Friday, March 25, 2011

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Third Sunday in Lent Year A
The Water of Life
27 March 2011

In the BAS two complete sets of propers are provided for each of the third to fifth Sundays in Lent; one for Year A, the other for Years B & C. On the Third Sunday the theme for Year A is the Water of Life. This theme joins the first reading and the Gospel, and is presented in the Sentence and the Collect of the Day. The Collect may be more true to our experience in praying that we may always thirst for the water of life that Christ gives, and we might be more honest that say that the theme of this Sunday is Thirst.
The first reading this Sunday contains the first use of the word ‘thirst’ in Scripture. Thirst means not only the physical thirst for water, but also to desire anything eagerly. The thirst of the soul is the thirst for the living God [Psalms 42.2, 63:1]. The prophet Amos said [8.11]: Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. So our Lord Jesus said that they are blessed who hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5.6). This is the thirst that the readings address today. For just as physical life needs fresh clean water, so fullness of life requires the peace, joy, truth, freedom, love, and justice that are the life of God. This is offered to us from the well of life, who is Christ our Lord.

The Readings
Exodus 17.1-7
Water from the Rock.
This scene takes place between the Crossing of the Red Sea and Israel’s coming to Mount Sinai where God gave the Ten Commandments. They are crossing an inhospitable desert. Already they had suffered from the shortage of water: at Marah in the wilderness of Shur the water was bitter and they could not drink it, so they murmured against Moses. Moses cried to the Lord, who showed him a tree, and when the tree was thrown in the water it became sweet. Then the Lord promised the people that if they kept his commandments he would not visit on them the plagues which had struck Egypt (15.22-26). In the wilderness of Sin they complained that there was no food and that they would have been better off dying in Egypt. In response the Lord gave them quails and a strange substance they called “manna” (Chapter 16). The passage we read this Sunday follows.
The people moved from camp to camp through the wilderness to Rephidim, where there was no water (1). The camps or ‘stages’ are given in detail in Numbers 33. Rephidim means "rests" or "stays" or "resting places"; See Numbers 33:12-13. The people’s murmuring now grows stronger and they find fault with Moses, who asks why they put the Lord to the test , that is, why do you demand proof that God is in your midst: see v. 7b. It seems that God may test the Israelites, but the Israelites may not test God. [2-3]. The first occurrence of the word ‘thirst’ in scripture is in this verse. When Moses complains to God he is commanded to strike the rock at Horeb, from which water will flow. There is nothing to indicate what rock is meant. In the Sinai, water lies below the limestone surface rock; the trick is to know where to hit it. For Horeb, another name for Mt Sinai, see 3:1. It has been suggested that Horeb was a name for the whole mountain of which Sinai was a particular summit or peak. On this see and links there. [4-6]. Because of the people’s complaining and quarrelling, Moses named the place Massah (Proof) and Meribah (Contention). These names were to become the reminders of Israel’s faithlessness; see Psalm 95.8, which was in turn quoted in Hebrews 3.7-11 and 4.3-11. The double name may have come from the joining of two traditions in which this story was recounted.
Following this incident is a battle with the Amalekites at Rephidim in which Israel is victorious by the Lord’s help (17.8-16). Then in Chapter 19 the people come to Mt Sinai
St Paul’s interpretation of the water from the Rock as the water given by Christ is found in 1 Corinthians 10.1-5
Note on Geography: None of the places mentioned in the account of the Exodus can be precisely located, and scholars argue over everything, even where Mt Sinai is, and whether it is the same as Mt Horeb (the traditional view).
Psalm 95
Venite, exultemus
Psalm 95, or the first part of it has long been used as the call to worship in the Daily Office; and is still used thus in Morning Prayer. In studying it, see also Psalms 81 and 100. Psalm 81 makes the same shift from invitation to worship God to warning about the need for obedience.
The first part of the Psalm is a hymn celebrating God’s kingship over all the earth, as shown in his work of creation. The second part (7-11) declares that worship without obedience is displeasing to God. This is a cardinal principle of Old Testament religion: see also, for example, Psalms 15 and 24:3-6.
For the theme of God’s people being ‘the sheep of his hand’, see also Psalms 79:13 and 100:3, and the great Shepherd Psalm (23).
Psalm 95 was obviously chosen for use this Sunday because of the reference to the testing and contention of the first reading.
The Epistle: Romans 5.1-11
In the reading last Sunday we heard part of Paul’s explanation of justification by faith through the example of Abraham. In the last verses of Chapter 4 he applies this example to his readers: “The words ‘it was reckoned to him’, were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It (i.e. righteousness) will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification”. Now Paul turns to discuss the Consequences of Justification (5.1-11).
5.1-5: The result of justification is first peace with God, where once there was enmity. In the first verse, we have peace appears in some manuscripts as let us have peace; the Greek words are almost identical. If it is taken as an exhortation to be at peace with God, it seems to fit the passage from Exodus. The people of Israel had been rescued from slavery in Egypt—a parallel to salvation from the realm of sin and death—but as we see they still had to learn to live in peace with God, rather than always grumbling. Justification has also brought about the grace in which we stand, that is favour with God and the hope of glory. Even more, the knowledge that we are peace with God allows us even to rejoice in suffering—unlike the people at Rephidim!
6-11. All this is grounded in the wonderful love of God made manifest in the self-offering of Jesus; he died not for God’s friends, but for enemies that God desires to save. If his death did away with the enmity, how much more will his life save us. It is the life of Christ shared with us which is symbolized by the language about the Water of Life.
The Holy Gospel according to St John 4.5-42.
Jesus has left Judaea to return to Galilee, apparently because of the enmity of the Pharisees and on his way has to pass through Samaria (4.1-4). An introduction to the Samaritans may be found at, and especially the ‘external links’ at the end of the article.
At about noon (though we should remember that terms such as ‘the sixth hour’ [v. 6] cannot really be interpreted quite so neatly), Jesus stopped to rest at a well near a town called Sychar. In pointing out that Jesus was tired out by his journey, and later asks for a drink, and in the words from the Cross in 19.28 (I thirst) the fourth Gospel brings out, as none of the others do, the reality of Christ’s humanity, in opposition to the error which supposed his body to be a mere appearance [this error is called ‘Docetism’, from a Greek word meaning ‘to seem’].
It seems to me that on this Sunday the heart of the passage is verse 14: ‘whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him shall become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ See also John 7.38.
For detailed comments on this long passage, please refer to Mr Haslam’s RCL commentary I am not sure I agree with every detail, but I must wind up these notes and send them to you, as I have to go out and retrieve a lost telephone, and then apply myself to sermon preparation!

28 Monday: Charles Henry Brent, Bishop of the Philippines, and of Western New York, 1929
29 Tuesday: John Keble, Priest, 1866
30 Wednesday: Lenten Feria
31 Thursday: John Donne, Priest and Poet, 1631
1 Friday: Frederick Denison Maurice, Priest, 1872
2 Saturday: Henry Budd, First Canadian Native Priest, 1850
Next Sunday is known as ‘Laetare Sunday’; traditionally rose-coloured vestments are worn. An article on this Sunday can be found at :
It is also known as Mothering Sunday: see and

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