Some Notes for the Week of the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, 16 October 2011
Proper 29 Year A
The Notes for last Sunday were delayed because of a technical problem with the Blogger.
The Sentence, based on Philippians 2.15, 16 is the Alleluia verse for this Sunday in the Roman Missal; it has no obvious connection with any of the readings
The Collect is apparently a new composition, which is fouind in many other prayer books. It is in part based on Philippians 3.13-14: Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. See also Psalm 119:32
or the Lord's abiding presence with His people, which is granted.
Verse 12 gives a hint that the text has been somehow muddled: the saying of the Lord to which Moses refers, ‘I know thee by name’ comes in verse 17.
Verse 22, inMoses, having been told that the Lord will not go with His people, asks for help in leading them to Canaan, which is granted ; then for a knowledge of him who is to help them, and of the Lord's ways, and a sight of His glory, which is granted in the form of a partial revelation ; lastly f a cleft of the rock: This rock has been interpreted allegorically (as for example by St Gregory of Nazianzus and other Church Fathers) as Christ, the Word that was made flesh for us [see the second Thological Oration of St Gregory, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310228.htm]. This interpretation underlies the hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ which we will eb singing this Sunday at the 10:30 Eucharist. ‘The Incarnation gives an assured point from which we may observe and study God without being overwhelmed by the greatness of the revelation. The glories of the Divine Nature are tempered for us, as it were, by the Human Life which encompasses us as we look out from it to the Divine. By the Incarnation our field of contemplation is at once restricted and made clear.’
A hymn of praise to God as king. The refrain, He is the Holy One, in verses 3 and 5, expanded to ‘the Lord our God is the Holy One’ in verse 9, sets the hymns in three parts. The threefold declaration of God’s holiness has been likened to the ‘Holy, holy, holy’ of the Seraphim in Isaiah 6. The effect of the refrain was described thus in an older commentary on the Psalms:
‘First, there is an acknowledgment of the manifestations of Jehovah's kingly might in heaven and upon earth, which makes the world tremble, and is worthy to evoke praise to this exalted Ruler and His mighty name. To this is attached the simple acknowledgment of His holiness. This is then connected with the worship of Jehovah on the steps of His throne, as the King who has established the Theocracy in Israel. Finally, both the place of worship and the object to whom it is due are particularly described, after it had been shown from the history of Israel previous to the establishment of the Monarchy, that God's kingdom is not dependent upon the existence of earthly kings, but is regulated in accordance with a course of action, in harmony with its true nature, both on the part of the Church and on the part of God.’
The Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 1.1-10The first Letter to the Thessalonians is perhaps the oldest book of the New Testament. Paul, with the aid of Silas (Silvanus) and Timothy, preached at Thessalonica and founded a church there during his second missionary journey (see Acts 17). He was forced to leave the city because of persecution. This letter was written perhaps in the early 50’s from Athens or Corinth. Five sections of this letter are set for reading on Sunday in Year A:
October 16: 1 Thess 1.1-10
23: 1 Thess 2.1-8
30: 1 Thess 2.9-13
November 6: 1 Thess 4.13-18
13: 1 Thess 5.1-11
The usual course of readings will be interrupted on November 6 for the Solemnity of All Saints; this is in a way unfortunate, for the sense of the next passage is clearer if the whole section is read. For this reason I encourage you to read the whole of the letter this week (it is only four pages).
The reading today is the salutation of the letter (verse 1) and St Paul’s opening prayer of Thanksgiving for the faith of the Thessalonian community (verses 2-10).
It is noteworthy that St Paul’s name is here given without any title; in all the other letters except for 2 Thessalonians he describes himself as Apostle, and often as Servant of Jesus Christ. It has been suggested that in these early letters he had no need to assert his claims. Paul joins Silvanus and Timothy with himself in the greeting, though he was the sole author. Grace and peace join the usual forms of greeting used by Jews and Greeks.
In verses 2-10, Paul thanks God for the graces seen in the Thessalonians They prove that his preaching has not been ineffectual. These people, manifesting joy in spite of persecution, have become a example to others north and south of them, the word of the gospel thus sounding out from Thessalonica in both directions and thus the report of their conversion has come round to the Apostle from Macedonia and Achaia.
Note the mention in verse 3 of the three Christian graces of which Paul writes later in 1 Cor. 13. 1 and elsewhere. In both cases faith comes first, not because it is most important, since in Corinthians love is expressly declared to be the greatest of the three, but doubtless because Paul regards it as coming earlier than the other graces in experience, and in a way as laying the foundation for them. In this verse the graces are associated with their fruits: the Apostle describes himself as remembering the fruits, which are outward signs of the graces, and valued as evidences of their existence. The work, labour, and patience spring from or are characterized by hope, love, and faith.
In verse 5 the literal our Gospel is translated by our message of the gospel: the word gospel as it is used in the Bible never means a book, as for us it means the works of the four Evangelists. It always means preachers’ message, the good news they were proclaiming.
The passage ends with a note of expectation of the coming of the Son from heaven; this prepares us for the retirn of this theme in Chapters 4 and 5.
The Holy Gospel according to St Matthew 22.15-20
A conspiracy: the Pharisees and Herodians combine to ensnare Jesus with the question whether tribute to Caesar is lawful to which Jesus gives an historic reply.
The parallel version of this incident in Luke (12.20-26) states that the chief priests and scribes sent spies to catch Jesus out in his words ‘so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor’, that is, get him to declare that the tribute was against the law of God, thus making himself an open rebel against Rome. The question they put showed their political astuteness; if Jesus forbade tribute to Caesar, the Herodians, as the supporters of the existing regime, would condemn him as a traitor; if he recommended the payment, he would offend the Pharisees and the populace. The nationalist cry was, No king but God.
It is interesting that the term used for the tribute in Greek was ‘census’, a Latin word which means a register of the citizens, their property, and so on. Here and in 17.24, where it is paired with ‘tribute’, it seems to mean a poll-tax.
The coin of the tribute was a denarius, which was traditionally translated in English as penny (hence the d of the old English coinage) and is usually explained as a working-man’s daily pay. It was to oppose this taxing of a denarius per head that Judas of Galilee had risen in revolt long before. See Acts 5. 37.
Jesus’s reply to his foes astonished the men of that day, and is still being pondered by human governors in church and state today. What do you think he meant?