The Sermon Mall



The Saving Word Downunder 3rd Sunday In Ordinary Time / C

1) all of today's Readings are truncated, that is to say all of them are "excerpts with various verses in the text being omitted presumably for the sake of brevity. As the lectors in my own parish read directly from the Sunday Mass book it follows then that they skip verses; personally I recommend the homilist read the intervening verses to get the broader picture. I regard the truncated form as an example of reader response criticism in that there has been a decision on what to -omit as opposed to what to retain; but then even the selection of scripture is in itself subjective or subversive depending on one's view of the process.
2) Luke states that Jesus "went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as he usually did". Here Jesus is following one of the 613 commandments imposed on Observant Jews (not just the Ten Commandments) from their bar-mitzvah, and that he read from the "scroll of the prophet Isaiah". Any Jewish male is entitled to be honoured by being asked to read from scrolls kept in the aron kodesh (the Holy Ark) which faces Eretz Yisrael, reading from bimah (reading desk/platform/lectern). If he was a regular reader, then there were probably certain requirements, including being worthy and suitable, modest and acceptable to the congregation, have a pleasant voice, understand what he is saying, who is intelligent and able to participate in discussions, and be well versed in chants and melodies. Each year there is a festival "Simchat Torah", which concludes the cycle of the reading of the Torah for the year, and celebrates the gift of the Torah from God to Moses; the service includes the ceremony of carrying the Scrolls around the synagogue by males wearing their tallit (prayer shawl). I usually try to attend shule on that day to participate. And as you may have gathered, I have a research interest in how the NT depicts Jesus' Jewishness, as well as how Jesus the Jew lived his journey of faith. Perhaps it is sufficient to say that this morning's Gospel depicts Jesus doing whatever an Observant Jew would be doing on a Sabbath morning.
Both texts from Nehemiah and Luke today pick up the theme of Scripture being read to the faithful, and both texts observing the effect of the readings on the audience. The homilist could well teach on the reasons for retaining the custom of public reading of Sacred Scripture, but avoid questions like the inerrancy of Scripture. But there is another aspect that can be dwelt on - the contents of the messages as well as the listeners responses, to which I return shortly.
It would be difficult to speculate on the actual content of what Ezra read that day, with divergent views ranging from it being the whole of the Pentateuch as brought back from Exile, or the Deuteronomic interpretation of Israel's history including its societal laws. Equally important to note is that the people had difficulty in understanding the sacred language of Hebrew and the consequent translation into Aramaic (Targum) which were initially orally, and in itself paved the way for the acceptance of translations, eg the Septuagint. As stated previously, it was the Exile that paved the way for the spread of Christianity, though one must add that if the Jews had not been faithful to God then Christianity may not have arisen at all.
The liturgist may wish to point out that Ezra's stood for the reading of the Torah, and this is probably the origin of the Catholic tradition of standing for the reading of the Gospel. Some of my readers may regard this as wishful thinking, or at worst a bit of trivia that only interests Anglican Catholics !
The Psalmist praises God for the perfection of the Torah, as well as its righteousness and holiness, and v 15 is frequently on the lips of preachers as a preface to their own sermons.
The Reading from 1 Corinthians provides another sermon on the nature of the body of Christ. Those with a speciality in Gnosticism may reflect on the extent of its influence or at least the lack of the same on Pauline theology. Whether it is possible to speak of congregations in this matter, is moot as most worshipping bodies are "gathered".
The Gospel Reading starts with the preface to Luke-Acts, and this invites us to reflect on the nature of the Gospels - old questions like whether they are biographies, the nature of the Gospels, the nature of the early church that were the recipients of such writings, as well as the canonical process, and so forth.
I personally will be looking at the choice of Scripture by Jesus for his Sermon. It could be argued that the Isaiah text is the essence of liberation theology, as it brings good news to the poor. The year of the Lord's favour can be taken as a reference to the 50 Year/Jubilee Year, which under Leviticus 25:13 everyone returned their property as it really belonged to God. This year of favour was part of a social program that inhibited accumulation of wealth where it meant deprivation of others in its multiplication, and also facilitated equality and therefore communion with God. Taken this way, it meant that Jesus' ministry began in a Jubilee Year, and this in itself is a distinct means of interpreting aspects of our Lord's work and subsequent opposition. This aspect is also being researched as part of my interest in the Jewishness of Jesus.
This Journal is published by Theological Web Publishing, LLC. For more information e-mail us at:
Editable Region.