Saturday, July 2, 2011

lectionary notes

Some Notes for The Third Sunday after Pentecost
3 July 2011
Sunday between 3 and 9 July Proper 14 Year A

The Sentence appointed for this Sunday is taken from the Gospel reading; the Collect has no immediate relation to any of the readings in Year A.
The Readings
Genesis 24.34–38, 42–49, 58–67

The Sunday readings are necessarily only highlights of the Biblical narrative, the story of Salvation. Last week we read of the sacrifice of Isaac; now we have jumped over moer than one chapter. Anyone who wants to have a proper understanding of today’s passage should read the rest of this section (22.15-24.33). In 22.20-24, in which Abraham receives news of his brother Nahor in Haran; this is an important preparation for Chapter 24. In Chapter 23 we hear of ther death of Sarah, and Abraham’s purchase of a burial-place for her.
24.1-33, When Isaac was grown up, and Sarah his mother had died, Abraham made his steward Eliezer (see 15.2) swear that he would go return to Haran to find a wife for Isaac from among Abraham’s kin. When the servant came to the well at Haran, he prayed to God for a particular sign by which he could identify the woman God has chosen. When Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel, Abraham’s nephew, came to the well she by offered water to both the servant and his camels, thereby fulfilling the sign. Rebekah’s brother Laban, now the head of the family, welcomed the servant and his party and has offered them a meal. But first, the servant insists, he must he must tell his errand. It is here that the reading for today begins.
24.34-49. The servant’s account recapitulates the story up to this point. Such repetition is common in ancient narrative; the minor variations add interest [NJBC].
24.50-57. Rebekah’s family accept that this thing is from God and agree that she should go to Isaac. Abraham’s steward gave them rich gifts. The next morning they called Rebekah and asked if she consented to go
24.58-61. Rebekah agreed, and with the blessing of her family goes away with Eliezer.
In verse 60, The blessing on the marriage (compare Ruth. 4.11 and following), rhythmic in form, is perhaps an ancient fragment of tribal poetry associated with the name of Rebekah.
24.62-67: Isaac marries Rebekah.
In verse 63, to walk translates a Hebrew word of uncertain meaning; traditionally it has been rendered by “to meditate”. Another suggestion is “to roam”.
The Song of Solomon 2.8–13
The full title of this book is found in 1.1: The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s. In Hebrew idiom, “Song of Songs” is a superlative, “the greatest song”. It is a collection of about twenty-five poems or fragments of poems of love and courtship, set as a dialogue between a woman (the bride) and a man (the bridegroom). While some poems of the poems may come from the time of Solomon, the evidence of the language and style in some suggests a later date. The compilation into one book is probably of the third century BC.
The poems are organized as a dialogue between a woman (the bride) and a man (the bridegroom) with a chorus of the daughters of Jerusalem.
The Song of Songs has no obvious religious content; only by assuming that it has a mystical or allegorical meaning can it be given one. It has thus been interpreted as a song of the love between God and his people Israel, or for Christians between Christ and the Church. But although the spiritual interpretation has much to recommend it, we must recognize that the Song of Songs was not intended to be an allegory. “In the literal historical sense it refers to love between humans”. So NJBC, which notes further, “Israel resisted the divinization of sexuality characteristic of the ancient Near East. The Lord had no female consort. Human sexual love was seen as intrinsically good; it could even be a symbol of divine love. [The Song of Songs] presents us with a biblical model of human intimacy. The mutuality and fidelity between lovers, the sensuousness of their relationship, their devotion to each other, clearly emerge … It is widely held that the sages of Israel are responsible for its preservation and transmission because they recognized sound expression of the values of human love (c. Prov 5.18, 18.22).
A passage from Song of Songs is used today in place of a Psalm as a fitting reflection on the story of Rebekah in the first reading. In 2.8-17 the woman recalls a moment when her lover paid a visit in springtime.
The depiction of spring (11-13) has been called the most beautiful song to nature in the Old Testament.
The Epistle: Romans 7.15–25a
As in the other readings, on Sundays we have only highlights of the Epistles. In order to make the best use of the passage read in Church, it is a good idea to read through the whole chapter. Last week we ended at 6.23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Chapter 7 opens with a change of image; where Paul spoke of death to sin (see 6.1-4), now he speaks of the Christian as dead to the Law, and in verses 1-6 uses an analogy from marriage. In verses 7-23 we have a view of law and sin as seen through Christian eyes. [NOAB]
In our reading today Paul speaks of the inner conflict between the good he desires to do and the evil he does. Indeed, Sin is like an evil power ruling within
17. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. Since then things are as I have just described—when I approve what the Law prescribes, and hate the course suggested by Sin, and yet do what I hate, it is clear that it is not I that do the evil thing, but the Sin that dwells in me! Boylan: This verse does not imply that fallen man is not responsible when he surrenders to Sin ; his surrender is a self-surrender with clear consciousness ; and in each particular instance he is free to refuse surrender. The meaning of St. Paul is, that fallen man, unassisted by grace, in spite of the clear teaching of the Law, and his own better judgment, as a general rule surrenders to Sin and thus carries out, not his own will, but the will of Sin. The evil deed then is primarily the work of Sin.
18-20: The thoughts of 15-17 are practically repeated, with a further appeal to Paul's personal experience.
18. in my flesh: NJBC offers in my natural self. It is important to note that Paul does not say that the flesh is evil, but only that good does not dwell in it because of Sin. There is no basis here, therefore, for a Gnostic Dualism teaching the intrinsic and essential sinfulness of the Flesh.
The Holy Gospel: Matthew 11.16–19, 25–30
The first part of today’s passage is the conclusion of a larger unit, 11.2-19, which tells of messengers sent to Jesus by John Baptist to ask whether he is the expected one, and of Jesus answer. Luke 7.18-35 has a parallel to it. Part of the larger passage (2-11) was read on the Third Sunday of Advent this year; the rest is apparently not read on Sundays. If nothing else shows how important it is to read the passage in context before Sunday and not just hear a snippet unprepared on Sunday morning it is this. From the earlier verses we learn that Jesus has just received and answered John’s message and it is the reaction of the people to John and to himself that provokes his comment on this generation. Here the generation seems to mean all the people of Jesus’ time, while in Luke it appears to refer to the Pharisees and lawyers (see Luke 7.30).
As the NJBC points out, this comment comprises a little parable (16-17), an explanation of the parable (18, 19a), and a wisdom saying (19b); the parable is difficult to interpret.
One reading of the parable is this: “One set of children are trying to get another set to join in a game. They try ‘marriages,’ and then ‘funerals’; but in neither case will the others respond. The fault is not in the game, but in the humour of the children. ‘This generation’ is as childishly whimsical in rejecting both John with his gloomy asceticism and Jesus with His joyous freedom. They do not know what they want.” So NJBC has “The most probable interpretation runs thus: The children are John and Jesus; the call is to play wedding, then funeral; the ‘others’ are their Palestinian contemporaries, who reject both the severe way of John and the light yoke of Jesus”.
The wisdom saying [19] has also been found difficult to understand. Part of the problem is that its original form is uncertain. Our version has ‘Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds’ while Luke has ‘… by her children’. ‘Children’ is also found in some manuscripts of Matthew. We may understand that the Wisdom of God sent both John and Jesus for particular purpose; if we read ‘children’; the saying means that this wisdom is recognized by those who are spiritually akin to her, and who respond by welcoming both. If we ‘works’ it is the effects produced on the lives of disciples of John and Jesus that prove the Divine wisdom.
Five verses which follow this are omitted from the reading; they report Jesus’ upbraiding of the cities where he had done most of his mighty works. Then comes the second part of the passage read in church. Compare Luke 10.12-20, where this passage is followed by a notice of the return of the seventy disciples (10.17).
Verses 25-27 record Jesus’ cry of thanksgiving and praise to the Father. In Luke 10.21 this prayer is a response to the return of the seventy. However, following the NJBC, the section 11.25-30 as a whole may be taken as Jesus’ declaration of himself as a revealer of divine wisdom, thus picking up the thenme from verse 19. So we take the section in three parts:
25, 26: thanksgiving for God’s revelation
27, the content of the revelation
28-30, the invitation to the revelation.
Verse 25: infants: the simple, the uneducated. Jesus’ thanks is joyous adoration of the grace of God, who makes the message of the kingdom accessible to all, by requiring only childlike simplicity. This truth is about knowing God not knowing about God. The ‘wise’ are those whose wisdom has made them self-sufficient and unwilling to listen and learn but the ‘children’ are those who are aware that they do not know, and need to learn, so they do listen.
Verse 27: compare John 3.35,10.13, 13.3
This verse and the wonderful sayings which close this passage are found only in Matthew, which has led some commentators to wonder if they are authentic. Such questions are too tangled for us to touch in these notes. I will only say that to my mind no reason sufficient for rejecting them has been put forward.
28. See Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 51.23-27).
29. The yoke had long been a symbol of submission; defeated armies were made to ‘pass under the yoke’. The miracle of Jesus’ dominion is that it is light. . Learn from me: the disciple is to be a life-long learner from the true teacher. This saying gives a further depth to the earlier mention of infants. We are never to think we know it all. Meek: see 2 Corinthians 10.1
29; the burden he calls us to bear is light. This was in contrast to the burdens imposed by the legalism of Jesus’ day (see Matthew 23.4). It is also in contrast t the burdens imposed by the world. See also Isaiah 14.3, 28.12; Jeremiah 6.16, 31.25 and Sirach 6.25, 26 as well as the passage already mentioned,. But while Jesus’ call puts a lighter burden on us in the way of commandments, it makes a more serious demand in that it calls us to give our whole life into his charge. But that is the way of freedom.

3 b The Third Sunday after Pentecost
4 c Saint Thomas the Apostle HD (transferred from Sunday)
5 d Feria
6 e Commemoration of Thomas More, 1535
7 f Feria
8 g Feria
9 A Feria
10 b The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost


Felicity Pickup said...

Chez nous the feast of St Thomas the Apostle(being patronal)was not transferred from Sunday so I missed these readings. But as I will encounter them this evening at CAMH I am glad to be forewarned. Thanks for going over the possibilities of the passage about the children calling to each other in the marketplace. I had no idea why I could never make any sense out of it, and never thought to take it further.

William Craig said...

Glad to be of service!