Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for Proper 13 in Year C
27 June 2010: The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

The Sentence, which is taken from 1 Samuel 3.9 and John 6.68, is not obviously connected to the readings for Year C. Since we use it just before hearing the Gospel it should be understood as a prayer that we may listen attentively.

The BAS Collect is closely linked to the reading from the Letter to the Galatians: ‘For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”’ (5.14).
The Readings
2 Kings 2.1-2, 6-14
The Bible tells of only two people were taken up to heaven without dying: Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah. These assumptions are fulfilled in a more wonderful way in the ascension of Christ who died and rose again.
At the end of last week’s reading, Elijah had been commanded by the Lord to anoint Elisha to be prophet in his place (1 Kings 19.16); he found him ploughing, with twelve yoke of oxen (symbolic of the tribes of Israel?) and cast his mantle over him. Elisha asked permission to bid farewell to his parents before following the prophet, which was granted (19.19-21). 1. Now it is time for Elijah to be taken up into heaven. He sets out with Elisha from Gilgal,. There were several Israelite cities called Gilgal; this one is probably to the north of Bethel. Three times on the way [verses 2, 4, 6], Elijah asks Elisha to stop, and three times Elisha declares that he will go on. Some say that this is a test, to determine whether Elisha is truly loyal to his master; the commentary of Rashi says that Elijah ‘wished to drive him away because of his [Elijah’s] humility, so that he would not see him being taken away.’
5. The company of prophets, literally, the sons of the prophets. These were members of an order who prophesied in a group. See 1 Samuel 10.6-8, 10-13. they figure prominently in the stories of Elisha as his adherents and dependents.
8. Elijah’s mantle is the symbol of hius prophetic authority. His striking the water recalls Exodus 14 and Joshua 3.
9. A double portion: a double share is allotted to the eldest son in Deuteronomy 21.17.
10. You have asked a hard thing: Rashi’s commentary says, ‘It is impossible to give you more than I have in my possession.’ Nonetheless, if you see me as I am being taken from you, ‘then I will be able to do for you more and more.’
11. a chariot of fire and horses of fire: fire is a theme through the whole story of Elijah: see 1 Kings 18:38 and 2 Kings 1:9-16. This second passage ties to the Gospel reading appointed for today.
12. Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen! Rashi has: ‘Jonathan [renders:] My master! My master! who benefited Israel with his prayer more than chariots and riders.’ See also 2 Kings 13:14. Father has been used from ancient times for addressing religious figures. See Judges 17:10.
13. He picked up the mantle of Elijah: since clothing is understood as an extension of the person, Elisha thus assumed Elijah’s role and identity.
14. Elisha’s parting of the river with Elijah’s mantle shows that he is the prophet’s successor. Indeed, in Rashi’s Commentary we read that ‘Elisha’s splitting [the Jordan] was doubly as great as Elijah’s, for in the beginning there was the merit of them both, while here was his merit alone.’
Elijah’s return before the Day of the Lord is promised in Malachi 4.5-6, a passage which is applied in Luke 1 to John the Baptist.
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Voce mea ad Dominum
This Psalm is classified as a lament, a ‘prayer for deliverance from personal trouble.’ Some suggest, however, that the ‘I’ of the psalm speaks for the whole community. Verses 1-6 spell out the psalmist’s miserable condition. It is so bad that he is tempted to question God’s justice and love [7-10]. Only the first two verses of these sections are part of the selection. In verses 11-15, to encourage his faith, he recalls God’s wonders of old The mightiest of acts was the parting of the Red Sea through which Moses and Aaron led the people. A fragment of an ancient hymn is quoted to celebrate God’s power [16-20]
2. in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying:: another possible translation is: ‘my wound oozes at night and does not abate’.
15. With your strong arm you redeemed your people is another reference to the Exodus. See Exodus 15:6, 12-13.
The Epistle: Galatians 5: 1, 13-25
In Galatians 5 St Paul counsels his readers to preserve the freedom they have in Christ (vv.1-12). The opening words, for freedom, are emphatic and sum up the teaching of the preceding part of the letter: this is freedom from the Law and its ritual demands, not license.
Our reading today jumps over the following eleven verses to the next section, a warning to walk according to the Spirit, not to the Flesh. It is very important that we do not take the word ‘Flesh’ to mean simply the body and especially not simply the sexual part of human life. Rather it means here all of human nature when it is apart from God. Consider the catalogue of works of the flesh in verses 19-21: are all of these what we would consider to be ‘fleshly’? In a peoples edition of the Roman Missal I found a translation (in fact more a paraphrase) of verses 16-17 which might make the real distinction a little more easily seen:
‘Let me put it like this: if you are guided by the Spirit you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit. The Spirit is totally against such a thing, and it is precisely because the two are opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions.’
Since we all wish to be free, this reading calls us to ask what we mean by freedom.
13. you were called to freedom: Paul tells the Galatians that ‘they were called to freedom’, a reminder that their freedom is not self-generated. Their freedom is rooted in what Christ has done in this world for our benefit.
Verses 19-21: Such lists of vices and virtues were common in the ancient moral instruction, and Paul made use of them more than once. See also Romans 1:29-31; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 6:9-10.\
16. Live by the Spirit. This is literally ‘walk by the Spirit’; ‘walking’ as a metaphor for one’s way of life is common in the Scriptures and is not difficult to understand. In verse 25 (If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit) the same verb is translated as ‘be guided’.
Verses 22-23: compare 2 Corinthians 6:6-7.
Verse 24. Compare Galatians 2:19-20.

The Holy Gospel according to St Luke 9:51-62
a. 9.51- 56. The beginning of the journey to Jerusalem. The declaration that time of Jesus’ taking up is near begins the second part of the Gospel, which ends with the account of our Lord’s being taken up into heaven at the ascension (24.51). Jesus sends messengers to a Samaritan village to make preparations for his entrance there. But the villagers decline to receive him because he is on his way to Jerusalem. Thereupon James and John ask permission to call down fire on them, but are rebuked by Jesus, and the company goes on to another village. This incident is not in the other Gospels.
51: When the days drew near for him to be taken up; literally: When the days of his taking up [assumption] drew near. As with the use of the word exodus in the account of the transfiguration, so here Luke packs a whole theology into the word analēmpseōs, which means an assumption, a reception into heaven. The word calls to mind the assumption of Elijah in today’s first reading, as well as other parallels to Elijah in the Gospel. But Luke uses the word here in a thoroughly Johannine fashion, to cover the whole complex of events by which Jesus made the transit from earth to heaven—crucifixion, resurrection, & ascension. See John 3.14, 8.28, 12.32-34. So St Cyril understood it to mean: the time ‘to accomplish His-life-giving Passion, and ascend up to heaven’. He set his face to go to Jerusalem. The expression set one’s face means here a fixed resolution, Jesus’ obedient determination to fulfil God’s will despite all opposition.
54: Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them? James and John want to emulate Elijah (see 2 Kings 1.10-12). Though Jesus rebukes them [55], it is an impressive testimony to the power of Jesus that the two brothers had no doubt in their own ability in is name to call down fire from heaven. Some later manuscripts give a longer reading in vv 55-56 which is found in the King James Version: But he turned and rebuked them, saying, 'You do not know of what spirit ye are. The Son of man did not come to destroy but to save souls.' Then they went on to another village. The additions, which are not in the most important manuscripts, are quite in keeping with the spirit of the incident, and must be regarded as the attempt of an intelligent scribe to make the story more clear.
b. 9.57-62: Three doubtful disciples. A man offers to follow Jesus anywhere ; our Lord warns him that it is to follow a homeless leader. Jesus calls another man, who immediately excuses himself on the plea of filial duty, and is rebuked for doing so. A third offers himself if he may first bid his people farewell. Jesus warns him against hesitating discipleship. The NJBC warns us against taking these lessons too literally, for in all three, Jesus uses hyperbole or over-statement ‘to jolt listeners out of their staid way of ordering their universe and to view existence from an entirely new angle—that of discipleship in response to the kingdom of God preached by Jesus.’
57: In Matthew 8. 19 this incident is reported of a scribe and placed at an earlier stage in Jesus’ ministry; the second incident is told of a ‘disciple’ in Mat 18.21-22. The third is not in Matthew. Probably the three incidents occurred at different times, and are here placed together because of their similarity.
60. Let the dead bury their own dead. This difficult saying is usually interpreted as referring to ‘the spiritually dead’. Another commentator says ‘‘Another proverb, or an original utterance to be taken metaphorically, meaning Do not live in the past, do not be so absorbed in lamenting the dead as to forget the needs of the living.’ On the urgency of proclaiming the Kingdom of God, see also Luke 10.4
62. No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God: NJBC notes: we must not think of the modern plough but the very light plough of ancient times. It was guided by one hand while the oxen were driven with the other. J Jeremias noted: ‘This primitive kind of plough needs dexterity and concentrated attention. If the ploughman looks round, the new furrow becomes crooked.’
Dear Readers: There will be no lectionary notes in the month of July.

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