Friday, August 8, 2008

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

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