Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lectionary Notes

8 May 2011

Both the Sentence and the Collect this Sunday are closely tied to the Gospel reading for Year A.

Acts 2.14a, 36–41

This reading concludes St Peter’s address on the Day of Pentecost, the first preaching of the Christian message by the Church. He had explained the amazing events that had drawn the crowd together (see 2.1-13); they had been foretold by the Prophet Joel (2.14-21); the Spirit has come because Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified, God raised, and the disciples are witness of this (2.22-32). It is Jesus, now exalted now to God’s right hand, who has poured out the Spirit’s gifts (2.33-35). The verse that begins our reading is Peter’s conclusion, returning to the responsibility of the people for Jesus’s death. Rather than taking offense at this, the crowd is stricken to the heart (2.37) and asks “What should we do?”
He tells them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and receive the gift of Holy Spirit (2.38).
To repent is the first requirement; as we have noted before the Greek word for repentance (metanoia) means literally a change of mind. In putting metanoia first, the disciples carry on the preaching of Jesus (see Mk 1.14, Mt 4.17).
Be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus: this formula is found only in Acts, and is to be understood in a confessional sense, that is, it denotes the confession of faith made by the baptized, and not the form used by the baptizer. Therefore it is not to be taken as contradicting the words of Jesus reported in Mt 28.19. Like John’s baptism, this is for the forgiveness of sins; the difference is the inclusion of Jesus himself in the preaching, which declares that the forgiveness of sins comes through his name.
To receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We noted only briefly last Sunday that our Lord’s words “Receive the Holy Spirit (John 20.21) make it clear that “the gift is freely offered, but it can be refused; there is a definite act of reception” [William Temple]. God’s grace does not run roughshod over our freedom, even to save us.
Peter tells his audience that the gift of the Spirit is theirs by promise. All that are far off should probably be taken to mean the Jews dispersed throughout the world, although some dispute this, citing Ephesians 2.13, which speaks of Gentile converts. But is seems that on the Day of Pentecost the Apostles had no clear idea of the mission to the Gentiles, as can be seen from the long dispute before it was agreed that Gentile converts would not require circumcision. At this early date, when they looked for a speedy return of their Lord, a world-wide extension of the Kingdom must have been wholly beyond their thoughts.

Psalm 116.1–3, 10–17

This psalm of thanksgiving for healing is one of the group (113-118) called the Hallelujah Psalms, since they all include the Hebrew word Hallelujah (“Praise the Lord”). They are used in Jewish tradition in connection with the great festivals. At Passover, Psalms 113-114 are sung before the meal and Psalms 115-118 after it. [See] Outline:
1. The Psalmist addresses the congregation
2-11: the Psalmist sings of his experience
10-17: the repayment of the Psalmist’s vow
In verse 3 “the grave” translates the Hebrew Sheol, a subterranean place, full of thick darkness (Job 10.21, 22), like the Greek Hades, in which the shades of the dead, who only retain the faintest resemblance of life, are gathered together. It is said to have both valleys [rather depths] (Proverbs 9.18) and gates (Isaiah 38.10). See Psalm 88.5-6. Later, as in the Authorized version it is associated with Hell.

The Epistle: 1 Peter 1.17–23

The first letter of Peter was addressed to the churches in parts of what is now Turkey (the ancient Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia), which were undergoing persecution (1.6). Last week we read 1.3-9, part of an opening thanksgiving for what God has done. In this section the readers are called to conduct themselves in a way that befits those who call on the just judge as their Father (1.17) and reminded that they were ransomed by Christ’s death, which is described in the language of the Passover; even more, they have been born again through God’s word.
Two themes in this short passage should be marked. The first is that the life of the Christian is described as an exile. Exile does not refer to an exile from heaven, but to while the RCL commentary calls the ”social dislocation that Christians experience in a pagan world”, noting that “in 2:11, they are referred to as ‘aliens and exiles’; their situation was indeed precarious”. This situation was not simply the result of persecution, but of the contrast between the ways of life of Christians and the world around them. We are not persecuted but we find the world around us more and more built on assumptions that differ from or contradict the assumptions of the Gospel. The other point to mark is the call to “love one another earnestly from the heart” (1.22); the exiles and strangers find a community in the church.
It would be tempting to take these points as calling for a withdrawal from the world, were it not that the Gospel also calls us to love and serve not merely our fellow-Christians but all our neighbours, and to be leaven in the lump of dough. How to live in the world without ceasing to ‘conduct ourselves with fear’ is a great challenge.

Luke 24.13–35
The journey to Emmaus.

Two disciples, who are going to Emmaus, are joined by Jesus, whom they do not recognize, and who asks what they are talking about. One of them, named Cleopas, expresses astonishment that even a stranger in Jerusalem should not know what has just happened there, and tells the story of the death of Jesus, adding the women’s report of the Resurrection. Jesus exclaims at their density, and expounds the scriptures to them. On reaching their destination they persuade him to come in with them, and as he breaks bread discover who he is. Immediately he vanishes. They return at once to Jerusalem to tell of this, and find the eleven gathered together and assured of the truth of the Resurrection on the ground that Jesus has appeared to Simon.
This beautiful story is told only in Luke’s Gospel. The appendix of Mark (xvi. 12) refers to it briefly; this reference is evidently founded on Luke’s narrative.
13. two of them: one name, Cleopas, is given later in the narrative (verse 18) ; the other name is not recorded. Neither of them was an apostle, as they are later distinguished from the Eleven (33). … Emmaus: a town located approximately 7 miles (11 km) from Jerusalem. The site has not been surely identified. For further discussion, see … were going: the NJBC points out that this story is shot through with the language of journeying, which is important in Luke’s Gospel as a theme of discipleship (see 9.51-19.27). It further suggests that these disciples, whose faith in Jesus had been disappointed (see verse 21) have abandoned the way of Jesus and gone on their own; their lack of faith contrasts with the faith shown by the women (23.49-24.12). The story “narrates how the risen Jesus reconciles two wayfarers, who, once they are forgiven and reconciled, immediately journey back to Jerusalem. Note that verse 29 might imply that the two disciples are inviting Jesus into their own house, and so that they live in Emmaus.
14-16. While they walked along talking Jesus joined them on the road but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. This seems to be more than just failing to know him; something is holding their eyes. The most likely suggestion would seem to be that it is their lack of faith. It will be Jesus himself who opens their eyes by showing them his true meaning in God’s plan of salvation. NJBC points out that :” the disciples eyes are opened only after they have shown hospitality to a stranger. ‘Seeing’ is another of the important themes in Luke (as in 9.45; 18.34; 23.8,35,47-9). So in the Collect we pray: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work.
17. When Jesus asks what they have been discussing—literally, “What are these words which you are exchanging with one another?”—they journey comes to a halt: They stood still, looking sad; this is an effective translation, since the original word means ‘of sad and gloomy countenance’.
18. Cleopas: Nothing is known of this man beyond what is in the present narrative. It has been suggested that Luke gives his name because he was the witness who told the story to the evangelist. The way in which his name is introduced as ‘named Cleopas’ does not imply that he was well known in the early church. R. Bauckham suggests that he is the same as Clopas the husband of Mary, the sister of Jesus’s Mother (John 19.25). His surprise that the stranger did not know is true to life: “Are you the only stranger who does not know what’s been happening? implies the question “What else would anyone talk about?” which is so true of anyone suffering grief. Their loss has shattered the world; how can anyone go about a normal life?
19-20. We might imagine Jesus smiling as he asks, What things? Cleopas’ answer is in the same form of words as the early ‘creeds’ or statements of faith in Acts 2.22-24; 10.38; moreover, the facts he narrates fulfil Jesus’ own prophecies (our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him; see 9.22, 13.32-33; 18.31-33). Nonetheless, he does not have the sight of faith; to recite the facts and know that they fulfill prophecy is not enough.
21 … we had hoped: note the haunting past tense here which enshrines an agony of disillusionment. Next to the Lama sabachthani? of the cross it is the saddest word in the New Testament : there is sunset in it and a starless night.
22-24: the reports of the empty tomb are repeated without any conviction, They have clearly heard nothing of the Lord’s appearances; some women of our group suggests a doubt of female reliability.
25. The risen Jesus almost explodes in response. … slow of heart: in Scripture the heart stands for the whole inner life, both intellectual and emotional. So this does not mean slowness to be moved with feeling, but slowness of thought and perception.
27. He expounds the Old Testament, that is the first five books of the Law (Moses) and the books of the Prophets, to show that God’s plan was to bring salvation through the glorification of the rejected prophet, the suffering righteous Son.
28-29. At Emmaus, he gave the impression that he was moving on, and the two disciples invited him to stay with them. The NJBC sees this as Luke’s ‘final touches to his theme of faith as seeing. Disciples who entertain the stranger will have their eyes opened’.
30. With this in mind it is probably quite correct to point out that the breaking of bread in which the two recognize Jesus at last ‘should not be interpreted immediately as eucharistic’. On this point it might be best to quote the commentary a little more fully: This instance of eating
“should be linked with the thematic of eating which Luke has been developing throughout his Gospel. [In it] he has shown that God’s kingdom has come in Jesus’ sharing of food with others, especially outcasts. Jesus, who at his last meal said that he would not share food with his disciples until God’s kingdom came (22.16,18), now shares food with them and thereby shows that God’s kingdom has indeed come. Now his table companions are not toll collectors [tax gatherers], but his own disciples who have strayed from his way; they are forgiven and sent on their way, which is his way. But all this happens to them only because they have been hospitable” [NJBC, 1993, 43:196].
All that said, after the Last Supper it is impossible to think of Jesus blessing and breaking bread without thinking of the Eucharist, in which we encounter him, not only in the sacramental elements, but in the gathering together of the members of his body.
Their experience with the Risen Christ sends the two disciples back to the Eleven and the other disciples, in readiness for the experience of the first Easter evening (Luke 24.36; John 20.19-23)

Afterthought: This is one of two events in which the risen Lord appears to someone making a journey, the other being Saul on his way to Damascus (Acts 9).


Notes: From now on the names of the weekdays in the Calendar will be represented by the letters A to g. The Sunday Letter in 2011 is B.
For many of the commemorations of saints useful information can often be found at “James Kiefer's Christian Biographies”: go to and check the date or the alphabetical list (since it is an American site, the dates are sometimes not the same)

8 b The Third Sunday of Easter
9 c Julian of Norwich, Spiritual Teacher, c. 1417 Com (transferred from Sunday)
For further information, see and links there.
On this day, in 1671, Colonel Thomas Blood made a famous attempt to steal the Crown Jewels. See
10 d Feria of Easter
11 e Feria of Easter
On this day in 1310 Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Templars, was burnt at Paris
12 f Florence Nightingale, Nurse, Social Reformer, 1910 Com
For further information, see
On this day in 1641 Thomas, Earl of Strafford, was executed on Tower-hill, London; in 1771 the poet Christopher Smart died.
13 g Feria of Easter
14 A Saint Matthias the Apostle HD
St Matthias was formerly observed on February 24, and still is in some countries, but his festival has been moved so that his feast will not fall in Lent. For further information, see
On this day in 1796, the immortal Edward Jenner conclusively established the important principles of vaccination; see
Women’s Breakfast Fellowship meets this morning
15 b The Fourth Sunday of Easter
On this day in 1773 died Alban Butler, author of Lives of the Saints.

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