Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lectionary Notes: 29 August

Some Notes for Proper 21 in Year C
Sunday, 29 August
The Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

The Collect
is adapted from the Prayer Book Collect for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, used since the First Prayer Book of 1549 :

LORD of all power and might, Who art the Author and Giver of all good things; Graft in our hearts the love of Thy Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of Thy great mercy keep us in the same ; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

It was in turn translated and adapted from the ancient Latin Collect for the same Sunday. It is interesting to compare the English version of the same Collect in the New St Joseph Sunday Missal:

Almighty God, every good thing comes from you. Fill our hearts with love for you, increase our faith, and by your constant care protect the good you have given us. we ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son …

The difference between 'graft in our hearts the love of your Name' in the Anglican and 'fill our hearts with love for you' in the Roman Catholic version seems to arise from the intrepretation of the original, ínsere pectóribus nostris tui nóminis amórem. In Latin there are two almost identical verbs insero, one {insero, inserere. inserevi, inseritum], meaning 'to graft', the other [insero, -ere, -ui, -tum] meaning 'to let in, insert'. The present imperative singular of both is insere. In the first English Prayer Book this was taken as 'graft', which, according to J. H. Blunt (Annotated Book of Common Prayer, new edition,1892), was suggested by the good and evil fruit' contained in the Epistle for Trinity VII, Romans 6.19-23.

The First Reading: JEREMIAH 2:4-13

Long ago, when the Lord made his covenant with Israel, he called heaven and earth to witness that he had given them a choice: I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you kife and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live [Deut 30.19] But in generation after generation the people went far from him, and turning to idols that are not only worthless but unreal they became unreal themselves [verse 2]. Therefore through Jeremiah he accuses them, and once more calls on the heavens to witness. This time the heavens wil be astounded at the folly of God’s people [v.12]. Nowhere in the world has it ever been known that a people have changed their gods. even if they were worthless idols.
V. 1, worthless: I’m not sure this word is strong enough. The older translation was ‘vanity’, a word which has lost much of its meaning today except for the sense of ‘self-conceit’. The literal meaning of ‘vanity’ is ‘emptiness, nothingness, nullity, want of reality’. A worthless thing may still be real: the foreign gods to which the house of Jacob is turning are not just worthless; they are nothing, their promises are empty.
v. 10, coasts of Cyprus is literally the ‘isles of Kittim’. According to the NJBC, ‘Kittim’ was the Hebrew name for Cyprus, taken from the name of one of its south-eastern seaports, but Jeremiah probably refers to the islands of the Mediterranean, and means ‘the west’. Kedar was a nomadic tribe of the Transjordan (see Genesis 25.13), and here stands for ‘the east’.
v. 11, But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit. This recalls the first apostasy of Israel, while Moses was on the holy mountain: ‘They made a calf in Horeb and worshipped a molten image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God their Saviour …' [Psalm 106.19-21, see Exodus chapter 32 and compare Romans 1.23]. In the Old Testament, to speak of God’s glory is to speak of God himself (see Numbers 14.21, Isaiah 6.3)
v. 13, the fountain living water. If we believe that our creation, that is our existence is from God, it is the height of madness to think that we can seek what makes for life in any other source. But from ancient times God’s people have been tempted to seek water in the gods of the nations, as in this passage, or in pleasures or powers or anything that is not God.

PSALM 81:1, 10-16
This Psalm was used on one of the feasts commanded in the law, perhaps the autumn harvest festival. Rad in the context of the Readings today it is a perfect commentary and meditation on the reading from Jeremiah Verses 1-5a are a call to worship; Verses 5b-16 are an oracle (which the commentators say was delivered by a priest or temple prophet): God reminds his people if what he has done for them in the past (6-7) and demands their loyalty (8-10); they were disloyal (11-12), and their life depends on their willingness to turn back to him (13-16). Note especially the Lord’s desire to save and nourish his people (10, 14, 16).

The Epistle: HEBREWS 13:1-8, 15-16
The Epistle to the Hebrews ends with a last chapter of apparently disconnected exhortations withn which are some allusions to the main body of the epistle. ‘Some have seen it as a kind of appendix to give the whole treatise something of the flavour of a letter’ [Donald Guthrie, The Letter to the Hebrews]
13.1-3: Exhortations concerning social life: mutual (literally, brotherly) love; hospitality; visiting prisoners.
13.4-6 Exhortations concerning private life: marriage; avoidance of avarice; trust in God
13.7-9 Exhortations concerning religious life.
The reading breaks off at verse 8, with the great declaration of Jesus Christ, true at all times and forever, an picks up again with a concluding exhortation to a continual offering of the sacrifice which is a good and generous life.

The Holy Gospel: LUKE 14:1, 7-14
The fourteenth chapter of Luke is set at a dinner given by one of the leading Pharisees, on the sabbath day. It is thus linked to the reading last week, with its controversy over sabbath healing. The host and other guests were watching Jesus, presumably to see whether he would break the Sabbath again. Indeed the controversy. Indeed he does; he heals a man suffering from dropsy. This time Jesus asks the lawyers and Pharisees whether it is lawful to heal on the sabbath, and when the remained silent he healed and sent the man away. This is the final sabbath controversy in Luke.
Then follows what in a superficial reading a teaching might appear to be just a lesson in etiquette. Indeed the teaching is found in earlier Wisdom literature (see Prov 25;6-7, Sirach 3.17-18, 20, 28-29). In fact the taching is about the Messiah’s great Banquet of the end-time (eschaton in Greek, hence the word eschatology). The words translated as guest, keklemenos, means ‘the one called’ and is related to our word ‘elect’, In the early part of Chapter 14 there is a play on this word, where it means ‘the apparently elect’, or ‘those who consider themselves elect.’ In the parable of the Great Dinner, which follows in vv. 16-24, Jesus makes clear the contrast between those considered elect and those deemed non-elect.
It is not for us to judge our fitness for the Lord’s banquet, or indeed our relative importance in his kingdom. For all we know the things about ourselves which we value highly are of no great importance to God, who may treasure us for something else entirely. So we ought not to claim positions and places for ourselves, but accept what is given us in this world and the next.

No comments: