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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Third Sunday in Lent - March 3, 2013



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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Isaiah

This book can be divided into two (and possibly three) parts. Chapters 1 to 39 were written before the exile, from about 740 BC to about 700 BC. These were difficult times for the southern kingdom, Judah: a disastrous war was fought with Syria; the Assyrians conquered Israel, the northern kingdom, in 723 BC, and threatened Judah. Isaiah saw the cause of these events as social injustice, which he condemned, and against which he fought valiantly. Chapters 40 to 66 were written during and after the Exile in Babylon. They are filled with a message of trust and confident hope that God will soon end the Exile. Some scholars consider that Chapters 56 to 66 form a third part of the book, written after the return to the Promised Land. These chapters speak of hope and despair; they berate the people for their sin, for worshipping other gods. Like Second Isaiah, this part speaks of the hope that God will soon restore Jerusalem to its former glory and make a new home for all peoples.


Isaiah 55:1-9

This chapter concludes a section of the book called Second Isaiah by many scholars. It was written during the Exile, after the fall of Babylon to the Persians. This section began with Chapter 40, and key themes presented there are repeated here: the way of the Lord, calling the people to enjoy God’s gifts, a new deliverance, the word of the Lord, the king, heaven and earth, God’s relationship with Israel, forgiveness, and the participation of other nations.

Vv. 1-3 invite all who thirst for God (even the impoverished) to join in his freely-given banquet at the end of time. The meal symbolizes God’s love, his abundance. Recall other banquets:

  • in Egypt, after a plague killed every first-born son but passed over (did not afflict) Israelite sons; and
  • after Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai.
  • Here the banquet is for “everyone”. The food is both invaluable (“without price”) and cannot be bought (“without money”). God made an “everlasting covenant” (v. 3) with David, making him a great leader and guaranteeing him an enduring line of successors; now this greatness is transferred to Israel (“you”), so that they “may live”, i.e. see the promises of long ago fulfilled now and in the future. Now nations who neither know Israel nor are known to her will come seeking Israel’s “ LORD” (v. 5). All may now “seek the LORD” (v. 6), turn humbly to him, not only in the Temple but wherever he may be found, for “he is near”. The invitation to share in the life of this new community is even extended to evildoers who repent and “return to the Lord” (v. 7), for they will be pardoned. God may be “near” but he is transcendent, sufficiently removed not to be contaminated by human sin. His ways are beyond human comprehension (vv. 8-9). Vv. 10-11 say that God’s word comes gently from him, to permeate the earth and return to him, mission done. His spirit, infused in humans, brings in them godliness, success in furthering God’s plan. Vv. 12-13 say that sin will be abolished; all the world will recognize God; creation will be renewed, and all will rejoice. This will be an “everlasting sign” of God’s love.


    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 63:1-8

    The psalmist is now separated from God; he remembers him nostalgically; it is as though he is out in the lifeless desert. He recalls encountering God in the Temple (“sanctuary”, v. 2). Much as he values life itself as God’s great gift, God’s “steadfast love” (v. 3), his fidelity in keeping the covenant, is even greater (v. 3). He will “bless” (v. 4, honour) God throughout his life. The abundance God has given him is like a “rich feast” (v. 5). He enjoys an intimate relationship with God: his “soul clings” (v. 8) to God. God has helped him and protected him (“wings”, v. 7). God provides his strength (“right hand”, v. 8). In vv. 9-10, he asks God to destroy, annihilate, those who seek to make his life worthless; may they be destroyed without being buried (“prey for jackals”). May the “king” (v. 11, the guarantor of safety for all, and the defender of the oppressed), and all the godly, be joyful at the conquest over the ungodly (“liars”).


    1 Corinthians

    Corinth was a major port which also commanded the land route from the Peloponnesus peninsula to central Greece. An industrial and ship-building centre, it was also a centre for the arts. Its inhabitants came from far and wide. In this epistle, Paul answers two letters he has received concerning lack of harmony and internal strife in the Corinthian church, a church he had founded. Paul wrote this letter from Ephesus (now in Turkey), probably in 57 AD.


    1 Corinthians 10:1-13

    Paul warns Christians at Corinth that some of them are not on the path to eternal life: “if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall”! (v. 12) He uses events from the Exodus to illustrate their plight: the Israelites were the Church’s spiritual “ancestors” (v. 1); they too were under God’s protection (“under the cloud”). Stretching the metaphor, they were “baptised” (v. 2) in passing through the Reed (Red) Sea. Their “spiritual food” (v. 3) was manna; ours is the bread of the Eucharist. Their “spiritual drink” (v. 4) was the water from the rock. Now Christ gives to us; back in Moses’ day, the rock gave to them: hence “the rock was Christ”. Further, as the rock was with them, Christ is with us. (A Jewish legend says that the rock “followed them”.) Even so, Paul says, God showed his anger to many of them, by killing them. To him, these events happened (“occurred”, v. 6) and “were written down” (v. 11) so we may avoid evil ways: do not “play” (v. 7), i.e. “indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did” (v. 8); do not test God (by your self-centeredness). When many Israelites tested God (by complaining about the food he provided), they were “destroyed” (vv. 9-10). (Rabbis believed that a special angel, “the destroyer” existed.) We live in the last era (“ages”, v. 11) of human history. The “testing” (v. 13) some Corinthians have failed is what humans normally endure; you could have resisted, for God does not test us beyond what we can bear.


    Symbol of St Luke

    Luke

    Three gospels in the New Testament offer similar portraits of the life of Jesus; Luke is the third of them. Its author, traditionally Luke the physician who accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys, draws on three sources: Mark (via Matthew), a collection of sayings (known as Q for Quelle, German for source) and his own source. It is a gospel that emphasizes God's love for the poor, the disadvantaged, minorities, outcasts, sinners and lepers. Women play a more prominent part than in the other gospels. Luke never uses Semitic words; this is one argument for thinking that he wrote primarily for Gentiles.


    Luke 13:1-9

    Jesus has said that he will return to judge humankind at an unexpected time. Those who know of Christ’s coming and use what God gives wisely will be rewarded with God’s abundance. Those who know but do not prepare will be condemned. Those who do not know and behave wantonly will be lightly reprimanded. (12:35-48). It was commonly believed that pain and premature death were signs of God’s adverse judgement. Now we read of two events where people died prematurely and unexpectedly: one group (“the Galileans”, v. 1) doing God’s will, killed intentionally as they sacrifice to him in the Temple; the other group (“those eighteen”, v. 4, possibly construction workers) killed accidentally. In both cases, Jesus says, there is no link between early death and sin; however, these deaths do show the fate of those who fail to “repent” (vv. 3, 5), to turn to God.

    In the parable (vv. 6-9), Jesus elaborates on his call for repentance. (The fig tree symbolizes some Jews, possibly the religious leaders.) Jesus expects those who hear him to bear fruit (v. 9), to do his will. If they do not do so immediately, God in his mercy gives them some extra time (“one more year”, v. 8) to do so. If they still fail to do so, they will be destroyed. In Matthew 3:10, Jesus speaks of such a tree being “cut down and thrown into the fire”. So the perishing (vv. 3, 5) is spiritual, at the end of the age.

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