word was pronounced. Second, it is from reading it with the “wrong” vowels that gave rise to the name Jehovah, which does not represent any form of the name used in Hebrew. Third, the Jewish practice has for the most part always been followed by Christians: in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures, the word Kyrios was used to render the Tetragrammaton, and Dominus was likewise used in Latin, both meaning Lord. In English versions it has come to be the convention to represent the divine Name by “The LORD”, written in small capitals. The Vatican has recently (and rightly) reaffirmed the rule that the Tetragrammaton is not pronounced in worship. (It does not appear in the official mass-texts, but has been used in hymns, which must now be re-written). Finally, when we understand this background of the word Lord as a rendering of the divine Name, we can see the true implications of such New Testament expressions as “Jesus is Lord”.

The Psalm 105.1-6, 23-26, 454c. A different section of this psalm was read on the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, and general remarks may be found in the remarks on that Sunday. Verses 23-26 commemorate the sufferings of Israel in Egypt and the call of Moses. “Ham” is a poetic name for Egypt: see Genesis 10.6.

The Epistle. Romans 12.9-21. St Paul exhorts his readers to the good Christian life. As a statement of the “law of love”, this passage should be read along with Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians. The most difficult part of this teaching is the absolute prohibition of vengeance in verse 19. Only when we have truly ceased to “conform to this world” and have been “transformed by the renewal of mind” (12.2; see last week’s reading) will the instinct to avenge and justify oneself be rooted out.
It might seem that the teaching in verse 20, that you ought to assist your enemy in need and thereby “heap burning coals on his head” spoils the whole thing by turning an act of love into revenge! In fact, it means that acts of kindness bring the enemy to shame (embarrassment is often accompanied by redness and a rise in temperature) and, it is to be hoped, to repentance.

The Holy Gospel, Matthew 16.21-28
Immediately after St Peter’s confession of him as Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus for the first time tells his disciples of the path of suffering before him. It is as if he said to them, You have confessed that I am Messiah; now learn what it means to be Messiah. We note that the Gospel says not that he began to tell them but to show them. the sense is made known, but we should not miss the visual quality of ‘show’ that comes again at the end of the passage. He says that he must suffer at Jerusalem, the city where the prophets were put to death; see Matthew 23.29-39. Although the scriptures of the Old Testament mention only one such death (Zechariah son of Jehoiada; see 2 Chronicles 24.20-22), others were recorded in legend.
Peter could not accept the idea that the Messiah should suffer. He takes Jesus and begins to rebukes him, as if saying, “Ah, Master, don’t say that!”. It should be noted that Luke 9 omits Peter’s rebuke and the sequel. Jesus’ reply needs to be read carefully.
He turned and said to Peter. Matthew seems to mean that Jesus turned to Peter and said to Peter. However, in Mark it is turning and seeing his disciples he rebuked Peter.
Get behind me, Satan! seems to mean “begone from me”, but it was often taken by the early Fathers to mean “Come after me”. Two considerations are important here. First, the expression here translated “get behind me” (ὀπίσω μου), is rendered verse 24 as “after me” (come after me). Second, there was no punctuation in the original text; this is added in modern editions. With this in mind, we might not be surprised at St Hilary’s comment:
The Lord, knowing the suggestion of the craft of the devil, says to Peter, Get you behind me; that is, that he should follow the example of His passion; but to him by whom this expression was suggested, He turns and says, Satan, you are an offense to me. For we cannot suppose that the name of Satan, and the sin of being an offense, would be imputed to Peter after those so-great declarations of blessedness and power that had been granted him.
Again, Origen wrote on this passage:
Yet the words in which Peter and those in which Satan are rebuked, are not, as is commonly thought, the same; to Peter it is said, Get you behind me, Satan; that is, follow me, you that are contrary to my will; to the Devil it is said, Go your way, Satan, understanding not 'behind me,' but 'into everlasting fire.' He said therefore to Peter, Get you behind me, as to one who through ignorance was ceasing to walk after Christ. And He called him Satan, as one, who through ignorance had somewhat contrary to God. But he is blessed to whom Christ turns, even though He turn in order to rebuke him
A more recent commentator notes that “Whatever prominence in the church had been secured by his faith was for the time forfeited, and he must go ‘behind’.”
Peter’s words seemed to be a continuation of Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the desert: see Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4:8. [NOAB].
Nonetheless, the stone which was for a foundation had become a stone of stumbling. After the sudden revelation ‘from heaven’ the unguarded soul of Peter was now occupied by another spirit. He wished for an earthly Messiah who would not suffer or die: his mnd was set not on divine things, but on human. The verb translated as setting your mind is the same used by St Paul in Phil 2.5, ‘Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus’ — where also in verse 8 … he speaks of his ‘becoming obedient even unto the death of the cross.
In the second part of the reading (verse 24-28), Jesus tells his disciples that those who would follow him must deny themselves and take up the cross to follow him. In the Roman world, the word “crucify” had come to be a general word for suffering or torture, as is found in secular literature of the time, and in our English word “excruciate”. One condemned to die on the cross carried it, or at least the cross-beam, to the place of execution. “Jesus sees that acceptance of his message with its promise also may bring destruction. Only those who in faith accept the threat of destruction will find life. See also Matthew 5:11-12; 10:38-39; Mark 10:29-31; Luke 14:27; 17:33; John 12:25” [NOAB].
Life; the Greek word is ψυχὴ, psuchē; the Authorized version had “soul”. Here it means life not in the sense of physical existence but the higher or spiritual life, the real self. The question for what one would sell one’s soul calls to mind the legend of Faust, who made a pretty shoddy deal for his. Again, Jesus had been tempted to ‘gain the whole world (Matt 4.9) but he preferred the kingdom of heaven: ‘the world’ he left to Caesar (Matt 22.21).
One’s life might be a trifle, worth casting off for the rewards that the world can offer, if this world was everything; but it is not. The Son of man comes to bring the Father’s rewards, which are true life, forgiveness, love and joy.
This Gospel passage can be read well along with the passages from Romans we read last week and this. To deny self is an essential part of being transformed in mind (Romans 12.2). Furthermore, although the Lord’s call to take up one’s cross tell us of suffering imposed on us for our choice to follow Christ, they also speak of the death that is involved in turning away from passions and habits of the old life. Few things can be worse than denying oneself the pleasures of vengeance, of getting one’s own; which is why it is so hard to give it up. To learn to bless those who persecute, and not curse, even in the depths of your heart is part of following our Lord.
In the final words of the passage, Jesus declares that some who are standing with him will not taste death until they see the Son of man coming in his glory. Some interpret this to mean the Transfiguration, which is related in the following chapter. Others, noting that in the parallel passage in Mark (9.1) it is “before they see that the kingdom of God has come in power”, take it as referring to the coming of the Spirit on the Day Pentecost (Acts 2).

[1] This is a translation of and commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures which I sometimes find helpful (but many of the comments are textual and grammatical). It may be accessed at Another Jewish translation of the Torah with commentary may be found at . I have not yet explored the Jewish biblical resources on the internet much further than this.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Lectionary Notes

Some Thoughts on the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
24 August 2008
Proper 21, Year A

The Sentence, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, chosen from the Gospel, gives the theme for the day.

The Collect is an adaptation of the collect in the Book of Common Prayer for Quinquagesima Sunday, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday:

O Lord who hast taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth: send thy Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee, Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ’s sake.

This Collect was originally composed for the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549 in place of the ancient Collect, which had a special reference to the practice of confession on Shrove Tuesday. It is based on the Epistle reading for that Sunday in the BCP, 1 Corinthians 13.1-13.
The changes in the new collect prompt a few questions for which there are no definite answers. What is the difference between saying that “God has taught us“ and that “we are taught by God’s word”? Is the omission of the final clause of the original prayer (“without which ….”) a substantial change? If so, does it strenghten or weaken the prayer. Note the changes meant to use contemporary idiom: the change of ‘very’ to “true” makes sense, since the origin of “very” is largely forgotten. The change of “nothing worth” to “worth nothing” strikes me as less happy. because it affects the rhythm of the words.

The First Reading: Exodus 1.8-2-10. Here we have the beginning of the story of the Exodus; which we wil be following in highlights in the first readings for the next few weeks. In the first part we hear of the oppression of the Israelites under a new Pharaoh, who from fear attempts to crush them by forced labour. Despite this, they multiply and grow, and Pharaoh turns to a truly wicked scheme, the annihilation of all male children of the Hebrews. Through the honesty and virtue of the two widwives, this plan is foiled. (Pharaoh is foolish as well as wicked: by killing the male children, he is destroying his slave labour.) The Lord God is planning not just to save the children, but to bring a greater good out of Pharoah’s evil. In the second part we read of the birth of Moses, who will lead the people of Israel out of Egypt.
An historical aside might be of interest here. The sixteenth-century translation known as the Geneva Bible noted that the midwives’ “diobedience herein was lawful”. At the Hampton Court Conference of 1604 King James I mentioned to show that that translation had “some notes very partial, untrue, seditious, and savouring too much, of dangerous, and traitorous conceits”. This is why the new translation he authorized was to have no notes.
The stage having been set, Chapter 2 opens with the story of Moses’ birth. Although we are later told that his parents were Amram and Jochebed (6.20) and his sister Miriam (Num 26.59), none of the characters in the story are named (Pharaoh is a title). This keeps the focus on Moses himself.
The story of an infant saved from danger by being put in a box or basket in the water is found in legends of many heroes, such as Sargon of Akkad, Kama in the Mahābhārata, and Romulus and Remus. The story of Moses turns this motif upside down. Instead of a royal infant found and fostered by commoners before discovering his true heritage, Moses the child of slaves is born an oppressed slave but adopted by the king’s daughter. Furthermore, it is known from the outset that he is a Hebrew, a fact which is apparently not hid from him. It is presumably because he is to be raised by the princess and apart from his people that he is permitted to live.
The “basket” itself has symbolic value: the original apparently means “little ark” and connects this story to that of Noah: it foresdhadows that God will save his people as he saved Noah. Indeed the theme of saving through water foreshadows the might deed of the Exodus.
By puttting the infant into the river in a basket, his mother and sister obeyed quite literally Pharoah’s command that all male children of the Hebrews be thrown into the Nile.
The text explains the name “Moses” as being from the Hebrew mashah, to draw out, but it is more likely to be an Egyptian name, the same as the element –mose in such names as Thut-mose.

Psalm 124
Fifteen of the Psalms (120-134) bear the inscription variously translated as Song of Ascents, Song of Degrees, or suchlike. This inscription likely reflects the use of these psalms by those going up to Jerusalem for the three Pilgrim festivals (see Deuteronomy 16:16). Psalm 124, is characterized as a thanksgiving for a national deliverance [NOAB] and is thus an apt reflection as we begin to read the account of the greatest deliverance, the Exodus.

The Epistle: Romans 12. 1-8. After a long meditation on the place of Israel in God’s plan comes the last major part of the letter to the Romans, an instruction on the Christian life. St Paul has described God’s mercy and his saving acts; Therefore, he now writes, present yourselves as a offering (sacrifice) to him, but a living one. To do this. your lives must not be based on the ways of this world but on the ways of Christ: Be not conformed but transformed.
Whe we hear this we are called to consider how we often unthinkingly take the ways of the community around us as a standard, rather than judging it against the standard of the Gospel of Christ.
There is a useful comment on how we go about doing this at the Commentary on the RCL, and I will not steal it.

The Holy Gospel: Matthew 16.13-20. I sometimes feel that this passage comes up so regularly in the lectionary that I am always commenting on some aspect of it! However, one point should be mentioned that links this reading with the passage from Romans.
The regions of Caesarea Philippi were in the very far north of Israel. at the southern slopes of Mount Hermon and the sources of the Jordan. It had anciently been a centre of the worship of Ba’al, taken as Pan by the Greeks. Hence the name of the place was Panyas or Paneas, modern Banyas. The region had been given by Augustus to Herod the Great, after whose death it passed into the tetrarchy of his son Philip, and who expanded the city and named it Caesarea, to honour the emperor, and Philippi, to honour himself and distinguish it from Caesarea Maritima over on the coast. It has been noted that “Formerly it was known as Paneas, where Baal, the Syrian Pan, was worshipped. The sinister shadow of Herodian Romanism was over the place. The signs of the great world-powers were all aout them, and it was time that the disciples had faith in the Messiah who had come” You can find pictures of the area, and in particular the great Grotto of Pan at This is not simply an historical aside; by putting the Lord’s question, Who do you say that I am? against the background of the civil and military power of the Roman world —church and state, as it were—it links to St Paul’s challenge to be transformed and not conformed to the world.We will not comment now on the Petrine Text (Thou art Peter, &c.,) which opens up too many important and difficult questions. For one take on this verse, you might refer to the RCL Commentary for this Sunday.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Some Notes on the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 20, Year A

The Sentence, “Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom and healed every infirmity among the people”, is founded on Matthew 4.23.

In the reading from Genesis (45.1-15) we have hopped to the denoument of the story of Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery, but by God’s grace he became Pharaoh’s chief minister, and guided the land through seven years of good crops and the following seven years of bad crops. In the famine his brothers have come to Egypt to buy food, but did not recognize him. Finally Joseph reveals himself, and shows his love and forgiveness. At the end of the passage his brothers were able to talk with him, something they could not do peaceably before (see last week’s passage). The crux of the passage is that it was all God’s doing: “And now do not be dismayed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life” (v.5); God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant upon earth, and to keep you alive for many survivors (v.7); So it was not you who sent me here, but God (v. 8). This is true of God’s actions in the world; in a nysterious way he accomplishes his will throught the free, and often evil acts of his people, and often through what appears to be chance. There is in fact never any clear evidence of God’s working.
The “land of Goshen” is now known as the Wadi Tumilat; it is a strip of grazing land in the Nile Delta. From the fact that Joseph assigns it to his family so that thay will be near him it is deduced that Pharaoh’s capital was then in the Delta region. This was the case at the time when the Hyksos, a foreign people, ruled Egypt (c. 1720-1550 BC) []. This dating is by no means certain (see].

The Psalm, 133, is one of the psalms of ascents, sung by pilgrims going up to Jerusalem. It has been commented that “what is ‘good and pleasant’ is more likely the place where the worshippers gather together, and not so much their comradeship.” This interpretation seems to fit the mention of Aaron, the High Priest.] This psalm is used today to reflect on the restored unity of Joseph and his brothers. Mount Hermon lies north of Israel in the Anti-Lebanon range.

The Epistle, Romans 11.1-2a, 29-32 continues Paul’s concern over the rejection of the gospel by his fellow Israelites. The passage excerpted for today concentrates on the positive conclusion of Paul’s meditation. This is clearly seen in the excision of verses 2b to 28 in order to link more closelt the ideas that “God has not rejected his people” and “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable”. Paul’s thought is highly nuanced and perhaps better dealt with in a Bible Study than in public proclamation. Not that in this section the disobedience and disbelied of both “Jews and Greeks” are balanced.

The Gospel: Matthew 15.[10-20,] 21-28; parallel, Mark 7.1-23 The full reading appointed has two sections.
The first, verses 10-20 may be omitted. It is the conclusion of a longer section (15.1-20) which tells how Jesus upbraided the Pharisees for making void the word of God for the sake of human tradition, that is, elevating the oral interpretation to a status equal with the law (15.1-9). Now he turns to the crowd, to explain to them what this dispute is really about, that purity depends on moral behaviour, not on rituals of food and the like. The disciples, astonished at his boldness, venture to point out that he has offended the Pharisees with this saying. he bluntly tells them not to follow the Pharisees; they are blind leaders (see also Matt 23.16-17, 24; Luke 6.39; Romans 2.19). Peter, speaking for the rest asks what he meant by saying that it is not what enters a person that defiles. Jesus replies clearly. Note that Matthew, unlike Mark, does not spell out the conclusion, “Thus he declared all foods clean” (Mark 7.19). Notice also that in Mark it is “the disciples” that ask the meaning of the parable. Matthew often specifies Peter; in this case it was Peter who had specially to deal with the question afterwards (see Acts 10).
In the second section (21-28; parallel, Mark 7.24-30) Jesus goes away to “the district of Tyre and Sidon”, two cities of Phoenicia, now Lebanon. It is not clear from this whether he actually went to the Gentile country or only went “towards” there—the original can bear either sense. As one commentator put it, “He departed to escape from the Pharisees to a place of safety and peace. A conflict was inevitable, but he would choose his own time.” News of his teaching and works had spread abroad, and a woman of that region comes to seek healing for her daughter, who is vexed by a demon. The mother is greatly afflicted by her daughter’s suffering, and cries aloud for help, much to the annoyance of the disciples. Jesus however makes no response.
To the disciples Jesus says, “I have not been sent, except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Compare his words to them when he sent them out: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles … but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt 10.5-6). Some commentators suggest that this is not a case of exclusivity, but of priority in time: the word is to come to Israel first. “In the Messianic age the gathering of Israel must precede and preparte for the gathering of the nations.”
It is impossible to guess at the inner thoughts that underly Jesus’ repartee in the scene that follows, which certainly seems harsh enough. Some say that it was meant to elicit a declaration of the woman’s faith. Perhaps it was meant to show the unreasonableness of an ideological rejection of her plea for help. However that may be, the woman is remarkable not only for her faith but for her wit: she gives as well as she gets. Her faith, as well, contrasts with the Pharisees who would not accept the teaching of Jesus. The passage also shows that, just as it is wrong to call any food unclean, so it is wrong to call any people “dogs”.

Commemorations this Week
20th August: The Memorial of Bernard, Abbot of Clairveaux, 1153. Bernard was a leader of the spiritual revival and reform of the monastic life and the whole Church

Monday, August 11, 2008

Inexpensive Things to Do in Toronto. I

Playing Tourist
I just had to take the day off. Although a glance at the calendar left no doubt as to the pile of work needing to be done, it also made it depressingly clear that July and the beginning of August had slipped by without almost no time given to recreation. In order to get a day off I have to go out; if I stay home, eventually I succumb to the temptation and work. But what is there to do on a Monday which is free, or at least not too expensive, and which one can do alone, without much planning?
One idea is to go and play tourist in some part of town one has read about but never visited. With a few errands that have been nagging and a spot of lunch thrown in it's a nice little outing. The area I wanted to see is certainly not unknown, but it is one I seldom hear mentioned. Perhaps others who have not heard of it, might be interested in seeing it. The amble takes less than an hour. Some time ago I read in an architectural guide to Toronto about the stretch of Wellington Street between Clarence Square at Spadina and the Victoria Square (Victoria Memorial Park since 1905) at Portland. The best way to go is by TTC: get off the King Street Car at Portland and walk south on the west side.

Victoria Memorial Park was the military cemetery, established in the time of Lieutenant Governor Simcoe. The first known internment was of the Simcoe’s infant daughter Katherine; the last was Private James McQuarrick in 1863. It was replaced by subsequent millitary cemeteries. The park contains a memorial to those who fought in the War of 1812 and in particular in the defence of York in 1813. On the top is “Old Soldier, a statue by Walter Allward.

Looking east from Victoria Square one sees Clarence Square, which was conceived in the early 1800s as an urban park surrounded by houses. Wellington Street between the two squares was meant to be a stylish residential area in the then “New Town”. The only remaining residential buildings are Clarence Terrace, which faces the park from the north.

There is a special treat in store when you walk along Wellington Street between the squares. Running south for a block is Draper Street, a residential street that managed to escape the industrialization that spoiled the rest of the area and is now a heritage conservation district. It is lined with cottages in the empire style from 1881 and 1882, as well as some larger houses built between 1886 and 1889. Most of the dwellings have signs designating their heritage status the date of building, the first resident and the architects. Many of the residents’ occupations are also given. It was on this street that the Hon. Lincoln Alexander, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario was born in 1922. Draper Street is completely charming, and a pleasant spot for a little of touring in one’s own city.

Draper Street has personal associations for me. It was named for Sir William Henry Draper (1801-1877), a lawyer and politician, who headed the administration of Canada for a time before Confederation and after leaving politics was a judge and eventually Chief Justice. In 1862 he presided over the trial of Mr and Mrs Aylward for the murder in Hastings County of William Munro (my great-great-grandfather), and on their conviction sentenced them to death, the first husband and wife to be executed together in Canada. There is a bust of Draper in the Narthex of St James Cathedral.
I admit that little jaunt requires some homework, either before or after, but it is a cheap and pleasant way of spending a morning. When I was finished I ran errands, had lunch and bought a few books. That's where the money goes.

[Toronto has lots of information about its history on line.

For Victoria Memorial Park, see:

For Clarence Square & Wellington St., see

For Draper Street see

There is a life of Sir William Henry Draper at :]

Friday, August 8, 2008

Noticed in the Advertising

Need a Yes to a Prayer?
While I was editing the notes on Proper 19, I noticed the advertisment inserted at the top of the column which proclaimed. "Need a Yes to a Prayer?" Immediately I thought of an answer: then pray for something God will want to give you. A little flippant perhaps, but some serious thoughts underly it.
I do not doubt that the advertiser is in earnest, and that the information on offer is based on the real promises of Christ that what is asked for in his name will be granted (John 16.23-4) - Wiser minds than mine can take on the discussion of the full meaning of "in my name". Christ makes it clear that we should ask God for anything we need, asking continually without growing weary (Luke 18.1-8) and asking in confidence (Luke 11.5-13).
Whatever the answer offered in this advertisement might be, however, the quetion seems to contain the dangerous assumption that the purpose of prayer is to make God give us things, or make things happen. It makes prayer sound like far too automatic a thing, as if it were merely a matter of producing the right formula to gain the right answer. More than one writer has observed that it turns God into a sort of dispensing machine for those who have the right coin. I wonder sometimes whether those who teach in this way really believe that God is living, free and loving.
In fact prayer is a thing far richer thing than just asking for things and receiving them. In prayer we come to know God, and even to know ourselves as God knows us, to learn to know God's will and to learn to do it. Petition and asking in prayer are part of a richer relationship relationship than just asking and getting; in that relationship when we ask for things we must also listen and learn whether we really want or need them, or perhaps there is something else we want and need more. The balance between asking and learning is best expressed in the collect for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity in the Book of Common Prayer:
Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Perhaps someday I'll find out what this advertisement has to offer; but in the meantime I will learn about prayer in the old fashioned way, by praying and listening and meditating on the scriptures. The "Yes" may not always be obvious, but I have never yet been let down.
I think I'd better let the ad below - which promises to tell us why God permits evil - go without further comment. If that question could really be answered in a pamphlet -and a non-denominational one at that - this would be a happy world indeed.
Some Notes on Proper 19, Year A
& The Week of the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (10 August, 2008)
The Sentence, I wait for the Lord; in his word is my hope, is taken from Psalm 130 (De profundis). “Out of the deep have I cried unto thee” seems to fit St. Peter’s cry in the Gospel passage as he begins to sink, Lord, save me!
The Collect does not seem to have any particular connection with the readings for this year.
The First Reading: Genesis 37.1-4, 12-28
The lectionary hops through the story of Jacob (Israel) at some speed, touching only on the highlights. His flight and wanderings over, Jacob has settled down in the land of Canaan. But now a new trouble comes because Jacob has a favourite among his sons, Joseph, the son of his beloved Rachel. The story of Joseph (chapters 37, 39-47, and 50) constitute a literary unit within the book of Genesis. At the beginning of the story Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers, making way for the sojourn of the people of Israel and the Exodus.
The famous “coat of many colours” comes from the Greek translation; the original which may mean “a long coat with sleeves”, “a coat of fine wool”, or “an ankle-length coat”. The point is that it is the coat of a member of the ruling class - or at least a non-labourer. In verses 5-11, which are for some reason omitted from the passage read, Joseph has two dreams which seem to foretell that his parents and brothers will bow down to him. This explains the comment in verse 19, “Here comes the dreamer”. Furthermore, Joseph has told tales on his half-brothers (verse 2), which was not likely to win their love.
When Jacob sends Joseph to check up on his brothers (verse 12-14; see verse 2), they plot his death, but later decide to sell him instead. Is this change of plan driven less by merciful than by mercenary motives? Note that in verse 21 it is Reuben that tries to dissuade his brothers from killing Joseph, while in verse 26 it is Judas. This may be sign of the melding of different traditions; or one may be a scribal error. Two traditions also seem to have been merged in verses 25-28, one in which the brothers sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites, and the other in which Midian traders pull him from the well and sell him.
In the full story it is seen how God is working out his purpose for Israel through these unpleasant human acts; it will lead to Israel being saved in the years of famine, and God’s great saving act in the Exodus. The story of Joseph is read in the Daily Office in Lent in Year 2.
Psalm 105:1-6,16-22,45c. Psalm 105 tells in verse the story of God’s mighty acts of salvation; compare Psalm 78. Note that 1 Chronicles 16:8-22 is a composite of Psalms 105; 96 and 106. The selection chosen for this Sunday tells the story of Joseph in Egypt from the point of view of God’s power working in human actions and history. In vv. 16-17 “he” is God; in vv. 18ff, “he” is Joseph.
The Epistle: Romans 10.5-15
This passage is taken from the long section of Romans in which St Paul comes to grip with the fact that most of Israel seems to have rejected the message of Jesus as Christ.
The first part of the reading (verses 5-13) expounds on verse 4, For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified. Chris Haslam remarks on this:
There are three possible meanings: [1] The law of Moses, with its demands and consequences, is no longer in effect: Christ is the termination of the law. (See also Galatians 3:23-26.) [2] In Christ, the Law is brought to its proper conclusion and fulfilment. (See also Matthew 5:17.) [3] The Law functions to drive people to ask for deliverance; this is available in Christ. Paul may intend all three meanings. NJBC sees the third meaning as the most likely: the final and purposive goal of the Law is Christ.
He further notes that in 9:31-33 there is pursuit of oneness with God; one pursues a goal. St Paul quotes several passages from the books of Moses to show that the Law pointed forward to Christ (Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 8:17 and 9:4; Deuteronomy 30:11-14). Justification (righteousness) comes from the confession that Christ is Lord, the same Lord over both Jew and Greek. The second part of the reading speaks of the need to hear the gospel before any ca call on the name of the Lord. That they may hear, some must preach, but none can preach unless they are sent, that is, by the apostles, who were themselves sent by Jesus.
The Holy Gospel: Matthew 14.22-23.
The parallel passages are Mark 6.45-54 and John 6.15-21
Immediately after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus sends the disciples in the boat to the other side; we are told in verse 34 that “when they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret,” which is just down the coast from Capernaum and apparently not far from where they started. He himself dismisses the crowd and then goes up the mountain by himself to pray. This is a model for us; if our Lord needed time alone for personal prayer, how much more do we?
In verse 24 and 25 we meet two ancient units of measurement which are rendered quite vaguely in our translation. a) “The boat …. was far out from land” is literally, the boat was many stadia from land. A stadion was a Greek measure of about 1/5 of a kilometre, or a furlong (220 yards). Our word “stadium” comes from this ancient measure of a race track. b) “Early in the morning”; is literally “In the fourth watch of the night”. The ancients only counted hours of day light; the night was divided into three or four watches, which were of equal length. The “fourth watch” would be the last hours before dawn, not necessarily what we would call “early in the morning”. Perhaps “in the small hours” would better convey the time. It could also be translated "in the morning watch", which is the time noted in Exodus 14:24, when the Lord "discomfited the host of the Egyptians' in the midst of another great work of power over water.
Naturally frightened by the sight, the disciples cry out, “It is a ghost!” We might wonder whether “ghost” is the best translation of phantasma, since it in modern English it implies a walking spirit of the dead, or whether something more neutral might be better, such as “apparition”. Jesus speaks to calm their fears by identifying himself. Inspired by the sight of Jesus walking on the water, Peter asks him to bid him walk on the water, too. Jesus does bid him, but as Peter walks, he is frightened by the wind and begins to sink. Jesus saves him, catching him by the hand, but upbraids him for his lack of faith. This is the second miracle.
And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased, the third miracle. The disciples acknowledge Jesus as Son of God, for he had power over the sea, which was considered a chaotic and evil power (see Genesis 1:6-7, Job 9:8 Psalm 77:19, Psalm 89:9-10,Isaiah 43:16,Sirach 24:5-6).

Feasts, Memorials, and Commemorations of the Week

* 10 August: Laurence, Deacon and Martyr at Rome, 258. Laurence was one of the seven deacons in the city and church of Rome. In the year 258 the presecution of the church was renewed with vigour. On August 6 of that year the Bishop of Rome, Sixtus II, and four of his deacons were put to death; two of the remaining deacons died later the same day. The magistrate demanded that Laurence hand over the church’s treasure, and granted him three day’s grace to gather it. When the time arrived, Laurence appeared before the authorities with a crowd of beggars, cripples and the infirm, declaring: Here is the treasure of the church. He was executed at once, by being burn on a grill.
11 August: Clare of Assissi, Abbess, 1253. Clare was a rich young woman of Assisi who was converted to following the way of poverty by the preaching and example of St Francis. she became the mother of a community of women, who lived in great poverty and prayer. Clare lived the life she taught until this day in 1253, when she died.
12 August: Consecration of Charles Inglis, First Anglican Bishop in Canada, 1787. After the American Revolution, the British government finally saw the need of bishops for the church in her empire. The first bishop appointed for Canada was Charles Inglis, the former rector of Trinity Church in New York City, now a refugeee for his loyalty. He was consecrated this day in 1787 to oversee the Church in all of British North America, where he laboured until his death in 1816.
13 August: Jeremy Taylor, Bishop of Down and Connor, Spiritual Teacher, 1667. Jeremy Taylor was a priest of the Church of England who suffered for his loyalty to the King and the Church during the Civil Wars. When the King and the Church were restored in 1660 he was appointed to the sees of Down and Connor in northern Ireland, where was worn down by labour and sickness and died in 1667. Taylor is chiefly remebered today for his works Rules and Exercises for Holy Living and Holy Dying, books which contain deep wisdom and good advice for the day-to-day practice of devotion.
14 August: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maximilien Kolbe, Martyrs, 1945, 1941. Today we remember a Protestant Minister and Roman Cathokic Priest who doied for their faith in Christ at the hands of the Nazi government in Germany. Kolbe was a Pole, arrested after his country was conquered, and sent to Auschwitz. There he gave up his life in palce of another prisoner. The theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was at first committed to non-violent resistance to the Nazi regime, but was later drawn into a futile plot to assassinate Hitler, for which he was arrested and executed on 9 April 1945.
15 August: St Mary the Virgin. This day, traditionally said to be the day on which our blessed Lady died, and also known as her “Dormition” or “Falling Asleep”, is her principal feast in the Anglican Calendar. An ancient but extra-biblical tradition holds that on her death she was assumed into heaven, body and soul, hence the title Assumption.
16 August: Holy Women of the Old Testament. On the day after we commemorate the Blessed Virgin, it is good to remember all the other Holy Women of Israel. Unfortunately, the list is too long to include here.

* Since Sunday takes precedence over it, Laurence was commemorated this year on Saturday, 9 August

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Some Note on Proper Eighteen, Year A
The Sentence: In years A and B the sentence, which is used as the Alleluia verse beore the Gospel, is : We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4.4 This sentence looks to the Gospel reading.

The Collect is apparently a new composition It is founded on the Gospel account of the feeding of the five thousand.

The First Reading: Genesis 32.22-31. After serving Laban for many years, Jacob has decided to return home to Canaan. He has outwitted Laban into giving him the best of his flocks, and has departed with his wives and entourage without saying farewell. This angered Laban, who pursued Jacob, but (thanks to God's intervention), they have come to an amicable agreement. Now he faces the meeting with his brother Esau, whom he tricked out of his inheritance. Commentators do not agree on the identity of the man who wrestles with Jacob, Is he God himself, as Jacob’s naming of Peniel suggests, or an angel? The great Jewish commentator Rashi said that he was the guardian angel of Esau.
The main point of the story is the giving of a new name. Jacob is now to be Israel. Jacob’s new name signified a new self; no longer was he the Supplanter (25.26) but Israel (33.10) which probably means “God rules”, but is here interpreted as “He who strives with God”. So this is a story of conversion: Jacob has a new character and is no longer the trickster. If the man was Esau’s guardian angel, then the change of name may signify the undoing of Esau’s curse of his brother’s name (27.36).

Psalm 17:1-7,15: The psalmist prays for deliverance from accusers who behave deceitfully.

The Epistle, Romans 9.1-5. Paul has written of the new life that is ours in Christ, in the love of God, aided by the Holy Spirit, with the certain hope of eternal life, and reached the triumphant declaration that “nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (8.39). Now he confronts the question of why most Jews have rejected the good news. This causes Paul great sorrowand anguish. He would even be willing to be “cut off from Christ” (v. 3), be condemned to damnation, for the sake of bringing his fellow Jews to Christ. They are “Israelites” (v. 4) – a title given to them by God, as we saw in the first reading. They have seven gifts from God:
Adoption, being chosen as children of God; Glory, God’s presence in the desert and in the Temple; The Covenants of God with the patriarchs; The giving of the law at Mount Sinai; The Worship in the tabernacle and the temple, which God commanded and prescribed through Moses; The Promises to Adam, Noah, Moses and David; and a heritage still in effect, of worshipping the God of their fathers, the patriarchs (v. 5, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). Above all, Jesus the Christ, who was born a Jew.
With this passage Paul begins the long and complicated discussion of the relation of Israel to the Gospel, which extends to the end of Chapter 11, concluding that “so all Israel will be saved” (11.26). Only selections of this portion of Romans is read in the Sunday lections this year. It is a section where one ought to make use of a good commentary.

The Gospel: Matthew 14.13-21. The parallel passages in the other Gospels are Mark 6.31-44; Luke 9.10-17; John 16.1-13. Note that this miraculous feeding is recounted in all four Gospel The feeding stories echo Exodus 16 and Numbers 11 (manna and quail), as well as 2 Kings 4:1-7, 42-44 (Elisha multiplying oil and bread for the widow). The description “a deserted place” reminds us of the words of Pslam 78.10-11:
They spoke against God saying, Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? He smote the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread, or provide meat for his people?
The mention of the boat suggests that this account should come before 13.53 where Jesus goes to Nazareth, which is not on the sea. You might compare Mark 6.32.
The first words of the passage, Now when Jesus heard this, refer to the death of John Baptist, recounted just before this in verses 1-12. After the Baptist’s death Jesus faced a new stage in his life; he seeks solitude apart from the crowds. He may well have seen his own end foreshadowed in John’s. Compare his reaction to John’s imprisonment, as recounted in Mk 1.14-15. Now he goes by boat to a deserted place.
The traditional site of this miracle is Tabgha, on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee, abut 2.5 km from Capernaum. Thus the people did not go very far when they heard Jesus was there, which suggests perhaps that they might not have packed food as they would for a proper journey.
Matthew reports that when Jesus landed at this deserted spot, and saw the throng, he had compassion on them, and healed their sick. On “he had compassion” (ἐσπλαγχνίσθη), see the notes for proper 11 (Blog of June 13). Mark says he taught them, Luke that he both taught and healed. Luke’s is more likely, for if they were all there until it was evening he probably did both. As St Augustine reminds us we do not need to expect each evangelist to include every detail.
When the disciples had given Jesus their meagre supply of food, he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. The mention of grass suggests the spring time: St John’s account specifically says (6.4) that the Passover was at hand.
The Lord’s actions, taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, should be compared to the descriptions of the Last Supper (Matthew 26..26 and parallels).
As always the miracle is performed without outward show. The Lord simply blessed the food and breaks it for distribution, and it is enough. But note that there is not the breath of a hint of the crowd bringing out food they had. This is is not the story of Stone Soup.
The twelve baskets of fragments left over are clearly symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel, restored in the last times under the twelve apostles of Jesus (see also Mat 19.28). It is also more generally a sign of the abundance and overabundance of God’s grace.

Feasts and Commemorations this Week
Monday, 4 August: St Stephen Deacon and Martyr. Transferred from Sunday. [The BAS calendar has provided the option of moving the feasts traditionally celebrated on the days after Christmas to other days in the year. It is my strong belief that they should be celebrated on the traditional days.]
Wednesday, 6 August:
The Transfiguration of the Lord : Holy Day
Thursday, 7 August: John Mason Neale, Priest, 1866, who helped enrich the devotional life of the Anglican Communion, especially by the hymns he wrote and translated.
Friday, 8 August: Dominic, 1221, Priest and Friar, founder of the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans)
These comments are the by-product of my own preparation for preaching, or for attending the Sunday Eucharist if I am not, and I am very happy to make them available if they are useful. However, a certain amount of time is required to prepare them for publication. If you find the notes useful and interesting, please let me know.