Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Saint Mary the Virgin - August 15, 2014



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.


PDF files for use with Acrobat Reader:

Get Adobe Acrobat Reader

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 7:10-15

Assyria, under Tiglath-pileser III, is intent on expanding westwards. The kings of “Aram” (vv. 1, 2, 5, 8, Syria) and of Israel (also called “Ephraim”) have formed a coalition to resist the advances of their common enemy. They have tried to convince “Ahaz” (v. 1), king of Judah and of the “house of David” (v. 2) to join the alliance; he has refused. Now they seek to put a puppet king on Judah’s throne. God has commanded Isaiah to “meet Ahaz” (v. 3) as he inspects the water supply vital to Jerusalem’s defence. Isaiah tells him: “take heed ... do not fear ... these two smoldering stumps of firebrands” (v. 4) who have “plotted evil against you” (v. 5). “If you do not stand firm in faith” (v. 9, trust in God) but rely on human counsel, you will be defeated.

God now speaks again to Ahaz: ask any “sign” (v. 11), any confirmation of my promise delivered by Isaiah – any at all in all creation. (“Sheol” was the subterranean abode of the dead.). But it seems that Ahaz has already made up his mind (v. 12) so, through Isaiah, God gives to the “house of David” (v. 13) not a “sign” (v. 11) to convince Ahaz, but one which speaks to future generations. God will keep the promise he made to David (through Nathan): “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me” (2 Samuel 7:16). “The young woman” (v. 14, most likely Ahaz’s wife) is pregnant; David’s line will continue; she will name her son “Immanuel” (meaning God with us). (This son was Hezekiah.) In a devastated land (paying heavy tribute to Assyria), where only basic food is available (“curds and honey”, v. 15), he will develop moral discrimination – unlike recent kings, who were deemed wicked, ungodly people. By this time, Assyria will have conquered both Syria and Israel (v. 16).


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 132:6-10,12-13

These are the words of a liturgy commemorating God’s choice of Zion and the dynasty of David. Vv. 8-10 are quoted in 2 Chronicles as used at the dedication of the Temple, so this psalm may well have been used at the annual celebration of the dedication. Vv. 1-5 ask God to remember David’s diligence in finding a proper “place” (v. 5) for God’s sanctuary. Vv. 6-10 may have accompanied a dramatic ceremony reenacting David’s finding the Ark (“it”, v. 6) at Kiriath-Jearim (“Jaar”). (“Ephrathah” is Bethlehem, David’s city.) God’s “footstool” (v. 7) is the Ark. It was borne joyfully in procession to Jerusalem, preceded by godly “priests” (v. 9). V. 10 asks God to continue to favour the current king (“your anointed one”), remembering David’s actions. While vv. 1-10 centre on David, vv. 11ff focus on God. He has vowed to David that a descendant of his will, if his heirs keep their side of the pact, rule “forevermore” (v. 12). David chose Jerusalem; so did God (v. 13). “Zion” will be God’s earthly residence “forever” (v. 14). In the Temple, the divine and human realms meet, so God will be able to bless the city’s inhabitants (v. 15). God will give the priests power to forgive sins (“salvation”, v. 16). A “horn” (v. 17) was a symbol of a king’s strength; here it speaks of David’s line, his seed continuing. The king’s “crown” (v. 18), in its radiance, reflected the power (glory) that he possessed as a reflection of God’s glory; here it is contrasted with the disgrace which will cover the king’s “enemies”.


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 4:4-7

Some teachers in Galatia have claimed that a Christian must first embrace Judaism, observing 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. In vv. 1-3, he takes the example of an orphaned boy of minor age, an heir: although he owns his dead father’s property, it remains under the control of trustees until the date his father set (per Palestinian practice.) He cannot speak or act on his own behalf. So it is with Paul and his readers: before “we” accepted Christ, we had no power to speak or act, being slaves to spiritual elements , celestial beings that control the physical elements of the universe. But, at the time our Father set (“fullness of time”, v. 4), “God sent his Son”, born a human (“of a woman”), indeed a Jew (“under the law”). God sent him so that we Jewish Christians might be adopted as God’s children, be made part of him. Then v. 6: being his children, he sent the “Spirit of his Son”, God’s Spirit, to empower us to call him Father. (“Abba” is Aramaic for father . Jesus prayed “Abba, ...” in the Garden of Gethsemane.) So, v. 7, you are free from the obligations of Mosaic law, and being his child makes you an heir to God’s kingdom, through Christ.


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 1:46-55

Mary is visiting Elizabeth and Zechariah. God’s messenger, Gabriel, has told her that she will bear Jesus, “Son of God” (v. 35), successor to David and founder of an eternal kingdom. With God, “nothing will be impossible” (v. 37). Mary now thanks God in a poem known as the Magnificat, the first word of its Latin translation. Speaking today, she might begin: From the depth of my heart, I declare the Lord’s greatness and rejoice in God my Saviour . “Servant” (v. 48) can also be rendered slave or handmaid: in v. 38, she has acknowledged that she is a “servant of the Lord”, i.e. obedient to him in all things. She will be hailed by people of every age (“generations”, v. 48) in the new era of salvation launched by her son. Why? Because of the seemingly impossible “things” (v. 49) God has done for her. Then a reminder (v. 50): God is compassionate to all who hold him in awe throughout time. Vv. 51-53 universalize her experience, to reflect how God deals with all humanity. While the verbs are in the past tense in English, the Greek tense has the sense of how God customarily acts – as he always has and will continue to do – and what he is starting to do in the conception of Jesus. The “proud” (v. 51), the arrogant, are alienated from God by their very “thoughts”; he reverses fortunes, raising up those in need (“lowly”, v. 52, “hungry”, v. 53) and rejecting the “rich”, those who think they don’t need God. Vv. 54-55 sum up the poem: in his compassion, God has fulfilled and continues to fulfill his promises to the patriarchs.


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 2:1-7

God’s messenger, “the angel Gabriel” ( 1:26) has been sent by God to the tiny village of Nazareth, to Mary, a young woman engaged to Joseph. He is descended from David. Gabriel has told her the awesome news ( 1:31-33): she will “conceive ... and bear a son” to be named Jesus. He will occupy “the throne of his ancestor David” and reign over Israel; “of his kingdom there will be no end”. When she has asked the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” ( 1:34), he has replied “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of ... [God] will overshadow you ... he will be called Son of God” ( 1:35). She has conceived through God’s power, his intervention in human affairs, and not by Joseph.

Luke now tells us of Jesus’ birth, which he says occurred when Joseph and Mary travelled south from Nazareth to Joseph’s ancestral town (and David’s place of birth), Bethlehem. They were required to be registered in the first empire-wide census (“the first registration”, v. 2). It is also possible that they were registering as resident aliens, not being Roman citizens. “While they were there” (v. 6), staying in the barn on the lower floor of the inn, Jesus is born in a “manger” (v. 7), normally a feeding trough for the animals. He was wrapped in “bands of cloth”, as was any infant of the time. In vv. 10-18, the angels announce that Jesus is “great joy for all the people”, “a Saviour”, and a bringer of “peace” and God’s love.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]


Web page maintained by

Christ Church Cathedral
© 1996-2014
Last Updated: 20140805

Click on a button below to move to another page in the site.
If you are already on that page, you will be taken to the top.

October 26
All Saints' Day
November 2
November 9
Remembrance Sunday