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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost - August 26, 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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1 Kings

The two books of Kings were originally one. They continue the story of the monarchy begun in 1-2 Samuel. 1 Kings begins with the enthronement of Solomon and the death of David, recounts the reign of Solomon, the breakup of Israel into Israel in the north and Judah in the south, through to about 870 BC. While these books read like a political history - in which some kings are judged good and others bad - they trace the apostasy that led to the loss of national identity and autonomy.


1 Kings 8:(1,6,10-11),22-30,41-43

The Temple has been built, as David wished. In his time, the Ark was brought to Jerusalem after he conquered the city; it was placed in the “city of David” (v. 1), as it was then known, in the “tent of meeting” (v. 4). The Ark is now moved, in procession, to the Temple, to the Holy of Holies (“inner sanctuary”, v. 6). After the priests leave the Ark there, “a cloud filled the house of the Lord” (v. 10), a sign of God’s presence (v. 11). In vv. 12-21, Solomon addresses the people, declaring the continuity between God’s covenant with Israel during the exodus, his promise to David, and the Temple – God’s dwelling place among his people.

Vv. 22-53 are Solomon’s prayer of dedication (edited by a later hand, during the exile in Babylon.) Solomon asks God to keep his promise to David: that his lineage will continue forever if his descendants (“children”, v. 25) follow God’s ways as David did. The question in v. 27 is rhetorical, for the cloud is evidence of God’s presence. Omni-present as he is, God makes the Temple his earthly home. God’s “name” (v. 29) is symbolic of his presence. Solomon asks that God may always be attentive to prayer in the Temple, and “toward” (v. 30) it (from exile). The King asks God’s attention to his and the people’s “plea”, and gives seven illustrations:

  • by being just (v. 32);
  • when they “turn again” (v. 33) to him after God has punished their waywardness by having an enemy defeat them;
  • when he punishes them with drought (v. 35);
  • when he does so with famine and various plagues (v. 37);
  • to respond to a foreigner’s pleas when he or she seeks and finds the God of Israel (vv. 41-43) – so that people everywhere may know God and hold him in awe;
  • when they battle an enemy and pray for success; and
  • when they “come to their senses ... and repent” (v. 47) and seek freedom, after their sin has caused God to have them exiled.
  • May God hear them, his chosen people – as he promised to Moses (v. 53).


    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 84

    This psalm praises God as the longed-for goal of the pilgrim. The “dwelling” of God is the Temple (and perhaps also the land of Israel). To live in the Temple is greatly to be desired: those who live there have security and happiness, even the birds (v. 3) who nest in the Temple area. Making a pilgrimage to the Temple offers these hopes. When the pilgrims pass through the arid “valley of Baca” (v. 6) en route to the Temple, it becomes fertile. They become more and more godly (“strength to strength”, v. 7) as they travel, increasing in their knowledge of God. V. 9 is a prayer for the king. (The word translated “anointed” is messiah; later it was taken as referring to the ideal future king who would restore the nation.) Perhaps v. 10 contrasts the fate of the godly and the wicked. God is both “sun and shield” (v. 11): he illuminates and protects, and bestows of blessings. (In Malachi 4:2 he is “sun”.) Life for those who trust in God is clearly superior.


    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 6:10-20

    The author now concludes his letter. Earlier, he has prayed that his readers may come to know the power of God operative in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ to heaven, and in his victory over the forces of evil. The Church participates in that victory; its members know something of this power in their conversion: a resurrection from a fatalism that viewed the world as continually declining towards evil.

    Now the author tells them that they must learn to rely on that power: they are to equip themselves with “armour” (vv. 11, 13) provided by God, as they oppose not people (“blood and flesh”, v. 12) but the malevolent forces (“rulers ... authorities”) which control them. The metaphor of the soldier is from Isaiah; here he is girded with “truth” (v. 14) and integrity (“righteousness”); his “shoes” (v. 15) give him firmer footing for (paradoxically) proclaiming the “gospel of peace”. His faith will protect him against attack from the devil (“the evil one”, v. 16). He accepts “salvation” (v. 17). He has one offensive weapon, given to him by the Spirit, “the word of God”. Persistent prayer, prompted by the Spirit, is his aid in interceding for fellow Christians (“saints”, v. 18). In vv. 19-20, the author asks his readers to pray for him that he may be given a gift of the right words in telling of the “mystery”, God’s age-long purpose, now disclosed, to call both Jews and Gentiles to share in Christ’s saving action. Paul is (like) a prisoner awaiting trial (“in chains”) yet is able to tell the good news “boldly” and freely.


    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 6:56-69

    Jesus has said that he is divine and the living bread. Now he says that partaking in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, establishes a lasting relationship, a community of life, a mutual indwelling, between him and the believer. “Living Father” (v. 57) reminds us of “living bread” (v. 51): the Father sent the Son to give life, and the life the Son has is the Father’s, given to the Son; this type of relationship is extended to the partaker in the Eucharist. This bread is “from heaven” (v. 58) as was manna (“which your ancestors ate”), but it is much more effective: it is the eucharistic sacrament of life. Jesus now leaves the “synagogue” (v. 59).

    Many of his followers find “this teaching” (v. 60) “difficult”, i.e. offensive: eating flesh is repugnant; he offends Jewish belief by claiming to be “from heaven” (v. 58) and to give life (only God can do that). Jesus says (v. 62): if you can’t accept these things, seeing me ascend to heaven will really confound you. I speak spiritually, not literally (v. 63): “it is the spirit that gives life”, is the life-giving factor. Humanity, even Christ in human form, is “useless” without the spirit. Jesus’ words link life with spirit. Some, he says, do not believe, so the Eucharist is nonsense to them (v. 64). Belief in him is a gift from the Father (v. 65). This leads many to desert him (as later many left the Church, v. 66). Jesus offers the twelve the chance to leave him (v. 67). Peter replies on their behalf: we are on the way to knowing you, for we already believe in you; we know why you came (v. 69).

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