Notes on the readings April to June 2010

Note: ¶ = Reading omitted at St Mary's, Temple Balsall

April | May | June

Thursday 1 April, 2010
Maundy Thursday
Parish Eucharist 8.00 pm

Exodus 12. 1 – 4 (5 – 10), 11 – 14
The Last Supper was the Passover Meal, so here are the rubrics for its observance – on the eve of Israel’s great salvation from slavery in Egypt.  We have always seen it as the model for our redemption in Christ.

1 Corinthians 11. 23 – 26
The oldest telling of the story of the Last Supper, whose actions are the model for the Eucharist – for all times and places.

John 13. 1 – 17, 31b – 35
The washing of the disciples’ feet is an act of deep humility, teaching the bond of love that is to join the followers of Jesus and make them one.

* Pray for a deeper devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist.

* We praise God for our rescue by God from all that threatens us.

* We trust that we can grow in love for each other.

Friday 2 April, 2010
Good Friday

¶ Isaiah  52. 13 – 53. 12
The so-called ‘Servant Song’ has been seen from early times as presaging Jesus’ Passion, and it may indeed have helped to nourish his own vocation.  It tells of a righteous sufferer in God’s good cause.

¶ Hebrews 10. 16 – 25
The writer sees Jesus as having fulfilled the purpose of Old Testament worship: to bring is near to God in purity.

or ¶ Hebrews 4. 14 – 16; 5.  7 – 9
The high priest represented all Israel before God and entered his presence on their behalf.  Jesus fulfils that purpose for us all and for ever, giving us the sure access that we desire.

¶ John 18. 1 – 19. 42
The Passion according to John focuses on the trial before Pilate, with its twin themes of Kingship and truth.  Jesus shows himself to be the genuine article, and he dies in total fulfilment of his mission.

* Pray to identify with Jesus in his suffering.

* Praise God for his love shown to us in Jesus.

* We rejoice in the completion of the mission of Jesus.

Sunday 4 April, 2010
Easter Day
Parish Eucharist 10.00 am

¶ Isaiah 65. 17 – 25
In a lovely poetic passage, theprophet tells of his vision of a new world, where all will be at peace and we shall live in contentment – paradise indeed.

1 Corinthians 15. 19 – 26
Paul’s converts have what to us may seem an unlikely distortion of faith. they think of themselves as already, in their inner selves, ‘risen’ completely to new life – no longer part of ordinary human society.  No, says Paul, there is always a greater future ahead of us, however great the presents of God.  And on that future we must keep our eyes.  Here, he tells how he thinks it will work out for the world; but God’s ultimate triumph is the key point for faith.  In the meantime, we are ‘on the way’, serving God in the here and now.

or Acts 10. 34 – 43
Peter gives a summary of the story of the salvation brought by Jesus, but the crucial point here is the universal scope of that work; it is for gentiles as well as for Jews.  A major step in the Church's life and the spread of the good news.

John 20. 1 – 18
Two stories of Easter Day, telling first of the abandoned tomb and then of Jesus' meeting with Mary Magdalene. A new world is born and the old is put behind.  And love and recognition are the marks of the new.

or ¶ Luke 24. 1 – 12
All the Gospels have a version of this story of Easter morning, where women are the first witnesses of the deserted tomb.  In our day, people seem often to be greatly attached to the graves and corpses and body-parts of their loved ones.  So it is good to remember that, with and like our Lord, we are bigger and more important than that earthly level of things.  What matters is the God-given greatness of what we are for and what we add up to.

* Pray for boldness to stretch up to God’s purpose for you.  No virtue in false humility.

* Pray to recognize the greater future that always lies ahead for each of us.

* Amazement is a great quality to cultivate in our relationship with God.

Sunday 11 April, 2010
The Second Sunday of Easter
Parish Eucharist with Sunday School 10.00 am

¶ Exodus 14. 10 – 31; 15. 20 21
The Israelites try to flee their Egyptian captors.  All is in the balance: will they get away or not?  With God’s help, success is assured.

or Acts 5. 27 – 32
Like the other speeches in Acts, by apostles and others, this one is a brief summary of the Christian message.  What was new – and offensive – about the new faith was its centring on Jesus.  His life, his shameful death and amazing resurrection represented a new direction in God’s gift of himself to his people. and novelty is often not the route to popularity.

Revelation 1. 4 – 8
The author of the Book of Revelation opens with letters to seven Christian congregations in towns in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), for whom he writes his book.  It echoes words about Israel in Exodus 19 (‘he made us a kingdom of priests’) and speaks of their marvellous new status – now close to God and his chosen ones, because of Jesus’ victory.

John 20. 19 31
Some Christians identify easily with Thomas’ hesitations, others are inclined to regret them.  But there is room, it seems, for both kinds of response.  And John offers his Gospel with the single aim of bringing us, by whatever means, to ‘life in his name’.

* At its heart, is Christian faith a matter of simple allegiance or something more complicated?

* We believe without having ‘seen’.Can we rejoice in that?

* The demands of faith are sometimes grievous. Are we ready for them?

Sunday 18 April, 2010
The Third Sunday of Easter
Parish Eucharist 10.00 am   

Zephaniah 3. 14 – 20
The prophet foresees, exuberantly, a time of fulfilment when all shall be well.

or ¶ Acts 9. 1 – 6 (7 – 20)
We read the story of Paul’s conversion from being a persecutor of Jesus’ followers to become not just a simple Christian but the one who opened the Church up freely to non-Jews.  It was the first key turning-point in the history of the Church – and we still live in the light of it.

¶ Revelation 5. 11 – 14
The vision of John makes one things abundantly clear: the priority of worship in the scheme of things.  It is the offering due from all creation to God and to Christ, crucified and now vindicated.

John 21. 1 – 19
This is a story about recognition.  We know the Lord in the sharing of the gift of his ever- nourishing bread.  And then a story about the work from him that follows. Recognition leads to service and even to death.

* Past turning-points are gifts of God that make all the difference.

* Worship is the basis on which all Christian ‘following’ rests.

* Pray for readiness to recognize the call of God, and then to respond.

Sunday 25 April, 2010
The Fourth Sunday of Easter

¶ Genesis 7. 1 – 5, 11 – 18; 8.  6 – 18; 9.  8 – 13
The story of the Flood and Noah’s safe pasage can stand as a symbol of salvation against the odds.

or ¶ Acts 9. 36 – 43
Peter performs a miracle that reminds us of the acts of Jesus.  The writer of Acts wants us to see that, unique as he was, his followers do not live simply on memories of a great time past, but as servants of the living God and the present Lord.

¶ Revelation 7. 9 – 17
As always, John’s vision of heaven is one of worship.  Here, the worshippers centre on those who have suffered martyrdom for their faith in Christ.  Such suffering is the keenest test of the reality of commitment.  Since that early time, martyrs have always had a place of special honour among Christian people, as the sharpest reminders of the total difference that faith must make.

John 10. 22 – 30
There comes a point when no more can be done to bring about faith – in ourselves or in others.  We ‘see’ or we fail to see.  But to have come to faith is the key to the fullness of our relationship with God, and colours everything about us at all levels.

* The Church lives now as the people of God in the present time, not in a mist of nostalgia.

* Suffering of one kind or another has always been the hall-mark of faith.

* Pray to know the stability of our life in Christ – and yet be ever on the move.

Sunday 2 May, 2010
The Fifth Sunday of Easter
Parish Eucharist 10.00 am

Acts 11. 1 – 18
From time to time, the Church faces a major decision, as recently over women’s ordination.  The earliest such issue was on the question whether, if you were a gentile, to be a Christian entailed first becoming a Jew.  In broader terms, what it means to say that the Christian gospel fulfils Judaism.  Does it mean supersede or build upon?  If it had not been settled in a liberal way, life might still be very different for us all.

or ¶ Baruch 3. 9 – 15, 32 – 36; 4.  1 – 4
The prophet paints a familiar picture: of Israel’s duty to obey God’s will and follow his teaching.

or Genesis 22. 1 – 18
The dramatic and terrifying story of the near-death of Isaac by God’s command.  Abraham is steadfast in faith and the boy is spared.  Christians have seen it as a sort-of-sign of the giving of Jesus: see Rom. 8.32.

¶ Revelation 21. 1 – 6
Revelation draws towards its close with a wonderful vision of how everything must surely end up: in beautiful perfection, with heaven and earth renewed, all that is negative banished and all things summed up in the love of God.  Nothing less can satisfy.

John 13. 31 – 35
Love, for the Gospel of John, is the cement that binds together the Christian community.  In this Gospel as a whole, we have no other command of Jesus.  It is as if we are being told: love one another truly, and you will judge aright on other moral issues.  We are put on trust, and it is a risky business!

* For the Church to do the right things, it is not always enough to stick to the past.

* To do right now, we should have a vision for the future.

* Pray to love so purely that good judgment will follow.

Sunday 9 May, 2010
The Sixth Sunday of Easter
Parish Eucharist with Sunday School 10.00 am

¶ Acts 16. 9 – 15
This passage tells of a momentous development in the spread of Christianity. For the first time Paul moves to what was already called Europe.  He comes to Philippi, in northern Greece, and, in the rest of the chapter, we can read of the imprisonment he suffers – and of the conversion of the jailer, followed by his baptism, along with his family.  It is the first instance we have for the baptism of small children.  A big landmark in our history.

or Ezekiel 37. 1 – 14
The famous image of the dry bones that came together and live is well known as a parable for the revitalizing power of the Christian gospel.

Revelation 21. 10, 22 – 22. 5
This beautiful vision of the new world that embodies God’s perfection uses poetic themes familiar from the Old Testament. Jerusalem the holy city of God, the centre of God’s world; the tree of life in Eden; God seen as wonderful and glorious light.  The old images grow and are transformed in the Christian poet’s pen.

¶ John 14. 23 – 29
Jesus promises the Spirit as the continuer of his own presence: in other words, God’s saving work will not slacken.

or John 5. 1 – 9
This is one of the few stories in the Gospel of John that remind us of the other Gospels, with their many tales of Jesus’ healings of the sick.  Archaeology has discovered the site that is here described.

* Thanks for our Christian past is surely a good thought and prayer to nourish.

* So too, by contrast, is a lively hope for the future perfection that God wills.

* Jesus the healer is a signal and guarantee of that hope.

Thursday 13 May, 2010
Ascension Day

Daniel 7. 9 – 14
This fantastic picture certainly takes us to another realm and helps to make the point of Jesus’ heavenly role in glory.

or Acts 1. 1 – 11
This act, assuring Jesus’ triumph, marks the transition to the time of the Church. 

¶ Ephesians 1. 15 – 23
The writer sings a hymn of adoration for Christ in the heavenly endorsement of his triumph.

Luke 24. 44 – 53
Luke’s Gospel ends with Jesus’ heavenly withdrawal at the end of Easter Day – and the disciples go to the Temple, keeping the link with Israel.

* Pray to identify with Christ as joining earth and heaven.

* We praise God for his gifts in Christ.

* Can we bear too strong a sense of glory?

Sunday 16 May, 2010
The Seventh Sunday of Easter

¶ Acts 16. 16 34
This striking story contains the earliest reference to children being baptized. It happens to the jailer at Philippi 'and his entire family’.  In each of the amazing stories in Acts, we meet the breaking of some patch of new ground in the Christian mission.  So the message began its extraordinary spread, first across the Mediterranean world: here to Greece (indeed, to Europe for the first time).

or Ezekiel 36. 24 – 28
The theme is restoration and homecoming, one that recurs in the Old Testament.  Here, it centres on the Land of Israel – a foretaste of heaven.

¶ Revelation 22. 12 14, 16 17, 20 21
The final passage of Revelation is ecstatic in its use of the strong image of Jesus and his people as bridegroom and bride, united by love and longing and by the desire for fulfilment of every hope.

John 17. 20 26
This chapter of the Gospel of John is a prayer of Jesus to God, whereby his followers are united with God through him.  It expresses the intensity of the relationship that he establishes in the union of a single love.

*  The taking root of the Christian faith is liable to be in unforeseen ways.

*  We long for the consummation of the relationship with God which Jesus gives to us.

*  Pray for readiness to receive the love of God in all its depth.

Sunday 23 May, 2010
Day of Pentecost (Whit Sunday)

Acts 2. 1 21
The Holy Spirit means God as powerfully involved among us  -  and the story gives a striking example of such power that has made its mark on the Christian imagination, especially in its promise of universality.

or ¶ Genesis 11. 1 – 9
The story gave an explanation for the rich variety of human language  - impeding mutual understanding.  Pentecost is depicted as a miraculous reversal of Babel’s confusion.  Under God, we can find unity.

Romans 8. 14 17
For Paul, 'the Spirit' signifies God at work now, in the present, in the lives of those who love and serve him.  It is the sign and the spur for our union with God.

John 14. 8 17 (25 27)
For John's Gospel, the Spirit is a way of assuring us that the time of Jesus was not an all-time ‘high’ the like of which we can never see again.  On the contrary, 'the Spirit' means that what Jesus was and did then is still true and available for his own.

*  The Christian message soon broke free of its original bounds. It is universal in its scope.

*  The Spirit is the gift of God's presence and the sign of our hope.

*  Pray to live in the present as the gift of our loving and powerful God.

Sunday 30 May, 2010
Trinity Sunday

¶ Proverbs 8. 1 4, 22 31
Old Jewish poetry used the image of God's 'wisdom', seen as his beloved companion and agent in the creation of everything.  It was a way of expressing the belief that the world was at root an intelligible and orderly design of God  -  not a chaotic or random place, where things can go anyhow.  Experience might point us either way, and Proverbs reassures us.

Romans 5. 1 5
This passage is at the heart of Paul's vision of Christian faith.  Christ's coming means that we are freely and with bountiful grace accepted and empowered by God  -  not because we deserve it but because he loves us.

John 16. 12 15
We sometimes speak as if there were on the one hand Jesus, with his message and his example, and then, on the other hand, the Holy Spirit, less defined in our minds but certainly different.  Not so. The Spirit is simply a way of speaking of the permanent and ever-fresh legacy of Christ among us.  God is not divided, but is ever-new in his coming to us.

*  The creation is made by God's wisdom.  It is a thought that is both the deepest root of modern science and also of our struggle to make sense of the world around us. We do not live in a haphazard chaos.

*  Is it not our greatest reassurance to know God accepts and restores us because he loves us, not because of our fitful efforts?

*  Jesus is the true picture of God in human terms once and, with endless variation, for ever.

Sunday 6 June, 2010
The First Sunday after Trinity Proper 5

1 Kings 17. 8 – 16 (17 – 24)
Elijah the prophet gives miraculous succour to a vulnerable woman and her son.

Galatians 1. 11 – 24
Paul’s own account of his convesion: he describes it as an inner revelation of Christ, and it was also his call to the role of ‘apostle’ or emissary of Christ to non-Jews.  But in due course, he did make contact with the Church’s existing leaders, Peter and James.

Luke 7. 11 – 17
For a widow to lose her son was a tragedy indeed in the world of the time – not just emotional disaster but economic ruin.  Jesus rescues them from the depths, like Elijah of old.

* Pray for those who endure tragedy.

* Praise God for the work of Paul the apostle.

* Pray for all who undertake apostolic work.

Sunday 13 June, 2010
The Second Sunday after Trinity Proper 6

¶ 1 Kings 21. 1b – 10, (11 - 14), 15 21a
The story of Naboth's vineyard resonates in every society at every time.  Once, such exploitation of the weaker by the stronger could (if you were very bold) be seen as an offence against God's righteousness.  Now, we deal with it as an affront to human rights and go to the courts.  Progress?

or 2 Samuel 11.  26 – 12. 10, 13 – 15
It is a story of gross sin and abuse of power by David – and the prophet wins his confession.

Galatians 2. 15 21
Paul deals with the grave issue facing Christians of his time and his circle. must a Christian be a Jew as the basis of his or her identity? No, thunders Paul, cutting through any such ideas. Christ is all-embracing and all-sufficient as our route to God.  Anything further merely blurs the truth.

Luke 7. 36 8. 3
Jesus proclaims the need for only penitence and loving devotion if we are to come to God.  Mere correctness, especially if grudgingly offered, gets us nowhere, however respectable it is thought to be.

*  Social justice is inside, not outside, the concerns of God.

*  We should keep hold of the simple essentials of Christian allegiance.

*  Pray never to lose the sense of directness in our relationship with God.

Sunday 20 June, 2010
The Third Sunday after Trinity Proper 7

¶ 1 Kings 19. 1 4, (5 7), 8 15a
One of the great stories about Elijah, the out-of-line prophet who stuck to his guns at great cost to his comfort.  He was no friend to the authorities, but his assurance came from God, made known, not in great and noisy signs but in the 'sound of sheer silence'.

or Isaiah 65.  1 – 9
The prophet wears the mantle of God, whose servant he is, and expresses anguish at the neglect of God and the sheer treachery that he sees in Israel.

¶ Galatians 3. 23 29
This passage gives us one of Paul's more positive thoughts about God's gift of the Jewish Law through Moses long ago. It was a kind of stern childminder in the time of our immaturity.  Nevertheless, says Paul, its day is now over.  Taken over 'into Christ', we are mature --  and more, our background is irrelevant.  Race, gender and class no longer divide us; for Christ unites us all, whoever we are.

Luke 8. 26 39
To most modern people, this is not one of the most congenial Gospel stories.  We have to realize that in the first century, people saw what we call serious mental illness as the result of possession by evil spirits, agents of Satan; and they were not strong on animal rights.  To such conditions, as to other ills, Jesus brings healing and new order, but at a disturbing cost.

*  Does it ring bells to experience God as 'the sound of sheer silence'?

*  How much is the cause of sheer righteousness worth to us?

*  Does the Church (do we) succeed in believing that we are 'all one in Christ Jesus'?

Sunday 27 June, 2010
The Fourth Sunday after Trinity Proper 8

¶ 2 Kings 2. 1 – 2, 6 – 14
The mantle of ‘prophet of Israel’ is handed over as Elijah is taken up to heaven.  (And the English language acquired a metaphor, to use in less dramatic circumstances.)

or ¶ 1 Kings 19. 15 16, 19 21
As in many societies, so in Ancient Israel, the 'holy man' was an ambiguous figure. mysteriously attractive because he had the gift of speaking truth and doing right without fudging; but also forbidding and frightening because he told you what you would prefer not to hear and to do what you would rather leave undone.  No wonder Elisha hesitated.  See the Gospel below for the same principle still at work.

¶ Galatians 5. 1, 13 2 5
Paul was a great advocate of freedom, but he did not mean liberty to do as all our impulses tell us.  The pressure of God leads us to find our freedom in all kinds of splendid single-minded virtue, united in our purpose on behalf of God.

Luke 9. 51 62
Echoing the story of Elijah's summons to Elisha, Luke tells how Jesus' call gave no room for hesitation.  And it was a call not to ease but to strenuous 'following', even to death; and certainly it flew in the face of ordinary customs and expectations of humdrum duty.  So it was and so it may still be.

*  First we admire Elijah and his like, then we wonder how far we can travel along their road.

*  Pray for the gift of singlemindedness at the heart of life.

*  The search for our true liberty is constant; we can do worse things with our time than concentrate on its demands.

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