Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for Proper 19 in Year C
Sunday, 8 August 2010
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

After vacation and moving into a new apartment it is rather nice to be back to the old routine, of which studying the readings for the Sunday eucharist is an important part.
First Reading: Isaiah 1.1, 10-20
Isaiah 1.1-31 forms an introductory collection of oracles from various times in Isaiah’s ministry intended to be sort of prologue to the rest of the book, presenting a summary of its most important teachings. The actual beginning of Isaiah’s ministry comes with his call, at the beginning of Chapter 6
The Inscription (1:1) identifies the prophet whose oracles follow and dates his ministry, from the year of Uzziah’s death (742 BC) to the reign of Hezekiah (715-687 BC). It acts as a title to the book.
In vv 2-9, which are not read, the Lord complains to heaven and earth about Israel, which he descirbes as rebellious and senseless children (2-3: note how v. 3 has influenced the Christmas story). vv.4-9: although the land of Judah has been ravaged by the Assyrians, the people take no heed or warning; though their sins have been comparable to those of the Cities of the Plain (Gen 18.16-19.28), they have received the chastisement of children. As everyone tends to, they imagine they’ve ‘got off”.
A new section (10-17) begins by referring back to Sodom and Gomorrah. Like a teacher of Wisdom, the prophet calls the people to attend to instruction. Note the irony: in the LORD. 9 the people declare that because God has left survivors they are not like Sodom and Gomorrah; now the LORD says, You are Sodom and Gomorrah. In verse 10 teaching renders the Hebrew torah. This literally means ‘law’, but here which is to be taken in the wisdom sense of generalized instruction. The LORD declares that he will accept no worship, no sacrifice, no prayer that is offered without justice [15].
After the series commandment to turn to just ways (10-17), the Lord issues an invitation to ‘reason together’ and the alternative of eating good things or of being eaten by the sword (18-20). The result depends on Israel’s choice between the obedience and rebellion.

Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23
Deus deorum
This is a Liturgy of Divine Judgement. 1-6: God’s coming to judge his people: The Lord calls earth and heaven to bear witness to his complaint against his people, who have not kept his covenant. 8-13: They have brought sacrifices in abundance, but this sacrifice is not enough; obedience to God’s will must accompany it. It seems strange that only the first verse of this section is included in those read today, whereas the whole section would seem to be a suitable reflection on the words of Isaiah. The intention may be to put the statement of the first reading that sacrifices were hateful to the Lord in context; they are demanded in the covenant, and are not hated if they are accompanied by right behaviour. 22-23 is a concluding warning which echoes the choice offered at the end of the reading from Isaiah. Note how v. 23 links the offering of sacrifice with doing right.

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
The Letter to the Hebrews is an anonymous work; it and 1 John are the only NT epistles that does not open with a greeting that identifies the writer. Indeed, at the RCL Commentary Mr Haslam notes that ‘Apart from the concluding verses (which may have been added later), this book is a treatise (or sermon) rather than a letter.’ It has been attributed to St Paul since the end of the second century, but the differences in style have been noted as well. Origen thought that the style belonged to one who recalled the Apostle’s teaching, but who that was ‘God knows’. It is also telling that in the other letters Paul carefully stated not only his name but also his authority for writing, and it seems strange that he would have sent a letter without such reference.
provides an introduction to this letter and links to other resources.
Most of Hebrews (1.1-10.39 presents ‘the longest sustained argument of any book in the Bible’, an ‘elaborate proof of the pre-eminence of Christianity over Judaism’ (NOAB). The remaining sections give examples of faith (11.1-40), exhortations and warnings (12.1-29) and concluding admonitions (13.1-end).
In the next few weeks we will read two more passages from this section of Hebrews: 12:18-29 on Pentecost 13 and 13:1-8,15-16 on Pentecost 14
The New Oxford Annotated Bible gives to Hebrews 11.1-40 the title ‘Roll Call of Heroes and heroines of Faith’. It is designed to reinforce the exhortation in 10.35-39. ‘Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised … But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.’ Now he goes on to show just who these people of faith were. A similar list of heroes can be found in Sirach [one of the books of the so-called Apocrypha, also known as Ecclesiasticus] 44.1-50.21.
The author first (11.1-3) states the nature of Faith.
From the list of heroes we read today part of the discussion of Abraham (8-19), which refers to Genesis 12.1-8. Abraham’s sojourn in Canaan is understood to indicate that he knew he had no permanent dwelling on earth but looked to the heavenly city; even more, though in Genesis Abraham described himself as a stranger and sojourner (23.4); in vv. 13-16 the author of Hebrews attributes this sentiment to all the patriarchs. in this they are seen as a foreshadowing of the Christian believer (see 13.14) Oddly enough this important verse is not included in the Sunday readings. So it might do us well to consider what it means to say ‘here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.’ What does this mean to you?
The patriarchs are said to have ‘desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one’ There often seems to be a contrast between Christians who take this to be a call to work for the building of God’s kingdom in the present world, and those who refer only to the hope for heaven. Must we focus on one or the other? Finally we might ask: How does all this relate to the Gospel passage we are to hear this morning?

The Holy Gospel: Luke 12:32-40
After last Sunday’s parable of the Rich Fool (Lk 12.13-21), a section of teaching on anxiousness follows (22-31). Although This section is not read in the Sunday Lectionary, the parallel passage in Matthew (6.25-33) is appointed for Harvest Thanksgiving. This passage must be kept in mind when we read today’s passage which begins with the assurance that it is the Father’s pleasure to give us the kingdom [32], for we have just been told to seek God’s kingdom and then these things, food and drink and all the rest, shall be yours as well [31]. This assurance is immediately followed by the injunction to ‘sell your possessions and give alms’ [33], something that can only be done in complete faith. The coupling of these ideas suggests a point that came up last Sunday, that God’s answer to the inequalities of the world is in fact our sharing with one another. Then we heard St Ambrose’ answer to the Rich Fool who said ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’: ‘Thou hast barns, the bosoms of the needy, the houses of the widows, the mouths of orphans and of infants.’
The reading continues with the beginning of a section on watchfulness [35-40], the first part of a longer . the disciples of Jesus are called to be watchful and ready for his return at a time they do not know. But they are not to sit around watching, staring up into heaven. Rather they are to be at work, like servants waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast. That they are servants implies that they are preparing so that everything will be ready for him. How are we to prepare for the Lord? With the words about giving alms that came just before, we know that at least part of the service is to care for those in need.
This section contains the wonderful promise that when the master comes and finds his servants ready and waiting, he will have them sit at table and serve them himself [37]. This evokes the image of the Messianic banquet, which was already suggested in v. 36. It also calls to mind George Herbert’s poem Love Bade me Welcome, which is printed below.
In verse 35 our version has ‘Be dressed for action’ which is not a translation but a gloss on the text, ‘Let your loins be girded’.
‘The Son of an is coming at an unexpected hour.’ Does this only refer to the ‘Second Coming’ or could it have other meanings as well? Consider the implications of Matthew 25.31-46.

George Herbert. 1593–1632
LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning 5
If I lack'd anything.

'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:'
Love said, 'You shall be he.'
'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.' 10
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
'Who made the eyes but I?'

'Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.'
'And know you not,' says Love, 'Who bore the blame?' 15
'My dear, then I will serve.'
'You must sit down,' says Love, 'and taste my meat.'
So I did sit and eat.

Next Sunday the ordinary cycle of readings is interrupted for the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin.

1 comment:

Erin said...

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