Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for Proper 12 in Year C
20 June 2010
The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

The Sentence for Year C is John 10.27; it makes more sense in the context of the mass for this Sunday in the Roman Missal than it does in the RCL. There is nothing else of the Shepherd theme in our propers.
The Collect’s reference to the storms that cause us to be afraid and petition against despair and unbelief relate it to the Gospel for Year B (Mark 4.35-41)

The Readings
First Reading: 1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a.
Elijah’s challenge to Ahab and Jezebel came to a head in the great contest at Mount Carmel, which is recorded in 1 Kings 18.14-46. (You might like to note, by the way, that the name Elijah means Yah is God. Yah is a form of the divine name YHWH, the LORD.) Queen Jezebel is enraged and swears by her gods to destroy Elijah as he had slain the priests of Baal (18.40). Despite the display of the LORD’s power at Carmel, Jezebel was still formidable in human terms and in fear for his life Elijah flees from Jezreel in the north [18.46] about 130 miles to the far south of Judah, to Beersheba on the edge of the wilderness [19.3].. From here he is sent by God further into the wilderness to Mount Horeb (also known as Sinai) where God had delivered the law and the covenant to Moses (Exodus 19). If the geography is meant literally, this is a further 200 miles. In this long journey only the LORD’s power and help sustain the prophet (19.4-8).
Elijah has fled to Horeb not only to save his life, but because he feels he has failed in his mission to vindicate the LORD and bring abiut a renewal of his covenant against Baal. So at the place where the covenant was given he seeks the LORD of the covenant in prayer.
Our version says that when Elijah came to the mountain ‘he came to a cave, and spent the night there’, but the original speaks not of a cave but of the cave. The difference is not trivial, for this detail is meant to recall Exodus 33.17-23, when the LORD makes his goodness pass before Moses on the mountain. The LORD said to Moses, ‘while my glory passes by I will put you in the cleft of the rock’ [Ex 33.22] Rabbinic commentators said that the cave here ‘is the cleft of the rock where Moses stood’.
At the Mountain, the LORD demands of Elijah, ‘Why have you come here?’ [v. 9]; The question implies that Elijah was expected to be elsewhere, that is, in Israel. moreover, the mountain is the Lord’s sanctuary, which no one is to enter uninvited. Elijah replies with a three-fold complaint: 1) the people have rejected God in spite of his efforts; 2) they have killed God’s prophets; and 3) he is the only prophet left.
The LORD calls Elijah out of the cave to stand before him, and passes by Elijah as he did Moses, but not in the same way. In Exodus when the LORD descended on the holy mountain, ‘there were thunders and lightnings … and a very loud trumpet blast’ and the mountain ‘was wrapped in smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire’ [Ex 19.16-19]. Now the signs of the first theophany appear, wind, earthquake, and fire, but the LORD is in none of them. The LORD is never bound by our expectation of how he should appear to us. At last there is ‘a sound of sheer silence’ or, better, ‘a still small sound’ or ‘the whistle of a thin breeze’. At this Elijah came out from the cave, covering his face with his cloak, and the LORD repeated his question, and after Elijah’s answer sends him back to Syria. The reading for Sunday omits the conclusion of the passage (vv. 15b-21, in which he is appointed to declare the LORD’s will.

Psalm 42 and 43
Quemadmodum; Judica me Deus
Although separate psalms in our Bibles, Psalms 42 and 43 are a single poem, as may be seen from the recurrent refrain (42.5, 11; 43.5).
1-4: The psalmist’s love for the temple and God’s presence there. 5 The refrain. 6-10: The psalmist is now sick and far from the temple. 11. The Refrain. 43.1-4: He prays that by his heaking he may be vindicated as a righteous man and enabled to go to Jerusalem. 5. The refrain.
43.3 is probably the main reason this lyric was chosen as a reflection on the first reading.
Psalm 43 is the Preparation for Mass in the traditional western Liturgy.

The Epistle : Galatians 3:23-29
In Galatians 3.19-29, St Paul sets out the true purpose of the Law of Moses: though it could not make people righteous, it revealed God’s will so that they might recognize their transgressions (3.19, 22; see also Romans 3.20, 7.7). here he uses the image of a pedagogue. Since the one guided by the pedagogue is the child of the house, the thought naturally turns to our condition as children of God through Baptism into Christ.
There are extensive notes on this passage in the RCL Commentary. Here we will make only a few notes.
First, the translation of paedagogus as ‘disciplinarian’ in verse 24 while not precisely wrong, misses much of the word’s meaning. (We might ask how this word is meant to be understood: is it disciple iin the sense of instruction—training disciples—or discipline in the sense of correction and punishment.) The word paedagogue originally meant a slave who led the child to school and had the charge of them at home. (For another use of this image, see 1 Corinthians 4.15, where it is translated guide.) It came to be used for a teacher, hence our word pedagogy. The important sense here is not so much that this person disciplines the child, but that his position and trust are temporary. Just as the pedagogue did not teach child but delivered him safely to the teacher, so the law does not justify us but keeps us for Christ, by whom we are justified. Both RSV and NRSV have ‘until Christ came’’ the Authorized Version (‘King James’) has ‘to bring us unto Christ’. It is clear that the literal ‘was our pedagogue into (or in) Christ’ needs some expansion to make much sense in English. The AV seems better to me, giving the sense that the Law was to lead to Christ, not leaving out the sense of instruction but not putting it in the first place.
Second, St Paul speaks of being baptized into Christ (v. 27). The NJBC comments that ‘the phrase’ into Christ ‘is found mainly in the two contexts of belief or baptism in Christ. It pregnantly expresses the movement toward Christ that these initial experiences imply, the beginning of the Christian’s condition in Christ (see 1 Cor 10.2). Torn from one’s original condition (in Adam, 1 Cor 15.22), from one’s natural inclinations (in the flesh, Rom 7.5) and from one’s ethnic background (under the law, 1 Cor 9.20), one is solemnly introduced ‘into Christ’ in faith and baptism. Into Christ introduces, then, the movement of incorporation
Finally in verse 27 Paul says that in Baptism the Christians have ‘clothed themselves with Christ’. He is likely making use of an Old Testament expression for adoption of another’s moral dispositions or outlook. this image is found in other Pauline letters. See Romans 13:1; Col 3.9-10:; Eph 4.22-24.

The Gospel: Luke 8:26-39
The parallels to this passage are Matthew 8.28-34 and Mark 5 1-20, on which Matthew and Luke have both drawn; Luke is very close to Mark, but the differences should be noted. This passage is full of points where our ideas and those of Jesus’ day are very different. The condition which was ascribed to demonic possession can be understood in the terms of psychological illness. J B Caird in his commentary on this passage notes: In the madman of Gerasa we have a typical case of disintegrated personality. All the symptoms described have the note of authenticity: the morbid preoccupation with graves, the abnormal strength, the insensitivity to pain, the refusal to wear clothes, & the multiple & fluctuating self. The man conceived himself to be possessed by a whole regiment of demon; like the country he lived in, he was enemy-occupied territory, and it may well be that his condition arose out of a traumatic experience associated with the Roman occupation. The cure was accompanied by a violent & obstreperous convulsion, which caused a nearby herd of pigs to stampede in disastrous panic.
There are other elements of the story which support this. We perhaps pay little attention to the herd of pigs. But, as Caird points out ‘The presence of pigs is a reminder that Jesus was here in the predominantly Gentile territory of the Decapolis, To the Jew the pig was an unclean animal, and the eating of pork expressly forbidden in the Law (Lev 11.7-8).’ Even more, the pig was associated with Roman power and Roman paganism. According to the NJBC, ‘Roman might was symbolized by a very fecund sow that gave birth to thirty piglets, and by the wild boar.’ The wild boar was also a symbol of the Tenth legion, which was stationed in Syria about that time, Thus, the entry of “legion’ into the swine and their subsequent destruction can be seen as a ‘sign’ of future liberation.
Be that as it may, the main point of this miracle for us is the power of Jesus over all that spiritually and psychologically enslaves men and women.

In general you may also consult

No comments: