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.

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