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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Second Sunday after Pentecost - May 29, 2016



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 18:20-21,(22-29),30-39

It is a time when many people in Israel, the northen kingdom, prefer worshipping foreign pagan gods (including Baal, the rain god), to worshipping the one true God. Indeed, King Ahab's wife, Jezebel, from Tyre, has promoted Baal worship and persecuted those who follow God's ways. It is also a time of drought and famine. Elijah has fled for his life, but God has told him that the drought will soon end (v. 1), and directed him to visit Ahab. Elijah has met Obadiah, head of Ahab's household, who is still faithful to God (v. 7). He has asked Obadiah to tell Ahab that he is willing to meet the king. Despite being concerned for his own life, Obadiah does tell Ahab (v. 16).

Ahab sees Elijah as a trouble-maker; Elijah retorts that the fault is with Ahab: he has deserted God and followed Baal. The stage is set for a contest to settle the issue: whose god can end the drought? The Israelites, together with the many “prophets” (v. 20, perhaps disciples) of Baal, and Elijah, assemble on Mount Carmel, a highland with a view of the Mediterranean (near modern Haifa). Elijah calls on the people to stop dithering: choose between Baal and “the Lord” (v. 21, God).

The “prophets of Baal” (v. 25) prepare a bull for sacrifice, and call on Baal to consume it with fire. Nothing happens for hours, despite the ritual of gashing themselves (v. 28). They keep trying until about 3 p.m. (“until the time of the offering of the oblation”, v. 29). Then Elijah repairs the altar to God (probably destroyed by Baalist fanatics) and, to show how great God is, has wood put on the altar, and much water (a precious commodity during a drought) poured on and around it (vv. 33-35). Immediately the fire of God consumes all (v. 38). For the author, this is a miracle, even if for us soaking the tinder-dry land is likely to attract lightning, which is often followed by rain. The people of Israel return to worshipping God.


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 96

This psalm celebrates God’s kingship. The singing of a “new” song signifies the start of a new era. (The Ark received a new cart for its journey to Jerusalem.) All peoples are invited to “sing to the Lord” and to share in God’s kingship (v. 10a). Vv. 1-3 are a summons to worship. In vv. 4-5, God is more to be “revered” than other gods; in fact, all other gods are just idols; it is God who is creator. Then v. 8: recognize him as the supreme God! He is to be held in awe by all humanity (v. 9b). Then vv. 11-12: let the whole universe rejoice in God, now and when he comes as judge. His basis for judgement of all people will be godliness (“righteousness”, v. 13) and truth.


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 1:1-12

Paul structures this letter like many letters of his time with an opening formula (the names of the sender, that of his addressees, and a short greeting), the message (the body of the letter), and a final greeting. His other letters have a thanksgiving before the message, but not this one.

There is another difference, which scholars see as significant: while in other letters Paul introduces himself simply as “a servant of Christ” (in Romans, and Philippians is similar) and/or as “an apostle” (in Romans and in 1 and 2 Corinthians), here he is keen to point out, from the start, what he is not: his authority is not from humans, but from God. We need to figure out what causes Paul to be so emphatic.

We don’t know where Paul was when he wrote this letter, nor who “all the members of God's family who are with me” (v. 2) are. (Philippians tells us that Timothy is with him; in 1 Thessalonians, Silvanus is also named.) “The churches of Galatia” were in north central Asia Minor (modern Turkey). His greeting (“Grace ... and peace”, v. 3) is both Jewish and Greek. “The present evil age” (v. 4) contrasts with the age to be inaugurated when Christ comes again.

The lack of a thanksgiving suggests that there are serious problems in the churches. He is “astonished” (v. 6) or amazed that Christians in Galatia have turned from the good news of God, as taught by Paul (“the one who called you”), and are accepting a “different gospel”, not that there is one! They are being led astray by false teachers who are twisting the good news. As vv. 8-9 show, Paul is distinctly upset: “let that one be accursed!” (The Greek implies cut off from God for ever). V. 10 suggests that some think that he makes practising the faith too easy, but in v. 11 he insists that what he teaches is the real thing. In 6:12-13, Paul rebuts the deviant teachers head-on: they “try to compel” male Gentile Christians to be circumcised, in accord with Mosaic law. This, they say, will increase oneness with God. Paul disagrees.


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 7:1-10

After choosing his apostles, Jesus has descended to the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee, where he has taught many. Now he enters the town of Capernaum.

An unusual “centurion” (v. 2), an officer in the Roman army of occupation, has a slave who is gravely ill. So loved by the Jewish community is he, that he can send emissaries to Jesus; they ask Jesus to bend the rules, to treat him as he would a Jew (vv. 3-6). (They think that Jesus came to bless Jews, not Gentiles.)

As Jesus walks towards his house, the officer sends others to him: don’t enter my house because, being Gentile, entering it would make you ritually unclean (v. 6). All the centurion asks is that Jesus command the disease to leave his slave (v. 7). He believes that Jesus can order diseases around much as he does soldiers (v. 8). In v. 9, Jesus tells the crowd that he has more faith than Jews (“in Israel”), who were expected to believe. The slave is found to have been healed (v. 10).

© 1996-2016 Chris Haslam



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