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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost - June 23, 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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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 19:1-4,(5-7),8-15a

In Israel, the northern kingdom, many people have strayed from worshipping God, partly because Queen Jezebel has promoted the Canaanite religion. Elijah has predicted a three-year drought (17:1). God has guided him to take refuge with a widow at “Zarephath” (17:8-9, outside Israel); they have miraculously had enough to eat (17:15-16). Bringing rain to the land has been a contest between the powers of God and of Baal, the Canaanite god of rain (18:17-19). On Mount Carmel (overlooking the Mediterranean), Elijah has challenged the prophets of Baal with the people watching. Each party has offered a sacrifice to be burnt and have agreed that the fire to ignite the wood will come from their respective gods (18:24). The prophets of Baal have tried most of the day, but have failed (18:29); God has heard Elijah; he has sent fire. All has been consumed, even the altar (18:38). Elijah has ordered the prophets seized, and has killed them (18:39-40). The drought is over as rain clouds appear over the sea (18:45). God’s superiority has been shown, but are the people convinced?

Now Jezebel utters a death threat against Elijah (or exiles him). Naturally he is afraid (v. 3); he flees to southern Judah (“Beer-sheba”). Elijah asks to be relieved of his mission (v. 4). Again he is fed miraculously (vv. 5-8). He travels for a long time ("forty days”) to Mount “Horeb” (called Sinai in the south). The parallels with the story of Moses are striking. In response to God’s question (v. 9), Elijah makes three complaints:

  • the people have rejected God in spite of my efforts;
  • they have killed God’s prophets; and
  • I am the only prophet left.
  • God orders him to climb the mountain and face him (v. 11a). God teaches the fiery prophet a lesson: rather than appearing mightily (“great wind”, “earthquake”, “fire”), here he appears quietly: “a sound of sheer silence” (v. 12). God repeats his question, for Elijah is neither on the mountain nor open to God (v. 13). God orders him to the north. Elijah’s three complaints will be answered:

  • Elisha will succeed him;
  • Elisha will kill God’s opponents; and
  • some godly people (“seven thousand”, v. 18) will remain.

  • 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.


    Psalms 42;43

    These two psalms are a single lyric consisting of three stanzas, each with a refrain (42:5, 11; 43:5). The psalmist is ill (42:10) and so is unable to make a pilgrimage from northern Palestine (Mount “Hermon”, v. 6) to Jerusalem. He loves God dearly (42:1-4) and desires greatly to come before him in the Temple (42:2). He has fond memories of past pilgrimages (v. 4). To him, illness is a sign that God has forgotten him (42:9). Ungodly people claim that he is ill because he is wicked (43:1). May God show that he is faithful! May he be able to make the pilgrimage again! (43:3-4).


    Galatians

    There were some teachers in Galatia who claimed that a convert to Christianity must first embrace Judaism, that a Christian must observe Mosaic law. Paul wrote this letter to rebut this argument, to insist that one comes into union with God through faith in Christ, and not through ritual observances. This book is a charter of Christian liberty; it was instrumental in transforming Christianity from a sect of Judaism into a world religion. Galatia is in central Turkey, and was settled soon after 300 BC by Celts. In 25 BC, the province of Galatia was extended southwards. (Modern-day Ankara is in Galatia.)


    Galatians 3:23-29

    Some Jewish Christians have visited Galatia and argued that a right relationship with God comes through Mosaic law, but Paul argues that it is God’s promise(s) that establish this link. After all, Paul has written, God’s promise to Abraham predated the Law by centuries (v. 17). The Law was “added” (v. 19) because people deviated from God’s ways. It also came through a “mediator” (Moses), while the promise came directly (v. 20). The Law doesn’t “make alive” (v. 21), give life, so it doesn’t yield oneness with God. All of scriptural (Old Testament) tradition locks people into sinfulness, but God’s (new) promise of the gift of Christ is freely given to “those who believe” (v. 22): it is different; it gives life.

    In v. 23, by “before faith came” Paul means before the Christian era, before the fulfilment of God’s promises. The word translated “disciplinarian” (v. 24) was used of a slave who supervised a child outside school hours. We were restricted in our development until Christ came. Living under the Law prepared the first Christians for Christ, for oneness, through faith, with God; however, now they are no longer subject to the Law. Baptism has implications for daily living (v. 27). Having taken on Christ, we are spiritually akin to Abraham (v. 29). Being “one in Christ” (v. 28), racial, social and gender differences are insignificant.


    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 8:26-39

    Jesus and his disciples arrive in Gerasa, a city some 30 km east of the Jordan – in Gentile territory. Ancient ideas of dementia were very different from ours:

  • demons were spirits of an evil kind, thought to do battle, as a “legion” (v. 30), with God and his allies;
  • they were thought to invade human bodies and personalities, causing mental (and some physical) illness, and taking control of people;
  • “the wilds” (v. 29, the desert) was the abode of demons and destructive forces;
  • “the abyss” (v. 31) was the realm of Satan and home to demons.
  • People who had been deprived of their liberty (e.g. prisoners) lost the right to wear clothes. “Tombs” (v. 27) were ritually unclean places. Jesus has power over evil forces (“fell down”, v. 28; “commanded”, v. 29). The man recognizes Jesus for whom he is. “Swine” (v. 32) were a symbol of pagan religion and of Roman rule: even they are subject to Jesus’ authority. Perhaps Luke predicts the fall of Rome in telling the fate of the swine (v. 33): that Roman legions will drown. The man not only sits “at the feet of Jesus” (v. 35), as disciples did, but becomes a missionary to fellow Gentiles (v. 39). This is a story of transformation; so dramatic is the change in the man that the people are “seized with ... fear” (v. 37): they can’t handle it.

    What does Luke mean by “had been healed” (v. 36) or saved? Look at the changes in the man’s life:

  • from outside the city to inside it;
  • from living in tombs and being driven into the desert to living in a house;
  • from nakedness to being clothed; and
  • from being demented to being of sound mind.
  • From destructive isolation, he has become part of a nurturing, human community. He proclaims the good news. To Luke, a “house” (v. 27) is a home where one belongs, is a person, interacts with others, and exercises personal and communal rights and obligations, including moral ones.

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