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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost - August 5, 2012



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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2 Samuel

At one time, the first and second books of Samuel formed a single book. They were separated in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint (about 250 BC). 1 Samuel begins with the story of Samuel: hence the name. 2 Samuel tells the story of David's rule, first as he gradually gained control of the whole of Judah (the south), and then when he was king of both Judah and Israel (the north.)


2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a

While David’s troops were off fighting the Ammonites, he has lain with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, making her pregnant. David has tried to get Uriah, home on leave, to lie with his wife (so he will think the child is his), but when this has failed, David has ensured that Uriah is killed in the fighting. David has gained a wife and a son, but his actions earn him God’s displeasure (11:27). Prophets interpret current events from God’s perspective, and foretell the future to which they are leading. Nathan courageously tells David a simple parable (12:1-5), designed to appeal to David’s sensibilities. (We recognize the “ewe lamb”, 12:3, as being Bathsheba.) David rises to the bait, not seeing the parallel. Nathan, of course, identifies the rich man as David (12:7) and gives him a message from God: he has “despised the word of the Lord” (12:9) in doing evil. His divine punishment is internecine warfare (“sword”, 12:10); God will disrupt his own household (12:11) and a son will take some of his wives, as he has done Uriah’s. There will be one difference: David has attempted to conceal his sin, but all will see his son’s (Absalom’s) sin. David admits that he has deviated from God’s moral standards: they are the ones that count, not his. In 12:13ff, Nathan tells him that God has pardoned him partially: he will live, but the son by Bathsheba will die. The son dies (12:18), but God shows his lasting love for him by giving him another son by Bathsheba, Solomon (12:24).


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 51:1-12

The superscription says that this psalm was written after Nathan had brought David to admit his guilt regarding Bathsheba, so when it speaks of rebuilding Jerusalem (v. 18) this may be a reference to public fence-mending David did then. The emphasis is on an individual’s sin, and prayers for personal pardon and restoration. The psalmist seeks cleansing from “iniquity” (vv. 2, 9) and “sin(s)”. The notion of lifelong sinfulness (v. 5) is also in Genesis 8:21: “... for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth” (although the psalmist may simply be confessing that he has been thoroughly sinful.) In v. 6, he knows that God will seek truth in his very being; this is where he will receive understanding (“wisdom”). Perhaps v. 8b says he is ill – because of his sin. He even asks God to hide his “face from my sins” (v. 9), to be so gracious and compassionate as to turn a blind eye. May God restore him, bring him back to godliness, give him a clear conscience, a “clean heart” (v. 10) and a “new ... spirit”. Only God can purify. May God give him joy and sustenance, through his “holy spirit” (v. 11).


Ephesians

This letter of Paul was written from prison, probably in Rome. Whilst the Bible states that it was written to the church at Ephesus, the some early manuscripts do not contain an addressee in 1:1. This would imply that Ephesians was a circular letter, sent to a number of churches. If so, it introduced a new idea into letter writing: we know of no other circular letters from this period. This book celebrates the life of the church, a unique community established by God through the work of Jesus Christ, who is its head, and also the head of the whole creation.


Ephesians 4:1-16

The author has told his readers of the present exalted state of Christ and the Church, the new unity of God’s people, and the Church as an established growing structure where God dwells. Now he tells us the obligations of being members of this new humanity. Paul did spend time in prison in connection with preaching Christ. The author now urges his readers to live a life “worthy of ... [their] calling” as Christians. Unity is paramount, and is to be fostered by the virtues of “humility” (v. 2), “gentleness”, “patience” and loving forbearance, the source of which is the Spirit. In vv. 4-7, he lists seven ways in which Christians live in unity. God, transcendent (“above all”) and all-pervasive (“through ... and in all”) brings these characteristics. As “Father”, he bonds us together as children, brothers, and sisters. But, in our oneness, we have diverse gifts. The author interprets Psalm 68:18 as telling of Christ’s victory over alien spiritual powers (“captive”, v. 8): when he ascended, became exalted, he conquered them. Christ also “descended” (v. 9) in being born a human being. (In Ephesians, all that is non-human is above.) When he ascended, he gave various gifts: apostleship, prophecy, etc. (v. 8). Together those so endowed were equipped to minister and to build up the Church (v. 12), so “all of us” (v. 13) may work towards common beliefs (“faith”) and perfection in being Christ-like. The maturing process requires adherence to true doctrine (v. 14), and “speaking” (v. 15) and doing God’s “truth” lovingly, emulating Christ, with each member using his or her gifts “properly” (v. 16).


Symbol of St John

John

John is the fourth gospel. Its author makes no attempt to give a chronological account of the life of Jesus (which the other gospels do, to a degree), but rather "...these things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name." John includes what he calls signs, stories of miracles, to help in this process.


John 6:24-35

Jesus’ miraculous provision of food to the crowd has recalled, for John, the gift of manna to the people of Israel in the desert. The crowd has taken Jesus for a political messiah who will free them from Roman occupation. John continues to pursue the question: Who is Jesus? Is he divine?

Jesus and the disciples have escaped the crowds, but only for a while. Rather than tell them of his walking on water (which they would misunderstand), he does not answer them. He tells them that they are seeking him not because they understand the spiritual meaning of the food, but for another free meal (v. 26). He says: raise your sights above material things, to eternal ones, to what I, “the Son of Man will give you” (v. 27). The Father has shown me to be authentic (“seal”). I will give you nourishment for ever. But they have only grasped that the food is miraculous, a work of God, so they ask: how can we do such miracles? (v. 28) Jesus answers: only one “work of God” (v. 29) is essential: to trust in me. Again, they misunderstand; they ask: what proof will you give us? (v. 30). Moses gave us manna from heaven in the wilderness (v. 31); you have only given us earthly food. We expect the Messiah to give us manna again. In v. 32, Jesus tries to clear up the misunderstandings:

  • it was God, not Moses who gave you manna;
  • the Father gives bread now; and
  • manna met physical needs but “true bread” is more than that.
  • Then v. 33: Jesus himself is the true bread, the “bread of God”: he “comes ... from heaven and gives life ...”. They still do not grasp that he is the bread, Finally, he says: I am the sustenance of life itself, of very existence, for those who trust in me; I will fill their every need.

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