Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lectionary Notes

being The First Sunday after Pentecost in Year C
Sunday, 30 May 2010

As many of you are doubtless aware, I was away in the middle of the past week to attend a funeral in Otawa and spend time with my family. This has meant that I have not had enough time to prepare my raw notes on the readings for this Sunday in a way that would be most useful for you. However, some points have occurred to me as I read through the lections:
On the first Sunday after Pentecost is celebrated the Feast of the Holy Trinity. This feast was first enjoined as a general observance by a synod of Arles in 1260, and has been kept by the whole western Church since the fourteenth century. The eastern Church celebrates the Trinity on Pentecost, keeping this Sunday as a festival of All Martyrs.
The observance of this day as a separate festival possibly originated in England, this is suggested from the old custom in England and some other parts of northern Europe of numbering Sundays ‘after Trinity’, instead of the older system of numbering ‘after Pentecost’, which was followed by the Church of Rome and has been taken up in the new Lectionary. The Canadian Prayer Book, by the way, restored the older custom in part by naming this Sunday The Octave Day of Pentecost, commonly called Trinity Sunday and the next The Second Sunday after Pentecost, commonly called the First Sunday after Trinity.
Eric Mascall wisely pointed out that while people often speak of the Trinity as a doctrine, theTrinity is not a doctrine. The Trinity is the Living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is a doctrine about the Trinity, which was elborated over a very long time of discussion and argument among the proponents of different ways of understanding God’s self-revelation in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit. A few comments might be helpful
The doctrine of the Trinity is not explicitly stated in Scripture, but has been worked out by the Church as the only possible conclusion from the evidence given in Scripture. It is, in fact, a perfect example of the Lord’s words in today’s Gospel: the Spirit of truth … will guide you into all the truth.
The theologian C. B. Moss writes that ‘The Scriptural evidence for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is summed up in the following nine propositions:
(a) There is one God. (St. Mark 12:29; etc.)
(b) The Father is God. (St. John 6:27; etc.)
(c) The Son is God. (St. John 1:1; etc.)
(d) The Holy Ghost is God. (St. Mark 3:29; etc.)
(e) The Three are separate from each other. (II Thess. 3:5; St. John 3:26.)
(f) The Father is personal. (St. John 15:9; etc.)
(g) The Son is personal. (St. Mark 14:62; etc.)
(h) The Holy Ghost is personal. (Rom. 8:26; etc.)
(i) The Three are One. (St. Matt. 28:19; etc.)’
A further passage from Moss might be helpful for understanding the type of evidence the Church was working with as it elaborated the doctrine of the Triinty:
‘3. Nature of the New Testament Evidence
‘The writers of the New Testament assume that there is one God, the Father, to whom the Old Testament bears witness. In the first three Gospels (commonly called Synoptic Gospels), our Lord uses language which implies His Godhead. In the fourth Gospel, in the letters of St. Paul, and in Hebrews and Revelation, His Godhead is explicitly stated. The same is true of the Godhead of the Holy Ghost. .... The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are distinct from each other, but there is only one God. All Three are personal beings capable or relations to each other (such as love). None of them is a mere aspect or influence. We have the materials for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, but it is not explicitly given The nearest approach we find to an explicit statement is found in II Cor. 13:14; St. Matt. 28:29. (We cannot refer to I St. John 5:8 in the Authorized Version because it is not found in the original Greek.)
‘4. Reason for Absence of Explicit Statement
‘The reason for this absence of explicit statement is that the writers of the New Testament (all but St. Luke, who was a historian rather than a theologian) were Hebrews, not Greeks. Their business was to proclaim the Gospel as prophets, not to think it out as philosophers, which was the work assigned by Divine Providence to the Greeks. Five centuries of discussion followed. Every possible theory was put forward to explain the facts given in the New Testament. The full theological definition of the doctrine, in technical terms as finally worked out, was accepted by all Christians everywhere, and is accepted still by all the main divisions of Christendom, whether Eastern, Roman, Anglican, or Evangelical.’
The clearest exposition of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity is to be found in the Quicumque Vult, commonly called the Creed of St Athanasius (though it is not a creed and not by St Athanasius), on pages 695-697 of the Book of Common Prayer. It is clear indeed; but clarity is not always the same as being easy to understand.
for the day is the acclamation of the Seraphim in the vision of Isaiah [Isa 6.3], which is the first lesson at Morning Prayer in the BCP.
The Collect in the BAS is apparently a new composition (that is, I have not been able to track down the source). The traditional Prayer Book Collect, which has also been kept in the American BCP, is taken from the ancient Gregorian Sacramentary; the opening prayer in the present Roman rite is from the same same source.
As well as reading the passages appointed for today in the Revised Common Lectionary, those with enough time might also benefit from reading some other passages associated with this day.
The traditional readings for the Eucharist on Trinity Sunday, as found in the Book of Common Prayer since 1549, are Revelation 4 and John 3.1-16. According to Blunt’s Annotated Book of Common Prayer, these same readings are also found on this Sunday in the Lectionary of St Jerome [fourth century]. In the new lectionary, Year B seems to have the most traditional readings.
It is interesting to note that the traditional New Testament reading at Matins is an account of the Baptism of Christ: Matthew 3 in the first two prayer books, Mark 1.1-13 in later versions. It seems a pity that the passage from Mark was not chosen as the Gospel in Year C, since the Lord’s Baptism may be seen as a revelation of the Trinity. Indeed the theologian Derwas Chitty once wrote that it is the primary revelation of the Trinity in the Gospels. It would not hurt to read over Mark 1.1-11 or its parallels before Church tomorrow.
One might be forgiven for thinking that the RCL readings for this Sunday in Year C make it rather an extension of Pentecost than a celebration of the Revelation of God as undivided Trinity.
That hymn so commonly sung on Trinity Sunday, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty, takes its imagery from the passage from Revelation 4.
PROVERBS 8.1-4, 22-31
The Book of Proverbs is ‘a small library of teaching materials of different origins and dates’, which was compiled in the period after the exile in Babylon to give moral & religious instruction such as professional teachers gacve to Jewish youth. It is ‘the most typical example’ of wisdom literature in the Old Testament: compare Job and Ecclesiastes. In Proverbs 1.2-6 we find what the compiler intended the book to be.
According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible, Proverbs falls into four principal parts, each with its own title, and five smaller sections serving as appendices:
1.1-9.18 Book I The Proverbs of Solomon, Son of David
10.1-22.16 Book II The Proverbs of Solomon
22.17-24.22 Book III The Words of the Wise
24.23-34 Appendix
25.1-29.27 Book IV More Proverbs of Solomon
30-31 Appendices
Throughout the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament God’s Wisdom is personified: see Job 28; chapters 1, 8, & 9 of Proverbs, Sirach 24; Chapters 7 -9 of the Wisdom of Solomon; and Baruch 3.9-4.4. [Note: the three books last mentioned are among the so-called Apocyrpha, books which are not prnted in all Bibles but are appointed to be read in Church. For Anglicans a complete Bible includes these books.] In Proverbs, God’s Holy Wisdom is described as a woman to be courted, and image which fits the fact that wisdom must be sought out and cherished with dedication and devotion. She calls to all, but there are thousands of other voices calling us to the way of folly: seeking a life of pleasure and easy success. This personification of Wisdom, alost, but not quite as a separate person, was seen by many Christian thrologians as a foreshadowing of the doctrine of persons within the Godhead. Even more, in 1 Corinthians 1.24 and Hebrews 1.3 Christ is called “the Wisdom of God’, a way of speaking which derives from this tradition of personified wisdom.
Today’s reading is made up of portions of ‘the Second Speech of Personified Wisdom’ (8.1-36: for the first speech, see 1.20-33); this speech is the climax of the book’s prologue.
The reading itself is straightforward enough, although you might want to consult the notes and ‘Cippings’ at I would only add the comment here that in the final verse of the reading, the word translated ‘rejoicing in his inhabited world’ seems literally to mean ‘playing in the habitable world of His earth,’ as in the Judaica Press edition, which provides this gloss: ‘All the generations of the wicked that were from Adam to Noah and from Noah to Abraham, I was laughing at them.’
This psalm is a hymn of praise to God as creator. Although verses 4-6 originally referred to the place of humanity as ruler of creation under God Hebrews 2.5-9 applies verses 4-6 to Jesus, so that in Christian use this Psalm has become a hymn of the Incarnation and so quite quitable for Trinity Sunday.
ROMANS 5.1-5
This very short passage is the conclusion [therefore, v. 1] of a longer section of the letter to the Romans in which St Paul sets out his teaching that we are justified (made or accounted righteous by God) not on obedience to law, but on faith in God’s act of redemption … in Christ Jesus. For this reason, to understand the passage one should read at least Romans 3.21-31, which the NJBC describes as ‘the most improtant part of Romans’.
However, the section seems to have been chosen for today because the assurance of our faith is found in the God’s love ... poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.. While, as was noted above, there is no explicit statement of the Trinity in the New Testament, there are many places, especially in the letters of St Paul, which suggest the Trinity of Persons by a triadic form of language; see, for example, 1 Corinthians 6.11, 12.4-5; 2 Corinthians 1.21-22, 13.14; Romans 8.14-17; 15.30. In v. 8 Paul declares that God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, which brings out verse 5 as one of the triadic formulas.

No comments are yet ready for the Gospel passage..

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Seventh Sunday of Easter in Year C
16 May 2010

The Ascension

This Sunday is also known as the Sunday after Ascension Day, which is celebrated on the fortieth day of Easter, following the account in the opening chapter of the Acts of the Apostles (1.3). The Lord’s Ascension is related in Acts 1.4-14, which is read on the feast and on this Sunday in year A In year B we read of the election of St Matthias, and this year we read of the adventures of St Paul in Philippi. If you were unable to attend a celebration of the Holy Eucharist on Ascension Day, it would be helpful to include the opening chapter of Acts in your devotions. There is another account of the Ascension at the end of Luke’s Gospel (24.50-53).
The Collect for this Sunday, like that in the Prayer Book (of which it is in part an adaptation), continues the celebration of the Ascension; unlike the older prayer, it does not look ahead to the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which the readings in John tie so closely to the Ascension.
The NJBC points out that the difference between Luke’s two accounts of the Ascension is that the one in Luke 24 is a ‘doxological’ account, which stresses the worship of Jesus, while that in Acts 1 is rather an ‘ecclesiastical’ account, which leads up to Luke’s narrative of how God’s ekklesia (church) must leave the moment of joy and travel the world with the good news. The account in Luke 24 makes no mention of ‘forty days’ but since there is no other indication of time it would be unwise to make this into a point of opposition between the two accounts.
To understand the meaning of the Ascension, the best thing to do is to read over the chapters of John’s Gospel from which readings have been taken for the past few weeks (14-17).
The Readings
Acts 16.16-34
Last week we left the apostle Paul and his companions in Philippi, a leading city of Macedonia. He is travelling with Silas, since Barnabas had gone off to Cyprus after a disagreement (15.36-40). After some some success in their first European preaching tour, they now run into some trouble. In Philippi there was a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination. This is literally a python spirit: in Greek mythology the python was a serpent slain by Apollo at Delphi, the site of the most famous oracle of antiquity, whence the name came to be used for soothsaying in general. The note that her owners made money from her divination opens a window on a link between superstition and money-making in the pagan world that should be quite familiar to us. There is also a natural human touch in Paul’s casting out this spirit because the girl’s crying after them annoyed him [17].
His annoyance is easy to understand; for many days this slave-girl was calling out after him and his companions as they went about the town. Her words are interesting: These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you [or to us] a way of salvation. This detail is reminiscent of Jesus’ exorcisms in the Gospels, when demons would declare who he was (see Mark 1.24, 57). That she spoke of a way of salvation is interesting; this was a pagan, Gentile community.
We often talk about salvation without thinking much about its meaning; the main thought is probably a vague idea of going to heaven when you die. Meeting the word in the mouth of a pagan diviner or soothsayer should prompt us to think about what it could have meant for the people of Philippi. In Greek, the word sōtēria, which we render as ‘salvation’, had a wide range of meanings: deliverance from any evil, harm or danger; preservation, security, and health. Those were superstitious days, and as the RCL commentary notes, salvation included ‘deliverance from the powers governing the fate of humans or the material world’. In that time, such gods as Zeus, Apollo, Artemis, or Asclepius were often called theos sōtēr, Saviour God! It was also applied to kings and emperors, and even town councils who defended and delivered their people from dangers and provided them with security of life. Without going into th ematter in any detail, we may say that the existence of ‘mystery religions’ such as the Eleusinian mysteries show that there was concern for security after death.
Salvation is a concept that would be understood by Jew and Gentile alike, where a concept such as ‘Justification’ might prive more difficult. At the end of the passage we find the jailer, who has just been frightened out of his wits by the thought that his prisoners had been miraculously freed, asking Sirs, what must I do to be saved [30]. We might do well to wonder just what he was thinking of.
If you would like to look at the meanings of the word ‘salvation’ a start might be made with the definitions I find in my Greek Lexicon, and the passages that are cited:
1. A saving, preservation: Acts 27.34; Hebrews 11.7
2. Deliverance: Luke 1.69, 71; Acts 7.25
3. Salvation, spiritual and eternal, Luke 1,77; 19.9; Acts 4.12; Revelation 7.10
4. A being placed in a condition of salvation (by an embracing of the Gospel, Rom 10.1, 10; 2 Timothy 3.15
5. Means or opportunity of salvation, Acts 13.26; Roman 11.11; Hebrews 2. 3 et. al.
6. “The salvation’, the promised deliverance by the Messiah: John 4.22
The word for ‘salvation’ is from a verb sōzō, which means to save, rescue; to preserve unharmed, it also means to cure, to heal and so on. Thus, in a verse such as Matt 9.23, Jesus’ words to the woman with the haemorrhage, ‘your faith has made you well’ could also be rendered, ‘your faith has saved you’.
Another very human note comes when the slave-girl’s owners see their profit disappearing and find that they have to object to the authorities about this un-Roman teaching and stir up the crowd [19-22]. It is interesting to note that the text does not directly claim that Paul’s deliverance was a miracle [26], although there is no reason doubt that the earthquake is sign of God’s working his will in and through the natural order which, though mysterious, never requires supernatural intervention. This leads to another moment of success when the jailer believes and is baptized [27-34]. You should note that the story does not end where the reading concludes, but carries on to the end of the chapter. It would be good to read the whole thing.
Psalm 97
This psalm is a song of the glory of God’s reign as lord of the whole earth. It is analysed as follows in the New Oxford Annotated Bible:
1. Summons to worship the Lord as king.
2-6: The manifestation of the Lord
7: The Idolaters will realize their folly
8-9: Israel’s faith will be vindicated
10-11: Expression of confidence in the Lord’s justice.
12: A renewed call to worship.

A Reading from the Revelation to St John 22.12-14, 16-17, 20-21.
This final reading from the Apocalypse begins shortly after last week’s passage ends. The epilogue to the book consists of warnings and exhortations, from which it seems the warnings have mostly been omitted from the reading.
The opening verse ties this reading to the message of the Ascension. In Acts 1 we read that when Jesus had gone from them the apostles stood staring up into the sky as it they expected to see Jesus going up and up until he disappeared, something like Mary Poppins. Of course he did nothing of the sort; he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight {Acts 1.9) which does not require a long trip into the blue. Then an angel said to them, This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven”. In Rev 22.12 he affirms this promise: See, I am coming soon! It should be noted that while tachu certainly can mean soon: its primary meaning is ‘quickly’. When tempted to ponder when this might be, there are many passages to remind us that we cannot know. Instead of listing them, I will mention an important line in Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Aslan says, ‘I call all times “soon”’.
The end of the Apocalypse of John makes it clear that the whole point of the vision is God’s triumph and restoration of the world as he meant it to be. By this point we might have forgotten that the Apocalypse began as a letter to the seven churches. By reading it in church it becomes a letter to all Christians. The final words make a fitting conclusion for John’s letter, for the New Testament and for all of Scripture: The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen, a blessing on all who hear it in all the Churches.

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St John 17.20-26.
As always, this passage from the Fourth Gospel deserves several more pages of comments than I can provide. I give some points that have caught my particular attention as I study this passage.
The seventeenth chapter of St John’s Gospel, ‘the Great High Priestly Prayer of Jesus’ has been called ‘the most sacred passage even in the four Gospels’ [William Temple]. A portion is read every year on this Sunday between the Ascension and Pentecost . In Years A and B the selections overlap, 1-11 and 6-19 respectively. This overlap comes in part because the natural division of the Chapter is into three main sections of which the first is rather short. With the titles provided by Temple and by the New Jerome Biblical Commentary these sections are

1-5) Temple: The Son and the Father. NJBC: Jesus returns to glory
6-19) Temple: The Son and the disciples; NJBC: Jesus sends his disciples into the world
20-26) Temple: The Son, the disciples, and the world; NJBC: That they may be one.

In this final section of the prayer, ‘Jesus suddenly looks beyond the immediate circle of disciples to those who will believe as a result of their testimony’ [NJBC}: But not for these only do I ask, but also for those who believe in me through their word [20]. This should make us prick up our ears: for here he is praying for us. It is possible to render Those who believe either in the future, as our version has it, or in the present, as in the RSV. Most old versions also have the future, but Temple notes: ‘Present tense: wherever there is a true disciple, there are others whom he has won or is winning.’ Raymond Brown also read it in the present and noted: ‘If the viewpoint is that of the Last Supper, this present participle is proleptic, having the force of a future, a usage that may reflect a Semitism. If the viewpoint is that of the time of the Johannine writer, the believers are a present reality.’ Both viewpoints are true: our Lord’s prayer for us is eternal, and therefore always a present reality. All this should keep the duty to witness Christ in our own day before our eyes. As Temple noted. Jesus’ ‘prayer was for the disciples for their own sake, but also for the sake of the others whom they would win to discipleship. We are to our Lord at once ends in ourselves, and means to other ends; it is dangerous for us to forget either.’
[21] His prayer is for unity, and in reading these words we are forced to ask just what we mean by speaking of the Church as one, and indeed just what we mean by one. These are not questions we can address here in any useful way. There is a good discussion of it in the first chapter of Eric Mascall’s book of essays on the Church and the Eucharist Corpus Christi (1953). In every age this prayer presents not only a record of Jesus’ will but a challenge to a church which lacks the unity he desires for it. Though we would like to think that the first generations of Christians lived in a sort of ecclesiastical Eden and disunity entered later like the tempter, the New Testament bears witness of disagreements and disunity. It is perhaps enough to the insistence on remembering and repeating Jesus prayer shows that the Evangelist knew his community needed to hear it.
But this unity is not just the unity of sentimental or moral attachment, and it is not simply a unity of number. The Lord prays that all may be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you. To save time I will quote Mascall here:
But what is this unity into which they are to be brought? It is nothing less than the unity with which the Father and the Son are already united. … The unity which binds together Christians in Christ is nothing other than the unity which binds Christ to the Father. And this unity is not simply the moral unity which Christ enjoys with the Father through his perfect obedience and self-dedication. … Let us note the movement of thought. (1) The divine Word is one with the Father in the unity of substance of the Trinity . (2) By the Incarnation this unity is communicated to the human nature which the Son has united to his divine Person in the womb of Mary, so that with his human lips he can say, ‘Thou hast sent me into the world … Thou Father, art in me and I in thee’ [17.18, 21]. (3) And finally this unity is communicated to all who are adopted and incorporated into Christ” ‘that they may be one, even as we are one’ [17.11]. In other words, the unity with which the Church is one is nothing other than the unity with which the Persons of the Holy Trinity are one, and this unity is communicated to men, as it were, by a bridge with two arches. The first arch is the Incarnation, by which the divine Person of the eternal Son united human nature to himself in Jesus Christ—the hypostatic union; the second is the arch of our adoption into Christ by which we are incorporated into his human nature. [Mascall, Corpus Christi (1953), pp 5-6.].
[22] The glory that you have given me I have given them: ‘Glory’ is a theme of John’s Gospel from the beginning [see 1.14]. What is glory? Our word is from the Latin gloria, which means ‘fame, renown, praise, honour,’ and related ideas. It is in turn from a root meaning ‘hear’. It was used to translate the Greek doxa, which means ‘reputation, esteem, honour,’ and such things. In the LXX doxa was used to translate the term kĕbôd YHWH, the glory of the LORD, by which the sacred writers expressed the felt presence of God among his people, loving, saving, and guiding. This was applied to ‘the opening of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire, the manna from heaven, the ark of the covenant, the Temple, and among poets, the beauty of the heavens’ [NJBC]. The Lord’s glory is often depicted as a bright light, and it is interesting that in the Latin versions the Greek is often represented by claritas, ‘clarity’ or ‘brightness’. When John’s Gospel speaks of the glory of God, then, it is the loving and saving presence of God that is made visible. This is true especially on the Cross. So Temple writes:
‘We now know what that glory is—absolute love in perfect self-expression; this, in face of the selfishness of the world, is the Cross, but when the divine love has by its self-sacrifice won its response, it is he perfect happiness of love given and returned. This, of which the Cross is one aspect and the New Jerusalem is the other aspect, is what the Father eternally bestows upon the Son, and the Son historically bestows upon the disciples’. This glory is bestowed upon the disciples ‘so that the unity of the Godhead may be reproduced in them—in us—that they may be one as we are one.’
This unity is possible only as far as we are in Christ by baptism and by faithfully cleaving to him.
[23] The unity of the disciples is ‘not a private and internal experience of the believing community: it is a witness to the world and poses a challenge to the world in the same way that Jesus’ unity with the Father had posed a challenge of salvation or judgement. Its object is not to challenge the world with some programme of communal reform but with the gospel message about the relationship between Jesus and the Father.’ [NJBC] Learning that we are to be one so that the world may know that Jesus was sent by the Father, and more, to know of the Father’s love, brings us back to the truth that ‘wherever there is a true disciple, there are others whom he has won or is winning.’
In vv 23 and 25, know really has the sense of ‘recognize’.
[24] Jesus prays not only that all be one, but that they may be with him where he is, that is, with the Father. Note that here he addresses Father simply, and in the next verse Righteous Father. Temple notes on the first that ‘the simple address without epithet suggests the intimately personal nature of this prayer. He does not now ask, but states a desire for longing for the eternal companionship of His friends in the Father’s presence’; in the second case ‘He addresses the Father as righteous or ‘just’ because He must needs return from the ultimate hope of a converted and believing world to the immediate need of the present’.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lectionary Notes


In the old calendar this was the Fifth Sunday after Easter and commonly called Rogation Sunday, which name comes from the following Rogation Days, the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension Day. About the year 470, Bishop Mamertus of Vienne in Southern Gaul ordered Litanies to be sung in procession outdoors on these days to avert some natural disaster. The custom became universal in the western church and in later years the prayers came to be for agriculture and the fruits of the earth (see page 199 in the BCP). It might be argued that this would have been a far better occasion for ‘Earth Sunday’ than the one chosen.
A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles 16.9-15
The First Convert in Europe
In the Roman lectionary, as in the version of the lectionary that appeared in the first edition of the BAS, the first reading for this Sunday was Acts 15.1-2, 22-29, in which the issue of the Gentile converts was settled by a meeting of the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem. The reading sets the stage (15.1-2) and reports the conclusion of this meeting, a letter to the Gentile converts in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia (22-29). Of particular importance is the phrase in the Apostles’ letter announcing their decision, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” [28}. The account of this ‘Apostolic Council’ (as it is often called) is of great importance to our understanding of the Church’s authority in matters of doctrine, and it seems strange that we should not read it, especially as it comes so naturally after the reading last Sunday. It is also a commentary on the Lord’s promise in today’s Gospel.
Hawever, from the information available it appears that this important passage in Acts is now never read on a Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary. Instead we read the account of the first mission in Europe and the first convert there, Lydia. That is also important, but not so as to supercede the passage from Acts 15. That said, I will encourage you to read Acts 15 and turn to the reading now appointed.
The story of the early church continues with the first mission in Europe. At the end of Chapter 15 St Paul and St Barnabas have set out on a tour of the cities where they had proclaimed the Gospel [15.36]. This was the second of Paul’s Missionary Journeys. The first journey is narrated in Acts 13-14, the second in 15.36-18.22 and the third in 18.23-20.18. Many Bibles include maps of the three journeys; you can find a map of the second journey at, with links to maps of the others. The dates are given in these pages are conclusions based on the study of the text, which itself gives no dates; other commentaries and studies may differ by a few years.
As today’s passage opens, Paul and Barnabas with Timothy, who had joined them at Lystra [16.1-3], have come opposite Mysia, a region in the north-west of modern Turkey, He attempted to go north-east into Bithynia but was somehow kept from doing so: ‘the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them’ [16.7]. Instead they went to the port of Alexandria Troas, which was near the site of ancient Troy. Here St Paul had the vision recorded in 16.9. Acts reports five visions for Paul, of which this is the first (see also18.9-10, 22.17-21, 23.11 and 27.23-24). A man of Macedonia appeared to him and called for his help. The Roman province of Macedonia was the northern area of Greece. 16.10 implies that when Paul told his companions of this vision they agreed with his interpretation and decided to cross over to Greece.
Note the use of we here. This is the first of several passages of Acts written in the first person plural, which some accept as first-hand reminiscences, though others do not. We cannot deal here with this question, for which you should consult a good commentary on Acts. The RCL site summarizes the question [see] as respectable conservative conclusion may be found at the old Catholic Encyclopaedia, under the heading ‘Authenticity’, at Another older view, but different may be found in the 1911 Britannica at:
16.11. Samothrace is a large island in the Aegean northwards from Troas, just past the Dardanelles. The direct voyage would have been along the coast. Neapolis was a port on the coast of Macedonia; it is now a suburb of Thessaloniki.
16.12. Philippi was a leading city, thoiugh not the capital of Macedonia. It was founded by Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, in 356 BC: see Colony here means a a communty of citizens from the one country or state established in other territory. Among the Romans colonies were often settlements of retired soldiers.
16.13. The river has not been certainly identified; The RCL notes say: ‘Some scholars think this was the Gangites, but being 2 km (over a mile) from Philippi, it was too far away for a Sabbath day’s journey. Another possibility is the Crenides creek.” However, while the text says that they went to the river on the Sabbath it does not say that they went ‘a Sabbath day’s journey’ as set down in the Law. Place of prayer could mean a synagogue, but Luke usually uses that word. The commentators suggest that the Jewish community at Philippi had no synagogue. Where we supposed there was a place of prayer might seem to allow the possibility that they were mistaken and there was not one there, but the text doesn’t really support this.
16.14. Lydia, the first convert in Europe: her name means ‘Lydian woman’; her hometown is in the ancient kingdom of Lydia. A dealer in purple cloth: Lydia was a business woman, and apparently quite well-to-do. Purple dye refers to the dye produced in ancient times from a shell-fish, the murex; originally produced in Phoenicia, it was known as ‘Tyrian Purple’. It was very expensive. See further at A worshipper of God: This suggests that she was a Gentile attracted to Jewish religion and morality but not a convert. There were many such among the pagan society in ancient times.
16.15. … and her household: for household baptisms, see also 16.31-34, 11.14, 18.8 and 1 Corinthians 1.16. And she prevailed upon us: somehow the use of prevailed strikes me as amusing, as it suggests that Paul & Co. might have preferred to stay elsewhere.
Psalm 67
The Nations Called to Praise God
Please see the notes at the RCL site.
A Reading from the Revelation of St John. 21.10, 22-22.5
The final vision of the Book of Revelation is of ‘the Bride, the wife of the Lamb’ [20.9]. Although this is a supernatural vision, the images are more straighforward than some others in this book and do not require lengthy explanations. It is useful, however, to note some of the principal cross references, in order to see that the themes encountered here run deep in the whole of the Bible.
The seer is brought by an angel to a very high mountain from which he sees the holy city coming down out of heaven from God (see 3.12, 20.2 and compare Ezekiel 40.2). The next dozen verses, which are omitted from the reading, describe a city of amazing beauty, like a rare jewel.
[21.22] In the city was no temple, for the presence and glory of God dwells in it. See 20.3; Isaiah 24.23. For the same reason the city needs neither sun nor moon [23]. On verse 24, see Isaiah 60 and Psalm 72.10.
[25] The gates will not be shut by day: a city’s gates would be shut by day for defense; the new city of God is perfectly safe. there shall be no night: see 22.5 and Zechariah 14.7.
[27] nothing unclean: see Isaiah 52.1. The Lamb’s book of life: See 3.5; 13.8; 17.8; 20.12, 15, Isaiah 4.3; Daniel 12.1; Psalm 69.28.
[22.1] The river of the water of life: see 21.6; Genesis 2..10, Psalm 46.4; Ezekiel 47.1; Zechariah 14.8; John 7.37, 38.
[2] The tree of life: Genesis 2.9; Ezekiel 47.12.
[4] They shall see his face: the crowning joy of heaven is to see the face of God. See Psalms 17.15; 42.3; Matthew 5.8. The term ‘Beatific Vision’ is used in theology to speak of this supreme joy. See The Catholic Encyclopaedia, and the further link there. On their foreheads: see 7.3; contrast 13.16.

The Holy Gospel according to St John 14.23-29
There is a choice of Gospel readings for today. Since this is the Sunday before Ascension Day and our thoughts are turning to that greay event and to the Day of Pentecost which follows, it seems reasonable to read this passage rather than the other (John 5.1-9) today. The Gospel of John is so rich a text that we can only provide the barest comments here. The RCL notes are helpful.
This passage comes from John’s account of the Farewell Discourse of Jesus at the last Supper, which runs from 14.1 to 17.26. At the beginning of Chapter 14 he tells his disciples not to be afraid : though he is going from them, he is going to prepare a place for them and will take them to himself [14.1-4] Thomas [14.5] and Philip [14.8] question him about his words.
14.15-26 contain the promise of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. Our reading begins with the last part oif this section: Archbishop Temple, however, wisely suggests that the whole of this passage must be considered together. He provides an outline
15, 16: Love and obedience are coupled together, and both are associated with the coming of the Paraclete.
17-24: The meaning of that coming is partially disclosed
25, 26: The source of the Paraclete’s power in the historic minsitry of Christ is made clear, and the thought of his coming is thus again linked with the love and obedience of the disciples to their Lord.
Paraclete: This is simply an English form of the original word Parakletos, and I use it here because there no one English word that adequately renders it. We find ‘Counsellor’ in the RSV, ‘Advocate’ in the NRSV, ‘Comforter’ in almost all the early English versions, the AV, Temple and elsewhere; all these words have points in their favour. The original Greek word is from a verb meaning ‘to call for, call upon’; so that the paraklete is someone who has been called to one’s side, one called for assistance. ‘Advocate’ seems to catch the root meaning best. ‘Comforter’ is only good if we remember that it means not what makes you comfortable, but what makes you strong (from the Lat fortare). ‘Helper’ is perhaps possible, but lacks dignity.
14.23. Jesus answered him: he is the other Judas (not Iscariot). Temple has a charming note on this detail: ‘We picture the Apostle John dictating to John the Elder and Evangelist, and when he comes to the word ‘Judas’ the Elder looks up to protest that Judas had gone out;—in answer the words are added not Iscariot. He has asked Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world? He refers to 14.21, where Jesus said that it is to those who keep his commandments and love him that he will manifest himself. The idea that the manifestation is limited perplexes Judas. But his question is simply speculative, as if for clarification, and Jesus never gives a direct answer to such questions; instead he speaks of the implicit spiritual point. Here is is the intimate fellowship with God that comes from love of Jesus Christ. It is the coming of the Father and the Son to the one who loves Jesus and keeps his commandments which is the manifestation; if the world loved Jesus then he would be manifest to the world.
14.26. The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. This is the only passage that makes the identification of the Paraclete and the Holy Spirit explicit. Although Jesus is going away, the Holy Spirit is a means by which his life is imparted to the disciples, his teachings maintained and interpreted.
14.27-29. In the last three verses the Lord Jesus gives a parting gift of Peace, my own peace; he gives it not as the world gives. In reading these verses ask yourself: how does the world give? How is Jesus’ gift of peace different? Note that the words in v. 27, let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid, echo the opening words of the chapter: Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me [1.4]. These words also call to mind the Lord’s words to Joshua (and we remember that that name is only a Greek form of the name Jesus): Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Josh 1.9).
There is neither space nor time for any further writing this week.