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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost - August 4, 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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Hosea

Hosea was a native of the northern kingdom, Israel. He prophesied during the decades before the kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians (in 721BC). It was a time of warfare and near anarchy. Four kings of Israel were assassinated within 14 years. Hosea's marriage to a prostitute symbolizes Israel's relationship to God. The people of Israel have become unfaithful to their covenant with God. Hosea's wife leaves him after bearing him three children. But Hosea takes her back publicly - something unheard of in Israelite culture. His personal life is an embodiment of God's redeeming love. God will have compassion on Israel; he will not desert his people.


Hosea 11:1-11

In the first three chapters of the book, Hosea uses symbolism to tell of the deviation of the people of the northern kingdom (Israel) from God’s ways: they have deserted God and their covenant with him. Much of the rest of the book warns of the consequences they will suffer for their waywardness. They have insisted on worshipping pagan gods (“kept sacrificing to the Baals”, v. 2). (Baal was a god in the religions of both Canaan and Tyre.) Of all the books of the Bible, Hosea has suffered most in transmission down to us, so the meaning of some phrases remains obscure, in spite of the efforts of scholars to understand them.

God, through Hosea, recalls the Exodus from Egypt (vv. 1-4). He compares God’s loving leadership of the Israelites with a parent nurturing a child. Off worshipping other gods, they are unaware that God cared for them, healed them, and fed them. (A wise man was often called father by his students; in this sense, Israel is God’s “son”, v. 1. “Ephraim”, v. 3, means Israel: this tribal territory was a particularly important part of the north.) Vv. 5-7 tell of the punishment: the people will be exiled to “Assyria”; not having returned to God, they will be in bondage, as they were in “Egypt”. There will be fighting “in their cities” (v. 6); their priests will be killed. Even though they will call upon God for help, he will not hear them (v. 7). Vv. 8-9 are in a different tone. God speaks in a human, emotional way, but his anger (unlike human anger) does not last; he will again be compassionate. He will not cause the utter destruction of the cities and their inhabitants. (“Admah” and “Zeboiim” were destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah.) The people will return from exile to the land, “to their homes” (v. 11).


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 107:1-9,43

As it now exists, this psalm is a group thanksgiving, perhaps sung by pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem to celebrate a festival. They thank God for escape from various dangers. There are two refrains: here vv. 6 and 8. V. 1 is a summons to praise. The themes of redemption and gathering suggest that vv. 2-3 were written after the Exile; they may have been added (with vv. 33-43) to change the psalm from an individual thanksgiving to one suited to communal use. V. 3 pictures the people as coming from all points of the compass, although most came from the east (Babylon). Vv. 4-9 tell of the Israelites wandering in the desert during the Exodus. When they were “hungry and thirsty” (v. 5), physically and spiritually, God came to their aid. The next four stanzas also tell of God’s help to them in troubled times; the pilgrims thank him for his fidelity to the covenant he made at Sinai. Vv. 33-43 are part of a hymn praising God for his bounty. May people who know God, (“wise”, v. 43) people, recall God’s actions on behalf of all his people, his loyalty to the covenant (“steadfast love”).


Colossians

Colossae was a city in what is now southwestern Turkey. It had a flourishing wool and textile industry and a significant Jewish population. It seems that most Christians there were Gentile. Although long thought to be written by Paul, today this epistle is considered non-Pauline for a number of reasons. The most compelling is that it emphasizes what God has already done for his people: Paul tells us what God is going to do in the future (although some argue that Paul shifted his viewpoint in later life.) It gives descriptions of false teachings which were being promulgated in the churches. Some scholars consider this evidence of later authorship. In the ancient world, writing in the name of a respected author was accepted and regarded as an honour.


Colossians 3:1-11

The author has described baptism as being raised with Christ and becoming sharers in his suffering and death. In the early Church, those to be baptised removed their clothes before the rite and donned new ones after it, symbolizing the casting aside of their old ways and their new life in Christ. Vv. 1-4 summarize this teaching. The author tells us that we already have close fellowship with Christ, but that this is not yet fully revealed; our lives are still “hidden with Christ in God” (v. 3). When Christ’s glory is “revealed” (v. 4) at the end of time, our complete union with him will also be seen. (Early Christians saw Psalm 110:1, “... Sit at my right hand ...”, see v. 1, as showing that Jewish messianic hopes are realized in Christ.)

Being baptised, we are expected to conduct ourselves ethically (vv. 5-17): we are to cast aside both sins of the body (v. 5) and of the mind (v. 8). “Fornication” (v. 5), porneia in Greek, means all forms of sexual immorality; the “impurity” is sexual; “passion” is lust; evil desire is self-centred covetousness; “greed” motivates a person to set up a god besides God. Because people still commit these sins wilfully and without seeking forgiveness, “the wrath of God is coming” (v. 6) on them – at the end of time. (“Image of its creator”, v. 10, recalls that God makes humans in his own image.) In the baptised community, racial and social barriers no longer exist, for “Christ is all and in all” (v. 11).


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 12:13-21

As v. 1 tells us, Jesus has drawn a large crowd; the Parable of the Rich Fool is a lesson for the disciples too (v. 22). As he often does, Jesus speaks to his disciples with others present. The Mishnah, a Jewish book of laws, guided rabbis in how to handle questions of inheritance. (It must have been galling at times that Mosaic law prescribed that an elder son receive twice the inheritance of a younger.) Jesus wants no part in sorting out such issues: the word translated “friend” (v. 14) literally means human, a stern salutation. Jesus explains: “all kinds of greed” (v. 15) have no place in anyone’s life; true being (real and meaningful “life”) is more than “possessions”.

Jesus’ story of the farmer is particularly apt for a rural crowd. The farmer’s land “yielded a good harvest” (v. 16, Revised English Bible). As the frequent use of “I” in vv. 17-19 shows, he thinks only of himself, of his material well-being. He fools himself into thinking that materiality satisfies his inner being (“soul”, v. 19). This example story (unusual because God is a character) does not attack wealth per se, but rather amassing wealth solely for one’s own enjoyment. Purely selfish accumulation of wealth is incompatible with discipleship. God calls the farmer a “fool” (v. 20) for ignoring his relationship with him. Earthly riches are transient, but a time of reckoning is coming, when we will all be judged by God. This time may be when we die or at the end of time, or both. We must trust in God, leaving the future in his hands. Jesus makes his point by providing an absurd example: materialism can get in the way of godliness. (The crowd would recall that, in the Old Testament and in the Apocrypha, foolishness often has overtones of immorality, of deviating from God’s ways.)

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