Friday, April 16, 2010

Lectionary Notes

18 APRIL 2010

The Sentence appointed for this Sunday is Lord Jesus, open to us the scriptures; make our hearts burn within us whle you speak; it is founded on Luke 24.32. The same verse is used for the Alleluia verse in the Roman Missal on this Sunday in Year A, when the Gospel reading narrates the appearance of the Risen Lord to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. The Collect is also based on that passage in St Luke. Both the sentence and the Collect seem a little distant from the readings in Year C.

The First Reading: Acts 9.1-6 (7-20)
The Conversion of St Paul
We first met Saul in the account of the murder of the disciple Stephen. When the council stoned him, ‘the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul’ who ‘was consenting to his death’[7.58, 8.1]. In the next chapter we are told that this Saul was zealous in the persecution of the followers of Christ, ‘ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison’ [8.3]. He described his own conduct in the letter to the Galatians: ‘For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it …’ [Gal 1.13; see also Phil 3.6]. In the midst of his fury came a change, the call of God in Christ. The conversion of Paul is also recounted in slightly different versions in Act 22.3-21 and 26.9-20, see also Gal. 1.13-17.
The RCL commentary gives a helpful summary of one approach to these versions:
‘NJBC considers that the speeches give us a rare opportunity to gauge Luke’s editorial interests over against his source material. While the author uses the speeches to show development over time, the pre-Lucan Saul story is more likely to be seen in its first telling. The replays in the speeches are likely Luke’s rewriting of the same tale under viewpoints of his own. While 22:3-21 mentions Ananias, his role is less than here; he is omitted from the account in 26:2-28, where Saul receives his vocation directly from Christ.’ [NJBC= New Jerome Biblical Commentary]
This passage is very straightforward and I have only a few comments.
1. Still breathing threats ...: this picks up the story from Acts 8.3.
1-2. Went to the high priest and asked ...: According to the notes in the NOAB, those who ‘belonged to the Way were probably from Jerusalem; the Empire granted Jews the right to extradite their own from beyond Palestine.’ However, no authority is given for this statement, and others say that such a right is not documented. On the other hand, there is no proof that it did not exist. Damascus: the capital of modern Syria, is on the western edge of the Syrian desert, 217 kilometres North-East of Jerusalem. It was at the intersection of important caravan routes. Josephus says that there were either 10,000 or 18,000 Jews living in the city. The Way, i.e. the true way of the Lord, was one of the earliest names for Christianity. Those who belonged to it at Damascus were probably from Jerusalem; the empire granted the Jews the right to extradite offenders.

4. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him ... : it is not said here that Saul saw the Lord Jesus; in v. 17 Ananias speaks to him of Jesus who appeared to you on the way. Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?: the Lord's reproach is identical in all three versions. In his disciples the Lord himself is persecuted, ‘a conception peculiar to these passages’ but true to a Christus praesens theory of mission. [NJBC[ The Church does not represent and act for an absent Christ; by giving the Spirit he continues his ministry in the Church. This is also true to the doctrine that Christians are members of Christ.
7. The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. In 22.9 the companions of Saul see the light but do not hear the voice..The Greek suggests that his companions heard the sound of the voice but not the words spoken (see Jn 12.29).
10. The scene now shifts to the disciples at Damascus. Nothing else is known of this Ananias, who is presumed to have been a leader among the Christians of Damascus.
11. The street called Straight, a major street that ran east west through the city.

This Psalm is the hymn of a person who has recovered from a grave illness. Like many who are struck down by disease or misfortune, he had formerly lived in assurance, which is the delusion that I shall never be moved [6]. In his illness he turned to God, and was restored, and so sings God’s praises. Can we take this as a reflection on the theme of the first reading, and perhaps of St. Peter’s restoration in the Gospel?

Please refer to the very extensive notes on this reading at
and at the attached ‘Clippings’
I will only add that parts of this reading appear in the great Chorus, ‘Worthy is the Lamb’ just before the final Amen in Handel’s Messiah, and may be heard here:

I. The Risen Lord appears to the Disciples by the Sea of Galilee
The Fourth Gospel appears to have been meant to end with the note on the purpose of the book in 20.30-31, which we read last week. The final chapter seems to have been added by a different hand; its intention in recording these events may be to address particular questions in the early Christian community. William Temple suggests that of the two narratives the first ‘speaks of the condition upon which alone the work of disciples is effectual (1-14)’ and the second ‘the condition on which aloine the commission to work for Christ is given (15-22). In our reading the last verses are omitted.
1. The Sea of Tiberias. The Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake of Gennesaret and Lake Kinneret, was called the Sea of Tiberias in honour of Tiberius Caesar. It is still called Buhairet Tabariyya (بحيرة طبريا) in Arabic. Herod the tetrarch founded the town of Tiberias on the western shore of the lake in about AD 20.
2. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.. ‘Here are Peter and the sons of Zebedee, as of old; one of the unnamed is likely to have been Andrew; that makes the old quartet (Mk 1.16-19) But now there are also Thomas and Nathanael.’ Despite the events of the Resurrection, they ‘have not yet found the new direction for their lives. They are returned to Galilee.’ The ony difference ‘is that they are a company united by the fact of their discipleship.’
3. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They return to their old occupations. St Augustine noted ‘that they were not forbidden by their Apostleship from earning their livelihood by a lawful craft, provided they had no other means of living.’ St Gregory the Great: ‘The craft which was exercised without sin before conversion, was no sin after it. Wherefore after his conversion Peter returned to fishing; but Matthew sat not down again for the receipt of custom. For there are some businesses which cannot or it can hardly be carried on without sin; and these cannot be returned to after conversion.’ Have you ever considered whether some occupations do not fit the Christian vocation? Temple notes that in I am going fishing ‘The word he uses is that which we have often translated “go his way”. It expresses a completely voluntary & self-chosen action; it may be used of wilful choice or the fulfilment of a destiny, but it suggests that the ‘going’ is an individual act. The others at once decide to join: We will go with you. So they go on their self-chosen occupation—innocent, but self-chosen.: Night was the best time for fishing; but in that night they caught nothing. The work which we do at the impulse of our own wills is futile.’
4. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. As in other appearance stories (20:15; Luke 24:14-15) Jesus is not immediately recognized. There is, however, a more natural explanation: it is just daybreak and still too dark for recognition.
5. Children, you have no fish, have you? Although the context suggests that this is what Jesus means, the literal meaning of the words is ‘have you any food?’ Children may be the same usage as in the First Letter of John 2:13, 18; 3:7. NJBC says that this is the ‘self-designation’ of the community John wrote for. It may also be ‘no more than a casual, friendly greeting,’ meaning something like ‘Lads’.
6. When they answer No, the Stranger commands or advises them to try again, this time on the right side of the boat. Such definite advice must represent knowledge, wherever it comes from; when they obey, they catch more than they can handle. Temple: ‘What is done in obedience to the Lord’s command, even though He who gives the command is not recognized, results in overwhelming success.’ The contrast between the self-chosen occupation and obedience to Christ is of as great importance to the life of the community as it is to an individual Christian.
7. Something convinces the Disciple whom Jesus loved that this stranger is the Lord Jesus. We are not told how he knew this, but we remember that it was he who first believed on seeing the empty tomb (20.8) . Simon Peter acts with characteristic impetuosity and jumps into the lake to hurry ashore. The other disciples have given up trying to get the catch aboard, and tow it ashore by a smaller boat or dinghy. Our translation misses the distinction between two forms of the word for boat in vv 7 and 8.
8. The spot traditionally identified as where the disciples met Jesus is marked by a pretty little church just on the shore of the Sea of Galilee called “the Church of the Primacy of Peter”. For further information see
The charcoal fire recalls the charcoal fire in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house in 18.18, the scene of Peter’s denial, and should be remembered when reading verses 15-19.. with fish upon it. Temp. On arriving at shore they find that somehow provision has already been made. Jesus’ request for fish in the following verse appears strange if there are already fish on the fire, but see below on verse 12.
11. The symbolism of the 153 fishes is disputed. It may refer to the universality of the mission. The Fathers vary in their interpretations. Temple wisely says that ‘It is perverse to seek a hidden meaning in the number; it is recorded because it was found to be the number when the count was made. The net did not break: if the fish represent those who will come to Christ, this stands for the unity of the church in contrast to the divisions over Jesus among the unbelievers. See 7:43; 8:16; 10:19 [NJBC]. Temple:. The gift of God is always more than we can offer for its reception.
12. Come, and have breakfast: once again Jesus is their host. That some of the fish were on the fire ‘suggests that the meal he offers consists partly of what he had prepared and partly of what the disciples have brought to land. If so, the symbolism is true. The Lord refreshes us for His service by a gift which is in part derived from Him, in part the fruit of our own labour under his direction; but it is all His gift, for the whole fruit of our labour is His, not our own, and we only enjoy it rightly or fully when we accept it as from Him’ [Temple].
13. The description of the meal is reminiscent of the miraculous feeding in John 6, which also took place by the ‘Sea of Tiberias’. It is also clearly eucharistic.
14. The third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples. For the two previous appearances, see 20.19-23 and 26-29. Note that those both happened on the first day of the week, that is, Sunday, when the disciples were gathered; this third appearance is associated with the eucharist. The whole is clearly associated with the Sunday Eucharist as the centre of the Church’s life.
Temple gives a good link between the first and the second parts of this reading: ‘The Lord has by a ‘sign’ illustrated the blessing which rests on work done in obedience to His command. he has refreshed His friends with sustenance which is, in part the product of their own labour. Then He turns to the eager-hearted follower whose loyalty so sadly failed as a result of the self-will that was intermingled with it.’

II. The Restoration of St Peter
In Chapter 18 we read how St Peter denied his Lord while standing by a charcoal fire by night; now in the early morning, by another charcoal fire, the Lord forgives and restores him. In his denial, Peter claimed a greater and more certain devotion than that of his fellow-disciples (see Mat 23.36). Does he claim this still? Jesus asks, Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? [15]. The essence of the passage is that He asks this three time, and three times Peter confesses his love, thus undoing the threefold denial of Maundy Thursday night. The passage then ends with a prediction of how Peter would die in witness to the Lord [18-19]; tradition says that Peter was crucified in Rome in the days of Nero. The last words are the vital call: Follow me.
We should note, however, that our translation covers over a possible distinction in the original. This is a difficult matter, since the scholars don’t agree about the importance of this distinction. Sicne we do not have the space or time to discuss this matter at all sufficiently, I will simply provide Archbishop Temple’s hyper-literal version, which gives a sense of the nuances of the Greek, in the hope that it will provoke thought. The words in bold are translated by ‘do you love me’ or 'I love you' in our version:
So when the breakfast was over, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, lovest thou me more than these?’ He saith to him, ‘Yes, Lord, thou knowest that I am thy friend’. He saith to him ‘Feed my lambs’. He saith to him again, a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, lovest thou me?’ He saith to him, ‘Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I am thy friend’. He saith to him, ‘Tend my sheep’. He saith to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, art thou my friend?’ Grieved was Peter because he said top him the third time, ‘Art thou my friend?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, all things thou knowest, thou seest that I am thy friend’. Jesus saith to him, ‘Feed my sheep’.
And with that I have run out of time for this part of the work this week. May God bless you in the reading of the Scriptures.