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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost - October 13, 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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Jeremiah

From Chapter 1, we know that Jeremiah was either born or began his ministry in 627 BC. During his life, Babylonia succeeded Assyria as the dominant power in the Middle East. He was a witness to the return to worship of the Lord (instituted by the Judean king Josiah), and then (after Josiah's death in battle in 609), the return of many of the people to paganism. When Babylon captured Jerusalem in 587, Jeremiah emigrated to Egypt. God called him to be a prophet to Judah and surrounding nations, in the midst of these political and religious convulsions.


Jeremiah 29:1,4-7

Our reading is part of a letter Jeremiah wrote from Jerusalem to the leaders of the exiles in Babylon, deported when Babylon occupied Judah for the first time (597 BC). Perhaps Jeremiah tries to enhance Zedekiah’s relations with the Babylonian court. “Elasah ... and Gemariah” (v. 3) carried the letter to Nebuchadnezzar as Zedekiah’s envoys. To people who believed that only in Israel could God be worshipped, the letter would be shocking and revolutionary: God can be worshipped outside the holy land! Having sent people “into exile” (v. 4), he now commands them, through Jeremiah, to establish permanent homes in Babylon (v. 5), to have large families (“multiply there”, v. 6), and even to pray for the welfare of the Babylonian state (v. 7). Why? Because they will be there for an indefinite period (“seventy years”, v. 10). Only after this will God “fulfill [his] ... promise” (v. 10) and bring them back to Palestine. He does plan for the future, “a future with hope” (v. 11). When they return, he will hear them (v. 12); when they search for him, he will “let you find me” (v. 14); he will “gather you from all the nations ... where I have driven you”.

But there are false prophets who predict an early return (vv. 8, 9). Two of them will be killed by King Nebuchadnezzar (v. 21); they will be “roasted in the fire” (v. 22). This fate will also befall other exiles who have deserted God, led immoral lives, and foretold events that God “did not command them” (v. 23). Vv. 16-20 are probably an editor’s comment to those still living in Judah. Reiterating 24:8-10, he warns that those who escaped exile, though they consider themselves to be God’s elect, will suffer greatly - because they “did not heed my words” (v. 19) when God “persistently” sent prophets to them.


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 66:1-12

“All the earth” (not only Israel) is invited to join in praising God, seen as powerful in his “deeds” (v. 3). Throughout the Exodus, from crossing the Red Sea to passing through the Jordan “on foot” (v. 6) - indeed throughout history – he has done great things “among mortals” (v. 5). His rule is world-wide, over all “the nations” (v. 7) – so may those who consider rebellion think again!

Vv. 8-12 are a communal thanksgiving. God preserves us in life (v. 9a); he protects us. In past difficulties he has “tested us” (v. 10), purifying us as “silver” ore is changed to pure silver. Israel has been subjugated by other people (perhaps during the Exile), yet after enduring every kind of difficulty (“through fire and ... water”, v. 12), God has brought her to freedom again. In vv. 13-20, an individual (perhaps the king) vows to offer sacrifice in the Temple in thanks. He invites the community to hear “what [God] ... has done for me” (v. 16). He was repentant so God listened to him (v. 19) and has heeded his requests made in prayer. “Blessed be God” (v. 20) for hearing and for his covenant (“steadfast”) love.


2 Timothy

1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus, together known as the Pastoral Epistles, are markedly different in vocabulary and literary style from epistles we know to be Paul's. They also present a more institutionalized church. For these reasons, most scholars believe that the Pastorals were written a generation or so later than the letters we are sure are Pauline. 2 Timothy is the most personal of the Pastorals: most of it is directed specifically to Timothy. From the Book of Acts, we know that Timothy was from Lystra in Asia Minor, and was the son of a Greek father and a Jewish mother who had become a Christian. He accompanied Paul on his travels.


2 Timothy 2:8-15

Timothy, we read last week, lacks the courage to hand on the good news, perhaps because he leads a Christian community subject to ostracism or persecution. He is even ashamed of being Christian. The author, writing in Paul’s name, wishes that he rekindle his faith and follow Paul’s example. Using three illustrations (“soldier”, v. 3; “athlete”, v. 5; “farmer”, v. 6), Paul has told Timothy that being a Christian requires single-mindedness, self-denial and intense effort. Reflection will lead Timothy to God giving him complete understanding.

Now he is advised to recall what Paul taught: Christ, restored to God, is the kingly Messiah (“descendant of David”, v. 8) long expected. Paul continues to preach this despite “hardship” (v. 9) and imprisonment. Even so, the good news is available to all and continues to spread (“not chained”). Paul is the great example of enduring for those who are already Christian and for those who will come to faith (“the elect”, v. 10), enabling them to enjoy Christ’s promise of eternal life.

Vv. 11-13 are rhythmical so scholars believe they are from an early Christian hymn. If we share in Christ, in his death for sin in the world, we too will have eternal life (v. 11). If we do not give up, we will share in the Kingdom with him (v. 12a), but if we “deny him” (perhaps in times of trial or suffering) he will refuse to recognize us when he judges people – when he comes again (“he will also deny us”). In spite of our desertion, his promise is always there, for he is unchangeable (“cannot deny himself”, v. 13). V. 14 begins a section on how Timothy should minister in the presence of false teachers – who change or augment the body of faith handed down. These people wrangle over words, causing some to leave the community. Present yourself, Timothy, as a true and honourable teacher forging ahead in telling the faith as it is! (v. 15)


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 17:11-19

Jesus is on the final leg of his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. He told his disciples how important genuine faith is. Lepers were outcasts from society; people considered them ritually unclean, believed the disease to be infectious by touch, and thought they were possessed by evil spirits. All ten acknowledge Jesus as who he is, “Master” (v. 13): they have faith. To be restored to society, a leper needed certification from “the priests” (v. 14) that he was free of the disease.

While all ten acknowledge Jesus as God, only one, a “Samaritan” (v. 16), a “foreigner” (v. 18), gives thanks to him (v. 16); he worships God differently. All ten are healed of leprosy but only one is wholly “made ... well” (v. 19) – for the Greek word bears with it the idea of rescue from impending destruction or from superior powers. Much earlier, Jesus has infuriated synagogue worshippers by recalling the story of Naaman, the foreigner healed of leprosy by Elisha. Then no Israelites were healed of the disease, only an alien. Now one whom Jews despised is saved. See 7:27 for cleansing of lepers being a sign of the coming of the Kingdom.

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