Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Fourth Sunday of Easter
15 May 2011


In the older lectionary, the Gospel of Jesus the Good Shepherd (John 10.11-16) and the passage from 1 Peter 2 ending with the words you ‘are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls’ were read on the Third Sunday of Easter (which was called the Second Sunday after Easter). In the new lectionary it is the Fourth Sunday of Easter on which we consider the theme of the Good Shepherd. This is clear not only from the readings and the Sentence that is used as the alleluia verse, but also from the Collect for the Day
In the Prayer Book, the Collect now appointed for Easter IV in the BAS was used (with appropriate variations) as one of the blessings at the Office for the Burial of the Dead in the American Prayer book of 1928 and the Canadian book of 1962 (see page 601). It is founded on the words of Hebrews 13.20-21. This is the only occasion I have found of its use as a Collect for the Day.
The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, and of the Shepherd who goes to seek the one sheep that was lost is well-loved by Christians. It is also an image deeply rooted in the hope for the Messiah, the Lord’s anointed, which itself comes from David the Shepherd and King of Israel.

The Readings
Acts 2.42–47

This passage, which follows the account of St Peter’s address on the day of Pentecost and of the crowd’s response gives us a picture of the community life of the very first Christians. It is the first of three ‘Major Summaries’ in Acts; the others are 4.32-35 and 5.11-16. There are also several minor summaries (1.14; 6.7; 9.31; 12.24; 16.5; 19.20; 28.30-31). NJBC notes that Luke’s summaries are important devices in the structure of Acts, for they sustain the point the author intends to make by telling the story. “They idealize the period of the apostles’ ministry in Jerusalem and sustain the reader’s impression of a steady growth of the Christian movement punctually plotted by the will of God”. By idealizing the earliest community Luke “surrounds that period with the glitter of a ‘golden age’.
42. In the BAS the first question asked of the candidate for Holy Baptism after the confession of faith is “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?” These four points as the marks of membership in the community of Christians are first found in this verse. For reasons of space we will comment only on the word fellowship, since it is in danger of being used in a vague sort of way so that it means little more than coffee-hour.
Most people don’t know what the word fellow really means; through careless usage it has come to be a synonym of ‘man’, like ‘chap’ or ‘guy’. It comes from the Old English, feolaga meaning "fellow, partner," which in turn is from an Old Norse felagi, from fe which means "money" (our word fee is related to this) and verb root meaning "lay" ( as in ‘lay down your money’). So what it means is "one who puts down money with another in a joint venture". This is why the members of the corporation who constitute a college are called “fellows. It translates the Greek koinonia, which is from koinōnos, ‘a sharer’. As you can see, this is a much more serious thing than is implied by the usual “time of fellowship”.
44. The real meaning of ‘fellowship” comes throuigh clearly in the words And all who believed were together and had all things in common. Again in 4.32 we read that All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything that they had. During Jesus’ ministry he and his disciples had a common purse that was kept by Judas (Jn 12.6, 13.29); just so everything is held in common by the larger group of disciples. The narratives in the first chapters of Acts give a more detailed and nuanced picture of the community of property in the primitive church. In 4.36-37 we read that Barnabas was singled out as one who had sold a plot of land and had given the money for it to the apostles. Would It not have been necessary to report this if ‘all of them’ had done so? Again, in the story of Ananias and Sapphira (5,1-11), we read that they had been free not to sell their land. See Phil 2.1-4. Space does not permit any further discussion of this Apostolic Communism, but one might well reflect how else a real fellowship is possible.

Psalm 23

This psalm, which was recently used on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, is a profession of joyful trust in the Lord as Shepherd (vv. 1-4) and Host (vv. 5-6); both of which were commn figures for kingship in the ancient Near East. The King was seen as a shepherd because he both led and provided for his people; so much the more is the Lord God the Shepherd of his people.
2. He makes me lie down: the Hebrew verb was used of four-legged animals which “lie on their breasts with their legs gathered under them”. Still waters: see Rev 7.17: “the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life”.
5-6: God as gracious host: One of the ways an ancient King displayed authority and care for his subjects was through hospitality; this image is closely tied to that of the king as the provident shepherd of his people.
6. house of the Lord most obviously means the Temple, but it can mean the Land of Israel. for ever: literally for length of days.

Epistle: 1 Peter 2.19–25

This passage follows an exhortation to slaves to be submissive, not only to a kind and gentle master, but also to the overbearing. It is in this context that we must understand the referece to enduring unjust suffering.
In verse 19, it is a credit to you is literally “this is grace” and might be better rendered by “this is thankworthy”. In the present passage St. Peter speaks of good conduct without the slightest embarrassment as thankworthy, a glory, a favour in the eyes of God. Those who are willing to suffer innocently do what God desires and ‘find favour’. The commentator Charles Bigg suggests that in verses 19-20 the words “this is thankworthy”, “what glory is it”, and “this is thankworthy” echo our Lord’s words in Luke 6.32-34, “"For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.”
20: for doing wrong: This may refer to any type of wrongdoing or to sin properly so called; indeed the context of slaves and masters would suggest wrongdoing, but see C. Biggs: “In favour of the first view it may be argued that the master would strike the slave, not for sin against God, but for neglect of duty towards himself. On the other hand, the glory comes from God, in whose eyes the neglect of earthly duty is sin. Further, hamartatontes (for ‘wrong doing’, or ‘for sin’) is balanced against agathopoiountes ('doing well') in the following clause. Hence it should retain its usual sense here.”
22 is a quotation from Isaiah 53:9b in which the word sin is used instead of the original ‘lawlessness’
23: see Mark 15:29-32; 14:65; Luke 23:11, 36-37; John 19:1-5.
24. He .. bore our sins on the cross: literally, on the tree. See Deuteronomy 21.23, a verse which is also quoted by St Paul in Galatians 3.13 and alluded to in Acts 5.30, 10.39, and 13.29. The verb translated as ‘bore’ is commonly used in the OT of bringing a sacrifice to lay on the altar: here St Peter puts the Cross in the place of the altar.
25 Shepherd and guardian: the word translated guardian is episcopos, which we would otherwise translate as bishop. One wonders why the more literal ‘overseer’ is not used.

The Holy Gospel: John 10.1–10

The Lord’s discourse on the Good Shepherd in the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel may be divided into these sections:
10.1-10, read in Year A: Jesus the Door of the Sheep.
10.11-18, read in Year B: Jesus the Good Shepherd
10:19-21, not read in the Sunday lections: a division among the people about Jesus’ words
10.22-31, read in Year C: the Father has given the Sheep into Jesus’ hand
This discourse follows immediately after the healing of the man born blind in Chapter 9 with its concluding contrast between the healed man’s faith and the blind unbelief of the Pharisees. The RCL commentary notes that “The division between Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 is unfortunate. (Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, who died in 1208, is credited with dividing the Bible into chapters.)” Jesus’ last comment in Chapter 9 is “If you were blind, you would have no guilt: but now that you say, ‘We see,’ you guilt remains.” William Temple writes:
We must picture the Pharisees who have received that crushing blow as reduced to silence, till strange language about the laying down of life in obedience to divine commands stimulates them to further protest (10.18, 19). A man has been driven from one fold and received into another. After a solemn and awestruck silence the Lord speaks again.
1. Truly, truly I say to you: The original is ‘Amen, amen …’ This is a most remarkable word. It was transliterated directly from the Hebrew into the Greek of the New Testament, then into Latin and into English and many other languages, so that it is practically a universal word. It has been called the best known word in human speech. The word is directly related -- in fact, almost identical -- to the Hebrew word for "believe" (amam), or faithful. Thus, it came to mean "sure" or "truly", an expression of absolute trust and confidence. When we answer Amen to a prayer we make the substance of what was said our own. The sheepfold: a mental picture of the sheepfold helps us to understand the verses which follow. It is a walled enclosure in front of the house and open to the sky, with a solid door, which was closely barred at night by the door-keeper, and opened by him in the morning, when the shepherds came to claim their sheep, which they had left in the fold the previous evening, in order to lead them out to pasture. Other than the door, the only way to enter would be by climbing the wall, no one will enter that way except one who has no business there, and is therefore presumably come to steal (Temple).
3. The shepherd calls his own sheep: There may be sheep from several flocks gathered for the night: each shepherd will call his own by name
5. … they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers: It is told of a Scottish traveller that, meeting under the walls of Jerusalem a shepherd bringing home his flock, he changed clothes with him, and, thus disguised, began to call the sheep. They remained motionless. Then the true shepherd raised his voice, and they all hastened towards him, in spite of his strange garments. Mackie’s Bible Manners and Customs, chap, iii notes: The shepherd depends upon the sheep to follow, and they in turn expect him never to leave them. They run after him if he appears to be escaping from them, and are terrified when he is out of sight, or any stranger appears instead of him. He calls them from time to time to let them know that he is at hand. The sheep listen and continue grazing, but if anyone else tries to produce the same peculiar cries and guttural sounds, they look around with a startled air and begin to scatter.
6-7: The hearers do not understand the figure or allegory Jesus I using, so goes on to explain it as giving a double interpretation of His mission. He is both the Door (7-10) and the Shepherd (11-16). I am the door of the sheepfold: the door through which both sheep and shepherd go in and out. The sheep must come into the fold—the Church—through the Door. They must not come in for convention or respectability or for any other reasons than trust in Christ [Temple].
8. All who came before may be understood as referring to the priests and Pharisees or to those who claimed falsely to be the Messiah. Temple supports this second interpretation by noting that came is a technical term, “as is the phrase, he that cometh—the coming one’ (Mat 11.3, Lk 7.19).”
9. go in and out: this may simply refer to living (see Deut. 28; Psalm 121.8; Jer. 37.4, but Temple notes: “Their pasture is outside, in the world.”
To come in through the door means at least three things: 1) to come to the task, and every part of it, in prayer; 2) to refer all activities to the standard of the Mind of Christ; 3) to accept what actually happens as nearer to the Will of God than our own success would have been. It means putting Christ in the forefront of thought and self, in all its forms, right out of the picture.
10. The thief comes only to steal … I came that they may have life: Jesus here institutes a comparison between the false shepherd (the thief), whose object is selfish, cruel, and destructive (cf. Jer. 23. 1,2:; Ezekiel 34.1-6; Zechariah. 11.4,5), and himself, who had come into the world to give plenitude of life to his people (cf. 6. 51 and Psalm 23).


15 b The Fifth Sunday of Easter
Toronto Diocesan Cycle of Prayer: York Central Deanery
ACP: North Carolina - (Province IV, USA) The Rt Revd Michael Bruce Curry; Suffragan Bishop of North Carolina - (Province IV, USA) The Rt Revd James Gary Gloster; South Carolina - (Province IV, USA) The Rt Revd Mark Lawrence

16 c Feria of Easter
On this day in 1277 died Pope John XXI at Viterbo, from injuries sustained when the ceiling of his hastily built study collapsed on him. It is a curious fact that he was styled John XXI, since there had been no John XX.
DCP: Citizens for Public Justice
ACP North Central Philippines - (Philippines) The Rt Revd Joel A Pachao

17 d Feria of Easter
On this day in 1163 died Heloise, the lover of Peter Abelard, at the Paraclete Abbey, France.
DCP All Saints, Markham
ACP North Dakota - (Province VI, USA) The Rt Revd Michael Gene Smith; South Dakota - (Province VI, USA) The Rt Revd Creighton L Robertson

18 e Feria of Easter
On this day in 1703 died Charles Perrault, author of Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé, ou, Les Contes de ma Mère l'Oie (1697), in which many of the best-known fairy tales are found. Also on this day in 1843 occurred the Disruption of the Scottish Church with the founding of the Free Church of Scotland (see
DCP Christ Church, Stouffville
ACP North Eastern Caribbean & Aruba - (West Indies) The Rt Revd Leroy Errol Brooks

19 f Commemoration of Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, 988
See and Also on this day in 1536 was beheaded Anne Boleyn, queen of England.
DCP Christ Church, Woodbridge
ACP North Kerala - (South India) The Rt Revd Dr K P Kuruvila

20 g Feria of Easter
On this day in 1506 Christopher Columbus died at Valladolid.
DCP Emmanuel, Richvale
ACP North Queensland - (Queensland, Australia) The Rt Revd William J Ray; 1. Suffragan Bishop of North Queensland - (Queensland, Australia) The Rt Revd Saibo Mabo; 2. Suffragan Bishop of North Queensland - (Queensland, Australia) The Rt Revd James Randolph Leftwich

21 A Feria of Easter
On this day in 1743 was born Bryan Edwards, historian of the West Indies, at Westbury. See
DCP . Grace Church, Markham
ACP North West Australia - (Western Australia, Australia) The Rt Revd David Mulready

22 b The Sixth Sunday of Easter
DCP Anglican Appeal
ACP Suffragan Bishop of Northern Argentina - (South America) Vacant

1 comment:

Felicity Pickup said...

re "To come in through the door means at least three things: 1) to come to the task, and every part of it, in prayer; 2) to refer all activities to the standard of the Mind of Christ; 3) to accept what actually happens as nearer to the Will of God than our own success would have been."