Friday, July 17, 2009

Lectionary Notes

A Few Brief Notes for Proper 16, Year B
The Sunday Between 17 and 23 July
Proper Prayers are found in the BAS, p. 369.

The opening words of the Collect which speak of the “new and living way into the presence of God” opened for us by Christ is related to the words of the Epistle: “through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father”.

First Reading: 2 Samuel 7.1-14a:-
“David wishes to build a temple, but God wills that he establish an everlasting dynasty” [NOAB]
David has been established as King over all Israel and has peace at home and with the enemies on every side. He now dwells in a palace, a house of cedar. He desires to construct a fitting house, a temple, for the LORD. Since the exodus, the community’s worship had centered on the Tabernacle a portable sanctuary in which the ark of the covenant was kept. Both NOAB and the RCL commentary note that verse 6 “ignores the temple at Shiloh”, where the tabernacle had been established by Joshua (see 1 Samuel 3.3); however, Rashi commented that “The tabernacle of Shiloh did not have a ceiling but consisted of a stone edifice below and curtains above.”
The word ‘tabernacle’, by the way, is one we get from Latin. Tabernaculum is from taberna, a hut or cabin, and came to mean a tent. Another English word derived from taberna is tavern, of course. The Greek translation uses καταλύμα, a word we meet again in the Gospels, for the inn where Mary and Joseph could find no room is called a καταλύμα and a καταλύμα was what the disciples were to ask for when Jesus sent them to prepare the Last Supper [Lk 22.11]. But I digress.
It is suggested by scholars that this passage is “a late theological commentary inserted into an early historical source,” which was meant to explain why David was not chosen to build the temple. NOAB adds that it “seems to have been based to some extent on Ps. 89 (compare Ps. 132.11-12)”. A reason to support this suggestion is that the Prophet Nathan appears in this story, even though he seems to be introduced in the Early Source several chapters later (12.1). TO go further into this question, consult a good scholarly commentary on the Books of Samuel.
We know that ‘house’ can mean a dwelling or even a palace, a temple (do we not speak of a church as the ‘house of God’?), and a royal family or dynasty (our Queen is of the House of Windsor). This passage depends on all three meanings and the play on words is the same in the original. God’s response to David’s plan for a temple is to declare that he will make of David an everlasting dynasty.
“Historically the dynasty of David was not everlasting. It fell in 587 (586) BC, probably sometime before our author wrote. He may have been dreaming of a literal restoration of the kingdom of David, while at the same time vaguely anticipating the Kingdom of God, the only eternal kingdom.” [NOAB] When we read this passage in Church we see the promise to David fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
We should also note that God, through Nathan, calls David “my servant”. This subtly declares that David is like Moses, for in the historical books and the Psalms this title is given only to Moses and David. (I have not checked all the Prophets, but it is used of Isaiah and, in that book, of the Suffering Servant.)
The passage appointed ends after the first part of verse 14. The text goes on to say: “When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men” {RSV]: the same warning is found in the Psalm, in verses 30-32..

Psalm 89.20-37.
This portion of Psalm 89 recalls the prophecy of Nathan from the first reading. Note that “in the sky” (verse 37) can be translated as “in heaven”. The RCL notes (From NJBC): “He says that a throne established forever in heaven means a dynasty exercising supreme dominion, unaffected by earthly adversaries.” In verses 38 to the end of this Psalm, which are not read today, “the king has been defeated in battle (v. 43), and it seems that God has forsaken the covenant” [NOAB].
The Epistle: Ephesians 2.11-22.
As we shall see, to read this passage just after the first reading and Psalm adds a dimension to our understanding of those passages.
Here is Abbott’s summary of this section of the Epistle: Ye Gentiles were formerly aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and had no share in the covenants of promise; but Christ by His death has cast down the barrier which separated you from the City of God, and has reconciled you both to God. Now, therefore, all alike have access to Him, the Father, and all alike form part of the holy temple which He inhabits.
Verse 11. Therefore: this refers to the opening section of Chapter 2, in which Paul declares salvation in Christ. “God …. even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” He repeats the great declaration: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast” [verses 8, 9]. These blessings should move the readers to think more of their former state, so that they should be the more thankful.
The enmity between Jews and Gentiles is symbolized by “the dividing wall of hostility”, which has been broken down by the death of Christ; the law which caused the separation has been abolished “in his flesh” [verse 14-15]. The image of the dividing wall seems to have been “suggested by the partition that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the temple proper, and on which there was an inscription threatening death to any alien who passed it” [Abbott].
The purpose of Christ is the creation of one new humanity in place of the two [v. 15]. Chrysostom said that this meant not that the Gentiles had been brought to “that nobility” of the Jews, “but both us and them to a greater as if one should melt down a statue of silver and one of lead, and the two should come out gold”. The image of “far” and “near” [vv 13, 17] comes from Isaiah 57.19 (see also Acts 2.39). It did not originally refer to the admission of the Gentiles to God’s people, but easily lent itself to this conception and was so used by Rabbinic writers with reference to proselytes.
The union of Gentile and Jew in the “new man” leads Paul to speak of the household of God [v. 18], which should resonate with the word play on “house” in the first reading. In the church all the members are to grow into a holy temple in the Lord [v. 21]. The individual members are to see themselves as being “built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”. Note that this is in the present tense: the building is still going on

The Sentence for Year B does not seem to fit the readings in any particular way, except for the one verse of the Gospel: “and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things [Mark 6.34]. It would probably be flippant to suggest that when Jesus and the disciples tried to get away to a lonely place, the crowd followed him {6..33]

The Holy Gospel : Mark 6. 30-34, 53 -56.
This selection seems odd: it contains the prefatory material to Mark’s account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand [6..35-44] and an incident of healing in Gennesaret which follows the account of Jesus’ walking on the water [6.45-52]. The account of the miraculous feeding and the walking on water from John’s Gospel will be read next Sunday [John 6.1-21]. It makes some sense to read the first part of today’s passage to prepare for next Sunday’s; was the second part aded to make it long enough? The notes in NOAB consider vv. 30-34 as part of the narrative of the miraculous feeding. The RCL commentary notes: “I suggest that the creators of the Revised Common Lectionary have made an unfortunate choice in skipping v. 35-44 (the Feeding of the Five Thousand). Reading these verses helps to understand today’s reading. I note that the Feeding of the Five Thousand (from John) is the gospel next week. Mark’s version is the most complete.”
Note in v 30 that the disciples are called apostles. This is fitting since they are returning from the mission on which they had been sent, the meaning of apostle.
The mention of a lonely or deserted place prepares us for the miraculous feeding. There is no source of food other than God’s gift. [With the reading from Ephesians in mind we remember that the root meaning of grace is a free gift.] We should have in mind the wilderness where God gave the manna [Exodus 16:12-35] and Christ’s being tempted in the wilderness to provide turn stones into bread [Mat 4.1-4; Lk 4.1-4]
v. 34: They were like sheep without a shepherd: see Num 27.17; 1 Kg 22.17; Ezek 34.5.
v. 53. Gennesaret is on the N-W shore of the Sea of Galilee.
v. 56: For the fringes of Jesus’ garment, see Num 15:38-40, Deut 22:12. “That Jesus wore this fringe indicates his observance of Mosaic law”[RCL]. Compare the crowd touching the fringe of his garment and being healed with Mark 5.25-31].
NOAB: The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha. NJBC: The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. RCL The Revised Common Lectionary Commentary, RSV: Revised Standard Version. Abbott: T. K. Abbott., The Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh, T & T Clark, (1991). For Rashi’s Commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures, see:


Felicity Pickup said...

By the way, your notes on the readings did help last Sunday (and again on Tuesday evening at CAMH). Thanks for the "heads up."

William Craig said...

Thanks, Felicity - as you can see from the latest posting, I sometimes wonder if anyone (but you and one other) ever reads these things. Your occasional comments make it worthwhile!