Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes on the First Sunday of Advent, Year B
Sunday, 30th November, 2008
With the First Sunday of Advent, traditionally called Advent Sunday, we begin a new Church Year. Advent Sunday is the Sunday nearest to St Andrew’s Day, whether before or after; it can also be found by counting four Sundays back from Christmas Day
The Introduction to this Sunday adapted from the St Joseph Sunday Missal is worth noting:
Theme: Stay Awake! We can imagine the following embarrassing situation: A young baby sitter falling asleep or just stepping out for a short while, the children running all over the house, and the paents coming home from a party at midnight—a little bit earlier than anticipated! A soldier caught asleep on guard duty is court marshalled severely, and rightly so, for if the guards are sleeping, who can feel safe? We Christians believe that Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”. Scripture teaces that we are related to God in a covenant. We are his co-workers in making this planet a better place for all. The moment you least expect it, the Lord may call you in. make sure that it is not going to be an embarrassing situation for you! “Take heed, watch.”
But it might be asked why we begin our preparation for Christmas by hearing and thinking of the end-times and the second Coming. It is so that as we celebrate the birth of the Christ child we may have firmly fixed in our minds just why it was that he came to us: in answer to the cry that God rend the heavens and come down; to keep us from "Peterpantheism," the sentimental worship of a God who never grows up.
The Sentence or Alleluia verse is taken from the Gospel for Year C (Luke 21.25-36). It reminds us that the coming of the Son of man is not a terror to be feared but the deliverance which we confidently expect. The Roman Missal uses a different sentence for this Sunday: “Lord, let us see your kindness,a nd rant us your salvation

The Collect is an adaptation of the traditional Collect for Advent Sunday, which beautifully contrasts and balances the Lord’s first Advent in humility (and indeed secrecy) and his second coming in power and majesty
The Readings
For detailed comments on the readings, please consult the RCL site at
First Reading: Isaiah 64.1-9 [63.19b-64:8]
Isaiah, son of Amoz, proclaimed the word of God iin Judah between 742 and 687 BC, at te time when the northern kingdom, Israel, was taken by the Assyrian empire and the southern kingdom maintained a precarious indepence. Nithng is known of his early life, but froom some aspects of his message and from Is 6.1-8 it appears that he might have been a priest. The Book of Isaiah is apparently made up of three parts. Only the first section, caps 1 to 39, can be assigned to his time; from differences of literary style and theological emphasis, scholars have generally concluded that caps 40 to 66 were written during and after the Exile in Babylon., or indeed from immediately before the fall of Babylon in 539 BC and afterwards Further, some scholars consider that Chapters 56 to 66 form a third part of the book, written after the return to the Promised Land. It is from this last section that today’s reading is taken. The prophecy is of hope, but fully aware that the people have sinned, and that for this God seems to have deserted them.
Today's passage is a prayer in a time of distress; God's people have returned from exile in Babylon but their return and the reconstruction have not been the success they expected. The cause of this failure, they reckoned, was their sin and disobedience. So their prayer is for salvation to come from without, from God, for there is no hope in the world. God’s intervention is cataclysmic, the heavens are rent asunder and the mountains flee from the face of God.

Psalm 80.1-7, 16-18
Like the first reading, this Psalm is a prayer that God will deliver Israel. Note the recurrence of the Shepherd imagery that marked the readings for the Reign of Christ.

The Epistle: First Corinthians (1.3-9)
In this opening passage of his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul gives thanks for the gifts of speech and knowledge which the Father has granted them in Christ. Indeed, he writes, they lack no spiritual gift as they await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. With these words we recall the Parable of the Talents that we heard two weeks ago, in which the rich man’s slaves were entrusted with his property and on his return called to account for the use they made of it. We will also remember them when we hear the little parable of man going on a journey in today’s Gospel (St Mark 13.34-35).

The Gospel: Mark 13.24-37.
In Year B of the Lectionary, the Gospel passages are mostly taken from the Gospel according to St Mark, supplemented with passages from St John. Mark’s is the shortest of the four Gospels and in the opinion of the majority of scholars was the first of the three synoptic Gospels to be written (the synoptics, so called because of their many similarities, are Matthew, Mark, and Luke). To try to summarize the facts and arguments involved in this conclusion would be ridiculous. However, some of the most important facts, as noted in the New Oxford Annotated Bible, are:
1) Apart from details Mark contains very little that is not in Matthew or in Luke
2) When Mark and Matthew differ as to the sequence of matter, Luke agrees with Mark, and when Mark and Luke differ as to sequence, Matthew agrees with Mark
3) Matthew and Luke never agree as to sequence against Mark.
The Gospel is anonymous, but ancient Christian tradition ascribed it to John Mark (see Acts 12.12; 15.37), who is said to have composed it at Rome as a summary of the preaching of St Peter (cf 1 Peter 5.13). The earliest witness to this tradition was Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, about AD 130:
Mark became the interpreter of Peter and he wrote down accurately, but not in order, as much as he remembered of the sayings and doings of Christy. For he was not a hearer or a follower of the Lord, but afterwards, as I said, of Peter, who adapted his teachings to the needs of the moment and did not make an ordered exposition of the Lord.
The thirteenth chapter of Mark, which is parallel to Matthew 24 and Luke 21, contains the teachigj on the end of the age that is sometimes called the “little Apocalypse” (remember, though, that apocalypse means ‘revelation’ and not ‘end of the world’). The section chosen for today’s Gospel stresses the need for constant vigilance because the day and hour of the Lord’s coming cannot be known. We have learned from other passages, such as the Parable of the Talents and last week’s Gospel of the Great Judgement, that above all being alert and watchful means taking every opportunity to d othe Lord’s will, reaching out in love to all we meet.

Finally, there is a question of translation about the opening verse of the passage, which the NRSV renders "But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,” where older translations had “after that tribulation”. Now “tribulation” is just the Latin word that was formed from tribulare, “to press”, hence “oppress”, “afflict”, to render the Greek θλῖψις (thlipsis), which means “pressure”, and so “affliction”. The root meaning in both langauges is to “rub”, “sqeeze”, “press”. The root meaning of “suffering,” on the other hand, is “to bear”, “undergo”, “endure”, and the like (suffero; sub + fero). It would seem to me that, if “tribulation” is to be avoided, θλῖψις would be better translated by a word like “affliction” or “oppression”, which describes the evil that is happening to one, than by “suffering” which is really about how one bears up.


Felicity Pickup said...

Wachet auf! This morning as frequently happpens I arrived at the last moment for Sunday service and so deprived myself of hearing the organist play Sleepers Wake as his prelude. And I had been looking forward to that beautiful tune in its season. However, thanks to your Notes I have now caught up with the Propers.

Alung said...

this is not in response to your postings. However, i have come across a cartoon titled 'Construction worker's slum
with the luxury condo's the workers built in background
Bombay, India' by Dan craig and I would like to use this picture as a cover image for the magazine published by Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief based in India, New Delhi. Would you have any contact information of him so that we can take permission for the printing. the magazine is mailed for free for individuals, churches, organisations in India and outside. he can write to me at thanks much for your help.

William Craig said...


Thank you for your comment; I forwarded it directly to my brother and expect that he will contact you. With my best wishes.

Alung said...

Thank you so much for forwarding the mail to your brother. He got in touch with me this morning. He has allowed us to use the image with his byline. You have a very creative brother!