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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost - November 10, 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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Haggai

The text tells us exactly when the prophet Haggai wrote: in 520 BC, when the first exiles returned from Babylon to Judah. The Babylonians had been defeated by the Persians in 539. The Persians were benevolent, and permitted (and even helped) Jews return to the Promised Land, although it was only a small parcel of land. God's message delivered through Haggai is a practical one: rebuild the Temple, so God will again have an earthly dwelling place.


Haggai 2:1-9

King Cyrus of Persia decreed, and King Darius brought to reality, the return of exiles from Babylon to Judah. The foundation of a new Temple was laid in 536 BC; however, little more was done on it for years. Judah now has three kinds of leadership: “Zerubbabel” (2:2) the administrator, “Joshua” the high priest, and Haggai the prophet. The people insisted that priority be given to building houses for themselves (1:2), that rebuilding the Temple could wait. They live at subsistence level (1:6). Through Haggai, God has told them that this is a punishment for ignoring the Temple. So expedite the rebuilding, so God will have an earthly dwelling place again, where he can be honoured! (1:8) This is where the priority should be. If they don’t God will send a “drought” (1:11). The three leaders, together with all the people (both those who returned from Babylon and those who never left Judah), then set to work on reconstruction (1:14). The people’s change in attitude is echoed in God’s; his message is “I am with you” (1:13).

Now Haggai, on God’s behalf, asks: who remembers Solomon’s Temple, destroyed almost 70 years ago? (2:3). Do you remember “its former glory”, when God in his transcendence dwelt there? It probably has no significance for you. Yet God maintains “I am with you” (2:4), as you rebuild, as he was during the Exodus. His “spirit” (2:5), then seen as pillars of cloud and fire, “abides among you”. Using terminology descriptive of the end times (2:6), he says he will intervene in earthly affairs, and fill the Temple “with splendour” (2:7). The new Temple lacks the fine decorations of the old, but “the silver” (2:8), his “treasure” (2:7) will be people of all nations who come to him. The new Temple will be even more filled with God’s presence, his “splendour” (2:9); there God will “give prosperity”, well-being, blessing and peace. (The Hebrew word is shalom.)


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 145:1-5,17-21

This is a hymn summarizing the characteristics of God. It is in acrostic form, making it easy to memorize: each verse in Hebrew begins with a successive letter of the alphabet. Vv. 1-3 are the psalmist’s personal expression of praise. In v. 4, he expands to speaking of descendants, of passing on knowledge and experience of God. God is known for his “wondrous works” (v. 5). In vv. 8-20, he expands still further, to “all people” (v. 12). Vv. 8-9 mention his love, vv. 10-13a his kingship over all, vv. 14-20 of his care of all in need. Responsiveness to his call brings protection (v. 20a) but those who oppose his ways will be destroyed. Finally, v. 21 combines the personal commitment to God with that of “all flesh”.


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 98

Worshippers are invited to sing “a new song” marking new evidence of God’s rule. He has achieved his “victory” (vv. 1, 2, 3), his saving acts on Israel’s behalf, through his power (“right hand ...”). He has shown the way of goodness, his way, to be the correct one (“vindication”, v. 2). In saving, he has “remembered” (v. 3) his commitment to “love and faithfulness” made in the Sinai covenant. All peoples see his actions in overcoming evil (and recognize his sovereignty). Vv. 4-6 invite everyone to join in worshipping him “before the King”, in his presence, i.e. in the Temple, where the liturgy is accompanied by musical instruments. In vv. 7-9, the whole physical universe is invited to join in.


2 Thessalonians

Perhaps this epistle was written to combat the idea that the end of the era has come, something the Thessalonian Christians have learnt either verbally from a false teacher or from a letter purporting to be written by Paul. It says that certain events will occur before Christ comes again - and these have not happened yet, and may be some time in occurring. It promises that those who persecute members of the community will be punished by God at the end of the era. Scholars debate whether Paul wrote this letter. Strangely, the structure of the text is very like that of 1 Thessalonians, which is obviously by Paul, but the key ideas are written in a different style.


2 Thessalonians 2:1-5,13-17

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul has stated that, when Christ comes again, both the faithful who have died and those still alive will be “gathered together to him”, i.e. Christ. But it seems that a person thinking himself inspired by God (“spirit”, v. 2) or by just saying it (“word”), or in a letter supposedly from Paul (“as though from us”) claims that the new era (“the day of the Lord”) has already dawned, that the future is already here. The author of this book insists that this is not so, that God’s kingdom is still in the formative stage, for certain events must first occur: first there will be “rebellion”, (v. 3, a general revolt against God), and then the “lawless one”, the Devil, the full extent of evil, will be fully seen. But, says v. 6, the forces of evil are held partly in check, although they are active in the world, via false teaching (“power, signs, lying wonders”, v. 9). When the Devil does show himself fully, Christ will annihilate him and all who “refused to love the truth” (v. 10). God sends the current trials to separate out the unfaithful (v. 11) so that these people will be “condemned” (v. 12).

But the author thanks God for those who are faithful at Thessalonica, because “God chose you” (v. 13) for admission to his kingdom (“salvation”, v. 13, “the glory of ... Christ”, v. 14), to be forerunners (the “first fruits”, v. 13, of the harvest were God’s) of other faithful who will come later, through being set apart for him (“sanctification”) through the Holy Spirit and through their faith. They will share with Christ in union with God. So, readers, remain faithful to the doctrines (“traditions”, v. 15) you received verbally and via authentic letters.


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 20:27-38

19:47-48 says that Jesus taught daily in the Temple. The religious authorities “kept looking for a way to kill him, but they did not find anything they could do ...”. The Sadducees held that only the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, were authoritative. Not finding mention of life after death in these books, they rejected its existence.

In vv. 28-33, seeking to trap Jesus into speaking against the Law, they ask a question about levirate marriage (levir is Latin for brother-in-law): a man lived on (in a sense) in his son, so if a man died without issue, his brother was required to marry his widow and give her a son, thus continuing his lineage. “This age” (v. 34) is the current era; “that age” (v. 35) is the era to come, when Christ returns. In God’s kingdom, marriage will no longer exist; those who are admitted into eternal life for their faith (“considered worthy of a place ...”, v. 35) will all be “children of God” (v. 36): this will be their family relationship. They will be immortal (“cannot die anymore”) and will be like “angels” (considered sexless in Jesus’ time).

In vv. 37-38, Jesus argues for life after death (and resurrection) from the Pentateuch. In the story of the burning “bush”, God tells Moses: “I am the God of Abraham ...”. Because God says is (not was), Abraham is alive now. He died, so he must have been brought back to life, resurrected. God is truly “God ... of the living” (v. 38). In v. 39, some scribes, believers in resurrection, are pleased with Jesus’ argument. V. 40 says that the Sadducees “no longer dared to ask ... [Jesus] another question”: Jesus has evaded the trap.

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