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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost - July 27, 2014



Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures

Saint Dominic
contemplating the Scriptures

Comments have been prepared by Chris Haslam using reputable commentaries, and checked for accuracy by the Venerable Alan T Perry, of the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton. While not intended to be exhaustive, they are an aid to reading the Scriptures with greater understanding.

Comments are best read with the lessons.

Feedback to is always welcome.


Lessons for this week from the Vanderbilt University web site

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Genesis

Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It begins with two versions of the creation story, neither of them intended to be scientific but telling us why we are on earth. In the story of Adam and Eve, it tells us that we are responsible, under God, for the care of all creation. It then continues with the stories of the patriarchs: Abraham (who enters into a covenant (or treaty) with God), Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.


Genesis 29:15-28

After meeting God in a vision at Bethel, Jacob has journeyed on to Haran to find a wife of his own clan. He has come to a well (v. 2) covered by a stone so large that it takes several shepherds to move it. Perhaps to ensure equitable distribution of the water, the shepherds wait until all are there before rolling the stone away (v. 8). Rachel has arrived with her father Laban’s sheep. As in other ancient stories, the hero (Jacob) has shown her his strength: by moving the stone unaided. Jacob has been taken with Rachel; Laban has “brought him to his house” (v. 13).

After staying with the family for a month, Laban asks Jacob what wages he expects (v. 15). V. 17 probably contrasts Leah and Rachel: the word translated as “lovely” can mean dull-eyed. Laban takes Jacob into his service (“stay with me”, v. 19). “Seven years” (v. 20) indicates a long time, but for Jacob, besotted with Rachel, it passes rapidly. As Jacob has deceived Isaac, so Laban now fools Jacob. (That a bride was veiled makes this possible.) This time Jacob is “deceived” (v. 25). Isaac was duped into honouring “the younger before the firstborn” (v. 26). Laban does give Rachel to Jacob, but apparently without another “week” (v. 27) of marriage festivities – and after further years of service. Laban is as wily as Jacob! We are prepared for the birth of the fathers of the Israelite tribes: Jacob “loved Rachel more than Leah” (v. 30) but Rachel was barren for a time (v. 31). Leah, “Zilpah” (v. 24) and “Bilhah” (v. 29) are the mothers of nine of them.


Psalms

Psalms is a collection of collections. The psalms were written over many centuries, stretching from the days of Solomon's temple (about 950 BC) to after the Exile (about 350 BC.) Psalms are of five types: hymns of praise, laments, thanksgiving psalms, royal psalms, and wisdom psalms. Within the book, there are five "books"; there is a doxology ("Blessed be ... Amen and Amen") at the end of each book.


Psalm 105:1-11,45c

This psalm, probably written for a major festival, recalls the events in Israel’s history, from Abraham to the entry into the Promised Land, that show God’s fidelity to his pacts and promises, culminating in the giving of the Law. Vv. 1-6 invite the people to worship, to joyous grateful recognition of God’s deeds. He is to be remembered for his “judgements” (v. 5) as well as for his “wonderful works”. His judgements are for all people (v. 7). He first promised the land to Abraham (v. 9), then confirmed it to Isaac and to Jacob, and finally made it part of an “everlasting covenant” (v. 10, Mosaic law) to Israel. Originally the psalm began as it ends; “Praise the Lord” (v. 45) is Hallelujah in Hebrew.


Psalms

Psalms is a collection of collections. The psalms were written over many centuries, stretching from the days of Solomon's temple (about 950 BC) to after the Exile (about 350 BC.) Psalms are of five types: hymns of praise, laments, thanksgiving psalms, royal psalms, and wisdom psalms. Within the book, there are five "books"; there is a doxology ("Blessed be ... Amen and Amen") at the end of each book.


Psalm 128

The superscription of this psalm is “A Song of Ascents”; it was probably a pilgrimage song, sung as people walked to Jerusalem for a major festival. V. 1b probably parallels v. 1a: those who hold God in awe will be joyful; they are those who follow God’s ways. You who do so will be prosperous, enjoying the results of your hard work (probably farming); you will live in harmony with God. God will give you large families (v. 3), thus ensuring heirs (in an age of high infant mortality). Vv. 5-6, a blessing, was perhaps pronounced by a priest. The “prosperity of Jerusalem” was basic to Israelite happiness. May God bless you as a member of the community, from his abode in the Temple (“Zion”).


Romans

Romans is the first epistle in the New Testament, although not the first to be written. Paul wrote it to the church at Rome, which included both Jews and Gentiles. His primary theme is the basics of the good news of Christ, salvation for all people. The book was probably written in 57 AD, when Paul was near the end of his third missionary journey around the Eastern Mediterranean. It is unusual in that it was written to a church that Paul had not visited.


Romans 8:26-39

Paul has written of the new way of being we attain in baptism: we are freed of compounding sin leading to the finality of death and begin living in and with the Spirit, thanks to God’s gift of love. In this new life, we will live in complete accord with God, but now we still fail to live up to his (and our) expectations. We need help – help which the Spirit provides. In our present condition we have hope of attaining perfect union with God. Now he gives an example of how the Spirit helps us. We have human limitations in how we pray; the Spirit “intercedes” in terms unexpressible in human language. The Father, who knows us to the core, knows the “mind of the Spirit” (v. 27) – for it is part of God’s plan (“will”) that he intercede for “the saints”, the faithful. We know that, “for those who love God” (v. 28) and whom God has called as part of his plan, in his providence, the actions of “all things” converge towards ultimate goodness. God formulated his plan, that there would be people who would love him (“foreknew”, v. 29). They would have a disposition to share increasingly in, and be moulded increasingly into, the risen life of Christ (“image”, v. 29), so that they might join him in full godliness (glory) at the end of the era. These people he “called” (v. 30) and chose; they responded to his call, and he found them worthy (“justified”). So certain is Paul that God will complete the process that he writes “glorified” (past tense); in fact, sharing fully in God lies ahead.

He now examines in detail how certain can we be that God will complete the execution of his plan of salvation. What, he asks, “are we to say about these things” (v. 31), especially “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” ( 8:1). He puts his questions in the language of the law court. God is so “for us” (v. 31) that he gave us his very Son, so he will surely follow through with the rest of his plan. God has passed a favourable sentence on us (“justifies”, v. 33) so who is there to accuse us of anything? We have Christ, in his place of power and authority (“at the right hand of God”, v. 34) pleading for us. (He is also the judge: see 2:16.) No hardship can separate the true Christian from Christ’s love for us (v. 35). Psalm 44:22 foretold the sufferings of Christians (v. 36); in them we are winning a resounding victory (“more than conquerors”, v. 37). Whether dead or alive at the Last Day, nothing – whether spiritual powers (“angels ... rulers ... powers”, v. 38) or astrological powers (commonly believed to control human destiny, “height, nor depth”, v. 39) or anything else – can separate us from God’s love – and defeat God’s purpose for us.


Symbol of St Matthew

Matthew

This gospel is the first in the New Testament, but it was probably the second to be written. Scholars recognize that it borrows material from Mark, and from a sayings source containing sayings of Jesus and known as Q (for Quelle, German for source). The author shows an understanding of Jewish culture and religion not found in the other gospels. It was probably written about 60 to 70 AD, possibly for a largely Jewish audience.


Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

Jesus continues to use parables to teach the crowds and his disciples about God’s Kingdom; the four read today are really similes. A “mustard seed” is very small; in Palestine it grows to be a large shrub, but hardly a tree. Birds do not nest in it, so Jesus exaggerates. Bread made with “three measures of flour” (v. 33) would feed 100 people: again an exaggeration. God’s Kingdom will grow from small beginnings to significant size. Like yeast, Jesus’ message will pervade the lives of many, transforming them. The “someone” of v. 44 stumbles over the “treasure” and acquires legal title to it by selling all to buy the field. Of such value is membership in the Kingdom. The “merchant” (v. 45) values the “pearl”, (v. 46, the Kingdom), above all else. On the Sea of Galilee, a “net” (v. 47) gathered all fish, only some of which were edible. At the end of the age, God will come to judge people, declaring the good to be his and discarding the others. Jesus calls his disciples scribes, interpreters, “trained for the kingdom” (v. 52), when they tell him that they understand the seven parables in this chapter, for they know both the “old” (Israel’s heritage), and the “new” understanding of it he has given them.

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