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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Remembrance Sunday - November 11, 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.


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Lamentations

In 587 BC, the Babylonian army destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple, and deported many of the inhabitants, leaving only the poor and weak. The five poems which make up this book were almost certainly written in Palestine at this time of political, social and religious crisis. Perhaps these laments were recited at the site of the Temple. An ancient tradition holds that the author was Jeremiah - largely because 2 Chronicles 35:25 says that he uttered a lament upon the death of King Josiah at Megiddo; however, Lamentations mourns the loss of the city, not the king. Lamentations is therefore considered anonymous.


Lamentations 3:17-26,31-33

Judah has been conquered by the Babylonians and Jerusalem lies in ruins. The Temple is no more. Many prominent members of the community have been deported. In this crisis in the community, a witness of the devastation writes of his own experience of suffering, but while personal, he probably also speaks for many Israelites and for the nation. In v. 1 he says: “I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath”. He believes that God has caused the calamity, but why? God is punishing Israel for its deviations from God’s ways, its sin; Israel has breached its pact with God. Vv. 4-18 tell of the poet’s pain: of hunger, poverty, fatigue, imprisonment, mockery, bitter humiliation and mental anguish. He no longer finds peace with God (v. 17); he has forgotten what being happy (blessed, prosperous) in the Lord is. His “glory” (v. 18, the power God gives him), is gone – as is all hope he had of gifts from God. (“Wormwood”, v. 19, is a plant, and “gall”, a herb; both taste bitter – here they are used metaphorically.)

But then the poet remembers the good side; this gives him hope (v. 21): there is more to God than his wrath. God continues to love, and does so continually; he will be merciful, compassionate, always. The poet’s inner being reminds him that there is cause to hope: God’s covenant with Israel lasts for ever (v. 24). (In Numbers 18:20, when Palestine was divided under Aaron, the priests, rather than receiving a portion of the land, were given God himself as their “portion”.)

Discipline is “good” (vv. 26-27): suffering brings us closer to God. God’s punishment will not last for ever. He does cause “grief” (v. 32), but essentially he is compassionate and loving: he does not capriciously cause anyone to suffer (“afflict or grieve anyone”, v. 33). God does see injustice (vv. 34-36) and will punish the perpetrators. He does send both “good and bad” (v. 38) into the world. Israelites need to examine their consciences, mend their ways, and return to worshipping God with their whole beings (vv. 40-42).


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 116:1-9

The psalmist loves God for hearing him when he has prayed to him, whenever he has sought him out. God’s past responsiveness will lead him to seek God’s help lifelong.

He recalls a time when he was physically, mentally and/or spiritually ill (v. 3). He felt trapped, as though “snares of death” had grabbed hold of him, dragging him towards the grave. (Birds were caught in snares, large nets.) He felt life, even his soul, his very being, slipping away from him. (“Sheol” was the place of the dead where people retained only a semblance of life.) But then, he tells those present (possibly in the Temple): I called out to God to save me (v. 4).

God protects those who approach him in humility (“the simple”, v. 6). In the psalmist’s case, his sickness brought him to this state. When restored by God, he was able to assure his soul that it was safe to return to him; God has given to him generously (v. 7). God has rescued him from “death” (v. 8), or at least from sorrow and deviation from his ways. (Physical and spiritual illness were seen as closely connected.) Finally, he vows that he will be actively godly (v. 9).


1 Peter

An elder in Rome wrote this pastoral exhortation to those in charge of churches in Asia Minor. ("Babylon" is a common code-name for Rome; see Revelation 17:5-6.) The opening greeting claims that Peter is the author, but today most scholars agree that it was written in his name, to give it authority (a common practice at that time.) The addressees appear to be Gentiles, rural folk, both resident aliens and household slaves, in Asia Minor. Christians can expect to suffer, to be ostracized, to be "called names": they are in the midst of a pagan culture. Though they are "aliens" in this world, God has given them "a new birth ... into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading" (1:3-4).


1 Peter 1:3-9

The author has addressed this letter to those “chosen and destined” (v. 2) by the Father and “sanctified” by the Holy Spirit in order “to be obedient to Jesus Christ” and to share in the forgiveness available through Christ’s sacrificial death. (“Blessed be ...”, v. 3, is a traditional Jewish prayer form.)

The Father, in his mercy, has caused us to be born again (“new birth”, baptism) into a hope which is very much alive, “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. Our rebirth is also into “an inheritance” (v. 4): in the Old Testament, the inheritance was principally Palestine, but for the Church, it is heavenly. Palestine was lost in war, but our inheritance is “imperishable”, indestructible, free from sin (“undefiled”) and never lost. We, through our trust in God (“faith”, v. 5) are guarded by God’s power – for “salvation” – already accomplished but to be shown to all at the end of time (“last time”).

In all of this (v. 6), the readers rejoice even if they have had to suffer “trials” (ostracism or persecution). These verify their faithfulness to God – as the purity of gold is tested by heating it. Such fidelity will be rewarded when Christ comes (to judge) at the end of time (v. 7). Their faith is such that they love him, believe in him and rejoice, even though they (unlike Peter) have never seen him (v. 8). Why? Because they are aware that they are being saved now – this being a logical and temporal goal of trust in God.


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 6:37-40

Jesus has fed the five thousand on the mountain, giving them bread which he has blessed, a precursor of the Last Supper. He has identified himself: “I am the bread of life” (v. 35). He offers sustenance both physically and spiritually. But some who have seen (met) him do not believe. V. 37 begins “Everything ...” but the Greek is ambiguous: is it all things or all people? From the context and usages of the word elsewhere in John, it is likely that all people is meant.

All those to whom God the Father gives the gift of faith will come to Jesus, and no one who does come to Jesus will he reject – because Jesus does the work of the Father (v. 38). The effect of God’s will is that Christ safeguards all those whom God has given him so that they will be raised up at the end of the era (“the last day”, v. 39): he or she is not judged, rather “has passed from death to life” (5:24). “Those who have done good” “will come ... to the resurrection of life” (5:29). God’s will is that those who believe be alive in the kingdom from now on; they will be completed in this (“raise ... up”, v. 40) when Christ comes again.


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 11:21-27

Martha and Mary have sent for Jesus when their brother Lazarus, a follower, has fallen ill (v. 1). By the time Jesus has arrived, Lazarus is dead (v. 17). The two sisters live in Bethany, a village near the city of Jerusalem so many have come to mourn, as is their sacred duty. When Martha has heard that Jesus is about to arrive, she goes to meet him – perhaps to warn him of the rites – while Mary remains at home receiving condolences. Martha’s words to Jesus (v. 21) are a rebuke, but they also express her confidence that Jesus would have healed Lazarus. V. 22 is a broad hint, which Jesus answers non-commitally: Lazarus may “rise” (v. 23) at the end of time (as many believed). In v. 22, Martha echoes Pharisaic doctrine, and a position Jesus holds, but he modifies it (vv. 25-26). Jesus brings people to life (“resurrection”) and is the principle of “life”. The “life” after death he offers is eternal life; none who believe will be annihilated at the Last Day (“never die”). In v. 27, she echoes statements of faith made by Andrew, Nathanael and those at the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus does command Lazarus to come out of the tomb, which he does (v. 44). Lazarus resumes physical life.

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