Friday, February 18, 2011

Lectionary Notes

Also known as Septuagesima,
Which signifies the Seventieth Day before Easter
Proper 7 in Year A
20 February AD 2011

In the older Calendar the three Sundays before Ash Wednesday were often called `Pre-Lent and may indeed be left over from a time when the season of Lent was longer than its present forty weekdays. Although these Sundays are now considered part of ‘Ordinary Time’ and are not set apart in any way, it is helpful to note that Lent will soon be upon us, and to take thought now for keeping that Holy Season of preparation for the Christian Passover.
One helpful thing that we can do now is to think over the purpose of Lent by reading the Exhortation from the Penitential Service in the Book of Common Prayer. An Address in the Ash Wednesday Liturgy of the Book of Alternative Services is the same in substance, and we will provide that closer to the first Day of Lent. Here is the Exhortation:
BRETHREN, in the primitive Church it was the custom to observe with great devotion the days of our Lord's Passion and Resurrection, and to prepare for the same by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided also a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for holy Baptism. It was also a time when such persons as had, by reason of notorious sins, been separated from the body of the faithful, were reconciled and restored to the fellowship of the Church by penitence and forgiveness. Thereby the whole Congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution contained in the Gospel of our Saviour, and of the need which all Christians continually have, of a renewal of their repentance and faith. I therefore invite you, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting, and self-denial, and by reading and meditation upon God's holy Word. (Anglican Church of Canada, Book of Common Prayer, 1962, page 611.)

There is nothing particularly noteworthy about the Sentence or the Collect this Sunday.

The Readings
The first reading: Leviticus 19.1–2, 9–18
The third Book of Moses, was referred to in the Talmud the law of the priests, and the book of the law of offerings; the name Leviticus is derived from title in the Greek and Latin versions and refers to the Levitical priests who were appointed to minister in the sanctuary. It has six parts:
I: The Laws dealing with sacrifices (Chapters 1 to 7)
II: The Consecration of the Priests (8-10)
III: The Laws setting apart the Clean from the Unclean (11 to 15)
IV: The Ceremony for the Day of Atonement (16)
V: Laws to govern Israel as a holy nation (17-26)
VI: An Appendix on Religious Vows (27)
Today’s reading is from Section Five, which is known as the Holiness Code since its dominant theme is God’s demand that Israel be holy because God is holy. The root idea of ‘holiness’ in Hebrew is ‘separateness’, ‘apartness’, this meaning is reflected in our word ‘consecrated’.
Chapter 19 blends the requirements of ritual and worship and ethical obligations. It is founded on the Ten Commandments.
1-2. Intrroduction
v.1. And the Lord said unto Moses: The laws in Exodus 25-31 are introduced in similar words (see Ex 25.1; 31.12). v. 2 For I the Lord your God am holy. Two reasons at least are wrapped up in this. First, the Author of your being is holy ; and the stream should taste of the fountain. Second, the covenant of grace implied in the terms " the Lord your God" forms the most powerful motive to holiness. Other reasons are implied. Reason binds you to be holy ; a sanctified reason enforces the obligation by new motives. Compare the concluding verse of today’s Gospel (Matthew 5.48; see also Luke 6.36).
Whether we speak of Israel or of the church,, that God’s people are called to be holy is no reason for puffed up with pride. This holiness is not a quality within them that made God choose them, they are holy as set-apart because they have been called into covenant by the holy God.
9-10: Gleaning the Harvest; Charitable consideration for the poor.
The law about gleaning derives from an earlier custom of leaving something of the harvest to the gods or local spirits responsible for the land’s fertility; under the Law of the Lord this is impossible and a new and better motive is given to the practice. But the solemn words I am the Lord Your God remind the people that he sees and knows their actions. On gleaning, see the Book of Ruth. For us who read it now, this commandment is a commandment never to neglect the poor.
11-12 Theft, lying, and oaths
13-14: Law of relations with one’s neighbour.
15-16: Justice in the courts
17-18: Do not hate: the internal foundation of all right behaviour and holiness. Previous ethical injunctions come to a climax in this law, the source of the second commandment quoted in Mark 12:31. [NOAB], In this passage the terms ‘brother’ and ‘neighbour’ refer to fellow-Israelites; but in 19.33-34 the commandment is extended to include the stranger sojourning in the land. In Mark the ‘neighbour’ is understood in the widest possible sense.
Psalm 119. 33-40
The peculiar structure of Psalm 119 was noted last week. This section, in which the verses all begin with the Hebrew letter ‘He’ [ה], is called by the NOAB a ‘Prayer to understand the Law’.
1. to the end translates the Hebrew ‘eqeb, which can also mean wages, reward (understood as the end of one’s labour); see the RCL note on this verse.
The Epistle: 1 Corinthians 3.10–11, 16–23
At the end of last week’s passage, St Paul used two metaphors for the Church: a crop in a “field” (v. 9) and a “building”. He and Apollos worked together for God: he has planted (founded) the church at Corinth; and Apollos has watered (nurtured) it. He now turns to the second metaphor; as founder of the church at Corinth he has laid a foundation; others in the community will build on that foundation, but must do so with care (10). There is only one foundation, Jesus Christ (11); Paul may be alluding to a claim of the `Cephas party’ (1.12) that the church is founded on Peter (see Matthew 16:18).
In verses 12-15, not read this morning, Paul returns to the theme of taking care how one builds: the day of judgement will reveal how each has built.
At verse 16 Paul changes the metaphor slightly to that of the community as God’s temple. On this theme see 1 Peter 2.4-6. It is important to note that in this verse ‘you’ is plural; it is the whole community, not the individual Paul speaks of. Those who destroy God’s Temple (v. 17) commit sacrilege and will be destroyed. In light of what has been said in the first two chapters about the unity of the church, it is obvious that this refers to those who mar or break that unity by their factions, their quarrelling, and their discord. Verse 17 is also a kind of echo of the opening of Leviticus 19 and looks to the final words of the Gospel.
The Holy Gospel according to St Matthew 5.38–48
See Charles Gore, Sermon on the Mount, pp 79ff (this text is available at the Internet Archive:
AFTER dealing with three of the Ten Commandments our Lord proceeds to deal with two other teachings of the old law. As He had done to the commandments, He deepens and intensifies these teachings till they reach that standard which commends itself to His holy and perfect mind. In both cases his treatment of the older moral standard is both profoundly interesting and at the same time the cause of no little difficulty and scruple to Christian consciences.
The first teaching is about revenge.
Exodus xxi. 24, 25, lays it down: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe’ (see also Deuteronomy 19:21). Though it might sound barbaric to a modern ear, the law of the old covenant was in itself a limitation of human instinct. The old law definitely allowed revenge up to a certain point, but no further. It might go to the point of exact reciprocity. The instinct of revenge is to rush blindly in, and do as much harm to an enemy as can possibly be done. Nothing is more striking in the old covenant than that it checks barbarous habits and puts them under restraint. The Mosaic law stands by, as it were, as a policeman, and says, An eye? is that the wrong done? Then an eye may be put out in return; but no more. You must stop there. The point which needs emphasizing is that the old law worked by way of gradual limitation, not of sudden abolition. God dealt with men [adapted from Charles Gore.]
Although we may think that our instinct for revenge is an instinct of Justice, the Lord forbids it because in our own cases, where our own interests are concerned, this passion of justice has become so mixed up with selfishness, and with those excessive demands which spring of selfishness that it has become defiled with sin.
39: Do not resist an evildoer : in the AV this was translated as ‘But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil’, which often easily understood to mean simply putting up with evil. But what our Lord teaches is to avoid physical violence or damages in response to wrong or harm done to them as individuals. The Glossa Ordinaria notes somewhat bluntly: ‘The Lord, having taught that we are not to offer injury to our neighbour or irreverence to the Lord, now proceeds to show the Christian should demean himself to those that injure him.’ But as the NJBC points out, ‘the possibility of psychological or moral resistance, as exemplified by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, is open. The parallel in Romans 12:17, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all” (which is based on Proverbs 25:21-22) shows that Jesus’ teaching is a strategy for winning, not for passive resignation nor for indifference to evil.' The original words can indeed be translated of evil in general (do not resist evil) or of a human opponent (one who is or does evil); as far back as 1395 the Wyclyf translation had here ‘an evil man’.
For a comment on the words if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also, see the note at the RCL Commentary
41 if anyone forces you to go one mile. Put that simply, this might make one ask why a person would force you to go one mile. The answer lies in the word translated as ‘forces you to go’. In ancient Persia the mounted royal couriers were called angareioi, that at least is the way the Greeks understood it. These angareioi could requisition horses or other assistance in the course of their duties`. This courier service and the Persian name was taken up by other governments, and since it had the power of enforcing the assistance of the population, gave a verb (angareuo in Greek, angario in Latin) meaning generally "compulsory service." This word is translated as `forces you to go’ in this verse. It suggests that what Jesus is speaking of is not simply bullying but of one feature of the Roman military occupation of Galilee and Judea in his day, compulsory service.
It might appear, then, that this verse scarcely applies to us. But if this teaches the attitude Jesus teaches us to have toward an unjust regime, how much easier should it be to bear the burdens of our own nation? Charles Gore comments: ‘That is, do not resent public claims upon you, bear the public burdens, and be willing that, as far as you are concerned, they should be double what they are. But how we dislike the rates and taxes ! How few there are who take a Christian view of paying them, and are glad, up to their means, to accept the burden which membership in this great nation lays upon them. Something more is our duty than to make barely honest returns for an income tax.’
You may be interested to know that the Persian angareioi were the ones of whom Herodotus wrote the famous words, ‘Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds’ (Histories 8.98).
42: Give to him that asketh thee: A writer known as Pseudo-Chrysostom says that ‘because wealth is not ours but God's, God would have us be stewards of His wealth. and not lords. This is a hard commandment to obey, for there are more questions to answer than simply whether I am refusing to give because of selfishness. We all of us have responsibilities to meet with our resources. Nonetheless, it may be that most people do not even try to follow this command. Chesterton once said that it is not that people found Christianity impossible and gave it up, but that they found it difficult and did not try it. Still, we may do well to remember Augustine’s words, ‘Therefore, He says not, 'Give all things to him that asks, but, Give to every one that asks; that you should only give what you can give honestly and rightly.’ That is enough food for thought.
43. "You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' It has been noted that the inclusion of the words ‘and hate your enemy’ within the quotation marks is unfortunate, since these words do not occur in Leviticus 19:18, as we heard in the first reading. There we note that the Law said exactly what the Lord Jesus taught, ‘thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself’. Our Lord is perhaps not quoting the Scriptures so much as what was commonly taught or understood at his time. Gore writes: The exact expression, 'Thou shalt hate thine enemy’ nowhere occurs in the Mosaic law; and there are, both in the law and elsewhere in the Old Testament, passages which come nearer to the Christian standard! But on the whole we must accept Dr. Mozley's conclusion: 'The whole precept as it stands undoubtedly represents, and is a summary of, the sense of the law ‘.
It is worth noting here that quotation marks are a fairly modern invention and did not exist when the books of the Bible were written.
44-48 Our Lord deepened and broadened the Old Lawn; now he teaches us that we are to be kind in word and act to all. Love your enemies: we cannot feel alike towards all people; but we can set our will, or what the Bible calls our heart, to do them good. And if we dispose ourselves aright towards others, we shall probably end by feeling aright, though that can never be a matter of commandment. This commandment fulfils the purpose of the call to holiness. Just as God called Israel to be holy ‘For I the Lord your God am holy’ so now Jesus’ followers are commanded to love ‘so that you may be children of your Father in heaven’. And in the verses that follow he shows what this love is if not to feel loving to enemies, or to have affection for them (which cannot be commanded!). We are to show our disposition towards them by kindly salutations, or the ordinary words which express human goodwill, and by deeds, both earnest prayer for them and acts which imitate the impartial beneficence of our Father in heaven. It may sound like little. But consider how engrained it is to respond “I’m not talking to you!’ when we have been hurt. And then hear the Lord command you to greet your enemy. If we do this we will truly be perfect, which is what all today’s readings call us to.

The Calendar
20 Sunday The Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
Also known as Septuagesima (Seventieth). Annual Meeting of Vestry.
21 Monday Feria
22 Tuesday Feria
23 Wednesday The Memorial of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, Martyr, 156
An article about St Polycarp with links may be found at
24 Thursday The Commemoration of Lindel Tsen, Bishop of Honan, 1954 and Paul Sasaki, Bishop of Mid-Japan and Tokyo, 1946
A note on these bishops may be found at:
25 Friday Feria
26 Saturday Memorial of Florence Li Tim Oi, first woman priested in the Anglican Communion, 1944
Information about Florence Li Tim Oi may be found at:
27 Sunday The Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany
Also known as Sexagesima (Sixtieth)
The Commemoration of George Herbert, Priest and Poet, 1633 may be transferred


Felicity Pickup said...

Wow! A Friday morning post, two weeks in a row.

William Craig said...

Just too busy to put it off, I guess.

Stretch Marks said...

One helpful thing that we can do now is to think over the purpose of Lent by reading the Exhortation from the Penitential Service in the Book of Common Prayer.