Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lectionay Notes

Some Notes for Proper 2 in Year A
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Between the Epiphany and the beginning of Lent we are in the first of two periods in the Calendar sometimes referred to as ‘Sundays of the Year’ or ‘Ordinary Time’. They are also known as Sundays after Epiphany and after Pentecost, but they are not seasons in the same way that Advent, Lent and Eastertide are, and it doubtful that referring to them as ‘Epiphanytide’ or Pentecost is correct. The number of Sundays ‘of the year’ depends on the date of Easter, as may be seen in the provisions in the lectionary on pages 348 to 360 of the BAS. In 2011, because Easter falls on April 24th, the second latest day it can fall, there are nine Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday. The first of these is kept as the Feast of the Baptism of Christ; on the last the Transfiguration may be celebrated. Epiphany themes continue in the readings until the Second Sunday, but after that, they choice seems not to be thematic. In some cases the readings from the Hebrew Scriptures do complement the Gospel passages, but that still leaves us with two tracks of consecutive readings from the Epistles and the Gospels.
At this point another version of these Notes contained a chart showing the readings for the Sundays after Epiphany, but if it is not impossible to reproducen that here, it is too difficult, and we apologize if it makes the earlier comments any more difficuilt to understand.

The Readings of Proper 2
The First Reading: Isaiah 49.1-7
This is the second of Isaiah’s Servant Songs (please see last week’s notes). 1-3: The servant [Israel] speaks. He calls to the peoples far off—identified by the RCL notes as Israelites scattered around the Mediterranean, and declares himself to have been called by the Lord from before his birth. We meet this theme of the prophet called before birth in Jeremiah 1.5 (read recently on Proper 21 of Year C) and Galatians 1.5; note how in addressing the Church at Corinth Paul describes himself as ‘called to be an Apostle’. The Lord gave him power of speech (v. 2; see Ephesians 6.17; Hebrews 4.1) but hid him away, presumably for his protection.
The word ‘coastlands’ in v. 1 is also translated ‘isles’ it properly means habitable land as opposed to water; but note that it is coupled with ‘you peoples from far away’; this pairing is a device of Hebrew poetry and in fact the terms should be taken as synonyms.
In v. 3 the Servant is identified as a personification of Israel. This has been interpreted to mean that the servant is the faithful remnant of Israel whose task is to renew God’s people who have been crushed by the Babylonian exile, “to bring back Jacob to him” (v. 5), but even more to be ‘a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth’ (v. 6); Christians here understand the Servant to be a prophecy of Christ (see for example the Nunc Dimittis, Luke 2.29f.
Psalm 40.1-12
Exspectans exspectavi
Psalm 40 may originally have been two psalms (vv. 1-11, a thanksgiving, and 12-17, a lament) later joined together for use in worship. In verses 1-3 the Psalmist relates his experience: he was in some unspecified trouble, but the Lord saved him and gave him new hope and joy—a new song (vv.4-10). Better than a sacrifice of thanksgiving is to do God’s will (6-8, quoted in Hebrews 10.5-7). The section we use this week ends with a prayer for the Lord’s continuing favour (12).
The Epistle: 1 Corinthians 1.1-9
In all three years the Epistle readings for the Sundays after Epiphany are largely taken from the first letter to the Corinthians, so that it; the readings in Year A cover most of caps 1-4, those of Year B up to cap 11, those of Year C the rest. Since there are nine Sundays between the Epiphany and Ash Wednesday in 2011, all the passages appointed will in fact be read in order. Some passages not read on these Sundays are read in Lent, on Easter Day and on Pentecost
Corinth is a city in Greece about 78 km (48 mi) southwest of Athens. on the Isthmus of Corinth, which joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece. It had been destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC; Julius Caesar refounded it in 44 BC. It was near the centre of the Roman province of Achaia and may have been its administrative capital. It was a cosmopolitan port city noted for its wealth, and for the luxurious, immoral and vicious habits of the people. Like most reputations, this one was much exaggerated; Jerome Murphy-O’Connor says in NJBC that ‘in terms of sexual morality, Corinth was no worse than any other Mediterranean port’. It had a large mixed population of Romans, Greeks, and Jews. St Paul himself preached the gospel and established the Church in Corinth (see Acts 18.1-11).
Two letters to the Church in Corinth are preserved in the New Testament, scholars suspect that there were more, and possibly that 2 Corinthians is made up of several letters.
The first letter to the Corinthians seems to have been occasioned by a letter from the Christians there bringing several problems to Paul’s attention (7.1) and by gossip brought to him by ‘Chloe’s people’ (1.11) which ‘revealed to Paul certain basic flaws in the Corinthians’ understanding of Christian community’. The readings in Year A are from the first section of the letter (1.1-4.21), which is concerned with divisions in the Community.
We will turn to the difficulties in Corinth in next week’s reading; Our passage today gives the Salutation (1-3) and opening Thanksgiving (4-9). As we have noted before, in his letters to the churches Paul expands the normal form of letter-writing of his day and adapts it as a vehicle for the Christian message
Note that Paul sends greetings to the church of God which is at Corinth, ‘together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2), a reminder to the Corinthians that they are not the only Christians. The universal church has an existence (is ‘realized’) in the local community; but no one should identify the local community as the universal Church; we are more than just members of St Columba and All Hallows—indeed that is not our real membership or allegiance. Sosthenes may be the ruler of the synagogue referred to in Acts 18.17.
Paul gives thanks in this passage for God’s gifts to the Corinthian church, a theme which somes to be of importance later in the letter.
The Holy Gospel According to St John 1.29-42
After the Prologue (1.1-18) St John`s Gospel begins with the witness of St John Baptist, who testifies to the authorities from Jerusalem why he baptizes, even though he does not claim to be the Messiah or Elijah or one of the prophets. He answers that he is the one crying in the wilderness ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’; and speaks of the mightier one to come (19-28; compare Mark 1.1-8 and parallels). After this follows today’s reading, which relates John’s witness of Jesus to his own disciples and their response, which is to follow Jesus. The passage has far more detail than we can comment on in these notes, but for a few very important points.
Part I (1.19-34): The Testimony of John.
The Baptism of Jesus is not described in the Fourth Gospel, but the words of John Baptist in verses 30-33 refer to it.
It is the next day, that is the day after the events related in 19-28. The narrative in John 1.19 to 2.1 covers a week, which has been described as ‘the first week of the new creation’ (see 1. 29, 35, 43; 2.1). John sees Jesus and declares: Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
John knows that Jesus is God’s chosen because of what happened at the Baptism (32-33). It is worth noting that the Greek word for ‘know’ here is, as Temple put it, the word ‘which stands for knowledge of a truth—eidenai—not knowledge of a person— gnonai.’ John had known Jesus, but had not known this about him—that he was the Lamb of God. The image of the Lamb of God comes from many roots in the Old Testament, especially Isaiah 53.7. The Lamb is a familiar type of an offering to God, but it is more. In Genesis 22 we read of the ram that God provided as a sacrifice in place of Isaac, and indeed may note that Isaac`s question, `Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?` is the first mention of a lamb in scripture. The Lamb of God is the victim whom God provides. This lamb Himself takes the sin of the world. In the coming of Christ, God Himself is active; He not only accepts an offering made by human beings, be He provides (for indeed He himself is) the offering, and He Himself makes it. All that we have to do is to participate in this divine action, which is a bearing which has the effect of taking away the sin of the world. The word airon means both bearing and taking away, and there is no need to choose. By bearing it he removes it. Note that it is the sin of the world. Temple wrote:
How utterly modern is this conception! It is not ‘sins’, as by a natural early corruption of the text men were led to suppose, but ‘sin’. For there is only one sin, and it is characteristic of the whole world. It is the self-will which prefers `my`way to God`s —which puts `me` in the centre where only God is in place. It pervades the universe. … It becomes conscious, and thereby tenfold more virulent in man—a veritable Fall indeed. And no individual is responsible for it. It is an ‘infection of nature’ (Article IX among the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion), and we cannot cure it. We are not ‘responsible’ for it; but it sets us at enmity with God; it is the ‘sin of the world’.
This verse is set in Handel’s Messiah:
32. I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. Where Mark (1.10-11) implies that only Jesus saw this, John makes it clear that the Baptist beheld the vision as well. We can do no more here than draw attention to the word ‘remained’, which is a favourite word in John’s Gospel (see 3.5, 34; 7.38-9; 20.22; see also Isaiah 52.1). In verse 38 the same word is translated as ‘stay’ in the disciples’ question, "Where are you staying?".

Part II (1.35-42): John, Andrew, and Peter.
The next day John again bears witness to Jesus; two of his disciples hear him and follow after Jesus.; One of the two is identified in v. 41 as Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother; the other, not named, is traditionally said to have been St John. Note that these disciples follow Jesus because of what they have heard John Baptist say; just so, most of us have come to be Christians because of the word of someone else. But because they are following him, he turns (38) and asks them what they are looking for. In this he ‘welcomes them and gives them the opportunity to come to know Him and form their own impressions’ (Temple). He says to them Come and see (39; this is better translated by Come and you will see), which is the only answer we can really give to one who seeks.
About four o’clock in the afternoon is literally ‘the tenth hour’ counted from dawn in the ancient manner, in which an hour was a twelfth part of the daytime. To be precise what o’clock it means would depend on the time of year, and a possibly better translation would be ‘about two hours before sunset’. The disciples remain with Jesus the rest of the day; then (was it the next day?—the text does not say so, but seems to imply it) Andrew went to find his brother Simon and bring him to Jesus; thus he became the first missionary. That is all we have time for this week.

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